Sculptor Bruno Walpoth’s specific technique of wood working is a 400-year-old craft that originates from the Italian valley he grew up in. He has used this method, now removed from the religious context it originated within, for decades, in his creation of wooden sculptures of nondescript people, posed naturally. What has emerged is a body of work that is deceivingly realistic. From the photographs alone it is not always easy to tell that you aren’t seeing a real person; the pieces are teeming with life. He has become so masterful with a chisel and file that he can precisely replicate the curve and texture of human skin. When he is done the wood appears so absolutely smooth and soft, it could be mistaken as a model covered in powder. This is not accomplished easily, Walpoth has confided it often takes him two months to finish a life-sized sculpture. Some remarkable photographs have been taking of the sculptures placed in nature. One in particular, of a boy in shorts standing on a dock, gains such a hauntingly cinematic aspect, given the melancholy poise and demeanor of the sculpture. The common theme amongst the works is their meditative air; the pensive nature with which they stand, almost as if considering in which direction to begin moving once they break free from their eternal stillness.
The faces in UK artist Carl Beazley’s portraits are twisted and multiplied, clearly surreal, yet based on real faces with their pores and blemishes. Completely self-taught, the 26-year old artist credits his unique point of view to being able to find his own voice absent the outside influence of teachers or mentors.
“….by not going to University and not studying the all different painting techniques from history, I feel it has given me the freedom of learning from trial and error. I am always trying to look for something new and original that’s never been done before, and although I love the paintings of the old masters, it is important to me to look to the future so that in a hundred years from now we have our own history, not just a regurgitated version of the generation that came before us ……if we don’t try to take art to the next level by looking forward, we will just end up going in circles.”
It’s an interesting view of an art education, especially in light of the fact that of the artists whose works are influential to him, Picasso attended several art schools and Francis Bacon was an art school tutor. For all of the interesting ideas and successful execution of his work, it’s clear that Carl Beazley is just starting out in art, and in life.
“I’m fully aware that I’m only at the very early stages of this artistic journey and I have a hell of a lot of experimenting and searching to do before I’ll be totally happy. In fact I don’t think I’ll ever be content with my work, which is a good thing because it keeps you going! In a weird way, I’m content in not being content. (Source)”
It will be interesting to see how Beazley’s art progresses, and to follow his career to find out if he ever finds any value in learning from the past to change his view of the future. Perhaps he’d find that an excellent art education is more than landscapes and art history and color theory. His work is very good—maybe allowing outer voices in could help make it great.
San Diego-based photographer Chris Keeney might have orchestrated the series PetCam, but it’s not his artistic eye that captured the shots. No, instead he handed the job over to an unlikely set of collaborators: animals, including his dog Fred and cat Alice. Chickens, pigs, cows, and guinea pigs living all around the world partake in the fun with a lightweight camera that’s tailored to their size. Keeny set the shutter to click at specified intervals of time that range from a fraction of a second to many seconds.
The photographer stresses that these cameras don’t impede the movement or happiness of the subjects, and they’re given free reign to go about their day: exploring sights and sounds, relaxing under a car, and scaling rooftops. For us, the results present a view that we don’t often see – one that’s from the vantage point of an animal. Some of the photos are distorted, others confusing, but all are intriguing; they provide us a look into what catches these creatures’ eyes as the move throughout the world.
Jon Rafman has been featured a few times on Beautiful/Decay, but this time it is for his 9-eyes blog curation project. It’s named 9-eyes for the camera Google Maps uses to create ‘Street View’, and he has managed to find some very captivating images. Each one holds mystery, as you wonder how such a moment might have been captured. Some are more easily explained than others, of course, such as the blue car run into a ditch. Others are not so much mysterious as seemingly improbable or exciting (how did it happen that the monkey looked straight at the camera just as the Google Van rolled by?) The most interesting, though, are the ones for which you cannot find an explanation. Here is where your imagination runs free, and the magic happens. This is because of the uniformity of the format, and our familiarity with Google ‘Street View’.
It is understood that Google ‘Street View’ photographs are taken by a camera atop a van as it journeys across the world. It is firmly stationed in reality. Still, we are provided with these surreal images, captured entirely by chance. It’s exciting, and creates wonder in the viewer to see something that is difficult to imagine could be real, yet seemingly must be, because it’s actually less believable that it isn’t. Having seen Donnie Darko, I can’t help but imagine that the watery trail left behind the vehicle in the second picture is that same kind of time path. Obviously it is not, but what makes these images so exceptional is that they did happen, whether by error or by some means outside our rational understanding, and so we are allowed to let ourselves imagine how they’ve come to be. It’s the closest we come to objective documentation of the world we live in, and it still manages to be surprising without our purposeful interference.
Photographer Richard Mosse has been capturing life in Eastern Congo for over 3 years. His work is a surreal representation of the beauty and tragedy in war and destruction. Using Kodak Aerochrome, a 16mm infrared film, originally designed for military reconnaissance, he depicts soldiers and landscapes in a sickly, hyper-real candyfloss pink.
The film registers chlorophyll in live vegetation and depicts the lush Congolese landscape in vibrant hues invisible to the human eye. His photographs are bizarre images of soldiers wearing camouflage uniforms in different shades of magenta, holding babies or guns.
His latest film project “The Enclave” is an attempt to make visible the invisible. Since 1998, over 5 million people have been killed from war-related causes in The Democratic Republic of Congo. Tackling an issue that is relatively unheard of, Mosse says in a recent interview with the British Journal of Photography:
“I wanted to export this technology to a harder situation, to up-end the generic conventions of calcified mass-media narratives and challenge the way we’re allowed to represent this forgotten conflict… I wanted to confront this military reconnaissance technology, to use it reflexively in order to question the ways in which war photography is constructed.”
The idea of The Impossible Image is central to his work. Both relating to capturing something usually unseen, and also working in an area of the world usually inaccessible to, and not documented by artists – that of war journalism.
By using this rare filming technique, Mosse challenges our very perception of war and violence. He is able to pick out a whole different side of military life, encouraging curiosity, and definitely empathy.
Although he has been dead a few years, the enigmatic and masterfully talented Sigmar Polke (1941- 2010) is not soon to be forgotten. Largely evasive of being pin-pointed into any one area of craft, Polke was an exceptional postwar generation artist who crossed all genres and utilized his excessive wit and intelligence to comment on the world he lived in. The largest showing of his work to date is being presented at various museums in the world. Having just closed at the MoMA in New York, it will open up for exhibition at the Tate Modern in October 2014 before going to the Museum Ludwig in Germany in 2015.
The exhibition write-up from the MoMA show summarizes his legacy:
“Sigmar Polke (German, 1941–2010) was one of the most voraciously experimental artists of the twentieth century. This retrospective is the first to encompass the unusually broad range of mediums he worked with during his five-decade career, including painting, photography, film, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, television, performance, and stained glass, as well as his constant, highly innovative blurring of the boundaries between these mediums. Masquerading as many different artists—making cunning figurative paintings at one moment and abstract photographs the next—he always eluded easy categorization.
Beneath Polke’s irreverent wit, promiscuous intelligence, and chance operations lay a deep skepticism of all authority—artistic, familial, religious, and governmental. It would be impossible to understand this attitude, and the creativity that grew out of it, without considering Polke’s biography and its setting in twentieth-century European history: in 1945, near the end of World War II, his family fled Silesia (in present-day Poland) for what would soon be Soviet-occupied East Germany, and then escaped again, this time to West Germany, in 1953. Polke grew up at a time when many Germans deflected blame for the atrocities of the Nazi period with the alibi “I didn’t see anything.”
Polke scrutinized the malleability of vision. Highly attuned to the differences between appearance and reality, he was wary of the notion that there might be one universal truth. His relentlessly inventive works, ranging in size from the intimacy of a notebook to monumental paintings, collapse conventional distinctions—between high culture and low, figuration and abstraction, the heroic and the banal—allowing flux, rather than stability, to prevail.”
Don’t forget to go to London and see it in person! It’s only a plane away!
While these images might look like strange and surreal landscapes, they are actually macro images of different creatures. Armenian photographer Suren Manvelyan’s series Animal Eyes captures an extreme viewpoint that gives the average eye an otherworldly feel. The crackles, vibrant colors, and individual hairs are all visual in these beautiful photos. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Manvelyan’s handiwork – he’s also shown the human eye in incredible detail.
Manvelyan is not just a photographer, but also holds a PhD in theoretical physics. In these images he combines technology, science, and art to show us something that’s unexpectedly familiar. We see brilliant blue pools, red rings, and crystallized whites; the close proximity makes this work appears as places to go hiking rather than something like a parrot’s eyes. (Via Featureshoot)
You won’t find cadavers or skeletal remains in ceramic artist Cynthia Consentino’s “Exquisite Corpse Series.” The project takes its name from the Parisian Surrealist parlor game, in which each player wrote a word or drew an image on a sheet of paper, folded the paper to conceal it, and passed it to the next player for his or her contribution. The results were wildly incongruous poems and images, gathered ideas from many minds.
In Consentino’s series, hers is the only mind at work, and the results are strangely charming and more than a little disturbing. The hybrid figures combine animal with human and the occasion household object. They play with the idea of gender stereotypes, something that began to interest the artist after reading a study where five-year-olds were asked to name a representational animal.
“The boys identified with animals that were predatory, and the girls with animals that were cute and cuddly. One girl even answered with a flower. I thought that there would also be girls who wanted to be tigers, but then I remembered loving playing a flower in a school play at that age. (Source)”
To loosen these gender constructs, she made varied heads, torsos, and legs then assembled them in ceramic sculptures of various configurations, some almost life-size. With their softly rounded limbs and pastel and pretty color palette they can seem almost sweet, but the fierce wolves heads and deadly weapons belie their innocence.
“My style seems a bit nostalgic, something from the fifties, or from folk art. It derives much of its character from children’s things: fairy tale, cartoons, dolls, games, as well as the domestic world. The work often incorporates imagery that is loaded with symbolism and history, such as flowers, animals and the ceramic figurine. It is very much about the familiar, things of our dreams, our stories, our childhood. (Source)”