WHAT IS OUTSIDER ART?

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The movement Outsider Art gained a lot of attention after WWI. Psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1993) published his book ‘Bildnerei der Geisteskranken’ with a great collection of  artwork made by residents of psychiatric institutions. Artists like Salvador Dalí, Karel Appel and Asger Jorn were inspired by them.

The specific term Outsider Art was first used in 1972 by the British writer Roger Cardinal in his book titled ‘Outsider Art’. In the English language the term is equivalent to the French term ‘Art Brut’, originally deno-ted by the painter Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) in the mid-1940’s. By the end of WWII, Dubuffet  emerged as one of the most important apologists for art produced outside the mainstream.  After  accumulating a collection of children’s drawings around 1940, he turned his attention to the work of psychiatric patients  as other self-taught artists.
 

Features of Outsider Art often present the world in transcendent or metaphorical terms. Visual images reveal that, which would otherwise remain hidden from view, thanks to the special insight of their creators. Almost invariably, artists develop a structured cosmology that underpins the ‘reality’ of their worlds, although the viewer does not always have access to the language of their articulation. For most, the transcendent world takes them beyond the reality of harsh living conditions. This world could be of endless poverty, institutional incarceration like psychiatric hospitals or prisons, or other forms of social marginalization, though it should be remembered that the majority of inhabitants in these conditions survive them without producing art or constructing other worlds for themselves.

The artist reacts not so much to external forces as to an inner imperative; other worlds not really invented to be discovered. Outsider Art is not only produced by individuals, whose psychological state has led them to be described outside the norms set by dominant culture, but also by others who move freely in society or whose movements -for several reasons- are restricted. These creators are not amateur painters or naïve artists who take up art as a hobby but true artists who give themselves entirely to the creative urge, producing work irrespective of an audience.