Dark figures, strange creatures, and night-blooming flowers are just some elements in Christopher Conn Askew's art of fantasy due to be exhibited in London this month.

Dark figures, strange creatures, and night-blooming flowers are just some elements in Christopher Conn Askew's art of fantasy due to be exhibited in London this month.

Christopher Conn Askew is an LA-based painter and jewellery maker who explores the art of fantasy in mythical pieces which mix Japanese Ukiyo-e-style figures with religious iconography and fairy-tale flourishes for a dark and haunting effect.

His otherworldly creations – featuring anthropomorphised cats and donkeys, carnivalesque queens and baroque beauties – are due to be exhibited in a group show of the genre called Vision Quest, a one-year anniversary show for London’s Atomica Gallery, April 17 – May 18.

We caught up with Christopher ahead of the show to find out more about his fantastical renderings.

Things That Inspire Me

by Christopher Conn Askew

DREAMS

Like so many creative people, I derive a huge amount of inspiration from dreams, and, I suppose, the surrealist angle. I get many of my ideas through my oneiric travels; vague or specific images and semi-narratives, feelings and atmospheres, and even words, phrases, or little lyrical snippets. I don’t splatter my dreams unfiltered across the paper, but I take little bits, seeds, from what I can remember of my dreams, and nurture these until they bloom (for better or worse) into their own little worlds. I ascribe a great importance to dreams, and, though it’s a rather trite quote at this point, I must agree with Chuang Tzu’s famous butterfly dream that made him question the line between dreams and what most of modern human culture tells us is “reality”. He was on to something.

NATURAL AND UNNATURAL PATTERNS

Hidden patterns in the world around me are a great source of inspiration: shapes in the grain of wood, in conglomerations of leaves, in cracks and shadows, in the mix of sounds that drift in through an open window, in clouds and trash piles and in the moon, among other things. All of these things I see as signs, as symbols of other things, and my mind automatically takes an abstract shape, sound, or feeling, and translates it into more clearly outlined visual terms that I can use to germinate (or desecrate) a lovely blank sheet of paper with my own, very personal symbology.

MUSIC

I am almost always listening to music during my waking hours, and sometimes into my sleeping ones. I have a very large collection that covers a diverse a range of genres, cultures, eras and nations. I have noticed, however, that the one thread that connects about 80% of my musical tastes is made of two elements: a sense of melancholy, and a majority of minor harmonies. While working, I usually prefer non-lyrical music. I often think of visual art in musical terms quite consciously as I engage in my creative process. Whether I am painting, drawing, or designing a piece of jewellery, forms, tones and colours are all linked clearly in my mind to rhythms, melodies, tones and notes.

ALTERED MENTAL STATES

Self-induced states that give me feelings of inspiration, or that hint at even the barest sensations of transcendence are also crucial. I have found meditation, trance states, and ritual (largely of my own creation, but also inspired and informed by a plethora of traditional forms) to be very powerful inducers of such sensations. Various herbs, supplements, drugs and alcohol are potent enablers as well, helping me to shed the shackles of my daytime mind and slip more easily into the more fluid and open nocturnal mindset that I find most conducive to inspiration.

BOOKS

I am a voracious reader (when I can find the time!) and book collector, and what I am reading during any given period often affects the nature of what I am making. For the last several years, one of the genres (I hate to use that term here, and I use it very loosely) that has been of particular inspiration to me is darker supernatural fiction; from older authors like Gustav Meyrink and Arthur Machen, to current writers like Thomas Ligotti, and much of the long list of those who have been inspired by his work. In fiction (and really, everything written by human hand is a form of fiction), I am strictly interested in those whose work at least questions the nature of perceived reality, and that which attacks the notions of commonly agreed upon reality that are the very basis of all capitalist, industrialist, modern Christian and post-Christian ideals, morals and laws which I find to be such blindly limited and viscously controlling arbiters of our cultural programming.

See more of Christopher’s work on his website or head down to the Vision Quest group show at Atomica gallery, London, April 17 – May 18.