First published: Summer 1999
Art and madness have such a long history, going all the way back to Plato's ideas about the different forms of mania (one of which would today be called poetic inspiration), that their association seems necessary and inevitable. Artistic creativity, since the Renaissance at least, has a long tradition of being linked to extremes of passion and eccentricity and hence seen as dangerously close to a madness once thought to have a passionate basis. With modern psychiatry and the medicalisation of madness, a certain class of art-work has emerged, tying these strands together: 'psychotic art', work of remarkable artistic power created by patients designated as mad.
Psychotic art satisfies several fantasies about art and madness simultaneously. It appears as something like the (il)logical conclusion to all that is most wayward and idiosyncratic about artistic creativity, an image of how originality can go over the top or over the edge: at once a warning and a challenge. But it has also been seen from the other side, as offering a window into what would otherwise be inaccessible: its extraordinary images seeming to give on to the private worlds of delusion, hallucination or delirium.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #27