Magic and Myth Arise from Kristin Kwan’s Surreal Oil Paintings
Kristin Kwan coaxes the magic out of nature in her dreamlike oil paintings. Emphasizing a quiet surrealism centered on plants, animals, and Earth’s landscapes, her works draw on allegories, symbolism, and myth. Suffused with fantastical details, each painting begins “devoid of meaning,” Kwan shares, saying that while they reflect her own musings, she hopes the resulting pieces are open-ended. “I like to think of a painting as some kind of communal scaffold or trellis that meaning can grow on, my own alongside viewers,” the artist recently told Beautiful Bizarre, which awarded her the 2022 art prize for “The Golden Afternoon” shown below.
Kwan is currently preparing for two group shows, one in May at Tugboat Gallery in her current city of Lincoln, Nebraska, and another in August at Seattle’s Roq La Rue. She also has a solo show scheduled for December at Nucleus in Los Angeles. For glimpses into her process and studio and to keep up with her latest works, head to Instagram.
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Debatable Motivations Inspire the Adventures of Biking Sloths and Raging Cats in Ravi Zupa’s Illustrations
A raccoon on a motorcycle laments over being a poser, a sloth finds itself exhilerated after a bike ride, and a raging cat screams that, despite its snarling teeth, it’s not angry. The self-conscious, awkward, and excitable creatures are the latest additions to Ravi Zupa’s growing cast of characters, which follow earlier illustrations featuring a pack of self-deprecating dogs and a herd of disorderly, drunken cats.
Zupa tells Colossal that he’s spent the last few months riding his bike near his home in Commerce City, Colorado, each morning—rain, snow, or sunshine—and this dedication has translated to his work. Many of his recent prints and greeting cards feature animals mid-cycle as they contemplate their television habits and whether their helmet really does make them look corny.
Currently, Zupa is preparing for a solo show opening in June at Subliminal Projects in Los Angeles. His work will also be included in a group exhibition opening in July at Harman Projects in New York City. Shop prints and greeting cards featuring the illustrations shown here on his site.
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Expressive Portraits Emerge from Pieces of Cardboard in Josh Gluckstein’s Wildlife Sculptures
Since childhood, London-based artist Josh Gluckstein has been fascinated by the incredible diversity of our planet’s wildlife and inspired to make sculptures of animals from found materials. He often uses discarded or recycled materials like clothing from thrift shops or wood from old furniture, and an important aspect of his practice is concern for the environment. “I have travelled through Asia, Latin America, and East Africa, and have been fortunate enough to have some incredible wildlife encounters,” he says. “However, on my travels, even in the most remote locations, I was shocked by the huge amounts of plastic waste.”
Much of the garbage that washes up on shorelines around the world is due to an unregulated system in which richer countries export waste to developing countries because it is often cheaper than developing better infrastructures to handle it. Many of the thousands of shipping containers exported each year are often dumped illegally. Gluckstein shares:
I remember going to the Galapagos Islands and visiting a beach famous for a large population of sea lions. It was indeed incredible to see them in the wild, but on every inch of sand not covered by sea lions, there were plastic bottles and cans. It was a heartbreaking sight. I knew I wanted to create artwork that didn’t create waste and harm our planet.
Gluckstein fashions life-like portraits of elephants, primates, pangolins, and big cats out of cardboard by tearing, cutting, and gluing pieces together into expressive visages, sometimes applying thin washes of paint for added depth and detail. He often works on multiple sculptures at a time, and a piece can take between a week or several months to complete depending on the scale or amount of detail. “In lockdown, at home and out of my studio, I was very keen to get to work, but didn’t have the access to the materials I would usually use,” he says. “That’s when I discovered cardboard, which was readily available, and I found it to be an incredibly versatile medium.”
A new series called Gold focuses on trafficked animals by applying gold leaf to their bodies, highlighting the reasons they are poached. The pangolin, for example, is critically endangered because it’s illegally hunted primarily for its meat and unique scales. Gluckstein plans to show these works next month at Woolff Gallery in London, with a portion of sales donated to the WWF. Follow updates on Instagram, and see more of the artist’s work on his website.
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Highlighting Wildlife in Crisis, ‘The New Big 5’ Celebrates the Diversity of the World’s Animal Denizens
In the Victorian era, big game hunting saw a meteoric rise in popularity, coinciding with Britain’s colonization of numerous regions in the so-called “Scramble for Africa” and the advent of more accurate firearms that galvanized a fashion for amassing “exotic” trophies. Sometimes intended for museums, specimens were often bound for private collections, and creatures that roamed the vast African continent were considered particularly attractive prizes.
Known as the Big Five, the lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, African bush elephant, and African buffalo were considered the most difficult species to hunt on foot. Today, many of these animals are vulnerable and endangered and must be protected in nature reserves in order to prevent being unlawfully hunted to extinction. In his forthcoming book The New Big 5, photographer Graeme Green wants to flip the narrative: “Shooting with a camera, not a gun.”
The New Big 5 is the culmination of a three-year project celebrating the remarkable multiplicity of Earth’s inhabitants, which also aims to raise awareness of the fragility of their existence as their habitats are increasingly threatened due to the climate crisis. In April 2020, Green asked people around the world to suggest what animals they most enjoyed seeing in photographs. More than 3,000 people voted for their favorites, and the list includes species found in Asia and North America, too: elephants, tigers, gorillas, polar bears, and lions. Family life is a particular focus, emphasizing the universally tender relationships of parents rearing their babies.
With more than a million species at risk of extinction worldwide, Green wanted the project “to focus attention on all of the world’s incredible wildlife, large and small, and the urgent need to act together globally to save these animals, our planet, and ourselves.” The book brings together more than 200 photographs by 146 photographers from around the world and contains numerous interviews and essays by some of the foremost conservationists, scientists, and activists working today.
Scheduled for release on April 4, you can pre-order a copy on Bookshop, and visit the project’s website to learn more.
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The 2022 World Nature Photography Awards Vacillate Between the Humor and Brutality of Life on Earth
Moments of coincidental humor, stark cruelty, and surprising inter-species intimacies are on full display in this year’s World Nature Photography Awards. The winners of the 2022 competition encompass a vast array of life across six continents, from an elephant’s endearing attempt at camouflage to a crocodile covered in excessively dry mud spurred by drought. While many of the photos highlight natural occurrences, others spotlight the profound impacts humans have on the environment to particularly disastrous results, including Nicolas Remy’s heartbreaking image that shows an Australian fur seal sliced open by a boat propellor.
Find some of the winning photos below, and explore the entire collection on the contest’s site.
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Wild Personalities Flirt With Their Frames in Calvin Nicholls’s Meticulous Paper Sculptures
In exacting detail, a giraffe nuzzles its young and a panda noshes on eucalyptus fronds in Calvin Nicholls’s paper sculptures (previously). Working primarily in white and neutral-toned paper, his pieces capture the intricate details of animals’ musculature, fur, and feathers in meticulous cuts and creases. Mounted onto dark backgrounds and situated within a border of mat board, Nicholls’s subjects resist being contained altogether, as a paw, bill, or ear projects just outside the frame. “I often reach out to wildlife photographers and stock agencies to fill gaps in the gestures and moments I’m eager to create,” he tells Colossal, sharing that these kinds of collaborations have led to some of his favorite works.
Based two hours north of Toronto in the Kawartha Lakes region, Nicholls has ample opportunities for walks in nature and viewing wildlife, which inspire an ongoing series called Backyard Birds, along with individual commissions. Find more information on his website and Instagram.
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