Outsider Art from Japan: the best bits

We pick our favourite works from the Wellcome Collection's Outsider Art from Japan exhibition

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Private Collection, image © Wellcome Library, London

Shawada’s grotesque, menacing clay totem poles and obscene figures are some of the most instantly recognisable pieces on display. Heavily reminiscent of African tribal art, they’re wonderfully bizarre and obsessively overworked mutant gods, covered with thorns and eery, bulging eyes.

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Collection of the artist. Photo: © Nobuo Onishi. Courtesy Wellcome Images

Fujino’s bold images of fish, octopuses and random patterns seem barely contained by the page, leaking out across the edges. They are among the simplest works in the show and are all the more striking for it, though there is still an imposing sense of fear and pressure.

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Collection of the artist. Photo: © Nobuo Onishi. Courtesy Wellcome Images

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Collection of the artist. Photo: © Nobuo Onishi. Courtesy Wellcome Images

Katsube has made an army of tiny, improvised anime soliders out of coloured wire. Brandishing swords and bazookas, the works are impressively intricate in detail. They’re laid out like a vast, futuristic Games Workshop battlefield in an awesome clash of art and pop culture. If only you were allowed to play with them.

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Nonprofit Organization Haretari-Kumottari. Photo: © Nobuo Onishi. Courtesy Wellcome Images

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Collection of the artist, image © Wellcome Library, London

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Social welfare coporation Yamanami, Atelier Yamanami. Photo: © Nobuo Onishi. Courtesy Wellcome Images

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Collection of the artist. Photo: © Nobuo Onishi. Courtesy Wellcome Images

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Collection of the artist Photo: © Nobuo Onishi. Courtesy Wellcome Images

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Collection of the artist, image © Wellcome Collection, London. Courtesy Wellcome Images

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Shiga Prefecture. Photo: © Nobuo Onishi. Courtesy Wellcome Images

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Collection of the artist. Photo: © Nobuo Onishi. Courtesy Wellcome Images


Visionary art, naive art, primitive art, folk art – outsider art can be all of these. And the 'outsider' tag reflects its audience as well as its practitioners: you don't need any theoretical knowledge of art to find it engaging. The Wellcome Collection's 'Outsider Art from Japan' exhibition brings together more than 300 exhibits, including ceramics, textiles, paintings, sculpture and drawings, by 46 artists, all of whom are residents and day patients at social welfare institutions on the main island of Honshu.

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More free events - WImbledon Art Studios Open Weekend Summer Open Studios Art Show, May 2013 The dates for the next Summer Open Studios Art Show 2013 are: • 16th - 19th May, 2013 • Thursday & Friday 2pm – 10pm • Saturday & Sunday 11am – 6pm http://www.wimbledonartstudios.co.uk/open-studios/next-show/