Sunday, May 07, 2006


Obsessions is not simply an invitation into the imaginations of Alfred Kubin and those who influenced him - Daumier, de Groux, Ensor, Gaugin, Goya, Klinger, Munch, Redon and Rops. It is also an invitation into the viewer's own imagination, a stimulus for nightmares and obsessions of one's own. From Goya's terrifying war reportage to Redon's and Ensor's respective conjurings of St. Anthony, from the fantastical visions of Edgar Allan Poe to the uncanny banalities of Kubin's corpses, Obsessions demonstrates the profound connexion between terror and ecstasy.

Spread across two rooms, the exhibition - unlike the recent Gothic Nightmares show at Tate Britain, to which Obsessions provides an interesting counterpoint - is well lit and curated, with helpful information in French, Dutch and English. Among the 90+ works on display, those of Kubin himself do not always come off well: but who, in fairness, could compare with the incomparable Goya and Ensor? Nevertheless the dialogue which has been set in play between the well chosen works shown here is both fascinating and absorbing.

Appropriately enough for such a meditation on eroticism, horror and the fantastic, the Obsessions exhibition itself has a doppelgänger. Its double, previously shown at Namur and now opening in Linz in July, concentrates more exclusively on Kubin in relation to Rops. While the narrower focus on, and more concentrated experience of, these two great imaginations will surely have much to offer, devotees of the dark side of the Marvellous are urged not to miss these many Obsessions in their current incarnation.

Obsessions: Alfred Kubin
Hotel de Ville, Bruxelles/Stadhuis van Brussel (Belgium), until 18th June.
Landesmuseum, Linz (Austria), from 6th July until 20th August.

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