Fushigi Circus – the Art of Mark Ryden

By Mark Ryden (Last Gasp)
ISBN: 978-0-86719-720-4

Ever heard anybody say “That’s not art, it’s just a pile of…?”

Well, the Modern Art scene gets more interesting every day for adherents of narrative imagery and representationalism as craft, skill and imagination return to the forefront of bankable talents. Here’s another sumptuous collection from a well-respected artist whose particular contribution to the Lowbrow or Pop Surrealism movement centres on sumptuous, richly-hued paintings which blend the icons of childhood with startlingly disturbing, often sexually charged images of innocence and innocents: wide eyed, searching, ineffably sad or mysteriously resigned to a fate we can only suppose.

The visual components of each painting are carefully selected and positioned, but always with the intention of leaving the viewer unsettled…

Mark Ryden comes from a long line of artists and worked for the last decade as an illustrator, producing book covers for the likes of Stephen King and record covers for Ringo Starr, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Michael Jackson. His work is reminiscent in style to classic Salvador Dali.

Ryden was educated at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, graduating in 1987 with a Batchelor’s Degree in Fine Art. And that’s where his first one man exhibition “The Meat Show” debuted in 1998.

He came to prominence with regular features in Lowbrow art magazines such as Juxtapoz and has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles and Santa Ana. Recent shows have included the retrospective “Wondertoonel” and the quirky tour de forceThe Tree Show” – paintings and sculptures to 2007-2008.)

Like many contemporary artists Ryden works across many media, illustrating the guitar of Metallica front-man Kirk Hammett, producing tattoo art for Aerosmith’s “Pump” album and designing custom action-figures for Michael Leavitt’s the Art Army.

Ryden’s incredible virtuosity with pigments would have made him a star whatever he concentrated his efforts, but the eye-popping creepy explorations of beauty, childhood and popular culture which can be found in his book collections the Art of Mark Ryden: Anima Mundi (2001), Bunnies and Bees (2002), Wondertoonel Paintings (2004), Blood Show (2005), The Tree Show (2009) and this glorious high-end hardback have won him a devoted following among folk who respond well to fantasy and social enquiry: i.e. people like you…

Fushigi Circus was originally released in 2006 for the Japanese market and this beautiful Cloth-of-Bronze, bound hardback collects fifty five of his early works, featuring, of course, chilling, teary-eyed moppets, scary babies, fluffy cuddly monsters, Gothic horror spoofs and his series of brilliantly observed, witty celebrity paintings ranging from the most nightmarish Teletubbies ever envisioned through Sarah Michelle Geller and Leonardo DiCaprio to Björk and Jimi Hendrix.

Now released for the English speaking world – although sans English text and some of the pictures appear a mite small for my tired-yet-eager old eyes – this lovely volume is bound to win the creator many more fans – especially among the eccentric pool of addicts that make comics and cartoons their vice of choice.
© 2006 Mark Ryden/PIE BOOKS. US edition © 2009 Mark Ryden/Porterhouse. All Rights Reserved.