Often treading between reverence and ridicule, the mystifying allure of art that reiterates sexual transgression remains suspended within a deviating purgatory of the sacred and the obscene. Buoyantly drifting within the underbelly of normative culture, the erotic and transgressive create a synergetic relationship in a strike against societal conventions. Through a crude presentation of social perversions, the atmosphere created through sexually transgressive art permits an insight that challenges not only sexual precepts, but invites a critique of human behavior irrevocably influenced by social structures. In an explosive resurgence of suppressed sexual impulses, the following artists create frantic, tense and exquisitely obscene renderings of deviations and sexualized social distortions.
Playing on the enticement of the black mirror, or, the darker recesses of our own perceived realities, fascinations revolving around the occult has infiltrated and renegotiated the perceivable world as we know it to be. Contemporary examinations of the occult and mysticism has surged in creating a more modern vernacular of symbology rooted in spiritualism, skewing the tangible under the scope of what is sensed and experienced as opposed to what is seen. Confronting the enigma of the unknown, investigations of the preternatural have transformed the material world through its semi-erotic explorations of the unconscious and the supposed spirit world. Evoking a sense of histories long since passed, fascinations with the paranormal are found not only within its connotations with Surrealism and Dada, but has since found itself increasingly commercialized through a dilution into popular culture.
The following artists present an elusive understanding and reflection on mysticism and the occult. Straying from any form of irony, kitsch or inapt nostalgia, their employment of the occult acts instead as a new means of dialogue and spiritual resolve.
“A-Z of Unusual Words” is a self-initiated project by Irish based graphic art duo The Project Twins. It depicts “strange, unusual and lost words” explained through a set of beautifully crafted minimal illustrations and visual wit.
According to the artists, James and Michael Fitzgerald, “the images explore the meaning behind the words, which are sometimes even more strange and unusual”. The bold and simple aesthetics of these illustrations resemble Bauhaus’ style of conduct through style and form.
The artist statement of Project Twins points out: “Curiosity, humor and wit are a predominant feature in their work. <…> They are interested in observations and oddities and enjoy taking the familiar and turning it into the surprising.“ The series of “A-Z of Unusual Words” has been exhibited during Design Week Dublin in 2011 and was also awarded a Merit in the 3X3 Proshow and featured in 3X3 Illustration Annual 2012.
Our society, by and large, seems to love mashups of popular culture. Adding to the growing list of amusing combinations is Justin DeVine’s illustrations of Muppets as Twin Peaks characters. Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie the Bear take the roles of Special Agent Dale Cooper, Laura Palmer, and the Log Lady, respectively. DeVine’s watercolor drawings include the clothing, scenes, and quotes from David Lynch’s cult classic television show but whose characters are replaced with the gregarious Muppet clan.
If you aren’t familiar with Twin Peaks, it’s a surreal drama that follows the investigation headed by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper into murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer. It takes place in a small town, and explores the facade of small-town values and the seedier layers that lurk beneath it. Pairing this with the happy-go-lucky Muppets creates some strange imagery; not necessarily in the same way as Lynch crafted Twin Peaks, but odd nonetheless.
All of these illustrations are available as prints in DeVine’s InPrnt shop.
Roland Topor (1938–1997) was a French illustrator, painter, writer, filmmaker, actor and whatnot mostly known for his macabre and surreal cartoons. His illustrated book “Les Masochistes” was first published in 1960 and features a number of absurdly humorous masochistic actions that people perform on themselves.
The grotesque situations depicted in “Les Masochistes” perfectly convey Topor’s artistic style and approach towards the world. He infuses the grim reality of Nazi dictatorship (Topor and his family were Polish refugees of Jewish origin) with humor which was probably the best coping mechanism at that time. As described by Bernard Vehmeyer, a quote from Topor’s novel “The Tenant” perfectly sums up his world view:
He was perfectly conscious of the absurdity of his behavior, but he was incapable of changing it. This absurdity was an essential part of him. It was probably the most basic element of his personality.
Most often, Topor’s illustrations were based on surreal scenarios with deeper allusions to sex, erotica, rotting mankind and such. According to closer friends, artist had repetitive periods of extreme depression where he would balance on the verge of death and it reflects in his work.
James Thurber said, “Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility,” which seems to be a tactic comic artist and illustrator Kate (Ellen) Lacour has mastered in her recent drawing series Bodies, which she has only described with three words, “body horror beauty.” The motives, inspiration, or goals behind the series have not been disclosed, yet appear to be a distinct side-project from her usual cartooning work, replacing a visually lighter style with a combination of human anatomical drawings found in textbooks. The results twist the familiar style of textbook, anatomical human renderings, creating drawings which utilize symmetry, unique and unusual body arrangements, and religious or spiritual iconography.
Symbolic poses are taken by transparent, headless bodies, such as the Lotus position, a pose with Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist relevance. Lacour (who perhaps tellingly also works as an art therapist) enhances this peaceful, evocative aesthetic by drawing lines with ink and pen but softly coloring the drawings in with food coloring. However, even with the emphasis of religious and anatomical text, the drawings evoke a humorous effect, replacing heads with comically screaming mouths and adding eyes to the Fallopian tubes of a levitating uterus. The most successful works are those which pack in detail, such as Devouring Mother (first drawing, above) where a creation myth entirely new is presented by mixing tales and traditions of the past. (via hi-fructose)
Daan Botlek‘s trademark figural painted works always evoke a certain one-off kind of narrative, but his latest series, Escape From Wuhlheide, carries this idea even further. Based in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, Botlek (previously here) was exploring an abandoned and graffiti-filled building in Berlin, when the idea of painting an escape came to mind.
“While wandering through Wuhlheide looking for some spots to paint the idea arose…to make some sort of storyline of an escape.”
The story in Escape From Wuhlheide reads like a cartoon rendered in real life, blending street art, animation, illustration and painting. Each ‘cell’ of the escape is painted individually, depicting two blanked-outline characters making their way through the dilapidated space, peeking around corners, crawling up walls and climbing ladders. Each ‘cell’ is then photographed, documenting their run away. (via colossal)
Few artists have the talent that Ben Sack wields with pen and ink, and even fewer have the patience and control that the young artist uses to create his labor intensive, large-scale drawings. Patience is an integral part of the artist’s process, as massive cityscapes are slowly constructed on paper from historical reference, often taking months to complete. Though some cities are drawn (partially) historically accurate, certain parts of the drawing are stylistically changed, by removing rivers or skylines, or being rendered in circular forms. Other cities are complete fantasy however, interjecting centuries of unrelated architecture and scenery into a hybrid sprawl, often resulting in completely new, purely imaginative renderings. When asked the simple question on his Tumblr of how he is able to create these intensely detailed drawings, Sack responded, “As per your question regarding how, I can credit patience and a debilitating love for history and architecture.”
Explaining his interest in architecure, antiquity and cities, Sack explains, “Its this sort of image that I think most people, if not all of society have of western antiquity; stainless marble facades, long triumphal avenues, monuments to glory. In actuality, the cities of the past were far from idealistic by todays standards. Yes there was marble, lots of marble, and monuments galore, however these urban centers were huddled together and unless you were considerably wealthy, life in dreamy antiquity was often a heroic struggle. Though the societies of antiquity were bloody, dirty and corrupt the idea of antiquity has come to represent some resounding ideals in present society; democracy, justice, law and order, balance, symmetry. These ideals are now the foundation stones of our own civilization, a civilization that some distant future will perhaps honor as antiquity.”(via supersonicelectronic and colossal)