Based in Oshawa, a suburb of Toronto, artist Toni Hamel (previously) is concerned with human morality—or lack thereof. In her subtly hued artworks, Hamel portrays subjects in the midst of futile and trivial pursuits: children pluck stars from the night sky, a couple attempts to reconstruct a flower after its petals have fallen, and a young family literally watches wet paint dry. Many of the satirical pieces consider socially accepted anthropocentrism and the relationship people have with the surrounding environemnt.
Since 2017, Hamel has been adding to High Tides and Misdemeanors, an ongoing series that is intentionally political. “It confronts us with the repercussions of our actions and denounces the current thinking models. In this age of alternative realities, ‘fake news’ and a culture that is increasingly more self-absorbed and superficial, I feel that it’s even more important for me to carry on reporting what I must,” she writes.
Explore more of Hamel’s visual commentaries on culture and politics on Instagram.
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Vanessa Hogge translates her lifelong fascination with flowers into monochromatic assemblages of hydrangeas, roses, and myriad blossoms. The London-based artist (previously) has been working on EFFLORESCENCE since October 2019. Each of the delicate porcelain pieces is adorned with innumerable hand-sculpted florets and leaves that blossom from a central base.
Rather than studying horticulture textbooks and the intricacies of plant life, Hogge works entirely from her memory and imagination and frequents gardens and other places where organic elements thrive for observation. “I’ve traveled to research in the Okavango Swamps in Botswana, the flower-filled valleys of the Northern Cape in South Africa, and this January (just before lockdown), to Southern India to be surrounded by the exotic vegetation there—just beautiful,” she tells Colossal.
Hogge’s inspirations, though, are vast. She imbues elements of the funky textiles created in the 1970s, miniature depictions of Indian gardens, and Frida Kahlo’s iconic flowers. “As an artist, the variety of their forms and structures is immense and endless. People comment and wonder when I will move on and if I will tire of flowers, but how can I? This fascination is also steeped in my family matriarchs—strong women gardeners and the great outdoors,” she says.
The artist’s work will be part of a virtual show at Living Object Gallery from October 23-25, 2020. Until then, she offers a brief look into her studio and process in this short video and on Instagram. You also might enjoy Hitomi Hosono’s intricate vessels.
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Step Inside Petrit Halilaj's Monumental Nest of Oversized Flowers Within Reina Sofia's Palacio de Cristal
Bowerbirds are renowned for one of the most unusual courtship behaviors in the animal kingdom, where males build elaborately decorated nests—called bowers—in an attempt to court a mate. Kosovar visual artist Petrit Halilaj drew inspiration from this unique ritual for his first solo exhibition at Reina Sofia’s Palacio de Cristal (previously) in Madrid. Titled “To a raven and the hurricanes which bring back smells of humans in love from unknown places,” the installation serves as a metaphorical nest that connects the inside and outside spaces of the palace and features several avian elements like trays of birdseed and a giant pair of bird’s feet that descend from above.
The collection of artworks is actually a collaborative effort between Halijaj and his life partner artist Álvaro Urbano, who helped construct the oversized forsythia, palm seeds, cherry blossom, poppy, carnation, and lily that fill the space. “I wanted to conceive Palacio de Cristal as a place for the celebration of love,” Halijaj shares. From the museum’s release:
There is something strange and disproportionate about the size of this nest, the gigantic scale of its flowers, and the comfort and centrality it offers the birds. The artist thus suspends the logo-centric perspective that makes us believe we are the center and measure of all things, encouraging us to recognize ourselves as just one more element among many. The nest is thus revealed as the setting for a ritual that lies in wait for encounters, alliances and unions among its different visitors, altering and changing with the space.
“To a raven...” is open now through February 28, 2021, at the Palacio de Cristal, and you can see more views on Yellowtrace.
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Surrounded by monarchs or a blanket of blue leaves, Fares Micue (previously) captures vividly composed self-portraits. The Spain-based photographer conceals her face and instead focuses on the organic elements surrounding her torso. Whether a series of origami birds or yellow and red twigs resembling flames, the natural additions merge seamlessly with Micue, who bends and contorts her figure to follow the shapely forms of the arranged objects.
In a note to Colossal, the photographer said she’s been more inclined to create since the onset of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, considering her work an invitation into self-reflection. “I am a firm believer that how we think and feel about life is how we will perceive reality. We must train our brain to always search for the bright side and find hope among the desolation,” she says. While people may not have control over global crises, they are not without agency. “I want them to feel powerful and (acknowledge) the power they have over their life experience and how to use that experience to grow and learn,” she writes.
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As widespread lockdowns swept the globe earlier this year in response to the threat of COVID-19, intimacy became fraught. For artist Käthe Butcher, the loss of an embrace or casual peck on the cheek was incredibly difficult. “The pandemic affected everyone differently. I always thought I am not that kind of person getting scared or/and paranoid easily, but in March I did. I panicked and felt very alone, which was one reason why I left London at the end of March to go back to my family. It was definitely the right decision,” she tells Colossal.
This desire for connection culminated in “A Hug In The Garden,” an emotional rendering of two women holding each other. Their botanical garments swaddle their individual bodies, and singular stems poke out from their sleeves, adding a bit of whimsy. Similar to her other drawings—explore a larger collection of Butcher’s work (NSFW) on Instagram—this illustration visualizes emotional depth and intimacy.
Replete with floral motifs and delicate lines, Butcher’s pieces generally focus on one or two figures, who are simultaneously confident, carefree, and elusive. Rendered in thin, inky lines, the women portray a range of experiences, moods, and personalities. “Femininity can be everything and nothing. It’s individual. For me personally, it is something elegant yet strong,” she shares with Colossal.
Currently, Butcher is in the process of leaving London permanently for her hometown of Leipzig, Germany, and has been reflecting on the role of artistic practices in the current moment. “As for a lot of artists, this situation was and is still blocking a lot of creativity. It’s draining. Like wading through mud. But at the same time, it feels like the beginning of something new, bigger,” she says.
To purchase a print of the artist’s tender renderings, peruse what’s available in her shop.
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Thanks to Lewis Miller Design, those passing through New York City have gotten some respite from the rank smells and soggy refuse of streetside garbage cans. For years, the florist (previously) has been planting guerrilla installations of sunflowers, hydrangeas, and peonies in public areas, transforming trash receptacles, construction zones, and lampposts with sprawling assemblages. Check out some of the recent “Flower Flashes” below, and follow the designer on Instagram to see where the temporary bouquets pop up next.
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.