Outsider gets new home
8 May 2008
Rogelio Vallejo of the Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, University of Bristol, has played a key role in the development and exhibition of a major collection of artworks by Outsider artist José dos Santos.
Thanks to the philanthropy of Australian art collector Peter Fay, the University of Sydney has recently acquired all the works of the Outsider artist José dos Santos from the collection assembled by Rogelio Vallejo, Senior Teaching Fellow, and Hugh Adams, a writer, critic and formerly research fellow at Cardiff School of Art. With accompanying archival material, the works will form the basis of a unique study, research and exhibition centre devoted to Outsider Art.
Dos Santos has previously been shown in the Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Bristol and in a major exhibition at the Howard Gardens Gallery of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. Seminal pieces, which are currently being shown in an exhibition entitled ‘Without Borders’ at Monash University in Melbourne, will subsequently tour Australia and New Zealand. An exhibition of the complete works of dos Santos is also being planned.
Commenting on the developments, Rogelio Vallejo said: ‘José dos Santos could neither read nor write and lived a frugal, almost medieval, existence on his small-holding in Portugal. He said he never visited an art gallery or a museum in his life and attended school for only seven days. Yet his claims were astonishing: to have received the Stigmata and to have been told by God how to release forms hidden in the large variety of fallen wood that lay about his dwelling.
‘I believe that José dos Santos teaches us all much about the nature of creativity, particularly when exercised in adversity. Although knowing nothing about art, he freely and inventively used found materials, giving his creatures expression in a way that is an example to everyone. His achievements rank him with art’s greatest practitioners. His electrifying opinions on human sexuality and the social position and the gifts of women, as opposed to men (of whom he had a fairly low opinion), rendered him a challenging thinker. Certainly his kind of creativity has been an inspiration to me in my teaching and my students too. It is good that they learn how possible it is to be inventive and creative in adversity or with minimal resources.’
Rogelio Vallejo, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, is a founder member of the Bristol and Bath Contemporary Art Collectors’ Group. He is currently working to develop T.A.L.L.E.R., a project involving modern foreign languages teaching and learning through drama, the arts and other disciplines.
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