At first glance, the oil paintings of Jan Esmann could easily be confused with photographs; seen in heightened resolution and depth of field, the portraits capture the remarkable tangibility of the human face. Also unlike your typical photographic subject, all of the painter’s characters are sleeping, caught wide-mouthed in their own personal dreamscapes, allowing viewers an uncomfortable and enchanting intimacy with the private imaginings of the unconscious mind.
Seen from above and as if lit by candlelight, Esmann’s strange and transfixing portraits evoke narratives like that of the mythological Psyche, who, against her lover Cupid’s warnings and prohibitions, snuck a candle into their bedchamber so that she might glimpse his face. The painted faces seem to stand at the precipice of wakefulness, their folded, glistening eyelids precariously shut. The viewer is allowed to witness the most vulnerable of states, yet (s)he does not escape the unnerving sense that s(he) might be caught, found out.
The consistent open mouths betray sleepy yearnings, unabashed moments of ecstasy in slumber. As if possessed by spiritual or erotic climax, Esmann’s subjects are sensuous and blissful; saliva glitters on canines, and sweat sets the face aglow. Unconfined to a more truthful representation of human perception (either photographic or otherwise), the artist’s hyper-realist style enables her to picture every inch of flesh with the same breathtaking clarity. Viewers may examine every feature, while the objects of our attentions remain frozen in time and space. In this beautifully bizarre series, we are permitted our voyeuristic impulses. (via Lost at E Minor)
After the death of a dear friend, the photographer Emir Ozsahin was struck by the poignancy of life and grief, choosing to confront by creating heartbreaking images of deceased animals. In his series Pastel Deaths, he captures lifeless creatures in gentle tones, hoping to undo the fact of their tragic deaths with the naiveté of a child incapable of processing mortality: with the utmost innocence, he poses a dog beneath a blanket and offers the grey-nosed canine a book to read.
The series conveys this youthful optimism and poignant refusal to accept death with the use of tiny fixtures that could easily reside within a child’s dollhouse: a bed on which a bird might lay his beak, a straw nest for a guinea pig, a tiny, sudsy bathtub for another, darkly featured bird. The artist’s relentless striving to erase the fact of and his own personal knowledge of death is utterly heart wrenching; we follow him as he personifies each creature with a soft pair of miniature pajamas, a stuffed toy, or a pair of fallen glasses.
The juxtaposition of the dead with the artist’s infant-like insistence upon life results in a painfully intimate conversation with death and with each once-living being. Ozsahin’s subjects are so unflinchingly peaceful in their eternal slumber that the viewer must approach them only with utter care; the eye holds each for a moment like a tender newborn baby, then sets him down to rest. As viewers, we waver between acknowledging the facts and whispering to ourselves quietly, “No, look, he’s just sleeping.” While using once living creatures as subjects normally raises ethical flags for me, Ozsahin’s images read like Victorian post-mortem shots of humans, serving to tenderly and lovingly memorialize each creature. (via Feature Shoot)
Today we go behind the scenes with Emory Allen, one of the ten featured artists in our upcoming “Art Works Every Time” exhibition. Emory will be showing his latest series, which uncovers and explores the mythology of his Filipino heritage. The result is a collection of strange and beautiful images, vibrating with energetic linework. Read on to discover more about Emory’s work!