Folk art by definition is the quintessence of the vernacular. The dimensional soul of a native culture. It is the unpretentious product of a folk who looked to their hearts for artistic inspiration at a time when the practicalities of life got in the way of education.
It is an ethnic expression of working men and women who’s product has not been blighted by intellectuals. So it has been saved from fancy otherworldly muses which it never needed because fundamentally it is instinctive and comes from the gut not the Heavens.
The expression ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ is also true of folk art. It may only have been understood under the term folk art in the last 150 years or so, but it’s apprentices were working up a sweat centuries before that. It was emotionally conceived within reverberations of the primal-screem, its earliest manifestations emerging from a dark and impoverished time. Ironically primal-folk-art is often viewed in an incredulous or optimistic way and objects which to our highly superstitious ancestors may have had serious votive or magical properties, we now frequently see as quaint, hopeful or amusing. One may also perceive in the evolution of folk art a natural backlash, the antithesis of classism and the culture of guilds, but because of an intrinsic humility it has operated hitherto in a kind of undercurrent to the more punchy and avant-garde arts.
The spokes in the wheels of folk art are so disparate and the demography of its practioners so wide that like a bicycle with out a rider there was never a hope of any movement. It is not only a wholehearted expression of a stratum of humanity it is also naive, disorganised, alternative, romantic and frequently annonymous and as a consquence presents itself as an enigma within the arts.
This cohesive reflection we see from these disjointed elements make it collectively the intriguing and unconventional body of work that we know and love and if British folk art is now becoming less endangered than perhaps it once was, I suspect that perhaps part of the reason is that people see it as an escape from the present to the past, away from the over-manufactured, technological and multinational world we live in. So when it’s green credentials, it’s organic roots, merge with our dreamy concept of a rustic workshop set in a rural idyll, then these criterea provoke a sentimentality that becomes an antidote to our modern times
Folk art is the embodiment the sentiments the aspirations and the musings of an underclass and we are the fortunate benefactors of an inheritance, which brings nothing but joy to us. At its most expressive and pursuasive it can be a harbinger of love, piercing our hearts with its eccentricitys, emblems and tokens, with it’s naive charm, humour, invention and honesty.
I implore you to stay in touch with this expansive heritage of ours known as folk art – to help save your souls and invigorate your spirits don’t go a day without it.
Overheard in a Museum
“Quite colloquial and nearly charming
It’s perspectives all awry”
“Peasant Higledy – pigledy seascapes
where figurheads score the sky”
Folk art is not these whispering dilettants
always seeking the sublime;
But the brightly painted drummer boy
Who beats the whirligig of time: