DELIGHT IN DISCOVERY /
A brief history of outsider art
The label "art brut" was used in 1945 by French painter Jean Dubuffet to describe art created by persons with no artistic culture. He thus built on the 1920 works and findings of Dr. Hans Prinzhon on the "art of the mentally ill" also called "asylum art", and on Dr. Walter Morgenthaler's 1921 study of psychiatric patient Adolf Wölfli, the most iconic asylum artist. While visiting psychiatric institutes in Switzerland and France, Dubuffet quickly gleaned a vast collection of such works that will be managed by the "Compagnie de l’art brut", with which André Breton will for a time be associated. The term "outsider art" has since commonly been used as the English equivalent for "art brut".
In 1947 and 1951, Jean Dubuffet organized a number of exhibitions to present works that were parts of his collection. In 1951, the "Compagnie de l’art brut" collection was transferred to the United States and then returned to France in 1962. After a number of adventures, the collection was finally sent to Lausanne in 1976, where it since remains, listed as the "Collection de l’art brut".
Outsider art has become an official art movement, created by such individuals as psychiatric asylum patients, isolated self-taught artists, mediums and outcasts of all sorts (prisoners, recluses, mystics, anarchists, rebels, etc.), all untouched by mainstream artistic culture and creating uniquely personal artworks outside academic aesthetic standards. For Jean Dubuffet, the term referred to art that was spontaneous, without cultural pretention or intellectual approach; a form of art that derived from a pure and crude artistic process, reinvented through the artists' own impulses. Jean Dubuffet has often tried to redefine the term "art brut", in an effort to distinguish it from naïve art and/or art created by children.
Singular art or post-outsider art, saw the light of day in 1978 at an exhibition held at the Modern Art Museum of Paris entitled Les Singuliers de l’art. These so-called "singular artists" asserted themselves of spontaneity and improvisation as opposed to the intellectualism of established artists, but where not among the category of individuals at the origin of outsider art.
Hence, outsider art, singular art, art that is unclassifiable (outside the norms), has spread among artists that are healthy of body and mind whose main distinction is the creation of spontaneous, rough, impulsive works of art without regard to mainstream aesthetic values.
Outsider art emerging on the art market
The fact that outsider art, previously on the margins of the art world, today emerges on the art market is quite ironic. With its historical background and with renowned professionals coming to its defence, outsider art has been lifted from the strict museum sector to become increasingly popular among art lovers and collectors, notably in New York, beacon city of the arts.
The professionalization of the outsider art market has been achieved through the Outsider Art Fair. Well-established in New York, this fair has been in existence since 1992 and has been held in Paris on three occasions. Christie's, the most powerful auction house in the world, scheduled its very first sale exclusively dedicated to outsider art in January 2016, which was entitled Liberation through Expression: Outsider and Vernacular Art. Due to what was deemed a small revolution, the market for outsider art has since taken-off in New York as well as in Paris.
These atypical artists – these outsiders – are not seeking to be recognized as established artists in the art world, but have now become part of this universe, bolstered by a real appetite on the part of a growing number of American and European collectors towards investing in this particular genre.
Pierre Poulin, outsider, singular, in a class of his own
Born in 1958, Pierre Poulin is one of the rare Canadian artists practicing outsider art and listed on the art market. At the age of 16, he began an athletic career in acrobatic skiing. Between the years 1979 and 1984, he won six World Cups in free style acrobatic skiing and has participated in a great number of other high level championships. Pierre Poulin is thus part of a small group of Canadian legends in acrobatic skiing. He later became a celebrated coach, having helped the Sweden Women's Team win a gold medal as well as another medal for the Men's Mogul Team.
Since his painting debut in 1992, Pierre Poulin has been inspired by artist Bengt Lindström (1925-2008), a powerful and wild painter who favored dazzling colours. This creative influence is readily observable in Pierre Poulin's corpus, who greatly admires this great Swedish creator. He is also impressed by the Cobra Group, an international revolutionary movement born after the Second World War that defined itself, per the Belgian surrealist poet Christian Dotremont, as "an experimental organic collaboration that avoids all sterile and dogmatic theory". The Cobra Group defended a style of painting based on truth that owed nothing to intellectualism, but rather to the "living form" which notably took root in the outsider art of Jean Dubuffet.
Having studied the power of light and symbols, Pierre Poulin created highly inspired complex and intense works which he exhibited as early as 1996 in Montréal and Québec city. From 1996 to the year 2000, he was at Galerie Harrison, located in Montréal's World Trade Center. In 1997, he exhibited his works at the "Centre de diffusion artistique du Vieux Port de Québec" in Québec city. Between 2006 and 2009, he exhibited his works in Toronto and in the United States, notably in Florida and in Virginia. In 2006, he became part of the Guy Laliberté's prestigious Cirque du Soleil collection. Over the years, a great number of important collectors acquired his works, such as the Ballet de Québec, founded by Christiane Bélanger, in the Uriel Centre, a specialized classical dance venue which holds a vast collection of artworks and wishes to eventually create a museum dedicated to the artist's works.
2015 proved to be a pivotal year for Pierre Poulin. He was welcomed as a permanent artist at Galerie Zen, located in Lac-beauport near Québec city, where he's been living since 1990. This same year, he was the subject of two televised documentaries that also featured his work. In 2015, he also produced a series of paintings for an old friend, Yves Laroche, twice winner of the World Cup in acrobatic skiing. Together they selected all the works used to illustrate his book entitled "Solide comme La Roche", published in the fall of 2015, which relates the terrible accident sustained by this athlete who left a mark on his era, as did Pierre Poulin.
In the same wake, he was noticed by an art theorist who took active interest in his work, which she included in a 2016 international exhibition held in Canada that featured this art trend, unfortunately still relatively unknown to the Québec public, and who will also feature his work in other such international exhibitions in 2017. After 25 years since his beginning in visual arts, Pierre Poulin has reached a new career level as he is now being listed on Artprice, the global information leader in the art market field, where he now sells his works.
Pierre Poulin forcefully sculpts lines with brisk impromptu movements. Brightly coloured shapes of all sizes are positioned and replicated on the canvas. The pictorial matter, rich and abundant, is molded and carved to impart vivid emotions. The expression, which internally takes form, is exteriorized and propels itself on the canvas as a cry from the hearth. Sport and painting are closely linked. Pierre Poulin does not paint things, he paints life. He often adds symbols, coded messages, hidden, at times superposed one on top of the other. His figures and silhouettes show personality and sensitivity. "Pierre Poulin's painting is first and foremost vividly powerful with daring bold colours," it's been written. His force resides in his ability to express life's sensibilities in a uniquely personal fashion. The artist guides the public through summersaults of high level aerobatics. His creative universe is one of freedom, in his bold choice of subjects as much as in his use of colour. His painting is a true reflection of his colourful personality.
Territoire surnaturel, mixed media on canvas, 48 x 36 in
Le Baiser, mixed media on canvas, 48 x 36 in
Digital, mixed media on canvas, 84 x 96 in
Shamanic Spirit II, mixed media on canvas, 36 x 48 in
L’alchimiste, mixed media on canvas, 60 x 96 in