Four days ago I didn’t know if I liked ‘Folk Art’. To be honest, I’m not even sure I could have given you a succinct definition of the term. A vague mention of canal barges and American Shaker chairs would have been all you’d get. An impromptu family visit to stately home and art gallery, Compton Verney put paid to that last weekend.
Seemingly plonked amongst the villages just south of Warwick, Compton Verney has been lovingly transformed from a derelict 18th Century mansion to an outstanding space offering art, architecture, landscape and learning. It was here, in one of their 20 gallery spaces that I discovered one of the countries largest collections of British Folk Art. And I loved it.
Encompassing objects and art produced by untrained artists, peasants or tradespeople, Folk Art is characterised by a naive style; the traditional rules of art are not employed. In contrast to Fine Art, Folk Art tends to be utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. It’s the kind of great stuff we find in junk shops and flea markets these days – a wooden spindle back chair, a hand painted jug, a ditchers shovel or a locksmiths trade sign.
It’s this naivety that appeals to me most – the Irish Ash Windsor chair was wobbly, the paintings were childlike and endearing. I liked that.
Compton Verney’s Folk Art exhibition is a permanent one and is well worth the visit. There’s a fantastic Quentin Blake exhibition there until 11th December and they have a couple of great learning/making rooms as well. The ‘Capability’ Brown grounds are littered with sculptures and interactive art and there’s even a children’s play area in the woods. If you’re into making, design, architecture, playing, eating cake, seeing new stuff and being inspired I can highly recommend this place. It was a damn fine day out.
The Compton Verney: Folk Objects Flickr set.