I have a fascinating with outsider art, with the people who create these works, their stories, and their pure creative genius that is not tarnished by mainstream thinking about art. They are raw and authentic, practicing their craft from a deep internal need for creative release without concern for technique or critique. They work outside the fine art system; they produce from the depths of their own personalities and for no one else but themselves. They do not follow fashion or tradition and care little what people might think about their work – they need to create and they do.
One of South Africa’s most famous outside artist is Helen Martins. She lived in a small Karoo town called Nieu Bethesda, a dry dusty speck of a place. Here she created wonderful sculptures in concrete and broken glass, mixing the two together to create ever changing colour and texture. She was misunderstood in the small conservative dorp where she lived. A sad figure, who was too shy to mix with people. She hardly ate, spending the little money she had on supplies to build her sculptures.
Reading her biography I was transported into her world, into her imagination, I had a glimpse into her all-consuming need to create. I was left with the sense that even after reading the book and seeing her work, there was still a mystery surrounding her. Why did she really create all those strange sculptures? What demons was she fighting? Did her creations bring her peace? I suppose these questions will never be answered. I think that is the beauty of outside art, we are left asking questions and feeling fragile after entering the world of the artist, we are left contemplating our own fragility and vulnerability. It is raw, honest and possibly the most real art there is.
Sculptures at the Owl House