Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Horror Vacui

Horror vacui describes a kind of art motivated by a fear of empty spaces—and a love of infinite detail.

The Book of Kells (ca. 800) glorifies God by infusing the page with layers of ornament.

Where’s Waldo (“Where’s Wally” in the UK) presents page after page crammed with figures.

In the back yard behind Tio’s Tacos in Riverside, California, the palm trees are festooned with small plastic toys or Barbie dolls.


The highly ornamented style is common among many outsider or lowbrow artists, such as S. Clay Wilson, Robert Crumb, and Robert Williams.
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Wikipedia on Horror Vacui and Book of Kells.

10 comments:

jeff jordan said...

Also known as agoraphobia. Been there, done that. At this point I like to let a painting breathe, but it wasn't always that way.

Johan Derycke said...

For childrens illustrations, it actually works very well. The kids love to discover all sorts of stuff in each drawing of these "Where's Wally books". Well, at least my 3 children are crazy about them. They pick them up at the library regularly.

Jelter said...

Where's Waldo is the best! Another interesting side note is that people have a tendency to do art like this when they are on amphetamines (speed) because they can't stop drawing until they run out of blank paper!

ashton said...

I was told in an art history class, that the idea of negative space as a design element is a Western thing.

Steve Somers said...

I wonder how that eye tracking gizmo from your past blog would look if the viewer were seeing a "horror vacui" type artwork? And if it changes with each successive viewing?

Michael said...

The book of Kells is amazing in it's intricacy!

Gamera said...

There's also Chris Ware's comic work. He was recently quoted as being afraid of people thinking he was ripping off his readers by leaving too much white space!

Roberto said...

It’s interesting to me that this Horror Vaqui style is very common in indigenes art, spiritual or religious art, deranged or psychotic art, and drug influenced art. Most of this stuff functions on a more intuitive, primordial, or reactionary level (low brow art?). While many, tho not all, ‘civilizations’ have developed artistic styles with more rigid, dogmatic, or ritualized approaches to filling the pictorial space (high brow art?) The Western approach to painting, with our heavy emphasis on perspective, is obvious… but the Japanese, and the Chinese, have also developed highly stylized approaches to composition, with a strong emphasis on empty, or negative, space.

Speaking about deranged, psychotic, and drug influenced art… R. Crumb’s new graphic-novel, ‘The Book of Genesis Illustrated’ is now out! And what a fantastic masterpiece of low-brow art it is! If you’re expecting a farcical, psychedelic, ‘Zap Comix’ approach you’ll be disappointed. His approach to the text is absolutely faithful, and his illustrations are accurate if not blunt. But the text allows for plenty of lust, avarice, sex, greed, hubris, incest, betrayal, hallucinations, and yes, even a bit of imaginative realism and horror vaqui! (Adult supervision recommended for minors) -RQ
p.s. – How were the tacos?

Adam said...

There's a fairly interesting and controversial block of property in Detroit called "The Heidelberg Project", and the block is nearly jammed to the gills in a similar way. http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&source=hp&q=heidelberg%20project&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi

Thomas said...

I like this style - interesting to learn it's name. I think it gives images a certain magic or vibrancy. The same effect happens IMO with the 13th-14th century church mosaics like in the San Marco in Venice.
Especially with so insanely intricate art like the Book of Kells - I find it one of the most amazing artwork ever created.