We were delighted to attend an exhibition held recently at Sotheby’s with Outside In. Outside In: Journeys brought together the diverse work of a number of the artists involved with Outside In, a charity that provides a platform for artists facing a barrier to the art world for reasons including health, disability, isolation or social circumstance.
The exhibition epitomised the charity’s objective to create a fairer art world – challenging traditional values and institutional judgements about whose artworks can and should be displayed. The body of work varied hugely throughout the show and brought to life many of the stories and experiences from the artists. On the hugely busy opening night, every work visually captivated each guest.
We were particularly taken with the work by Michelle Roberts, whose colourful work Crufts Dog Show (below), will shortly be hanging on our office walls.
Michelle has drawn and painted throughout her life, and as a young girl she used to accompany her grandfather, a watercolour painter, who often worked outdoors. She spends much of her free time drawing small, intricately worked images in her sketchbooks, as well as ideas for the canvases she produces. Michelle has worked to refine a dense and highly personalised approach to making images, which often take weeks to make. She works methodically across each canvas, creating colourful and complex worlds, each with a distinct logic and meaning that connect to her own life – often an event she has visited, or an experience she wants to bring to life. In this work, she has mentioned that each character speaks to her, and she has a dialogue with them as she works.
Recently, Michelle has been using brush-pens to give her more control and allow her to build more layers and patterns of colour within the shapes she draws. This is a step away from the larger colour blocks in her earlier pieces. Very little white space remains on the canvas in her work; she now first draws the shapes – carefully, but without any hesitation or correction – which she then fills in. In this example, we can see that nearly every inch of the canvas is bursting with colour, the lively faces of each individual character engaging with the viewer.
Michelle’s mother has said that, “it makes her feel very happy when she is painting and she has lots of ideas in her head trying to come out, she enjoys using lots of colours and patterns…it is the main way she has to express herself…This project has become a very necessary part of her life”.
When not working on her art, Michelle volunteers in a charity shop and assists in a nursery; many of these experiences also translate into her work.
Michelle is one of the 2,600 artists represented by Outside In, whose ongoing work we are thrilled to be supporting. Later this year, we are very much looking forward to hosting an open exhibition later in our offices where Michelle’s Crufts Dog Show, and more work from some of the artists represented by Outside In, will be on show.