IN PICTURES: Portsmouth art group for people with learning difficulties wins acclaim

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 3rd May 2018, 9:36 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 8:21 am

The artists range in age, race and gender but all have one thing in common – due to learning difficulties, all have struggled to get into the world of work.

Art Invisible is just one of the programmes run by The Right To Work Community Interest Company, which operates in Portsmouth and Havant, and strives to bring work opportunities and build independence.

Sharon De Abreu Faria has worked at the company for four years, running day art sessions at the Somerstown Community Centre, and says it is the best job she has ever had. She said: ‘I walk in every morning with a smile on my face. I love it, absolutely love it. The group offers a chance for people to gain friends, social skills, confidence, and it allows them to realise their potential.’

There are 1.5 million people in the UK who have learning difficulties and only 5.5 per cent are in employment, but through the art scheme the group has gained international attention and sold their works.

Raki Chowdhury is inspired by celebrities and current events for his pieces and while his severe autism means he struggles with his speech, his unique style has seen his work displayed in Sotheby’s galleries in London and Paris.

Sharon said: ‘Raki’s work take time and he draws inspiration from magazines and newspapers and exaggerates their features.

‘At the moment he is working on a larger piece of an array of celebrities, all meticulously hand-drawn and painted, and embedded with his unique style.

‘Lots of people love his work and when the pieces are bought he spends the money on leather jackets and now has a collection of five.’

While Raki’s work was bought by Outside In’s private gallery, other members of the group also have something to shout about.

Every single artist on the Art Invisible scheme is featured on Outside: In, a national charity that initially started at the Pallant House Gallery.

Sharon said: ‘I am truly so proud of every single one of them as the Pallant House Gallery is world-renowned and I myself, like many other artists, would love to be featured there so I think it has sunk a little bit for them but this is an absolute honour.’

The multi award-winning Outside In is famous for helping artists into the art world who produce work from the edges of our society.

Joshua Madden is inspired by his love of vacuum cleaners, especially his golden Henry hoover

He said: ‘I love hoovers and I have 16, and I also love cars and I really like to use felt tips the most.’

Sharon added: ‘Joshua has massively blossomed since he has been here and really come out his shell. They are all a lovely group that get on really well and although they are all happy with being a part of Outside: In, they like to get compliments from each other and I make them all talk about their work at the end of the day.’

Most of the group are referred and funded by social services to help them into work.

Sharon said: ‘This group gives them all confidence and increases their self esteem which is so important for them to get into work.

‘Some of the group on their first day would not even say a word and now they can’t stop talking. At lunchtime we have a cafe which some of them work in as well and before they would only go in a group, but now a few of them will go and get lunch on their own which is such a big step. I am so proud of their progress as well as their art.’

‘It really shows that something as simple as art and being creative can go such a long way into helping people grow their confidence which can help them get into work which is what this great scheme is all about.’