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'Hellraiser' Creator Reflects on Decades Worth of Influential Visual Art

Guillermo del Toro is just one of many inspired by Clive Barker's unique style

Clive Barker Imaginer Cover - P 2014
Clive Barker/Century Guild

Through movies like Hellraiser and Nightbreed and prose including the Books of Blood series, Clive Barker became one of the most influential creators working in the horror genre, with filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro and Pearry Teo citing him as an inspiration. Less known, however, is the fact that Barker also has painted and illustrated throughout his career, describing his art as “the root element” essential to the creation of anything he does.

With a new collection of his artwork, Clive Barker: Imaginer — Paintings and Drawings, Vol. 1, about to be released, Barker spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the secret history of more than two decades of art, and how it relates to his other work.

“There is definitely a through line,” Barker said about the work presented in Imaginer. “The through line is The Figure. I draw human beings, or that is to say, variations on the human being — mutations, transformations, abstractions — pretty consistently. In fact, it's arguably the only thing that I'm really interested in.”

Barker admitted that his art can look “like inventions that are more concerned with taking a line for a walk” instead of being purely representational, but he enjoys that freedom. “This is Picasso's idea and not mine, but the artist was instantly freed from the necessity of likeness when the camera was invented,” he explained. “I have no respect for or need to be respectful of reality. Reality is taken care of by photography. I can now look internally into my imagination and what that has to say about the world. My lines can investigate entirely different kinds of journeys. And my curiosity is more about where a line might go more than what it will look like when I get there.”

Imaginer is a collection of 20 years worth of artwork from Barker, with more than 75 pieces appearing in the limited- edition hardcover, each in new higher-quality image captures. Barker has said in previous interviews that his stories begin visually, with his artwork often being the way in which he “discovers” his characters.

“I don't know any other way but to be a visual thinker,” he said. “I describe in my stories what my mind sees. And I find words that are most economically and stylistically effective in describing the internal vistas which come inevitably to me. I can't see another way to be. I understand that other people do write without seeing images in their heads. I don't know how that happens. I'm a journalist who records the figurescapes that congregate, and transform, and argue, and make love inside my head.”

Barker described the new collection, which features commentary by Thomas Negovan, as “the missing element” in any evaluation of his career to date. “I think it adds the root element — the element that precedes me in every way,” he said. “I was a visual artist before I was a literary artist. If people want to know who I am or where I get my ideas from or why I write the things that I do, Imaginer is the answer to that question.”

Clive Barker: Imaginer — Paintings and Drawings, Vol. 1 is released Saturday, Aug. 23.