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> > > Review: Outside In: National 2012

25 October 2012

drawing of two naked figures one with a blindfold and the other with a skull for a head

Ashley Reaks, 'Soulmates' © the artist

The biggest visual arts treat of the year so far, has arrived in the form of Outside In: National which opened today at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex. Colin Hambrook extols the exhibitions virtues as a beacon for creativity.

This is the third Outside In since its inception in 2006. I’ve watched the project build momentum from a local, to regional and now a national showcase with links being developed all the time. All of the work on show invites comment. It’s about real-life, dreams and aspirations. It’s about fulfilling a vital creative need, which the exhibition does with a passion that rivals any major exhibition in a public or commercial gallery anywhere.

Outside In is first and foremost a liberating experience. It proves that you don’t have to have the kind of self-promotion skills and know how to court the approval of the ‘art world’ to be an ‘artist’. The artwork contains the raw power and energy that only comes from artists who are motivated by the need to create, above and beyond all else.

There are no trying concepts or clever words attempting to bamboozle you. What you get is pure, mad, angry, rude, gentle, tender, touching, hilarious, ridiculous, humourous, intricate, detailed love for the process of making. The exhibition is laced with oodles of what it is that makes us all unique individuals through the conviction of making a mark to express who we are.

Outside In: National is everything that you want from art. The exhibition is curated with careful consideration. The paintings, drawings and sculpture on show in the first room have a playful quality. Gill Lampe’s ‘Miss Madelaine’, for example, is a life-size female mannequin, which has been skillfully rendered with a million and one pieces of porcelain, bric a brac, jewellery and throw-away bits. This goddess for the 21st century with a baby sun for a navel and cup hooks on the heels of her shoes has been built with a wonderful eye for invention.

Many of the labels describing the individuals are works of poetry. EMCO's ‘My Sun is a Pussy’ equals anything that Tristan Tzara and the Dada movement had to say about the value and import of creative expression.

The wall of the second gallery has been painted a deep purple, the better to show off a room of black and white ink drawings and prints. The work on display is defined by a certain rigour, and a beautiful attention to detail. Sometimes shocking and painfully honest; for example Ashley Reaks ‘Soul Mates’ expresses a violent sense of humour. In his explanatory label accompanying the work he describes himself, amongst other things, as “a surprisingly decent wedding singer and nearly a crap pop star.” He reveals himself with a mix of the self-effacing and the brash. Like it or not you can’t help but react as viewer. Equally confrontative Terence Wilde's ‘The Bandit’ has a disturbing sexual theme, which reveals itself as a meditation on surviving sexual abuse.

There is perhaps more of a sense of wanting to convey a message in the work curated for display in the last gallery. Gillian Sutherland’s baby made with polymer resin is a tiny sculpture made with an extraordinary hyperrealism, rivalling the sculptures of Ron Mueck.

It is overwhelming how far Outside In has come in a few short years. The project accepted 2300 entries for this show. This was whittled down to 80 works by over 60 artists by a panel of judges consisting of renowned performance artist Bobby Baker, art historian Roger Cardinal and Shape director Tony Heaton. The exhibition is now on show at Pallant House Gallery until 3 February 2013.

As well as the works selected for inclusion in the exhibition, six award winners were chosen to have a solo exhibition at Pallant House Gallery in 2013 and 2014.

Outside In is a revolution that could easily be swamped by its own success. Hopefully the journey the project has taken and the light that it shines will continue to flourish for some time to come. Throughout next year selected works from the exhibition will go on tour to galleries all over the country who have collaborated with the project.

In summing it his enthusiasm for the project Roger Cardinal reminded us of Jean Dubuffet (whose Transitions exhibition of works from the 1960s is also on show at Pallant House) who said that culture is there to be invented by everyone. “The art world can go hang”, Cardinal concluded. A gauntlet has been laid down.
Outside In and Jean Dubuffet: Transitions are on show at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, West Sussex until 3 February 2013.

For details of Outside In go to


Jane Scheuer

13 November 2012

Tim Essex - just an experiment to see if this url for what i think is your piece works! it looked good to me!

Jason Pape

7 November 2012

I have entered a ceramic folk-art sculpture of a Suffolk Punch Horse into the exhibition. I have not been to the exhibition yet as I live quite far away. My studio name is Fat Pony as I mostly make fat rounded horses and ponies ,but I make other mammals too. My website is

Congratulations to everyone that took part.

keith fitton

4 November 2012

Fantastic!! Well done to everyone concerned. Such a tremendous amount of hard work in putting all this together. I feel privileged to have a piece on display (not as part of the main exhibition) and heartened to see the work of artists with a disability championed. Brilliant!


31 October 2012

It looks great Tim. Is beautifully displayed.

Tim Essex

30 October 2012

Haven't got down yet due to college commitments. Has anyone seen my suit, just interested to know how its displayed.

Vivi-Mari Carpelan

28 October 2012

You might like to have a look at this article I wrote about the exhibition (with photos) - I'm one of the artists in the show. I thought it a bit odd that no one in the disability category received an award. Oh well! >

Adrian Mundy

27 October 2012

It is a stunning exhibition with truly amazing work, so make the effort to see it.

When you do, don't forget to view the 7 artworks in the reception area that are part of the final 80 selected but, unfortunately, there wasn't enough space for them in the main gallery exhibition, including one of mine.

phil baird

26 October 2012

The current show at the Pallant is a beautiful triumph a cohesive to show both individuals that together contribute to a community of genuine culture. All thanks to the selectors and pallant team for a wonderful hang, well worth the trip to Chichster for a very wholistic approach. The includes the permenant collection the Debuffet exhibition and contrasting arcitecture of the building itself. London cannot boast of such a gallery.

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