Sunday, May 12, 2013

Creating new universes

"I need to produce great ideas, and I believe that if I were asked to design a new universe, I would be mad enough to undertake it."  --Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720--1778)

We just came back from an exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art on the work of Piranesi, who produced hundreds of exceedingly detailed engravings of architecture, ruins, cityscapes, sarcophagi, as well as maps, drawings of furniture, details of architectural flourishes, and his own architectural fantasies.  Some of the most intriguing drawings are the title pages of his books, in which the title is engraved on a fallen stone, which is surrounded with  other fallen stones, as well as bones, skulls, plants, people digging, whatever his wildly creative fancy could come up with.  Looking at picture after picture, I kept seeing Willworld, and other of the slightly skewed and often crumbling worlds designed by Seth Fisher.  If the centuries could somehow have been compacted, how Seth and Giovanni would have enjoyed each other's company.  Together I suspect they both would have taken on the project of designing a new universe.  

Their styles are different, but the delight in ornate details that you wouldn't necessarily find in your neighborhood is of a piece.  These two artists were brothers under the skin.
I suspect that Giovanni chuckled to himself, just as Seth did, as he drew in his street scenes the odd touches that make you look at his drawing and wonder, "Could that really be there, or did he make it up?"

Another little bit of kinship:
Not just the fact that both drawings have an arm stretching out to the right, but there is an otherworldy loneliness to them both, a sense of not quite belonging here.  People live in both high and precarious sites, but how do they get there?  Seth's drawing is a design for Myst 3 that was ultimately chucked, so it is less fully realized than the Piranesi one, but in both cases, the artist was trying for a mixture of recognizability and strangeness.  
It's where they lived.  

1 comment:

j_ay said...

that must have been a great, great show to see.
Good to see a post on here!