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Art

Nondescript Human Heads Appear Burned into Large-Scale Matches by Wolfgang Stiller

September 8, 2021

Grace Ebert

Group of five Matchstickmen (2019), wood, polyurethane, paint, each 155 centimeters. All images © Wolfgang Stiller, shared with permission

Often propped up in a row or symbolically arranged, the ongoing series of charred matches by Wolfgang Stiller are oversized and surreal renditions of the book-bound lookalikes. The German artist sculpts human heads in bright red or gradient-lined black signaling previous use that sit atop the square posts standing about five feet tall. Aptly titled Matchstickmen, the nondescript figures span the gamut of human emotion, ranging from pained expressions and distress to joy and calm.

Stiller began the series more than a decade ago when he was living in China, and the earliest wooden iterations reflected his surrounding community. Today, they encompass a broader swath of identities and are sometimes cast in bronze for larger outdoor installations. Whether tucked in a large-scale box resembling a coffin or arranged as emblems like the Star of David to memorialize historic atrocities, the Matchstickmen series can be somber and even morbid, although Stiller tells Colossal they’re also speaking to the unpredictability and impermanence of life. He explains:

It is an undeniable fact, which we like to forget, that our present existence, (our) body is going to fall apart. We all have a certain lifespan. The Matchstickmen serve as a friendly reminder of this fact. That might scare a lot of people, especially those with a very materialistic worldview who think everything ends with the death of our physical body, but it could be also seen as an encouragement to live a more meaningful life.

Stiller’s solo show at Miart Gallery in London is up through September 21, and you can find more of his metaphorical works on his site and  Instagram.

 

Group of three Matchstickmen (2019), wood, polyurethane, paint, each 155 centimeters

Detail of “Matchbox” (2018), wood, polyurethane, and paint, 160 x 71 x 20 centimeters when opened

Detail of “Matchbox” (2018), wood, polyurethane, and paint, 160 x 71 x 20 centimeters when opened

Group of five Matchstickmen (2020), wood, polyurethane, paint, each 155 centimeters

Matchstickmen (2011), wood, polyurethane, acrylic, and gouache, 155 to 158 centimeters

Bronze installation of Matchstickmen at the Changwon Sculpture Biennale Korea (2018)

Matchstickmen installation (2010). Photo by Achim Kukulies

 

 



Animation

A Striking Stop-Motion Short Creates Uncanny Visual Effects Using Matches

August 10, 2021

Grace Ebert

Digital effects are no match for Tokyo-based designer Tomohiro Okazaki, whose mesmerizing new animation is a striking feat of stop-motion techniques. Using squirts of paint, strips paper, and other household objects, Okazaki deftly manipulates matchsticks into dozens of individual studies that endlessly bend and buckle their basic structure. Each analog distortion sparks a host of others that become increasingly complex and speedy, spanning from simple tricks of the hand to more elaborate clips of exploding match heads and paper morphing into fully formed sticks.

Okazaki heads the graphic design and animation studio Swimming, and you can find more clips and glimpses into his painstaking process on YouTube and Instagram. (via The Kids Should See This)

 

 

 



Design Illustration

Woodblock-Printed Matchboxes Light up with Canine Personalities

July 11, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

As a follow-up to last year’s wildly successful woodblock-printed matchboxes featuring the questionable decisions of tipsy cats, Ravi Zupa has just released a set of canine designs. Comprised of ten designs, the set includes a Boston Terrier with a high opinion of himself, a loyal hound, and an endearingly self-deprecating pug.

“These are the people in our lives with complicated dispositions and attitudes who never fail to bring
us joy, even when they’re jerks,” Zupa explained in an artist statement. “This new set of matchboxes is an effort to give the overly expressive, stubborn, supportive, unpredictable, confused and self important beings in our lives the recognition they deserve.”

Zupa used oil-based intaglio ink to create the three-color prints, and each one includes a pint-sized certificate of authenticity. The matchboxes can be ordered in the artist’s online shop, along with pre-orders for larger prints of the same designs. You can see more of Zupa’s vintage-inspired and humorous works, ranging from prints to paintings and sculptures, on Instagram.

 

 



Art

Conceptual Typewriter Sculptures by Glenda León Replace Keys With Dripping Candles and Acrylic Nails

May 2, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

Artist Glenda León affixes objects such as matchsticks, melted candles, and acrylic nails to typewriters she sources from antique dealers in Havana, Cuba. Each item replaces the machine’s rubber stamps or keys, and is presented with a different meaning, such as her piece The Insatiable Writer which contains a variety of collected teeth. “The pieces of human teeth establish an analogy between the act of speaking, chewing, consuming and writing,” León explains in an artist statement about the piece. “In the absence of something to swallow, or imagining only a blank sheet as possible food, writing becomes then a devourer of voids, blank sheets.”

The Cuban artist currently splits her time between Havana and Madrid. Her work is currently included in the group exhibition Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago at the Portland Museum of Art through May 5, 2019 and Never Real / Always True at the Azkuna Zentroa in Bilbao, Spain through September 22, 2019. You can see more of León’s interventions, like her cubed piano key sculpture, on her website and Instagram.

 

 



Design Illustration

Hilarious Matchboxes Depict Cats Making Questionable Decisions

June 8, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

Colorado-based artist Arna Miller uses vintage style packaging, advertising, and illustrations as inspiration for her goofy creations. The serious historical aesthetic and matter-of-fact text subtly ridiculous, finding humor in imagining animals experiencing human emotions, ambitions, and failures.

In a statement on her website, Miller describes her guiding principles as an artist: “My aim is to create narrative illustrations that depict magical moments…I often use text to tell part of the story, but like to leave most of the narrative up to the viewer. My guiding rule—which I sometimes break—is Possible, but Not Likely. For example, it’s possible for a vole to sit on a cigarette box and float down a river, but it is not likely. On the other hand, dinosaurs didn’t have laptops and headphones, so I would not draw that.”

The matchbox series “Strike Your Fancy,” which Miller made in collaboration with her husband Ravi Zupa, shows cats staying out late and making dicey decisions. The series is on view at Abstract in Denver through June 30, 2018. Matchboxes are also for sale in Miller and Zupa’s online stores. You can see more of Miller’s clever artwork on her website and Instagram.

 

 



Art

United States Map Made from Thousands of Wood Matches by Claire Fontaine

February 11, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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U.S.A. (burnt/unburnt) is a 2011 installation by Paris-based artist Claire Fontaine constructed from thousands of green matches that were inserted into a wall at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art as part art of “Evidence of Bricks” at the 2011 Time-Based Art Festival. Fontaine has produced several of her match installations and flaming geography, most recently completing a similar U.S.A. map at Queens Nails Gallery in San Francisco. Unlike the installation in Portland above, the Queens Nails artwork was actually set on fire, and while it may not have gone exactly as intended, the final post-flame artwork is impressive nonetheless. Photographs above for PICA by Dan Kvitka.

 

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