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March 18, 2013 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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A Peek at ‘PEAK’

The Progressive Experimental Artists Kollectiv (PEAK), is an exhibition dedicated to works by previously institutionalised people with physical or mental difficulties. PEAK is the joint effort of Living Plus and MASH Trust, both organisations which provide support and services for those with such difficulties. The joint endeavour saw PEAK’s third showing recently at the Thistle Hall Community Gallery, featuring an energetic and dynamic range of artworks.

Variety is found heavily in the exhibition, with paintings and mixed-media pieces by a number of artists. The authorship of the pieces is also varied, with most of them having being collaboratively created with support from local artists who have become involved with the MASH Trust programme. The result is an array of exciting pieces that would not have otherwise been created by either party alone. The supporting artists come to know and understand the creative specialities of the originator, and work together to elevate these to create pieces of a professional level.

Examples of this are the mixed-media sculptural pieces Scream Catcher 1 and Scream Catcher II by Bruce Vause, an autistic man who would often weave and knot pieces of string together. The staff at the Levin-based day service Living Plus provided Bruce with a foundational hoop structure, along with various string materials, resulting in a joyfully abstract piece that is compelling enough to be featured in any contemporary art collection. PEAK frontman Mark Grimshaw believes that such a collaborative process provides people like Bruce a rare environment where they feel comfortable interacting socially with others.

Another piece, See No Evil, by Mark Butler, was created by bringing out the repetitive characters he would often draw by placing them upon a fluorescent canvas rather than his usual pieces of white paper. Other pieces that are more orthodox and guided, such as geometric string and nail designs, encourage not only social benefits during the process of creation but also the development of hand-eye coordination.

Physical and mental traits of the artists aside, the pieces are strong on their own merits. An overall strength of the pieces is their tangible honesty and joy, in stark contrast to the sterile nature of today’s modern art galleries. The support from the established artists can be seen compositionally, but the true original sparks of the pieces can be seen to be from the minds of those such as Bruce Vause and Mark Butler.

Overall, the collection celebrates art as a vehicle for people who may otherwise self-expression difficult. Mark Grimshaw states that the underlying message of PEAK is to accept people as they are, and that what they express is valid, regardless of what that may be. By bringing such pieces into a gallery environment, personal imaginations are brought into public awareness and celebrated. With the profits from the sale of the pieces being returned to MASH and Living Plus, the entire PEAK effort is a creatively stimulated project which is both refreshing in terms of art quality and enriching on a community-wide basis.

For more information on the organisations involved and upcoming events, see 

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