New Symbolism in Art

An Exploration

By Martino Catalano

“Old Symbolism” came into being with the earliest cave paintings rendered by the troglodytes who were just beginning to harness the finer points of their psyche with emotions and expression.

Crouching Succubus, a sculpture by Martino Catalano
Crouching Succubus

The common depictions of these paintings celebrated the hunt and the base fundamentals of day to day existence through to more complex drawings/sculptures of more cerebral rituals of everything from sacrifice through to death and even bestiality. This continued into Classical and Native art over the millennia, gradually splintering into small defined and sometimes persecuted groups.

My work harks back to this time of humanity, stripped of the ensuing layers of “civilisation” and protocols, revealing unbridled power of instinctive compulsion and thoughts in the forms of apparitions of joy, pain and sexual motifs which materialise as “symbols” during intense experiences.

I’ve “adopted” the term “New Symbolism” (“adopted” meaning the assumption that the name has already been used in different instances by many other people) to assert myself and other artists of similar ilk as being practitioners of the opposite of oblique and pretentious art.

“New Symbolism” can be instantly compared to Expressionism in the sense that it applies itself to the depiction of extremes and the exploration of taboo and peripheral subjects in a bold, simple/complex but savage way rather like Outsider/Visionary art, but not in any naïve sense.

Amongst many artists, the “New Symbolism”, (whether or not the artists themselves are conscious of it in their work or not) is fragmented into many facets of style and execution, but retains a common linear thread of non-conformity. In my case, my work fuses Classical/Pagan influences with spiritualism, pornography and social idiosyncrasies. These are presented in my sculpture as truncated, isolated aspects of anatomy, desire and “unseen matter” made tangible as separate discorporeal entities within a main entity, i.e. human parts making up the whole.

In one of my works, “Crouching Succubus”, orgasm is displayed as a protracted living sentient.

Like flickering images, seen then not seen, male and female souls, muscles, organs, emotions, glands and hormones are sensed and even smelt in the mind’s eye as functioning spirits and iconic forms.