Penny Byrne is a Melbourne-based artist who creates porcelain figurines laden with bold—and often grim—political messages. We featured her earlier work in 2013, which delved into slavery, the war in Iraq, and dolphin slaughter. Her more recent pieces follow along similar themes, unpacking violence through images of militarism and animal cruelty, while also focusing on more specific topics such as the Occupy Movement and the conflict in Syria.
What makes Byrne’s work both shocking and persuasive is the clash of a domestic medium with a charged topic. Wounded, disfigured, masked, or strangely ironic, the figurines embody narratives of pain, suffering, and hypocrisy that resonate with the viewer on uncomfortable and visceral levels. Porcelain dolls are usually treated as the coveted relics of a sensitive, “non-violent” culture, locked away in a glass case as objects of delicacy and curiosity. The fact that they are blooded, armed for war, or marked for plastic surgery creates an incongruity that subversively transforms the figurines’ object-status into social, political critiques.
Byrne’s exhibition list is impressive, including the The Fine Art Society in London and Fehily Contemporary in Melbourne. Her new work “Hurt Locker,” an armored figurine made of Murano glass and mild steel, is currently being shown at the Venice Biennale exhibition GLASSTRESS, which runs until November 22nd, 2015. (Via Sweet Station)
Solid armors made out fragile pieces of porcelain. An unusual combination put together by Chinese artist Li Xiaofeng. He collects shards of ceramics in his studio in Beijing and after he drills holes on the surface of the pieces, he assembles them one by one with silver metal wire. All these sculptures can become wearable when a piece of leather is sawn underneath the ceramics which makes the process even more interesting.
The illustrations on the shards are traditional from the Ming Dynasty. The blue and white drawings are representative of the Imperial tastes and are rare, as they are the more complicated to produce. Within the Chinese heritage, some of the colors have an underlying meaning: the red color represents blood and life, the blue color called ming blue, represents vigor and vitality. Li Xiaofeng likes to envision his art work as “rearranged landscapes”. Up close, the pieces of shards create an uneven surface and from far it’s a mosaic sculpture with fine lines. “Ceramics are used by the Chinese to eat rice. I break them into fragments to cover the human body, looking for the relation and the dialogue between the body and the shards. Both have to be compatible. Big or small, the shards must suit the form.”
Li Xiaofeng wants to connect tradition and innovation,” In China, ancient ceramics tell long tales. The neck of a vase, for example, is not just for function, but is an expression of status and beauty.” His sculptures don’t just represent a piece of clothing; it’s an irregular assembled silhouette meant to immortalize China’s most precious memories.
Have you ever finished a painting and completely destroyed your brushes, wondering if you would ever use your beloved, mangled, crusty tools again? Well, here is one artist that has found good use of old, filthy brushes. Rebecca Szeto takes found, used brushes, especially ones that could never be used again, and transforms them into little masterpieces of their own. The handle of her brushes are carved and painted to appear as fancy women, while the bottom bristles of the brush are left to look as they originally appear. With a little creativity and ingenuity, Rebecca Szeto makes the wider bottoms look like dress skirts. The stained, curled up bristles are now fringes to an elaborate gown, the paint being its silk.
The women Szeto’s brushes magically become many different kinds of women, taking on the form of all different shapes and sizes. They include women of different ethnicities and origins; one even portrays a mother adoringly holding her baby. You may have noticed some of the brush-women looking familiar to you. This is because several of the characters hold an art historical significance. For example, one woman is obviously Vermeer’s The Girl With the Pearl Earring, while another, maybe not so obviously, is the little girl in Diego Velasquez’s Las Meninas. Rebecca Szeto has cleverly taken an object that would normally be discarded, and with a little patience and skills, transformed it into something unique and amazing. Szeto explains further her intent behind these little women and what they convey.
“These works are an homage to an often lost sensibility and quality of touch and thought, not simply the superficial look of Old Masters’ works. The lady-like portraits are a playful strategy I use to introduce the more indelicate and subtler aspects of waste management and working women (underestimated, underpaid, unnoticed, yet unyielding).”
Artist Danny van Rynswyk’s latest work is a series of captivating digital paintings and three dimensional painted sculptures reminiscent of Victorian era portraits Skulls, Aliens and Beetles: Enter The Demonic Monochromatic Characters of Danny van Rynswyk and curio shop items. They are all monochromatic and depict a series of moody characters in contemplative stances. They are all dressed in Victorian era clothing and are sometimes sporting rabbit or demon masks which add to their eerie masquerade. His characters also have disturbingly childlike traits which add to the odd atmosphere of his project. His work is both beautiful and grotesque and in many ways inspired by the surreal and the deep, dark corners of the imagination.
He creates his work with the help of 3D software, which allows him to combine fine art and technology. He paints the sculptures by hand and, as a finishing touch, places them under antique glass domes, which add to the curio shop aspect of his work. The glass domes also add to magic of his pieces and make them look like precious collector’s items.
Van Rynswyk’s abundant use of skulls, gothic imagery and wide eyed characters reminds one of Tim Burton. The shadows in his work are purely German Expressionist in the way that they are painted, and play off an absence of light in order to create a stonger atmosphere. His work is the stuff of dreams and nightmares, anatomy and science fiction and it allows the audience to create narratives surrounding his peculiar characters.
Artist Janet Echelman has joined forces with global design firm Arup to create a magnificent sculpture, which is now hovering 365 feet above Boston. The sculpture is made up of polyethylene tied into half a million knots, the total weighing about a ton. In daylights it resembles a giant net but when night falls, it is illuminated in ways that echo the Northern Lights and give a new visual dimension to the piece.
Echelman’s craft is inspired by rope weaving techniques she picked up from fishermen during her time in India. In this piece, she has combined the functional aspects of a fishermen’s net and the complex, yet simple beauty of nature. The piece appropriately entitled “ As If It Were Here Already” reflects the way in which the piece is somewhat natural in its form, reminiscent of clouds, vines and even spiderwebs.
Her cocoon like sculpture is at the junction of the natural and artificial world which are in turn reinforced by the context of the piece: hanging above a major American city. The illuminated pieces of her sculpture change with the movements of the wind. Her collaboration with a group of engineers has also given her work a more technical, manufactured aspect. The combination craftsmanship, technology and art gives this piece a stronger voice in the sense that is also reflects what the city is made of. It gives a sort of supernatural aspect to the urban atmosphere and complements the night sky while fitting in perfectly with the city in the daytime, as if it were already there.
Hair is one of the first feature that one can see on a person, so familiar that it’s almost disregarded. When it comes to Dita Gambiro’s pieces, the braided hair is what strikes the most. She creates feminine objects and symbols made out of real human hair. A dress, a purse, shoes and a heart shape, all of these sculptures are handmade and meaningful.
In Eastern culture, hair is an adornment. Symbol of beauty, it is often the representation of a woman’s power, good health and fertility. Dita Gambiro was born and raised in Indonesia where she cultivates memories of her mother and grandmother keeping snips of her hair. she also keeps snips of her friends’ hair and therefore grows a bigger attachement to that part of the body. The fact that she braids the hair on almost all of her sculptures is her way to meditate and find peace.
More than just pieces of hair forming objects, Dita Gambiro’s art pieces express the mix of different cultures. On one hand the braided hair representing Eastern culture, and on the other hand the snake carved into the metal hanger, which reminds of Adam and Eve’s snake in the Western culture.
By using such a singular mean of expression, the artist conveys us into her memories and her soul, reminding us that small details prevail over banalities such as a snip of hair. (via My Amp Goes To 11)
Chinese artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu have materialized a tangible loss of hope with their most recent work simply entitled “Angel”. The life-size sculpture made entirely of silica gel, fibre glass, stainless steel, and woven mesh depicts a fallen angel caught in a net. The angel is depicted here as an old women, with all of the feathers gone from the wings lying at an angle that suggests she is not alive anymore. The sculpture is on display in a public setting, which gives it the role of an epic spectacle not only because of its aesthetic features but also for the message it carries.
The craftsmanship and work put into this piece are almost eerie in all their hyperrealist nature. The details put into emulating a human face and realistic, accurately sized wings contribute to the disturbing effect of the piece and bring an otherworldly being into a world in a brutal way that makes us assess the situation as if it were actually happening.
The symbolic value of such a piece lies in the idea of an angel being able to be of help to mankind, yet, in the powerless position Yuan and Yu have presented it, this role is diminished if not erased completely. This piece also explores the clash between the world of angels and the world of human beings, which are brought together here in a painful, if not catastrophic manner. The magnificent horror of this piece lies both in its strong visual and symbolic value and gives the viewers something to reflect upon.
Through dark and melancholic ceramic sculptures Anne Wenzel shares her views on the world’s fears and tragedies (natural catastrophes, bomb attacks, fear of millenarianism…) She draws away the tradition of ceramic to create her contemporary and intense sculptures. The artist’s ‘modern day vanitas’ sculptures not only shake the core but also question the role of splendor and power within a deformed and vanished piece of art. Recently, Anne Wenzel has created two sets of sculptures: busts in ‘Damaged Goods’ and blossoms in ‘Attempted Decadence’.
In the first group of work, she uses the classic military bust and shiny dark brown tones of glaze to condemn the glorification of authority during times of war. She questions the fact that we worship emblematic figures that have caused violence and have damaged entire populations and their countries.
Power, destruction, heroism and violence, themes dear to the artist emerge from her strong historical awareness and political engagement; she sheds new light on the role that art plays in depicting them.
The glamour and glorification expressed in the sorrowful blossoms is raising intentional open questions that Anne Wenzel is not willing to answer for us. She wants the viewer to take a stand and ask: I am seeing this beautiful metaphor of greatness and beauty, but am I being manipulated? The purple and rust tones petals are liquefied, dripping over the structure that’s holding them. Turning healthy and fresh flowers into a devastated and agonizing dying bouquet, the visual creates a balance in the expression of abstraction and figurative art.