The looks Fascination with the sinister, the macabre, the disturbing...

Before the gate of Hell, Dante placed an inscription: "It is for me that one goes to the city of tears, it is for me that one goes to eternal pain and to the place where the condemned race suffers

The looks Fascination with the sinister, the macabre, the disturbing...

Before the gate of Hell, Dante placed an inscription: "It is for me that one goes to the city of tears, it is for me that one goes to eternal pain and to the place where the condemned race suffers." Since its publication in the 14th century, the descent into Hell has been the most popular and appreciated part of The Divine Comedy, more so than Purgatory and Paradise: the explicit, yet poetic, description of the cruelest tortures was taken up again. again and again by artists of later centuries. In the late 19th century, Rodin would spend almost three decades sculpting The Gates of Hell, with his famous Thinker (who was never a philosopher) sitting atop, watching the damned suffer horrific martyrdom for all eternity.

The infernal imagery, so abundant and bloody in Gothic altarpieces, never goes out of style and in each century it acquires its own aesthetic. The art of darkness (Akal) by S. Elizabeth, alias Miss Ghoul, specialized in the supernatural and the most disturbing themes, traces a tour of 200 works of art inspired by the morbid, the melancholic and the macabre: from surrealism as sinister as addictive from The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490-1500) by Hieronymus Bosch to the sculptures of Alberto Giacometti, bronze specters inevitably linked to the post-war years, passing through Damien Hirst's skull made with diamonds, platinum and human teeth (For the Love of God, 2007).

Although there are multiple and forced absences, the originality of this anthology is its visual power and a certain vocation as a new age spiritual guide to accept the innate darkness of the human being: «If we live permanently in the light, where we are always content and happy, where we can "If we avoid our most uncomfortable thoughts, then we will lack the shadows, the nuances, an existence without that richness that only contrast brings," writes S. Elizabeth in Praise of Shadows, a prologue as a manifesto that praises the underworld.

Investigating the human psyche, S. Elizabeth delves into the tormented minds of artists such as Vincent Van Gogh or Leonora Carrington, declared "incurably insane" and sent to a Spanish asylum where she was treated with electroshocks. Van Gogh's work includes the ironic and little-known Skull with a Lighted Cigarette (1885-1886), which he executed at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp as a mockery of the academic system, like a sinister alter ego.

Demons, bats, vampires and all manner of monstrous creatures inhabit the pages (and paintings) of The Art of Darkness. Although the author's vision is intrinsically marked by her Anglo-Saxon culture, Spanish artists occupy a leading place: here is Goya twice, with The Dream of Reason Produces Monsters (1796-1798) and Saturn Devouring His Son (1819 -1823), Dalí with the overwhelming The Face of War (1940), Picasso with Still Life with Skull, Leeks and Jug (1945), Remedios Varo with his iconic and magical Woman Leaving the Psychoanalyst (1960) -masterful criticism of the triad psychoanalyst formed by Jung, Freud and Adler, whose initials are included in the painting - and the Valencian Ana Juan with her disturbing and elegant illustration for the opera Hansel and Gretel (2007) that was performed at the Metropolitan in New York.

This artistic album for all audiences focuses on a type of relatively innocuous images that do not cause deep discomfort in the viewer. Although some Japanese works are reproduced, there is no trace of the brutal illustrations of eroguro (grotesque eroticism) that combine viscera, blood and other fluids (and the sight of which is not easily forgotten). No trace either of the hyperrealistic and unpleasant sculptures of Paul McCarthy, for example. And much less of the most extreme photographs of Joel-Peter Witkin, who in September starred in an exhibition at the Imaginart gallery in Barcelona that broke all attendance records, with a long line on Diagonal Avenue to approach the 84-year-old artist.

Witkin showed his disturbing work The Kiss: at first glance it might look like a kiss between two twins but in reality they are two halves of a human head. The head came from the morgue of a university hospital and was sectioned for students to carry out their practices. Witkin joined them in a kiss that leads to the inevitable and necessary question of where the ethical limit is.

Many of Witkin's photographs of corpses were taken in Mexico, where the photographer simply paid to be able to take images of the bodies (and fetuses) in morgues and forensic centers, before they ended up in mass graves. Many of his photos have been censored in exhibitions and are certainly not suitable for everyone's stomach. The fascination (or trauma) with death shown by Witkin, who was a correspondent in the Vietnam War, dates back to his childhood in a gruesome anecdote that he has told on several occasions and that we refrain from reproducing due to its brutality. Even in the fascination with the macabre there are limits.