Last week I visited Perth Museum and Art gallery to see a very interesting exhibition of “outsider art”. French artist, Jean Dubuffet recognised this type of art and described it asArt Brut or” raw art” because it was created by those on the outside of the established art scene eg. asylum inmates and children. Art critic Roger Cardinal later translated the term into English as outsider art, which had a broader meaning, and referred to anyone who had not been formally trained as an artist, or who had had no involvement with the mainstream art world.
The art on show here was produced by people who would not normally be recognised or have any status as artists, due to personal barriers which they are facing in their lives. I was really impressed by the work on show, and the diversity of styles and media used. Some of the pieces looked very professional, and it was hard to believe that they were produced by “amateur” artists. I took some shots of the work and descriptions of some of the pieces below.
Steve Murison: “Let summer howl through the guts of a dog” (mixed media)
“When you lose something you have to fight the sadder days, that sinking feeling in your stomach is just another wreck laying to rest. One day we will run in the woods again, under a sun, I have no doubt.”
Kenny Carus: “Portrait” (paint on monoprint)
“Things Kenny likes:- Binoculars, Telescopes, Prisms, Periscopes, Kaleidoscopes, Magnifying glasses, Quality Streets and looking through the coloured cellophane wrappers, Making binoculars with coloured cellophane stuck to them, Dark red cellophane, His sister, Chocolate,Covering things in adhesive tape, lots of adhesive tape, BBC Radio 2, Bird Watching, Hill walking, Drawing, Painting and Making.”
John Beaton : Detail from “XOXOXO” (Pen on canvas)
“John Beaton attended Project Ability’s Aspire programme for many years until he passed away in January 2013. John made text works that often featured crosses and circles as recurrent motifs expressing himself in a radical language of brightly coloured X’s, O’s and repetitions of his own name. This mark making process appears sporadic at first but with every finished piece, John asserted an order and clarity to these unruly sequences by completing with a John Beaton signature.”
Mary Meldrum : “Mary’s Voices” (Canvas and sculpture)
“These artworks are a visual representation of how my head feels on a bad day – filled with people talking all at the same time; some static and white noise are also present.”
Marisa Montgomery : “Untitled” (Mixed media)
“I have tried loads of different types of art, but my favourite thing is to draw. I use pens, pastels and pencils a lot and like to combine them together in one art work. I have completed two art courses at college learning many new things and discovering how differently everyone makes pictures. I have a job at a nursing home, its good, I spend time talking and playing games with the residents. Most years I like to travel to Northern Italy to visit my relatives who live there, or they sometimes come to visit me in Dumfries.”
Mary Fitzpatrick : “Suspension Braes, Dumfries” (Oil pastel and paint on paper)
“I live near a footbridge built for the workers of an old mill. The mill closed many years ago; however the bridge is still there. I cross the bridge when I go shopping up to the town. I have painted a picture of the bridge when it is sunny, raining and at different times of the year. I enjoy knitting in my spare time; I’m good at making knitted animals.”
Also on show was the work of Angus McPhee (1916-1997), an artist who had grown up on South Uist and spent his early life on a croft working with his father.
During World War II, he was stationed in the Faroe Islands, and his mental health deteriorated. He had become mute, and uncommunicative, so he was moved to Larbert Asylum. where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He spent the next 50 years of his life in Craig Dunain Hospital, where he worked on the farm ward, and it was during his time there that he created beautiful objects; garments, hats, caps, pouches, harnesses etc which he wove from grass, sheep wool and beech leaves. He never spoke to anyone about his work, and often hid his pieces under bushes in the grounds of the hospital. In the final years of his life, he returned to south Uist where he lived in a nursing home.
The trousers above may have been made as part of a suit by Angus. They look a bit bulky due to the addition of pockets just below the waist. There is also a belt made from a plaited rope which loops through the waist. I don’t think they would be very comfortable to wear, but as a piece of sculpture they do have a certain charm to them… possibly because judging by their shape they look like they have been well worn by their owner, although this is extremely unlikely!
I was a great opportunity to see these works up close, and to appreciate the scale of them, and the amount of work and technical skill which had gone into creating them. With my interest in nature, and my plans to use natural materials to create installations and sculpture, these works are of great interest to me. I like the fact that the artist connects everyday items which we recognise and use on a daily basis with the natural world, and to me it symbolises our relationship with nature and how we depend on it, use it, and perhaps take it for granted, on a daily basis.