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A Review of the 8th Annual Outsider Art Exhibition at Mohsen Gallery 

Author : Pegah Rajamand

Reading Time : 5 Minutes

Original text in Farsi by Pegah Rajamand

Translated to English by Omid Armat

Introduction to Outsider Art 

Outsider Art is a form of creative artistic expression that exceeds cultural conventions and was first noted by some psychologists in the early 20th century. This led to several sociological investigations of the art of the insane, the mentally ill, the public, the retired, the prisoners, or anyone rejected from social engagement for different reasons. 

Abbas Mohammadi Arvajeh | Untitled | 2019 | mixed media | 70 × 100 cm

The term "Outsider Art"  was first used by English art scholar Roger Cardinal to define naive art. After half a century since the term was coined, Outsider Art is being used in a wide range of situations to describe the historical context of a category of works that were initially considered Western phenomena but currently involve a global and cross-cultural range from the mid-19th century up to now.  

Works by Outsider artists were mostly childish, creative, immediate, and rooted in their minds and inner selves. That is why they are sometimes ambiguous and need to be explained by the artist. The works are directly connected to the artist's personal life and are devoid of any reference to images or styles in art history. They are based on a narrative from their creator's mind, which may include a story about their childhood or youth, memories, and personal moments.

They are created by individuals who did not receive any art education. Instead, their inner necessities and spontaneities were formed along with their unique moods to express themselves and create works originating from their personality, nature, and instinct.  

The Outsider Art exhibition does not aim to present and sell artworks or to achieve fame and financial rewards. It is a sort of daily activity and dealing with individual interests for the sake of satisfying inner needs without having to know logical artistic matters. Therefore, creating an artwork acts as a cure, mental discharge, and subjective expression based on taste and enthusiasm to satisfy personal interests.  

Many Outsider artists cannot access conventional materials used in visual arts. They use fabrics, pencils, colored pencils, markers, and anything easily accessible for creating an image, a sculpture, or a handicraft.

Installation view of Mahmoudkhan works in the Outsider Art biennale | Mohsen Gallery | Source: www.mohsen.gallery 


Outsider artists in Iran, with various definitions, also create a wide range of works, including drawing, painting, sculpture, and installation. Since 2017, by focusing on this category of artworks and its subcategories, the Outsider Inn Gallery has acted as a mediator to present such works in Iran's visual arts. The gallery has also remained active in and out of Iran by arranging group shows and introducing many individuals to the art community. The gallery has built a bridge between the Outsider artist and the audience by searching for these figures throughout society and thoroughly investigating their lifestyle and background.  

The 8th Annual Outsider Art Exhibition 

Mohsen Gallery hosted the 8th Annual Outsider Art exhibition from February 18 to March 1, 2022, displaying various pieces of painting, drawing, and wooden and fabric sculptures by sixteen Outsider artists. 

Limou Ahmadi, Kazem Ezi, Davood Koochaki, Cc, Abolfazl Amin, Salim Karami, Nazanin Tayebeh, Nakhoda Abdolrasoul Gharibi, Mokarameh Ghanbari, Mohsen Asgarian, Mohammad Banissi, Mahmoudkhan, Jamshid Aminfar, Fatemeh Khodabandeh, Fatemeh Alishah, Babak Shariati, and Abbas Mohammadi Arvajeh were Outsider artists presented in this show whose ages vary from 30 to 70. Some began painting after retirement, while others started it in their childhood. They reflect their ethnic, regional, and cultural features and sometimes point to their most private personal issues.  

Nakhoda Abdolrasoul Gharibi | Untitled | 2022 | acrylic on canvas | 20 × 30 cm


Besides their considerable differences in the visual elements, colors, materials, and expression, artworks created by Outsider artists have some features in common: childishness, spontaneity, and narrativity. These works have mainly originated from the artist's mind and were not created by observing and imitating the real world. They have produced paintings and sculptures through their own experiences and not based on imitating classical art or any other art style. Relying on their inner selves, they have used color, wood, and fabric in an experimental way to achieve their own signature in their art.  

In Outsider Art categorization, artworks presented in this event reside somewhere between folk art and primitive or self-taught art. Through playfulness and mischief, the abstract, surreal, and botanical forms give the viewer a feeling of euphoria. Moreover, considering the forms of humans and animals and sometimes emphasizing and repeating them in these works were added to their story-telling feature. The main point in these works is their uniqueness and that each artist has achieved their own signature, because each piece, with its unique color palette and forms, somehow introduces its creator and portrays features originating from each artist's life and professions in different fields, from handicraft, jewelry, carpet weaving, and repoussé and chasing to working in a printing office, carpet market, and seamanship.  




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  • Installation view of works by Davood Koochaki in the 8th Annual Outsider Art exhibition | Mohsen Gallery | Source: www.mohsen.gallery