Artists, creativity and monsters

The sane, The insane and the artist.

You probably read some things about how creativity and madness are very close together. Same thing with brilliance and madness, the mad scientist. A while ago I read an article explaining murderers, especially serial killers, are one of the most creative and intelligent persons alive (or now dead). You have to get rid of the body and think up a good story to cover all of this up. A movie that covers this up is "A film with me in it".  A very dark comedy where everything happens you fear. The main characters had to think up a story to cover their alibi without being guilty of the crime. You will be amazed by how creative they appear to be in the end!
This week I wanted to talk about an artist who stept over the line of sanity and walked down in complete madness. Please continue reading, I am not going to talk about another tormented artist who struggles with his or her feelings, depression or alcohol. Today you can read about the art of someone who just lost sanity but made the most interesting things I found in a long time.
This artist of the week is: Richard Dadd (1 August 1817- 7 January 1886)

A Film with ME in it.

Some background.

Dadd was born in Kent as a son of a chemist. He appeared to be good at drawing at a early age that he kept evolving and resulted in the admission to the Royal Academy of Arts when he was just 20 years old. He was a good student and painter and he even earned a medal for life drawing in 1840. At this moment he was one of the leading talents of the UK.
At the beginning of his carrier he also worked as an illustrator. The Book of British Ballads is one of the best known projects together with the frontish piece he made for The Kentish Coronal(1840).

Frontis Piece The Kentish Coronal.

The Book of British Ballads (1842)

July 1842, a journey into madness.

The former mayor of Newport, Sir Tomas Phillips invited Dadd to accompany him as his personal draftsman on an exhibition through Europe. Those holidays were a bit more of an undertaking than what we are use to today. This was a journey that could take months and this one would take Dadd through Greece, Turkey, Southern Syria and their last stay would be in Egypt. 
While traveling through Egypt things took a first step down into the dark. His personality started to change pretty bad by becoming delusional, more and more violent and he started to believe to be under the influence of the Egyptian god Osiris. At that time they could only blame a sunstroke and he went back home in spring of 1843 to recover.

At home things did not got any better. In august of 1843 he started to think his own father was the devil in disguise that led to killing him. He could not have stayed at home, he had to flee and so he did. He fled to France but the devil did not died with his father. While traveling to Paris he tried to kill a tourist with a razor blade with the same motivation. The devil followed him in the shape of that unlucky random guy. In the heat of the action he got overpowered by police and was arrested. He confessed the murder on his father. He returned to England where he was committed to the criminal department of Betlem, a psychiatrical hospital. After a while he was transferred to Broadmoor Hospital where he still was encouraged to continue his painting.
He was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia what appeared to be a common problem in his family.
He stayed in Broadmoor hospital, continually painting, until his death in 1886.

Painting paranoia.

I was always fascinated by the makings of the mentally insane. But this artist appeared to have nothing wrong with him in the beginning. Richard Dadd was an English victorian painter. One of those painters who suited the time perfectly with a lot of detail and even fairies and other supernatural scenes.
As you can see on the painting below, titled Titania Sleeping (1841) he was an amazing artist who lost himself in details to the extreme. The use of details seems even a bit neurotically placed like there should be a minimal amount of space left on the canvas.
Titania Sleeping - 1841Richard Dadd
But nothing is wrong at this point. Just a lot of details. Although I read an article about Adolf Wölfli where an psychologist explained that it is a typical schizophrenic phenomenon that they can not leave much space left on paper. Sorry, I can't recall what article it was so correct me if I am wrong!
This obsessively adding details to his paintings continued. It also became his trademark and I think that is the thing I love about his art too. Besides the main subject of the story you can read several smaller stories or suggestions to some narrative event between characters. I really don't like the minimalistic illustrations because it tells you so little. As an artist and story teller you have the ability and gift to tell so damn much to your audience. Why should you leave it with just one or two things. Try to impress somebody by creating something beautiful. Less is more they say, but less is also a bore.

Flight out of Egypt 1849-1850

As you can see on the paintingg above, again there is a lot to see. Now you really can say that the amount of people are obsessively placed. This is the flight from Egypt. Maybe referring to his own flight from Egypt while suffering from his first moments of paranoia and violence. As I am looking at this drawing I can't help it but thinking about one of my own pieces of art. Also a flight from a place. In my case it was the flight from Sodom. I think there is more behind the work of an artist than the artist knows himself. It is kind of a window in the artists' soul. In the case of Dadd it could be a chaotic mind, hard to coordinate and he is trying to give any structure in paintings like this since the figures are placed in a well thought place. When looking at my drawing below it is more of a chaotic mess of fear and terror. Too many people in one place, all pushing, screaming and doing things you disagree with. This is more how I feel in a city where a lot of people are and I have to cope with all the impressions.
The same kind of things I can spot in the painting of Dadd. All impressions and happenings. 

Flight from Sodom
By:CAVUM (2016)

Swords and daggers.

Something else Dadd painted as the aftermath of a violent events. Murder to be more precise. A plea of guilt maybe? Confessing the murder on his dad over and over again. This is what I think is interesting and this is where you can't get any information about. Why did this person sketch this? What lies behind the sketch? It is not just a nice picture, there is more. But since you are rather outcast at this moment this doesn't really matter. Outsider art.
I am not saying all outsider art is the best you can get but there are a lot of interesting things and similarities in all art. Mostly we see chaotic events or extremely detailed patterns, both figurative as abstract shapes. Again, we could learn a lot more about the inner self because of this.



My research brings me to other paths than I thought it would bring me when I started writing this blog entry. Should I be doubting my own sanity? We all should, don't we? Why I am saying this is because in 2015 I made the drawing below. This is also the travel of a man with a big burdon. The book of judgement is extremely thick and heavy, the apple of eden is decomposing and there is even growing a new tree from it. Screaming and shouting demons and devils surrounding the main character in the center representing all the struggles and temptations of life. The book of my judgement keeps on growing step by step.
This is some kind of weird plea of guilt too. This even is a frequently common subject in my earlier drawings. Even though I am an illustrator I still like to keep it close to my own experiences, thoughts and feelings. I am not a unhappy person but it appears I have a lot to worry about when looking at the things I draw and drew, he-he.

The Pilgrims Progress
By:CAVUM (2015)
These things is what gives art and illustration more depth. Now I hope I can stay out of Mental Hospitals so I can be taken serious but I do think all of us artists should allow to open up though this medium. Using art as therapy. We have the chance to do it so speak through this medium.
Richard Dadd did speak through one of his paintings the most. He worked on this painting for many, many years and never finished it.

The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke (1855-unfinished)

This painting is one of the most interesting paintings I have seen in years. The last time a painting grabbed me by the throat like this was when I saw the painting "Death on a pale horse" by William Turner.
The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke does have an insane amount of characters. and all of them are doing things. For all the details in this painting you should see it in real life I suppose. But I can show you one detail in particular that is interesting. The detail below. Every figure in this painting does have another figure behind him or her with a kind of threatening look. Even more literally, the two figures on the bottom-left are symbolizing the paranoia even better. The man behind the lady is dangerously close and the lady is grabbing to her throat. Is this a suggestion to the murder on his father by cutting his throat?

The entire painting is a weird mess. Some people are completely misshaped to fit the shape he had in mind, or maybe he really felt like those people looked like that. There are eyes peeking from objects, a typical experience of someone with paranoia schizophrenia. A complete chaos of common flowers and other plants who are placed in such a way you could see it as a jungle. Nature is not beautiful at this point, it is a dreadful thing. The almost black grass cuts through the painting, or maybe even more like bars. Maybe he felt like he was looking to the world though this blackened grass and the world appeared to him like this. There are more intimidating things in this painting than anyone would even dare to admit they have.

We are all sane, happy, caring and honest people...

This is a painting of a mental patient. Terribly haunted and troubled. But it is the most honest painting I have seen to this point. This is a true self portrait. Maybe we could all learn from (t)his story. Not to be violent or insane but to look in to the mirror and ask yourself how you see the world. Are you the most sane person alive? Do you think you are the most happy? Apparently a lot of you people do by posting all this perfect life 'selfies' and quotes on Facebook and other social media. So are you honest? Do you speak the truth? Do you speak the truth to yourself? Do you care about others or do you care about what other people think of you? Maybe we should stop keeping a journal on Facebook but start painting the truth.

This is why art is important in general. Even if it is made by someone who lost his sanity. He could be making more sense than you do.

Richard Dadd


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