Gypsy Maker 4 Artwork Narration

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

“As an artist, my work has not always been concerned with my heritage although it has always been informed by being born into a family of makers and a vibrant visual and craft based culture. As my practice evolved I slowly came to understand I was using some specific aspects of my Romani upbringing within my work. In collecting from the street and taking materials and objects to the studio I felt a unification of what had felt, until then, like two separate parts of myself. I have since gone on to explore more closely areas of Romani and mainstream culture. My current practice looks at how mainstream and Traveller culture have met and interacted historically. I want to use my work to challenge perceptions of Travellers. To achieve this I use transactional objects which are significant to both groups. Examples of these are wagons/carts/photography.” Dan Turner

The kind of objects explored by Turner in relation to his studio practice, and clearly exemplified in his artwork Coshtis, are foundational to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller material culture. Such items are embodiments of what I would call Gypsy visuality—a term which describes the qualities found in artefacts that originate from and/or circulate within Gypsy communities. Such qualities might also be described a Romani ‘style’ or Gypsy aesthetic.

Until recently what might be loosely termed Gypsy art and craft in Britain has generally taken the form of carved and painted objects, examples of which are reflected in a small number of collections around the United Kingdom. These collections show functional artefacts such as tools, toys and vehicles, rather than paintings and drawings or sculptures. Painting and carving are shown instead to ornament functional objects with patterns and motifs that transform them into reflections of social narrative. The main function of these objects has been the enrichment of home and work environments with little interest being paid to the production of ‘art objects’ in their own right. A combination of functionality and ornamentation are common to many of these objects and can be seen as placing artistic practice firmly within the realm of the everyday.

The reasoning behind this integration of artistic practice and everyday life becomes clearer when we consider that, historically, all objects accompanying a nomadic community were required to serve multiple purposes. The resulting need to combine acculturation and artistic nourishment with practicality and expediency persists today within the Gypsy aesthetic—a legacy of nomadism which means that form and function remain intimately connected for the Romani people.

By presenting the clothes pegs in a minimalist manner in his artwork Coshtis, Turner accentuates the hand-crafted and rustic materials and methods employed in the making of the objects. This in turn focuses the mind of the viewer on elements of the artefacts which might otherwise be overlooked thereby allowing greater insight to the objects and the meanings therein. Dr Daniel Baker

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