Lee’s Story

A photo of 99 pieces of soap carved into by artist Lee, each soap depicts a memory from his time in prison.

From Koestler Awards Entrant To Studying At The Royal Drawing School

I found my creative side whilst I was serving a six-year sentence in a young offender institution. I was locked up for 23 hours a day, in a single cell, and had minimal contact with anyone outside of the prison walls. But, I did have a pencil, and I began to draw on any odd scraps of paper that I could acquire, and when they ran out, I drew into bars of prison issue soap.

I got pretty good. An art tutor from Education had heard of me and my work, and when we met she gave me a 2009 Koestler Awards entry form. Six months later I received a letter saying my artwork would be exhibited in a Koestler Arts exhibition in London.

I got back in touch with Koestler Arts, and they invited me to take part in their trip to the Venice Biennale, gave me a mentor, invited me to curate a part of their 2014 exhibition Catching Dreams, and gave me a job as an Arts and Exhibitions Assistant.

After a few years of working at Koestler Arts, I applied to study and was offered a place at the Royal Drawing School on their post-graduate programme. During my time studying, I made 99 soap carvings about my memories of prison, and I decided to enter them into the 250th RA Summer show, curated by Grayson Perry. The piece was selected and went on display in the Summer of 2018.

Koestler gave me my first bit of encouragement in the arts, and this was all that was needed, for me to believe that I could build a second chance. I now have a voice.

Download Lee’s full story here

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