The Ingenious by Darius Hinks

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My latest cover for Angry Robot Books was revealed this week at the Barnes & Noble blog (where I talk a little about the design aspects) so here it is. The Ingenious is an alchemy-themed fantasy by Darius Hinks, the brief for which required a depiction of the city of Athanor, the central character, Isten, and some indication of the novel’s occult flavour:

Thousands of years ago, the city of Athanor was set adrift in time and space by alchemists called the “Curious Men.” Ever since, it has accumulated cultures, citizens and species into a vast, unmappable metropolis.

Isten and her gang of half-starved political exiles live off petty crime and gangland warfare in Athanor’s seediest alleys. Though they dream of returning home to lead a glorious revolution, Isten’s downward spiral drags them into a mire of addiction and violence. Isten must find a way to save the exiles and herself if they are ever to build a better, fairer world for the people of their distant homeland.

I was also asked to do something in the detailed drawing style of artists such as Philippe Druillet and Ian Miller, a challenge I was happy to accept with the proviso that both those artists are inimitable. As I say in the B&N post, I went in a Miller direction although I don’t know whether anyone would spot the influence. I was more overt years ago in some of my borrowings from Druillet whose aesthetics can be discerned in my poor artwork for Hawkwind and my much better artwork for The Call of Cthulhu. The background pattern was the kind of thing I often do where I spend hours working on something then cover it over, but more of the interlacing and symbolism (all genuine alchemical symbols) will be visible on the back of the book.

The Ingenious will be published on 9th February, 2019.

Previously on { feuilleton }
De Sphaera
Delineations
Musaeum Hermeticum
A triangular book about alchemy
Alembic and Ligier Richier
Atalanta Fugiens
Splendor Solis revisited
Laurie Lipton’s Splendor Solis
The Arms of the Art
Splendor Solis
Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae
Cabala, Speculum Artis Et Naturae In Alchymia
Digital alchemy

HR Giger’s Passagen

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HR Giger’s art books were always very thorough in detailing all the media manifestations of the artist’s work, including film and television appearances. For years this presented tantalising questions, especially regarding the lengthy pre-Alien documentaries that were listed there: what were these films, and when would we get to see them? Giger’s Necronomicon (1976) did finally appear on YouTube a few years ago, and now here’s the second of the pair thanks to an upload of what appears to be a Japanese laserdisc.

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Passagen was made in 1972 by Giger’s friend Fredi M. Murer, their third film collaboration after Heimkiller and High (1967) and Swiss Made 2069 (1968). The latter (which Giger co-directed) is still frustratingly absent from the web, and similarly tantalising for being a 45-minute piece of underground science fiction which features Giger’s first production designs for cinema. Passagen was less ambitious, a 50-minute documentary about Giger’s work made for the German TV station, WDR. As a documentary it functions as a companion to Giger’s Necronomicon, while both films complement the subsequent art books, especially Giger’s Necronomicon (the book) which features many of the paintings seen in the films, together with anecdotes about their origins and inspiration. One of these anecdotes, about the nightmares induced in the young Hans Rudi by a stairway in the hotel next door to the Giger family home, is recounted in Passagen alongside the vertiginous drawings the nightmares inspired. It’s impossible to consider this piece of child psychology, and to watch the artist walking up and down stairs and stepladders, without recalling that Giger died after falling down a flight of stairs in 2014.

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Giger’s Necronomicon is the more interesting of the two documentaries, especially now that the life and work is so well known; the art is taken more for granted, and we also get to see Giger at work on one of his big airbrush paintings. Passagen spends much of its time attempting to contextualise Giger’s drawings and paintings for an unwitting television audience, so a great deal of the running time is given over to newsreel footage of wars, riots, terrorism, atomic explosions and so on. A geneticist discusses the effects of atomic mutation while Giger’s earliest series of pictures, Atomkinder, is shown; psychoanalysts examine his paintings from a psychosexual angle.

Of more interest for Giger aficionados is the presence of his partner at the time, Li Tobler, the subject of several memorable portraits from this period. Among the working shots, the best shows Giger improvising a drawing with the same speed as Philippe Druillet in the Ô Sidarta film. Giger only started using an airbrush in 1972 so most of the works seen here are either early drawings or the paintings in the Passagen and Alptraum series, the style and colouring of which is much closer to the art world of 1972 than anything which would follow. For me the greatest revelation comes early on when Giger picks out a record to play while he’s working. The disc he chooses is just identifiable as Universal Consciousness by Alice Coltrane, an album which had been released the year before. (This isn’t the music heard on the soundtrack, however.) Alice Coltrane’s brand of ecstatic, pan-religious jazz would seem remote from Giger’s own universe but the choice isn’t so surprising if you know that he’d been a jazz enthusiast since the 1950s; in The Book of Alien (1979) his list of influences includes HP Lovecraft, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

As is evident from the screen grabs, the film is hard-coded throughout with Japanese subtitles. Unlike Giger’s Necronomicon there’s no English overdub either, the soundtrack is in German throughout. I can’t complain when I’ve been waiting so long to be able to see this at all. For those who watched the later film divided into four YouTube clips there’s now a complete version (also Japanese but with English overdub) here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Heimkiller and High
The Man Who Paints Monsters In The Night
Hans by Sibylle
HR Giger album covers
Giger’s Necronomicon
Dan O’Bannon, 1946–2009
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune
The monstrous tome

Weekend links 402

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Cover art for the 1921 edition by W. Otway Cannell.

• “An exiled recluse, an ancient abode in the remote west of Ireland, nightly attacks by malevolent swine-things from a nearby pit, and cosmic vistas beyond time and space. The House on the Borderland has been praised by China Miéville, Terry Pratchett, and Clark Ashton Smith, while HP Lovecraft wrote, ‘Few can equal [Hodgson] in adumbrating the nearness of nameless forces and monstrous besieging entities through casual hints and significant details, or in conveying feelings of the spectral and abnormal.’

“‘Almost from the moment that you hear the title,’ observes Alan Moore, ‘you are infected by the novel’s weird charisma. Knock and enter at your own liability.’ The House on the Borderland remains one of Hodgson’s most celebrated works. This new edition features an introduction by Alan Moore, an afterword by Iain Sinclair, and illustrations by John Coulthart.” The long-gestating illustrated edition of William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland is now available for pre-order from Swan River Press. This is limited to 350 copies so I’d advise anyone interested to order as soon as they can; there’s been a lot of interest in the edition, and with the print run being a small one it’s liable to sell out quickly.

• “Art et Liberté was a movement that came into being in 1938 in Cairo. It was affiliated to Surrealism through contact with André Breton in Paris, and shared Surrealism’s spirit of rebellion and provocation, its desire for dream knowledge and penchant for manifestos.” Marina Warner on the neglected history of Egyptian Surrealism.

• Titan Comics follow their recent collection of Philippe Druillet’s first six Lone Sloane stories with Gail, a book which I don’t think has received an English translation until now.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 641 by Alva Noto, a mix by Chris Carter for Bleep/NTS, and Through A Landscape Of Mirrors Vol. I: Sweden by David Colohan.

• 200 years after the first publication of Frankenstein, the city of Bath is to unveil a plaque commemorating Mary Shelley‘s time spent there while writing the book.

• Southern Lord co-founder Gregg Anderson talks to Red Bull Radio about running a record label devoted to avant-garde metal.

• Twelve illustrated dust jackets from Martin Salisbury’s The Illustrated Dust Jacket: 1920–1970.

• At MetaFilter: Links to Hokusai’s drawing guides and similar books.

Canada Modern

Grief (1999) by Tactile | In The Cellar (2005) by Nostalgia | The House On The Borderland (2008) by Electric Wizard

Weekend links 374

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Le Chasseur by Lupe Vasconcelos who was profiled this week at Unquiet Things, and whose work may also be seen at the Ars Necronomica art show in Providence, RI, until the end of the month.

• “After a morning’s writing, Stevenson would entertain himself with music, particularly the flageolet, which he played so badly ‘people fled from the sound’.” Peter Moore reviewing Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa by Joseph Farrell.

• Jon Hassell’s 1981 album, Dream Theory in Malaya: Fourth World Volume Two, will be reissued next month.

• Mixes of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 228 by Arma Agharta, FACT Mix 614 by Do Make Say Think.

Yet, entertaining as all this is, in a macabre key, the dead are hard to think about—and, in many ways, to read about. Unlike animals, which Lévi-Strauss declared were not only good to eat but bon à penser, too, I found that I averted my eyes, so to speak, several times as I was reading this book. Not because of the infinite and irreversible sadness of mortality, or because of the grue, the fetor, the decay, the pervasive morbidity—though Laqueur’s gallows humour about scientific successes in the calcination of corpses can be a bit strong—but because the dead present an enigma that can’t be grasped: they are always there in mind, they come back in dreams, live in memory, and if they don’t, if they’re forgotten as so many millions of them must be, that is even more disturbing, somehow reprehensible. The disappeared are the unquietest ghosts. Simone Weil writes that the Iliad is a poem that shows how “force…turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse out of him.” But Laqueur is surely right to inquire why that thing, the “disenchanted corpse…bereft, vulnerable, abject”, is a very different kind of thing from the cushion I am sitting on or even my iPad (which keeps giving signs of a mind of its own). I have always liked Mme du Deffand’s comment, when asked if she believed in ghosts. A philosopher and a free thinker, she even so replied: “Non, mais j’en ai peur.” (“No, but I am frightened of them.”)

Marina Warner reviewing The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains by Thomas Laqueur

New Worlds magazine at the Internet Archive. Not a complete run but it’s a start.

Brigit Katz on breakthroughs in the scientific search to replicate psilocybin.

• The relaunched (and slightly renamed) Manchester Digital Music Archive.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Robert Altman Day (restored/expanded).

• RM Rhodes presents the art of Philippe Druillet.

Fragile Self

Dream Lover (1964) by The Paris Sisters | Dream Street (1966) by Henry Mancini | Dream Letter (1969) by Tim Buckley

Isles of the Dead

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The Isle of the Dead (version five, 1886) by Arnold Böcklin, Leipzig, Museum der bildenden Künste.

Reading old comics recently turned up the page below by Philippe Druillet which I didn’t remember having seen before. The drawing is from Gail, one of Druillet’s Lone Sloane stories (but not one included in the Six Voyages of Lone Sloane), and shows the entrance to a typically sinister Druillet city modelled on one of Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead paintings. (Druillet’s original was in black-and-white but was later coloured.) This derivation manages to keep all of Böcklin’s details while cleverly turning the cypresses into a fanged mouth.

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Philippe Druillet (1976).

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Böcklin’s cemetery isle has been the subject of several posts here, being one of my favourite paintings and also an object of fascination for its continuing influence in a variety of media: novels, films, music and, of course, comics. Druillet quotes from other artists in his Lone Sloane stories—notably Escher and Grandville—so the Böcklin quotation wasn’t too much of a surprise. Toteninsel.net, the website devoted to works influenced by The Isle of the Dead, turned up a few more comic-related examples, some of which are featured below. What’s notable about the examples at Toteninsel is that they’re all from European artists; that’s not to say there isn’t an example to be found in American comics but European comic art seems much more aware of Symbolist painting.

Continue reading “Isles of the Dead”