Russian Art meets Behemoth: The making of “The Satanist” cover
HMA: How did you become involved with Behemoth and this project?
Denis Forkas: Adam saw my work on the site www.denisforkas.com and got in touch.
HMA: What was the main inspiration behind this painting?
Denis Forkas: At the early stage of the project’s development I suggested to use Georges Bataille’s and Andre Masson’s Acephale (naturally referred to by both as “Satan”) as a foundation for all visuals. Even a cursory mythological analysis would soon reveal that Bataille’s Satan/the headless god was, in fact, derived from the ancient Greek Dionysos. Thus in the course of researching the symbolism behind the figure of Acephale I quickly turned to the study of Dionysian mythology and philosophy.
The chaotic nature of this deity is directly opposed to the harmony of Apollo, the solar god. Dionysos descends like madness, like an untamable beast. He beheads himself willingly, destroys the tyranny of the gods/the world order and proclaims the new beginning. To quote the Sacred Conspiracy manifesto, which was included in the first issue of the Acephale review (1936), “the lot and the infinite tumult of human life are open not to those who exist like poked out eyes, but to those who are like clairvoyants, carried away by an upsetting dream that could not belong to them.”
In his drawings Masson revealed the connection between Dionysos/Satan and the myth of Theseus/the Labyrinth/Minotaur, so in my preliminary studies I explored the Theseus direction as well.
HMA: Can you tell me the details about mixing Nergal’s blood with the painting… how did you do that? Which part of painting is painted with blood?
Denis Forkas: In the course of our correspondence Adam mentioned that he regarded the album as an extremely personal work; he felt that adding his blood to the palette would bring the painting to an entirely new level of spirituality. I found the suggestion very exciting and painted the whole circulatory system of the head in Chalice of Severance with his blood. Then I mixed it with gold paint and other agents and rendered the decorative elements. Moreover, the blood was used in the Annunciation piece (the book) and in some of the lyric sheets (both calligraphy and companion drawings).
HMA: Was the face in the middle of the painting based in a real person/character?
I fashioned the Chalice of Severance painting as a Roman mural. The chalice is placed upon a stylized pedestal; the decorative interplay of the realistic cup neck and the pedestal’s perspective alludes to the painted altars of Herculaneum. The red ribbon motif creates an illusion that the Bacchanalia scene behind the pedestal unfolds between the viewer and the chalice.
The head itself suggests several metaphoric directions to the viewer’s perception. On the one hand, the features clearly resemble Homer, the blind poet of antiquity: thus the image of the headless seeker/sorcerer attuned to the Unconscious (in our case, Bataille’s Satan) is established; it is a very strong metaphor. The inverted seraph wings form a “wreath of denial” and introduce the subject of transgression into the painting. On the other hand, the head coupled with the central pair of wings brings forth the visage of Moses (the horned prophet). The image of the beheaded lawgiver adds a facet of hatred and authority to this already ambitious piece.
HMA: The album booklet’s also features other paintings and an alternative cover. Can you tell me more about it?
Denis Forkas: Yes, the CD and the vinyl versions use completely different paintings as front covers.
The angelic figure in Gabriel (The Dream of Annunciation I) serves as a herald of the advent of the new creed and introduces the concept of the upward fall (the inverted wings). The grimoire creates a link between the apostate/the viewer and the supreme enlightenment of the fall (i.e. the book opens the path to wisdom to the scholar).
The Acephale drawing adorning the booklet follows Bataille-Masson’s original design rather closely in terms of the set of elements and their general outline. I’ve modified Leonardo’s design – the glorious Vitruvian Man, – which Masson also used as a source for his take, by removing the skin. Furthermore, I’ve completely redesigned the dagger, the labyrinth and the burning heart elements. I’ve also slightly tinkered with the anatomy in order to produce a more elegant and imposing figure.
Interview by Ramon Martos Garcia Copyright 2014 © Heavy Music Artwork.