Stephen Mackey, Never Sleep With Your Eyes Shut

There’s a world veiled in static on the periphery of our vision, where dreams and nightmares bleed into one another. Glimpsed in flickering candlelight and whispered shadows of tangled vines in fairytales, we sense it creeping, seeping into our reality.

We’ve entered the unrestful realms of British artist Stephen Mackey, where his paintings serve as portals to lands of darksome lullabies, unsettling dreamscapes of perpetual twilight evanescence. With each brushstroke, Mackey weaves secret tales of the precious and the sinister, the twisted romance of unquiet beauty.

Stephen Mackey, A Scented Mourner


Stephen Mackey, Meniscus


Stephen Mackey, Dressing Up As People

Beneath the whimsical surface of Mackey’s paintings lies a darkness that lurks, unseen but palpable. Ethereal maidens appear to frolic with fantastical creatures, beauties dream soundly in enchanted canopied beds, and primp before shimmering mirrors. Yet, closer inspection reveals scenes fraught with lurking tension – the subtle dance between predator and prey, the maze of perils and pathways dark and bewitched.

Are these glimpses into a world existing just beyond our perception, where fairytales take a darker turn? Or are they manifestations of Mackey’s own subconscious, a shadowy reflection of the human psyche?

Stephen Mackey, House of the Somnambulist


Stephen Mackey, Keep Your Secrets

Mackey himself comments wryly about his cryptic creative persona, ‘No information = mystique . . . You can have any facts you want, but you’re sworn to secrecy.’ Keep your secrets then, Mr. Mackey! We’ll develop some haunted and outlandish theories of our own!

Self-taught and inspired by the great French, Dutch, and Italian masters of the Renaissance, there’s a definite echo of Romanticism in his works, a touch of Fuseli’s nightmarish visions and Blake’s mystical explorations. Yet, a distinctly modern disquiet prowls beneath the surface. Peer deeply, and you’ll find unsettling details: the death-curses of butterflies in spring, a somnambulist’s fear of the dark, a crescent moon glowing eerily in a noontime sky. These subtle elements disrupt the tranquility, hinting at a world teetering on the edge of something unknown.

In these scenes of capricious glooms, somber palettes, velvety textures, and hushed intimacy, one also senses that the sleeper may awaken at any moment, and these menacing monsters and melancholic mysteries? Perhaps we’ve shattered the illusion, and they were never there at all.

Stephen Mackey’s The Sandman can be seen in the pages of The Art of Darkness: A Treasury of the Morbid, Melancholic and Macabre. You can find more of Stephen Mackey’s art over on his Instagram.


Stephen Mackey, The Sandman


Stephen Mackey, The Honey Tears
Stephen Mackey, Music For Night Children


Stephen Mackey, The Mithering


Stephen Mackey, The Thousand and One Afternoons


Stephen Mackey, The Bringing Spell


Stephen Mackey, Introducing The Dark


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