écrits d’art brut

Sandro Ricaldone

Wild Expression & Thought
Curator: Lucienne Peiry
Scenography: Sarah Nedir
Museum Tinguely
October 20, 2021–January 23, 2022

Arthur Bispo do Rosário, Giovanni Bosco, Marie Lieb, Heinrich Anton Müller, Fernando Nannetti, Laure Pigeon, Giovanni Battista Podestà, Armand Schulthess, Constance Schwartzlin-Berberat, Charles Steffen, Pascal Vonlanthen, Adolf Wölfli und Carlo Zinelli.

A major group exhibition to be held at Museum Tinguely from October 20, 2021 to January 23, 2022 will bring together the myriad writings of 13 international Art Brut authors. These writers, most of whom lived or live as hermits or outcasts on the fringes of society, create their own world without even knowing that what they are doing belongs to the realm of the fine arts. They leave their mark on all sorts of supports, including embroidered cloth and painted walls. The works from a dozen museums as well as public and private collections in Europe and Brazil are being shown together here in Switzerland for the first time. The documentary films and photographs flanking them portray these unusual creators in their own homes or at their place of work and so invite visitors to immerse themselves in worlds that were never intended for public consumption.

Declarations of love, letters of rage, poems, prayers, erotic messages, pleas, diary-like notes, and utopian narratives: The in many cases little-known writings of Art Brut creators astonish and fascinate. Mostly written behind closed doors, in silence and in secret, they often bear no address or were intended for a dreamlike or spiritual addressee.

The texts, written in peculiar calligraphy, scribbled, or hastily noted, at times embroidered or fervently carved in stone, are often supplemented with pictures or drawings. They reveal an astonishing creativity, spring from an urgent need to express oneself, and represent a kind of silent resistance.

Writing encourages introspection and becomes an important creative resource, at times paving the way for a search for identity or the invention of another life, and at other times enabling the construction of a new world or the reshaping of the cosmos. Slips and sheets of paper, booklets and volumes, body decoration and textiles become carriers of extravagant personal inscriptions, poetic and concrete at the same time. They support the persistent search of their authors: the search for the essence of things and words.

The thirteen authors—eccentric diarists, letter writers, or utopian authors, discovered by Jean Dubuffet or more recently—are free of any desire for publicity. They are imaginative and uninhibited in their approach and playful in their use of syntax, grammar, and orthography. Instead of paying attention to conventions and norms, Adolf Wölfli, Arthur Bispo do Rosário, and Giovanni Battista Podestà—whom Jean Tinguely particularly appreciated—preferred to deal with new linguistic creations, semantic games, or graphic labyrinths of words, sentences, and signs. Line by line, they shake up and defy rules, since their intention is neither to communicate nor to exchange information. Instead, thoughts take their course; ideas, often confusing, form, and their imagination seems to surprise the writers themselves. Writing takes on a performative value.

The words dance across the paper, fabric, wall, or floor, opening up surprising visual and pictorial dimensions. By bringing the letters to life and fusing word and image, the exhibits reveal a poignant and inspiring poetry.

The exhibition, presented for the first time, brings together works from a dozen museums, as well as public and private collections in various European countries and Brazil. Documentary films and photographs invite the public to immerse themselves in the artists’ cosmoses and to experience them in their living and working environments. The exhibition is accompanied by a book by Lucienne Peiry with numerous texts and roughly 150 illustrations (French edition: Paris, Le Seuil, ISBN 978-2-02-144768-2).

Image: Giovanni Bosco, Mural painting in Castellammare del Golfo (Sicily), 2008
© Associazione Outsider Art Giovanni Bosco, Castellammare del Golfo
Photo: Lucienne Peiry; Archives de la Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne.