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Folk Art and a Time Unto Itself: Revisiting 25/26

The images above and the first one below are some of the more traditional rural / folk ritual examples of folk art from the book and exhibition Folk Archive: Contemporary Popular Art from the UK, created and collected by Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane.

As I wrote in A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields:

“The phrase ‘folk art’ often conjures or represents a particular quite well-defined, often rural or cottage industry aesthetic and has been frequently used to refer more to work from previous eras but The Folk Archive does not make such distinctions… In the pages of the book you can find largely photographic images of tattoos/tattoo guns, artwork from prisons, burger van signs, illustrations painted onto the bonnets of cars and crash helmets, fairground paintings, sandcastles, cake decorations, Christmas decorations, protest banners, shop signs, decorative costume for a night out or a carnival, clairvoyant’s hand created signs, crop circles and the trappings of what could be considered traditional folkloric rituals.”

A distinctive example of fairground paintings as a form of vernacular or folk art are those on the closed fairground rides in a shot on location scene in the 1976 television sitcom spinoff film The Likely Lads. The artwork has in part an almost outsider art-like character to it and the style of it is notably different to “the glossy hyper realist artwork which often features at fairgrounds today”.

The fairground’s artwork is very evocative of a past era, and it’s style and character makes it seem as though it could be from a much earlier part of the twentieth century rather than just a few decades ago. This is not dissimilar to the way that some of Barbara Jones’ illustrations in her book Unsophisticated Arts of the everyday vernacular or folk art of 1940s fairgrounds, tattoo parlours, houseboats, seaside piers, amusement arcades etc at times captures and depicts atmospheres and aesthetics which seem both as though they could have been from a time long before that decade and also to belong to a time all of their own.

The original post published during the first year of A Year In The Country:


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