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Dorothy stil life, Eden Kötting, 2015

Dorothy stil life, Eden Kötting, 2015

In the Realm of Others

In the entrance to the De La Warr exhibition space is a soundscape of taps, slurps and strokes – of paint moving across canvas and paper. In front of that are large shelves stuffed full of an archive of canvases and paper. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was intrigued.

This is an exhibition of a number of different makers. Exuberance of colour, movement, styles and techniques produce amazing images. A beautifully executed self portrait, eyes shadowed by his cap by Sharif Persaud; Sam Smith dynamically slurps and squeezes toned colours directly onto canvas; Carl Sexton makes deliberate marks, first one colour dotted over the canvas, then gradually filling in with other colours; Eden Kötting creates small scenarios of images: Dorothy Still Life portrays a satchel and book, yellow brick road and red shoes; Neville Jermyn draws a Barbary Ape standing, staring resolutely at you and Michele Roberts creates small land of birds, a seascape of fish and creatures.

Untitled (pour painting no.14), Sam Smith, 2015

Untitled (pour painting no.14), Sam Smith, 2015

In the centre is a recreated studio, similar to where the artists come to their actual creative, safe space. They are part of Project Art Works, where people come regularly to express themselves – some quietly, some dynamically, others very controlled; some in black and white, others using toned, vibrant colours.

There are also two films showing. One is a film of a group of autistic people running, walking and picnicking around the sunny Kent countryside to Fairfield Church. The other is both touching and illuminating, showing individuals producing their work. These are people with severe intellectual impairment – some cannot express themselves verbally, some are physically disabled, even blind. – yet they express themselves in their unique way. They splash, they make noises, form little twitches of their hands, move around, stand back, survey their work.

Untitled, Carl Sexton, 2015

Untitled, Carl Sexton, 2015

Even so, there is a very specific approach to the work. Some paper and canvasses are busy, filled from top to bottom, every space filled; others are spare with empty space. Some, that allow for the pauses, have stopped before overworking the image. There seems to be a definite sensibility; that the makers seem to recognise: when a work is done, ’tis done.

It does posit the question as to what is art? Does it need to be conscious? Is it intuitive? Does it matter, how or what it is, if there is an emotional impact to the work? What was Jackson Pollock expressing as he also splurged and poured? Why not use hands rather than brushes if it produces the effect required? What about sound, the sensation of the paint, the colour, repetitive movements? It seems everything and anything is valid; there is a definite intent and how these artists use their materials.

House No 1of 6, Albert Geere, 2015

House No 1of 6, Albert Geere, 2015

Project Art Works provide the best quality paint, paper and canvases they can afford, so the materials will not fade or break down. The archive is carefully kept – numbering over 4,000 images. Some of the pieces have been part of major exhibitions. Albert Geere’s work, for example, was exhibited at the Towner and included in the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2012-13. He was in residential care in Tooting for more than sixty years; he is prolific, his subject geometric coloured houses – apparently not dissimilar to the buildings where he spent his childhood. Eden Kötting has also exhibited at the Towner and Michele Roberts at Pallant House.

Sea Life, Michelle Roberts, 2010

Sea Life, Michelle Roberts, 2010

Kate Adams, the Director of Project Art Works and curator of the exhibition set up the Project about 18 years ago. Her son was cognitively disabled attending a special school where all the works came out remarkably similar, presumably aided by the teachers, not giving space to the pupils’ originality. Consequently, possibly through misguided kindness or misunderstanding, the students instead suppressed expression, growth of confidence and self esteem.

Projects ArtWorks have artists invigilating,  but the members’ work is their work. And the artists have definitely seen burgeoning confidence and self esteem amongst the group. Apparently, one member of Project Arts Group was reticent to leave the car, now he is happy to come in and get to his paints and space in the studio.

Self Portait Standing, Sharif Persaud, 2014

Self Portait Standing, Sharif Persaud, 2014

There is a strong, highly regarded genre of art called Outsider Art. Labels, I think, segregate, whether categorised by age, gender, race, or disability. This exhibition celebrates art – and it is surprising to learn that it is part of Project Art Works group, who are all people and personalities in their own right. It is fantastic they have the opportunity and freedom to work in this way. Some of these paintings I would be more than happy to have on my wall.

In the Realm of Others is on at the De La Warr Pavilion, Marina, Bexhill, TN40 1DP. until November 29, 2015. Open Monday-Sunday 10am-6pm.


Posted 12:50 Wednesday, Oct 14, 2015 In: Visual Arts

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