The Disorderly Notions of Gustave Dore: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

I got some books out of the library focussing on a particular text that Dore illustrated. This post will look at ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The edition that Dore illustrated came out in 1875 and featured forty-two engravings. It was one of Dore’s later works and he himself remarked that it was, “his best and most original work”. The poem begins with the Mariner narrating his tale to a wedding guest; with his vessel swept towards Antarctica by treacherous winds all hope seems lost for him and his crew.

We can see the silhouette of the moon rising above the doomed ship surrounded on all sides by impossible ice formations. The dark, turbulent background gives an eerie atmosphere but, flying above the ship, the albatross can be seen following like a protective guardian.

The albatross symbolises the Christian soul and is welcomed by the desperate crew. However, the Mariner destroys their good omen with one shot. At first the crew despair over this but, with the lifting of the dark fog, they start to think that he was in the right. This ultimately seals their fate.

The ship is then pursued by nightmares and sea beasts. This is probably my favourite engraving from ‘Rime…’ due to the intricate detail of the waves morphing into mythical figures and the winged demon rising out of the depths.

The Mariner encounters a rotting hulk with two figures onboard; Death and Life-in-Death who are playing dice over the souls of the Mariner and his crew. The outcome of the game has Death taking the souls of the crew instantly while Life-in-Death gives the Mariner an even worse fate- that of living on eternally while everyone else onboard dies.

This is another great, subtle engraving. Rather than show the actual moon, Dore instead has engraved its reflection on the water instead. This means the sea takes up the whole composition making the lonely vessel seem even more insignificant.

Overall, Dore’s sense of epic scale and endless space make the nautical illustrations of ‘Rime…’ very impressive. They really complement the poem well, giving it more visual depth and atmosphere.

Screen Printing: Paul Romano

I’m due to start a printing workshop next week which involves researching different methods of printing beforehand. When it came to screen printing I ended up thinking of Paul Romano because of my previous entry concerning his work with prog-metal band Mastodon. In this entry I’ll be looking at his personal screen prints which are available to buy online from his website http://www.paulromanoworks.com/

First up is ‘Leviathan’, based on the cover from the Mastodon album of the same name. It depicts the hunting of the great white whale from Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’. The nightshift blue background indicates the element of water while the composition of the hunter, the ship and the beast’s tail hints at an almost triptych arrangement.

          

These screen prints, ‘The Modern Prometheus’ and ‘The Brides’ respectively, evoke classic Halloween monsters in a more-decorative style. Prometheus was the Titan who was punished by Zeus for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to humanity. His never-ending torment is compared to the fate of Frankenstein’s Monster; the quote at the bottom of the print reads,”I vowed eternal hatred and vengeance to all mankind”. The second print depicts the brides of Dracula, covered in blood and shrouded in bat wings. The colour of both prints’ backgrounds might be reflective of their subject matter; grey for Frankenstein’s Monster could represent stone, steadfastness and immovability whereas the red of the Brides is probably blood, gore and death. Nice.

Here’s a Romano print that’s a bit more out there, entitled ‘Lady Treehair’. A finely dressed woman has two intertwined trees growing out of her head with a cat resting in the lofty branches. This could be a reference to the Cheshire Cat in ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

           

These mixed media screen prints were done as part of Romano’s ‘XxXxX Series’, 1000 pieces done at 10″x10″ over the course of a year.Romano said, “It’s both exercise and exorcise- through mediums and ideas. The goal is to come out the other side with a better understanding of my personal aesthetic as well as questioning the role of art.”

I don’t know how intricate my screen prints will be next week but I hope to emulate the mysterious, decorative quality of Paul Romano’s personal work. Check out his website, you won’t be disappointed.

The Disorderly Notions of Gustave Dore

I’ve always enjoyed the aesthetic of engravings, with their intricate lines able to create quite a dark atmosphere. Gustave Dore (1832-83) was a prolific illustrator of his day, his engravings embellishing books such as the Bible, ‘Don Quixote’, ‘The Work of Rabelais’, Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’ among others. I was instantly reminded of the engravings made by John Tenniel for ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ due to their similar depictions of the fantastical and the grotesque (Tenniel also did illustrations for Poe’s ‘The Raven’). Like my previous focus of research Winsor McKay, Dore was adept in many artistic fields like oil painting, watercolour landscapes and sculpture. I have yet to do real in-depth research so expect much more about Dore in upcoming entries…

               

I particularly like these images from ‘The Raven’; really evocative in mood. They also reminded me of the adaptation of the poem featured in ‘The Simpsons’! Here’s Christopher Lee’s narration of ‘The Raven’- the video accompanying it features Dore’s illustrations again.

Community Service: The Work of C215

It’s always very satisfying searching for that random piece of street art you saw in London on Google Images only to find a whole body of work from that artist, as well as unlimited information on his recent pieces. Sometimes the internet IS a good thing! The artist in question is Christian Guemy, better known as C215, from Paris. I mentioned him briefly in my second ever blog post ‘McCay, Street Art & Riots…Pt. 2’ and the paintings I saw from him were very cleverly concealed in street alcoves but also very eye-catching and emotive. I’m always drawn to portraits more than any other art form and C215’s style hints at his classic influences; Degas, Freud, Dix, Kahlo, Toulouse Lautrec etc.

In an interview with Visionary Artistry Magazine Guemy says, “My subjects are typically beggars, homeless people, refugees, street kids and the elderly. My reasoning behind this is to draw attention to those that society have forgotten about.  These individuals represent the true culture of the locations I visit. I consider myself to be an orphan and I like to represent the people that really belong to the streets and kids who people say have no chance in life. I seek to humanise them and raise awareness about people’s struggle by enlightening anyone that views my work with the identities behind each individual.”

Guemy’s process starts with a photo as a reference for cutting his cardboard stencils. His stencilling style is either multi-layered and colourful or single layered and involving only two colours minimum. As well as his stencils, he creates free hand illustrations too.

          

Guemy apparently has a photographic book coming out: ‘C215: Community Service’. I can’t wait, it will be great to get all his images in the one place! Here’s a video interview with the artist himself stating the philosophy behind his painting.

 

Berlin Street Art: Focus on Swoon & D*Face

I got another book out of the library today- a street art city guide devoted to Berlin dating from 2007. This means that some of the pieces might not exist any more or new work has sprung up instead. Unlike ‘Rackgaki: Japanese Graffiti’, where the featured artists were hard to find even on Google Images, there are some familiar faces in ”Urban Illustration Berlin’. Two of them, Swoon and D*Face, I had seen examples of their work during my second London trip.

         

Here’s some examples of Swoon’s work from Berlin.

                          

Based in New York, the figures in Swoon’s paintings are based on her friends and family. An in-depth interview with Swoon in ‘Urban Illustration Berlin’ reveals her fine art background before turning to the streets for inspiration; “I loved the layers, the natural beauty of a thousand coincidental markings and factors. From where I was at the time it seemed like the street was the only place that real beauty was occurring. It was the only place open to spontaneity.”

I personally love the urban city scenes drawn into the bodies of the people in Swoon’s wheatpaste cut-outs; it gives a really textured dynamic that was apparently influenced by “Wayang shadow puppet theatre in Indonesia”. This maybe hints that the people and their city environment are interwoven. Swoon says; “When I draw I am cutting a little window and trying to let something come through.I want to translate to people who see my pieces what I saw in a particular moment. I want people to feel how that moment stopped time for me.”

D*Face, on the other hand, has a completely different style. Clean marker lines. Amusing characters. Pop culture satire. Working in London, D*Face has established himself as a more commercial artist, his website selling merchandise like t-shirts and stickers. His influences however lie in skateboarding culture, comic artwork and punk music as well as the work of Shepard ‘Obey Giant’ Fairey.

Here’s examples of D*Face’s work in Berlin, using two of his distinctive characters.

        

D*Face says in ‘Urban Illustration Berlin’; “I wound up working in design and advertising, the so-called ‘creative’ industry. Laughingly, this seemed remarkably uncreative to me. So I looked for a form of escape, a creative release free from any boundaries. I’d always drawn characters since I was a child and I liked the idea of creating these creatures, like dysfunctional Disney characters, that would be peering down at you from the streets.I really wanted to get people to question their presence: why were they there, who put them there?” Here’s the URL for D*Face’s official website http://www.dface.co.uk/news

Although the work presented here was done in Berlin, I am still reminded of all the great visuals I saw on the streets of London. It would be really interesting to go back again, now that I have a better understanding of street artists and how they work. I’ll let the sounds of Dubstep DJ Distance take me back there, with his thudding beats and Middle Eastern guitars.