From the illuminated, impressionistic water lilies of Monet, to the bright and disjointed abstract forms of Kandinsky, to the thick earthy tones of Van Gogh’s landscapes, most of us can recognize an artist’s signature style at a glance. But photographer Matthias Schaller shows us a new side of these things we may not have seen, or even thought about before. Since 2007, Schaller has been compiling a fascinating historical archive of the palettes, the pigments, the chaos (or order), and the thought patterns of some of the world’s most famous creative brains.
He has photographed over 200 palettes from around 70 painters from the 19th and 20th centuries and is displaying a selection for us to enjoy. His exhibition called Das Meisterstück (The Masterpiece) is on display alongside the Venice Biennale. Having blown up several of his photographs to be around six feet tall, Schaller invites other art-loving fans to enter the creative space of the masters with him. We can marvel at the tools that they used in the same way we are impressed by the final product. These photographs of their palettes easily become the new masterpieces.
Schaller started his fascination with looking ‘behind the scenes’ of an artist’s practice and reputation when he visited Cy Twombly’s studio in Gaeta, Italy. Spotting the painter’s palette, and finding it just as absorbing as the paintings themselves, he started a mission to seek out others.
Brushing the edges of Pop-Surrealism, Bill Dambrova’s expressive paintings explode with color and anatomical imagery. His work is hard to ignore, as his cartoon-like style hits you in the face with exaggerated facial and bodily features. Each piece is like a louder, more graphic and fun illustration from a medical or anatomical textbook. His technique is both abstract and representational, as he paints unnaturally colored organs and molecules moving through his compositions. Pulling inspiration from physical healing and spiritual growth, Dambrova’s work explores the stories and memories held in each of our biology, exposing humankind internally. The artist’s work uncovers not only human anatomy, but the insides of animals as well, unifying our biology. Each painting beautifully shows us the commonality in the biology in living things, while still exploring the unknown. This Phoenician artist investigates themes in science, animism, and archetypes in his work.
Although Dambrova’s work holds traditional imagery, such as animals and a human heart, they are shown in a different light. In his work, bodies are split open, organs function outside the body, and rays of organic light flow through each being. Each composition Dambrova constructs is as intricate as the human anatomy itself, with each color and shape intertwined with the next. The very talented artist is one of the recipients of the Contemporary Forum award given to emerging artists in Arizona. His work can be seen on view now through May 31st at the Phoenix Art Museum.
Dreams, memories, and bodies melt together in the hazy, surreal work of Los Angeles-based photographer Davis Ayer. We featured his otherworldly landscape and double exposure shots last year, wherein Lindsey Rae Gjording eloquently describes him as a “true nostalgist” whose timeless work “allows the viewer to insert their own subconscious desires into the narrative” (Source). In regards to Ayer’s ability to compress emotion, time, space, and consciousness into his photography, this stunning series, entitled Time Travel, is no exception. Here, Ayer again pulls on the magic and semi-lucidity of dreamworlds, using nude bodies as a projection screen for vintage images; among them, you will see trees, beaches, rushing street lights, and the moon, all mapped onto the surfaces and contours of the nude body, turning skin into a visual narrative, like the one that plays in our heads as we close our eyes to sleep while remembering the past and visualizing our feelings.
What makes this series even more curious for discussion is the idea that the images and memories projected onto the bodies are not the models’ own. Certainly, our bodies are vessels of our own experience, but how much can we embody or touch the past? When we feel nostalgia for the “old days” and vintage culture, what are we missing or mourning? By projecting foreign memories (“foreign,” in that no one’s inner experience can ever be exactly simulated), Time Travel moves the human body — vulnerable, powerful, and honest in its nudity — through time and space, transcending memory and lived experience, and connecting a present lifetime with a past one in moments of intensity and reverie.
Steed Taylor uses the open road as a metaphor to skin in his “Road Tattoo” series. Taking designs usually found in tattoo art, Steed uses the same aesthetic and principle but on a much grander scale. He produces commemorative public installations on roads throughout the US much in the same way people add tattoos to their bodies to document a life event. The designs are mostly generic tribal tattoos and loop art seen most commonly on the body as bands around arms and legs. He uses these same ideas on a much larger scale inscribed underneath with names of specific groups he wants to commemorate.
Some ideas Steed has turned into “Road Tattoos” have been Aids and domestic abuse survivors, families of deceased war heroes, and non-denominational prayer groups. They have appeared all over the country and are on display until the paint fades. It documents a part of popular culture that crosses over into a larger scale to draw attention to a segment once thought of as alternative and brings it to the masses where it acts as a way for more of society to identify with the original sentiment since most are familiar with these designs in mainstream culture.
Artist Alice Smeets re-imagines 20th century tarot cards through contemporary photography. Having always been interested in spiritual themes and fascinated by tarot cards, Smeet recreates the many different faces of tarot cards using the streets of Haiti as her subject. Her goal was not just to interpret the deck of tarot cards through her lens, but to also have them hold a deep, personal element. Cards like “Justice” and “The Hanged Man” become more intimate by collaborating with each of her subjects represented in this series.
Each Haitian shown in her Ghetto Tarot cards are actually artists themselves. Smeet, aiming to keep authenticity in her work, collaborated with an artist corporation in Haiti called Atiz Rezistans, or “resistant artists”. The photographer worked with these fellow artists to construct her tableaus to capture the captivating imagery in each card. In fact, Smeet includes the work of each “resistant artist” as props in the series. Working in partnership with these artists, she was able to form a relationship and learn what the word “ghetto” means to them. Smeet states that by titling the series Ghetto Tarot, she is giving the word new meaning, a more positive connotation. By exploring this theme of reappropriation, she discovers new ways of changing ideas and implications about certain imagery and words. Smeet explains,
“If we realize that its a choice whether we look at destruction and see despair or to regard it as the start of something new, we can change the meaning of every word, action and sentiment.”
Maltese artist John Paul Azzopardi puts together delicate sculptures and complex structures made from bone. His figures and objects are a combination of being frightening and entrancing. They are gothic and modern. Architecture and organic. Morbid and energetic. The Maltese artist welds bits of bone together, forming ornate ram’s skulls, haunting bats with outstretched wings, axe-welding menacing mythological creatures, and hybrid beasts with intimidating profiles. Azzopardi is very poetic about his approach to his work – describing the metaphysical aspect to his sculptures:
[It] is a collection of fossilized structures that explores the gentle temperance located within the constitution of sound, i.e. it’s very silent center. The architectural relationship that oscillates back and forth from the simple and the complex to the living and the dead connects space and form, creating existential structures of interwoven silence. The death embedded in it’s form, it’s life. This might confront the spectator with a spectre, the simulacrum of itself that stalls, halts being something in it’s tracks. (Source)
He exploits the nature of the material he is working with. Bones are the things that knit our bodies together, and are also one of the last things to decay. They have a lot of symbolism and spiritualism embedded in them – Azzopardi is making that more apparent and immediate with his art works. He goes on:
Facing truth, man often does not look. S/he does not see, for instance as when confronting the world, the transient. The rules of words then is that what one see, is what one is, and (to admit) that facing truth, we often see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing. (Source)
It seems these sculptures announce to us our impending decay, and for us to embrace it, and yes, to even celebrate it.
In an attempt to finally stop the social stigma surrounding HIV, the German magazine Vangardist has printed over 3000 copies of their latest issue in a special ink infused with HIV+ blood. The blood was taken from 3 different volunteers who are living with the virus, and combined with printing ink at a ratio of 28 parts ink, to 1 part blood. Scientists at Harvard and Innsbruck Universities have come up with a unique way of mixing the two substances, and are certain the hard copies of the magazine carry no risk of infection. Even with all the assurances of the paper being perfectly safe to handle, the concern surrounding HIV is still worrying some critics. It would seem the attitude to the HIV virus is not so different to those of 30 years ago.
Julian Wiehl – the Publisher and CEO of Vangardist recognizes this and thought they could help inform people on the touchy subject. He says:
The editorial team at Vangardist is committed to dealing with a wide variety of topics affecting our readers. We believe that as a lifestyle magazine it is our responsibility to address the issues shaping society today. With 80% more confirmed cases of HIV being recorded in 2013 than 10 years previously, and an estimated 50% of HIV cases being detected late due to lack of testing caused by social stigma associated with the virus. This felt like a very relevant issue for us to focus on not just editorially but also from a broader communications stand point. (Source)
The launch of the Spring issue was designed to coincide with the Life Ball – one of the most important HIV events in the world, held in Vienna. The magazine has been available to subscribers since April 28th, and there is an online campaign that aims to breakdown the taboo. Be sure to read more about it here. (Via Fastcodesign)
Lina Scheynius is a Swedish model-turned-photographer who skillfully captures both the rawness and tenderness of intimate moments. Inspired by “the forest, books, sleep, music, trains, light, [and] maps,” her images are portraits of ephemeral beauty, peace, and quiet desire, distilling life into the haze of a nude, mid-afternoon dream (Source). Recalling moments of post-coital bliss, the models (often, Lina herself — see her Diary images) sit and lay on unmade beds as sunlight kisses their warmed flesh. The power of touch is explored, as hands grasp together or press into the sole of a foot. Elsewhere, in a flash of intensity that eclipses the whole world, eyes meet in a dark room. Lina’s photography even finds powerful sensuality in unexpected places, such as flesh-toned blossoms or breathless horizons of undulating clouds.
While some of Lina’s photographs recall stronger erotic images — the hand curled into a circle, or lifted undergarments — it is candid, but never crude; emotional and arousing, but never sensationalized. The use of natural light makes the images even more genuine, washing out the skin and warming it at the same time, illuminating soft hairs and creases. Her entire approach is organic. As she writes on her FAQ page:
“I take the day as it comes. I work with natural light so if there is a cloud over the sun then that will effect the mood of the day / picture. And I work with a small automatic camera that allows me to move around a lot. And I never give more directions than I have to, avoiding [the need] to force things.” (Source)