Neo-Decadent

The Art and Opinions of Heidi Celeghin, Aesthete


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Ceiling Painting

I have been asked to do a ceiling painting for the “comedor” (dining room) of an apartment in Barcelona.  Since it is in a late-19th-century building and located near Gaudi’s La Pedrera, I decided to go for an Art Nouveau look.  I created an octopus crossed with an artichoke (the “alcapulpo”) and started working with that design.  The goal was to create an image that would serve as a border delineating the space of the comedor.

Sketch 01

At first, in my enthusiasm, I made the alcapulpo enormous:

Sketch 02

I was reminded several times that this was supposed to be a border around the room and not an aquatic rendition of the Sistine Chapel.  I revised by sketch and halfed the size of the design, ultimately resulting in this:

Sketch 03

There will be four alcapulpos in the space, one in each corner.  They are each 140 x 100 cm, covering a total surface of 280 x 200 cm.  The colors above are exaggerated and do not represent the final color choices for the design.  The colors will ultimately match the colors of the original 19th-century tiles on the floor, creating spatial harmony.

Computer Rendition


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Sketchbook Drawings

This weekend I was drawing quite a bit in my sketchbook (an old one from Zecchi’s I resurfaced from my time in Florence!).  I recently bought an illustrated version of Alexander Pope’s poem The Rape of the Lock.  The illustrations are by the adored Aubrey Beardsley and, in consequence, are absolutely amazing.  I was suddenly overcome with the urge to draw bits and pieces of Beardsley’s illustrations.  Below is a photograph from one of the pages in my sketchbook.  It provides one with an idea of what Beardsley’s drawings are like and I would highly recommend getting a copy of the the illustrated poem.  A literary masterpiece combined with a visual arts masterpiece!

Beardsley

After Aubrey Beardsley

I also did some very quick sketches of my nephew.  Drawing children is fun because they are always moving, their proportions are different than that of adult’s, and they make the best faces!  The challenge for this was that I didn’t have an eraser so there was no room for error.

Felix

Felix : Quick Draw

And lastly, here are some sketches for a site-specific ceiling painting I have been commissioned to do.

sketch

Sketch 01

Sketch 02

Sketch 02


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Thirty-six Views of the Eiffel Tower

I recently visited the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art exhibit at the MFAH.  The show was spectacular.  However, this post is not about the exhibit, it is about books.

Cover

When I was browsing the books at the museum store, I happened upon Les Trente-six Vues de la Tour Eiffel by Henri Rivière.  The book was published in its original format – which is what made it completely irresistible.  It is in the traditional Decadent, Art Nouveau style that was initially pioneered by Whistler.  The combination of text and image on the page is pervasive.

title

Prologue

The prints, however, are large and therefore, allow for close inspection.  They are inspired by Japanese wood-block prints (see Hiroshige), something that Decadent book designers were drawn to.

image

 

In order to fully appreciate the wonderful find that was this book, one has to explore Decadent book-making and design practice.  The theoretical desire to meld text and image, combined with technological advancements, resulted in the creation of the adult illustrated book.  Whistler pioneered the aestheticized book in his objet d’art publications such as The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.  Whistler’s combination of text and image in a compositionally balanced design inscribed the book within aesthetic discourse.  Subsequent publications of “little magazines” such as The Chameleon, The Yellow Book, and The Savoy continued the trend begun by Whistler.  These publications elevated images, traditionally relegated to a secondary position, to the level of text.

The creators of the little magazines tried to unite visual and written art in order to highlight their belief in the possibility of combining diverse arts and paving the way for a new form of art.[1] These magazines were the ultimate mode of Decadent expression and, due to their careful attention to composition, their target audience was the aesthete.

I also ordered painter Odd Nerdrum’s book How We Cheat Each Other and it just arrived in the mail.  Nerdrum is a fantastic artist and I cannot wait to delve into his writing – after all, we are both representational artists who write!  Below is a photograph of the book on the table my grandfather made.

Nerdrum


[1].  Murray G.H. Pittock, Spectrum of Decadence: The Literature of the 1890s (London: Routledge, 1993), 57.

 


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What’s in a name?

As every good academic, I enjoy placing meaning in every level of my work.  This blog is no exception to that unbelievably impractical, yet momentously gratifying, method.   I see this blog not as a mode of documentation but as an art piece that is constantly in flux.  Neo-Decadent uses a global medium of communication and invites people to participate in the creation of a Paterian denial of theory, organization, and constancy.  The blog embodies the desire for constant change and the ability to endlessly expand horizons through a rhizomatic structure (for more on rhizomes read Mille Plateaux by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari).

I first used the term Neo-Decadent when working on my thesis at Cornell.  My obsession with Oscar Wilde and Aestheticism made the adoption of such a term natural to me.  The late 19th-century exerts a certain inexplicable magnetism over me and I have immersed myself in its literature and culture.  Consequently, the Decadent sensibility has found itself re-imagined in my artwork – thus, I create Neo-Decadent art.

The subtitle, “The Art and Opinions of Heidi Celeghin, Aesthete,” derives from the 18th-century novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne.  Sterne’s novel is a fascinating and absurd exploration of narrative and physical narrative space.  Since I play with these ideas in my artwork, it seemed appropriate to make a reference to one of my sources of inspiration.  Furthermore, the subtitle, in referencing a work of fiction, reveals the extent to which an artist’s identity is fabrication.  The artist becomes a work of art because his/her life is constantly being self-fashioned.