Martine Johanna’s Surrealist, Color-Drenched Paintings Unveil Inner Emotional Worlds

Martine Johanna - Painting

“Nightmusic” (2014). Acrylics on linen, 140 x 180cm.

Martine Johanna - Painting

“Dear Darkness” (2014). Acrylics and graphite on linen, 60 x 70 cm.

Martine Johanna - Painting

“Anticipation” (2014). Acrylics on linen, 70 x 100 cm.

Martine Johanna - Painting

“Cosmic Tides” (2014). Acrylics on linen, 120 x 170 cm.

Martine Johanna is a Netherlands-based artist whose beautiful, color-drenched works transfigure female figures into surrealist expressions of layered emotions and inner thoughts. In 2012, we featured her illustration portfolio, a body of work which depicts her distinctive, artistic tradition of blending abstract elements with whimsical sensuality. Also included in her oeuvre are a number of stunning acrylic paintings — many of them produced more recently — that delve into the worlds of the conscious and unconscious minds with stunning depth and sensitivity.

Characterizing Johanna’s paintings are women — often nude or nearly-nude — posed in contemplation, their eyes deep and shimmering, faces soft and shaded with storms of inner emotion. When I enquired about the use of nudity in her works, Johanna emphasized that while sex and sexuality are parts of our identities that can be used in artistic, representational ways that hold a lot of subversive power, her work is more concerned with an exploration of the mind and the body’s relationship to it. As she explained in a statement provided to Beautiful/Decay:

“There is more layering when it comes to forming the concepts of how [my] works come into existence, [just as] there is so much more going on in a person’s mind, conscious and subconscious; it is a web of complex emotions that contradict each other endlessly. For example: we want to be loved, but being overly loved corrupts, and love in itself is complex because the motivations behind wanting to be loved are already so many, from purity to manipulation to adornment to obsession, etc. In my process I deal with parts of these contradictions, [and] these thought patterns and emotions are endlessly fascinating to me.

However, I do not plan to make a work solely based on a combination of emotions; when I make what I make, I set up the compositions and figures that I feel, at that moment, is the right visual outcome to what my frame of reference and mind is. […] A couple of years back, I had my own sort of sexual revolution and a whole range of personal emotions connected to it. This is apparent in my work, [and] also visible is that I didn’t have my material or ways of expressing under control yet, which I’m now starting to get more of a grip on.”

The products of Johanna’s artistic explorations are paintings depicting layers of both materiality and essence. We see two worlds superimposed over each other: the corporeal, sensual, and sensate body, and the abyssal ocean of unpredictable emotion which surges within each one of us.

The surrealist elements of Johanna’s works likewise express the emotional contradictions mentioned in the above quote. Recurring motifs in her paintings are dualisms, shadowy “others” who embrace and accompany the female figures (see “Cosmic Tides” and “Dear Darkness,” for example). When I asked Johanna what this signified, she insightfully replied:

“[T]here is a balance of contradictions within us. You need dark to see the light; it’s nothing new, it’s yin and yang, it’s life. Denying darkness and not dealing with it doesn’t make life better — it makes it superficial.”

Hence why, in many of Johanna’s pieces, we often see layers of seemingly “contradictory” experiences, such as beauty alongside death (“The Hunted”), and hope alongside grief (“Opaline Blue”).

Visit Johanna’s website, Facebook, and Instagram to see more stunning examples of her work.

Currently Trending

Advertise here !!!

Animals Being Human: Darren Holmes’ Photography Explores The Dichotomy Between Instinct And Intellect

Darren Holmes - Photography

I Look Pretty While Doing It

Darren Holmes - Photography

Always the Chosen Ones

Darren Holmes - Photography

Cavalcade of Victors

Darren Holmes - Photography

Eaten by the Rushmore Presidents

Darren Holmes is a photographer whose works explore the dichotomy between instinctual, “animal” life, and the rationalizing, “civilized” mind. Entitled animals being human, this series depicts nude (or nearly nude) paint-splattered men and women engaged in strange and frisky behaviors, such as crouching and crawling on the floor, burrowing in hay, and playing with cardboard props. Each image is abstract, elaborate, and tinged with humor, with a lot of “meaning” intentionally left to the imagination: what are they doing, and for what purpose? The confounding, playful absurdity is entirely Holmes’ intention, as he seeks to unravel our innate drives and behaviors from the constructions and constraints of intellect and social conditioning. As he explained in a statement provided to Beautiful/Decay:

“To me, all of the things that unify us as really human are things beneath intellect, the guttural stuff like pain response, elation, pleasure, anguish, anger, the search for warmth and companionship, that kind of thing.  They’re all concerns of the body, instinctive and what we associate with animal behaviour.

Then we have these clever, intellectual, analytical minds which maybe sit over top of it all, rationalizing, regulating us, attempting to moderate all the stuff underneath.  There are probably good reasons we need to do this sometimes, to act civilly with each other.  But in some ways, I think intellect becomes how we distract ourselves from facing some truths.”

What Holmes’ work signifies, then, is a playful deconstruction of the “human,” a species category which is so often defined in opposition to “animals”. In many cases, contemporary (and intellectualized) humanity has actively separated itself from earthly “filth” — mud, blood, excrement, and anything “messy” — in order to achieve a sense of species-based superiority. “I mean, we must be more enlightened than those that came before us … right?” Holmes writes, tongue-in-cheek. “Maybe we just want to believe certain things to avoid facing issues, like how little we’ve changed … that we’re just dirty, shitting, fucking, fighting primates, and how temporary we really are in this world.”

Given the delightfully absurd energy of Holmes’ photos, I enquired about his method, which he described as a “live performance”; each scene is a holistic accumulation of energy and creativity, involving “like-minded people who want to use their bodies to capture something that can only come from a sort of lengthy, improvised dance punctuated by exchanges [and] ideas.” The props are similarly spontaneous; mostly limited to “cardboard, canvas, wood, [and] paint,” the models indulge in a youthful approach to these objects, making the props imaginative and representational rather than over-intellectualized and “concrete” in their meaning. In this way, Holmes deconstructs adulthood as well, that phase in our lives when we are taught to overanalyze and constantly moderate and rationalize our behaviors.

Visit Holmes’ website and Facebook page and follow him as he explores physicality and the intimate, pre-intellectual connections that exist between all of us human animals. (Via Art Fucks Me)

Currently Trending

Advertise here !!!

Naked Nothing: The Liberating Nude Portraiture Of Alex Guiry

Alex Guiry — PhotographyAlex Guiry — PhotographyAlex Guiry — PhotographyAlex Guiry — Photography

Alex Guiry is a photographer who wields his camera in the passionate exploration of untamed environments and the people that inhabit them. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Guiry’s images are drenched with the rain, beauty, serenity, and intensity of the Pacific Northwest. This particular photo series, entitled Naked Nothing, embraces nude portraiture— male and female — in natural and urban landscapes, framing it not as an object of sexualized desire, but rather as a means to celebrate selfhood and let go of inhibiting insecurities; whether running through a field, arching between trees, or balancing on urinals, each body is strong, confident, and standing up with an identity that needs only itself for validation. In a fascinating and eloquent statement provided to Beautiful/Decay, Guiry further explained his socially-informed approach to photography:

“All genders have a tough time with body image, and a number of my models have opened up to me about battling with an eating disorder. For a lot of them, this is their first time undressing in front of a camera — or a stranger for that matter — and I’d like to think when I shoot with these girls, something brilliant happens: they realize how liberating it is to be naked, happy with themselves, and to not give a fuck. […] I want to portray these girls as someone who wants to be there, behind the camera, not overpowered, submissive, fragile, or backed into the corner by the male gaze of the photographer and audience. The nudity draws the viewer in, and holds their attention long enough to rethink why they came here in the first place.”

Furthering the images’ ability to heal and empower, Naked Nothing also holds a personal significance for Guiry. His father died shortly before he began the project. Explaining the series’ connection to this event, and how photography can reconcile trauma and restore peace, Guiry writes:

“Naked Nothing is where I could secretly curate my feelings of pain, loss, love, depression, and the rebirthing cycle. My largest anxieties are about my relationships with people, so in my work I’ve romanticized three key figures that are vaguely present in most of my stories: my father, an ex, and the girl I can’t have. Being active in nature, paying attention to light, and listening to zen philosophy, have all helped to calm the constant commentary. Learning to use photography as a tool has been a large part of my healing process as well.”

The combination of nudity and photography as a means to spiritual and bodily healing has appeared in some of Guiry’s other series; Running on Empty, for example, is a photo essay of a young woman’s journey through bulimia towards self-love and acceptance. And whether documenting the body in its nude state or not, all of Guiry’s lifestyle portraiture is infused with the same passion and search for the subject’s empowerment. Check out his website, Tumblr, and Facebook for more examples of his beautiful and heartfelt work.

Currently Trending

Samantha Fortenberry’s Colorful Photos Of People Enjoying A Soak In The Tub

Bubble's-Bitches Are-you-There Pink-Perfection _MG_1273-Edit-4-Edit

Photographer Samantha Fortenberry’s colorful images reveal the pleasure of a good soak in the tub. Her aerial photos are part of an on-going series called Suds and Smiles, and it features people alone in their bathrooms. Naked, they revel in water as the space is peppered with familiar objects, and it reflects their personality. “I have taken my models and either asked them to collect an array of items that mean something to them, or I designed them a set based on an idea of their choosing,” she writes in an email to Beautiful/Decay.

As we gaze at Fortenberry’s subjects, we act as voyeurs to their pleasant time. There’s genuine looks of joy on some of the model’s faces, and when juxtaposed with the bright colors and playful objects, we too derive some pleasure from it.

Suds and Smiles also celebrates the figure. “With this series I also wanted to display the nude human body in a natural and beautiful way,” Fortenberry writes. “I want to collect a wide variety of people in all shapes and sizes to display the various form of beauty each person has.

Currently Trending

Evelyn Bencicova’s Imagery Blends Surreal Beauty With Supernatural Unease

Evelyn Bencicova - Mixed media/photographyEvelyn Bencicova - Mixed media/photographyEvelyn Bencicova - Mixed media/photographyEvelyn Bencicova - Mixed media/photography

Natalia Evelyn Bencicova is a Slovakian photographer who creates works of surreal beauty and supernatural unease. Characterized by dark, sterile rooms built of tile and cement, her settings are eerily reminiscent of abandoned hospitals and vacant catacombs. The models are washed-out and almost alien in their beauty, contorting as they pose nude, or draped in cloth with additional limbs that reach from underneath. They appear human, but also inhuman — and no better is this obscuration of humanity demonstrated than in the images portraying piles of nude bodies sprawling on the floors, crawling up against the walls, or aligning themselves in fleshly, geometric structures. With their faces obscured by torsos and furniture, they seem engaged (or possessed by) a strange ritual that is more about the multitude than the individual.

Part of what makes Bencicova’s work so powerful and provocative are the environments and quasi-theatrical narratives she creates. The hospital-like settings foster an atmosphere that is unsettling for the psyche; writhing and embracing on cold floors or groping at sterile furniture, the characters resemble ghosts in an abstract, emotional ballet. In some of the images, the bodies look like they have been stowed away and forgotten, and are struggling to survive. But in all of Bencicova’s works, there is a haunting magnificence, a reverence for the strength of the human body, and an “opening up” of beauty that extends into the alien and absurd.

Bencicova’s Tumblr is a stunning journey into her darkly alluring and innovative worlds. You can also see more of her work on Behance, and be sure to follow her on Facebook

Currently Trending

Evan Penny’s Hyperrealistic And Distorted Human Sculptures Explore Time And Self-Perception

Evan Penny - Sculpture

“Self” (2008).

Evan Penny - Sculpture

“Large Murray” (with Murray) (2008).

Evan Penny - Sculpture

“Young Self, Variation #1″ (2011).

Evan Penny - Sculpture

“Old Self, Variation #1″ (2010).

Evan Penny is a Toronto-based (South African-born) artist who makes human sculptures out of silicone, resin, hair, and pigment. In many ways, his works — especially those he produced in the 1980s (see “Jim”) — are hyperrealistic, with detailed skin textures and lifelike body postures and facial expressions. However, throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Penny began to experiment with abstraction, manipulating human proportions and forms to create flattened, stretched, and warped bodies that resemble optical illusions, troubling the perceptual line between digital manipulation and animated flesh. In his more recent works, Penny has implemented computer technologies to scan, distort, and re-scale the figure, which he then recreates by hand.

Two interrelated themes that Penny interrogates in his work include the passage of time and the ever-changing nature of self-perception. As he explores in his works “Young Self” and “Old Self,” for example, self-representation — indeed, identity — is a construction that is never stable; “time, memory, and desire” influence the way we appear and project ourselves to others (and ourselves) (Source). Penny’s work also explores the implications of image manipulation in the digital age, when photo editing and digital reality give us new means of constructing our self-representations, and indeed, evading the naturally-occurring inconsistencies of our real-life identities. As he stated in an interview with Canadian Art:

“With the digital, how we imagine ourselves in time has changed again. We’re starting to comprehend ourselves quite differently, and I’m not sure we fully understand how that is affecting us” (Source).

Despite the seemingly playful aspects of Penny’s sculptures, some of his artistic investigations are tinged with sadness as they grapple with the passage of time. “Jim Revisited” (2011), for example, is a recreation of his sculpture “Jim,” which was made in 1985, when his figures were still largely realistic. Jim was a friend of Penny’s who had passed away several years ago. What Penny seems to be achieving in the dialogue between these two works is a series of overlapping personal and artistic reassessments: an examination of the way time distorts memory, as well as how his own artistic practice — infused with years of experience and shifting emotions and new perspectives — has changed. You can read more about Penny’s thoughts on “Jim Revisited” here. Visit Penny’s website to see more of his work.

Currently Trending

Erik Jones’ Splices Together Fragments Of Women And Geometric Patterns

Erik Jones - paintingErik Jones - painting Erik Jones - painting Erik Jones - painting

Erik Jones paints a blend of vibrant, colorful, graphic-orientated paintings with hyper realistic, disconnected parts of women’s bodies. Originally from St Petersburg, Florida he moved to New York with $81 and took different jobs in the comic industry – an influence to which he owes his distinct graphic style. They are a original mix of pop styling with hard lines and distinct patterns, sporadic mark making and illustrative details of the female form. High fashion magazine-style renderings of faces, breasts and limbs are broken up and disjointed by digital-like patterns.

Realizing his passion for illustration and figure rendering, Jones initially was drawn to animation and creating stimulating visuals. Not completely satisfied by just animating, he applied the techniques he learnt to painting. He starts his creative process with a photoshoot, or various inspirational photos, then adds the figure reference and refines it digitally. He explains more:

I build on top of the figure as if they were wearing these shapes. I’ll also create patters with the shapes to move your eye around in a structured way. Despite all the clutter and chaos in these newer works, there is something soothing and comfortable in each piece, at least I feel there is. I believe it’s the patterns that you’re subconsciously finding that keep it from being completely chaotic and overwhelming to look at. (Source)

Jones uses several different types of media to build up a textured, layered, collage look. Even though his work is a blend of so many different elements, he tries to give equal weighting to each of them. He says most importantly for him is to keep a harmonious balance, and not to glorify the figure. 

Currently Trending

Daniel Barkley Paints The Nude Body Engaged In Acts Of Emotion And Ritual

Daniel Barkley - Painting

“Deep Water” (2006). Acrylic on canvas, 56” x 50”.

Daniel Barkley - Painting

“Dare Devil” (2004). Acrylic on canvas, 29” x 42”.

Daniel Barkley - Painting

“Brother’s Keeper” (2012). Acrylic on canvas, 60” x 60”.

Daniel Barkley - Painting

“Incredule (redux)” (2010). Watercolour on paper, 26” x 36”.

Daniel Barkley is a Canadian artist who explores the physicality of the human figure and its relationship to mythology and the history of art. Recurring among his paintings are nude, predominately male bodies depicted in scenes of both visceral power and stunning vulnerability. Whether drawing in the dirt, lying prone on the ice, or anointing themselves with mud or paint, the characters appear to be engaged in profound rituals of unknown meaning. Barkley’s work captures the emotion of the event, as well as the role of flesh and muscle in the enactment of human spirituality.

By presenting his characters nude, Barkley explores narratives that are powerful and mythological in their appearance, but open to analysis and extrapolation. “Clothes denote social class, profession, period, gender, age, etc.,” Barkley states in his website’s Artist’s Statement. “By eliminating them, paring down the mise-en-scene, the interpretation of the narrative is broadened to hopefully include the viewer’s own speculations.” Caught between states of intimacy and theatricality, Barkley’s nude figures operate as metaphorical expressions of the pain and passion that has shaped Western mythology.

More of Barkley’s incredible work — spanning over a decade — can be found here. (Via Juxtapoz)

Currently Trending