These images may look like simple abstract paintings, or cut out pieces of cardboard collaged on top of each other, but they are anything but. They are actually a product of one of the most avant-garde photographic processes being used today. Brooklyn artist Liz Nielsen‘s current exhibition Wolf Moon is an eloquent display of a very strange technique. She places different objects and shapes cut from transparent colored gels directly onto photographic paper and exposes them to light resulting in dramatic compositions.
It is a negative process, so that colors are reversed. It has taken many years of dedicated darkroom experimentation to layer the overlapping shapes so that a subtle color results instead of pure white. The resulting unique chromogenic prints in Wolf Moon are singed with red from leaked light in the darkroom and populated by abstract shapes reminiscent of terrestrial and extraterrestrial forms. (Source)
Nielsen’s exhibition has a focus on landscapes, celestial shapes and beautiful phenomena (like electricity and lightning). The subject matter mirrors the strange and wonderful process she uses in developing the images. See more of her unique C-prints at the exhibition – running from Jan 29 – March 8 at Denny Gallery in New York. (Via Pattern Pulp)
Artist Hoang Tran creates your favorite pop-culture characters, from The Simpson’s to the Ninja Turtles, all out of wax…but not just any wax. Tran carves each character from a jumbo-sized crayon! That’s right, each intricately and meticulously detailed character is carved from your everyday Crayola crayon…the same crayons that you used to make your own “masterpiece” with at age three. Each pop-culture icon is carved from the color in which it dominantly possesses, but also has hints of other colors that make up the finishing touches of the character. To do this, Tran melts different colored waxes, or crayons, and then applies the melted pigment onto the finest details of his creations. The amazing detail speaks wonders about the talent and patience the artist must have in order to master such a painstaking craft.
What is so wonderful about this artist’s crayon creatures is that only half of the wax is carved. The other side of the crayon is left intact, Crayola wrapper and all! Tran creates all sorts of characters such as Batman, Gizmo, Spongebob and Cookie Monster. He even carves out real life people such as Conan O’Brian. This series, appropriately titled Wax Nostalgic, is chalk full of infamous characters. It is a nostalgic dream. If you are a Star Wars fan, Tran has transformed a crayon into every character from this classic film from Hans Solo to Princess Leia. This impressive little treasures can be found on Hoang Tran’s website, or his Etsy site, where you can have get crayon characters for yourself. (via Inkult Magazine)
In this stunning project titled I Am Dust, photographer Olivier Valsecchi has created powerful images that embody the essence of creation and the will to survive. Currently, the project is divided between two series: “Dust” and “Time of War.” While both series depict models frozen in dynamic poses as ashes erupt off and around their bodies, there are slight thematic differences. “Dust” explores creation using Ovid’s definition of Chaos as “a crude and indigested mass, a lifeless lump, unfashioned and unframed” (Source) — essentially, an embryonic ball of matter that explodes into being. Valsecchi likens this concept to the Big Bang theory. What fascinates him is how these preexisting, scattered elements eventually fuse together, despite having once existed elsewhere in another form. Thus, in his work, he seeks to explore the reincarnation and infinitude of matter:
“What I looked for in the ‘Dust’ series was to curve around the timeline like a circle and capture, in the same image, something and its opposite, like endings and beginnings, dead and alive, floating in water and flying in dust, so in the end the viewer can never know when it starts and when it ends.”
The models in “Dust” capture this atemporal moment of creation perfectly. Their bodies are frozen in time and space, but with their eyes closed, they become expressions of pure energy. The ashes erupting off their skin resemble particles of their physical bodies being sent back into Chaos as matter lost in the violence of creation.
Ashes, of course, often occupy our imagination as symbols of death and a return to the earth. These associations make their explosive presence doubly significant in Valsecchi’s second series, “Time of War.” Inspired by the photographer’s fascination with Time, these particular images explore how Time is a circular phenomenon, and that we, as living beings, always seem to be fighting against it. As Valsecchi writes:
“I wanted pictures that would blur the viewer’s perception of before and after, and maybe, think about [the present moment]. Thinking about now, about our impermanence and our urge to live, in regards to our environment. Wars, conflicts, power, money: it is a struggle. That’s why ‘Time of War’ […] was more about surviving, standing up to the tests, [and] going forward.”
Demonstrating survival, the models twist and turn against an unseen threat, pushing against the darkness that surrounds them, while ash signifying their own material death sheds from their skin. Valsecchi has made powerfully visible our eternal struggle against mortality.
Curious about how Valsecchi created these dynamic shots, I asked him about his creative process. Not surprisingly, his method was just as interesting as the philosophies and perspectives driving his work. Each photo session was a ritual achieved in stages of inspired motion, mimicking the slow-but-accelerating process of creation itself. He describes the method as such:
“Before anything, I would explain the intention and say: ‘The ashes symbolize Death and it wants to [cover] you but you have to get rid of it.’ Or: ‘Close your eyes, you don’t want the ashes to blind you, plus you will focus on your energy and forget you’re naked.’ […] Then the model would undress and kneel down. I would shower him or her with ashes. […] Then I would stand in front of the model and show what kind of movement I’m expecting to shoot. […] The model and I are gradually sharing a trance, because the process is three or four hours long, and in the end, due to the jumping, swirling, and the closed eyes, you kind of lose your marks and only [feel] the energy.”
At this point, the challenge would be to capture the ashes before they diffuse into the air. But it goes without saying that the results are remarkable, and each dynamic photo captures the body’s struggle amidst and against Chaos.
Valsecchi hinted that there will be a third chapter in the I Am Dust series, which he will be working on this summer. Check out his website and follow his Facebook page to keep up with his compelling and thought-provoking work.
Sonya Fu’s digital paintings seek to open the third eye and unlock the limbo between wakefulness and sleep. Rendered in soft vibrant colors, her characters are lit up, though from within or without we are uncertain. Shapes and bubbles of light play on their faces, like projections from an unknown dimension. Their half-closed dreaming eyes add to the eerie yet somehow peaceful quality of the paintings, as though we’re witnessing some mystical wandering of the mind.
“Art is a powerful visual language and creating art is a calming and therapeutic process,” Fu says. “I would like to share with people my dreamscape, its beauty and its oddity.” Her paintings are the product of sleep paralysis, a state where the mind is only half-awake and the body is still convinced it’s slumbering. In more superstitious times, sleep paralysis has been attributed to everything from death itself to hags who would come and sit on the sleeper’s chest. As though channeling that supernatural power, the girls in Fu’s paintings gaze off into the distance, thoroughly raptured away and unaware or perhaps undisturbed by their surreal surroundings. They are composed, high priestesses of some fantasy world that only blossoms in the twilight hours.
Fu explains: “It might be an eerie creature, a whimsical scenery or a disturbed beauty who speaks words of wisdom – they are all embodiments of my subconscious mind.” (via Hi-Fructose)
Berlin based photographer Bagrad Badalian uses the technique of long-exposure photography to bend and manipulate light in his energetic and magnetic photography. The motion in his photography combined with a long exposure elongates his subjects and drags colored lights across the composition. Badalian, mainly focusing on the human form as his subject, allows the figure to be taken over by hypnotic, multicolored light sources that bounce and bend across the figures. This element along with his carefully cropped compositions render many of the subjects unrecognizable, shifting the focus onto the many waves of light. Each color seems to be exploding from the bodies with an energetic force, creating a vibrant pulse felt by the viewer. As you look at each figure in motion, you can feel the pulsating rhythm that encompasses each photograph.
“The photographic technique interests me for the many possibilities it offers not only to scientists but also artists. Long exposure photography is on of those techniques that fascinate me since I have started practicing photography. It allows me to decompose the movement of time and control the aesthetic and imaginative potential of chance.”
Each figure’s identity is skewed as their features are distorted and manipulated by the long exposure. This creates a beautiful, but sometimes nightmarish, effect. The colored lights dance across the figure’s faces due to the movement in the photograph, which also causes the face to shift. It becomes disfigured as the movement t manipulates the face and body like a ball of clay. Although causing a face-altering effect, Badalian’s technique is overall unique, holding a strong and powerful force.
“Tulip”. Digital LightJet print of a hand-cut collage (2010).
“Cummy Loubous” (detail). Porcelain, custom glaze. 8.5″ pair of Mary Jane-style stiletto shoes (2013).
Elizabeth Zvonar is a Canadian artist whose collages and sculptures encounter us as objects of curiosity and contemplation. Her choice of mediums is vast, including brass, stone, porcelain, and hand-cut collage, but no matter what she creates, Zvonar’s work is tied together by a consistent style that is tactfully sexual, critically engaged, and subtly humorous. Her motifs include multiplicities of disembodied hands and fingers, magazine cutouts juxtaposing seductive imagery with the silly or strange, and high-fashion objects (such as porcelain high heels) splattered with a suggestive, white glaze. These works grab our attention and activate our minds, and this is precisely their intention. As Zvonar expresses in a fascinating interview with Here and Elsewhere,
“I like to make things strange and interesting to look at in order to engage. My method is tied to how advertising operates. I tend to use sex blatantly or metaphorically, mimicking advertising strategies [and] pushing the image/concept/work into unfamiliar territory.”
In this process of defamiliarization, Zvonar’s works become perceptual exercises in the effects of familiar and manipulative advertising imagery — the types of images that, as Zvonar acutely points out, inundate our waking lives “should one have their eyes open when walking down a street or in line at a grocery store” (Source). By removing idealized bodies and coveted material objects from their usual, seductive contexts and reconfiguring them in a socially aware manner, Zvonar’s creations cleverly critique the way fashion media and advertising operate on us by fragmenting and sexualizing the body.
Check out Zvonar’s website for a larger collection of her works, including a list of past exhibitions. If you’d like to learn more about her artistic themes and creative processes, I highly recommend reading the interview conducted by Here and Everywhere.
The French paper towel company Sopalin decided to have a little fun and create a tongue in cheek ad campaign that incorporates artistic input, literally. Instead of using the standard selling method of having their product cleaning up a spilled milk scenario Sopalin features the product creating a design in the spilt milk instead. It takes advertising into another level entirely. The designs in the ad are decorative and simple but the idea is highly creative and innovative. The message touches on the virtues of producing art using common found objects (or messes). While this is not new in the art world it definitely is a rarity in the mainstream ad world.
Sopalin’s other advertising ventures have examined gender roles. In one, a husband and wife team are in the kitchen and after she spills something cannot lift up the paper towels. After much fuss, the husband gets up off his chair and lifts the paper towels. The idea of course is that the towels are so strong you need a man to lift them. Its basic concept definitely a bit more creative than your average product sponsorship.
It’s an interesting study to look at how this particular company uses artistic ways to sell a basic product. It mainly speaks to the fact that manufacturers are recognizing more and more the power art has in not only enriching, educating but now selling too. (via 1designperday)
British master jeweler Theo Fennell doesn’t just make your average ring. No, his company goes well beyond the typical diamond jewellery by creating accessories that feature doors and secret compartments engineered into them. They open to reveal tiny painted scenes and small treasures that are inspired by popular novels like The Secret Garden and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Fennell and company’s gold rings have astounding and intricate details. Looking closely at their handiwork, you find things like: individual coins in a pot of gold; a rainbow that’s poking above the clouds; and a ring with a side door that unhinges to reveal a yellow-brick road. Of course, these things don’t come without a price – some of them cost around $30,000.
Fennell’s attitude towards his work is that it should be timeless, and so pairing it with classic literary interpretations makes sense. “Jewellry should be something talismanic and precious, beautifully made to last and not at the ephemeral whim of fashion: it should be truly owned,” he says. “Jewellery has that power – it is a very romantic, sexy and emotional thing.” (Via Demilked)