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Showcasing duo's artistic journey

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 28, 2013

defying disability: Tony and Steve at work

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THERE'S still time to go along to the Kitchen Gallery at Cockington Court to see the exhibition 'Art and adversity — a creative journey', which runs until March 22.

It features paintings by Steve Pratt and woodcarvings by Tony Harmel.

When Steve and Tony started working together in 2005, they came from such different backgrounds that in normal circumstances it is unlikely their paths would have crossed.

But chance and adversity in each of their lives brought them together and set them on a creative journey in defiance of disability, illness and misfortune.

When Tony was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia he was assigned to various care regimes over the years, but it was not until he met Steve in 2005 that he tried his hand at woodcarving.

Steve is a Zimbabwean by birth, and in spite of the fact he lost his right hand in an accident in his youth, he has painted for as long as he can remember.

He and his wife Avril left their home country for the UK in 2002 after being driven out of their farm, business and home by President Mugabe's mobs, and in the course of trying to piece together a new life in Devon he met Tony.

For Steve, his own art and the work he does with Tony are essential in helping to make sense of the trauma of persecution, dispossession and exile.

Tony had no previous artistic experience nor any idea at all that he had the potential, will and ability to learn a creative skill like woodcarving.

Neither had Steve any experience either as a practitioner or teacher of this craft.

But together they took up the challenge and in defiance of his medical condition Tony has been able to find a real sense of personal achievement through the beautiful things he makes.

Their work together is now based at Lupton House, near Brixham, where they are able to work with renewed energy in a peaceful environment conducive to creativity.

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