2 March 2024

‘Holidays to resort had a huge impact on my art’

A new exhibition by a disabled artist who says family holidays in Withernsea had a huge impact on his work will open at Ferens Art Gallery next month.

Are We There Yet? has been designed in collaboration with Yorkshire-born artist Jason Wilsher-Mills.

Jason’s work details his life as a disabled person, through theatrical self-portraits, which reflect aspects of his personality, memory, illness, and disability. Using iPads and Wacom tablets, Jason creates paintings that are transformed into large interactive sculptures, using augmented reality technology to interact with the viewer.

His work celebrates the working-class popular culture of the 1970s and is littered with references to the Beano and TV shows of the time.

Jason, winner of the Adam Reynolds Award 2020, said: “My work celebrates disability, my northern working-class heritage and popular culture, through cutting-edge technologies and brightly coloured, largescale humorous, but challenging art.

“When asked what my work is about, I simply say – think I, Daniel Blake meets the Beano.”

Jason has exhibited at and been commissioned by the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, and the Houses of Parliament, among other international venues. He has a long connection with Hull and the surrounding area, having worked on projects with Artlink, the University of Hull, and Streetlife Museum.

Jason added: “I am so pleased and honoured to show my work at the Ferens Art Gallery as the city of Hull, and surrounding areas, has played such an important role in my work as an artist, as it has inspired the themes and imagery of my work.

“As a child growing up in Wakefield, my holidays to Withernsea in the 1970s were the most magical experiences and the town has had a huge impact on my practice. Withernsea was the place I first experienced art, when I saw a painting of Dr Who, on a fairground ride at the age of six, and my journey to the seaside town had many milestones, including travelling through Hull, which led to cries of ‘Are we there yet?’.

“I am constantly returning to those formative experiences, which I believe shaped me as an artist. I am incredibly excited that I get an opportunity to explore these themes more, though working with the gallery’s collection, from which I will create new work.”

Alongside the exhibition will be an programme of events and activities for all ages and abilities, including an artist talk by Jason in May. Working with local disability organisations and artists, this extensive programme for families and young people will include relaxed openings, accessible workshops with artists, school holiday craft sessions and regular baby sensory sessions, all inspired by Jason’s work. Details of the full programme will be released early in the new year.

Councillor Rob Pritchard, Hull City Council’s portfolio holder for culture and leisure, said: “Jason’s work is incredibly important to many in Hull and the surrounding area, as he has worked with so many people in the community and inspired them in their creativity. We feel very lucky to be working with Jason at such a momentous moment in his career, ahead of his major exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London and many other exciting projects. Jason’s early experience of Withernsea and longstanding connection to Hull mean that this will be an exhibition with great meaning to the city.”

Kerri Offord, curator of art for Ferens Art Gallery, said: “To be able to showcase a selection of existing work alongside some new surprises, and to engage the people of Hull with experiences of disability in a fun and multisensory way has brought a huge amount of excitement to the Ferens team. Contextualising Jason’s experience of disability with the joy of childhood memories, discovery and imaginative escapism will create an exhibition that all can relate to.”

Are We There Yet? will open Saturday, February 24, running until Sunday, June 2, in Ferens Art Gallery.