The things you can do with a button!

August 15, 2010

Lead button art found on the walls of his cell by artist and inmate James Walsh

By James Walsh

Unnamed drawing by James Walsh.

James Walsh drawing. Photo taken inside his cell.

During my stay in Perth, last week, I ventured down to Fremantle for the day.

My plan was to have a little look at Fremantle Prison (something Tim was really not interested in doing…. being a bit claustrophobic so it was a great thing for me to do alone) and then spend some good uninterrupted time at the markets there.

As I said, that was the plan. What actually happened was I spent hours and hours at the prison.

I won’t go into all the things I found fascinating, tragic and thought provoking, but I wanted to show you these.

Art, maybe surprisingly, played quite a role in many prisoners lives, both the convicts and the more recent inmates. While  decorating your cell in convict and early 19th century times was considered defacing (and needed to be hidden if you engaged in it), later (much later) prisoners were encouraged to paint and draw as it was seen to have a calming effect.

These drawings were done during the ‘defacing’ era, so they were swiftly painted over. It wasn’t until an escape attempt (through his adjoining wall by another prisoner), much later, that they  were discovered and subsequently uncovered.

These drawings were remarkable! James Walsh drew them using the lead button from his standard issue prison uniform.

Artists always find a way to create!

Perhaps what is even more remarkable than the drawings themselves, is the patience and calmness of the execution.(No pun intended) and the subject matter. It was completely at odds with it’s harsh surroundings.

I couldn’t help think of John Bunyan who wrote The Pilgrims Progress in similar circumstances.


2 Responses to “The things you can do with a button!”

  1. I remember going there. We must have been in a hurry though, we missed the art. Thanks for putting this up. Amazing.

    • allysonadeney said

      You had to go on the “escape tour” to see the bulk of the artworks. Really glad I did. I found that tour even more interesting than the historical tour.
      I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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