One of the ongoing problems I have with exhibiting in public is the number of people who comment by saying “Oh! it’s naive work”. This is frustrating as they often have no idea what they are talking about and are missing the deliberate, subtle games the works play.
So for those of you who profess to be Naive Art experts, here is a lesson on the established rules of Naif Art and why my work defies or subverts these conventions.
“Naïve art is simple, unaffected and unsophisticated – usually specifically refers to art made by artists who have had no formal training in an art school or academy“(taken from the Tate Gallery website).
The last part of the statement is the easiest to dismiss as I spent four years at art college and have a honours degree in the subject. Hardly a case of no formal training. I have studied, researched and practised the art of perspective, colour theory and composition since the age of five and have a complex understanding of the subject.
“Naïve art is characterised by childlike simplicity of execution and vision.”
As I live on the Umbrian/ Tuscan border in Italy I am surrounded by examples of High Byzantine, Gothic International and Early Renaissance works. These periods are characterised by a rediscovery of realism, perspective and naturalistic painting.
When depicting buildings, vegetation and landscapes the likes of Giotto, Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers played around in a simplistic way. Using these artists as inspiration my work demonstrates the same principles of draftsmanship in my renderings of the Italian countryside.
Breaking art rules
This requires a good knowledge of oblique projection, aerial perspective and an ability to interpret the Medieval mindset and style. You need to practice in order to look at a modern scene and visualise it as it would have been seen 700 years ago.
As a one-eyed and colour blind artist I naturally see things from a particular viewpoint. My world is flattened out, like a postcard and has colours that are incredibly muted. Therefore, I explore different ways of deliberately painting three dimensions in flat images. I choose to ignore linear perspective but give depth through overlap, size difference, aerial perspective and tonality.
Colour blind art
The tenants of Naive art state that colours are unrefined. Whilst my paintings are incredibly bright there is a logic to be had here. Now people with colour vision deficiency (CVD) have certain colours “washed out” from their vision. Knowing this and trying to give CVD viewers a better experience I deliberately use luminous hues and occasionally confuse colours.
For us, red/green, orange/green, pink/grey and the mystical purple are all colours we commonly mix up and we have to take great care when painting with them. Luckily they write the names of the colours on the tubes. Although, if I see a pink sky, why should I paint it grey just because that is the supposed colour.
Despite what you might think of colour deficiency we do have some benefits and the sky, especially dawn, dusk and storm clouds give us wonderful experiences. The paintings often reproduce the types of dramatic skies I see with their pinks, purples and pale oranges. Don’t ask us about the two colour rainbow though, very lame, we’re not impressed with them.
Behind the painting
The composition uses the principles of golden mean proportions, where ratios and position are carefully calculated to give pleasing relationships. Hey! If it’s good enough for Mother Nature and Vermeer, it’s okay with me.
There are strong diagonals and the vanishing points are all placed so as to draw the eye to particular points. If you divide the pictures up into thirds or fifths you’ll see that certain landmarks and features are placed at these junctures.
If these works should be called anything then Gothic Nouveau, Bosso Nova Byzantine or Faux Early Renaissance would be more appropriate. However, it would be naive to think of them purely as Naif Art.