Colours shine bright for Mark and Jai

It was a vibrant sea of colour within the walls of St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital when Access Arts curated its fourth exhibition, with two rising stars emerging from the event, shining as bright as the works they created.

Access Art’s ‘Dancing Colours’ exhibition ran from 15 June to 16 September and proudly showcased works from community and professional artists who experience disability or disadvantage, including those of budding artists Mark Pearson and Jai Phillips. 

Mark, a former draftsman and graphic artist turned occupational therapy assistant, said his handcrafted linocut piece ‘Cloudland’ - one of the first to sell at the private event - was created to bring joy to others. 

“My first thought was people dancing - the boast was that it was the finest ballroom in the southern hemisphere,” Mark said.

“So many people have a story about Cloudland, meeting someone special there, falling in love, seeing a band or going there for school, just like the lady who bought my ‘Cloudland’ at the exhibition,” he said.

Mark, who’s self-described style is ‘a little bit rustic and industrial, but with attention to detail’, says he is normally shy and introverted, but seeing his art hanging in an exhibition is a source of great pride.

“I really feel good about myself and what I can do.”

For Brisbane-based artist Jai, being creative and marking art is his lifelong dream. Since joining the Brisbane Outsider Studio two years ago, Jai has worked on developing his artistic style which he says began at a young age as a way of using art to communicate. 

“It relaxes me and clears my head,” Jai said. 

The theme of the exhibition, Dancing Colours, resonated with Jai by allowing him to focus on the vibrancy of Sonic the Hedgehog characters.

“I have so many ideas dancing around in my head. Sonic was my inspiration for drawing and creating my own characters. They are bright and make me feel happy,” he said. 

“My piece is about Sonic and his friends - and some of his enemies - they are bright and colourful.”

Both artists agree that Access Arts has provided opportunities to develop their artistic style in a space that is encouraging and supportive. Jai says that his first artistic medium was pencil, specifically cartoon and animation, and he has folders full of his drawings in lead pencil and colour. Jai describes the studio as his way to learn new styles of art.

“I really like going to Access Arts; I like my Wednesdays,” Jai said.

“I think people should join as they are very kind and friendly people and you will learn so much,” Jai said.

Mark has similar feelings about the studio and what Access Arts has allowed him to achieve.

“It’s a great place to make art - the facilitators are fantastic, and I always feel good when I’m in the space. I think I am more ‘brave’ when I’m in the Access Arts studio,” Mark said.

“I’ve always enjoyed drawing - I used to always take a sketchbook on holidays but never took it too seriously,” he said.

“The arts facilitator saw some of my sketches and helped me to do my first painting since high school.”

Exhibitions such as Dancing Colours allow artists to chase their artistic dream - a dream that Access Arts advocates for at every opportunity - to create career pathways to paid work, which is something both artists would love to achieve too.

“I would be really happy if I could sell enough to help pay for the costs,” Mark said.

“I would love for people to buy my art; I want to bring my characters to life,” says Jai.

Through art, Access Art transforms lives. The theme of the exhibition, Dancing Colours, was chosen to explore uplifting and playful imagery through the use of vibrant colour palettes.

Jai and Mark were among 20 artists who drew on a broad range of subject matters and experiences to create their artwork using painting, mixed media and photography.

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Published by the CPL Team
Image of a man standing next to an artwork. Man is smiling and is looking towards the camera. The artwork features different characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog.