Gypsy Maker 4 Artwork Narration

Cosh 2019, 90 cm x 60 cm x 10 cm, wood, Perspex and foam by Dan Turner

“My work has become not only a journey to learn about my own culture, but also a way to integrate my identity and my art practice. I am interested in how human life can be defined and archived through made objects. I want to explore how these objects communicate across timelines through a shared 'material' culture, and how they articulate that culture to a wider audience. In relation to the Romany community, I include transactional objects such as pegs, wooden or paper flowers in this category. In these works, I have re-valued these objects as works of art, in the way they are exhibited and the context in which they are shown. In reassessing their value to both Traveller and non-Traveller, I hope to establish a balanced dialogue, not one simply based on approbation without interpretation or understanding.” Dan Turner

Dan Turner’s artwork Cosh highlights the role of the traditional within the contemporary. By bringing together key elements from fields including traditional Romani artistic practice, rural craft and the contemporary art aesthetic Turner generates questions about the differing ways that we can encounter objects and how those ways inform our interpretation of their meaning—and therefore our understanding of them. Presenting objects in unexpected ways allows us to see them from a fresh perspective which in turn makes room for wider associations. Such associations can lift them from their usual range of reference to areas that would otherwise be closed to them thus allowing the viewer to make new connections with the artworks and the questions that they generate.

The image of the flower remains an important iconographical element for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups. Within the Gypsy aesthetic the flower can be seen to represent associations with the countryside, nature and wildlife thereby acting as a symbol of freedom and liberty. These associations continue to be important for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the light of historic and ongoing discrimination, along with past and existing legislation that is intended to limit the ability of such groups to follow a traditional lifestyle.

The carefully crafted flowers Turner presents within this artwork have historically been made not only to adorn the living spaces of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller homes (the home and its décor being the main site of traditional Romani artistic practice and appreciation) but also to sell to make a living. The integration of such artistry within Gypsy, Roma and Traveller economic practice points to a kind of innovative creativity which has long been a defining factor within the Romani economy and our interactions with non-Romani communities—a factor which fuels the questions at the heart of Turner’s practice. The re-contextualisation of traditional Romani art within contemporary art modes of presentation and interpretation can allow greater insight into these questions. Dr Daniel Baker

Gypsy Maker is an innovative, ground-breaking concept devised, owned and developed by the Romani Cultural and Arts Company – the only Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Arts Development organisation in the United Kingdom. This 2020 project is supported by Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru | Arts Council of Wales and is commissioned by the Romani Cultural and Arts Company’

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