In Laura Berger’s minimalist paintings, female figures entwine together in abstract formations. Their dark locks flow with the curves of their bodies, which are posed in relaxed, natural stances. Using tight color palettes of muted tones, Berger works mostly in acrylic, although she’s ventured into oil since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m not sure if it’s related to everything that’s been going on in the world or to the shift in medium itself, but my ideas have been moving in a more narrative direction which has really opened up a lot of new things for me to work with,” she tells Colossal.
The Chicago-based artist (previously) continues to explore themes of identity, community, and connection, in addition to more abstract conceptions of energy and quality of life, throughout her largely geometric body of work. “As a woman, I usually paint from that perspective point, but the figures are really meant mostly to serve as characters through which to explore our collective humanity and shared experience,” she says.
If you’re in New York City, check out Berger’s solo show, which is open from November 21 to December 12, at Hashimoto Contemporary. Otherwise, follow her on Instagram to see her latest considerations of the female experience.
Share this story
The posed women in Hanna Lee Joshi’s latest series are comprised of vivid gradients: their chests are cobalt, shoulders rose, and palms lime. Created with gouache and colored pencil, the bright hues stray from flesh tones in favor of what Joshi terms “a more otherworldly aspect in my women. Reclaiming the goddess within and exploring the concept of embodying an ephemeral spirit in form,” she says. By rendering their enlarged, curved torsos and limbs in bold shades, Joshi subverts the tradition of the nude figure.
The Korean-Canadian artist, who’s based in Vancouver and recently was part of the group show “Somebody” at Hashimoto Contemporary, is concerned with how idiosyncratic experiences transcend the personal, which is why the subjects are all anonymous. Each work is, in part, a self-portrait that encompasses the physical, mental, and spiritual.
It is my way of coming to terms with being ok with taking up space; in society, in my day to day life. My pieces range from exploring a feeling of being contained within social constraints or self-created limitations to depicting the ceaseless chase for freedom. For me, it is a therapeutic reclaiming of how female bodies are depicted, little by little dismantling any internalized misogyny or any notion of how a woman should be or behave. It is a constant process where I am attempting to redefine how I see myself.
The unclothed figures also share messages with the positions of their elongated fingers and hands. Joshi depicts them with yogic mudras to embody “the beautifully poetic gestures that are so loaded with powerful symbolism,” she says.
Share this story
Many of Giulia Pintus’s pastel drawings center on the beauty of imperfection. The Piacenza-based illustrator renders whimsical characters in repose or calmly completing mundane tasks like applying mascara and threading a needle. “I love drawing human figures,” she notes. “I also like to show the psychology of the character and to do so I am inspired by real people.”
The quirky illustrations consider the role of body positivity, which Pintus says is inspired by an organic source. “For some years, I prefer to buy vegetables from the greengrocer in the country. At the supermarket, they are all the same big, smooth, shiny, (and) look fake,” she shares with Colossal. “Instead from the greengrocer, the vegetables are a bit crooked. Sometimes they still have roots and a bit of soil attached. I think there’s a lot of beauty in that, and I look for that truth not only in food but also in the characters that I draw.”
Share this story
Being with oneself takes on a literal meaning in the works of Anders Krisár. The Stockholm-based sculptor and photographer focuses on the human body, creating analog casts from live models using silicone and plaster.
A self-taught artist, Krisár uses his own meticulous techniques and methods for creating a finished piece—constantly reworking the casts to a state of simplicity and smoothness. The impeccably smooth contours and precise cuts that he achieves makes each piece look more digitally rendered than created by hand. Krisár shares on his site, “I’m a perfectionist because I have to be. It’s not really a choice. And it’s not a striving for satisfaction. It’s rather to avoid pain.”
He tells Colossal that the most difficult anatomical features to perfect are the hands and fingernails. And it’s through the palms that the complete figures hold onto the other tightly—each side simultaneously pulling the other closer. Krisár’s cloven figures play with the human brain and its craving for visual symmetry. The two halves create a psychological tension—beautiful yet unsettling in their incomplete wholeness.
Share this story
For Meggan Joy to begin creating her flowery assemblages, she first has to plant the seeds. The Seattle-based artist cultivates a plot in a community garden throughout the summer months, tending to each fern and vibrant petal. Once her patch is in full bloom, she captures thousands of individual photographs of her rooted plants before combining them into allegorical digital collages of the female body. Birds, butterflies, and other visitors to her garden make an appearance, as well.
Her latest series, Battle Cry, depicts women in the midst of conflict. Imbued with action, each figure is comprised of layers of the living world that are derived from both the opened flowers and the powerful bodily poses. “Color and texture form each woman’s shape, and from the photographs of once-living individual things, portraits of ethereal beings begin to emerge,” the artist says. A snake wraps itself around one figure’s neck, while two others are twisted among flowing ribbon, merging notions of natural beauty and strength.
Joy’s work will be on view at J. Rinehart Gallery in Seattle from June 13 to July 25, with a virtual opening on June 13. Take a peek at her studio, which includes a walk through her garden plot, in the video below, and follow her textured compositions on Instagram.
Share this story
Back in the early days of anatomical illustration (c. 1500 – c. 1800), artists often rendered the human figure within the lavish landscape of the anatomist’s hometown. These historical illustrations are part of what inspired photographer Jan Kriwol and CGI artist Markos Kay to create the photographic series Human After All. The main character is the human circulatory system in the context of mundane urban life—grocery shopping, eating a burger, and even taking a cigarette break.
The Warsaw-based Kriwol is influenced by his connection to the Polish urban skateboarding scene, and he often infuses his photography with optical illusion and humor. So when he saw his girlfriend’s drawing of a human circulatory system smoking a cigarette, he thought creating a realistic version was the perfect challenge.
Kriwol approached several CGI artists with his idea, but the complexity of the project proved too difficult. He finally found Kay, a self-proclaimed visual alchemist based in London, who immediately took to the challenge of figuring out how to render the circulatory system in a way that looked as natural as possible. Kay found inspiration in the anatomy textbooks of Andreas Vesalius, Giulio Casserio, and Henry Gray. The two artists also studied images of the plastinated human circulatory systems pioneered by Dr. Gunther von Hagens of the infamous Body Worlds exhibits.
Kay shared with VICE Creators Project that, “the biggest challenge for this project was creating an anatomical character that looked life-like and integrated with the real environment. We spent a lot of time experimenting with different postures, and oftentimes we had to exaggerate the posture greatly so that it could translate visually with the deconstructed structure of the circulatory system.”
Kay started by modeling the main arteries and then used generative simulation to organically grow the thinner arteries and capillaries to fill out the figure. Meanwhile, Kriwol shot the urban settings in Warsaw, Tel Aviv, Masada hill in Israel, Grenoble, Berlin, and Brussels, as well as Cape Town, South Africa. Kay then recreated each photographed environment in 3D so that he had control over the reflections and shadows. The end result is a harmonious render of a delicate anatomical figure within its environment. Especially fitting is the circulatory figure at the bus stop with its reflection of the rivers and tributaries in the topography map.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Photography
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.