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.

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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.

 

 

Rackgaki: A Japanese Perspective on Graffiti

A book I got out of the library this week was ‘Rackgaki: Japanese Graffiti’ by Ryo Sanada and Suridh Hassan. Although graffiti started out in New York, it gradually filtered through the rest of the world, each culture bringing different letter forms and divergent styles. Japan was arguably the first Asian country that NY graffiti spread to. Tokyo and Yokohama have the largest scenes but there are also active scenes in Osaka, Nagoya and Hiroshima. Japanese art itself is very influential today; manga/anime styles can be seen in graphics for bands such as Linkin Park/Fort Minor etc. and in blockbuster films such as ‘The Matrix’ and the anime scene in ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’. To a relative novice like me the style is hard to describe but unmistakable in its execution.

Here’s a few of my favourites selected from the book.

The SCA Crew, based in Yokohama, are the most prolific graffiti collective in Japan. Combining the individual tags of its members (Kress, Phil, Fate, Butobask and Make) together with striking figures and dynamic composition the SCA’s pieces stand out from the mill of tags in Yokohama city.

Esow from Tokyo is more character based, his creations bearing faces that resemble the Japanese prints of old. As well as being a professional skateboarder his work often features in galleries.

         

Sasu, also from Tokyo, designs characters with a more geometric style.

Sqez from Nagoya has his black and white tentacles appearing all over the city.

Unlike my previous post on London street art I have not experienced the works of these artists first hand as I have never been to Japan. However, the DVD enclosed with ‘Rackgaki’ gives an idea of the Japanese city atmosphere as well as showing the artists at work. Here’s a clip from the DVD focussing on Tokyo:

This blog entry was a step outside of my artistic comfort zone! My next blog entry will probably be another continuum (again!).

My Favourite Album Artwork- Courtesy of Paul Romano

Mastodon’s new album ‘The Hunter’ has just come out this month prompting me to re-investigate their back catalogue. For a group of bearded, heavily tattooed metalheads their music never fails to impress with its sonic quality and sprawling arrangements. The best thing about their albums is the simply gorgeous artwork designed by Paul Romano. ‘Blood Mountain’ (2006) in particular is full of great fine art influenced images depicting crystal skulls, wolves, mythical beings and intricate geometric patterns.

               

It’s definitely a step above a black and white photograph taken in an abandoned warehouse! Here’s a selection of Romano’s other Mastodon album covers; ‘Leviathan’ their 2004 breakthrough dealing with the concept of ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘Crack the Skye’ (2009) which narrated the story of a paraplegic travelling through wormholes in time to encounter Rasputin and the Russian Czar. Such unusual but intriguing  concepts are reflected once again in Romano’s distinctive style.

       

Romano’s website workhardened shows all his work with Mastodon along with designs for other bands and his personal fine art work. Here’s the URL http://www.workhardened.com/

Mastodon are due to appear on the new series of ‘Later with Jools Holland’ on BBC 2 at some point, making them the second metal band to appear on the show after Metallica. I’ll leave you with a track off of ‘Blood Mountain’, ‘Colony of Birchmen’ featuring guest vocals from QOTSA’s Josh Homme. DO NOT download the album- get a physical release instead. Even buying the CD means you can experience the very visual side of this unique band!