The fascinating still life portraits of Guiseppe Arcimboldo were largely forgotten in the centuries following his death – until his rediscovery in the 20th century by modernist and surrealist painters such as Picasso and Salvador Dali. How could it happen that such a brilliant and original artist almost vanished from the annals of art history? The Renaissance was marked by a fascination with riddles, puzzles, and the bizarre, which is also evident in the art of his Arcimboldo’s contemporaries, such as Hieronymus Bosch and Peter Bruegel. As the Renaissance faded into Baroque and Rococo this fascination was gradually replaced by esthetic indulgence and dramatic displays, plump women and lavish interiors. In the meantime Prague, where Archimboldo had spent most of his life as a painter for the Habsburg court, was sacked by the Swedish army in 1648, and his work spread across Europe. Arcimboldo’s assembled portraits are playful, but also scientific in their representation of nature. He was certainly an eccentric, but his absurd, yet analytical portraits still capture us almost five hundred years later. For those wanting to read more about Arcimboldo, there is a great article about him at rhetoricaldeivice.com
I scanned these images from a book found in Keith Fawkes Books in Hampstead, London. It’s the messiest and most chaotic bookshop I’ve ever been into, but those are the kind of places where strange treasures like “Visions of the Future” can be found. The subtitle reads: “An exciting and novel selction of science fiction art of today”. The book was a British publication, featuring at the time young British artists. Judging from a quick round on google, most of them seem to be active still. So there is plenty of inspiration out there! Here are five of my favourite artworks from the book, which stood out among all the weird and funky sci-fi kitsch.
If you happened to watch Dumbo as a kid, you might remember the scene where dumbo falls into a tub filled with champagne and accidentialy becomes intoxicated by alcohol. Dumbo’s hallicunations however are quite wild, and point in the direction of something else having found its way into the drink. Did Disney’s animators draw inspiration from some other, more exotic substance, back in 1941 when they created this segment of the Dumbo movie? I guess we will never know, but in any case “Pink Elephants on Parade” remains one of the most colourful and fantastic moments in the history of animated cartoons.
I decided it’s time for me to showcase some of my own work, namely my digital collages. The first one was created in 2005 after a visit to a friend in Spain. Having collected all sorts of things since childhood, the flamboyant gay man with the baroque wig was responsible for turning my collection into a creative laboratory. I found him on a leaflet in Barcelona, announcing a major gay disco event. When I came back home, he just fit right in with the glossy collectable pictures I had gotten from my sister as a child. In the background I put a starry sky and space rockets from my father’s 1950s trading cards collection. The resulting piece can be seen underneath. Since then I have been steadily adding new works to my digital collage universe, with the herbal Jesus as the latest addition, made in 2011. They were all part of an exhibition in Mumbai, India in 2011, together with Ismael Sanz Peña’s animations. Himali Singh Soin arranged the exhibition and actually made it happen. To see more of my artwork, look here.
This surrealistic animation from 1978 is a real feast for the eyes, so full of wonky weirdness you can not avoid being amazed. It’s a bit like seventies counter culture meets Betty Boop and Koko the clown in outer space. In fact Sally Cruikshank has admitted to being influenced by Fleischer Studios (who made Betty Boop) – but that said, she is a one of a kind genius – owing her success to a wildly creative imagination. In addition to making her own movies, Sally Cruikshank worked for many years producing short animations for Sesame Street. The inspiration for this film seems to be the flimsy world of healing, astrology and new age hocus-pocus.
This thriller of a movie has a special cast in a special set; all characters come from the brands that invade our lives, and the drama unfolds in a corporate city of logos and trademarks. It won Oscars for best animated short film in 2010, but somehow hasn’t become as widely watched as it ought to be.
I really like Japanese illustrator Shusei Nagaoka’s artwork from the 70s and 80s. It’s full of neon glowing space ships in distant galaxies and shiny naked women encountering strange looking martians. Among his greatest achievements are his album art for bands such as Electric Light Orchestra and Earth Wind and Fire. It’s kitschy and over the top, but so much more exiting than the mostly boring album art (and music) of our era.