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The Grotesque

September 29, 2012

Historically speaking the grotesque is a decorative wall painting of interwoven hybrid human or animal bodies and mythical characters entwined with floral patterns using curving spiraling foliage elements.  The name is derived from the “grotto” in grotesque meaning cave. Found on interiors of rooms or corridors or ‘hidden places’. The strange  motifs of hybrids of plant, animal, and human forms were first discovered in the 15th century in Nero’s palaces.

There is a place for humour, folly and satire in the work that easily translates into contemporary versions. These whimsical works inspired work of the masters during the Renaissance, continuing in the art of the Baroque, Rococo- not to mention art of the postmodern or artists working today.  Could it be that they retain a good working combination that opens up relevant debate between disparate elements?- Such as aesthetic beauty in the decorative vs the abject;  the free-form mythical figures fusing bodies of humans and animals and plants within curved structures vs the crazed feeling from these exaggerated forms; the sheer enchanting absurdity of the characters mingling they way across the planes of the walls..

These images are taking by my self while around those unreal grand palaces in Florence. I found myself being more intrigued on my walk between rooms with these grotesques, as I slowly started to get a visual overload of the more polished master works. The seemingly less important status of the secret walls and ceilings give them their freeing of free flow painting. The kind of painting that resembles a masters oil sketch and can be extremely inspiring.

For contemporary artists take check out the exhibition ‘Disparities & Deformations: Our Grotesque’ at Site Santa Fe curated by Robert Storr.

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