We’ve saved the best for last with our last series of photographs from our European travels with the folks at Canson and Royal Talens. Although we went to dozens of galleries, had a private after hours tour of the Louvre, and got to enjoy the beauty of Amsterdam- the best part of our trip was visiting the Royal Talens factory in Apeldoorn. Usually our interactions with art supplies happen in Blick and Utrecht art stores, so being able to see how all those magical art supplies gets made and packaged was a rare treat.
I’m happy to present second installment of photographs from our amazing European trip with our friends over at Royal Talens And Canson. If you remember we started our trip in Paris and made our way over to Amsterdam, stopping along the way to check out all the museums, galleries, and sights that each city offered.
We started our first day in Amsterdam with a boat tour of the canals to get acquainted with the many tiny streets and canals that zig zag throughout the city. Along the way we saw many amazing examples of dutch architecture, design, street art and of course Houseboats!
To call Clark Goolsby a multi-media artist almost seems like an understatement. Indeed, the sheer volume of materials and techniques he expertly employs is staggering, often combining spray paint, acrylics, pencil, wood, foam, plastic, string, and even audio into one finished product – but even that far from represents the impressive span of Goolsby’s “multi-ness.” He seamlessly transitions between different styles, from abstracted, multifaceted geometric forms to realistically rendered objects, crisp lines to more impressionistic strokes and drippings. As if that wasn’t enough, Goolsby tackles a seemingly endless mix of iconography, juxtaposing rainbows and antlers, inverted crosses and trophies, pyramids and statuesque faces. Oh, and by the way, it’s all in technicolor.
The result is just as overwhelming as you might imagine, and that’s exactly the point. Goolsby’s work parallels the milieu of stimuli we are constantly barraged with every day of our lives – a combination, he suggests, which poses a persistent, sometimes surprising threat to our survival. Goolsby’s most recent solo exhibition, Strange/Love at POVevolving Gallery in Los Angeles, focuses on “how we maintain optimism in a world that is so full of potentially life ending situations.” At the center of this exhibition, an 18 foot long skeletal form made of wood and foam entitled “Dead Man” lies horizontally, suspended from the ceiling by hundreds of neon-colored threads. Goolsby’s work reminds us that, even if we are all essentially dead men grasping onto life by the threads, at least those threads are bright, illustrating a sense of playful joie de vivre which urges us to live larger than life, finding beauty in the unrelenting stream of chaos while we still can.
Derek Albeck has a magical way of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Using only pencils, a bit of paint, and masterfully honed traditional portrait techniques, Albeck creates pieces that are anything but traditional.
Frequently working from snapshots taken in his daily life, Albeck amplifies the expressions and motions of his subjects, revealing the completely comfortable, unguarded, and usually hilariously unflattering parts of ourselves that manifest most intensely in candid photos taken seconds too soon, or when chemically compromised. In fact, much of Albeck’s work is characterized by a sort of “magic brownie effect,” turning mundane, common symbols, people, and objects into mesmerizing sources of irresistible humor. His eye for details — like the logo on a beer can, the crinkle of a flag, or the cover of a book by Aleister Crowley – capture escapist fantasies, moments of carefree bliss and rebellion that appear at once precious but fleeting, intensely personal but universally familiar. In Albeck’s world, a pile of dirty laundry becomes an eerily expressive smiley face, a cheeky rainbow forms the frown of an aptly titled “Sad Murderer,” and a skull with hypnotic eyes, comprised of the floating heads of the happiest, goofiest people you’ve ever seen, leaves you giggling in a trance-like state for hours. This happiness proves contagious as you find yourself smiling back at the bearded, flannel-clad man collapsed in a joyful stupor beneath a rainbow in a drawing called “Have a Great Day Forever.” And with an attitude that makes us want to do just that, Albeck’s work provides a fresh viewpoint with which to view, and laugh at, everyday life.
Ashkahn Shahparnia, (pronounced ASH-CON SHAW-PAR-NEEYA) is a Los Angeles based graphic design artist whose work is colorful, whimsical, funny, and immensely clever. His designs, which seem to come from a world that is forever changing from spring to summer and back again, transition easily from one product to the next. Graphics for tote bags, t-shirts and pillows, album cover art, patterns for wall paper, some killer custom typefaces and much more, all fit snuggly into his portfolio (along with just about every color imaginable). Capturing the age-old and elusive ‘show-not-tell’ mantra of artists everywhere, Shahparnia’s fonts and graphics truly have personalities of their own. What is perhaps the most exciting is Shahparnia’s use of unexpected items in his designs and graphics, such as the elements of a dismantled avocado to create a minimalist, geometric pattern. Or the graphic representation of the evolution of bikini wax styles from the 1960s to 2000s, matter-of-factly printed on the side of a tote bag. Which makes sense when you look at the extensive list of his inspirations on his website, crediting everything from Lil’ Wayne to Carl Andre to an adorable baby polar bear. While much of Shahparnia’s work is very tongue ‘n cheek, he demonstrates a true understanding of how graphic design can completely dictate the emotional value of an image. Celebrating all styles, be they kitsch, cute or cool, the designs all have one thing in common: they’re great to look at and you’ll probably have a hard time not smiling.
Ukrainian-American artist, Maya Hayuk, takes inspiration from an unlikely combination of places, everything from Ukranian Easter eggs and Mexican woven blankets to Mandalas and rorschach tests. Hayuk uses any and every material and subject matter to create whatever fantastic world of shapes and colors she can imagine, all supported with a deep-seated understanding of composition and form. Armed with genuine inspiration and disciplined skill, she is completely unafraid to make whatever excites her, whether that be giant psychedelic murals, Aztec-Disco designs for 10 inch ceramic plates, or custom designs for Sony laptops.
The most fascinating thing about Hayuk is not only her prolific body of work, but how seamlessly she transitions from one medium to the next. Her website features works using acrylic, ink, glitter, spray paint, watercolors, tape, ballpoint pens, and wheat paste on everything from gallery walls to wood panels to the side of a barn. While her work maintains a continuity of style, there is no mistaking how she repeatedly breaks out of her own box, and challenges not only the conventions of visual art, but her personal progression as well. In her works ranging from vibrant patterns to neon or wood-paneled copulations that could make the artists of the Kama Sutra blush, Hayuk confronts both the cerebral and corporal with genuine enthusiasm and an obsessive love for symmetry. In the wild compositions, there is an inherent freedom of expression that is both playful and considered. It’s as if Hayuk is actively exploring the universe through her work, and all we need to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
Langdon Graves is all about the mystery of deception and illumination. Her drawings utilize two contradicting devices, photo-realistic rendering and surrealist narrative, all to create trompe l’oeil images that astound and leave you wanting more. Each drawing has elements that are immediately recognizable, but the second you think you know what is going on, you realize something is amiss. Some drawings are easier to decode, while others have a ‘wait a minute…’ quality that would make M.C. Escher proud. Unlike Escher, Graves saturates her drawings with a folk-like narrative that evokes the feeling that we should be learning some kind of lesson. As if we are seeing just a glimpse of a much larger, more complex story, and are hungry for more.
There is a delicate sense of instability that disrupts the calm in each drawing. Whether it’s Grave’s beautifully subtle use of color, or the quiet violence implied in many of the images, we are not looking into a world of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. Instead, Graves creates a world where a dark cloud hangs over each perfectly coiffed head. The combination of innately feminine symbols with clandestine actions produces a tension that lures you in like a moth to a flame. Yet, like any successful illusionist, Graves is careful to not reveal too much, leaving us in a state of expectation similar to the feeling of anticipation when opening a present. You know something special is inside but you only have a few clues to guess what it is.
The art of Skinner is full of mullets, monsters and metal heads, not to mention the lurkers, samurai and lil’ devils. The self-proclaimed nerd for life takes inspiration from the world of fantasy, giving life to the dreams (or sometimes nightmares) of Slayer fans and Dungeon masters everywhere. The beautifully detailed works combine the aesthetics of street art, comic book illustrations, and something akin to black velvet paintings on acid. Each work has such an immense sense of epicness, it’s hard to not get caught up in the world created. And while many of the paintings and drawings convey infinitely complex scenes that you could look at for hours, Skinner also makes lighter works that are hard not to love, especially when they’re called things like Eternal Jamnation, and have a dark, glowing monster jamming on a guitar, surrounded by bats. It’s the kind of work that just oozes passion, because no one could make images so far from reality without being totally immersed in the process. It’s like a Metalocolypse Halloween episode 365 days a year. But, despite the awesome appearance of his work, Skinner is extremely introspective and self-critical, constantly challenging himself as an artist and working to create something completely innovative. His determination to return to a more childlike inspiration, a time when “it was just raw freedom, there were no expectations, there were no ideas of good or bad it was just being in the moment and trying [his] best to do something that looks good.”