Luciana “Lupe” Vasconcelos is a Brazilian artist and illustrator whose art explores the realms of the mythical, mystical and occult. In her ink drawings, Vasconcelos traces the remnants of fantasy & memory in her dream-like imagery. These artworks fuse the familiar tropes of magic and myth in haunting pieces, in the tradition of 19th century Symbolism. With a dark, surrealist feel, these ink drawings create a fantastic aesthetic, channeling the occult and themes of darkness in her gorgeous hand-made illustration. By tapping into the collective symbolism of mythology, Vasconcelos creates art that is both familiar— resonating with our cultural memory— yet these poetic & haunting works of art are new, compelling, and unique.
“My ongoing body of work involves the visual interpretation of cliches, euphemisms, and idioms. There has been a fascination for me going back years involving various formations within the English language. There are so many peculiar and quirky phrases which have been calling out to be put into visual form. In many cases, I can be motivated by a single word.
In creating these works the challenge is to take whimsical imagery and attempt to render it in a contemplative and elegant manner without being obtuse. My goal is also to take something common and elevate it to the uncommon and create theater, an unfamiliar and unexplored scene.
Each phrase depicted is singularly allegorical and embraces the intrinsic beauty and waggish imaginings found within the various forms of language we all use on a daily basis.”
~ Robert Deyber
This is a guest post by Clint Sabom. Clint has an online Surrealist gallery, The Graveyard Cowboy that features original work from artists and poets in an effort to continue the spirit of Andre Breton.
In 1924, the French poet Andre Breton published The Surrealist Manifesto. Influenced by psychoanalysis and alchemy, Breton maintained a fervent disgust for the institutions of the past that had, in his mind, exercised too much social control. In a revolutionary spirit of subversion, Surrealism presented itself as a new means to transcendence. Dreams still existed as a free space of exploration, as the world of the dreamer was not inhibited by the same constraints as waking life. Surrealism became a new means to capture the very function of thought artistically, as Breton defines in his Manifesto:
Surrealism, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express –verbally by means of the written word, or in any other manner – the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by though, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern (26).”
His ideas caught quick fire in Paris, and around him gathered a passionate collection of artists. In Spain, too, interest in Surrealism and its theoretical foundations flourished. It has been in the cultural canon ever since, yet Breton’s Manifesto itself is too often excluded from the contemporary discussion of Surrealism. The text is a bizarre and profound guide into the mind of a man, full of odd vignettes and commentaries: part memoir, part poetry, and part philosophical treatise. He maintained loyalty to it throughout his life, never seeing a reason to change or modify his original convictions.
Mystical theologians like Thomas Aquinas, flooded the West centuries earlier with a philosophical attempt to reconcile faith and reason. Breton, discounts reason in the process, yet does not deny its existence; he strives for a faith, a process and practice, that is free of morality. Is such a thing possible? While much of his biography lends one to believe that he steered primarily in the direction of aesthetic and psycho-spiritual transcendence, the principles of the movement grew to take on almost religious forms in some circles. Film scholar Michael Gould point out in his book, Surrealism and Cinema, that Breton’s “friends called him the Pope…” (14).
Another theme for Breton was honoring the sacred madness, much different than the medical diagnostic model of 21st century Psychology. The mad, the insane, became a demographic full of intrigue for Breton, and the problem was not them. “They are honest to a fault,” he maintained (13). Their insanity was not necessarily a failure. Far from that, it was evidence of the work left to do in Western society. The freedom of the man in the dream state was the freedom of the madman, and this was a liberation that won people a seat in societal institutions, poverty, or at the least, ongoing and unjust suffering. Yet this insanity was a mission to explore, to probe what had been left unexamined by those who had come before. Breton continued to probe the depths of human suffering in a search to uncover previously hidden beauty. In him, according to scholar Anna Balakian, “the darkness of anguish was always accompanied by the search for light” (256).
Yet for Breton and for the artist-seeker alike, the limits of time and place ultimately prevail in the search for meaning, as they do in the literal human life. Breton’s optimism up until the end of his life was obvious to all, but there was no doubt the grieving not only of his limitations but of human limitation itself. Breton described it himself as “the flagrant disposition between the breadth of man’s aspiration and the individual limits of human life” (Balakian 249).
The scope of his influence and inspiration remained strong throughout his life. Upon his death, people from far and wide come to pay tribute in a silent funeral. His good friend Benayoun described it as “waves of young men and young girls often in couples, with arms entwined, had come from unknown parts to give tribute. Some came from the provinces; others from foreign lands, and returned immediately to their homes” (Balakian 256).
Passion continued to be the blood that connected Breton to a larger international community. Life here, not the life beyond, moved forward in his mantras with or without him. One of his last poems, Arcade 17, put it like this:
(I am not like so many living men
who make plans to come back
I am the one who goes
They will spare me the cross on the tomb
And they will point me toward the North Star).
Balakian, Anna. André Breton, Magus of Surrealism. New York: Oxford UP, 1971.
Breton, André, and Mark Polizzotti. André Breton: Selections. Berkeley: University of California, 2003.
Breton, André. Manifestoes of Surrealism. Comp. Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane. [Ann Arbor]: University of Michigan, 1972.
Caws, Mary Ann. Andre Breton. New York, NY: Twayne, 1996.
Gould, Michael. Surrealism and the Cinema: (open-eyed Screening). Cranbury, NJ: A. S. Barnes, 1976.
Polizzotti, Mark. Revolution of the Mind: the Life of André Breton. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1995.
This is a Guest Post by Dr. Strangelove on the psychedelic, visionary artwork of Andrew Herndon (Wahndur).
Andrew Herndon makes psychedelic, surreal, visionary collage using digital media.
Christie Neptune’s “She Fell from Normalcy” Stills
Note On Surrealism, Past and Present
Followers of contemporary surreal art, and perhaps this blog, may forget that surrealism (and it’s precursor, Dada) were politically inspired art movements. Dada’s “anti-philosophy” developed in reaction to World War I. Surrealism became notorious for many reasons. One of these was affiliating itself with the Communist Party, and taking its time in distancing itself from this position after the realities of the Communist Party in Russia became apparent.
But a cursory look at this blog or the Surreal Art Tumblr might get the impression that contemporary surrealism is mainly eye-candy, fantasy, and escapism. Pop Surrealist Mark Ryden’s Meat Show being a glorious exception.
Christie Neptune’s Surreal Video Art
Today we’re pleased to present work by contemporary artist Christie Neptune. Neptune’s video art (below) uses surrealist techniques to explore issues of race, gender, class, and mental health. We’re excited when contemporary artists use the language of surrealism to look at complex issues. Neptune’s work doesn’t oversimplify, or fall into “bumper sticker slogan” or “refrigerator magnet” traps as political art sometimes does. No, that’s the currency of the 24-hour news cycle and the political machines: enticing us with easy answers to difficult problems, and infinitely repeating talking points. Neptune explores complex dynamics in this elegant, inspired, surrealistic video art and exhibition.
She Fell From Normalcy
In She Fell From Normalcy, Christie Neptune uses sound, installation, original writing and video throughout the gallery to build a world stripped of the limitations of race, gender and class. As subject, Neptune employs two females trapped in a sterile, white environment in which they are controlled by an unseen presence; it is only after a cataclysmic break in the system that the females are granted clarity and self-recognition.
Via Hamilton Gallery
She Fell from Normalcy continues through July 30 at Hamiltonian Gallery. For more information, click here.
In 1984, the author and Black feminist, Audre Lorde penned the essay, “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” where a “mythical norm” was defined as “white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, Christian, and financially secure.” Lorde wrote that anyone that exists outside of that identity lives on the margins of “the trappings of power.” In the exhibition She Fell from Normalcy, artist Christie Neptune, counters those hegemonic idealizations described by Lorde through a sci-fi fantasy that centers around blackness, femininity, and a struggle with depression.
Neptune tells The Creators Project, “I deal with depression and it’s my attempt to reconcile that period. I developed this series of work that validates that experience in the African-American female. Depression is typically stigmatized in communities of color. It’s me speaking out and pulling away at those labels that limit my experience.” She adds, “You always hear this thing, ‘black people don’t get depressed that’s some white people shit.’ I decided to build up a mythical norm that is queued to Audre Lorde’s essay, where she describes how we are trying to live up to standards.”
This is a guest post written by Adam Lovitz about BalletX’s new René Magritte inspired performance, Bonzi. The details of the performance are here: balletx.org. The performance is showing in Philadelphia. Enter Adam:
A common example where two different types of creative mediums influence one another is when a book turns into a screenplay, and then into a movie. Within this transition, the end product (the cinematic experience) fine tunes its relationship with the original inspiration (the book). In this threshold, we (the audience) are brought to a new space of experience. The director may adopt key elements of the original art, while also making it very much their own in the medium they use and the time that the piece reflects. There is a grounding for connectivity between not only art and cultural movements, but a specific place and time on this planet. This is an exciting space to make inside of, as it presents an artistic lineage to a contemporary maker.
In BalletX’s tech-infused summer series, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa choreographs an homage to the iconic imagery of the early twentieth century surrealistic painter, René Magritte. Ochoa, who grew up in the same Belgian neighborhood as Magritte, offers a visual bridge between the fine art world of painting and the expressive physicality that the performing arts delivers. While these two forms of art making prove to be very co-habitable, its interesting to consider what has been both gained and lost in the transformation of still image to motion.
If you are even remotely familiar with Magritte’s work, you will be immediately transported into a world flavored with the artist’s surreal aesthetics. Through a playful handling of Magritte’s most recognizable visual language, Ochoa and Klip Collective, a virtual art shop who conditioned the stage with innovative projection and sound, work with the apple, bowler hats, clouds, doors, and some hauntingly perverse temptations to transport a lone man’s journey from a typical day of business to an exploration of his inner psyche. Inside the normal confines of a staged production, Ochoa celebrates the late surrealistic shockwave that challenged a pre-conditioned understanding of reality nearly one hundred years ago.
But beyond Ochoa’s nod and affinity to René Magritte, whose paintings opened an immediate portal to an inner world, I wonder if the performance served a contemporary audience a similarly bountiful plate of introspection? We are living in an age where the peculiar is not so surprising, and the depiction of human sub-conscious has been experienced again and again, so that it often comes short of revelation.
I should have began this piece with a brief background. I write this review as a painter, not as an active participant in performative arts. While I have many connections to the performing arts by way of former art programs, peers, and patronage, my relative experience and frequency in attending productions is minimal. Also, my early artistic influences as a child partly stemmed from surrealistic imagery. Yet, as a painter now, and with some years into this practice, my artistic identity is shaped by the distance from surrealism’s applicability. Contemporary conditions push me to re-evaluate how surrealism functions today as a movement that came to fruition a century ago.
Currently, especially seen in popular culture, strange is familiar. The sort of strange that surrealism cultivated is a vision we experience when looking inward. ‘Truths’ are shaking and dismantling all around us within the discourse of political and cultural angst. Is it enough, as an artist today, to retreat into a surreal world? What is the role of the artist now, who makes with the knowledge of our predecessor’s contributions?
Nevertheless, surrealism opened my inner eye, and facilitated fascination to alternative ways of experiencing the real world. The reverence to the late René Magritte that Ochoa offers us is appreciated. I embrace the aesthetic experience that she, Klip Collective, and the performers provide. A sleek and minimal design supports a crisp attentiveness to harmony between image, sound, and performance. Ochoa choreographs her dancers to collaborate with the cascading projections, even lowering the music during one sequence so that the audience may hear the sound of human vocals humming a melody dosed with a spell of witchcraft. The experience is amusing, and through a simplified translation of Magritte’s clean and brilliant sense of design, elevated by a picture that grasps at an inner cosmic wonder, one may walk away with a reflection of self.
Adam Lovitz is an artist who lives and works in Philadelphia.
From Identity without Attribute (Also part of BalletX’s Summer Series 2016):
In her series “The Unseen”, Lebanese photographer Lara Zankoul pushes the boundaries of photographic surrealism through her constructed life-size sets. Strictly through the use of her camera and with no digital manipulation, Zankoul creates dreamlike images where water is used to depict contrasting characteristics of the characters she photographs. Each image captures a different human emotion and the dueling perspectives that can exist. Zankoul invites the viewer to investigate each image and attempt to determine which half holds the element of truth. – Juxtapoz
Lara Zankoul Biography
Zankoul was born photographically in 2008. Driven by passion, she taught herself photography and started an enriching journey in the artistic field. During 2009, she completed her 365 project, a personal mission in which she committed on taking a picture every day in a row for a year. She has participated in several local and international collective exhibitions such as the ‘Women’s Art Exhibition’ in Art Lounge Lebanon in 2011 and the 3rd edition of the Festival Photomed in the South of France in 2013. Part of the Shabab Ayyam incubator programme, she was an award recipient at the 2011 Shabab Ayyam Photography Competition. In her solo show in Ayyam Gallery in January 2013, she presented for the first time, her cinematographic work, which was auctioned in April 2013 at Christie’s Dubai.
Legendary filmmaker Jan Švankmajer needs your help to produce his final feature film titled Insects.
After five long years of preparations, legendary Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer is almost ready to start filming his final feature film titled Insects, a misanthropic and surreal imagery echoing Kafka and the Čapek Brothers.
Jan Švankmajer (81) and his long-time producing partner Jaromír Kallista (77) are teaming up to make their last feature-length film.
A local pub in a small town. It’s Monday and the bar is closed, chairs are turned up on the tables. The pub is empty except for six amateur actors sitting in a corner. They’ve met to rehearse “The Insect Play” by the Čapek brothers. On a raised platform across the room we see a stage, set for Act II of the play. As the rehearsal progresses, the characters of the play are born and die with no regard to time. The actors slowly become one with them and some of them experience frightening transformations…
“The Čapek brothers’ play is very misanthropic. I’ve always liked that — bugs behave as a human beings, and people behave as insects. My screenplay extends this misanthropy further while also reflecting Franz Kafka and his famous Metamorphosis.
Jan Švankmajer is eager to start filming as soon as possible. He’s very busy visiting entomological auctions, buying various kinds of bugs, doing rehearsal shots with them and so on. But both Jan Švankmajer and Jaromír Kallista have a condition – that the film needs to be fully funded before they start shooting. They would like to make it with a certain grace, not having to hastily secure funding in the process. And to do that, they need your help!
We believe that this last film belongs to all of you – Jan’s loyal fans from around the world. And if you decide to support this film, you’ll get to see it right when it’s finished. That’s why we chose crowdfunding over a maze of distributors, sales agents and so on.
“The civilization we live in has little interest in authentic artistic creation. What it needs is well-working advertisement, the iconographic contemporary art, pushing people towards more and more mass consumption.
It gets increasingly difficult to fund independent art that scrutinizes the very core of our society. Who would deliberately support their own critics? We make a film every five or six years not because of a lack of ideas, but due to the lack of funds to back up our projects. Crowdfunding may be the way to change this.” (JŠ)
We think this is a great opportunity to break a few industry habits but most importantly, deliver this film directly to you. That’s what we want the most, everything else is only a tool how to achieve it.
“To those of you who choose to support our effort, I want to thank you. I promise you that I will invest my entire body and soul into this last feature film of mine. After all, that’s the only way I know how to create.” (JŠ)
Alice by Jan Švankmajer
Praise for Alice
“The rabbit eats his own sawdust stuffing, the jam is full of tacks and the dollhouse becomes Alice’s prison, as Mr. Švankmajer’s extraordinary film explores the story’s dark undercurrents.” – The New York Times
“It’s an astonishing film, a rather Lynchian journey into a dream-world.” – The Daily Telegraph
Alice has received the best feature film award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in 1989.
Dimensions of Dialogue
Probably the most famous of Jan’s shorts, Dimensions of Dialogue is an uncompromising look on some of the more negative aspects of how we communicate. Best to see for yourself.
Don Bergland is an artist creating surreal work using computer graphics as his paintbrush. The “uncanny valley” effect is in full view in Bergland’s work, making the work even more surreal.
The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of aesthetics which holds that when features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some observers. The “valley” refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of beings as subjects move toward a healthy, natural likeness described in a function of a subject’s aesthetic acceptability. Examples can be found in the fields of robotics and 3D computer animation, among others. (Wikipedia)
Uncanny means “strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way.” We feel Bergland’s work is in dialogue with much surrealism & theater, but also video, video games and popular media. The work is surreal, strange, and unsettling.
Uncanny Valley Illustration
I have spent over 50 years working in the studio and have moved through many visual styles in my art. For half that time, I worked as a traditional painter creating works on large canvases. I now find myself working with digital tools and techniques, constructing a neo-surrealistic language that integrates the viewer in a participatory dialogue in unpacking meaning from visual imagery. For me, the enclosed space of the visual image is a dramatic cerebral theater populated by realistic sets, objects, and figures which when combined with intention, offer challenging mental puzzles. Walking a thin tightrope between the obvious and the absurd, I construct sets which host small dynamic dramas based on the mind’s ability to build meaningful narratives from enigmatic sources. The resulting images are to be seen for what they are, and then for what they may not be. Although I arrange my objects in specific ways to express my own ideas, I am fully aware that the way the imagery is designed will lead to a multitude of different interpretations. For the careful observer, directional maps are suggested in each image. These maps are woven into the location, pictorial relationships, and surface appearances of the actors in each composition. I intend that the viewer will engage with the work, note surfaces, relationships, symbols, and metaphors, and will then construct personal meaning from the engagement. Like all studio-based languages of imaginative possibility, I have merely begun the journey of building and refining my own visual syntax and grammar of cerebral imagination. Each of my works is a record of that journey.
Don Bergland is an Associate Professor of Visual & Performing Arts at the University of Victoria and has been an active exhibiting artist for over 50 years. He describes his current work as a version of Neosurrealism with the objective of eliciting questioning attitudes in the mind of viewers. He creates his work using both traditional and digital tools, focusing on an integration of 3D modeling software and various graphic processing programs. Each of his artworks features a theatrical set defined by a stage with actors, props, and a backdrop. The actors in the set consist of everyday objects brought into combinations and interactions that attempt to elicit inquiry. The content of the artwork focuses on themes such as time, aging, nostalgia, the footless pursuit of Utopia, and the conditions of ideology which disable our rational minds. Each image is constructed using conventions of visual realism, but with alterations that offer dreamlike possibilities. Themes and objects appear and re-appear from image to image. Each artwork becomes a framed snapshot of a moment in theatrical space, noticed briefly, and then forgotten once more, a fraction of time when reality is breached and a frozen glimpse into the mental theatre of Eternity is experienced, an opening when the viewer can catch the faint hint of cotton candy breezing in from the sideshow midway, the pastel moment of a lost memory, a slight reminder that the past is never absent, and that the future is always in front of us. Don maintains an active international exhibiting career and has featured his artwork in over 150 major exhibitions throughout the world. He has won over 60 creative & professional awards for his work. His work is represented in major corporate and private collections such as the Gulf Oil Corporate Collection (Alberta), the Madrona Centre Permanent Collection (B.C.), the Canadian Utilities Corporate Collection (Alberta), the Timothy Eaton Foundation Collection (Canada), the Chevron Standard Corporate Collection (Alberta), as well as in private collections in Canada, the United States, and Europe. His current focus is in using 3D modeling environments to create surrealistic imagery for international exhibitions. He currently lives and teaches in Victoria, BC, Canada.
Mohammad Zaza, Syrian artist, was born in Riyadh in 1987. Growing up in an artistic family, he started drawing and painting at an early age. After completing high school in Saudi Arabia, he moved to Syria in 2006 to study at the faculty of Fine Arts in Aleppo University. He held his first solo exhibition in 2008 and, after his graduation in 2010, was appointed as a painting teacher assistant at the University until 2012. Besides painting on big size canvases mainly, he also works on illustrations and animations.
In his artworks, Mohammad Zaza focuses on the movement that lies behind fixed scenes, enhancing the subject in order to open new scopes of reality. Because his paintings aspire to work as a window to another dimension of life, his shapes emphasize the unity of the source of thoughts, allowing the viewer to apprehend with him the Origins.
Exhibition: Mohammad Zaza – The earth is blue like an orange
Opening: Thursday 21 April, 18:30
Dates: 22 April 2016 – 18 May 2016
“The earth is blue like an orange”, the words of the French surrealist writer Paul Eluard appear as an invitation to set our minds free from all their inner limits. They reflect the idea that the poetic image is a pure creation of the mind, in which the unconscious travels beyond the traditional borders. Listening to the voices of these less known territories magnify our perceptions and unravel the feelings hidden behind our visible realities. Any thoughts are possible for people who manage to adopt an alternative and less conventional look at things and experiences.
Living and working in Istanbul for almost two years Mohammad Zaza have been dealing with this idea of resourcefulness and creativity for a long time. He pushes the viewer to delve into a world full of untold stories, a space where each painting connects with everyone’s personal wanderings. Topics such as nature, humanity and spirituality are involved, all of them creating a universal dimension to his work. With a solid background and a strong artistic identity, Zaza wishes to share with its public a new dimension of visual experience, outweighing any predetermined concepts, ideas and rules.
Mohammad Zaza was born in Riyadh in 1987. Growing up in an artistic family, he started drawing and painting at an early age. After completing high school in Saudi Arabia, he moved to his homeland Syria in 2006 to study at the faculty of Fine Arts in Aleppo University. He held his first solo exhibition in 2008 and, after his graduation in 2010, was appointed as a painting teacher assistant at the University until 2012. Besides painting on big size canvases mainly, he also works on illustrations and animations.
Via The Depot