The Enigma of Albert Louden

Albert Louden

The Enigma of Albert Louden, a collection of work by British Outsider artist Albert Louden, will open at the Callan Park Gallery on Thursday 30 April, 6 to 8pm.

After two decades of artistic practice with no thought of an audience, Albert Louden was ‘discovered’ by art dealer Victor Musgrave in 1979. Well-known throughout Europe and the USA, this will be Louden’s first exhibition in Australia. The text below is extracted from jazz singer, critic and raconteur George Melly’s essay for the catalogue of Louden’s 1985 solo show at London’s Serpentine Gallery.

'Albert Louden is an artist, an automatist, an 'outsider'. His work is on plywood or paper, is executed in watercolour or pastel. His 'studio' is either his small bedroom in his mother's house in Leyton, East London or, weather permitting, the scruffy back-garden where he can work on a larger scale. He stores his completed pictures there in a shed in black plastic bags. Until recently the roof leaked, but he has assured his anxious admirers that it has now been repaired.

There is little or nothing here to explain, not only why he is a painter at all, but the conviction, invention and originality of his work. It is not at all 'naive' in the accepted sense. On the contrary there is a certainty about it which, superficially, might suggest sophistication; a knowledge of the more extreme inventions of Miro or Picasso. In fact this is in no way correct. Louden has invented his own visual world from psychic necessity. His 'visitors' emerge from what Andre Breton called 'interirior space'. He fulfils to the letter Dubuffet's prescription for the genuine 'Outsider'; he draws everything from his own depths'; his work is 'a chemicaly pure operation springing from pure invention and in no way based, as cultural art constantly is, on chameleon or parrot-like processes'. On the contrary any resemblance between Louden's pictures and those of the great modernists, including Dubuffet, is because they, envying the spontaneity of those automatists who work from inner necessity, strove to forget what they knew, to regain the driven innocence of the 'Outsiders'.

There is of course the temptation to play the amateur psychologist in front of these extraordinary pictures, but it should be resisted. It may be obvious that, without inner tension, they wouldn't exist, but they are true works of art and their pictorial language - noses like distorted musical notes, free flowing curves, delicious harmonies of pinks, yellows, dull green and vibrant purple - raise them far beyond a purely clinical interest. They are not comfortable or reassuring, but they are totally resolved. Louden says that he has no preconceptions before he starts work, that 'I never know who is going to visit me'. I believe him entirely, but am grateful that he has no preconceptions before he statrs work, that 'I never know who is going to visit me'. I believe him entirely, but am grateful that he has the talent to prove himself such an accommodating host.'
George Melly, February 1985, from Albert Louden Streets and Rooms, Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens London W2.

The Enigma of Albert Louden will be on display until Saturday 6 June 2009.

Gallery hours:
Saturday, 11am to 4pm
By appointment on other days