Gabriel Isak is a Swedish photographer who uses digital techniques to create surreal scenes inspired by the inner worlds of dreams and psychology. Recurring through Isak’s images are people isolated against a backdrop of fog and vast emptiness. With their faces obscured by hair, balloons, mesh, or smoke, they become intangible wanderers who symbolize our own unconscious states. There are also repeating images: “birds, [the] ocean, and the fog” — the three things that symbolically compose Isak’s life, as he writes on his Instagram (Source). In their apparent ambiguity, Isak’s dream-like visions evoke a series of shifting experiences and emotions: serenity and mystery, safety and loneliness, hope and despair. In a statement provided to Beautiful/Decay, Isak described his creative process:
I have always been fascinated by the psychological world and the many places we encounter in our dreams. Whenever I create an image, I mostly start with some sort of brainstorming, whether it is writing down words, listening to music and drawing down the vision that appears, or a place I dreamt about. I also get very inspired by locations and always try to find interesting but simple sceneries that I can use in my imagery.
Working in a stream-of-consciousness fashion and drawing on the vagueness of dreams, Isak manages to create scenes of vast interpretative potential. Like the visions seen through a dream, there is an atmosphere of darkness and melancholia — his faceless characters, after all, are all donned in black — but the longer you look and the more you read the symbols, a sense of peace arises. Isak writes:
In my work I use photography as a metaphor for experiences of the soul. My objective is to bring common human emotions into my photography, where the viewers can interact with the moods of the images and find a piece of themselves within it.
Isak is currently residing in San Francisco, where he is obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography at the Academy of Art University. Check out his website, Facebook, and Instagram and immerse yourself further in his turbulent-but-still, dark-but-uplifting dreamscapes. (Via Juxtapoz)
The Small Stakes is a designer in Oakland, California who is also known as Jason Munn. His thorough yet simple conceptual ideas are the main wind-in-the-sail for his mostly music and band-oriented poster work. He recently produced a beautiful book that collects most of his work, and happens to be a very nice thing to lug around and get inspired by.
The Nairobi-based artist, Michael Soi, was asked by The Center for African Family Studies (CAFS), a Nairobi-based international NGO, to work along their side in order to create an eye-catching condom line with pop art-inspired packaging to promote safe sex and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.
Soi is primarily known for his satirical commentary on socio-political issues (political impunity, greed and Kenya’s growing sex industry). Unafraid to shy away from taboo subjects like sex and interracial relationships, the artist was more than happy to collaborate with the NGO on this important project.
“I felt like everybody is basically trying to deal with this whole issue — HIV, unwanted pregnancies — and when I talk about everybody I mean the church is doing whatever they can, the government is doing whatever they can.I felt the project was a good thing. I wanted to try to chip in and create something that would help fight a good fight.”
Soi’s visual work offers a grounded and relatable aesthetic that engages with the targeted public in a very fun way; his subjects are modern, often interracial couples or young women drinking Tusker, a popular Kenyan beer brand. His “pop-art condoms” are meant to attract young buyers who might otherwise face social stigma.
According to CNN, the project is in its on its first stages, and they are asking for funding on Indiegogo. (Via CNN)
Photographer Amy Friend‘s series Dare Alle Luce is a visual interpretation of the Italian saying – ‘to bring to the light’ (in reference to birth). She has birthed new light (literally) into something old. Sourcing vintage photographs from markets and online, she has pierced them with hundreds of holes, tracing around silhouettes and filling shapes with delicate perforations, flooded by light. Initially starting the project by embroidering the images, she found the effect of hundreds of little needle holes more interesting and decided to pursue that technique instead. Instilling new life into these images from the past, Friend has created hauntingly mysterious objects that exist in between historical and contemporary worlds. She says of her motivation:
I aim to comment on the fragile quality of the photographic object but also to the equal fragility of our lives, our history. All are lost so easily. By playing with the tools of photography, I “re-use” light by allowing it to shine through the holes in the images. In a somewhat playful and yet literal manner, I return the subject of the photographs back to the light, while simultaneously bringing them forward. (Source)
She goes on to say:
In my work I gravitate towards ideas relating to time, memory, impermanence, and the fluctuations of life…. In my practice I tend to work within the medium of photography, however, I am not concerned with capturing a “concrete” reality. Instead, I aim to use photography as a medium that offers the possibility of exploring the relationship between what is visible and non-visible. (Source)
While the term “heroin chic” emerged in the 1990s as a droll description of the trendy androgyny and grungy-yet-glamorous look of contemporaneous supermodels, artists Loral Amir and Gigi Ben Artzi present the expression through a literal lens with their series, Downtown Divas.
Comprised of a short film and photographic series, Downtown Divas presents heroin-addicted Russian prostitutes as they don designer clothing and pose for a reimagined fashion spread. Juxtaposing bruised legs, tired eyes, and aloof expressions with luxury materials, trendy ensembles, and elegant silhouettes, the striking photographs appear disjointed and disconcerting. Though aesthetically startling and indicative, they paint a very different picture from the corresponding short film. Comprised of candid interviews, the poignant film surprisingly does not focus on each woman’s hardships; Amir and Artzi sought, rather, to “show a different side of the women and ignore that ‘drug addict’ tag that they carry around” (Bullett). By strictly avoiding questions regarding their drug use or experiences as sex workers, Amir and Artzi are able to instead focus on unseen—and often ignored—aspects of the women’s lives, including recurring dreams, childhood aspirations, lost loves, and favorite colors.
While many applaud Downtown Divas as a critique of the fashion industry and its apparent glamorization of drug addiction, contrary claims of exploitation and questions of the subjects’ ability—or inability—to consent have also emerged. Thus, while seemingly intended as a means to humanize the women, many hold that it instead achieves the exact opposite by exploiting them and taking advantage of their apparent afflictions and unwell mental states.
After viewing the photos and watching the video, what do you think of Downtown Divas? Humanizing social commentary, or exploitative agenda? (via Feature Shoot)
Pablo Reinoso recreates a basic park bench into a swirling chaotic knot of line and form, giving a new dimension to a common piece of furniture. By sculpting organic spaghetti shaped wood branches his ultimate goal is to modify the perception we have on simple objects. Those animated random pieces of furniture are meant to create a state of visual suprise, the materials (wood, marble, steel) are becoming living beings; new species of their own.
The artist extends the primal functions of a bench, a frame, a chair, a pillow and a slab of marble to a new dimension, gently associating sculpture and art with nature.
The result is baffling, our notion of space is reset as there is no manual of how to consider the transformed pieces. Pablo Reinoso builds a landscape from marble, an air ventilating machine from pillows, spaghetti roots from a bench and replaces the canvas of a frame with swirled pieces of wood with no other intention than to turn our world around. By reinitializing daily objects and giving them life we encounter Pablo Reinoso’s subtle prediction: “The presence of flora is a message, mother nature is somewhere around. And she could be taking over”.
Pablo Reinoso’s solo show can be viewed at La Maison de l’Amerique Latine in Paris, St Germain district until September 5th 2015. The Breathing Sculptures piece can be viewed at La Maison Rouge in Paris, Bastille disctrict as part of the Buenos Aires artists group exhibition until September 20th 2015.
At first glance, media artist Nicholas Hanna‘s installation looks like some kind of DIY gallows. It’s sparsely constructed: just wood and string set before a simple $20 table fan. Below the string, a tray filled with liquid soap — death by Mr. Clean, perhaps?
Then the machine kicks into gear, dipping the string into the soap, drawing it up slowly, and suddenly an iridescent bubble blooms out of nothing. Magic.
Hanna works seem to incorporate one part engineering and two parts childhood wonder. One of his other pieces is a Beijing tricycle that, as the rider pedals, uses water droplets to write Chinese calligraphy in Courier New. Another piece utilizes motion sensors to cause a cascade of light depending on how a candle flame is shielded by a hand. And another still is a long gunmetal trumpet mounted on a toy truck, labeled simply as “Fire Truck #1.” What does the fire truck do? It starts sounding the alarms at 7:30 p.m., of course.
The bubble machine — “Bubble Device #1,” naturally — is another one of these curiosities. It’s unusual to see beautiful bubbles created by something as sterile as Hanna’s spare framed machine, in an environment as austere as a plain white-walled room. But the wonder is still there.
Super talented Melissa Cooke draws so realistically that you would think her renderings are photographs. Instead of using pencil lines to outline her subjects and draft her compositions, she achieves incredible depth by dusting layers of graphite onto paper with a dry brush. Flirting between different mediums (photography, drawing and painting), she is an expert of achieving highly detailed, strongly contrasting, striking images.
For her series The Between Spaces, she blends two different angles together in one drawing, achieving an impressive effect of superimposed snapshots. Thanks to her unique graphite technique, her highlights seem to glow and radiate off the page. Hair turns from being a series of fine white lines dusted over a darker layer to being a delicate web of strands. Eyes have detailed reflections; the skin Cooke draws have pores; the faces have a complex structure of wrinkles and lines. Cooke says of her series:
The drawings ride the line between what is physical and emotional, inner and outer, real and fantasy. Elements that are innately indescribable. There is a richness in those spaces that I can explore visually. (Source)
Moving on from portraiture, Cooke has also tried her hand at still lifes – objects that she finds in her daily life. Inspired by an abandoned wig she found in the dandelions, she started her series of objects.
These still lives evoke the figure while hinting at a larger narrative. There is both an attraction and repulsion to these discarded objects, like evidence left at a crime scene. That tension is something that has always inspired me, and will continue to propel me forward with the new body of work. (Source)