There's something spooky in the air and it's not just this upcoming Halloween. Canadian illustrator and designer Bennett Slater has unleashed his latest series, Giving up the Ghost, with paintings inspired by the Dutch Golden Age and B-Horror movies, exploring themes of folklore, devil-worshipping, and witchcraft.
Slater's work is heavily influenced by pop culture elements and drawn from the relationships the future shares with the past, the new from the old, life from death. Using traditional oils on wood, his work plays with techniques borrowed from Flemish and Dutch masters, combined with bold, geometric forms linked to more contemporary futurism and deco sensibilities. It's a dichotomy of contrasting artistic disciplines and inspirations, common in his work.
"Style was never something I made a conscious effort to establish," Slater tells Creative Boom. "I simply painted the way that felt most comfortable to me. I suppose that translates into a sort of realistic pop surrealism, smoothed to an almost gummi sheen. I adore texture, so I try to make an effort to explore contrasting and complementary textures that play off one another. Give me glossy cheap plastic and coarse black fur, and I'm set."
Speaking of his latest series, Slater says: "From the time people worshipped in the sun, there have been those who linger in its shadows. The dark holds many secrets, and throughout time, there have always been those attempting to unlock them. Pagan omens, superstitions, and rituals remain woven in the fabric of our world – simply adapted with the time. The iron of the cauldron is now blow-mould plastic…but our dark curiosity remains."
The paintings, which are to go on show at LA's Corey Helford Gallery next month, conjure idols and symbols from ancient folklore and myth. And they clash against the "kitschy hollow plastic and colourful candy shell" of our most celebrated modern pagan ritual: Halloween. It's Slater's largest solo body of work to date and is divided into three smaller series: five pieces dedicated to folklore and myth, five pieces exploring the many incarnations of Lucifer, and the final ten pieces are an exploration of our "contemporary, candy-coated experience". Slater adds: "I am fascinated by the journey these creatures and symbols have gone on, from darker, more sinister roots, to an accepted celebration of creatures and candy.
"Studying through ancient symbology and mystic folklore has long been of deep interest to me, matched only by my deep love for the tradition of Halloween and the plastic flashiness of kitsch culture from the '60s and '70s."
It's this "kitsch" that fascinates Slater the most. "The look and feel of that vibrant cheap plastic takes me to my happy place," he says. "My fascination with adding elements of mysticism and the occult was more recent. The contrast of seemingly opposing aesthetics with shared roots in a connected history is something I jumped at the opportunity to explore."
A fine artist based in Toronto, you can see Bennett Slater's Giving up the Ghost at the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles from 6 November. Find out more at bennettslater.com or follow him on Instagram.