Friday, 30 July 2010

Intuition @ Whitworth Art Gallery

Outsider Art is interesting because of its inherently problematic nature. In the same way that you can never really safely define art - earnestly asking “But what is art?” is simply unforgivably gauche - you can’t plot the boundaries of Outside Art. Even to define it by the artists’ faculties or training is to wander into crude, and restrictive, waters.

Intuition at Whitworth Art Gallery tests, and yet does not plot, the limits of an art form which has always sat uncomfortably at the periphery of the contemporary mode. Gloriously bursting with all forms and styles of Outsider Art, this exhibition forces you to redefine your artistic context. It is easy to lose track of time among the obsessive, riddle-like form and the clumsy, but somehow precise, energy of the works means this exhibition is crackling with strange electricity.

Perhaps then, it is much wiser to define Outside Art by the impact it has on the viewer? Always unsettling in the manner it strays from the well plotted paths of fine art and evoking, often, equal measures of disquiet and amusement. However, even this loose statement about affect, rather than cause, hampers understanding. It's a conundrum that has no absolute answer.

The Whitworth Art Gallery do a wonderful job of displaying this collection of work, creating, instead of something sensational and titillating, a restrained, thoughtful, thought provoking and delightful exhibition. I doubt any other institution could have done such a brilliant job of exhibiting the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection.

And, at the end of the day, how often do you get to read “The shoes are made of bread” about a work of art?

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