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‘A tonic for the times’: Orange Cheesecake 2 exhibits work by artists with learning disabilities

Returning after a Covid hiatus, projects like Orange Cheesecake allow creative expression to be shared between different communities that might – especially at the moment – have little contact with each other.

Orange cheesecake exhibition oc5
Barry Brown

Two years after its first appearance, and after a Covid-imposed hiatus, the Orange Cheesecake exhibition gallery returned to 35 Chapel Walk last week.

Showcasing work by artists with learning disabilities created in art classes at the Burton Street Foundation, the exhibition represented a second opportunity for the broader Sheffield public to discover art by too-often overlooked artists.

Orange cheesecake exhibition oc1
Barry Brown

Of course, a lot has changed since 2019. The exhibition is a happy return after a long lockdown without community, public art or shared work – at least beyond the ersatz spaces of Zoom calls. But where the first iteration of Orange Cheesecake felt so important because it made the artists’ talents visible right in the living heart of Sheffield, this new exhibition felt like the life itself in a post-lockdown city centre that’s being increasingly neglected, with Chapel Walk itself now full of empty units.

Projects like this represent a way toward rebuilding something fairer and more open in spaces that have been leftover, creative expression shared between different communities that might – especially at the moment – have little contact with each other.

But none of these social musings should overshadow the art itself. While 2019’s exhibition emphasised profusion, with artworks covering the gallery from floor to ceiling – including on the floor and on the ceiling – Orange Cheesecake 2 was more selective, with a handful of framed works from each artist.

Orange cheesecake exhibition oc4
Barry Brown

Nevertheless the work remained extraordinarily diverse, with abstract inkblots placed alongside invented princesses, self-portraits, impressionist flowers and creatures, superheroes, striking fields of colour and geometric shapes.

With most of the work unattributed, the focus is on getting to know the artists through their creations, their idiosyncratic styles and themes, while at the same time becoming familiar with the collective of imaginative and generous Burton Street artists as a whole.

My favourite, an A2 sheet bearing the caption “100 things you should know about saving the Earth” and otherwise blank, was sold after the first couple of days. It’s cynical, funny, a bit sad, a bit hopeful: a tonic for the times, amid many others.

Orange cheesecake exhibition 100things
Barry Brown

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