Artist Fraser Gray and NGS outreach officer Richie Cumming worked with two groups of young offenders in HMP Polmont during May 2010. Over the course of eight sessions participants were helped to create life sized graphic characters.

The participants created characters based on their own image and experience, traced and projected from photographs taken of each other. During production of the work they were encouraged to discuss and develop their character’s history, personality and future.

In order to develop a real life context for the ‘portrait’ they were creating, the participants discussed how real people are represented by artists, and how curators write about this work.

The work of artists as diverse as Douglas Gordon, Jeff Koons, Ken Currie, Helen Chadwick and Henry Raeburn was examined and analysed alongside the work of artists from outwith the collection; Armsrock, Banksy and Lucy Orta.

Several of the cartoons created were immediately recognisable as the person who made it, other participants disguised their features with animal heads, hoods and masks and were only recognisable by their stance and body shape.

The finished characters were taken outside of the prison walls and photographed by the workshop leaders in generic locations as discussed with the participants.

The aim of taking these half-real characters out of the confines of prison and into society was to encourage inmates to consider their life outside, and to contemplate their future.


Douglas Gordon, Monster Reborn
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, © LISSON GALLERY AND THE ARTIST