The Shape Open is Shape’s annual group exhibition of artwork created by both disabled and non-disabled artists.

This year’s Open, titled “Collective Influence” and taking place in East London, opens on 22 March and runs until 5 April, showcasing work which investigates the interwoven influences of art, disability and the power of a collective voice. With the Private View fast approaching (6.30 to 8.30pm on 22 March; all welcome), we thought we’d give you a sneak preview of some of the 33 works on display…

Light blue, dark blue and black 2d shape and black line graphic image with a photograph of a human brain near the middle of the image

Sarah Carpenter’s Cognitive” (2017), above, is a two coloured screenprint, paper-cut collage of artist’s own photography & found imagery, with two layers of mark making. The artist’s inspiration comes from her experience of mental illness: “My methodology reflects how I process information; taking something, reimagining it, exploring its possibilities and making something new. Breaking things down, seeing them from a different perspective / in different contexts helps me find something I can relate to / understand. Play and experimentation aid my learning. ‘Cognitive’ investigates information: how we are fed it, receive it and process it. ‘Alone, Together: Stronger Together’ reflects my process: learning from the past, building upon my findings, adding layers and making my mark.”

A woman with olive skin and short black hair stands in a dark room with her face and hands close to a perspex wall containing many multicoloured tubes at regular intervals. She is smelling the tubes.

“Much more than simple visual attributes, colours carry in them a vast universe of symbols and mental associations acquired over time through culture, religion, language or memories.” “Dessine moi un arc-en-ciel” (2015), above, by Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos, is an olfactory installation that invites visitors to explore the concept of colour beyond its visual dimension. The artist collaborated with seven visually impaired participants to create the scent of each of the seven colours of the rainbow. Through multiple interviews, they engaged in an internal exploration of the universe of a given colour: imagining its texture, temperature, taste, smell; sharing with Kosmatopoulos key words and personal stories that were then used by seven perfumers to turn the words into odours.

Black ink print of Frida Kahlo on paper dyed a mottled light brown, with red lines framing the image, black calligraphy in Arabic, and other abstract black and red bird images

Inspired by Iranian artist Zenderoudi, Mohammad Barrangi Fashtami uses Persian calligraphy and alphabetical shapes as the main component of the figures and shapes in his work on paper. Reflecting on this piece, “The Frida’s Dream” (2015), above, he states that “I am disabled, and my view might be related to the feeling of missing an organ in my body. I’m keen to share this experience of physical deprivation with others. Frida Kahlo as a woman and a disabled artist is so valuable for me.”


In 2017, the British Government enforced a decision to no longer consider psychological distress as ‘relevant’ in relation to decisions surrounding the mobility half of Personal Independence Payment. This amendment to the Decision Makers’ Guide has since seen 163,000 disabled people go without basic support, leaving many housebound and therefore unable to physically attend protests against this very change. Through creating an alternative, portable space for accessible protest, Arjun Harrison-Mann’s physical computing installation “Not Relevant” (2017), above, utilises the act of movement across the piece in order to collate and display some of the many voices that have been removed from the current discourse around mobility and disability benefits.

Black and white film still of a portrait of an expressionless woman looking at the camera

A film about mental health and the educational apartheid that blights British society, DYSPLA’s “You Will Fail Her” (2017), above, explores the emotional consequences of a failed education system and, in light of the recent cuts to education funding, proving that it is still the most vulnerable students in our society who are forgotten through discriminative education.

The 2018 Shape Open is held at The Art Pavilion, Mile End from 22 March to 5 April. The Private View takes place on 22 March, from 6.30 to 8.30pm, and is free and open for all to attend with booking not required. For full information, please see

The exhibition is fully wheelchair accessible and has audio description provision; the Private View also has BSL provision.