16 views of Meoto Iwa

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Dawn at Futamigaura (c. 1832) by Kunisada.

Meoto Iwa, or the Married Couple Rocks, are two rocky stacks in the sea off Futami, Mie, Japan. They are joined by a shimenawa (a heavy rope of rice straw) and are considered sacred by worshippers at the neighboring Futami Okitama Shrine (Futami Okitama Jinja). According to Shinto, the rocks represent the union of the creator of kami, Izanagi and Izanami. The rocks, therefore, celebrate the union in marriage of man and woman. The rope, which weighs 40 kilograms, must be replaced several times a year in a special ceremony. The larger rock, said to be male, has a small torii at its peak.

At dawn during the summer, the sun appears to rise between the two rocks. Mount Fuji is visible in the distance. At low tide, the rocks are not separated by water. (more)

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A Company of Pilgrims from Yedo Outside a Tea House on the Hills Behind the Beach of Futami Admiring the View (c. 1795) by Katsukawa Shunzan.

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Women Worshiping the Rising Sun between the Twin Rocks at Ise (c. 1803–04) by Kitagawa Utamaro.

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Futamigaura (c. 1825) by Shotei Hokuji.

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View of Futamigaura from Famous Places in Ise (1847–52) by Hiroshige.

Continue reading “16 views of Meoto Iwa”

Weekend links 560

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The Fallen Angels Entering Pandemonium, from ‘Paradise Lost’, Book 1 (c.1841) by John Martin.

• “Hergé’s heirs sue artist over his Tintin/Edward Hopper mashups.” The complaint is that the paintings of Xavier Marabout besmirch Tintin’s character by making him seem…human? Silly. I’d sooner complain that Hergé’s ligne claire drawing style is an awkward match for Hopper’s realism. And besides which, isn’t Tintin gay? There’s a lot of wish-fulfilling slash art showing Tintin and Captain Haddock in a closer relationship than Hergé ever would have wanted. This Canadian magazine cover by Normand Bastien dates from 1987.

• “Everyone wanted to make products that looked fast and angry and maybe wanted to lay eggs in your brain.” Alexis Berger tells S. Elizabeth how she avoided years stuck in a design office by becoming a jeweller instead.

• New music: Chiaroscuro by Alessandro Cortini, and Frequencies For Leaving Earth Vol. 4 (One-Hour Loop) by Kevin Richard Martin & Pedro Maia.

The Willows is less a flight of fancy and more an attempt to articulate the ways in which what we dubiously still call “nature” is at once an object of human systems of knowledge and yet also something that undermines those same systems. Thus if The Willows is indeed a classic of “supernatural horror” (as HP Lovecraft would famously note), we might also be justified in calling it “natural horror” as well. In Blackwood’s wonderfully slow, patiently constructed scenes of atmospheric suspense, there is the sense of an impersonal sublime, a lyricism of the unhuman that shores up the limitations of anthropocentric thinking, as well as evoking the attendant smallness of human beings against the backdrop of this deep time perspective.

Eugene Thacker on how Algernon Blackwood turned nature into sublime horror

• Women of Letters: John Boardley talks to Lynne Yun, Deb Pang Davis, Coleen Baik and Duong Nguyen about their typographic designs.

• At Google Arts & Culture: Music, Makers & Machines: A brief history of electronic music.

• At The Public Domain Review: The Universe as Pictured in Milton’s Paradise Lost (1915).

• Beyond the Perseverance drone: Chloe Lula on the sounds of space.

• At Wormwoodiana: Colour magazine (1914–1932).

Wyrd Daze Lvl.4 FOUR STAR is here.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Hell.

O Willow Waly (1961) by Isla Cameron And The Raymonde Singers | Cool Iron (1972) by The Willows | The Willows (2005) by Belbury Poly

Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore

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“History is a heat,” says Alan Moore at the end of his first novel, Voice of the Fire, when the author takes centre stage to add his own voice to those of his characters. History is a heat, and fire is its agent, the element that provides a connecting thread between the twelve people whose voices comprise the text of the book. Late last year I was asked to design a new cover for Voice of the Fire which will be published by Knockabout in a 25th anniversary edition later this year. I’d read the book when it was first published, and even saw Alan read some of the opening chapter in 1993 at an event at the Arts Theatre Club in Soho. That event, which took place on November 5th, was titled “Treason and Plot”, and the pages from the work-in-progress novel had been collected from the offices of Gollancz after Alan left the unfinished manuscript of Yuggoth Cultures—which he was supposed to be reading from that evening—in the back of a cab. I was in London that day to talk to Alan about illustrating Yuggoth Cultures, so to find myself illustrating Voice of the Fire many years later feels a little like being caught by one of the acausal connecting threads that he weaves through his novel.

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The first edition: design by Gary Day-Ellison, illustration by Robert Mason. The photo on the left shows Thomas Tresham’s Triangular Lodge, a folly outside Northampton encoded with references to the Holy Trinity via a profusion of triangles and tripartite details. Tresham’s Lodge is described in the Gunpowder Plot chapter of Alan’s novel; the triangles on my cover may be taken as a reference to this.

November is the dominant month in Voice of the Fire, and the ritual fires of November 5th are one of many recurrent motifs. The novel’s twelve characters live in Alan’s home town of Northampton at different periods of history, from 4000 BC to 1995, a span of time that charts the town’s foundation and growth, taking in the Viking invasions, the Roman occupation, the Crusades, the treason and plot of Guy Fawkes and his conspirators, witch trials, the poet John Clare, and Alan himself. A lot of history and a wealth of incident to try and symbolise in a cover design. Author and publisher both liked the stylised outline of a horned head that Robert Mason painted on the cover of the first edition, a reference to the opening chapter of the novel in which a Neolithic shaman performs a ritual that marks the land as the site of the future town. I liked the original cover but felt it made the novel seem too much like something by Henry Treece or Alan Garner, with no indication of more recent history. A stained-glass window seemed like a good solution to the problem of how to bring together so many disparate elements into a single design. Stained-glass windows are often things from the distant past still visible in the present day, and they have the additional convenience of being a single container for many small pictorial details.

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It’s Bonfire Night on the back cover.

My design doesn’t attempt to illustrate all the characters or events from the novel but shows the more salient moments together with smaller details, some of which (the noose, for example) appear in multiple chapters. The horned shaman is at the centre of the design which radiates out from his ritual fire. I avoided making the window design too much like a church window; the book contains many references to churches and Christian history but there’s also a strong pagan element in many of the chapters. Magic, in the occult sense, is a recurrent thread, and Alan’s favourite Elizabethan magus, Dr. John Dee, is present (albeit offstage) in the Angel Language chapter. To acknowledge this I placed an inscription in Enochian—Dee’s “Angel Language”—underneath the title. There’s more magic in the font used for the title and author’s name, Albertus, which was named after Albertus Magnus, a philosopher and theologian often described as an alchemist. The main reason to use Albertus is for its timeless styling and its readability, an important quality for such a busy cover design; the font is a common one on London street signs.

The creature with the floppy ears in the lower centre is another recurrent motif, the sinister “shagfoal”, or Black Dog, whose presence is a sign of the darker energies that seem to thrive in that part of the world. Black Dogs appear in folklore all over Britain but there are few pictorial examples to be found in old texts. I based my hound on the “Straunge and terrible Wunder” depicted in 1577 on the title page of Abraham Fleming’s account of the Black Dog of Bungay. Other details are more obvious for those who read the novel so I won’t spell out everything here. If you haven’t read it then I’d urge you to do so, it’s one of Alan Moore’s major works, and a book I’m hoping might receive more attention than it did in 1996 when Gollancz only saw fit to publish it in paperback. Voice of the Fire will be published by Knockabout in May in paperback and a limited edition hardback which will include a card signed by the author. Top Shelf will be doing something similar for the US but I don’t think they’ve announced any dates or other details as yet. Anyone looking for further information is advised to keep an eye on the Knockabout news page or the publisher’s social media accounts.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Blake Video
The Cardinal and the Corpse
Mapping the Boroughs
Tresham’s Trinities
The Triangular Lodge again
Art is magic. Magic is art.
Alan Moore: Storyteller
Alan Moore: Tisser l’invisible
Dodgem Logic #4
The Triangular Lodge

Weekend links 548

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The Aurora Borealis by Charles H. Whymper.

• “In 1829, when the celebrated Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai was almost 70 years old, he created more than 100 drawings of a dazzling array of subjects: playful cats, serene landscapes, even severed heads. Hokusai’s fame continued to grow after his death in 1849, and the suite of small, elaborate drawings was last purchased a century later, at a Paris auction in 1948. Then it disappeared from the public eye.” The British Museum now has the drawings which may be seen here.

• The week in cover design: Emily Temple compares US and UK covers for the same books, while Vyki Hendy collects recent titles with objects as the main feature of the cover designs. One of my recent covers (which will appear here soon) is less minimal than these but also features an arrangement of objects.

• The compilation experts at Light In The Attic Records have put together another collection of obscure Japanese music. Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Sounds Of Japan 1980–1988 will be released in January.

“A Jamesian world is one of cursed artefacts, endlessly subsuming landscapes, forgotten manuscripts and tactile beings that punish the curious and intellectually arrogant.” Adam Scovell visits the grave of MR James.

• Dragons and Unicorns: John Boardley on the lost art of the Hieroglyphic Bible.

• I almost missed John Waters’ favourite films of the year.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Sade’s Castle, Cardin’s House.

Northern lights photographer of the year.

Aurora Hominis (1970) by Beaver & Krause | Aurora (1971) by Tonto’s Expanding Head Band | Soft Aurora (1979) by Tod Dockstader

Weekend links 544

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“You may if you please, call a partial View of Immensity, or without much Impropriety perhaps, a finite View of Infinity.” An illustration from Thomas Wright’s An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe (1750).

• If you read about electronic music for any length of time today you’ll eventually come across the term “pad”, referring to a feature of the music itself not the instrumentation. I’ve noticed increasing instances of this with no accompanying explanation of what the term actually refers to. Rob Wreglesworth has the answer.

• At Dangerous Minds: Richard H. Kirk talks to Oliver Hall about Cabaret Voltaire and Shadow Of Fear. No comment from Kirk as to why the new album warrants the CV name when the music is indistinguishable from his many solo works.

• Eyeball Fodder: The Art of the Occult Edition. S. Elizabeth presents artwork featured in her new book, together with links to artist interviews, including one to the interview we did for Coilhouse magazine a few years ago.

• More electronica: Music From Patch Cord Productions is a new compilation of music by Mort Garson that features some previously unreleased pieces. Great cover art by Robert Beatty as well.

• A trailer for Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds, a documentary film about meteorites by Werner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer.

• From 2019: John Waters and Lynn Tillman in conversation. “The pair discussed Waters’s recent exhibitions and art career.”

Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions may finally be published, after a five-decade wait.

Turn your feline into a god with this cardboard Shinto shrine for cats.

• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 670 by Dadub.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Harry Dean Stanton Day.

John Cooper Clarke‘s favourite songs.

Meteor Storm (1994) by FFWD | The Third Chamber: Part 5 – 7pm Tokyo Shrine (1994) by Loop Guru | Fireball (1994) by Sun Dial