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A compelling journey through subterranean realms, real and imagined

Stephen Ellcock


A darkly evocative compendium of images exploring natural, constructed, imaginary and subconscious underworlds, curated by renowned image collector and social media figure Stephen Ellcock

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From the burrows and secret bunkers beneath our feet to imagined hellscapes and surrealist dreamscapes, the disquieting, alarming and wonderful visuals span natural and constructed subterranea and imagined and subconscious worlds. A personal introduction by Stephen Ellcock together with contextual chapter introductions establish the key themes, while supplementary texts elucidate essential concepts, historical events and figures. Thought-provoking literary, philosophical and spiritual quotations punctuate the intriguing images.

Together, the images and authoritative text highlight the interplay between the real and the imagined, revealing how the real has fed our fears and hopes and informed our imagination – and conversely, how our imagination has depicted the esoteric, the abject and the unknown.

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'A creative compendium of underworldly delights … From Peter Paul Rubens, via 20th-century surrealists such as René Magritte, to contemporary painters including Kara Walker, Ellcock gathers together the painters, poets, divers and archaeologists daring us to look beyond the surface at what lies beneath'
Financial Times

'Most compellingly strange … This enthralling survey, which manages to be both erudite and wacky, would surely have been essential reading for William Blake'
The Tablet

'Dare, if you will, to follow Keats and ‘Descend where alleys bend/ Into the sparry hollows of the world’. With pages that leap from a Piranesi prison to a Cyril Power linocut showing commuters plunging down an escalator, this book exhibits the author’s gifts as an image alchemist. In this mole’s tour of subterranean ecosystems, burial chambers and ghostly shipwrecks, what stands out are the brilliant visual juxtapositions. That might be Margate’s shell grotto facing an ancient Roman ossuary, or a 1504 German Easter carpet depicting Christ’s resurrection alongside Sickert’s painting of The Raising of Lazarus'
World of Interiors

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 23.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 256 pp

Illustrations: 246

Publication date: 28 September 2023

ISBN: 9780500026311

Contents List

Preface: What Lies Beneath
1. Beneath the surface
2. Human Habitation & Exploitation
3. Underwater Worlds
4. Imagined Underground Worlds
5. Subliminal Realms
Coda: Resurrection, Resurfacing

About the Author

Stephen Ellcock is a collector and renowned curator whose online ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ – an ever-expanding, virtual museum of art that is open to all via social media – has so far attracted more than 600,000 Instagram and Facebook followers from around the world. He is also the author of The Cosmic Dance, All Good Things, The Book of Change, England On Fire, with text by Mat Osman, and Jeux de Mains, a collaboration with Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi.