The label of outsider art has come to function as an umbrella term for individuals producing work outside the culturally established centres of psychological or social normality. Outsider art is characterised by an almost total stylistic freedom and a unique use of materials with a disregard for 'correct' form as well as a lack of concern for art-historical context. One of the widest defining hallmarks of outsider art is that it is unselfconscious and unmoored from the usual cultural forces directing artists in their practice. The category itself is a site of conceptual conflict.
GROUNDWATERS brings together a collection of artworks made by a group of outsider individuals living and working in Malta. The exhibition unearths unique aesthetic logics as well as stories of pain, hope, survival and strength. It includes ex-voto paintings, West African Bocio fetish dolls and other objects which have their roots in religion, magic and ritual. The common theme across the work on show is that its creation stems from a deeply felt need which is transformative in intent. The work in this exhibition bypasses the circuits of conventional creativity and plunges straight into the groundwaters of our collective subconscious—it is therefore indicative of our hidden structures.
To place outsider, naïve, unselfconscious and brut art into a white cube space is to challenge and disturb the art-world mechanism of sanctioning the right to create truth. The exhibition is the first in Malta to explore outsider perspectives and takes its name from Charles Russell's 2011 publication. GROUNDWATERS seeks to extend Russell's research into new contexts.
This project is funded by the Malta Arts Council Project Support Scheme.
Press release courtesy Valletta Contemporary.