Upcoming Exhibition at CUAG: Imaginary Worlds: Scottie Wilson and “Art Brut”
Curated by Pauline Goutain and Jill Carrick
May 12 - September 07. 2014
Scottie Wilson (whose real name was Louis Freeman) is considered to be one of the most important “outsider” artists in Europe. Born in Glasgow around 1890, he immigrated in the 1930s to Toronto, where he worked as a second-hand-goods merchant.
At the age of forty, it is claimed, he “suddenly” began to draw, without any artistic training, using a pen and coloured inks. With these simple tools, “Scottie” built a visual world situated between dream and reality, where human, vegetal and architectural realms overlap. The complex web of forms and hatchings in his drawings depicts a mysterious decorative universe.
First recognized in Canada by the important collector Douglas Duncan and exhibited in Duncan’s Toronto gallery, The Picture Loan Society, alongside such artists as David Milne and Carl Schaefer, Scottie Wilson later experienced a second—and quite different —kind of recognition in Europe.
In 1945, following his return to London, the Surrealists acclaimed his work. André Breton brought Wilson to Jean Dubuffet’s attention. Dubuffet, a French painter who had recently coined the term art brut (“raw” or “rough” art) to denote artworks made by self-taught individuals, was fascinated by Scottie Wilson’s imaginative vision and unusual personality. For Dubuffet, his works were “uncultivated” and “spontaneous.” He pronounced Wilson a typical maker of art brut, and purchased his work.
Exhibitions in Canada of Scottie Wilson’s work have tended to focus on his Canadian output rather than his association with art brut. This exhibition instead examines the way he has been appreciated in Europe. It brings together two imaginary worlds: Scottie’s fantastic drawings and Dubuffet’s essentialist phantasm of art brut.
Image: Robert “Scottie” Wilson (1888/90-1972), Untitled (Far Eastern Town) [detail], date unknown. Ink and coloured pencil over graphite on paper. Carleton University Art Gallery: Bequest of Frances Barwick to the Department of Art History, Carleton University; transferred to the University Art Collection, 1988. Photo by Justin Wonnacott.