Monday, 12:00pm
2 October 2017

Paint it blacker

A new book explores the influence of the gothic on contemporary visual culture. Author Faye Dowling shines a light within the darkness

A renewed interest in the gothic has inspired some new dialogues in our contemporary visual culture, writes Faye Dowling.

Today’s gothic arts, forged in the 1990s UK art scene by artists such as Mat Collishaw and The Chapman Brothers, reveal influences that spread across art, music, fashion and design.

Marc Bijl
, Broken Structure, 2014.
Top: Spread from Faye Dowling’s The Book of Black showing work by Horst P. Horst and Tim Noble and Sue Webster.


The themes and aesthetics of the gothic are finding a new vernacular in our visual landscape, with a revival of gothic iconography seen in fashion labels such as Vetements, Paris, and the witchcraft culture of Sabat magazine,

Rooted in self-reference, today’s gothic lineage is captured in the Baroque still-life paintings of Emma Bennett, in Wolfe von Lenkiewicz’s repurposed historic artworks and Dan Hillier’s Victorian-influenced prints.

Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, 
You’re Nothing but a Pack of Cards, 2011.


Florian Heinke
, God is family, 2015.


Graphic interpretations can be seen in the work of German artists Mark Bijl and Florian Heinke, whose paintings and sculptures radicalise the symbols and slogans of punk and gothic culture with the aesthetics of political poster art.

A. A. Bronson, 
Ex Libris, 2015, letterpress on cairn board with silver block.

AA bookplate final

Across design, the iconography drawn from spiritualism and the occult has found new roots too. Captured here in the print work of influential artist and healer, A. A. Bronson (see ‘General Idea: Infiltrate, infect and mutateEye 30), and in the work of tattoo designers such Jondix and Sang Bleu (see ‘Body type’ in Eye 72), whose work draws new influence from sacred geometry and spiritualist motifs.

The Book of Black (Laurence King, £12.99) explores and celebrates the artists, aesthetics and styles behind the gothic visual arts of today.

Maxime Büchi
, Geometric, 2015, from 1000, Sang Bleu Publishing, 2016.


Emma Bennett, Disgrace, 2008.


Faye Dowling, editor, curator, author of The Book of Black, London

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.