Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan


28 March 2013 - 30 June 2013

Our spring exhibition brings together more than 300 works for the first major display of Japanese Outsider Art in the UK. The 46 artists represented in the show are residents and day attendees at social welfare institutions across Japan. The wonderfully diverse collection comprises ceramics, textiles, paintings, sculpture and drawings.

'Souzou' has no direct translation in English but a dual meaning in Japanese: written one way, it means creation, and in another it means imagination. Both meanings allude to a force by which new ideas are born and take shape in the world.

The exhibition has been organised in association with Het Dolhuys, the Museum of Psychiatry in Haarlem (the Netherlands) and the Social Welfare Organisation Aiseikai (Tokyo). It reflects the growing acclaim for Outsider Art - often defined as works made by self-taught artists perceived to be at the margins of society - while questioning assumptions about the category itself.

Eschewing a purely biographical approach, the show will be object-led, with a startling array of works offering singular and affecting explorations of culture, memory and creativity. A series of documentary films featuring a selection of the exhibiting artists will play at the end of the exhibition.

This will be our last major exhibition before our exciting development project kicks off in summer 2013.

Image galleries

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This gallery looks at how visual expression can offer a release from the confines of language.

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Outsider Art is often characterised by the use of unconventional material, which is reused and repurposed.

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The works in this section represent the essence of people or things that surround the artists in daily life.

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This section examines the ways the artists depict themselves and their multifaceted relationships with other people.

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The works in this section demonstrate the artists' keen awareness of their surroundings and the wider context.

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The final section of the exhibition features works that collate and reorder information in a bid to understand.



This timelapse film shows the installation of '3 parks with a panoramic view' by Norimitsu Kokubo.

Inspired by Souzou

Throughout the 'Souzou' exhibition, the Youth Programme Team ran projects with schools and with local youth and community groups who might not usually visit Wellcome Collection. By exploring the themes and techniques of artists in the exhibition, each group had a chance to respond to the work through their own creative activity. By concentrating on simple techniques and low-cost materials, we hoped participants would be inspired to continue their own making beyond the life of the project and the exhibition.


Artist Raksha Patel worked with school groups visiting 'Souzou' to explore the themes and materials featured in the exhibition.


Artist Elaine Duigenan developed a series of workshops inspired by Souzou to run with the Women's Group at the New Horizons Youth Centre.