Welcome to the Outsider Arts Website.
This site aims to promote an understanding and appreciation of Outsider Art.
Artists ask the important life questions… Who am I? Where am I? Why am I here?
Outsider Art has taught us more about the human condition than any other creative medium in history and it continues to pose questions that force us to seek out a meaning through spontaneous creations.
Outsider Art was originally known by its French title ‘Brut Art’ [Raw Art] so called because it was purely instinctual and untouched by the generally accepted social influences. Raw Art originated from the 18th century asylum although today it includes self-taught artists, folk artists, spiritual artists and anyone who feels they do not fit into the accepted arts communities. Hence, the name ‘Outsider’ art.
In 1922 the German psychiatrist Dr Hans Prinzhorn published the first serious study of Outsider Art, ‘The Artistry of the Insane’. By 1921 the collection housed at the Hiedleberg University was extended to more than 5000 works taken from about 450 ‘cases’ and mostly used for medical research.
One of the first artists to be associated with Outsider Art was Adolf Wolfi who lived at the Waldau psychiatric Clinic in Bern, Switzerland . Severely physically and sexually abused as a child Wolfi was very disturbed and sometimes violent , leading to him being kept in isolation for his early time at the hospital. He suffered from psychosis and hallucinations which became the source of his unusual works.
Another well known Outsider artist is Henry Darger. Born in [1892 -1973] Darger’s parents died at a young age and he was raised in an asylum for ‘Feeble Minded Children’. Darger’s works, which consisted of hundreds of journal illustrations and stories, were not discovered until after his death in 1973.
The first major European exhibition and the name ‘Outsider Art’ was created by Roger Cardinal . Cardinal is Emeritus Professor at the University of Kent and a renowned authority on Outsider Art having published on outsider architecture, prison art, autistic art and memory painting.
Outsider Art is still a little known genre in Australia and it has extended its meaning to include many examples of self-taught and community art as well as a number of different categories.
Categories of Outsider Art.
Asemic art or writing is often called glossolalia. The history of glossolalia is also associated with speaking in tongues, (from Greek glōssa, ‘tongue’ and lalia, ‘talking’), utterances approximating words and speech are usually produced during states of intense religious experience such as trance. The normal functions of the vocal chords of the speaker are reduced and speakers often have little control over their voices. Historically, the practice has been associated with possession by some kind of supernatural entity, ghosts or voices of the dead. Glossolalia has been used by mediums supposedly in conversations with the dead or with divine beings; gods and angels. It has also been used as channeling to achieve oracles and proclamations. Glossolalia occurred among adherents of various ancient religions, including some of the ancient Greek religious practices. There are references to ecstatic speech in the Hebrew Bible (1 Samuel 10:5–13, 19:18–24; 2 Samuel 6:13–17; 1 Kings 20:35–37), and in Christianity it has occurred periodically since the early years of the church, in particular at Pentecost when people were said to be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts of the Apostles 2:4). The Apostle Paul referred to talking in tongues as a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12–14) and claimed that he possessed exceptional ability in that gift (1 Corinthians 14:18). The account in Acts (4:31, 8:14–17, 10:44–48, 11:15–17, 19:1–7) indicates that in the beginning of the Christian church the phenomenon reappeared wherever conversion and commitment to Christianity occurred. The greatest emphasis upon talking in tongues in the early church was made by followers of the 2nd-century prophet Montanus. His excommunication about 177 and the later decline of the sect probably contributed to a climate of opinion that was unfavourable to speaking in tongues, and the practice declined. During later church history, glossolalia occurred in various groups, most notably during various Protestant revivals in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries [Britannica, 2013]. It has also be used as a form of psychic chant in some of the New Age shamanic systems. Today, ‘glossolalia’ is an innovative form of outsider art or asemic writing, which sits comfortably with what is referred to as the postmodern cultural shift and/or post- literary movement.
Mail art is a populist art movement centred around sending small scale works through the post. It initially developed out of the Fluxus movement in the 1950s and 60s with many well known participants from the art, music and alternative anti-art movements. It has since developed into a global network. The American artist Ray Johnson is considered to be the first mail artist.
Various medias are used in mail art that include postcards, paper, a collage of found or recycled images and objects, rubber stamps, artist-created stamps and paint, but can also include music, sound art, poetry, or anything that can be put in an envelope and sent via post. Mail artists regularly call for thematic or topical mail art for use in exhibitions and/or on websites.
Journals and Altered Books.
Journal writing and altered books has a long history and has been revived today in the context of postal art and the Internet.