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January 2003
2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Fantasy Art Masters by Dick Jude
Harper Collins Hardcover: ISBN  0007137478 PubDate Nov 02
Review by Iain Emsley
144 pages List price
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This second volume of artists collected together by Dick Jude certainly gives the reader a vertiginous overview of the most exciting aspects of genre art and the techniques used by the artists themselves. Although this volume contains fewer Names than the first volume, Fantasy Art Masters of the New Millennium, it delivers a necessary introduction to exciting artists who have been steadily creating a substantial volume of work in a variety of media - from pastels to digital realms.

In his introduction, Jude spends time delivering a concise and pertinent view of Fantasy Art from the cave paintings of Lascaux through Bosch and religious art to the twenty first century. Out of this comes the salient point that art, in particular that which deals with the fantastic and supernatural, has often tried to quantify and interpret the unknowable for the end viewer. Despite the introduction of new techniques and schools of thought over the past few thousand years, the artist is still trying to re-present the impossible, to negotiate the differing ways of creating optical effects that brings the mundane world into contact with the differing views of the impossible.

As he admits in the introduction, despite the strong artistic line up of the first book, the actual methods of creation were limited to either painting or digitally produced pictures. In this book, he takes the reader on a grand tour of production methods, from the traditional pastels and photography of JK Potter and Anne Sudworth to the pen and ink creations of Ian Miller and the digital works of Dave Seeley and Darrel Anderson. In each chapter, Jude carefully teases the motivations and the techniques used.

Having decided that he wanted to be a fantasy artist rather than a drummer as a career, Keith Parkinson bought his first set of oils at 13. What comes out of the piece is that he views art as a journey, that each painting is a step along a road towards the goal of (perhaps unattainable) clarity of perception, a constant striving to better oneself through each creation. Anne Sudworth's pastel pictures give the sense of an eerie presentation of the chosen subject matter, a sense of the immaterial world bordering the mundane. Where Parkinson gives the feeling of trying to cope with the essential problem creating a two-dimensional picture from a three-dimensional source, Sudworth (to my mind) has always produced evocative pictures that entice the viewer to give their own meaning to the picture.

The section on Judith Clute is an intriguing one in that she combines a sense of Surrealism, where she has created what may seem to be random associational pictures but ones that draw the viewer to ascribe their own meaning, their own take. More art for art's sake, there is a feeling of New Wave to the pictures in this collection, a passion which ignites in the search for trying to expose the invisible in everyday life. In some ways, Phil Hale continues the strand of art for art's sake. During his apprenticeship with Rick Berry, he learned how to illustrate the human body, to see how the muscles actually worked rather than developing a short hand to hint at how they might work, giving his paintings a motion that is sometimes lacking in genre painting. In this chapter, one comes to see how he is trying to develop his brush technique without the back up of the Undo command in digital art.

Ian Miller and JK Potter deliver the Gothic elements to this collection. Miller's pen and ink drawings intrigue and disturb and he treats us to a wayward account of his artistic development, seemingly captured through the anecdote about the inflatable bra, but he, like Potter, he gives voice to that section of the world hidden from both the self and others. It intrigued this reader to discover that JK Potter did not use a computer at all to create his imagery, but manipulated the negative to achieve effects and to achieve the correct creative process so that he can bring the warped and often disturbing images to the CD or book cover. Both artists articulate the disturbingly surreal nature of our minds, giving the darker corners an airing, to see beyond the flesh and to create a moment where the viewer sees just beyond the usual.

This sense of the world beyond the surface is articulated in Greg Spalenka's work, created from a variety of media. Whereas most artists, once the work is competed to their satisfaction, will want it to exist as it is, Spalenka surprises us by admitting that occasionally, a picture needs to be destroyed in some way to bring out the full vision driving it.

Darrel Anderson shows us how digital art can be used to 'scribble' and to create pictures that haunt the viewer rather than remaining as tight, clearly delineated impressions, bringing the Surrealist theme that has been running through this book vastly up to date and giving us a sense that there is a way forward for the new techniques.

Fantasy Art Masters gives the reader an insight into a variety of techniques, media and artists from a passionate, and necessary, perspective. Bringing together a variety of names who may not be well known to the reader, this book is an essential read for anybody who cares about the current state of genre art, pulled together by somebody who clearly cares about the current state of it. Throughout the book, Dick Jude explores the questions and issues raised in the introduction, delivering answers which may not be easy, but are intriguing.


sfr3d.gif (19860 bytes) 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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