Last week Japanese botanic artist Makoto Azuma attempted to go where most artists only dream of going: to space. In a project titled Exbiotanica, last week Azuma and his crew traveled to Black Rock Desert outside Gerlach, Nevada. In the dead of night Azuma’s project began. The team launched two of Azuma’s artworks – a 50-year old pine suspended from a metal frame and an arrangement of flowers – into the stratosphere using a large helium balloon. The entire project was documented, revealing some surreal photographs of plants floating above planet earth. “The best thing about this project is that space is so foreign to most of us,” says John Powell of JP Aerospace. “So seeing a familiar object like a bouquet of flowers flying above Earth domesticates space, and the idea of traveling into it.” (syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)
Earlier this month the renown graffiti duo Pichi & Avo traveled to Werchter, Belgium to create a large, site-specific installation for the North West Walls Street Art Festival. The event was curated by Belgium artist Arne Quinze, who created a stacked structure of numerous shipping containers and gave the Spanish artists creative freedom over the large, architectural canvas. The result is a radiant explosion of unrestrained spray art featuring their trademark style of Greek gods and lucid splashes of Mediterranean colors, all against a backdrop of graffiti. “When they work together they create breathtaking figurative detail and quality,” said Quinze. “Their work is very striking and always commands the spectator’s full attention.” Although the festival is now over, the Greek gods with all their might and glory still stand. (via Junk Culture)
left: the girl with glasses by Marteline Nystad | right: Monica Lee’s illustration of the photograph
Malaysian artist Monica Lee is obsessed with details. But then again, I guess you have to be in order to create some of the most stunning photo-realistic drawings we’ve ever seen. “I like to challenge myself with complex portraits especially people with freckles or beard,” says Lee, who often works from photographic portraits to create seemingly identical drawings. Surprisingly, Lee worked in the digital world for 12 years before making the jump to illustration. But it certainly doesn’t show. She now spends 3-4 weeks on a single drawing. The artist attributes her love for hyperrealism to her father, who worked in the field of photography. You can follow Monica Lee on Facebook or Instagram. She also sells her complex drawings as smartphone cases. (via Illusion, IGNANT)
Back in 2012 we featured a brief video about a small automaton that could almost perfectly mimic the song of a bird. Using mechanics similar to a clock, the fully automated wind-up device sucks air into a small bellows and forces it through a tiny whistle that sounds exactly like a singing bird. What my non-automata-knowledge-having-self didn’t realize at the time was that the century-old gadget was just one part of a much more intricate miniature automaton called a singing bird box.
The invention of singing bird boxes is attributed to Swiss-born watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz who also played a significant role in the creation of The Writer, a programmable automaton of a writing boy that recently inspired the movie Hugo. The basic device includes the bellows mechanism mentioned above along with a fully articulated bird with a moving beak, rotating head, and flapping wings. Several 18th and 19th century watchmakers including Jacob Frisard, Frères Rochat, and Charles Bruguier, were inspired by Jaquet-Droz’s to create their own opulent variations of singing bird boxes which are highly prized by collectors today. Variations include cigar holders, singing bird guns, and jewelry/makeup boxes.
One fantastic source of many antique bird boxes is London-based Douglas Fisher Antique Automata who carefully films almost all of their devices and makes them available on their YouTube channel. Included here are a few of my favorites, and you can also watch a number of fantastic technical videos about singing bird boxes filmed by Troy Duncan. (via The Presurfer)
If the artwork is on train tracks, is it still called street art? Rail art? Either way, we’re loving this series by Portuguese artist Artur Bordalo in which he cleverly converts the horizontal lines of train tracks into a canvas. The series, which have been popping up on railways throughout Portugal since early this year, often use bright, neon colors which create a nice contrast between the dull gray rocks and tracks. Each work is accompanied by subtle titles that can be playful but also harbor critical or cynical undertones.
The artist also goes by the moniker Bordalo II, an apparent ode to his grandfather whom he saw “painting the city of Lisbon.” You can see more of his work over on his website or Facebook page. (via Laughing Squid)
Hitachi Seaside Park is a sprawling 470 acre park located in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan, that features vast flower gardens including millions of daffodils, 170 varieties of tulips, and an estimated 4.5 million baby blue eyes (Nemophila). The sea on blue flowers blooms once annually around April in an event referred to as the “Nemophila Harmony.”
If you plan on visiting, the park offers a great English language flower calendar to help plan your trip. You can see many more photos of the grounds here. (via Bored Panda)
Chinese artist Ah Xian lives and works in Sydney where for nearly two decades he has explored aspects of the human form using ancient Chinese craft methods including porcelain, lacquer, jase, bronze, and even concrete. The artist often uses busts of his own family members including his wife, brother, and father onto which he imprints traditional designs with a vivid cobalt blue glaze. Via Asia Society:
These sculptures by Ah Xian establish a series of multilayered oppositions. The most overt is the tension between the sculptural form of the bust and the painted surface designs, which the artist likens to the oppositions of West and East. The bust is part of a Western portraiture tradition dating back to the busts of ancient Roman times and the designs are derived from Chinese decorative traditions, unique to China and in some cases to the studio-kilns at Jingdezhen. Such an opposition can also be seen as the relationship between the personal (since many of the busts are of Ah Xian’s family, including his wife, brother, and father) and the political (a statement about the artist’s own Chinese heritage articulated outside China).
The works collected here are mostly from his Human Human and China China series, though you can see many more works on Craft Australia. (via I Need a Guide)