In 1989, VIVE LA VIE magazine published Sophisticated Naive, a feature article by Elana Steinberg that offered a unique insight into Serbian and Australian naive art. The Australian outsider artist, Tony Convey and his work was also discussed. Following is an extract from that article.
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Painters of the naïve style take the history and lore of the peasant village and landscape to create art of purity and sophisticated innocence.
By Elana Steinberg
Among the dictionary definitions of the word ‘naïve’, Oxford could perhaps be taken mightily to task for its use of ‘artless’ as a fitting synonym. These two seemingly incompatible terms achieve a remarkably successful marriage actually, in a unique school of art that began in the fields and meeting places of peasant villages and has wound its way across the globe to include all manner of culture and practitioner, in a discipline that is bounded only by the artists’ personal interpretation of their everyday domestic and spiritual lives. Naïve art is entirely based on response rather than formula – the constraints of which are fact, happily unchartered waters for the purist naïve painter.
Described variously by observers as ‘primitive’, ‘folk’ or ‘peasant’ art, Naïve artists are all bound by a common creed – to depict personal vision and individual experience above and beyond formalised technique. Whilst lesser know Naïve artists include Serbian masters such as Janko Brasic, Sava Sekulic and Milan Rasic, names associated with contemporary mythology are also prime protagonists of the naïve artform. Grandma Moses, arguably the most famous of naïve artists, first put brush to canvas in the naïve style towards the end of her very long life. Before her death at age ninety-six, she managed to convince a collector to part with $50,000 for one of her paintings. French painter, Henri Rousseau was credited with first bring the naïve style to mainstream attention, and he was supported in his efforts by affirmed cubist, Pablo Picasso who was also an ardent private collector of Serbian naïve art.
"Naïve art is entirely based on response rather than formula"
Picasso was not alone amongst his prominent brethren in actively encouraging the naïve style; French artists Jean Dubuffet and Paul Gauguin, British painter T.S Lowry, critics Anatole Jakovsky and Andre Breton amongst many others, were all unlikely champions of this ‘unsophisticated’ artform. But perhaps the most inspired and inspiring was the magical Marc Chagall whose status as a naïve painter is often called into question, but whatever his classification, the simple serenity of his angels and the brightly coloured stylised approach are all trademarks of a gifted ‘naivety’.
Within the generic term ‘naïve art’ there are countless schools and stylistic approaches, largely due to the fact that works are autobiographical in perception and interpretation.
“Naïve artists have no formal training; they taught themselves between themselves and they teach each other. They don’t talk about specialised art techniques like mixing the paints, the colours, preparing the canvases, they talk about philosophy, about life. These were people who worded on the land; they were taught by nature and what was accumulating inside them was the urge, the sense of needing to say something and to start painting,” explains Vasa Carapic, curator of the recent Serbian Naïve Art Exhibition with Australian Guest Artists. To read Sophisticated Naive in full, please click here. Naive Art of Serbia is also a great resource.
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