A RADICAL new exhibition is putting disability and prostheses at its centre.

“Disability, when you think of galleries, is something that is usually addressed as an audience issue and not really something that is intrinsically part of the exhibition programme,” points out Edinburgh-based artist Andrew Gannon, ahead of his first solo exhibition.

Born in 1980 with a congenital limb difference, Gannon has been using a prosthetic limb from a young age. While building his career as an artist, it is only recently he has begun to question his previous reluctance to allow his limb difference space in his artwork.

“There’s a feeling that you shouldn’t centre disability in your art practice,” he says. “The art world is part of the world, and there are systems to say disability doesn’t belong in certain places.

“It became a necessity for me to invert that and, rather than exclude it, to centre it in my work which immediately felt [like] a radical thing to do.”

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Looking at his own experience and the part prostheses have played, Gannon decided to ask questions about the visibility of disability with a series of sculptures cast from his own left arm, mirroring the prosthetic production process.

His aim is to challenge the assumption that prostheses should offer functional and cosmetic “normality”, allowing questions to be raised about some of the oft-repeated discourses that surround disability.

“The ways that we are allowed to exist publicly are very limited,” says Gannon, whose exhibition opens at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket on December 10.

“If you look at the way prostheses are portrayed, it is either in a triumph over tragedy story where someone has been in some kind of trauma and is pulling themselves up, or it is something to do with the Paralympics and some great achievement or something to do with technology.

“It is very rarely that people can just exist – they have got to somehow be ‘super-existing’.

“There is a very narrow public visibility of these things, so I started wondering what would happen if a prosthesis is neither functional nor cosmetic.”

As he has been having casts taken for prostheses since he was a baby, he decided to use the process for his new exhibition in order to centre his own disability in his art.

“It is important for me to centre my disability – and I hope it resonates – but I don’t have an agenda,” Gannon said.

“One of the things art is for is to try to give an alternative point of view.”

Using plaster as if in preparation for a prosthesis, Gannon creates wearable casts that become increasingly unwearable as they are bound together, their functional ungainliness becoming a sculptural elegance.

“Having casts taken is a process I am familiar with, but it is quite unusual, if not alien, to a lot of people,” he said.

In regular performances throughout the exhibition at the Fruitmarket, he will also draw using a limb which incorporates a long bamboo pole and is based on the drawing sticks used by Henri Matisse to loosen up his style for drawing murals. The drawings and limbs will be incorporated into the exhibition as the performance progresses.

Edinburgh Fruitmarket director Fiona Bradley said: “It is exciting for the Fruitmarket to be able to show Andrew Gannon’s work as it moves beyond performance to incorporate sculpture. I am interested to see how our audience responds to these intriguing, material presences.”

Andrew Gannon Impressions runs from December 10 until January 8, 2023, at Fruitmarket, Edinburgh fruitmarket.co.uk