This weekend on Beautiful Decay we want to welcome you over to the dark side, where a vast amount of artists are churning out contemporary art fueled by the fire of Metal. A multitude of artists these days are making art inspired by the crushing sounds and dark spirit of Heavy Metal, Death Metal and Doom music, all of which weave in and out of several other genres.
I’ve been a huge fan for a while now of the work made by artists Skinner, Ben Venom and Martin Durazo, which are strongly informed by Heavy Metal. This past week after chatting with artist and Beautiful Decay owner, Amir H. Fallah and artist Skinner and reaching out on Facebook to learn more about artists tied into this music scene, I was turned onto a breadth of incredible artists. A lot of artists working with metal as inspiration have strong crossover into design and illustration, album art, posters (especially for the band Mastadon), band merch and murals. There’s also a strong genre of work that explores dark spiritual matter, mythology and death that is absolutely captivating. You can expect upcoming coverage of these sub-genres in coming weeks.
To be a visual artist is to also be a researcher. It is observing, questioning, and ultimately drawing conclusions that are reflected in a body of work. Not surprisingly, Alex Roulette begins new series with research. He gathers a large collection of source materials, including found images like vintage postcards. He photographs environments. They are all incorporated in his landscape paintings, which explore a place that is quasi-nostalgic for many of us – the suburbs. Roulette’s hazy, dream-like atmospheres allow us to draw upon our own memories and remember a time when things maybe weren’t so complicated.
Roulette’s paintings are of quiet moments. He’s depicted silent meetings, teenage hijinks, stormy nights, and more. They are meticulously detailed and his technique is reminiscent of Old Master paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries. While this type of rendering is not the most innovative approach to painting, Roulette’s obvious skill and talent for crafting a narrative make it hard to take your eyes off these paintings.
The longer you look, more details present themselves. You begin to question the intent of them, guiding your mind beyond what is painted. Where does the road in Crossroads (directly above) lead? What is down in that lake? Furthermore, what is inside the colorful structure in Backdrop (below)? We are supposed to ask these questions. Roulette wants us to find these images subtly uncanny. It’s not just in those strange details, but in our vantage point. He’s composed the compositions in a way that makes us the voyeur. We spy on a woman from a motel as she sits in a parking lot. Our view of swimmers is obstructed by plants, like we are seeing something shouldn’t be. It feels exciting and a bit strange.
It is difficult not to imagine a narrative when seeing the work of Terrence Payne. The Minneapolis-based artist uses elements of design, iconography, typography, pattern and figure, all rendered in a decorative style and soft pallete but with subject matter that is anything but. While the artist occasionally focuses on a central word or scrawled text behind the animals and repeating, archetypical figures, Payne’s paintings use loaded narratives that combine believable earnestness and well-intentioned antagonism.
To achieve the softness in the work, Payne first uses colored pencils to enhance the quality of light and jewel tones, then applies layers oil pastels which allows the the under-drawings show through. Payne says:
”I want you (the viewer) to see the mechanism of it. The idea is just how can I reinforce the sense of this being artificial, that these people aren’t real. They are just representations of what I am thinking about“
Terrence’s recent work has been concerned with “cataloging the human effects of trying to keep your head afloat in an increasingly polarized world of haves and have-nots” and “examining a person’s perceived place in society” and how that affects the way the work is perceived. This most recent work will be collected in an exhibition alongside Nick Howard (previously here) called Cake, at the artist-collective space Payne helped found, Rosalux Gallery in Northeast Minneapolis (which was named Twin Cities’ Best Gallery in 2013). Cake opens October 12th and runs through October 31st.
Michael Gaughan represents a new breed of hyper-creative talents whose work spans an absurd amount of media. Known for a variety of projects (including city-wide scavenger hunts, his chat-roulette in a mock-dorm room rapping identity Ice Rod, and for renting out his apartment for couples needing a romantic getaway on Valentine’s Day), Gaughan creates with an almost child-like glee. Despite the playfulness in the work, however, there is a sophistication and consistency that separates it from most. This is particularly evident in his highly-technical watercolor paintings, where art-world in-jokes exist seamlessly with pop-culture rimshots. In an exclusive talk with Beautiful/Decay, Gaughan summarizes his motivations, ”Humor is not my main medium, but definitely a consistent theme in my life and my artwork. I think that putting yourself out there in a vulnerable way is really uncomfortable and nerve-racking. It is a lot easier to do things as a joke rather than take yourself seriously, and simultaneously I am equally motivated by the possibility of brightening up someone else’s day. I ultimately want to bring joy to other people.”
Gaughan’s work references “(art) history…obscenity, pop culture, absurdity, personal experiences, fears, feelings, misunderstandings, language, human experience, and creativity as well. Skate culture is great too!” When asked about the obvious amount of time spent on each work compared to the relatively short amount of time to elicit a humorous response (and if that adds to the joke), Gaughan responds, “Ha ha I hope so. It is also important to remember that punchlines can stay with you… Just because the audience can “get it” in seconds, doesn’t mean that they won’t revisit again it in their mind. I think art-work that takes longer to understand doesn’t necessarily mean that people will remember any longer than something that took only a second to get...”
The geometric paintings of Francesco Lo Castro are made from a time-consuming layering process that combines acrylic, spraypaint, occasional silkscreen and layered epoxy resin to create dynamic explorations of shape and form. This process is so intuitive that the artist says, ”Geometry is just a word; it’s an aesthetic. There’s no math involved in it.”
The Italian-born, South Florida artist begins his work layering angular, taped-off shapes painted with aerosol and coated with a layer of epoxy resin. This layer is then sanded down, as is every successive layer, until the piece is finished. This process can take up to a month of 12-hour days to complete, according to an interview with New Times. Explaining his work, Lo Castro says ”To me, these paintings represent our entire universe. These shapes are atoms. They are galaxies. They are representational of all that combined. They all represent evolving structures that are constantly in flux and ideas that are constantly clashing with each other. And with these clashes, new ideas arise, and we evolve through them. We have billions of people finally waking up and networking with each other; even if we don’t speak the same language, we are getting to know ourselves in the process for the first time. This kind of communication hasn’t happened before.”
Lo Castro expands this point in the interview, explaining that the former lowbrow arts movement star turned to his current geometric style as an evolution – one which mirrors humanities’ own path towards singularity. The artist o notes that his own work has found an international community thanks to technology and internet exposure, and also because of the geometric aesthetic that we can all share. Lo Castro continues, ”I think geometry found me, because all you have are these colors and shapes. No matter what your age, your culture, or language you speak, everyone can jump in.“ (via coolhunter and broward-palm beach new times)
Seattle based artist Casey Weldon’s newest series of work is a bit unsettling. He’s painted a series of cats, each with four eyes. While the premise sounds simple enough, the product is more jarring than one might expect. Upon first viewing the paintings the animals don’t appear as mutated creatures or monstrous as you might expect. Rather, the paintings seem to be making it difficult to focus. As humans we have a sensitive awareness of faces, eyes being a primary reference point. Perhaps because of this the two sets of eyes don’t seem as much like a defect in the cat as a defect in our ability to focus on the painting. Also, Weldon’s choice of exclusively depicting cats clearly references the internet. The animal’s unexpected rise to the top of internet meme-dom, nearly makes cat’s a symbol of internet culture itself. The gallery statement for his current exhibit at Spoke Art further expounds on this by saying:
“Ranging from internal commentary on the state of contemporary culture to a satirical analysis of the internet in general, Weldon has deftly created a body of new acrylic paintings that humor and appall. Through his thematic commonality of quadruple eyed animals, Weldon intentionally disorients the viewing experience by juxtaposing a subject that is impulsively attractive yet eerily disturbing. With this subtle manipulation the viewer finds themselves drawn towards these subjects, yet can’t quite focus on them, akin in many ways to the eye fatigue experienced by countless hours on the internet, often fueled by the mindless addictive nature of social media. The choice of cats specifically as his subject matter continue on Weldon’s commentary of the internet/social media. The immense popularity of cat culture and viral cat memes is unavoidable in this day and age, a point made all too apparent by the pairing of Weldon’s exhibition with a Lil Bub art show just two doors down this month at Spoke Art.” (via supersonic electronic)
The human relationship with the natural world is a complex one that doesn’t seem to untangle anytime soon. With animal life increasingly being abused and habitats encroached upon anxiety is understandably mounting. Artist Chris Musina address these issues in painting and also sculpture. Musina depicts the uglier side of the human/animal relationship. Rather than highlight idyllic scenes of nature, he draws gruesome imagery of animal mistreatment to the forefront. Animal carcasses are often kept as trophies, dead souvenirs of a once living creature. Painting’s tradition of depicting killed animals is extensive – the fox hunt alone, for example, an entire genre. Appropriately, then, Musina’s animal carcasses are not there to be admired but act as animals condemning the viewer. They seem to be holding an accounting for their present condition in the painting as well as in a larger abstract sense. They act as a tool to deconstruct disassociation. Musina further explains his use of painting in addressing ecological and animal issues:
“Dealing directly with our increasingly volatile and uneasy relationship to the natural world, I draw from contemporary animal thought and a deep phylogeny of cultural cues. My work dismantles how we look at animals via “nature morte” painters, philosophy, hunting, museum dioramas, and the like. Manifested in life size compositions full of dark humor and bright color, I am addressing the animal as neither symbol nor object, but as subject, a subject aware of his or her own powerful symbolic nature. Painting represents the bulk of my practice precisely due to its place in the forefront of a history of representing animals. My paintings are populated with animal protagonists who stare back at the viewer in an uneasy gaze; aware of that place in our cultural history– asking for compassion, mercy, or simply to be put out of their misery.”
Visual artist Jennifer Davis is well-known on the internet for her whimsical and imaginative drawings and paintings (previously here). But in one of her latest series, Davis takes her trademark renderings and has paired them with an unlikely match, paper shooting targets.
In a conversation with Beautiful/Decay, the Minneapolis-based artist explains the history of the series, starting with inspiration for a printed target seen in an architecture/lifestyle magazine. “…I learned that I could get enormous packs of different colored targets from a gun shop for under $20. I started off thinking more about the symbolism of guns/violence/innocent victims/”badguys”/etc. (one of the first targets I made was called “Riddled”- I cut an intricate pattern of tiny holes all over the target.)” Davis then began using the colored paper targets as a base, decorating them with hand-drawn and painted intricately unique characters.The series evolved as Davis began taking commissions and painting other people’s ideas and applying them to the targets. “I started doing a lot of commissions, which morphed the way I was thinking about them. It is a fun exercise for me to paint someone else’s vision- it has stretched the way I think about the targets. I no longer relate them only to violence. I think about each one differently and it is interesting for me to play with adding whimsy or beauty to such a symbol. I am transforming them into something new.”