Out of This World / Mœbius

One day years ago, as I was going about my business online, skimming through images and articles in dismissive boredom, I stumbled upon something truly extraordinary. An artist whose work made my mind completely blank and quiet and what I remember feeling was an outward wave of tingling energy from my heart all the way to the tips of my fingers. It’s a similar feeling to falling in love when your eyes meet someone else’s.

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It was an image by Jean Giraud, also known as Moebius, comfortably nestled amongst the piles and piles of whatever Pinterest had to offer at the time. “Esteemed by Federico Fellini, Stan Lee and Hayao Miyazaki among others, he has been described as the most influential bandes dessinées (comic strip) artist after Hergé.

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I was mesmerised by his use of colour, composition and detail. It is apparent in each and every image of his, instant awareness of space and scale. Simple, yet so complex it spins your head. It is an experience in itself of another world, another universe, and it all originated from the mind of this one person.

Jean Giraud (8 May 1938 – 10 March 2012) has since been one of my absolute favourite artists and I whenever I find myself looking for inspiration or ideas I always seem to find the perfect piece. It was too soon after I discovered his work that I found out he died after battling cancer for a long time.

Many artists have since paid their tributes, including Paul Pope whose Adventure Time Moebius-styled short comic strip was featured in AT Issue 5. I took the liberty of putting it in just below.

Codex Seraphinianus

 

First published in 1981, Codex Seraphinianus is an illustrated encyclopaedia of an imaginary world, created by Italian artist Luigi Serafini.

915z6VMvHTL“Organized in eminently logical fashion, it describes a system of knowledge that—at least in its structure—mirrors our own: here are botany, zoology, chemistry, physics, engineering, anatomy, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and urban studies, each describing its object with a peculiarly recognizable exactitude.
Discover for yourself, reader, such wonders as the purple-caged citrus, the spider-web flower, the parfait protea, and the ladder weed. This is a world inhabited by weird half-sentient flora such as the tadpole tree and the meteor-fruit, by the lacy flying-saucer fish, the wheeled caterpillar-rumped horse, and the metamorphic bicranial rhino.
The planet’s sentient species are here as well—races like the Garbage-Dwellers, the Road-Traffic and the Yarn People, and the exotic Rodent-Skin Weaers… Nor can we forget to mention the Homo-Saurians, whose unusual sexual life-cycle is graphically described.
Merely to name these creatures is to confront the limits of our language.”

This is a short cover-jacket description of the journey about to be undertaken by the viewer* lucky enough to have obtained a copy of the Codex, which is rarely reprinted.

*Why viewer and not reader? The Codex, as scientific as it may look, is written in a systematised asemic language which Serafini invented. As the book is in essence an encyclopaedia , it only makes sense for it to be written in the language of the place it explores and thoroughly describes (even if that place is the product of one man’s fantastic imagination). Even though Serafini has stated himself that the text doesn’t mean anything, there have been many attempts to crack the code, the language of the book, but none have really been successful. However, the number system used has been deciphered (independently) by Allan C. Wechsler and Ivan Derzhanski (Bulgarian linguist, find his notes here), among others.

codex-seraphinianus-1When going through it we can tell that the Codex is divided into several parts beginning with a botanical chapter describing the world’s flora. From microorganisms and particles to larger increasingly-bizarre plants, trees and their processes and place within the environment. We begin to familiarise ourselves with the setting.

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The second part covers the fauna – surreal and oddly combined elements – animals and objects which create mind-twisting fusions and most of the time one ends up wondering how would this even work and what are the physical laws that allow for it…?

Imagination is pushing the edges of logical thinking and it’s pushing with the force of limitless potential. The sane mind has no chance against this book, a certain amount of madness is needed to appreciate such an astonishing piece of work.

 

The complexity increases with the third chapter where we explore the kingdom of unfamiliar bipedal creatures – they are a bit like what we would call centaurs but with the difference that these beings have humanoid legs and the upper body is… potentially anything you could think of.

The most captivating and mind-twisting part of the book is perhaps the fourth chapter – the one which covers what we can only imagine to be the scientific laws and physics which govern the world. Its almost abstract imagery brings science to the level of magic (all magic is just science we don’t understand yet) and truly makes you appreciate the complexity of this imaginary world. Imaginary worlds are governed by imaginary laws, but they are laws nonetheless.

Science leads to inventions so naturally, that is what the next chapter is all about. All the most bizarre machines, gadgets and technology.

The sixth chapter is devoted to the humanities. From biology to reproduction and sexuality, the diversity of peoples and studies of limbs or other body parts morphed into tools and objects…What you see below is one of the most famous and widely-recognised illustrations from the Codex. It’s pretty much self-explanatory.

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The book continues with a chapter on the history of the world and its people – the early days, the developments of societies, political and religious systems and scenes, as well as different customs.

There is also a whole chapter describing the Codex’s writing system… in that same writing system – an inception of sorts. It is followed by a chapter on food, dining, clothing and fashion. Next come the games and sports activities, and the last chapter solely explores architecture.

I will finish with one of the pages I found most intriguing – the man with a pen for a hand, sitting in front of notepad on an easel. What I find so interesting about it is that it mirrors something which happens in our won world and that is scribbles – they mean nothing. Here we have spilled ink on the floor, and an arrangement of what initially would seem to be random scribbles but are in fact actual letters and words in French. Unfortunately I don;t know the language (yet) but it says something about an orgiastic girl emerging and guessing or wondering, and then something about the first days of the Blaba dam… (guessing at foreign languages is so much fun!)

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There is so much more to the Codex but I will leave that for those curious enough to go through the whole thing themselves. It is indeed an astonishing (and frighteningly consistent) piece of work.

Below is a video interview with Serafini himself (yes, he is still alive) about how the codex came to be and what it’s all about.

rise and fall / micah lidberg

Tom Rolfe, fellow course mate, illustrator, and printmaker, showed me a concertina booklet by Nobrow Press he’d recently bought – Rise and Fall by Micah Lidberg. It hit me instantly – the bright colours, simple shapes and markmaking, layering of elements, juxtaposition… and most importantly, the continuous image showing the unfolding of a timeline. I immediately knew I wanted to do something of the sort, and I believe this is how the 3,3m piece came about (that and my friend reminding me about scrolls and such).

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NoBrow Technique Research

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After the presentation feedback and going through Rise and Fall again, I will be attempting a simplification of the narrative and visual language, as well as a scale expansion (moving towards a hanging installation rather than a handheld scroll).

iron & wine / sam beam

 

I hadn’t paid attention to the album artwork of Iron & Wine until recently. I did a bit of research and was beautifully surprised to find out Sam Beam (known as Iron & Wine) was not only a film tutor before he started making music, but he also did most of his own album artworks.

In an interview with Rachael Maddux he shared that he was always drawing as a kid. He went to art school where he specialised in photography and film, but he always loved drawing and painting.

“…it’s fun to take an image and sort of try to match it with the style of the music on your record — in a surreal way sort of tangentially comment on the music by painting yourself. I like the challenge.”
-S.B.

“The original idea was — remember when we were kids and you’d color on a piece of paper with a crayon and you’d paint over that with black Tempera paint and then etch out the drawing?” […] “The idea was to do something like that, so I actually did a bunch of physical ones. But I kept fucking up, so I did it with, like, black ink and a brush — just drawing on white paper. And then we flipped it in the computer and then we were able to color it. We did a bunch of different versions of the colorization and still kind of kept that main idea of all those random colors you get when you actually do that kind of a etching kind of thing, where the color bleeds into the objects in the background. We were able to do a bunch of different versions. . . . We toyed with the idea of including ones for people to draw themselves, but it was kind of a big commitment.”
-S.B. (on the cover art for ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’)

This was the artwork that inspired this post and the research into the visual side of Iron & Wine. Not only does it coincide with my first attempts at album cover art, but also with my recent experiments with inverting images. Reading about his process has inspired me to try it out myself – keep it simple with black and white and then add colour digitally. I do enjoy having a coloured original which is probably why I haven’t thought to try this out yet.

It was actually the cover of Our Endless Numbered Days that I saw first, though I’d been listening to his music before, I hadn’t paid attention. In the interview he says he likes the idea of a recognisable cover, where you always know that it is this or that artist, but he just works the opposite way. He has different versions of the same self-portrait for Our Endless Numbered DaysSuch Great Heights, and Passing Afternoon.

The cover art for The Shepherd’s Dog is an incredibly captivating painting. The use of colour and positioning give off the hint of a certain dark madness in broad daylight – an exciting way to perceive the music in the album.

James Green’s Rhondda World

A couple of weeks ago James Green had a show at Cardiff M.A.D.E. which was very exciting to see. The works included decorated tribal masks, a room of collages (quite literally) and several mind-blowing paintings.

Since last year’s Field module led by James – Gorillas in the Roses, collaging has become synonymous in my mind with creative madness. There’s something very special about it – dismissible yet profound qualities…

“James Green’s Rhondda World is not a single world, but a place where numberless cultures, histories, fantasies and fabrications jostle against one another in permanent upheaval. Incongruous worlds are shuffled like a giant deck of cards. Each shuffle opens new doors into the possible and improbable. Some of these worlds are real and tangible, some are imaginary; sometimes the different worlds mesh together to produce a new reality, at other times they clash and rebound spilling disconnected ideas in their wake. ”
Dr Jon Clarkson

artist research / Kuniyoshi

Another artist suggested by James (to someone else, but I was also interested).

Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre

Giant Carp, detail

 

Cats forming the characters for catfish
‘Octopus’

 

 

artist research / Judith Braun

An interesting mark-making technique I recently stumbled upon which I found quite captivating.

artist research / collage art

Jess Collins

The Virtue of Incertitude Perplexing the Vice of Definition. Jess Collins. Collage.
O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica

Lawrence Jordan

Lawrence Jordan’s collage, “The Huntsman’s Dream” ; source: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/umbrella-vs-sewing-machine/Content?oid=3125597
A Heavenly Time, Lawrence Jordan, original paper collage, 34 “x 28.5”, 2012
Ignus Electrici, Lawrence Jordan, mixed media diorama,15.5″ x 11″ x 4.5″, 1964; source: https://www.artpractical.com/event/10405-prodigies-of-physical-phenomena/
“Lawrence Jordan uses experimental animation to explore the subconscious. “

 

Robert Rauchenberg

Autobiography, 1968. ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG American (b. 1925). Offset lithograph on paper Gift of the Arch H. and Stella Rowan Foundation in Honor of Bob Green. source: http://www.theoldjailartcenter.org/RobertRauschenberg/

Autobiography, 1968. ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG American (b. 1925). Offset lithograph on paper Gift of the Arch H. and Stella Rowan Foundation in Honor of Bob Green. source: http://www.theoldjailartcenter.org/RobertRauschenberg/
source: http://galleryhip.com/robert-rauschenberg-artwork.html
source: http://galleryhip.com/robert-rauschenberg-artwork.html
source: http://pictify.com/373532/robert-rauschenberg-minutiae-1954
source: http://imgkid.com/rauschenberg-collage.shtml

Joe Orton & Kenneth Halliwell

the Islington flat richly decorated by Kenneth Halliwell
from Malicious damage (Joe Orton & Kenneth Halliwell
from Malicious Damage
from Malicious Damage

 

Picasso (& his works on paper)

Tom Philips / A Humument

Humument: A Human Document

During one of our GITR sessions our group went to the library where we had the chance to go through a few good examples of beautiful artist books including two copies of Tom Philips’s Humument: A Human Document. A Human Document, originally by W H Mallock, is, “a forgotten Victorian novel found by chance […] plundered, mined, and undermined […] to make it yield the ghosts of other possible stories, scenes, poems and replaced the text [he’d] stripped away with visual images of all kinds.” ( http://painting.about.com/od/productreviews/gr/humument.htm) The result is an enchanting book where each page is an artwork on its own – one strange unpredictable arrangement of words and textures/colours after another.

What started out as “idle play” grew into a project “lasting half a lifetime.” When Tom Philips started the book (in 1966) he had in mind not visual imagery but cut up poetry. “it was not long before the possibility became apparent of making a synthesis of word and image” and “painting (in acrylic gouache) became the basic technique.”

When I first saw the book I thought it was impossible for all the pages to be illustrated and yet they were. Books like that, they don’t just make me think, they inspire me as they let me see consistency and order, colours, words, communication, exploration and so much more. Books like that  open a world of possibilities.

Rebecca Hammett, MFA / Performance

 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d7a/58572234/files/2014/12/img_6122.jpgRebecca Hammet, MFA / Performance

 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d7a/58572234/files/2014/12/img_6123.jpgRebecca Hammett, MFA

 

As the second part of one of our Painting Performance sessions we had a guest performer from the Fine Art Masters course (CSAD), Rebecca Hammett, who was testing out her invention – a set of wooden bionic-type arm-like extensions with a brush attached to each end.

For about 10-15 minutes she was stood in front of the paper, moving her body up and down and sideways, letting the arms do the painting for her. It was actually quite interesting to observe her movements and actions, analyse her process and direction towards a final outcome. I was (and always have been, really) fascinated by the growth of a piece of artwork, in this case, from a single pair of marks, to a whirlpool of overlapping, chaotic strokes, a slow yet dynamic mixing experiment. I also got to thinking about taking it further, exploring colour in a completely new way… ideas like adding a single colour to one brush, or to another, or adding two, three, more colours, or even turning the combination into a sort of gradient experiment in which each brush has the same colour but with a different hue/tone/etc.

I find it really pleasing when an artwork (and of course the process of making one) inspires a focus in me, focus towards my own practice and developing my ideas. Also, it was really nice of Rebecca to let a few people try it out.

 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d7a/58572234/files/2014/12/img_6126.jpgEthan Dodd (from my group) trying out the ‘arms’