Unreal Nature

January 12, 2016

This Rich Vein

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… Our first reaction may well be a horrified refusal to follow him on the darkening paths of psychopathological exploration.

Continuing through Art Brut by Michel Thévoz (1995):

… Can naïveté, if conscious of itself and trumpeted to boot, continue to exist as such? Seeing praise showered on the naïve painters, one is quick to accuse them of artifice and disown them at the least sign that they may be playing up to the chorus of praise. What could be better calculated to spoil naïveté than that vigilance at once idolatrous and unrelenting?

… the vindication of innocence comes from the cultured, as if the latter felt and relished their power all the more for slackening the reins a little, but without ever letting go.

With Art Brut, it is quite otherwise. Its makers are found to be indifferent to aesthetic and cultural standards or ignorant of them. They have no thought for the recognized subjects and techniques or established systems of figuration. True enough, they use the materials they find to hand and these bear a cultural imprint.

[line break added] But they handle them in a do-it-yourself spirit: tinkering is in their blood. These fossilized cultural elements are fitted into new and original combinations, rather like the metopes and architraves that one finds built into modern constructions in the neighborhood of archaeological sites. The effect of strangeness is the more haunting in that it stems from familiar things.

[line break added] What is more, the insights afforded into the hidden sides of human nature are deep and searching, not labile and fleeting as in child art. Once he strikes this rich vein, the maker of Art Brut is capable of devoting his life to it, unmoved by the remonstrances of his entourage. He follows wherever it may lead, improvising the instruments called for as he goes along, not caring whether he has reached or passed the point of no return.

[line break added] If we can keep up, he will take us to forbidden places, fearful in their fascination. Our first reaction may well be a horrified refusal to follow him on the darkening paths of psychopathological exploration. And if we are able to go all the way, we soon find that the company we keep here does not produce that atmosphere of tender emotion and bonhomie that surrounds child art and naïve art.

Duf_Punchinello
Gaston Duf, Punchinello, 1956

My most recent previous post from Thévoz’s book is here.

-Julie

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