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Rachel Gadsden

Visual & Performance Artist working across the Mainstream and Diverse art sectors in UK and Internationally.

“Gadsden is creating an artwork with frantic speed, fighting her own real-life fight against the dying of the light. In the act of painting, she tells us, she is "living in the second". A profoundly affecting reminder of our shared humanity.”

Luke Jennings - Guardian Observer Newspaper

Gadsden is an exciting and unique visual and perfromance artist with over 20 years experience of creating dynamic work as both solo artist, and collaborator as well as leading a range of national and international participative programmes. At the core of her practice are concerns as to how humankind comes to terms with mortality: by unearthing the unseen, making the invisible visible. Part of that process is about being open about impairment, and working to empower others to find a voice with which to challenge stigma.  Ultimately Gadsden’s work is underpinned by themes of fragility and resilience, a shared and positive sense of survival in the face of chronic health conditions, and the politics and mythologies surrounding disability. 

Expressionistic in approach, Gadsden creates vibrant, energetic art through painting, performance, animation and film, always with the overriding objective of presenting a cross-cultural visual language and dialogue to consider the most profound notions of what it is to be human. 

Gadsden is a multi-award winning visual and performance artist who has a BA and MA in Fine Art. Her artistic career began with the support of a Princes Youth Business Trust Award (1988). Gadsden was commended in the 2011 International Freedom to Create competition and Global Alchemy is now permanently exhibited in Mandela’s Walk to Freedom in Cape Town.

Gadsden’s 2019 commissions included a major artwork and film for FIFA and Hyundai for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Paris, she was invited to be the key note speaker for the Arts Activated Conference, Sydney Australia, has created a collaborative project for ADA Hong Kong, and has exhibited for British Council in Palestine and in Jordan for University of Birmingham.

(Please Scroll to the bottom of page to see Rachel Gadsden's full CV)

Be Inspired - Rachel's Story (2.14 mins short film)

Rachel says the Olympics, Paralympics and Cultural Olympiad has ‘substantially’ changed her life and gave her the opportunity of a lifetime.

To capture the true legacy of London 2012 The National Lottery have created a series of short films that look at the lasting impact of what was achieved in 2012 and how it is still helping individuals and communities across the UK.

Levelling Up Report - 2014 

Levelling up report 2014 - Published on Jun 23, 2014 page13   Rachel Gadsden - The Leader as Powerful Artist

A research study into what constitutes excellent and innovative practice in Cultural Leadership initiatives either targeted at or including disabled and d/Deaf emerging and mid-term leaders in the cultural industries sector.

The leader as powerful artist "Gadsden sees her work operating on both personal and global levels and consequently has become interested in cultural leadership given the possibilities of wider cultural and political change that leadership offers. This portrait is an example of how an artist can, through the uniqueness, clarity and power of their artistic voice, become a cultural leader and a force for wider social awareness and change."

Rachel holds a number of on-going roles within organisations that enable her to advocate further and advises these particular organisations to encourage creativity, collaboration and engagement for all disabled people. (Please scroll to the bottom of this page for further information)

Summary - Exhibitions/Commissions/Projects

Gadsden has regularly exhibited with Robert Devcic, Director GV Art Gallery, London 
The exhibitions include:
THEATRE OF THE MIND 24 August - 29 September 2012
POLYMATH Group Show 24 February - 14 April 2012
Trauma Group Show 1 December 2011 - 18 February 2012

Hampton Court Palace 2007-2008 (short film BBC Learning Zone)
Gadsden was appointed the first contemporary artist-in-residence (since Holbein) at Hampton Court Palace (2007 - 2008) where she undertook a major year long residency contributing to all aspects of the education and outreach programmes at the Palace, and created Unravelling Threads of History a comprehensive solo exhibition presented at the Clore Gallery Hampton Court Palace, November 2008.

Parliamentary Outreach 2009-2010

In 2009 - 2010 Gadsden became the first artist for Parliamentary Outreach, undertaking Breaking Barriars and the Rethink Parliament Projects and Commission leading up to the National 2010 General Election.

London 2012
In 2011 Gadsden was awarded two major international commissions, Unlimited Global Alchemy and Starting Line to create broad-reaching artistic exhibitions, performances and film for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
Pushme Video (155 seconds for BBC The Space):

Qatar – UK Year of Culture 2013

In March 2013 Gadsden was selected to represented UK, creating a major exhibition of paintings  “This Breathing World” for “Qatar - UK Year of Culture 2013”, for British Council and the first ever Art and Disability Festival in the Middle East. The exhibition was presented at at Katara Cultural Village, Doha Qatar, and was formally opened by HRH Prince Charles and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall.

Gadsden was an artistic contributor for the “Fragile Dance” Symposium in Tallinn, Estonia, a European wide project that considered visual impairment, dance and chorography. Gadsden was delighted to return to SA to collaborate with British Council South Africa to create an exciting cross media new commission for the Women’s International Festival at Artscape SA in collaboration with the Steve Biko Centre,  July 2013.

Further commissions included Liberty Festival 2013, London, and The Big Draw Commission for Parliament in Westminster Hall.

In 2014 Gadsden created a digital artwork in collaboration with filmmaker Abigal Norris for the lighting of the Sochi, Russia 2014 Winter Paralympic Torch Ceremony. Gadsden embarked on Al Noor ~ Fragile Vision, a multi-cultural collaborative project between UK and Middle East communities, the project includes an exhibition of artworks, films, and a performance. Gadsden completed 14 Stations of the Cross paintings for St Joseph’s Cathedral, Abu Dhabi.

Gadsden was commissioned to create 2 Banners for the Magna Carta - ‘The Beginnings of that Freedome’ Exhibition 2015, which opened in Westminster Hall Parliament in January 2015. Further 2015 commissions include collaborations with GDIF for the Four Fridas, with British Council Bahrain and Palestine and an award from Liberty Festival to develop Shamal. Gadsden is currently exhibiting as part of ILHAM at the Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar,  she also presented at Sasol’s Definitely Able Conference in Qatar at MIA.

Recent Awards
Gadsden was awarded the National Diversity Award 2013: Positive Role Model for Disability, shortlisted for the European Diversity Awards 2014  - Hero of the Year and was awarded BreakThrough UK Award 2014 - Influencing disabled people’s participation in society. The National Diversity Group said:

Rachel Gadsden is nothing short of an inspiration and serves as the ideal positive role model for disabled people. An internationally acclaimed contemporary artist, Rachel has battled successfully against a potentially life limiting illness to produce works of art that are applauded worldwide. Featured by the likes of the Observer and the Arts Council and British Council, Rachel’s work and inspiration has been showcased across the world – Qatar, Bahrain and South Africa being good examples – where she has helped local people understand the power of art. Her work is underpinned by the notions held around disability, balanced by positivity. Rachel’s artistic practice exemplifies the importance of the right to the freedom of expression, addressing issues relating to disability and thereby contributing to the bigger picture of bringing cultural change to our society.
National Diversity Awards Gala September 2013




Rachel Gadsden CV

Awards Exhibitions and Commission

Rachel Gadsden
Visual & Performance Artist – Artistic Director 


2000 - 2001  MA Fine Art, City and Guilds of London Art
2000  Anatomy for Artists Diploma, Distinction, UCH Medical School, London
1995 - 1998  BA (Hons) Fine Art Painting 2.1 Wimbledon School of Art
1983 – 1986 Professional Acting Diploma Arts Educational School, London

2017 Al Qattan Foundation Award Funding – It was Paradise
2017 Unlimited International R&D Award – It was Paradise
2016 Awarded Honorary Doctorate of London South Bank University
2016 ACE and British Council International Development Award
2016 a-n Travel Bursary 2016
2014 Breakthrough UK National Independent Living Award Influencing disabled people’s participation in Society
2014 Shortlisted European Diversity Award – Hero of the Year
2014 The Space Open Call Digital Award
2013 National Diversity Award 2013 – Positive Role Model for Disability
2011 “Commended” Freedom to Create Prize 2011 (Cape Town SA)
2009 International DadaAward 2009 Artist of the Year Award
2009 ACE, SE & Dada-South Bursary Award for Momentum'09
2007 Holton Lee Disability Arts Competition People’s Choice Prize
2005 DadaAward 2005 Visual Artist of the Year
2005 People’s Choice Prize The Whittingham Riddell Shrewsbury Open Art
2005 Grant for the Arts Council SE Asylum Hospitals
2004 Artsadmin Digital Media Bursary
2003 Hunting Art Prizes 2003 “Most Popular Painting Prize”
2002 London Arts “International Go Award” Grant to Colombia, South America.
2001 MA Arts and Humanities Research Board Bursary for MA Degree
1999 Finalist Notes from Underground Competition Exhibition, Dostoyevsky Museum, St Petersburg, Russia
1998 William Brooker Painting Scholarship (Spain)
1996 Juliet Gomperts Memorial Scholarship (Italy)
1988 Prince’s Youth Business Trust Award
1986 Lillian Bayliss Theatre Award

Projects/Solo exhibitions/Group Exhibitions/Residencies


FiFa – Hyundai Women’s World Cup 2019 True Passion Commission, Film & Exhibition #WWC2019
British Academy Narratives of Displacement Project Jordan – Artist Residency and BA Summer Showcase Exhibition in collaboration with British Academy and Birmingham University
Palestine Young People Festival 2019 Project with Abused and Violated Women Bethlehem, West Bank
DisOrdinary Architecture – Dialogue Beyond Sight Bartlett School of Architecture
Arts and Disability Association, Hong Kong Commissioned artist Leading “Narratives of Diversity” Program
Arts Activated Conference, Sydney Australia, Key Note Speaker and Panelist
DisOrdinary Architecture Leading a project with Brighton University Architecture Design Students
Unlimited Exhibition - British Council Palestine Aida Refugee Camp, West Bank

Unlimited International Award – It was Paradise, Palestine, UK
Breaking Barriers – Balkans Museums Conference - Key Note Speaker Skopje
DaDaFest 2018 – Exhibition and Commissioned Artist for the Festival 
Dr Yafa Shanneik - British Academy Award Birmingham University – Commissioned Artist
Gendered Geographies of Power: Muslim Women Marriages across Transnational Spaces, working with Syrian and Iraqi Refugees, UK Germany & Jordan.
CBRL, Jordan Narratives of Displacement Exhibition – Artist Residency and Exhibition in collaboration with British Academy and Birmingham University
All at Sea, Solo Exhibition, London
Architecture Beyond Sight Bartlett School of Architecture – Commissioned Artist
Advance Charity – Commissioned Artist, Exhibition & Collaborative Project with victims of domestic violence
Misk Art Festival 2018 – “Ships of the Desert” Performance – commissioned artist
Dare Festival 2018 - Commissioned Artist “All at Sea” in collaboration with composer Freddie Meyers
DaDaFestival 2018 Elements of Displacement Exhibition & All at Sea Performance

LAAF 2017 – Commissioned Artist - It was Paradise Project Commission
MiSK Art Festival Saudi Arabia – International Commissioned Exhibiter and Performer (Shamal)
Unlimited International R&D Award -
Arts and Disability: Challenges and Successes Exhibition and Symposium Palestine - Commissioned Artist, Curator and Presenter, British Council Palestine Occupied Territories. Bereaved-to-Bereaved Women Project Jerusalem – Kvinna till Kvinna
Commission Spalding Rehabilitation Network, Boston MA, USA (2 large scale paintings)
Commissioned artist Awkward Bastards 2: Absence – Mac, Birmingham & Dash Arts
Ways of Seeing – Tate Exchange - Shape Arts - Commissioned Artist, Tate Modern
History of Place – Accentuate Ken & Maggie Davis Story – Commissioned Artist
QEII School Inspired to Paint Art Project funded by Nesta Commissioned Lead Artist
Shape Arts Open Competition 2017 – Selected Artist

Palestine Research and Development Trip (ADIF & a-n Travel Bursary)
Qatar 2022 Commissioned Artist Live Art Performance & Workshops (Qatar Supreme Council)
Lead Artist - Seeds of Diversity – 2016 Rio Paralympic Torch Lighting Festival - Stoke Mandeville
Presenter ADI “Creative Connections” Conference Ireland
Tale of Two Cities – creation of artwork + workshops with Everton and Manchester City FC
“Reframing the Myth” An exhibition by the Central Illustration Agency and Graeae Theatre
Shape Open Competition Exhibition 2016
Commissioned Artist - The Crows Plucked Your Sinews - National Tour
Dialogue Beyond Sight Co Curator and Commissioned Artist – Oxo Gallery
Selected Presenter AWID Forum 2016, Brazil

Commission UK Parliament - The Beginnings of this Freedome Exhibition

ILHAM Exhibition Museum of Islamic Art Qatar  British Council & Sasol Commission
The Four Fridas Greenwich and Docklands International Festival commissioned to create an animation
Shamal Performance Liberty Festival and National Paralympic Day, London
British Council Palestine invitation research and development trip
The Space Digital Development 


14 paintings Station of the Cross Commission for St Joseph’s Cathedral Abu Dhabi, UAE
Big Draw – Patron Saints Commissionfor UK Parliament, The Speakers Art Fund Gallery

Sochi Paralympic Torch Lighting Ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium Commissioned to create a digital animation in collaboration with Abigail Norris 

Al Noor - Fragile Vision International Commission in collaboration with ACE & British Council – DadaFest  2014, MIA, Qatar, Al Riwaq Gallery, Bahrain, LAAF, Liverpool 


Solo Exhibition “This Breathing World” Katara Cultural Village, Qatar, representing UK as part of
“Qatar - UK Year of Culture 2013” for British Council and opened by HRH Prince Charles and HRH Duchess of Cornwall
Just Here Magazine 

Art – Abled Commissioned Artist, British Council, Bahrain

R&D research trip to Steve Biko Museum Williams Town, SA, British Council, South Africa

Artscape Commissioned artist, Disability Festival Artscape 2013, Cape Town, South Africa

Boston Art Inc USA, commissioned to create Paralympic inspired artworks for Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston MA, USA

Cube of Curiosity in collaboration with Marc Brew, National Paralympic Day and Liberty Festival

The Crows Plucked Your Sinews by Hassan Mahamadallie in collaboration with the Bush Theatre 


Unlimited Festival UGA Exhibition/Performance/Film at Museum Archaeology & Anthropology, Cambridge, Dada International 2012 Festival, Liverpool, and South Bank, as part of London 2012 Festival - Produced in collaboration with Artsadmin 
Unlimited Global Alchemy Film 

Starting Line London 2012 Paralympic Torch Commission

Trauma – GV Art Gallery, London

Push Me – BBC The Space Commission

Driving Inspiration Schools Paralympic Project
GV Art - Theatre of the Mind season in conjunction with Rachel Gadsden & Elastic Theatre

Freedom to Create Exhibition & Prize Celebration Cape Town, SA
International Unlimited London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Commission, UK & South Africa
Without Walls Festival Commission 2011 in collaboration with choreographer Mark Smith
RNIB Sense and Sensibility Gala Commission


Commissioned by GDIF to Create Large Scale Painting Liberty Arts Festival Trafalgar Square, London 
Alchemy Exhibition London Solo exhibition of Paintings and Drawings
“Being Me Being” Sarah Scott “Go Public Commission” collaborating visual artist
Commissioned visual artist for the “Pantry” Project Cusp Inc and NHS Surrey
International Drawing Symposium Kettles Yard Gallery and Cambridge University - Directed by Glen Sujo

Rethink Parliament National Exhibition and Project for Parliamentary Outreach 2009-2010
First Appointed Artist for Parliamentary Outreach for Breaking Barriers Exhibition and Project

Land of the Sacred Ibis Solo Painting and Drawing Exhibition, London
Artist for Rose Bruford Theatre College International Theatre Symposium
Capture art Commission Lord Seb Coe and the British Wheelchair Basket Ball Team (Seeda)

Historic Royal Palaces first Artist in Residence Hampton Court Palace, residency and solo exhibitionLondon 2012 Commission to create Artworks for Stoke Mandeville Stadium Beijing – LondonParalympics Handover Sept 17th and 60th Anniversary of Paralympics Movement      Capture Performance Commission, Tate Modern, Turbine Hall for Architecture Inside Out


India and Beyond (solo exhibition) London
Discursive Spaces Project Brighton University School of Architecture
Holton Lee International Art Competition Exhibition 2007
Ruin Gallery Thirty Five - a Brighton, Architecture Week                      


Carnival Solo Exhibition, Art House Gallery, Wimbledon, London
Lightbox Museum Woking June 2006 Commission for permanent artwork
Sane Art Project, Ruthin Gaol Museum Wales, Resident Artist and Project Leader                
Beyond the Asylum Solo Exhibition, Faith Gallery, Holton Lee, Dorset


Poetics of Decay - Inside Out Exhibition Arts Council & RIBA
Beyond the Asylum Exhibition Denbigh Museum and Library, North Wales  
Long Weekend Exhibition, Scholars House Gallery, London
Museum of Modern Art Wales Open Competition 2005, the Tabernacle, Machynlleth, Wales


 Commonground Open Competition Artsway, Sway
 Hutson Gallery, London, Summer & Winter Group Exhibitions
Zuhair Fayez Architecture Partnership, Saudi Arabia, Public Commission


Artist in Residence Penallta Colliery South Wales, European Union Fund
Out of Darkness Solo Exhibition, Caerphilly Museum and Art Gallery May 2002
Zuhair Fayez Architecture Partnership, Saudi Arabia, Public Commission

1999 - 2002

Children of the Andes Charity commissioned artist
Mirade a Colombia Solo Exhibition, Bolivar Hall, Venezuelan Embassy London, May 2002
Land Competition Exhibition ArtSway, Sway, Hampshire
Huntercombe Young Offenders Institute, Oxford, Artist in Residence, Dec 2001
Whispers in the Dust Anatomical Solo Exhibition, Institute of Child Health Gallery, London
Spirit of the House, Sherborne House Gallery, Dorset
Notes from Underground Competition Exhibition, Dostoyevsky Museum St Petersburg, Russia
Rentree Exhibition, Stanley Picker Gallery, London

Rachel holds a number of on-going roles within organisations that enable her to advocate further and advises these particular organisations in relation to encouraging creativity, collaboration and engagement for all disabled people.

Panel Member: Spirit of 2012 Trust - Spirit of Achievement Panel

Patron: Queen Elisabeth II School, Horsham

Patron: Dash Arts

Board of Trustee Member: The Campaign for Drawing

Ongoing Resident Artist since 2007: Wheelpower UK