Dorothea Tanning remarked on her childhood in Galesburg, Illinois that nothing happened but the wallpaper, however everything, even wallpaper, is grist to the true artists mill and she succeeded during her long and incredibly productive life to create memorable works set in conventional domestic spaces filled with mystery, confrontation and revelation.
Family Portrait was painted in Sedona, Arizona, where Tanning lived with her husband Max Ernst for part of every year until they moved to France permanently in 1957 . The painting is dominated by the huge father (or husband) figure wearing sinister mirrored round glasses in the background. The size of each figure seems entirely dependent on their status within the family group. The perky daughter (or wife) with her large and expressive eyes sits level at the table with its crisp linen and strange dishes, dwarfing the housekeeper who is little bigger than the small dog on its hindquarters begging for its dinner. The muted colours add to the ominous and oppressive atmosphere. Family Portrait is a suburban Gothic drama of hidden tensions and Wonderland-like changes in scale that lingers unnervingly in the memory.
Art brut also known as outsider or visionary or self taught art is an ever expanding field as it has attracted considerable attention in the 21st Century, now with its own dedicated galleries, museums, exhibitions, art fairs and publications. In this the fourth group post on this fascinating subject I have chosen three artists currently at work and one who, although working on creating his own imaginary utopia for sixty years was only discovered in the first decade of the new century, towards the end of his life.
An ex-prisoner Nightingale takes between six months to a year to create his meretricious crafted paintings, often combining mixed media. He has only recently agreed to representation, by the excellent Henry Boxer Gallery in the UK, as he is loathed to be parted with his work, so information concerning the artist is scarce. Highly decorative borders featuring flora, fauna and religious iconography frequently surround a central figure of a woman, skull or foetus in utero. Finely crafted inserts are another notable feature.
Anne Marie Grgich
One of the most respected art brut artists working today, who has exhibited all across the world, Grgich has mastered her own unique form of collage. Taking a book from the 1950’s she will over-paint, collage and then paint some more to form layers. Renowned for her bold expressionistic faces, I am also particularly taken by her vibrantly crowded recent works.
Apart from a brief artist statement which reveals that even the name is a pseudonym, I could find no information about this artist. Born in 1982, at the age of 32 Margot suddenly started drawing tirelessly. Precise, elaborate, bursting with a kinetic energy and a over-flowing symmetry, the art speaks for itself.
A talented self taught artist, Kuhler worked at the North Carolina Museum of Natural History as a scientific illustrator for most of his life. He always had happy memories of his brief period growing up in Rockland County, New York in an otherwise unhappy childhood and it was here that he based his imaginary kingdom of Rocaterrania, bordered by Canada and Northern New York state. Rocaterrania had its own laws, language, ethnic groups, customs and even members of a third sex called neutants.
Daniel Gonçalves is an entirely self taught draughtsman and painter from Porto, Portugal who has recently exhibited in his homeland as well as Paris, New York and London.
Gonçalves started drawing at the age of fifteen in 1992, however due to a difficult childhood and a peripatetic unsettled adult existence, combined with an innate perfectionism means that all work produced before 2015 is either lost or destroyed. Gonçalves first solo show was at the Gallery Cruzes Canhoto, Porto, Portugal in 2016.
Exhibiting a terrifying symmetrical precision, Gonçalves geometric abstraction has an obsessional hallucinogenic quality. Filled with Masonic and occult references, these drawings suggest sacred geometry, tantric images, mandalas, the doors to a bank vault containing the holy of holies, the key to open the crypt of our dreams.
I go to sleep
Dreaming of a place
That isn’t quite the same
High noon sun at midnight
The usual rules don’t always apply
Two plus two equals something odd
There are even still areas of terra incognito
Beyond the four cardinal points there be monsters
Territories only mapped by opium addicted cartographers
Cities constructed by the divine ordinance of extravagant fantasists
Cities of the Black Sun, Cities of the Crimson Night
Where I can indulge my imperial delusions
Of the conquest of a golden beloved
Though I have to sail upon the sea
Seething wine dark becalmed
Ultramarine equatorial zones
For looping return cycles
Until I can finally enter
The so long dreamed of
Safe harbour of your
I can finally
Go to sleep
My thoughts and as a consequence my dreams have been occupied by Prague lately, (a place I have never visited, incidentally), the city of Emperor Rudolf II with his court of alchemists, magicians, scientists and artists; where Dr John Dee and his medium Edward Kelley conjured up a vast array of angels in a Aztec obsidian mirror and Guiseppe Arcimboldo painted his bizarre composite portraits of visages made of fruit, branches, flowers and books. The city (fast forwarding three centuries) of Meyrink and his Golem haunting the ghetto; of Kafka and his monstrous metamorphoses, bewildering reversals and byzantine bureaucracies. The city of the incomparable Toyen.