environment

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Art

Anthropomorphic Interventions in the Landscape by Estelle Chrétien Playfully Examine Rural Life

April 26, 2022

Kate Mothes

“Land Operation” (2016-2020). All images © Estelle Chrétien, shared with permission

For artist Estelle Chrétien, the expansive lawns, fields, and wooded ravines around her home in Nancy, France, and other parts of Europe become sites of mischievous mixed-media interventions. Through a playful approach that she refers to as gauillant, akin to the feeling of playing in the mud or jumping in puddles, the works develop through chance encounters with the landscape and objects within it. Displayed in an “open-air” exhibition style, her pieces can be encountered by viewers in a similar way, with the potential to surprise and delight.

Chrétien is particularly interested in rural and natural places and examines the way we interact with those environments through an often humorous or ironic anthropomorphizing of her surroundings. Naturally occurring forms and textures inspire temporary installations like “Dessous” (“Underneath”) in which a tree with a double trunk, adorned with some oversized underpants, transforms into a pair of long legs jutting out of the ground. In “Opération Terrestre” (“Land Operation”) the manicured lawn of a stately home has received a wound in need of stitches.

The process of learning how to construct or manipulate different mediums is an important part of Chrétien’s approach. From crocheting industrial twine around a hay bale to repurposing a door into the shape of a giant key fob, she enjoys experimenting with unassuming materials in unexpected locations. She is currently preparing for a new open-air project in France this summer, and you can find more of her projects on her website and Instagram.

 

“Dessous” (2020)

“Land Operation” (2016-2020)

“Les pieds au sec” (2015-2020), in collaboration with Miguel Costa

“Ficelle Agricole Bleue” (2014)

“Dessous” (2020). Image by Miguel Costa

“Propriété” (2021)

“Colonne” (2020)

 

 



Design

An Ornate Metallic Butterfly Hides Hundreds of Symbols in a Screenprint by Seb Lester

November 22, 2021

Christopher Jobson

“Butterfly” (2021), a two color hand-pulled screenprint (Rose Gold & Moon Gold) on Peregrina Majestic Kings Blue Paper. All images © Seb Lester, shared with permission

In his latest screenprint, artist and calligrapher Seb Lester (previously) focuses on the Transcendentals: the virtues of truth, beauty, and goodness as they manifest to all living things. In the form of a butterfly, the work is filled with dozens of hidden symbols that dot the insect’s wings and abdomen, a mixture of order and chaos rendered in metallic ink. Lester shares about the piece:

It has been said that artists often seek to create order from chaos. Recent times have been nothing if not chaotic. In ‘Butterfly’ I’m trying to visualise a beautiful reconciliation, a balancing and harmonising of our currently fraught and destructive relationship with the flora and fauna of this beautiful and fragile planet.

Butterfly” is available as a limited edition of 75 in Lester’s shop and is nearly sold out. You can follow more from the Lewes, England-based artist on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Fantastical Digital Paintings Position Wildlife in Unnaturally Colorful Environments

October 14, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of Grove Square Galleries, shared with permission

Photographic artist Jim Naughten casts a fantastical, candy-colored lens over luxuriant ecosystems and surreal animal portraits in Eremozoic, a solo exhibition on view at Grove Square Galleries through November 18. Comprised of digitally altered compositions, the series centers on rhinos, manatees, and myriad wild animals in strange, unearthly settings: a tall brown bear stands on its hind legs in a field of bright pink grass, a gorilla rests in similarly vibrant foliage, and orangutans swing through leafy branches in shades of blue.

While the animals usually are isolated in true color, the backdrops evoke infrared photography, and Naughten’s unnatural alterations tinge the otherwise realistic imagery with magical elements. The artist says the manipulations convey humanity’s ever-growing disconnect with the environment, which he explains in a statement:

I’m interested in how, in the evolutionary blink of an eye, humans have come to dominate and overwhelm the planet and how far our relationship with the natural world has fundamentally and dangerously shifted from that of our ancestors. I hope the work will create awareness and discourse about this disconnection, our fictionalized ideas about nature and possibilities for positive change.

Although the pieces venture into a strange realm of kaleidoscopic details, they have biological reality at their core, and the exhibition title, Eremozoic, refers to the current era of the earth’s evolution. Biologist and writer E. O. Wilson introduced the term to characterize this “period of mass extinction due to human activity. The Eremozoic Age is alternatively referred to as The Age of Loneliness, and this sense of dislocation and disorientation is captured in Naughten’s depiction of nature as an unfamiliar, unnatural realm.”

In addition to the collection shown here, Naughten shares a variety of otherworldly renderings on his site and Instagram. (via Creative Boom)

 

 

 



Design

Evergreen Architecture: A New Book Explores Buildings That Place Nature at Their Core

August 18, 2021

Christopher Jobson

All images courtesy Gestalten, copyright respective photographers

The construction of sustainable and environmentally friendly structures for residential and commercial purposes is one of the more significant challenges of our time. As the built environment continues to encroach on natural habitats worldwide, architects have begun to alter their approach to constructing homes and offices, often taking the lead from nature itself. Evergreen Architecture: Overgrown Buildings and Greener Living, released last month by Gestalten, surveys a wide array of institutional, residential, rural, and urban structures that directly interface with their surrounding environments. The book explores completed projects and theoretical designs that utilize green roofs, vertical gardens, and skyscrapers that support hundreds of trees, many of which we’ve mentioned previously on Colossal. Evergreen Architecture is available now through Bookshop and Gestalten. (via A Daily Does of Architecture)

 

 

 



Animation

A Quirky Animation Follows a Determined Cactus Farmer as She Tracks the Man Destroying the Environment

May 4, 2021

Grace Ebert

A cowgirl named Rose and her eccentric pals embark on a mission to find the man damaging their local environment in the clever and fervent short film “Spell of the West.” Created by Los Angeles-based Sam Lane during her third year at CalArts, the animation follows the group’s wayward journey through the roving hills and sentient forests as they search for the ax-wielding tyrant who’s chopping down trees and demolishing their cactus farm.

Simultaneously witty and sincere, “Spell of the West” is imbued with magical undertones and a message that there’s more to environmental destruction than the loss of ecosystems. Lane explains to Short of the Week:

Most scientific work falls short of capturing the emotional aspect of human/nature relationships. In order to protect our natural surroundings, it’s important to know the dry facts, but it’s also important to establish an emotional human connection. Narrative is a prime rhetorical tool, and I was interested in re-framing the environmental conversation with a deep respect and poetic appreciation for the natural world.

To watch more of Lane’s 2D animations, many of which she creates entirely on her own with the exception of voiceovers and sound design, check out her Vimeo and Instagram.

 

 

 



History Photography

Eerie Photographs Reveal the Unseen Ruins of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in a New Book

October 6, 2020

Grace Ebert

A tame fox poses in front of the sign pointing the way to Pripyat from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. All images © Darmon Richter/FUEL Publishing, shared with permission

After embarking on both permitted and illegal ventures into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, British writer and photographer Darmon Richter was able to document the ghostly ruins and abandoned structures throughout the hazardous region. He captures eerie Cold War-era relics in a series of mysterious photographs, including a paint-curling mural venerating Soviet heroes and the room where the initial malfunction, which decimated an area now part of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, occurred in 1986. Decades later, the nuclear disaster still is considered one of the worst catastrophes throughout history.

Published by FUEL, Chernobyl: A Stalkers’ Guide encompasses Richter’s unprecedented access to the mysterious zone in its 248 pages. The volume is available from the publisher or for pre-order on Bookshop. Keep up with Richter’s travels on Instagram, and check out his blog for further dives into abandoned history. (via Hyperallergic)

 

Control Room 4, the room where the 1986 disaster originated. Now stripped of many of its fittings and cleaned of dust, it has been declared safe for visitors. Since autumn 2019, the power plant authorities have included it on official tours.

Mural on a residential building, Heroes of Stalingrad Street, Pripyat. This Socialist-realist mural depicts virtuous citizens (a farmer, a firefighter, a police officer, and a Young Pioneer) under a radiant Soviet crest.

Control Room 3, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. This room and the associated Reactor 3 remained in use until 1995 when they were put out of service following an agreement with the EU. Now, along with Reactors 1 and 2, it is undergoing a decommissioning process.

202: Control Room 3. The top left of these cube-shaped shielded buttons marked A3-5 – or ‘AZ-5’ – was the ‘scram’ kill switch. This manually operated control would immediately terminate the fission reaction by inserting all the control rods at once. In neighboring Control Room 4, on 26 April 1986 at 1.23.40 a.m., this switch was flicked and a malfunction occurred, causing the meltdown.

Post Office, Pripyat. The mural illustrates the evolution of communication, from stone tablets and scrolls, to mail trains and finally a Soviet cosmonaut.

Izumrudniy’ (‘Emerald’) Holiday Camp, near Chornobyl. Once a popular spot for summer holiday breaks, these rustic wooden chalets, painted with characters from cartoons and fairy tales, were completely destroyed by forest fires in April 2020.

Kindergarten No.7 ‘Zolotoy Klyuchik’ (‘Golden Key’), Pripyat. Discarded artifacts are arranged into unlikely dioramas by visitors.

Abandoned trolleybus, Kopachi, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This highly contaminated village was mostly bulldozed after the disaster. In April 2020 this vehicle was severely damaged by forest fires.