Being An ‘Outsider’ Artist

Hilma af Klint, Altarpiece, No. 1, Group X, Altarpieces, 1907

Who resides at the gates of the membrane, who decides what is art and what is not? Who decides what goes in an out of the gallery door, who decides what sort of price to put on your work, and who gets to judge whether your soul-piece, your gift to the world, the messages from the deep depths of your heart poured onto a piece of canvas is worth a million or not worth anything at all? Who gets to decide such things? Is this what makes me an artist ‘on paper’ and in the professional sphere, through the validation of a handful of art dealers who have long accumulated vast amounts of wealth? Is this what academia has prepared me for?

My tutor once told me to research into Outsider art because she could see my practice as not the norm of current standards. I knew this meant that my type of work, my own creative expression will be excluded or not deemed appropriate for mainstream art institutions, for trading purposes. Meaning, I would not be able to make a living if my work is not marketable within exhibition standards.

Outsider art —


art produced by untrained artists, for example children or mentally ill people.

How does one make a living as an artist if one is not willing to shave its square pegs to fit society’s round holes? What if one is really not willing to fit in for the sake of having a shot at being an ‘artist’?

Call it rebellious but as an artist that challenges the norms, I would rather be free to express my own creativity, my own vision in whatever shape and form (square peg or not), and in my most authentic self.

I would rather not be considered an outsider artist, but an inclusive artist. To invite all so-called ‘others’ into my world, to welcome you into my field of vision. I wish to help you shift your perspective on things, and if they do not seem to resonate with you, then kindly move along, but please do not try to reduce our visions into containers, and as something that should be excluded or associated as ‘other’. I want to colour your mind with the glaze of my perception of how I see things so beautifully aligned with divine order and harmony.

Outsider artists are not outsiders; we are the creators with outlandish tendencies, carrying courage and bravery, exposing our inner world to offer everyone a taste of it too. We are the ones willing to gift viewers a different and extensive outlook on how we can make more sense of current paradigms.

We simply want to make society’s round holes bigger so we can fit our revolutionary square pegs without having to reduce them to fit. We are the formidable breeds willing to push the boundaries of what is possible, to challenge the current norms through visual, intuitive and spiritual expression that is initially seen primitive and native, but innate to ones own subjective wisdom.

Above is an untitled piece by Adolf Wölfli (1864–1930) a Swiss Outsider artist and one of the first to be associated with the label. He was born in Bern, orphaned at the age of 10, lived in state-run foster homes, worked on a farm, and ended up in a psychiatric hospital where he spent the rest of his life. He suffered from psychosis and vivid hallucinations. Wölfli had no previous interest in art, but began drawing spontaneously around 1899 while he was institutionalised. His collection grew to about 25,000 pages of writing and 1,600 drawings.

A doctor of his became interested in his work and published a book, leading to French artist Jean Dubuffet later founding Art Brut exposing the works of the institutionalised.

Adolf Wölfli’s exhibit in Prague was called Wölfli — Creator of the Universe

General View of the Island of Neveranger, 1911

Wölfli told the hospital staff that he did not produce the work himself. He thought it should be obvious that he had divine inspiration to produce the artwork as he would never have been able to create it from his own mind.

There must be a reason why the exhibition has been titled the Creator of the Universe, after all uni means “one”, and verse means “song”. Our universe literally means “one song”. Notice the musical notations and symbols in the image above? Through such interpretation, we can easily respect the poetic and aesthetic idealism of the seraphic, of those willing to expose ones inner vision of harmony, illuminating divine renditions of the unifications of forms through symmetry and balance. Wölfli just wanted to represent the universe through pictorial lines and forms. Wölfli was an abstract communicator for the nature of the universe.

For his case, the spontaneity of drawing and making art is a powerful message to get across to viewers, that artists creating from their truest essence are the visual communicators that aim expand your horizons and a unified awareness of reality.

Boundary challengers are needed right now. We need to think differently tp come up with new visionary ideas that could alter current paradigms that work to eventually make former systems obsolete. Buckminster Fuller’s message is a reoccurring theme in my thought-pieces as it is very much needed right now with the current situation of volatile politics, unstable economic systems and ecological breakdowns.

There are so many preconceived notions of what and how an artist should be in our current culture. It equals to a struggling hopeless romantic, with immense passion and rapture for ones work and worldview, dying to get out there in the art world where it all leads to a number’s game and who you know.

Now with the current epoch of the internet, barriers of entry to open networks are dissolving. It is prime time for creators; visual, verbal and sound artists alike. The internet and the abundance of information is allowing for more creators to spring forward.

Instead of marginalising our creators that channel whatever rings true and authentic from their hearts, instead of outcasting the creators who speak intuitively from a voice guided by a transcendental force, we allow an open and inclusive space for them to express new ideas that could potentially shapeshift our current standards of practice. We could learn by looking at the margins, something that could change your world and change the world for the better.

Being labelled as an Outsider could be seen as unfortunate if one was to be marketable in the art world. It really depends on what kind of creator you identify as. I like to identify as a creator that expresses aestheticism through harmony, to represent the ‘one song’ through any mediums. I want to give you a taste of my world and how the world could be different if you visualise it from another stance. If you do not like what you see, perhaps you can find some key things to take away from another’s world, and make your world look even more true to you.

Outsider artists are here to lead the way to an unconventional and revolutionary future.




Artist and Founding Member of Hypergroove Collective -

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Kiki Ogawa

Kiki Ogawa

Artist and Founding Member of Hypergroove Collective -

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