For the last four years, Tbilisi Mural Fest has facilitated more than 40 public artworks around the Georgian capital, and the 2022 event brought a spate of new projects to the city. Given the nation’s proximity to Russia and that country’s groundless war against Ukraine, festival organizers highlighted renowned Ukrainian muralist Sasha Korban who painted a large-scale portrait of a woman in customary clothing facing the Russian embassy. Other works include celebrations of Georgian culture and history, like a large-scale tablecloth with traditional motifs by Chertova Tina and Mohamed l’Ghacham’s dreamlike rendering of the living room of Georgian thinker and author Ilia Chavchavadze.
See some of the 2022 additions below and those from previous years on Instagram.
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‘China’s Van Goghs’ Documentary Explores the Industrial Scale of Art in the Village that Paints Thousands of Replicas
In the late 1980s, the village of Dafen in Shenzhen, China—home to a few hundred people—was set on an industrial course that would utterly transform the area. Over the past three decades in what is known as the “world’s art factory,” manufacturers have produced thousands of replicas of well-known paintings by Western masters like Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Edgar Degas. In a full-length documentary from Perspective, filmmakers render an intimate portrait of life in Dafen.
China’s Van Goghs follows painter Zhao Xiaoyong, along with family and friends, through typical days at work. Immense rolls of canvas are unloaded from a truck, a line of people add details to raw canvases tacked to the wall, and rows of paintings line-dry above their heads. “We paint, eat, and sleep—all in this studio,” Zhao says, sharing that before he began painting, he had never heard of Van Gogh. Now, he oversees the production of hundreds of paintings each month, for which photographs or small prints are used as references.
Entrepreneurial trade painter Huang Jiang established the village’s art industry in 1989 after moving his business to the mainland hamlet from his native Hong Kong. Dafen is characterized by an an assembly line process that has historically relied on cheap migrant labor, where local workers were trained to paint in oil. As the manufacture of copies of paintings by Western masters expanded, so did the village. Dafen is now home to more than 10,000 residents and has become a cultural center of Shenzhen, but the relationship between yì shù jiā (artists) and huà jiā (painters or art workers) is uniquely nuanced.
Zhao grapples with the difference between the two, and an opportunity to fly to Amsterdam with his family to visit the Van Gogh Museum and meet a long-time client provides many unexpected revelations, including finding his paintings in a tourist stand and learning that the profit margin is around ten times his compensation to make the works. After a trip to Arles, France, to the hospital where Van Gogh was briefly in residence, and his burial site in Auvers-sur-Oise, Zhao returns home and reflects on the visit with mixed emotions. He and his colleagues discuss feeling a connection to Van Gogh and a profound link with the work.
The documentary plumbs universal, provocative questions of originality and significance. Zhao recounts museum staff asking if he made his own work, and he explains “Do you know how much pressure I felt? I was shocked. I don’t even have a single piece of my own. I’ve just been copying, copying… To change from a painter to an artist, to whatever it is, is very difficult.” A friend posits that labels like “artist” and “worker” aren’t useful, and Zhao continues with a question that many creators will find familiar, “Have I become an artist? Do I have anything that deserves appreciation?”
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As we edge closer to the end of 2022, we’re taking a look back at some of the biggest hits on Colossal throughout the year. We’ve published hundreds of articles spotlighting extraordinary work by artists around the globe who test boundaries, activate discussion, and inspire innovation.
We collected 10 of the most-read articles on the site this year, ranging from street art and embroidery to soldered teacups and mirrors with hidden images. And if you want even more of 2022’s art highlights, dive into the Colossal archive.
Banksy’s signature stencils have been spotted among the rubble of bombed buildings and barricades in Borodyanka and Gorenka, both in the Bucha Region, while others are just outside the capital city of Kyiv.
Beginning with a line drawing in pencil, U.S.-based artist Ruth Miller renders hand-embroidered portraits based on photos into wool tapestries and thread drawings.
Lyon native Ememem, aka “the pavement surgeon,” examines the streets of European cities and checks for splintered pavement and sidewalks fractured in pieces.
A portmanteau of forevermore and for others, Forothermore is a prescient title for the first retrospective of artist Nick Cave, whose practice spanning sculpture, installation, performance, and various mediums consistently confronts racism, homophobia, and other bigotries through the alluring, affecting power of art.
A visual metaphor for imperfection and the possibilities of repair, the porcelain sculptures created by Ohio-based artist Glen Taylor are steeped in contrast.
Japanese artist and designer Mariko Kusumoto shapes gossamer coral and sea creatures from soft fibers like polyester, nylon, and cotton.
For artist Estelle Chrétien, the expansive lawns, fields, and wooded ravines around her home in Nancy, France, and other parts of Europe become sites of mischievous mixed-media interventions.
While plumbing the archives at the Cincinnati Art Museum, curator Hou-mei Sung uncovered what appeared to be an ordinary patinaed mirror printed with the name of Amitābha Buddha. After closer inspection, though, the object revealed a surprise.
Lined with gilt edges and secured with a gold clasp, a bracelet by the Amsterdam-based duo of Lyske Gais and Lia Duinker packs a vast art historical collection within the span of a wrist.
What eventually becomes a stately stag or majestically posed lion in Kang Dong Hyun’s Forest of Coexistence starts with countless metallic branches that splay in every direction.
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When we steep a cup of tea, we typically toss out the bag once it has served up its brew, but for Ruby Silvious, this humble sachet provides the basis for a distinctive artistic practice. Known for her miniature paintings that use tea bags as canvases, she has expanded her use of the material by employing it as a fabric for larger-scale works that are inspired by her family history and an interest in fashion. “It gives me a chance to do large scale work, the antithesis to my miniature paintings,” she tells Colossal. “It’s only natural that my art has always been inspired by fashion. My maternal grandmother was a brilliant seamstress. I was only 20 years old when I migrated to the U.S. from the Philippines, and my very first job was at Bergdorff Goodman in New York City.”
Silvious began making garments in 2015, spurred by an ongoing fascination with the various methods of printing, staining, and assembling the deconstructed segments together. “I have accumulated bins of used tea bags,” she says, “not just from my own consumption but also from friends and family who have generously contributed to my growing collection.” She has made more than ten full-size kimonos, each requiring up to 800 used bags to complete. Pieces in her most recent series, Dressed to a Tea, average approximately 75 to 125 sachets, each one emptied out, flattened, and ironed before being glued together into shirts, slips, or child-size dresses. “Some tea bag pieces have monoprints on them, and the simpler designs are assembled with plain or slightly stained, used tea bags, giving them a more delicate and fragile look,” she explains.
A number of pieces from Dressed to a Tea will be on view in a weeklong exhibition at Ceres Gallery in New York from December 5 to 10. Her work will also be featured in a solo exhibit at the Ostfriedsisches Teemuseum in Norden, Germany, from March 4 to April 29, 2023. You can find more of Silvious’s work on her website and Instagram.
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For street artists, the urban landscape is an infinite canvas. Whether wheat pasted, sprayed, or layered with brushes, vibrant compositions revitalize public spaces and provide an ever-evolving barometer of the political climate and current affairs. The genre has been historically dominated by men, but a new book by journalist Alessandra Mattanza and Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art founder Stephanie Utz shifts the dial.
Women Street Artists spotlights the diverse practices of 24 graffiti and mural artists hailing from around the globe who work in a variety of styles, from large-scale public projects like Camilla Falsini’s vibrant pavement composition in Milan to striking interventions like Olek’s pink, crocheted coverlet for “Charging Bull,” Wall Street’s masculine bronze sculpture. Each finds walls, sidewalks, demolished structures, prison cells, grain silos, and other nontraditional surfaces to express ideas around feminism and empowerment, body imagery, racism, the climate crisis, and other critical issues.
You can find a copy of Women Street Artists on Bookshop.org, available now in the U.K. and scheduled for release in the U.S. on December 6.
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Industrial Materials Reconstruct Local History on a Monumental Scale in Public Sculptures by David Mach
Known for sculptures and assemblages that utilize everyday objects like bricks, coat hangers, and matches, Scottish artist David Mach has embarked on numerous large-scale, public projects that draw inspiration from local history. In his monumental “Brick Train” in Darlington, he taps into regional heritage through the use of red brick and the depiction of a life-size steam locomotive. The industrial revolution of the 19th century spurred a need to move materials like coal and steel around the country, and the first railway to use steam engines to transport passengers also originated in the area. In the U.K., red bricks have prevailed as the most popular building material, constructing long rows of terraced homes that characterize the urban landscape.
Further north in Edinburgh, the architectonic “Temple at Tyre” was constructed from dozens of shipping containers and over 8,000 tires (or tyres) in the port of Leith, a critical international shipping hub. It was installed for a month and illuminated at night to rival the city’s major landmarks, like the neoclassical National Monument on Calton Hill. The containers, which are also the focus of a proposed building in an Edinburgh business park, are immense reminders of the trade and commerce that the city is built upon.
Mach currently has additional projects in the works in London, Mauritius, and Syria. Heavy Metal, a solo exhibition opening at Pangolin London in January will highlight ongoing work in a showcase of maquettes and prints. You can find more of the artist’s work on his website.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.