Incarnate by Tom Shakespeare

Artist Statement:
I called this trilogy of images "Incarnate", because for me they are all about the impaired body. When I saw the famous Fuseli picture at the Tate Britain Gothic Nightmares exhibition, I immediately thought of the medieval legend of the changeling. It seemed to me that we could imagine this woman as newly pregnant. Her nightmare is her anxiety about the tests she would be offered. Should she have a test or not? Should she have a termination or not? Could she cope with a disabled baby? The book on the bedside table is a book of baby names and there is a hospital ID band on her wrist.

The foreshortening in the dead Christ picture had always intrigued me: it's as if Christ had restricted growth. And if man is made in God's image, then surely a Christ with achondroplasia must be possible? At one point, I wanted to call the image "the good death": because Christ had to die to fulfill his mission. For me, it raised questions about disability at the end of life.

Finally, Bacon's pope picture is itself inspired by Velasquez's portrait of Leo X. I had become paralysed between making the first two and this last image. From my wheelchair, I felt that this image could express some of the pain and suffering of the impaired body - the Pope is a powerful figure, but the physical body is ultimately a piece of meat, and it lets you down.

So the trilogy is about birth, death and disability, and I'd like to think there's some sex in there too. I relied on technical and creative collaboration with photographer Keith Pattison, designer Imogen Clöet and photoshop expert Jack Lowe, who also printed the works. Conversations with artists and curators including Matthew Luck Galpin, Alec Finlay and Judith King helped in the creative journey which led to the work.

Funding from NESTA made these artworks possible.

Booking for this event has now closed.