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Outsider Art in JAPAN - The Realms of the Unreal

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Outsider Art in JAPAN - The Realms of the Unreal


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'Souzou' is a word that has no direct translation in English but a dual meaning in Japanese. It can be written two ways, meaning either 'creation' or 'imagination'.

Outsider Art has its origins in the French word art brut, which described art made by those outside the art scene particularly that created in 19th Century European Psychiatric Hospitals. In The 1940s, surrealists like Dubuffet and Max Ernst became interested in this art, and Outsider Art came to be more broadly interpreted as outside a didactic tradition and outside the boundaries of official culture. It was often unsettling and indecipherable, yet undeniably arresting. While it did not follow the artistic fashion of its time, Outsider Art nevertheless responds to the times in unexpected ways. For this reason Outsider Art has a growing following in world art circles.

Outsider Art has also had an influence on the introduction and development of art therapy programs around the world. In Japan’s art therapy programs, materials are typically made available to the participants without any instruction on what they should make or how they should make it. The results are astonishing and diverse. The work of Japanese outsider artists has now been featured in galleries in London, Lausanne and the Venice Biennale.

Outsider Art in Japan” is a series of films that demonstrates the circumstances of some of these outsider artists, and how their art is created. With immense concentration, with zen like calm, methodically, obsessively, they create mysterious objects and fantastic drawings. The creation is ritual, reality into fantasy, fantasy into reality, revealing a logic that is perplexing yet strangely familiar.

Feautured in Volume 8: Masaomi Kitajima, Shigemi Takahashi, Masahiko Tsuchiya, Kenichi Yamazaki

This title is part of a collection featuring 10 Volumes, 30 artists. The volumes are also available as a set: Outsider Art in Japan Volumes 1-10

Masaomi Kitajima
Born in 1949. Lives in Nakano City, Nagano Prefecture. In a room of five beds in a closed psychiatric ward, he spends all his time drawing at his bed-turned-desk, except when he eats or uses the bathroom. He has jotted down the phrase "how to live" in the margin of one of his books. When he's drawing, he's like an ascetic monk seeking purity.

Shigemi Takahashi
Born in 1946. Lives in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture. He has been in the hospital since the age of 18, when he became schizophrenic. He always wears masks made from the covers of various notebooks. He draws "unique pictures" every day in his notebook with his pencil, eraser, and four-color (black, red, blue, and green) ballpoint pen.

Masahiko Tsuchiya
Born in 1946. Lives in Chiba Prefecture. He became mentally ill during high school and had to give up his dream of becoming a designer. His theme is consistent--a story about his late father who has become ruler of the galaxy and continuing to fight evil. He uses whiteout to highlight his drawings--a unique technique.

Kenichi Yamazaki
Born in 1944. Lives in Niigata Prefecture. He became mentally ill while working as a day laborer on a construction site in Tokyo. He was admitted to a hospital at the age of 36 and started drawing a few years later. His blueprint-like world is created with a pair of compasses and graph paper. He's been living in this world for quite some time.

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