Monday 17 July 2017

'Seul avec la Nuit' - HR Giger in Nantes

Never one to miss the chance for a Giger pilgrimage, I was thrilled when the opportunity arose to visit the Giger exhibition in Nantes; 'Seul avec la Nuit'. It was a rare chance to combine two of my favourite things; Giger and France, so I grasped the opportunity with both hands ...

The exhibition is housed in the former LU biscuit factory (which as I discovered was a great source of pride in Nantes and an important part of the city's heritage). Originally the factory was built in 1885, and was a landmark of industry and French produce. Now the building stands as a testament to that history, in its new guise as the National Centre for Contemporary Arts; 'Le Lieu Unique'. The exterior of the building is grand, with a lofty tower beautifully painted and elegantly faded. The new additions to the LU relic; huge doors and windows have a distinctly modern, industrial appearance, with surrounding plaster left rough and raw around the new additions and huge neon signs guiding visitors like moths to a flame.

Inside the exhibition a wealth of strange otherworldly noises and Swiss German tones can be heard filtering through the huge hangar-like space. First you are greeting by a number of early ink pieces, sculptures such as 'Birth Machine Baby' and 'Kofferbaby' and the ever epic dining furniture designed by Giger, which is the thing lottery win dreams are made of. As you travel around the central cube, which houses artworks both inside and out, you instantly get an insight into Giger's mental creative process, and the different phases and subjects of his work.

The exhibition has a great range of Giger works on offer, from polished sculptures and mammoth masterpieces to conceptual scribblings and early inks. Giger's career is covered thoroughly by the pieces on show, and for those requiring a little more annotation, videos are projected onto the wall featuring biographies, interviews, Gige'rs own behind the scenes footage from 'Alien' and a wealth of photos of the late great master.

The layout of the exhibition itself was an interesting concept, with a huge pentagram spanning the floor of the central cube. This shrine-like setup certainly made me worship at the altar of art. Sitting within the centre of it all is Giger's design for Alien 3 come to life. The colossal sculpture perfectly captures the mixture of elegance, erotica and horror that Giger wished to create in his new improved creature and certainly seemed to be a popular focal point with passers by.

It was nice to see plenty of pieces on display which were not part of the Hamburg exhibition, and are not at Gruyeres. Every Giger pilgrimage for me is tinged with a sense of excitement and anticipation regarding which works will be on show and which I will be seeing in the flesh for the first time. My particular favourite first time viewings were some 'New York City' series pieces, 'Homage a Böcklin' and 'Satan II'.

There are many of Giger's finest biomechanical marvels available for your viewing pleasure at the exhibition until 27th of August 2017.If you have the opportunity to visit the beautiful city of Nantes and soak up some superior Swiss creations, don't pass up a visit to 'Seul avec la Nuit'.

Friday 7 July 2017

Books; The Bizarre and Beautiful: 'Demons: Visions of Evil in Art'

Recently, I decided to begin some blog posts paying tribute to something I value incredibly highly in life; books. Over the years books have shaped me, my knowledge and my artwork. So it felt fitting to pay homage to some of my favourite books in my collection and give them the recognition they deserve ...

For a number of years 'Demons: Visions of Evil in Art' has been one of the most important books in my collection. It has virtually been my bible, being carried across continents and often a permanent feature in my bag. It has been an important resource for information and inspiration on a number of different projects, and is often my go to guide on a manner of matters from Demons themselves to infernal and apocalyptic artwork in general. This book is an excellent introduction to Demons in religious artwork and representations of evil, sin and death throughout art history. It gave me a good base knowledge on Demons and the large number of artworks featured means that the book contains a wealth of reference material from various cultures and periods in history. The book would certainly provide anybody interested with a more than adequate introduction to the darker side of religious art and to many important artists within the genre, such as Hieronymous Bosch, Fra Angelico and Gustarve Dore.

The book more than adequately outlines the religious background and context needed to fully understand the in depth history and origins of these devilish demons. Christian theology is largely the focus of the book, and when is comes to subjects such as damnation, sin, apocalypse, death, punishment and hell, no stone is left un-turned. The illustrations range over a huge time period and in many different forms and media, from early woodblocks, frescos, illuminated manuscripts and altar pieces to epic oils, masterpieces by the great masters, etchings, sculpture, architecture and much more. 

My favourite thing about 'Demons: Visions of Evil in Art' is just how far it goes beyond the surface of Demons in art. In the modern world you'd be forgiven for thinking immediately of a kitsch halloween costume depiction of the devil, but in reality the depiction of demons is both ancient and complex, having virtually its own artistic genre, with different periods is history presenting manifestations of evil in a different way. 
Historically imagery was the main method of communication to the masses, as many were illiterate and unable to read religious texts themselves. The visual communication of the church was a hugely important part of early Christianity. Representing evil as a truly terrifying thing was absolutely essential. Imagery needed to instil fear and insight obedience, as it was accessible to all and the best method of propaganda to live a virtuous life.These Hellish visions live on today, as reminders of a time when fact and fantasy were blurred and the Religious landscape of the world was far different to today.

'Demons: Visions of Evil in Art' provides a fantastic insight into a world where beasts and Demons awaited to torture you for every misdemeanor, death stalked and waited around every corner to cut your existence short with some plague or pestilence and penance to God was every mans only hope of salvation from sin ...

Sunday 2 July 2017

Demonology Reworking ...

A couple of years ago I began work on my own Demonology. To indulge in a little change and experimentation I decided to complete the works in pigment liner on white paper, a departure from my usual mixed media (or biro) on coffee stained paper. Once the pieces were complete I felt something was a little lacking and I hadn't quite achieved what I wanted. The designs themselves I was happy with, just not the end result. The pieces went into a drawer and remained an unitched scratch ... Until now.

After completing my Tarot series I began tying up some lose ends and began to consider which artworks and ideas Id like to revisit before my next mammoth series began. One thing I had always wanted to rework and do justice was my Demonology, and the time felt right.

I began reworking my Demons alongside researching symbolism for my next big series in an effort to balance research and practical work. I decided to approach the series from an illuminated manuscript angle, using rich, decadent colours, gilding and hoping the end result wouldn't look out of place in a medieval religious text. I'm currently striving to improve on my original designs in any way possible and make my new Demonology series a triumph to be proud of ...