Outsiders are in

The rising outsider artists to watch
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Patrick Joyce, Dr Martin Turner - Neurologist (2010)
Patrick Joyce, Dr Martin Turner - Neurologist (2010)

As outsider art showcase, The Museum of Everything, sets up shop in London’s luxury fashion cathedral Selfridges, positioning itself firmly at the centre of consumer culture, we thought it would be a good moment to take a look at some other outsider artists who’ve caught our eye. A brief explanation: outsider artists not only exist removed from the art establishment, they very often inhabit the periphery of society, their work frequently symptomatic of a personal situation or condition that’s positioned them there, such as abuse, disability, mental illness and or often poverty. The art itself obviously takes myriad forms but recurring themes are paranoia, alienation and escapism.  

Melvin Way from South Carolina produces dense algorhythms and formulas from letters, numbers, phrases, and symbols with the intricacy of a satellite view Google Map. Making sense only to him, the mystifying, tangled, non-linear representations of secret codes and formulas offer the viewer a sense of Way’s qualia. In a similar vein, Kunizo Matsumoto’s work – diligent annotation in ink – is just a souvenir of the artist’s compulsive note jotting about the art he likes in pads, sketchbooks and calendars, written in both Japanese characters and his own invented shorthand.

Meanwhile, painter Patrick Joyce, from Somerset, UK, has been dubbed Patrick the incurable optimist in a nationwide advertising campaign promoting his intention to paint 100 portraits before motor neurone disease prevents him from doing any more. His subjects include Professor Stephen Hawking. Australian Peter Hughes’s arresting primary-coloured social commentaries feature emotive painted captions such as, "Because he did a senseless thing to do while he has got no self control while he has been getting too upset."

Peter Hughes, Matthew Johnson, Series 6 (2009)Peter Hughes, Matthew Johnson, Series 6 (2009)

And Kenya Hanley – the New York-based artist obsessively paints cupcakes, ice creams and other sweet confectionary in a wallpaper-like repetition of prints with an endearing imperfect clumsiness in the lines and a joyous use of colour. They’re bright and arresting and, not surprisingly, available to buy in the Selfridges exhibition.

One of Kenya Hanley's cupcake designs
One of Kenya Hanley's cupcake designs

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