19/03/24 19:30 - 28/04/24 00:00

Alternative Ways of Seeing - Exhibition

Alternative Ways of Seeing is an exhibition of artwork created by people in custody in classrooms and cells in 14 prisons and in 3 post-release centres in Ireland. The work has been selected and curated by artist Eddie Cahill, a former prisoner and an inspirational figure in the world of prison arts.

Over the last three months Cahill and Irish Prison Service Arts Officer Tom Shortt have travelled throughout Ireland to the prisons meeting with prisoner artists to discuss and select work. Cahill’s selection has been informed by his lived experience of incarceration and the therapeutic power of art to overcome trauma. The culmination of this process is a body of work which spans the breath of the prisons in the Republic while also displaying the wealth of skills taught within the prison education system. Works include large, glazed ceramic vases with intricate gold work that display narratives from the prisons, large canvases of landscapes dreamed of from the outside, intricate works in fabric, leather, and beaten copper. Some highlights of the exhibition are artworks made from found accessible materials from within the prison such as soap, bread and even stones collected from the prison yard. These found materials have been carved and manipulated to create new meanings reflecting the resourcefulness and creativity of prisoners.

The exhibition reflects how the absorbing activity of making art changes lives, boosts self-esteem and improves attitudes, leading to a reduction in offending behaviour and reduced recidivism. Prisoners work independently, with teachers and with visiting artists, producing deeply symbolic drawings, fascinating landscapes, time consuming models, colourful and imaginative work. The work of one man serving a sentence at HMP Magilligan in Northern Ireland is included reflecting cross border co-operation in prison education.

Alternative Ways of Seeing is a collaboration between Rua Red and the Irish Prison Education Service. The Prison Education Service is provided in partnership with the Education and Training Boards, with a joint vision of “A prison education service based on self-respect and respect for others, within a safe, supportive learning environment”. The prison arts programme has immense benefits, allowing students to reflect, explore and be creative.