On arriving at the gallery for the preview evening, it was clear that the gallery staff had been pretty stretched in their preparation. With handouts still being printed and labels yet to be made, we began to explore the vast amount of beguiling works on display. I overheard someone saying that Castlefield had never hung so many different works at the same time.
For those lucky enough to attend the preview, there was a further depth to the works available; the opportunity to witness the artists explain their practice.
Jenna Wilkinson is very open about her diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, her work is deeply rooted in it and the phrasing of their titles reflect this. The drawings themselves are constructed with intricately detailed, decisive-yet-automatic mark-making. She also has the neatest handwriting in the world and it looks just like her drawings. I know this because I caught a glimpse of the script she had written in preparation that she might get asked to speak. She was indeed asked to speak and her presentation style was in complete coherence to her work, it was carefully constructed, prudently administered and quietly-yet-confidently conveyed. It was abundantly clear that her work is an adaptation of her personality and her personality is very much within her work.
In contrast, David Maclagan, the co-curator and main speaker on the night, was improvisational in his script with seemingly no plan for what he would say and who he would ask to speak. He seemed much looser; acting on impulse, but informative and precise. Again, his works contain clues of his character; full of spontaneity, impulsivity and serendipity, they portray a world of his unconscious. His works are described as somewhere in between drawing and painting and are entertaining, bright and full of quick, adventurous activity; not unlike their maker.
When Carlo Keshishian was asked to say a few words, he told us that his piece, a group of nine canvasses hung as a grid, took 6 years to make and that he knew exactly how they would look before he started them. This is a person who has an order to life with a design he feels compelled to follow, such is the nature of his art. It certainly is interesting to see works in the same exhibition that seem to be opposites in terms of style, yet similar in terms of content. It is, in part, this oxymoronic impression that makes Inside Out so captivating and exciting.
Whilst Inside Out uses Outsider Art as the curatorial theme, not all artists here would class themselves as ‘outsider’, some are taking inspiration from it, whilst others simply share an aesthetic or style similar to it. The real connection between these works, putting categorisation aside, is an aesthetic of precision, cleanliness and thoughtfulness and a general feeling of inclusivity, openness and honesty. Inside Out is an exhibition full of personality, insight, and the peculiarities of the human condition.
Neil Greenhalgh is an artist and writer based in Manchester.
Image courtesy Castlefield Gallery.
Inside Out, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester.
4 March – 24 April 2016.