Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Why Contemporary Folk Art? - an artist statement

After Anna Daven's questions in my last post Australian Spirit regarding Contemporary Folk Art. I thought I would post my response here as well - modified and expanded.

Anna asks, "Does contemporary folk art have to reference the past?"

I personally have defined Contemporary Folk Art as the beautiful expression of a people or nation. I did this because I wanted to create an art that was not responsible to the domain of International Contemporary post-Post Modern Conceptual Art which to me often seems like a space station that is gradually drifting further out of Earth's orbit.

Folk art itself is, I believe, in its academic sense an art primarily by people without a formal training in the Fine Arts and Art Theory. Folk Art by nature and from an art historical or museum view point is about the character of a nation - an art grown from the soil, or broad culture of a country. It becomes a vessel of the nation's soul because it is relatively unrestrained by the formal aesthetics of western art culture. I could not, therefore, call myself a Folk artist because I'm not insensible to the art historical reading of art and understand my stance or artistic desires as being generated with the assistance of formal academic training in Art History and Art Theory.

I can not presume to remove my knowledge and the influence training has on my work, however I can consciously make the choice that addresses my need to create work, that is, to cherish the soil of my country as the tender dream that lifts us to the glad day of a life of grace. It may take many forms but is a genuine product of today rather than a cosmetic quaintness and anachronism. It might be helpful then to consider my use of term Contemporary Folk Art more loosely as an art movement like for example The Fauves were.

In short, I hope to be able to offer, in my small way and in all manifestations of my work, a door through which the people of my own home culture might walk. Our myths are not yet complete as we are barely conscious of them. It is still a time for artists to dream and give life a shape: perhaps we Australian's, still young within the consciousness of Western tradition, act as a reminder for a generation of artists that Creation is still possible - aren't we a nation of rule breakers?

Image: Glad Day (or "The Dance of Albion"), William Blake, 1795, 10 1/4" x 8", British Museum, London.


annadee said...


Thank you for taking the time to consider my questions, your response is enlightening and interesting. I had known about the academic definition of 'folk art' as 'untrained' art but I knew that there had to be other contemporary interpretations out there.

I'm intrigued by the idea that 'Folk Art' cannot consciously be created. That by definition of my education I'm excluded from sitting under the folk art tree. I like the fact that not just anyone can be a 'folk artist' just as anyone can call themselves a contemporary installation artist! But it also means that Folk Art is somehow static and is analysed from a position of condescention.

I'm definitely no expert but I'm enjoying the effort of finding my own definition of what it is that I do. And perhaps the quest is part of that definition.

And I love the image of contemporary art as an orbiting space station. It gave me visions of Juliana Engberg trying to sell Martin Creed to the Klingons.

Thank you again for your thoughts and dialogue.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Well explained, Florence. It's always a pleasure to visit your blog.

lotusgreen said...

florence--i'm confused by your reference to the fauves in this context. they were a pretty trained bunch, no?

Florence said...

Thanks Captian, I always love having you here :)

Anna, well said. I at first thought I might call myself a folk artist but on further study and research found that it was an area that has a particular definition and realm of collection and study. As I have come to see I had to deal with the world's construction of that catagory and so had to modify it with the word Contemporary in order to loosen its restrictions.

The definition of contemporary folk art is completely my own as you can see and is more a statement of principle on my part and is part of that questing. I chose the part of the artist after all and not the part of the academic. I guess I'm particularly senstive to the academic because I didn't train in Fine Art at an institution but was trained in Art History as a part of a Bachelor of Arts. I have been privately trained in Arts/Crafts through out my life by various teachers, however, this has left me outside the Fine Arts loop, which constructs a path from one's student days to one's future career (true at least within the small economy of Australia)...I have no old school tie to serve as a passport. "Folk Artist" for me seemed an appealing constrast to an institutionalised structure of art making.

When it comes to art making though, Creation should come first, I guess my emphasis on folk art is signalling my desired for art to enjoy its "unconscious" myth making side before it thinks itself out of existance :-P

I can't help but now think of Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker" perhaps he turned to stone from sitting too long :-P but look who's talking!! lol.

and Finally, one last little thing, I must say that I don't begrudge all forms of art - "space station" or not, rather I just don't want to have to be forced into making one style of art because the academics what me to progress in the way they think art should....Let Art History follow not lead.

viva la Art!!


PS Klingons rotfl have you seen this?
Spock's Crib

Florence said...

Hi Lotusgreen, Actually that is my point, they were trained and yet they called themselves "The Wild Beasts" thus indicating their intentions with their work within the structure of Professional Western Art culture, which mirrors my use of *Contemporary* Folk Art as apposed to just Folk Art.

Also I wanted to say that they (the Fauves) were a very loose group, unlike The Suprematists in Russia for example who were lead mainly by one man and its ideology. I wished to point out, a bit too suggestively perhaps, that contemporary folk artists are only loosly associated by the term as well.

I hope that helps :)


Friederike! said...

hello Florence, I´ve tagged you. Please visit my blog, hope you haven´t been tagged before and that you like to participate.
Thanks, Sandra

Florence said...

Oh! Thanks Sandra :D


shango said...

>When it comes to art making though, Creation should come first, I guess my emphasis on folk art is signalling my desired for art to enjoy its "unconscious" myth making side before it thinks itself out of existance :-P

S: This idea dongs a bell with me. It seems with the demands of performance auditing in academia an intuitive process of feeding off sensation and feeling, often gets scheduled out. How to justify research into such a realm, surely there is..?
does art belong in academia? Maybe in some ways, yes..but in others no...
Can one be the patient and th e anthro-socio-psychoanalyst?
If so, is one the 'doctor' or the 'patient' or both?, and what kind of 'art' does this make? How much can one mind function in what appears as distinctly different cognitive domains?
Maybe this is where our ability to truly myth make is stalled...(?)
Are musicians being asked to tread the same mill, of intellectual rigour?

>into making one style of art because the academics what me to progress in the way they think art should

S:Can you give meaty examples, Florence?
I am aware though that, there is a tendency to seek alignment with digital technologies, as a research interest, apparently one might have better chances of doing something meaningfully New.
I'd like to add another label to be proposed and comtemplated: 'secular art' rather than just, 'art'.