Archive for Surreal

Modern Bestiary, Domenico Gnoli

Posted in Art, Illustration with tags , , , , , on April 3, 2014 by mysearchformagic

Domenico Gnoli was born in Rome in 1933, and displayed artistic talent at a precociously young age. He spent some time studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in his home town, but never completed the course and decided to travel the world instead.


Gnoli ended up in London, where he soon established a reputation as a theatrical set designer. By the mid 1950s he was in New York, where he worked as an illustrator for magazines.


These magical images are from a set he created in 1968, entitled Bestiario Moderno (Modern Bestiary), or Cos’è un mostro (What is a monster). They are beautifully drawn, and hauntingly surreal.


I think the flat fish in the bath is my favourite. It’s a little bit sad, and very, very strange.


Gnoli sadly died in New York, aged just thirty six years old, soon after opening a show of his paintings at a major gallery in the city. He left behind only a few completed works. But these weird, wonderful drawings are certain quite a magical legacy, don’t you think?


The Drowning of Arthur Braxton, Caroline Smailes

Posted in Books, Fairy Tales, Legend, Superstition with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2013 by mysearchformagic

I came across The Drowning of Arthur Braxton while browsing through the book reviews in The Guardian. The reader comments on there are unfailingly positive, describing the book as ‘magical’, ‘strange’ and ‘breathtakingly good’. I headed over to Amazon, and on seeing the rave reviews on there (a 100% five star rating last time I checked) I knew that I had to get hold of a copy.


The Oracle is a run down Edwardian swimming pool in an unnamed northern town. It has been taken over by a bohemian band of new age healers, who offer water-based therapies to the eager locals, claiming that the pool lies right on top of a sacred spring. Laurel is a lonely teenager who gets a job there, and soon becomes involved in the strange, sometimes sinister goings-on. She sees things that she cannot explain, and attracts the attention of Martin Savage, one of the healers whose intentions are less than honourable. Silver, who can read palms, sees something terrible in her future, and things start to quickly unravel.

Years later, Arthur Braxton seeks refuge from the torrential rain in the now apparently empty, damp and dilapidated pool complex. Arthur is an outcast with a dysfunctional family and a band of bullies on his back. He discovers something magical inside The Oracle; a beautiful girl who swims naked in one of the pools, her sad-looking friend watching on from the side. He is instantly smitten, and on returning to the pool he finally makes contact with the strange pair. Despite the fact that the girl, named Delphina, seems unable to leave the pool, their relationship quickly develops. But The Oracle is under threat from American developers, Arthur is under threat from his persistent bullies, and the blossoming love between the boy and this water-bound beauty is under threat from the unavoidable differences between them. As the pressure grows, unbelievable truths about Delphina’s past begin to emerge, and as young love grows, Arthur and Delphina are pulled apart by circumstances beyond their control. And oustide the rain keeps on falling…

The blurb on the back of The Drowning of Arthur Braxton describes it as a ‘modern fairytale’, but if you are looking for a happy-ever-after story of handsome princes and pretty princess then look elsewhere. This book is dark, very dark, filled with swearing, sex (not all of it consensual), depression and more swearing. At times it is painfully sad, at others strangely surreal, absurdist even – if Angela Carter and Samuel Beckett had ever collaborated on a novel then it probably would have ended up something like this. As the narrative progesses, Smailes successfully racks up the tension – I read it in twenty four hours, unable to stop until I got to the dramatic climax. The Drowning of Arthur Braxton more than lives up to those great online reviews. This is modern magic at its best, and I challenge you not to love it.

Choupatte, Claude Lalanne

Posted in Art, Design, London with tags , , , , , , , on August 6, 2013 by mysearchformagic

I wandered into Ben Brown Fine Art in Mayfair this week, and discovered an exhibition of the work of art/design duo Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne.

I was already aware of their fun animal sculptures, such as their woolly sheep, which also double up as furniture. Works like these are highly collectable, and have sold for huge amounts at auction, also gracing the homes of collectors including Yves Saint-Laurent and Tom Ford.

But on this occasion I was particularly enchanted by Claude Lalanne’s Choupatte sculptures. Made from bronze, the Choupattes come in two sizes – a cute little life size version to sit on a table top, or a huge rather scary version which stands on the floor.

Choupatte (très grand) 2008-2012, Claude Lalanne (Image courtest Ben Brown Fine Art)

Choupatte (très grand) 2008-2012, Claude Lalanne
(Image courtest Ben Brown Fine Art)

The Choupatte sculptures encapsulate Claude Lalanne’s love of the surreal, tinged with a subtle dose of humour. They made me smile. And they are definitely rather magical, don’t you think?

Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne at Ben Brown Fine Art until 21st September

Aunty Flo, Mervyn Peake

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , , , on February 17, 2013 by mysearchformagic

 When Aunty Flo
Became a Crow
She had a bed put in a tree;
And there she lay
And read all day
Of ornithology.

Jabberwocky by Mervyn Peake

Jabberwocky by Mervyn Peake

All material © The Mervyn Peake Estate.