Posts on prison art

Painted in February 1961 by an inmate of Pentridge Prison who signed his name J. G. Cust. Earlier this year, I was sent these photographs by a man whose father had been a warden at Pentridge in the 1960s. We know nothing else but hope to find out more. Please comment if you have any information.

I live close to the stone walls of the former Pentridge prison. I was living there when it was still operational. So my interest in this area is partly due to proximity (the rehabilitation of this former 19th-century prison is another story). I’m interested in art outside of the mainstream, from alternate exhibition spaces to graffiti.

The politics of prison art has three parts. Firstly, who is incarcerated? In Australia, Indigenous people are disproportionately incarcerated. What is the purpose of incarceration, and what is the purpose of art? Is it therapy, education, recreation, job training, or culture? These definitions are political and, in a prison, become structural and institutional.

Finally, there is the issue of who should profit from the art or literature created by prisoners. This final question only worries shallow vengeful politicians (of which there are many in Australia) who cannot separate the crime from the incarcerated person.

In this state, the Torch provides art training and the opportunity for sales to Indigenous people who are incarcerated and post-incarceration. I have been writing about their annual Confined exhibitions and other exhibitions organised by the Torch.

Here are all my posts on the art of the incarcerated (I must try to keep this up dated).

Prison Art @ Pentridge

Pentridge – more on prison art

Teaching Art in Prison memories from Chris Dyson

The life and art of Ronald Bull

Confined 8 2017

Yannae Wirrate Weelam and prison art

Confine 9 2018

No Turning Back at Deakin Downtown Gallery

Confined 10

Confined 11

Confined 12

Banj Banj/nawnta at the Counihan Gallery

Confined 13

Thelma Beeton

About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

2 responses to “Posts on prison art

  • c21styork

    After my release from Pentirdge, with two other political prisoners, in 1972, we became activists in the Prisoners Action Committee. I was its spokesman for a few years. As a gesture of appreciation, one of the prisoners painted a portrait of me, which I still have. It was a surprise to receive it.

    Are you in touch with the various Pentridge related facebook groups. I think they would be very helpful.

  • Mark Holsworth

    Thanks for the memories and for the suggestion to contact Pentridge facebook groups.

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