Seems a strange title for any blog or article. The word ‘outsider’ immediately rouses negative images of not belonging or being outwith the normal expectations or parameters. So who or what determines the meaning of ‘outsider’? Who or what is an ‘outsider’ in relation to art?
Let’s look at the first question. Our social structures appear to rely more and more on managerialism as a defining process of assessment or categorisation. If we need a tradesperson, we look to his or her qualifications as a measure of the skills attained. If we wish to contract an employee, again we look to learning outcomes achieved, usually from an educational institution. Likewise if we wish to apply for a position we complete an application form listing our academic and professional qualifications. We use our curriculum vitae as our marketing tool.
We, as consumers and employers, want the best value for our money. Many people would argue that there has to be some form of measurement; and within the measurement continuum there must be a hierarchy of achievement. A certificate will indicate an achieved level of skill and understanding whereas one would expect a diploma to indicate an even higher level. Likewise the person holding a doctorate would be expected to know a subject in much greater depth than the person who attains a degree in the same discipline. Therefore it would appear that instituitions and individuals within determine what or who is ‘outside’ their criteria.
As for the second question, then surely if we use a managerialisitic approach to purchase a piece of art then the higher the academic qualification would indication a higher level of skill and knowledge. Do we therefore need to refer to an artist’s c.v. to determine the quality and value of a piece of art? If that were the case then a great deal of artists would be excluded from this selection process, making them in some respects an ‘outsider’. Art, I believe, is more objective in its presentation.
‘Outsider art’ is nothing new however. The term ‘outsider art’ was first formed by Roger Cardinal (1972) when referring to the art movement ‘art brut’ created by Jean Dubuffet. Cardinal also used this terminology to include artists who were self taught whereas Dubuffet concentrated more on individuals such as those in psychiatric institutions.
There are many great artists who, for whatever reason, have not followed an academic route but have still managed to be successful in their own right and command a high value for their art. I refer here to professional artists who are self-taught. One of the highest profile self-taught artists today, in my opinion, is Jack Vettriano , although I venture to say that he has managed to become an ‘inside artist’ through his talent, hard work and astute marketing skills. Wander along any high street and you will find at least one shop or gallery where you can buy a Vettriano print.
There are many artists today who fall into the category of ‘outsider art’, whether by being self-taught or marginalised. The Henry Boxer Gallery is a good place to view and learn more about ‘outsider art’ and is UK based. Another good website to view ‘outsider art’ is Brut Force which is USA based.
As always, I have run out of time to continue writing or edit. Enjoy the links.