Blake quote of the day: As the plow follows words, so God rewards prayers.
Edinburgh-born artist Korshi Dosoo is primarily interested in the emotions and lives of animals. He recently completed a series of prints called “Animal Love” that examines “the strange symbiosis of cruelty and kindness, beauty and horror that exist in this thing we call nature.” The images are anachronistic, as animals are shown lying with other animals that have been extinct for centuries. The “Animal Love” series intriguingly mixes realism and pop art both in its subject matter and in its color palate, which consists of vibrant oranges, blues and yellows setting off the more realistic forms on the canvas. Dosoo has also illustrated a series of webcomics, notably “Children of Mars” and “Eleggua: Divine Infections” both with writer Alex Hernandez. He graduated from the College of Fine Arts in Sydney in 2008.
Dosoo’s “Tyger” print series features pencil and inked images, colored with photoshop and printed on vellum-style paper to mimic the production style of comic art. The “Tyger” series is also a stylistic homage to the work of comic artist Mike Mignola, creator of the long-running Hellboy series (1993-present) published by Dark Horse Comics. Hellboy depicts a demon protagonist who was brought to Earth by Nazi occultists, and then adopted by a special wing of the U.S. government dedicated to policing paranormal activity. As Dosoo mentioned in an interview with me, Mignola’s Hellboy is highly influenced by William Blake and includes a reference to “Tyger” in the second collection: Wake the Devil to describe a vampire. Dosoo also recalled Mignola’s comic as the first time in his adult life when he encountered Blake’s poem.
Other influences Dosoo mentioned include Pierre-Paul Jouve, Christian Waller, Aubrey Beardsley and mid-Twentieth Century propaganda posters from the Spanish Civil War. Dosoo’s prints reimagine Blake’s poem as a comic book with different panels sequentially representing lines from Blake’s verse. The first image presents a ferocious Tyger, with glowing yellow eyes and bright orange fur contrasting with the dark grey and black tones of the background. The figure of the Tyger recalls the monstrous behemoth from William Blake’s print “Behold now Behemoth which I made with Thee.” Dosoo suggested that this print, from Blake’s series of illustrations to the Book of Job, contained the largest degree of Blake’s visual inspiration for his Tyger prints. We can see the large muscular body of the behemoth and circular eyes reflected in Dosoo’s Tyger.
The thick black lines separating the bright colors of Dosoo’s image from its darker surroundings is also heavily reminiscent of Mignola’s style and visually represents William Blake’s comment about the “great and golden rule of art” being “that the more distinct, sharp and wirey the bounding line, the more perfect the work of art; and the less keen and sharp, the greater is the evidence of weak imitation, plagiarism and bungling” (DC p.63-4; Erdman 550). For Dosoo, Mignola and Blake, the distinct bounding line separates the Tyger from the great void of the background. The line also provides a sharp contrast between the bright colors of the subject of Dosoo’s image and the darkness beyond.
We see the influence of the bounding line in the subsequent panels of his series. In this second image, the haunting yellow eyes are even more prominent, as the Tyger in the foreground is surrounded by blue waves seemingly representing a body of water. Dosoo wanted to highlight the “fire of the Tyger’s eyes” and the Tyger’s haunting yellow eyes references both Blake’s line about the fire in his poem and Mignola’s use of circular eyes to depict god-like characters in his comics. In the background, the Tyger is battling what looks to be a human being. The primordial, almost god-like power of the Tyger is clearly being contested by the shadowy figure on the cliffs. For the third and fourth panels, perhaps the most interesting of the sequence, Dosoo presents inner workings of the Tyger’s body with both biological and mechanical features. In the third image, the Tyger’s forearm is dissected, with muscle and sinew and bone split open and trailing into the upper right corner.
In the lower-right corner, a second forearm is merging with the first. By merging two of the Tyger’s forearms, it becomes difficult to determine if the Tyger is shredding a second forearm or if the Tyger’s forearm is itself being cut apart and analyzed by a figure hidden from view. Flanking the two forearms are three hearts and a series of Hebrew characters pointing to each object in the image. The characters are particularly esoteric, as they signify not only the analysis of the Tyger’s various pieces but also quite obviously reference the Hebrew religion. Dosoo’s anatomical vision of the Tyger is heavily influenced by Andreas Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis, which includes a series of human anatomical drawings accompanied by Roman letters distinguishing various parts. The fourth panel juxtaposes the biological image of the Tyger’s brain with the chains, cogs, a sledgehammer and fire. These panels transform the Tyger from a mythological or spiritual being, to a biological and, finally, a mechanical being.
The final panel of Dosoo’s sequence brings us back to the mythological depiction of the Tyger. Dosoo’s prints reinforce the questioning nature of Blake’s poem, but they also suggest that the being of the Tyger is transformed by the questions posed by Blake’s narrator. Given Dosoo’s varied interests in science fiction, fantasy, animal art, religion, anatomy, and science, we can see the Tyger as a manifestation of Dosoo’s distinctly postmodern animalistic religiosity. As the “Animal Love” prints show, animals are often figures of our collective fantasies, subject to the questions we ask of them and the roles we place them in. The Tyger can be a figure of mythology or a specimen for science. Yet the Tyger can also be a comic character: a fierce creature with bulging muscles, superhuman powers, and god-like yellow eyes. Dosoo’s work shows us those strange Blakean spaces where animals and science collide with mythology, pop art, the supernatural, and the graphic novel.
Apologies to followers: time away has to be extended a few days – will return to world of Blake next week.
This feed will be quiet for the next week while I am at a conference in Japan. Back on 26 May.
Blakespotting: a sign of the times in conservative UK? You can buy a Blake shirt for more than he earned in a year – http://bit.ly/aAh7r8
Queer Blake, edited by Helen P. Bruder and Tristanne Connolly, is a collection of essays dealing with “weird, perverse, camp and gay dimensions of the artist’s life and work”. The sixteen chapters provide both propagandist and sceptical observations on Blake’s queerness, but all offer fresh insights into the Romantic’s work when heterosexuality is ditched as the norm for viewing his art and poetry – a position that was impressively advanced by Christopher Z. Hobson in his 2000 book, Blake and Homosexuality.
Helen Bruder is an independent scholar and the author of William Blake and the Daughters of Albion (1997) and editor of Women Reading William Blake (2007). Tristanne Connolly is Assistant Professor of English at St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo, Canada, and author of William Blake and the Body (2002) and editor (with Steve Clark) of Liberating Medicine 1720-1835 (2009). Queer Blake costs £50.00 and is available from the Palgrave website.
Blake on Language, Power, and Self-Annihilation by John H. Jones is the first study to to consider the significance of Blake’s concept of ‘self-annihilation’ as it pertains to language and communication. Chapters on the discourse and concept of self-annihilation are followed by specific readings of the term in Blake’s works from Songs of Innocence and of Experience to Jerusalem. Jones is Associate Professor of English at Jacksonville State University, USA and the book, costing £52.50, will be available from June 25 but can be pre-ordered from the Palgrave website.
The remarkable bass-baritone voice of the remarkable Paul Robeson delivers one of the richest versions of “Jerusalem”, versions of which he recorded in 1939 and 1958.
Go to the next video from the William Blake Jukebox:
The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child is one of Blake’s most memorable and powerful images…. http://bit.ly/cdSVYY
Blake qotd: I was angry with my friend; I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.
Exhibition at Delaware Art Museum, The Pastoral Vision—British Prints, 1800 – Present, includes Blake’s Followers: http://bit.ly/aBCfPv