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Dylan Garrett Smith

Dylan Garrett Smith uses ashes, chalk-lead, and black cotton rag paper in his illustrations which depict occultism intertwined with the natural world and memento mori. There are haunting, lovely images of ram skulls writhing with a living mass of snakes, of small human hands protruding from the bones of a decaying goat, bearing branches. Ruminants, foxes, and birds are transmogrified by corruption, bloom, and the interlacing with other beings, along with the ever-present serpent. This surreal subject matter is rendered in a careful, vivid style, the white strokes intense against the dark paper.

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Anastasis: The Transcendent Art of Agostino Arrivabene

The surreal, mystical, and exquisite artwork of Agostino Arrivabene never ceases to amaze me. In his lambent dreamlike style, the otherworldly and the unearthly are depicted with the painstaking detail and techniques of classical art. I believe he is one of the best artists working today – his paintings have an unsurpassable beauty, showing a masterly quality that is nothing short of virtuosic and inspired. He has also really perfected his art and vision over the past several years.

Arrivabene’s work evokes the Old Masters and Renaissance painting, hybridized with a modern style which transforms venerable images into uncanny things, combining religious iconography with a strange surrealism. His pieces have a numinous, glowing spiritual quality, focusing on the human form imbued with a sense of divinity. There are also landscapes which are colossal in scope and sublimity. These forms often have parasitic or symbiotic growths upon their limbs and faces – they are in the process of being overrun and eventually overtaken by this inhuman accretion. The Madonnas and Christs of his creation appear to be merging with iridescent and nacreous, strange alien flora, becoming a new form of bodily and spiritual life – a concomitant death and resurrection. It does not seem necessarily sinister, but is certainly dark, profound, and unfathomable.

The decaying, rot-eaten textures of the paint also lend to the antique air of his works, as if these were artworks of a realm immeasurably distant in the future, being rescued from the obscurity of its ancient past. Arrivabene’s is an alien, primal religious world, which is constantly transformed by preternatural forces – organic matter with an ethereal dimension. The themes bring to mind the mythology and sense of indescribable mystery of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach novels (and the film adaptation of Annihilation). His visions are encrusted and endlessly elaborated with an organically baroque beauty, forms developed by a nature unknown to us, rather than by human artifice. I love the luminous colors, and the incredible detail – overall his oeuvre exudes a delicacy and subtlety which is truly otherworldly. It perhaps portrays the ecstatic agony of alien saints.

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Black Veil Studio

Black Veil Studio comprises a team of identical twin brothers who are tattooists and artists, based in Salem, Massachusetts. Their work is inspired by their fascination with Victorian mourning etiquette/culture and the rich lore of their ancient city. The resulting imagery is lovely and often disturbing. The vacant, fixed eyes of the spectral female figures gracefully haunting their work convey a subtle horror, and witches, demons, spiders, bats, crescent moons, New England colonial houses abound in their illustrations. The macabre panoply of images which merge beauty with eeriness make for arrestingly picturesque tattoo designs. Prints, candles, and sundry goods are available from their Shoppe of Drear and Wonder.

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Julie Heffernan’s Surreal Historical Portraits: Worlds/Selves On Fire

Julie Heffernan creates delightful, gorgeously rich portraiture which is a sly twist on historical art. Evocative of Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo paintings, her works feature a bursting profusion of flowers, trees, vines, fruits, animals, cities, gemstones, and fires in varying scales. Landscapes like visions, so shimmeringly lovely and ethereal, alternate with classical nudes surrounded by prodigious masses of flora and fauna, as well as portraits of high society dripping with luxurious ostentation. The colors are sometimes amazingly vibrant, the reds almost painfully beautiful. Heffernan combines a masterly technique with irony and surrealism in a super-encrusted, elaborated, and enameled style that synthesizes many genres and periods of painting. These metaphorical self-portraits and portrayals of an opulent and decaying world represent the trail of disaster, the constant crises, small fires catching on the exquisite hems of ladies’ gowns…in short, the picturesque carnage of a society in decline.

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New England Nightmares by Bill Crisafi

Bill Crisafi creates delicately eerie pen-and-ink drawings which are “heavily influenced by the dark nostalgia of his home state of Massachusetts.” A macabre quasi-Victorian aesthetic, both spooky and ethereal, depicts themes of paganism, occultism, and folklore. Towering black-haired female figures, spindle-boned witches, stalk across a grim landscape of colonial architecture, decaying ancient farmhouses such as Lovecraft would have dreamt of, and New England forests.

Baba Yaga, Gryla, triumvirates of Fate-like women, bats, satanic goats, mythical chimerical creatures, and demonic bacchanals form the subject matter of Crisafi’s spidery illustrations. The wispy long masses of dark hair of some of these beings are beautiful and reminiscent of the terrifyingly tragic women of Poe’s stories. Cloisonné pins and lovely tapestries are available in his online shop. I also love the plates which he has designed in collaboration with Miss Havisham’s Curiosities.

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Dehn Sora

Multidisciplinary artist and graphic designer Dehn Sora, also known as Vincent Petitjean, produces the most darkly beautiful and alluringly disturbing work. The exquisite textures are haunting, lyrical, and partake of the ashy fineness of a Shade’s dreams in the Underworld.

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Grotesque Mysticism: The Art of Zakuro Aoyama

Brazil-based Zakuro Aoyama’s highly detailed, imaginatively macabre drawings and paintings are strongly appealing to me. Reminiscent of Takato Yamamoto’s work (who is my favorite artist along with Vania Zouravliov), they are fascinatingly intricate, luring the eye in with strange phantasmal layers and concentrities of flesh-like threads. Both ethereal and carnal, the images are wickedly beautiful, conveying a sense of playfulness, of invitation, and of corrupted purity. They seem to take inspiration from old Japanese kaidan and from French Symbolism, among other things. Their delicate boldness is refined as well as sensational, permeated with a melancholy eroticism.

The molten, striated textures of the paint are tantalizingly lovely. Aoyama skillfully pairs the spectral with the corporeal. I also love the way in which he combines swirling, hazy, yet full-colored, surreal backgrounds with the precision and meticulous delicateness of his linework. The solid lushness of the color is satisfying and provides body where there is a certain quality of vaporousness and highly-wrought elegance, giving an overall effect that is both elusive and gripping. The encrustations, the enameled and elaborated nature of these visions, are abysmally intriguing.

I had previously posted about Zakuro Aoyama, but he had not yet introduced color into his work – an element which I think has added a sumptuous gorgeousness and a further depth to his art that make it even more richly eerie.

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Garden and Grave: The Tragic Naturalism of Teagan White

Teagan White’s art seems to depict the lost souls of animals. It deals with humankind’s predatory relation to nature, wherein destruction, decay, and ruin reign within us. It also explores the intertwined brutality and tenderness of the natural world and its “subtle, gentle reciprocity and wild, tragic discord through muted colors, ornamental layouts, and meticulous detail.” I find myself drawn to the empty eyes of the eerie small animals who find a resting place within these delicate illustrations – the somehow soulless yet sad, pleading, melancholy look of a mouse or a rabbit… Ever-dying and ever-undead, they seem to me to have a perpetual and voiceless appeal. I also love the ominously poetic titles of some of these works, such as Thy Bleak Moor Shall Be Stained With Blood As She Enters the Dwelling of the Dead. The elegant, naturalist perspective of Teagan’s style is infused with passion/compassion for the stricken creatures. It is a form of visual lament or dirge for the diminishing earth.