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.
Scripturient: Possessing a violent desire to write.
Acersecomic: A person whose hair has never been cut.
Biblioclasm: The practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media.
Dactylion: An anatomical landmark located at the tip of the middle finger.
“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 Wuhlheidereads 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)
Digitally created visuals are so ubiquitous today, from commercial applications to advertising to contemporary art, that it is hard to remember a time when it was a rudimentary technology used only be a few specialists. Commodore’s “Amiga 1000″ changed this, bringing image creation programs into the home, allowing anyone to create original and edited computer images for the first time. To promote the public launch of their groundbreaking model, Commodore asked Andy Warhol to create an image using the software, demonstrating the accessibility of the program, and the possibilities in the hands of a pioneering visual artist. Seen in the following clip of Warhol “painting” Blondie singer Debbie Harry in 1985, it was assumed that Warhol only used the program once, his digital experiment being forgotten.
It may have stayed that way had it not been for the curiosity and effort of another pioneering artist, Cory Arcangel. Well-known for his early hacked video games and glitched aesthetic that came to be known as Net Art (or Post-Conceptualism), Arcangel was curious if the Prince of Pop Art created any other works on the early digital format. This search led to conversations with curators at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, who owned most of the equipment (discs, hard drives and floppies) that might contain these experiments. Connecting Arcangel to the nearby Carnegie Melon University’s computing club, who have experience in recovery and “retrocomputing”, the combined effort to recover Warhol’s files took three years.
In a more tech-savvy description of the difficult process at Wired.com, Liz Stinson notes, “Because of the disks’ age and fragility, extracting data posed a serious risk. The archiving and viewing process could irreversibly damage the content, but letting the disks slowly degrade was an even worse option.”
The team was eventually able to recover eighteen images (some of which are shown above), among the first digitally made images by an already famous visual artist. Describing the astoundingly original files, Arcangel said, “What’s amazing is that by looking at these images, we can see how quickly Warhol seemed to intuit the essence of what it meant to express oneself, in what then was a brand-new medium: the digital.”
A documentary about the recovery, Trapped: Andy Warhol’s Amiga Experiments, will premiere May 10th at Carnegie Mellon (and will then be viewable at http://nowseethis.org/.), after which many more of the images will probably be released to the public for the first time ever. (via wired)