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Hallucinogenic Bufficorn

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Date Minted: January 30th, 2019

Artist Description: "You have hallucinations if you see it."

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Hallucinogenic Bufficorn is one of Russian artist Alex Shell’s earliest works, minted in 2019, and one of three works in the artist’s collection reflecting this subject: the almighty Bufficorn. But animals are a common subject in Shell’s works, and we can see the artist equally interested in horses, dogs, and cats, not usually playing with the subject matter itself but playing with the styles of composition: the color schemes and solidity of the lines, sending similar or identical images through various filters and asking us to define the changing emotions and ideas they then express. Hallucinogenic Bufficorn is on the more enigmatic end of Shell’s experiments, not only smacking us down with intense and multifarious colors, but even going so far as to abstractify the subject itself, turning a solid and easily-identifiable image into a system of glyphs and snaking lines, leading a quite-natural and quite-simplistic subject  to the thin lines which separates abstraction and objectivity and commanding it to balance in between. 

In Bufficorn, colors are without edge and delineation. They bleed into one another as colors in the rainbow do: hazy and fluid. To be more exact, most of the colors here appear to be midway metamorphosing into others. Lush turquoises are outlined by invasions of black and indigo, strewn through with bands of purple. The greens near the top of the piece, besides suggesting a jungle or rainforest setting, encompass the parent-color’s whole range, from the dim yellow-greens of mushrooms or moss, to lush emeralds, and to olive and seafoam, but all these hues are presented somewhat fused, as if emulating the effect of light filtering through treetops from above. Around the Bufficorn’s feet, a swirl of cosmic neons which leak into the piece from its edges, and from that nebula of color, the piece’s subject is borne.

Perhaps it’s a stretch to suggest so, but concerning Bufficorn’s composition, I’m reminded in a way of the French Impressionists. Not just because the rough and fuzzy lines draw our attention to the process of the piece’s composition (realism this is most certainly not), but also in how that process wills us to think of the ways this work reflects the artist’s specific perception of the subject. Psychedelic colors, images, and lines (flowing together without clear boundaries) transport us inside the mind of one potentially under the influence of LSD or Psilocybin, someone observing this scene and this animal, and allowing their intensified perception (plus their knowledge of meme culture) to inflect what they saw.

I find an interesting juxtaposition in the color scheme, how the candy-coated colors initially suggest some kind of hyper-energetic mindset, but then so many of those bright colors eventually fade into pastel-like pinkish-browns, reminiscent of dirt or defecation, swamp water and the ubiquitous filth of the untamed world. The only rich and saturated colors are those physically touched by the Bufficorn: neon exhalations simmer around its nose and feet, with volcanic hues present in its midsection. The piece’s subject exudes colors that are cosmic as opposed to earthy. That the Bufficorn itself seems to be a melding between these two worlds, appearing as the bridge between both, is perhaps a meditation on spirit vs. body, or of the invigorating force of life upon a rote backdrop. 

Either way, Shell appears interested, whether purposefully or as an accidental effect of the filter experimentation, in exploring middle-grounds between antithetical ideas. Yes, you have the colors, and the nature of the interaction between the electric neons and the ruddy earth-tones. Yes, you have the foreground and the background in direct opposition, one depicting an easily-identifiable subject and the other given over to dense and interlocking symbols, an abstraction that seems to suggest some kind of language but then, upon further examination, destroys that notion. But isn’t that the nature of psychedelic experience itself? Objective reality is suddenly called into question by subtle shifts. An acid trip forces us to wonder, well, what is the color of our world because suddenly colors are shifty and no longer static. It forces us to question textures, because solids no longer appear solid while gasses seem to steady themselves, interlock and dance around. Emotions bleed one into another. Sounds hide underneath other sounds. And a kind of general wonder emerges from this new way of experiencing reality, from nothing more than the knowledge that such hitherto stolid experiences can shift and sway.

I know that might seem off-topic, but let’s apply this same principle to the piece’s subject, the noble Bufficorn in the piece’s center. The more I stare at the animal, the more its identity appears to be something that I as the observer am impressing onto it. The line which theoretically differentiate it from its background are thin and nonexistent in some places. Its form bleeds outward, and there are areas where it seems an extension of the background more than a separate object standing out in front of it. Which underscores a classically-artistic question of whether we as observers impart our preconceptions onto everything we see, and whether the only identifiable differences between things, people, animals, colors, etc. are ones we impose onto them. Shell’s Artist Description reads, “You have hallucinations if you see it.”

Does this one count? 

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