Artist Emma Kohlmann creates ink drawings of amorphous figures performing sexual acts. Her delicately explicit work almost mimics a Rorschach Test. Upon first glance, we are confronted with an abstract, puddle-like treatment of ink. As we enter the work further, we find ourselves in an intimate realm of masturbation, cunnilingus, voyeurism and fluid erotica.
Kohlmann uses source material such as vintage porn and Japanese erotica. Her large collection of content allows her to generate a prolific body of work. A major aspect of her process is simply the act of her constant making. She states:
“Most of this work is an exploration of repetition. I like having a accumulation of images and working in multiples because I can never create the same image twice. Every time I create the details I focus on change. I like focusing on androgyny or addressing sex as multiplicity in finite or non binary.”
Kohlmann’s distorted figures are simultaneously omniscient and innocent, similar to the portraits of Marlene Dumas. Each drawing is both commanding, yet self conscious, a dichotomy that exposes the true complexity of the sexual being. Her work has a natural rawness that is almost brutally honest and inherently feminist, as sex can be both an act of power and shame. There is an innate sense of relatable vulnerability. Her nameless, faceless, genderless, figures are somehow no one and everyone, allowing them to provide an of existential sense of isolation. Her work has a softness, sincerity, and intricacy that echoes the true confusion of beingness.
For more of Emma Kohlmann’s work, check out her blog or follow her on Instagram
Never Hide Films, in collaboration with N.A.S.A/Squeak E Clean and Rossangeles, has created a little viral video called “100 People Per Minute,” showcasing 100 people creating one beat-boxing orgy of a song in a minute.
Photographer Martin Klimas‘ series “What Does Music Look Like?” is a fun attempt at answering that very question. He uses paint as a vehicle for sound. Klimas places brightly colored paints on a surface that sits just above a speaker. Playing loud music such as Kraftwerk or Miles Davis makes the paint splatter above the speaker with the vibrations making it “dance”. The paint jumps and splattes while being captured by the camera. Klimas snapped approximately 1,000 photographs to capture the set.
Toward Obliteration, 2012 Ash wood, Glass, Laser-cut Baltic Birch and 4000 live Honeybees
From 2010 to the present, Lauri Lynnxe Murphy has been collaborating with bees in the creation of her artwork. Despite a bee allergy, Murphy remains committed to her practice, which she describes as being “research-based.” Seeking to understand the nature of bees, Murphy depends on them to make works such as Listen, symbolizing the need to pay attention to the signals bees use for communication. Or We’re Sorry, Murphy’s apology and simultaneously the bees’ apology for any disruption either collaborator may have caused the other. Similarly, her honeycomb sculptures are co-created with the bees. Murphy chooses to work with bees, or other materials that she feels allow her to appropriately explore issues surrounding ecological and political concerns.
Other than the current threat to the bee population Murphy has recently been concerned about nuclear power, particularly following the tsunami-induced collapse of Fukushima. Murphy produced a series titled, Doilies of Imminent Destruction. That’s an amazing title for some pretty delicate work. The series began as a “meditation on the banality of our dialogue surrounding our fearsome power to irreparably alter an environment, and an investigation into the corporately chosen, idealized representations of these disaster sites prior to the disaster.” Each doily depicts the site of a nuclear disaster: Chernobyl, Deepwater Horizon, Fukushima and Three Mile Island. Why doilies? Murphy recognizes the doily’s function as beautifying, or covering up the ugly or tarnished. They also reference an old-fashioned nostalgia of domesticity and desired perfection.
I am drawn to Murphy’s work not for the beauty of it, although it is quite captivating, but rather for the delicate, yet powerful call to arms it requests of the viewer. Whether it is her work about nuclear disasters subtly imploring us to concern ourselves with the danger of this technology, or her work about bees suggesting we need to be aware of the beauty and vulnerability of the bee’s ecosystem, Murphy’s work merits our contemplation.
Jiyong Lee is an artist and educator based in Carbondale, Illinois, who works in the medium of glass art. In a series titled Segmentation, Lee has created fascinating, geometric glass blocks that metaphorically examine life science. Mirroring the processes of cell division and growth, each sculpture is divided into fragments that represent “cells, embryos, biological and molecular structures—each symbolizing the building blocks of life, as well as the starting point of life” (Source). As a whole, they are firm structures, much like the proverbial “building blocks”; but internally, they are irregular and segmented, symbolizing the varying growth rates and beautiful asymmetry of organic life.
The glass Lee has chosen to work with varies in its translucency, which is significant to his theme. Sometimes the fragments are see-through; in other places they are dense and clouded. For Lee, these conditions of visibility represent “what is known and unknown about life science” (Source), for although modern science seeks to fully comprehend the workings of life, there will always be an unreachable mystery within. The internal haze also represents an unknown future for cells as they live and continue to change.
Painter Jonathan Yeo captures wonderfully serene moments in the midst of something quite violent. Snapshots of women undergoing cosmetic surgery are painted in a delicate, realistic style, complete with cutting lines. Blurred edges and half-formed torsos suggest bodies that are not yet complete. We see the surgeon’s hands pulling this way and that, like an artist inspecting his canvas. Glimpses of figures are covered in cryptic markings, ready to be cut, snipped, sliced and altered. Yeo’s paintings appear to be something of a modern day Frankenstein.
A self-taught artist, Yeo has been exploring ideas of identity through portraiture, pornographic collages and images of plastic surgery since the early 90s. Having completed high profile portraits of celebrities (Nicole Kidman, Damien Hirst, Malala Yousafzai, Kevin Spacey and Tony Blair) it is fitting for Yeo to move onto another western obsession – vanity. These paintings of the modern day phenomena that is cosmetic surgery are deeply disturbing. We see these women in the midst of transformation, in a state of ease, even bliss, but perhaps this has more to do with the anesthetic. Using a palette of beige, creams and and greys, his works appear sickly but peaceful.
Depicting these subjects as he does, Yeo really is the contemporary Mary Shelley. He shows us people so ready and willing to undergo drastic changes – a vanity and longing for perfection that is in all of us. These paintings maybe act as the mirror we should be looking into; a mirror in which we don’t see what we want to, but rather the stark reality we are faced with: that perhaps Narcissus is not such a far away myth after all.
As part of our ongoing partnership with Feature Shoot, Beautiful/Decay is sharing Greta Rybus’ interview with Photographer Anton Kusters.
Anton Kusters is a Belgium-based photographer specializing in long-term projects. In 2011, he published his first photobook on the Yakuza, the Japanese organized crime families, that he photographed for two years.
Tell us about your Yakuza project.
‘YAKUZA is a personal visual account of the life inside an inaccessible subculture: A traditional Japanese crime family that controls the streets of Kabukicho, in the heart of Tokyo, Japan. Through 10 months of negotiations with the Shinseikai, my brother Malik and I became one of the only Westerners ever to be granted this kind of access to the closed world of Japanese organized crime.
‘With a mix of photography, film, writing and graphic design, I try to share not only their complex relationship to Japanese society, but also the personal struggle of being forced to live in two different worlds at the same time; worlds that often have conflicting morals and values. It turns out not to be a simple black versus white relationship, but most definitely one with many, many, many shades of grey.’