The paintings of artist Jeff Soto are nightmarish and captivating, as they seem to glow iridescently in cool colors of greens and purples. As if from another planet, Soto’s artwork shows landscapes of an extraordinary nature, covered in shiny crystals, mossy skulls, and unforgettable owl-like creatures that stare at you with hypnotizing eyes. Each painting is a world upon a world, as many of his figures and forms sprout out from even more bizarre, living things. Even his frequently repeated spiky, happy heads contain an eerie quality. Each painting seems to have a story behind it, perhaps representing a mythical fable.
The Los Angeles based artist is a triple threat; a painter, illustrator, and muralist. As you may have guess by his surreal style, his technique is influenced by traditional painting methods, but with a razor sharp edge. Inspired by graffiti and street art, Soto’s otherworldly landscapes heavily embody a pop-surrealist, contemporary style that appears almost futuristic; like a window into the future when our planet is transformed into a whimsical landscape with foreign creatures. This is a place both frightening and beautiful, full of strange magic. His work leaves us filled with a sense of wonder, wishing that we could travel and explore these unusual places and meet these frightening creatures. Jeff Soto’s amazingly adventurous body of work draws inspiration from youthful nostalgia and pop-culture. With an ominous and haunting palette, Jeff Soto’s unique style exudes originality and imagination. (via Hi-Fructose)
Artist Valerie Blass reimagines an age-old subject in art, the figure, and uses her distinctive artistic vision to create her intriguing sculptures. She manipulates and abstracts the human form until some of her subjects look like entirely different beings. By constructing her artwork from an eclectic variety of different materials, each figure becomes highly stylized and unique. Ceramic, Styrofoam, paint, plaster, and even artificial hair are just some of the materials that can be found making up Blass’s artwork. Referencing material culture, one can see the many textures and elements transforming each figure.
Valerie Blass’s figures hold in intense, psychological quality due to their lack of identities. Although there are many fine details in her work, Blass often leaves out the figures’ face. Sometimes, even part of the body is gone. These aspects are replaced by surreal characteristics such as a heap of black hair or a colorful, organic mass. Each piece of Valerie Blass’s takes on a life of their own, with their own, unique textures and colors forming a new kind of creature. Her work is both bizarre and beautiful all at the same time, leaving you puzzled about what exactly it was that you saw. This Canadian artist has an impressive body of work, with her art being owned in both public and private collections around the world.
Something strange is happening in the food chain in Josh Keyes’ new paintings. He renders powerful animals dominating the land; living among other species that they would otherwise never see in current times. A polar bear and a deer swim with the sharks in this artist’s surreal world where creatures run wild. His previous body of work featured the same majestic beasts, but in a sort of diorama display that has you feeling like you are a bystander looking in. Keyes’ new paintings immerse you right into the scene, creating a whole new atmosphere. The environments created are surreal, yet they seem familiar due to the common iconography included in the compositions. Although there are no humans present in any of Keyes’ paintings, we do see remnants of human life. Abandoned traces of civilization remain in the artist’s dystopian world. Street signs exist, but the roads are no longer there, now covered in plant life. Broken down, rusty cars are now trampled by wild fauna and vacant building’s are now part of their playground.
Josh Keyes’ work leaves us asking, what has happened to this world? More importantly, it asks, is this world better or worse than our own? There is a strong sense of environmental politics in the paintings, as the images could possibly be a warning sign for our not so distant future. The natural environment has been changing for some time at the hand of humans. Could this bizarre world be where this path is leading us? Living in Portland, Oregon, Josh Keyes feels a strong affinity with nature and the beautiful, natural environment around him. His incredibly realistic paintings are intriguing as they pull you into both their surreal beauty and their environmental urgency.
Artist Pierre Schmidt constructs surreal worlds filled with the inner horrors of the subconscious, both terrifying and beautiful. Using photo-manipulation, illustration, and collage, he combines both traditional and digital methods to create scenes of people with faces dripping right off their skulls. Many of his disturbing, melting face runs down the composition, only to reveal sudden bouquets of flowers. Using vintage photographs, he collages imagery of 1950’s housewife types lounging about, only to be caught up in a peculiar and fantastic scene. Schmidt’s work is highly psychological, as many of his pieces have titles based on the theories and writings of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. His flowing faces crack open the hidden psyche, pouring out its contents for us to examine. The face being a vessel of identity, Schmidt strips his characters of this so that we may look inwards into our own mind.
The Berlin based artist offers us a glimpse into a strange world of bizarre happenings, filled with faceless ladies, lush flora, and silhouettes that contain galaxies. Schmidt’s work is full of emotion and internal awareness, leaving us to sort out his stunning and complicated mash of imagery. We are left to decipher his sliced open heads, melting eyes, and rainbows oozing from faces. Like stream of consciousness, Schmidt melds together his illustrations with a unifying flow, effortlessly forming captivating and magnetic work. (via Hi-Fructose)
The dark, mysterious painting and drawings of artist Constantine Lianos are full of psychological paradoxes and allegories. This Greece-based artist creates windows into a strange world where troubled beings and mythological creatures exist. Devoid of color, Lianos sets an unnerving mood appropriately complimenting his equally disturbing individuals that appear to be in a never-ending struggle. Each figurative narrative he illustrates portrays fable-like characters that are in a personal crossroad or inner struggle, contemplating their own fate. The artist himself draws inspiration from his own personal reflections. The internal struggle that is represented in Lianos’s work is something relatable to everyone. What makes this so captivating is the bizarre and surreal situations that we find depicting this turmoil. You can see conflicting emotions in the faces of each character. Doubt, fear, indecision, and even anger can be found in his peculiar circumstances.
A talented figure painter, Lianos is not interested in rendering reality, but instead a more abstract idea with less restraints. The artist’s work pulls influence from a large range of sources such as street art, comics, and imagery from classic art movements. Interested in paradoxes, he believes art is a place where illusion and reality meet, where a new construction of the world can begin to form. The artist explains this in relations to his process. (via Hi-Fructose)
“The painting process is for me the ultimate introspection process, where the rational and the emotional are inseparable, where the method meets the random.”
Pastel-hued and delicate, the body part collages in the series “Anatomy” are part of Hong Kong artist Kayan Kwok’s daily art project “A poster per day for 365 days. ” The scope of her project is impressive—one fully realized piece of art every day for a year. Along with “Anatomy” the categories for the one-a-day posters are “Banana”, “Birdman”, “Blow”, “Dot”, “Hand”, “Letter”, “Loner”, and “Lost.Found”. Each grouping has a specific aesthetic and point of view although all are inspired by vintage graphics and American advertisements from 1920–1960.
In “Anatomy”, Kwok combines tinted anatomical drawings with mostly black and white figural images, incorporating other elements including scissors, flowers, and animals. She says:
“Collage has a surrealism background, but other than that, it also act[s] like Alchemy. Because you are putting stuff together from different places and times, the result is clearly unpredictable and this is what makes collage so fascinat[ing].”
One of the things that make this work captivating is the shifts in scale between body part and inhabitant. The small figures are nestled in, reclining on a heart chamber and a brain cavity. The integration of disparate parts into a cohesive whole makes these pieces deceptively simple. In fact, the blending of content and styles is technically accomplished, somewhat subversive, and really quite lovely.
Swiss artist Till Rabus combines hyperrealism aesthetics with a touch of surreal scenarios to create his sexually charged, marginal paintings. Rabus’s inconvenient art consists mostly of suggestive anthropomorphic still lives and tangled up limbs, all engaging in provoking sexual situations. His immaculate attention to real-life detail makes it hard to distinguish a painting from a photograph.
Regardless of the intended eroticism, Rabus’s paintings are far from vulgar. His works rarely depict straightforward sexual objects, rather use symbols to create the desired connotation. Viewer is left with phallic confectionery, oysters and other inanimate objects that stimulate the imagination. Even the orgiastic compositions don’t reveal the full story but depend on observer’s ability to give personal meaning.
The clash between hyper-realistic style and symbolic, surreal content is what makes Rabus’s works so eye-catching. An also unexpected symmetry and palette of complementary colors induces a sense of order in an otherwise chaotic Rabus’s world of fantasy. (via Asylum Art)
In Sergei Isupov’s hands figurative ceramics are both instantly recognizable and strangely surreal. Heads are tattooed, the art integrated into the facial features. The backs of the heads often add a separate contrasting element. Lift the head to find a third, hidden design on the base. The images create a narrative, but what does it mean?
“My work portrays characters placed in situations that are drawn from my imagination but based on my life experiences. My art works capture a composite of fleeting moments, hand gestures, eye movements that follow and reveal the sentiments expressed. These details are all derived from actual observations but are gathered or collected over my lifetime. Through the drawn images and sculpted forms, I capture faces, body types and use symbolic elements to compose, in the same way as you might create a collage.” Source
Contrast is inherent to the nature of ceramics. The sculpting that goes into creating the work is meticulous and controlled but once the piece is lowered into the kiln the firing is random and unrestrained. In Isupov’s work the form and content are also contradictory. The figures and heads are realistic, even somewhat minimal, yet the paintings on them are surreal, highly detailed, often adding a skewed dimensionality. There are demons and distortions, surplus limbs and conjoined bodies. Isupov’s works create a world that is visually stunning and conceptually disturbing.
“I am a student of the universe and a participant in the harmonic chaos of contrasts and opposites: dark — light; male — female; good — evil. Working instinctually and using my observations, I create a new, intimate universe that reveals the relationships, connections and contradictions as I perceive them. … When I think of myself and my works, I’m not sure I create them, perhaps they create me.”