The course of NPO-KIRINYA

Good evening everyone. Thank you very much for your invitation here, also the kind introduction. I’m Atsushi Shiomi, the chief director of NPO-KIRINYA (a giraffe lodge in English).

I was asked to talk about“Art made by people with handicap〔handicapped people〕” from my old friend Mr. Sakane, about seven months before. This kind of art has been generally called ‘Art Brute’ or ‘Outsider Art’. I believe this topic is suitable for me to explain as ‘I’m walking closely with people with handicap in creating something’. Of course, it doesn’t matter whether the works are generally called art or not, it is exactly the important matter for them to express or open their mind. 

I would like mainly to talk about our gallery KRINYA as far as possible, and to refer to ‘Art Brut’ itself a little. 〔Photo 1: a gate and a doorway〕 

  1. A preliminary knowledge 

 ① No.1 :About our NPO-KIRINYA. 

  1. Our three elderly couples established Gallery-KIRINYA as a private gallery to display works made by people with handicap, in May 2012. For that purpose, my wife and I renovated her mother’s house which is located on Nishimachi Street 〔Photo2:close to the HOKUTO credit association〕
  2. Two years later, we reorganized it as NPO-KIRINYA to manage our gallery. At that time, we had two intentions. One is that we had to borrow some valuable works from different welfare facilities. Accordingly, we needed to establish a relationship of trust with those facilities. The other is that we hope to get young people joining our activity. If young people wish to take over this enjoyable project from us, we would be so happy to leave our NPO to them. We continue to have this dream even now.
  3. In April the year before last, we had opened “Studio NISHIMACHIDORI ” for people

with handicap who want to express something, paintings or works in clay, for example.  〔Photo 3: our studio〕

② No.2:What’s ‘Art Brut’.

…An art made by people with handicap is generally called ‘Art Brut’ or ‘Outsider Art’ as described above. When we sometimes heard the words somewhere, we were puzzled how to interpret them. Therefore I would like to introduce several ideas to you for reference in advance.   

  1. The term, ‘Art Brute’, was made by Jean. Dubuffet (1901~1985), who was a famous French artist and belonged to “Art Informel (unformed)”, during latter half of 1940s.

In his middle age, he had been studying a new method of new artistic expression. In those days, he had found some remarkable works which were created by patients at mental hospitals. Following years, he had traveled around European Continent to get information and collect them, and named his collection “Art Brute”.   

〔Photograph 4: his face, some painting〕

  1. ‘Art Brut’ is also called ‘Raw Art’ or ‘Uncooked Art’ in English. Many critics and artists believe that it had been created outside of conventional art world, therefor it had been less stained with an existing culture and considered having a true originality much more. 

Recently, some critics have mentioned something of this phrase: I would like to refer to them from now on.    

〔2〕The beginning of Gallery KIRINYA

The motive

Sometime I considered how to spend my post-retirement life delightfully, like many retired people. About twenty years ago, I met one curious ceramic creation at NOMA- Museum in Oumihachiman-city, Shiga Prefecture. 

〔Photo 5: NO-MA’s gateway〕

Even now I clearly recall I saw an amazing work at that time. It was a person’s figure expressed uniquely in his own method. That work has been called “eye-eye-nose-mouth”.

That artist’s name was Hideaki Yoshikawa who was a well-known sculptor using clay and belonging to Studio YAMANAMI in Shigaraki-city, Shiga Prefecture. In this work, I found a deviation from a conventional standard of artistry and got a peculiar or an extraordinary impression. I was fascinated with it. I think that experience was a direct motive to make me take part in ‘Art Brute’

〔Photo6: sculpture〕

I was very lucky in those days, because many studios operated by welfare facilities began to play a positive role on expression activity of those people. Especially, Shiga Prefecture was a forerunner in the Kansai Region. I guess it was thanks to Governor Ms. Kada of Shiga

Prefecture. Accordingly, I was able to get many opportunities to appreciate ‘Art Brute’ in many of ways.

 the beginning

I established Gallery KIRINYA by cooperating with my friends. I would like to tell you our way of thinking about the Gallery and the Studio. 

a. Now and then we discussed about what kind of works we should display at our gallery.

We thought it wasn’t easy for us to have a universal standard to select the works displayed there. We, also, was not able to exhibit all works made by people with handicap、although I had realized that some studios had strongly insisted“all of the works have to be treated equally. They have the same value for users (this term is short for the users of welfare facilities) and their family”.

We still understand both opinions. The work certainly has two kind of values, one aspect is an artistic quality for an audience (including artists) and the other is for users and their familys’ minds. But we have to select some works of them for display.

In conclusion, we thought it’s better to select the works according to our own impression. It, we believed, might operate as an approvable standard to choose good works to display. 

If we had a deep impression or emotion on the works, we would be able to tell it to the audience naturally, also to share our pleasure with them. They, from 120 to 200people, actually have enjoyed appreciating the works at each exhibition.

b. For what purpose did we begin it? We supposed it’s uneasy to make a big picture for developing welfare or a local economy, because of our age basically. Also such kind of big picture has a seriously sensitive matter. We were afraid of a possibility that their works and themselves might be dealt offhandedly for a local economy, because it has a risk to hurt themselves and their family as a result.

c. We believed it’s suitable for users and ourselves to hold a gallery for our own delight, however, we also believe, this project might be useful to develop social welfare and to revitalize a local economy. 

For reference-1

…About an information of user’s background. I will only point out some topics for reference here, however it’s important to discuss carefully about it. 

① Some people, curators for example, insist “we don’t need to have any information of creators’ lives or their backgrounds to enjoy and appreciate their works.”I think it’s a reasonable attitude to evaluate an artwork according to the theory of contemporary art. 


② The other people, some staffs of welfare facilities, for example, really want our society to realize users’ talents and lives through the appreciation of their works, and to correctly evaluate themselves as a human being. 

Sometimes, we have been discussing about which is better knowing a creator’s life or not, for an audience including us. I prefer to have the idea realizing to creator’s backgrounds to appreciate deeply their works, though the both opinions might be correct.

For reference-2

  We also have been thinking about how we can interpret “a position of Art Brute” in an art world or our society?

…I would like to tell you briefly about four leading opinions on it. I hope you will take time to think about it yourself.

the Japanese administration: MONKASYOU or“The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology”

They have recently argued ‘Art Brute’ is the best word to express the works made by people with handicap. Because the other word, ‘Outsider Art’, for example, might evoke a wrong image, as if they were excluded from a society.’

② Tadashi Hattori (Professor at Konan University. He is also a famous Art Critic.)

He argues Jun. Dubuffet had applied this term for only his collection having a specific tendency (a repetition, cling, delicacy, a dark impression of depth, for example). And then, all works made by people with handicap were not exactly included in his concept, even if they had a quality as art. I believe it’s better for us to understand them as ‘Art Brute’ according to the way of thinking of P. Hattori. (Outsider Art)

〔No.8: Photo: “Art Brute Collection” at Lausanne and some patient’s works〕 

Roger Cardinal (Art Critic, an British parson)

R.C. used the word ‘Outsider Art’ as the meaning of works made by people with handicap, in his famous criticism ‘Outsider Art (publisshed1972)’. He pointed out the other kind of ‘Art Brute’ had been found out, after the age of J. Dubuffet. Also, in that time, he thought that a new term was necessary for those arts, including some works created by elderly people, folk art, tribal art, medium art, etc.

④ Noi Sawaragi,( Professor at Tama Art University, Art Critic)

He has been arguing about this subject, sometime aggressively: ‘It’s better to use the term, ‘Outsider Art’ for the works made by people with handicap. Because we actually know that they are “outsiders” alienated from the society, more or less. Most of true artists have been creating their works in the similar situation.’(Outsider Art):I believe we need to consider about his frank idea.


① I frequently talked with my friends about setting up a studio for the people with handicap. We were attracted to that idea, therefore we established it in our Gallery at April of the year before last. 

Since then we had classes for users to express something twice a month (on the second and the fourth Saturday). Last year, we also held two exciting events for them. 

a. In the last May, we had a hiking event for users sketching at “Sea and Star Park” in Miyazu-city. 〔‘ You can clearly take a look at Sea and Stars from the Park’〕

〔No.9:photo: at park〕

b. In the last July. We had the first exhibition for displaying user’s works at our gallery. We also asked the other two studios, “Miyazu Sun home” and “KURINOKI Dormitory”, and three insider artists to join our project in celebrations of setting up the studio. In addition, one of my friends kindly improvised a piece of music on the guitar there, harmonizing with the works displayed there. I supposed many audience might enjoy it with us. 

〔No.10:Photo:some works〕

① We had seriously considered how to be concerned with their expression activities.

a. Of course, most of the users have been learning how to paint in a conventional method as a social-welfare education at schools. We believe they generally need to learn in such way, because it must be a useful way for them to harmonize with a society.    

b. On the other hand, we have herd it’s no good to teach a standard method to users. If we had taught them it, we would have only found out our own traces on their works. And, also for them, it might be more difficult, I am afraid, to express their raw mind in their works, therefor their expressions wouldn’t be able to work as a communication tool with us or our society. And they hardly feel happy in their expression activities, it’s the most important matter.

c. And even if some users potentially had some kind of talents, they wouldn’t be able to express them in practical experiences.

d. Our view of holding the studio is ‘to share happy time with each other’. It means all of users can enjoy expressing their true mind in a free atmosphere. 

〔3〕In conclusion, I would like to say how to walk with users in the future. 

①  facility

 Our studio, now, is too narrow for users to express something freely. We have been looking for a larger space for it in the neighborhood.

② On stuffs

We have putted forth a steady effort to assist them politely in their expression activities at the studio. We expect someone to cooperate with us, because of increasing users little by little. 

③ On selling user’s works. 

Sometimes we were asked to sell the works displayed in our gallery by a small audience. And some facilities have been selling them at their studios. This matter has made us to be in a little puzzle.

 We know it’s a profitable business for the lives of users, but we can’t judge it good or not

yet. The reasons are as below.

a. We don’t have a definite standard to decide the worth of those works, yet.

b. We recently heard about speculative deals in foreign country.

c. We are possibly anxious about that users or their works might be expediently used to improve a local economy.  

Therefor we haven’t directly been involved in any selling of those works. Of course if someone had asked us ‘how to get the work’, we would have always informed them of the user’s information and advised ‘a buyer’ to negotiate politely with user’s family.  

We would like to continue operating the NPO-KIRINYA as a means of our enjoyable life. I would also like to expect that all of you will contact with ‘Art Brute’ and enjoy it, and deepen your understanding of their human being worth much more.

Thank you so much.