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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Endangered Animals Dissolve and Reassemble in Thomas Medicus’s Anamorphic Glass Sculpture
Depending on which direction you approach from, you may encounter a lynx, a bee, a kingfisher, or a river trout in Austria-based Thomas Medicus’s new public installation. Moving around the work, one image gradually dissolves into abstract strips of color before a different creature assembles on another side. Known for his anamorphic sculptures (previously) that change with every 90-degree rotation, Medicus’s “Human Animal Binary” interlocks more than 144 strips of glass and focuses on four species native to the Tyrol region of Austria. All are endangered or threatened due to the increasing impacts of the climate crisis.
Constructed of glass, concrete, and metal, the vitrine that houses the artist’s glass animals nods to human-built structures and the urban landscape encroaching on natural habitats. The vessel itself “addresses a dilemma in which a large part of humanity finds itself: human habitat largely contradicts coexistence with non-human animals,” Medicus says in a statement. Contained within the cube, each specimen invites the viewer to look them in the eye and consider the delicate balance of the surrounding ecosystem, the fragility of existence, and the critical role humans play in both the destruction and preservation of nature.
Find more of Medicus’s work on his website and Instagram, and get further insights into the work in a short documentary on Vimeo.
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The 2023 Underwater Photographer of the Year Contest Dives into the Stunning, Heartbreaking Lives of Aquatic Creatures
Dedicated to spotlighting the most vibrant, awe-inspiring aquatic organisms, this year’s Underwater Photographer of the Year competition centers on the mammals, fish, and plants occupying the world’s oceans and seas. The 2023 contest garnered more than 6,000 submissions from photographers in 72 countries, many of which document the striking scenes of life below the surface: stingrays glide along the rippled sands in the Cayman Islands, an elephant plunges its trunk into the waters off the coast of Thailand, and an orca gracefully dives into a school of fish near Norway.
While some photos highlight life at its most energetic and vibrant, others focus on the heartbreaking impacts of pollution and the climate crisis, more broadly. One image shows a humpback whale as it dies of starvation because its tailfin has been trapped and broken by buoys and ropes. “Taking this photograph was the saddest moment I’ve experienced in the ocean,” said the photographer Alvaro Herrero Lopez-Beltran. “Especially because I have spent so much time with humpbacks underwater, experiencing eye contact, interactions, and seeing how the whales are such intelligent and sentient beings. The photo is a reflection of how our oceans are suffering, the product of man’s selfishness and lack of responsibility.”
See some of the winning photos below, and find the full collection on the contest’s site.
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Symmetric Flora and Fauna Converge in Kelly Louise Judd’s Dreamlike Paintings
Symmetry and mirroring inform many of Kelly Louise Judd’s paintings, which intertwine flora and fauna in delicate compositions. Ferns overlay the long tails of two cats, a lanky heron gracefully perches among bluebells and sunflowers, and human hands reach upward to reveal sprawling botanicals. Rendered on neutral-toned backdrops, the works evoke the patterns and organic recurrences found throughout the natural world.
Judd, who lives and works in the Midwest, generously shares glimpses into her process on Instagram, and you can shop prints of her pieces on Etsy.
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Fairytale Scenes Nestle Between the Covers of Isobelle Ouzman’s Altered Books
Open one of Isobelle Ouzman’s books, and you’ll be transported to a whimsical world of flora and fauna. The Bratislava-based artist (previously) carves pages of found novels and other tomes into intricate paper labyrinths of forests and meadows. Often occupied by a lone hare or fox, the fairytale scenes are imbued with a quiet, calm sense of mystery about the machinations of the imagined environments and their inhabitants.
Ouzman shares that she gravitates toward mass-produced volumes in poor condition. “Book size, depth, and paper texture play a big role in my decision as well, and I often need to hold a book in my hands before I can visualise a new artwork,” she says. The carving and drawing process depends on both the physical object and the intended narrative, taking between three weeks and three months to complete.
Find an archive of Ouzman’s works and glimpses into her process on her site and Instagram, and shop prints on Etsy.
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Anthony Theakston’s Elegant Sculptures Imbue Ceramics and Bronze with Avian Spirit
Known as silent predators of the night, owls possess the beguiling ability to swoop within inches of their prey undetected due to specialized feathers that make their flight almost completely inaudible. It’s no wonder that for millennia, the enigmatic creatures have represented wisdom, helpfulness, and prophecy in myths and folklore around the world. Lincolnshire-based artist Anthony Theakston has always been fascinated by birds and flight, and he summons the mystical beauty of the avians’ elegant wings and tender faces in ceramic and bronze.
Theakston prizes out the essence of each living being in a way that is neither purely abstract nor representational, transforming an inanimate hunk of plaster, ceramic, or bronze into a form poised to launch from its perch at any moment. “My work is as much an abstract sculpture or design that contains some spirit of life in general, and the bird form seems like a pure way to represent this to me,” he tells Colossal. “The barn owl has a particular place in my work, I think, partly because it has an obvious beauty but also because it in some way has a human quality to its facial characteristics and structure.”
To begin a new sculpture, the artist starts by discerning a mood that he wants to convey and searches for imagery that captures that feeling. After sketching loosely, he refines the idea into a formal design. “I am most happy with a simple, uncomplicated expression of the idea, and so much of my time is spent refining and altering every small detail until it seems to work perfectly,” he says. “I like to think of it as an equation which has been expressed in its simplest form.” Once the design is finalized, he sculpts the minimal lines of legs, heart-shaped heads, and beady eyes from a solid block of Herculite plaster and adds a variety of surface finishes to produce an array of patinas and patterns.
Theakston will release a new bronze edition at the end of May and is exhibiting work at Affordable Art Fair Brussels between February 8 and 12 with De Kunst Salon. Find more of his work on Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Animation
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.