For nearly three decades, Cuban painter Tomás Sánchez has been painting serene landscapes of calm waters and verdant forests full of towering palms and dense shrubs. Now part of a lengthy series, his realistic works focus on nature’s immensity as they contrast massive waterfalls and miles of endless treetops with a nondescript figure, who often can be found seated or standing amongst the lush scenery.
In a statement, Sánchez explained how his practice of meditation informs his work. “The interior spaces that I experience in meditation are converted into the landscapes of my paintings; the restlessness of my mind transformed into landfills,” he writes. “When I paint, I experience meditative states; through meditation, I achieve a union with nature, and nature, in turn, leads me to meditation.”
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Norwegian-Finnish artist duo Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen bring a folklore-inspired vision to the relationship between humans and nature. The majority of their subjects are elders who often have a deeper connection to the lands they inhabit, work on, or cultivate.
In 2011, the pair started an imaginative series called Eyes as Big as Plates as a contemporary exploration of characters from Nordic folklore. Their photographic odyssey across 15 countries and creation of more than 100 portraits evolved into a general exploration of modern humans’ relationships to nature. The title of the series not only comes from a folktale but also represents the curiosity that guides the way Hjorth and Ikonen interact with the world.
Each photograph features a solitary figure in a landscape wearing a sculpture of the natural elements of their choosing. For example, Brit (above), a ceramic artist, is shown plastered to a rock with the blue clay that underlies much of her hometown in Norway. Bob (below), a retired fashion photography expert, wears a giant hat and coat of pine needles while sitting in Forest Park in Queens, New York.
Hjorth and Ikonen consider their subjects to be integral parts of their artistic practice, and in doing so, refer to them as collaborators rather than models. The two artists exude a natural, almost magical excitement for people and life. This is key to not only finding and connecting with the people in their photographs but also to convincing them to immerse themselves in the wonders of a landscape.
This ultimate harmony is the result of a long process of preparing for and setting up the photo shoot. Materials such as moss, bull kelp, puffball mushrooms, and millet must be gathered and assembled into what amounts to a wearable sculpture. The strangest materials they tell Colossal include “sea urchins and starfish. And there was the time we collected a whole load of Rhododendron tomentosum (marsh Labrador tea) while in the very north of Norway, luckily the intense smell made us look the plant up in more detail before engulfing our collaborator in its poisonous terpenes. Collecting wearable-sized-icebergs in Greenland was one of those moments that we both remember vividly also!”
On-site, Hjorth and Ikonen shoot with analog cameras on film. The process also can be long and challenging for the collaborator, who sometimes is wearing a delicate sculpture of itchy twigs or kneeling for hours in wet moss, not to mention dealing the variable conditions—wind, rain, sleet, and dense fog—that the environment throws at them day-to-day. The end result is a portrait of a subject who exudes a playful confidence as they are one with the landscape.
As for the future, the duo shares their vision with Colossal. “We are open to working with all curious souls and as we re-angle ourselves to looking at the effects of climate change and our role in it. The intergenerational movers and shakers exist in all demographics across ages!”
Hjorth and Ikonen currently are working on Eyes as Big as Plates Vol. 2, which they are attempting to fund via Kickstarter before March 15. Follow their fascinating journeys around the world on both Karoline’s and Riitta’s Instagrams and their growing project Eyes as Big as Plates.
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Photographing the jewel-toned waters jutting up against beaches and the salt-speckled lagoons, Tobias Hägg frames some of Earth’s most striking landscapes. Based in Stockholm, he captures nature’s movement and the inevitability of change within environments, offering a broader look by shooting from above. Hägg often features ocean waters as they ripple, slosh, and crash into the land, although he also documents trees as they transform at the beginning of autumn, showing a thick forest full of orange hues. “I find pleasure in the most simple scenes. In a way, I think it defines me,” the photographer wrote on Instagram. To see more of Hägg’s stunning aerial shots or to add one to your collection, head to his site.
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Iceland-based photographer Patrycja Pati Makowska utilizes the natural allure of Reykjavic’s landscape to capture her striking images that rely on the sunrise and sunset to transform a mountain shot into an idyllic work. Taken from Hallgrimskirkja, a church in Reykjavic, Makowska’s 2019 Texture of the Mt. Esja in the Winter Sun series shows the sunlight illuminating the top of the icy mountains with pink hues. The light fades into shades of purples and blues as it recedes into shadows of the snow-covered ground. Mount Esja, which is actually a volcanic mountain range rather than an individual summit, sits about 10 kilometers north of the nation’s capital city. At its peak, it reaches nearly 3,000 feet. For more of Makowska’s light-centric images, head to Instagram or Behance. (via Fubiz)
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Paging through a photo album detailing every moment of a friend’s poolside vacation might not be a riveting activity, but flipping through Angela Mckay’s sketchbooks filled with tiny paintings of her travels certainly is. The Brooklyn-based pattern designer and illustrator of Ohkii Studio documents the lush scenery, cavernous waters, and hilly villages she sees on the streets of Lagos, Calamosche Beach on Italy’s southern coast, and in Joshua Tree National Park. Mckay generally positions her miniature paintings against the real-life backdrop, juxtaposing the two depictions that she then shares on Instagram.
The artist tells Colossal that she frequently recreates some of the pieces in her sketchbooks on a larger scale after returning home, relying on her earlier representation for the tiny details she otherwise might not remember. “Often when I’m traveling, I have this urgent feeling that I need to capture everything I’m experiencing, the sights, feelings and textures of a place,” she says.
I really enjoy that feeling of walking around a new place not knowing what I might discover around the corner. I often try to recreate the feeling of a place I have visited in my personal work… I really enjoy the experience of looking at a painting and being transported back to that experience. It’s a nice way to escape from your day to day!
The pocket-size notebooks are a crucial component of Mckay’s process, and she utilizes them in both her personal projects and her work for clients. “They just allow me to play with ideas and explore other directions without having to commit to anything,” she says. To pick up one of Mckay’s watercolor and gouache artworks or prints, head to her shop. (via Lustik)
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For Pippa Dyrlaga, one piece of paper holds a lot of possibility. The Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire-based artist cuts each one of her delicate creations from a single sheet. Her intricate designs turn a blank page into a plant-filled landscape or a robot tending to a garden. Dyrlaga begins by sketching each piece in reverse, before cutting sections out. Then she flips it over to unveil the finished work or to paint details onto the piece.
Whereas her previous work often utilized a single white sheet, the artist now is working more with color, painting shades of blues, golds, and black, which helps to distinguish one group of plants or mosses from the next in her lush landscapes. She also has been inspired by Greek mythology and lore, describing “Psychopomp” (shown below) as “a spirit or deity, often depicted in animal form, which guide people into the afterlife,” on her site. “The piece is split into two, night and day, life and death. The daytime is represents life and growth, organic patterns and plants. The second half with nocturnal animals and abstract patterns, representing the more abstract idea of what comes ‘after.'”
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