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skull-adorned altar-cloth, Romburk museum

Skull-adorned altar-cloth, Romburk museum

Over the years, the human skull has somehow represented almost everything – life and death, perilous danger and good luck. We see it worn by Hell’s Angels and Hello Kitty alike. I am far from a casual observer in this strange fashion phenomenon: even as I write I am surrounded by trinkets and textiles, all adorned with that grim and grinning motif. The skull’s association with the Gothic hardly needs much explanation – a culture that is nourished by an artistic fascination with the dead is sure to find beauty in one of the most consistently used symbols of death – a beauty backed up by centuries of funereal art. However, the fallacy that skull symbolism belongs to fans of the Gothic alone has caught me out before, assuming that skull-wearing acquaintances share a certain morbid outlook with me, only to realise that they are simply following fashions with little thought to the symbolism behind the design.

Bohemian /bəʊˈhiːmɪən/ (n.)

1. A native or inhabitant of Bohemia.

2. A socially unconventional person, especially one who is involved in the arts. [ mid 19th century: from French bohémien ‘Gypsy’ (because Gypsies were thought to come from Bohemia, or because they perhaps entered the West through Bohemia)]

     – The Oxford English Dictionary

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If, like I, you first became acquainted with the word via Queen’s karaoke classic, it may take a moment to connect the geographical region of Bohemia to the notorious artistic ideology.  I consider myself fortunate to be writing this article from the very heart of both definitions – Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, the once Kingdom of Bohemia.  It is impossible to divorce the art of Baba Studio from its surroundings, and the stories and styles of Central Europe are often laced through the studio’s designs – sometimes subtly, sometimes strikingly.  At the same time, we consider ourselves part of an increasingly anachronistic community of “socially unconventional” bohemians around the world – those who look at life through a glass warped by inspiration, and who carry a little art in every aspect of their lives.