Friday 16 January 2015

Melancholia III, part I: On Holloways and Harrowed Paths

I have been re-reading Dan Abnett’s excellent Pariah and was once again struck by one of the great concepts appearing in the book. A concept, which in turn have inspired me to begin my third Melancholia project and a further exploration into the ‘anatomy of melancholy’:

In Pariah the city of Queen Mab is criss-crossed with an irregular scheme of holloways and harrowed paths, which, according to Abnett, are sacred ways, streets of the vast city that are distinguished because they felt the actual step of Saint Orphaeus when he trod upon its world during his pilgrimage of grace many centuries before the story unfolds (Abnett, 2012).

The concept may have been inspired by Abnett’s own surroundings in Kent. Here long distance pathways like the North Downs Way and the Pilgrims Way between Winchester and Canterbury run along the chalk ridgeways of the high hills. In some places the ridgeways are linked to the lower levels of the river valleys by sunken lanes and holloways that are routes where footsteps over thousands of years of pilgrimage have worn a passage into the soft chalk. 

In the words of Abnett’s peer Robert Macfarlane in his beautiful book Holloway, which coincidentally was published in 2012 – the same year as Abnett’s Pariah – a holloway is:

A sunken path, a deep & shady lane. A route that centuries of foot-fall, hoof-hit, wheel-roll & rain-run have harrowed into the land. A track worn down by the traffic of ages & the fretting of water […] They are landmarks that speak of habit rather than suddenness. Like creases in the hand, or the wear of the stone sill of a doorstep or stair, they are the result of repeated human actions.  (Macfarlane, 2012)

In Queen Mab the holloways are silent and dusty, almost all colour gone and flaked, sanded down by centuries of weather. They are home to the destitute and the warblind (Abnett, 2012). Macfarlane echoes this description when he in Holloway describe some holloways also as ‘fearways, danger-ways, coffin-paths, corpse-ways and ghostways.’ (Macfarlane, 2012) 

Many of those that have walked such old ways have experienced them as places within which one might slip back out of the ordinary world and within which ghosts softly flock. For some, walking them is a wordless conversation between ghosts and ghosts-to-be

In Melancholia III I will try to convey this - and that some certain old paths are linear only in a simple sense. That some paths are echospaces where past and present - like trees - have branches and - like rivers - have tributaries. That some paths, in the strikingly beautiful words of Macfarlane, are:

[…] rifts within which time might exist as pure surface, prone to recapitulation & rhyme, weird morphologies, uncanny doublings. (Macfarlane, 2012)

Where Melancholia I and Melancholia II were about sight and sound respectively Melancholia III will be all about warblindness and otherworldly, treecovered silence!

Sunday 4 January 2015

The Sanctioned One

What was intended as a last post of 2014 has become the first post of 2015: My third project of the year, which was initiated while preparing for a Golden Demon many moons ago. Back then I was struck by the amazingly vibrant and atmospheric sketches by John Blanche of inquisitor characters roaming the dystopian worlds of the Imperium of Man. In his sketches these characters became weathered in the truest sense of the word - depicting not only the characters but also, and maybe even more so, the worlds they inhabit.
Together with Dan Abnett's ongoing series of Eisenhorn, Ravenor and Bequin, which I truly enjoy reading, The Inquisitor Sketchbook by John Blanche has been and still is one of the most important and inspirational publications in my small collection of Games Workshop/Black Library Publications. 

Not only does it give shape to Ressurectionists, Adeptus Mechanicus Cultists, Rogue Traders, Whip Mistresses, Witch Seekers, Sidith Priests, Fire Redemptionists, Chrono Gladiators and Lex Mechanics but it also sparked my imagination and in turn the initiation of my two recently finished Melancholia projects as well as Melancholia III, which is on its way.

During my ongoing process of rediscovery in 2014 I decided to finish the important works I never got around to finish before disappearing into the boreal many moons ago. Many of them have been well hidden for almost a decade but have now resurfaced and are seeing final work done to them. My Cabinet of Wonders is slowly expanding.

My recently finished version of a Sanctioned Bounty Hunter was inspired by a Blanche sketch depicting a Sanctioned Alien Bounty Hunter appearing in his sketchbook. It was intended to be part of a Golden Demon entry a decade ago. This made 2014 a ten year jubilee of sorts and a good year to finish it and in the process give homage to the great and creative artist that was the inspiration behind it.

Furthermore, it is a proper first post of 2015 as it fits very well into the theme of FPOA by showing that the divine light of the Emperor works in truly mysterious ways;

In this case making a hunter of the hunted...

His chains of enslavement are broken and he is standing aloof some shattered remains of his foes. Apart from a lot of added small details like the inquisition seal of sanctioned enlistement, personal totems and various Imperial insignia showing The Sanctioned One's devotion to the cause, he is wielding two slightly altered hunting rifles from his home world, various types of purity seals and handcrafted Xeno bullets. Also he is being assisted by a specially crafted Servo Skull intented to search out the aliens he is sanctioned to hunt...

...the dreaded Tau!