Halloween is fast approaching and the celebration of all saints takes various forms, from the commercial pumpkin and ghost costumes in some cultures to the traditional candle lighting at the loved ones’ graves in others.
The obsession with ‘the afterlife’ has always been explored not just religiously, but in popular culture, folklore and the arts too. It can take many forms, from depicting the heaven and angels to the most macabre images that challenge the human psyche visually and mentally.
From Théodore Géricault’s Morgue Studies or Francisco Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Sun to Francis Bacon’s Figure with Meat or Manet’s Le Suicidé, the art history explored death and macabre in realistic paintings where blood, wounds, wars and skeletons took the main stage.
During the Medieval and Renaissance times, there was a lesson to be learnt: death is inevitable. There is an aesthetic of ugliness and grotesque explored in these artworks and artists, poets and philosophers of all times were fascinated by it.
In the recent years, the macabre was explored in surreal paintings where Gothic images with deformed humans, atmospheric forests and paths to unknown realms take the main stage of the artworks. Whether it is painted or digitally manipulated, Gothic-surreal-macabre art explores myths and folklore, dreams and nightmares, alternate universes and artist’s inner world and imagination.
No matter whether we are artists exploring the other facet of life or simply viewers fascinated by the other realm, we can all enjoy a bit of spookiness in daring paintings and all the ghostly elements that surround us these days.