Outsider art is often used to categorize artists, working in ways that contradict the mainstream, disconnected and sometimes unaware of the so-called high art world. But for artists like John van Orsouw, “outsider” means something entirely different—Art Brut. The French translation means raw art—uncooked and unadulterated by culture. Raw because it’s creation embodies its most direct and uninhibited form. Not only is the art unique and original, but the artists themselves exist outside the social parameters—just like John van Orsouw.
A life-long doodler, van Orsouw is completely self-taught, which is not to say he’s not schooled because it’s the world that surrounds us all that serves as his continuing education.
When you look his artwork, you’ll instantly see a carnivalesque aesthetic, with some works containing a semi-erotic twist, all of which is inspired by museums, movies, literature, urban street life, or even conversations. By operating outside the societal conventions, van Orsouw is able to create whimsical works that are filled with joy and color, which of course, makes everyone happy.
John van Orsouw does not consider his work erotic, but if it’s looked at in sensual and sexy way, that’s okay with him. What makes some of his pieces erotic is the kinetic energy and desire that flows through each of his paintings and drawings. And since eroticism does not need be completely illustrated with the act of copulation, it’s the overall method of creation that allows each piece to take shape and lead elsewhere. For van Orsouw, most of his paintings begin without any preconceived notions—whatever happens—happens. The erotic elements, be it a woman, a flower, a bird, a musician (which are common themes) are all part of what gets him going. Although he never sets out to make an erotic piece, “it’s an added bonus when someone sees it as such.”
While he typically paints on wood or canvas, van Orsouw begins each piece the same; with a doodle. He then lets the process organically unfold. The initial scribble helps to loosen his flow, which eventually leads to paintings fully rendered in a vibrant display of joyful color and figures. Though some of his work does borders on the erotic, the actual display is not overtly sexual. For instance, the recurring beautiful woman in each of his paintings is just a combination of the many beautiful women he sees while traveling. It is the drive toward the ecstatic which van Orsouw considers his muse.
John van Orsouw is one of the most imaginative “outside” artists, producing work that spans a wide stylistic range. Although his work may inhabit an entirely separate erotic territory, they are nonetheless filled with wit, and references to dreams, music and poetry all while cleverly blended with the Raw Primitive, Surrealism, Cubism, and children’s art. Removed from the practices and conventions of everyday art, each unique piece encompasses a fusion of abstract reality with a dash of sexy. By looking, one could experience the sensual energy that is lovingly placed in every piece. What’s great about his artwork, is that they all have a sense of movement, mixing an almost classic illustration style with what appears to be a fun time for everyone. For someone that is not into labeling his own art, van Orsouw simply enjoys creating and “will leave it up to all the ‘critics’ to call it whatever they choose.”0