Sam Huntsman - Lyrical Watercolours


From where does the compulsion to be an artist arise? In the case of Sam Huntsman it was only these last few years that he discovered how good he is at watercolour painting; adopting an experimental approach to a traditional medium.

Sam Huntsman is just an artist who is a story-teller, depicting images without a narrative.

As an ultimate outsider, he is a staunchly gestural and linear artist who paints abstracted images unconsciously. As a non-verbal, socially disabled man who gets about in his wheelchair, he has no formal art training and paints intimate emotional images with a Nomad paintbrush on an iPad using a watercolour App called Auryn Ink.

Besides digital art, Huntsman also uses acrylics and actual water-colours. If you ever see him on his painting days, most likely you would see the artist have paints everywhere. On his face, on his hands which he would splattered on you if you are too close.

At first glance, the digital paintings series of Sam Huntsman may strike you as a peculiarly chaotic stylistic pastiche, an amalgam of abstract landscape painting with the artist, Kandinsky’s dancing lines perhaps, but Huntsman pieces are not quite so easily categorised. They nonetheless often depart from the reassuring rectilinear frameworks and geometric rhythms that a lot of painterly wall construction retain.

However, like Wassily Kandinsky he used music subconsciously to orchestrate the play of his imagination in colour and line, which somehow seems to be strike a healing and familiar chord within his paintings. Some of the pieces, particularly those that break free of any rectilinear constraint, suggest forms in motion. Yet this reading is finally subordinate to a spacial one.

In the context of twenty-first century art practice, it is worth remembering that there are creators who cannot be easily reached in the worlds they inhabit, as well as individuals whose fundamental difference occurs not through some kind of breakdown or illness, but as a result of physiological conditions arising through heredity or intellectual disability caused by complications at birth. In the past, many of these people were hospitalised or hidden away by relatives. The activities to which they were introduced in hospitals and day centres were invariably simple and mechanical, but the emergence of generally more enlightened attitudes towards people possessing special psychologies has led not only to their increased visibility as a functioning part of society, but also to the possibility of engaging in more truly creative practices.*

Although the majority of Huntsman’s work recall Jackson Pollock later unpremeditated drip and splash paintings, his piece are more purely abstract and often more spatially dynamic. If at the time the unconscious spontaneity makes his work seem academic, that is a charge much abstract painting faces nowadays.

The similarity to Pollock was the way Huntsman used of the canvas or paper as an arena to act, rather than a space in which to reproduce. As the art critic Harold Rosenberg explained that rather than analyse, re-design, or ‘express’ an object, actual or imagined, what went down on the canvas was not a picture but an event.*

In any case, Huntsman painting begin and end with pleasure - the pleasure in the relation of parts to whole, in spacial play, in colours, movement and light.

Like in all good abstract painting, such formal pleasure is still vital.


Jeff Chand
Visual Artist/Gallery Coordinator

Rhodes, C. (2000). Outsider Art - Spontaneous Alternatives. Thames & Hudson - (* page 124)
Anfam, D. (2015). Abstract Expressionism. Thames & Hudson, 2nd Edition - (* page 9)