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What do I mean by Outsider Art?
The best definition I've seen is, 'Art that is made by self-taught or naïve artists with typically little or no contact with the conventions of the art worlds.'
That doesn't mean the average amateur artist - they, like you and I, are aware of the art world and the work of popular artists. True Outsiders aren't. They are mostly people who live in remote, almost hermit-like conditions, or they are institutionalised due to psychiatric issues. Their work can be charming and but can also display extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds. Their work is often kept private and only discovered after their deaths, such as in the case of Henry Darger.
The term 'Outsider Art' was coined in 1972 by art critic Roger Cardinal as an English alternative for Art Brut (French: 'raw art' or 'rough art'), a label created in the 1940s by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture.
What fascinates me about this particular field of art is that it's the closest thing to pure creation. The artist creates simply because they are driven to do it. And the work they produce is free, or almost free, of influence. I liken it to work produced by our remote ancestors - paintings and sculptures that they made with no thought of galleries, sales or audiences. They made art because they could. It's raw artistic expression and, as the result, it's fresh, surprising and exciting.
If you want to know more about it you could do a lot worse than watching this three part series made for Channel 4 back in 1998. The musician Jarvis Cocker is also a big fan and collector of Outsider Art and in Journeys into the Outside, he visits some extraordinary artists and places. It's well worth a watch.