Repetition in Outsider Art: More than Obsession - RAW VISION

Repetition in Outsider Art: More than Obsession

First published: Fall 2007

One of the specific and constantly recurring stylistic features of some Outsider Art is its repetitive nature. It is a striking element in the work of numerous artists: the almost obsessive repetition of the same images, representations, themes or features in the art or the continuity of the creative process. This seriality fits within a formal vocabulary that oscillates back and forth between the ordered and monotonous filling of the surface of the work and the rhythmic and dynamic variation between the void and fullness of the composition. These ordered or organic, symmetrical or chaotic works are created from a ritual the artist continually repeats, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year…


The interpretation placed on the use of repetition in what has been known successively as psychiatric art, Art Brut and Outsider Art illustrates changing attitudes to this form of artistic expression in the 20th century. Many psychiatrists and psychoanalysts have noted this characteristic, which was often referred to as 'stereotypical repetition'. According to Marcel Réja (1907), repetition betrayed 'the inexperience of mentally ill artists, who avoid complex shapes'; it was 'proof of a trend present before the creative process'. Réja made much of the relationship between this artistic practice and psychosis although he did not reject the interpretation of repetition as a stylistic process.


This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #60

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