An Exhibition Inspired by People Living With Dementia

Depot, Pinwell Road, Lewes, BN7 2JS
Saturday 28 September – Saturday 19 October 2019

Preview by Susan de Muth

At the end of May this year, I reported to HIP readers on the Drawing Life demonstration class and exhibition at A Wave of Dreams Arts Lab. Drawing Life classes, the brainchild of best-selling author and Hastings resident, Judy Parkinson, are for people living with dementia and the exhibition showcased the resulting work. I was struck at the time by the level of focus and concentration the participants displayed, and their obvious enthusiasm for the Drawing Life project as a whole.

Patrick Altes ‘self portrait2’

Drawing Life, a registered charity, has been going for four years now and boasts some classy regular tutors all of whom are established international artists: Matthew Radford has exhibited widely in Europe and the USA and has taught at the Slade, The New York Studio School and Camberwell Art College; Oska Lappin hails from the Pacific North West coast of America and has exhibited extensively in the US and Europe as well as being a favourite artist at Rye Gallery; Patrick Altes, born in colonialist Algeria,  has work
in public collections in many countries and is currently preparing for two major solo shows (in London and St Leonards).   

With such talent on board, Drawing Life is taking an exciting new step forward with a show at Depot Lewes, integrating the work of people with dementia with that of the artist-tutors, who have curated the show.

Matthew Radford ‘Park’

In the Moment explores how the artist-tutors have been inspired by the unique expressions created under their guidance. 

Oska Lappin projects drawings created by people living with dementia onto a sculpted background she has made for the show. “I have used dementia drawings to create a stream of memories from ‘in the moment’ activity”, she explains.

Patrick Altes presents his own abstracted, colourful, self-portraits alongside works by participants in the Drawing Life classes. “The works I am presenting are carefree, unconscious and primal explorations. They are apparently simple, yet multi-layered in their reference to the fleeting notion of identity. I want to convey the sense that our humanity is the core of all of us and never really disappears”, he says. “In this respect they are to be seen as a message of hope.”

Most touching, perhaps, is one of Matthew Radford’s contributions called Park. He has made cut-out drawings, each attached to a base of card so that they stand up, depicting (as the title suggests) people in the park. “A metaphor for the fragility of memory, it is neither drawing nor sculpture, yet it is present in the ‘real’ world,” he explains. Radford has placed the work in the outside space at Depot – potentially a risky strategy, surely? “Whatever happens to it is fine…it will be affected by its position outdoors, showing the fleeting nature of our memory, experience and perception of the world. It will be blown by the wind, rained on or even chewed by dogs (I hope not!) just as our thoughts and experiences are changed by things that happen to us in life.”  

Matthew Radford ‘it doesn’t matter who you are’

An innovative addition to the show is a soundtrack created for it by the international DJ Danny Rampling and Aidan Lavelle, using sound effects recorded live during Drawing Life sessions.

Events around the exhibition include a panel discussion between the three artist-tutors and regular life models about how they have been affected by their participation in Drawing Life (28 September 2.30pm). Julian Bell, tutor at the Royal Drawing School, will talk about the value of drawing as a vital creative and intellectual endeavour to people living with dementia and their carers on 12 October at 2.15pm.

Patrick Altes ‘self portrait’

Drawing Life is a warm-hearted, optimistic project showing human nature at its kindest and best… it is worth the trip to Lewes to feel the glow!

For more information and opening times please check website www.drawinglife.org


We hope you have enjoyed reading this article. The future of our volunteer led, non-profit publication would be far more secure with the aid of a small donation. It only takes a minute and we would be very grateful.