Vertumnus

Vertumnus-Guiseppe Arcimboldo
Vertumnus-Guiseppe Arcimboldo circa 1590-1591

Guiseppe Arcimboldo is a hazy peripheral figure in art history. Enjoying noble and royal patronage he was honoured during his lifetime before completely falling out of fashion during the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries only to be rediscovered by the Surrealists in the 20th. Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Man Ray were all admirers and Arcimboldo’s visual puns and double meanings undoubtedly influenced Dali’s infamous paranoiac-critical method. Other art historians posited Arcimboldo as the most mannered of all the Mannerists. His composite portraits certainly show the period’s taste for enigmas and riddles taken far into the hinterlands of the grotesque and the whimsically bizarre.

Vertumnus is Arcimboldo’s most famous painting, a composite portrait of his patron, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Rudolf II as Vertumnus, the Roman God of metamorphosis, the seasons, gardens and vegetable growth. The plants, flowers and fruits that form the portrait of Rudolf II are from every season and are taken to represent the perfect harmony and balance with nature that his reign would re-establish. Unfortunately events and history had other things in mind for the studious, occult inclined Rudolf II and his notably tolerant court of Prague, leading eventually to the calamity of the Thirty Year War between competing Catholic and Protestant states before engulfing the majority of European great powers.

Other notable composite portraits painted by Arcimboldo include the Four Seasons, the Four Elements and the witty The Librarian (below).

The Librarian- Guiseppe Arcimboldo 1566
The Librarian- Guiseppe Arcimboldo 1566

Flora, Fauna and the Eternal Feminine

Marco Mazzoni
Marco Mazzoni

The elaborate and enigmatic drawings of the Milan based artist Marco Mazzoni are created entirely by coloured pencils. Drawing on Sardinian folklore of an underground matriarchal culture of witches and herbalist healers, his drawings frequently feature a female face surrounded by, (with the eyes always obscured), finely detailed studies of variegated flora and fauna. Combined with an undisputed mastery of chiaroscuro the effect is seductively disturbing with an undercurrent of bewitching danger and riotous decadence.

Marco Mazzoni
Marco Mazzoni 2
Marco Mazzoni
Marco Mazzoni 3
Marco Mazzoni 4
Marco Mazzoni 4
Marco Mazzoni-The Rescue 2015
Marco Mazzoni-The Rescue 2015
Marco Mazzoni 6
Marco Mazzoni 6

 

The Shadow of the Sacred

Lucifer-Agostino Arrivabene 1997
Lucifero-Agostino Arrivabene 1997

The paintings of contemporary Italian artist Agostino Arrivabene are grounded in the techniques of the Old Masters and inhabit the timeless realm of dreams and mythological, religious archetypes. Against a  backdrop of either luminous darkness or apocalyptic landscape, figures that have haunted the collective unconscious for centuries or longer, Orpheus, Lucifer, Elizabeth Bathory, Persephone, enact sacred ritual dramas. Among  the memento mori lie the possibility of transformation and metamorphosis; an actualisation of becoming.

Arrivabene cites as influences the Symbolist Gustave Moreau, the master of the Northern Renaissance Albrecht Dürer and the Neo-Baroque/Kitsch artist Odd Nerdrum. Also discernible are traces of Max Ernst’s eroding mineral frottage derived inscapes, Giger‘s spectacular visceral transfigurations and Blake‘s sheer burning visionary intensity. In keeping with the Symbolist tendency towards drawing inspiration from literature elements of Ovid, Dante and Giordano Bruno are included within the occult and occasionally infernal worlds of Arrivabene.

Below is a selection of images showcasing Arrivabene’s unique art. For a more comprehensive view  please visit the artist’s website agostinoarrivabene.it. For details on the artist’s fascinating process visit the interview at the excellent Fulgur Press.

Sacrum Facere-Agostino Arrivabene-2016
Sacrum Facere-Agostino Arrivabene-2016
Prefica Mutante-Agostino Arrivabene-2014
Prefica Mutante-Agostino Arrivabene-2014
Rhitmus de die mortis-Agostino Arrivabene-2013
Rhitmus de die mortis-Agostino Arrivabene-2013
Il sogno di Asclepio-Agostino Arrivabene 2015
Il sogno di Asclepio-Agostino Arrivabene 2015
Ematofaga (Elisabeth Bathory)-Agostino Arrivabene 2014
Ematofaga (Elisabeth Bathory)-Agostino Arrivabene 2014
Crux Mystica-Agostino Arrivabene 2017
Crux Mystica-Agostino Arrivabene 2017
Proserpina ornitofobaoilo-Agostino Arrivabene-2011
Proserpina ornitofobaoilo-Agostino Arrivabene-2011
Angelo del Versamento III-Agostino Arrivabene 2016
Angelo del Versamento III-Agostino Arrivabene 2016
The Seven Songs of Orpheus-Agostino Arrivabene-1996
I sette giorni di Orfeo-Agostino Arrivabene-1996
Nozze Infernali 2-Agostino Arrivabene
Nozze Infernali 2-Agostino Arrivabene

 

 

The Spell of Artaud

The entire text of the spell dedicated to Roger Blin (recto and verso) reads;tumblr_lo6x592APT1qhwx0o[1] ‘All those who have gotten together to keep me from taking HEROIN all those who have touched Anne Manson because of that Sunday May 1939 I will have them pierced alive in a Paris square and I will have them perforated and their intestines burned. I am in a Mental Asylum but this dream of a Madness will be enacted and enacted by ME-Antonin Artaud.’

In 1937 the French writer, actor and dramatist Antonin Artaud landed in Cobh, Ireland with a letter of introduction from the French Embassy. Without that letter the Irish officials would have denied Artaud admittance. From Cobh he travelled to Galway where he holed up in a hotel room he couldn’t pay for. The purpose of this strange odyssey was to return a walking stick he had acquired which he believed was the staff of St Patrick, as well as being previously owed by both Jesus Christ and Lucifer. After a brief stint in Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison Artaud was deported as a ‘destitute and undesirable alien’. On the return ship voyage he attacked two crew members and had to be restrained and put in a straitjacket.

The previous decade Artaud had been one of the leading lights of the first phrase of Surrealism, writing addresses to the Pope, Chancellors of the European Universities, the Dalai Lama and the Buddhist Schools. In January 1925 Andre Breton announced that Artaud was assuming direction of the Bureau of Surrealist Enquiries, cryptically commenting that ‘The Central  Bureau, more alive than ever, is henceforth behind closed doors, but the world must know that it exists.’  However after the bitter criticisms Breton levelled against Artaud (along with many, many others) in the Second Manifesto Artaud left the movement, aligning himself somewhat with the renegade Surrealists who published in Georges Bataille’s Documents.

The return from Ireland brought about for Artaud a period of confinement in different asylums which ended only with his death in 1948 from an overdose of choral hydrate. 1938 saw the publication of his most famous work The Theatre and Its Double where he outlined his vision for the Theatre of Cruelty but he wrote little again until 1946, instead concentrating on writing up spells, casting horoscopes and drawing disturbing pictures.

But then Artaud would have doubtless have approved of Mick Jagger’s character Turner’s paraphrase of the central tenets of the Theatre of Cruelty in the 1970 movie Performance, ‘The only performance that makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness. Am I right?’ Judging by those lights Artaud made it all the way.

 

 

Cosmic Geometry

Emma Kunz
Emma Kunz

In 1938 the Swiss clairvoyant and telepathic healer Emma Kunz began to channel large scale drawings on graph paper using coloured pencils, crayons and a pendulum. During the creation of a piece, which could take up to 48 hours, Kunz neither slept or ate, subsisting entirely on liquids. Neighbours commented that the light was always on at her home. The drawings were then used as a therapeutic tool for her patients, whom she would encourage to meditate upon the mandala-like patterns.

I was first led to this astonishing artist by a comment about my post on the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, (thank you herongrace). There are indeed similarities, both were female abstract artists with an all consuming interest in mysticism and spiritualism, whose mediumistic art goes far beyond aesthetic formal concerns. Both Klint and Kunz were only discovered after their deaths, and indeed were two-thirds of an exhibition on leading female abstract artists, the other being Agnes Martin. However Klint was a professional artist who kept her groundbreaking innovations a secret, while Kunz had no formal artistic training but thought highly enough of her work (and rightly so) to publish two books.

Since the first exhibition in 1973, ten years after her death, Kunz’s work has been show around the world, including a joint show with Joseph Beuys and Rudolf Steiner. The Emma Kunz Museum in Wurenlos, Switzerland houses 70 of her most important artworks.