An Animated Short Film by Martin Smatana Explores Loss Through Lighthearted Symbolism
A brisk wind takes a young kite-flyer on an unexpected voyage with his grandfather in a poignant short film by illustrator and animation director Martin Smatana. The narrative of the stop-motion animation addresses the concept of death and loss through metaphor that is accessible to children, using the kite, weather, and materials as symbolic ways to broach a difficult yet important topic. “It explores the relationship between a little boy and his grandpa and shows that death is a natural part of life, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of our journey,” Smatana explains. He continues:
They are both made out of layers, which symbolize their age. The boy has many of these layers… he has all his life before him. But grandfather, on the other hand, has already lost most of his layers, and he has only few left. As he gets older, he also gets thinner, and at the end of his life, he is as thin as a sheet of paper. One day, the wind just softly blows him away and takes him up to the sky…
Smatana and his team scoured second-hand shops in his hometown of Prague to collect textiles and other materials to build the sets, employing different patterns and color palettes to represent the four seasons. A quilt-like landscape created from numerous pieces of cloth references a patchwork blanket that the artist remembers sleeping under when he visited his own grandparents’ house.
Created for the artist’s graduation project at FAMU Film School three years ago, “The Kite” has won more than sixty international awards, was nominated for the semifinals of the student Oscars, and is included in the film library of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Explore more of Smatana’s work on his website, where he also shares behind-the-scenes footage of how “The Kite” was made. Follow updates on Instagram.
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Uncanny Scenarios Unfold in Whimsical and Ironic Illustrations by Yuko Shimizu
Abundance, repetition, and a tinge of irony accompany a cast of humans and animals through uncanny scenarios in Japanese artist Yuko Shimizu’s illustrations. Her whimsical subjects are often playful and humorous, like a pet dog in a sweater with red stripes that matches its youthful owner’s swimming suit, the pair flanked by numerous balloons in the shape of lifebuoys. In contrast, a more grave undertone emerges in “Me Too,” a reference to the #MeToo movement, as a woman stands on a mountain of eyes and attempts to brush countless more off of her body.
Drawing inspiration from myriad sources, including Japanese culture and current events, Shimizu’s compositions are characterized by a sense of action and obscure narrative. You can follow more of her work on Instagram.
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Dreams Emanate from Sleeping Children in Lena Guberman’s Imaginative Ceramic Sculptures
A mass of unruly curls, scaly bodies, and motifs painted in red cradle the sleeping children in Lena Guberman’s ceramics. Lying in the center of round plates, the young characters are suspended in states of slumber, their joys, anxieties, and formative experiences flowing from their resting bodies. “I was an introverted child, compensating for my loneliness with dreams and fantasies. I had a feeling that there is a creature protecting me from anything bad that can happen,” the Israel-based artist tells Colossal. “I think those visions came to me when sculpting.”
Primarily illustrating picture books, editorial pieces, and animations, Guberman began working with ceramics a few years ago, although only recently returned to the medium as a reprieve from her otherwise two-dimensional practice. Part of her growing sculpture collection, the plates shown here reflect her imaginative style and similarly capture the expressive, whimsical qualities of her drawings.
Guberman shares an archive of her works on Behance and Instagram.
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Evoking Childhood Nostalgia, Color and Cartoon Commotion Burst from Kayla Mahaffey’s Paintings
Surrounding Black children with jumbled masses of cartoon characters, doodles, and explosions of color, Chicago-based artist Kayla Mahaffey (previously) imagines adolescent daydreams and an array of playtime inventions. She infuses her acrylic paintings with a longing for carefree summer days, mornings spent watching the foibles of favorite animated characters, and hours left open for adventure, capturing feelings of joy and curiosity. Vividly rendered and layered with squiggles and globs of color, the large-scale works find “value in the sugar-coated nostalgia,” which Mahaffey explains:
There have been numerous occasions where we omit the truths of our past to only be met with the disappointments of the future, a never-ending cycle that has influenced our current era for the best and the worst. Even though we’re currently going through a very troubling era, let’s take a moment to remember those times where we felt the most safe or where we felt the happiest. Many of us wish to go back to that life, but not to change anything, but to feel a few cherished things, once again.
If you’re near Culver City, you can see the pieces shown here as part of Remember the Time at Thinkspace Projects from September 18 to October 9. Otherwise, find Mahaffey on Instagram to see where she’s headed next.
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Photorealistic Figures Embody Childhood Wonder in Dreamy Murals by Lula Goce
From New York City to Azerbaijan to Kristianstad, Sweden, artist Lula Goce transforms blank walls into ethereal artworks that illustrate childlike wonder and growth. Her murals merge photorealistic renderings of adolescent subjects with otherworldly surroundings: plumes of flowers and vines wind around the figures, serpentine creatures emerge from the plants, and shrunken landscapes rest in the children’s hands. Serene and dreamy, the works often center on children painted in subtle tones who peer into the distance or are deep in sleep.
Based in Vigo, Spain, Goce sells prints of her large- and small-scale works in her shop, and you can follow where she’s headed next on Instagram.
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Playfulness and Imagination Inform the Textured Wooden Sculptures of Artist Efraïm Rodríguez
From fallen trees, planks, and old furniture, Efraïm Rodríguez carves vivid sculptures that evoke the imaginative and playful daydreams of childhood. The Barcelona-based artist highlights the texture of the organic material, creating life-sized figures donning garments of veneered wood or whose bodies mimic the toys they stack. Many depict toddlers or younger children in the midst of play, and even the older characters are infused with elements of sport and recreation, like “Anna” (shown below) who wears a dress studded with tees and holds a golf ball.
Although the precisely sculpted figures often are based on his nieces, nephews, and other family members, Rodríguez tells Colossal that themes of childhood only recently emerged. He explains:
The children appeared in my work almost from the beginning, but they were only a reference, a motive. The theme was not childhood. In the early works, they were self-aware children, representing adults in the form of children. The children were a good support to work emotions and question the viewer. In 2007, my sister had two children. I began to use them as a model in my sculptures. From here the theme of childhood was appearing. I began to represent beyond their forms their actions and attitudes.
Rodríguez was raised in an artistic family in which his father and grandfather were both painters. Despite being exposed to that medium, he shares that he’s always been drawn to representing the world in three-dimensions. “For me, sculpture is a reconstruction of the world. I always build my sculptures in real size the referent, the sculpture, and the spectator live in the same place, breath(ing) the same air,” he says.
Wood, in particular, has been conducive to the artist’s process, which begins with an image in his head rather than a two-dimensional sketch. The malleable material also brings its own history to the works, and Rodríguez chooses the specific type based on its technical and narrative qualities. “Wood has always a past, a biography. A piece of wood has been always something else before, furniture or whatever, at least a tree,” the artist says.
Through January 1, 2021, Rodríguez’s sculptures are on view at the Granollers Museum in Barcelona. To follow his latest pieces and see works-in-progress, head to Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Animation
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