“Optimistic abysses and pessimistic euphoria”
Sprigens is an artist, graphic designer, illustrator and painter who understands how to mix Middle Ages and Pop, Surrealism and Psychedelic Art, Black Romanticism and Fantasy Realism. He began as a child to draw mythical characters and scenes, inspired by animated films and comic books. He studied at Harrow Art College in Brookhill, Middlesex, and thereafter at Brunel University in Uxbridge, London. Here Sprigens acquired a Degree in International Business. After his studies, he founded his own design company Psiberia which specialized in industry cover artwork and advertising for the next ten years. Amongst his clients in this period were Sony and the Sci-Fi Channel, Clinique and Bloomberg as well as numerous CD labels such as Sanctuary Records, Megadeth, Flying Rhino Records, Big Life Music and Uriah Heep. Even in this time the work of Sprigens was characterized by a tendency towards sinister phantasmagoria, showing equally optimistic abysses with pessimistic euphoria; a slope that has intensified in his paintings and drawings over the last ten years.
Most of his representations, whether images and graphics, sculptures, CD Cover or body art, almost always appear with a dark or sinister edge. They summon a cosmos of meanings, which represent not only a counter-cosmos to our tidy, rational world, but actually imagine and concretely visualize a phantasmagoric parallel world. His painting and drawing style reminds us of the old masters, and is obsessed with meticulous detail. One is subsequently induced to remember Sten Nadolny's novel “The Discovery of Slowness (1983)”. Sprigens' images also convey a feeling of slowing down. His depictions therefore often seem hypnotic and his imagery spans an iconographic horizon of meaning, that unfolds a sinister plausibility.
In Sprigens' images there seems to be no hope, no optimism and no relief. The figures of his cosmos are reminiscent, in their inferno-like density and apocalyptic vision to Dante as well as to Hieronymus Bosch. His protagonists are often exposed to a fatal destiny, which they apparently can not escape. They are inextricably intertwined and intermingled in one another. These entangled bodies are so to speak with Siegfried Kracauer´s words really “an ornament of the masses”, but beyond that, in general these arabesque interlaced bodies also symbolize the "primordial soup of life", as on a global scale, we human beings are actually no more than billions of teeming amoebas in a great expanse, one loses track in the intensity and detail, so it follows that, these images also visualize a logic of the absurd and a labyrinth of thought.
Much like in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, there are almost entirely deformed, disfigured and disabled existences in the images of Sprigens, however while in the medieval painter it is christian damnation and atonement that contour the arena of the Human's field of life, Sprigens represents rather the chimeras of the subconscious, mythological realms as the sinister monsters of HP Lovecraft, described in the novel Call of Cthulhu - Mountains of Madness (1926). Unlike these eternal, prehistoric demons that Lovecraft conjures in an autochton whispering language. Sprigens' figures are emaciated existences, drawn from nightmares, hallucinatory visions and other extremities of thought, that desperately cling to each other like drowning humans.
The space in which his characters are located, is an imagined, creature-like place with an overgrown jungle of plants, architectural fragments, civilisational artefacts and remnants of former greatness. It seems that in Sprigens' painting ´The Lost World´, the end-time scenography of Roland Emmerich's film The Day After Tomorrow (2004) comes to mind and Albrecht Altdorfer's famous painting The Battle of Alexander (1528/29), with thousands of figures in it. Here, as in another painting by Sprigens entitled Archaic Remnants of the Human Psyche, the psychological world of innate memory is described as a chaotic swarming mixture of endless details. An overview or even a controlling influence over such worlds seems no longer possible. There seem to be forces at work, that expose any human work as hubris.
This is mainly also due to Sprigens' design-method for the panoramic counter-worlds. He cultivates the perspectives of Pareidolia and Apophenia; those very perception methods that make one ´imagine-in´ or perceive fantasy figures in non-representational structures such as cloud formations or wood grain. Klaus Conrad and Peter Brugger define these methods as "the unmotivated seeing of relations" and "the specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness in random data". Also the figure-ground perceptions of shape psychology can be taken in comparison here, as Sprigens also inspires himself in these. In this context, the so-called Rorschach-Tests became known. He initially draws automatic random lines and curves, then gradually fills in space with associations and suggestions of forms, using interstices populated with naturalistic, realistic or surreal characters and creatures.
There are "Creators of Worlds" in art, that have designed and imagined habitats and environments that are as complex as they are complete. These include certainly Jan Van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer and Albrecht Altdorfer, but also Pieter Breugel, Hieronymus
Bosch and Francisco de Goya. Sprigens has learned and was stimulated from all these masters in his "world-images" and yet he is a very different creator mundi from these historic role models, because he trusts just as mentioned, in automatic, randomized methods of creation. Sprigens' rationalities and causalities are always rather dialectically charged with their opposite. He simply does not want to show, like all the mentioned influences, the world as a mere ´to be this way and to be there´, or to reproach it with religious motivations, or a morally overfed alter ego, but to rethink and counter-think it as the possible consequence of variants, which are often sinister. The question "What if ...?" is for him, not only a question of possibility, but also potentiality and positive irritation.
In contrast to the overview of images, in these dioramas of a disjointed complexity, there also are intimate bust-like and half-length portraits that are reminiscent of the Viennese Art Nouveau, Symbolism, even Classicism. These include portraits that look like the Berlin bust of Nefertiti, a sphinx or a Medusa, but also archaic heads, mythical "ancestors", the image of a fallen angel, which is inspired by a sculpture in Retiro Park Madrid.
Consequently, this imagery is marked in a mythological and surrealistic way. They have for example, complex references to the representations of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism of Ernst Fuchs and Rudolph Hausner, Arik Brauer, or Wolfgang Hutter. also the surreal images of Max Ernst or Salvador Dali come to mind, and of course the morbid pictures of the Swiss illustrator and scenographer H. R. (Hansruedi) Geiger. Sprigens is so far an artist who sovereignly moves inside the echo arena of fantastic art. Here one may also think of Goya's fantastic-demonic Aquatinta etchings, as for example the Caprichos (1796/99), of which, ”The Sleep of Reason Gives Birth to Monsters“ is probably the best known, the cycle of the “Desastres de la Guerra“ (1810/14), as well as the painting “Coven“ (about 1815). All the aforementioned artists and art movements are the inspiration and cause, disturbance and stimulant. He seems like Sigmund Freud to surmise behind the present reality another reality that he wants to, and is able to represent. Not just represent but captivate, fix and materialize, yet leave in abeyance. In this respect Sprigens' images, despite their dense knitted structure, are a window to an imagined reality, that is not necessarily ours, but certainly imaginable and presentable.
Sprigens is so familiar with the aesthetics and the mechanisms of terror such as Edgar Allan Poe or HR Geiger, he has mastered the choreography of the absurd as well as them. It seems to me especially the famous drawings by the Swiss artist and filmmaker HR Geiger, which are called “Bio mechanical”, are potentially an important stimulus for his image-finding.
Sprigens is and has been, as already mentioned, in demand as an illustrator for record covers of the Death, Black Metal and Gothic, Techno music scene. Meanwhile here his works amount to about 50 CD Covers and some of them where created for several of the most famous bands of these musical genres, as for Uriah Heep, Megadeth, Diamond Head and subculture label Flying Rhino with Blue Planet, Awakening, Maelstrom and Flight series.
Vampire, Undead, Revenants: this pandemonium of ugliness and horror is for Sprigens a pop-cultural reservoir of freaks and outcasts, optimistic losers and heroic underdogs.
It is in the nature and characteristics of visual art that there is the ability of dissimulation. This means that, for example, pessimistic picture-content can have subcutaneously quite optimistic meanings. So it is with the subtle graphics of Sprigens. This is due to the dense interweaving of his protagonists who thwart a singular construction in the sense of French existentialism, through the densely packed walls and packages of bodies. This density creates both claustrophobia and security. This is the iridescent Janus-face of such art.
One should avoid so far, to draw conclusions on the psyche of the artist from the iconography of panoramic oil and acrylic paintings, as well as engraved pencil drawings or their historical role models. This fails to recognize the difference between life and work, which is always constitutive, even if led to believe so, like with Vincent Van Gogh: that both are identical, to be more precise: that one thing constitutes the other. Reflected Art is always working with references, associations and allusions. There is no art "ab ovo". This is a romantic misunderstanding as well as the so-called "Genius Cult".
To add, Sprigens Art looks quite youthful, unestablished, non-conformist, as the street art of graffiti artists. Pot-smoking, skulls, sardonic memento mori contexts, the Dance of the Dead, as in James Ensor Basler Fastnacht images. Some street-art artists have become celebrities of the art market, for example, Banksy, who the American Time Magazine in 2012 ranked among the 100 most influential people in the world.
It is about a fragmentary world view, the relativisation of opinions and changes of perspective which are carried out again and again. Back in the 19th century, as with Theodor Fontane and even Thomas Mann, reality experiences remained down to earth, today they are radically subjectivised and psychologized. There are no more mediating and narrative instances; not in literature nor in the theatre, not in architecture or in film and also not in scenography and functional design. Any kind of causality, any kind of event chronology is subordinated to a radically subjective space-time perception. The umbilical cord between cause and effect seems disconnected; the criticism and rejection of rationality with its self-destructive, self-cannibalistic consequences, enables entirely new scenarios and pictorial worlds in the visual discourses. Everything can symbolize everything or nothing; any kind of causality and logic reveals itself as a doll inside the doll.
Neville Brody and David Carson for typography, David Lynch for film, Daniel Libeskind and Peter Eisenman for architecture, Frederic Forsythe for Ballet: They all prove with their body of work the trans-rational power of thinking, which has emancipated itself from the Aristotelian unity of place, space and time. So the experiential worlds of Sprigens are fragmented, filtered, and branched. Creating art under such conditions, means to reconstruct out of fragments and torsos a new wholeness, by doing that, the method of the aforementioned Pareidolia and the contents that were stimulated and generated by it, do fall into one.
In these image-worlds are also far-eastern influences, such ritualized, ornamentalised dragon shapes, reminiscent of the Triads, the Far Eastern version of the Mafia, as well as to classical chinese crafts. Also techno influences and proximities neighbouring to psychedelic art, do come forward. In these psychedelic art works, figures do often melt together and group themselves again and again to organic ornaments and decorations. This is also the case with the eye-defying images by HC Escher, to whom Sprigens probably also owes some inspiration.
Generally, Punk and Psychedelic have become very important within graphical styles. One of the stylisations of general postmodern aesthetics is, that the work of this direction is characterized by multidimensional perspectives, and by the shifting of the visual and intellectual perspectives. High culture and kitsch, trash and sonorous classic enter into an inspiring, often self-ironic melange, which American cultural sociologist Susan Sunday described as campy. The only rule is that there is no rule.
Preferred visual art forms are the collage, the bricolage, the pastiche, the parody and the eye-twinkling counterfeit.
Overall, the art activities of Sprigens are hybrid, collaged, quite uniform and torn. But in a social and cultural melting pot such as London it seems to be only logical, even inevitable. Consequently a one-dimensional form of optimism is undesired. Generally the big, overarching narrative of modernity, equalizing morality, technical progress and rational reason has become obsolete. This story has branched, atomized into countless little escapes, that nevertheless, altogether form a kaleidoscope of contemporary authenticity. These countless small escapes include the many, almost unlimited possibilities of the Internet and the digital society. Social networks and communities are for active multimedia artists like Sprigens far more than a merely instrumental technical extension of their reach and influence. Rather, the powers of digital communications and simultaneity, alter the artistic content itself. They become and are part of the iconography and iconology of topics. Social networks like Youtube, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Instagram, Xing, LinkedIn, iTunes, Google, Mixclouds or Foursquare, domains and profiles in general have changed the way of our communication, and even our perception of the world. This relates to the art and its reflexive, productive marketing opportunities and strategic change.
So it comes that Sprigens is of course a member of the largest social community for artists, “Deviant Art”. Here his mythological phantasmagorical graphics can be considered. They have significant titles such Unexpected Guests, Trojan Horse, The Mantle, The Gathering, Archaic Remnants of the Human Psyche. In their genre, these graphics, pictures and drawings belong to the most impressive representations of imagined alternative worlds.
Insofar Sprigens is one of the most distinctive protagonists of an imaginary as well as fictitious phantasy-world, where supernatural, unreal and magical characters and scenarios are the focus and form their own life forms and natural laws.
By Prof. Volker Fischer, Art Historian and Critic, Former Curator of the Museum of Artificial Art (MAK) Frankfurt, Former Director of the Museum of Architecture (DAM) Frankfurt, Honorary Professor of the Academy of Art and Design, Offenbach am Main/Frankfurt.