Maybe I should have done a "Best of 2012" post, or more appropriately "Best Macabre Art of 2012". These paintings are from Roberta Coni's website. Coni's previous work barley foreshadows the creation of these wonderful pieces. The compositions are fascinating and the content....well, I haven't seen a contemporary hellfire in a while. It's almost as if this isn't even hell exactly but something more terrifying (if that's even possible). I say that because these people seem to be experiencing drowning, falling and burning, all at the same time, while traditional hell has some falling but mostly burning.
Anyway it would be presumptuous to say that she paints pictures of hell, exactly, since I don't understand Italian and google translate is not the greatest with subtleties. I did spot "Inferno" and "Comoedia", which brings to mind The Divine Comedy. However, it is certain that these are images of shared misery amongst many different people. On a [black] humerus note, I suppose that the diversity of her "hell" is refreshing (at least the are not all skinny teenagers). I can just imagine some bishop saying to the artist "...and make them all look like young people so that the youngsters can relate to the Bible more and help them see it was written for THEM. Kids need guidance these days and we need to appeal to the younger crowd".
ENNO DANNATI I PECCATOR CARNALI (Enno Damned the Carnal), 2012
Anyway, the acknowledgement of diversity is a nice modern touch and reflects a modern mind. Modern interpretations of "hell" are very different and I think that they are going in the direction of something more complex than mere punishment. The modern insight that even though people have free will they might be more predisposed to act in a certain "sinful" way because they are usually victims themselves, complicates things. Victim hood is not excuse to commit a crime/sin, but the big picture ins't so black and white anymore. I think that Coni's work touches on this, the people in the paintings look like "regular" people who one can't help but to feel empathy for. The pained expressions on their miserable faces, so explicitly rendered, invite one to wonder what that person did to be burning/drowning/falling and whether they really deserve to be there.
Whereas medieval images of sinners in hell have comical expressions, which do not arouse empathy and almost inspire schadenfreude for all the sinners with ridicules stupid expressions on their faces. "What you didn't know that would land you in hell....what an idiot, hahaha". These depictions of hell show that we have come a long way in our attitude towards hell, sinners and religion for that matter.