Tag Archives: trees

Rebirth: Artist Manabu Ikeda Unveils a Monumental Pen & Ink Drawing Nearly 3.5 Years in the Making 

Rebirth, 2016. Pen & ink, 13 x 10' (300 x 100cm). Courtesy the Chazen Museum of Art.

Rebirth, 2016. Pen & ink, 13 x 10′ (300 x 100cm). Courtesy the Chazen Museum of Art.

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.

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Manabu Ikeda at work.

A video posted by Colossal (@colossal) on

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.

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Rebirth, detail.

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Rebirth, detail.

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.”

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Rebirth, detail.

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Rebirth, detail.

Rebirth, detail.

Rebirth, detail.

Rebirth in progress.

Rebirth in progress.

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Rebirth in progress.

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.

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Manabu Ikeda at work, still from Clayton Adams.

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Manabu Ikeda at work, still from Clayton Adams.

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Ikeda Manabu’s first attempt at drawing with his non-dominant hand after a skiing accident.

Film and stills courtesy Clayton Adams.

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Inside the Well-Traveled Sketchbooks of Artist Dina Brodsky 

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Artist Dina Brodsky has many focuses to her practice, painting in miniature on canvas and paper, and recently turning to her family, friends, and Instagram community to submit trees for her to reproduce in a drawn project titled “The Secret Life of Trees.” Throughout both of these processes she remains extremely attentive to her sketchbook, filling its pages with detailed drawings of architecture, wildlife, and scattered portraits of strangers that accompany her looped handwriting. The drawings are often finished with touches of watercolor, gouache, gold leaf, and found objects from her travels, like in one where she pastes a rupee note from India.

An exhibition of her series, “The Secret Life of Trees,” was recently shown at Bernarducci Meisel Gallery in NYC. Brodsky sells recently produced paintings and drawings on Etsy, and you can see more of her sketchbook works and miniatures on her Instagram.

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A Skeleton of Found Roots and Tree Limbs Heralds the Beginning of Fall in Italy 

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In this 2012 installation, street artist Never2501 assembled a variety of found vegetation to form an eerie skeleton at the base of some steps in the idyllic gardens of the Museo Archeologico Paolo Giovio in Como, Italy. The piece was titled “In Cammino Per Trasformarsi Nell’istante Presente” (Moving to Transform into the Present) and could be interpreted as a harbinger of the seasons with the decaying root stumps and limbs pulled from a nearby forest, fit together without aid of any additional materials. Or maybe it’s just an incredibly disturbing thing to stumble onto when walking through the woods? You can see more photos of the temporary piece here, and follow Never2501’s more recent work on Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness, StreetArtNews)

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A Bird’s Nest Tearoom Perched Atop a 300-Year-Old Camphor Tree in Japan 

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All photos by Koji Fujii for Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP

Architect Hiroshi Nakamura had always been intrigued by how some crows utilize found coat hangers as a structural element in their nests. With this idea in mind, a unique opportunity presented itself when treehouse builder Takashi Kobayashi contacted him with an unusual site for a tearoom: 10 meters above the ground in a 300-year-old cinnamomum camphora tree growing precariously on the side of a mountain that overlooks the ocean in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. Using the coat hangers as a starting point he designed the Bird’s Nest Atami Tearoom using a variety of minimally invasive construction techniques meant to protect the integrity of the tree.

“Hangers are not only durable but also highly elastic, and they offer more hooks to connect than branches and hence are easier to assemble,” he shares. “Crows, flying deftly across the dichotomy of natural and artificial, are creating a functional and comfortable environment.” Thus the tearoom became a lightweight scaffold-type structure that works in harmony with the trees branches instead of being directly anchored to it. From Nakamura’s notes on the project:

For the foundation, we carefully inserted pier type foundations between the roots in order to avoid the use of concrete and large-scale excavation. Using the structure itself as scaffolding, we assembled it by avoiding the branches as birds create their nest, adding or taking out components based on structural analysis. We mortared the room interior to be like a swallow’s nest. The design leaves open the possibility for visitors to experience nest building by picking up branches from the mountain side and fitting them into walls inside.

The tearoom is part of the KAI Atami resort, and you can see more views both inside and out on the Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP website. Please take me with you. (via ARCHatlas)

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A Glimpse into Onbashira, the Dangerous Japanese Log Moving Festival 

If riding a giant log down a steep mountain sounds like an ideal way to spend a quiet spring afternoon, the Onbashira Festival is for you. Held every 6 years in Nagano, Japan, the festival involves moving enormous logs over difficult terrain completely by hand with the help of thickly braided ropes and an occasional assist from gravity as the logs barrel down hills. The purpose is to symbolically renew a nearby shrine where each log is eventually placed to support the foundation of several shrine buildings. The event has reportedly continued uninterrupted for 1,200 years.

Onbashira is split into into two parts, Yamadashi and Satobiki, taking place in April and May respectively. Yamadashi involves cutting down and transporting the logs, each of which can weigh up to 10 tons. The logs are harnessed by ropes and pulled up to the tops of mountains by teams of men and then ridden down the other side. The event is exceedingly dangerous and comparable to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, where a brush with peril is seen as a form of honor. The second part, Satobiki, is a ceremonial raising event where participants again ride atop the logs and sing as each is hoisted into the air. Participants of both events are frequently injured and sometimes killed, but despite the obvious risks the tone of Onbashira is quite festive with lots of singing, music, and colorful costumes.

Filmmakers from Oh! Matsuri were at the festival this year and edited this beautiful glimpse into the obscure tradition.

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Ash Dome: A Secret Tree Artwork in Wales Planted by David Nash in 1977 

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In 1977, sculptor David Nash cleared an area of land near his home in Wales where he trained a circle of 22 ash trees to grow in a vortex-like shape for an artwork titled Ash Dome. Almost 40 years later, the trees still grow today. The artist has long worked with wood and natural elements in his art practice, often incorporating live trees or even animals into pieces. The exact site of Ash Dome in the Snowdonia region of northwest Wales is a closely guarded secret, and film crews or photographers who are permitted to see it are reportedly taken on a circuitous route to guard its location. Nash shares in an interview with the International Sculpture Center:

When I first planted the ring of trees for Ash Dome, the Cold War was still a threat. There was serious economic gloom, very high unemployment in our country, and nuclear war was a real possibility. We were killing the planet, which we still are because of greed. In Britain, our governments were changing quickly, so we had very short-term political and economic policies. To make a gesture by planting something for the 21st century, which was what Ash Dome was about, was a long-term commitment, an act of faith. I did not know what I was letting myself in for.

Dr. James Fox recently visited the artwork for the BBC’s Forest, Field & Sky: Art out of Nature (YouTube) featuring six different land artists in Britain. You can see an excerpt regarding Ash Dome below, as well as footage of Nash working on the piece further down. (thnx, Elsie!)

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