Art As Catharsis: London Artist Showcases Over 20 Years of Work at McIntosh Gallery
Gerard Pas didn’t think he was ‘disabled’ until others pointed it out.
At just 13 months old, the artist was diagnosed with polio, a disease that can result in paralysis or weakness in the arms, legs, or both. Although he limped and wore a brace, he was just a normal child.
He didn’t feel ‘different’ until society made it known.
“I just thought I was normal, like everyone else,” explained Pas.
“But when I got into regular society and you’d hear some mother tell their child ‘Be quiet, don’t ask what’s wrong with that boy,’ I started to realize, well something’s different about me.”
Pas was a born artist, and his disability intrigued him at a young age. When he was in grade 12, his art teacher knew he had a unique talent, and advised him to try pursuing art.
Soon, he created art to document feelings of anger, hope, and healing, using artistic theory to portray what he describes as a ‘broken body.’
“When I came into starting to make my own art, I believed it was important to talk about things you knew, that were real…They weren’t some theoretical construct, but real things I dealt with in real time,” said Pas.
Gerard Pas is a London artist whose work is currently being showcased at Western University’s McIntosh Gallery. The exhibition, Gerard Pas: Broken Body, is open to the public until Feb. 22.
Curated by McIntosh Gallery Director James Patten, the exhibition spans over 20 years of Pas’ career, with selections of paintings, photography, sculptures, and installations.
The internationally acclaimed artist is a prominent figure in the disability arts community. He uses various artistic techniques to document disability, and how society perceives disability.
“I looked at the difference in my legs for example, and they became art for me in a context that is almost like an abstraction,” explained Pas.
But showcasing his disability isn’t at the crux of the exhibition.
Pas uses art to create an open space for dialogue and communication, inviting others to discuss their feelings and opinions towards disability, human frailty, and vulnerability.
“At one point in our life we all understand human frailty…Not one of us is getting out of here alive,” Pas clarified.
“But [there is] the potential for us to understand that our frailty can be revealed, and how to cope with it.”
Pas’ motivation has always been to use art as a catharsis. Creating and displaying art was a process of healing, or releasing suppressed emotions about his struggles and triumphs.
In McIntosh’s East Gallery, an original sculpture of a wheelchair is on display, as well as photographs of Pas’ atrophied leg, and a photograph of the artist as a young child.
This is what Pas calls the ‘angry room.’ But as one travels from the East Gallery to the West Gallery, his art evokes feelings that begin as anger and sadness and transform into hope and healing.
His work is “a testament to change and hope, to not always being angry,” said Pas.
Pas’ work has been displayed around the world. From Africa, to the Middle East and North America, the artist has used art to produce new ways of engaging with disability.
“And at my age, I can sort of sit back with my feet up and feel like I’ve done some things in my day,” Pas remarked with a smile.
McIntosh Gallery is a university-based, public gallery open to students and members of the London community. Gerard Pas: Broken Body will be open to the public until Feb. 22.