You may have seen Alex Seton‘s previous work: lightweight pieces of clothing, heaped casually in a corner, draped on a pair of hangers — and carved from marble. Seton’s sculptures are incredibly hyper-realistic, creating an illusion of malleability and texture that insists on a closer look. In his latest exhibit, “Someone Died Trying to Have a Life Like Mine,” Seton again uses cold, hard marble to replicate objects that would float rather than sink: inflatable rafts, palm trees, and life jackets.
This contrast is part of what Seton is exploring with his art; the depth and contradiction of the objects he portrays and their actual substance. In an interview with the gallery Sullivan+Strumpf, Seton says, “There’s no easy read on these objects. They are both an optimistic and shining series of objects, but they’re also sardonic, they also have a darker side.” The installation addresses the complex topic of those who seek asylum, largely by risking death by sea or other means, only to be turned away.
“Each of these is both inflated and deflated; each of these is welcoming and unwelcoming. How do you justify shattering a life?” Seton asks. “Or a desire or a dream? How do you do that? And what are the long-term impacts of that?”
The objects around him, which appear in a kind of memorialized limbo, have no answer for him. They are frozen by stone and time.
“Someone Died Trying to Have a Life Like Mine” can be seen September 16th to October 11th, 2014 at Sullivan+Strumpf in Sydney, Australia. (via Design Boom)
Photographer Peter Stewart captures the pulsating neon guts of Hong Kong from a unique perspective. Standing at the bottom of dizzying skyscrapers and towering apartment buildings, Stewart offers us a glimpse of modern architecture as a force of nature. Each floor of the buildings he photographs looks like the ring of a tree, surreal in their orderliness.
In an interview with The Creators Project, Stewart explains how he chooses his subjects. “All it takes really is a keen eye for finding the beauty in the monotonous,” he says. “The everyday structures that we often fail to appreciate.”
The collection is called “Stacked – Hong Kong,” a fitting name. From some angles, the buildings almost look like life-sized Lego blocks. Oddly, the photographs do not impart a sense of claustrophobia, but rather a peaceful calm. The bright colors and little personal flourishes — a balcony-dwelling plant here, a line of fresh laundry there — are tell-tale signs of human life. It’s almost a little too calm — where are all the city’s inhabitants?
Still, rather than looking post-apocalyptic, Stewart’s portrait of Hong Kong is dreamy rather than dismal. It’s as though the city is asleep or simply waiting, holding its breath.
Photographer Mariell Amélie‘s self-portraits are a bit like playing with an imaginary friend on the borderlands of fantasy and reality. They transport her to a dreamy limbo state, each looking like a snapshot from some noir-ish modern fairy tale. Some are haunting, others playful, but all have a sheen of melancholy, an icy veneer. This sensibility is perhaps explained partially by Amélie’s biography, which places her childhood on “a small island above the arctic circle.” A wind-blown isolation permeates her photography, no matter if the backdrop is breath-taking iceberg mountains or bright dollhouse interiors.
Her self-portraits are enigmatic. They are, to borrow a phrase from science, a bit of “spooky action at a distance” — in one, she contemplates her skates on a puddle-sized ice rink; in another, she pays no heed to the warnings of Narcissus, leaning down to kiss the marsh waters. The latter photograph is called “Part Time Lover.” All of Amélie’s photographs have similarly suggestive names: “She Had Just Left for Heaven, They Said,” is the name of one; “Alone and Unaware” is the name of another. As she tumbles from the driver’s seat of a car, vacant-eyed, the photograph’s name comments, “Someone Will Be Waiting at the Station.” These names, paired with the in media res nature of her photographs, give the unshakable feeling that there’s more to the story than meets the eye. If only it were possible to look beyond the veil.
Joris Kuipers‘ installations are meant to be experienced viscerally. Inspired by bodily cross-sections from MRI scans, CT scans, and even botany, Kuipers’ artwork is alien yet immediately familiar. We are intimately familiar with the vascular bends and twists of his pieces, as well as the palette of reds and purples and blues.
Blown up to the size of huge wall reliefs, these biological artforms are also a little unsettling, particularly because they’ve been deconstructed, unmade, and re-formed into startling configurations. Organic deconstruction, after all, is just a hop skip away from decomposition. Of these twin concepts, Kuipers says: “Loveliness and morbidity; both Eros and Thanatos flow through my red lines.”
In some collections, Kuipers steps away from the blatantly macabre. “Letting Go” contains a brightly colored installation that looks like dreamy clouds or floating alien flowers. Other pieces in the collection involve splashes of color amidst a staid black background and plays with light, flashing and blinking at the touch of a switch. This too recalls the cathode ray tubes and autopsy scans of Kuipers’ other work, but from a subtler angle.
Subtler or not, Kuipers work is, as always, intended to be evocative. “I hope that my work will initially be experienced ‘from the abdomen’,” Kuipers says in an artist’s statement, “to gradually make itself felt in the mind of the visitor.”
Tianmiao Lin‘s artwork combines household objects and human figures with a technique called “thread winding”: wrapping thread — or hair or silk — around an object until it is completely covered. The result is oddly tactile and organic, looking like something spun by a spider caught in a fevered dream. The use of string, Lin reveals in an interview with The Culture Trip, is partly for that very reason. They are organic and natural, and contain an element of mysterious strength. “The materials take on a life of their own,” Lin says.
When Chinese artists are discussed, it’s hard to ignore politics; Lin is no exception. As an artist — particularly a female artist — from a country that went through a rather recent revolution, her creations are rife with subtext whether intended or not. It’s difficult if not impossible to draw on the themes and symbols of family and femininity without also summoning the specter of their cultural context.
In a collection called “Mothers!!!,” pearls and webs of string become tangled cancerous masses on the backs of women, weighing them down. The pearls are beautiful but also destructive. In another installation called “Chatting,” several figures stand in a circle, heads bowed, seeking connection perhaps but resigned to the impossibility of it.
To be fair, Lin has rejected feminist and political readings of her work. As an artist, she most likely wants to defy labels and have her work speak for itself. Still, it’s hard not to feel a little glimmer of dissent and rebellion in her art — arising organically, woven into the very DNA of it, strand by strand.
Graziano Locatelli creates mixed-media artwork out of humble materials: tiles, cement, glue, and metal plates. All of his pieces have some element of carefully controlled tumult, something brewing beneath the surface. Often Locatelli breaks his tiles in a precise but organic way, creating fault lines that ripple through the entire piece and create movement and a sense of tension. In one such piece, the fingers of a sculpted hand can be seen gripping the side of the jagged crack, as though peeling it back for a better look at the real world. Other works are more subtle: An impression of a human figure, outlined by hairline fractures.
According to Cross Connect Mag, Locatelli explains: “My early works are sharp and are often torn apart by heads and figures that try and break the wall and is still the subject of the breakage that bewitches me.”
Locatelli’s recurring motifs of breakage and emergency are complemented by his sculptures of materials re-made, formed into eggs or other objects. What’s interesting about his choice of tiles is that they are found so often in people’s houses, especially in places of comfort and privacy; in other words, places that have intimate knowledge of our lives. Perhaps that’s why the pieces are so unsettling, as they blend the familiar with the surreal along with elements of a Poe-esque horror.
“I wonder what meanings and feelings these (once) familiar places arouse in those who lived there,” Locatelli says. “I see them as restless dreams, spaces in ruins inhabited by ghosts that still retain an embryonic life.”
Photographer Josh Cheuse got his break back when people still used payphones and punk was still alive. At age 16, he used some spare change and a lot of guts to call up The Clash. He wanted to photograph them, they agreed, and the rest — as they say — is history.
“I just loved music, and with no musical talent it was my way in – my contribution to the party,” Cheuse said in an interview with It’s Nice That. “I loved documentary photography and war photographs and the music scene had the same excitement level with less immediate danger.”
It started with The Clash and never stopped. Cheuse’s 30 years of photography can be seen at his latest exhibition, “Grooving Years,” at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City. It features exclusive photographs from all over the musical world, from Run DMC to the Beastie Boys to Lady Gaga. One of Cheuse’s most frequent subjects was Joe Strummer, Cheuse’s dear friend as well as, of course, the frontman of revolutionary punk band The Clash.
Asked about his relationship with Strummer, Cheuse answers, “Great friend, guru, mentor, teacher, partner in crime. I miss him something awful.” That’s the secret to Cheuse’s photographs: They capture his subjects close-up in a way that, instead of being exploitative, is simply honest and human.
“Grooving Years” opened a week ago on September 18th and runs until October 11th, 2014. For more information, visit the gallery website.
At first glance, media artist Nicholas Hanna‘s installation looks like some kind of DIY gallows. It’s sparsely constructed: just wood and string set before a simple $20 table fan. Below the string, a tray filled with liquid soap — death by Mr. Clean, perhaps?
Then the machine kicks into gear, dipping the string into the soap, drawing it up slowly, and suddenly an iridescent bubble blooms out of nothing. Magic.
Hanna works seem to incorporate one part engineering and two parts childhood wonder. One of his other pieces is a Beijing tricycle that, as the rider pedals, uses water droplets to write Chinese calligraphy in Courier New. Another piece utilizes motion sensors to cause a cascade of light depending on how a candle flame is shielded by a hand. And another still is a long gunmetal trumpet mounted on a toy truck, labeled simply as “Fire Truck #1.” What does the fire truck do? It starts sounding the alarms at 7:30 p.m., of course.
The bubble machine — “Bubble Device #1,” naturally — is another one of these curiosities. It’s unusual to see beautiful bubbles created by something as sterile as Hanna’s spare framed machine, in an environment as austere as a plain white-walled room. But the wonder is still there.