The greatest, annual, printed artists’ exhibition is still going strong after more than two decades
Editor John Fleskes ven after more than 20 imagination-packed years of providing one of the finest and far-reaching platforms “for imaginative work in all its forms, without pretension and without prejudice”, the Spectrum organisation, now headed by John Fleskes, still offers artists and art lovers a genuinely crucial, one-stop snapshot of the landscape of contemporary fantastic art, year by year. And the 21st offering is equally as engrossing and entertaining as any other year before it.
What Spectrum does so well is present fantasy in its entirety. This collection isn’t all bright lights and happy smiles. It explores the nightmares as well as daydreams that contemporary artists envision: perfectly posed pin-up next to battle-
Available Now hardened warriors. If it’s engaging, full of ideas, and depicted with skill, you’ll find it here.
Naturally, there are fantasy favourites – sword-wielding barbarians, and majestic dragons – but the majority of 21 is charged by incredibly personal fantasy. This is evident in the editorial gold award going to a dreamy, instantly recognisable Tran Nguyen piece. It’s in Eric Fortune’s solitary nighttime scenes, in Fiono Meng’s soft surrealism.
It may be a cliché to talk about pictures telling a story, but that’s what this collection is: a storybook, for those who have the time and inclination to stop, and look, and imagine. What beast is that which has the antlers of a reindeer, tusks of an elephant and tail of a snake, and why does he look so amused? Where is that black rabbit in the Edwardian dress headed to? Who trained those cats to turn a pitbull into a semi-aquatic mode of transport?
You probably get the picture – if you take our meaning. You can dip into Spectrum 21 with the intention of a quick flick through, and then see the sun go down, leaving you dizzy in the dark, with hours lost to a host of wonderful, non-existent worlds.
The 2015 instalment covers every Gold and Silver winner, from comics to book covers to advertising to concept art, and the particularly arresting dimensional sculptures. There’s also a short but heartfelt tribute to the late Ray Harryhausen, insights into the contest’s judging and judges, and a feature on Star Wars artist Iain McCaig.
Perhaps most inspiring of all the text elements, however, is the stirring Year In Review from John Fleskes himself, which celebrates the achievements and usefulness of the Spectrum family, and its promise that, “We will continue to leave the door unlocked where all can enter”.
Raoul Vitale’s Second Breakfast depicts the remains of the trolls who tormented Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo.
Android Jones’s I-Believe was printed on a new ‘Silverada’ canvas, giving the print a pearlescent metallic finish.