In 2004, artist Kim Alsbrooks began painting regal portraits on discarded cans in a series titled My White Trash Family. The work, which features both male and female subjects dressed in elaborate wigs, stately ascots, and enormous hats, is a juxtaposition of literal trash and fine portraiture. It was as initially inspired by Alsbrooks’ friend, a women’s history professor, who pointed out the historical biases that are present in art. In response, Alsbrooks’ tiny paintings mimic those that you’d find in museum collections. The fact that these exquisite works are produced on trash rather than quality materials is both ironic and amusing.
My White Trash Family is prolific; Alsbrooks has produced over 600 paintings since it started. All beverage cans are pre-flattened, mostly by passing cars or trucks. She describes her technique, writing, “One cannot flatten the trash. It just doesn’t work. It must be found so that there are no wrinkles in the middle and the graphic should be well centered. Then the portraits are found that are complimentary to the particular trash. Generally I depict miniature portraits from the watercolor on ivory era (17th-18th century more or less). The trash is gessoed in the oval shape, image drawn in graphite, painted in oils and varnished.”
Part of the success of this series is found in the dedication to craft, and the fact that she paints miniature portraits really well. But, what ultimately makes these works appealing is not necessarily tangible. The reference to high society and its traditional paths challenged by cheap, “lower class” items is instantly recognizable and relatable at a time when the one percenters rule the world. (Via Booooooom!)
New York-based artist Lee Price paints realistic portraits of women as they are caught in intimate moments consuming sweet treats and decadent desserts. They are either in bed or in the bathtub, both places where eating is seen as somewhat taboo (aside from the occasional breakfast in bed). Here, we are the voyeur, gazing at not only their location, but what they are eating. In a short statement about her work, Price writes:
In this society, there’s so much pressure for women to be thin. We’re not supposed to have appetites – and not just for food, but for a lot of things. We’re the givers and not the consumers, and I think some of my recent paintings are about the women staring at the viewers and saying, ‘I’m not going to censor my appetite.’
The women in Price’s work are unapologetic about what they enjoy, and it ultimately seems like they are liberated doing so. Many of them look straight at us instead of shying away. As she insinuates in her statement, Price’s work touches on the repression of desire, and the fact that they match our gaze communicates that they are taking control. (Via iGNANT)
Georgia Theologou (or Georgia Th as she is also known) is a self-taught Greek artist who paints hauntingly beautiful portraiture. Created by combining traditional and digital media, Theologou’s intentionally limited palate and trademark visual rendering gives both a soft lushness and a harsh reality to her subjects, like mascara tear trails being transformed into softly dabbed paint glitter. In a conversation with Beautiful/Decay (and with the help of Google Translate), Theologou explains what inspires her symbolic subjects,
“Creating something is a way to express the feelings that are inside me that I maybe didn’t even know about before. It’s a way to explore myself and what I have on my mind, so when I am making my work I feel like I find something new about me and about how I see things that I did not even realize was present.”
Theologou’s internalized subjects are taken from many sources of art research and random bits of internet ephemera, and blended with other imagery that gives each portrait an allegorical depth and visual tension. Noting themes of nature ranging from human and animal, the stars and the cosmos in many of her colorful works, Georgia explains these combinations, saying
“I don’t paint people but the existence of a person. The subject of my paintings is the feelings of this existence or the situation they experience that moment. All of the objects I use in my paintings are random, but this helps me to create the right place and mood, so I choose objects that are common on fairy-tales and dreams. Nature and space are also places with the same strong sense of vitality, so the person can feel closer to his/her inner world. My paintings are not about a story or a specific idea or symbol, I think about painting “that” moment.”
Artist Randy Ortiz has been tantalizing the eyes of illustration fans for years, illuminating concert and movie posters both professionally and as creative tasks for a great imagination. While past work emphasized ink line work and detailed black and white charcoal drawings, recent work has become more colorful, with flat background colors which perhaps surprisingly emphasize the darker thematic weight in the mystical figures and composition.
The self-taught Canadian artist uses evolved techniques to illicit a near-Surrealistic response from his often-human figures, draped in masterfully rendered drapery and fabrics. Despite the often serious undertones immediately noticeable in his work, the obvious sense of humor is evident (mutant visual remixes of Drake’s oft-mocked album cover seen below for example). In other works hooded figures clamor over each other, all reaching for a disembodied hand holding a small heart talisman representing love, or mystical-triangle-eyed cats eye floating balls of string. With Ortiz’s visual narratives and painting style evolving at a rapid pace, he is definitely ahead of other illustrator/artist to watch.
Professional illustrator and graphic designer Marcello Barenghi has a long and successful career rendering visual narratives and designs. But recently his drawing demonstrations have given the Milan-based draftsman a new following, as his Youtube video series routinely tops over a million hits per video.
With stop-motion demonstrations showing how Barenghi renders commonly found objects ranging from crumpled snack chip bags, Euro coins and more challenging objects like mirrored silver teapots, viewers can watch how a master draftsman achieves his trademark photorealistic results. Although few students of pencil, graphite and airbrush will ever achieve the results Barenghi does, they can at least see the unlimited potential of the blank page when the artist demonstrates each step by step video. (via gizmodo)
Like most people, when I was a kid I loved playing with a kaleidoscope. Pointing it at different light sources and twisting the chamber caused a morphing geometric mandala to take shape before my eyes, magically shifting sunshine and the colored bits inside into a series of hypnotizing designs. The same part of me that was enamored with a kaleidoscope is the same part of me that loves juicy colored highly geometric contemporary art.
As the highly influential artist and color theorist of the Bauhaus, Josef Albers, says so succinctly in his classic book Interaction of Color, “As with tones in music, so with color- dissonance is as desirable as its opposite, consonance.” The dance of tension and fluidity in an ever changing kaleidoscopic pattern is a rhythm of light and hue, which there is an abundance of in contemporary art. There are so many artists out there these days who use these components in their visual art, however the five artists included here emerge with unique strength, vision and technical ability that is worth noting. Artists include: Dalek (James Marshall), Maya Hayuk, Richard Colman, Amanda Airs and Jeff Depner
Taking images from auction catalogs, artist Kour Pour translates intricately-patterned carpets onto paneled surfaces. The multi-step process is labor intensive, not to mention large – his work is 8 feet tall. First, Pour scans in the image of a rug and burns it on a silk screen. Then, he uses a broom to begin his underpainting (the texture gives it an appearance of a textile). Afterwards, he silkscreens the design to the panel and begins the work of painting every painstaking detail. The final step is to use an electrical sander to erase the painted surface and expose the layers of the under-painting. What results is work that looks like an faded, well-worn rug.
Pour is both British and Persian, and when he was younger, his father owned a rug shop in England. His work is tied to this past, as he explains in his artist statement:
Carpets were a part of my childhood growing up in England. I remember my Father’s rug shop, and how he would hand-dye sections of carpets that had faded away, in order to bring them back to their original colours. I felt that in doing this, my Father was making an effort to maintain all their history and meaning, as if he was bringing the carpets back to life. When I first moved to Los Angeles I had feelings of displacement and much like the faded carpets, I too felt a part of my history disappear. I started the carpet painting series and noticed how art and objects could play an increasingly important role in our diverse society. Through making these paintings I am constantly learning more about my background and the rich mix of culture that surrounds me and the carpets.
By recreating carpets, Pour highlights their meaning as object, as well as the implications of their surface design. They signify an object of privilege (as their originals come from an auction catalog), and our commodity-based consumer culture. Beyond that, the patterns of animals and men on horses is representational of globalization, a culture’s history, and more. (Via Bmore Art and Flat Surface)
The first quality one may see in the brightly-colored, bent steel pieces by Rana Begum is the potential to shift based on perspective. From one angle, viewers will be confronted by a flat, monochromatic shape jutting from the wall, while another view offers more intricate geometric patterns spreading across several pieces. This is the legacy of Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd or Agnes Martin – to take the simplest shapes and through color, form and collection, imbue them with complexity and depth. As Begum explains, “Its so beautiful the way the simple form and shape can be repeated to create a space like that”
Though Begum lists these more modern artists as influences, theBangladeshi-born, London-based artist also explains that the Aniconism (belief in avoiding/outlawing representations of divine beings, prophets or any human beings in religious imagery) traditions of Islam were equally influential. This tradition was responsible for the exquisite geometric and intensely detailed works seen in classical Islamic architecture, a connection which is apparent in Begum’s deceptively simple works. ”For me, architecture evokes memories of reading the Quran as a child in a mosque in Bangladesh,” said Begum in an interview with Surface Magazine’s Marina Cashdan, “which was bare, simple, and had a lot of light coming in through the windows.” This shifting imagery can be seen in her works, where repetition and simplistic elements collectively offer complexity.
Begum’s most recent works often uses paint on Origami-like, bent mild steel and powder-coated aluminum, but she has also begun using brass and copper as a base for her wall sculptures. “[They are] materials I spent a long time researching and I’m excited to use them for this show,” she says. “They bring an extra dimension to the works” (via wallpaper* and surface)