A “pursuit of the unknown” grounds Annalise Neil’s practice. An enduring curiosity and a desire to find answers shape both her approach to and the form of her works, which layer watercolor accents atop cyanotypes. The pieces depict the unassuming and magnificent, “the tender yet muscular emergence of mushrooms from soil, the brittle and also supple curve of a snail’s shell, the translucent husk of a crinoid on the beach.”
Constructed with hundreds of hand-cut negatives, the composites veil flora and fauna in shades of blue, evoking the color’s ubiquity within the natural world and the mysteries humans have yet to uncover. Lined with yellow or rusty-colored pigments, the works feature familiar subject matter with positions and scale that veer toward the surreal: large hands descend upon an arid desert landscape, birds escape from a trio of shapes that evoke a mushroom cloud, and flowers, butterflies, and dewy spores encircle a central bloom.
These unearthly pairings allow “for a re-thinking of the human’s relationship to reality and our surroundings,” Neil shares, an impulse that also informs her desire to reconsider and better understand change and possibility. “I believe metaphor is the most effective illuminator of new concepts and is an excellent midwife for empathy. One of the most fecund qualities of the human mind is our ability to ask questions, be curious, and make adjustments.”
Neil’s solo show Holobiont is on view through March 30 at Herrick Community Health Care Library in La Mesa, California, where she lives. The artist is currently preparing for a February residency at Playa Summer Lake and will open an exhibition at Sparks Gallery in San Diego this summer. Until then, explore an archive of her cyanotype series on her site and Instagram.
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When we steep a cup of tea, we typically toss out the bag once it has served up its brew, but for Ruby Silvious, this humble sachet provides the basis for a distinctive artistic practice. Known for her miniature paintings that use tea bags as canvases, she has expanded her use of the material by employing it as a fabric for larger-scale works that are inspired by her family history and an interest in fashion. “It gives me a chance to do large scale work, the antithesis to my miniature paintings,” she tells Colossal. “It’s only natural that my art has always been inspired by fashion. My maternal grandmother was a brilliant seamstress. I was only 20 years old when I migrated to the U.S. from the Philippines, and my very first job was at Bergdorff Goodman in New York City.”
Silvious began making garments in 2015, spurred by an ongoing fascination with the various methods of printing, staining, and assembling the deconstructed segments together. “I have accumulated bins of used tea bags,” she says, “not just from my own consumption but also from friends and family who have generously contributed to my growing collection.” She has made more than ten full-size kimonos, each requiring up to 800 used bags to complete. Pieces in her most recent series, Dressed to a Tea, average approximately 75 to 125 sachets, each one emptied out, flattened, and ironed before being glued together into shirts, slips, or child-size dresses. “Some tea bag pieces have monoprints on them, and the simpler designs are assembled with plain or slightly stained, used tea bags, giving them a more delicate and fragile look,” she explains.
A number of pieces from Dressed to a Tea will be on view in a weeklong exhibition at Ceres Gallery in New York from December 5 to 10. Her work will also be featured in a solo exhibit at the Ostfriedsisches Teemuseum in Norden, Germany, from March 4 to April 29, 2023. You can find more of Silvious’s work on her website and Instagram.
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In London-based artist Rosalind Hobley’s expressive cyanotypes, flowers assume a portrait-like quality through varied textures and supple shapes. Her Still Life series features a cast of dahlias, anemones, roses, and peonies that sit like regal subjects. Originally trained in figurative sculpture, the artist uses light and shade to accentuate form and gesture. “I aim for my prints to have the weight and presence of a piece of sculpture,” she tells Colossal.
Cyanotype is an early form of photography, first invented in 1842 and named for the rich monochromatic hue of its prints. Hobley uses cotton rag paper with a light-sensitive solution of iron salts and then leaves it to dry in the dark. She then exposes it to UV light under large format negatives and finishes up by washing the prints in water, where they develop their characteristic blue color. “I love the mess and creativity of the cyanotype process,” she says. “I am interested in techniques which translate the photographic image into something more interesting and exciting. I like mistakes, blur, brushstrokes, loss of definition, spontaneity.”
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Gregarious and intelligent, jackdaws are small cousins of the crow and raven with dark feathers on their crowns, tails, and wings and lighter plumage everywhere else. The feathered socialites frequent the moor near photographer Deborah Parkin’s home in the Northumberland, where she’s spent hours watching them swoop from branch to branch and perch in trees thick with foliage during a period of grief, and they eventually became the subjects of her quiet, contemplative series of cyanotypes.
The medium, which dates back to the 19th Century, uses a combination of ferric ammonium citrate, potassium ferricyanide, and UV light from the sun to create signature colored prints. Parkin tells PetaPixel she encountered the process through the work of English botanist Anna Atkins who was the first to publish a book that included photographic images of dried algae. Following in that tradition, Parkin documents the birds through a hazy wash of the pigment, saying, “in her book on the colour blue, Carol Mavor talks of blue being the colour of memory, and this felt relevant to my work.”
In addition to the jackdaw series shown here, Parkin has branched out to try the cyanotype process with tea toning rather than the two chemicals. She shares glimpses of that project and more of her photography on her site and Instagram.
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Earlier this year, photographer Mathieu Stern discovered a time capsule dating back to the early 1900s in his family home. The 120-year-old box held a little girl’s cherished possessions, including a paper doll, seashell, and two glass plate negatives. Stern decided to develop the photographs using Cyanotype, one of the earliest printing processes that was prevalent well into the 20th century, and revealed images of the child’s pets. The photographer chronicled the entire endeavor in a video, which you can find on his YouTube and Instagram, and check out the finished prints of the furry companions below. (via PetaPixel)
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For the past few months Indianapolis-based artist Tasha Lewis has been traveling around the country creating guerrilla installations using a swarms of 400 cyanotype butterflies printed on cotton fabric (cyanotype is a photographic printing process that results in blue images, just like blueprints). Each blue insect is embedded with powerful magnets allowing her to place them on any metallic surface without causing damage, which as far as impermanent street art goes, is brilliant. Of her work she says:
My current body of work was drawn from an investigation into the cultural/scientific/historical context in which the cyanotype was born. Popularized by scientists, and botanists in particular, the cyanotype is intrinsically tied into the scientific recording boom of the late 19th and early 20th century. These are the times of the curiosity cabinet, the prints of Anna Atkins and a rush of explorers/scientists to colonial lands only to bring back specimens from foreign ecosystems. [.. ] The cyanotype is a process of documenting. The resultant image is a kind of scientific stand-in for the actual object in question. It is the trace of the original. In this way, like cyanotype’s use for building blue prints in more recent centuries, my work is formed as the re-presentation of something real; it is somehow not quite the object itself.”
Tasha has published photos of numerous installations on her Tumblr, definitely worth a look.
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