Kingston art scene: spooky imagery

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Last year around this time, I wrote about romanticism and how well its art is in many ways suited to the season encompassing Halloween, All Hallows, Samhain, etc. This is because one approach Romanticism took was an interest in the medieval period, which at the time was understood to be a time of darkness, superstition, barbarism, mystery, and miracle. The creators of the Romantic period broadened their conception of the Middle Ages to include all the fantastic possibilities (as in the fantastic world) open to it, including the nightmarish, the macabre, the hellish, and the terrible, as well as all the figures that emerge from the imagination when Reason is sleeping. Regardless of the fact that romantic notions of the Middle Ages as the ‘dark ages’ were largely incorrect, they were still responsible for some of the most frightening and bizarre images of the late 18th and early 18th centuries. XIXth century.


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But the romantics had no monopoly on the frightening and the macabre. No indeed. Artists across all ages and in most cultures have, to one degree or another, explored and attempted to illustrate the supernatural, the subconscious, the afterlife (and hell), personal psychoses. and the paranormal, among other areas that could trigger goose bumps. crawling sensations. The yÅ«rei (ghosts) in Japanese Ukiyo-e paintings and prints are just one example. Artists have also contributed to the illustration of strange literary passages, such as scenes from Shakespeare’s plays Macbeth and Hamlet, or those from Gothic novels like The Castle of Otranto and its ilk.

While there are certainly examples of terrible and fantastic creatures (and probably other horrific subjects) depicted in art in ancient times, especially if one explores the various gods and goddesses of other cultures, a fertile area to explore such art is actually the Middle Ages. In an era when much of the population was fundamentally illiterate, the One-Person Church conveyed its messages through fairly graphic imagery in sculptural programs on the many churches and cathedrals erected during this period. Take, for example, the Romanesque Saint-Lazare Cathedral in Autun, France. The tympanum above the western entrance shows the justly famous scene of the “Last Judgment”, created around 1130 by sculptor Gislebertus, whose fertile imagination produced terrifying demons and tortures that befell those who did not lead. not a virtuous life. Frightening images indeed, calculated to align one foot on the moral line.


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A little later, an illustration from “The Mouth of Hell” in the Winchester Psalter from about 1150, a bizarre composition with a giant monster, an assortment of strange creatures and demons, and the tortured figures of those who were destined to reside with them. And speaking of weird, looking at Hieronymus Bosch’s painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (a title which, given the imagery, is seriously misleading), you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a Contemporary artwork rather than one was created circa 1500. The imagery is more from the mid-20th century, with futuristic shapes and nightmare figures. Around the same time, we also have Albrecht Durer’s iconic engraving “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (1498), which gave us a lasting and frightening picture of the specters of war, famine, of pestilence and death.

Fast forward about 300 years, and in the age of modern art, we have the oddly timely images “The Scream” by Edvard Munch from 1893 and “The Epidemic” by Kathe Kollwitz from 1903. The first is a representation of a moment of severe psychological stress that Munch himself experienced and recorded in expressionist form on canvas. It has become a well-known and often reproduced image, which resonates well beyond the haunting season. Kollwitz, an almost exact contemporary of Munch and also working in the expressionist mode albeit in very different mediums from printmaking, is known for her critique of war and all of its repercussions. She sought to portray universal symbols of injustice, inhumanity, and humanity’s destruction of itself – and although “The Outbreak” was based on the theme of war, one could apply her imagery as well. to current events as well as to, if you are such tilted and apocalyptic scenarios.


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Artists are undoubtedly masters in the art of beautifying our world with their creations, but they are also undoubtedly adept at revealing the darkness of our collective beliefs and our superstitions. Happy Halloween!

Kamille Parkinson received a PhD in Art History from Queen’s University and is currently a writer, burgeoning copywriter and general art historian. You can find her writing on Word Painter Projects on Facebook and contact her at [email protected]

City art

Raymond Gallery

Annual open house – works by the artists of the gallery

Studio 22 Open Gallery

Fall 2021 Artist Portfolio Series. Now open Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. and online.

• Victor Oriecuia, “Sacro Fiore” (until October 30)

• Bruno Capolongo, “Drips” (until November 13)

Window art gallery

• Kingston Women Artists’ Undaunted Organization (until October 31)

• Art unmasked (November 2 to 15)

• Kingston Engravers (November 16-30)

Union Gallery

• Side-Ways (until December 4, in collaboration with Modern Fuel ARC)

• What are you reading? (as of December 11)

• Privacy (until November 27)

Modern fuel arc

• There are minimums to function properly (until December 4)

• Turbo (until December 4)

• Side-Ways (until December 4, in collaboration with the Union Gallery)

Agnes Etherington Art Center:

• Studies in solitude: the art of representing isolation (until June 2022)

• Pandemic loneliness (until March 2022)

• Humor Me (starts August 7)

• Superradiance (starts August 7)

• With open mouths (from August 7)

• Other worlds (from August 7)

• Worrying about the mask (starts August 7)


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