Ikenaga Yasunari paints tranquil portraits of women immersed in elegant floral patterns. His work is a curious blend of traditional Japanese-style paintings (nihonga) and modern imagery. Whereas nihonga manifests itself in Yasunari’s bold, monochromatic contrasts and the absence of outlines in the patterns, the subjects are all donned in modern clothing, and their hair and makeup also convey a distinctly contemporary style. Yasunari’s chosen materials are based in tradition, involving a combination of sumi-ink (soot ink) and mineral pigments painted on linen cloth. In exploring modern subjects using traditional techniques, he reinvests an older cultural, artistic practice with an ongoing significance.
The beauty of Yasunari’s work arrives in the interplay between complexity and serenity; much like Gustav Klimt’s decorative paintings wherein patterns coalesce around a highlighted female figure, Yasunari’s works strike a balance between the undulating, seamless background and the subject embraced in its flow. The gentle sepia tones likewise enhance the paintings’ quiet, almost autumnal, atmosphere. Blending gentle imagery with harmonious compositions, Yasunari’s works are meditative portraits embodying youth, reverie, and dreams.
A book filled with natural, unretouched images of naked women. Matt Blum and his wife Katy Kessler have both collaborated on the Nu Project, a concept and a book re-defining the beauty of the body. In the intimacy of their own homes, women over 21 unveil their bodies, as it is, with no artifice. Matt Blum, the photographer, shows up without knowing anything about the woman. The only requirements are no clothing, no make-up and only natural lighting.
There’s been nothing but positive feedback from the women involved and the women witnessing the project. In a digital world where the use of photoshop is standard, it is refreshing to watch women feeling comfortable within their own skin. The Nu Project is changing the way women see themselves. It gives them the opportunity to relate to other women’s insecurities and hopefully realize that their body is beautiful. These photographies of ordinary women shot in their environment reflect honesty. They do not only show their body as it is; they also reveal their inner personalities, the soul behind the flesh; sending the message that a body is an envelope and that true beauty is what shines and enlightens the shot.
The project launched in 2005, and a book has already been printed. As the phenomenon continues to grow on social media, Matt and Katy decided to edit a sequel which will come out if enough funds are collected, follow the instructions on the Nu Project website to help a beautiful project come to life.
French artist Fabian Mérelle creates surreal illustrations that are as nightmarish as they are beautiful. Rendering incredibly detailed scenes with a dark side, his depictions of monsters and strange creatures are reminiscent of Goya’s more sinister illustrations. Fabian Mérelle constructs fantastic and elaborate scenes of dreamlike proportion, stretching the imagination and filling our minds with mystery. Each scene is like a fairytale or fable that may not have a happy ending. The foul creatures that invade Mérelle’s intriguing work seem to have come from mythology or legend.
The drawings are showing an obsession for detail veering on mania and pointing out the precision of a line layed minutely with China ink. If he pays homage to the Little Nemo comics, he projects the spectator in a universe much more complex, mixing evil spirits, watches and childhood fears. -Fabian Mérelle
Many of Fabian Mérelle’s drawings are somewhat simple in nature, but speak volumes to the artist’s skill once we examine the attention to detail made with ink. His muted palette is balanced with a shadowy atmosphere and a hazy mood. What is so amazing about the artist’s work is that even the most bizarre subject is anatomically correct, even with gargoyles picking at the figure’s body, an elephant standing on its back, or when the figures is halfway turning into a fallen tree. Although holding an ominous tone, Mérelle’s illustrations captivate us and throw us head first into childlike imagination.
PUTPUT is a Swiss/Danish artist duo based in Copenhagen who explore the perceptual effects of putting everyday objects in surprising contexts. In an installation called “Fruitless” at Lust and the Apple Gallery in Temple, Scotland, they have created a “greenhouse” of faux plants. From a distance, the glass structure appears to be brimming with verdant life, but upon closer inspection, the pots are filled with “dead” objects, such as toys, grooming products, and other household goods. Arranged together in their pots, the objects take on a new meaning; suddenly their design supersedes their banal utility, allowing the viewer to appreciate and contemplate the various shapes and textures that otherwise go unnoticed.
In the above video, the artists ask a compelling question: can an object dream? And if it does, would it dream of being something entirely different? Empowered by their new “purposes,” the items take on an illusory life; two recorders, placed in dirt, seem to channel the energy of young bamboo, while elsewhere, bag clips appear to sprout with an eager vitality. The pseudo-consciousness of the objects arrives through a radical shift in our perception of them, but just like the barren materials that compose them, the faux plants’ dreams are “fruitless”: “We tried to fulfill that dream of an object to be something completely different—which it never will be,” the artists explain. Nevertheless, PUTPUT has arranged a fascinating exercise for transforming everyday objects into something more beautiful and profound.
We featured the illustrations of Australian artist Tom Littleson (aka, Dilly) in 2011, and he is also one of the artists featured in Beautiful/Decay’s Book 9, which examines the seven deadly sins through the lens of contemporary art. Dilly’s illustrations fall into the “Wrath” category, but there are many more incredible artists to explore in Book 9, including Jeremy Kost’s sexually-charged and explorative Polaroids (Lust), and Libby Black’s colorful paper sculptures of coveted, material possessions (Envy). For centuries, the seven sins have influenced the Western imagination in discerning “good” behavior from “bad” impulses, and Book 9 gives you the exclusive opportunity to see how groundbreaking artists are navigating these distinctions in the present-day world.
Dilly’s illustrations are a drastic combination of immaculate detail and excessive rage. In a series titled The Mind’s Apocalypse, Dilly has drawn the hyper-realistic portraits of various men, capturing everything from their individual hairs to wrinkles and beard scruff. The contemplative beauty of these pieces, however, is shattered by the grotesque, self-mutilating acts the men are engaged in; with expressions of passion and madness, they tear open their own skin, self-cannibalize, and anoint themselves in blood. Some of them are screaming in what could be pain or rage. The greyscale faces with bright red gore are brutally beautiful, and despite their stomach-turning intensity, it is hard to look away.
Limited copies of Book 9 are still available on the B/D shop. Click here to grab yours before they are gone for good.
Emerald Rose Whipple captures innocent moments and transforms them into large-scale oil paintings. The result is a modern dream-like landscape reminiscent of Monet’s Impressionism. The subjects are the artist’s friends and models she knows from her former career in fashion. The loose strokes applied to the color scheme chosen by the artist create a tie and dye effect around the portraits, creating an eerie atmosphere.
Looking like photographies, the pixel paintings combine the aesthetic of classical 19th century paintings with modern snapshots taken by an smartphone. The purpose of Emerald Rose Whipple is to stay away from any medium that’s disposable. To perceive and project the essence of each individual on a canvas is an intense process requiring the artist to meditate before a painting session. She doesn’t want to inject any negativity into her work as it would translate immediately.
She is inviting the viewer into a world of reverie and to let go of any misconception. Obsessed with the painter Balthus and especially with the painting Thérèse Dreamingrepresenting a young lady sitting in a nonchalant pose, she is fascinated by the original non sexual intention of the painter. She is suggesting that the viewers, when looking at her artwork, disconnect from their reality to dive into the reality of her paintings; reflecting from far and coming up with their own interpretation and visualizing natural beauty.
With the availability of digital mapping systems, the tabletop globe seems almost like a vestige of ancient times. The globes we do encounter—in our classrooms, or in antique stores—are either cheap and mass-produced or delicate and expensive. In a fascinating project to reinvigorate the art of globe-making, Peter Bellerby of Bellerby & Co. Globemakers is creating globes entirely by hand, from stretching the gores (the strips of paper) and applying them carefully onto the sphere, to painting and illustrating the maps. The process takes at least 6 months to complete, and it’s not easy—without careful measurements, the globe will remain incomplete. Blending science with art, a perfection-derived sense of beauty inspires Bellerby’s work.
Bellerby’s project began when he was trying to find a good-quality globe for his father’s 80th birthday. His options were limited or unsatisfying, so he decided to create his own globe from scratch—an endeavor into which he poured months of research, money, and work. Realizing that there was a lack of globes being made by hand, Bellerby created his studio in 2008. Now, he works with a team of passionate (and patient) artists to bring back this ancient craft, creating everything from mini artisan desk globes to the “Churchill,” a behemoth globe spanning 127cm. His work has been widely recognized, and deservedly so; in an age when Google Maps magnifies and digitally fragments our perceptions of the earth, Bellerby’s globes demonstrate an intimate understanding of and respect for our planet as a whole.
Michelle Kingdom uses thread like paint in her highly expressive embroidery of peculiar situations. Her dense embroidery builds up layers of colors and textures, using each stitch to create intricate compositions. Although small in scale, each composition seems to hold endless mystery as it illustrates captivating narratives that are somewhat dreamlike in nature. The artist embraces the use of the thread as a line, as she often connecting the figures included her in work. It is amazing how Michelle Kingdom uses a simple thread to create shadow and depth in her incredibly detailed artwork.
Michelle Kingdom’s surreal work expresses truth and illusion, feelings of expectation and loss. They are small in scale but contain a large amount of emotion and depth. Each of her pieces depicts quirky, ominous scenes full of fun and color. However, we can feel a palpable sense of uncertainty as we are left questioning what exactly happening to the subjects. Her work portrays both beauty and Michelle Kingdom explains further her impressive body of work.
“My work explores psychological landscapes, illuminating thoughts left unspoken. I create tiny worlds in thread to capture elusive yet persistent inner voices. Literary snippets, memories, personal mythologies, and art historical references inform the imagery; fused together, these influences explore relationships, domesticity and self-perception.”