Using both printmaking and embroidery in his work, artist Max Colby explores themes of death and transformation in his series Role Play. He first prints on handmade paper, creating a collograph. This type of printmaking applies materials to a rigid board. Things with a lot of texture like sandpaper, leaves, cardboard are inked and printed. Colby has controlled the shape of the print, manipulating it in a very deliberate way. Once printing is done, he then adorns it with hand-sewn embroidery.
In a short statement about his work, Colby refers to his the imagery in his work as “figures,” which I take to mean as beings. Not necessarily human, but some other living force. Their “body” is made out from printing, while the embroidery acts as embellishment for the figure. Colby writes that Role Play features “sculptural ‘skins’ which showcase fragility and temporality in conjunction with highly embellished and extravagant applications using notions of death and transformation as a catalyst.” I imagine that these could be armor or headdresses, with pieces that have spikes sewn-in or tactile objects like beads and buttons.
There is a stark difference between the delicate collograph printing and the visually-heavy embroidery. At times, it engulfs the figures, which I think is the point. Garments last a lot longer than we do. Items are passed down from generation to generation, and evidence of what a jacket looked like will be surpass our lifetime.
Collage artist Ed Spence uses hundreds of hand-cut pixels to interpret photographs. The original works, mundane scenes like floral arrangements and out-of-focus landscapes, are made infinitely more interesting with his additions. Spence abstracts the original image by organizing the tiny squares on top of it. In doing so, he presents his alternative and desired image.
Spence’s works are modern-day pointillism, and the stippling effect made by squares rather than dots. While pointillism has existed since the late 1800’s, the artist puts a modern spin on it by referencing pixels. It looks like this idea was born from our increasingly digital world.
Spence states that he uses a knife and ruler to dissect the information within the photograph. In other words, he chooses what to distort and enhance, which explains the way he pixelates his work. I started to view his collages assuming that he had precisely pixelated the original image. I quickly realized this was not the case. If you squint your eyes, sometimes Spence’s pixels complete the image. Other times, colors and shapes don’t really match up. There’s an obvious disconnect between what I expect the image to be and how Spence wants to depict it. While pixels are often a warped but true representation of an image, the artist plays with this idea. Not only does he craft something analog that should be digital, but he skews what we’d come to expect from it. (Via iGNANT)
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.
You might have read countless comics and watched all of the movies, but how often do you see a geriatric superhero? Not much, I’m sure. Arguably, these types of stories are less fun and offer less fantastical possibilities. A lot of stories are action-driven; The less action means potentially less appeal. The paintings of Andreas Englund, however, offer a different perspective. In his series of realistically-rendered oil paintings, Englund highlights mundane, amusing, and the occasional ass-kicking moments by an aging Superhero. We see him eating clementines, watching tv, and choking at a dinner party. And it’s not boring.
Age is the overarching theme in this series. Author Philipp Windmüller’s writes a short essay about Englund’s Superhero and highlights his transition from young to old. He states:
… the character himself needs to face up reality and the aging process. He has to acknowledge to himself that he cannot live up to expectations and that the “perfect life” is nothing more than wishfulness. Englund’s artworks are focused on the maturing process. Even in the old age it is still possible to achieve something valuable although someone’s drive and vigour won’t bluster out explosively. Nevertheless everybody in his advanced age deserves to be recognised and respected for what he has achieved in life.
Recognizing that we live in an ageist society, Windmüller goes to write that we should identify and have empathy for this character:
Every one of us will find himself in the same situation as the “Aging Superhero” anytime soon. Of course, all good things must come to an end but we don’t have to bow to social marginalisation. One day we all will be old and start realise we need to dial it down and stop pushing on harder. In a worldwide society where mostly older people live, we need a survival packet with superpowers in order to make sure that everybody can film his own superhero blockbuster. (Via This is Colossal)
Designer Monique Goossens transforms the hair left behind on the garbage, shower drain and/or combs into a work of typography.
Monique Goossens’ work includes elements of both design and organic art. The concept is disturbing yet brilliant, and design has never seen something quite like this before. Although her idea challenges established conceptions of function [and aesthetics], her work doesn’t stray away from the bizarre and amusing.
“The hair letters consist of hundreds of hairs, and give the impression of being fine pen drawings. The basic shape of the letters is created by forming the hairs into a legible character, during which process I follow the natural characteristics of the hairs: curly, rounded corners, springiness. To a great extent, it is the dynamic of the hairs which determines the shape of the letters. The ends of the hairs create an organized chaos, an energetic play of lines which forms a haze around the letter’s basic shape.”
The Amsterdam based artist studied Interior Design and Styling at Academie Artemis. Shortly after, she became interested in the relationship between photography and design, so she continued her studies at the Design Academy in Eindhoven.
Tatiana Blass built a human body that leans over the spine of a chair. She built this body out of wax and gave it a spotlight to shine; however, its glow not only illuminated, but also curdled the figure’s shape with heat. Arms broke off and bone emerged. Soon the body itself was only spine.
Spine against spine.
On another day, at another location or time, Blass built another body, a lying down one. The heat was not on the back, but instead rising from below. The body melted and there was no bone. Only a puddle of wax, something similar to where the body began.
The dissolution is the performance, the performer is the object: it moves to mirror our horror, to show its aliveness: our aliveness.
This concept of sculpture as a temporary structure feels relative to Urs Fischer’s own monolithic candlelit figures which also weaken over time. Both generate a sense of narrative that we relate to instantly– feelings of loss or devastation amidst chaos. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Wax to wax. What slips through our fingers: a certain temperature from day to day. We cannot gauge. An inevitable ritual.
The music must come to an end, and it does, especially for Blass’s other installation (video above), as Thiago Curry pounds five easy pieces on the keys, while two men pour melted paraffin into the grand piano.
Vicki Ling is an artist that creates graphite drawings of surreal landscapes. Chock full of symbolism and mystery, Ling’s images are cryptic. Part of their appeal is trying to solve the visual puzzle that she’s constructed.
Ling briefly speaks about her work, writing, “…fictional landscapes and constructions shift between two and three dimensions, creating a sensation of movement and evolving forms.” The places depicted are liminal spaces, meaning they are in transition, somewhere between what they began as and what they will become. This is made inherent in the movement and tension created by the textures and forms in the work. They are reminiscent of the ocean. We can imagine the crashing waves, tides, and the inhabitants of the sea. There is tension in Ling’s work, and it is easy to feel like at any moment waves will rush in and fill the rooms that she’s so carefully rendered. But, considering Ling’s intent, perhaps she wants an environment that could suddenly be swept away. This notion is refreshing, but also sad knowing that this environment is fleeting.
I am personally intrigued by Ling’s drawing that features a sinkhole. In this image, it looks like the top of the landscape has been punctured. The surface is fragile and looks like it is going to cave in on itself. What would it become? I imagine it to be a black hole, drawing everything in until nothing is left. Or, it could be a portal to another world. The places in Ling’s drawings could exist anywhere. They are surreal and conjure the feeling of a dream, so this could all exist in someone’s head. As the artist spoke of moving and evolving forms, these drawings are all metaphors; not only a shifting environment, but personally as we grow, change, and confront obstacles. If we are willing, we evolve just as Ling’s landscapes suggestively do.
Animal sculptures by Australian artist Natalie Ryan are inspired by taxidermy. While conventional taxidermy practices dictate that she preserve the skin/fur of the animal she is preparing, Ryan instead uses synthetic materials to cover casts of squirrels, bears, and monkeys. Her current portfolio cloaks these animals entirely in blue velvet.
While Ryan’s web presence is limited, her gallery representation, Dianne Tanzer Gallery in Melbourne writes about Ryan’s latest exhibition, Evanescere, stating:
Continuing to explore notions of the cadaver as a secondary form, a shadow of it’s living self, these works depict the internals of animals stripped of their dermis and identifying features. Evanescere looks at the body in a suspended state of disappearing. In conjunction with this, these works also explore the idea of the animal cadaver on display and museology as a resting place. These works combine bodies and elements of the landscape that reference the paradigm of Natural History Museum displays. They seek to question the role the body plays in the Museum and the loss of the individual as it becomes a subject to represent an entire species.
Ryan’s decision to color her work bright blue introduces a contemporary aesthetic to taxidermy. It references the trends of home decor over the past few years, in which loud, unnatural colors are applied to natural objects. When thinking about traditional taxidermy and how it uses real feathers and fur, the artist makes a statement about craft and preservation. The prevailing attitude of culture champions innovation and exploration of the new. Ryan is stripping this practice of its ritual, simply using foam casts and not real animals. She’s chosen a color and material that’s more en vogue. We are drawn to this work because it’s a twist on an old practice. She makes taxidermy fresh rather than just feeling old.