Mark Powell's Visceral Art

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Little is known about Melbourne dreamer Mark Powell, an apparent new comer to the scene of grotesque art. At this point, it doesn't even matter, as his uniquely visceral photographs speak for themselves. Deemed "Dream Dioramas," these fleshy monstrosities form a complete set of appalling renditions showcased at and his Flickr gallery here. The skinless, meaty deformities conjured up by Powell combine the best features of horrific art in surprising ways. A homely, underground feel is definitely evident in these works, as well as something of the archaic. It is akin to peering into a dimension of freaks, where mindless and malevolent flesh heaps consume their cousins. While it's difficult at first glance to notice the backdrop, due to the overwhelming sideshow of Powell's creatures, a closer look shows an environment smacking of Medieval Europe. Of course, not the crypt-filled religious mania of our own Middle Ages, but a parallel alterverse, where meat is the object of worship, and where the entire setting is a tomb.

Interestingly, Mark Powell's art also suggests many influences: Lovecraft, Ligotti, Giger, Bosch, and a whole range of flesh-eating undead oddities. Simultaneously though, it is none of these things, left all the more ambiguous by the lack of a biography on the artist's homepage. One thing is certain: whatever his intentions, Powell's sculptures go beyond a surreal carnival and cross into a hellish feast. Oddly, these realistic photos instill a certain anxiety, stemming from their ability to make the audience feel as though they're peering into unmentionable rites in a demonic realm. It isn't difficult to make the mental connection to another artist who captured what was never meant to be seen by man: H.P. Lovecraft's Richard Upton Pickman, whose adventures run through the chronicles of the Cthulhu Mythos, but are most thoroughly highlighted in "Pickman's Model." This whimsical suggestion can add an extra layer of tasteful terror to Powell's work. And perhaps, there's always some chance Powell's models, like Pickman's, could be real horrors--now distributed to a broader audience than Pickman could ever dream via internet. Perhaps this is why Powell's personal details and influences are left so murky. At least, let's hope so!

For Italian readers, an overview of Powell's dioramas is posted on the excellent blog of weird horror, "In Tenebris Scriptus."

-Grim Blogger


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