To some, the purpose of hyperrealistic art may seem uncertain; why reproduce reality in such painstaking detail, when we are confronted by each other’s flesh every day? Of course, some of the sculptures have disturbing and surreal aspects, which makes their illusory qualities more clear. Like rats’ tails and hairless cats, these sculptures may make many of us strangely uncomfortable, for they unconsciously remind us of our own mortal fleshiness. Beyond this initial repulsion, however, they also mimic and accentuate reality to confront the viewer with meanings they may never see otherwise: human vulnerability, and the skin as a shallow edifice that distracts us from another’s internal experience. In each of these “simulations” of real life, an intuitive (and often unsettling) truth is revealed.
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Jiyong Lee is an artist and educator based in Carbondale, Illinois, who works in the medium of glass art. In a series titled Segmentation, Lee has created fascinating, geometric glass blocks that metaphorically examine life science. Mirroring the processes of cell division and growth, each sculpture is divided into fragments that represent “cells, embryos, biological and molecular structures—each symbolizing the building blocks of life, as well as the starting point of life” (Source). As a whole, they are firm structures, much like the proverbial “building blocks”; but internally, they are irregular and segmented, symbolizing the varying growth rates and beautiful asymmetry of organic life.
The glass Lee has chosen to work with varies in its translucency, which is significant to his theme. Sometimes the fragments are see-through; in other places they are dense and clouded. For Lee, these conditions of visibility represent “what is known and unknown about life science” (Source), for although modern science seeks to fully comprehend the workings of life, there will always be an unreachable mystery within. The internal haze also represents an unknown future for cells as they live and continue to change.
Kunihiko Nohara creates lofty sculptures whose subjects hover between the earth and sky. Using a single piece of wood for each of his pieces, Nohara replaces clothing with clouds making his figures seem ready to take flight in a hot air balloon.
Nohara’s works have earned him the name “The Cloud Man” in Taiwan. But while this name visibly connects him with his works, the clouds also mean something else to Nohara. In interviews he says that clouds are emblematic of his practice in that he often feels “blurry” within his own thoughts. Dealing with this space of fuzziness between thoughts and dream, he further says that his “creations are not necessarily based on fantasy, but neither are they overly grounded in reality – they’re just reflections of my experiences of the world.”
Despite the delicacy and softness of these sculptures, Nohara works entirely in wood and, more notably, only uses one piece for each work. His preference for wood emerged in school but he also believes the use of material aligns his work with Japan’s propensity towards wooden objects, like houses and furniture.
Nohara’s works were recently shown at “Laissez Faire,” a group show presented by Gallery UG at the Luxe Art Museum in Singapore. His sculptures were included with works from 17 other Japanese artists.
Brooklyn based multimedia artist Emily McMaster has created a provocative video series featuring one shot scenes of masochism. Her work invites us into intimate and unsettling moments that provoke questions of power dynamics. Each work is a test for the squeamish, a pit of anxiety, and a platform for confusion and quandary. When entering the work, it remains unclear whether these acts are that of pleasure or torture. It remains unclear who is empowered and and who is dominated. Within her piece Steeple, McMaster sews her fingers together in a gesture from a childhood hand game. She struggles to break the ties, only to be unsuccessful and greeted with blood. Perhaps this piece speak of the disfunction within power structures, the loss of innocence, the impurity of self destruction. Baby’s Breath begins with the act of a masculine arms covering the head of the topless, red lip stick stained artist with a plastic bag. Again, the question of pleasure versus pain, power versus abuse, and in this particular video, female subjection. Her work is powerful, allusive, and perfectly hard to watch.
The following is her artist statement;
“Emily McMaster is a Brooklyn based artist who studied Printmaking at Bard College and The University of New Mexico. Her work, whether solo or in collaboration, focuses on delicacy, remarks on femininity, draws from fetish, and values playfulness above all else. She couldn’t put an x-acto knife down for a decade, but has recently swapped it out for a video camera. Baby’s Breath and Steeple are recent examples of this transition. With this new work Emily explores her endurance by confronting specific physical challenges. In this process she showcases texture, vulnerability, and masochism.”
Last year, we featured the work of Dutch artist Patrick Bergsma. Featured today is a selection of his newer works, which demonstrate his endless creativity in sculpting floating, post-apocalyptic homes. Appearing to defy gravity, old ramshackle buildings painted in rustic shades meld with rock formations and elaborate root systems. Bonsai trees sprout from the top, creating darkly beautiful habitats for tiny, marooned people; a helicopter lands perilously atop one, and on another, a girl kneels pensively amongst the roots of a dead tree.
Aside from being objects of imagination and extreme detail, many themes seem to be occurring throughout Bergsma’s sculptures, such as the reclaiming power of nature; trees appear to be taking over the ruined buildings, returning the small, blasted fragments of earth into a more natural state. There are also dual feelings of sorrowful entrapment and isolated simplicity; the inhabitants appear lonely, but their quaint living spaces are also beautiful and calming, referring to a simpler way of life. Whatever your response to Bergsma’s sculptures is, they each tell a story that will pique your curiosity.
New York based artist Mindo Cikanavicius photographs portraits of men with foam “facial hair.” Within this series, titled Bubbleissimo, (perhaps making a play on the word “machismo”), the artist distorts the notion of masculinity through a comedic display of the growing obsession with groomed facial hair. His work aims to speak about the fragility and absurdity of what “manliness” means, depicting it as being just as allusive and indefinite as the bubbles meant to represent it. These works portray the sitters in a sort of kitschy, glamor portrait style, engulfed in one side of sky blue and one side of bubble gum pink, the colors used to denote gendered objects. His series mocks the need to define and portray what it means to be masculine, and, through what seems at first glance to be an overtly serious series, successfully, upon further inspection, invites in a air of making fun of itself. Once it becomes clear that this facial hair is in fact made of bubbles, the work switches from being a strange cataloging of men, to a witty depiction of gender norms. His artist statement notes that “Mindo is focused creating story based unexpected moments with touch of cinematic drama, humor and mystery. His work is a blend of ideas, imagination, observations, experiences and emotions into making intriguing constructed reality photographs.”
New York based artist James Connolly gives old and worn out record covers a new spin. The artist transforms each one by hand painting fun scenes within the given content, turning calm and commercial images into outlandish and other worldly painted depictions. The artist finds these used records in junk shops and revives them through manipulating their covers to become fun, psychedelic, and slightly bizarre. His works transform singing beauties into strange oblong creatures, it melts and merges the flesh of trumpet players, it implants nature where is does not belong (such as trees growing from eye sockets and fungi from faces), it even gives shrimp heat ray vision and adorns a “Top of the Pops” dancer with a ribbon of sausages. Perhaps the most interesting of these works are those which almost act as a play on color theory. Connolly disappears figures into perfectly mixed hues that blend bodies into backgrounds, allowing them to fully be a vehicle for shape and pattern. There is a very fun a vintage feel to these works, even outside the reality that they are, in fact, vintage. There is a hyper specific handling of imagery that does truly speak to the illustration style of the 70s which promotes a certain aspect of fluidity. There is a sort of quiet contemplation, and if you can almost follow the artists train of thought and innocent playfulness. This series seems like an excellent exercise in creativity.