Artists often seek to explore beyond the boundaries of what other people consider is possible, and while many people think the practice of art is ‘self-expression’, a more authentic way to think about artistic endeavours is as “beyond-the-self exploration.” This ‘beyond-the-self’ dynamic is certainly true of both Australian photographer Andrew Follows and British artist Bruce Rimell: both of them use their respective artforms as ways to extend the possibilities of their lives and move beyond their boundaries.
Andrew’s use of digital photography acts as an expanded way of for him to see and experience the world, moving him beyond the bounds of his visual disability into vistas of stunning photography and remarkable adventures, which have included exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, a 2012 show in Edinburgh, Scotland, winning the Arts Access Australia Peoples Choice award for one of his photographs, meeting HRH Prince Charles at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, and future opportunities at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic Games and the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK.
Andrew has an eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a condition which has rendered one eye completely blind with ever diminishing tunnel vision in the other. What vision he has in this eye is hazy and limited, but this does not diminish his technical skills in photography, nor indeed his eye for a brilliant photo. He has a great partnership with his Guide Dog, and a deep passion for photography, exploring Melbourne, the city where they live, looking for great objects to investigate. He considers that digital photography, which he began learning in 2008, opened up a whole new world to him.
Bruce meanwhile uses painting and illustration in meditative and dreamlike ways to explore hidden vistas of the visionary human mind, as well as explorations of indigenous lifeways and cultural realities to move his audience beyond the contemporary conceits of Westernised thinking into experiential realms that re-connect us as people and which have been described as “beyond the everyday” and “more intimately human…” His unique visual style has taken him all around the world, with both solo exhibitions and work in touring shows in the UK, Germany, France, USA, Mexico, Spain and the Philippines as well as community development projects in South Africa, and he considers his art has vastly expanded the boundaries and experiential possibilities of his own life.
Sportspeople also seek to break beyond the boundaries of what seems possible, pushing their bodies and minds through sustained physical and mental training to achieve goals which previously might have seemed unattainable. While this true of anyone who takes their sport seriously, it is particularly appropriate for elite Paralympic and Olympic athletes: in so many different ways, the break out beyond their boundaries and inspire millions to do the same.
To celebrate the coming of the 2022 Commonwealth Games to Birmingham, and Andrew’s attendance as an official photographer, Andrew and Bruce are working towards a collaboration in which Bruce’s responds to selected images of Andrew’s sport photography. Andrew’s capturing of inspiring moments in the midst of sporting action will be re-purposed as painted images of the supernatural, imaginary and fantastical to symbolise the boundary-breaking ‘movement beyond’ which acts as a fundamental current to Andrew’s photography, Bruce’s art, and the Paralympic and Olympic athletes who push themselves beyond their limits to achieve greatness.
Ready Kid, 2012 and 2018
In August 2012, after Andrew’s photography exhibition in that year’s Edinburgh Festival, he stayed with Bruce for eight days, during which time Bruce got to see Andrew’s working methods close-up and in detail, wandering the twin cities of Leeds and Bradford with his former guide dog Eamon. One day, we found some young parkouristas practising their acrobatics in front of the Leeds Art Gallery, and Andrew began to take lots of photographs of the action. However, the image that proved to be the most moving and remarkable was this photo of a parkourista deep in concentration just before a leap, preparing himself, getting ready. This image is the seed of our project – we called it ‘Ready Kid’ – and in 2018 Bruce produced a painting to demonstrate how the collaboration will work.
Ready Kid 2018 Bruce Rimell