Reflective Journal Week 47, 16 Aug – 22 Aug 2020

When I talked about challenging the idea “the landscape only Cornish people would understand”, Alfred Wallis often popped out as the example of indigenous eye. I read about Art Brut, and now this term is going to replace “indigenous artist”. Art Brut, or Outsider Art is usually referring to self-trained artists who has been unconscious about the artist identity and without being influenced by either a systematic art education or popular trends.

A very interesting essay I have found, Outsider Art: From Margins to the Marketplace, written by David Maclagan. In this book, he stated that Art Brute “was created by people who are in the same way on the margins of society, and people who find themselves unable to fit into the conventional/social/psychological/artistic of the culture they inhabit. 

“In fact a key part of its challenge to convention was that such works had been created from within areas of cultural immunity, by artists who were ignorant of or oblivious to the art world and its preoccupation.”

“Given this self-denying ordinance, even Dubuffet could see the problems were bound to arise once the concept entered cultural circulation…Perhaps there was a tome brief period when the art brute was able to exist within mainstream culture without losing its popularity, but a process of gradual assimilation was bound to ensure. This began with the first publications and exhibitions and was accelerated as soon as Art Brut artists began to encounter wider audience for their work.”

Art Brut was from the beginning a reaction-formation: its controversial vision of a new mode of creativity supposedly outside culture – or rather, its rediscovery of a fundamental form of creativity that culture has eclipsed – was actually an offshoot of that culture, and a reflection, however distorted, of it.”

“In both instance, once the term was coined various artists began to identity themselves accordingly and their original innocence was contaminated.”

“In the case of ‘primitive art’, the notion of “art” was often projected onto culture in which the making of the objects has served rather different purposes, and where the European concept of ‘artist’ didn’t apply. In addition, as with Outsider Art, once these cultures became aware of the term ‘primitive’ their original distance from European culture was lessened: not only was there sometimes more European influence than admitted, but a traffic rapidly developed in faked or doctored versions that looked suitably ‘primitive’, but lack of most of the artistic quality of their models.”

“There are also contemporary tribal artists who find themselves torn between fidelity to traditions that are effectively on the verge of extinction and the assimilation of modern western influence.”

His writing gave me a very critical perspective to analysis the assimilation of some Cornish indigenous product with the rapidly commercialised outsider world. During my BA, I argued that the development of aesthetic preference in Dutch Golden Age had been receiving a significant, sustaining interaction force with the local art market that filled with newly formed middle class. The flourishing of Netherlandish economy encouraged people to pursue a luxurious life. Their developing trading routes and commerce was reflected in the expanding variety of food, luxurious decorations and industrial products in still life paintings. It is very interesting to identify the process of assimilation between artists who tried to find idealised idyllic landscape and outsider artists of Cornwall. Alfred Wallies and Bryan Pearce, despite the widen of aesthetic acceptance and the flourish of contemporary art blinded me to see whether their drawing style may have impacted Cornish art, but their method of working and interpreting the surrounds environment truly influenced people who would like to immersingly experience “the true essence of Cornish landscape”. Both of the artists documented very valuable images of St Ives’s development through out the century. 

Another major achievement of this week is the video I made for the project Memory of Bluewater.

“Sometimes I thought about my trips to Cornwall. I imagine those moments, and they just pop out, reminding me of the odour, colour and the coolness of the seawater when walking down Carbis bay. As the brain simplified images into concepts, ideas, keywords, relating elements to each other. Recalling a memory is very much like a process of reassembling impressions. I can’t remember how extactly a wave shaped but I tried to picture how I felt about a wave.

There is a continuity in the sea. It expands, to the opposite side of the bay, to the horizon and to the other end of the continent. Many times I looked into the landscape and think, whether there is a drop of water that I have seen somewhere else, and it was brought by the current later, and we just met again, what are the odds? You can’t find another landscape this vast and monumental. Those artworks, literature, cultures saturated it with distinctive meanings, ravishing stories, and transformed the sea into sometimes a very personal thing. And while depicting mine, I would like them to be more interactive than a deadly silent painting hung on the wall.

I revisuallised my experience, how I felt, how I sensed the whole environment. This project is very much similar to the previous installation the Wind from St Ives. I composite crafts to construct the familiarity of a particular memory. Arranging them, placing them in the real world as if a portion of ocean was recalled randomly. And to see how the real environment changes their condition, and has their presence influenced the nature of the bigger landscape.

It is also fascinating to think about how audiences would see this work and whether the sensuous similarities would recall their experiences, perhaps assigning new thinkings to their past, creating connections beyond individual, time and space, linked by an appreciation to the nature. Can switching side of thinking assign new meanings to these specimens of landscapes? Could the appreciation to seascape become an omnipotent resonance? What possibility will be reflected by others when immersing in my memory of blue water?”

The process of filming is incredibly fun, despite it cost a lot on paint. 

I was fascinated to see reflections in those beautiful blue surfaces. I think it might be a good idea to display on the floor. In the situation that require compatibility in arranging exhibiting objects, which means I cannot stick to the original imagination, displaying those hanging objects in the middle of the room, with this project underneath and see reflections in the water could be a great idea. 

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About cechenpaints

An artist, painter, illustrator based in London.