Picture of the Day – John Blanche’s ‘The Emperor’ or ‘The Golden Throne’ Or Whatever The Hell It’s Called
I’m returning to my nerd roots for the end of the week. That’s right, I’m doing Warhammer art. Specifically, my favourite of all John Blanche’s many creations. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s Blanche – it doesn’t seem erratic enough to be one of his, but I can’t find any other artist to credit, and the internet has told me that it’s his, so, whatever.
My first exposure to the intensely, extravagantly dark and dystopian universe of Warhammer 40,000 was when I received the 3rd edition starter box for Christmas as an eleven-year-old. This was back in, Christ, 1999, literally in the last millennium. I opened the book and the first full-page illustration, just a couple of pages in, was this gorgeous, Gothic depiction of The God-Emperor of Mankind, a being of overwhelming psychic power with the frail physical form of a human, who had been betrayed and mortally wounded by his favourite son. He had spent the last ten THOUSAND years as an unconscious, slowly-rotting corpse, tied into an unfathomable contraption that pumped ichor and foul blood around his carcass in a desperate bid to keep the last, tiny whisper of life in his veins, that he could continue to suffer overwhelming agony in the name of holding back unstoppable tides of insane, Lovecraftian daemons from engulfing all of humanity.
Ludicrous existential nightmares aside, this painting was so striking, so intense that I fell in love with it straight away. The uncountable machines and cables pinning every part of his body, disappearing into the endless darkness. The helmet, a relic of his former days of glory. The gaunt, unmoving rictus on his face, the skulls of fallen heroes covering the plinth beneath his throne, the tattered scrolls of litany and legacy. The noxious fumes swirling about the whole scene, poisoning the air.
Blanche can be a controversial artist, but this piece is almost perfect, I feel, in capturing the essence of what makes the world of Warhammer 40,000 so captivating. It’s chilling, enormous and completely mysterious. My adolescent self couldn’t get enough of it.
There’s been a “Special Remastered Edition” of this painting in the years since, with the face replaced by a more skeletal visage, and for my money the new version is greatly inferior. The skull oversells the “living corpse” aspect (as if any part of the original image could be more oversold to begin with) and the original remains the definitive version for me.
Music of the Day – Jenny Owen Youngs’ ‘Coyote’
Spotify Link: Jenny Owen Youngs’ ‘Coyote’
(Note: The Spotify version is the best.)
Ah, J.O.Y. Such an incredible talent. I first heard her stuff on MySpace. Yes. MySpace. About twelve years ago. A few of my classmates liked her, too, and one of them was kind enough to “legally” “buy” her first album, ‘Batten The Hatches’, and then “legally” “give” me a “copy” on a “flash drive”. Look, I love supporting up-and-coming artists but her stuff wasn’t out in the shops and we were teenagers, give me a break.
Her most popular song back then was ‘Fuck Was I’, which is also incredible, but I always felt like ‘Coyote’ was like, you know, it was, like, totally, like, speaking to me? But on, like, a totally deep level? Nowadays I just like the kooky lyrics and the jaunty piano.