Born in Bavaria, Southern Germany, photographer Elena Helfrecht taps into the dark stormy mood often connected with the painter Caspar David Friedrich and the German poets writing about the emotions of the human condition. Her images have a beautiful delicacy to them, heavy with reflection and contemplation as Helfrecht tries to make sense not only of the world around her, but also the world within herself. In her series Little Stories, she compiles photographic narratives of moments that are intensely personal to her.
Including close ups of her hands covered in blood, her feet poised in front of freshly picked flowers, her stomach cradling a pigeon, she uses her own body to visually express her inner thoughts and emotions. Helfrecht reflected on the series:
I think the most intense one for me has to be “Farewell” [the pigeon narrative]. I often think about death. I really fear what comes afterwards – the ending of consciousness, where nothing is left (at least this is what I can’t stop believing). When I went to work and just came out of the station, a pigeon fell down right in front of my feet and died there after a short cramp. I was shocked. I didn’t expect something like this to happen and I was deeply moved. I even cried. It was like a metaphor how quick everything can be over and what is left of it – nothing but an empty shell. We live and rush around without cherishing what we have, and then it will be simply over.
This series is about the one issue which bothers so many of us: the matter of life and death. In the pictures the shown human body is alive, but one day the images will show something which is no more, like the bird. Still I believe something will stay in this world after we die: Memory. This is what the photographs itself stand for (for me they are a tiny piece of hope).
Stockholm, Sweden based artist Joakim Ojanen works in mediums as diverse as sculpture and zines. His paintings, however, particularly standout. Familiar snippets of cartoon characters, body parts, and shapes congeal as a hallucinatory mass. Normally lighthearted characters appear to be in a paranoid panic or a manic giddiness. Eyeballs peek from oddly placed holes or simply roll on the ground. Ojanen’s portraits don’t seem to depict monsters as much as characters mutated by abstraction.
Stefan G. Bucher is a graphic designer, illustrator, author, creator of monsters, and pursuer of obsessions. The (sole) creative force behind 344, his clients have included art galleries, film directors, magazines, record companies, Saks Fifth Avenue and the Blue Man Group. If you’ve seen the Yeti themed Saks Christmas windows, you’ve seen Stefan’s work. The Daily Monster is his, too. The cover of The Matrix soundtrack; typography for Mirror, Mirror; Blue Man Theater. All Stefan G. Bucher.
Aside from his amazing and prodigious creative skills, Stefan is an astute observer of culture and a consistently funny writer. He agreed to be interviewed for Beautiful/Decay.
B/D: Thanks for talking with me, Stefan—I’m just going to jump right in. What’s the most interesting thing you’re working on right now?
Stefan Bucher: It’s my pleasure. The most interesting project I’m working on right now is the pitch for an animated show surrounding the Daily Monsters. It’s a long process of uncertain outcome, but it involves a lot of things I love—illustration, working with a brilliant writer and a genius animation producer, thinking about music and character design. It’s great! I’m also working on a solo gallery show for the spring. That’s just a big beast breathing down my neck. I don’t know how much of it will be retrospective and how much will be new work. I just want it to be a fun trip for the audience.
The Bad Lab was brought to our attention by Eric Zelinski, who submitted them as a consideration to our “Submit your Artist” contest. Although we already chose a winner two weeks ago, we at Beautiful/Decay would like acknowledge Bad Lab’s fantastically fresh t-shirt line, prints, canvases, and posters.
I’m especially fond of the canvas work (see Set Speed and Sexagon) and how their hypnotic, rhythmic qualities entrance the viewer, pulling us into the loop.
Photographer Brian McCarty combines the innocence of childhood with the horrors of war in his series WAR-TOYS. Violent scenes are reenacted with toys; Bombs are dropped on a pink plastic house, while toy soldiers gun down a giant-headed doll. McCarty’s source material is the drawings of children who live in war-torn areas like the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel.
The artist travelled to the sites where the children had been, which adds another level of sadness to these images. This project is not just the undertaking of McCarty, but he pairs with other aid workers as well. From his artist statement:
Employing principles of expressive art therapy, my process begins with observation and guided interaction with children under the care of humanitarian organizations operating in areas of active conflict. Specialized therapists and caregivers conduct art-based interviews on my behalf, inviting children to draw pictures about their lives and experiences. The resulting illustrations serve as art direction and basis for photographic exploration.
McCarty tries to involve the tiny artists, too, and uses toys that are acquired locally. You’ll see that a Disney Princess is in the line of fire. He writes:
When possible and under the guidance of specialists, I invite the children to actively participate and use the photographic process as a form of therapeutic play. The resulting photographs provide an interpretive document of witnessed events and context for the children’s accounts.
McCarty plans to continue this project and travel to Afghanistan, Sudan, and Colombia. (Via Huffington Post)
Recent Manchester University grad Mark Robinson uses folklore narratives as a jumping-off point for his moody mixed media works. Robinson’s paintings, which contain visceral, almost spontaneous textual elements, serve as an outlet for his various frustrations and impressions. I like his flat use of color and black. And the piece directly below the jump, a silhouetted cowboy/bandit figure done in blue, suggests a good sense of texture. Definitely some interesting stuff from this young artist.
Cradle of Mankind is the newest series by Canadian-born photographer, Joey L. Shot in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, and featuring portraits of the various tribes that inhabit the area. The photographs are a deeply moving, visual homage to the tribal peoples of Ethiopia, the birthplace of Homo sapiens.
The photographs from Cradle of Mankind, along with Joey L.’s documentary film, Faces of a Vanishing World (watch the trailer after the jump)– which first aired on Ovation TV in September 2010, chronicle the artist’s deep interest in Ethiopia, and the rapid transition of it’s oldest cultures. During his time in the country, Joey L. lived with various tribes in the region, learning the different customs of each while capturing individual portraits. Though these tribes may seem untouched by time, they are in fact in constant danger of disappearing forever. The artist states in a 2010 NPR interview that he is interested in anthropology and likes photographing different cultures, “but the ones I’ve been paying attention to lately are the, I suppose what you’d call vanishing ones, … the cultures that are on the verge of extinction, tribes that are threatened by progress and losing their language and losing their ways of life that they’ve sustained for thousands of years.”
See a selection of Cradle Of Mankind from June 21st-August 4th 2012 at Stephen Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles