Known for experimenting with an assortment of in-camera techniques, photographer Maria Lax transforms quiet, nighttime vistas and frozen forests into fantastically colored dreamscapes. She’s always been fascinated by the interplay of light and color, she tells Colossal, and following formal training in cinematography, has developed a distinct style that vividly interprets the outside world.
Lighting and filters produce the kaleidoscopic range that overlays Lax’s images, and the London-based photographer is conservative with equipment. “I often shoot in remote locations in difficult conditions—some of these images were shot in temperatures reaching -30 C,” she says. “I work mostly by myself when I am on location, which means my kit is relatively minimal and nimble so that I can carry it on my back even on longer hikes through the snow.”
If you’re in London, Lax is showing new photos from April 19 to 24 at Open Doors Gallery, where she also has limited-edition prints available. She’s currently in progress on a second book following her monograph, Some Kind of Heavenly Fire, published by Setanta Books, and you can explore an archive of her work on Instagram.
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What are the visual impacts of converging planes of color? This question is central to Scottish artist Daniel Mullen’s most recent series of paintings, which displays stacks of thin, rectangular sheets in exacting, abstract structures. “I am looking more at Rothko’s body of work and studying the vibrations of color and the almost alchemic effect that his work has on the sense,” the Rotterdam-based artist tells Colossal.
Comprised of meticulous angles and lines on linen, the acrylic paintings are studies of precision, geometry, and perception, allowing each element to collide in a mathematically aligned composition. Mullen’s process involves measuring and taping the individual planes before laying the slight, translucent marks. “In this way, the work is built up slowly over time, incorporating irregularities, brush strokes, and bleeding paint into a work that breathes, floats, and expands through the energy of color,” he says, explaining further:
The forms might seem to reference glass panels or other architectural configurations but that is only the scaffolding for the viewer to locate themselves within. Beyond that initial shape is an attempt to move towards a perception of ekstasis; or the vibrant energy of the universe, imaginary and unmapped. One that questions the symbols of power and place in today’s fast-paced, heavily digitized environments.
The pieces shown here follow Mullen’s collaborative synesthesia series that translates non-visual senses to the canvas—he and artist Lucy Cordes Engelman will be working more on this concept during a residency in upstate New York early next year. You can follow updates to that body of work and explore more of his recent paintings on Instagram.
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A deceptively trippy installation by Chicago-based duo Luftwerk (previously) immerses viewers in a distorted environment of color and sound. Relying entirely on physical properties for its illusions, Open Square connects two spaces that are painted with clean, angled blocks of color in cool and warm tones. Prismatic LED lights flash across the rooms, skewing their boundaries and creating perpetually changing settings that appear to emerge and fade over time.
The abstract installation is part of Factory Installed 2021, a group exhibition at Mattress Factory on view now through November 14. One of five projects, Luftwerk’s Open Square transforms the historic building into a kaleidoscopic experience that’s “designed to mesmerize and shed the outside world, holding limitless possibilities for exploration,” a statement says. “Developed throughout the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020, the exhibition reflects on the habitat that defines our everyday experience.”
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Nature's Palette: A New Book Expands the Landmark Guide to Color for Artists and Naturalists with 800 Rich Illustrations
Prior to the proliferation of photography-based reference guides, naturalists and scientists relied on elaborate taxonomic descriptions to identify flora and fauna. One of those invaluable materials was Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, a universal catalog originally arranged by German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1814 and updated with more detail by Patrick Syme just a few years later.
The rich volume, which was the preeminent guide for artists, zoologists, botanists, and others working with pigments and the natural world throughout the 19th Century, is filled with hundreds of simple swatches and notes on where the various shades can be found around the globe. The head of a golden pheasant, for example, is King’s Yellow, while Hepatica flowers are Berlin Blue and some speckles in iron ore are Greyish Blue.
A forthcoming volume published by Princeton University Press celebrates the 200th anniversary of the chromatic catalog with a 288-page expanded edition. Introduced by Patrick Baty, Nature’s Palette: A Color Reference System from the Natural World pairs Syme’s 110 simple swatches with more than 800 illustrations of the animals, plants, and minerals detailed in the descriptions. The resulting book is a comprehensive visual compendium that ranges from large renderings of red coral to full-page charts spanning fine-grained marble to smoky quartz.
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In “XXXX Swatchbook,” Evelin Kasikov (previously) explores all of the variables of CMYK printing without a single drop of ink. She catalogs primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, two-dozen combinations showing how rotation affects the final pigment, and a full spectrum of rich gradients. In total, the printing-focused book is comprised of four base tones, 16 elements, and 400 swatches of color entirely hand-embroidered in 219,647 stitches.
The original idea came from Kasikov’s desire for a reference tool, one similar to loose sheets of Pantone swatches, that she could share with potential book design clients interested in CMYK embroidery. During the next six years, though, the project evolved into the uniquely comprehensive artist book it is now.
“XXXX Swatchbook” features three-dimensional color studies in the style of precisely arranged halftone dots employed in four-color printing. “I use cross-stitch technique to replicate this. It’s a very simple idea,” Kasikov says. “I prepare the image in InDesign or Illustrator, then pierce the design onto paper and stitch with CMYK colored threads. Of course, my ‘print resolution’ is very low, about 3-4 lines per inch compared to 300 in print.”
Stitched with varying thickness, the swatches use conventional screen angles—cyan 105˚, magenta 75˚, yellow 90˚, and black 45˚—to produce a wide range of colors and gradients, all of which you can view on the artist’s blog. Each French-folded page features geometric patches of thread, alongside hand-written details about the CMYK values shown. The spine of the book also reveals a vibrant gradient spanning magenta to cyan.
“XXXX Swatchbook” is founded on Kasikov’s earlier “CMYK Embroidery,” a project that grew out of her MA studies at Central Saint Martins and was influenced by her background in advertising. Merging the two into the broader project of graphic stitching grew organically and offered an outlet to create a piece that was the artist says was “valuable, timeless, and trend-less,” in comparison to the more transitory projects of commercial work. “When you add tactile qualities to graphic design, it changes perspective. The structure of color can be touched. The printed image becomes three-dimensional. A flat page comes to life so to speak,” she writes.
Kasikov splits her time between Tallinn and London, where she’s working on a project called Small Hours. Centered around a theme of silence, the collection features still-life photographs with freehand dots stitched on top in a pointillist style. Follow the ongoing project and find a larger archive of Kasikov’s book designs and embroidered works on her site and Instagram. You also might enjoy Tauba Auerbach’s RGB colorspace atlas. (via Present & Correct)
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French illustrator and author Isabelle Simler deftly renders the liminal time surrounding dusk through a poetic exploration of Earth’s rarest color. The Blue Hour winds through the natural world on a journey to spot the pigment, from a bluejay resting on ice-coated branches to robin’s eggs to midnight skies and ocean depths. Simler focuses on “this time of day, when daytime animals enjoy the last moments before nighttime animals wake up. This in-between where the sounds and smells are denser and where the bluish light gives depth to the landscapes.”
Arranged like a color chart, Simler’s richly cross-hatched drawings display myriad nuances in time, species, and scenery of our ocean-blanketed planet. Because the pigment isn’t naturally occurring—plants, insects, and animals that appear blue are simply reflecting that portion of the spectrum rather than emitting it—the illustrations spotlight the uncommon specimens that populate the world with indigo, turquoise, and azure.
The Blue Hour is available on Bookshop along with a few of Simler’s other illustrated titles. Currently, she’s working on Topsy Turvy, a book that focuses on mimetic insects, which you can follow on her site and Instagram. (via Brain Pickings)
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.