Double weird

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Two of the books whose covers I was working on late last year have been announced so here they are. This is more work for PS Publishing where wraparound covers are the standard, so once again I was able to work in a pictorial, landscape format. (PS also do their design in-house so I only did the art this time. Click on the pictures below for larger views.)

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Apostles of the Weird is a collection of contemporary weird fiction edited by ST Joshi:

Weird fiction is an incredibly rich and varied genre, running the gamut from supernatural horror to imaginary-world fantasy to psychological terror. This anthology seeks to exhibit the wide range of themes, motifs, and imagery that weird fiction allows, as embodied in the work of some of the leading contemporary writers in the field. (more)

“Weird” is indeed a very broad category so rather than try and create something that represented a single genre I opted for a weird view instead. The idea was to do something like Borges’s Library of Babel in a space that was a hybrid of Piranesi and MC Escher. I was hoping originally to make this more Escher-like, with a number of gravity-defying staircases, but the underlying drawing took so long that I didn’t have time.

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His Own Most Fantastic Creation: Stories About HP Lovecraft is also edited by ST Joshi:

HP Lovecraft (1890–1937), the pioneering writer of weird fiction, has himself become an icon in popular culture. Stories, novels, and other works featuring the gaunt, lantern-jawed gentleman from Providence, Rhode Island, have proliferated. These works have been triggered by the incredible amount of knowledge we have on the writer—his family, his friends, his idiosyncrasies and eccentricities—as found in his thousands of surviving letters. (more)

This was much easier to achieve since HP Lovecraft is familiar territory. The idea here was to do a portrait of Lovecraft situated in a Lovecraftian zone, a colossal idol of a type that might be found in some of his Cyclopean ruins. Lovecraft and his Weird Tales colleagues had a habit of referring to each other in their stories and letters as though they were ancient priests or sorcerers so portraying Lovecraft in this manner is fitting. The combination of perspective and lighting worked against creating an accurate likeness, however—it doesn’t help that Lovecraft’s features are weird in themselves—so the “HPL” icon is there to affirm the identity.

Both books will be published next month if Great Cthulhu hasn’t risen from the depths by then.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Something from Below

Weekend links 412

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Lovecraft: The Myth of Cthulhu, an English-language edition of three comic-strip adaptations by Esteban Maroto, is now available from IDW.

The Coffin House, a short story by Robert Aickman that’s a taster for the new Aickman collection, Compulsory Games. Anwen Crawford wrote an introduction to Aickman’s world of “strange stories” for The New Yorker. Related: Victoria Nelson, editor of the new collection, chooses ten favourite horror stories.

• German music this week at The Quietus: Sean Kitching talks to Irmin Schmidt about his years with Can; and there’s an extract from Force Majeure, an autobiography by the late Edgar Froese, writing about the early days of Tangerine Dream.

• More German music at Carhartt WIP: a lengthy and revealing interview with guitarist Michael Rother about his time as one half of Neu!. There’s also a bonus Neu!-themed mix (and one of the mixes of the week) by Daniel Miller.

• From October last year, a Stereoklang interview with master synthesist Hideki Matsutake (Logic System, Yellow Magic Orchestra, et al).

• “When did you first get interested in esoteric studies?” Gary Lachman interviewed at The Astral Institute.

• At Sweet Jane: early illustrations by Wojtek Siudmak for Plexus magazine, 1969.

• 87 prints and drawings by MC Escher in zoomable high-resolution.

• Meet the Small Press: James Conway of Rixdorf Editions.

• Mix of the week: Goodbyes & Beginnings by Zach Cowie.

Derek Jarman on the trouble with shopping for clothes.

Person To Person (1981) by Logic System | Plan (1981) by Logic System | Prophet (1981) by Logic System

Richter’s “Anchor Blocks”

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It’s safe to say that I wouldn’t have paid much attention to illustrations from a toy catalogue from 1880 if I hadn’t recognised the pictures from their fleeting appearance in Jan Svankmajer’s Jabberwocky (1971). One sequence in Svankmajer’s animated film has a battalion of toy soldiers emerging from the sleeves of a boy’s sailor suit. While the soldiers march around a table, a drawer opens and the wooden blocks within build themselves into a variety of architectural forms. Cut into this sequence are the pictures from Richter’s toy catalogues.

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The latter have intrigued me ever since I spotted them in the film (the edits are typically brief) for their inadvertent Surrealism, a quality that may also have appealed to Svankmajer. Most catalogues devoted to toy blocks would display their potential constructions in a neutral space; Richter’s catalogue shows the block constructions as life-size architectural creations in otherwise realistic settings. The engraved renderings are rather fine as well, which adds to their strange atmosphere. There’s a definite Escher quality to some of the plates, in the shapes of the buildings—some of which resemble Escher’s famous fantasy constructions—and in the disparities of scale, a factor explored in this print.

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The Internet Archive has two Richter catalogues here and here, both of which contain illustrations seen in Svankmajer’s film. Wikipedia has a short history of the blocks which notes that they also appear in Svankmajer’s Alice (1988).

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Suspiria details

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Wall decor based on MC Escher’s Study of Regular Division of the Plane with Fish and Birds (1938).

A few screen grabs from the weekend’s viewing of a German Blu-ray disc of Suspiria (1977). My old DVD didn’t look too bad but this is one film where high-definition is required to do justice to the vivid lighting and to Giuseppe Bassan’s marvellous production design. The Art Nouveau splendour of the cursed ballet school contains some notable art references but elsewhere there’s the Escher decoration on the walls of the apartment at the beginning, not the kind of decor you expect to find in a horror film. All these images are details cropped from widescreen frames.

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Suzy (Jessica Harper) and Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) in the madame’s office. The mural always fascinated me for being a strange confection of Escher motifs, all winding staircases and architecture borrowed from Belvedere (1958).

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The far right of the same shot showing some of the Beardsley figures that fill the panels of Madame Blanc’s screens.

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MC Escher book covers

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1963. Art: Other World (1947).

MC Escher’s prints have been touring the UK this year: a few months ago they were in Scotland, this month they can be seen at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London. The renewed attention prompted the BBC to produce a documentary, The Art of the Impossible: MC Escher and Me, in collaboration with Professor Roger Penrose. One of the programme researchers saw my earlier post about the use of Escher’s work on album covers, and asked if I wanted to appear on camera talking about this, something I politely refused to do. I’m happy to hold forth from a keyboard, however, so here’s a post about some of the books that have used Esher’s work to decorate their covers. Most of these are fiction but there must be many more non-fiction titles—especially in the fields of science and mathematics—that borrow Escher’s prints.

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The first edition of Calvino’s comic stories from 1965.

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Art: Relativity (1953).

Not a book but editor Michael Moorcock has claimed that this was the first UK magazine to print any of Escher’s work.

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