Publisher: beinArt Publishing

Editor: Robyn Flemming

Date Published: 2007

50 Contemporary Surreal, Fantastic and Visionary Artists

‘Metamorphosis’ presents the work of 50 contemporary international artists within the surrealism, fantasy, visionary and symbolic art movements.  A series of essays by the contributors – L Caruana, Robert Venosa, Philip Rubinov, Brigid Marlin and (the cover artist) Ernst Fuchs – explains the nature of the published works. An exert from ‘The Manifesto of Visionary Art’ gives a sophisticated history of symbolism in art, which should be appreciated by its followers and illustrative to newcomers.

In the tradition of Gustave Dore, William Blake and H R Giger, the art of ‘Metamorphosis’ is presented as being in an ongoing artistic discussion with the foundations of art history. One of its goals is not to be radically different as its defining feature (or merely for the sake of being different), rather to join in with the age old symbolic methods used to express the human condition. Philip Rubinov is quite clear in his dislike of some modern art movements, stating that ”these artists…throw light on the wilderness of the contemporary art scene, which seems to have lost its way’.

That is not to say that modern imagery and contemporary techniques are not used at all in ‘Metamorphosis’, but there is a heavy emphasis on older mediums such as oil, acrylics and illustration. It is very different in attitude and choice of theme to the current trends of younger artists (for instance spirituality and mysticism are fairly abundant)  and as such may offer an alternative to those that feel somewhat lacklustre about the directions of some forms of art, described again by Rubinov as ‘…bits and pieces of crap strewn about a museum floor and called an installation’. Whether or not there needs to be competition between movements is up to the reader to decide. Though ‘Metamorphosis’ is marketed as an alternative, even to the point of almost being a backlash,  it can stand by itself without another style as comparison.     

The artworks are highly worth examining for their technical prowess, detail and story. A knowledge of legends, myths and history helps with understanding the intended meanings. The works are reproduced on beautiful glossy paper and the image dominates two-thirds of the page. Each artist has written a short essay to accompany their contributions. This helps flesh out the context of images and the artists intended purpose behind their choices.

The theme of Metamorphosis and acts of transmutation are taken literally by some artists, and more symbolically by others. Everyday objects, such as plates of food, are transformed to disturbing and unpalatable visuals. Faces are represented as collages of bodies. A mix of light and dark themes are chosen, with the transcendant sidling up to biology, pastiche and horror. Wonder, terror and bliss combine expertly in these images. They remind us of original connotation of the word ‘awe-ful’ – something of such astounding of emotional power, whether it be good or bad, that it is difficult to behold.

On the bad side of things, the artworks are often less crisp than contemporary digital art productions – at times this is deliberate, sometimes it appears not to be. Some of the works also come dangerously close to a slightly seedy aged hippy or crystal seller vibe. Whether or not these styles appeal to younger people or are simply outdated in its approach to representation is another question that can only be answered by the reader and is mostly a matter of taste.

‘Metamorphosis’ is an extremely well produced homage to the contemporary surrealist and visionary art movements, with a classy layout and brilliant choice of editorial sequencing.  For a collector of art books who is interested in passionate art and an alternative to what’s currently the rage at the more trendy galleries, ‘Metamorphosis’ is certainly worth a look.

♥♥♥ – 3/5

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