Invictus

Invictus (Thank you C.M. for the image)

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

My artwork “Invictus” was inspired by the Victorian poem with the same title by William Ernest Henley (1849–1903). It is an overpainted collage, with a dimension of about 70 x 50 cm.

The original artwork has been framed in a gold-coloured antique vintage frame and resides within a private collection in Thuringia, Germany, within a stately home. It was one of the pieces that weren’t really easy for me to part with, but it is good to know it in such a lovely place. There is a strictly limited edition of 23 artprints available at the Ateliershop, with different sizes to choose from. It is also possible to create a custom size art print.

Henley’s poem does tell you more about this artwork than any words of mine ever could. If you follow my writings, you might have found out already that I do not write these “work introductions” to explain my art, but rather to give you a background story and some basic data. I have never been much into poetry at all, most of it I find a waste of time to be honest, but this one is a piece that did strike a chord with me when I read it the first time, and it does again, any time I re-read it. It has been like a mantra for dark times for me ever since.

Invictus

Detail

Submission

“Submission” is my largest piece to date and measures 122 x 99cm (including frame).

This piece is probably the one that received the most attention from the audience over the years and raised the most questions. The original was only exhibited twice, the artprint version much more often and even made it to the USA. You can find some thoughts about “Submission”  as well in last year’s printed edition of Pfingstgeflüster (in German language), the author quite obviously visited the exhibition in Leipzig during Wave Gotik Treffen 2017. The original is NOT FOR SALE, it is only possible to buy a limited edition print (only 23 available).

I will for sure not explain the image itself to you, hell no, but answer the constant question of how it was done technically. This work is an overpainted collage, based on my own photographs. The original photographs also appeared as black & white images in my book release “Sintra” in 2005, which is long out of print. The photographs were cut apart and re-assembled to something completely new and then overpainted in a complete layer. The overpaint consists of acrylic paint and some blood. Yes, it’s my own blood. You can see some details in the images below. The frame is an antique original, dating back to around 1900.

A journey within a journey: Alice in Wonderland

A while back I revisited Sintra (Portugal) in company of two friends. Apart from the typical sightseeing plans, we had also planned another kind of journey, a psychedelic trip in the company of Alice, within the setting of the lovely mountains of the Sintra range. Our first idea, to do this in the night within one of the parks of Sintra was shattered when we watched the security marching in – and we delayed the journey for one day. Instead I used the evening to successfully cure one of my friends from her arachnophobia, as it seemed crazy to me to take her into the forest in company of Alice with this fear.

We spent the whole next day outside in the mountains until dust. The journey was very intense, as expected, and left all participants in a rapturous state of mind, when we slowly descended back to our temporary home chalet while it slowly got dark.

[A few days prior to our journey, still in Leipzig, my mobile phone broke. I hate buying new phones, but looking through the offers a special phone caught my attention, with a build-in-camera and a real lens. It was not available in the local shop, but the shop owner promised me it would arrive before the travel. It did, but very very last minute. I had to catch a cab to the airport and stop over at the shop, run in and out to get to my flight in time – with the new phone…]

As I was not going to drag my camera equipment with me on a psychedelic journey, I intended to shoot images with the new device, which showed indeed a very decent image quality. Of course, I did not do the shooting before Alice calmed down again, otherwise it would have been impossible to handle the camera. But I still had visual effects looking around and all the small details of the forest floor caught my attention. The colors were far more intense than usual and everything seemed to have a metallic shimmer. Later, when I processed the images, I tried to bring back those visual perceptions Alice gave me, and I am quite content with the results.

 

To enhance the effect, resulting images have been printed on metallic or (depending on the size) high gloss photo paper. Of course, this doesn’t really come out on this web versions. Prints are available on request, please contact me via email or the Ateliershop if you’re interested to have these on your walls. They are available in different sizes, up to 45x45cm per piece.

(If this article confuses you, you might want to look up the different meanings of “Alice”. I think many people would have added a disclaimer, saying something like “Don’t do this…”, but I strongly believe in everyone being resposible for him/herself.)

Sunwheels

logo of the Ateliershop

It is safe to say that I have become  artistically obsessed with sunwheels since quite some time. This goes along nicely with my late obsession for the sun itself. A few years back, this was quite different. I hated summertime and took every chance to lurk around in the shadows, as being exposed to the sun was a complete hell for me. But that changed at some point. Today, for me, there is nothing better than a hot and dry sunny day. After winter, when spring comes with the first sunny days, I feel like a cold-blooded lizard, eagerly waiting to get my body temperature on a functional level by sitting in the sun.

 

You find representations of the sun in every culture. It is one of the oldest archaic symbols men created. You find it on cave walls, ancient jewellery, architecture and sculptures. Whole cults were dedicated to the sun. Which is highly understandable, given the fact that without the sun we would not even exist. Even plants, that don’t care for radiation levels killing all other life, would not exist without the sun, as their life is based on the process of photosynthesis. Celebrating the solstices is also a very old tradition, and personally one of the ones that I follow myself. While many other traditional celebrations seem odd to me, specially the modern adaptions of them, the summer solstices feel very real. While for example New Year’s Eve means nothing to me at all, the summer solstices truly devide my year in seasonal parts that I can feel and experience.

The first sunwheel I ever created was a digital collage, dating back almost 15 years, when I was actually still prefering to stay out of the sun. Same creation has become my Ateliershop logo last year, with a different color scheme though. A second one followed a few years later, the artwork “Four Kissing Goats“, a mix of photography-based digital collage and overpainting. The artwork was banned from my first exhibition in Berlin in 2009, because the responsible gallerist feared a similarity to a certain forbidden German symbol. I don’t really see the connection. I wear a variation of the same artwork on my back by way, tattooed on my skin.

After those works, I was done with the subject for quite a while. Until 2014, when my obsession for sunwheels and the sun really started. Moving into my old studio in Leipzig (the original Atelier Abraxas) in December 2013, the whole area around it was a strange urban wasteland. Some dead plants caught my attention, because of their roots, and I took them into the studio. They did lounge around for a few month, until I came up with the idea of a sunwheel made of roots. The rootwheel was born. The idea stuck, and I created a few variations of it. After that I lost count. The rootwheel also became a motive for the handpainted shirts of my small label Okkulteur, but that happend quite some time later, somewhen in 2016, during my time in the Thuringian forest. Those rootwheels also became patient zero of a series of sunwheel sculptures made from different materials. At some point I created the “Antler’s Cross” and the “Antler’s Wheels”, followed by the “Wheel of Seven“, a sunwheel made of goat/sheep bones, with ornamental fox teeth and a dolphin vertebrae in the center. My latest sunwheel is the “Wheel of Fire”, made of dried Protea repens and lower jaws of deers. Anyone who visited my last exhibition “KultHaus” might remember it. Sketches and ideas for more sunwheels exist already and the upcoming new collection of handpainted shirts will also feature at least one new version. The worship of the sun will continue!

 

Fishing for compliments / Der Menschenangler

This is definetely the oldest piece for the category “Introducing work pieces” and obviously not in line with my recent works. Nevertheless I still like the absurdity of it.

This photography dates back to the 80s, maybe 1987/88, when I was 14 or 15 years old. It is the oldest experimental photograph in my archive, taken with a small analog camera. It was shot at the shore of the island Sylt, far northwest of Germany, surrounded by the Northern Sea. I used to spend many summer holidays there in my childhood and youth. The red spot below the center of the image is actually my mother, wearing a hilarious fire-red raincoat, that always made my father ashamed to leave the house with her. He attached a lot of importance to seem like a truly conservative fellow, wearing something so fire-red seemed wicked to him and completely ruined the facade he liked to maintain.

As you see, I started taking photographs quite early in my life, but in the beginning, I didn’t own a single lens reflex camera, but one of those little black plastic boxes with one build-in lens, that only allowed point and shoot. It kept bugging me that I had not much influence on the resulting image this way, and I started experimenting with double exposures to do something more creative with the limited options I had. After shooting one image, I simply didn’t use the transport wheel, but shot another one first. Over the years, moving around a lot, I lost almost all negatives and images of those days. But this image somehow made it until today. Sadly, the negative is lost, too. The image displayed here is actually not a scan but a mobile snapshot of the original, so the quality is not very high.

Last summer, I entered this image into a contest on Photocrowd, called “Absurdist created completely in-camera“. While the crowd-rating put it on rank 79, the judge  of the contest picked it as a winner. The original German title “Der Menschenangler” would actually translate to “fishing for humans”, but “fishing for compliments” still seems to be a more proper translation.

The “Wheel of Seven”

Although I do prefer to not explain every artwork I create (and there are for sure ones, you will never find me writing about), I like to continue to introduce some artworks to the interested reader. This special introduction I am writing on the request of the new owner of this piece.

This is a unique sculpture piece that I have created in March this year, in a series of various sunwheels made of different natural materials, it is called “Wheel of Seven“. It is one of my personal favourites.

There are many ways of interpretation and I will start with one that I did not primarily have in mind when creating it, but that also correlates nicely. If you are familiar with Greek mythology, which was actually a hobbyhorse of mine when I was a child, along with all the old mythologies and their pantheons of gods, you sure are familiar with the Greek god and personification of the sun, the god Helios.  Helios wears a crown of a radiant halo and drives the chariot of the sun across the sky each day. In many depictions (not in all) his radiant halo is seven-pointed. Same goes for the equivalent in Roman mythology, the sun god Sol.

While I originally refer to it as another sunwheel because of its radial structure, I also see it as a “wheel of planets”, where the sun is only a part of the bigger image. The seven refer to the so-called classical planets, that are visible with the plain eye and have therefor been known the longest in astronomic history. This dates back to the Chaldeans, from the far southeastern corner of Mesopotamia, that was later assimilated into Babylonia. Sun and moon where included into the list, to correlate to the pantheon of gods. The Chaldeans had a special order for the planets, each refering to one of the seven weekdays it is supposed to rule: Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Sun.

If you would connect the seven endpoints of this sculpture, you get a (slightly distorted, due to the features of the natural materials) seven-pointed star (heptagram), that is open for many other interpretations as well, from christian to neopagan to thelemitic, and even Game of Thrones fans will find their own point of view I guess. But if you have to make this connection lines, I very much prefer the alchemical point of view, which leads us back to those seven classical planets mentioned above.

The Wheel of Seven is made of natural materials. No animals have been killed for this sculpture, of course, all parts are from animals who died for different reasons quite some time ago. The radial bones are of goat or sheep (I am not a biologist, so sadly I can’t tell the difference) found on the Canary Islands. The fox teeth ornaments at the end of every bone are of German origin. The vertebrae in the center of the piece is from a dolphin, I found it many years ago on the beach of Heimaey, the small volcanic island southwest of Iceland.

The Wheel of Seven is not available anymore, it has been sold and will very soon travel to its new owner in Munich, Bavaria.

On my own account I like to add something to this post. I have a few ideas and sketches for more bone sculptures, some small, some larger scale. These mainly require older bones, that have preferedly been exposed to the elements for quite some time, like the ones I used in the Wheel of Seven. Although goat and sheep bones are very nice, the bones I am looking for can be of any animal and size. From where I live, such bones are hard to come by. I found such in the South of Europe, specially in Spain and Greece, but also in Northern countries. If you live in an area where it is possible to find them in larger amounts, please send me a message to atelier(.)abraxas(at)gmail(.)com. I might include such locations into my future travel plans. If you should be willing to collect some bone material for me yourself, I am willing to pay a small finders fee as well as the packing & postage for it of course. 

Leger des Heils Installation | Release “Imperium”

I have mentioned this work before in my old Archives, but today I will write a bit more from “behind the scenes”. I created this piece(s) in the second half of last year, after Mario, the man behind the musical project Leger des Heils had contacted me, to ask me for some visual works for his album release “Imperium”. I could not be happier with this request, because I have known and liked Mario’s music for many years and before he asked, I had no idea that he had followed my work as well for quite some time.

While the previous releases all have a more bright approach in design, Mario was looking for something more dark to illustrate his musical works. He came to the right place. Although I have created some pretty bright things myself, it is still the darker side of art & design that I enjoy creating the most.

He gave me the (at that point unreleased and of course top secret) tracks of the album, as a soundtrack to work to. I loved the album immediately. Because I was going to create something entirely new for the album art, I decided to do it on a larger scale. The result is this installation, each piece measuring 40x40cm. These images are not paintings, but digital collages based on photographies. Every piece has been printed once and I mounted it on medium density fibreboard and sealed it with various layers. It is still possible to frame them additionally, but not necessary. The whole installation measures 120x80cm plus a few tolerance cm between the images.

While working in the area of media design, it sometimes is more of a service work than a collaboration. But in this case it was very different. It was a true collaboration and certainly not our last artistic project together. When it came to picking the covers for the cd release and the record (they are not identical), we immediately picked the same pieces.

Ususally, when I reveal art to a client, I am a bit nervous, will he really like it, or not? But I remember the evening before I revealed the final works to Mario, a friend was writing to me, to wish me good luck for the viewing. My spontaneous answer was, I do not need luck, I know he is going to love it. And I knew I was right, when I saw his face the next day, looking at the artworks. Thank you very much, Mario, it was an absolute pleasure to work with you!

I had various requests to sell just one or two images from this installation, but I am not willing to take the pieces apart from each other. It would destroy the installation forever. The six pieces were created to stay together in the special order they are displayed in. It’s either all of them or none. (Price on request)

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Leger des Heils: Imperium

“Five years after their latest opus Leger des Heils return with their new album “Imperium“, their most intense and personal work to date. “Imperium” contains ten songs of ritual poetry, fragility and enlightenment, which cast a glimpse in to the spiritual life of Leger des Heils. It’s an album of hymnal music, designated to the guardian of light. The artwork created by Laetitia Mantis, high priestess of magical art, is woven into the concept as a perfect visual supplement to the music while the album was mastered by Michael Powers (Area Bombardment).” (Text from the official release announcement)

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