A vision of decadence

Detritus. “Donde ya no se posan besos van a aparecer llagas”. All rights reserved.

I just want to show a work from the Spanish vocational painter Detritus. He is a contemporary artist who could be located inside the Gothic scene, but his personal work is far from conventional neo-gothic artistic style. He paints nightmares with real people as protagonists, he doesn´t want to emphasize beauty but pain and violence. Another characteristic of his paintings is the use of writings as part of the work. They are mostly a way of understanding the complexity of the image.

The current work is entitled “Donde ya no se posan besos van a aparecer llagas” (Where no kisses already lay there will appear sores), as the biggest sentence says in the lower right side of the canvas.

Let´s analyze the painting. There are four old men in several positions and a woman who escapes from the picture in the upper right side walking along. We see also two cryptic circular symbols in the upper left side.  There are also several sentences covering different parts of the picture. Each part is defined buy its color: black, orange, violet and brown. There are no gradations but  flat colors and each one could design an attitude, it is quite a symbolistic use of the color.

If we look at the four old men we realize that there is only one in different gestures. One is the man sit on the bed thinking, in a position like Rodin’s Thinker. In front of him there is an specular image: it´s the man in the mirror. At the same time the man appears lying down on the bed: the tired man. And, at last, in the first layer, a suffering man down on one knee with the hand in the face moaning. This man appears with a halo, but a black halo. Is he a sinner, the opposite of a saint? Maybe.

The answer to the attitudes of the old man is the woman that walks far from him. She wears a night dress and walks in the way to the moon, who stays over her as a halo. Detritus is linking the woman with the Moon.

At the left side the two symbols drawn in an ancient way: one is a man inside a pentacle with the text “Microcosmos – Sapiens Volens” and the other is the Sun inside a square and a circle with the text “Megacosmos – Ignis – Natura”. We have a clue of the painting: the woman linked to the Moon and the man linked to the Sun.

Now, I translate the main texts that may reveal the whole meaning of the work. The first says: “The decadent man only stops to live under the laws of the atrocious Cosmos if a woman gives shelter to him. The woman preserves the omnipotence given to her by the Cosmos to perpetuate, though she renounces to her reproductive function”.

The second: “When an immense female will  sanction in favor of a man, the unarmed male takes refuge in the hug she offers, while the woman assumes the clash with the Cosmos and repulses its harmful radiations”.

With all these elements we can give a closer interpretation: the man has lost his woman, he has no defense against the attack of the Cosmos, he, no longer, has the help of the woman, he is alone and he’s going to die. I think the painted man doesn´t represent an old man himself, but the state of a lonely man, without protection. It´s decadence, it´s desolation, it´s isolation. I think the main meaning of the painting is the weakness of man that has not the support of a woman. It´s an allegory of the lost love. Maybe he has lost her by his sins, maybe infidelity, and because of that the black halo of the sinner appears all around his head.

There are a lot of elements in the painting, so, they transform it in a sort of enigma. I have just given my personal interpretation. This is the right thing: a lot of elements like pieces of a puzzle. Compose your own interpretation.

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Allegory of Work

Fred Coubillier. Allegory of Work. (1911). Central figure. Photo Pedro Ortega

Located in a square of Düsseldorf we find an interesting sculpted monument. Only a little information about it, the legend “Fred Coubillier – 1911”. I haven´t found enough data of this sculptor, only that he was born in 1869 and was very active in Düsseldorf till 1939. A late sculpture of the author is a statue of Beethoven in 1950. It seems that he usually worked with bronze. Style of hisworks is quite near to German Jugendstil but with classic Greek bronzes influence.

Fred Coubillier. Allegory of Work. (1911). Right figure. Photo Pedro Ortega

So, I was surprised when I found this monument devoted to work. It consists in a three male sculptures located symmetrically: the sides are lower but with the characters standing and the central figure, higher but seated. The base of the central figure is circular. Over it there is an old man, with a beard, seated over an anvil and a propeller with a hammer in the hand that rests on the leg. The man is nude but covered with a woolen cloth.

The right figure is a young man.  He is holding big iron pliers and his position is a contraposto, with the height of the body lean on one leg, just like ancient Greek sculptors used to pose their statues. He is an athletic man, with emphasis in the muscles. Quite similar is the left figure, also young, muscled and standing on one leg, again in contraposto. He carries a pick over his shoulder.

Fred Coubillier. Allegory of Work. (1911). Right figure. Left figure. Photo Pedro Ortega

So, we have the old man in the center, with symbols like hammer, anvil and propeller, he is the wise man. He is strong but is seated, maybe thinking, designing. The young men of the sides are the pure force, the energy, the strength, they use their hands to work. All those elements clearly talk about an allegory of work. In my opinion there are also reminiscences of Jugendstil, mostly in the expression of the faces.

Fred Coubillier. Allegory of Work. (1911). Right figure. Detail. Photo Pedro Ortega

In 1911 Düsseldorf was part of Prusia. So, this image of strong men that enhances the idea of hard work reflects the spirit of that country. A nice monument to visit if you are in Düsseldorf.

Xavier Mellery

Xavier Mellery. "Immortalité". (1890). All rights reserved.

After a hard period, I continue developing my Art dedicated blog.

Today I wan to point my eyes to a Belgian Symbolist painter: Xavier Mellery. He is not very wellknown, there are not too much texts about him, but I think he has an interesting personality and a he has a particular way of painting.

As a brief profile, we must say that Mellery was born in Laken in 1845 and died in Brussels in 1921. He was the son of the Royal Palace gardener and this circunstance could help him to develope his career. First, he initially worked with the painter-decorator Charles Albert and later could enter into the Brussels Academy of Fine Arts from 1860 to 1867. Though he had achademic training we must empasize his style as Symbolist. We can consider him as companion of Fernand Khnopff or Jean Delville, two of the most important Belgian Symbolists.

In this post, I want to compare two works of Mellery that are very related each other. They have a similar composition and colours (golden and blue), with two main characters that are opposites but are fundamentally related. Both were composed near 1890 and their titles are Immortalité (Immortality) and La Délicatesse est fille de la Force (the Gentleness is the doughter of the Force).

As I mentioned, the composition is similar: both canvases are vertical and the composition is located inside a golden space with a semicircle at the top. This golden color could be a reference to Byzantine Art, an element used also by his neighbor and famous painter Alphonse Mucha. It´s an element that emphasizes the divine character of the represented characters.

Two opposited figures appear in Immortalité: Death and Immortality. Death is represented in a traditional way: an skeleton with an scythe loking front and sit on a kind of wood wall and Immortality, a young man who looks back to Death, wearing a blue roman dress. Close to Immortality there is a third charater, secondary one, a child. This third character could suggest that Mellery wanted to represent the three ages of men, like the classic paintings of this matter.

Xavier Mellery. "La délicatesse est fille de la force". (1890). All rights reserved.

La Délicatesse est fille de la Force presents two figures but this time both looks to the observer. Gentleness is a female character and Force is male: they are two allegories represented in different sexes because the words to design them are male or female in French language. This question has appeared in other posts: the allegories use to be represented male or female on depending the genre of the word that designs it in each language. Force is a mature man, completely nude except his covered sex by a woollen and he holds a wooden stick. Gentleness wears a transparent dress and holds on the Force hand as support. She also has a bunch that emphasizes the female side of the Gentleness allegory.

Both are very fantastic paintings. You can admire them and many more works from Mellery on the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. A nice plan for this summer if you are near there.

Oil Planet

Cristiano Siqueira. "Oil Planet". Allrights reserved.

Cristiano Siqueira is a brilliant artist from Brasil. His creative fields are illustration, graphic design and advertising. Today I’m going to analyze his work called Oil Planet. The title clearly evidences its ecologic intention, as we will see. The technique for this image is digital illustration.

The main elements of the image are two: a strong man down on his knees supporting a sphere on his shoulders that represents planet Earth -we can distinguish the continents drown on it-. The disposition of these elements quickly drives us to an archetype: the Greek God Atlas who carries the World upon his shoulders. Atlas was the chief of the Titans, who fought with the Olympic Gods. They lose and Zeus condemned Atlas to carry the weight of the skies. Though Atlas was very powerful the weight was so big that moans suffering carrying it.

All the composition is colored in black, in direct reference to the oil, mentioned in the title. The Earth is black because is fully contaminated by oil. This is a reference of our current world where oil controls everything though it provoques a high level of contamination all over the World. In the top of the sphere, where are placed North America and Europe, a black fume is emanating: the Occidental World is the guilty.

This ecologist aspect is emphasized by the figure of Atlas: he wears a gas mask, necessary to survive the contamination. This element can be connected with cyberpunk and industrial subculture, where the use of gas mask is an aesthetic and protest element.

The image by Siqueira is a brilliant allegory: to use a classical iconography -Atlas- to show a contemporary criticism -the global contamination-. An excellent combination.

If you want to see more Art from Siqueira click here.

The Little Birds Lied by Nicomi Nix Turner

Nicomi Nix Turner. "The Little Birds Lied". All rights reserved.

Nicomi Nix Turner is an artist active in California. Her vision of the World is related to Nature, because of that he has studied plants and animals to take inspiration from them. She is interested also by Alchemy and very linked to its symbolism. About religion, she is close to Paganism and counter-religion beliefs. I feel near to all those elements and this means I feel very close with her Art.

As I do with the images I don´t know its meaning, I try to analyze their elements. In a first stage we find a female head that seems a maiden. There are three little birds around her and a red flower in her hair. She has a necklace and a gag that falls silent her voice. The main color of the illustration is white and ocher with several red motifs.

The little birds and the face of the maiden could tell us about a connection between femininity and Nature, a connection with the female side of the Earth. But there are elements that contradicts this first approximation. First, the gag is an element of punishment: she cannot talk because somebody stops it. And second, the red color, symbol of the blood. This color appears around the eyes of the maiden and the birds. Also the flower in her head is red. Banning and blood, these are the two messages behind the purity of the main elements. Everything that looks beauty turns into somekind of frustration.

This image remembers me the tale The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde, an association between the red of the blood of the nightingale -one of the birds has red feathers- and the red color of the rose that is created with its blood. The girl that cannot talk is the girl of the tale that refuses the present of the red rose, she prefers jewels than gifts that comes from the soul. Obviously, there is no direct relation between the tale and the illustration, but it´s possible that in a first stage Nicomi Nix Turner could have taken inspiration from this tale.

Another possible interpretation is that the image is an allegory of femininity, a woman inside the Nature but raped -she cannot talk- and red, related with the menstrual fluid. This could mean the traditional subjugation of the women in the predominant patriarchy in Occident. Maybe this second interpretation is nearer the main idea of the painter in a first degree.

You can learn more about Nicomi Nix Turner in this link.

The Angel of the Death

Horae Vernet. "The Angel of the Death". (1851). All rights reserved.
Horace Vernet. "The Angel of the Death". (1851). All rights reserved.

It´s very curious to find a painting like this in an artist dedicated mainly to paint battles and portraits in 19th century. I suppose his talent was not recognized in his time and he had to dedicate himself to a more commercial painting as mentioned.

This lonely painting is for me the most interesting inside his production, maybe because it´s unique. In this painting, Horace Vernet approxmates to Romanticism and in some way it is an antecedent of Symbolism. To paint the Death as he does is not frequent in the middle of 19th century, most of all because he breaks the norm -the Death  is usually a skeleton with a scythe- representing the Death as a black angel. The angel has come down to earth and arrives directly to the bed of the dying girl and holds her to drive to death. He is completely black with wings and hidden face, a very personal interpretation of what the death is.

It´s obvious the piety side of this painting: there is a man down in his knees praying to God. It´s the prayer of the man to regret all the sins of the dying girl, in order to allow her going into Heaven. On the right side of the painting there are two elements: an open book which possibly is the Bible and an icon which represents either Virgin Mary or a female saint.

It´s also obvious that it´s unfair the young maiden is dying: an illness has driven her to death. She is represented as a young blond pale face girl wearing a white nightdress, sign of purity. One of her hands points up, it´s like she is in peace and knows she is going up, right to Heaven, while a celestial ray lays over her. She also has a necklace with a golden cross, another sign of Christianity. The man should be the lover of the maiden, so the image represents a tragedy.

Apart of the meaning of the painting, I want to emphasize the composition and the colours. The composition is lead by the body of the maiden, with a beautiful face, near to Pre-Raphaelite female representations. The blonde hair, pale face and white nightdress contrast with the black angel, the deep blue walls of the room and the ocher colors of the bed, furnishing and man wear. Everything is located around her and mean the injustice of the death of a pure maiden.

The painting, dated in France in 1851, today stays at Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg, Russia. I haven´t ever watched the painting physically, but I´m sure that contemplating this masterpiece directly must be extremely pleasant. Don´t forget to visit this masterpiece if you are near this city.

Modern Pornokrates

Serge Birault. "Fuchsia". (2010). All rights reserved.
Just watching for the first time this image called Fuchsia I immediately thought in the classical symbolist painting Pornokrates by Félicien Rops in 1878. This painting, close to other masterpieces as the sculpture Lamia by Sir George Frampton in 1898, stablished the basis of sadomasochism aesthetics that developed in 20th century.

Pornokrates shows a blind woman dressed only with mittens, silk pantys, black hat and blue ribbon. She is being driven by a pig that means the sexual passion and walks over a floor where are represented the Arts. This is an iconic painting that tries to represent the femme fatale, the woman who sucks the blood of men, a vampyre.

Félicien Joseph Victor Rops. "Pornokrates". (1878). All rights reserved.
If we look at the Serge Birault photoshop design we found many common elements but viewed in a contemporary look. As I read in the comments about this image, the author talks about japan influences, concretely Hajime Sorayama, but doesn´t talk about Rops at all. I think this is due to our visual culture has assimilated the Rops painting inside the SM aesthetics. There we can find the pig and the fatale woman but this time she is not driven by the pig, on the contrary she is the guide because she has a stick with a hanged apple, a bait to drive the pig.

The female is no doubt a contemporary femme fatale (inspired by the model Maria Gibson aka Fuchsia). Her ungry face, her dresses and her position over the pig talks about it. Concretely the black boots and corset and the red dress are made of vynil, which connects the female directly with fetishism. Also her big breasts talks about dominion, an element that comes from manga.

The pig is also an important character, that seems to be made by silver or another precious metal. In its leg there is a love heart drawn and it is dressed with a pink sweater with the initial “F” of Fuchsia, its owner. These elements could refer the pig has fallen in love with the dominatrix and belongs to her. It could be representing an allegory of men, subordinated to this powerful woman.
Something that surprises me is the technique of the artist who has used only Photoshop to design this image. He dominates the volumes and brights, the textures and the spaces. This ability appears also in some other infographies of this talented illustrator. You can watch more images from the author in the following address:

Crypt World

Alonso Urbanos. "Mundo Cripta". (2008). All rights reserved.

Alonso Urbanos is a young Spanish designer, DJ and musician, who sometimes creates infographies to art exhibitions. He belongs to underground scene: in music he plays noise in bands like Scumearth and his designs are mainly artworks for music bands in electronic, experimental, noise and metal styles. He also designs posters, flyers and T-shirts.

Today I want to talk about one of his works of art called Mundo Cripta (Crypt World), that has been used in the design of the artwork of the last album of the band Vrademargk. It was presented for the first time in the collective exhibition of the ESP Weekend in Madrid in 2008 together with its couple La Década Obscura, another infography of the same dimensions  taken from the design of the book of the same title that talks about the born of Post-Punk music in the 80’s.

Mundo Cripta is an allegory of the world we live today: we all are dead people because our ideals and vaules are dead. It´s a look at the real world from the underground perspective. The colors used in the composition are ocher and black, just like the color of the oxidized iron. As suggest his vertical format, the image shows what is under and over the ground. Over we can find a big cemetery with a lot of crosses and tombs located in a place where are many abandoned and unfinished buildings. It´s the metaphor of an isolated place where has happened a catastrophe. It´s the land of death, just like described Mariano José de Larra in one of his short stories: all the people are in fact living dead. I think this is the idea that underlies in the Alonso’s composition.

It´s just time to look to the underground. There exists an strange monster showing its back (we can distinguish its spine, ribs and arms that hold up the surface world). But who is this monster? In a Romantic way it could be the Greek god Atlas, who sustains the world over his shoulders. In a Christian perspective, the monster could be Satan or the Antichrist, which lives at Inferno, just below the city of dead. But knowing Alonso Urbanos the monster must be the spirit of materialism, of decadence, a kind of monster who sucks our vital essence to dominate the world.

Right or wrong in my interpretation of this image, there is, no doubt, an artistic intention to reflect about our world, an allegory of life and death, of what is happening in our world in 21st century. Enjoy the image.

Visit Alonso Urbanos portfolio at:

http://www.alonsourbanos.com

Pablo Genovés in ARCO 2010

©Pablo Genovés. "Das Gericht". (2008-2009). All rights reserved.

To take a ride around ARCO 2010 was bored stiff. I think I am very far from the contemporary Art market. ARCO is a trade fair which quality is decaying year by year. The Art for wealthy buyers seems to be very poor day by day. I am fortunately fond of underground Art where no doubt there are much more quality and prices of the artworks are more accessible for non rich collectors.

I think the question is that contemporary Art is banal, don´t speaks about transcendental questions, it is, as our society, plenty of materialism. I found no questions, no answers when I watch all these artifacts considered Art.

Fortunately, in this ride you always find one, two or three interesting artists in between a lot of garbage. Katinka Lampe, Desiree Dolron, Zoé Byland are some of the interesting names I found in this ARCO edition. But, no doubt, the most interesting artist was Pablo Genovés from Madrid, who presented several photographs of the series “Precipitados” from 2008 and 2009. The image of this post belongs to it and it´s called Das Gericht (The Judgment).

The image is a photo-composition mixing wild natural catastrophes and Classic Architecture. Genovés drives you to an apocalyptic world where the works of Art has suffered natural catastrophes. It´s a resemblance with buildings that have collapsed or are going to, as San Marcos Cathedral in Venice. I remember to visit San Marcos on a gangway over the inundated floor with the feeling of being fortunate to view that architecture that soon could collapse.

Das Gericht combines Architecture and Sculpture with a landscape of ice desert. The place is the interior of a Library with a classical column and a vault where are three statues. Really there is only an statue duplicated and mirrored. It is chosen by its stance: the hands, arms and head positions denotes fear and cold, just because the legs are under the frozen surface.

It´s a Neoclassiccal composition but placed nowadays, when natural catastrophes destroy many monuments as the recent earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy. It´s a metaphor about the real value of Art, how we must preserved the most important treasures of humanity. Excellent work.

La bella terminal

María Menéndez. "La bella terminal" (1996). All rights reserved.

The title “Beautiful Terminal” has been chosen by María Menéndez to name this drawing. A woman dressed in black with an scythe: no doubt she is the Death. This kind of representation of the Death comes from 19th century and very specially from the Symbolist movement. I remember Carlos Schwabe’s The Death of the Grave-Digger (1895) or the several paints of Thanatos as a beautyful female by Jacek Malczewski, as examples of this allegories of Death as beautyful females.

In one of my previous posts, I referred that the genre of the allegoric figures depends on the genre of the word in your language. Many allegories use to represent abstract concepts that use to be writen in femenine genre. But this not happen always with Death. Death is a femenine word in many languages but not all. For instance in german der Tod is a masculine word and just because of it we find in german art some representations of Death as a male. Later, I´ll discuse about other possible meaning putting death as a female.

The main attribute of La bella terminal is her beauty. She is a blonde maiden dressed in an elegant and long black dress. Beauty here could symbolise that maybe death it´s not so horrible as we have also thought and as it has been represented as a skull, a vanitas. I think this beauty associated to death could come from Romanticism and concretely I want to mention the book Axel written by Villiers de l’Isle-Adam in 1890. In this book the two lovers rise to ecstasy being together and they deceide that they are in the top and the most true love should be showed dying together in this climax. To die as a way to sublimate the most pure love. In this context is perfect to represent Death as a beautiful female.

Coming back to our Beautiful Terminal, her eyes are closed and the position of the head is softly slanting to the front. It´s just like she is not happy with her task. She doesn´t like to bring people from life to death but it´s her fate. Her dress is very long and wide in the basis, as a tree is born from the ground, even more when surrounding the dress there are branches. There is also some skulls that connects again the lady with death. This element of union between a female with the groud appeared in my previous post “Illustrating Fairies” where a girl was the peak of a hill.

This fact makes us to reflect about the conection of the female being with the Earth. In this case the terminal beauty is the opposite to fertility goddess or Mother Nature: a female gives us the life and another female drives us to Death. Feminity as creator and destructive principles. These ideas can be related with a feminine conception, even feminist, maybe because the artist is a female.