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Orange Cheesecake: 35 Chapel Walk

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The Orange Cheesecake exhibition fills every wall of the art space at 35 Chapel Walk from floor to ceiling. The effect can be a little overwhelming, in its profusion of colours and styles, and even more in the volume of creative energy on display - and not on display, as the gallery's centre is taken up by a huge pile of work for which there was no space. The exhibition spills beyond its boundaries.

The artists are adults with learning disabilities, and the exhibition is a product of two years' worth of weekly art sessions at the Burton Street Foundation. It is a showcase of both personal and community expression, bringing artists and artworks that are too often overlooked into the heart of the city and into a dialogue with the wider public.

Among many other things, the exhibition contains a huge grid of A4 pages in highlighter-bright patterns; a suite of sombre and monumental abstract still-lifes; the illustrated adventures of an angry police officer; imposing hanging banners of dripping paint; a collection of ghostly, stark sunset scenes; big textured fields of deep purple and red; grinning figures superimposed on scarlet newsprint; and dozens of superheroes.

The exhibition spills beyond its boundaries

The work is presented anonymously and without captions, though some of the artists sign and label their own pieces. This provides an opportunity for the viewer to contemplate the paintings as belonging both to individual individual bodies of work, with highly personal and often very generous modes of expression, and as parts of a single community collection. Certain themes - belonging, home, the joy of small things - move through the work of multiple artists.

The pile of unhung work in the gallery's centre sends a powerful and moving message about the quantity and scope of art that people are capable of creating when given the necessary space, time and support. It also shows us how easily the work of outsider artists can languish ignored even when those resources are provided. The decision, then, to overwhelm the visitor, with pieces crammed to the rafters and covering every centimetre of available space, carries the same kind of faith and joy in creation that is visible in so much of the work.

In this way, Orange Cheesecake represents two complementary opportunities: a sadly rare chance for its artists to see their art arranged and displayed, all speaking together for the public, and an equally rare opportunity for the rest of us to discover it.

Patrick Ball

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