Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Metamorphosis and the beinArt Collective

MetamorphosisMetamorphosis is a new book of contemporary fantastic, visionary, outsider, and magic realist art published by the beinAart International Surreal Art Collective.

Founded in 2002 by Jon Beinart as the beinArt Austrailian Surreal Art Collective and expanded internationally in 2006, the collective has a presence in the form of a web site with galleries of work by the participating artists.

The Collective is a treasure trove of fantastic art with, as Beinart puts it, a representation of both “light” and “dark” themes. The book follows suit, and from the preview pages posted in the Collective’s Forum (click on the images for larger versions), promises to be a definitive collection of contemporary artists working in this vein.

If I were going to pick nits, and I’m obviously about to, I would balk at the casual misuse of the terms “Surreal” and “Surrealist”; even though I’m occasionally guilty of it myself. My point is not even that Surrealism was a specific art movement from a particular time, but that Surrealism was an art devoted to specific principles and intentions, and not just a catch-all term for art that includes bizarre imagery.

Surrealism was primarily a literary movement, to which the visual art was considered an adjunct; even though it overshadows the literary component in the public mind. Both aspects of Surrealism, however, were devoted to social, political and psychological upheaval; a revolution that was to be brought about by art created through expressions of the unconscious mind. This intention was laid out in the Surrealist Manifestos of the poet André Breton, who was the leader of the Surrealist movement. (You can read more about true Surrealism here, including an essay by Breton.)

I doubt that many of the artists in the “Surreal Art Collective” (or most of those contemporary artists referred to as “Surrealist”) concern themselves with automatism or the other elements of Surrealist creative process. I wouldn’t even call Ernst Fuchs, who I recognize as an important figure in fantastic painting, a Surrealist, and I doubt that he would classify himself as such.

The desire to misappropriate the term is common and understandable, though; the more correct terms of fantastic art, visionary art, magic realism or fantastic realism don’t have the same zing and brand-name recognition as “Surrealism”, but they are more accurate.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system (for the moment), I’ll go on to say that the new book from the beinArt Collective looks terrific and includes work from a number of artists I’ve featured previously on lines and colors, including Sergi Aparin, Brom, Andrew Gonzalez and Alex Grey.

There is a full artist list here in which the artists’ names are linked to examples of their work. You can spend hours discovering amazing work in the beinArt Collective’s online galleries (as I have done on occasion), but as with much visual art, there is a great deal to be said about the appearance of high-resolution images in print, quite different from viewing the same images in low resolution on screen.

Images above, from top: Alex Grey, Andrew Gonzalez, Pavel Surma, Ernst Fuchs, Carrie Anne Baade.

Addendum: The beinArt Surreal Art Collective also has a blog at: http://beinart.org/info/art-news.php

9 thoughts on “Metamorphosis and the beinArt Collective

  1. peacay

    Oh I’m glad you posted this. I saw it somewhere recently but I’ve been sooo busy with other things I don’t even think I had remembered to add it to my ‘to do’ list. It looks like a really lush publication.

    I sympathize with your disquiet over the ‘surrealism’ misuse but I think it’s fairly evident that the term has long since entered the public vernacular with a wider interpretation than purists would ascribe. Good luck with changing that.

  2. Detlef

    I saw an exhibition of one of the artists (Jeremy Geddes) about 2 years ago and was highly impressed, great technique. I was seriously considered buying one of the works, now kicking myself because at the time it was very very reasonably priced……if I could have my time over again.

  3. aeron

    If you look on the front page http://beinart.org/ the collective is listed as including a much wider range of art styles such as “psychedelic, esoteric, outsider, fantastic, toy, lowbrow, comic, erotic and visionary artists.” I won’t speak on Jon’s behalf on this matter but I will say that it makes much better sense to sum up that array of art styles with one word in the title. And the popular term surreal seems the most fitting. These days it has evolved from definition in terms of technique to a description of what an image looks like. However being familiar with much of the art included in the collective I don’t doubt that many of the artists utilize the techniques of the original surrealists.

    That said, I would encourage anyone to check out the recently added art news section of the beinart website.
    http://beinart.org/info/art-news.php

    It is updated daily with many great interviews, links and articles on art of the fantastic. And I’ll be contributing posts there myself from time to time.

  4. Charley Parker Post author

    Yes, I know I’m being cranky and picky about the use of the terms “Surreal” and “Surrealist”, but I think it’s worth reminding people, particularly those interested in fantastic art, about the importance of the terms in reference to the actual Surrealist movement and what “Surrealism” was/is actually about.

    I hope my rant doesn’t give anyone the impression that I am anything but tremendously appreciative of the terrific work being done by artists working in various veins of fantastic art that are featured in the beinArt Collective. As I said in the post, I’ve literally spent hours there looking through amazing images; and I will be featuring many more of those artists on lines and colors in the future.

    I missed mentioning the beinArt Collective blog in the original post; I’ve appended the post with a link.

    Incidentally, for those who haven’t encountered aeron’s site Monster Brains, it’s an absolute treat, full of amazing images.

  5. beinArt

    Thank you so much for the link. I have had a thorough look through your blog and I really like the art featured here. I’m adding Linesandcolors.com to the beinArt Blog Roll now.

  6. peacay

    I heartily agree about Monster Brains – a continual eclectic delight.

    And I wouldn’t worry too much Charley, one only has to spend 5 minutes around here to realise you are a passionate supporter of the stable of styles commonly lumped under ‘surreal’. Besides, not only are you of course free to say whatever you want here, it’s interesting to hear the opinion, and that’s irrespective of whether or not I agree (I’m kind of on the fence on this one).

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