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Art

Elegantly Subversive Paintings Position Somber Women in the Throes of Domestic Struggle

February 19, 2021

Grace Ebert

“None of These Clocks Work (I)” (2020), oil on canvas, 48 x 40 inches. All images © Chidinma Nnoli, courtesy of Rele Gallery, shared with permission

In her poetic body of work, Chidinma Nnoli draws on her experiences growing up in a patriarchal, Catholic home. It “felt very stifling, and I existed in an environment of anxiety and fear where it felt uneasy to relax,” says the 22-year-old Nigerian artist. She channels these memories into her acrylic- and oil-based artworks that are simultaneously ethereal and subversive, distinctly centering on somber, unsmiling women and their hazy environments rendered in pastels.

Subtle comments on a variety of cultural issues pervade Nnoli’s paintings, including the trappings of diet culture, impossible beauty standards, and how many widespread societal beliefs impact mental health. In some pieces, these themes are apparent in the women’s facial expressions, gestures, and vintage clothing. High necklines or collars, lace details, and puffy sleeves cloak their bodies in a manner that evokes traditional values like innocence and modesty in works like “A Poetry of Discarded Feelings/Things (III).” Other paintings, like “None of These Clocks Work (I),” center on a subject wearing a corset, which contorts womens’ bodies into the idealized hourglass.

 

“If Grey Walls Could Talk (III)” (2020), 54 x 48 inches

Whether alone or in a pair, the figures are demure, solemn, and depicted at home amongst impasto backgrounds. The quiet, humble scenes are filled with indistinguishable artworks, bouquets of flowers or plants, and sofas, customary domestic elements that allow Nnoli to tease out an implied tension. The women, she says, exist in “spaces that are supposed to be safe yet it’s toxic and they somehow can’t get out… I try to create a safe environment using flowers, a space that is almost dreamlike, a utopia where they can heal, even if it’s only happening in their heads (until) they find their own safe space.”

Nnoli currently is living in Lagos and has work on view at Rele Gallery in Los Angeles. Follow her elegant, thought-provoking work on Instagram and Artsy.

 

“Nkem” (2020), 36 x 40

“If Grey Walls Could Talk” (2020), oil on Canvas, 48 x 40 inches

“Daughter (Nwa Nwanyi)” (2020), 24 x 30 inches from the Saint Series (Onye Di Aso)

“A Poetry of Discarded Feelings/Things (III)” (2020), acrylic and oil on canvas, 42 x 50 inches

 

 



Art

Oversized Butterflies, Moths, and Beetles Cloak Vintage Books in Paintings by Rose Sanderson

January 27, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Rose Sanderson, shared with permission

Worn copies of World Books, agricultural texts, and classic novels become canvases for Rose Sanderson’s insect studies. Now a few years old, the expansive series boasts more than 100 paintings featuring beetles, moths, and butterflies that splay across the printed material. Each specimen is enlarged to showcase the details of their bodies as they wrap around the tattered spines.

In a note to Colossal, Sanderson shares that her process is more cyclical than linear as she’s constantly resurfacing themes, materials, and methods from earlier works or those she previously set aside. While her focus currently is on abstract interpretations of the lichens found near her home in West Wales, she draws a connection between the intricacies of the organisms she paints today and the insects of her book series.

Keep an eye out for Sanderson’s work in Issue #24 of Create! Magazine that’s curated by Colossal’s Editor-in-Chief Christopher Jobson. You can follow her specimen-centric projects, which include forays into miniature and 3-D, on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Natural Elements Emerge from Vintage Garments in Trompe L'oeil Sculptures by Artist Ron Isaacs

December 15, 2020

Grace Ebert

Left: “Up and Up” (2019), acrylic on birch plywood construction, 43 × 14 × 4 1/2 inches. Right: “Aviary” (2019), acrylic on birch plywood construction, 42 1/2 × 23 × 4 inches. All images © Ron Isaacs, shared with permission

Vintage clothing and nature collide in the trompe l’oeil works of Ron Isaacs (previously). Autumn leaves flow from a pastel pocketbook, songbirds emerge from a dress seam, and branches extend the length of formalwear. Despite appearing as fully formed sculptures complete with layered textiles and organic ephemera, the illusory works are constructed as reliefs with Finnish birch plywood that’s painted with matte acrylics.

Isaacs’s oeuvre is poetic and deliberately evasive as the Lexington-based artist renders vintage garments that represent an imagined figure. Whether appearing to be lying flat or slowly drifting to the floor, the slips and blouses evoke a “vivid human presence, as well as their own histories and mysteries,” he says. Brush, withered leaves, and raw elements further enhance the lively qualities while drawing connections between people’s lives and nature.

In a note to Colossal, Isaacs shares how his art and experience intersect:

My work evolves slowly, mostly as a matter of increased and prolonged stages of refinement, and perhaps of concept. The passage of time continues as an undercurrent to the work; as I am now seventy-nine, I have to consider things like what constitutes a life-time supply of plywood and paint—and that I have to make proverbial hay while the proverbial sun shines.

Isaacs is represented by Momentum Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina, and you can view more of his elegant works on Artsy.

 

“Calla,” acrylic on birch plywood construction, 33 × 57 × 3 inches

“Passerines,” acrylic on birch plywood construction, 23 × 42 3/4 × 6 inches

Detail of “Aviary” (2019), acrylic on birch plywood construction, 42 1/2 × 23 × 4 inches

 

 



Art

A Storm of Paint Entangles the Enigmatic Subjects of Glenn Brown's Winding Portraits

December 1, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Lactate (Midwinter)” (2020), oil and acrylic on panel, 78 3/4 x 55 1/2 inches. All images © Glenn Brown, courtesy of Max Hetzler, shared with permission

Winding lines and sinuous strands form the textured labyrinths that surround Glenn Brown’s subjects. The uncanny portraiture that comprises his series And thus we existed seamlessly revitalizes icons of pop culture and art history with the London-based artist’s distinct aesthetic. Bold prismatic hues whirl in curling strokes that intertwine outward across each panel, centering the figures while emphasizing the individual lines that provide their shape.

Prior to painting a backdrop or enigmatic subject, Brown begins with a source image, which he then digitally alters before transferring to the panel. While he evokes the aesthetics of surrealists or artists like Karel Appel, Frank Auerbach, Georg Baselitz, and Chris Foss, each of Brown’s acrylic and oil paintings transcend simple appropriation. Instead, he identifies the unexplored possibilities within the original image, casting unusual and complex lines that bolster the works’ mysterious and unsettling qualities. His deviation from the primary source also entangles his own narrative with that of his predecessors.

And thus we existed will be on view at two of Max Hetzler’s spaces in Berlin—Bleibtreustraße 45 and Bleibtreustraße 15/16—through January 23, 2021. To see where Brown’s work is headed next, check out his Instagram and his site.

 

“Cathedral Gin (after Castiglione)” 2020), oil and acrylic on panel, 52 x 37 3/8 inches

“The Crystal Escalator in the Palace of God Department Store” (2020), oil and acrylic on panel, in artist’s frame, 83 7/8 x 54 3/8 x 3 1/2 inches

“Bring on the Headless Horses” (2020), oil and acrylic on panel, 78 3/4 x 55 1/2 inches

“Drawing 2 (after Delacroix/Raphael)” (2019), acrylic paint on polyester film over cardboard, in artist’s frame, 43 x 37 x 2 3/8 inches

“And Thus We Existed” (2019–2020), oil and acrylic on panel, 78 x 48 1/8 inches

“Myths of the Near Future (Painting for Georgiana Houghton)” (2019), oil and acrylic on panel, 77 3/4 x 48 inches

 

 



Art

Metaphorical Scenes Examine Mystery in Dreamy Paintings by Artist Duy Huynh

November 9, 2020

Grace Ebert

“ReciprociTea,” acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 x 2.5 inches. All images © Duy Huynh, shared with permission

Vietnamese artist Duy Huynh (previously) examines balance through nuanced scenes replete with ethereal, surreal elements: individual flowers ascend from a teapot, a chain winds around an artichoke heart, and figures float mid-air. Rendered in muted hues, the acrylic paintings are metaphorical and narrative-based, visualizing stories by connecting unusual symbols or positioning disparate objects together. The North Carolina-based artist gives the works witty names— “Thyme to Turnip the Beet” and “ReciprociTea,” for example—adding to their playful and whimsical natures.

In a statement, Huynh writes that the core of his practice involves drawing connections “between two or more mysteries,” which he explains further:

My characters often float (literally) somewhere between science and spirituality, memory and mythology, structure and spontaneity, ephemeral and eternal, humorous and profound, connectivity and non-attachment. The intent isn’t necessarily to provide enlightenment but to celebrate the quest itself.

Huynh co-owns Lark & Key, where his elegant paintings are part of a group show that’s on view through November 28. Limited-edition prints and greeting cards of his works are available through the gallery, as well.

 

“No More Clouded Hearts,” acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 x 2.5 inches

Left: “Thyme to Turnip the Beet,” acrylic on wood, 12 x 12 x 1.75 inches. Right: “Wisdom Keepers,” acrylic on wood, paper on piano reads “press any key to continue,” 30 x 40 x 2.5 inches

“Heart of Gold,” acrylic on wood, 12 x 12 x 2 inches

Left: “A Matter of Pace, Space and Equanimitea,” acrylic on wood, 16 x 16 x 2.5 inches.  Right: “A Life More Aliferous,” acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 x 2.5 inches

“New Dawn Rising,” acrylic on canvas, 34 x 34 x 2 inches

 

 



Art

Antidote: Organic Lifeforms Rendered with Prussian Blue Create Vivid Ecosystems by Yellena James

October 6, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Yellena James, courtesy of Stephanie Chefas Projects, shared with permission

Using a combination of acrylics, gouache, and ink, Yellena James cultivates brightly-hued ecosystems ripe with lines, patterns, and nature-based motifs. The Portland-based artist paints organic forms that resemble both marine species like coral and kelp in addition to full-bloom flowers, creating brilliant, labyrinth-like ecosystems. Although Prussian blue ink has been a mainstay in James’s practice for years, she recently discovered that the specific color serves as a remedy for certain toxic metal poisonings. This realization spurred the series shown here, which is aptly named Antidote. Each work features the vibrant hue in some capacity.

If you’re in Portland, check out James’s solo show at Stephanie Chefas Projects through October 10. To see the artist’s works in progress, head to Instagram, and try your hand at similar drawings with James’s book, Star, Branch, Spiral, Fan: Learn to Draw from Nature’s Perfect Design Structures. (via Supersonic Art)

 

 

 

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