Archive for the Century Guild Contemporary Category

Gail Potocki Brings Beauty to Artifice

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Gail Potocki, Uncategorized with tags , , on 19 May, 2012 by SeanChase

I’ve grown up loving art of all different eras and aesthetic movements, however, with that said, I rarely find a piece of artwork that genuinely moves me so deeply that it becomes forever emblazoned in my mind and heart.  There are paintings from the Italian Renaissance, the Romanticists, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Symbolists, and then later from the Expressionists, which have managed to do this, yet most modern art seems to be so concerned with style and conceptualization, that it becomes emotionally devoid in its presentation.  So, it is a very special feeling when a contemporary artist creates a piece of work that speaks to the mind, as well as to the heart, can evoke emotion, and provoke thought.  Gail Potocki‘s painting, “The Repositioning of Artifice” is such a piece of work.

“The Repositioning of Artifice” by Gail Potocki (2012, oil on linen).

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From Horror to Ecstasy – Dave McKean Turns Silence into Expression

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Dave McKean, Silent Cinema, Transmission Atelier, Uncategorized with tags , , on 26 April, 2012 by SeanChase

On February 26th, 2012, something rather extraordinary occurred:  The Artist, a contemporary silent film won the ‘Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year‘.  Almost coinciding with this momentous occasion is the fact that a few days later, March 4th marked the 90th anniversary of what is my favorite film of all time, Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie des Grauens, directed by German silent filmmaker Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau.  On March 4th, the film had its gala preview showing back in 1922.  The film, for those who aren’t familiar with it, has become an iconic classic among the annals of horror films and is one of the most visually poetic of the films often collectively referred to as German Expressionist cinema.

Max Schreck as Count Orlok and Greta Schröder as Ellen.  In the starkly climactic scene of the 1922 film “Nosferatu”, the vampire Count Orlok is lured to his demise with an offering of blood by the virtuous and virginal heroine, Ellen Hutter.  As she sacrifices herself to his monstrous appetite, Count Orlok is diverted and unaware of the passing time, thus rendering him helpless to the lethal first rays of sunlight.

“Nosferatu” (2010, mixed media).  Dave McKean’s marvelously expressionistic interpretation of the same scene in the film.  One of the great examples of his ongoing “Nitrate” series of paintings which are a glorious homage to classic films of the early era.  The use of tortured angles, rich textures, and chiaroscuro effects would have met with great approval from the film’s director F.W. Murnau.

Many of these silent films possess a symbolic quality and a visual poetry that most modern films lack entirely.  The filmmakers of the Expressionist movement took advantage of the environment in which the story played out and used it to serve as a visual metaphor for the emotional state of the characters.  Cinematographers and cameramen employed new techniques in moving the camera around while shooting, in addition to placing an emphasis on the contrast between light and shadow.  Meanwhile editors experimented with cutting scenes so as to create the illusion of geographical and emotional continuity from one shot to the next.

It was a new era and because no one had ever laid out the rules or guidelines for what couldn’t be done in the cinema, many filmmakers approached their craft with an experimental curiosity, both in terms of the subject matter that they explored and the way in which they went about creating the haunting imagery being shown on screen.

The ominous figure of Mephisto, played by German character actor Emil Jannings, hovers over the town as his colossal wings fan a miasma of plague on the people.  This classic scene from F.W. Murnau’s 1926 film “Faust” was a showcase not only for special effects of the day, but also a wonderful opportunity to display the operatic scale of the battle between good and evil in the cinematic medium.

“Faust” (2007, mixed media).  Dave McKean’s impressive take on the memorable scene.  The way in which he has fabricated the effect of the wind and the cloud of plague blowing over the rooftops is extremely creepy and stylistically rivals the same effect achieved in the film.

Interestingly, there has been in the past few years a growing appreciation and understanding of why silent cinema is so special.  While film scholars and cineastes have long championed silent films for their artistic merits and their technical innovation, many modern film audiences have until recently dismissed them as relics of the past, but now with the this new recognition that silent films are receiving, many movie goers are reevaluating their initial stance on these classics.  No more are they being viewed as fading relics of redundant or obsolete technologies.  Finally, more people are beginning to see their artistic value and the important part that they played in the continuing evolution of the movie industry.

Without the films of Georges Méliès, Robert Wiene, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Sergei Eisenstein, Fritz Lang, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Victor Sjöström, Paul Leni, and others, we wouldn’t even have had the wonderful European art house films of the past 50 years.  And these are but just a few of the great filmmakers from Europe.  There were many wonderful silent film directors in America and throughout other parts of the world.  Taking that into consideration, the long lasting effect of these films cannot be understated;  they are an essential part of our culture and of cinematic history.
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SPRING IS SPRUNG: Featuring Gail Potocki studio sale!

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Century Guild Events, Gail Potocki on 7 April, 2012 by Thomas Negovan

Here are some room snapshots of the gallery before tomorrow’s event!  If anything catches your eye, please email us at GALLERY at CENTURYGUILD dot NET and we’ll do what we can to help you feel like you’re in Chicago at the sale!

Spring Sale: Dave McKean, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Alphonse Mucha

Spring Sale: Dave McKean, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Alphonse Mucha CLICK TO ENLARGE

McKean, Schiele, Klimt, Mucha and more

McKean, Schiele, Klimt, Mucha and more CLICK TO ENLARGE

Hans Christiansen, Silent Movie posters, Arts+Crafts, and 1950s exhibition lithographs

Hans Christiansen, Silent Movie posters, Arts+Crafts, and 1950s exhibition lithographs CLICK TO ENLARGE

Gail Potocki, studio sale artworks

Gail Potocki, studio sale artworks CLICK TO ENLARGE

Angela with Veil, special price $1500

Angela with Veil, SOLD

Gail Potocki studio sale: all sold!  CLICK TO ENLARGE

Gail Potocki studio sale: all sold! Thank you! CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

Welcome to the Freakshow!

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Exploitation Films, Gail Potocki, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 2 March, 2012 by SeanChase

Deep down, I think we all have an attraction to the strange and unusual.  Some people don’t want to admit it and others will just as soon look away in disgust or horror, but in actuality, for a number of reasons, those that we regard as different or as strange and unusual hold a fascination for us.  Despite our best efforts, it’s still difficult not to stare awkwardly at those who live beyond the “norm” of society, those that don’t match our cultural and social expectations, or those who merely look different from us.  Often we resort to insulting terms such as “weirdos”, “creeps”, or “freaks” to describe these people whom we fail to understand.  But perhaps the greatest reason that we have this love/hate relationship with them is because they remind us of ourselves.

Perhaps there is no greater example within contemporary culture of our dualistic reaction to the social outsider than the 1932 Tod Browning horror-melodrama Freaks.  The film, which has become beloved by some and reviled by others, is considered one of the first true cult classics and even today it still manages to pack a punch.  The story is a deceptively simple tale about the companionship of a small group of sideshow performers and what happens when their inner circle is threatened by “normal” folk – the other great outsider.  One of the aspects of the film that created such an outrage and controversy when it was initially released was the fact that unlike almost any other film of its day, director Browning chose to use real life human anomalies to portray the characters of the story.

Today, this makes the film an interesting contradiction in that it is at once both an exploitation film and an empathetic look at the lives of those who are rejected by the mainstream culture.  However, ironically the film which served as a cautionary tale about judging one based upon appearances was almost unanimously panned by critics who had no desire to see “living monstrosities projected on the screen“.  During later years as viewers re-examined this flawed masterpiece of vintage shock cinema, they were struck by the seeming contradiction of a film that exploits the subjects that it attempts to advocate.  In spite of this controversy and indeed partially because of it, the film has endured for 80 years now and is regarded as a classic of horror cinema.

Director Tod Browning and a few members of his beloved consortium of freaks.  This promotional photo was taken on the set of the 1932 film, which would gain notoriety among filmmakers and critics, as well as shine a light (a somewhat unflattering one) on what goes on behind the scenes at the circus sideshow.

Yet the real stories of the sideshow freaks and the characters that populated the world of the carnevale spectacular are perhaps just as unbelievable and shocking as those of their fictional counterparts in Browning’s Freaks.  These “freaks” and others have been resurrected via the skilled hand of modern symbolist painter Gail Potocki in a series of paintings that must be seen to be believed.  So, if you dare read on, and you must, I shall share with you a glimpse into a world of grotesqueries, oddities, and anomalies that once scandalized the general public and left the faces of outsiders forever emblazoned in the minds of the world.

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Heavy Metal Meets Heavy Art

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Gail Potocki, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 20 January, 2012 by SeanChase

Art and music.  Music and art.  Both mediums require not only inherent talent and dedicated practice, but also of an understanding of human emotions and ideas.  The two compliment one another well, and why shouldn’t they?  For centuries, artists have taken their inspiration from song and sought to endow their work with a visual lyricism just as composers and musicians have aspired to paint images in the minds of those that listen to their music.  But sometimes art and music come together unexpectedly.

Gail Potocki is an immensely talented contemporary Symbolist painter whose artwork is daringly original and yet evocative of the great painters of the 19th Century.  Metallica is arguably the most successful American heavy metal band ever and their long career has been rewarded with multiple awards, bestselling albums, and a worldwide fan base.  Who would have predicted that two seemingly different creative forces would come together?

Today, January 20th, 2012, one of Gail’s paintings will be prominently featured at the opening of an art exhibition held at Exhibit A Gallery.  The exhibition is called Obey Your Master:  Art Tribute to Metallica and will showcase a diverse group of artists with eclectic influences as they use the visual medium to pay homage to the popular metal band’s songs.  Each piece of artwork will be an interpretation or celebration of one of Metallica’s songs.  While Gail’s painting for this show has been revealed on the gallery’s website, the title of the painting has been kept a mystery to all until the showing.

Here is her painting,  “Through the Never,  inspired by the song of the same name of the self-titled fifth album by Metallica.

"Through the Never" by Gail Potocki (2011, Oil on linen, custom frame).

All that is, was and will be
Universe much too big to see
Time and space never ending
Disturbing thoughts, questions pending
Limitations of human understanding

Too quick to criticize
Obligation to survive
We hunger to be alive

Twisting, turning through the never
All that is, ever
Ever was, will be, ever
Twisting, turning through the never
– Metallica
in the song “Through the Never

When asked why she chose this particular song, Gail answered, “I chose this song because it had somewhat vague and abstract lyrics and fit well with how I like to approach my paintings.”  She went on to explain the symbolic motifs in her painting and how they correlate with the lyrics.  “The lyrics of this song seem to be meditations on the idea of eternity and mortality and that was the direction that I took this painting in.  For example, the octopus has been used in many cultures to represent the unconscious and the universe, so I placed the tentacles behind the woman to represent the never ending cosmos.”

A detail from Gail Potocki's "Through the Never" showing in close-up: the tentacle, the black bird, the woman with the poppies, and the needle passing through her hand.

Detail of "Through the Never" in which the lifeline thread can be seen tightly wound around the woman's thumb, cutting off her circulation, and foreshadowing her demise.

“The red poppies strung around her neck are a symbol of oblivion.  One end of the string is wrapped around her finger and it begins to turn blue.  This foreshadows the inescapable inevitability of death.  The needle, on which the poppies are thread, pierces through the lifeline on the woman’s right hand while her blood flows down and in to the mouth of the black bird below.  This to me represents the continuous cycle and flow of all life.”

Another detail of Potocki's "Through the Never". This one shows the precision with which she created the black bird that is both the ultimate manifestation of the beginning, the end, and a new beginning... life, death, and rebirth.

The broken egg on the tail of this bird represents renewal and birth.  I used a blue light radiating from a unidentified source on the left side of the painting to further represent the idea of the mysterious unknown.  I tried to have a reason for everything in this painting;  there is very little that was included for aesthetic purposes alone.

Looking over Symbolist and Art Nouveau works of the past can provide further insight into Gail’s masterful approach to her painting.

In Carlos Schwabe's "Spleen et Idéal" (1896), one can see similar visual motifs such as the violent waters, the menacing and inescapable tentacles, and the wings. This painting by Schwabe, was by no coincidence, also inspired by another medium. Its themes and title were appropriated from Charles Baudelaire's poem found in his book "Les Fleurs du Mal" (The Flowers of Evil), which deals with decadence, sensuality and the inevitability of death.

In this Jugendstil poster for "Frommes Kalender" by Koloman Moser, you can see a combination of Symbolist and Art Nouveau styles. The Ouroboros (the circular self-devouring serpent) is an ancient symbol that is often found in Hermetic iconography. It can represent numerous ideas such as the ongoing cycle of life in which the older generation is consumed by the younger generation, or spiritual renewal, but it has also been used by some to suggest the transcendental concept of the psyche overcoming the limitations of the body or the physical world. In this case, the ouroboros is accompanied by an hourglass, a symbol of time and mortality, while the beautiful woman dressed in dark could be interpreted as holding it as the key to her own longevity.

After acknowledging the long tradition of artists interpreting music, lyrics, and poetry into visual medium I became curious as to what Gail’s favorite example of this might be.  Here’s what she had to say: “All the 19th century Symbolist painters were heavily influenced by the literature and poetry of their times.  I love so much of it, but I am particularly fond of Fernand Khnopff‘s ‘I Lock the Door Upon Myself‘ which was inspired by Christina Rossetti‘s poem ‘Who Shall Deliver Me?  His painting pays homage to her work but is an incredible painting in its own right.

Fernand Khnopff's 1891 painting "I Lock the Door Upon Myself" inspired by poet Christina Rossetti's poem "Who Shall Deliver Me?" written in 1876. Khnopff was a Belgian Symbolist painter and he followed very much in the footsteps of the British Pre-Raphaelite movement, of which Christina Rossetti's brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was a founding member.

Gail’s painting “Through the Never” and other contemporary works of art inspired by Metallica can be viewed at Exhibit A Gallery during the public viewing from January 23rd – March 23rd.

Exhibit A Gallery
Address: 1086 South Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90019
Phone #: (323) 954-7295
Open Monday – Saturday: 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
For more info, please visit:  http://www.exhibitagallery.com/


– Sean

Bridging Past and Present with Jeremy Bastian

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Grand Guignol, Jeremy Bastian, Olympian Publishing, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 17 January, 2012 by SeanChase
"The Griffon" Jeremy A. Bastian

“The Griffon” (Ink on paper, 2009) is but one example of Jeremy A. Bastian’s love of the mythical and necessity for detail.

Unless you’re a diehard comic book enthusiast or an avid student of art history, it might at first be difficult to imagine what comics and fine art really have in common.  Comics tend to be denigrated as merely pop culture kitsch or kids’ stuff.  And with all of the superheroes in colorful costumes, the Saturday morning cartoons, and the whole hub of merchandising aimed at children and adolescents, it’s not hard to see why someone might arrive at such a conclusion.  On the other hand, fine art has been elevated to the pinnacle of creative innovation and self-expression for most cultures around the globe.

"The Manticore" Jeremy A. Bastian

Another example of Bastian’s detailed and whimsical take on classic mythical creatures: “The Manticore” (Ink on paper, 2009).

If you ask any true comic book fan if there’s more to the medium in terms of artistic or literary merits, they will promptly and adamantly attempt to persuade you of the cultural and social significance of comics.  Similarly, not all comic fans may have an appreciation or understanding on the finer points of classical art much to the chagrin of art critics.  Yet, there is a strong correlation between the two, though neither group of enthusiasts will necessarily admit to it.  So, how does one bridge antiquity with modernity, the past with the present, and unite two groups of people who may have more in common than either recognize?
The answer is simple:  Jeremy A. Bastian.
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SNEAK PREVIEW: “Grand Guignol II: HÄXAN – Satan + The Women who love Him”

Posted in Austin Young, Century Guild Contemporary, Century Guild Events, Gail Potocki, Grand Guignol, Malleus Rock Art Lab on 21 October, 2011 by j.a.

"Your first look at 'HÄXAN - Satan + The Women who love Him'"

Just over 40 hours until decadent Hell is unleashed upon Chicago…

Austin Young’s 1999 portrait of avant-garde diva Diamanda Galás lures you in to bear witness to the sensual horrors Century Guild has curated; Georges de Feure’s 1893 Japonist conjuration of wickedness “Friends of the Devil in the Flesh” and Gustav Klimt’s ultra-seductive “The Witch” (1919)  are but a few of the number of important works documenting magical women.

If you look closely, you can also see Italian Art Nouveau master Adolfo Hohenstein next to modern Italian artists Malleus, painter Gail Potocki, and sculptor Stanislav Szukalski adding to the ambiance…

If you’re in Chicago, you DO NOT want to miss what we have in store for you.  For more information, click HERE.

–j