Outsider Art Project // Fear Project –
ALL ART CHALLENGES OUR PERCEPTIONS. Outsider art challenges its audience more than most. Outsider art confronts in unusual ways because it forces us to examine the extremities of human existence. In this respect, the outsider artist and his or her audience share a precarious relationship because the outsider artist’s creations often exceed the boundaries set by mainstream society. Yet, such encounters, which are both subjective and transcendental, can often be illuminating because they provide a process for conveying one person’s meaning and culture in order to widen the general perspective. This in turn raises social awareness on matters of artistic ambiguity and taste and it allows us to tap into the hidden outsider that resides deeply buried in all of us.
The knowledge of Outsider Art in Australia is very limited compared to other countries and there are questions as to whether the description outsider is even appropriate for what is more or less a branch of visionary art. In addition, the term outsider is frequently marked as discriminatory and exclusive as many outsiders are becoming commercially savvy and selling their work in mainstream galleries, which in turn alters their status to that of ínsiders.
The changes in outsider art appreciation do not apply to outsider architecture and buildings. Large outsider structures generally stand alone on land owned by the artist or a representative and this makes support from established galleries difficult. In addition to the prohibitions on size and structure there are a myriad of legal complexities in acquiring outsider installations from privately owned lands. There are other issues too, which can include the mental and physical status of the artist as well as third party representation or guardianship. There is also the possibility of the artist’s isolation; many outsider artists find themselves having to cope with life’s difficulties without appropriate knowledge or services. If these obstacles were not enough, outsider buildings are still seen by many as pseudo-art, or worse; a blot on the landscape giving rise to a hindrance in surrounding property values. Unfortunately, outsider art has a troubled history, it conflicts with the conservative temper and populations whose taste in art tends to be classical, romantic and based on accumulative material values. Outsider art is ‘raw’, it is unabridged by conventions and portrays the inner abjection of the artist. In effect, the outsider artist is making a profound statement about his or her place in the world as a non-conformist and as a consequence s/he is generally treated as an object of curiosity rather than someone with a different perspective on the life world.
In Australia, there are only a few major venues for collecting and exhibiting outsider art; these include the Cunningham Dax Collection at Melbourne University; a collection that gives impetus to mental health issues; the Arts Project Australia in Melbourne, Kickarts in Cairns, Queensland and the Self-Taught Outsider Art Research Collection at the University of Sydney. (Sydney University gives it focus to a broader interpretation of outsider art that includes anyone who is not artistically trained). There is currently only one comprehensive Australian publication devoted to outsider art, which is titled Outsider Art: Spontaneous Alternatives, by Colin Rhodes (2010), Dean of Sydney’s School of Art and Curator of Sydney University’s Outsider Art Museum. It is published by Thames and Hudson and the contents are not exclusive to Australia’s artists; rather, it covers a broad spectrum of international outsider art and installations.
There are a small number of private sheltered workshops as well as outsider art dealers, but they do not extend their support to the outsider builder because shifting such constructions would be a logistical nightmare; the design is so spontaneous and complex that without detailed blueprints any reconstruction resembling the original would be impossible. Hitherto, the work of outsider artists is limited in its gallery exposure and the number of installations and only small manageable pieces are sought by specialist collectors. What is the future then for outsider art?
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing attention to the present moment in order to gather energy so one can look deeply into the nature of emotions and discover calm, transformation, good health and well-being. This is best achieved through the creation of the arts. I am very proud to be able to present some of the work carried out by members of the Art for Health and Well-Being Group at the Foster Manna Gum Community House, which serves the people of South Gippsland, in Australia’s State of Victoria.
Jenny devotes much of her time to cultivating flowers that bring joy and happiness to people at the Community House as well as to residents at the hospital and aged care facilities. She has a beautiful garden, which she shares with her other passion, the wildlife.
Pat finds relaxation in colouring-in books which she plans to cut up and turn into collage.