I noticed that the Outsider Art Fair was held recently in New York, its 18th manifestation. This made me think about my own art background and the fact that I was taught by two of the most significant figures working in this field in the late C20th.
My art teacher at Aldenham school was John Maizels, the founding editor of Raw Vision magazine and author of Raw Creation. Although I never excelled in the studio, I remember John very clearly. He lived down the road from the school gates near the big Hare Krishna temple. My brother Peter, who is today an artist, worked closely with John.
My PhD supervisor and professor was Roger Cardinal, who then taught at Kent. Roger wrote the seminal book 'Outsider Art' in 1972, coining the term and outlining its parameters. I worked very closely with him for over three years, writing my thesis. Roger remains my most important mentor/ teacher.
Roger Cardinal, left.
It's never really occurred to me in a big way that the two art-related teachers in my life were also intensely related to outsider art. Thinking about this now, after working as a curator in the contemporary art world for over ten years, is quite interesting. For one thing I have never once felt the urge to work in a museum or a gallery, preferring the more unstable route of working independently and founding an art non profit. I can also point to certain experiences of art which triggered my move into studying art - Kurt Schwitters and Franz West are two important artists who I saw in exhibitions and affected me strongly. Roger Cardinal's writings on Kurt Schwitters are some of my favorite pieces of art writing. Franz West's work I think moves into the domains of fetishes, African art and wonderfully lumpen forms. My fascination with altered states, mysticism and psychedelics led to a Masters degree in the Study of Mysticism and Religious Experience at Kent - all subjects deeply related to John and Roger's fields. My imminent move to the forests of Nagano prefecture is also partly I think inspired by wanting to put physical distance between myself and Tokyo, the hub for art activities. I do often feel despondent, or at least worn, by the whole contemporary art world. I certainly find little pleasure in 'playing' the global art circuit of openings etc - and I say this as someone who has had the good fortune to participate in it as a biennale/ triennale curator.
I feel that it is a good time now to think again about what my two teachers are about. Whether this results in an extended hibernation or withdrawal from the Tokyo contemporary art scene....we'll see.