Thursday, October 19, 2006

Gaston Duf
I've only been able to find two works by Duf, but based on the story below there seems to be many other fantastic creatures made by Duf. If anyone knows where I can find additional artwork by Gaston Duf, I would really appreciate it!

"Duf's story has all the characteristics of the definitive Outsider: born in 1920, his father a violent drunkard, his childhood and early adult behaviour by turns unruly and withdrawn, he was shut away in an asylum in 1940. About eight years later his pockets were discovered to be stuffed with crumpled drawings: he was given better materials by his doctor, and then set about producing an astonishing bestiary of imaginary creatures. He gave little or no explanation for them, but occasionally referred to unpronounceable mythical figures, a few of which are recognisably voodoo.

Chief amongst these is the monstrous and polymorphous 'Rhinoceros', dozens of variations of which exist, along with appropriately deformed versions of their name. Trunk, limbs and every other feature seem to live an independent life of their own: they metamorphose into leafy, ocular, or fishy shapes, with ragged, hirsute edges. Duf's baroque zoology is grotesque and savage, with an emphatic and brutal sexuality; yet at times its wild invention has an almost satirical feel to it. In page after page, both in monochrome and colour, Duf rehearsed endless variations on his mythical beast, which bore no resemblance to any actual animal, but instead embodied a distilled beastliness, in every sense of the word.

Other figures appear in Duf's menagerie: clownish or scarecrow characters with equally outlandish captions in a suitably jagged script. Then, five years after he had started, Duf gave up drawing and painting and withdrew into an increasingly autistic isolation. We are left guessing. Was his extravagant creative production an apotropaic ritual that ultimately failed in its aim, or did the procession of his creature, so ferocious, but with a tinge of pathos to it, prove somehow overwhelming for him? One thing is certain: Duf's extraordinary panoply of invention came out of nowhere and, just as suddenly, returned to it."

Click here to see another work by Duf.

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