Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Troubled Artists Tell Of Their Troubles

Inside The Mind

Art Brut: The Economist writes: "These artworks are, ostensibly, the vital expressions of troubled people. But by the end of the exhibition the term “outsider art” feels imperfect, because many of works are as accomplished as those by established practitioners. The unique worldviews, complex emotions and eerie imaginings they convey are every bit as captivating."
Image Credit: Shiga Prefecture; Wellcome Library, London
Source: The Economist

An article in The Economist looks at artists who produce art; nothing unusual about that except these artists all have clinical disorders of the mind. They have been called outsider artists, an imprecise English translation of French artist Jean Dubuffet's term art brut ("raw art"), which he coined in the 1940s. The art is untrained and strikingly original.

The Economist writes:
These so-called outsider artists have all been diagnosed with cognitive, behavioural and developmental disorders. They live in, or attend, specialist care facilities where they work with art facilitators. The 300 works on display contain their dreams, phobias and projections, but also their idiosyncratic interpretations of the world around them and the important people in their lives. Like much of the Wellcome Collection’s distinctive programming (it has held recent exhibitions on death, dirt and brains) it is unconventional, yet stimulating and significant.
Takako Shibata’s 12 graphic drawings, which show her mother’s face getting bigger as her body gradually disappears, speak volumes about the effect her absence has had on Ms Shibata’s life. Masao Obata’s red-crayon creations on pieces of cardboard depict wedding-like scenes of couples (pictured below), betraying his lifelong yearning for a significant other. A video shot before he died poignantly shows his wish fulfilment: dressed in red tracksuit trousers, a tucked-in red top and a chunky red belt (red is clearly his signature colour) he energetically colours in a couple portrait. He seems sweet and lonely yet focused. “When are you happiest?” the interviewer asks him. “When I’m working,” he says without averting his gaze from his drawing.
Marie Suzuki’s pieces—disturbing and nightmarish portrayals of sex, genitalia and procreation—are accomplished works using the simplest of tools: coloured pens. One image shows a womb inhabited by a red devil-baby, another shows a blind-folded woman with misshapen breasts surrounded by malevolent eyes, hands and knives. Beneath her, a sea of breasts and a suckling, eyeless infant lie in wait. It is a terrifying vision, the overpowering sense of torture, oppression and doom suggests Ms Suzuki may have been abused as a child. But we aren’t told.
Such visions are very real for the artists, who are likely depicting through art their inner world, somewhat frightening and horrifying. Perhaps art is a catharsis of sorts, allowing these individuals to expunge these images. I am not sure, but I hope that it offers some relief from their pain. Even so, I find these images captivating, revealing much about the human condition, a look at the inner world of all-too-human lives.


You can read the rest of the article at [The Economist]


  1. Beethoven, Van Gogh, and many other creative artists had disorders of the mind.


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