Cover art by Bruce Pennington, 1974. Via Clark Ashton Smith vs Bruce Pennington.
• Garçons de Joie. Prostitution masculine à Paris 1860-1960 is an exhibition running at Galerie Au Bonheur du Jour, Paris, until May. The catalogue is expensive (and seems to be in French throughout) but features a substantial amount of rare homoerotic art.
• In the latest Expanding Mind podcast Erik Davis talks to Burt Shonberg biographer Spencer Kansa about LA bohemia, psychedelic art, Marjorie Cameron, gumshoe biography, and his new book Out There: The Transcendent Life and Art of Burt Schonberg.
• Gregg Anderson on 20 years of Southern Lord’s dark and heavy art. Related: Earth’s Dylan Carlson announced a new solo album, Conquistador, and single, Scorpions In Their Mouths.
Without any formal training, Smith began to paint and draw his strange visions of sentient plants, grotesque creatures from other dimensions, and throbbing alien landscapes. Eventually commissioned to provide illustrations for Weird Tales, he became one of Lovecraft’s most voluminous correspondents (though never as voluminous as Lovecraft himself). Over the next 10 years, they filled one another’s mailboxes with effusive admiration for each other’s stories and poems. With Lovecraft’s adulatory wind at his back, Smith never strayed far from the Long Valley, and sat home to produce more than a hundred bizarre, linguistically challenging, often unforgettable stories and novelettes for the pulp magazines between 1925 and 1936. Unsurprisingly, Smith’s spurt of fictional creativity didn’t survive the death of Lovecraft in 1937, and while that rich burst of stories may not have earned Smith much money or fame, it caused an almost episteme-shifting earthquake in the brains of the young, aspiring writers lucky enough to read him.
Scott Bradfield on Clark Ashton Smith
• Psychomagic, An Art That Heals will be Alejandro Jodorowsky’s next feature film if the crowdfunding is successful. Many rewards are available, large and small.
• At The Quietus this week: Val Wilmer on Sun Ra, and The Strange World of…Cocteau Twins.
• Spectacular images from Chicago’s turn-of-the-century design bible (The Inland Printer).
• The shop that buys your dead uncle’s porn collection.
• Mix of the week: FACT mix 642 by Mokira.
• Cafe Bohemian (1959) by The Enchanters | Genius Of Love (1981) by Tom Tom Club | A Scandal In Bohemia (1986) by United States Of Existence
Art by Chris Foss.
Recent uploads at the Internet Archive include an incomplete run of British magazine Science Fiction Monthly, a large-format collection of SF art and original fiction that ran for 28 issues from 1974 to 1976. Science Fiction Monthly was significant for my generation since it was the only regular British SF magazine available in the mid-70s. (Michael Moorcock and co. were still producing issues of New Worlds but the only ones I saw were the quarterly paperbacks). Science Fiction Monthly was published by New English Library which made it seem at first glance like a promotional tool for the publisher, even more so when most of the cover art and almost all the ads were for NEL titles. The early issues lean heavily on NEL content but later issues had a broader reach and contained all the features you’d expect from an SF magazine of the period: news columns, film reviews, interviews, a bad comic strip, and so on. The thing I liked most at the time was the reproduction of book cover art at a large size, with full-colour paintings filling the broadsheet pages or spreads, all printed with the intention of being removed and fixed to bedroom walls. The early issues were also unique in giving regular attention to the artists, running interviews and even showing photographs of the people responsible for all of that familiar paperback art. I didn’t see all of the early issues but the interviews were later collected in book form by NEL in Visions of the Future (Janet Sacks ed., 1976), a volume that made a considerable impression since it showed me that SF and fantasy illustration was a viable career rather than the product of remote and mysterious talents.
Artist Bruce Pennington (see this post).
A few page samples follow. It’s a shame the collection at the Internet Archive is incomplete since the magazine’s contents were interesting to the end. The only copy I own today is the one for October 1975 (not currently available online) which is almost a JG Ballard special, with a feature on the writer, an interview about his new novel, High-Rise, and an original piece of fiction.
Art by Bruce Pennington.
Art by David Pelham.
Continue reading “Science Fiction Monthly”
The Disciples of Cthulhu (1976).
A disagreement I have with the burgeoning world of Lovecraft art is the relentless focus on monsters—and I say this in a week when I’ve been working on a new commission of exactly this: six pictures of Lovecraftian creatures. Lovecraft famously emphasised atmosphere as the paramount ingredient in a weird story, and atmosphere in his fiction is often generated by his descriptions of landscape and architecture; Angela Carter’s insightful essay in the George Hay Necronomicon (1978) was entitled Lovecraft and Landscape. Architecture often receives considerable attention in the stories: The Call of Cthulhu, The Dreams in the Witch House, The Haunter of the Dark, and At the Mountains of Madness all concern invented (or reimagined) architectural settings. Given this, you’d expect architecture to be more represented in Lovecraft art but this is seldom the case. When it comes to Cthulhu, a creature whose myriad representations must be reaching some kind of critical mass, artists will lavish great attention on tentacles, claws and flourished wings but the Cyclopean stones of R’lyeh are invariably reduced to a tentative backdrop.
I mostri all’angolo della strada (The Monsters on the Street Corner, 1966).
Hence the attraction of the wraparound cover by Karel Thole for I mostri all’angolo della strada, a Lovecraft story collection with one of the few cover designs I’ve seen that attempts to communicate anything of the writer’s preoccupations with angled space. Thole was a very prolific Dutch artist, producing many covers for Italian publisher Mondadori, and painting covers for Mondadori’s SF magazine, Urania, for over 20 years. The first paintings of Cthulhu I saw were those by Thole (above) and Bruce Pennington in Franz Rottensteiner’s The Fantasy Book (1978); Thole’s monster doesn’t have the required scale (and Pennington’s cover is a favourite) but for me it still carries a Proustian charge. The art for I mostri all’angolo della strada was featured in The Cosmical Horror of HP Lovecraft (1991), one of the first attempts to anthologise Lovecraft-related illustration past and present. The book contains many excellent reprints together with dubious material from European comics. Thole’s street scene—a curious combination of Escher, De Chirico and Art Nouveau—stood out among page after page of slavering abominations. I’d like to see more art that follows this direction; less of the monsters, more of the monstrous architecture.
Colui che sussurrava nel buio (The Whisperer in Darkness, 1963).
Continue reading “The art of Karel Thole, 1914–2000”
This is the kind of fantastic art I like a great deal: nebulous landscapes whose vast forms may be some kind of hybrid architecture; implications of the alien and mystical that retain some ambiguity; dreamlike without slipping into post-Surrealist cliché. Monsieur Thombeau at Full Fathom Five (whose excellent eye I have to thank once again) describes the paintings of Aleksandr Kosteckij/Kostetsky (1954–2010) as being “like Gustave Moreau, Salvador Dalí, and Max Ernst put in a blender and left out in the rain.” I’d place them somewhere between Ernst Fuchs and Bruce Pennington but Moreau’s chimeras are certainly present. You’d think an artist of this calibre with a large body of work would be better known, most of the attention at the moment seems to be on Russian websites. Let’s hope that changes soon.
Update: Thanks to Joe for pointing the way to this dedicated website, something I missed in my haste.
Examples chosen from these sites:
• http://vk.com/album-32941665_175452413 (139 images)
Continue reading “The art of Aleksandr Kosteckij”
Victor Linford was a British artist who relocated to the Netherlands so his work seems to be more familiar there than elsewhere. According to the Johfra Museum site, Linford was part of the Dutch Meta-Realist group in the 1970s, along with Johfra Bosschart himself and five other painters. Johfra’s art has been mentioned here before but I hadn’t heard of the others, Linford included. You’d think someone who spent so much time producing detailed oil paintings of surreal/alien landscapes would be better known. Some of his works were used on a series of Dutch sf paperbacks in the 1970s, unsurprisingly when many of his paintings resemble the alien landscapes being produced by Bruce Pennington for British sf books throughout the decade.
There are two main sites showing Linford’s works, here and here. I prefer the landscapes that don’t have too many human figures inserted into them but even the ones that do are worth a look. (None of the paintings are titled or dated.)
Continue reading “The art of Victor Linford, 1940–2002”