Apocalypse Now and Then

Mad Max-Fury Road - Jasin Boland, courtesy of Warner Bros.

The fantastically reimagined dystopian world in the new movie Mad Max: Fury Road is a wonderfully cacophonous sensory vision of a post-apocalyptic nightmare. With stunningly choreographed anarchic violence it is an orgiastic relishing of the grim and macabre, with the reapers of death dispensing gory dispatch to anything in their path. Rendered in the grandly lurid sensibility of a comic book it is a visually stunning descent into a hellish, plague-ridden scene of horror.

Of course this is nothing new. Tales of apocalyptic catastrophes exist in the mythic pre-histories of many world cultures. Depictions of the world after the imagined Apocalypse have proliferated in art for millennia. In medieval times these visions served as potent religious visual warnings to wayward congregations but by the 18th Century had often become preposterous Technicolor indulgences.

Here are just a few examples from different eras in art. All are vivid depictions of war, death and disaster.

The Four Horsemen from the Apocalypse-Albrecht Dürer

The Four Horsemen, from The Apocalypse, (1498), Albrecht Dürer © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Triumph of Death, (c.1562) Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Museo del Prado

The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19)-Jean Louis Théodore Géricault-(Musée du Louvre)

The Raft of the Medusa, (1818-19), Jean Louis Théodore Géricault, Musée du Louvre

Los_Desastres_de_la_Guerra-No.39-Grande_hazaña, con muertos-Goya-PradoJake & Dinos Chapmans_after Goya_Disasters

Los Desastres de la Guerra-No.39-Grande hazaña, con muertos, Goya, Museo del Prado

Jake & Dinos Chapman’s after Goya Disasters

Apocalypse-Ludwig Ferdinand Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Apocalypse, (1831) Ludwig Ferdinand Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Sodom and Gomorrah-John Martin

Sodom and Gomorrah, (1852), John Martin

The Great Day of His Wrath-John Martin

The Great Day of His Wrath, (1853), John Martin

Death on the Pale Horse-Gustave DoréDeath on the Pale Horse, (1865), Gustave Doré

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse-Viktor Vasnetsov

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, (1887), Viktor Vasnetsov

The Menin Road, 1919-Paul Nash

The Menin Road, (1919), Paul Nash

Apocalyptic Riders-Nibil Kanso

Apocalyptic Riders, Nibil Kanso

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Days of Future Past

Jest _IMG_6881

 

Something happened in 1950s America – a post-war acceleration of science, technology and a visceral sense of the very real possibility of other worlds. But there was also a creeping sense of unease in suburbia – a mistrust of technological advances – a malaise at the heart of consumerist culture, which led ultimately to the questioning of all normative behaviour during the 1960s. That 1950s twilight zone produced a blurring of realities and a quest for the imagined. Psychological drama became a key component, as things from other worlds were made real in Hollywood science fiction movies.

Anne Hendrik

 

However this blurring of the lines of reality was already well established for half a century in painting as artists abandoned any sense of perspective and pursued a sense of otherworldliness and flatness.

The current work of Anne Hendrick at the Talbot Art Gallery revisits that time when the physical became indistinct. Green and pink moons, foreign planets hover in canvases but with a deliberate flatness and no depth of field. The natural world is here but in a carefully layered hidden way. Striations of delicately applied paint and faintly militaristic camouflage patterns (reminiscent of Paul Nash) obscure the unrevealed drama. They could be painted moments from 1950s movies – captured stills from some super-8 home-movies – ‘Bigfoot’ is lurking beyond those rock-like shadows or a spaceship has landed from some half-remembered sci-fi B-Movie. The soundtrack would include Theremins, detuned strings and fuzzy early electronica.

Jest by Anne Hendrick runs at the Talbot Gallery Studios until 22nd November

Photos by Dorota Borowa courtesy of Talbot Gallery.

Talbot Gallery StudiosAnne Hendrik