The Prison Pictures
An exhibition of work by two Reading-based artists presenting responses to a theme.
My work considers how the narratives of the past are constructed and presented. The works in this exhibition are inspired by the histories of Reading Jail, as well as two prisons in Northern Ireland: Crumlin Road and The Maze (also know as the H-Blocks).
From 1971 until 2000, The Maze was used to house paramilitary prisoners. It was also the site of the 1981 hunger strike when ten republican prisoners died. Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast, also held paramilitary prisoners, however, it also interned several Ulster suffragettes during 1914.
Reading prison’s most famous resident is Irish author Oscar Wilde who was sentenced to two years hard labour for gross indecency. However, lesser known inmates are thirty-seven men who had been involved (either directly or indirectly) in the 1916 Easter Rising and were interned without trial July to November that year.
My works were inspired by a series of photographs that I took during the ArtAngel event when Reading Gaol was open to the public in 2016. Apart from being chilled by the whole experience, I was fascinated by the traces of those that had once been incarcerated there – not only Oscar Wilde but other Victorian prisoners – as well as more recent inmates. ‘Free in my dreams’ was scrawled on the interior of a cell, ‘Adults only’ was the trace of a newspaper advert torn out and glued onto another cell wall (the latter somewhat ironic since both in the past and in the prison’s most recent years – just before it closed – both children and young offenders were imprisoned there). The gestural hands are a reference to a Victorian photograph of prisoners’ mugshots where they all held their hands across their chest as their identifying feature – in the days before finger printing was in common usage.
Monday 9am -1pm
Tuesday & Wednesday 9am - 5pm
Thursday 9am - 7pm
Friday 9am - 5pm
Saturday 9.30am - 4pm
Sunday 10.30am - 4pm
This exhibition is at Woodley Library, 6 Headley Road, Woodley, Reading RG5 4JA until 29th November.