To some, the purpose of hyperrealistic art may seem uncertain; why reproduce reality in such painstaking detail, when we are confronted by each other’s flesh every day? Of course, some of the sculptures have disturbing and surreal aspects, which makes their illusory qualities more clear. Like rats’ tails and hairless cats, these sculptures may make many of us strangely uncomfortable, for they unconsciously remind us of our own mortal fleshiness. Beyond this initial repulsion, however, they also mimic and accentuate reality to confront the viewer with meanings they may never see otherwise: human vulnerability, and the skin as a shallow edifice that distracts us from another’s internal experience. In each of these “simulations” of real life, an intuitive (and often unsettling) truth is revealed.
Jiyong Lee is an artist and educator based in Carbondale, Illinois, who works in the medium of glass art. In a series titled Segmentation, Lee has created fascinating, geometric glass blocks that metaphorically examine life science. Mirroring the processes of cell division and growth, each sculpture is divided into fragments that represent “cells, embryos, biological and molecular structures—each symbolizing the building blocks of life, as well as the starting point of life” (Source). As a whole, they are firm structures, much like the proverbial “building blocks”; but internally, they are irregular and segmented, symbolizing the varying growth rates and beautiful asymmetry of organic life.
The glass Lee has chosen to work with varies in its translucency, which is significant to his theme. Sometimes the fragments are see-through; in other places they are dense and clouded. For Lee, these conditions of visibility represent “what is known and unknown about life science” (Source), for although modern science seeks to fully comprehend the workings of life, there will always be an unreachable mystery within. The internal haze also represents an unknown future for cells as they live and continue to change.
Last year, we featured the work of Dutch artist Patrick Bergsma. Featured today is a selection of his newer works, which demonstrate his endless creativity in sculpting floating, post-apocalyptic homes. Appearing to defy gravity, old ramshackle buildings painted in rustic shades meld with rock formations and elaborate root systems. Bonsai trees sprout from the top, creating darkly beautiful habitats for tiny, marooned people; a helicopter lands perilously atop one, and on another, a girl kneels pensively amongst the roots of a dead tree.
Aside from being objects of imagination and extreme detail, many themes seem to be occurring throughout Bergsma’s sculptures, such as the reclaiming power of nature; trees appear to be taking over the ruined buildings, returning the small, blasted fragments of earth into a more natural state. There are also dual feelings of sorrowful entrapment and isolated simplicity; the inhabitants appear lonely, but their quaint living spaces are also beautiful and calming, referring to a simpler way of life. Whatever your response to Bergsma’s sculptures is, they each tell a story that will pique your curiosity.
Chad Wys is an artist, designer, and writer from Illinois. Inspired by postmodern thought, Wys’ works examine the reproduction of the image, and the way plural images—as superficial iterations of an original object—operate on us to suggest a sense of meaning and worth.
This theoretical approach is brilliantly exemplified in Wys’ Readymades series, featured here. The Readymades consist of found busts and ceramics that Wys has adorned with eye-popping colors, bold gradients, and silvery tears. By re-contextualizing objects of “antiquity” with garish, modern color schemes, Wys compels the viewer to contemplate their feelings and values in relation to such objects. He explains further on his website:
“By retooling the object and then re-presenting it for the viewer I intend to elaborate on the conversation that takes place between the observer and the reproduction in its ‘initial’ state. Through the reclamation and manipulation of these objects I mean to acknowledge, to underscore, that our possessions can, and often do, manipulate us.” (Source)
Wys observes how, as markers of class and income, art pieces and knickknacks signify arbitrary measures of personal worth. By “disfiguring” the cherished objects, Wys produces a visual, mental disparity that deconstructs their value; the clownish colors show the tenuousness of their “high status.” While subversive in intent, the finished Readymades are curious and beautiful art pieces in and of themselves, at once celebrating and critiquing contemporary art practices and embracing imperfection. The ultimate significance of the works, however, is the viewer’s cognitive responsibility; as Wys states, they are “meant to mean different things to different people who are at different stages of understanding” (Source).
AnaHell is a photographer who portrays the body in ways that change the way we perceive it. Playing with unusual angles and wigs (see the My Little Phony series, for example), normative representations of bodies are broken down, resulting in images that are playful and often unsettling.
Featured here is a series titled Secret Friends, wherein AnaHell manipulates the appearance of bodies to create unique “creatures.” Each photo depicts people bent double with faces drawn on their backs, the subjects’ spines and ribs creating freakish contours. Adorned with hair and clothing and standing in ordinary rooms, they resemble domestic gremlins with a dual ability of charming and disturbing their viewers.
The following project statement explains—in fairly ambiguous terms—AnaHell’s approach and process:
“With a childlike fascination for rawness, flesh, and the absurd, photographer AnaHell plays with the ordinary and deconstructs it to reveal another perspective. She takes advantage of her immediate surroundings, often photographing close friends and family members in their own living spaces. Secret Friends are playmates, reflections, and villains—strange and wonderful creatures from another world, the kind that children create when they’re alone.”
Toshihiko Mitsuya is artist who undoubtedly proves that it’s not the quality of materials that creates great art—it’s the way those materials are used. Mitsuya’s medium of choice is aluminum foil, which he cuts, shreds, and folds into astounding representations of medieval battles, mythical creatures, and undead warriors. Taking advantage of the foil’s malleability and reflective surface, the armor and weaponry look deadly; conversely, it also has been manipulated to convey the softness of feathers and hair. Mitsuya has brought to life an everyday, ordinary material that is often viewed as trash. In some of his installations, he has created epic battle scenes in ordinary rooms, so lifelike that you can almost hear the crash of miniature weapons. The foil, while appearing deceivingly formidable, represents the fragility of life.
In September of last year, Mitsuya participated in an exhibition at Studio Picknick in Berlin. Titled The Aluminum Garden, the show involved rooms full of plants made out of aluminum foil; Mitsuya turned a material that was born in a factory back into the semblance of an earthly organism. You can read more about the exhibition here, and learn more about Mitsuya on his website. (Via Booooooom)
Amy Douglas is an English artist who restores old Staffordshire figures into eccentric recreations. Staffordshire figures were found throughout British homes in the 19th century, often bought at county fairs and collected as “toys” for the mantelpiece. When they arrive to Douglas—broken and eroded away by time—she modernizes the pieces by adding touches of present-day quips and scenarios. Each one has been given a title that makes them humorously unique; for example, “I Lost My Head” depicts a beheaded man joyously swinging a wreath decorated with various craniums; “Chicks Rule” features a chicken-headed figure riding a horse with a human face.
The humor of Douglas’ work is often subtle, fostered in the cultural disparity between past and present. Part of the fun is also tricking the viewer into believing they are seeing a bizarre original work. Douglas works with the destroyed objects to seamlessly blend modern relevance with a traditional, domestic art object. “Many of the techniques, materials, and recipes I use have been in the hands of the craftsman for centuries,” she writes on her About page. “In our more increasing, intangible, fleeting, [and] modern existence, I think people do not look properly and do not acknowledge the craftsmanship of work. I like the idea of making people look twice” (Source).
In April, Ward van Gemert and Adriaan van der Ploeg of the Rotterdam-based design studio Nightshop will be showcasing their unique “décor” at the Robert van Oosterom Gallery: large-scale rugs made out of colorful foam. Each one is created from the artists’ unique blend of urethane foam, which they put into syringes and squeeze out into spiraling and cross-hatched designs. Once the foam dries, it fuses to the adjacent “thread” and thereby creates a solid piece. There are currently seven carpets completed, and the artists plan to finish three more by the exhibition.
While the rugs appear functional (and comfortable—perhaps due to that soft, clay-like appearance), the artists have stated that they’re “they’re more objects without a clear use,” intended to be viewed as art pieces (Source). As colorful curiosities, they blend the traditional art form of carpet weaving with modern kitsch; the are reminiscent of everything from playroom décor to a carpet as seen during a psychedelic trip. On their studio’s About page, Nightshop professes to “bring aspects of ‘low-culture’ into their designs,” thereby “investigating the boundaries between good and bad taste” (Source). The foam rugs bring our attention to everyday objects, highlighting their innate design characteristics and artistic, culturally-relevant merit.