Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bensemann and Beardsley

Leo Bensemanns illustrations stare back at me every day as I work. They are both creepy and comforting. As an artist largely overlooked and vaguely known in the history of New Zealand art, his body of work is slowly becoming recognised. Sitting through historical New Zealand art papers at university I became slightly indifferent to the unrelenting depictions of lush landscape and Maori culture. A master of typography, Bensemann came to shine when he unleashed his imagination in the form of Art Nouveau inspired swelling curves, trailing ropes and coiling snakes. He was also largely influenced by Japanese woodcut and T.S Eliot poems. A peculiar character who preferred to stay out of the limelight, it seems Bensemanns vast and diverse works are finally surfacing, giving green rolling hills and native wildlife a run for its money.

"I have one aim—the grotesque. If I am not grotesque I am nothing."

Aubrey Beardsley, king of erotic illustration, gained a lot of fame and notoriety in his life time. His works also stare back at me each day as I work. Not as creepy, but definitely more eccentric and sexual. Also inspired by Japanese woodcut and Art Nouveau, Beardsley worked mostly with ink, leaving large areas of blank paper contrasting against smaller areas of intense detail. His life was not of a shy or retiring man with rumours plaguing him regarding an incestous relationship with his sister, homosexuality, his friendship with Oscar Wilde, his convertion to Catholicism and the tuberculosis which he eventually died of.

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