Vietnamese painter Nguyen Xuan Huy introduces us to the disruptive effects and ongoing legacy of the Vietnam War. His works carry a rooted sense of grotesque which makes it impossible to stay intact. Huy outlines Vietnam’s grimreality by confronting pop art aesthetics with hints of Socialist iconography and heartbreaking results of Agent Orange warfare.
Huy, who is currently based in Berlin, aggregates many aspects of art history by mimicking famous painter’s artworks. Motifs from Matisse’s Dance, Bosch’s Garden Of Earthly Delights, and even Michelangelo’s Creation Of Adam are taken and distorted to outline the traumatic consequences country’s post-war experiences. Twisted naked bodies, guns and dead animals join in a feast of spite and sorrow.
Agent Orange, a poisonous defoliant, was used by the US military and its counterparts to spray on the Vietnamese countryside hoping it will destroy the food sources and thus, end resistance. Only later it was titled the Chernobyl of Vietnam because of it’s irreversible effects, specifically the crippling birth defects. Chemicals used in Agent Orange caused genotype mutations which are present even three generations later.
“It’s insensitive to imagine that because I was born healthy that I am untouched by this issue. <…> So many people are potential carriers of the altered genotype, this is a problem which could affect each and every citizen of Vietnam.”
The artist Ashkan Honarvar, previously featured here, is transfixed by the gruesomeness of the body and cruelty of human nature; in his multimedia creations, he asks that we come face-to-face with the painful, dark cavities of our minds, painting a visual diary of fear, violence, and revulsion. His series Faces 5 hopes to capture the trauma of soldiers whose faces have been deformed and marked by war. Sandwiched between the comparably somber Faces 4 and 6, the series presents subjects with tragically mutilated features dripping in uncomfortably sweet confections made of paint and candy.
As the delicious veers into the grotesque, seemingly saccharine sweet-shop elements become markers of unknowable trauma and nightmare. The gluttony of mankind for violence and brutality are laid bare, and the hunger elicited by the images is tinged with guilt. Our craving for cruelty is equated with the natural and relatively innocent desire for sweets, and the instinctual impulse to do harm is seen as disturbingly tempting, seductive, and indulgent.
In these painfully intimate and personal portraits, the sugar-coated wounds become windows into psychological injury inflicted by violence, evoking in viewers anxious feelings of nausea and disgust. The unnerving pepto-bismal hue of thick, gooey paint highlights the desperation of a mouth blown-off, and coils of green licorice swirl across the face like snakes. These injuries are seen as parasites; the sugared treats stick hard to the face, as if to multiply and remain there to rot the flesh beneath. Take a look. (via HiFructose) Read More >
Though it might look like any other Polish chapel from the outside, the Kaplica Czaszek chapel sets itself apart: behind a humble pair of wooden doors, it contains the bones of thousands. After visiting shallow grave sites commemorating the fallen soldiers and civilians killed in the Silesian Wars, the Thirty Years’ War, plagues, and cholera, a local priest named Vaclav Tomasek collected and cleaned skeletal remains, embedding them in the chapel walls.
Constructed between 1776 and 1804, the building’s architecture stunningly deconstructs the human skeleton; skulls and leg bones are meticulously arranged over the ceilings and walls, while other bones are hidden behind a trapdoor and kept in a crypt. The repetitive patterns that emerge from a single human bone laid out a thousand times over serves to remind us of our connectedness; while each individual femur or cranium stands in for a deceased individual, it takes on a deeper, more universal meaning as part of this expertly-constructed whole.
Within this celebration of oneness, Tomasek set apart strange and unusual bones, placing them on the church altar. Alongside the skull of a mayor and the chapel founder, sits a skull morphed by syphilis, one of a rumored giant, and a few penetrated by bullets. In this way, the structure daringly elevates the macabre—and those who suffered from uncommon maladies—to the spiritual level of relics left behind by local religious and political leaders.
Within the context of the church and its representations of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, the remains offer a potent juxtaposition between the spiritual and the corporeal. Visitors cannot escape this powerful reminder of mortality, but if they so wish, they are poignantly invited to consider the possibility of salvation and eternal life. (via Lost at E Minor and Smithsonian Magazine)
Human bones, any bones, are signifiers of death, decay- in more poetic terms- the ephemerality of life.
Photographer Francois Robert uses the powerful symbolism that accompanies human bones to create ‘Stop the Violence’ – an eerie but important series of photographs that juxtaposes bones and iconic words/symbols that in some way or another have generated deaths and violence (i.e wars, rifles, handguns, 9/11, knives, the KKK,etc)
In my photographs, I use the human skeleton as the formal visual element, the subject of the image. In this manner, the skeleton is both the protagonist and antagonist (the Buddhist notion about, “the duality of man” seems apt).
For each photograph, the artists dissembles and rearranges the bones in order to reconfigure the elements to form what you see here.
I intend the images to plant the notion of restraint and charity in an effort to promote peace and tolerance.
The Fallen, an installation by two British artists [Jamie Warley and Andy Moss], entails striking silhouettes of fallen soldiers on Arromanches beach in Normandy. The project is a tribute to the civilians, German forces, and Allies who lost their lives during the Operation Neptune landing on June 6, 1944 on Normandy Beach.
The artists, together with a team of volunteers, traveled to the site in order to create the silhouettes, which were individually drawn into the sand with pre-prepared stencils.
After the completion of about 9,000 imprints, the shapes were then left to wash away by the beach waves; a poetic visual composition that reminds us that life is temporary.
“The idea is to create a visual representation of what is otherwise unimaginable, the thousands of human lives lost during the hours of the tide during the Second World War Normandy landings. People understand that so many lives were lost that day but it’s incredibly difficult to picture that number.”
Veterans and families, including some who have lost loved ones in recent conflicts were involved in the ‘Fallen’ project. (Via DailyMail Online)
Dimitri Kozyrev’s paintings are captivating, to say the least. His color precision from plane to line and surface to sky balances the ephemerally abstract beautifully with a hardened environment. This compositional fracturing feels like ice cracking on the pond, disrupting the reflection or illusion of us and our structures, before we crash into a new reality.
This “crash” echoes of Constructivism or Futurism, with deep contemporary critique on not just the disruption of landscape during wartime, but maybe even more so, the distortion of self, identity, and technology in relation to art and activism as these terms relate to the avant-garde, painting, and intention in today’s milieu.
On this note, Kozyrev elaborates:
“I have titled this body of work ‘Lost Edge.’ I use the word ‘edge’ because I draw a comparison between the notion of the avant-garde in war and the art world. In the early 20th Century, the avant-garde was at the height of its importance in both realms. Now, however, I maintain that just as the concept of the military avant-garde has been “lost,” because of changes in methods of warfare, the avant-garde in the contemporary art world, has also lost its edge.
“The source material for this body of work is images of ruins of the once mighty fortifications of the Mannerhiem Line, built to protect Finland from the advances of the Soviet military avant-garde. Finland’s attempt was valiant and not in vain; this war and the lives that were lost in 1939 are largely forgotten. The fortification lie in ruins, and nature is slowly reclaiming them. Similarly, the ‘cutting edge’ of the contemporary art world seems to have become blunted. Viewers of the avant-garde work of many visionary artists of the early 20th Century were shocked, challenged and inspired by The Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ and ‘Fountain’ of Marcel Duchamp. Because of changes in society, like changes in warfare, it has become difficult for today’s contemporary artist to generate the same level of response without resorting to vulgarity.”
Bohyun Yoon has lived in Japan, Korea, and The States. He uses these “diverse social experiences” as a point of reference for his work, which circles around societal restraints and progressive concepts of the body: possible extensions and perils with the advancement of technology/war/culture on a personal and holistic level.
His installation work “Unity” (2009), “Structure of Shadow” (2007), and “Shadow” (2004) casts light on miniature wax body parts which physically dangle aimlessly; however, when illuminated by a light source, these fragmentations create shadows or illusions which illustrate figurative wholeness.
Tethered to our bodies and systems of government, our parts and puppetry, is in essence, our humanness or machinery, or as Yoon explains, what makes us “weak and fragile, spiritless animals under certain rule, certain harsh conditions.” His work also resonates with a sense of devastation felt by veterans returning wounded from battle, physically and spiritually.
Born in Oklahoma to a Vietnam veteran, Geoffrey Michael Krawczyk grew up in close proximity to the violence and sacrifice required by war. “My work is an exploration of the mythology of spirituality, the politics of aesthetics, and the connections between sacred and profane,” says Krawczyk. His series, “Passages,” was most recently shown at Artspace Gallery in Buffalo, New York, where he now resides.