elizabeth turnbull
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Visions and Rainbows


Contemporary Outsider Art  — The Global Context
Conference held in Melbourne, October 23-26, 2014


My contribution to Artists Voices Panel Discussion - Day 1


This conference, a joint initiative of Arts Project Australia and Melbourne University, was the first major event of its kind in Australia, involving leading overseas and Australian authorities in the field as well as some 160 local participants — outsider artists, academics and others with a special interest in the subject.


During the afternoon of 24 October, 2014 I was one of three artists who took part in a short Artists Voices Panel Discussion organised by The Dax Centre, the two other artists involved being Graeme Doyle and Sandy Jeffs.  A brief contribution by each artist, outlining what had brought them to outsider art and how their feelings as 'outsiders' affected their art practice, was followed by discussion in conversation with the Dax Centre's Penelope Lee.


I thought the following text of my contribution, with the accompanying images used, might give an added insight into understanding and appreciating my art and the emotions that inspire it


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I never used to talk about the meaning of my paintings - I found people often saw things differently. But when donating a large number of my works to The Dax Centre I saw I needed to spend a lot of time talking with these lovely people. From this I found new meanings myself.

I knew nothing about art but about 1970 Art came to me after an 'almost' breakdown from depression, fears, turmoil, which I kept to myself. I didn't know any names for it then. I just knew I had to do something myself about it and I had my four children to look after. I have been painting for 42 years now, and, as then, it is still a blank piece of paper or canvas. I have never drawn first with a pencil. No thought — I stand and wait. Then — a silent click was the only way I could describe it, to start. Now I see it is The Self (capital S) — the inner Being that we all have, but it must be given space and quiet to 'speak' to us.

Thirty years ago I started writing in journals — of myself, my poetry, plus many pieces of writing by people who have lifted and inspired me.
It took me 2 years to gather some of this writing into a book called "Whisperings of Angels" (angel people) available on demand through Amazon, and the Dax Centre Library has 2 copies. Another book (unpublished) is about my journey and love of Mary Magdalene. Next book — poetry?


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In 1976 we travelled overseas for six years with our 4 children - Greece 4 months, Spain for more than a year and the United Kingdom for 4 years during which we also visited France, Germany, Sweden and Norway.

1977 — the first painting I did in my rough studio in Spain - working on the floor, cold, plastic on the window! Anxiety, fears in that scream - throat paralyzed from not speaking. Depression was always there for me — I can still feel that angry cloud — lurking with intent!! Determined to knock me low!

This painting also done in 1977, the year after Franco died, was called orlglnally Turmoil - Blood & Fire. I see this now as Turmoil Without & Within — Spain… and myself (depression etc.).
I often wondered why I painted so much with colour and life. I can see now that it was the Self giving this to me to help me survive. These last few years it seems I've given myself permission to paint the dark stuff, without it affecting me - just amazement.

The Silent Scream — this 2012 painting seems to echo the first one shown here, but the figure is a lovely pink - possibilities with that red throat!

Breaking Towards Black (2013). I sometimes think this is a horrible painting, but everything is reprieved by the fact that the figure is gold.

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Rainbows are in a lot of my works — a sense of hope. When I was 7 years old I used to stand out in the paddock and sing at the top of my lungs "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz". The words are very apt for me.
All these long years that live been doing my art, those many groups of lonely years as a recluse even, when live kept going, when I wanted the works to go out to others, I always felt that I was releasing some kind of energy out into the world — the essence of hope.

In 1979, when we lived in West Yorkshire for 4 years, I saw a tiny ad in the newspaper - "Outsider Art Exhibition", Hayward Gallery , London". Interested, we drove to London. I stood in amazement at the door, such wonderful creative work. I thought "this is Home!" I had never before felt part of the Art World — still don’t. Since then I’ve called myself a self-taught outsider artist.

*  *  *

I saw, at the Art Brut Collection, Lausanne, upstairs in a glass cabinet, two small pieces of torn paper with just 3 pencil strokes on each. This amazing act of creation blew me away - I’ve never forgotten them.
Recently I came across a custom of the Kalahari Bushmen. When one man is going off on a journey, another man stands and watches till he is out of sight. The second man keeps a watch. When the traveller returns the watcher says "I See You!” The other replies "I’m Here!".
It seems to me that this is what the pencil artist was saying —- "I’m Here!" — as we all are!!




Thank you for taking time to read these preliminary remarks …


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