Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Richard Tennant Cooper

I suppose I am setting a premise with this post, as I don't think I have ever reviewed a painting before (although before my last post I'd never reviewed a radio program, either), but maybe it's something I should do on occasion, as I can think of at least two other paintings and one artist in general I like, that have a horror-based theme.

Anyway, I was browsing the web, and I came across this blog called Metal on Metal, which appears to be as much about disturbing and provocative art (right up my alley), as it is about presenting metal albums and songs. And I found one entry on an artist by the name of Richard Tennant Cooper, that caught my attention.

The selection of his art presented on the blog (click the link above to see what I'm talking about) seems to revolve around the subject of disease and bodily decay, but he illustrates those concepts with a feel for the fantastical as well as horror. For example, in one painting, he conceptualizes diphtheria's effect on a child as a ghastly phantasm strangling the child's neck. In another, typhoid is represented by a grim reaper poisoning a river with a vile, black substance. In yet another, a sickly woman on her death bed is attended by a ghostly reaper with an hourglass in its hand. Chloroform is personified by little gremlins crawling over a medical patient's body. And in one of the more conceptually rich images, cancer is depicted as a giant, ghostly claw clutching at a woman's breast, yet it is being stabbed by another woman with a knife, allegedly symbolizing "science's fight against cancer".

Obviously, from a medical perspective, viewing death as a phantasm existing on the spiritual plane, or disease as its ghastly minions, is superstitious and in conflict with the standard operation of modern medicine. Yet, on a conceptual level, purely as a fantasy, it strikes a dark chord within me. It is a powerful, almost seductive, belief, that these agents that plague us are not merely unthinking organisms but antagonistic, evil creatures with supernatural powers; frankly it makes reality seem boring in comparison.

Obviously, the more mundane reality is reassuring (unless we extend our superstitions to the positive forces - i.e., of God - as well (of course, faith healing doesn't work nearly as effectively as medicine)), but the fantasy is so much more sensational, it just seems so much scarier to me. It's the same feeling, incidentally, I got when I listened to that radio program on vampires. In another age, when society had less understanding of the workings of the world, people actually believed in these things, and they didn't seem so outrageous as they do today. And that thought just chills my bones.

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