Dominic Shepherd’s Paintings invites us into a time and place that is in-between, a place of mystery and the imagined. Calling to mind John Fowles’ ‘The Magus’, Shepherd envisions a place populated by magicians, solitary wanderers, messengers, lost poets, artists and musicians, a place that is between reality and sur-reality where the macabre and the frivolous walk hand in hand. This imagined place is prompted by Shepherd’s own immediate environment, where cottage and studio sit isolated in a clearing within dense Dorset woods. Stepping into these woods at night one feels simultaneously stimulated and threatened, but one is urged to embrace the shadows and the illusion that lie therein, where the fictive obfuscates truth.
At night, perhaps, such experience is appropriate, during the time of revelry and ritual, magic and intoxication. All take place beneath the cover of darkness. But at the hour of daybreak, as the morning star rises, thresholds other than night to day are broken. Reality returns and with it a wistful awareness of a loss of the other. The dreamlike and hallucinatory are overcome by a confrontation of the self where one can emerge enlightened as with St John of the Cross or fallen as with so many romantic heroes from throughout history. Indeed, Shepherd’s canvases might be populated by lost icons and anti-heroes such as Hesse, Redon, Shelley, Blake or Wagner or more contemporaneously Jack Kerouac, Keith Richards or Charles Manson. ‘The sleep of reason brings forth monsters’, cautioned Goya and Shepherd outlines that escapism, individualism and heroism, and the drives of the intuitive and the unconscious can bring egotism, destruction and excess as well as beauty, magic and discovery, thus simultaneously enticing and forewarning.
Michael Ward’s hyperrealistic paintings remind me of the type of photographs I take when I travel to new cities. I am always drawn to graphic elements and the juxtapositions of buildings, signs, and their locations. And, indeed, most of Ward’s paintings are based off of photographs he’s taken over the years, primarily of Southern California. Though his work was not intended to address the nostalgia of these places, most of the images’ places he’s recreated have been altered or have entirely disappeared, his work becoming an archive of transitional places. Ward’s influences include Edward Hopper, Charles Scheeler, RIchard Estes, and Vermeer. A self-taught painter, Ward began his artistic career drawing pen and ink renditions of historical architecture, before experimenting first in gouache, then in acrylics. Of his work, Ward says,”I am most interested in depicting what Alan Watts called the mystery of the ordinary; the workaday world we live in without seeing until we are forced to focus upon it, as in a painting.”
Phyliss Lutjeans, a museum educator and curator observes,“Although Michael Ward may be called a neo-realist painter his work can ultimately be described as abstract realism. The picture image is photographically realistic, but within the context of the painting his compositions are complex and almost abstract. Deciphering the work section by section one sees how a multitiude of individual complete compositions are put together to form the entire work. For me the viewer is confronted by a realistic image that puzzles us and clearly tells the story simultaneously.” (via the paris review)
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These bizarre photographs by British artist James Ostrer feature himself and others covered in thick, sticky-looking layers of candy, frosting, and other junk food. Decadent edibles look hardened and become a strange replacement for conventional masks and armor.
Candy and sweets are often associated with joy, but looking at Ostrer’s work its hard to feel that way. They aren’t delightful, but are visceral. Frosting is slathered on haphazardly with licorice used to create outlines. Sometimes, the lines are droopy and it appears that the entire piece is melting. The result is a peculiar and unsettling group of photographs that speaks to the sickening amount of junk food we have available as well as a reinterpretation of the self portrait.
These photos are currently on display in his exhibition Wotsit All About at the Gazelli Art House in London through September 11th of this year.
Artist Christopher Murphy paints memories, using old family photographs as source material. He paints the Hoover Dam, large family gatherings, his younger self, and more. Murphy’s work is technically very good, and the realistic renderings of his paintings to look like photographs. They also depict quiet moments. While a lot of them involve people, there is very little tension among subjects. Colors are desaturated, which ages the look of them. Murphy spoke to New American Paintings about his work. He describes the overarching theme of his paintings, as well as his decision to use old photographs for reference. He says:
Imagination playfully cavorts with authenticity to fabricate the essence of memory. It is at this intersection, between the poles of fiction and truth, that my current paintings and drawings are situated. Issues of contrast, specifically of finding harmony between dissonant elements, have been a constant theme in my work. I see my paintings as opportunities to explore the conceptual contrasts of reality versus illusory and permanence versus ephemeral as applied to memory.
I choose old family photographs (largely culled from my own family’s albums, but supplemented with a selection of found photos from estate sales and thrift stores) to serve as the basis for my work, because of their unique qualities of semi-permanence, staged semblance, and ostensible candidness. In these photos, skies fade to pale yellows, skin tones sink, and details blur and grow fainter with time. Sometimes, dated technology necessitated blank stares or static poses, caused colors to skew, or impacted the framing of an image. By either exaggerating or minimizing these characteristics, along with re-contextualizing figures and objects or dramatically re-staging the action of a photo, the divisions are obscured between the reality that existed at the moment of the photograph, the memories of that moment, and the possibilities of reality that are presented in my work.
Maria Rubinke‘s porcelain sculptures are part Precious Moments, part Chucky — these are not your grandmother’s figurines. They instead embody all the terrors of the dark forest at night, the kind that Hansel and Gretel might have walked. Like fairy tales of yore, mishap after mishap seem to happen to these children. They wander the woods and lose an eye, or they sit in a bloody bathtub with a shark for a playmate. The calamities that befall Rubinke’s chubby cheeked cherubs seem endless.
One piece, “In between, with a fading dream,” depicts a young girl in a grove of inky black poisonous mushrooms, a frog — perhaps also poisonous — perched on her head. Though described as a dream, the scene is nothing short of nightmarish.
In the days leading up to Halloween, leave a little room in your nightmares for Rubinke’s vacant-eyed children. (via Cross Connect Magazine)
Apollonia Saintclair explores pleasure, intimacy, and sexual expressivity through erotic illustrations. From tangled hair, to parted lips, to the minute contours of the erogenous body, her masterful line work captures desire in detail. Her illustrations go far beyond titillating us in the conventional sense, however; with writhing tentacles and zippers embedded in flesh, many of her images are simultaneously arousing and unsettling. By conflating eroticism with elements of horror and the grotesque, she reminds us that sex and death are familiar lovers, and that desire so often involves a daring venture across boundaries into darkness and radical difference.
For Saintclair, the artistic process begins in her own erotic imagination. “I work compulsively,” she explains. “I depict stories that I myself find very arousing, and I have a strong need to cast my fantasies in a beautiful frame.” Most of her works emerge from images “ingested once and digested over time”; when they finally manifest themselves on a blank page, she infuses them with her own observations and desires. She strongly values graphic quality, treating each drawing as “one more step in a long apprenticeship” towards technical perfection. Her fastidious control of her medium makes her work intimately precise — and subsequently, highly provocative.
The ability to share and connect with others through her work is very important to Saintclair, and she has garnered an impressive following on Tumblr. “The enthusiastic response from an unexpected, unhoped audience made me suddenly realize that I was maybe doing something important [for] others,” she writes. “I’m very pleased to see that most fans — among them many women — have absolutely no doubts that what I do is an artistic approach of sexuality and not blank pornography.” Her art is an intriguing journey into desire, and all curious readers are encouraged to visit her page and check out the rest of the images after the jump.
The story of Meghan Howland‘s oil paintings are quiet like a secret. Her work captures understated dreamy scenes. A confusion of birds, hidden faces, a scarf that may or may not be choking its wearer – her work at once is lighthearted and hints at a darker undercurrent.
Her gallery relates, “Her paintings are often dreamlike, and yet carry a weight of something that is slightly more dissonant. The question of whether something is safe or dangerous, loving or hateful, is often unexplained in her work.”
A snapshot quality to the image, fill flash like lighting, lends the paintings the characteristic of a caught instant. However, her painterly hand stretches the moment. While definitely working a contemporary aesthetic, Howland’s paintings are at times reminiscent of Degas’ style and palette.