Considering the possibilities of non-gendered motherhood, Toronto-born artist Tau Lewis stitches together oversized characters and floral tendrils that occupy a lavish fictional world. Textured swatches of fabric transform stark gallery space into pastel gardens and the idyllic universe of the “T. A. U. B. I. S.,” or the bulging-eyed creature with a protruding tongue shown above. Teeming with themes of compassion, joy, and freedom, the sprawling works evoke birth and the warmth of a womb filled with light.
Part of the collection titled Triumphant Alliance of the Ubiquitous Blossoms of Incarnate Souls—which closed last week at Toronto’s Cooper Cole—Lewis’s installations imagine an environment centered around abundance, which she explains:
Mutable and devoid of gender, they transmute into blossoms. Every blossom embodies a soul who is alive and listening. T.A.U.B.I.S. blossoms grow year-round, uni-wide, even in most harsh weather and on most hostile planets. The T.A.U.B.I.S communicate and collect intel through these blossoms.
A self-taught artist based in Brooklyn, Lewis hand-dyes vintage curtains, bed sheets, blankets, towels, and clothing that she sews into quilts and looming sculptural figures. Her body of work generally explores multiple facets of trauma and the ways manual labor can provide healing. From the textiles gathered throughout Toronto, New York, and her family’s home in Negril, Jamaica, Lewis patches together representations of community members and ancestors. “The transformative act of repurposing these materials recalls practices of resourcefulness in diasporic contexts; upcycling is a recuperative act that reclaims both agency and memory,” she says in a statement.
Share this story
A new installation by artist Chila Kumari Singh Burman masks the stately columns and ornate flourishes of Tate Britain’s facade, enveloping the London museum in a blanket of LED lights. In “Remembering a Brave New World,” technicolor symbols, pop culture references, and religious iconography transform the neoclassical structure into an illuminated space for celebration. The public artwork was revealed on December 14 to coincide with the start of Diwali, the five-day Indian festival of lights, and casts a kaleidoscopic glow on the surrounding area.
The eclectic collection draws on Punjabi Liverpudlian artist’s own life and family history, which manifests in pieces like the multi-colored ice cream truck. After moving to England, her father purchased one of the vehicles, an experience that imprinted her childhood.
Other elements focus on the United Kingdom’s history of imperialism: the Britannia figure at the building’s apex, for example, is camouflaged with Kali, the Hindu goddess of liberation and power, while the lower region features Rani of Jhansi, the warrior and leader of the Indian resistance against the British in 1857. “It’s important to critique buildings like this because they’re very Eurocentric,” Burman said in an interview with Dezeen. “So, I just thought: why not do something that captures what we’re all going through right now? I felt like it needed a blast of joy and light. And Diwali is about good over evil, about hope, unity and the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Glowing Hindu deities sprawl across the windows and arches, as well, including Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and purity, and Ganesh, the god of prosperity. The religious figures juxtapose the more playful elements, like a life-sized tiger, peacock, and pair of lips.
“Remembering a Brave New World” is the fourth annual winter commission by Tate Britain. The public artwork will be on display through the end of January, even while the inner halls of the museum are closed to visitors due to the ongoing pandemic. Follow Burman’s projects that explore questions of power and identity on Instagram.
Update: A previous iteration of this article incorrectly identified the lights as neon, not LED.
Share this story
Jamaica-born artist Nari Ward bases his practice in found objects and their inherent mutability. The Harlem-based artist has scoured New York City’s streets for 25 years gathering house keys escaped from a ring, discarded glass bottles, and clothing tossed season-to-season. Through sculptures and large-scale installations, the scavenged objects find new meaning, whether explicitly scribing a phrase from the United States Constitution or creating more subtle historical connections.
While commenting broadly on themes of race, poverty, and rampant consumerism, Ward is cognizant of the varied meanings burned wooden bats or shoelaces hold for different populations. No matter the medium, many of his works are site-specific in form and fluid in context, allowing the narratives to take new shapes as they travel from community to community.
His 1993 installation “Amazing Grace,” for example, originally was presented in Harlem in response to the AIDS crisis. The artist gathered lengths of fire hose and approximately 300 baby strollers to line the space’s perimeter, with some piled in a central area, as well. In New York City, houseless populations sometimes use the childcare item to carry their belongings, imbuing the objects with a specific message within that milieu. When “Amazing Grace” later traveled around Europe, the strollers were interpreted anew.
In a 2019 interview, Ward expanded on the inherent fluctuations within the symbols and objects he employs:
History tells a particular story, and I’m trying to say: ‘Yeah there is a particular story, but there are many stories that aren’t visible within that one created narrative.’ I think that it’s about bringing mystery into the conversation more so than facts. So the whole idea is bringing this marker, image, or form to the forefront, but at the same time destabilizing it so that it acts as a placeholder for other possibilities or somebody else’s narrative.
Ward is incredibly prolific, and in 2020 alone, his public artworks and installations have been shown in Hong Kong, Denver, New York City, Ghent, New York, and Ridgefield, Connecticut. To explore the artist’s projects further, check out his site and pick up a copy of Phaidon’s 2019 book, Nari Ward: We the People, which accompanied the 2019 New Museum retrospective of his early works.
Share this story
Swiss sound artist Zimoun (previously) harnesses the power of quick, chaotic movements in his large-scale installations and kinetic sculptures. Each artwork is composed of simple materials like cardboard boxes, wooden dowels, and cotton balls, among other common objects. Zimoun assembles multiples of the same configuration—think teetering sticks and metal washers suspended on a wire—and motorizes one portion, causing them to rattle back and forth.
Because each component is made by hand, they have slight differences that prevent them from synchronizing, despite all the motors being connected to a single current. The frenzied movements contrast the calming, whirring sounds the artworks emit, which mimic raindrops or a repetitive drum. This juxtaposition is just one example of the many comparisons the artist draws: chaos vs. order, mass vs. individual, simplicity vs. complexity, and manufactured vs. organic.
Considering this theme, Zimoun names each piece by listing the materials used to connect the discrete components and the whole. For example, a recent project that forms a square on the floor (shown below) is titled “1944 prepared dc-motors, mdf panels 72 x 72cm, metal discs Ø 8cm, 2020.” “In my work, I do not try to transport specific associations but rather to create atmospheric spaces and states that invite us to observe, think, and reflect on various levels,” he says.
In the compilation video above, Zimoun showcases a variety of the sculptures and installations from his extensive body of work, many of which you can explore individually on Vimeo and follow on Instagram.
Share this story
At first glance, Slinkachu’s scenes might appear to be a heap of multi-colored pills or a mess of children’s toys left behind on a London street corner. Closer inspection, however, reveals minuscule figures navigating human-sized items as if they occupy an alternate, miniature world occurring in sidewalk alcoves and planter boxes. Characters find themselves in a sea of medication that’s reminiscent of arcade ball pits, while others create a tower to fend off a nearby bee that’s triple each of their heights. Imbued with humor, the site-specific scenes often comment on contemporary social issues.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Slinkachu (previously) has shifted to creating works in his home to minimize exposure to passersby. Although many of his projects were canceled or postponed, the Natural History Museum commissioned both the mushroom and bee works shown below for its Urban Nature project, a biologically diverse green space in central London. “My work has always reflected the sense of isolation and loneliness that a big city can imbue, but the isolation of being inside is new to me,” he shares with Colossal. “These were recreations of small parts of city streets built in my living room with concrete paving slabs and weeds and moss.” The shift in venue has the British artist reconsidering parts of his practice:
It was a bit surreal recreating the outside world inside, but it has opened up new possibilities for me to create narrative images. By experimenting with mixing miniature sets and photographic backdrops, I’ve had many ideas about creating images that are not always possible to create outside on a real street without digital manipulation. It is different from my usual street work but a new avenue to explore.
Share this story
Textural Sculptures by Artist Jessica Drenk Use Junk Mail, Book Pages, and Q-Tips to Explore Materiality
Montana-born artist Jessica Drenk (previously) employs simple materials, like shopping flyers and standard No. 2 pencils, to create organic sculptures that are chaotic and arresting explorations of the substances themselves. Bundled Q-tips spread across a site-specific installation like the roots of a tree, a carved section of plywood reveals concentric patterns, and strips of junk mail are plastered together in long waves.
While Drenk’s latest series, titled Transmutations, is diverse and ranges from wall pieces to cavernous sculptures, each artwork explores materiality and how disparate shapes and textures combine to create forms that are new both physically and conceptually. The artist explains in a statement:
In treating everyday objects as raw material to sculpt, I practice a form of conceptual alchemy: through physically manipulating these objects their meanings become transmuted. Each piece is a direct response to material—a subversion of the meanings associated with it, and a reference to the life cycle of objects through time.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Photography
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.