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“They will not exhaust it, for its matter is inexhaustible.”

{She sailed beneath a sky of lilacs, each cluster of which was heavier and more charged with anguish than the word “blood” at the top of a page.}

{Where do the angels’ progeny now meet?….I turn to my youth; I fall asleep in it. I try to revive it by kissed lepers, canonized guts, flowers condemned mirthlessly by notorious councils, in short an entire legend which is called Golden, the even more overwhelming miracles with which [we] teemed…}

{It is not to be wondered at that the most wretched of human lives is related in words that are too beautiful.}

—Jean Genet, The Miracle of the Rose

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The Dissected Martyr: Sculptures by Emil Melmoth

Emil Melmoth‘s sculptures are astonishingly beautiful and disturbing. Visceral, provoking, profane, they resemble bizarre religious medical experiments, crafted to a high degree of grotesqueness and macabre sensibility with meticulous detail. The extreme realism of his work only enhances its potential for horror. The subverted martyrs, women, children, demons, and hybrid beings which populate his sculpted imagination appear to be suffering greatly, as though their very nature were pain. They seem to have been granted existence by a diabolical and surpassingly sadistic God – creatures of hopelessness sewn together by an omnipotent needle. Their suffering is made palpable and shockingly tactile.

Blood and despair, tortured flesh, tormented ecstasies, distortions and abominations are rendered with painstaking subtlety in clay, metal, and wood. The victim-subjects appear vivisected, autopsied, flayed, torn apart and joined together countless times, in unholy combinations. This process of ghastly martyrization seems slow and infinitely effective, infinitely sinister. The carnal and the fleshly, the otherworldly and the ecstatic, combine in his subversion of spiritual works, embodied with merciless scientific exactness. The Last Rites Gallery aptly describes his works as “portraying macabre, fragile, and powerless aspects and philosophies of life. Melmoth’s wax anatomical models revel in a dark and surreal environment, where his depraved sculptures live in affliction: fragile beings in an eternally harrowing state of mind.”

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Gretel & Hansel: A Modern Grimm Tale

Gretel & Hansel is a bit of a film after my own heart. Osgood (Oz) Perkins has done a wonderful job of crafting a horror movie which is subtle yet still intense. It is splendid to look at in its minute details. Down to the beautiful fanned windows in all the dwellings, even the crude bowls and spoons on the table where Gretel sits with her mother for a few moments at the start… The lighting is exquisite, and the forest scenes are so gorgeously shot, stark but lovely.

This new interpretation of the Grimms’ story takes place in a surreal land that falls somewhere between realism and a stylized fantasy. It is not bound within its traditional historical setting; rather, it is a fluid amalgamation of its fairytale epoch fused with modern aesthetics. There is the striking, minimalist triangle which appears as part of the movie’s occult symbolism, and the exterior shape of the witch’s house is utterly modern, not at all reminiscent of a medieval dwelling, or like the gingerbread house of our childhood fancies.

Atmospheric, ominous, moody, yet elegant, Gretel & Hansel is something like a Margaret Atwood or Angela Carter fairy tale in cinematic form, but more taut and minimal. Early on, the film quotes the song from “The Juniper Tree,” perhaps the most violent fairy tale of all time, which begins, “My mother she killed me, my father he ate me…” This gives a foretaste of the dark direction of the film, whose more macabre moments still remain subdued and which always retains an understated but eerily beautiful quality.

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“I Want to Say Goodbye Human”: Paintings by Akiko Ijichi

The still, slightly eerie beauties in Akiko Ijichi‘s watercolors participate in a sinister serenity. Their direct but almost unseeing, melancholy, red-lidded gaze has a silent languor, a breath of the simultaneously sterile and erotic; grim passion. The theme of her work is antinomy, the contradiction and struggle between opposites, life and death, evil and holiness, happiness and lament. Ijichi uses traditional nihonga techniques to achieve a clarity and lightness of effect emphasizing the opalescent pallor of the girls depicted, the delicacy of the flowers with which they are surrounded and garlanded. It has an intermittent sparkle or scintillating quality, as if dusted with gold powder, due to the crushed mineral pigments used in her painting.

The marriage of traditional techniques with the modern aspect of the subjects, whom she describes as like shrine maidens, creates an interesting juxtaposition. These palely luminescent beings seem to be giving up their humanity or exchanging childhood innocence, the path of the straight and narrow, or some such unimpeachable condition of life, for the bittersweetness of darker dreams, fairy tales gone wrong. Wolf-girls, flower-girls, butterfly-girls, their pearl-sheened skin tinted with rosy hues is in the embrace of death, turning them into beautiful memento mori, portents of deathlike change.

Two posters and a monograph of her work are currently available on AkaTako.

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Malicious Birth: The Art of Januz Miralles

Philippines-based artist Januz Miralles uses photo manipulation as well as traditional painting techniques to create phantasmal and ethereal works where feminine figures are obscured by fading, by hand-drawn illustration, and by layered brush strokes. It is all brought together into a molten, haunting effect in which identity is heightened at the same time it is negated. The textural contrasts and poetic veiling and distorting of these images give them a dreaminess, an enigma, and a fluid or evaporating sense of movement both vague and violent.

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Twin Temple: Sex Magick

The following music video from self-styled “Satanic doo-wop” duo Twin Temple is charming, campy, fun, and lighthearted, with its nostalgically vintage palette and occult imagery.

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Lamb of the Future: The Photography of Alexander Berdin-Lazursky

The crisply elegant photography of Alexander Berdin-Lazursky is impressive, impeccable, and extremely beautiful. It has a flawless hyperrealism which is haunting and masterful. His photographic series resemble portraits of a latter-day Joan of Arc, an astronaut-saint, an assassinated queen… Black-cowled ethereal women are haloed by hand-drawn golden symbols and drenched in a colorful austerity as lovely as it is precise. He also has a wonderful talent for graphic design, as evidenced by his layouts for the tarot card series below.

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Pastel Fever Dreams of Alice Lin

The magical strangeness of Beijing-based artist Alice Lin’s watercolor paintings on silk and rice paper transports me to a realm of childhood nightmare. A profusion of friendly colors beckon, fanciful and bizarre animal characters are vignetted, gigantic mushrooms with the lush definition of their gilled stems fascinate the eye with a slight sickishness, the texture so alluring yet indefinably disturbing… The whimsy and placid vertigo of her works reveals a massed and intertwined array of sea, flowers, buttons, fruit, birds and other fauna. I love the idea portrayed by the odd, faceless beings seeming to exchange thoughts through a torrential vortex of flowers. Lin says, “This new and fascinating wonderland of possible realities combines with the human figure, plants, animals into a singular, calm, dark vision.” Her storybook delirium is full of richness and a sense of movement, of swirling florescence and bright fluidity.

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Three-Dimensional Saints and Memento Mori by Billelis

Billy Bogiatzoglou of Billelis combines a sense of the historic with the religious and occult in his 3D illustrations, which are so realistically rendered that they could be mistaken at first for sculptures. These baroque and gilded skeletons, saints, and Virgins are elaborately encrusted with an opulence on a grand scale reminiscent of the golden and lavishly bejeweled trappings of the catacomb saints.

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