Susannah Martin is a German-based artist whose subject matter is timeless. Her realistically-rendered pastel drawings and oil paintings feature nude subjects who are exploring an idyllic landscape. As they wade through streams and pass by mountains, men, women, and children encounter different wild life. The poses and scenarios aren’t sexually motivated, and instead we see Martin’s figures presented in a much more classical, art historical way. She explains:
The history of the painted nude in landscape documents exactly this eternal longing. Setting aside for a moment, any erotic motivations, the nude has always also been a symbol for man in his purist form, his original form, his primordial form. Stripped of all social indicators; clothing, possessions , etc., he exists independent of identity in a time of pure being ( ein Zeit des Seins). Being is our eternal home. Nature does not possess an identity, it is. The nude in a natural setting has always been associated with our return to a time of pure being, a return home.
As time has passed and technology rapidly advances, we become more disconnected with the natural world; so much so that we’re more of visitors than inhabitants. Martin goes on to write:
Nature is no longer home to us, she is much more a tourist destination. Certainly no representation of the nude in landscape in the 21st century can escape conveying our extreme estrangement from nature, intentional or not. There is an unavoidable strangeness or feeling of dislocation which envelopes the most sincere attempt at harmony. How absurd man seems stripped of his possessions and identity crutches and yet it is indisputable, he gains strength, clarity and beauty when we contemplate him abstractly , as a phenomenon of nature. My experimentation with contemporising the nude in landscape takes place within this framework of tension between these two poles of self-perception.
… if we accept that realism now includes virtual realism, that is it incorporates a high degree of improbability, a hyperbolic realism. Man may return once again to his original landscape, his eternal home, all be it this time as a tourist, a primordial tourist.
Seattle painter Jesse Higman is the creator of a world where everything shimmers on an exaggerated scale, either macroscopic or microscopic. With the use of “Illuvium,” Higman creates within his paintings an affect of an unmistakably organic, earthly feel. Using masonite as a canvas, Higman dilutes acrylic paint mixed with mica flakes and pours the paintings onto the canvas, which is weighted to allow a slope which the paint will travel to. Illuvium, a geological term referring to the way particles settle on flood plains, is really about the art of these mica flakes settling along their course. The resulting textures are planetary, cell-like, while the mica flakes grant a shimmering presence that breathes life and density into his work.
Looking at his paintings, which are large, you see that they could be of many things: an aerial view of a retreating tide from a network of grasslands, cells and tissue seen under a microscope, the nearly mythical creatures that live in the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean, the terrain of another planet, a spray of blood, the moon.
What is interesting about this method is the active role that time and chance play in his work. Higman casts a single gesture, pouring the paint in a certain direction on a chosen part of the board, and then, for the most part, the painting is out of his hands. The mica flakes travel and settle on their own accord, an outcome that cannot be calculated or predicted.
Higman sums up the importance of his process:
“As I sit with a cup of paint in my hand, on the edge of a blank board that took days to set up, I try not to lurch forward like a horse into the stream. I promise to take more time to see how the water is flowing before I move. Once I begin, there is no stopping. Pouring over the same place twice creates craters and destroys the quietly settling particles. Investing too much energy into the system creates aberrations like cancers. I find that curiosity, confidence and play leads to beauty.” (source)
Abramson, who died three years ago, shot on a Leica and spent a lot of time shooting in Chicago’s South Side, where he compiled work for his book “Light: On The South Side,” of which this work is a continuation of. Often compared to Brassai, who photographed the Parisian nightlife scene, Abramson showed a new side of Chicago. Abramson has work in the permanent collections of many institutions, such as the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and the California Museum of Photography.
Washington artist Justin Gibbens combines his training in both scientific illustration and traditional Chinese painting to envision new animals and create a new take on nature in his paintings. These paintings, rich in color and somewhat melancholic in content, exist in a time all their own. Gibbens received a bachelor’s in drawing and painting, then went on to complete a certificate for Scientific Illustration before studying Chinese painting in China. That, and further travel to the Asian continent, reflects many of the stylistic and color choices you see in his paintings. His work beautifully implements and unifies all of the niche skills he studied.
Gibbens creates work that is hard to describe. You can’t take your eyes off of it. The coloring is poetic, the symbology is striking and bold, the line work is subtle and delicate. There is something so simple and yet so involving in these compositions. They are completely encompassing. They mean something to you, even if you cannot articulate what, there is a connection. Perhaps it is the austerity of the animals and birds, their graceful poses, perhaps it is the subdued tones, or even the archaic setting: like it is not just a depiction of a bird flying, but a study of the entire history referenced within the ephemeral gesture of a wing, a bee, a last breath. These works are layered in meaning; and there are many tiers to explore in search of the words for your own story or his, or you can just step back and appreciate these paintings for the beauty of what they are.
As said on his artist statement: “Gibbens’ stylized and embellished beasts speak of evolution, mutation and biodiversity, and perhaps serve as cautionary tales and stand-ins for our anthropocentric selves. By lifting the formal conventions of classic natural science illustration, Gibbens imagines legendary and diabolical beasts through the lens of a 19th century field artist.”
To see his current show, “Avatars and Shapeshifters,” which will be up through September 27th in Seattle, go and visit PUNCH Gallery.
Tomoo Gokita’s abstracted erotic paintings have a very nostalgic feel. As a child, Gokita snuck to read his father’s playboys, which he says are still a big influence on him now. His father created the images for advertisements in Playboy for its launch in Japan in 1975. Gokita now keeps the entire collection in his studio, and this influence shows heavily in his work. The curves and teasing stances of his characters are obvious references to such imagery. The forms and colouring make for a very retro feel, but the strange dot-eyes or the patterned zigzag head of the tuxedoed man have more of an Internet age vibe.
Gokita never reveals faces, except for the subtle suggestions in the dots. Often he flattens them completely or creates intestinal-looking deformities oozing from their head. Gokita says that he doesn’t depict faces because he became tired of them, and now he is instead interested in masks: “to hide a face and to become a different character.” This too seems to relate to his fascination with the women in Playboy. Although the images are extremely revealing, they’re also highly composed, and act almost like a mask of sexuality. Both the paintings and the images they are inspired from are a fantasy or a caricature of a woman’s true and much more deeply complex sexuality. Gokita’s paintings reduce them to be even more elemental, and also reveal their oddity. This is done very acutely due to his respect and love for the imagery. It’s a fascinating way to examine the inner workings of commercial erotic images. (Via Hunted Projects)
As a generation in Palestine confronts misery, violence, and rejection, the hip hop scene is an outlet to express themselves. Photographer Pierre Mérimée and journalist Jacques Denis capture the young people involved in this scene in their new book, Intifada Rap. In it, we meet MWR’s Mahmoud Shalabi, the girls of Arapyot, and the “veterans” on the scene, including Said Mourad, the voice of the first Intifada.
The book’s press release describes it as:
A dive into the heart of the Palestinian hip hop scene, Intifada Rap bears witness to the incredible strength of the musical movement, from the suburbs of Tel Aviv through to Ramallah. Pierre Mérimée and Jacques Denis’ work shines a glaring light on the reality of Palestinian rap while offering an unprecedented view into the daily lives of a generation confronted with misery, violence and rejection, fighting back against it all to escape their imposed fates. Far from the shocking image of television news and the continual discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the two journalists have documented the day to day lives of youth facing a dark future, for whom hip hope is more than just an escape. Armed only with their words, these men and women on the cusp of their twenties express their need for freedom, hope and equality through lucid texts and heavy beats.
Martin Eder combines two common subjects in his oil paintings and comes up with something surprisingly seductive, erotic, even perverse. Painting naked girls mostly in domestic scenes, accompanied by over sized fluffy cats, his work has a surreal kitschy feel, like some sort of illustrative pornographic fairy tale book. Eder places these women in a magical dreamlike setting, with the cats either looking on disdainfully, or not interested at all in the situation happening around them.
Quite often the girls are in some sort of intimate activity – perhaps in a sorority room during down time. Surrounded by these adorable cats it seems as if the ladies have a special bond with their pets, there’s something quite secretive happening. They seem to mimic each other, or at least share an understanding of one another.
Eder manages to paint in a cute and sexually suggestive way at the same time, and this has confused some people, even created a bit of controversy. He is surprised about some reactions people have to his art:
“I don’t know what’s provocative about my work. I’m painting things that are absolutely ordinary, like a naked human or a house pet. Where’s the problem? What’s provocative about these things? If I were painting a bunch of hanged people, people wouldn’t be interested. But a pet, yes a pet, is apparently provocative.”
Also working with the same subject in watercolors, Eder has quite the impressive fascination with girls, cats, girls and cats, and cats and girls.
Dan Colen has been dubbed in the past one of Warhol’s Children, a famous or notorious – depending on which critic you’re asking – New York post-pop prince. His earlier work was made of gum and simulation bird droppings, and although his artwork received heavy criticism for imitating or ridiculing artists and the high-art community, he continued to be successful and his career flourished. It seems there’s always a place for the unaffected artist-rock-star character type.
Recently, Colen has taken a more subdued approach to his practice. In light of the death of his good friend and artist contemporary Dash Snow, who died of an overdose in 2009, Colen has tried to curb his own lifestyle choices. This slow down is reflected in his artwork, namely his current exhibition at Gagosian: Miracle Paintings. Perhaps in the context of another artist, paintings of star streams and neon explosions would be a bold subject, but in comparison to his whoopee cushion installation Blowin in the wind, the medium is much more conventional and less provoking.
The feeling in the paintings is of excitement and solemnity. They’re easier to digest but still pack a visual punch. There’s life, death, and tranquility. It’s probably a pivotal moment in Colen’s career. Will he be able to remain successful without the contrarian stunts he is known for? It should also be considered that these paintings are much more pleasant to consume: Is he riding the comfort of his position in the New York art community, or pushing new personal boundaries? Personally I enjoy this series, but could also see how some of his fans might be disappointed in the relatively understated nature of the works.
Miracle Paintings is on at Gagosian until October 18th.