If you had no idea who painted this picture, would you consider it junk, the product of an unlearned and unskilled artist? Would you feel differently were I to tell you that it is in fact the work of none other than Henri Mattisse? I assure you that it is a Mattisse, a piece entitled “Red Studio”.
This brings me to the subject and the point of my article – a term with which I only recently became acquainted in my search for definitions of art that doesn’t quite fit the norm. I stumbled upon the use of “Outsider Art”, a term used when referring to untutored artists. I recently referred to the subject of critics in this blog and it seemed to me that the description was often used by them in a derogatory way to define the work of an artist who has no formal training.
Outsiderart.info is a place on the web for artists who have received no formal training. Upon inspection I was astonished, but not surprised, to find that a lot of the work there surpassed much found on some “established artist” sites. They are a mix of human emotions and genuine artistic interpretation, without the boundaries and constraints of outside influences. Comparing this outsider art to a number of works by the so-called professionals on the web I found that they differed in one important way – one is far more likely to cater to “the art market” while the other leans far more towards genuine creativity, originality and freedom of thought and expression.
How many canvases of plain colours can one look at without wondering if the professional artist considers the collectors and art lovers to be a bunch of anaesthetized, rather lame brained folk who have no substance? It’s been done already, and done very well. (I was going to refer you to some of these websites, but if you are now reading this I am sure you are very familiar with what I am talking about and there is no need for me to point fingers at any one individual). These artists can sell their art and command preferential treatment at galleries because of the use of “professional” in their title. I’m not saying that all professional artists are like this but it seems that a great number of them hold the view that whatever they produce and offer to the general public should be accepted as the be all and end all of the artistic spectrum.
Terms like ‘commercialism’ can be detrimental to an artist – most commercial items are not unique and can be easily replicated or mass produced. I read an interesting article the other day at the excellent blog “A Brush With Art” , where the author bemoaned the fact that he became so blinded by making a living churning out saleable seascapes and landscapes that looking back he realized that what he was producing was no longer art at all. It is a very honest and well written piece and you can view the complete article, “What It Is To Be An Artist” here.
I have to ask why art that is termed “Outsider Art” isn’t recognised as genuine art by the “Art Police. I myself would argue that this is one of the last bastions of true art. In a world that seems so preoccupied with organic and natural things, I believe that artists who practice their craft without the advantages or disadvantages, (depending on how you view it) of formal training and education would be the choice of discerning art collectors. This kind of work cannot be linked to any school or preconceived ideas and limitations of the “what is real art” mentality.
I am not advocating that “Outsider artists” should not seek to further their knowledge of the art world and educate themselves in the history and origins of the masters. I believe passionately that artists of all levels should familiarise themselves with the basic tools of art, to empower themselves with the knowledge and implements necessary to breathe life into their own ideas and creative ingenuity. By doing this I believe that originality will prevail and overtake the dogma that art must have a particular “Form” by which only true artists can be measured.
There can be no yardstick – art in its truest form is the concept and original interpretation of an individual.
The Arteccentrix Gallery