Snail Porridge

9 May 2014 — 15 June 2014

Koestler Trust and Castlefield Gallery present Snail Porridge: an exhibition of art by offenders curated by artist Bob and Roberta Smith.

Castlefield Gallery, the Koestler Trust and Bob and Roberta Smith have come together in a unique collaboration: Snail Porridge, an exhibition of artwork, music and writing from prisons, secure hospitals, secure children’s homes and by people on probation in the North West.

The works in the exhibition have been selected by Bob and Roberta Smith from entries to the Koestler Awards – an annual scheme which has been running for over 50 years by the UK’s best known prison arts charity, promoting artistic achievement in the criminal justice system and secure sectors.

Renowned for his humorous, opinionated, polemical art, Bob and Roberta Smith is known for using text as an art form. His best known works are Make Art Not War (1997), a work which belongs to the Tate collection and Letter To Michael Gove (2011), a letter to the UK Secretary of State for Education reprimanding him for the “destruction of Britain’s ability to draw, design and sing”.  In 2013 Bob and Roberta Smith initiated the Art Party with Crescent Arts, Scarborough.  Not a formal political party, the Art Party is a loose grouping of artists and organisations who are deeply concerned about the Government diminishing the role of art and design in schools and who seek to better advocate the arts to Government. Art Party the Movie will be released by Cornerhouse, Manchester in Summer 2014.

Snail Porridge, a title taken from a work of the same name selected for the exhibition, will see Bob and Roberta Smith recreate within Castlefield Gallery, a section of the Koestler Trust headquarters where thousands of artworks are sent from prisons and other secure establishments across the UK to be judged for awards and considered for exhibition. Bob and Roberta Smith has identified several themes in the work including Silence, remembered images of a life outside; Your Inner Being, well-being and inner peace; Snail Porridge, art as a tool for escape to fantasy worlds; and Deal or No Deal, art as a product of prison life.  The works will be exhibited alongside a brand new piece by  Bob and Roberta Smith inspired by his visit to the Koestler Trust.

“I was amazed to be part of putting together this show ‘Snail Porridge’. I was overwhelmed by the Koestler Trust itself and by staging a partial recreation of the Koestler Trust headquarters in the Castlefield Gallery, I have tried to give a ‘feel’ for what the determination and generosity of the Koestler charity involves.” said Bob and Roberta Smith “By providing goals to work towards, rewarding achievement and celebrating humanity, the Koestler Trust listens to prisoners’ voices. Making this show has been a great privilege. I hope the visitors to Castlefield Gallery enjoy hearing and looking at what the artists have to say.”

As part of Castlefield Gallery’s main curated programme and sitting within the Self-Made strand, this exhibition will be situated firmly within a critical contemporary art context. Snail Porridge will offer visitors the opportunity to see an eclectic mix of artwork by artists working outside the ‘Art World’ or conventional ‘Gallery System’ and to reflect on the work of the Koestler Trust itself. The exhibition invites people to consider the values and ethics of promoting artistic achievement in the criminal justice and secure sectors, as well as encouraging creativity and the acquisition of new skills as a means to rehabilitation.

Tim Robertson, Koestler Trust Chief Executive, said “After more than half a century of motivating and exhibiting art in prisons, the Koestler Trust is being taken in an audacious new direction.  Art has a serious purpose in criminal justice: it makes offenders pursue the discipline and truthfulness that are essential to building lives free from crime. But lots of prison art is also great art, and this exhibition brings it into the heart of the contemporary art world – curated by one of the country’s most radical artists, in the North West’s most cutting-edge gallery. Like lots of contemporary art, Bob and Roberta Smith’s installation is a mix of witty, moving and controversial – a multi-faceted setting to explore the complex human experiences of crime, punishment and creativity.  What’s disconcerting for the Koestler team is that the show re-creates the building where we work!”

Snail Porridge is kindly supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Arts Council England, the Granada Foundation, Manchester City Council and Wesley-Barrell.

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