Bones automatically insinuate death, and often are the only physical remnant that insinuates life once existed. Shen Shaomin‘s bone works are equal parts terrifying and fascinating, man-made memorials to human intervention on the planet. Creatures that never have been or should be are pieced together from human and animal skeletons. The bones are carved and relief-carved with text taken from several sources, including the Bible, the Koran, and various sources. Inscribed in English, Arabic, and Chinese, the texts serve as warnings to the two largest industrial nations in the world of the damage being caused to the planet.
Related to the Chinese practice of bonsai, or long-term manipulation of a living tree to one’s will based on aesthetic and stylistic choices, Shaomin has also used bonsai in past works as a metaphor for human intervention upon nature.
In an interview with the University of Sydney’s ARTSPACE CHINA, Shaomin explains the terror he hopes to evoke in his skeletal works, “China’s current situation is very much like my bonsais. At first glance you will find it beautiful, but once you look more carefully you’ll see there are terrifying things behind that beauty. China has over a billion people, but over 800 million of those people are peasants. A peasant’s standard of life in China is still pretty basic. They say that if every one of those 800 Chinese peasants showered every day it would take more than all the water on the planet. That’s a scary thought.” (via myampgoesto11)
Graphic, motion, and interactive designer Hannes Hummel has created a series of sculptures that are inspired by music. Titled Luxury Problems, the surreal busts are chopped up, duplicated, and mirrored. They might look like the typical “art historical” bust, but upon further inspection, there’s something seriously wrong. Some have more than one set of eyes, while others feature a skull that permeates the fusion of two faces. Hummel describes the inspiration and process of this unusual series of works.
Based on Andy Stott’s record »Luxury Problems« I created a set of 3 busts. In the same vein as his sample oriented, dark & chopped song structure, the process and methods used to create every bust are basically the same — with the help of autocad 123d catch I scanned several busts, stone sculptures and bones, recreated them digitally and created rapid prototying ready bust-remixes
The nightmarish sculptures are fascinating in the weird narrative that they create, and has you asking questions about their backstory. Why do they look the way that they do? Hummel has give us the opportunity to fill in the blanks. (Via Martineken)
Artist Paul Rousso spent part of his career as an art director and freelance illustrator for big companies like Revlon, Clairol, and Bloomingdales. So, it’s fitting that his recent body of work relates to pop art and features realistic, larger-than-life sculptures of discarded candy wrappers, magazine pages, and money. He delicately forms acrylic into folds and creases of paper, and paints it to look like it’s been beat up, stepped on, and generally seen better days.
Rousso is specifically interested in these small pieces of ephemera that mean so much to us. From his artist statement:
Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by the endless oscillation of the human condition through text and imagery. As alternating replicas of our day-to-day become transformed by the inexplicable need to create, I endeavor to illuminate the imagined, effervescent edges of our all but invisible lives through the flat, two-dimensional subject matter that is all around us. As these shifting forms become distorted through the lens of history, my work inscribes an epitaph to the printed reality that was our past existence.
By blowing up this forgettable part of popular culture, Rousso makes it inescapable. It’s in your face and won’t be ignored, reminding us about the obsessions that we have with it and eventually (try) and forget. (Via PICDIT and mashKULTURE)
Artist Ron Issacs crafts delicate-looking garments using a not-so-delicate looking material – wood. Starting with Finnish birch plywood, he builds elaborate relief constructions and ends by painting them in a trompe l’oeil fashion. Issacs excels at capturing the subtle details that make these sculptures believable. The shirts, dresses, and flowers look as though they are gently swaying in the wind. He writes about the subjects of his work, writing:
My three primary recurring subjects are vintage clothing (for the way it continues the life of the past into the present, for its rich structures and colors and shapes, and for its anthropomorphic presence as a stand-in for the figure); plant materials in the form of sticks, leaves, and flowers (for too many reasons to list); and found objects. They combine in appropriate or surprising juxtapositions, sometimes purely as a visual “poem” of sorts and (if I’m lucky) sometimes as an image with real psychological resonance. Objects occasionally reappear in other contexts and take on new meanings, like a repertory company of actors playing different roles in different plays.
Issacs goes on to say that he sees his art as a hybrid of painting and sculpture; the three-dimensional construction employs one half of the work while the colorful adornments are the other. In addition, he invites the viewer to come up with their own interpretations of his creations. You can attach a narrative to it and your own “reading,” but to him, these are largely about the act of making and the fascination with making things resemble something that they’re not.
Looking at these landscapes, you’d never believe that they were underwater. The incredible fishtanks are entries from the obscure Japanese-based International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest, the largest of its kind. Tiny worlds are meticulously assembled over the course of months or even years. This is not a cheap hobby; fragile aquascaping layouts like these are expensive to grow and maintain.
Considering how grandiose these tanks are, it’s no surprise to learn that the fish are not the primary concern. They aren’t included in many aquariums, although you can spot some of them in these photographs.
Competitors need to be skilled in more than just aqua construction to do well. They need to be experts in areas including biology, design, and photography. The best fishtanks are a combination of complex landscape arrangements and healthy yet unusual-looking greens. These aquatic layouts are escapist, in a way. For a moment, we forget what we’re looking at and that it’s underwater. Instead, its unusual miniature features make us feel like we’re an omnipotent giant that could destroy these worlds at any time. (Via 22 Words)
In a rather intense bit of wordplay, artist Vik Muniz (whose fantastic illusory work has previously featured several times here) has teamed up with Marcelo Coelho to create intricate and near-impossibly detailed sandcastles. Taking a single grain of scan, the duo has spent four years perfecting a process of microscopically etching fortress-like castles into single grains of sand. Each piece of sand measures less than one half of a single millimeter are created using an incredibly focused ion beam (FIB – typically used to create microchips) and documented with a scanning electron microscope, later enlarged to show the incredibly fine detail of the the project.
Muniz explains why the duo uses sand, as opposed to post-photographic editing (such as photoshop), “When someone tells you it’s a grain of sand, there’s a moment where your reality falls apart and you have to reconstruct it. You have to step back and ask what the image is and what it means.’” Adds Coelho, “I think photography is just re-starting. There’s a whole new kind of photography emerging now. A lot of it is happening because of this combination between computers and cameras, and story telling and narratives can emerge as a result.”
Decadent desserts are paired with sexy legs in Argentinian-based artist Camila Valdez’s series of life and table-sized sculptures. The faceless beings are placed in public and are posed on benches, seen exiting restaurants, and enjoying a picnic in the park. Despite the fact they can’t convey emotion through eyes or a mouth, Valdez has made their legs expressive. They are straight and together if trying to look pensive, or partially open as if trying to suggest something else.
This series literally objectifies women and compares them to a sugary treat that will rot your treat and should be enjoyed only every-so-often. At the same time, they reference outdated objects from the middle of the 20th century, where legs were attached to things like lamps (as seen in the film A Christmas Story). Valdez pokes fun at this absurd and fantastical objectification of the population. (Via HiFructose)
Artist Thomas Doyle’s work is done in a miniature scale, at the size of a model train set or smaller. Taking pieces from these types of sets, he alters them as dark depictions of suburban life. We see natural disasters literally tear homes in two and sometimes turn them topsy-turvy. The scenes are set up as a story with the characters trying to make sense of it all. They are kept under a glass shell and feel like they are suspended in time as if they are in a snow globe.
The scale provides a weird feeling that we’re omnipotent and could crush them like a bug. Doyle notes this in his statement about the work, adding:
Conversely, the private intensity of moments rendered in such a small scale draws the viewer in, allowing for the intimacy one might feel peering into a museum display case or dollhouse. Though surrounded by chaos, hazard, and longing, the figures’ faces betray little emotion, inviting viewers to lose themselves in these crucibles—and in the jumble of feelings and memories they elicit.
We feel a connection to Doyle’s figures, which is a testament to his ability to tell a story. You walk away from this work wanting to know more about these tiny lives. (Via Fast Company)