Radical Craft: Alternative Ways of Making Past

Photograph of a sculpture

Outside In National 2016 in collaboration with Craftspace

34 international and UK artists who express their creativity unbounded by taught conventions are showing work in Radical Craft: Alternative Ways of Making, a Craftspace and Outside In touring exhibition. The exhibition, which is co-curated by Laura Hamilton, showcases artworks by historically renowned artists associated with Outsider Art and contemporary self-taught artists who see themselves as facing barriers to the art world for reasons including health, disability, social circumstance or isolation; 20 of whom were selected from open submissions.

Eminent artist Alice Kettle, one of the selectors for the open UK call for artists says the exhibition “communicates the dynamic of living and making, of using transformative potential of craft to enter other visionary worlds…craft becomes a process of resistance and method of adaptation”

Themes in the exhibition include radical missions in which artists have a passion for a particular subject or technique; intuitive responses to textiles employed as a non-verbal means of engaging with the outside world; and autobiographical responses to the natural or urban environment – often depicted in a surreal manner. Each of the artists’ individual backgrounds and paths of creative development occupy a different world to our more typical perception of the artist or craftsman. Most have never received any formal art training, although their practices may have been nurtured and encouraged in specialist centres or studios. Their work or creative impulses have been developed with independence, perceptual senses and an obvious lack of inhibition which is rarely aimed at a particular audience or marketplace.

Xavier White’s (UK) ‘Verrelic Spires’, a conceptual glass assemblage made following rehabilitation from brain injury, refers to Duchamp’s ‘Large Glass’ (1920), and merges two words verre and malic, symbolising bonding/possibilities of engagement/safety in numbers/something simultaneously tough and brittle. Mr X (UK) makes large scale cardboard structures and vehicles as a form of escape, survival and resistance to living in an institution. Pascal Tassini (Belgium) has a special interest in weddings and bridal attire producing a complete environment including a wedding tent, rings, love letters and elaborate Baroque-style headdresses. Beth Hopkins (UK) employs found objects, often washed up from the Thames, and parts of discarded electrical gadgets. She finds it “empowering to reduce items down to their components; taking back the power digital life has over us all.” Angus McPhee (Scotland) secretly wove numerous garments from grasses, vegetation and sheep’s wool picked from barbed wire fences found in the grounds of the hospital he lived in.

Other artists include: Dalton M Ghetti’s (USA) extreme miniature forms sculpted into discarded pencil leads; Michael Smith’s (UK) altered donated jeans, bound and wrapped with masking tape; Erkki Pekkarinen’s (Finland) folkloric lifesize woven birch bark figures; Nnena Kalu’s (UK) large evolving cocoon-like forms of paper, fabric and foam bound and wrapped with tape, yarn and cling-film; and Julia Krause-Harder’s (Germany) large mixed media dinosaurs.

The panel for the UK open selection included Alice Kettle, Textile Artist; Phil Baird, Artist and Outside In Award Winner; Laura Hamilton, Co-curator of Radical Craft; Katy Norris, Curator Pallant House Gallery and Deirdre Figueiredo, Director of Craftspace.

Tour venues include Oriel Davies and Aberystwyth Arts Centre in Wales, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Carlisle and The Barony Centre, West Kilbride. The exhibition marks key anniversaries; 10 years of Outside In and 30 years of Craftspace.         

Outside In Award

At the preview event of Radical Craft: Alternative Ways of Making on Friday 11 March, artist and selector Marie-Rose Lortet chose James Gladwell as the Outside In Award Winner for 2016. As the Award Winner, James will receive a solo show at Pallant House Gallery in Spring 2017. 

James Gladwell’s ‘Foreign Birds’ was created for an exhibition called ‘Inspired by Birds’ in 2014. For the exhibition, James drew a selection of his favourite birds in fabric pen, before stitching over the drawings with colourful cotton threads. As well as penguins, a chicken, a peacock and an eagle, the work features a small black crow that James added to hide a small tear in the material.

Marie-Rose said of her selection: “I would like to thank our hosts in the inspiring city of Chichester, and I am grateful to be the judge for the selection of an artist who will receive a solo show. The decision has been very difficult. I chose James Gladwell because of my sensitivity to, and my knowledge of threads. In ‘Foreign Birds’ I see the air in between, and it feels as if you are gliding over the world. I believe the artist searches for serenity and calm through his work.”

Image: Willem van Genk, Untitled Toblerone Trolley, Image courtesy of Museum Dr Guislain, Ghent

Thanks to The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and Great British Sasakawa Foundation for supporting the inclusion of Japanese artists.