I enjoyed presenting the Alice picture so I’ve decided to start up my blog again and today I’m featuring a painting called ‘Orpheus playing to the Animals’. These days this kind of painting is called Outsider Art, so I’m going to briefly discuss Outsider Art in this blog, it won’t take long and at the end there’s a sequence of closeups taken from the Orpheus picture.
Oil on panel – 30″ x 40″ – 76 x 100 cm
Orpheus was a poet and musician in Greek Mythology. Apollo gave him a golden lyre and the music he made was so beautiful that the birds and the animals would stop their normal pursuits, such as hunting and gather around him to listen, even the insects were effected. The underlying meaning to this myth is the power of music to soften the animal passions in mankind. In my painting it’s as if the animals have been transported to a magic realm. There are over a hundred different species of bird and beast in this painting and some of these may have gone extinct. My reason for painting this picture was simple, I just wanted the excuse to paint as many animals as possible, if you look closely you will see that some of them are in family groups and there are mothers carrying their young. I wanted to paint something that would appeal to children and I thought that a picture such as this would make a good jigsaw and be educational. I did have a jigsaw puzzle company interested at one time but then the deal fell through, part of the problem might have been to do with size as the complex detail in this picture is best seen life size (AO) and most jigsaw puzzles are not that large. When I made this painting I didn’t realise that I had created a work that is now described as being Outsider Art.
To quote Wikipedia, I’m sure they won’t mind – ‘Outsider Art is art by self-taught or naive artists. Typically those labelled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions, in many cases their work is only discovered after their deaths. Often Outsider Art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas or elaborate fantasy worlds. The term was first coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for the French expression ‘art brut’ or ‘rough art’ a label created by the French artist Jean Dubuffet. Dubuffet wanted a term to describe art that was created outside the boundaries of official culture, particularly by people that are well away from the established art scene. For examples he looked to the art created by people in psychiatric hospitals and the art produced by children.’ Since the 1970’s our understanding of this term has broadened out. Nowadays notable British artists such as L S Lowry and Richard Dadd are considered to be outsider artists. In the contemporary world the amazing installations and street art of Banksy is definitely Outsider Art.
As I have grown older I have found myself identifying with outsider artists for the following reasons. Outsider artists often produce very detailed work – I’ve been doing that for years. An outsider artist often develops a particular technique or method of working – I am largely self-taught although my oil painting technique is not dissimilar to ways of painting known for centuries. Outsider artists live outside of the contemporary art scene – I am known to a small circle of collectors and have received little recognition from the art scene as it exists in London today…but who cares. Most of the time I’m painting for myself and that is exactly what outsider artists like to do. Outsider artists are often outsiders living on their own and obsessively creating art and once again that sounds like me. A lot of outsider artists have problems with their mental health, but then who doesn’t and art is often the best therapy. When I become absorbed in painting I’m able to step outside of my normal reality and time ceases to exist for a while, and when I see the fruits of my labours it lifts my spirits and then maybe, perhaps maybe, a have a point of reference in the search for happiness.