Power of Art
From understanding mortality to embracing your instincts, Laura Miles discovers how a new exhibition will showcase the power of art.
A new exhibition by arts charity Outside In is set to be a testament to the power of creativity and expression. Held in Mayfair at the offices of global investment manager Cerno Capital, Outside In: Discover features the artwork of Portsmouth’s Rakibul Chowdhury alongside that of two London-based artists Nnena Kalu and Jasna Nikolic.
“Their contrasting styles and approaches show that art is still a powerful tool for self-expression and their integrity and passion shines through their work,” said Marc Steene, director of Outside In which now has offices in Chichester and Brighton.
Since its founding over a decade ago at Pallant House Gallery, Outside In has provided a platform for artists who face a significant barrier to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstances or isolation. In 2016, Outside In became an independent charity and last year it joined the Arts Council England’s National Portfolio.
Since its inception, it has engaged with more than 5,000 artists traditionally excluded from the mainstream art world, a quarter of a million audience members and more than 80 partner organisations nationally. Outside In has held more than 50 exhibitions and now provides opportunities for more than 2,600 artists to show their work at national exhibitions, has an active online community and professional development and supports.
Rakibul’s family ‘can’t believe the positive changes’ that have resulted from the recent interest in his art work, says Debbie Lyall, managing director of Right to Work CIC which runs the Art Invisible sessions that Rakibul, who has learning disabilities, attends. “Art provides a wonderful platform on which Raki can express himself, it also provides a tranquil and productive environment which has enabled him to develop his artistic skills and manage his behaviour.”
She added that he has gained ‘immense enjoyment and satisfaction’ from his work and that his self-esteem and confidence have grown: “Raki often used anger and extreme outbursts to express himself, this no longer happens which has allowed those closest to him to relax and enjoy his company.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that the involvement in Outside Art which has included two significant exhibitions, has truly transformed his life.”
For Serbia-born Jasna art is ‘a place of freedom’ and a means of attending to ‘understand and overcome the fact that we are mortal’.
“Struggle for an inner peace is my art theme. As an artist I have been through terrible crises as a part of my life path,” she explained, recalling how experiencing bombing resulted in serious psychological problems with anxiety, claustrophobia and depression. “Outside In helped me to get back on my artistic feet, to start to work seriously, to have this push with an exhibitions and to feel as an artist, [a] real creator, [a] person capable for creativity again.
“I keep on saying that Outside In is like a beautiful, strong and supportive art family. My relationship with the project is ongoing, and I feel very lucky and blessed to be part of it.”
There’s an undeniable sense of purpose to Nnena’s work too. Watching her create is to understand instinct – not least because the non-verbal artist often works with her eyes shut, responding to the noise instead - and to witness dedication.
Whether it is her hypnotic simultaneous drawings or her sculptural installations, ActionSpace – which runs the studio where she has been based since 1999 – summed it up best: “There is no narrative to Nnena’s work, it is pure form and her compelling, constantly evolving sculptures and installations bring the process of making to life.”
Laura Davidson, writing for A.N Artists, described Nnena’s solo show at Glasgow Intonations as seeming to ‘celebrate the sheer delight of making’. She added: “Kalu undoubtedly has an essence of Phyllida Barlow about her but Kalu’s ingenuity makes Barlow look demure and restrained in comparison – her colour palette is riotous and the taped shapes crackle with surprising, boundless energy."
Nick Hornby, managing partner at Cerno Capital, said the company is ‘thrilled’ to be able to support the charity and provide a platform for these vibrant pieces. “Outside In is instrumental in promoting and celebrating the work of artists who might otherwise not have the chance to exhibit, and we are looking forward to having such fantastic works on display.”
Outside In: Discover is at Cerno Capital, 34 Sackville Street, London, W1S 3ED until 23 November