Japan puts minimalist spin on Art Brut
Found materials often show a the artists' inner demons
Posted: October 16, 2013
Art Brut often uses found material and explores personal obsessions.
By Vitek Bohal
For the Post
Art Brut has always been a big item in the Czech lands. Due to the state's repressive politics during the communist era, many artists had to create all on their own, without backing from any state institutions. More often than not they used found materials, and explored themes that were occasionally on the seedy, grimy fringes of the individual, as well as the collective, unconscious.
Although the works exhibited at Museum Montanelli in the Art Brut from Japan exhibition are indeed often made with simple household materials, and quite naturally and effectively explore the mysterious undercurrents of the human psyche, there is one great difference from the European Art Brut: Western Art Brut artists, such as the recently exhibited Jan Křížek, are usually associated with bold, almost action- like strokes of the brush, or of leaving clay sculptures half-finished, only to further establish the unkempt, primordial aesthetic that is the European Art Brut.
When: To Jan. 19, 2014; Tue.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Where: Museum Montanelli, Nerudova 13
The eight Japanese artists currently being exhibited, on the other hand, retain a subdued, minimalist style. The staple theme of trauma, repressed memories and other subconscious processes remains the same, yet the art shows a very high level of formal proficiency, and a tremendous amount of attention to detail. Each of the works exhibited is formally restrained, and very punctually executed. This general feel is miles away from the ecstatic, spontaneous expressiveness so often associated with western Art Brut.
The exhibition provides a look into the process of creation by means of two viewing rooms where one can see the very specific personal situation of two of the exhibited artists, Masao Obata and Shinichi Sawada. It is a commonplace to often associate Art Brut with the specter of mental instability, and it is wonderful to see on video how these two artists work. It is especially interesting to see Sawada, a young man diagnosed with severe autism, as he creates his phantasmic clay sculptures, which remind one of the aesthetics of the noh theater, Japanese folklore and manga comics.
It is this rambunctious originality in style that can be appreciated in every one of the displayed art works. It is as though the artists left behind all the artistic trends, and all the myriad memes that speckle the cultural environment, and rather descended into a very private, reclusive part of their psyches. The materials, such as Satoshi Morita's embroidering, or Masao Obata's cardboard canvases, are original and personal in themselves, yet the substance of the works further drives home this extreme self-referentiality of the exhibited works. Each of the artists exhibited seems to have a very personal vision of the world, and a very personal problem that he or she is trying to grasp through art. As such, the artists seem untainted by the artistic trends of the day. Rather they create from the deep within, and, through their art, allow the spectator to catch a glimpse of their turbulent, but deeply human world.