Carlo Zinelli, Valerie Potter
“Autobiographic” at London’s The Gallery of Everything explores the aesthetic diaries of two authors from the alternative history of 20th century art.
Carlo Zinelli is the celebrated Italian image-maker, introduced to La Collection de l’Art Brut in 1963 by Professor Vittorino Andreoli, and championed by Andre Breton and Jean Dubuffet. Valerie Potter is a British illustrator and textile artist, whose idiosyncratic production of combined image and text was promoted by Monika Kinley and Roger Cardinal, the latter giving her work a significant platform in his seminal publication, Outsider Art (1972). This exhibition has been made possible in collaboration with La Fondazione Culturale Carlo Zinelli and Jennifer Lauren Gallery.
Zinelli created over 2,000 works, each of them extremely intuitive and sophisticated: from simple forms reminiscent of late matisse, to lettering and sounds which fill his work with all its urgency. Paolo Colombo, Maxxi (Rome)
Championed by legendary French artist Jean Dubuffet, Carlo Zinelli is a master of art brut whose oeuvre was inspired by his personal experiences of conflict.
Born in San Giovanni Lupatoto, near Verona, Zinelli spent his early years working on the land as a farm labourer and living peacefully with his family. At the age of eighteen, he enlisted to fight in the Spanish civil war, where he endured severe shell shock on the front line and returned unable to speak or recount in any way the horrors, which he had experienced. In 1947, Zinelli’s family suggested he move to accommodation at a hospital in San Giacomo, near Verona. An art studio located on the grounds encouraged patients to draw, paint and sculpt. Zinelli lobbied to be included and, once accepted, dedicated his life to painting.
Working for up to eight hours every day, Zinelli began to create a bold individualistic body of work. Impressionistic recreations of the landscapes and characters of his youth were set against the brutal backdrop of war. Memories of the countryside and travelling circuses were presented within frames of swirling repetitive text, echoing Zinelli’s own faltering speech patterns. Zinelli’s distinctive double-sided works were brought to the attention of Jean Dubuffet, who crowned Zinelli a master of the genre and, inspired by Zinelli’s free-spirited autobiographical gouaches, incorporated the unknown Italian’s aesthetic into his own prolific oeuvre. Zinelli’s work was soon being included in private and museum collections across Europe and America.
When the San Giacomo Hospital closed in 1971, the 55-year-old Zinelli was transferred to a new institution where he was no longer able to continue his daily art practice. He died in 1974.
BBC IMAGINE DOCUMENTARY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6hzw_1yl4U
The Museum of Everything Published catalogue: https://musevery.com/books/catalogueilpalazzo/files/inc/38145e1abb.pdf
Exhibition in Lausanne: https://lausanne-musees.ch/fr_CH/expositions/carlo-zinelli-recto-verso
The drawings and fabrics of Valerie Potter (b 1954) were inspired by the discovery of a book by the late Roger Cardinal in a reduced book section near the artist’s home. Upon reading the seminal Outsider Art, Potter decided to send Cardinal a group of her drawings. The art historian was so impressed, he agreed to curate Potter’s first solo exhibition at the University of Kent, where he was teaching. The author subsequently introduced her material to Monika Kinley and other collectors.
Today Potter continues to alternate between cross-stitch works, line embroideries and elaborate colour weaves. Potter uses her art as a way to verbalise her very interior monologue. Potter has been exhibited in the UK, France, Spain and Australia. A large number of historic embroideries will be included in this exhibition.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)