Weekend links 93

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One of a series of tremendous designs by Malika Favre for a new Penguin edition of the Kama Sutra.

• New interviews: “…Americans — mired in individualism — prefer to think in terms of identity than in terms of roles and masks. An American would never have called a novel Confessions of a Mask.” Nicholas Currie, better known via his Momus mask. | “The horror in music comes from the silence,” says John Carpenter. | “It’s dangerous to be an artist. That’s what we talk about in Naked Lunch — and it’s dangerous on many different levels. Politically it can be dangerous, but psychologically it can be quite dangerous too. You make yourself very vulnerable. You put yourself out there and of course you open yourself up to criticism and attack.” David Cronenberg at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

• New books: Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, a Joycean memoir by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot. | A stack of new works from Strange Attractor including a collection of Savage Pencil‘s Trip or Squeek comic strips. | Robert Irwin’s Visions of the Jinn: Illustrators of the Arabian Nights. A shame about the high price on the latter but I’m sure it looks wonderful.

• The Blu-ray release of Wings (1927), William A. Wellman’s silent drama about air aces during the First World War, has prompted renewed attention for the passionate relationship between its two male leads, especially this deathbed scene which is tagged as the first same-sex kiss in cinema. That’s arguable, of course, but it’s certainly a touching moment.

• From 2009: Searching the Library of Babel, a list of all the stories in all 33 volumes of The Library of Babel, a 1979 Spanish language anthology of fantastic literature edited by Jorge Luis Borges.

• Lots of newpaper attention in the past week for the not-so-fresh news that magic mushrooms could help fight depression. Nature went into the detail of the latest studies.

French group Air have written the score for a rare colour print of Le voyage dans la lune (1902) by Georges Méliès. Air’s YouTube channel has extracts.

• From 1989: The Merchant of Shadows by Angela Carter.

Will Hunt on the Ghost River of Manhattan.

Selected Letters of William S. Burroughs

Sexy Boy (1998) by Air | Surfing On A Rocket (2003) by Air | Mer Du Japon (2007) by Air.

The art of François Schuiten

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Paris au XXieme Siecle by Jules Verne (1994).

Following a comment I made last week in the post about the Temples of Future Religions by François Garas I’ve decided it’s time to give some proper attention to one of my favourite comic artists, François Schuiten, a Belgian whose obsession with imaginary architecture resembles the earlier endeavours of Garas and others. Schuiten’s parents were both architects which perhaps explains his predilection. In addition to a large body of comics work, he’s produced designs for film—notably Taxandria by Raoul Servais—Belgian stamps, and a steampunk look for the Arts et Métiers station of the Paris Métro. In 1994 he created cover designs and a series of illustrations for the publication of Jules Verne’s rediscovered manuscript Paris au XXieme Siecle.

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Cover for Spirou (2000).

I first encountered Schuiten’s work in a 1980 issue of Heavy Metal magazine which was reprinting translated stories from the French Métal Hurlant along with original work. Schuiten’s story, The Cutter of the Fog, was an erotic and futuristic tale of a small community and the obsession of the local “fog-cutter”. François’s brother Luc wrote the piece and it bears some similarity with JG Ballard’s Vermilion Sands story, The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D. Unusually for Schuiten, the architecture was downplayed in this one although the small homes with their geodesic roofs are like extrapolations of architectural plans from one of the Whole Earth Catalogues.

The next time I saw his work was several years later when artist Bryan Talbot showed me some of the comic albums he’d brought back from a European convention. Among these there were several of the Cités Obscures books that Schuiten had been creating during the Eighties and Nineties with writer Benoît Peeters. These knocked me out with their apparently effortless creation of an imaginary world comprised of several city states, each with their own unique architectural style, and a wealth of retro-future technology, from dirigibles of all shapes and sizes to ornithopters and huge motorised unicycles. One of the many things I liked about European comic artists, and something which made me favour their work over their American counterparts, was the creation of richly detailed imaginary universes with inhabitants one could expect to meet in our world, not facile superheroes or vigilantes. Schuiten went further than his contemporaries by making the architecture meticulously believable and foregrounding its design to an extent that in some of the Cités Obscures stories architecture itself is the subject.

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The skull beneath the skin

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All Is Vanity by Charles Allan Gilbert (1892).

The surreptitious skull is another of those perennial motifs that recur in art from time to time and one which has become especially prevalent since the late 19th century. There seem to be a number of reasons for this, the most obvious being that if you’re going to show how clever you are by hiding one image inside another you may as well make the hidden thing something that everyone recognises. A secondary reason would seem to be the waning power of the vanitas theme. As painting became more pictorially sophisticated it wasn’t enough to simply show a skull and expect people to accept that and a stern moral as the principal content. Hence the development of death as a non-skeletal character in Symbolism and the reduction of skulls in pictures to a kind of playful game.

Holbein’s anamorphic skull in The Ambassadors is probably the grandfather of all the later versions but the more recent popularity of the hidden motif can be traced back to Charles Allan Gilbert whose 1892 picture, All is Vanity, drawn when he was just 18, was sold to Life Publishing in 1902 and subsequently spread all over the world in postcard form. Despite giving birth to a host of imitators, Gilbert’s picture is the one that still inspires artists and photographers up to the present day.

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New things for April

Several disparate pieces of news worth mentioning recently, so here they are gathered together.

• Some of my Lovecraft art is to be featured in a lavish limited edition volume from Centipede Press.

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Artists Inspired by HP Lovecraft
Centipede Press is now accepting pre-orders.
A unique art book available in a cloth slipcase edition and leather deluxe edition.

• Cloth edition in slipcase—2,000 copies—400 pages, four color, sewn with cloth covers, enclosed in a cloth covered slipcase. Front cover image, black embossing, two ribbon markers, fold-outs, detail views.

• The first 300 orders will receive a numbered copy with a special slipcase and a hardcover folder with an extensive suite of unbound illustrations. $395 postpaid.

• Leather edition in traycase—50 copies—400 pages, four color, sewn with full leather binding, enclosed in a giant size traycase. Front cover image debossed on front, two ribbon markers, fold-outs, detail views, signed by most living contributors. $2,000 postpaid.

This huge tome features over forty artists including JK Potter, HR Giger, Raymond Bayless, Ian Miller, Virgil Finlay, Lee Brown Coye, Rowena Morrill, Bob Eggleton, Allen Koszowski, Mike Mignola, Howard V Brown, Michael Whelan, Tim White, John Coulthart, John Holmes, Harry O Morris, Murray Tinkelman, Gabriel, Don Punchatz, Helmut Wenske, John Stewart, and dozens of others.

The field has never seen an art book like this—indeed, it is an art anthology unlike anything ever published before. Many of these works have never before seen publication. Many are printed as special multi-page fold-outs, and several have detail views. The book is filled with four color artwork throughout, all of it printed full page on rich black backgrounds. A special thumbnail gallery allows you to overview the entire contents of this 400-page book at a glance, with notations on artist, work title, publication information, size, and location, when known.

HP Lovecraft fans will simply have to have this book. Because of its sheer size and scope, this book will never be reprinted and will sell out very quickly. Twenty years down the road people will be paying huge prices for this book because of its scope and the quality of reproductions. This is the HP Lovecraft fan’s dream come true. Don’t miss it!

Yes, it is indeed expensive but this is a book for serious collectors.

Bryan Talbot‘s new book, Alice in Sunderland, is finally out. Read a review of it here.

Arthur Magazine is being summoned back from Avalon, which is excellent news. To celebrate, Jay Babcock has posted Alan Moore‘s history of pornography in its entirety here.

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left to right: Donald Cammell, Dennis Hopper, Alejandro Jodorowsky & Kenneth Anger.

One of my favourite photographs of all time shows four directors at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971, all dolled up in their wildest afghan-and-ascot, hairy-hippy finery, and all of them on the cusp of what should have been majestic, transformative, transgressive careers in cinema that by and large never came to fruition. It was not to be—if only it had been.

John Patterson tell you why we need Jodorowsky as much as we ever did.

Update: And while we’re at it, Eddie Campbell also has a new book out, The Black Diamond Detective Agency. Great playbill cover design.