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.”
Dara Scully is a Spanish writer and photographer who captures dark, poetic scenes verging on fairy tale and myth. Nude figures inhabit the faded forests. Esoteric rituals transpire on quiet leaf beds. Death is present in the form of insects, prone bodies, and bleeding wounds, and rebirth occurs as birds escape their abandoned cages. As beautiful and graceful as Scully’s images is her creative biography, which reveals her sylvan, literary essence:
“Forest creature, winter girl. I like birches and aspen leaves. In my other life, I was a white deer, a fox, or a swallow. I’ve never flown. I drink milk tea and my favorite word is chrysalis. My heart belongs to Chopin and my body to the horses, but I’ve never ridden any. I read Jaeggy, Nabokov, Duras, and Müller. I read because it saves me. […] If I have to choose a sound, I’d say: the wind shaking the branches of the trees. Or rain. I always wear dresses and man shoes. I [have] written since I was thirteen. I’m afraid of moths. I have six moles in my pale chest.” (Source)
The power of conceptual photographers like Scully lies in the ability to tell stories in a single frame. Just as she encapsulates an entire sensorial experience in the above paragraph, each photo is a compressed narrative overflowing with hidden meaning and an emotional presence—the innocence of youth, the pain of growing, the sorrow of death. Blending reality with fiction, Scully employs subtly powerful symbols—such as the dead birds—to speak their meaning. Deeply subjective, her ambiguous scenes allow the viewer to instill their own significance.
The world’s strongest man or woman; you may not even be close to it, but these people might be. Brooklyn based photographer Brian Finke captures an inside look into the pageants of incredibly chiseled muscle men and women of bodybuilding competitions. He not only displays the showmanship of this kind of competition, with the small bikinis and bathing suits, but also the competitors getting ready for their big moment in the spotlight. Men and women that seem to be almost bursting out of their skin with muscle parade themselves proudly for the cameras and judges in this captivating series.
Brian Finke’s photography portrays scenes of interesting happenings of everyday life. His documentary style mixed with a little bit of humor makes his work irresistible. This series of his, titled Most Muscular, can be seen on view at the School of Visual Arts Chelsea Gallery in New York City from August 22nd until September 19th. The exhibit not only features unusual characters with almost unbelievable muscle tone, but also another series of Brian Finke’s titled 2-4-6-8. This slightly offbeat series documents cheerleaders doing their routines, with a slight flavor of humor added in as well. Finke’s photography exhibits vivid colors and dramatic compositions, adding a bit of narrative to his work. Check out more of this artist’s alluring documentary style photography on his Instagram @BrianFinke.