“Inspired, annoyed and enlightened”

Marie Suzuki, Untitled, 2008-10, sketchbook, pen; collection of the artist.

Marie Suzuki, Untitled, 2008-10, sketchbook, pen; collection of the artist.

What happened when a group from the Ten Feet Away collective of creative individuals visited Souzou? With the help of Kim Noble, we find out….

“Stick the sandwich in ya pocket and take it with you.”

We’re due down at the Wellcome Collection. We’ve been asked to review the current show, ‘Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan’. And we’re running late.

We are the Ten Feet Away art group, an eclectic mix of creative folk, operating from Margins, a London homeless charity. We meet up weekly to make art (and drink tea) and today we make our way to Wellcome Collection.

George checks his portfolio into the cloakroom. I’ve not seen him without it. Then we pile on in to the show, notepads at hand.

Roger points out almost everything at first and smiles. The first thing that strikes me is the neatness of the display that plays against the irregularity of styles and materials.

Humour, obsession, freedom, childlike: these are all words mentioned by the group. “There’s an obsessive nature that fits Japanese work ethic,” Alex says. “It’s really simple or it’s painstakingly overworked…nothing in between.”

In fact the beautifully meticulous worked drawings by Marie Suzuki are stunning and are a highlight for everyone. We look at the notepad with awe. Bob’s amazed at the detail and the colour, two things that he works with at the moment. The subject matter seemed to repulse one of us: “I’ve nothing against vaginas, but in the right place.”

A video shows an ageing artist sorting through hundreds of cardboard artworks piled up in his bedroom. One artist has sculpted using his teeth and a crazy massive map covers an entire wall. The clay sculpture reminds Roger of his travels in the Navy.

“If you hang anything on a white wall and frame it, people will call it art,” is one comment made. And this seems a good point. How does one display work that sits outside of art establishment within a gallery framework? It’s hard for us to come to one conclusion. We leave for a post-show debrief, inspired, annoyed and enlightened. One of the group even had to return for a second look.

We leave. But George leaves his portfolio behind.

Find out more about Ten Feet Away at tenftaway.wordpress.com.

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