Koestler Arts Standing on the Edge

Sssh! Stolen Seagull Scavenger Hunt, HM Prison Channings Wood, Highly Commended Award for Arts Project, 2023

John Hansard Gallery and Koestler Arts are pleased to present Standing on the Edge, an exhibition showcasing artwork from the criminal justice system.

Every piece in Standing on the Edge was made by someone in a prison, young offender institution, secure hospital, or under supervision in the community, and entered into the 2023 Koestler Awards for arts in criminal justice.

The exhibition was co-curated by ten learners at HM Prison Isle of Wight, who selected the 80 exhibited works out of more than 1000 from this region during four curating sessions with Koestler Arts in the prison’s art class. The group were drawn to artworks featuring oranges, pinks and blues – colours that evoke sunsets and the seaside and ground the exhibition on the south coast. Sculptures of seagulls are dotted around the space, recalling the constant squawks that soundtracked curating sessions at the prison and are a feature of daily life for the learners.

While the group’s primary focus lay beyond depictions of prison life, and rather with works evoking memories and hopes for the future, it was still important to them to show the everyday reality of prison. A smaller number of artworks reflect the difficulties faced by many prisoners and the resulting impact on their mental health.

The title of the exhibition, Standing on the Edge, was chosen from a drawing in the show, and reflects this duality of the exhibition. It can feel both full of hope and without hope at the same time. This is perfectly expressed by one of the exhibited artists, who comments: “Standing on the Edge conjures thoughts of danger… but it also could be a new beginning – the edge of a relationship, a new life, a return home or Freedom.”

It is this sense of hope that the co-curators want visitors to the exhibition to leave with.

Koestler Arts is the UK’s best-known prison arts charity. They have been championing and exhibiting artwork from the criminal justice system for over 60 years. This exhibition will showcase artwork, music and writing from across the South West and Hampshire.

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