R.K. Shuquem

R.K. Shuquem

It's been too long since I've shared an influential artist and today it's my pleasure to delve into the works of R.K. Shuquem. Like Nora Keyes who I wrote of in my January 26th blog, I primarily knew Shuquem through his work with the carnivalesque synth punk project Loto Ball and previous musical groups he was linked to including The Phantom Limbs and The BoyScouts of Annihilation.

I recognized that Shuquem was the artist behind The Phantom Limbs' haunting album covers that managed to be grotesque even in their abstract nature and here and there I'd stumble across his sketches and works; insinuations of figures with faces twisted by tragedy devoid of flowery romance. No matter the medium, there always seemed to be a great deal of violence contained within the detailed, almost frenzied chaos of lines that still somehow formed a striking whole.

One of Shuquem's Pantocon album covers for the Medieval Crimes series...

As a writer, I was offered a behind the scenes glimpse into an ambitious, long-term project in which Shuquem is even now immersed. He's titled the series Medieval Crimes and it's supported by a back story as complex, intricate, and violent as the work itself. Shuquem created a fictional black metal band called Pantocon that figure prominently into his Medieval Crimes mythology.

Sometimes I'm attracted to work initially because of its ability to travel to places my mind would not have attempted on its own and Shuquem's use of architectural design to explore a dystopian prison system is a perfect example. My own architectural ignorance (and at times indifference) have actually worked to cement the physical contemplation of the Medieval Crimes project in my mind.

But Shuquem takes this one step further, actually utilizing these illustrations of physical structures to explore metaphysical concepts and his own spiritual philosophies. In this way, Medieval Crimes explores society and the individual simultaneously. From what I recall, Pantocon performs on a televised variety show that involves the prison. There's also the presence of a deity in the Medieval Crimes story that adds yet another dimension (or potentially tears the dimensions that we can comprehend apart).

While I'm pretty much just exploring Shuquem's visual work on the project today, it's worth mentioning that he has plans to record Pantocon's records at the end of the project, working backwards so that we're exposed to the band's philosophies and album art prior to hearing a single note. I had the pleasure of seeing some of the Pantocon art in person at a gallery event last year in which Shuquem spoke with me at great length about the project.

The eye of God looks down upon a dystopian prison system in another of Shuquem's works for the Medieval Crimes series...

While the mythology and scope of Medieval Crimes are possibly the most inspiring aspects of the project for me, it's worth mentioning that the work itself, even when divorced from its source material, is pretty astonishing in its own sense of grim glory. Its ornate qualities recall the obsessive detail of Rudimentary Peni's Nick Blinko. Such qualities have found their way into my own work (possibly best illustrated in the burlap scarecrow hoods featured heavily in the Pentacles suit that I'm currently working on - previews are available in my last blog post). 

An unsettling figure in the prison system of Shuquem's  Medieval Crimes  series...

An unsettling figure in the prison system of Shuquem's Medieval Crimes series...

Shuquem periodically shows Pantocon's album covers along with his Medieval Crimes notes in galleries in the Los Angeles area so it's worth keeping up with him through one of the links below.