I was one of nine Outside In artists whose work was shown at the Manchester Art Fair this weekend (12 to 14 October), here he tells us more about the experience.
Without a formal training in art, Outside In were one of the first organisations where I started to find my feet and see that it was possible to have a career making art. Not only that it introduced to me the community of Outsider and Disabled Artists which has, and remains, very important to me.
It was a long time since I had been to an art fair and also a long time since I had made any work – my practice has changed somewhat over the years. It was great to be invited to show at Manchester Art Fair and it wasn’t something I had to think about before agreeing. It gave me an excuse to make work again – the kind I like where you can still clearly see the hand of the artist in. I like letterpress, my first love as an artist and cyanotype is a close second. I booked a weekend at the Arthouse in Wakefield, stayed in one of the accessible flats there and spent the majority of time making and experimenting alone in the print room. I ended up making a whole new body of work. I loved the process, the physicality of printing, the smell the tactility. Part of my joy is that each print is unique, all similar but all with their slight differences.
The whole process was supported really well – everything from packaging to pricing and signing. All those moveable feats that are easy when as a curator you are doing it for someone else, but which seems impossible when you are trying to do it for yourself. For similar reasons I had stopped exhibitions and going to openings etc.
I arrived early on the Friday – to sign my work and the letters of authenticity – a new experience – authenticating my own work. It was great to see it hung amongst the other works. It adds context when it is placed in a living, breathing space, not just in the studio – it feels more alive. It was also good to meet some o f the other artists who were showing and out them and their work into context and talk art – motivations – processes etc. It was good also that there was a crossover that some of the artists showing with Outside In are Venture Arts artists and that gallery was also represented. Finally, as a trio to see Bethlem Gallery there was also important.
Having galleries such as Outside In showing at contemporary art fairs is really important. It shows that work withstands critical rigor, it has a curatorial intent and ‘hold its’ own’ in the contemporary arena. The work comes first and not the ‘otherness’ – which is vital to focus on otherwise we remain marginalised and stigmatised as people and artists.