Tomohide Ikeya is a Japanese photographer whose underwater nude portraits walk the line between serene beauty and the terror of death and drowning. In three series, titled Wave, Breath, and Moon, Ikeya explores the body interacting with the ocean in various ways: struggling on the shore, reaching for the surface, and surrendering to its darkness. The images are disturbing in a poetic way, depicting people expressing the primordial will to survive, while others curl up and quietly succumb, turning the surrounding water into a simultaneous womb and deathbed. Breath — that vital act — often goes unnoticed, but Ikeya’s work makes it visible in the form of bubbles, open mouths, and deathly stillness. “Perhaps the essence of life, granted to everyone, is to live while struggling against death,” Ikeya writes in his description of Breath. “Life is not just about visible beauty, but also about true strength, which we have from birth” (Source).
For Ikeya, the neutrality of water makes it the ideal medium in which to explore the rhythms of survival. Water gives life, and also extinguishes it. “Water is not the Mother of Creation or the Master of Destruction,” Ikeya states; it simply exists as an essential but unfeeling element (Source). By photographing the body in a physical struggle against water, Ikeya’s works are dark portraits of the value of life and the concurrence of death. The boundaries between unforgiving “nature” and the indestructible “human” are literally subsumed, washed away into emotional and physical gestures of life-defining resistance against — and fatal integration with — the ocean. The moment of struggle becomes the affirmation.
In the series Paint Job, Spanish art director Nico Ordozgoiti infuses some color onto Renaissance statues. He digitally paints them in a hyperrealistic style and brings them to life. Iconic sculptures like David and Venus de Milo are now fair-skinned with chestnut brown hair instead of their usual off-white exterior. The visual effect is similar to the colorization of black-and-white photographs, and Ordozgoiti’s vibrant colors are offset by a gray base.
Ordozgoti writes, “When Renaissance masters discovered and copied the hyper-realistic sculptures of ancient Greek and Rome, they didn’t know that some of these works had originally been painted to make them even more life-like.” Ultraviolet light reveals how these pieces really look. He goes on to explain, “This made me think about how adding color to classic and neoclassical sculptures could give us an interesting look at what some of those artists might have had in mind.” (Via Ufunk)
Artist Ana Strumpf uses creative color schemes and patterns to redesign fashion magazine covers. In her series Recover, trend-setting magazine like Vogue and Vanity Fair are transformed into whimsical worlds with eye-popping patterns complete with quirky make-up added on to the models. Striking, beautiful women posing for the camera are given pink hair, rosy cheeks, and green eye shadow, turning them into silly, fun characters. The primary colors and simple shapes are reminiscent of childhood and dress up games. Although her clashing patterns and neon colors at first may remind you of doodles, they all somehow look amazing. The interesting color palettes Strumpf chooses to add work beautifully in their own unique way.
Strumpf is a jack of all trades in the arts, as she designs and fabricates chairs, couches, lamps, and pillows on top of being an interior designer. Based out of New York, the artist studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, which accounts for her love of high fashion magazines! Her cover redesigns are funky enough to be album covers, with the models now radiating lines and shapes along with the occasional third eye. Her wild stripes and spots form fresh new designs that really look like they belong on the cover of a magazine, like they are the next big trend in fashion. (via Honestly WTF)
Kehinde Wiley‘s impressive painting career is being celebrated at the Brooklyn Museum in a grand exhibition that is open right now. For fourteen years, he has been painting bold, decorative oil paintings that are reconfiguring the way African American culture is portrayed in art. He takes the techniques from the old European portraiture masters and turns them into modern and fresh images, relevant to a post-colonial culture. Old stuffy aristocrats and patrons wearing flouncy blouses and ridiculous wigs from centuries gone by, are replaced by black subjects with a certain street style to them.
Wiley asks different people – most of whom are regular passer-bys on the streets in Harlem, to sit for his portraits. They are given different art history books full of ornate backgrounds to choose from to complement their portrait. Wiley then paints them reenacting certain poses, imitating the European subjects and places the chosen embellishments behind and over their image. His style is a fusion of many different elements – French Rococo and the High Renaissance, Islamic architecture, West African textile design and urban hip hop, and is a result of his own mixed heritage.
Wiley later went on to create a series called The World Stage, where he traveled to Mumbai, Senegal, Dakar and Rio de Janeiro to portray different cultures and traditions in his work. He explains more:
One of the reasons I chose Brazil, Nigeria, India and China is that these are all the points of anxiety and curiosity and production that are going on in the world that are changing the way we see empire. As I’ve been traveling, I started to notice that the way many people in other parts of the world interact with American culture is through black American expression. It’s an interesting phenomenon. (Source)
In this day and age of digital and high tech art, painter Matt R. Martin looks to redefine the traditional nude. An honorable task since the human figure has been painted in hundreds maybe thousands of positions. For Martin it means looking for new ways to paint an age old subject matter using oil with the expertise of a skilled draftsman. His marks produce mysterious settings which depict dual bodies tangled upside down on a torn leather recliner or snuggled up to a large window. The faces are partially covered lending more intrigue to the stark atmosphere. In one painting a dozen or so male clones are in the ocean with their backs toward the viewer. The figures are standing up to the waist in water and soon starts taking on various metaphysical nuances. A purgatory narrative eventually emerges making you wonder if the souls are half saved or half damned.
Technically the paintings are exquisitely made. They take influence in sheer luminosity from the great Andrew Wyeth. Like him Martin is able to paint skin where you can almost see the blood pumping through veins which is pretty remarkable. There’s definitely something to be said for pure technical skill and Martin should be noticed for his ability. The artist claims in his statement that he has been influenced by film, Surrealism and representational art. (via artfucksme)
The dissecting cuts and lines shooting across the work of artist Jason Thielke create incredible images of figures full of expression. His incredible, illustrative art is made by laser cutting wood panels, with acrylic paint and ink to add color and highlight details. Many of his pieces have so many lines etched into the work; it is difficult to tell the negative space from the positive. Thielke makes great use of negative space in his etchings, forming intricate and dynamic shape and composition. Each figure contains so many marks streaking across their body, adding shapes and patterns that form constellations within them.
Thielke’s lines seem organic, swirling around the figures hair and face, forming expression. However, the etched lines are also highly geometric and architectural, building a blue print for the body. Such drastic, harsh angles create a dramatic atmosphere with striking faces filled with piercing eyes. These intersecting lines express,
“conflict between one’s ability to implement self control and compulsion to manipulate and constantly self-gratify.”
Thielke’s fragmented bodies cut through you with a powerful emotion as they keep pulling you deep under their spell, inviting you to examine every cut in the composition. The artist does not only uses the technique of laser etching to create his figures, but has also inked his cut wood panels like a woodblock and then used them to make prints. Thielke has exhibited all across the U.S. from Boston to San Francisco. His work can be found at David B. Smith Gallery in Denver, Colorado, where Thielke currently lives.
Joanne Leah‘s photographs have a kinetic aura, a dark mysterious crackle of energy that seems to hint at struggle and loss. Even with swathes of jewel tones, Leah’s work is muted, almost like crime scene photos. Some of her subjects are strewn about the floor like fallen souls on a battlefield. Others seem to be entombed — though whether in a sort of grave or a chrysalis, it remains to be seen. Permeating all her photos is a feeling of suffocation, of the inevitability of the inescapable.
In her artist’s statement, Leah says:
“When I was a child, I would explore the woods behind my house. I ventured alone, following a small creek. One winter day, I deviated from my usual path. As I walked, I heard a man shout. A pack of barking dogs ran toward me. I immediately dropped to the snowy ground and pretended to be dead. I held my breath. The dogs surrounded me, sniffed and snorted. I had never felt that kind of fear before, the fear of being eaten alive.”
There is a surreal fairy tale feeling to Leah’s photos. There is also an unmistakable feeling of intimacy. There’s also a sense that this is a cautionary tale, that these everyday people have come to quietly grim fates that could happen anywhere, to anyone. (via Dark Silence in Suburbia)
Mikael Aldo is an Indonesian photographer who creates ambitious scenes that are both intimate and epic. In each image, the subjects appear to be engaged in moments of intensity and transition, whether it be ascending towards the heavens, transforming into a tree, or standing before a burning doorway. There often seems to be an atmosphere of darkness, or an allusion to death; one person, submerged in water, covers their face with an animal skull, and in another they lie quietly as birds pass overhead. Such scenes, however, are more serene and beautiful than they are grim. As viewers, we are never certain of what is going on (or what is about to happen), but this is Aldo’s intention: to connect with us via interpretations deriving from our own personal memories and emotions. As he wrote to Beautiful/Decay: “I hope that people feel something towards my photographs — a sense of connection between them and what I try to convey.”
Aldo’s creative process is its own dynamic transformation, arising from experiences and reflections and merging into conceptual scenes. When asked how he develops his ideas, Aldo explained: “I imagine them moving. Alive. That is how I connect one element to the others. Oftentimes I also make sketches, and write specific details on how I want something to be.” The result of this living, holistic process is a set of images that transport us on a creative journey through inner, symbolic worlds. Here, on the edge of something transformative, the photographic subjects demonstrate how to let go while embracing change.