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British Folk Art at Tate Britain: Delightful and Nostalgic

The first exhibition that explores Folk Art in Britain opens Today at Tate Britain, part of 2014’s Summer Exhibitions highlights.

I love the poster of the cockerel! I was very much looking forward to seeing this exhibition and it didn’t disappoint. It is the one to see; you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

IMG_0157Folk art is as elusive as it can get. It is a mysterious form of art nevertheless one that is truly relatable.

It may not appease many people’s taste, however the exhibition at Tate Britain questions Folk Art, “What Folk Art means in Britain” and “Who was it created for.”

James Williams, Patchwork bedcover, 1818 - 1895

James Williams, Patchwork bedcover, 1818 – 1895

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There is a saying in Thailand, where Folk Art roams, it is directly translated as, “Art/Artists of the Rural homes.” Folk Art is defined as arts and drafts created by untrained and unschooled artists, recognizable by a naive style, in which traditional rules of proportion and perspective do not apply.

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Folk Art is neither Fine Art or not for the elite. Or could it be? This major exhibition questions the artistry of folk art and the value of it.

Co-curated by the artist Jeff McMillan, the rooms are brightly painted with a vibrant color palette and the booklet handed out on the door has drawings by McMillan. There is an aesthetic here that welcomes visitors to Folk Art to a new audience.

Wall of Trade Signs

Wall of Trade Signs

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Salamis serpent figurehead

Salamis serpent figurehead

IMG_0049And the wall of trade signs was grandeur. The same goes to the wall of figureheads. These artworks live within a context. They are created  for the community, traditions, domestic and modern life and material circumstances.

Bellamy quilt, 1890-1891, Pieced and embroidered cloth

Bellamy quilt, 1890-1891, Pieced and embroidered cloth. Created by a couple during their courtship

"Think of Me" pincushion, Fabric, beads and thread

“Think of Me” pincushion, Fabric, beads and thread

To add to that, you question and admire the draughtsmanship, intuition and creativity of these under appreciated artists. With so many anecdotes to share.

Bone Cockerel

Bone Cockerel

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Bone cockerel was created by French POW, it is to keep their hands busy, selling their crafts to the community. This cockerel was produced with improvised craft materials from the kitchens and bone crockery.

Folk Artists are typically from rural or pre-industrial societies, and are more closely related to craftsmen than they are to fine artists.

George Smart, Goosewoman (Wall showing variation of Goosewoman)

George Smart, Goosewoman (Wall showing variation of Goosewoman)

George Smart, Close up of Goosewoman

George Smart, Close up of Goosewoman

This exhibition questions my own mortality as an illustrator. I love illustration because I can apply my artistry to the community, to the workplace and invoke happiness whoever views my work.

The definition of Folk art remains to be seen, it is the stories in context that challenges its own art form.

Jesse Maycock, King Alfred 1961, Straw

Jesse Maycock, King Alfred 1961, Straw

God in a Bottle (red and serrated, dark, pale, with fan-like object), 19th Century, Glass and Wood

God in a Bottle (red and serrated, dark, pale, with fan-like object), 19th Century, Glass and Wood

Calcutta 1831

Calcutta 1831

Calcutta created for British Ships is made of Indian hardwood. It has been restored to its vibrancy. It is so intriguing to see the figure’s on its own without the context or its purpose as the ship’s masthead. It allows me to take a look closer at them without being lost at sea.

Crimean War Quilt c.1850-1900, Fabric

Crimean War Quilt c.1850-1900, Fabric

Crimean War Quilt made by veterans and soldiers suffering what we now know as, Post Traumatic Stress disorder. Made with a team effort, this quilt was made out of their uniforms.

Nowadays designers, illustrators and artists take their inspiration for Folk Art, the geometric shapes, triangular piece, think of it as pixellated JPEG artist , McMillan had said.

To fully appreciate the skill, precision and painstaking details as 10,000 pieces are sewn together to create this quilt. To put it so bluntly, they did not have such luxuries as digital image making softwares we now have.

Alfred Wallis

Alfred Wallis

The Barque 'Casma' in Rough Weather, 19th Century

The Barque ‘Casma’ in Rough Weather, 19th Century

A Bird's Eye View of Market Street Wymondham c.1850

A Bird’s Eye View of Market Street Wymondham c.1850

I was looking forward to this exhibition, and I was curious to how they would tackle Folk art In the curatorial and museum formalities and I have to say they exceeded my expectations. It is nostalgic but not kitschy, beautifully and carefully curated. This is a delightful exhibition this summer you don’t want to miss.

Opens today until 31 August 2014
Tate Britain, Level 2 Galleries. Open daily 10.00 – 18.00

The exhibition will tour to Compton Verney, Warwickshire, from 27 September to 14 December 2014.

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