Beksinski at Mnémos

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More book covers. Mnémos is a French publisher of horror, fantasy and science fiction some of whose recent titles have their covers filled with paintings by the great Polish artist Zdzislaw Beksinski. The pairings of book and picture aren’t always ideal but I appreciate the impulse to choose art from other sources than genre artists. Omni magazine adopted a similar approach in its early issues, matching stories and science features with paintings by artists who are often grouped together as Fantastic Realists: Mati Klarwein, Ernst Fuchs, HR Giger, Bob Venosa, De Es Schwertberger and others. Beksinski’s work was less visible in the late 1970s than that of his contemporaries but one of his (always untitled) paintings did appear in a 1993 issue of the magazine.

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Of the Mnémos covers the one for the collection of Averoigne stories by Clark Ashton Smith is the most immediately fitting, Averoigne being an invented region of France that suits a painting of a Gothic cathedral turned fibrous and fungal. The painting for Zothique, on the other hand, could easily be used for HP Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, while the dog-like creature on the cover of the Frank Belknap Long collection is nothing like the author’s trans-dimensional hounds. Mnémos have given Lovecraft his own Beksinski covers in a seven-volume collection of translated fiction, Lovecraft, l’intégrale prestige, but there doesn’t seem to be a page anywhere that shows the individual books.

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What the artist would have made of all this attention may be gauged by comments like this one from The Fantastic Art of Beksinski (1998): “Meaning is meaningless to me. I do not care for symbolism, and I paint what I paint without meditating on a story.”

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For more about the anti-symbolist, see The Cursed Paintings of Zdzislaw Beksinski by Marek Kepa. (As before, my apology to Polish readers for the unaccented names. The blog coding only works with a limited range of accents.)

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
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Previously on { feuilleton }
Cosmic music and cosmic horror

Weekend links 547

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Anti-Vanitas (2018) by Carrie Ann Baade.

• RIP Richard Corben, an artist whose work I wasn’t always keen on but whose enthusiasm for pulp weirdness and cosmic horror was matched by a pulp vitality of his own. Corben’s Den was the first story in the first issue of Heavy Metal, a strip in which Den’s ever-present penis provided some rare equality of nudity in American comics. Corben was also a lifelong Lovecraftian; his 1972 adaptation of The Rats in the Walls is one of the earliest Lovecraft-derived comic strips.

• “Wit was the great man’s defence. Once, crossing Leicester Square with a friend, he looked up and saw a cinema marquee advertising a new film: Michael Redgrave and Dirk Bogarde in The Sea Shall Not Have Them. Coward turned to his friend and said: ‘I don’t see why not. Everyone else has.'” Philip Hoare on Noël Coward’s private lives: the photographs that could have landed him in jail.

• The end of the year brings the lists: Strange Flowers’ Secret Satan, 2020 is a guide to a surfeit of delectable volumes, while at 3 Quarks Daily Dave Maier selects his favourite ambient music of the year.

It’s not an easy life, but for Layne it is better than the alternative. “There is a generation of writers who think that it is a perfectly acceptable thing to accumulate a couple of hundred thousand dollars in student loan debt and go write “takes”—contrary opinion on things like ‘Why Dogs Are Actually The Worst Pet.’” None of it is new, he says, “it’s what people were doing when Rome burned.” But it has left us worse off, he says.

“I feel like we are post-language now,” he says. “Things are more symbolic. The relationship between words and facts and objectivity and their impact seems to have separated to the point where most of the writing that I see, especially on something like Twitter, is by people baffled that people don’t get what they are trying to say. It’s depressing.”

Dominic Rushe on how Ken Layne created an alternative to clickbait in the desert

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Dennis Cooper‘s favourite fiction, poetry, non-fiction, film, art, and internet of 2020. Thanks again for the link here!

• The week in strange worlds: The Strange World of Colossive Press, and The Strange World of Robbie Basho.

• The Images Wish To Speak: An interview with artist Carrie Ann Baade.

Jackson Arn on why so many filmmakers have paid homage to Pieter Bruegel.

Physicists nail down the “Magic Number” that shapes the Universe.

Dreams, Built By Hand

Shadow (1990) by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan | Shadows (1994) by Pram | Shadow Of A Twisted Hand Across My House (2001) by I.E.M.

Harry Clarke record covers

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Hector Berlioz: Highlights From La Damnation De Faust (1960); Paris Opera Orchestra And Chorus, André Cluytens.  Artwork: “I wish you had something else to do than torment me when I’m quiet” from Faust (1925).

Continuing an occasional series about artists or designers whose work has appeared on record sleeves. Harry Clarke would have been added to this list some time ago but it’s taken a while for Discogs to fill in the gaps ignored by its dominant core of techno-techno-techno obsessives. Clarke’s work is also much more visible today, as a result of which many of the releases here are very recent. The viral nature of internet popularity is a great thing for artists whose work can be shared and appreciated instantly. The drawback is demonstrated by the following albums, many of which recycle the same few drawings from Clarke’s Poe and Faust volumes. I’m sure the musicians who relish Clarke’s work for its grotesque or decadent qualities would find something equally appealing in his Swinburne illustrations if they sought them out. As before, this is probably an incomplete list so if anyone knows of other suitable candidates then please leave a comment.

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Tales of Terror (1971) read by Nelson Olmsted. Artwork: The Man of the Crowd from Tales of Mystery and Imagination (second edition, 1923).

A double album of readings from horror stories. I used to own this one, mainly for the cover since I don’t recall playing it very much. The gatefold interior features Clarke’s painting for The Fall of the House of Usher together with a note from beyond the grave by HP Lovecraft.

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Hector Berlioz / Claude Debussy: La Damnation De Faust / La Damoiselle Elue (1988); Suzanne Danco, David Poleri, Martial Singher, Donald Gramm, Victoria De Los Angeles, Charles Munch, Boston Symphony Orchestra. Artwork: “Forward! Forward!—Faster! Faster!” from Faust (1925).

The classical labels are at least justified in their use of the Faust illustrations. This cropped painting is one of two pieces depicting Faust and Mephistopheles on horseback that suggest Clarke’s parallel career as a stained-glass artist.

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New Dark Age (1998) by Solstice. Artwork: collage of drawings from Faust (1925).

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Mythical & Magical (2008) by Pagan Altar. Artwork: collage of drawings from Faust (1925).

Continue reading “Harry Clarke record covers”

Weekend links 543

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Adolph Sutro’s Cliff House in a Storm (c. 1900) by Tsunekichi Imai.

• Good to see a profile of Wendy Carlos, and to hear that she’s still working even though all her albums (to which she owns the rights) have been unavailable for the past two decades. I’d be wary of praising Switched-On Bach too much to avoid giving new listeners a wrong impression. The album was a breakthrough in 1968 but was quickly improved upon by The Well-Tempered Synthesizer (1969) and Switched-On Bach II (1973). And my two favourites, A Clockwork Orange – The Complete Original Score (1972) and the double-disc ambient album, Sonic Seasonings (1972), are superior to both.

• “[Sandy Pearlman] told me that one of the main inspirations was HP Lovecraft. I said, ‘Oh, which of his books?’ He said, ‘You know, the Cthulhu Mythos stories or At The Mountains Of Madness, any of those.'” Albert Bouchard, formerly of Blue Öyster Cult, talks to Edwin Pouncey about BÖC’s occult-themed concept album, Imaginos (1988), and his affiliated opus, Re Imaginos.

• More electronica: Jo Hutton talks to Caroline Catz, director of the “experimental documentary” Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and Legendary Tapes.

• At the V&A blog Clive Hicks-Jenkins talks to Rebecca Law about his award-winning illustrations for Hansel and Gretel: A Nightmare in Eight Scenes.

• New music: Archaeopteryx is a new album by Monolake; What’s Goin’ On is a further preview of the forthcoming Cabaret Voltaire album, Shadow Of Fear.

Celebrating A Voyage to Arcturus: details of two online events to mark the centenary year of David Lindsay’s novel.

• “Streaming platforms aren’t helping musicians – and things are only getting worse,” says Evet Jean.

• At Spoon & Tamago: the cyberpunk, Showa retro aesthetic of anime Akudama Drive.

• At A Year In The Country: a deep dive into the world of Bagpuss.

Sinister Sounds of the Solar System by NASA on SoundCloud.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Shirley Clarke Day.

Mary Lattimore‘s favourite albums.

• Solaris, Part I: Bach (1972) by Edward Artemiev | Bach Is Dead (1978) by The Residents | Switch On Bach (1981) by Moderne

Weekend links 542

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The Reverse of a Framed Painting (between 1668 and 1672) by Cornelis Norbertus Gysbrechts.

• New music with a cinematic flavour: Disciples Of The Scorpion (Main Theme) Heavy Mix by The Rowan Amber Mill is a taster for the group’s forthcoming imaginary soundtrack, Disciples Of The Scorpion (also a sequel of sorts to The Book Of The Lost); The Quietened Dream Palace is this year’s final themed compilation from A Year In The Country. The subject this time is abandoned cinemas, past and present.

San Francisco Moog: 1968–72 by Doug McKechnie, a collection of early synthesizer music using a modular instrument that was later bought by Tangerine Dream. “The quiescent, meditative pulse of the music has much more in common with what would come to be known as the Berlin school of German electronic music than anything coming out of the US at the time,” says Geeta Dayal.

• Sarah Davachi released a new album recently, Cantus, Descant, so The Quietus asked her to discuss her favourite albums. Related: XLR8R has a mix of the music that Davachi regards as influences. Kudos for the choice of Why Do I Still Sleep by Popol Vuh, an overlooked piece from the end of the group’s career.

When I use relevance as a filter for determining what books to read, I’m failing to make myself available for an authentic encounter with otherness, something genuine art always offers. I’m presuming that I can guess, from the barest plot summary, whether a book will be useful in my life. But how can I know what I will find relevant about a work before I have submitted myself to the experience? I don’t think we are likely to be transformed by art if we try to determine that encounter in advance. Part of the vulnerability necessary for transformation is the recognition that I am, to a great extent, a mystery to myself. How could I know what I need?

Garth Greenwell on the idea that a novel is only worthwhile if it is somehow “relevant”

• “For a long time I had been encouraged by the world of fine art to remove references to the spiritual from my work,” says Penny Slinger in a piece by Hettie Judah exploring the resurgence of interest in occult art. Good to see S. Elizabeth and her book on the subject receiving a mention.

• Arriving on Region B blu-ray later this month is Spring (2014) by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, which 101 Films describes as Richard Linklater channeling HP Lovecraft. I enjoyed Benson & Moorhead’s Resolution (2012) and The Endless (2017) so this one is on pre-order.

• Topical books dept: The Man in the High Chair and Other Tyrannies by Kurt Fawver, a benefit publication for the California Coalition for Women Prisoners.

• We never know exactly where we’re going in outer space: Caleb Scharf on the difficulties of aiming for distant objects in an ever-changing universe.

• Submissions open soon for the contemporary Dada journal Maintenant 15, with a theme of “Humanity: The Reboot”. Details here.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Harry Smith, Filmmaker Day.

Pandemonium – Spring (1985) by Peter Principle | Silent Spring (2006) by Massive Attack feat. Elizabeth Fraser | Spring Stars (2009) by Simon Scott