Oliver Hemsley Care Givers exhibition at TKE putting body and dependency under the microscope

Care Givers by Oliver Hemsley (featuring Viv the pug)

A raw and honest examination of life dependent on care from others can be found in a new exhibition at the TKE Studios in Margate.

Care Givers is a display of works from artist Oliver Hemsley where he focuses on his own body and the need for care after a brutal and unprovoked attack in 2008 resulted in injuries including his spinal cord being partially severed, leaving him paralysed.

The mixture of small and large canvases in acrylic, oil and charcoal are a study by Oliver of his own body, the complexities of living with disability and the need for care givers in his life.

Oliver was just 20 when he was attacked by a gang of youths who stabbed him eight times.

The promising fashion designer, who had been a student at the St Martin’s School of Art, spent the next 134 days in intensive care and almost a year in hospital – turning 21 during that time.

It was a tragedy that forever changed Oliver’s life but he began a journey to relearn how to create his artworks after use returned to his left hand. He was also integral alongside friend Katy Dawe in the creation of the ‘Art Against Knives’ initiative using creative works to help raise awareness of knife crime.

Oliver Hemsley Photo Johnnie Shand Kydd

An exhibition for the cause included works donated by artists including Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin, Wolfgang Tillmans and Banksy.

More recently, in a podcast with Talk Art’s Robert Diament of the Carl Freedman Gallery and actor Russell Tovey, Oliver spoke about life as a man who is gay and disabled, the reality of having a full-time carer, the long journey to relearning how to draw and make art and the hope that art has given him.

Oliver, who is now 35, lives in Suffolk with his two dogs Viv and Plop, both of whom feature in some of his self portrait works.

Talking to Talk Art he spoke with both humour and grim reality about life and the importance of art to him, saying: “One thing I can do is make art and I think that’s a power that I have and a power I am still learning to use,

“Being able to do something for myself and spend the whole day in my studio, making things and drawing things, is a privilege.”

Care Givers is Oliver’s first solo exhibition and it is also the first solo show to be held at TKE. It is curated by Tracey Emin and Elissa Cray at TKE Studios and coincides with Margate Pride.

Oliver describes his self-portrait works as ‘coming out as disabled’ and also references the experience of being a gay man in a body that is ‘f*****.’ Despite the poignancy of the works his strength and determination is evident.

Oliver attended a special preview of the show last night (August 11) and was joined by guests including Russell and Robert who had given a talk earlier.

‘I can’t live without you, but I wish we had never met.’

The exhibition runs from today until 15th October. Opening times are Saturday and Sunday, noon – 4pm, and weekdays by appointment.

TKE Studios is at 99 Victoria Road, Margate

Help us to continue bringing you Thanet news with a donation towards our running costs https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=YF7BH2EF4UG2N