Alva Bernadine is a British photographer known for his color-saturated, surrealist style and subversive content. Contained within his oeuvre are several series of unconventional nude photographs; from conjoined torsos to uncanny perspectives to disembodied legs and fetishized footwear, his works are story-filled portraits that engage and entice as often as they confound (or even repulse). Inspired by surrealist artists such as Rene Magritte and photographers Cheyco Leidmann and Guy Bourdin, Bernadine’s works contain elements of absurdity mixed with eroticism, glamour, mystery, and oftentimes humor.
This particular series incorporates mirrors to attain Bernadine’s signature stylistic effect. He was inspired to create these images when he bought six small mirrors in a £1 shop. “I have used mirrors before in my work but never in multiples,” Bernadine explained in a statement provided to Beautiful/Decay. “After initially trying to get as many into an image as possible, I then started thinking up different permutations, finally working my way back down to one mirror […]. As the mirrors were so small, you can only reflect a small portion of the body with one, which led me to try to reconstitute a woman with several.”
The results are provocative, to say the least. From playful self-examinations to fragments of orgasmic bliss, the images entice us with a unique — but not wholly transparent — form of voyeurism. We can see the nude models engaged in acts that hover between private intimacy and exhibitionism, but we are not given the whole picture; we are never truly certain of what is occurring in the room behind the camera. This ambiguity heightens the erotic effect by taking some control away from the viewer/voyeur in their engagement with the photos. Speaking of his work generally, Bernadine expresses how he is consistently trying to “produce a sort of unresolved picture, an inconclusive narrative, that the viewer has to finish for [him]” (Source). Thus, instead of passive consumption, Bernadine’s images stimulate the imagination, engaging us on both cognitive and erotic levels.
Bernadine’s work has become deservedly well-recognized over the years. He worked his way up as a self-taught artist and collaborated with magazines. He eventually won the Vogue Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Award for young photographers for The Fetish, a series of photographs showing a high-heel shoe in a variety of strange contexts. In 2001, Bernadine published Bernadinism: How to Dominate Men and Subjugate Women, which won him the Erotic Photographer of the Year in Britain (2002). Another book, titled Twisted, recently came out in 2014. Visit Bernadine’s website and Facebook page to follow his fascinating, creative, and unconventional work.
Sculptor Claire Curneen works with everything from porcelain to terracotta, creating figurines that are cathartic and vaguely surreal. Her humanoid sculptures are faceless yet somehow expressive, posed in beseechingly though it would be up to interpretation just what they are looking for.
According to her artist’s statement, Curneen aims to “explore grand themes about the body and the human condition.” This sometimes manifests itself viscerally in her works where human bodies are pierced with thorns or otherwise immobilized. Other pieces are subtler, the figures lost in a shroud of apparent existential angst.
Curneen’s artist statement also says:
“Referencing Roman Catholic imagery and ideology and early Italian Renaissance paintings such as Piero Della Francesca’s ‘Baptism of Christ’, these figures bear bold narratives of saints, martyrs and rites of passage punctuated by often delicate yet dramatic totems to death, re-birth and the sublime.” (via Dark Silence in Suburbia)
If you ever dissected a rodent or amphibian in science class and found it nauseating, then Emily Stoneking’s knitted anatomy might agree with you. Art and science intersect through her Etsy shop called aKNITomy, and she hand-knits artwork featuring dissected frogs, rats, and pigs. The cute and cuddly are pinned (not glued) using T-pins and framed for display on your wall.
Stoneking knits the body of the animal/figure using a kid mohair and silk blend, and then she needle-felts the innards by hand. These adorable creations are the result of the artist’s larger interest, which is using cozy, crafty materials to create objects that usually make people squeamish.
Stefanos created a Euro Banknote Bombing project by incorporating minimal ink bled illustrations of a callous nature and torpid situations. The human figures he incorporates into the Euros embody the social and economic instability in Greece has been facing for the past few years. On a 100 euro, the Grimm Reaper “reaps” in the shadows. A “bomb” effect to showcase social decay and violence. This is just one of the many heartless illustrations that grace the paper.
Stefanos hijacks the European document, exemplifies artwork through a lack of reality, then returns it by spending it-sending it flight for circulation. By defacing the euro, he expresses his dissatisfaction for the economy to share in the hands of others. The graffiti euros have successfully branched all over, showcasing his depiction of this noise that Greece faces.
LOL, I have so many visas, would you like to marry me? No kidding, Leonard Combier. He takes ordinary passports and transforms them into a magnificent compact world of intrinquite drawings, quotes, tiny details and intertwined stamps. Depths of ink cover these passports with Gotham Googly looking characters with large bubble eyes.
His carefully calculated doodles are constructed with hundreds of shapes, forcing you to take a closer look at the passport and dissect the different stories. Eyeballs are common throughout his drawings and staring back at you-makes sense on a passport. This circus spectacle must be a sight for customs officer!
Artist Socrates Mitsios‘ series Postcards from Vegas document in snapshots his journey through Las Vegas and the surrounding desert with his subject, and often collaborator, Actually Huizenga. The photographer’s lively, suedo-glamorous style gives new life to the seduction of the kitschy, Americana that is Las Vegas. In this series, the scantily clad model poses provocatively, and sometimes humorously, in typical Vegas settings such as in a hotel room, in front of a casino, or on top of a slot machine. Each snapshot resembling a postcard, as the model looks somewhat like a tourist in these classic and reminiscent settings. This concept is the result of inspiration taken from the book of postcards starring Cicciolina, the Italian porn star ex-wife of Jeff Koons.
Mitsios model in this series, Huizenga, combined with Vegas’ cheesy glamour, creates a rough, strung out portrayal that is at the same time attractive and desirable. However glamourous, fake castles and costumes surround Huizenga. Her environment is an illusion of luxury that so many desire. These alluring images embody a “live fast, die young” feeling of a young generation looking for adventure and excitement. Full of costumes and props, casinos and lingerie, this series represents a lifestyle of dreaming, a journey through the spirit of Las Vegas.
‘Framed by the fantasyland of Las Vegas, these images are a cross between cheesecake postcards and Americana tongue-in-cheek idealism. Amidst the flurry of cheap promos and raunchy advertisements that litter the Vegas streets, Mitsios’s perceptive camera captures Huizenga’s genuine desire to inhabit a world of erotic ivory-tower make believe.’ –Ryan Linkof, V Magazine
London-based artist Oddly Headdepicts classic films in his series titled Hollywoodland, but it’s all with a dark(er) twist. Using iconic scenes and images from the likes of Poltergeist, Jaws, and The Wizard of Oz, he interjects different narratives. The drowned Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes is still but in Oddly Head’s telling it overlooks happy beach-goers. Likewise, celebrity Simon Cowell’s face appears on the Poltergeist TV rather than its original eerie glow.
By stripping the shocking/memorable parts of the original scenes, Oddly Head takes some luster away from Hollywood. Instead, he’s made them seem trivial, silly, and completely changes the tone. Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music suffers a distressingly-painful fate and is hitched to crosses. This much more sinister than its mostly-cheerful tone. Singing in the Rain also has the same treatment. As Gene Kelly belts out his the lyrics, a homeless man sleeps next to a graffitied door. Hollywoodland is part absurd and part amusing, and will definitely make you look at these films in a different light.
If you enjoy Oddly Head’s work, check out his intricate prints made from thousands of tiny vintage images.
Artist and illustrator Liam Gerrard is a master of trickery – especially when armed with a piece of charcoal in his hand. He draws meticulous combinations of animals (usually dead), pop stars, cultural icons, and beautiful snippets of nature (mostly flowers), that he describes as ‘Semi-Realistic-Gothic-Awesome-Dark-Magic-Black-Tracing’ (Source). Gerrard builds his complicated compositions from different elements to create a surreal hybrid of modern day life. Specializing in portraiture mostly, his work deals with ideas of beauty, life, death and how humankind deals with those complex issues that we are commonly faced with. Leafa Wilson writes about him in her essay:
He apprehends our desire to ‘perve’ at aesthetically beautiful things and people by giving us a few truths we may struggle to look at; ugliness executed with absolute beauty…..He underpins beauty and death through a marriage of Gothic darkness and pop-icon stellar-brightness that totally munts up the readings of his extensive visual vocabulary. Debbie Harry becomes the poster girl for Satan and Frida Kahlo is set aside with her monkeys in a surreal type vignette. (Source)
Gerrard does choose quite gothic material to focus on, but manages to turn it into something that is beautiful and wondrous. He garnered a lot of attention after drawing a 2.5 m charcoal and acrylic painting of convicted murderer Clayton Weatherston. The subject of the controversy had stabbed his 22 year old victim, Sophie Elliott, 216 times and was sentenced to 18 years in jail, without parole. And even with such a gruesome topic that many people would not care to know more about, he somehow managed to create an object of curiosity and interest. And that is enough proof of his immense talent. See more of it after the jump.