While his most well-known projects are his horror novels and short stories, Clive Barker has a long career as painter that will be surveyed in his new exhibition, “1977,” opening tomorrow night, August 23, at Century Guild in Culver City. The interdisciplinary artist — whose biggest credits include having his novels adapted for the Hellraiser and Candyman film series — will be showing a series of paintings he created in 1977 when he was 24 years old, as well as new works from this year. Filled with macabre imagery, Barker’s paintings have a bone-chilling quality while balancing horror with humor. Coinciding with the exhibition will be the release of Barker’s new art book, Imaginer.
Though the starting point of his work stems from complex ideas surrounding our perception of reality, Bruno Novelli makes these intellectual concepts an afterthought in his candy-colored abstract paintings. His work gives visual pleasure first and foremost. Novelli (who sometimes playfully stylizes his last name as 9li) recently presented a new series of paintings titled “Materia Radiante” at David B. Smith Gallery in Denver.
Chinese artist Ying Yefu creates blatantly macabre paintings with a punchline. It’s as if each piece involves some sort of visual joke, where one detail is altered in such a way that the forms we thought we recognized are not what they seem. A cranium peeled open to reveal red blood doubles as a watermelon parted down the middle. An infant’s body is hybridized with a phallic, fleshy appendage that extends out of his head lopsidedly. Part of the visual pleasure of Ying’s work is deducing the various incongruous elements at play in each piece. While Ying’s art is reminiscent of the creepy-cute aesthetic popularized by Japanese painters of the generation before him (Ying was born in 1980), much of his work is executed using traditional Chinese painting techniques that tie his unmistakably contemporary style to his cultural heritage.
Working in the tradition of Italian Renaissance masters, the Milan-based artist Giuseppe Ciracì creates careful renderings of human anatomy, using pencil, oil and acrylic. Many of his pieces have an unfinished feel; often the faces of his human subjects appear half rendered in a detailed chiaroscuro, while the other half is left in white silhouette, as though the artist got distracted halfway through or were merely creating preparatory sketches.
Setting soft and supple nudes against graphic patterns and textures, Brooklyn-based painter Sharon Sprung utilizes the tension between abstraction and realism to appease her own inner dichotomies and create art that expresses emotional complexities. But unlike many artists who muddle the polarities of figuration and abstraction into ambiguity, Sprung leaves them distinct, engendering a contrast that intensifies the impact of each.
The flesh takes a leading role in the art of Duarte Vitória, though not always in the most expected ways. In some works, it’s the bright red lips of the subject that command attention. In others, the artist focuses on a pair of hands coming together. Things get more eerie and unsettling in compositions where the flesh is folded and speckled with red as if bloody. In one painting, a face gets sectioned off by a rope wrapped tautly around a head. Even with a half-closed eye, the subject looks straight at the viewer as if the ropes do not exist. It’s hard to tell whether the subjects feel trapped in their flesh or strangely liberated by its inescapable existence. With each strange scene — made even more intense with careful shading — the story stays unclear but the question of human mortality stays pertinent.