Look if you dare. Do the typical swipe before even blinking once. But beware if you linger.
This is one of my darker pieces, dredged up from the subconscious. If you stare at it you start to get sucked in and images will suddenly appear. The more you look, the deeper it gets. There is more than one way to look at it, and there’s probably some subliminal stuff in there that I didn’t catch. While I was working on it I’d suddenly see something and think “Oh!” Even I find this one eerie. As for the title, it helps if you know what a Gorgon and an Odalisque are, but it’s not essential, just hints as some of the ambiguity and resonance.
For example, that black salamander head on the left with something coming out of it’s mouth has a look like it’s been caught in the act. And what is coming out of its mouth? Are those snakes it’s eating, or is it its tongue, or are they legs? Are they snake-like legs? That’s creepy enough. You can find the other stuff on your own. I don’t wanna’ be a spoiler. But there’s some (lurid) stuff that is very subtle until you see it.
If you like my art, and would like me to keep working, please consider funding me through Patreon.
I really like this image. If you zoom out, there’s a sort of yin/yang symmetry going on, or it could be a head on a pillow, or a womb. If you look at the details, you will find other things, particularly in the full-sized version, with is 20X30 inches at 300 dpi. It can print very well twice that large.
Giger fans might like it, as it’s got a bit of a Giger feel (alien/biomechanoid erotica), but also a good dose of Alfred Kubin (murky, nightmarish vision), but mostly it’s just me, and the greatest influence is the first 11 drawings I did using roughly this same technique. I spent longer on this one, though.
Here’s all 12:
It’s a series within my larger series, of which this is #43.
Here’s all 43 pieces in the series, which are all images done exclusively from my imagination, and unpremeditated, so far in a slide show.
Or, if you prefer, you can see them in a click-through gallery:
To see other posts about other pieces in this series, go here.
See a video about my first 25 pieces in this series here.
Funding. Through Patreon, you can give $1 (or more) per month to help keep me going (y’know, so I don’t have to put art back on the back-burner while I slog away at a full-time job). Ah, if only I could amass a few hundred dollars per month this way, I could focus entirely on my art. See how it works here.
Or go directly to my account.
Or you can make a small, one time donation to help me keep on making art and blogging (and restore my faith in humanity simultaneously).
12 replies on “New Art (#43): Gorgon-Odalisque”
I take it your familiar with the Black Dahlia case. This one is on the dark side. Did they ever figure out who killed her?
I meant to get back to you about Peter Doig. I do like him quite a bit, but I like Daniel Richter better. They are kind of similar I think. Do you like him, Peter that is?
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Hi Matt: That never occurred to me about the Black Dahlia. I know this one’s dark (sometimes it kinda’ scare ME) but not THAT dark, I don’t think. I had to do some research to figure out what the connection was, and I gather you see a severed body in there. Look more carefully under the white, central head. The body isn’t severed: it changes color. There are some optical illusions, and you will see different bodies depending on how you look at it. There are things that are suggested by proximity of shapes, but are not actually articulated. So, that alien head in the middle with the teeth can either have a black, wasp-like body, if you look at it that way, or can be alternatively connected to the long white body on the lower left. Either body is mostly a product of suggestion. Either way the figure is alien or a monster. Though there are at least two other largish figures in there, a few snakes (not including ones which might be being eaten). One snake is eating someone. I left some stuff vague, but very carefully vague, so the viewer has to make the connections.
I really hate the kind of sick violence of serial killers, so, again, never made that connection. Though, once you pointed out the case, and I looked it up, I can see why you would see that. There’s the “banality of evil” that Susan Sontag wrote about.
I see it as more dark in a murky, subconscious, imaginary, Giger/Kubin sort of way. There are two scary creatures in there, the central one with the teeth, and then the one eating the snakes (or snake-like legs). These could be two-parts of the same creature. If not, I don’t know which is more threatening. I spent a lot of time one this one, so it’s packed with little things one might discover. There’s definitely something dark, though. It’s probably my scariest piece.
Tell ya’ about Doig later. Yeah. I like his stuff quite a lot, though.
Now that you said the color changes I can see the figure is connected and bending backwards. Originally I saw what looked like a severed figure and thought of the black dahlia and remembered you were from so cal and thought that was what you were depicting. I’m kind of glad that’s not what you were painting. But is it worse than painting Emmitt Till? Probably not but no one would have a problem with it since she was white. Maybe that’s also why I originally thought you might paint that. To see if anyone would call for it to be destroyed. I don’t really know you but, I don’t in any way get the feeling you enjoy that kind of stuff.
Well, I’m still fascinated by your interpretation based on your knowledge of my background, being from CA. I didn’t even realize that case was from CA. But, as a child, I was scarred by the horror stories of some serial killings that were happening. When I was in elementary school there were public announcements on the TV during “Bewitched”, and, well, a relative made the mistake of trying to insure I didn’t wander too far from home or stay out after dark by telling me, and I remember the words exactly: “little boys are being found cut to pieces in garbage bags”. I was probably around 8-10, because I was in Little League, but not in Jr. High yet. Well, I slept with my aluminum baseball bat for at least a year, unbeknownst to anyone else, so I could defend myself if a serial killer came through my bedroom window.
So, this piece, I should have mentioned, and maybe I’ll go back and edit it, reflects my current mental state in which I think that overzealous pseudo morality is ruining art, and particularly visual language (non verbal language, which means language that is outside of sentences and conclusions) is being sacrificed on the alter of quasi-rational conclusions honed in verbal thought. Since Duchamp there’s been the attempt to reduce art from a window into another universe (so to speak) honed in visual language into a prop in consensual reality to be discussed in verbal language. It has been an unending war on the visual imagination, and non-verbal language and cognition. Highly lamentable in that regard, even if the works are clever and whatnot. Definitely a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water.
This work is a “Fuck You” to all of that, and from a very rational and high-verbal individual who loves debate and analyzing arguments. It is the revenge of the repressed visual imagination and subconscious, expressed as an ineradicable visual stamp. HERE is another reality! You can’t wipe out the visual imagination. It is a revoke to the tyranny of the rational mind that reduces all of reality to sentence structures and logical (usually foregone) conclusions. That is why it is so eerie, violent, and sexual. It’s all the stuff we don’t want to talk about, that doesn’t fit in the discourse. But it’s arranged according to visual logic, instinct, aesthetics, feelings, and so on. It’s not just MY rebellion against the dictatorship of the merely verbal, it’s the rebellion of the human subconscious and imagination as exemplified by me. When you start digging around beneath the surface you willfully relinquish a lot of control – kind of like you don’t have control in you dreams, even though it’s your brain creating them – and in this way, I allowed the imagery to almost draw itself. I started with abstraction and images slowly appeared. But when they appear they don’t appear according to my logical mind, but on a more subconscious level. I discount the more obvious stuff, and keep looking until something a bit deeper reveals itself to me. If I personally find the imagery disturbing, that’s too bad.
Carl Jung argued that the deeper subconscious, or unconscious is universal. I don’t know the truth of that, but I would say it’s probably MORE universal. It’s still filtered through my particular experience and associations, but this is largely bypassing the rational intellect, which all of art is now filtered through in an absolute tyranny.
Lastly, yeah, I hate everything to do with serial killers and that kind of sick, gritty, banal violence. I am completely opposed to it, as I am completely opposed to killing people. Only someone who has no direct understanding or insight into the nature of consciousness would kill another except in extreme circumstances (war and self-defense being the most obvious). If I ever do address murder in my art, one can be sure I detest the murderer as a heinous, and largely unconscious brute. It is as inhuman as you can get, and I am all for the human.
That is quite a bit deeper than my original assessment. Both of the figures seem content with the situation. The dark one which I assume is the gorgon looks like maybe he is secretly going to kill the odalisque. Maybe that’s the plan of the people who don’t like rational thought, but that would take some thought on their part which they don’t seem to do. Not sure why people would basically scream “I’m an idiot and if you not too your opinion doesn’t count” and that would get any traction. Maybe we’re surrounded by them and that’s all of the tentacles and legs in the painting. And we can’t figure out what to do about it. Just keep on painting.
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While the image is a bit of an FU to all this moralizing and conceptualizing and otherwise assaulting the visual imagination, I’d avoid interpretation. I prefer the not knowing how to process a situation. Which brings me to a couple ideas. One is that I’ve had a strange reaction to shocking experiences.
1) Once while I lived in NY there was a near accident, and I felt a sort of freedom. A much better example was when I lived in China and there was the Sichuan earthquake. It so happened that it hit my city just as I was handing over the keys to my teacher’s apartment (with was a real shit hole) to my manager, after quitting my job, and at which point he handed me the money they owed me. At this very specific instance, the earthquake hit, and he said, “what’s that shaking”. Next thing we were running down the stairs and out the building as things were falling on us from above. We ran out into the middle of the street, and people were screaming. It was a bad quake, but being a Californian, it wasn’t new for me to experience a quake, and I could tell the ground wasn’t going to open into a chasm that was going to engulf me. I sort of surfed the movements of the street.
I looked up at the sculpture on top of the police building and it was waving back and forth. At this moment, I may have been the only happy person in the street. All of the bullshit bureaucracy, hierarchies, social structures, beliefs and everything else was crumbling, and my mind’s reaction to that was freedom. This changed soon when I couldn’t find someone I desperately wanted to know was OK, and when I learned about how horrible the effects were at the epicenter of the quake. But I remember that for a brief moment, nature swept away the mind and all the bullshit and it was refreshing.
Those are situations where I’m forced to be present but don’t have time to interpret. I think really a lot of my imagery is rife for psychiatrists to pick through and ascribe various meanings to, but the interpretation happens in verbal language, and I want to keep the meaning in visual language, outside of the tyranny of words and grammar (mind you, I’ve taught English for about a decade).
2) A lot of my art is about ecstatic states of consciousness, and I think this applied to this one as well. Some are transcendent, some are a bit more like the accident or earthquake, and this one, well, I’ll leave it to visual cognition. Any words are a superimposition of sentences on something that is outside of the domain of verbal reasoning. I’m writing a whole post about this, so won’t go into it much more here.
I feel the same about most of my paintings. They are more about a feeling than a story. People interprete a lot of things from them that I didn’t intend but that’s ok with me. But I typically just start working without a game plan and see what happens.
I just ordered a book on kubin. His stuff is very interesting. Hopefully your still working on a blog about him?
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Great that you ordered a book on Kubin! Yeah, I’m still working on that post and a couple others. Taking a vacation for a day tomorrow though.
I’ll have to look at this again when back at puter. Even just a glance at the main image gave me creeps for resembling severed body parts with a big shiver for connotations of snuff arts.
Interesting that you mention Kubin. The local gallery’s exhibition of works attributed to his name was quite illucidating. Some of the drawings were clearly his father’s (a geographical surveyor for the Austrian government); some were clearly by a female draughtsman, possibly Gabrielle Munther, as she attended the Munich Art School in disguise as a male student in place of an absentee in days before female art school attendance was permitted. The art world demonisation of Kubin as sexually and mentally deviant and interpretations of torturous imagery attributed to him are hideously absurd but quite fascinating.
I can’t say I ‘like’ most of the images you display here but your illustrations and writing are totally intriguing! Hope to read/see more soon.
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Hi Colette: Oh, did people demonize Kubin? I didn’t know that. Figures. Some of his imagery is a bit sexually disturbing, but, we don’t know what his relationship was to the imagery. There’s this weird, literalist, mind-numbingly narrow idea that an artist must be endorsing whatever they depict. By that logic you can look at a crucifixion painting and assert that the artist supports capital punishment and torturing prisoners.
A society that doesn’t allow for the free range of the imagination and thought is truly totalitarian.
You don’t like most the images here? Uuuh, Ok. I think they reward more looking. They aren’t meant to be easy or accessible necessarily, and with some of them you will not even notice the overlapping and intersecting imagery unless you spend a few minutes looking.
I’m finishing up one that is in colors too bright to print with CMYK, that’s for sure. You might appreciate that one more.
Thanks for visiting. There’s tons of art, art criticsim, pranks, and buried treasure here.
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Hi Eric. I was browsing on my almost obsolete mobile phone and only a very quick glance over. Clouded by visiting almost immediately after checking news sites and so many doomsaying type posts out there at mo and the main image on this post creeping me out in first instance. I wasn’t meaning to suggest not appreciating your imagery and often not immediately ‘liking’ an image leads to a deeper comversation with the image when given the time to experience it. I realised i’d not given your work enough time and definitely intrigued to explore.
As for demonisation of Kubin, I think it was the formalist delivery of promotional material produced by gallery staff for the local exhibition of Kubin works that led me to understand this character assination type assertion that so often seems to emerge from the academic art world. That’s an unfortunate reality of public art institutions, parrot fashion rhetoric perpetuating myth as if fact. Interesting you bring up crucifixion as there was a drawing displayed titled ‘Crucified Serpent Man’ that appeared to have been made with a modern Edding type pen and was perhaps a copy draughted by a contempprary artist from a Kubin original but labelled as if original so sticking out like a sore thumb as phoney. I could of course be wrong. Too much dodgy swagbagging and dubious arts practise here in Nottingham.
You might mean the “Serpant God”, which is precisely the image that won me over to admiring Kubin: https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5029/5578554139_893175b445_b.jpg
I even thought of doing a version of it, as I sometimes do tributes to other artists (Van Gogh & Matta recently). I feature it in an article I’m writing about Kubin, but haven’t finished yet. Why the image would appeal to me might be obvious if one had seen one of my alien crucifixions (there’s more than one, and more coming): https://artoferickuns.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/golgolon.jpg
There is some overlap between Kubin’s art and my own where I don’t see any inbetween links. Of course I have many influences, and Van Gogh and Francis Bacon are obvious if one knows enough of my work, but there’s definitely some common groud with Kubin.
I suppose the image featured in this post is creepy. It even creeps me out. That is probably the sub/unconscious stuff, and there’s a lot of subliminal type things because of the way it was created, which was essentially just making marks and then looking at them to see what visions arise, while rejecting the more obvious ones and searching for the stranger ones. Because it is the result of looking and looking it has a mesmerizing quality, which much of my art does, once one gets sucked into it. Of course that is the nature of visual language art and imagery (image being the crucial part of the word “imagination”).
This makes me think of something a little peculiar, which is that there are a great many people who attest that they like dark or creepy art, but, they tend to mean within an established and safe framework (vampires and whatnot).
I let this one get a bit eerie and haunted on purpose as a bit of an FU to the tyrrany of rational thought and superficial moralizing (here I mean the second rate variety, and I’m rather a big fan and addicted to genuine reason and ethics).
Anyway, thanks for checking out my blog.
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