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Outsider Art

Artists out of time and without economic motive

  |   Outsider Art

At the international level there is a constellation of authors that expresses itself, or has expressed itself, without intentional comparison with the official art of its time, drawing original, unique worlds, which are difficult or impossible to catalog.

Artists who – according to the age in which they lived and the artistic practices adopted – art historians have included in the categories of Art Brut or Outsider Art and more recently of Irregular Art.

Authors who mainly produce by inner dictation, driven by personal needs and urgencies and who operate in spaces, physical and mental, intimate, hidden or sometimes protected. They are very different authors for autonomy and artistic practices, with different degrees of awareness and presence in the world. Or they are not motivated to a productive relationship with the market or to a comparison with the official artistic culture, rather they avoid it.

In some cases there is intention, but not autonomy due to conditioning due to disability, or to psychological or social problems. The variety of artistic behaviors and strategies is so great as to make them difficult to pack into precise schemes.

Works and authors to be deciphered and understood in their making – independently – art and at the same time phenomenon of complicated lives, but rich in meaning, aesthetic qualities, expressive and communicative strength.

The critical objective would be to compare these authors with the official system of culture and modern and contemporary art, so that such experiences do not remain confined to the stigma of marginalization, madness or disability.

Dubuffet affirmed that the unawareness of the child and the mentally ill would make art more instinctive and purer. Today we would not want to make any distinction: if distinction must exist, it is of a purely historical nature. We know from neuro-aesthetic studies and neuropsychiatry that the creative moment is always a healthy and pure moment. History tells us how many artists had mental problems of some kind. But, if there is talent, this manifests itself despite, or on the contrary, precisely thanks to visual expansions, imaginary and imagined dysmorphisms and distorted perceptions. We must consider that at the beginning of the twentieth century, many artists procured these mental statuses with various substances, while in these artists this condition is natural. Therefore, only talent must be considered, regardless of any pathology that afflicts the “artist person”.

Vittorino Andreoli, a well-known Veronese psychiatrist, maintains that when Dubuffet donated his collection it was at that precise moment that the Art Brut ceased, it must therefore be historicized from that precise moment, also in consideration of the fact that the neuroleptics of new generations have canceled the great delusions.

The term Outsider Art was coined by Roger Cardinal in 1970, but in our opinion it is quite another thing, because while the concept of Art Brut is related to the work, Outsider’s concept emphasizes the marginality of those who produce it (Interview by Marco Berton at Daniela Rosi 17 October 2017: Palazzo Barolo). Provocatively contradictory to “Beaux-Arts” is the term “Art Brut”, which defines all those artistic productions performed by people with absolutely no education in art, who therefore operate outside the conventional aesthetic norms. The result of a spontaneous gesture of pure liberation, these works interpret fantasies, desires, impulses, extreme mental states. The authors are people who, for one reason or another, have been subtracted from social conformism: solitary, psychiatric and marginalized patients, who through the use of rather unusual techniques and tools, have given life to works (paintings, sculptures or writings) that will be our window to us on their unique world.

The Art Brut is very distinct from the “Outsider-Art” that follows and is an extension of it. With the English equivalent, the works created by marginal, self-taught artists, authors “Naïf” are included in the term. Also deprived of any artistic formation, but which, unlike the Art Brut non-artists, aim at a cultural and social recognition, referring to the official art, borrowing the subjects, the methods of representation and the techniques .

Dramatically dreamlike dimensions, which dramatically expand the space of reality and imagination, to a space in which all the dialogues between past and present, between true and presumed, breakable and imagined, reopen instead of confronting each other, at the limit of the clash , taking us by the hand and making us understand that fading become and are a unique thing.

Sometimes we find ourselves in exasperated chromatism, now silhouetted and clear, now shaded and confused, to characterize moving figures, because there the mind is in paroxysmal movement, to seek and sublimate the purity and clarity of the creative act that always and in any case it is such whatever its origin.

As often happens, one has the feeling that the artistic pact develops as if it were in a dysmorphic succession, a Matrioska birth where the final infant is not even remotely resembling what we expected: the content is pushed to exist in its final result because in the making.

Precisely because life is for anyone, some more or less, a tortuous and uneven path almost never traveled with adequate technical (mental) means, but shaken, wounded. At best it is just supported, in the ordeal of Siberian frosts or torrid equatorial heats.

But they are there to show us how the price of suffering, in overcoming the bold and oppressive situations, is natural, almost nothing. They seem to express it now with a slight smile, at other times with a thunderous and heartbreaking cathartic cry, but always, in both cases, projecting their skin into them violently.

Here, the work springs from a natural, physiological outlet, as rarely happens in other cases.

No wisdom, no separation between pain and loneliness. As in a field hospital, it must always be cut without hesitation, here the filter superstructures and the gangrene of the imposed logic, false moralism and induced impositions are eliminated.

The work will be shown finished, as expelled from a simple and primordial uterus, without reconnaissance or rethinking point by point: direct and pure.

Each work stands before us as if we were immersed in a pinball game played by the artist. The scenarios that can sometimes show us cirques of alien life, others, bodies showing wet carnality, or sublimated female silhouettes change. But, what we live live, is the set of sounds of the neuronal contacts of the ball, then, we sense the hip blows without measure and without control. Yes, because there is no tilt there: the tilt, there, is art.

– Luigi Mazzardo



  • Lucienne Peiry (ed.), “Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne”, Skira Flammarion 2012.
  • Roger Cardinal, Outsider Art, Londra, 1972 (in inglese).
  • Marc Decimo, Les Jardins de l’art brut, Les presses du réel, Digione, 2007 (in francese).
  • Marc Decimo, Des fous et des hommes avant l’art brut+ réédition de Marcel Réja, L’art chez les fous. Le dessin, la prose, la poésie (1907) ; textes de Benjamin Pailhas, Joseph Capgras, Maurice Ducosté, Ludovic Marchand, Georges Petit, Dijon, Les Presses du réel, collection Hétéroclites, 480 pages (160 ill. n&b). (in francese).
  • Jean Dubuffet: L’Art brut préféré aux arts culturels 1949 (in francese).
  • Tarciso Merati opere 1975-1991 – Saggi di Vittorio Sgarbi, Mauro Ceruti, Maria Rita Parsi Ceribelli Editore Bergamo 1993.
  • L’arte Naive nr. 69 Arte Marginale dicembre 2002 Reggio Emilia.
  • Oltre la Ragione – le figure, i maestri, le storie dell’arte irregolare di Bianca Tosatti editrice Skira 2006.
  • Greg Bottoms, I Colori dell’Apocalisse – Viaggi nell’outsider art, Odoya, Bologna 2009.
  • Sergio Perini, L’arte disperata di Agosytino Goldani, Marco Serra Tarantola, Brescia, 2008.
  • Agalma nº 14 – Outsider Culture, Roma, Meltemi, 2007.
  • Davide Russo (a cura di), La Tinaia, Firenze, edizioni zeta, 2007, La Tinaia alla Biblioteca di Scienze sociali dell’Università di Firenze, Firenze, Polistampa, 2004.
  • Maria A. Azzola e Lucilla Conigliello (a cura di), Scritture in musica: La Tinaia e l’Art Brut, Firenze, Edizioni Polistampa, 2003.