Imagining Interiors – Curated by Wendy Walker, Jam Factory, Adelaide
For some years the influence of horror and science-fiction literature has lurked at the periphery of my practice. The most recurrent and pervasive influence seems to be the work of American pulp author Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 – 1937). The murky, pseudo-mythology that underpinned Lovecraft’s nihilistic tales of cosmic horror, today known as the Cthulhu Mythos, continues to be augmented and expanded upon by legions of authors, artists, gamers and fans to this day. The inventory of bizarre entities, nightmarish locales, alien artefacts and forbidden tomes that constitutes the Cthulhu Mythos grows ever larger and Imagining Interiors seemed a suitable opportunity for me to contribute my own portion of user-generated Mythos content.
Setting out to generate work based on an architectural site sourced from Lovecraft’s work, I found myself spoilt for choice. So many locales immediately sprang to mind: the vast pre-human Antarctic cities of the Elder Things, the boarded up Dunwich farmhouse that housed the monstrous twin offspring of Yog-Sothoth, the stone circles of Sentinel Hill, the black cellars of Innsmouth, the basalt halls of the Great Race of Yith and Y’ha-Nthlei, dwelling place of the Deep Ones, to name a few. I eventually returned to what is perhaps the iconic location of Lovecraft’s milieu, the â€œnightmare corpse city of R’lyeh, resting place of Great Cthulhu, the gargantuan squid-like high priest of the Great Old Ones, who lends his name to the Mythos.
R’lyeh is typical of Lovecraft’s alien architectures, with its shunning of non-Euclidean geometry in favour of that which is abnormal and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours. An unfortunate sailor who chances across R’lyeh (on one of the rare occasions on which it rises up from its unthinkable depths in the Pacific Ocean) recounts the twisted menace and suspense that lurked leeringly in those crazily elusive angles of carven rock, where a second glance shewed concavity after the first shewed convexity. The poor fellow is aghast when one of his shipmates is swallowed up by an angle of masonry that shouldn’t have been there; an angle which was acute, but behaved as if it were obtuseâ€.
The baffling and seemingly impossible physicality of the place is incredibly rich material for sculptural play. Upon first encountering R’lyeh in Lovecraft’s fiction, my initial impression was of a structure that was infinitely mutable and fundamentally unstable traits that might be ascribed to much of my own output as a sculptor. Pursuing these themes of the kit form, modular and temporary structures and (apparent) structural instability has led to the R’lyeh maquettes. While extrapolation on the subject matter seemed richer and more challenging that rather than illustration or direct representation of elements from Lovecraft’s tales, I have indulged my own fandom and made allowance for some overt Lovecraftian tropes (such as tentacles, occult signs and even the dreaded Necronomicon). These works perhaps sit a little uneasily next to more formal extrapolations (such as the towering trolley stack), but each component in the series offers its own interpretation of Lovecraft’s bleak yet wildly inventive vision.
All quotations are from ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ by H.P. Lovecraft (1928)
Roy Ananda 2011