Artist: Alexander Heaton
Project: Thursday’s Artist Spotlight
Good day Creatures and welcome to our Artist Spotlight feature. Every Thursday we will highlight a new creative talent, introduce their work and tell you a bit about them.
Today we would like to introduce something a little different, something that caught our eye, made us stop and think and something that evoked a mixed bag of emotions in each of us. Wolpertinger Paintings by Alexander Heaton.
When these images landed at Creaturemag it was difficult to put my finger on exactly how they made me feel, it was such a mixed bag of dreamlike confusion. There was agitation, I was instantly repulsed and slightly intimidated, then on further contemplation I was strangely drawn to these odd hybrids. I felt fear but also affection, disgust as well as intrigue. They are of course fictional beasts but the manner in which they are presented make them seem very real. Whatever your emotional response to these paintings we hope you can appreciate their character and the mythical origins of their existence. So what exactly is a Wolpertinger? Over to Alex for some enlightenment.
Wolpertingers being a typically Bavarian curiosity dwell in the alpine and bohemian forests of Germany’s southern alpine region. Once made to fool would be huntsmen as an unexpected trophy of the dark heart of the forest. They can be found on display in inns and hunting shacks. The tradition originated from diseased rabbits suffering from a curios condition that made calcium horn like protrusions grow from their heads. They were falsely identified as a hybrid creature from the offspring of rabbits and deers. This inspired the legends and thus their notoriety grew. Many taxidermists took it upon themselves to create new animal’s part bird, part marmot or part duck, part fox. The possibilities are endless. In Munich there is a whole museum dedicated to them and on April fools day festivals and shows of them honour this Germanic tradition.
My paintings are firmly set in such an epoch and at once serve to revere the legend that is, and mock the would be viewer into disbelief and phantasy. The joke is something like a fairy for the naive townie hiking the woods, or a Lockness monster myth of the Alps.
They are paintings in the vanitas tradition of the northern renaissance such as Holbein. In confronting the cruel humiliation of many dead animals to amuse the child in us we are reminded of our own mortality and fragility at other people’s pre-dispositions or butt ended jokes. This is a uniquely Germanic sense of dark fun or schadenfreude.
The more I look into it the more countries seem to have their own bastard animal to love and scorn. At home we have the Haggis in Scotland a three legged furry thing that scuttles round the contours of the Glens and is also a much loved fake national dish of beef offal and oats. Sweden has the Skvader a half grouse rabbit beastie. The deep south of America has the Jackalope, a half rabbit/doe incarnation of the myth.
My paintings are a love letter to the folklore of Germany which has fused with our own Celtic lore. Perhaps our pickled cabbage eating neighbours do have a sense of humour after all?
If you would like to check out some more mythical paintings by Alex, head on over to his flickr pages: More painting on Flickr