Will Cotton has created a very successful career from painting fluffy cotton-candy cloudscapes and supple naked women. His body of work can be divisive, as it can easily be seen as gimmicky. Beautiful/Decay covered his portraits of Katy Perry a few years ago, and did not hold back any punches. In his more recent work in the past two years, though, I think there are some exciting, if subtle, developments taking place. Sentiments that have always been on the periphery of his work, but ones that I hope will begin to come through more strongly.
First, I will say that I do enjoy Cotton’s aesthetic to begin with. I mean, sorry, but I literally want to lick every part of every painting, and I’m not even into women. They’re delectable, and I know that’s his aim. He certainly isn’t challenging anything with his work; he adds a spoonful of sugar, and then another, and then shovels in more after that to seduce you with succulent sweetness. Maybe I’m even a little disgusted with myself for becoming rapt in his opulent fantasies. That said, I think his work is very apropos of our contemporary circumstance, and damn, does he capture our plushy, overabundant lifestyle with imagination and skill.
Honestly, I think the joke is on us for eating it all up. If anything, Cotton’s practice provides a mirror to reflect the image of the art world, at least some of us totally ready to douse ourselves in oozy sweetness so easy to swallow. I enjoy the beastly undertones, though. In the past two years, Cotton has painted two fish-looking creatures ridden by nude women, and I’m curious to see how this narrative develops. I find these works the most compelling, as the women seem to have more depth in their expressions, as well as an air of command. I think it would be tacky to suddenly have ghoulish creatures descend upon the candy lands and their nymph inhabitants, but the gradual emergence of a threatening presence would be a welcome addition to my eyes.
New York-based German artist Markus Linnenbrink has created an enchanting installation which envelops visitors in a disorienting colorful pattern. Although not exactly in a ROYGBIV formation, this rainbow room, made of bold hues of acrylic paint covered in epoxy on resin, creates a unique experience for viewers. The piece above is named “WASSERSCHEIDE(DESIREALLPUTTOGETHER)” and is currently up in Germany at the art center Kunsthalle Nuernberg until October 12th.
Linnenbrink has worked within this use of line work and colors for much of his artistic career. While some of his shows have featured conventional paint on canvas work, he often utilizes the space to its maximum effect. Linnenbrink composes a piece of art one walks into, is a part of, and can see from all vantage points. One really intriguing work of his, shown below, features colored line paintings hung on walls that are doused in lines of grey and black.
The artist toys with color and boundaries of separation. The colors bleed into one another, drip lines form from gravity, and each layer is pulled into subsequent layers. Despite the rigidity of the lined patterns, there is always this aspect of chaos and an unwillingness to be contained. Boundary breaking, inside of the canvas and outside of it, stretching his vision across whatever parameters may be set architecturally. The dramatized effect of this work becomes atmospheric; how one relates to the space then changes, as the lines and contours of walls are abstracted, nearly dissolved, through the blanket of pattern. The piece is primarily dictated by the space it is shown in, but ultimately the space is taken over by the artwork, creating an interested and entirely unique interaction between the two within each and every installation.
Artist Lia Melia grew up a few minutes walk away from the sea, and today it is still her main source of inspiration. And, you can definitely tell – her colorful, swirling paintings are reminiscent of the large body of water. Mythology has also been a life-long love of hers, and she depicts elemental forces that are represented by the gods.
Melia uses a variety of methods to create these highly-textured works, and she’s developed her practice over the course of many years. Powered pigments and solvents are baked into aluminium, or occasionally, onto glass. She uses fluid mixes which require high levels of control, so they are often thickened to make the medium easier to use. Different elements are layered to give them a rich, visual depth.
Looking closely at these paintings, we see that her skill in creating textures give the illusion of crashing waves, stormy skies, and ocean foam. Melia’s tightly-cropped compositions freeze a split second in time, and anyone who has stood in the water can imagine what happens beyond this scene. (Via Saatchi Art Tumblr)
In his project Original/Ideal, British photographer Scott Chasserot tries to answer the question “What would we change about ourselves if no one were looking?” Using photography, image manipulation software, and an Emotiv EEG brain scanner, Chasserot’s project attempts to discover each individual’s ideal self-image without having the subject utter a word. It’s an interesting combination of art, science, and perception.
The first step of the process is to remove or reduce accessories and enhancements from the subject being photographed. Makeup is removed, hair is pulled back, clothes are adjusted so as not to appear in the frame—the goal is neutrality. The photograph is taken, then manipulated into 50 versions, each with tweaks to facial features, head shape, coloring, and more. The subjects are then hooked up to the Emotive scanner which records brain activity while they are shown the altered images. The scans are examined for signs of “engagement”—particular mental focus which Chasserot interprets to be a positive reaction. The image that produces the most positive brain reaction is thought to be the subject’s ideal version of his- or herself.
“What do we find instinctively beautiful in the human face, and how does this translate to self-image?”
It’s interesting that Chasserot equates an unvoiced preference to instinct. After all, even though the person’s reaction to his or her images is ungoverned, societal influences, cultural ideals, and pre-existing ideas about attractiveness are all learned, not instinctive.
“The methodology is still in pilot study phase,” Chasserot told The Creators Project. “There is plenty to be improved upon. The ‘Ideal’ image is simply the one with the greatest positive reaction immediately after presentation and that cannot be distinguished from any theoretical, specific ‘ideal self’ reaction.”
In the photos below, the original image is on the left and the chosen “ideal” version on the right.
This dream-like mural is the result of two long weeks rubbing clay, mud and dirt, day and night into the walls and floor of Rice Gallery in Houston. Since 2008 Japanese artist Yusuke Asai has been creating these earth paintings. His latest one, titled Yamatane (meaning Mountain Seed in Japanese) was created purely with locally sourced natural materials. With the help of volunteers and the staff of the gallery, Asai collected 27 different shades of dirt from around Houston. His palette is surprisingly varied – the fertile soils of Texas provided him with many tones of yellows, reds and even a rare shade of green. Wanting to form a connection between his visual art and the location he is working in, he says digging for the various samples is an important part of the process. Asai speaks of his fascination with dirt:
I choose to use the earth as a medium because I can find dirt anywhere in the world and do not need special materials. Dirt is by nature very different than materials sold in art stores! Seeds grow in it and it is home to many insects and microorganisms. It is a “living” medium. (Source)
Not formally trained, Asai learned his image making skills from sketching animals in zoos and visiting the museums of his native Japan. Observing different mark making techniques from other cultures and folklore, he has been building his own version of the natural world for some time. His subject matter also echoes those that are fundamental to primitive societies – that of the nature that surrounds us. Asai says:
Joel Parés is a U.S. Marine-turned-photographer who’s created a series titled Judging America that illustrates the prejudices we often have against people who are different from ourselves. As the old saying goes, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and that’s what you’re liable to when you first see these stylized photographs.
Each image is broken up into the two parts – a stereotype of a particular societal group versus who the character actually is. The tattooed, gun-toting gangster turns out to be a Harvard graduate, a decorated stripper is a buttoned-up widowed mother of three kids, and more. You get the picture here – Parés is demonstrating that talented, incredible people come in all different packages.
“Many of us judge incorrectly by someone’s ethnicity, by their profession, and by their sexual interest,” Parés told PetaPixel. “The purpose of this series is to open our eyes and make us think twice before judging someone, because we all judge even if we try not to.” (Via Bored Panda)
Iranian photographer and physics student Mohammad Reza Domiri Ganji finds amazing beauty just by looking up. His panoramic photos of mosque domes feature the stunning geometry characteristic of Islamic art. Though these are real places, the techniques Domiri uses causes them to read as abstract patterns when photographed. In a Daily Mail interview he said:
“I like looking for the symmetry, mosaics and artworks in these temples. I like how they let the light come inside and columns are special too as they divide interior space and give some depth.”
Sacred geometry—writing or artwork intended to summon thoughts of Allah—is the basis for Islamic religious architectural design. The Islamic expression “Geometry is God manifest” expresses the importance of this kind of ornamentation in Islamic art. The repetition, intricacy, and complexity of the designs are both rigid and freeing. The patterns seem endless, swirling and intertwined, mesmerizing and stimulating.
To capture these manipulated images, Domiri takes panoramic photos, setting his tripod at the center point of the mosque and keeping in mind lighting and symmetry. Permission to shoot the interiors of these Iranian mosques is quite rare—as they are historical sites, photographs are largely forbidden. He takes multiple images, making sure to get all angles, then stitches them together digitally.
“Maybe some of these historical sites will not exist in 20 years or change a lot during that time. When I am capturing these pictures, I think about how they will be recorded and in future I hope people will be able to see their beauty.”
The resulting images bring the beauty of these mostly unseen mosques to the world. Domiri’s use of modern equipment and computer programs to capture this ancient art transforms it into stunningly beautiful abstracted color, shape, and pattern.