For this art exhibition, the theme of spirit would mainly be portrayed from the supernatural aspect.
Spirits can exist in different natures. They can either be harmful or helpful.
Spirits can exist as the souls of humans after they have passed on.
Spirits can exist in religion. They can either be evil or good.
Spirits can exist in stories and mythologies passed on through folklore.
Spirits can exist after death where there may be the possibility of spiritual life.
When Lucie Bilodeau was 14 years old, she attended courses which honed her traditional fine art skills (Bilodeau, n.d.). She also studied the pioneers of art like Rembrandt, Monet, Manet, C?zanne, and Fantin Latour, hence some of the elements in her artworks are influenced by these artists (Bilodeau, n.d.). Her spiritual paintings derived from her imagination and her models, who are her relatives and friends (Bilodeau, n.d.).
Louis Wain is an artist who started out by specialising in animal and country scene drawings.
Eventually, he became famous for his illustrations of cats with human-like expressions (Illustration Chronicles, n.d.).
Henry Fuseli is famous for his works of nude figures which are depicted in strained and violent poses. (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019b).
He was also drawn to creating disturbing and frightening paintings, such as The Nightmare painted in 1781. These paintings tend to evoke overwhelming emotions in people as they are dramatic and sometimes unreal (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019b).
Andrei Rublev is a Russian medieval painter who is know for his icons and frescoes (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019a). His icons are mainly influenced by the Byzantine art style as they are mainly focused on capturing the essence of spirituality (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019a).
Tom Shropshire is a versatile artist who portrays different art styles in his work. Some of it includes abstracts, contemporary night city scenes and atmospheric landscapesTom Shropshire Fine Art, n.d.). He tries to express elements of mystery, beauty, and wonder in his artworks (Tom Shropshire Fine Art, n.d.).
ABU YAHYA ZAKARIYA’ IBN MUHAMMAD AL- QAZWINI
Abu Yahya Zakariya’ Ibn Muhammad Ibn Mahmud al-Qazwini was a physician, astronomer, and geographer who had a reputation in the Islamic world (Roots. n.d.). Due to his Islamic background, his illustrations are mainly related to the Islam religion (Roots. n.d.).
Le Quoc Viet was raised by Buddhist monks in pagodas in the Thanh Hoa province of Vietnam (National Gallery Singapore, 2019b). This background influence may explain why his artwork: The Funeral contains elements of spirituality.
Chuck Pinson’s painting inspirations stem from various sources. One of them would be his journey in spiritual development (Pinson, n.d.). This source of inspiration is shown in his artwork Bridge of Triumph where he portrays the theme of spiritual truth (Pinson, n.d.).
Oh Yoon is an artist who does paintings and sculptures, but he is most well known for his woodblock prints that captured the essence of people’s everyday lives in an intense, captivating, and compelling manner (Woo, 2106). He came to discover his unique art style by drawing inspiration from the country’s traditional dances, tales and shamanic rituals (Woo, 2016). This may explain why his artwork: Marketing I: Hell is filled with spiritual elements.
Bilodeau, L. (n.d.). About the artist. Retrieved from
Shropshire, T. (n.d.). About the artist. Retrieved from
Illustration Chronicles. (n.d.). Cute cats and psychedelia: The tragic life of Louis Wain. Retrieved from
Roots. (n.d.). A leaf from a manuscript of al-Qazwinis ‘Aja’ib al-Makhluqat. Retrieved from
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019a). Saint Andrey Rubylov. Retrieved from
Pinson, C. (n.d.). About the art & artist. Retrieved from
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019b). Henry Fuseli. Retrieved from
Woo, J. (2016). Master printmaker Oh Yoon honoured in major retrospective. Retrieved from
National Gallery Singapore. (2019b). The Funeral [Museum Label]. Singapore.
In various mythologies and folklores, it is a common belief that spirits are roaming in the real world. Some of them may have harmful intentions, while some may mean no harm at all. The paintings by Henry Fuseli and Lucie Bilodeau will explore the broad theme of spirit in the supernatural aspect. Each of their artworks depicts the two different natures of spirits. Fuseli will be portraying evil spirits while Bilodeau’s artwork will show a gentle and peaceful spirit.
The entity that is resting on the womans chest can be referred to as an imp, incubus or Mara (Paulson, n.d.). They are a spirit which lies on top of people in their sleep (Paulson, n.d.). There is also a horse that emerges from the shadows in the right corner of the painting, which makes it seems ghoulish. If we look closely, the eyes of the horse appear to be dead and lifeless. The horse also seems to be eyeing on the sleeping woman as if wanting to haunt her dreams, which makes this painting even more morbid. This shows that while the woman is simply dreaming, it takes on a terrifying form and the Mara and the horse are the symbols of her nightmare (Paulson, n.d.).
Fuseli may also be using the word ‘mare’ in The Nightmare as a play on words to represent the horse and the Mara that is sitting on the woman. ‘Mare’ can be referred to as a horse, which is depicted in this painting. ‘Mare’ is also believed to be an evil spirit that tortures humans while they are asleep (Paulson, n.d.). In heathen mythology, they do so by suffocating the sleeping human (Paulson, n.d.). Sometimes, ‘Mare’ can also be referred to as Mara, which is the spirit that is presented in this painting (Paulson, n.d.). Thus, Fuseli may be suggesting that the Mara has evil intentions. The Mara is seen to be sitting and exerting pressure on the woman’s chest as if wanting to suffocate her and inflict harm on her.
Fuseli effectively uses the contrast of light and dark to portray the unsettling and mysterious mood of the painting (Przybylek, n.d.). Only the sleeping woman is painted in fairer and brighter colours. Besides her, the background of the painting, the horse and the Mara are coloured in darker shades of red, brown and black (Przybylek, n.d.). Except for the woman, rendered in white and other bright colours, everything else is depicted in deep red, dark brown, and black. The fact that the background and the horse is painted in black makes it seem like the horse is a ghostly figure that appeared out of the darkness (Przybylek, n.d.). Thus, the contrast of colours emphasizes the haunting atmosphere of The Nightmare.
The entity that is seen in this painting is the ghost of a deceased woman. She seems to be parting with a man who appears to be her loved one. Usually, parting due to death is seen to be a devastating moment, however, the woman’s spirit seems to be at peace as she depicts a calm facial expression while leaving behind her loved one and the real world.
Bilodeau uses colours to create a calming yet spiritual atmosphere that is portrayed in this artwork. She mainly uses colours which do not drastically contrast with each other. Primarily, the colours Bilodeau uses are of lighter shades like light blue and white, which exudes a calmer vibe. Additionally, Bilodeau also utilises blending techniques to achieve the pillowy and light atmosphere of the painting. She was able to achieve a soft glow effect on the characters and the background of the painting with the blending technique. This creates an ethereal mood in this painting.
Since Bilodeau’s spiritual painting are inspired by her imagination, she is possibly trying to portray that her perception of life after death in the painting. She wants to be ‘immortal’ in the sense that she still lives on in the lives of her friends and relatives in spirit though she is not physically alive and present. Thus, this may explain why she named this artwork as Immortality.
Fine Art America. (n.d.). Immortality [Painting]. Retrieved from
Fuseli, H. (1781). The Nightmare [Painting]. Retrieved from modern/romanticism/romanticism-in-england/a/henry-fuseli-the-nightmare
Paulson, N. (n.d.). Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare. Retrieved from
Przybylek, S. (n.d.). Understanding visual art: Identifying theme, mood and tone. Retrieved from
We will now explore a sub-theme of spirit. In the spiritual context, the psyche is referred to as the human soul or spirit (Dictionary, n.d.). The human soul is said to reside in the human body while they are still alive, but it leaves once the human body passes on. The three paintings by Lucie Bilodeau will contain my interpretation of the human soul and spirit. I described the three artworks as a storyline whereby a woman’s soul is transitioning life to death. In the first painting, her soul is still one with her body, however, it slowly leaves the human body and takes on its spiritual form eventually.
Bilodeau describes this painting as a woman gazes out from her darkened bedroom upon a night scene both familiar and exotic, in which a brilliant moon beckons her into the starry enchantment of space (Bilodeau, 2014). At the age of 16, Bilodeau had an out of body experience, and through this, it became apparent to me that we are spiritual beings. Thus, she wants to share this spiritual knowledge with others through her artwork (Bilodeau, 2014).
Here in Night Voyage, we can see a pot of withering flowers. This can parallel to her life, which is seeping away from her. The apparition that emerges from her body emphasises on the eventual loss of her life too.
In addition, there is a Celtic myth which states that water acts as a vehicle for spirits from this world to the next, so if the tides are extremely high on a full moon, spirits come to shore or cross the barrier (Otherworldly Oracle, 2018). In this painting, the soul of the woman is seen to be looking out of the window towards the high tide and the full moon. Thus, she may be preparing to transit to the spiritual world.
A Vision can be seen as a transition from the first artwork to the third artwork. Night Voyage depicts a night scene whereas A Vision possibly depicts a scene of dawn, which is the transition between night and day.
Similar to dawn, the woman portrayed here seems to be in a transition from life to death. She does not seem to be real neither is she in complete spiritual form. It may be because Bilodeau did not paint her to be as translucent as one would imagine a spirit to be. Bilodeau also added shading and contours to the woman’s body. This brings out the three-dimensional shape of a living person. Hence, these techniques make the woman appear to be in a state of transitioning to her spiritual form.
Here, we can see a mass of water spiralling up to the sky. This could be an emphasis on the myth which believes that water acts as a bridge to allow the woman to ascend into the afterlife and take on her spiritual form (Otherworldly Oracle, 2018).
We can also notice how the colour of her hair changes from Night Voyage. It faded from a reddish-orange colour to a blonde colour. The reddish-orange colour represents the energy that is flowing through a person. This can be interpreted as the life a person has. It then faded to a blonde colour, which can represent the life energy exiting the person, Thus, the transition from life to death is represented.
In this painting, the woman has crossed over from the real world to the afterlife. Bilodeau chooses only to paint clouds in the background. This is probably because clouds give off a feeling of weightlessness and lightness, which is what people imagine a soul to be like. It can also be a representation of the woman ascending up to the afterlife.
The woman is also seen to be laying down on the bed of clouds and her body is slowly becoming one with it. This can metaphorically mean that she is being laid to rest.
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Fine Art America. (n.d.). A Vision [Photograph]. Retrieved from
Fine Art America. (n.d.). Creating A Body with Clouds [Photograph]. Retrieved from
Fine Art America. (n.d.). Night Voyage. Retrieved from
Otherwordly Oracle. (2018). Why the full moon increases paranormal activity. Retrieved from
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