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.)

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The book covers archive
The fantastic art archive

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Cosmic music and cosmic horror

Weekend links 416

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Cover art and design by Arien Vallzadeh, Dan Kuehn, Mati Klarwein & Taska Cleveland.

• At Bandcamp: “Jon Hassell collages the past on his absorbing new record”. The new album, Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One), was released last week, and it joins the rest of Hassell’s catalogue in sounding unlike any of his other albums while still being recognisably the work of the same artist. Musical collage is a familiar technique today but was much less common thirty years ago; it’s almost a constant in Hassell’s work, however, going back to Possible Musics (1980), with its tape-looped rhythms and layered recordings, to the later Magic Realism (1983), an album which was in the vanguard of digital sampling, and which still sounds like nothing else.

• “We’re supposedly in the middle of a vinyl revival, streaming services are hoovering up all the coin, and everyone seems to have a cassette column. But, argues James Toth, it’s the humble compact disc that we should be celebrating.” No argument here, I’ve long favoured CDs over vinyl even before the current fad for overpriced antique (or not-so-antique) discs and equally overpriced new pressings.

• “Reading [Robert] Aickman’s strange stories is to glimpse a reality you would prefer to forget,” says John Gray. Among the other writers mentioned in Gray’s piece is the excellent (and under-recognised) Walter de la Mare; Wormwoodiana’s Mark Valentine reviews a previously unseen de la Mare story.

• At The Wire: Greetings Music Lover: The premiere of Steve Urquhart’s new audio documentary exploring the life and work of BBC Radio Lancashire broadcaster and Wire contributor Steve Barker.

• Out in November: k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004–2016).

• “European cinema embraces the vagina—what’s taken Hollywood so long?” asks Anne Billson.

Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded by Jason Heller.

• “Avoid all systems”: Ex-Can vocalist Damo Suzuki is interviewed at Dangerous Minds.

• “A new room in the Great Pyramid”: lost 1963 John Coltrane album discovered.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 656 by Mor Elian, and 6 by The Ephemeral Man.

• An introduction by Erik Davis to The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson.

Pyramid Of The Sun (1960) by Les Baxter | The Giant Pyramid Sitting At The Bottom Of The Sea Of Bermuda And The Ancient People (1979) by Isao Tomita | The Obsidian Pyramid (2005) by Eric Zann

Trois peintres visionnaires, a film by Fabienne Strouvé

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Another gem of an arts documentary, Trois peintres visionnaires is a companion film to Mati Klarwein, peintre Américain: both films feature Klarwein and Ernst Fuchs, while this one also includes another artist, Austrian Arik Brauer (credited as Eric in the titles). As with yesterday’s film there’s a small extract from Popol Vuh’s Hosianna Mantra on the soundtrack plus one of the Cluster and Eno recordings. The three painters are shown performing an impromptu Tibetan (?) chant inside Mati Klarwein’s Aleph Sanctuary then talking together inside Fuchs’ resplendent museum where the Aleph Sanctuary was housed for several years. As before, the conversation is in French but you also get to see Fuchs at work, and there’s a roaming closeup of one of his jewelled paintings.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
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Mati Klarwein, peintre Américain, a film by Fabienne Strouvé
Ernst Fuchs, 1977
The art of Mati Klarwein, 1932–2002

Mati Klarwein, peintre Américain, a film by Fabienne Strouvé

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And speaking of the 1970s and Ernst Fuchs and Mati Klarwein… Fabienne Strouvé’s Mati Klarwein, peintre Américain is a 25-minute portrait of Mati Klarwein and family made in 1979. Despite being filmed in New York City most of the conversation is in French—the Klarweins being fluent speakers—but if you like Klarwein’s art this is still a wonderfully insightful film. I always wonder about the size of paintings and other technical details so it’s good to see that, yes, many of Klarwein’s later works are larger than you might expect from reproductions, and it’s also instructive to see him at work with a portion of his painting covered by masking tape. Ernst Fuchs makes a couple of appearances (speaking French—”psychédélique!”), and you get a brief Mati guide to some of the paintings that comprise the incredible Aleph Sanctuary.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The fantastic art archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ernst Fuchs, 1977
The art of Mati Klarwein, 1932–2002

Art that transcends

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Late last year, US design magazine Communication Arts asked me to write a piece about psychedelic art, past and present. The resulting feature has been out for a couple of weeks in the May/June issue (no. 56) but I hadn’t seen it in print until a copy turned up today. Attempting to wrangle discussion of a very wide-ranging and amorphous field into 1500 words isn’t an easy task but I managed to sketch a history of psychedelic art beginning with Aldous Huxley and Humphrey Osmond’s mescaline experiments in the 1950s. Art that can be considered psychedelic goes back into prehistory but Huxley’s The Doors of Perception (1954) is the first book that considered art in general from a psychedelic viewpoint. That book, and the later Heaven and Hell (1956), are still valuable for their aesthetic meditations however much Huxley’s optimism may have been tainted by the ferment of the 1960s.

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Primitive And Deadly (2014) by Earth. Art by Samantha Muljat.

The psychedelic art of the 60s isn’t exactly overlooked so I paid more attention to tracing the influence of the psychedelic style, and also mentioning painters such as Ernst Fuchs, Alex Grey, Martina Hoffmann and Mati Klarwein. Among the more recent artists, I was pleased that Samantha Muljat‘s album cover for Earth was featured. I’ve been listening to this album a great deal over the past few months, and loved that cover as soon as I saw it. One of the other contemporary names, Brazilian artist Duda Lanna, works in a very different style: bold, vivid, and often abstract. There seems to be a lot of this kind of work around at the moment, so much so that I kept spotting new examples after the article had been delivered. It’s difficult to say whether this is a developing trend or simply a case of there being more of everything around these days. I’ll play safe and suggest it’s probably a bit of both although, as I say at the end of the article, if the movement to legalise drugs gains momentum we can expect to see a lot more psychedelic art.

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Garden of Psychedelic Delights by Duda Lanna.