Delayed Art Commentary and Purvis Young

Sometimes my art writing verges into serious Delayed Art Commentary … actually I quite like that phrase, and also the notion, of having a little time to digest and process a show. But there’s definitely a sweet spot, the optimum amount of time for the work to muddle round my brain a bit, but also for my initial reactions not to be too distant, to be able to call them back, dig into them, turn them over and figure out a bit more what it all means.

Perversely it’s often the shows I most admire, that bowl me over, which fall into serious Delayed Art Commentary territory. I suppose I get a bit nervous about doing them justice, not just in a self-deprecating, who-am-i-mere-mortal-to-write-about-you type way; but in a more complicated way. I suppose they are shows that somehow strike at something deep and meaningful and true, that make my heart soar, that tug at a giant knot of tangled emotion, that spatter new ideas and connections all over the inside of my brain, like a wet dog getting out of a bath. So yes there are some nerves, but also it’s just harder to do a good job and sort all of these ideas out into linear blog post. To put something sensed and felt, into words. There’s so much I want to say, then I overthink it a bit, then I pause, then I get nervous, then wham, bam, I’m on the edges of Delayed Art Commentary.

A recent example is the epic ‘We Will Walk’ show at The Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate. It showed works by over 20 African American artists from the the Deep South of the US, many of whose work had never been seen before in the UK. It was a beautifully curated and deeply researched show. It steered an inspired path between contextualising the works in their very particular history and place, but also setting the work free. Letting it speak of making art, creativity and human expression. Today I started to try and sort out these ideas in my head, with the aim of doing a proper write-up of the show. I went back through my photos, and notes I made in the gallery and started to do a bit more research into the artists who were part of the show.

One of these artists was Purvis Young, and as I scrolled down the Wikipedia page about him, the one lone image of his work immediately made me think of a room of artworks I’d seen at the Venice Biennale in 2019. It was a room I remember being transfixed by, in one of the big Venetian Palazzos. So I went back through my photos, (I am a bit of an art photo geek and keep them pretty well-labelled and in date order) and discovered, that yes, it was the very same artist, Purvis Young. And continuing my geeky art organisation skills, I looked up my notebook from last year and even found the notes I scribbled that day about stumbling upon his works.

So I might not have finished my Delayed Art Commentary about the We Will Walk show, but I did rediscover an artist I utterly loved. And I’m sharing the photos , and my notes below, delaying no more ..

Works by Purvis Young in Palazzo Mora
This is similar to one of the works in the Turner Contemporary Show, but somehow I didn’t make the connection. I think it is to do with how different the work looks with acres of space around it. I think Young tended to show his own work in this more crammed in way himself
Wall text from Venice Biennale 2019. The basics this text doesn’t seem to cover, is that he is a self-taught artist, who first started to paint when he was jailed for 3 years as a youth. From there he just kept painting, and sharing his work with his community.
I watched this video interview with Purvis Young for a long time, as people came and went through the Palazzo. I would recommend this biography to learn more about his life
My notes made at the time … ” a joy to walk into a beautiful old room covered in his works. Floor to ceiling. So good to be in a Palazzo! With chandeliers. Felt elevating”

From the video, I made the following rough, vaguely verbatim notes of things he said…

“I love a brush, man I love a brush”

“One day I want to paint a whole symphony, but it takes time to do that”

“I like art books to get ideas .. I like Rembrandt, I like Van Gogh … “

“Three times in life I left the city” (Miami)

Other Notes

– My personal optimum write up time is probably within 2- 10 days of seeing a show. Now I’ve realised this I’ll try and resolve to getting things written in this time frame

– I don’t always get nervous about writing about shows I loved, some of my favourites have been Luchita Hurtado , Faith Ringgold, Lee Krasner, Patrick Heron … I even think I did a pretty decent job with a write-up of last summer’s mega Olafur Eliasson show, and some serious legwork on writing up a big slab of what I saw at the Venice Biennale 2019 … interestingly, these posts are consistently some of the most viewed posts on my blog, even a year later

– I still don’t like the term ‘outsider art’. It feels excluding, like the act of thinking or defining within these terms of reference, produces the effect of outsider-ness itself. Some kind of awful self-perpetuating establishment-ism.