Visionary art show at ROAR! gallery 10 - 27 August
“Poor Arnold Same, the world seems the same.
Today will always be tomorrow”
Blur, ‘Arnold Same’ from “Modern Life is Rubbish”
Charles Cunningham is a visionary artist. What that means is that in this age of homogeneity and advertising and image saturation, he is something different. No one sees the world like Charles does. He sees it in technicolour, in pattern and shape which express his close up vision of the world. Repeated patterns become amoeba like, challenging the way we look and see. Some works are large scale, some are details blown up huge, so that our perspective is constantly shifting back and forth. He sees everything from the confines of his own perspective, depicting a unique view of everyday objects. So, he draws himself eating fish fingers from looking down at his own hands. This is repeated in many works, from hanging out the washing to playing ping pong or cooking tea. These drawings remind us that art is part of everyday life, that activities do not need to be smart dinner parties or lounging ladies beside the river to be worthy of immortalisation in an artists vision. This is as far as you can get from just another landscape painting or pretty portrait to hang on the wall. The day that you see Cunningham’s work makes today seem radically different from yesterday, and tomorrow seems to have more potential in its possibility that perhaps everyone has their own personal vision.
The American Visionary Art Museum defines visionary work as that which; “arises from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.” (www.avam.org) Cunningham certainly sits within this definition, with no thought of being famous or developing a career in art, yet has built up a formidable body of work in only the last few years. Visiting his house is a luxury for any art enthusiast; with over 1500 drawings ferreted away under the bed, in the closet and under the kitchen table. When asked what he would like to say about his art or why he makes it, he is unsure, just certain that he turns up every day and keeps on creating. Cunningham is an inspiration to any artist who has slaved over the details of what looks right. He exemplifies the meaning of the phrase ‘art practice’, where it is a journey to be continued, not a venture to a finite point of perfection.
To the viewer, Cunningham’s work is a visual feast. Colours and patterns combine to make a wallpaper of art which thrills the eye and delights the senses. This show, his first comprehensive solo show, explores his way of seeing and expressing the world. He symbolises his impaired vision with hanging eyes, spectacles, and works which ask us to draw near and look closer and then back away to take in the walls of drawings which constitute the show. Eye See is a world within a world; walls papered with drawings and large scale works, while eyes spin in the space, watching how we observe and enter this visionary’s world.
Also showing in Eye See are Sally Hughes, Melissa Edmonds, Jenny Bryant, Aaron Frater and Felicity Nettles. Working in a variety of materials, they explore how materiality affects the meaning and making of works of art. Jenny Bryant’s exquisite pencil drawings use erasure to create traces, layers and ambiguities, while Sally Hughes’ large scale drawings evoke the old masters in their use of line and depiction of form. Melissa Edmonds uses string and thread as drawing and sculptural materials, building up works on canvases which become tactile objects which drape from the wall, while Aaron Frater experiments with plastics and heat treatments to form sculptural pieces which reveal the process of their creation in their form. Felicity Nettles provides us with works on mirror which as we approach resist our gaze by reflecting ourselves back at us.