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Portraying Darkness and Melancholy - 10 Art Pieces by Guy Denning

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January 8, 2016
Behind the pseudonym of Lor Dethal lies Nemanja Torlak, a writer for Widewalls intrigued and moved by diversity in art and in the lives of those who create it. It is often the unexpected that come forth and surprise us, and art is a world that allows it and makes it possible. David beats the Goliath daily, and writing about it is a pleasure.

Guy Denning was born in England in 1965, and though he is now based in France, Somerset played a big role in developing his young mind towards art. He discovered his affinity towards painting when he was no more than eleven years old, as he received a set of old paints from a relative that grew bored with them. Growing up, Denning’s love towards art as a form of expression grew with him, making him resilient towards many rejections he faced as an artist. Repeatedly unsuccessful in his applications to study painting at a degree level, he found his “temple of knowledge” by other means: learning the technical aspects of painting through meetings and conversations with more experienced Somerset colleagues.

Forming the Neomodern group in 1997, Guy Denning surrounded himself with like-minded artists who sought to reform architecture and rescue it from the complexities that postmodernism had wrought upon it. Being rather prolific with his drawings, Denning uses a mixture of several media and techniques together in order to display melancholy, solemnest and anger throughout his work. Occasionally drawing on mid-toned paper in order to focus on the contrast of black and white, he uses powerful brush strokes, stencil, collaged text, and even scratches the paint to show the intensity of his emotions, and express them deeply. With his work exhibited in England, United States of America, Germany, Italy and France, and being a part of several public collections, including the Politics Department of Bristol University, the Political Science Department at Galway University and the MAGI’900 Museum of Contemporary Art in Bologna, Guy Denning has left a significant mark on contemporary art, and continues to do so.

Let us revisit 10 art pieces made by the artist, and for a more detailed view on his work and auction, be sure to visit the artist’s page.

  • Guy Denning

Trained as a Doctor, 2008

One of many paintings depicting Guy Denning’s exploration of political and social issues that trouble the modern society, his 2008 piece called Trained as a Doctor depicts a woman with a veil and a gun in her hands, presumably a doctor. Using oil on canvas, Denning shows not only the influence of politics, but the irony of a doctor being put in the role of someone who takes lives. The painting was sold at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions in London for a total of $5,170.

You can see the details of the auction here.

  • Guy Denning

Fucked up Celebrity Portrait #1, 2008

Made in 2008, the piece practically represents all of Denning’s signature marks when it comes to media and emotions. With dripping paint, collaged text and paint scratches, the painting radiates strong and definite emotions. The name might indicate an abnormal state that celebrities show themselves in, compared to a “fucked up” state that we caught her in when the painting was made, showing melancholy and solemnest. This piece was also sold in 2008 at Bonhams in London, fetching near its low estimated price, $5,580.

See the details of the art work and its auction.

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El Dopa, 2008

Painting mostly portraits throughout his career, the 2008 piece El Dopa is no exception. Using oil on canvas, Denning portrays overwhelming melancholic emotions, and the scratches and the dripping black paint immensely assist in that portrayal. Showing his mastery of contrasting the black and white tones once again, Guy Denning proves the value of his self-taught lessons. El Dopa was sold at Bonhams in London in 2009, and fetched a price of $6,350.

Get all the details here.

  • Guy Denning

Letting go of the Entourage, 2009

Yet another in line of Guy Denning’s portraits, the 2009 piece called Letting go of the Entourage mixes both mediums and emotional states of his high-profiled models. Using red in combination with black and white contrast, Denning presents a woman who’s abandoning the entourage, revealing emotions and a side of herself that’s not publicly shown. The inscription above her reads “fifteen minutes,” possibly limiting her to her true self to that time only, before the entourage returns. The art work was sold in mid 2010 at Artesegno, Udine, for $6,410.

You can see the details of this art work here.

  • Guy Denning

Gorgo-Spartan, 2009

Gorgo-Spartan has the most peculiar name and a couple of meanings behind this marvelous 2009 piece. As some of you may know, Gorgo was the famous Spartan Queen, wife of King Leonidas, known for her wisdom and political judgment during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. The sorrow and grief visible on her face, depicted by dripping paint and blackness as well, is most likely caused by the death of her husband that occurred at the battle of Thermopylae. The brush strokes that define her hair may indicate another context of Gorgo which related to Gorgon, a female creature out of Greek mythology that had living, venomous snakes for hair. The piece was sold at Artesegno in Udine for $7,170.

Read more about it here.

  • Guy Denning

Last’s Year’s Minutes, 2009

Another painting representing the darkness of social and political influences. Blackening out the eyes of the elderly woman who is portrayed as a victim, Denning instills horror and despair in the painting. Making the soldier’s face completely void, the emphasis is put on the mindless darkness the military is obliged to follow, executing orders that they, as human beings, most likely oppose. The art work wasn’t sold until the March of 2010, when it found an owner at Artesegno in Italy. It was sold for a price of $7,460.

You can see all the details here.

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Faith and Hope Fuck Charity, 2009

Showing how he feels about the state in which the current religion system is, Guy Denning used mixed media on newspaper to make this 2008 piece. Given his skill in contrasting colors, he used black, red and white, and notable scratching of the color to portray a strong sense of darkness and wickedness. With horned figures displayed above a man representing the hardship and sorrow of the poor, the message behind this piece is clear: Faith and Hope, Fuck Charity. It was sold at Artesegno in Italy in 2009, netting a price of $7,950.

Find all the information here.

  • Guy Denning

Untitled (Black Screaming Head) 411, 2008

A portrait of a woman screaming, as can be concluded from the painting, bares the trademarks of Guy Denning: the opposition of black and white fighting for dominance on the mid-toned paper, scratching and lines emanating emotions. The only thing breaking the flow of black and white interchanging are tones of red, fiercely implemented onto the surface. One can almost feel the anger, if not even be taken away by it. This energetic piece was sold in 2008 at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions in London, and fetched near its high estimated price of $9,390.

You may read the details of it here.

  • Guy Denning

Fears and Loss, 2007

With its completely black background, Fears and Loss is sadness incarnate, portraying a face of a man truly hopeless and lost. Without a clear line between the man’s face and pitch black background, he seems to be literally swallowed by the darkness and agony, surrendering to it with his eyes closed. Even the inscription bearing the work’s title slowly dissipates within the blackness of it, taking this melancholy context to a new level. This particular art work had a high estimated price of almost $6,000, and in 2008 at Bonhams in London fetched astonishing $15,800, which is over 150% of its estimate.

You may read further details of the art work and its auction here.

  • Guy Denning

Icarus - Scapegoat for an Atrocity, 2008

Guy Denning turns once more to Greek mythology, naming this piece after Icarus, the son of master craftsman Deadalus, the creator of the Labyrinth. By the legend, Icarus aimed to escape the island of Crete using wings his father made from feathers and wax. However, falling prey to hubris, Icarus flies too close to the Sun getting his wings melted by its heat, thus collapsing into the sea. The Guy Denning’s Icarus appears to be heading towards the same faith: his wings churned, he floats above the sea of sorrowed men bellow, ones who felt Sun’s warm embrace once before and fell prone to their hubris. The piece was sold at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions in London, and rightfully earned 20% more than its high estimated price, fetching $16,400.

The complete info about the auction and the art work can be found here.