Arvidland.com The online home of Arvid Nelson, writer of Rex Mundi & Zero Killer

14Jan/138

Living Lines: Hervé Scott-Flament

No one loves America quite like France. Hold on! I'm serious. We dither away a lot of time over here complaining about the snootiness of the French, but in some ways they understand and appreciate American culture more than we ever will. Take Michel Houellebecq, one of the most well-respected contemporary French writers. He did an entire book on H.P. Lovecraft. An entire book! How many smarty-pants American writers have even bothered to read Lovecraft, never mind appreciate him? Who're the real snobs here?

The Path of the Moonflowers

The Path of the Moonflowers, 1996. Art by Hervé Scott-Flament.

Hervé Scott-Flament, Houellebecq's fellow countryman, is one of my absolute favorite fantasy artists. He's as obsessed as I am with Clark Ashton Smith, an American writer, a contemporary of Lovecraft. Like Houellebecq, Scott-Flament is the perfect case study of a French person savoring a piece of American culture we Americans have by and large overlooked. How Flament learned about Smith, I'll never know – Lovecraft has a pretty durable cult following, but Smith is virtually buried in time. I guess we'll just have to chalk it up to Flament being French. He's cool like that.

The Flower of the Abyss

The Flower of the Abyss, 1987. Art by Hervé Scott-Flament.

As far as world-building goes, no one can touch Smith. He doesn't get into the hyper-obsessive detail of Tolkein, but he doesn't need to. Painting with broad strokes, implying more than his words state, is what he's best at. His creations range from Hyperborea, a lush, tropical and ice-doomed Antarctica of the distant past, to Zothique, the Last Continent, withering in the glow of an engorged sun tens of thousands of years in the future.

The Komorch's Hunt

The Komorch's Hunt, 1998. Art by Hervé Scott-Flament.

Before seeing Scott-Flament's paintings I thought it was impossible to depict Smith's worlds in paint. But by golly, Scott-Flament does it, in droves. His medium of choice is oil on wood, and it gives his images a beguiling, hazy murkiness that perfectly captures the weirdness of Smith. Scott-Flament is interested in all kinds of outlandish organic forms – fungi, jellyfish, female reproductive organs – and all kinds of uncomfortable juxtapositions. But everything comes together seamlessly into wonderfully chaotic, gleefully baroque and utterly majestic depictions of alien worlds that somehow manage to be eerily like our own.

The Encounter, 1994

The Encounter, 1994. Art by Hervé Scott-Flament.

Certain paintings of Scott-Flament depict children encountering weird, alien beings and plant life with… well, the innocence of children. It's as if Scott-Flament is inviting the viewer to engage with his art in the same way, with wonder instead of revulsion. Sometimes it takes a while to find the people in his paintings, and when you do, hoo boy! The scale of the painting is always surprising. Tiny gardens become vast jungles, and vast jungles become tiny gardens.

The Goodbye on the Threshold, 1990

The Goodbye on the Threshold, 1990. Art by Hervé Scott-Flament.

Scott-Flament keeps alive the glory days of Heavy Metal magazine, when "Adult Fantasy" meant something other than chain mail soap opera or Massively-Multiplayer Online Skinner Boxes (MMOSB). I, for one, am very appreciative. You can check out much more of Scott-Flament's art on his site.

All the above images are Hervé Scott-Flament's, of course. I'm posting them with the assumption the artist doesn't mind me doing so, but if he does, I'll take ’em right down. Scott-Flament is on facebook; friendship request sent!

Edit 1.15.13: He doesn't mind! Whatta mensch.

Comments (8) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Many thanks for this laudatory article Arvid !!!

  2. De rien! I had to control myself to keep from writing more, believe me…

  3. Hi Arvid,

    I came across Flament’s work on Deviantart.com today, and then found this article while looking for more about him. I have also now looked at Flament’s website, and notice that he just responded here also. But I am curious — where did you find that he was a fan of Clark Ashton Smith? I am not challenging, merely asking. Several of Smith’s books have been republished since the late 1980s, by the way. I wonder if Flament was originally drawn to the Averoigne stories… I actually thought of this connection when I first viewed his Deviantart posts (these are better images than those on his website, I think). but I wasn’t sure about the connection, as I haven’t read Smith for several years. Hieronymus Bosch and the modern artist John Pitre (especially him) also came to mind. Thanks, and keep up the fantastic work!

    DTF

  4. How DARE you question me!?!?!

    No, hah hah. Check out the titles of some of Scott-Flament’s paintings: Poseïdonis, Enroute to Sfrénomöée (Sfanomoë), and The Sleep of Hyperborée (Hyperborea).

    You are absolutely right – he could very well have learned about Smith through the Averoigne cycle. I hadn’t even thought of that!

  5. Thanks Arvid! I noticed those titles right after I sent this message — missed the obvious again. You’ve got me thinking about re-reading Smith now; I may just go and do that! He was a visual artist too, you know…

    DTF

  6. Yeah, I’m a total Smith fiend. I’m going through the second volume of the Night Shade Books right now; there’s a great story called The Gorgon that I hadn’t read before.

    I really wish they’d print a set of volumes collecting the stories by setting! And get Scott-Flament to do the illustrations.

  7. Many thanks again. I’ll leave you alone after this — but two things, which you may already know about Smith publications: first, have you seen this site? You could copy and paste his stories in any way you like from here. http://www.eldritchdark.com/writings/short-stories/

    and second, A Rendevous in Averoigne (1988) is out of print, I think, but if you can get a copy, many of CAS’s stories are organized by setting there (I have a copy that I bought a long time ago and just glanced at the Table of Contents).
    Here it is:

    Introduction, by Ray Bradbury

    Averoigne:
    The Holiness of Azedarac
    The Colossus of Ylourgne
    The End of the Story
    A Rendevous in Averoigne

    Atlantis:
    The Last Incantation
    The Death of Malygris
    A Votage to Sfanomoe

    Hyperborea:
    The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan
    The Seven Geases
    The Tale of Satampra Zeiros
    The Coming of the White Worm

    Lost Worlds:
    The City of the Singing Flame
    The Dweller in the Gulf
    The Chain of Aforgomon
    Genius Loci
    The Maze of Maal Dweb
    The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis
    The Uncharted Isle
    The Planet of the Dead
    Master of the Asteroid

    Zothique:
    The Empire of the Necromancers
    The Charnel God
    Xeethra
    The Dark Eidolon
    The Death of Ilalotha
    The Last Hieroglyph
    Necromancy in Naat
    The Garden of Adompha
    The Isle of the Torturers
    Morthylla

    Total 473 pp. by Arkham House Publishers

    Now that’s a mouthful. The site above has synopses and fragments, poetry, and other goodies also. Have fun!

    DTF

  8. Don’t leave!!

    Thanks for the info! I’ve actually got a copy of Rendezvous in Averoigne. I always looks for Smith books at the used book dealer stalls at conventions. I had an old, cheap, mass-paperback copy of the Zothique, Hyperborea and Poseidonis stories, but I lost BOTH the Zothique and Hyperborea books on a train (arrgh!) and the Poseidonis book has basically crumbled to dust.

    Eldritch Dark is fantastic – normally I just link to Wikipedia for arvidland posts, but check out the link for the first instance of “Clark Ashton Smith” in this article!


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