Championing neurodiversity within the Arts



RE: Hart Club

Surrey Docks Farm (2018)

Back in October 2017, Helen Ralli collaborated with an organization called Exceptional Individuals to curate an exhibition titled Great Minds Think Different. Showcasing the work of 30 artists, the focus was on creatives who operate outside the boundaries of neurotypicality. This was the genesis of Hart Club, Helen’s south London-based gallery space, which is currently showing work by Andy Ogungbemile and Donal Sturt.

While in the process of arranging Great Minds Think Different, Helen came into contact with the Camberwell Incredibles, a group of 12 diverse adults who’ve been meeting for around twenty years or so, but up until now have had no public-facing exhibitions. “This inspired me to want to provide a focused platform to champion neurodiversity within the arts, and the final push came when the property owner of the previous space I was running, V3, decided to demolish the building,” Helen tells It’s Nice That.

The idea is, she says, “to work closely with existing charities and organisations – who run long-standing facilities to support the making of neurodiverse artwork – to provide a space for the results to be publicly exhibited.”

The overarching aim of Hart Club is to increase visibility of neurodiverse creatives, and to generate positive representation. As Helen says, “People with additional needs are often marginalised from mainstream society. This kind of invisibility or lack of contact promotes categorisation and stereotype. In terms of addressing this, I think that language is an easy place to start: Hart Club does not refer to these artists as having a ‘disability’, preferring neurodiversity.”

Discussing the collaborative nature of the work on display at Training, the gallery’s first full show, Helen says, “it’s a case of the sum being greater than two parts, so bringing people together with very different skill sets to best enhance what each person contributes.”
Helen sees the future of Hart Club being one in which the economic realities of making art in 21st century Britain are melded with a humanist, community-minded outlook.

“Whilst Hart Club is not commercially driven, I would love for us to be in a position where we were selling work to provide these artists with an opportunity to be creatively and financially recognised, and seed funds back into the services that support them,” she says.

“It would be incredible one day if we were in a position to be involved in the facilitation of the work, as well as its exhibition: an alternative art school, for example!"

Hart Club’s current exhibition, Training, a collaborative show of work by Andy Ogungbemile and Donal Sturt runs until the 26th of August.

Emeli Sandé, Strawberries and Cream (2018)


Words: Isabella Borholt


RE: Paul Wright

Currently on show at London’s Hart Club is a collection of paintings by Paul Wright, an artist whose work injects humour into some familiar characters – such as Peggy Mitchell and Delboy – with an artistic eye that will induce an ear-to-ear grin on any visitor.

Paul has only been painting with confidence for the past year or so, working on his collection of paintings at local east London charity Headway’s Submit to Love, “a home to a collective of self-taught artists – all of whom have survived brain injuries.” Paul experienced a traumatic brain injury back in 2007 which has since affected his short-term memory, movement and communication. Nevertheless, as Laura Owens of Headway tells It’s Nice That, “his sense of humour and cheeky nature are still very much intact,” she says. “Set him down with some paints and this flows onto the page; transporting you to the world of retro, nostalgic, comedic characters who have shaped his life.”

Culminating in this solo show of Paul’s titled Carry on Delboy, the artist has been working with Hart Club, a gallery space which aims to increase the visibility of neurodiverse creatives. Founded by Helen Ralli, the idea for an exhibition of Paul’s work began a few months ago, with Helen noting how “it was the incredible Submit to Love staff and volunteers who enabled Paul’s confidence and personal style to emerge,” she tells us. “I think having the focus and goal of an upcoming exhibition provided some motivation that in turn helped to develop his practice, which confirms for me the importance of public-facing outlets such as Hart Club.”

In terms of stylistic tendencies, Helen describes the works on show at Carry on Delboy as “bold, playful and assured,” despite Paul’s relatively short artistic career to date. “He doesn’t seem to question or criticise his mark-making and works with a directness that is not easy to achieve or imitate,” she continues. “The work feels totally uninhibited and the joy that Paul’s subjects bring to him personally he really manages to capture, translate and gift to the audience.”
At the time of speaking to Helen, Carry on Delboy had been open for a few days, but already “the response is exactly what I’d hope for,” she explains. “The life in these characters jump from the work to the viewer and everyone walks around the show with a smile.” To experience the show for yourself, this “exhibition of nostalgia” will be on show until 3 November and open every Thursday to Sunday.
It is also worth noting that organisation such as Hart Club and Headway rely on volunteers for exhibitions such as this to take form, and as Helen points out, “I hope people realise that opportunities do exist where you can exchange your time for the privilege of working with individuals such as Paul.” If you are looking to get involved further information on how to work with Headway can be found here, as well as Hart Club here.