Journalist Kate Davey reviews the Outside In: National exhibition for Raw Vision Magazine

The Outside In: National exhibition is currently taking pride of place at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, the South East’s home of Modern British art. The exhibition itself is made up of eighty works by artists fitting the Outside In criteria; those who find it difficult to access the art world due to mental health reasons, disability, social circumstance, or perhaps because their work does not conform to what is generally thought of as ‘art’. The competition itself saw more than 2300 submissions from artists throughout the UK, and was then narrowed down to the final 80 by selectors Tony Heaton, CEO of Shape Arts; Rose Knox Peebles, Art collector; Carlo Keshishian, former Outside In award winner; and Marc Steene, Deputy Director of Pallant House Gallery.

The exhibition itself is ground-breaking; it is one of the first times that work created by artists who often do not have any formal art training has been given centre-stage at an institution as nationally prominent as Pallant House Gallery. Curatorially, the exhibition has clearly been very carefully considered, with the works being separated into three different rooms; ‘Intuition’, ‘Introspection’ and ‘Insight’. The works within the first room focus on colour, life and spontaneity; whilst the second reflects the compulsive workings of the human mind. The third emphasises how life experiences can be a powerful creative motivation.

The three rooms create the vision of a tunnel through the imagination; beginning with the more colourful and liberated, before quickly descending into the somewhat uncomfortable, then emerging for a brief moment of cathartic reflection in the third room. The first room is home to Michelle Robert’s vibrant Musicians and Manuel Lanca Bonifaco’s Mermaid; two of the six award winners selected from the final eighty by Roger Cardinal, Bobby Baker and Pallant House Gallery Director, Stefan van Raay. The broody, moody central room showcases works including Terence Wilde’s The Bandit; a piece which Wilde describes as “a finger up to the past,” and award winner Nigel Kingsbury’s Woman, emerging ethereally from her individual pencil strokes.

Art Historian Roger Cardinal states that the works within this exhibition are “expressions of individuality, pledges of intent, claims upon our time;” these they are indeed, but also, they show that creativity is everywhere. Art is not, and should not, solely be the domain of the tutored; creativity is essentially within us all. Outside In: National is not just an exhibition of art of an exemplary standard, it is an exhibition of the innately human, and for that reason, it is impossible for it not to resonate with every one of us.

Outside In: National is a part of Pallant House Gallery’s ‘Art from the Margins’ season, which includes an exhibition on Art Brut pioneer Jean Dubuffet’s L’ Horloupe series as well as a focused exhibition on the prints and drawings of Scottish ‘Outsider’ artist Pat Douthwaite.

Pallant House Gallery 27 October – 3 February 2013

Image: Steve Murison, Bellyful of Pills/Headful of Satan