Editorial - April 9, 2000

Visionary and Underground Art
by Royce Carlson

If a mountain landscape painted in oils is boring to you or if realistic portraiture make you yawn then you might find alternative art a refreshing change. From fantasy to horror, there are several sub-categories that fit the description, "alternative art."

Visionary art is often spiritually inspired. Angels and gods are depicted in fantastic detail in paintings and drawings. Spiritual visionary art is designed to be uplifting and inspiring and often contains what some call "new age" themes. Also fitting the "alternative art" category is surrealism – dreamlike paintings that bear only a slight resemblance to reality. Some visionary art is derived from science fiction and fantasy. In fact, it is the visionary artists that produce the artwork for the covers of science fiction and fantasy books. From Hieronymus Bosch’s bizarre paintings in the 15th century to Salvador Dali to today’s digital artists, visionary art is a fascinating and growing painting style.

At the other end of the spectrum is underground art. This genre contains cartoon and comic art with underground or counter-cultural themes as well as a sub-genre known as horror or dark art. Underground art often seems to be a counter-cultural backlash against mainstream art and mainstream culture. If the mainstream religion is Christianity, for example, then underground religious art is distinctly anti-Christian. Portraiture is grotesque and distorted as a backlash against mainstream portraiture.

Dark art depicts human emotional depths and fears in graphic detail from bleeding amputees to faces with expressions of terror. These works show the dark side of our existence. The dark emotions of fear and anger can be graphically shown as monsters threatening to devour us. One of the best known dark artists is H.R. Giger who designed the monsters in the "Alien" movies. Dark art is also a part of the Gothic sub-culture along with gothic music and fashion.

Visionary and underground artists use the standard mainstream media of painting, drawing and sculpture but some also are tattoo artists that have expanded their repertoire to include painting and drawing. Another new medium that these artists have embraced is computer-generated art. Often a mixture of painting, digital and drawing is combined to produce impressive multimedia works.

One of the best places to start to explore the world of visionary art is at Zenzibar Alternative Culture. There are two sub-categories of alternative visual arts at Zenzibar: Visionary Art and Underground Art. Visit them to find on-line galleries and artists working at the edges of culture. Also visit our Gothic Subculture category.

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