The alien worlds and demonic vistas of Wayne Barlowe were another serendipitous internet find of mine in recent months. Barlowe’s dedication to depicting bizarre lifeforms and nightmares spans an impressive career path from the demonology of the Grimoire of Honorius, to Babylon 5, Hellboy, Harry Potter, Avatar and the Discovery Channel.
Despite the surreal quality to much of his work, there is also the delightful element of realism that seems to originate, at least in part, in the artistic inspiration provided to him by his parents, both of whom were artists interested in the forms and figures of natural history. For instance, “Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials” reads much like a field guide for naturalists, and his “Expedition: Being an Account in Words and Artwork of the 2358 A.D. Voyage to Darwin IV” is an aesthetic tour de force uniting a conservationist theme with studies of fantastical ecologies and creature. In doing so, it nevertheless manages to treat its subject with an exacting, evolutionary care and attention to detail.
When not looking through the kaleidoscope that takes the place of the naturalist’s binoculars, Barlowe’s demonic imagery strikes me as having much in common with the Russian artist Serge Sunne, particularly in the disturbing play on questions of identity that are manifested therein. Faces are everywhere, it seems, except where they should be, and when they do acquiesce to something like the human form, there always seems to be something so off kilter as to make them even stranger than the others.