The macabre tone and seclusion of Victorian Britain permeates Dan Hillier’s ‘Mother’; seemingly aghast about her appearance, the octopus woman spreads her tentacles far and wide. And artists have been giving her a warm welcome: in a society whose motto is ‘Technology Reigns’, a subconscious desire to counterbalance this with something old and quaint – something from another era – is hardly surprising. The appeal of the Victorian atmosphere is rather simple: flourishing technology and industrialization are seen through the grotesque goggles of the mad scientist, the isolated individual. It exposes a yearning to relive the technological boost, a time when things were more authentic, tangible and not yet digitalized.
Artists and viewers alike fall in love with the darkly-toned analogue paraphernalia; with the dials and levers of the Steampunk aesthetic. A pink dress is aflutter in the night breeze, unwittingly disintegrating into a flight of butterflies – you’re looking at Su Blackwell’s installation ‘While You Were Sleeping’. When she is not busy making items of clothing disappear into the realm of dreams, she arms herself with a scalpel and old books. As she cuts into them, she creates whimsical, fanciful sculptures and Victorian curiosities, a great example of which is her miniature orchard and castle in ‘To Take Us Lands Away’.
If zoomorphism is a fancy word requiring you to reach for the dictionary, here is a better idea: see the works of Kitty Valentine, a London-based artist who – by her own definition – ‘politely defaces’ Victorian photographs, lithographs and old postcards. The charming and the grotesque blend seamlessly in her masquerade of fennec-headed princesses and noble dames adorned with bird skulls.
Steampunk has won over the hearts of tattoo artists too, with its vintage feel, it has far more artistic possibility than the ‘biomechanical genre’ (you’ve seen it- visually “ripped” skin baring cogs and levers underneath). Neo-Victorian imagery inspires oh so many great tattoo artists: Melbourne-based Amanda Cain, Hornchurch‘s Tiny Miss Becca, and Brighton-living Eckel to name a few. Their beautiful, precise creations – bird gentlemen, vanity handheld mirrors, intricate heart lockets, and gramophones – draw heavily on a time long past, and take our collective breath away in the process.
While it is definitely nothing new for one epoch to nurture a soft-spot for another, the Victorian era is a very elegant choice indeed. ‘Drink More Gin’ – a tempting invitation from Stephen Kenny, a WordPress artist, nudges it towards a dressed-up and well-mannered party.
Many of the works of art mentioned above can be seen at the’Victoriana: The Art Of Revival’ exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery, London.
Blogger Tanya Kuznetsova is a contemporary vintage portrait photographer, based in London. When not behind a camera, Tanya channels her creativity into botanical perfumery and artisan soap making for Ravenscourt Apothecary (ravensctapothecary.etsy.com). She is a yogi, vegan and a lover of all things weird and wonderful. www.tanyakuznetsova.com.