To mark our current call for submissions from Wiltshire-based Outside In artists, we asked Outside In Ambassador Brian Gibson to write about his involvement with Outside In and the upcoming exhibition at Salisbury Arts Centre. Brian will have his work displayed alongside the successful submissions, all of which will focus on theme: ‘Worth Fighting For?’ Salisbury Arts Centre chose this poignant theme in the spirit of celebration and to mark the venue’s 40th anniversary. It offers the opportunity to discuss the things we hold dear, and gives us the chance to think about our rights and responsibilities. What are we prepared to defend and what are we prepared to fight for?
I believe that I first came across Outside in through an e-mail via the Arts News Listings which I had just subscribed to. I had never heard of Outside In before but they were offering an opportunity for people to take part in Step Up; their training and professional development programme.
Since taking part in the Step Up programme, I have helped run a number of workshops and exhibited three of my works as part of Outside In: West held at the The Museum of Somerset, Taunton in 2013. Slides of my work were also included in the Outside In: National exhibition at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester in 2012.
Being dyslexic and completing application forms can be a daunting experience and receiving letters of rejection or no reply at all can impact on a person’s self confidence. I found that in the Step Up application I could be quite open and talk about my art from my perspective without too much difficulty. Being able to write about my barriers as well as my creative work in the same application meant I was able speak more naturally; I was able to be more like myself.
I was nervous for the interview and a little uncertain of what to say and so was relieved and pleased to find out that I had been accepted for the Step Up program.
I thought that the course was fantastic. As a group we spanned a broad creative spectrum coming from all walks of life with different experiences and a mutual regard for each other. The content of the course was always interesting, although some aspects were more challenging than others, like drawing portraits of another person in the group. People were kind and respectful of each other’s needs and abilities and I think everyone appreciated this.
The training was informative and interesting, and each resulting workshop related to an actual artist whose work was on display in Pallant House Gallery. I think this connection helped develop confidence – it felt as if the artists themselves were on our side. This was in contrast to some of my previous experiences where I had felt inadequate because I had not read the latest article on a particular artist or hadn’t seen such and such an exhibition.
Since my involvement with Outside In I have maintained friendships with several other people from the programme. I admire them as people and I admire their work. After Step Up I put together three exhibitions of between 16 and 20 artists from across the creative spectrum. I have become more aware of other aspects of the ‘outsider art’ world, some of which I dislike and some which blows me away; George Widener for one. Through this I have been able to visit and meet up with staff at the Susanne Zander Galerie in Koln, Germany, who have shown his and other outsiders’ work. I have tried to establish a gallery for marginalised artists and hidden communities to show local national and international artists in the south west.
In terms of my own practice, I no longer try to fit in with an art world that didn’t want me. I make my own work and I enjoy it. I don’t feel so embarrassed or ashamed about the skills and abilities that I lack (e.g. organisational, academic etc.), instead I feel that my art has validity because it comes from a more personal and therefore more grounded, real place and because I have struggled with words and writing, I have made a conscious effort to write about the art that I find myself engaging with.
Does your work represent things or issues in your life, or within the world, that you feel are worth fighting for? Does it represent what’s important to you, what you value? If so, and you’re based in Wiltshire, you can submit your work for possible inclusion in an exhibition alongside Brian Gibson’s work at Salisbury Arts Centre. The deadline for submissions is 5pm, Sunday 30 August 2015. For more information on how to submit, please click here.