Invisible Beasts

It’s a bit of a tradition for me to make a Halloween post and this year I have three pieces of new horror art to share.

A few months ago, I was invited to take part in a show titled ‘Invisible Beasts’, organised by Paul Thompson of Tales of the Hollow Earth.  Comprising an exhibition hosted by Creative Up North and an accompanying book, invited artists explored the idea of monsters in a range of mediums.

I took on a trio of Native American beasts; the Algonquian Wendigo, Navajo Skin Walker and the Inuit Tupilaq.  You can see these monsters, along with my accompanying text below the cut.

Invisible Beasts is running until 8th of November at the Creative Up North Hub, Northumberland Street, North Shields, NE30 1DS and features the work of Paul Thompson, Britt CoxonEllie Tarratt, Andrew Davy, Wip VernooijSerina ShekTerry Wiley and Oscillating Brow.

 

Wendigo illustration by Michael Cunliffe

Wendigo

Modern psychology admits to the existence of ‘Wendigo psychosis’, a driving need to consume human flesh, even when other food is available, but our sciences refuse to acknowledge the true nature of the Wendigo.

In the deep forests of North America, the native peoples knew that there were worse fates than starvation for those that turned to cannibalism to survive. The act of feeding upon the flesh of their own kind opens them to the curse of the Wendigo, an ever growing and insatiable need to prey upon their fellow humans.

As they feed their dark appetite, the once-human Wendigo becomes gaunt and pale, their eyes becoming sunken and their lips peeling back from sharp, bloody teeth.  Their body grows unnaturally tall, with fingers curling into sharp talons as their own body withers to an emaciated, yet inhumanly strong state.

Beyond all this though, is the single, eternal horror of the Wendigo.  No matter how much it eats, no matter how many lives it takes, it can never be satisfied, never be relieved of the all consuming hunger for human flesh.

Tupilaq illustration by Michael Cunliffe

Tupilaq

When europeans first came to the lands of the Inuit, they took great interest in small carvings of bone and tusk that the natives called ‘Tupilaq’.  The carvings became trinkets and curiosities to the visitors, but it is clear that they understood little of the horror that the Inuit were trying to warn them of.

An Inuit sorcerer, driven to near madness by hatred could summon an evil spirit known as a ‘Tupilak’ to seek revenge upon her enemies.  In a truly horrifying ceremony, the sorcerer would stitch together the bones and flesh of animals and human infants to create a physical vessel for the spirit to inhabit.

Once the spirit took possession of the monstrous new body, it would slip soundlessly out into the night, moving steadily through dark waters, snow and ice to find its victim.  Although this evil servant is beyond destruction by mortal means, it’s loyalty can be swayed by a more powerful sorcerer and the summoner might find their own life stolen away by their own creation.

Skin Walker illustration by Michael Cunliffe

Skin Walker

If there is ever a creature that is proof of the corruption that comes from power, it is the monster that the Navajo rarely speak of.  It’s true name, Ye Naaldlooshi or Naagloshii should not be spoken after sunset and so most know the creature by the name Skin Walker.

A Skin Walker was once a human being, traditionally a native witch of the darkest arts, who undertook the most monstrous imaginable rite, sacrificing the life of a relative and breaking the deepest taboos of their culture to gain power.
A Skin Walker can take on the form of any animal they choose and even darker creations of their own mind. They are stronger and faster than any natural creature and in their many animal guises can move among humans freely, taking great pleasure in doing harm wherever they go, unleashing magical curses, causing accidents or slipping into homes to murder the innocent.

Whenever an animal seems to act against its nature, or watches with seemingly human intelligence, it may be a Skin Walker, biding its time and planning its next unspeakable act.

 

Prints of my work are available from the exhibition or in my store.

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