• 13 Feb 2014

Firstsite opens ‘facing-recovering’ exhibition

Colchester’s firstsite gallery opens ‘facing-recovering’, an exhibition of artwork created by recovering soldiers and veterans, on 15 February.

The work encompasses a mixture of drawing, video, photographs and sculptures exploring some of the issues soldiers face when making the transition from military to civilian life, such as dealing with injury and the impact of witnessing conflict. The participating soldiers were coached at the Chavesse VC Recovery Centre by artist Jevan Watkins Jones, whose own work is also featured in the exhibition. A series of talks and events highlighting the role and concept of the war artist will be held alongside the exhibition.

Artist Jevan Watkins Jones and a participant from the Chavesse VC Recovery Centre at firstsite.

The work forms part of firstsite’s Experimental Communities programme, which is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Arts programme with a grant of £140,000 awarded over 28 months. The project aims to open up art to a wider audience and promote social cohesion by getting artists to work with different groups in the community. Soldiers and veterans are an important group in Colchester, a garrison town with many local servicemen serving recently in Afghanistan.

Private Luke Hardy, who served with the Parachute Regiment, said of the exhibition:”It will show the people of Colchester that behind the uniform that they see walking through their town is an individual, a human being, someone the same as them in many ways and not just ‘a soldier’, and put a ‘face behind the uniform’.”

firstsite first benefited from support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation in 2007, when it developed its education and participation programme. Most recently, it became on the network of galleries to share funding of £5 million as part of the Tate-led Circuit programme, to improve access to the arts for 15-25 year olds. The organisation was selected to receive support because of its commitment to getting all sections of the community to engage with art.

Sarah Jane Dooley, Grants Officer at PHF, said: “Participation in the arts can be transformational for individuals and communities. Our support for the Experimental Communities programme has helped firstsite to connect with a number of local groups and we are pleased to see ‘Facing – recovering’ result from this work. This exhibition brings together soldiers and the local community, creating work that addresses important issues for society. It is of particular relevance in this Great War centenary year.”

The exhibition runs from 15 February until 30 March and will be open from Tuesday to Sunday 10-5pm.