A new exhibition organised by Outside In and Craftspace is launching at Pallant House Gallery on 12 March 2016, illustrating the different and more alternative ways material and craft techniques can be utilised by artists and makers. ‘Radical Craft: Alternative Ways of Making’ will showcase work by historically renowned artists associated with the Outsider Art field alongside contemporary self-taught artists who see themselves as facing barriers to the art world; 21 of whom have been selected through an open submission process.
Outside In, a project based at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (UK), that supports artists who see themselves as facing barriers to the art world for reasons including health, disability, social circumstance or isolation, facilitated the open submission section of the exhibition, calling on the 2,000 UK-based artists with online galleries on their website to submit their craft based work for possible inclusion in the show. There were over 200 submissions, and the final works were selected by a panel including textile artist Alice Kettle; artist and Outside In Award Winner Phil Bard; Laura Hamilton, Co-Curator of ‘Radical Craft’; Katy Norris, Curator at Pallant House Gallery; and Deirdre Figueiredo, Director of Craftspace.
The incredibly diverse work by UK artists will sit alongside pieces by artists of international renown from Asia, North America and Europe. The artists in this section of the exhibition include Dalton Ghetti, whose intricate pencil-graphite carvings are inspired by what he experiences on a day-to-day basis, and Julia Krause-Harder, who creates gigantic dinosaurs in mixed media.
What ties the work in this exhibition together is the radical missions and processes that underlie each creation. These include intuitive responses to textiles; autobiographical responses to the natural or urban environment; and folkloric or surreal perceptions of the world. The exhibition’s aims lie most significantly in wanting to break down barriers. These barriers are two-fold. Firstly, there is a want to challenge preconceptions surrounding who can be considered an artist and what can be considered art – does someone need to have been to art school? Do they need to have exhibited in a high profile venue? – and secondly, the different but related question of why craft is often considered a ‘lesser’ form of art. Although the latter – and in many ways the former – are not directly answered within the show, the inclusion of both untrained artists and craft works within a nationally renowned modern British art gallery leaves some pause for thought.
The exhibition will reveal not just who makes radical craft, but why they do, what they are inspired by, and ultimately, what the finished pieces – tied up as they are in the hopes, dreams and experiences of each maker – look like aesthetically.
There are works in the exhibition which literally take this idea of being tied up in and with the history and context of the maker. In Nnena Kalu’s work, wound and bound bodies emerge as she builds and layers material upon material. Somewhat aesthetically similar, Judith Scott starts with an object hidden deep within the wraps and binds of her 3D sculptures. She repetitively hides and covers, whereas Kalu keeps building and building. Michael Smith’s customised jeans embody another form of wrapping. In his work, Smith alters something that already exists (in this case clothing), making his mark with masking tape, in the process creating the appearance of mythical creatures and new human-esque characters.
From the above, you can see that textiles and fabric-based work will make up a large chunk of the show. In addition to the wrapping and winding of Kalu, Scott and Smith, there will be the machine embroidered web-like worlds of UK-based Aradne, and the impressive woven birch bark clothing of Finland’s Erkki Pekkarinen. Other materials and processes utilised in a radical way within the exhibition are Horace Lindezey’s wire drawings of the seven suits he owns for special occasions, and the found objects and discarded electrical gadgets that are given a new lease of life by Beth Hopkins.
The exhibition is going to be key in the field, both in its attempt to raise the profile of artists working outside of the mainstream, and in its bold and courageous move to highlight the importance of craft within the art world. Much of work in the exhibition is primarily a form of communication; it is how the artist is most able to convey their unique messages, emotions and perspectives. With this end, craft enables the maker to create something that is wholly sincere. Working directly with the material; pulling, sewing, sticking, moulding, touching, feeling, their product is unavoidably connected to their physical being.
Excitingly, the work in ‘Radical Craft: Alternative Ways of Making’ is the aesthetic and tangible result of unheard voices, radical imaginations, and – perhaps most poignantly – incredible creativity that, until now, has been overlooked by much of the art world.
The exhibition is at Pallant House Gallery from 12 March – 12 June 2016, before touring around the UK. For more information, please click here.
Featured Image: Nnena Kalu with one of her bound sculptures