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Friday, 13 April 2012

The Grotesque in Art: How Dark Can You Get?!

(See this collection of horrific images for more!)

This post is one of those things I do when I procrastinate. *sigh*

But I couldn’t help myself! I had this cool (mini) conversation with a fellow writer James Tallett (@fourpartland) and we talked about darkness in art. I started off by tweeting a link to this amazingly creepy art by Gloom82 on Illustration Age...

Then James told me he wrote about some guy who displayed his wife’s corpse above his mantelpiece… next to the rest of the family, which he added after a dramatic pause. Which, of course, made me think of creepy ideas and I came up with the story of a man who attempts the largest tattoo in the world by cutting & sewing the skin of his victims. I promised to give it a shot before throwing it in the dusty drawer of my subconscious.

Some of you may notice the not-so-subtle similarity to Perfume, the Story of a Murderer based on Patrick Suskind’s novel, where the main character (Jean Baptiste-Grenouille) wants to make the ultimate perfume… made of beautiful women. He kills them, skins them, and drains their aromas. Then a bit of mix and match, abracadabra, and voila! 

Human hotch-potch.

Apparently, that makes for a hypnotizing substance which makes you love everyone, but that’s just one drop. Two drops and people start going crazy. Three drops and they worship you. Four drops and they start fornicating on the spot. Five drops and… you get the idea.

The whole bottle makes for people eating you alive. Seriously.

So these are the kinds of ideas that fascinate me. I was never impressed with the whole beauty of art. I mean, yeah, I like eye-candy, but what’s so interesting about that?! Rather, I’d choose to watch deformity, degradation, derelicts, death, and despair. Maybe it sounds sick. What can I say… darkness inspires. It opens a lot of doors to the imagination.

Apart from people making things out of human skin and such, I also like really fucked-up ideas like those of the King: Stephen King. Anyone who’s read his books would agree that there is no other mind quite like his. Sick, most say, I say genius.

One scene stuck with me for a long time and still lingers at the back of my mind… like most of his work does. In The Dark Half, the main character (Thad Beaumont) discovers he had a twin brother, who didn’t make it out of his mother’s womb. But that was too boring for King… what’s so fascinating about still birth?!

So the boy had searing headache and blackouts for years until one day they operated. Guess what they found in his skull?! Something like an eye, some teeth and hair, all lodged on the side of his brain. Yeap, that was his twin brother. Adds a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘at the back of one’s mind’. See, I can hear some of you gasping! The rest should check it out:

That’s what I like: to be surprised and shocked, fascinated with the ugly of the world.

And finally, last year I borrowed a book from the library. It said fantasy on it, so I thought ‘why not’. When I started reading, I couldn’t believe the treasure I had stumbled on! The main character was a man who suffered leprosy. You know the whole ‘body falling apart’ kind of thing. I didn’t know much about it until I read that book. Apparently, people suffering from it do not experience pain, and that means that they have to be very careful and aware of their body. For example, a healthy person would stub his toe, feel pain, clean it, put a bandage on, and move on. This guy would feel nothing until it festered and fell off his foot. In addition, if he caught a cold, he was dead. So you see, pretty grim stuff!

The book is The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson. 

A part of me reacts with disgust and outrage when it faces things like that. Fear! It’s what you don’t want to see or read or imagine, at all. Yet, I cannot look away from that or help imagine because it’s something different. Something more than you experience every day. It’s actually the OPPOSITE of MUNDANE. And life gets pretty mundane, doesn't it?

Surprise is pretty much boredom-proof. I also like to gasp a lot. I’ve mastered it.

And finally – for real this time – there’s one more thing I have always found interesting. I hesitate to say the word because it’s a taboo, a real pain in the ass for most women. It’s miscarriage. For reasons unknown, I have always been drawn by this horrible event. Especially in art.

Recently I even discovered an artist who incorporated it in a lot of her illustrations. (Her name is Monica Dekowska, whom I found on HitRECord.) I think that’s amazing. She was brave enough to face the unthinkable and put the ugly on the canvas. Not the pretty, not flowers and rainbows, or happy children skipping. But life… as it ends before it began.

This is like the opposite of life’s cycle. It’s life’s cycle in reverse. It’s just wrong.

I won't put it up here because I'm not sure if I have the right to, so a link will suffice.

So there you have it: I’m a freak. Now I’ve a question for you: How dark can YOU get?! Is there anything you have ever created that shocked you? Is there anything shocking you've loved recently? Gimme the scoop! I’m asking all the fellow ‘freaks’ out there. 

I dare you to shock and surprise me. Go on...