Mystical Forests Meet Cavernous Classical Interiors in Eva Jospin’s Cardboard Sculptures
In the hands of Eva Jospin, humble cardboard transforms into atmospheric forests, architectural wonders, and mysterious monuments. For more than a decade, the Paris-based artist has explored the possibilities of the corrugated material, layering it to create solid pieces that can be carved to reveal detailed landscapes and interiors. In her solo exhibition Folies at Mariane Ibhrahim, an immersive, site-specific installation challenges notions of scale, while a range of drawings and three-dimensional pieces expand on the possibilities of paper with the addition of bronze and silk tapestries.
At nearly 20 feet long, “Galleria” creates a portal or a gateway with an ornate, coffered ceiling, lined with niches—or perhaps windows—that reveal wooded scenes, woven textiles, and small drawings. The entrance, flanked by trees and textures redolent of rough marble, invites viewers in through a mystical archway. And in “Grotte,” a roughly hewn architectural niche or apse punctuated by trinkets like seashells and string suggests a grotto, a cavern that is often associated with religious devotion and a place to collect sacred items.
Jospin invokes the classical style often associated with historical significance and influence, from ancient ruins to cultural institutions to cathedrals, questioning notions of power and importance. The title, French for “follies,” references the 18th-century European tradition of building extravagant structures purely for decoration, often inspired by crumbling Roman temples or Medieval castles. (Marie Antoinette famously commissioned an entire rural village in the Trianon gardens of Versailles.)
Jospin explores the intersections of nature and the handmade through meticulously carved tree limbs, stone outcrops, and refined surfaces. By using industrial, everyday materials like cardboard, which is often employed temporarily and then discarded, she examines relationships between the quotidian and the sacred, fragility and resilience, and ephemerality and permanence.
Folies continues through September 9 in Mexico City. Find more on Mariane Ibhrahim’s website.
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It Takes Two to Tango: Florentijn Hofman’s ‘Double Ducks’ Set Sail in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour
Vying to be the world’s largest bathtub toy is a game that two can play. Ten years after his enormous rubber duck sailed through Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman marks the occasion with Double Ducks. The identical inflatable artworks sit side-by-side in the waterway, designed to be hitched to tugboats and escorted in all of their sunny splendor, foregrounding the famous panoramic views of the city’s skyline.
Known for his playful, monumental installations, Hofman approached the project as a celebration of friendship and joy. The pair represent unity and togetherness, drawing on the symbolism of the symmetrical Chinese characters “囍” (happiness) and “朋” (friends). “Due to COVID we learned that spending time together is so valuable,” Hofman says in a statement. “Making moments and memories for real, living in the here and now, are things to cling on to… ‘Double Ducks’ is not about looking into the past but enjoying the moment together!”
Hofman collaborated with with creative brand AllRightsReserved to facilitate the floating sculptures in addition to dozens of installations and interactive activities throughout the city. Admiralty MTR station in the central business district sports a giant yellow face peering from its half-moon shaped window—the largest of 18 train station installations—and 24 images of the playful pair accompany iconic locations, like the Clock Tower on the shore of Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, The Hong Kong Space Museum, and the historic Lan Kwai Fong neighborhood. The more, the merrier!
The floating sculptures are stationed near Tamar Park and the Central and Western District Promenade, and will embark for the first time on June 10, sailing for approximately two weeks. Find more on the Double Ducks website, and follow Hofman’s Instagram for updates.
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Resting with Ancients: Nichola Theakston Invokes Animal Spirits in Her Contemplative Bronze Sculptures
As far back as 5,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians worshipped the goddess Bastet, who took the form of a lioness, a fierce warrior deity associated with the sun. She was seen as a protector during pregnancy and childbirth and a defender against evil spirits and diseases. Over time, her likeness adopted the characteristics of a domestic cat, which in later dynasties assumed cult-like status, and the animals were revered and bred for protection and sacrifice. Along with mythological beings such as Sekhmet, another lion-faced, solar goddess of medicine, the deities comprise an integral part of sculptor Nichola Theakston’s soulful exploration into the history, lore, and spirits of animals.
Working in ceramics and bronze, Theakston’s practice (previously) centers on meditative depictions of mammals, drawing on ancient sources to connect viewers with contemporary concerns and timeless perceptions.In her continuing series of primate portraits, the subjects appear calm, meditative, or lost in thought and emphasize her interest in our “commonality and shared consciousness.” With a focus on faces, she often leaves the bodies unfinished, hinting at shoulders or limbs while highlighting the details of jawlines, ears, and brows.
Informed by her work with ceramics, Theakston is constantly evolving her approach to the nuances of texture and color. Each piece, first sculpted by hand before being cast in bronze, bears an organic, expressive approach that spotlights the presence of the artist’s hand. The surfaces feature subtle score marks, nudges, and notches, which draw attention to elegant silhouettes and the supple folds of ears and eyelids. A range of patination techniques, which the artist is consistently experimenting with and developing, create subtle shifts in contrast and hue so no two are exactly alike.
“I have been working recently on canine and feline subjects with reference to ancient Egyptian forebears and sculptural representations,” Theakston tells Colossal. In “Pariah,” the artist’s beloved Mediterranean podenco named Nola mirrors the sleek features of Anubis, the dog-headed Egyptian god of funerary rights and usher to the underworld. “Nola at times seems to very much embody her ancient ancestry and our interwoven human connection with both,” she says.
“Resting with Ancients” will be on view with Sladmore Gallery as part of London Art Week from June 30 to July 7, and if you’re in The Netherlands, you can find her work at Art Laren fair with De KunstSalon, which runs June 16 to 18. Theakston is currently casting a new macaque study at Castle Fine Arts Foundry in Powys, Wales. See more on her website and Instagram.
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Lisa Stevens’ Ceramic Sculptures Capture Coral-Inspired Motifs in Vibrant Color
Ridges, florets, and spirals comprise the vibrant terrains of Bristol-based artist Lisa Stevens’ marine-inspired ceramics. On the surface of high-fired porcelain clay, she builds vivid hues using underglazes and stoneware glazes along with melted glass to achieve jewel-like details. During the past few years, she has expanded her coral-inspired designs, incorporating a wide range of shapes and emphasizing a spectrum of bright hues. “My work has become more extreme with more fans, spikes, and branches, and now many pieces can be displayed on the wall,” she tells Colossal.
Stevens enjoys working in series, including participating in The 100 Day Project, first with a series of skull-shaped tiles sprouting coral tentacles and currently making progress on a group of teardrop-shaped pieces. Using a range of tools, she spends a lot of time experimenting and learning new ways to employ them, so no two are the same. “I stick to one basic shape but make each one completely different,” she says. “I will never find an end to the possibilities and won’t get bored of looking for something new.”
If you’re in the U.K., you can see Stevens’ pieces on display at Independent Design Collective in Bristol and Katherine Richards Art Gallery in Brighton and Hove. Find more on the artist’s website, and follow updates on Instagram.
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Rachel Spelling Meticulously Fills Vintage Paint Swatch Booklets with Vibrant Miniature Paintings
“A paint chart is ostensibly about planning colours for your home, but if you break it down, there are so many aspects to that: dreams, frustrations, happiness, sadness, loss, family, hope, despair, fashion, identity… When you look at my work, you see a lot of ideas all at once,” says Rachel Spelling. Prior to 2020, the London-based artist focused on home interiors and painting elaborate murals, including a six-month project to recreate the original Chinese wallpaper pattern of Pitzhanger Manor, the former country house of English architect Sir John Soane, which is now open to the public. Vivid flora and fauna stretch from corner to corner, carefully responding to the surface area—an approach that also happens to work well on a minuscule scale.
Fascinated by the possibilities of painting and drawing since childhood, Spelling has a knack for expressing vibrant detail at on a variety of surface sizes. During the pandemic when everything came to a stand-still, she was eager for a new project, sharing that “one long lockdown day, I was at home with a really strong desire to paint some walls but no walls left to paint. There was a Farrow and Ball paint chart on my kitchen table, and I suddenly realised that each paint chip was like a tiny, perfectly prepped wall, just waiting to be painted.” Commercial swatches designed to help homeowners and decorators choose colors transformed into a canvas ripe for interpretation.
“Stone Blue” was the name of the tile Spelling tested first, meticulously rendering a tiny fish onto the rectangle. “It looked really strange and interesting, and the paint sat really well on the surface, so I painted another one and then another,” she says. By the end of lockdown, she had rendered tiny works in all 132 squares in the chart, and she was intrigued by the relationship between the bewildering blast of hues and subject matter balanced by the orderly grid layout. “I really enjoy the clash of the mundane, everyday stuff alongside the big ideas, because that’s such a key feature of lived experience and one that I found hard to put my finger on until I found this way of working.”
Spelling works on a combination of new swatch booklets and old ones, searching for vintage charts at car boot sales, charity shops, and other places where she might find examples that remain in tact and have surfaces that are matte enough to paint on. There aren’t too many out there, since it’s the sort of item that people throw away when they’re no longer needed. Finding an older one is always a thrill, and so is the experience of working on the delicate, one-of-a-kind surface. “There is much jeopardy when I’m painting directly onto a fragile vintage chart. It’s nerve-wracking, but I think the drama of that keeps me on my toes,” she says. “There’s a fine line between damaging something old and creating something new, and I enjoy trying to figure out where that line lies!”
Spelling sells prints in her shop and makes originals available for sale a few times per year. You can see more on her website and on Instagram.
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In ‘Ocean Sentinels,’ Jason deCaires Taylor Installs Eight Hybrid Sculptures as Coral Guards
A new cast of hybrid characters continues Jason deCaires Taylor’s effort to revitalize the Great Barrier Reef. Recently installed off the coast of Townsville, Australia, as part of the Museum of Underwater Art, Ocean Sentinels is comprised of eight figurative sculptures that meld the textures of marine life with the likeness of influential conservationists.
Similar to “The Coral Greenhouse,” which was embedded in the aquatic landscape in 2020, these works are made of pH-neutral, low-carbon concrete and stainless steel and are created with the intention that sea creatures use them as homes. “It is hoped that in years to come a variety of endemic species such as corals, sponges, and hydroids will change the sculptures’ appearance in vibrant and unpredictable ways. Like the Great Barrier Reef itself, they will become a living and evolving part of the ecosystem, emphasising both its fragility and its endurance,” Taylor says.
Due to warming waters caused by the climate crisis, much of the reef is experiencing coral bleaching, a stress-induced reaction that causes the sea creatures to expel algae in their tissues and drain themselves of their characteristically vibrant colors. Taylor’s works are designed to help spur new growth, offer a sanctuary for the endangered lifeforms, and lure away curious divers from more vulnerable areas.
Ocean Sentinels include stylized renditions of Indigenous leader Jayme Marshall, marine scientist and “godfather of coral” John Veron, and nine-year-old Molly Steer, who led an initiative to stop the proliferation of single-use straws, among others. See more of Taylor’s underwater sculptures before and after sea-creature colonization on his site and Instagram.
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