Songs of the Imbeciles: Aiden Milligan and Maria Gordon
Songs of the Imbeciles brings together works by Scottish painter Aiden Milligan and Spanish illustrator Maria Gordon. The two artists filter the representation of dark scenes, notions, and experiences lived and observed through a childlike-style, conceptually linking them to a faux-naive tradition. Both artists conquer what would otherwise be represented in somber formal languages, masking it through their unique visual styles.
The title isn’t intended to insult, but to reference William Blake’s emblematic Songs of Innocence and Experience - a dichotomy always present in both artists' work - and Jean Dubuffet’s playful term for outsider artists. In 1948 Dubuffet praised “imbecile”, as opposed to intellectual and academic art, in his Art Brut manifesto as being the work of artists of greater honesty and vision.
Gordon’s work is inspired by European folk art, children’s illustration, and her own vivid and delicate pictorial world. In her work, if highly decorative and pleasing, each figure, fruit and flower carries a meaning or symbolism that changes and deepens the work’s meaning. This collection of watercolours demonstrates the recurrent themes and imagery in her world of contrasts: where innocence and experience, purity and lust, flora and fauna, city and country settings, all battle while co-existing in a lyrical balance.
Milligan’s storytelling is more front and centre in his paintings - often they are snapshots of exaggerated or typified stories from his upbringing in South West Scotland with a humorous twist. Milligan’s work is rich in associations for those who know Scotland, while skewering the Visit Scotland image of highland cows and country homes. In this new series, the composition tends to accentuate the position of the observer, partly alert and always amused - one who has come to experience the absurdity of adult disenchantments with tenderness.
For Milligan and Gordon their consciously “un-developed” styles allow them to process and communicate darkness in their work without overwhelming the viewer, and leaving space for us to imbue the works with our own meanings and associations.
Celebrate these “irregulars”, our very own “imbeciles”, “visionaries” in their braveness - sing their songs of innocence as they battle experience!