Monday, 19 May 2014

Mark Ryden - Pop Surrealism or Victorian Magical Realism?

Bric-a-brac,  old glass jars, fox furs and skulls. The world of Mark Ryden, the artistic world, at least, is a thing of infinite mystery with roots buried deep within the fogs of Victoriana. It also brings with it a dark beauty, a Gothic twist of the slightly macabre, a thing of greasy window glass, a smeared perspective, grim riddled and starkly shadowed, black lacy fingerless gloves, ink-stained parchment cracked cobweb spun and heavy with candle wax. There is a mystic quality, slightly perverse, that exhibits a tremulous quality along with an eyeful of Lewis Carroll's appreciation of young females, an innocence caught twixt childhood and sensuality. It is anything but austere.

There is also that thing with flesh, with meat.

Here we find that same sense of innocence wrapped in ignorance as it confronts head on the awful truth of where meat really comes from. It is the stuff of supermarket shelves, clean, displayed sitting next door to cans of fruit and bread and neatly wrapped cellophane boxes, it is dead animals slaughtered then butchered. It is non-judgmental begging you to know, to understand the truth and not to be so far removed from the reality of prepared food. On another level meat is not only a foodstuff. It is what we are are. Our flesh is nothing more than a form of dress, a covering that contains the soul, that mystical, invisible commodity unseen by anyone other than ourselves.  

"The Tree of Life"

.Time takes a hike here. We are invited into a world within ours but beyond ours. Reality is but an illusion riddled with self-deceits and misconceptions. Life is flowing on within and without us, time is ticking on the human shelf but time is a fake, a fraud its existence, like the concept of size, is bogus, man-made, vacuous. It is nothing but a comfort that grieves us as we age just like the passing of youth is seen as degrading beauty when in fact it is just the visible signs of corruption. We live, we die. Our flesh rots back into the ten thousand things that all things are part of.


I have no idea, nor any wish to know, what lowbrow art is. For me, it is just another label. Art is either to my taste or it isn't. The colours Ryden uses are muted yet translucent. They forge a link with the past merging it fluidly with the present so that we see time as a current connected with life here on earth and far beyond it. Even the prepubescent looking females indicate the falsehoods of conceived time and with that notion comes dangerous thoughts. Nature tells us, with broad brush strokes, that sexual maturity is only ever a rough estimate that arrives approximately at the age of thirteen. It varies of course but as it does it confuses natural desire with our sense of moral right. 


I like Ryden's art for the colours he uses, for the images he depicts, the tamed lustre, the veneers of tainted respectability, for the narratives hidden within the frames but more than that I enjoy the questions he asks but also those left unasked within the spaces he leaves. 

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.


Misty Fell said...

I love surrealism and these images are incredible. I'm a little creeped out by the final one. The subject looks so childlike.
There was an ad in the mid 1970's for Love's Baby Soft cologne, which featured what appeared to be a pre-teen girl with the tag line "Innocence is sexy" or something of that nature. Just what the hell they were thinking, I honestly don't want to know!

Russell Duffy said...

Misty Fell>>>Thanks for your comments. I think that area where pubescent teens start to mature sending sexual signals is one every parent must fear and should prepare for. The only way around it as far as I can see, one I used for my three girls, is education, an honest answer when questions are asked and to listen when they raise subjects you'd rather they hadn't. Being sexually mature at thirteen is the curse nature has bestowed but one we all must ensure that no predatory men or women abuse that knowledge/

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog

A Utility Fish Shed Blog