The Prison


Inside Out

Prison wall, Risley
Charcoal on paper

At the end of 1993 Ghislaine Howard spent two weeks conducting art workshops with a group of 12 male inmates at Risley Training Prison. She then spent several weeks producing her own studies of different aspects of life within the prison. The exciting and challenging work that resulted from this unique collaboration was shown as an exhibition, entitled Inside Out, within Risley Prison and at Warrington Art Gallery, who commissioned the project.

Study for imate drinking tea
Ink on paper
Inmate drinking tea
oil on canvas
24″ x 36″
61cm x 91cm
Of her time spent at Risley, Ghislaine Howard says:“Having recently completed a similar project at St Mary’s Maternity Unit in Manchester, I welcomed the opportunity to witness life at another institution. Like a hospital, a prison is an enclosed world, with its own codes of behaviour, in which a wide range of human situations are acted out.

“A prison is, however, a place set apart. Few if any of the inmates want to be there, and points of reference to the outside world appear distant and intangible. Working with a group of inmates to help them produce work for an exhibition, and then to research and complete my own contribution was a great challenge.

“I decided to use the idea of the separateness of prison life as the basis of the workshops. I was determined to intervene as little as possible, to facilitate an exploration of their own sense of identity. We began with simple drawing exercises. Using their own hands and faces the group began to expore the idea of portraiture; how images could convey not only a likeness but also something of their private and public selves.

Tatooed man, Risley
oil on canvas
36″ x 24″
91cm x 61cm
Wages queue, Risley
oil on canvas
40″ x 50″
127cm x 102cm

“Following on from this we experimented with ways of picturing common experiences – referring to music and the elements.

“My involvement with Risley allowed me to continue my interest in the depiction of the human figure, looking at ways in which the individual is affected by particular environments and experiences.

“Time was too limited to develop a particular programme of work. The paintings and drawings assembled here represent a period of furious activity responding almost instinctively to my experiences at Risley, particularly my time spent with the group of inmates.

“I have not sought out overly dramatic situations, but rather allowed my day to day contact with individuals to suggest the subject matter for my work.

Seg unit
oil on canvas
48″ x 48″
122cm x 122cm

“I am indebted to the creativity and invention of the inmates with whom I worked. Without their co-operation, the help of the Education Department staff, the staff of Warrington Museum and the students at Manchester University this exhibition would not have been possible and I would have missed a rewarding and valuable experience.”

Inside Out
was part of a co-ordinated approach to visual arts development through liaison between Warrington Museum and the Arts Development Unit at Warrington Borough Council.