These bizarre photographs by British artist James Ostrer feature himself and others covered in thick, sticky-looking layers of candy, frosting, and other junk food. Decadent edibles look hardened and become a strange replacement for conventional masks and armor.
Candy and sweets are often associated with joy, but looking at Ostrer’s work its hard to feel that way. They aren’t delightful, but are visceral. Frosting is slathered on haphazardly with licorice used to create outlines. Sometimes, the lines are droopy and it appears that the entire piece is melting. The result is a peculiar and unsettling group of photographs that speaks to the sickening amount of junk food we have available as well as a reinterpretation of the self portrait.
These photos are currently on display in his exhibition Wotsit All About at the Gazelli Art House in London through September 11th of this year.
The surreal collages of men and plants that Laurent Millet creates in his series L’Herbier portray a strong connection between nature and the man. But what is that connection? The roots of the plants are always embedded in the body, replacing veins and organs, speaking of an essential. Is the body a receptacle for these plants? Are the plants a kind of succubus, living in and through the human form?
Millet’s work also connotes a strong sense of the fragility of life, echoing Genesis, “For dust you are and to dust you will return.” Plants growing in and through the body are a strong reminder of mortality, but also that there is life in death. Nothing ever really ends.
On his website, Millet’s tags for this work are revealing. “Copertino, homme, machine, vegetal, sciences, naturelles, herbier.” Man and machine, science and vegetation. Stylistically these disparate elements come together in photographs combined with botanical and anatomical illustrations. The men photographed seem preternaturally still. Are they already dead?
The series opens with this quote:
“[…] she with a knife did off the head from the body, as best she could, and wrapping it in a napkin, laid it in her maid’s lap. Then, casting back the earth over the trunk, she departed thence, without being seen of any, and returned home […] Then, taking a great and goodly pot, of those wherein they plant marjoram or sweet basil, she set the head therein, folded in a fair linen cloth, and covered it with earth, in which she planted sundry heads of right fair basil of Salerno; nor did she ever water these with other water than that of her tears or rose or orange-flower water.”
Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, 1349-1353, translated by John Payne, 2007, Project Gutenberg ebook
Grotesque but beautiful, it is a reminder of how there must be life after death.
Swiss artist Till Rabus combines hyperrealism aesthetics with a touch of surreal scenarios to create his sexually charged, marginal paintings. Rabus’s inconvenient art consists mostly of suggestive anthropomorphic still lives and tangled up limbs, all engaging in provoking sexual situations. His immaculate attention to real-life detail makes it hard to distinguish a painting from a photograph.
Regardless of the intended eroticism, Rabus’s paintings are far from vulgar. His works rarely depict straightforward sexual objects, rather use symbols to create the desired connotation. Viewer is left with phallic confectionery, oysters and other inanimate objects that stimulate the imagination. Even the orgiastic compositions don’t reveal the full story but depend on observer’s ability to give personal meaning.
The clash between hyper-realistic style and symbolic, surreal content is what makes Rabus’s works so eye-catching. An also unexpected symmetry and palette of complementary colors induces a sense of order in an otherwise chaotic Rabus’s world of fantasy. (via Asylum Art)
In 2012, Paris-based photographer Floriane de Lassée was in Ethiopia when she came up with her “How Much Can You Carry?” series. While there, she took notice of the varieties of weight that people would carry above their shoulders. Since Ethiopia, de Lassée has traveled to 6 other countries - Rwanda, Nepal, India, Japan, Indonesia, Bolivia, and Brazil - documenting an even more diverse array of humanity and its essentials. de Lassée says, “‘How Much Can You Carry?’” is above all a tribute to the bearers of life; those whose life is heavy and where smiles and laughter become the key to a livable existence. This series can be read on two levels. The first refers to these modern caryatids; the second, more secret, talks about various weights we all carry, whether physical or psychological (the weight of tradition, education, family, etc).” (via junk culture)
Thomas Demand meticulously recreates scenes from photographs he finds through mainstream media entirely out of paper. The images are next to indiscernible from the real thing, and complicate the process a step further, the artist destroys his creations and only presents a large-scale photo print of his paper sculptures. Thus the viewer is not allowed to examine the execution, and is left all the more baffled by the precision of his pieces. He never includes people in his work, perhaps for logistical reasons as much as aesthetic, but it gives the photos an eerie quality that was already present in the clean cuts of the paper. No matter his effort to maintain a natural messiness and used quality to the spaces he creates, there is still subtle evidence that something is off, due to the lack of ware on the objects themselves.
Demand also creates animations (see a clip after the jump) using the same paper sculpture technique. His most ambitious production is Pacific Sun. Demand took the footage from a YouTube clip and completely recreated it in paper (editing out the people, of course). The clip is from the security camera on a cruise ship caught in a storm in the South Pacific. The animation tracks hundreds of objects – from tables and chairs to a straw – sliding back and forth across the dining room as the ship pitches in the waves.
The photographic series Day & Night by Atlanta, Georgia-based photographer Forest McMullin showcases the dual lives that people lead. As the title may suggest, it captures the difference between what people do during the day versus their evening activities. This often results in the visual dichotomy of the socially acceptable paired with the taboo.
Each composition features side-by-side images of people or a couple. In the photograph on the left, we often see them in professional attire sitting in their living room or at their job. The image on the right, however, tells a different tell. We see the same person clad in leather, completely nude, tied up, gagged, and more. It’s a stark contrast and a side that only a select few get to see.
McMullin’s photographs are meant to challenge the notion of what is considered normal and acceptable. Obviously, in the sexualized images are not seen as common and even deviant to some viewers but are a form of expression and freedom nonetheless. (Via Dark Silence in Suburbia)
A beautiful car crash. A lovely death. Chilean artist Fernando Gomez Balbontin paints haunted and haunting scenes in his series “Thoughts About Life and Death.” The subject matter is difficult, though not gory. Crumpled cars rest on roadsides, smashed and crushed beyond repair—these can’t be anything but fatal crashes. The figures next to the devastated vehicles are often otherworldly. A seeming specter of death wears a dark hood. Girls’ faces are obscured with blobs and blotches of color. Is it blood? It’s impossible to be sure. A priest stands next to one ruined car, the pope another. A man flees the scene.
Yet there’s beauty among the wreckage. The colors are often candy bright. A geometric structure floats, untethered, dripping in a way that’s reminiscent of tears, or blood. There are lots of these drippings in the works, adding an organic element to the mechanized disasters.
Balbontin paints the loveliest skies—peach and purple, cyan and gold. Nothing should go wrong underneath those skies, and yet…
“Denying death is denying life. So perhaps it is necessary to understand that tragedy is not the supposedly reality of death. Tragedy is about not accepting this possibility and consequently, not having enough time to live.”
Yugoslavian Bernharda Xilko‘s illustrations are stark nightmares packed with active nudes and foreboding giants exploring unfolding landscapes and black-eyed lovers. Xilko’s sexually charged figures climb scaffolding, push open folding screens, and confront over-sized replicas in barren mountain ranges where platforms unstably rest. There always seems to be a sense of teamwork, but it is teamwork that is either ignorant of the task’s ultimate result or work that feels intentionally ominous. When clothing is adorned it often feels as if it is from the decades of black and white television which provides a conceptual link for the lack of color, and the garbs warn feel blue-collar and commonplace, making these figure’s lives and mission feel almost ant-like in its diligence and insignificance. The work shares the vibe that the Twilight Zone often evokes but in a more grotesque and explicit manner.
Bernharda is also a co-founder of NOVO DOBA, an annual Belgrade comix and underground culture festival that shares his aesthetic of dark worlds. You can also see more of his work here.