Léonard Condemine is a French mixed media artist who sculpts enigmatic masks and photographs them in haunting contexts. His work is influenced by occultism, mythology, and the tribal arts, representing the body in arcane relation with the earth; nude figures crouch by the fire, in the forest, and beneath starry skies. Decorated with paint, feathers, and mirror shards, the masks are stunning works of art that transform the subjects into mythic (or perhaps monstrous) beings. Impressively, none of his images have been digitally manipulated; the magic of his work arises from a brilliant synthesis of setting, costume, composition, and light, thereby transforming reality into the realm of dreams.
Condemine is interested in the dual forces of identity formation and identity loss. The masks, albeit on a human body, are extremely adept at obscuring the figures’ humanity; with their faces (and thus their emotions) inaccessible to the viewer, the figures become embodiments of mystical forces and the wilderness around them. This effect is so powerful, that when Condemine and his brothers posed for the final series of photos last November, not even their closest friends could identify them beneath their masks. This alienation from subjectivity is both unsettling and compelling, revealing identity as a construct, and also opening the images up to endless interpretation.
Learn more about Condemine and his work on his Tumblr and Instagram. More detailed images of the masks can be viewed on his blog.
Chinese artist Ann Hoi creates beautifully bizarre paper figurative sculptures. Usually depicting images of children and fantastical animal creatures within an air of melancholia, her work simultaneously achieves an essence of preciousness and unsettlement. Since graduating from Ontario College of Art and Design University in 2010, Hoi has only crafted around a dozen pieces; each work is made through a long meticulous process. Her sculptures are created with a method that begins with the extremely clever use of a 3D animation software that allows her to develop, edit, and manipulate her characters digitally. She then prints her designs onto paper and has to build her works essentially through a version of intense puzzle piecing. Their monochromatic and literal xerox copied aesthetic allows them to almost exist as a physical representation of a digital hologram. They create a real virtual reality. They seem to exist on a strange border of futuristic and nostalgic — their “digital” quality allows them to be referential of that of a technological manifestation and therefore science fiction, however, the graphics, again, the monochrome palette, as well as the sort of “glitch” like feel, makes them seem like they are that of an old technology, a reminiscent one. Hoi’s work is undoubtedly unique. Each piece has the true ability to draw the viewer into a world that they have yet to experience. However, despite how removed from reality these works are, they some how do not feel out of place. It almost feels voyeuristic, as if the viewer is the one that doesn’t belong. (via Hi-Frustose)
Russian born illustrator Andrey Smirny uses the sharp angles, bright colors, and deceptively flat depiction of spatial relationships found in early NES video games to illustrate the drama and humor of the ongoing exchange between people and their modern technological environments. He was born and raised in the Soviet Union in late 80s, and attributes the sudden flood of easily accessible Western media post-Iron Curtain as moments that have made lasting impacts on his artistic expression and aesthetic. He spent his youth watching bootlegged American B-rated action movies on VHS (“weird John Carpenter movies like Big Trouble in Little China and The Thing”) and exploring similarly illegally obtained Nintendo games like Double Dragon, Battle Toads, and Tanks. He went on to study Fine Art and Graphic Design and fell in love with the DIY comic scene, exploring GIFs as his main medium. Currently he draws on the style and constantly evolving work of self-taught artist Todd James as one of his biggest inspirations, along with the otherworldly ideas of his barber Nikolai and “his addiction to UFO-related YouTube videos and belief that angels truly live on Mars.”
Standing like a miniaturized skeleton city, American artist Ben Butler has installed an epic geometric sculpture that seems to distort any sense of space. The installation, titled Unbounded, is a site-specific piece for Rice Gallery in Houston, Texas. The work is made up of ten thousand small rods of poplar wood. Through the creation of complex grids, the artist and a team put together this epic structure, building section by section, almost like a block building meditation. The artist notes that Unbounded “alludes to the notion that its form has no defined boundary, that is it untamed and fills the space according to its own logic.” Butler’s work, which is not solely sculptural but also delves into printmaking and draughtsmanship, consistently refers and reflects on the notion of mass. Each work is intricate, meticulous, but perhaps, most importantly, explores a sort of metaphysical notion of space. Delicate, yet powerful in scale, his work tends to use elements of the earth. The combination of the power of size and the natural material — which acts as a connection to the earth — allows his work to truly carry an awe inspiring essence. Almost like an Agnes Martin notion of finding these quiet patterns within nature meets the raw power of element and structure like the work of Richard Serra. Profound, with a nod to a notion of fun and simplicity, Butler’s installation truly plays with perception. (via IGNANT)
Sean Norvet is an LA-based artist who paints grotesquely amusing mash-ups that represent the mania and excess of contemporary culture. Food and flesh are his two main ingredients; shattered jawbones, melting eyes, raw meat, and fast food collide in unholy, humanoid altars. Norvet punctuates his pieces with eroticized body parts, mixing desire and beauty ideals with mass consumption. Despite the gruesome subject matter, his work is surprisingly humorous—and there’s a lot to digest.
In an Artist Perspective video with the Stay Gallery, Norvet describes today’s technology-saturated world as an all-you-can eat buffet. From dawn until dusk, we are inundated with arbitrary connections and information—whether we consent to them or not. With intense talent and keen social observations, his paintings reveal this cultural chaos in shameless and visceral ways, provoking self-reflection through imagery that is fun, insightful, and revolting.
Mayan Toledano uses evocative photographs of adolescent girls to show the melancholy of burgeoning womanhood. Combining glittered rainbow and unicorn imagery with loneliness and frustration, Toledano takes us behind a nymphette’s bedroom door. Toledano along with her collaborator Julia Baylis originally used these images as a way to document and design a more “girly” aesthetic that was suppressed in fashion school. In an interview with Elephant, Toledano expresses her desire to incorporate playfulness in an otherwise serious and drab world. This resulted in “Me and You” an online store where you can buy sweatshirts, stickers, cell phone cases, and “feminist” cotton underwear. She says, “we [Toledano and Baylis] both feel that something is lacking in today’s fashion world and we wanted to start something that felt more inclusive, safe, and inviting, more celebratory of our girlhood and femininity.” But while Toledano documents the growing pains of these girls, and issues like body consciousness and eating disorders, she is also a shadow to their emerging sexuality and many of the voyeuristic images are uncomfortable to look at. But, even with those things said, Toledano asks us to imagine a less complicated adolescence with best friends and large sunglasses, sitting on the bed, daydreaming, waiting for the phone to ring.
Quotes taken from: Elephant, Issue 25, Winter 2015 – 2016.
Los Angeles based artist Laurie Lipton draws fantastical worlds built of dystopian technology and waste. Her recent work, which she refers to as Techno Rococo, explores “society’s relationship to technology and how it’s uniting us while simultaneously disconnecting everyone from each other.” Her epic, painstakingly detailed drawings are giant, allowing the viewer to fully enter them — Lipton’s work is not just a vision, its an experience. Lipton explains her unique style; “it was all abstract and conceptual art when I attended university. My teachers told me that figurative art went ‘out’ in the Middle Ages and that I should express myself using form and shapes, but plashes on canvas and rocks on the floor bored me. I knew what I wanted: I wanted to create something no one has ever seen before, something that was brewing in the back on my brain.” Originally inspired by the Flemish School of painting, Lipton developed her drawing style based on traditional egg tempera techniques of creating depth through a meticulous process of cross hatching. Using only charcoal and pencil on paper, her black and white work, despite its futuristic content, aims to hint at a sense of classicism. She states, “I used to sit for hours in the library copying Durer, Memling, Van Eyck, Goya and Rembrandt. The photographer, Diane Arbus, was another of my inspirations. Her use of black and white hit me at the core of my Being. Black and white is the color of accent photographs and told TV shows…it is the color of ghosts, longing, time passing, memory, and madness. Black and white ached. I realized that it was perfect for the imagery in my work.” (via Hi Fructose)
Julien Previeux’sPatterns of Life uses dancing lightsabers to reveal the simplicity and power of gesture. This 15 minute video is a highly choreographed work whose opening section uses light to uncover the essence of human movement. Dancers wired with lights illuminate the darkness and reveal the simplicity of movement.
Part galactic warrior and part neon sign, the dancers fill the space with the linearity of their limbs punctuated by shining spheres that add curvature and depth to their geometry.
But this is just the beginning of Previeux’s exploration of the intimacy of gesture and its implication in a world shared with others. Through what looks like a strenuous eye exam, Previeux demonstrates that eye movements have the power to reveal our thought patterns and perhaps betray our inner world to those who observe us carefully enough.
Also compelling is Previeux’s fascination with walking patterns and our natural tendency to follow the same paths again and again. By mapping the route of a young Parisian woman, where she works, where she lives, and where she goes to school, one of Previeux’s dancers uses tape to create a three dimensional model. Once mapped, her movements, which were assumed to be open and carefree, seem controlled and confined.
Patterns of Life switches between time frames and points of view. In doing so it presents us with various choreographed vignettes. Narrator Crystal Shepherd Cross guides us tranquilly through the intellectual terrain with ease so we can enjoy the grace that is Previeux’s work.
Julien Previeux’s Patterns of Life can be seen at DiverseWorks, Houston, Texas, in “What Shall We Do Next” until 19 March, 2016.