September 6, 2023

Splitting Seeds: An exploration of art making and paralysis by Natalie Bignell

We are delighted to introduce Natalie Bignell, a mixed-media artist using mark-making as dynamic expression of her experiences of quadriplegia. Natalie’s art is an emotional and physical processing of her new life with paralysis. Her journey of learning to draw again began in Horatio’s Garden London & South East, where she spent lots of time with input from the volunteer team there learning to paint again without the use of her hands.

Now, three years later, Natalie is hosting her first solo exhibition entitled Splitting Seeds: An exploration of art making and paralysis at Nunnery Gallery, Bow Arts Trust (181 Bow Road, London, E3 2SJ) from Thursday 28 September – Tuesday 3 October. Her debut is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

This chapter of Natalie’s story started in November 2020. While standing on Broadway Market, she was caught in the crossfire between rival gangs and was shot through the neck shattering her spine. She is now paralysed from the chest down with a C4 spinal cord injury.

During her rehabilitation, Natalie found her line again with the help of splints attached to her hands, enabling her to make marks and experiment with drawing tools. Much of her painting happened and was inspired by Horatio’s Garden London & South East.

“Drawing the plants and foliage around me not only helped with my mobility and gaining control in my arms, but also helped with my wellbeing and coming to terms with my injury. This charity has a special place in my heart.”

The exhibition explores narratives of disability, body and identity through artwork made by Bignell since she was shot and left paralysed as an innocent bystander. Her work fuses emotive mark-making, medical scans, photography and cartography in a deluge of light and colour. This collection exposes the monochrome theatre of Bignell’s life-saving surgery layered with the lush foliage of exotic plants. Themes of growth and resilience abound, displaying beauty flourishing through the unexpected and the painful splitting, splintering and breaking that growth often entails.

Her unique process using a multitude of creative adaptive devices is demonstrated in a new documentary collaboration with Matt Joy, which will be shown as part of the exhibition. Matt also captured the enigmatic photos of Natalie featuring here alongside a preview of a selection of her emotive artwork.

The ethos behind Natalie’s work addresses disability-led art-making through innovation, dynamism, imagination and resourcefulness. As an autobiographical body of work, it has deeply rooted social and political implications, as it stimulates reflections on independence, bodily autonomy, fragility and growth through world-shaking events. It is a masterclass in resilience and adapting against the odds.

If you have the opportunity to visit Natalie’s exceptional exhibition, please do.

For more information about Splitting Seeds: An exploration of art making and paralysis, please click here

To find out more about Natalie, please click here

To follow Natalie on Instagram, please click here

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