by Jan McLachlan
On a chilly December evening I went to St Margaret’s Church of Art in Norwich for the opening of ‘Enlightening the Eye’s Mind’. Rus Ki, the organiser of the exhibitions there, has a history of hosting thought provoking, inclusive exhibitions that are open to all artists and with no funding from the Arts Council or any government/corporate body. As Rus Ki says ‘providing our artists the freedom to articulate and express themselves however they choose’. This was no exception, with interesting and beautiful work by local artists, several of whom are disabled artists.
I was particulary looking forward to seeing (and hearing) Vince Laws’ work. Vince is an artist, a poet, a political campaigner and an activist. His politics often inform his artwork, but recently, as he says ‘I wanted something brighter to work on alongside some of the campaigning’.
So he started working with oil paints, a new medium for him, and he is halfway through a series of 100 paintings of sunflowers. ‘I’ve been trying to paint happiness into some of them, wondering if by trying to paint happiness, I could be happy. It did seem to work’. The first person I saw when I walked in was Vince and as we chatted, I saw behind him the corner of St Margaret’s Church lit up by his paintings. There they were, the sunflower paintings, but also paintings of trees and dogs, including Vince’s beloved dog Badger. Vince has recently, via Super Sight Hound Rescue, added Jessica to his doggy family. In her honour he painted Jessica the Sunflower and anyone who donates to the charity by 24 December is in with a chance of winning the painting.
The paintings jump out at you, particularly the sunflowers, recalling those of that other famous Vincent. The flower paintings all have names and some of the paintings have been dedicated to individual people. Like ‘Debbie the Sunflower’ which was painted by Vince in memory of Debbie Jolly, who sadly died recently. She was a long time Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) activist. Vince has arranged that everyone who donates to DPAC until 24 December will be entered into a prize draw with a chance of winning the painting.
Displayed with the flowers are Vince’s protest paintings too, including the Royal Family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace (subverted to include a message to Her Maj). Vince has for many years been involved with DPAC. In September 2016, in protest at the amount of disabled people found fit for work by the DWP and dying soon after, Vince made ‘Dead People Don’t Claim’ — a 5m painted banner which has been dropped from Grapes Hill, displayed at Maximus offices in Norwich, appeared at a Shock!Hazard gig and made an appearance at the People’s Assembly protest at the Tory conference in October. It’s also been featured in four paintings by Vince, all on display in St Margaret’s.
in protest at the amount of disabled people found fit for work by the DWP and dying soon after, Vince made ‘Dead People Don’t Claim’
I wandered around, looking at the art on display and for a friend I had arranged to meet there. I found my friend Ann and she and I decided to go listen to Vince who to commence proceedings, was reciting his ‘I am a Poem’. Part of the way through, Vince, like a magician, pulled the massive ‘Dead People Don’t Claim’ banner from a bag and Ann and I were summoned to hold it out for the assembled to see, which we did. A truly impromptu moment and I was excited to be part of Vince’s art.
Vince’s work is not just about politics or art — it’s about everyone doing what they can to make a change. So, the exhibition is open until 24 December, make a little change, forget Amazon and buy from local artists instead.
You can find the exhibition at:
St Margarets – The Church of Art, St Benedicts Street, Norwich
Open Daily – 10am-5pm until 24th December
For more information on the exhibition, and the local artists displayed, visit the Art of Norwich.
Featured header art © Vince Laws.