with found photographs
Berlin-based artist Isabel Reitemeyer is known for making uncanny collages that splice images of animals and bodies into humorously enigmatic compositions. In her recent series, songbirds with guinea pig heads perch on twigs, horses with enormous bunny ears stand in fields, and a retriever looks out at us from the body of a chicken. The assemblages, which are often small in scale and made from found photographs and cutouts, are deftly aligned so that the outlines of the animals fit together seamlessly.
A bunny’s beady eye or the slight cock of a terrier’s head gives personality to each chimerical creature, as if self-aware of its unusual predicament. Reitemeyer taps into the ways we anthropomorphize our pets and other animals, reading into their expressions and feelings as if they were our own, resulting in sly and unusual personalities.
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With a background in medicine, Edinburgh-based artist Flore Gardner fosters a creative practice that explores the body and its untapped potential. She works in an array of mediums from printmaking and ink-based illustrations to mixed-media installations and fiber, pushing the limits of human anatomy into the realm of the absurd or subversive. No matter the material, each work centers on a primary interest in drawing and utilizes the same techniques and principles that fill the pages of her notebooks.
One of Gardner’s series, titled (Her)Stories, overlays vintage, black-and-white photographs largely sourced from flea markets with vibrant stitches. As the name suggests, the collection focuses primarily on women, and the embroidered elements obscure faces with dense patches, add dimension to a subject’s body, or highlight their figures by drawing a contrast to the backdrop.
Revitalized with color and texture, the portraits and posed group shots take on a new narrative with the artist’s thread drawings and “modify the ‘reality’ of the photos, revealing hidden things underneath (eg. unseen naked bodies under wedding clothes, invisible haloes, hidden thoughts) or on the contrary hiding certain details (threads shroud the inevitably dead figures or ‘ghosts’).” She explains further:
The needle is an instrument for hurting and for healing—a photograph (or human skin) can be damaged by its treatment and simultaneously repaired/recreated. This needle makes hundreds of little holes in each photograph, once a precious object, and these, along with the threads, transform the flat, smooth, untouchable photographic support into a relief surface, which can be touched and even, in a certain way, read like Braille.
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Shipping Containers and Intersecting Lines Clutter Landscapes in Mary Iverson’s Paintings on Globalization
Latticed lines and brightly colored boxes overlay the chaotically transformed landscapes by Mary Iverson (previously). Based in Seattle, the artist uses a combination of oil and acrylic paints, ink, and found photographs to render shockingly prescient scenes blighted by globalization and environmental disaster: barges and shipping containers float in the sea and haphazardly occupy beaches, with their contents sometimes spilling out onto the surrounding area.
The largely natural scenes and the clean, angled lines and geometric forms clash in Iverson’s superimposed works in a manner that evokes the competition of industry. In a note to Colossal, she shares that given the dramatic changes the world has undergone in the last few years, her “paintings are no longer theoretical.” She explains:
Because at the same time as the pandemic was unfolding, the super mega-ships were entering the trade system. Everyone was stuck at home and ordering stuff at an unprecedented pace, the demand for goods got very high, the workforce shrank, and everything got backed up, creating “supply chain issues.” We now have actual real sea-level rise, huge apocalyptic fires, and shipping disasters unfolding before our very eyes. We are at the precipice of an apocalypse. The question is, how are we going to deal with it?
Often rendered on images of historically and culturally significant sites like Machu Picchu, the Colosseum, and the pyramids of Cairo, Iverson’s works indicate the evolution of human society with a bleak, discouraging perspective. “I look at photos of lost civilizations and think about their hopes, dreams, and ideals, and I wonder what the end will look like for us,” she says.
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With a flair for spectacle and clandestine activities, the perfectly coiffed characters of Shane Wheatcroft’s collages face a deluge of intrigue and drama. The Kent-based artist snips vintage ads and editorial spreads that become the musings of professionally photographed subjects: a woman replays an excruciating party scene, a businessman envisions a wholesome family gathering, and quite a few protagonists imagine scenarios they likely keep covert.
Having worked with the medium for the last five years, Wheatcroft boasts a body of work that includes a broad array of collages, from bold typographic sayings to cheeky compositions that use ad slogans and outmoded headlines to poke fun at social conventions. Surreal and witty, the new portraits feature imagery from periodicals published between 1945 and 1975. They’re spurred by “being a big fan of John Stezaker and buying old movie annuals that had stunning publicity shots of film stars on plain backgrounds. The recent series I’m making is really my attempt to reflect everyday dramas and scenarios through the medium of collage,” he says. “They’re kind of like a hybrid of Dalí’s portrait of Mae West and Coronation Street.”
The main portrait sets the tone for the piece, Wheatcroft tells Colossal, with the background image, furniture, and figures pasted on top. These additional elements compose an abstract representation of a face and generally feature a single eye peering through a television set or frame on the wall. “I’ll often have a song or personal experience in my head that’ll become the theme of the piece,” the artist says. “I can spend hours searching for an image of the right-sized chair or person that will fit. It’s a bit like making a jigsaw puzzle and hunting for the missing pieces.”
Represented by Lilford Gallery in Canterbury, Wheatcroft has been sharing a variety of flat collages and 3D diorama-style pieces—see these layered works up close on Instagram—and he also has a few pieces available for purchase on Artfinder. (via Kottke)
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Whether depicting a birthday party or a child’s first steps, the expressive murals by Mohamed L’Ghacham (previously) enlarge sincere, unposed moments into monumental celebrations of everyday life. The Moroccan artist recreates vintage photographs as wall-sized artworks in locations across Europe that portray a woman readying for bed or the chaotic minutes before a family portrait at a massive scale.
L’Ghacham tells Colossal that his relationship to the original images has evolved in recent years from a simple juxtaposition of the site and the quiet, unassuming beauty of the domestic scenes to a more complex understanding. “Those first murals were done in abandoned, demolished places or simply on the outskirts of cities and public spaces. The impact of seeing an image of this type painted with a technique closer to classical painting than graffiti in such spaces created a concept by itself for me,” he says.
Today, the Barcelona-based artist sources reference photographs and home videos from neighbors and city archives to connect more directly with the local culture. While his style is unchanged—L’Ghacham continues to use loose brushstrokes and layers of muted tones to achieve the vintage aesthetic—the streetside works reflect those living nearby. “I think (the murals) can be very symbolic and that many people can feel represented even if they are not necessarily the protagonists portrayed,” he says. “Until now my intention was to pay tribute and give visibility to situations that we all live in and that maybe sometimes we find it hard to value.”
Starting next month, L’Ghacham will be traveling around Europe for a few projects and has a solo exhibition at PDP Gallery slated for this summer, which will be comprised of the smaller paintings he’s been sharing on Instagram.
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Dozens of Mushroom Characters Populate a Family Tree in Whimsically Painted Photographs by Jana Paleckova
An affinity for fleshy spores runs in the long line of ancestors laid out in a family tree by Jana Paleckova. The Prague-based artist layers antique photographs with playful oil paintings of spindly enoki or ribbed chanterelle, creating hybrid characters brimming with fungi-fueled personalities. “There are many types of mushrooms, all of which have different characteristics. Just like people,” she says.
In a note to Colossal, Paleckova says she was prompted to start the whimsical project when she was flipping through her family’s atlas of fungi. “Czech people are known mushroom hunters. It’s quite common for families to go out looking for mushrooms together,” she says. This atlas later served as a reference point for the 90 small portraits, which consist of the dozens of vintage photographs that the artist sourced from flea markets, that comprise the sprouted kin.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.