Outsider Art Centre in Delhi - a place to express raw emotions
New Delhi, Jan 2014
Art is a spontaneous expression of emotions. A growing tribe of practitioners of art have stumbled on the vocation by accident - either lured by the magic of colours or by the pull of patterns drawn by hand on a surface to relieve stress and to escape from the grind of survival. They are the outside artists- amatuers,who are self taught following their personal trajectories of thoughts and paths of hearts. Art serves as a therapy for many Outside artists - prescribed by psychotherapists as remedy for lifestyle related angst.
Over the decades, outsider art has become anoeuvre in itself - with artists ofinternational repute who have carved platforms in the world of mainstream art. with art fairs and expositions. India, which has a 5000 year old heritage in arts has been late to respond to the influence of outsiders' art because of its strict "aesthetic code" that follows a visual grammar and practises conforming to universal techniques and art school curricula. Nearly 60 years after the first wave of outsiders' art caught the imagination of the western art houses, the national capital of India — New Delhi— is getting its first Outside Arts Centre dedicated to promote self-taught artists after tentative efforts in Mumbai and Chandigarh. The capital of Haryana, Chandigarh, however owes its international status as an "architectural model" has a lot to do with Outside Art. Artist Nek Chand - one of the country's earliest Outsider artists- put the city on the international map with his Rock Garden - a landscaped green space that point to gardens of the future.
The centre, conceived by self-taught artist, Shubhadarshini Singh, will promote "awareness of this genre which has now permeated across all segments of the population— from all walks of life — those with or without any mental problems". Singh said there was a growing market for outside art in many countries with Outsider art fairs and exhibitions in the best of galleries around the world". Hospitals often host exhibitions of outside art by patients suffering from psychiatric disorders.
Singh's Outside Art Centre, located in the quiet residential neighbouhood of Shantiniketan in the capital reflects the "spirit of healing that art embodies". The gallery space at the Centre leads to a cafe — which is different from the usual art cafe. "The cafe has been designed by Outside artists from found natural objects like wood sign boards,old statues and fences — even the the gallery mimics the old cupboards that collectors loaded with their priced but strange objects… and it looks more like a place to sit and browse through art rather than a gallery that host short time art shows. Ours is more like a permanent collection with our calendar of events (talks, demonstrations, workshops, film shows, music concerts… you tell us.)," Singh said. The gallery which opened with an exhibition of creator Singh's "medical paintings" will host a new artist every month.
In the early 70s, a new art movement christened as “outsider art” to describe, in broad terms, artists who were self-taught and did not feel part of any specific artistic movement or genre, began to show promise of independent talent with offbeat creative ideas. The artist was working free of any of the main-stream influences, wholly creating from a unique space “outside”. Lovers of modern art found the best of these works to be extremely compelling.The Outsider Artists were using traditional materials in their compositions away from the pigeon hole of conventional art.
The first inkling of the existence of Outsider Art emerged from the work of a few enlightened psychiatrists in the mid and late 19th century. Gradually it became clear that some psychiatric patients were spontaneously producing artworks - often on found scraps of paper - of unusual quality and power.French painter and sculptor Jean Philippe Arthur Dubuffet in the 1940s realised that spontaneous, original and uninfluenced creation was not just the preserve of the mentally ill. Together with others, including André Breton, he formed the Compagnie de l’Art Brut in 1948 and tried to seek out and collect works of extreme individuality and inventiveness by creators who were not only untrained artists but often had little concept of an art gallery or even any other forms of art other than their own.
They included fierce individualists as well as psychiatric patients. For the first time a name was given to this genre, ‘Art Brut’. Dubuffet meant art that was ‘uncooked’ by culture - art that was at its purest, its most powerful its most meaningful. Art produced entirely for individual satisfaction and inner need with no regard to exhibition, fame or monetary reward.
The collection eventually went up to thousands and in 1979 was established as the Collection de l’Art Brut museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. The impact the insane had have on art is remarkable. Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Jean Dubuffet, Picasso and George Baselitz all claimed to be heavily influenced by outsider art.
Michel Thevoz, the original curator of the Collection de l’Art Brut: “said the Art Brut was made of works produced by people who for various reasons have not been culturally indoctrinated or socially conditioned. They are all kinds of dwellers on the fringes of society. Working outside fine art system (schools, galleries, museums and so on), these people have produced, from the depths of their own personalities and for themselves and no one else, works of outstanding originality in concept, subject and techniques. They are works which owe nothing to tradition or fashion.”
From Art Brut to Outsider Art: The term outsider art was coined by Art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as An English synonym for art brut. The English term "outsider art" is often applied to include certain self-taught or naïve art makers who were never in the niche mainstream circuit. OutsideArt was acknowledged as a genre in US with the works of reclusive Henry Darger after his death in 1973. His one room lodging was found to reveal work of thirty years: almost one hundred large scale drawings depicting epic battles between cruel soldiers and brave children who suffer terrible ordeals, accompanied by a text so long that it would take many years to read. Martin Ramirez, another few great American discoveries with a hospital background, was found by his doctor to be hiding bits of drawings to prevent them going into trashbin.
After being given proper materials and allowed to preserve his work, he produced large drawings based on Mexican background and culture,where extraordinary painters and ceramic artists have produced art that is at Collection de L'Art in Switzerland,New York's Phyllis Kind Gallery and at galleries in Rome, Paris, Cologne and Chicago. Bianca Tosatti’s show “Oltre la Regione” In Italy, the interest in Outsider Art has started to circulate.
In January 2003, Christie’s organized the first public sale of 120 art works by Outside Artists from the collection of Robert M. Greenberg. Eighty per cent of the art works were sold,raking in 146,603 dollars.
Galleries and collectors from Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, the UK and the US have so far been the greatest buyers. Since its first edition in 2005, ArtVerona has dedicated a special section to Outsider Art and, the role of Outsider Art at ArtVerona is growingin oeuvres across painting, sculpture, assemblages, music… .
Daniela Rosi—an Italian authority on Outsider Art says all these forms of artistic expression draw their lymph from inside each one of us, from humanity’s collective unconscious. Outsider Art turns our miserable lives into an anthem to Life. "This art represents everyoneand leaves no one out”, Rosi says.
Raw Vision Magazine
In 2006, outsider art magazine Raw Vision was awarded the Utne Independent Press Award for Best Arts Coverage, signalling popular acceptance within the fine arts community. Based in the UK, Raw Vision is effectively an international enterprise,spanning several countries to create, print and distribute the quarterly outsider magazine.
The Outsider Art Fair has found its place in New York, the world capital of commercial galleries. Having completed 19 years in New York, the Outsider Art Fair has become one of the year’s most important events for the relatively small group of collectors and dealers who make up this niche market. These works which, except in rare instances, not created with the intention of selling have become a "fascination for many in an art world that is at times inundated with the discussion of commerce. fair devoted to artwork created by people outside the mainstream of society—people virtually unaffected by cultural or artistic convention," Singh said.
Bringing together pioneers in the field like American Primitive Gallery, Carl Hammer Gallery, Luise Ross Gallery, Ames Gallery, Henry Boxer Gallery, Cavin-Morris Gallery, and Phyllis Kind Gallery, the Outsider Art Fair has helped define an entire market. Seventeen years later, this lasting tradition continues to grow as a stirring showcase of well-known artists as well as newly discovered talents.
Colin Rhodes, an Australian arthistorian, who has written a book on the subject, says, "Pathology is not the defining criterion,” he said. For him, an outsider artistis not an amateur, just someone working outside the regular art world structures. Outsider Art: illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds. "The raw and the pure, without the countless layers of training and cultural sophistication that afflicts most mainstream art, is what appeals to me and is how I identify that which I call Outsider Art," he said.
In 2004, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Les Halles, Paris, dedicated one of the biggest exhibitions to Raw Art (Outsider Art, L’Art Brut) held in the French capital. Displaying the work of hundreds of Outsider Artists, the exhibition was certainly impressive, taking in art by psychiatric patients, alcoholics, visionaries, sociopaths, loners, naifs, vagrants, street kids and hobos.
Happily despite sedation and the end of the asylum stay, Outsider Art is flourishing among psychiatric patients and the “normal artists” who weave beautiful paintings, or sculpt and make wonderful installation art… some call it contemporary art but when you see an artwork you will know this is the way ART Brut has gone, Singh said.
Venue: Outsider Arts Centre 1/13 Shantiniketan,New Delhi