Artist for 56 years in a Psychiatric hospital: Louis Marcussen also known as Ovartaci, died in 1985 at the age of 91, after 56 years stay at the Psychiatric Hospital in Risskov, Denmark.
Ovartaci was a qualified painter and decorator. At the age of 31 he left for Argentina, where he stayed for a period of 3 years. During his stay there he became mentally ill. Shortly after his return to Denmark in 1929 he was admitted to the Psychiatric Hospital in Risskov, where he stayed till his death. Throughout his whole life as a patient, Ovartaci was extremely productive as an artist and found admirers such as Asger Jorn and Jean Dubuffet. However, even if it had been possible, Ovartaci had no ambition about leaving the safe haven of the hospital in order to pursue a career as an artist. The Museum exhibits an extensive collection of Ovartaci’s oeuvre.
Characteristic of Ovartaci’s art is his fascination of the female. Like elevated creatures they all have large almond-shaped eyes and long, graceful limbs. Ovartaci found that woman is the most sublime creature – the creator of life and a picture of perfection.
The life and history of Ovartaci bears witness to the history of institutional psychiatry, or the era of long term hospitalization in mental institutions in Danish and European psychiatry. We get an insight into the consequences of this kind of existence: Isolation, prison-like social relations, the constant fight for individual space.
It is Ovartaci’s – and also our– good fortune, that he, at least for longer periods, is released from a deadening and, on its’ own, disabling medication. We experience an individual approach from the staff to the individual patient, a viability to differentiate and comply with certain specific wishes by the patient – in this way Ovartaci is allotted his private room and various privileges, such as access to a bicycle and permission to go on small excursions into the “real” world.
It is difficult – almost impossible to imagine how Ovartacis’ destiny and art might have developed outside of the comforting and secure confinement of “Jutland Asylum”, throughout a long and extremely artistically active life. Besides the architectonical and social framework of the Asylum is a central object of his whole lifework.
It should be obvious, in view of Ovartaci’s artistic efforts, that first and foremost he is an artist, even one of the greater souls. Gracefully and with ease Ovartaci occupies his position in the list of kings of Outsider Art alongside Wölfli and Hill among others.
His work is permeated by a consistent palette and sphere of subjects, which create a lifelong, inexhaustible teeming of visions, creatures and sceneries. They evoke strong sentiments of recognition of a long forgotten world beneath the sea of dreams.
Creativity is the capacity of the mind to create images, sometimes to transform them into objects. Creativity is the transforming power of imagination. In Ovartacis’ life and work we see imagination taken to its’ limits. Ovartaci creates, through pain and deprivation the new man, whom he has envisioned. He becomes his own creator.
Creatively, Ovartaci doesn’t stop here. His vision unfolds itself on the walls of his sick-room, in his idea of the transforming the whole hospital – perhaps a whole world.
Ovartaci’s wild plans of decorating his world had an afterlife through a greater attention and understanding of the inspiring effect of art, an effect on the mentally ill as well as the staff that shares the common surroundings with them. In Psychiatric Hospital in Aarhus the decoration by artists, mentally ill as well as sane is taken seriously and given its’ proper space.