THIS IS the age of the amateur. Technology provides a simplified means of producing art, and sometimes it bears an uncanny resemblance to the real thing.

This is neither entirely for good nor ill, and as with all technological advances, there is no going back. I’ve been personally affected both ways: photography once needed technical skills to get any kind of usable result. Today it can done with a telephone.

On the other, I’m now a ‘film-maker’: a production that not long ago would have required a director, cinematographer, sound recordist, focus puller, best boy etc can today be made with a bog-standard camera.

On my own.

In reality, I’ve never had a negative view of amateurs. I’ve known a few ‘amateur’ photographers with greater skills and vision than some professionals, even in the days of film. A pro has to produce work on demand, to deadline and to budget, every time. That’s the important distinction.

The three artists currently on show at Salisbury Arts Centre might be classed as amateurs, but that’s not a valuable criterion by which to assess it. The organisation behind the exhibition is ‘Outside In,’

which, in their own words: “provides a platform for those facing barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstances or isolation.”

Darryn Michael is displaying four canvases rendered in a cartoon-like manner: simple thick-lined motifs filled with areas of flat, strong colour. There are similarities to the work of David Shrigley and Patrick Caulfield. I asked him whether he knew their work, but he had never heard of either. That’s of no consequence, as these are powerful images of figures which, although featureless, succeed in conveying human predicaments. The paintings are also very appealing to look at.

Brian Gibson has recycled negatives of photographs he took as a young man, and re-presents the images with all the tools that digital technology can muster. These are artless candid portraits: he told me he was not a trained photographer in those days, although he did go on to study graphic design.

His visual training certainly shows. The large photographic prints display a great understanding of colour, and his layering of textures give these images a painterly quality. Also excellent value at £250.

Joanne Pudney is the third artist: she uses mixed media, drawing painting, collage and sewing. Her work shows much promise: there are some exquisitely rendered areas in all of her pieces, but they seemed slightly overworked. This is a matter of experience, and trial and error. Finding that less is more is always a pleasant discovery.

Well worth a visit before it closes on December 19th.

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