Artist Sheida Soleimani has translated her frustration with her home country Iran and it’s politics into a captivating and symbolically complex photographic series called National Anthem. Her parents fled the country in 1979 after the revolution that overthrew the pro-western Pahlavi dynasty took place. (Both parents were targeted for actively opposing the regime – her mother tortured, and her father escaping across the border.) As a political refugee in America, Soleimani observed her country transition through several fundamental changes and decided to express her disdain visually. Each photographic scene is an exploration of cultural themes and symbols all representing different aspects of the last 35 years in Iran, and the many different dictators and leaders the country has seen. Soleimani says:
In my photographic scenarios, cultural symbols and signifiers are appropriated to create a narrative in regards to my position as an Iranian-American viewing the Middle East from an outside lens. The usage of specific colors and political figures form a symbolic lexicon that runs throughout the series, while party supplies hint at the doctrines of ‘political parties’. Each of the photographs addresses a specific time in Iranian history, while alluding to how both the East and West have responded to societal occurrences. Through incorporating multiple layers, the lexicon can be read and refashioned by the viewers’ ideologies, creating images that remain coeval, while acknowledging former origins. (Source)
Combining collage, installation, performance and object assemblage, Soleimani creates powerful, emotional art-as-activism. The fierce mark making, scrunched up images, burnt candles, and mutilated cultural objects all have the hand of an aggrieved survivor. Managing to turn her deeply personal history into a series of clever, sarcastic visual puns, Soleimani’s artistic therapy is beneficial to us all.
The visual world of Daniel Gordon is complex, colorful, wondrous, and invigorating. He creates rich modern interpretations of still life and portrait oil paintings. Inspired by Matisse and Fauvism, and using modern day technology, he takes compelling photographs of 2D and 3D objects. His practice involves multiple steps to reach these bizarre final images. First he sources different images from the internet, prints them out, rebuilds the object from 2D sheets of paper, crumpling and shaping them to resemble the original object, then finally photographs them using a 8×10-inch view camera. After the scene has been documented, Gordon dismantles the different images and patterned pieces, to use at a later date. His latest show Shadows, Patterns, Pears shows his familiarity with appropriation, reusing and contextualizing images with ease.
He builds compositions from fragmented patterns, colors, perspectives, histories and narratives, resulting in some strange surreal reality. He layers up repeating shapes and silhouettes, creating some sort of modern take on Cubism. Described as a kind of analog Photoshop, Gordon’s work is as equally confusing as it is delightful. Reworking something familiar such as nectarines, oranges, lemons, he turns them into an optical illusion of light where dark should be, shadows on the wrong side of the object, the fruit half blue and half red. He transforms a mundane apple into one from a Dr Seuss land – crumpled, purple, with two stalks.
Calling his work “Screen Selections”, Gordon is alluding to a time of visual over-stimulation in the age of the Internet. Reveling in working with materials so palpable and tactile, Gordon says:
“I’m interested in showing my hand and letting people see the imperfection. “(Source)
Chris Maynard‘s tools of trade include a scalpel, forceps, and a love for the literal art of flight. With a deft hand, he etches delicate shapes and patterns into shed feathers, transforming them into more than just a part of a whole. In doing so, he coaxes out the secret lives of birds.
“My work with feathers gives me a satisfying perch from which to view the world,” Maynard says in his artist’s bio.
Maynard’s art is nothing short of celebratory at times: Six feathers arranged with miniature songbirds in mid-flight. Others are a peek into the everyday life, such as a bisected feather yielding the tiny form of a robin working industriously on catching the early worm.
With the kind of precision needed for such minute knifework, each piece could have easily been sterile and dispassionate. Instead, they are each joyful in their own way, from the flurry of movement of a flock of birds circling a roost to the burst of sapphire blue on a peacock’s plume.
Though the feathers were discarded, shed, or forgotten by their previous owners, Maynard has given them new flight. (via This Is Colossal)
UK-based artist San Pierre has a slightly unorthodox method when creating his work. Instead of displaying a simple image in a frame, he draws designs over top of the print with threads that are secured with nuts and bolts. These intricate, criss-crossing strings form delicate shapes that alter how the viewer interprets the image. Depending on the depth and color of the strings, the artwork might appear diffused or distorted with geometric fragments.
Pierre’s use of thread adds not only a physical layer onto his work, but a conceptual one as well. His piece titled Discontent No. 6 (top two images) features a dark figure who looks as though they’re trying to gingerly find their way. With the technicolor strings, however, it now reads as a barrier or a wall. Instead of freedom, this being is trapped. (Via My Amp Goes to 11)
These amazing lithograph prints are not only labor intensive and beautifully detailed, they are also playful and humorous. Artist Oddly Head has quite obviously spent a lot of time by himself cutting out images, arranging them into remarkable forms with funny narratives and transferring them into print. Working with mostly retro images, he cleverly fits his cut outs into a variety of silhouettes and shapes.
Taking advantage of their bright colors and pop aesthetic, Oddly Head creates eye-catching picture explosions. He turns a large collection of different guns into a radiating image, one that seems to be anthropomorphic and with it’s sights set on the viewer. In another print he has layered different cutouts of trains on top of each other, all rushing out from a black hole in the center of the picture, expressing some sort of urgency. Or in another, we see a gathering of women – all severed at the head and frozen in animated screams, focused on a woman in the center, as if she is the reason for their fear and horror.
With titles like ‘Hollywood’, ‘Licked’, ‘The Happiest Place On Earth When There Is No Tomorrow’, ‘Getting The Fuck Out Of Dodge’, Oddly Head’s prints are tinged with a cynicism as he questions the structure of systems around us. And what a beautiful way to do it. See more of his work in detail after the jump.
Nasa Funahara recreates iconic artworks, like The Mona Lisa, and Girl With A Pearl Earring out of masking tape. The Japanese artist, who attends Musashino Art University as a painting Major, boasts a collection of around 450 rolls of masking tape. The series originally began as an art project for school, and she received a very good reaction to the work.
The artworks are well-detailed recreations. The patterns of the masking tape create a stimulating visual experience for the viewer. It is surprisingly not overpowering to see tons of brightly coloured roses and polka dots all in such close proximity. What’s astounding is that Funahara is able to find so many different types of tape. Apparently, masking tape in Japan has become an ornamental media, rather than just a tool to block off sections of a painting. According to Spoon and Tamago, each work is around the size of a tatami mat, and each takes about a week to make.
The Van Gogh reproduction of Sunflowers is the most successful work. The tape works well to imitate Van Gogh own style of brushstroke, and the colours are close to the original ones. Even the texture of the tape, sticking slightly out from the canvas, maintains a painterly effect and a kind of weight to the image. (Via Bizarre Beyond Belief)
Robert Larson uses discarded cigarettes packaging, matchbooks, and rolling papers to create his compositions. Somewhat reminiscent of Tom Fruin’s drug baggies, the artist creates abstract patterns from smoking paraphernalia, and turns the ugly and destructive act of smoking into something unexpectedly beautiful.
Larson finds the materials by scavenging neighbourhoods in Santa Cruz, where he lives and works. There’s an interesting play between personal and impersonal in his work. The consistent grid of the items, be it shiny packaging or used matches, gives a sense of the systemic nature of urban life, while their individual treatment – worn by weather or use – sustains a sense of individual experience.
Cigarettes are rarely if ever associated with beauty, at least in our moment. Certainly in the past they were glamourized, but happily, people are beginning to see quite clearly their highly detrimental effect. Still, they maintain a heavy presence, and it’s exciting to see something positive come out of a predominantly negative thing. Larson’s compositions are surprisingly colourful and dynamic. He has a good eye for placement, as in the Marlboro packaging where he distributes the various tones of grey-brown wear to radiate outwards from the middle of the work. His pieces are mostly quite large, reaching over six feet. It makes me wonder how long it would take him to collect his materials, which could give him some understanding of the smoking population of each neighbourhood he collects from.
Quilting is a time-honored craft that uses scraps of fabric to form a pieced-together image. The designs are often geometric patterns or more complex images that have been appliqued onto the textile. Artist Ben Venom works in this well-known realm, but instead of adhering to tradition, he creates quilts that are beyond your typical subject matter. Venom takes heavy metal and motorcycle t-shirts, cuts them up, and fashions them into spectacular handmade pieces. He writes about it in a short artist statement:
I’m interested in juxtaposing traditional handmade crafts with extreme elements found on the fringes of society. My work can be described as opposing forces colliding at lightening speed. Imagery found in vintage tattoos, the occult, and motorcycle gangs are stitched together with recycled materials using techniques usually relegated to your Grandmothers sewing circle. Serious, yet attempting to take on a B movie Horror film style where ridiculousness becomes genius. The question remains… Can I play with madness? (Via Boooooom)