Birds by Stephen Staunton, who became an artist after sustaining a traumatic brain injury.
Birds by Stephen Staunton, who became an artist after sustaining a traumatic brain injury.

In 1991 Stephen Staunton – an artist originally from Galway in Ireland and now living in north London – sustained a traumatic brain injury in a road traffic accident. As a result, Staunton is deaf and uses very little language or formal signing, instead “communicating through gesture, isolated words, vocalisations, and the physical resources of his surroundings,” according to Headway East London, a Haggerston-based charity that supports people affected by brain injury.

Staunton began attending Headway in 2007, where he started painting. Nine years on, and an exhibition of his work – described by Headway as “patchwork dramas of colour” – is on display this month at the Gallery Café in Bethnal Green, sponsored by the Whitechapel Gallery and curated by Steph Hirst.

“I think Stephen’s paintings are partly expressions of an unusual way of seeing,” reflects Bryn Davies, co-ordinator at Headway. “He paints as if he’s at home with the social lives of colours. Stephen’s works usually begin from a source image, but they quickly take on a life of their own. He works with a mixture of careful planning and off-the-cuff gusto.”

Chinese Ladies by Stephen Staunton.
Chinese Ladies by Stephen Staunton.

Staunton developed his practice in Headway’s art department, known as Submit to Love Studios. Davies explains that the studios are a central part of Headway’s work. “Art gives an opportunity for our members to express themselves and their relation to the world in an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual support,” he says. “Such projects also open up conversations which will hopefully lead to a deeper understanding of the difficulties and talents of brain injury survivors.”

Staunton himself gave a talk on his paintings on 5 May at the Gallery Café, followed by a musical performance by other Headway members.

Steven Staunton Paintings
Until 31 May, Gallery Café,
21 Old Ford Road, E2 9PL

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