Sonia Rentsch is an art director and still life artist from Melbourne. From intricately arranged appetizers to a hanging lamp fashioned out of a head of lettuce, Rentsch’s work is both dynamic and elegant, often incorporating food as a subject. This trend is put to most effective use in her series Harm Less, an installation in which Rentsch fashioned weaponry out of completely organic objects. Each piece is visually arresting, the imagery of handguns and bullets hauntingly familiar and yet transformed into something beautiful when created out of green produce and plants. The series, in which handguns are made out of everything from bamboo shoots to roses, presents a powerful statement about gun violence and its impact as well as Rentsch’s impeccable eye for detail.
Rentsch has worked with photographer Scott Newett, assisted with design duo Tin and Ed, and worked as the production designer for Australian popstar Kimbra’s music video for “Good Intent”. Her work is consistently bright and colorful, but always proffers a lens through which viewers can fully immerse themselves in the elaborate scenery. One of her most recent projects, a public installation with artist Ben Davis, included a garden of colored pinwheels displayed in Melbourne’s La Trobe Place. Although the meticulous design behind Rentsch’s still life images is evident in each minute detail, Rentsch is assured in working with no set process. As she said in an interview, “An idea comes as quickly as it has to.”
After soaking them for thirty minutes in freezing liquid nitrogen, the New York based photographer Jon Shireman hurls flowers onto a hard, white surface, causing them to shatter into hundreds of pieces. The series, titled Broken Flowers, plays on our assumption that flowers are soft and supple; as an integral part of much still life photography, the blossoms normally symbolize youth and delicate feminine beauty. Under Shireman’s lens, however, the flora is transformed into something cold and hard. Against a sterile white backdrop, they appear sterile and brittle, a far cry from the spring buds that blow in the wind.
Throughout his career, Shireman has maintained a connection with flowers in decay; in other still lifes, he has cataloged the wilting of tulips and mums. This series, unlike those previous, is brutal and instantaneous. Where his other flowers underwent a slow, gradual death, these broken flowers are quickly frozen and violently ruptured. The process captured here is not a natural one but one that necessitates the use of a manmade element.
With almost surgical precision, Shireman’s lens focusses on the fallen flower, and he abandons the moody, romantic lighting he uses elsewhere in favor of high resolution and vivid color. Though flattened, the shattered blossoms maintain their basic structure; the bud, the stem, and the leaf can still be made out. The very veins of the plant are preserved by the liquid nitrogen. In this way, the flowers look like dead bodies in some unusual crime scene, outlined yet robbed of their living essence. Take a look. (via iGNANT, Feature Shoot, and Agonistica) Read More >
The exact color of that Ginger Ale can is important to artist Sara Cwynar. Her work revolves around the careful curation of both fantastic and banal objects. She arranges and later photographs these assemblages, which range from color studies to chaotic interpretations of old works of art.
You might be familiar with 16th and 17th century Dutch Flower paintings. If not, then they are exactly as they sound; Still life paintings of flower arrangements. They are colorful and realistically rendered pictures. Their realism is almost boring, until you find out that these paintings were meant to brighten up the interior of homes during the winter months when real flowers were dead. In her Flat Death series, Cwynar took old reproduced pictures of these flowers and overtop placed it with the likes of cheap plastic toys, fake leaves, rolls of tape, and dish gloves. A sophisticated painting is recreated out of junk, creating a cognitive dissonance.
Color Studies is another still life series. Instead of parodying of an already existing work, Cwynar gathers objects of a similar color. They include old marching band uniforms, encyclopedias, lemons, old slide film, cigarettes, and so much more. Photographs feel really dated, like a teenager’s room in the 1970’s. This is Cwynar’s intention. In an interview with Lavalette, she states:
I thought a lot about the aesthetic patterns you see in these pictures – a particular lighting, a slickness, a high level of detail. I’m also trying to recycle and subvert conventions of product and commercial photography by using elements that aren’t normally associated with these genres – objects that are now discarded or forgotten, intentional scuffing, not glossy at all.
It’s easy to be intrigued by Cwynar’s work. She utilizes conventional objects and through assemblage, allows us to experience them in a new way.
Montreal-based artist Francois Chartier creates still-life paintings with a photorealistic quality. He often pairs the still-life object with an image of crumpled tissue paper that is dramatically shaped around each object, creating an overall presentation of the still-life object. The juxtaposition of these textures – matte and crumpled with the bright and shiny – demonstrates Chartier’s level of skill as a realistic painter. Surprisingly, Chartier hasn’t always been a painter. After 30 years in advertising as a commercial artist, he entered the fine art world full-time at the age of 50.
Chartier applies the acrylic paint with an airbrush onto a smooth gesso base. He explains, “Although my paintings are realistic, my goal is to create through the layering of mediums and the play of the brush, the illusion of depth and sense of presence beyond what is found in photographs. . . I am drawn to painting large scale works where my subjects, always painted bigger then life size, are given room to seize the viewer and where life’s smaller details are revealed in their beauty and simplicity.” (via juxtapoz)
Pawel Bownik meticulously pulls each flower apart: disconnecting the leaf from the stem or the petal from the pistil, taking involved notes all the while, so he can, eventually, reassemble each piece back to its original state. His photography, collected here, documents such reconstructions. From far away, each image blooms and seethes with life. However, with a steadier eye, up close, we see pencil marks, bits of string, tape, and pins holding it all together. Like some strange sort of floral Frankenstein, the dead is regenerated. Read More >
Doug Bloodworth’s photo realistic oil paintings transport us to another slower, calmer, and less anxious time. Whether it’s a still life depiction of the Sunday Funnies sprinkled with candies or a road atlas paired with matches and a roll of mints, we can’t help but feel nostalgic for our own quiet tactile interludes and luxuries minus the iPhone or Blackberry. Read More >
Nick Krijno makes blown out contemporary still lives that are the best things to look at. Made out of hot dogs, slinkies, spiders, and clothes, his images update the classic tradition in a way that everyone can get relate to and get behind. It’s a great, inspirational reminder that if you’re ever feeling down about the your staid surroundings, just organize them into an interesting composition, make a backdrop out of your friends’ shirts or some colored paper, and voilá–you’ve got yourself a modern still life. Now just paint it or take a picture of it or take a note from yoko ono and burn it. (via)
Cara DeAngelis paints found roadkill in “compositions that both pay homage to, and satirize 17th century Hunting Still Lifes”. “The still lifes and portraits of animals on aristocratic laps explore the long-standing confrontations between the domestic and the wild.” But DeAngelis’ black magic goes a little further than that. The artist, who takes care to incorporate the “Tragic and the Infantile” within her work, includes children’s toys and dolls in her compositions to create an “absurd union“- nostalgia vs. violent death, innocence vs. murder. These paintings are done in oil, which somehow seems appropriate for the heavy concept scale within DeAngelis’ work. Ms. DeAngelis received her MFA from the New York Academy of Art in 2011. Read More >