Jean Dubuffet was a French artist (1901-1985) who coined the term Art Brut (brute art) to give a name to the art produced by non-professionals who work outside of the rules, such as people with mental illness, prisoners, children and socially marginalised people. This is what has become Outsider Art today. It is in essence art created by people who are unaware of the traditional cultural value of expressive artistic forms, void of social conventionalisms.
Although extravagance, delirium and eccentric behaviour are often associated with artistic behaviour, this form of art is different. The main character of these types of pieces is the obvious rejection of the beautiful. Moreover, usually you can identify a crudeness of character, spontaneous, ridiculous and unthinking, near to the unconscious. The pieces are very expressive and there is a deformed expression often perceived that intends to reflect the artist’s inner world. Another distinguishing character is the huge freedom of expression in the pieces; moreover of the materials from which the pieces are created because in many instances tar, sand, cement, pieces of wood, leaves or butterfly wings are used.
The realization of the visual product with a predetermined aim in effect erases its ability to be considered in terms of artistic pureness. Doing so would damage the effect by lowering it to other categories of similar “decoration”. When the mentally ill maintain a visual practice, image creation is in order to look for a resolution of mental problems. This art, that many times is a sub-product of an occupation activity, an art therapy or the individuals’ psychic sublimation, reveals its aesthetic reason in an activity which responds to a goal. That is, there is an absence of finality which is inherent to the appreciation of beauty.
OUTART is based on the concept of using Outsider Art as a means to empower young people and promote their social inclusion. By using the medium of photography to afford the freedom of expression and experimentation that’s linked to outsider art, this project promotes an innovative method of non-formal education.
EXAMPLES OF SOME OUTSIDER ARTISTS
Special thanks and acknowledgement to JJ Cromer and Eric Demelis for allowing the OUTART team showing freely their wonderful works on this website, they have been very inspiring for OUTART youth participants.
Van Gogh suffered from a manic-depressive illness for part of his life. Some of his most famous paintings were realized in the most intense phase of his illness when he was institutionalised.
The Swiss artist Adolf Wolfi was a painter, writer, compositor and poet and is considered one of the largest exponents of Outsider Art. He spent almost all his life in a psychiatric hospital with psychosis and hallucinations and his works are characterized by geometric patterns, including tribal art and ornate details with emphasis on “horror vacui” (fear of empty).
Some other examples of artists influenced by this movement were Miro, Tapies, Dali and Picasso.