Erotic Folk Horror Master Mario Mercier’s New Series of Shamanic Drawings.
Posted April 2017 bt 5T1V for LEXICON Mag
Born in 1936, Mario Mercier is mostly known by movie buffs for his full-length films Erotic Witchcraft (La Goulve, 1972) and A Woman Possessed (La Papesse, 1974). These two films were very difficult to find, and still more difficult to view. They were presented in underground theaters in France and Quebec during the seventies. Mario Mercier was no doubt displeased with the type of criticism given to him, as well as that by the specialized French press, which didn’t seem to appreciate his films.
Mario Mercier steeped himself in the very rich French tradition of writer-filmmakers, such as Fernando Arrabal, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Rollin, or José Larraz. It’s scarcely surprising, in my opinion, as many filmmakers of the European fantastique show inventiveness and an indisputable aesthetic sense- the fruits of a reflection that one can follow traces of in their writings. For example, the understanding of the film work of Jean Rollin resides, to me, in the frequenting of his literary work. There is not one without the other. It is the same with Robbe-Grillet. When I learned that Mario Mercier was a writer, I immediately began inquiring about and trying to obtain his books. This was difficult on all fronts: Two of the books had been censured by the French, one was in a collection of stories by a marginal publishing company, and one book was practically lost. These searches taught me that Mario Mercier had equally published numerous works on reflection, and the spiritual search…
1970″These drawings are are a surprising balancing act between the esoteric art and the historic art of the fauves and the history they perpetuated” said New York “occult art” dealer Stephen Romano, who’se curatorial credits include “Opus Hypnagogia” at Morbid Anatomy Museum (see the review in the New York Times), “Magica Sexualis” co-curated with artist Barry William Hale which was deemed the best occult culture event of 2015 by Spiral Nature, among many others. “This work feels to have been born as hybrid of the Fauves, HAXAN, Jacob Bohme and Carlos Casteneda, and a true concern and avocacy for spiritual growth and healing rather than SCHOCK / POP varitety of so called “horror art” we see perpetuated today. “
Romano added ” I have a collection of Mario Mercier euphemera. His cinematic masterpiece “La Goulve” from 1972 is a masterpiece of esoteric erotica and was decades ahead of it’s time. Like most true visonaries however, such as William Mortnesen and Darcilio Lima, he was too much for his time, too much to be digested by the audience, and was subsequently left unacknowledged for the genius his slim catalog of films allude to.”
“The truth is, Mario Mercier’s ouvre belongs in a special parthenon of artist who’s role is as shaman in opur culture, to use atr as a weapon against the shrinking and dumbing down of our consciousness, and instead an attempt to empower the artist and viewer alike with a higher purpose, one of the healer, the conduit by which we are unfied, not seperated and pitted against one another becuase of our difference. The role of the artist as shaman is to re-inject the sense of hopefulness, optimist, wonder and magic into our culture. This is what Mario Mercier’s works, be they his early cinematic efforts, his novels or his drawings were intended for..”
Aeron Alfrey, who directs the popular site monsterbrains.com said of Mario Mercier’s art: “The work of Mario Mercier is haunted by featureless mannequin like characters drifting through fragmented dreamscapes. The charcoal medium plays into the idea that each scene is filled with whisps of smoke, ghostly forms solidified into deranged configurations. The warped symbology of dream logic is strewn through narrative moments of unknowable events, leaving behind questions better left unanswered.”
New York artist and singer Alexis Karl, who’se artwork was exhibited alongside vintage press photos (see below) of Mario Mercier’s “La Goulve” in BLAM Gallery’s “Materia Prima” exhibition, said of the works: “Mario’s work is like dream-walking into another world.. one that seems to hold the arcane secrets of sex and magic, one that dives into darker realms of consciousness and thrums with the essence of ritual. He is myth writing, quietly reminding us of tales we have always know, but have somehow, in this loud urban world, managed to forget.”
Artist Barry William Hale, who’se art practice includes ritual elements and exhibited alongside lobby cards of Mario Mercier’s “La Goulve” at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn said the following in response to Mercier’s drawings:
“Mario Mercier is infamous for illuminating tales of Witchcraft, Magick & Possession on controversial Celluloid’. Lesser know is the dark ‘Chamanic’ world of his Charcoal drawings which speak in images of a dark and personal spiritual world which seems to exist in a liminal Arcadia somewhere between the celestial and chthonic. In his drawing we see the exotic esoterica of his film making expressed in the sensuality of line, and dreamlike quality which seems to illustrate an elaborate and deeply personal mythical narrative.
His choice of medium is deliberate and elemental, from the charred wood of the Shaman’s fire that his shadowy visions are drawn on the parchment cave walls of his psych.”………
Thank you so much for this feature. It’s wonderful to celebrate the accomplishments , past and present, and revel in a true visionary such as Mario Mercier. His works were misunderstood in their time, and now we have the gift of context to truly appreciate his art.
I am lucky enough to have seen La Goulve when it played UK cinemas many years ago (under the title of Erotic Witchcraft). I reviewed the film from distant memory in my book Immoral Tales published by St Martin’s Press. I met Mario Mercier on a couple of occasions and have most of his early books. I run the Mondo Macabro video label and have spent a long time trying to get the rights sorted for a re-release of La Goulve. I was very impressed by the stills you posted. Do you know anything about a restored version of the film? I’d be very interested to know more.
Thankyou for your post,
Being a fan of Mario Mercier’s his film work it was great to find a good collection of his artworks in another medium.The stills are courtesy of Stephen Romano of the Stephen Romano Gallery he is always happy to engage people with shared passions. I would suggest you drop him a line if you haven’t already. Good Luck, it would be great to a restored version of La Goulve in circulation.
Fantastic article. Mercier seems to be known mainly for his films and for his books (the fantastique novels of the 70s, his poetry, and his later works on chamanism), but he’s a top class painter and artist as well. I’ve had the chance to see some of his work in person, and it’s simply breathtaking.
There is definitely a strong common thread that runs through all his work, from his early writings, to the films, to his shamanic experiences, up to these newest works.
It’s not mentioned here, but there is a recently published book of art that Mercier has put out called “Visions Chamanes” that features a lot of his new charcoal works (a few featured here, but also many others), accompanied by new texts about the works and chamanism. It makes a nice addition to his previous art book featuring his painted tambours (“Maitre du Tambour”). Even if you don’t speak French, there is an abundance of beautiful images to make the books worth getting. (If you do speak French, then you’ll find a lot of interesting details about how he works.)
There is also a short video showcasing some of his new charcoals on his youtube channel:
i’ve just seen that I’ve misspelt the work “Maitre”. (I accidentally wrote Maiture instead).
If you publish my comment, could you please correct that? I’d hate to give readers misleading info!