A new touring exhibition at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester explores how outsider and self-taught artists express their creativity ‘unbounded by taught conventions’.
Radical Craft: Alternative Ways of Making includes works by a number of historically renowned artists associated with the outsider art movement, such as Willem Van Genk, whose models of trams and buses (pictured top) are constructed from recycled materials. Also featured are works by contemporary self-taught artists, many of whom were selected by open submission.
The exhibition is co-curated by Laura Hamilton for craft development organisation Craftspace and Pallant House-based Outside In – the latter provides a platform for those facing barriers to the art world for reasons such as health, disability, social circumstance or isolation.
Artists were also ‘discovered’ during a national series of surgery days managed by Outside In, and over half of the artists in the exhibition are associated with specialist centres, groups and studios that nurture and support their creative development.
Barry Anthony Finan, Tellegrrapghpoollesserrss (above)
Barry Anthony Finan uses writing, drawing and mixed media to document everyday objects, and his unique style of spelling is an intrinsic part of his artistic practice. Finan works at Venture Arts in Manchester, a studio that supports people who have learning disabilities to play a valued role within the contemporary arts.
Willem Van Genk, Arnhem, Guido Suykens (top)
Following a difficult childhood affected by mental health and behavioural issues, Willem Van Genk (1927-2005) took courses in commercial art at a Christian school for Arts and Crafts before enrolling at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in The Hague in 1958. Reluctant to adhere to the syllabus, he was advised to only attend evening classes, but was granted a major solo exhibition by the Academy in 1964. Whilst his early painting used a complex cut-out and collage process and were inspired by travel, in 1988 he turned exclusively to making models of trams and buses constructed from a variety of recycled materials.
Joanna Simpson, Good Luck Gum Nut Folk (above)
Joanna Simpson creates miniature people from gum nuts (the seed pods of the eucalyptus tree) and other found objects. These Good Luck Gum Nut Folk are clustered together in groups in order to explore ideas about the role of the individual within society and notions of autonomy, belonging, inclusion and exclusion.
Kate Bradbury, Railroad Jim (above)
Railroad Jim is one of a series of large-scale ‘suitcase’ people created by Kate Bradbury, a self-taught artist based in London. The story of each of these characters is told through found objects, displayed inside the case, that relate to their personalities, lives and professions.
Mr X, Mobile Structure (above)
Mr X creates cardboard structures and vehicles in response to particular institutions and the question: ‘How do I make this space adapt to me when I am constantly being asked to adapt to it?’ These structures are repeatedly modified, being simultaneously a form of escape, a hiding place, a filter and a second skin. Mobile Structure is a drivable, cardboard-clad mobility scooter.
Xavier White, Verrelic Spires (above)
Xavier White is a mostly self-taught artist who regained life skills through a creative rehabilitation programme at Maudsley Hospital following a brain trauma in 1985. The chess piece-like objects of Verrelic Spires make reference to Marcel Duchamp’s decision to abandon painting in order to play chess, and to his conceptually complex work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass). The work also raises the question: ‘Can the language of chess, [with its] set rules and infinite variations of players and moves serve as a metaphor for cognition?’
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Erratum: biographical details about the artist Willem Van Genk were amended on 15 March 2016.