The Grotesque as It Appears in Western Art History and in Ian Marley's Creative Creatures/'n Ondensoek Na Die Groteske in Westerse Kunsgeskidenis En in Ian Marley Se Kreatiewe Kreature

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article presents a theoretical exploration and reading of the notion of the grotesque in Western history of art to serve as background to the reading of the original creatures in the "Tracking creative creatures" project. (1) These creatures were drawn by Marley, based on imaginary creatures narrated by his rive year-old son, Joshua. The focus in this article is on the occurrence of the grotesque in paintings and drawings. Three techniques associated with the grotesque are identified: the presence of imagined fusion figures or composite creatures, the violation and exaggeration of standing categones or concepts, and the juxtaposition of the ridiculous and the horrible. The use of these techniques is illustrated in selected artworks and Marley's creatures are then read from the angle of these strategies.

Opsomming

Hierdie artikel bied 'n teoretiese ondersoek na en 'n lees van die voorkoms van (fie groteske in Westerse kunsgeskiedenis as 'n agtergrondstudie tot die lees van die oorspronklike kreature in die projek, "Op die spoor van kreatiewe kreature ". (2) Die kreature is deur lan Marley geteken, gebaseer op verbeeldingskreature wat deur sy sesjange seun, Joshua aan hom vertel is. Die toespitsing in hierdie artikel is op die groteske in sketse en skilderkuns. Drie tegnieke wat met die groteske geassosieer word, word geidentifiseer, te wete die skep van verbeeldingsen saamgestelde figure, 'n afwyking van die normale en 'n jukstaposisionenng van die belaglike en die afsknkwekkende. Die aanwending van hierdie tegnieke word gefllustreer in geselekteerde kunswerke en Marley se kreature word dan vanuit die hoek van hierdie tegnieke gelees.

I. Introduction

In the context of artworks the word grotesque is generally used as a vague term to describe inter alia strange, ugly, fantastic, ridiculous yet frightening, demonic, absurd, distorted or unfamiliar shapes and forms. Motifs that are often present in the grotesque vary from monsters and composite creatures to mythological and prehistoric animals, as indicated by Carroll (2003:295):

   If one thing is agreed upon by historians of the grotesque, it is
   that the concept appears unstable, referring to a wide gamut of
   material ranging from mythological figures .... to perhaps pagan
   residues like gargoyles, to the imagery of Bosch, Brueghel, Durer,
   Goya, Dore, and innumerable caricaturists, to writers such as
   Rabelais, Swiff, Hoffrnan, Poe and Kafka, to the surrealists, and
   ... to countless proclucers of contemporary mass art.

Carroll then proceeds to ask whether there is any way to find unity in such an unruly concept and suggests that maybe the concept of the grotesque is so heterogeneous that it is itself grotesque.

This article presents a theoretical exploration of the notion of the grotesque in the Western history of art to serve as background to the study and reading of the original creatures in the Tracking creative creatures project. These creatures--drawn by South African artist Ian Marley--were based on imaginary creatures narrated to him by his rive year old son, Joshua, who said to his father, "Daddy, let me tell you a creature".

The focus is on the portrayal of the grotesque in paintings and drawings. The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand these media correspond with the drawing medium used by Marley. On the other hand Barasch (1971:18) points out that only paintings originally earned the permanent designation grottesche from grotta, referring to the caves in which archaeologists in the late fifteenth century discovered ancient Roman statues, architectural volutes and paintings of composite creatures.

In order to explore the grotesque within an aesthetic framework, general conceptions regarding the grotesque are discussed, followed by an investigation of the notion of the grotesque as it appears in Western art history. Three techniques associated with the grotesque are identified. …