Self taught, outsider + visionary art
What does it all mean?
The term Outsider Art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut... (French: "raw art" or "rough art"), a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by those on the outside of the established art scene, such as psychiatric hospital patients and children... [more here]
While Dubuffet's term is quite specific, the English term "outsider art" is often applied more broadly, to include certain self-taught ot naive art makers who were never institutionalised. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. In many cases, their work is discovered only after their deaths. Often, outsider art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.
VISIONARY Art often carries themes of spiritual, mystical or inner awareness. Despite this broad definition, there does seem to be emerging some definition to what constitutes the contemporary visionary art 'scene' and which artists can be considered especially influential. Symbolism, Surrealism and Psychedelic art are also direct precursors to contemporary visionary art. Contemporary visionary artists count Hieronymous Bosch, William Blake, Morris Graves (of the Pacific Northwest School of Visionary Art), Emil Bisttram, and Gustave Moreau amongst their antecedents... [more here]
Images: Jean Dubuffet (Widewalls); Roger Cardinal, (Out of Art) is Emeritus Professor at the University of Kent. He introduced the term 'Outsider Art' in 1972; Sylvia Convey (Australia, 2017), one of Australia's pre-eminent Visionary artists. Sylvia's work has been exhibited in Australia Belguim, France, Germany, Japan and the United States.
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In Australia the interest in self-taught art has waxed and waned since the 1930's when modernist painters like Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker, inspired by the Surrealists' example began looking for Australian artists of this kind. This ongoing interest peaked in 1977 with the publication of two monographs on the subject - Primitive Painters by Geoffrey Lehman and Australian Naive Painters by Bianca McCullough. Several of the artists in these books are now considered classic outsider artists.
A few influential dealers like Rudy Komon added naive artists to their stables and a few such as Sam Byrne and Henri Bastin had successful careers and had their work acquired by major institutions. There were even a small number of commercial galleries which specialised in self-taught art of which Claude Ullins' Gallery Art Naive was the most successful. Between 1979 and 1983 Rosemarie Jeffers and Terence Relph held approximately 15 exhibitions of outsider art at their Outsider Gallery in Balmain. The gallery was represented in the 1982 Sydney Biennale with an exhibition of the legendary Scottie Wilson's drawings however the public, critics and mainstream artists were almost totally indifferent to the gallery's attempts to promote outsider art.
In 1988 the seminal book Outsider Art In Australia edited by Ulli Beier (1922-2011) and Philip Hammial was published. Both Ulli and Philip organised many exhibitions of outsider art. Philip has continued to promote and curate exhibitions of outsider art to this day.
Today however self-taught art now has a very low profile in Australia. There are no commercial galleries specialising in the field and very few dealers represent artists of this kind. Although many art school graduates have appropriated the tropes of outsider and self-taught art the actual creators of this type of art are ignored by our major institutions. With the notable exception of Arts Project Australia they travel under the radar. One of the most active institutions in the field has been the Orange Regional Gallery which under the direction of the late Alan Sisley (1952-2014) mounted a number of outsider exhibitions one of which travelled to the Halle St.Pierre.
Self-Taught and Outsider Art Research Collection (STOARC)
The STOARC archive based at the Sydney College of the Arts has continued to be the leading body in the country dedicated to the study, conservation and promotion of self-taught art. [Text: Tony Convey]
One positive aspect of self-taught art in Australia at the moment has been the publication of four monographs on Australia self-taught artists: The Outsider and His Indignant Eye by Michael Richards (Ocean Press, 2016) is a monograph on George Morant; The colourful life of Harold Leslie Thornton alias The Kangaroo 1915-2004, compiled and edited by Willem Campschreur (lecturis, 2015); Stan Hopewell: Facing the Stars by Ted Snell (University of WA Press, 2013); and Double Vision: a shared journey, Sylvia and Tony Convey (Tellurian Research Press, 2015).
Image: Alan Sisley (Orange Regional Gallery) "was passionate about visual arts at the grassroots." (smh)
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Internationally there has been a huge upsurge of interest in self-taught art over the last two decades and it was featured, controversially, in the Venice Biennale. A number of institutions specialising in self-taught art such as the Halle St. Pierre in Paris and the American Museum Of Visionary Art in Maryland have gained significant support from the public as well as the Art Establishment. Along with this has come an awareness by many scholars and researchers that the various names used to categorise self-taught art over the years such as primitive art, naive art and outsider art are sometimes misleading and in the end unsustainable.
Raw Vision magazine
Raw Vision magazine, founded in 1989, is an internationally-renowned journal dedicated to the creators of Outsider Art. Its cover lists various categories including Outsider, Brut, Folk, Niave, Intuitive and Visionary. [Text by Tony Convey]
"Raw Vision remains the world's only international journal of the art of the 'unknown geniuses' who are the creators of Outsider Art. Untrained, unschooled and uninfluenced by the art world, the work of these artists continues to stun and amaze. They invent their own forms, techniques and create private worlds. Only in the pages of Raw Vision can readers discover for themselves the world of Outsider Art."