Kruella d’Enfer

Kruella d’Enfer is a visual artist and illustrator whose works present us with a glimpse into “her enchanted visual world, evoking a deep sense of wonder with the fantastical, benevolent creatures that inhabit its dark and mysterious corners, be they mystical wolves or magical foxes, bewitching tigers or shamanistic deers. At ease with painting both large-scale murals and intimist works on paper and canvas, her use of contrasting colours and geometric shapes brings age-old legends and myths to life, composing fantastic stories with a universal appeal.”

Her works are based on her dreams and memories, which makes them very relevant to my own work. She also incorporates many personal elements and symbols into her paintings. This biographical aspect of her work also caught my attention and made me research her portfolio a little bit more.

She mostly does murals and paintings, though she has also made book covers and sculptures, working with a wide range of materials and techniques. I was particularly interested in her use of textures as a way of colouring in the illustrations, which I found very appealing, and a tridimensional technique she used to create images with depth and shadows.

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>> Textures <<

Instead of colouring the previous drawings with solid colours, I wanted to experiment colouring them with different textures. As such, I made a few different textures, using paint, colouring pens and pastels. Though these were meant to be just for colouring in the illustrations, I quite liked how they were turning out and, as I was enjoying making them as well, I kept making more, using colours that expressed the feelings in my dreams and memories, and shapes that linked to something in them (such as blueprints of my previous homes).

The boldness and roughness of them are very contrasting to the drawings I had made. This made me think the textures could work well as a colouring method or even just as a layering experiment.

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Using the previous textures, I experimented with cut-ups, which I composed into different collages. The results were very interesting, though I still preferred the original images. These felt a bit confusing and overwhelming, in a way. Still, they had some potential and I thought it might be interesting to use some close ups or details in the colouring of the drawings.

Inkblots

Thinking about dreams, memory and the subconscious, and with the texts I had read as part of my research in mind, I remembered Rorschach’s inkblot test and how I had used it as inspiration for a previous project.

I folded some A4 sheets in half, dripped a little bit of acrylic paint on it, pressed the two halves together and opened them again to reveal an image. I thought perhaps they could translate subconscious images that I may have but, ultimately, I just wanted to experiment with this technique and see what results it could give rise to.

This technique, though different in process, is a similar concept to automatic drawing – a surrealist art-making method in which the artist suppresses conscious control over the making process, allowing the unconscious mind to take over.

I was surprised witht the images I got as a result. I thought they were very interesting and could be the start of something worth developing. However, they did not relate to the dreams and memories I had been using as a theme for this project (at least not in a conscious way), so I tried to find some way of connecting these to my past.

I copied some pages from my favourite childhood books to use as background when creating more of these images.

Grayson Perry

Elephant Days

An artist known for his peculiar, personal and unique maps is Grayson Perry. His most famous maps – Map on an Englishman, Map of Days, and Map of Nowhere were incredibly relevant for my research.

Map of an Englishman

Instead of locations, this map depicts behaviors and psychological states, including bodies of water named Psychopath and Delirium and landmarks named Happiness, Cliché, Spit, and Bad Manners. The landforms resemble the two halves of the brain, with a left and right side representing different subjects.

Perry employs humour and irony to make works of art that critique accepted social and cultural norms. This map could perhaps be interpreted as both a universal and a specific representation of identity: “A lot of people think it’s generally like an Englishman,” the artist has said. “It is an Englishman. It is me.”

According to Perry himself, he was inspired to make this work…

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Matisse’s Jazz Book

Matisse’s Jazz is a limited-edition art book containing prints of colourful cut-paper collages, accompanied by the artist’s written thoughts. The portfolio, characterised by vibrant colours, poetic texts, and circus and theater themes, marks Matisse’s transition to a new form of medium.

Diagnosed with abdominal cancer in 1941, Matisse underwent surgery that left him chair and bedbound. Limited in mobility, he could no longer paint or sculpt. Instead, he cut forms from colored paper that he arranged as collages, and decoupage which became known as the “cut-outs”.

The designs were initially intended as covers for the Verve magazine, published by art publisher Tériade. In 1947, Tériade issued the compositions in an artist’s portfolio. The book included 20 coloured prints, as well as Matisse’s handwritten notes expressing his thoughts throughout the making-process. Tériade gave it the title Jazz, which Matisse liked because it suggested a connection between art and musical improvisation.

The circus, the title originally suggested for the book, provided inspiration for the majority of the motifs. “These images, with their lively and violent tones, derive from crystallizations of memories of circuses, folktales, and voyages,” Matisse explains in the accompanying text. The figure of the circus artist, usually depicted alone, is often seen as a metaphor for the artist himself.

The first prints illustrating the circus do not seem to have an immediate connection to the succeeding works. However, these compositions are viewed as metaphors of life. The overall themes in Jazz derive from biographical elements, such as Matisse’s recollection of his travels to Tahiti in the three “Lagoon” sheets (XVII–XIX), as well as broader aspects including love (V, VI), death (X), and fate (XVI).

It was the insomnia which greatly informed the look of Jazz. The daylight colour range of his paintings gave way to the artificial light and synthetic colour of the cut-outs. Nocturnal creative activity became his salvation from the anxiety of poor sleep. It is not surprising that several of the images in Jazz are nighttime scenes, figures enveloped in remote darkness, like the deep blue night sky. In fact, only the Lagoon images can assuredly be viewed as daylight scenes. “These images in vivid and violent tones have resulted from crystallizations of memories of the circus, popular tales or travel.”

The themes set forth in Jazz can be separated into four categories: the world of the French music hall and circus, mythology and legends, symbolism for the War between France and Germany, and memories from his life and travels. Rather than painting from life the artist was, as older artists often do, depending on his memory for inspiration and imagery. In a letter to Marquet, Matisse wrote, “I’m growing old, I delight in the past.” The three lagoons depicted in Jazz are decades old recollections of his trip to Tahiti and the vision of aquatic life he saw there through the hull of a glass bottom boat. He says of the Lagoons, “Aren’t you one of the seven wonders of the Paradise of painters?”

It also seems obvious that other themes revealed in the Jazz imagery related to his emotional sentiments of this period. For many of these themes, Jazz was the first time Matisse had conjured them into pictorial space. With others, such as the image of Icarus, the artist returns to a meaningful theme within his repertory. 

The depiction of Icarus falling through a field of deep blue with yellow starbursts all around him can also be read as a visual metaphor for the resistance fighters’ courageous attempts to navigate the skies between the Nazi artillery shelling. The victor/victim duality of war is symbolized in the complementary but opposing dangers expressed in two related prints; self-inflicted danger in the case of the sword swallower and victimization at the hands of another in the depiction of the knife thrower and assistant. The image of the wolf was given a red eye and a menacing mouth as a representation of the Gestapo.

These biographical and symbolic aspects of the “Jazz” piece (including the written thoughts, which are obviosuly quite personal) make this work very relevant to the project I am currently working on. As such, I took inspiration from its style, composition, colours and text.