Splash and Burn: An Artist-Led Initiative Raising Awareness About the Negative Effects of Palm Oil Production in South Asia
Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of palm oil, the harvesting of which has been shown to have extremely adverse effects on wildlife and natural resources, including deforestation, fires, and the displacement of people and animals. Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic (previously) witnessed this devastation during his time spent photographing and traveling throughout the country, and decided to found the initiative Splash and Burn to spread public awareness about the resource’s inhumane production.
“A state of global environmental crisis is defining our generation,” Zacharevic tells Colossal. “As consumers, we are so disconnected from the source of our commodities that we do not recognize the impact of our daily choices. This project is an effort to bridge that gap.”
The organization’s name comes from slash-and-burn, the cheap practice of burning land to clear the way for new plantations, a method that releases toxic smoke, and has been linked to more than 500,000 respiratory infections. For two years Zacharevic researched these issues effecting Indonesia’s population, meeting with NGOs, locals, and wildlife sites to educate himself on the organizations fighting against the practices and attempting to heal from their destruction.
After researching the area and its local organizations, like the Orangutan Information Centre, the Lithuanian artist invited several fellow creatives to respond to the native landscape and the palm oil crisis through art installations. Since February, international artists have created murals, sculptures, and other works throughout Sumatra. Pieces include an orangutan mural painted by VHILS, Isaac Cordal’s miniature hazmat suit installation, and Zacharevic’s plantation intervention in which he inserted the message SOS into the landscape’s trees.
“I wanted to communicate the magnitude of the problem to a wider audience, as well as provide creative outlook, hope, and inspiration to local communities and conservationists,” says Zacharevic in a press release about the work. “From the ground, you would not suspect anything more than just another palm oil plantation, the aerial view however reveals an SOS distress signal. ‘Save our Souls’ is a message communicated to those at a distance, a reminder of the connectedness we share with nature. As more of the forests are lost, we lose a little bit of ourselves in the process.”
So far Splash and Burn has worked with Anders Gjennestad aka Strøk, Axel Void, Bibichun, Gabriel Pitcher, Isaac Cordal, Mark Jenkins, and Pixel Pancho. The ongoing initiative is curated by Zacharevic and coordinated by Charlotte Pyatt. To follow upcoming installations or support the project’s efforts visit the Sumatran Orangutan Society website or Splash and Burn’s Instagram.
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Artist Yang Yongliang Imagines the Bleak Effects of Industrialization in Dense Photographic Collages
In these stark photographic collages that seem to possess the infinite density of a fractal, artist Yang Yongliang (previously) questions unchecked industrialization, the impact of climate change, and pressing social issues in his native China. Each image seems to suggest a post-apocalyptic future where the forces of urbanization collide with the natural world, creating a drab black and white dystopia. “The artist keeps developing a critic approach to reality while searching for a spiritual source in his country’s relentless march between technological progress and annihilation,” states Galerie Paris-Beijing.
As part of this new series titled Time Immemorial, Yongliang began with a series of digital collages that were printed in negative on fine art paper. Each piece was then photographed with a traditional film camera and prints were developed by hand. Lastly, the artworks are mounted on back-lit wooden cases to fulfill the artist’s intent to preserve digital imagery on photographic film.
Time Immemorial opens at Galerie Paris-Beijing on November 4, 2017.
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Josh Keyes (previously) paints scenes that observe the world at the brink of destruction. His works often focus on polar bears and sharks, one species which will soon lose its home as ice shelves continue to melt, and the other which is poised to take over an Earth undersea. The animals are placed in settings that suggest a post-human existence, such as a pair of fighting horses in front of a beached ship and a solitary brown bear looking over a seemingly empty metropolis.
The hyperrealistic paintings also incorporate graffiti found in unlikely places. Tags cover satellites, icebergs, and even a shark, an allusion to the lengths at which humans are willing to leave their mark.
Keyes’ solo exhibition, Implosion, opens August 5th at Thinkspace Gallery in LA and runs through August 26, 2017. You can see more of his works on his Instagram and website. (via Juxtapoz, Arrested Motion)
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From climate change to capitalism run amok, street artist Blu (previously) pulls no punches in his soaring multi-story murals on the streets of Italy. While mixed with a healthy dose of sarcasm and humor, the inspiration behind each artwork is anything but funny as he translates searing critiques into aesthetically beautiful paintings. For instance a 2016 piece criticizing housing problems in the Celadina district of Bergamo, Italy depicts cramped residents as a brightly hued rainbow but leaves a small group of authorities in the lower right completely devoid of color. Collected here is a selection of murals from the last year, you can see more detailed shots by flipping through his blog. You can also get an idea of how he works—perched on a tiny suspended seat—in this short GIF.
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Keyes’ ability to paint realistic renderings of our world becomes uncanny when he wields his brush in the name of environmental issues. Animals, rocket ships, and icebergs fall prey to graffiti, leaving the viewer uncomfortably wondering whether this is a painting of the future or a photograph of the present.
“I’ll Melt With You,” originally painted in acrylic on a 12 x 16 inch panel is translated to print form in its full dimensions, with an additional white border for convenient framing, for a final size of 16 x 20 inches. Printed by our friends at ioLabs in Rhode Island on Epson Hot Press Bright 300 gsm archival paper and available exclusively in The Colossal Shop.
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Josh Keyes‘ newest series features subjects both manmade and natural, their common element being several layers of graffiti that cover a space shuttle, a melting iceberg, and even a whale’s tail. For the last ten years these marks had remained in the background of Keyes’ paintings, adding detail to the supporting elements of the environment rather than being integrated into the subjects of his work.
For Keyes, the decision to place graffiti writing in the foreground questions our relationship to the natural world, and what impact we are undeniably leaving on our planet. The iceberg for instance, is marked with the words, “I’ll melt with you.” This blood red message could be the voice of both the iceberg and the tagger, a warning that we will all be melting if we continue to desecrate the Earth.
“Are there things and places that graffiti should not be?” asked Keyes to Colossal. “Who is to say what surface is to be kept graffiti clean? My personal concern is that this will be a reality some day and speaks to a larger issue of our relationship with the natural world. The satellite and space graffiti hints that even if we colonize other worlds, what mark will we leave? No matter where we go there is evidence of our presence.”
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The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan was one of the most devastating environmental events of our time, with its overall impact rippling across the globe for years to come. But just as stated in Newton’s third law—for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction—so too did the people of Japan respond to the magnitude of the destruction in an effort to rebuild their country anew as captured in this staggering new artwork by Manabu Ikeda titled Rebirth. Starting in July of 2013, Ikeda toiled away on the 13 x 10 foot piece for 10 hours a day inside a basement studio at the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin. He finished work just last week.
At its core, Rebirth depicts a tree rising from the debris of the tsunami as enormous waves crash nearby, but a closer inspection reveals thousands of tiny details, the individual stories of anonymous people, plants, and animals as they fight for survival and try to return their world to a semblance of order. Ikeda says that in his work he seeks to replicate the beautiful chaos of life that rarely fits a simple linear narrative. Instead, everything crashes together and interacts in unknown and unexpected ways, an idea that applies directly to his process as he often doesn’t know what each day will bring as he works inch by inch on the near endless canvas before him.
While Ikeda sketches broad details in pencil on the canvas beforehand, he primarily works with pen and acrylic ink using various forms of cross-hatching and brushwork to fill areas so dense with details, the true nature of the artwork isn’t revealed until staring at it from only a few inches away. Mountains of vehicles, gnarled tree branches, and train tracks sit tangled at the base of a tree, and flower blooms comprised of umbrellas and emergency tents fill the sky above. Everywhere a collision of humankind and nature, for better or worse.
“My goal is to faithfully express my view of the world in my composition, but I don’t intentionally depict detailed images,” he tells the Chazen. “Because I see details when I observe things, rather than the whole, I find pen and ink to be the best tools to express how I see them.”
Ikeda’s time spent in Madison wasn’t without its own adversity. The artist dislocated a shoulder in a downhill skiing accident which rendered his dominant hand temporarily useless. Unable to stop work for very long, Ikeda began practicing with his other hand and after 3-4 practice drawings continued work on Rebirth unfazed.
Rebirth will be on view only briefly at the Chazen Museum of Art through December 11, 2016. If you’re anywhere near the midwest, this is well worth a trip and I strongly encourage you to stop by. You can explore it for over 30 minutes and still not see everything. You can also read more about it on Wisconsin Life.
Film and stills courtesy Clayton Adams.
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