Twelve + 3 Exhibition

Twelve + 3 Exhibition

Arts Northern Rivers collaborated with Accessible Arts’ Creating Connections project, who work to engage, support and advocate for artists with disability on the North Coast of NSW, to help bring to fruition a touring exhibition titled Twelve + 3. The title references the 12 artists with disabilities and the three supported studio’s that participated in the exhibition.

The works in Twelve + 3 were as diverse as the spectrum of their makers. The 12 artists, plus more who are supported under the three studios involved in the exhibition, work prolifically to produce outstanding bodies of work, many unadulterated by academic instruction or traditional influence.

The common thread running throughout the exhibition was the repetitive patterning, bold use of colour and quirky narratives. The inner worlds of these artists came to the fore in their emotive works that blended memory, personal narratives, the domestic and the inner and outer landscapes, both physical and mythical.

The Twelve + 3 exhibition was a culmination of two and a half years of discovery, support, mentoring and promotion of artists with disability across the North and Mid North Coast region of NSW, which aimed to establish new networks and support existing opportunities for artists with disability to fully experience and participate in the arts.

The concept for the exhibition came about as a way to showcase some of the incredible work coming out of the region by artists who have been supported and identified during the period of the Creating Connections project.

  • Five week exhibition at Glasshouse Gallery in Port Macquarie
  • Travelling exhibition shown at Accessible Arts national Conference in Sydney
  • Digital Gallery at the Regional Arts Australia Conference in Kalgoorlie
  • A 4 week season at the Northern Rivers Community Gallery in Ballina


Alyssa Black | Visual Artist

Alyssa Black works in oils and drawing. She was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive. Alyssa began to draw during a long hospital stay when she was 15, to offer a distraction from treatment. Alyssa explores themes of beauty ideals, body weight, eating and food- her interest in which is driven by her disability. An ongoing series Thinspiration explores the visual culture of body weight and eating. In the works Alyssa compares today’s ideals and anti-ideals with those of art history to emphasize contemporary representations on the topic.

Image | Alyssa Black, Thinspiration (after Goya), 2014

Mabel Ritchie | Visual Artist

Mabel Ritchie is a Dunghutti woman who was born in Newcastle. Mabel’s family moved back to her father’s home land, Burnt Bridge when she was very young where she grew up with her brothers and sisters. As a young girl Mabel loved to watch her aunties and uncle’s paint beautiful pictures.  Mabel enjoyed painting stories throughout her schooling years. Since 2009 Mabel has been painting her own pictures, telling her stories about her life and her culture from The Dunghutti-Ngaku Aboriginal Art Gallery. The aim of the gallery is to showcase and market works of prominent established and emerging aboriginal artists of the Dunghutti region and broader Mid North Coast area.

Image | Mabel Ritchie, Gymea Lily (detail), 2013

Zion Levy Stewart | Visual Artist

Zion has been drawing and painting for the past fifteen years. His love of life, people and keen interest in the natural beauty of his home in Northern New South Wales, give Zion the inspiration to create his unique, quirky paintings in watercolour and acrylic. He has a special talent for portraits, which capture the essence of his subjects. Zion has exhibited in a number of local and interstate galleries and his work is held in private art collections in the USA and UK as well as here in Australia. Zion regularly exhibits at Studio RED, an art studio established in Byron Bay by RED Inc. (Realise Every Dream Inc.) to encourage creative potential and development.

Image | Zion Levy Stewart, Me and a Scary Ghost (detail), 2014

Damien Conte | Visual Artist

Damien Conte is a young artist with a limited ability to communicate verbally who uses painting to share his inner world with others. He works with various themes including landscapes inhabited by creatures often with broad smiling faces. His artworks have a childlike, naïve style using detailed marker pen line, pattern and text, vivid colour and texture. What began as a series of canvas experiments has now become a passion and Damien’s artworks have emerged into a unique personal style. The resulting artworks are bold and often evoke powerful responses from viewers. Damien has won several awards for his work and has exhibited in galleries all over Australia.

Image | Damien Conte, Mind and Body (detail), 2013

My Life Creative | Supported Artist Studio

Karen Bulgin | Visual Artist

Karen Bulgin is an accomplished abstract artist, winning the prestigious William Dobell Art Prize in Sydney NSW 1989 and then relocating to Port Macquarie, NSW. Before studying art, she studied geography – atmospheric conditions, winds, cloud formations – and this influence is evident in quite a lot of her paintings. Karen believes that ‘Art can put us in touch with that deep place from which life flows…’ and thus nominates nature as one of her greatest inspirations. Painting urban settings and figures in the landscapes, she feels that the immediate environment was and still is her major source as an artist.

Image | Karen Bulgin, A Grey Day in Burma (Post Tsunami) (detail), 2006

Nambucca Valley Phoenix | Supported Artist Studio

Nambucca Valley Phoenix Arts and Craft centre is a supported studio working out of a heritage listed bank in Bowraville, which provides opportunities for creative expression. Their mission is to improve the quality of life of people with an intellectual disability and to assist people with an intellectual disability to obtain skills to enable them to achieve self-determination in the community. Their work has been acknowledged by the Australia Council for the Arts, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Olympics and various other art exhibitions Australia wide. Individual pieces have been placed in private collections. Examples of the artists talents are displayed and available for purchase in the Phoenix Gallery.

Image | Nambucca Valley Phoenix, Bacon and Eggs, ceramic, 2014

Brook Walker | Visual Artist

Brook is a contemporary Aboriginal Artist from Casino in the Northern Rivers. He uses a mix styles, combining traditional techniques with oil and mixed mediums. He cites Mick Malangi, Ian Fairweather, Lin Onus and Gordon Bennet as having the greatest influence on his practice. Brook uses his artistic expression to convey his passion and scope of his cultural heritage.

“Drawing from the day I could pick up a pencil…to drawing in the sand with stick…making patterns to have them disappear… showing the impermanence of marks man makes and the continual evolution of art as in nature.”

Image | Brook Walker, A Woman’s Knowledge (triptych detail), 2014

Jacqueline King | Glass Artist

Jacqueline’s practice is a conscious attempt to embody an empathic and keen understanding of the fragility and diversity of life. She explores two distinct and often divergent notions of this fragility and diversity, one being our natural environment, the other mental health. Jacqueline develops works exploring the creation of beauty from shattered parts which is a metaphor and reflective of her own life, particularly relevant to the experience of CPTSD. Her hope through her work is to offer a platform for discussion and feeling of inclusion in what is an isolating and poorly understood injury.

Image | Jacqueline King, Each of Us Unique (detail),  24 hand cut and kiln formed glass forms, 2014

Johnny Knox | Visual Artist

Johnny was born in Kempsey, the eldest of five his family lived at Burnt Bridge Mission for 10 years where Johnny attended school. He loved fishing, swimming and going to the picture shows with his brothers and sister. Johnny works out of Dunghutti-Ngaku Aboriginal Art Gallery outside of Kempsey and his work depicts memories of his family and his life growing up on the Mission. The Gallery aka DNAAG is housed in the annex of the Visitor Information Centre. The aim of the gallery is to showcase and market works of prominent established and emerging aboriginal artists of the Dunghutti region and broader Mid North Coast area.

Image | Johnny Knox, Church Day 1 (detail), 2014

Liam Bruce | Ceramic Artist

As a young man with Down Syndrome Liam is differently abled in many respects. Communication is one of his challenges, instead he used drawing and imagery to communicate from a very early age. Since 2003 Liam has been developing his artistic skills and explorations in ceramics. He creates a large body of works in various mediums; acrylics, oil sticks, charcoal, ink and ceramics. Liam’s latest series of ceramics was inspired by his visits to the Byron Lighthouse. They provide an interesting medium through which Liam can share his simple and often whimsical philosophy of life, revealed through his choice of colour and form, blue on white and flowing forms.

Image | Liam Bruce, Love Hotel Home, ceramic modular house, 2013

Lindsay Hunt | Visual Artist

Lindsay Hunt is a contemporary Australian artist, trained in his home city of Sydney and in London at the Royal College of Art. He has resided in the Lismore region for the past several years. Lindsay produces his work in a number of media including oil, acrylic, ink, pastel, charcoal and pencil, as well as using a number of print techniques including woodcut and drypoint etching. The content of Lindsayʼs work is varied with themes drawn from his personal experience and perceptions of the world – and often strongly expressed in work that is satirical and darkly poetic.

Image | Lindsay Hunt, Ghost No 1 (detail), 2014

Audio Described Digital Gallery

Twelve + 3 is a touring exhibition of work by artists of mixed-abilities living on the North and Mid North Coast of NSW, Australia. The exhibition was the cherry-on-top of a three year initiative by Accessible Arts in collaboration with Arts Northern Rivers, who supported and co-curated the exhibition of over 70 works.

A work by each of the artists was chosen to be audio-described by leader in the field, Imogen Yang – a relatively young movement audio description provides people with vision and sight impairments, intellectual disabilities, developmental and cognitive disabilities the possibility of enjoying and ‘seeing’ the visual world of the arts.

Thank you to Clementine Bourke who produced the digital exhibition // Clementine Vimeo

Twelve + 3 Exhibition | Glasshouse Gallery Opening

Project Partners

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