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.
With the innocent and untainted imagination of a child, Japanese artist Misaki Kawai thrills us with her collection of blockheaded animals and misshapen figures. Her own unique point of view is currently at critical mass and Kawai has turned into a kind of poster child for slacker art. Kawai first got her start selling zines, drawings and paintings on the streets of New York City and in true Basquiat fashion eventually caught the attention of a few local galleries. After exhibiting her colorful and engaging pictures she quickly gained mainstream recognition and began showing on the international art world circuit.
Kawai’s lastest project consists of a blow up doll pool toy made in collaboration with The Grey Area. The piece debuted at Art Basel Miami Beach this past winter where she also created a teepee installation at the Mondrian Hotel. Her oeuvre encompasses all media and as her celebrity grows we see her floating down a rockstar path which also includes diy merchandise. Some of the products for sale in Kawai’s tent include a series of pink fluffy art dogs in three sizes, pin and keychain. This is a faithful replicate of the arty doll she has exhibited on a massive scale all over the world at such diverse locations as the Life is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas , Museum of Contemporary Art Japan, Watermill Center in upstate NY, Malmo Konsthalle in Sweden, and many more.
Collage has fascinated artist Matthias Jung since he was a child when he built his first fantastical buildings in his father’s photo lab. Not much has changed since then, and he still cut aparts photos to make them into new scenes. He doesn’t want help from digital technology in his artwork, and doesn’t use Photoshop.
Jung explains why he focuses on structures, writing:
I am always amazed at how architectural details can evoke certain associations and feelings. This is how a latticed window conveys coziness; one might even say it is soulful. Framework is soothing, sometimes touching. Antennas have something sinister about them. They point to something outside the picture. Concrete is cold and foreign – but maybe interesting for just that reason.
He began with the series Houses in January 2015, and developed seven complex images within a few weeks. “All the images used have been photographed by me,” he explains. “Many were taken during trips in northeastern Germany. My last trip took me to the Ruhr region where there are abandoned steel mills and heaps of coal. I find that to be very exciting.”
Matthis says that his dreams are collages, and that for them to “function properly,” he also has to consider design rules.
Thus, the relationship between order/disorder and homogeneity/diversity must agree. A building has to first be stable and credible before I can add some “disorder,” to let it fly for example. One such disorder refers to another, only hinting at reality. I weave, so to speak, spiritual realities into everyday things.
Artist Romain Crelier has transformed the already ornate and beautiful interior of Bellelay Abbey with reflective pools of used motor oil. This unique and unlikely installation is created by pouring pools of motor oil into an extensive and organic-shaped vessel that holds the oil into its form, brilliantly complimenting the architecture. This Swiss Abbey contains intricate and ornate 12th century architecture, including Baroque style monasteries and elaborate stucco paintings. The dark, glossy oil is a stark contrast to the bright, white interior, creating a harsh but remarkable juxtaposition. The already dramatic interior is complimented by this reflective source, mirroring not only its complex architecture, but also the viewer.
Motor oil is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an attractive, shiny material. This is definitely not your traditional installation. Normally thought of as a messy material, the deep, sleek liquid creates a deep impact on the viewer, full of mystery and awe. The church is often a place of reflection, where you can go to experience a sense of stillness or tranquility. Crelier furthers this experience by giving you a literal reflective liquid to gaze into while you roam this space. The wonder you might feel by entering such a monumental place is magnified through this installation, moving you to a place of awe. This installation has a seemingly simple concept, but results in an immeasurable effect on the viewer, creating layers of visual possibilities. Romain Crelier’s installation, titled La Mise en Abime, is just one of the incredibly colossal installations the very talented, Swiss artist has under his belt. (via MyModernMet)
Pulp Drunk is an exhibition of strange book cover art and a fascinating display of the wildly weird side of pop culture. Designed to attract new readers to read the words inside the books, the covers of post-war American literature were attention grabbing and bizarre at the best of times. But not only was it the American market who was trying out these tactics – illustrators were having a good time in Mexico as well. There, the cover art tended to be even stranger. Still aimed at selling books, but they tended to be less about in-your-face-sex, and instead included violence, crime, mystery, psychedelia and sci-fi details.
They featured characters having hallucinations and apparitions; super-strength robots throwing cars on a destructive rampage; jealous gorillas who are furious they didn’t end up with the girl; a thieving woman stealing a piglet under the cover of nighttime; and circus murder mysteries. These delightfully weird scenarios could be seen to mirror the supernatural side of Mexican culture and their attitudes toward life, death and mysticism. The press release from the exhibition explains further:
These sensationalized images from the sixties and seventies often feature surreal and lurid images of extraterrestrials, robots, dinosaurs, killers, Zorro and many other icons involving suspense, mystery, romance, and the supernatural. The central characters in the narratives tend to be ordinary people facing the common challenges of day-to-day life. They are not gallant martyrs but commoners who have found themselves confronting outlandish and startling predicaments as a result of poor decisions or risky behavior. (Source)
The Pulp Drunk exhibition may be over, but you can see more bizarre covers after the jump.
Kent Rogowski is a Brooklyn-based artist who alters consumer products as a means of exploring the emotional and cultural roles such objects play in our lives. We featured his Everything I Wish I Could Be project a couple years ago, wherein Rogowsky reconfigured self-help books in order to construct subjective narratives of experience and self-definition. The series featured here, titled Bears, takes an arguably darker — but no less profound — approach to our relationship with material objects. By inverting (formerly) adorable stuffed animals and re-stuffing them, Rogowsky has created a cast of strange, sad, and grotesque characters. The visibility of their internal structures has an undeniably disturbing effect; with their exposed seams, spilling stuffing, and lidless eyes, they look like the flayed and eviscerated versions of our childhood companions. As Sarah Verdone eloquently (and humorously) wrote for Paper Magazine: “If Hannibal Lecter, Martin Margiela and a blind speed freak had a three-way in a Build-A-Bear workshop, these creatures would be their mutant offspring” (Source).
But Rogowski’s project is not just about clashing the cute with the grotesque — which, in a way, alienates us from material objects typically associated with nostalgia and comfort. His mutilated creations, in their sordid states of innocent suffering, are portraits of the hardships we experience as we grow, struggle, and change. Despite their crippling disfigurement, the stuffed creations maintain an appearance of love and loyalty, steadfastly “holding it together,” waiting for you to return home while everything slowly unravels at the seams. In a fascinating statement about this project, Rogowski writes:
“They are at once hideous yet cuddly, […] while offering a metaphor for us all to consider. These bears, which have lived and loved and lost as much as their owners, have suffered and endured through it all. It is by virtue of revealing their inner core might we better understand our own.” (Source)
Check out Rogowski’s website for more examples of his insightful explorations of consumer products and the way they impact our internal lives. (Via Design Faves)
One of the saddest things to see while walking around your neighborhood is a missing pet poster. A new book Lost: Lost and Found Pet Posters from Around the World by Ian Phillips captures the desperation and panic in these hand drawn, hand written xeroxed pieces of paper. It captures the highly emotional experience when someone loses a pet and also tries to give a funny but poignant look into the whole culture of what people write and draw to catch the public’s attention in helping them find their beloved fur ball.
One readily apparent trait is that most of the signs are created by someone who is not in a logical state of mind. This is not said in jest but observation because who in their right mind would draw a picture of their pet and expect someone to recognize the animal if spotted in person? Most end up looking like cartoon line drawings and it just adds to the poignancy of the whole situation. The other thing made clear is the cathartic power of drawing and writing. Even though the drawings may not look like the actual missing animal it gives the owner a chance to let out some of their emotional stress through drawing and writing. It’s no secret that creative expression has wonderful cathartic powers and in some ways might help the panic stricken person cope a little more with the situation at hand. On a positive note the book also takes a look at found animal posters which is just as funny and poignant.
Studies have shown that only 23 percent of lost dogs are reunited with their owners and 2 percent of lost cats. A microchip which can be inserted into the animal at a very low cost is a wonderful and harmless way to secure that if your pet is ever lost or stolen you have a good chance of finding them. It’s been shown that animals with microchips have a 38 percent chance of returning home to their owners if lost or stolen. (via hyperallergic)
Emma Powell‘s photo series “In Search of Sleep” is a sequence of snapshots straight out of a semi-lucid dream. To create her photos, Powell uses the cyanotype process and also tints them with tea and wine. The result is a layer of haziness and off-kilter colors that enhance the surreality of her artwork, making them almost seem like paintings of the mind.
“In Search of Sleep recreates this shadowy realm and allows me to explore my real-life questions, from personal dramas to romantic doubts,” Powell says. Her inspiration is also, in part, the bedtime stories her father used to invent, which incorporated real world locations as well as a mysterious “dream-world of caverns, forests, and oceans full of unexpected animals and dangers.”
Powell’s work certainly embodies that sense of searching, longing, and subterranean menaces. In some photos, her dreamer seems very small: standing before a looming labyrinth; marooned on a rock next to an enormous anchor; pausing before the stairs as a large shadow moves behind her.
“In Search of Sleep” almost gives the sensation that as much as the dreamer seeks, she is also being sought. Powell’s photography gives us a sense of a journey, and as mysterious as it is, we can’t be sure if the seeker ever finds what she’s looking for. (h/t I Need a Guide)