An Outsider Artist Thalassophile
Dimitri Zoellin’s work defines the idea of raw art. His work bounces from animals to abstract oceanscapes to robots and beyond. Full of color and a rhythmic pulse. These paintings are alive. Alive and also reborn into some truer depth. Zoellin’s outsider art turns his subjects into their primal selves.
His life on the water floods out in his work. Each painting carries the meditative energy of a surfer finding and riding the wave — always navigating to the stars above.
Outsider art is the expression of talent, intuition, and inspiration unconstrained by the structures and dogma of canon. It has a long and colorful history. Often, outsider artists are capable of breaking through the creative barriers that the culture at large is unable to. When the artist Jean Dubuffet first noticed the amazing freedom of those working outside traditional art institutions, he referred to it as art brut — or, raw art.
Homage to Dubuffet
Dubuffet famously said that these works revealed “pure and authentic creative impulses”. In 1948, he went on to create one of the largest collections of raw art ever assembled. Ever since, the popularity of raw art has only grown.
Freedom with coherence
With the ongoing breakup of traditional institutions through new avenues of grassroots communication, it is the outsider who will determine the destiny of art today.
There is perhaps a no better way to think of the work of Dimitri Zoellin than through the frame of raw art. With unmatchable passion and commitment to a style organically grown from his own experience, Zoellin has put together a body of work both stylistically free and coherent.
It is as beautiful as it is direct from the source. It is art, and it is raw.
Meet Dimitri Zoellin
Dimitri Zoellin’s life reads like a novel, overflowing with the joy and hope of the ocean. His biography gives us a way to understand what his paintings are achieving when they work their magic inside of us.
Zoellin’s father worked as a skipper on racing boats, and the ocean left a deep impression on the young boy. He ended also as a captain, starting his career with the Princess of Monaco, then crossing oceans in all directions! Explore the Sud Pacific for many years. A man born to the waves.
In true outsider art fashion, Zoellin did not reach out to galleries or contacts within museums. He sold directly from his boat. He painted between stops in populated locales, finding a beach in the Pacific to stay and dine and work.
The work began to coalesce around a style completely Zoellin’s own. Chaotic and energetic, yet ordered, bright, living alongside the artist and viewer. One is tempted to make comparisons, to say he is the Basquiat of the Pacific — but that is to betray the truth of raw art.
Zoellin’s work is nothing but Zoellin, influenced as he is by the roll of the waves, the smell of salt water, the sun on the beach, the jellyfish in their mesmerizing rise and fall.
Zoellin includes writing, scribbles, simple shapes, and a wide array of textures to create pieces that stand as major statements. Each coursing with rivers of emotion. The effect is visceral rather than cerebral. It truly is raw art: grabbing you by the shirt and pouring down into the part of your brain that dreams.
Access to freedom
Outsider art makes a poignant statement about our relationship to our own creativity. It reminds us that we have access to things much further down than we are led to believe. The bravery to strike out on one’s own and make art as it comes to you reflects Dimitri Zoellin’s freedom in every aspect of his life. As he says, “I was free from the day I was born.”
Zoellin is compelled to create and so he does. He is compelled toward activism against animal captivity, and so he seeks the freedom of dolphins with whom he shares an ocean. One can’t help but read into his work a wide open freedom to act, to be. And that impression sticks, allowing the viewer to seek a little more freedom in their life.
As a surfer, Zoellin understands the feeling of freedom. That memory, stored in his very bones, helps explain his connection to wildlife. Their communal experience of life in the ocean, the idea of play and unbounded exploration of the world, all come together in the art.
Children, the first outsider artists
An example of this freedom is Zoellin’s art classes for children. He encourages the youth to create without rules, without expectations. And when they tap into their imagination and discover something, Zoellin is the first to celebrate and play off of these discoveries in his own work. After all, aren’t all children outsider artists?
Creation like sailing
The great works of raw art speak about the brilliance hiding inside of ourselves. Zoellin’s raw art does just that: it calls to us to join him in creating, just as the ocean calls to the boy to sail its waters.