The gargoyle provides a method of drainage which protects the stone and mortar of churches, cathedrals and castles. It is also scary as hell. The creature, usually designed with human, animal and purely fantasy elements, alludes to ancient myth, legend, and pagan religion. It promises temporal suffering for rebellious serfs; and for sinners, eternal damnation.
Perhaps the modern mind, unlike the medieval one, awash in superstitious belief, is not so alarmed by the gargoyle’s threat. Nevertheless, the old technique which empowers Monsieur Gargouille (Old French – probably throat) with the ability to scare, remains the engine today for the most impactful terror art.
What scares us is rooted in reality and has a context or an implied narrative. Being rooted in reality is about imagery which is realistic and to which we can relate. These are the natural elements of our own bodies and of the world around us, man-made or otherwise. Context is the presence of an actual or implied narrative. Context stirs our imagination and gets us to storytelling.
It is possible, for example, that the spookiest portrayals of haunted houses are photographs, not paintings. Why might that be?
Here is an example with some of the elements that make the haunt.
Here we have Shelly Neff’s night photo of the Zembo Shrine in Harrisburg, PA. An upward looking camera angle serves to emphasize the looming, towering aspect of this old stone edifice. The arched windows are black, gothically pointed. Shadows form thick bands, punctuated by fragments of supernatural blue, across the facade. The branches of leafless trees hang limply, desperately.
Artist Gerald Sawyer haunts us from the realm of fantasy. His haunted house painting engages with a dramatic pallet of bloody and hellish reds. We are taken aback but spellbound by the enormous tentacled monster, clearly satanic, who has taken possession of the domain. Although the theory of reality-based scariness does not hold here, Gerald’s serious concept and masterful execution are hauntingly impactful for this Vampiress.
Midisparks Art Notes highlites new blog posts and featured content. Sign up and receive a discount code worth 5% off any print in the Midisparks Art Shop!