with mixed media
Using scraps of vibrant Ankara fabric, Lagos-based artist Marcellina Oseghale Akpojotor fashions intimate portraits that consider the fragmented and varied inner lives of her subjects. The intricately composed depictions rely on a cacophony of patterns arranged in loose ripples and tufts, creating a patchwork of color and texture. Although the textiles are Dutch in origin—they’re colloquially known as “African print fabrics”—they have a strong cultural significance, and by piecing together the assorted motifs, Akpojotor establishes a shared visual memory.
Set against uncluttered, domestic backdrops rendered in acrylic, the fiber-based figures are often disrupted with small spots of paint as a way to “speak to the influence our environment has in shaping us as individuals,” Akpojotor shares. “They represent the connections we have with our background and immediate society and how these often ignored elements form a part of our being.” Navigating the links between subjects and their surroundings is an ongoing concern for the artist, whose work delves into the effects of the current moment, in addition to the ways personal histories and the actions of previous generations have lasting impacts.
Akpojotor is represented by Rele Gallery, where her work will be on view later this month, and she’s currently working on pieces that explore how education affects women’s empowerment, which you can follow on Instagram. (via Women’s Art)
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From small shells and Amazonian beads, Brazilian-Mexican artist Fefe Talavera strings together elaborate masks that fuse ancient mythologies and contemporary urban culture. The mixed-media works are part of an ongoing series—Talavera shares more on her site and Instagram, along with vibrant silhouettes painted in acrylic and her large-scale murals—that embellish expressive faces with stripes, symmetries, and various geometric patterns. Sometimes spanning upwards of ten feet or featuring a long tuft of straw, the masks are an amalgam of color, motif, and material that blur cultural boundaries and the tenuous distinction between humanity and nature.
The São Paulo-based artist tells Colossal that the series “developed when my government opened the doors to cattle ranchers, when forest fires began, putting an end to Indigenous tribes, exotic animals, and trees,” and initial iterations used açaí seeds, shells, and mirrors to explore birth and death through a mystical lens. “When we looked at our reflection in the work, we would be seeing ourselves with respect and love, and it is this look that we should have with the Amazonia,” she says.
Currently, Talavera is working on a larger-scale piece using 20,000 beads, and she has a solo show planned for May 2022 at Paris’s Bandy Bandy Gallery.
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In collaboration with master beekeeper Mylee Nordin and swarms of the honey-producing insects, artist Ava Roth develops elaborate encaustic works that literally visualize the interaction between humans and the environment. The Toronto-based artist stitches small collages with leaves, twigs, rose quartz, porcupine quills, and other organic matter before handing control over to her six-legged counterparts, who faithfully build hexagonal cells around the original piece. Once complete, the waxy inter-species works are brimming with texture and color variances that highlight the inherent beauty and unpredictability of nature.
Whereas previous iterations of Roth’s embroideries used stock hoops at the center, she now enlists the help of woodworker Bernoel Dela Vega, who custom-makes inner and outer frames in the same dimensions that are typical in Langstroth hives. “Each piece requires some kind of border that separates my work from the bees’ work,” she says. “This (change) has allowed me to experiment with different sizes and shapes and has helped to make every aspect of my work hand (or bee) crafted.”
Roth tells Colossal that although it’s possible to manipulate the hive conditions to produce a 3D honeycomb or work with artificial elements, she creates self-imposed limits to use only organic materials and engender environments that mimic those bees would gravitate toward naturally. She explains:
I recognize that Langstroth hives are not a natural habitat for bees, but neither are most of the spaces that humans find themselves occupying right now. Ultimately, this project is about exploring the ways in which humans collide with the natural environment today and finding ways to make making something beautiful from this specific time and place. This means working in cities, in manufactured hives, in the midst of enormous environmental and political despair.
Roth will be pulling multiple pieces from her hives in the next few weeks, and you can follow that progress on Instagram. She also has a few works on paper currently available at Wallspace Gallery in Ottawa.
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In Sonia Alins’s dreamy works, figures gently break through the surface of the sea, creating a minimal ripple around their bodies as they dip in and out of the water. The Spanish artist and illustrator (previously) is known for her expressive swimmers, whose enlarged limbs splay in graceful positions as they float and move through the ocean. Translucent sheets of vellum produce the cloudy effects of water, obscuring fish and coral and adding a three-dimensional element to the largely ink, acrylic, and watercolor drawings.
Although Alins primarily centers women in ambiguous states of emotion, men and children have been emerging in her mixed-media illustrations, further reflecting on the artist’s own experience with motherhood and the incomparable force of aquatic environments. “I feel the water as powerful entity, a supernatural force capable of source anguish, pain, desperation in the same way that it is a source of happiness, joy, inner peace, and love. Water helps me to express my feelings in a louder way, and it’s why I love it,” she tells Colossal.
Alins works on a variety of commissions in addition to her personal practice, and her ethereal project for Moleskine titled “The Beautiful Red Reefs” recently won her an Award of Excellence from Communication Arts’s annual competition. Browse originals and hand-embellished prints in limited quantities in her shop, and you can keep up with her illustrations, in addition to news about upcoming shows like the one at Taipei’s Contemporary by U gallery in October, on Behance and Instagram.
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Obscured faces peek through tangles of leaves and stems in the ethereal portraits of Toronto-based artist Christine Kim. Her mixed-media collages layer textured graphite gradients and mesh-like cuttings into splintered depictions of her subjects. “‘Fragmentary’ is one word that I return to again and again because I think portraiture is an act of catching glimmers of a person,” she tells Colossal. “I like the idea of not being able to see everything. Having multiple layers partially conceals but the patterns of foliage, (which) also act like a kind of shelter.”
For each work, Kim first illustrates a single figure—the subjects shown here are models Yuka Mannami and Hoyeon Jung—and then digitally draws a corresponding botanical pattern. Those motifs are cut with the help of a Silhouette Cameo machine before they’re built up sheet by sheet. Graceful and at times surreal, the resulting portraits portray fractions of faces and hands that are duplicated or filtered through colorful webs.
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Sinuous branches half-submerged in water, fish swimming through the treetops, and plant life spearing small birds compose the intricate entanglements rendered by Teagan White. Through gouache, watercolor, and colored pencil, the artist merges plant and animal life in delicate scenes that focus on the interconnectedness and beauty of the natural world.
Having just moved to the Pacific Northwest, much of White’s work draws on their years spent biking throughout the Midwest and viscerally experiencing life and death on the region’s roadways. The artist describes their recent series, Things As They Are & As They Could Be, which includes many of the mixed-media pieces shown here, as “meditations on peril and possibility; what has been lost and what remains; dystopian presents and improbable futures.” It’s on view now through May 3 at Nucleus Portland.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.