The current special exhibition is the opposite of grey blocks. It is colourful and varied and crammed with all sorts of ideas and creations. It goes by the name of Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan. The artwork on show is by 46 artists who attend or live in Japanese social welfare institutions. All the artists have cognitive, behavioural and developmental disorders or mental illnesses. And they create. The word 'outsider' has somewhat negative connotations, and 'outsider art' is a rather ugly term for works by untutored artists who are not conscience of an audience for the pieces they make and who live the edges of mainstream society. However, the word 'souzou' is much more positive. It has a dual meaning: both creation and imagination. And these artists have imaginative creativity in no short supply.
This is art as therapy or distraction, but it's beautiful and intriguing in its own right. Visual expression is used as a release from the confines and confusion of language, and such different ways of seeing are represented throughout the exhibition rooms, as well as a whole range of materials and methods. Textiles and ceramics require lengthy repetitive processes that have a calming, therapeutic effect. One of the artists, Komei Bekki, takes a ritualistic approach to making his ceramic miniatures. Arriving at the studio at 16.00 every day, after everyone else has gone, he performs a sequence of actions which involve removing his clothes and putting them on again inside-out and partially moulding the clay in his mouth.
Everyday objects and the culture that surrounds the artists - film, television, landscapes and transport systems to name a few - are are very much in bright and bold evidence. Norie Shukumatari makes fluffy embroidery representing beloved subjects such as chocolate cake and a 1970s Japanese pop icon.
Shota Katsubi crafts a vast army of tiny anime soldiers wielding swords and bazookas from coloured wires which, on closer inspection, transpire to be the twist-ties used to fasten bin-liners. And an artist known as M.K. paints on a simple sheet of roughly cut cardboard. The image is called 'Lady with Rainbow Coloured Hair' and is a vibrant depiction of a female bust accompanied by an aeroplane safety announcement in English, beneath which is written: The gnus/were afraid of/the alligators in the/river/They waited for a long/time/before entering the water.
|Lady with Rainbow Coloured Hair|
I want to eat a pigeon-shaped cookie. And, after walking through this odd forest of fascinating artworks, I just really want to make stuff. To whip out crayons, felt-tips, sewing kits, pipe-cleaners, paint and PVA glue. To create. That's the effect of souzou.