Through Otherworldly Graphite-and-Ink, Juliet Schrekinger Advocates for Protecting Endangered Species
Photography has an impulse for preservation, of cloistering the fleeting and saving it for future recollection. Artist Juliet Schrekinger references this act of protection in her ink-and-graphite works that evoke the grainy qualities of black-and-white film through a distinctly surreal vision.
Throughout her childhood, Schrekinger witnessed her mother taking countless photos of family events and happenings that were then displayed. “I continually saw the greatest moments I shared with my loved ones framed in our home, colorless time capsules that I would turn to for years to come,” the artist says. “I began to feel a deep desire to recreate these sorts of time capsules in my work but wanted to incorporate scenes that did not occur in this world.”
Mimicking the lighting and tonal contrasts of her mother’s images, Schrekinger’s renderings fuse the anatomically accurate with the otherworldly. While many of her scenes are unearthly—a pangolin wraps its long, scaly tail around the torso of a fox, sea birds perch upon a squid’s sinuous arms, and a band of hares appears to float through the sky—the animals are depicted in exacting detail, and the likeness of their fur, feathers, and tentacles is the result of extensive research. “I have traveled up and down both the east and west coast of the U.S., taking my own reference photos of birds, aquatic life, ocean environments, trees, and so much more that all ends up being used as a starting point in my work,” she tells Colossal, noting that when it’s impossible to use her own images, she collates five to ten photos to create a specific form.
Most of the animals featured in Schrekinger’s work are endangered or vulnerable, and she’s concerned with environmental destruction, loss of habitat, and the threat many species face as the world warms and the climate changes. Pangolins, for example, are thought to be the most-trafficked non-human mammal, while the North Atlantic Right Whale is one of the most endangered species, with fewer than 350 left worldwide. “Above all else, I feel the most important aspect of what I do is raising awareness for endangered and vulnerable species,” she says. “I feel it is my duty to use my art to promote a consciousness in our society of the serious problems facing those who have no voice.” In recent years, she’s collaborated with numerous conservation organizations like the Pangeaseed and Surfrider foundations, to create works advocating for greater protection.
Schrekinger, whose studio is in Amityville, New York, is involved in several group exhibitions in the coming months, including Existential on view through May 21 at Antler Gallery in Portland and upcoming shows with Modern Eden Gallery, Stranger Factory Gallery, and Nucleus Portland. She’s also preparing for a solo exhibition opening in October at Arch Enemy Arts. You can find originals and prints on her site, and follow her latest works on Instagram. (via Beautiful Bizarre)
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Through Trompe L’oeil Bronze, Prune Nourry Fuses Human Anatomy and Arboreal Roots
At the end of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s baroque opera Atys, the titular character is transformed into a tree. This metamorphosis, the result of a spell cast by an agitated goddess, secures Atys’ Earth-bound fate, melding human and plant life into a single body.
French artist Prune Nourry draws on this mythological allegory in a series that visualizes the hybrid form. Standing several feet tall to be lifelike or larger, a trio of bronze figures emerges through intricate networks mimicking both veins and branches, “fractal shapes that we can find in different scales in nature,” the artist says. Each sculpture references the form’s roots in operatic performance, and Nourry painted the smooth metal in a trompe l’oeil style so that the works appear as if made of rope, used frequently in stage rigging. This illusory material also alludes to the connection between the infinitely large and infinitely small, a concept often described in the framework of string theory.
Nourry, who lives and works between New York and Paris, has long been interested in the body and the way it interacts with the environment. She recently completed a massive public work featuring a pregnant mother embedded in the land, and earlier projects include anatomical sculptures that similarly connect vein and branch. In her ongoing In Vitro series that began back in 2010, for example, Nourry uses laboratory glass to create delicate, sprawling renditions of human lungs and bodies. As a whole, her practice “questions the notion of balance and the ethical issues attached to it: the body and healing process, the dangerous demographic imbalance due to (the) selection of babies’ sex in some countries, the ecosystem, and (the) interdependence between living species,” a statement says.
Last year, the artist collaborated on a performance of Atys, and you can see the massive rope installation she created for that production in the video below. Find more of her corporeal projects on Instagram.
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Art Craft Design
Supple Patterns Illuminate Bold Volumes in Oliver Chalk’s Sophisticated Wooden Vessels
Hewn from solid hunks of found timber, Oliver Chalk’s vessels (previously) embrace the natural grain and gradients of different types of wood to reveal voluminous functional sculptures. Using remnants of fallen trees like ash, cypress, maple, and cherry, Chalk hand-carves bold ribs and lines redolent of contours on topographic maps. He takes cues from the distinctive characteristics of each piece of wood, responding to the specimen’s unique texture, hardness, hue, and innate patterns. Maple burl, for example, which is a growth in the tree’s bark that creates dense, swirling, eye-like motifs, led to an elegant piece peppered with small holes and knots.
Chalk’s work is included in the group exhibition Earth Materials at Gallery 57 in Arundel, West Sussex, through June 10 and Spring Collection ’23 at The Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden in Ockley, Surrey. Find more on his website and on Instagram.
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Dancing Figures and Natural Elements Coalesce in Jonathan Hateley’s Elegant Bronze Sculptures
Immersed in nature, female figures dance, reflect, and rest in Jonathan Hateley’s limber bronze sculptures. The subjects commune with their surroundings, greeting the sun or leaning into the wind and merging with patterns of foliage or lichen. “I was drawn to create a sculpture reflecting nature on the surface of the figure, which could be better highlighted with the use of colour,” he tells Colossal. “This has evolved over time from the shapes of leaves to fingerprints and cherry blossoms to plant cells.”
Before he began an independent studio practice, Hateley worked for a commercial workshop that produced sculptures for television, theatre, and film, often with rapid turnaround. Over time, he was attracted to slowing down and emphasizing experimentation, finding inspiration in regular walks in nature. Although he’s focused on the human figure for more than a decade, he originally resisted that style. “I began with wildlife, and that began to evolve into organic forms with details illustrated onto the sculptures,” he tells Colossal. Between 2010 and 2011, he completed a remarkable 365-day project of tiny bas-reliefs that were eventually composed onto a kind of monolith.
Hateley initially began working with bronze using the cold-cast method—also known as bronze resin—a process that involves mixing bronze powder and resin together to create a kind of paint, then applying it to the inside of a mold made from the original clay form. This naturally led to foundry casting, or lost-wax, in which an original sculpture can be reproduced in metal. The initial design and sculpting process can take up to four months from start to finish, followed by casting and hand-finishing, which usually takes around three months to complete.
Right now, Hateley is working on a series based on a photo shoot with a West End dancer, a reference that helps him achieve the anatomical details of extended torsos and limbs. “The first of those sculptures has a figure reaching upwards, hopefully towards better times,” he says. “I saw her like a plant growing out of a seed and eventually flowering, (with) oblong, cell-like shapes gradually merging into circular reds and oranges.” And currently, he is modeling a ballet pose in clay, evoking “a person in a calm restful state, like she is floating in a calm sea, thus becoming the sea.”
Hateley will have work at Affordable Art Fair in Hong Kong with Linda Blackstone Gallery and will be included in Art & Soul at The Artful Gallery in Surrey and Summer Exhibition 2023 at Talos Art Gallery in Wiltshire from June 1 to 30. He will also have work with Pure at the Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival from July 3 to 10. Find more on the artist’s website, and follow on Instagram for updates and peeks into his process.
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Art Design History
Steve Messam’s Inflatable Installations Highlight How Landscapes and Architecture Shape Communities and Culture
Whether coaxing new life from abandoned structures in expansive landscapes or drawing attention to modest urban elements, Steve Messam provokes shifts in perspective and new ways of seeing our surroundings. The County Durham-based artist creates site-specific, inflatable installations that recontextualize ruins, statues, or stately architecture into temporary public sculptures. Working internationally, many of his projects also focus on locations around his home in the North of England, drawing attention to landscapes rich with history, relics of which are easy to overlook.
Messam plays with concepts of visual landmarks and follies in his series Architect of Ruins, spotlighting a handful of dilapidated remnants around Weardale and Teesdale, ranging from World War II pillboxes to disused railway bridges to crumbling industrial remains. “By highlighting these often overlooked structures, the project aims to reveal the layers of narrative that make up the story of the landscape, from mining and agriculture to the transformative effect of the railways and the role of landowners,” he says.
In another recent work, “Belltower,” the artist draws attention to the recognizable House Bell Turret of Ushaw in Durham, which has “more Pugin architecture than you can shake a gothic stick at,” Messam says. “I wanted to install a piece that would act as a silhouette to what already exists and create an homage to some of the incredible Gothic Revival architecture on the site.”
Opting for a more modern canvas, Messam created “Crested”—part of Blow Up Art Den Haag—on top of a contemporary entrance to a subterranean parking garage, toying with language and form to create an abstract, pointed crown. His installations for the program last autumn interpreted historic landmarks, and this year he was keen to reframe something pointedly not historic. “A crest is something you have on a bird—something on top of a head—but it’s also the whiteness on a wave when it breaks,” he says. “It doesn’t get more ‘not of note’ than the entrance to an underground car park.” By installing massive red spikes on top of a functional building designed to blend in, Messam gives it “its moment,” transforming an unassuming structure into a focal point.
Blow Up Art Den Haag continues through May 28, and the series Encounters at Bicester Village remains on view into June. He also has four new pieces at Clerkenwell Design Week later in the month, and the National Railway Museum in York will unveil a new permanent installation in July. See more work on his website, Instagram, and a growing archive of projects on Vimeo.
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Lavish Scenes Glorify the Female Figure in Olivia De Bona’s Straw Marquetry
Through glimpses of elegant interiors lush with plants, Paris-based artist Olivia De Bona celebrates the beauty and contours of the female body. Her straw marquetry—the process of applying thin layers of material (usually veneer) to a surface—adds natural texture, variegation, and historical relevance to such intimate and decadent scenes. Referencing Romanticism and the Vietnamese wood carving traditions of her ancestors, the works require “patience, and an incalculable number of hours, that allows me to dive out of time and brings me back to something very concrete, real, far from the famous, facing myself and in tribute to all the women artisans to the forgotten work,” the artist says.
On view now at BEERS London, De Bona’s latest body of work reckons with voyeurism, implicating the viewer from the outset. Sensuous and heavily stylized, the pieces largely depict nude women unaware and in a moment of passing, shown through elements like “a hidden passage, a doorway, a transition from one state to another where we can peek at what is hidden and what is revealed,” the artist shares. The exhibition is titled Le Panache, a term that today indicates flamboyant confidence and that historically denotes an elaborate headdress, the latter of which is recalled in the fiery red feathers of “La Poule.”
De Bona is drawn to this sense of “reckless courage” that “transform(s) all women into goddesses. I put my loving and tender look for all her bodies, all her forms,” she says. Many of these recent works were inspired by the artist’s friend, a professional dancer who joined her in the studio to perform. “This has very little to do with voyeurism and is really about tenderness,” De Bona shares. “A connection between persons, between women, allowing space for discussion and creativity. There was a very raw connection between her movements in my space and my craftsmanship in relation to my work.” Each interior is lavish and ripe with plants, stone tiles, animals, and soft places to rest. Obscured by a half-opened door or fern front, these domestic spaces are fertile, offering room for contemplation, solitude, and imagination.
Several works shown here are included in Le Panache, which is on view through June 10. For more of De Bona’s marquetry, murals, and other projects, visit Instagram, and find prints in her shop.
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