In the digital age and generation of the selfie, a spiraling and often disorienting importance placed on consumerism and commodities permeates even the most remote of regions. Through the billboard jungles and beehive of mass media, images relentlessly promoting youth and sexuality haphazardly depict ideals of femininity. Creating a wormhole of inadequacies, the female form has found itself in a constant tug-of-war in either defending its natural state or scrambling to correct propagated notions of aesthetic shortcomings. As Barbara Kruger famously stated on one of her notorious gelatin silver prints from the 1980’s, “You Are Not Yourself”.
There’s a pervasive sense of childlike fantasy that seems to underline many pop surrealist works. Make-believe animals that don checkered coats, tight rope walkers and re-imagined cats all vibrate within and beyond the confines chosen by each artist at hand.
The alluring world of pop surrealism frequently ushers in a sense of mythical innocence and humor, unifying the superficial world of popular culture with the recesses of the unconscious. With underlying themes of fragility and the macabre delicately hidden beneath a veil of cultural kitsch, saccharine sweet dreamscapes transform and redefine a caustically bright world enamored with packaged goods. The fantastical worlds created through the lens of the following artists explores the relationship between the seemingly pristine and the accompanying bittersweet decay that dwells beneath it. Featured artists include: Casey Weldon, Mac Sorro, Rafael Silveira, Leslie Ditto, and Britt Ehringer.
Austrian artist Valentin Ruhry often plays with ideas of Minimalism and analog technologies, using light installations as a systematic approach which reveals a metaphor of interconnectedness, even when we do not see them present. In his 2013 exhibition Réclamer at Halle für Kunst & Medien in Graz, (then travelling to Österreich), Ruhry references advertising and promotional communication, using light boxes which generally house these messages. The exhibition’s title, Réclamer, comes from Latin and French, meaning to claim, to appeal, to call back. Ruhry, who was born in Graz, Austria and now lives and works in Vienna, used the empty light to represent a loss of function, “both through their components and in and of themselves.”
This type of installation investigates many of the themes present in Ruhry’s other works. When speaking with Jon Rathenberg’s Artist Interview Tumblr, Ruhry explains his fascination and his process, “I´m not a scientist nor have I ever been educated in mechanical engineering or whatever but I have always had a strong interest in technology. For me, a jet plane or a refrigerator is as fascinating and sometimes as miraculous as the power socket on your wall. Since I don’t understand much about the technical aspects of most of the equipment that surrounds me I study there aesthetic qualities. I try to highlight them by placing aesthetics or form before function.” (via likeafieldmouse and artistinterview)
Dissolving Europe is the latest public art intervention series by Berlin-based street artist Vermibus. Using a hacked inter-rail ticket, he has been traveling Europe with an extensive set of billboard-lock keys, using them to illegally access print billboards and advertisement frames. Once opened, he uses various solvents and paints to alter the images, sometimes removing them entirely, and even cutting and pasting others. this process destroys and beautifies, blurring the already transgressive line of advert-hacking public art interventions. The artist states, “By using the advertising space and how the human figures are represented in that space, Vermibus is removing the masks that we wear and is criticizing advertisement which takes away a person’s identity to replace it by the one of the brand.”
Continued from his website, documenting the process, “Vermibus regularly collects advertising posters from the streets, using them in his studio as the base material for his work. There, a process of transformation begins. Using solvent, he brushes away the faces and flesh of the models appearing in the posters as well as brand logos. Once the transformation is complete, he then reintroduces the adverts back into their original context, hijacking the publicity, and its purpose.” (via lizartblog)
Colombian-born, Miami-based artist Federico Uribe creates illustrations and sculptures using conceptual pop art language and everyday objects. Uribe integrates these objects into his canvases, combining illustration with sculptural elements, but also builds entire worlds out of a hodgepodge of items like colored pencils, shoes, wires, and bicycle tires. He has no limits on what he’ll use in his work, and is often inspired by the very object itself. Uribe says playing with the objects reminds him of being young and interpreting cloud formations. He claims that there is a literary element involved in every piece he constructs, and he views each recycled object as a word that can change meaning within varying contexts. Of people who believe that since his work involves repurposing used items that it is ecologically sentimental, he asserts that what he does is not about making statements but transmitting feelings to people.
With an object he uses in many of his pieces – the pencil – Uribe crafts intricate and technically skilled sculpture illustrations. Using the lines of many colored pencils, Uribe is able to create the illusion of movement and fluidity, shaping faces and curves out of a straight and pointy medium. The photographs included in this post do not give Uribe’s talent true justice. I urge you to watch this short video about Uribe and his work, where his amazing amount of skilled and detailed attention is beautifully demonstrated. Uribe began as a painter who gravitated toward brooding sensuality influenced by personal feelings about the pain, guilt, and sexuality experienced in Catholicism. This emotional viscerality is maintained throughout his current work, which evokes a playfulness that is charged with intentional feeling. (via cross connect)
Massachusetts-based visual artist Aliza Razell combines photography and watercolor painting in her series of self-portraits that feature splashes and spills of color. Razell uses watercolors to enhance the vitality of her photographs by evoking mythological and psychological themes. One series, “Anesidora,” represents the Pandora’s jar narrative (the myth features a jar, not a box, as commonly believed) and another series, ikävä, is the Finnish word for missing or longing after something. Razell’s photography-watercolor combination perfectly captures the humanity and surreality of mythological events and the poetic evocations of a fleeting feeling. (via fubiz)
Brooklyn-based graphic designer Victoria Siemer, also known as Witchoria, has an ongoing photography series updated weekly called ‘Human Error” in which the artist digitally overlays an existential or lovelorn computerized error message over a scanned Polaroid. The error message prompts the viewer for an action or to wait, illustrating the futility of this technological exercise when perceived in the context of heartbreak or ennui. Siemer’s series elegantly pairs new technology, represented by the computerized message, with older technology, represented by the vintage mode of a Polaroid photograph, combining the nostalgia evoked by a Polaroid with the technological angst that fuels many of our modern relationships.
Melbourne-based artist Ollie Lucas creates works where colors swirl together with an almost preternatural smoothness, like oil diffusing in water, with more jagged and hard-line separation. Lucas says, ‘My work has always had graphical and clean elements to it. A past life as a graphic designer is to blame there’. Creating works that span painting on enormous wooden spools, to digital works on print and more recent explorations in glitch animations, Lucas explains his influences, ‘Exposure to the graffiti scene in Melbourne has made me question harmony in my work, I have a love for filthy, dirty and weathered paint splattered surfaces, but at the same time I crave clean, modern, hardline geometrics…This is what drives my practice, combining two visual elements that are polar opposites in search for a harmony that i may never obtain.‘
Lucas work has often confronts two seemingly-opposing forces, graffiti and graphic design, painting and printmaking, natural landscapes with digital glitches, and blends them together. When asked how his work has changed leading up to his solo exhibition Digital Landscapes,at Pierre Peeters Gallery in Auckland, New Zealand, Lucas explains his more recent explorations and realizations in printmaking and digital creation. “It’s the first show I’ve done that is 100% digitally created. I’ve always used digital processes as a starting point in my work, however I felt a finished work needed the element of ‘hand-made’ to make it unique, to separate it from the mass produced. Since creating hundreds of drafts and moving through the paper choice/proofing and printing process I’ve come to realize a print can be just as unique as a painting.”
Though many see printmaking and painting differing in both result and creative impulse, the artist explains the harmony and connection between the two, giving value to both,“Although I have worked with many mediums in the past I still consider myself a painter, mainly because I still think like one and approach my work like a painter would. I think my work reads like a painting also.”
Ollie Lucas’ current exhibition, Digital Landscapes is on view at Pierre Peeters Gallery in Auckland, New Zealand, from now through March 5th, 2014.