Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan


Souzou (創造 / 想像) means either creation or imagination depending on how it is written. What this title doesn't capture is the joyfulness of most of the works that make up this exhibition. Even the sculpture of truly fiendish lion seems to be animated with a kind of charming glee. This is perhaps somewhat unexpected as Souzou brings together works from a number of artists who exist, we are told, on the margins of Japanese society. That the artworks have a therapeutic value for their creators shouldn't detract from enjoying them. In fact, none of it is so very different from that of other contemporary artists. Any of the pieces would have been quite at home in last months Pick Me Up 2013 sale at Somerset House.

That being said, many of the works have an obsessive quality: cryptically obfuscated diaries, tiny figures made from candy wrappers, vastly sprawling cityscapes. It is often argued that gaining expertise at anything requires a kind of myopic devotion, so maybe the exhibition can be seen as a useful reminder that being 'Type A' is a personality disorder and not necessarily something we should all strive for.

Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan is at the Wellcome Collection until June 30th, 2013

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