Urbatecture

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Spotted at Neatorama this week, Cédric Dequidt‘s Urbicande lamp, a cubic design which appears to be sinking into the table. The Neatorama people don’t seem aware that the name of the lamp refers to Fever in Urbicande (1985), a comic book by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, and the second volume in the masterful Cités Obscures series.

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Fever in Urbicand: Urbatect Eugen Robick ponders the properties of the strange cube which is invulnerable yet able to grow through solid materials.

The mysterious para-dimensional cube and its effects on the divided city of Urbicande have been described here already. Fever in Urbicande is my favourite of the core stories by Schuiten and Peeters, and it seems to be one of the more popular of Schuiten’s creations to judge by the lamp and some of the spin-off works that follow.

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Fever in Urbicand: Several months later, and the cube has burgeoned into a city-spanning “Network”.

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Temptations

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Exhibition catalogue.

In one of the many recent features about Leonora Carrington I noticed a mention of her Temptation of St Anthony painting from 1945 (see below). This was one of eleven works on the theme submitted by different artists for a competition staged to promote Albert Lewin’s The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947), a film adaptation of the Guy de Maupassant novel. Carrington is often mentioned when this competition is discussed, along with the other big names, Max Ernst (the winner) and Salvador Dalí. But you seldom see mention of any of the other competitors, hence this post, an attempt to find all of the competition entries.

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Leonora Carrington. St. Anthony is often shown with a pig companion but only Carrington depicted the animal for this competition. When asked why the saint had three heads, she replied “Why not?”

Albert Lewin didn’t make many films but he had a predilection for arty subjects, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami being preceded by adaptations of The Moon and Sixpence (1942) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). All three films star George Sanders, and all feature special colour sequences when a painting is revealed. 1945 was the peak of America’s brief infatuation with Surrealism (Hitchcock had Dalí working on Spellbound at this time) so Lewin asked a number of Surrealists to take up the challenge. I was surprised to find that Stanley Spencer was one of the entrants, a name you almost never see in this company; less surprising was Ivan Albright whose painting of the decayed Dorian Gray is one of the highlights of Lewin’s earlier film. Leonor Fini was also asked to take part but she didn’t produce anything. The judges were Marcel Duchamp, Alfred J. Barr, Jr, director of the Museum of Modern Art, and art dealer Sidney Janis. Ernst won a cash prize variously reported as $2500–3000, while the other entrants received smaller sums. The paintings toured the USA and Britain during 1946–7.

As to the film, I can’t say what this is like because it’s one I’ve yet to see but Self-Styled Siren’s witty review goes into some detail. Hollywood apparently had problems with the adult subject matter (Sanders’ character is described as a sexually predatory social climber), and Lewin was forced to tone things down.

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Ivan Albright.

Albright’s contribution is so frenzied and detailed it approaches psychedelia. Best seen in this large view at Flickr.

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Papillons de Nuit, a film by Raoul Servais

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From Homosurrealism to Belgio-surrealism. Papillons de Nuit (1997) is a short homage to the Surrealist painter Paul Delvaux featuring a handful of familiar Delvaux motifs including nocturnal tramcars and large-eyed, bare-breasted women. Raoul Servais had already borrowed some of Delvaux’s imagery for his feature-length fantasy, Taxandria (1994), but that film doesn’t sustain itself over its running time despite the involvement of Alain Robbe-Grillet and François Schuiten. Servais’s blend of live action and animation seems to work better in concentrated doses.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Sirene by Raoul Servais
Paul Delvaux: The Sleepwalker of Saint-Idesbald
Harpya by Raoul Servais
Taxandria, or Raoul Servais meets Paul Delvaux

Sirene by Raoul Servais

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Sirene (1968), a short animation by Belgian filmmaker Raoul Servais, isn’t as sinister as his nightmarish Harpya (1979), despite the similar titles. But Sirene does have a collection of anthropomorphic harbour cranes, and a flock of inexplicable pterodactyls like something out of a Gerald Scarfe cartoon. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Harpya by Raoul Servais
Taxandria, or Raoul Servais meets Paul Delvaux

Paul Delvaux: The Sleepwalker of Saint-Idesbald

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Saint-Idesbald is a small, unremarkable seaside town on the Belgian coast situated between Ostend and the border with France. I spent a week there on a school camping holiday in the 1970s unaware that it was the home of the great Surrealist painter Paul Delvaux (1897–1994). I suppose you could make the argument that the location of Dalí’s home in Cadaqués was equally unremarkable, but Dalí’s house was well-known, and that area of the Spanish coast is familiar from many of his paintings. The surprise in later discovering that Delvaux lived in Saint-Idesbald, rather than Brussels or Bruges, or even Ostend, is that the town is quite unlike the tram-haunted, cobblestoned, moonlit vistas of his paintings. It’s appropriate that JG Ballard thought highly enough of Delvaux to mention his paintings in some of his stories, and also commission reproductions of two lost canvases; Ballard’s Shepperton was an equally unlikely home for such a vivid imagination.

Paul Delvaux: The Sleepwalker of Saint-Idesbald is a film from the Naxos record label that lasts all of three minutes, but which happens to feature the first footage I’ve seen of Paul Delvaux as a working artist. Despite Ballard’s attention, Delvaux has often been passed over as a subject of Surrealist documentaries in favour of the usual trinity of Dalí, Magritte and Max Ernst. There are older documentaries in existence, however, so I’ll continue to hope they may turn up eventually. For anyone who happens to journey near Saint-Idesbald, many of Delvaux’s paintings can be seen in the museum there.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Public Voice by Lejf Marcussen
Ballard and the painters
Taxandria, or Raoul Servais meets Paul Delvaux