with mixed media
Haphazard Safe Havens Rise into the Sky in Simon Laveuve’s Miniature Post-Apocalyptic Islands
Paris-based artist Simon Laveuve (previously) continues to build out his dystopian universe with rickety structures that tower above land and sea. Heavy with dirt and the occasional graffiti tag, the miniature constructions are eerie, disquieting safe havens in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic landscape. Salvaged objects like tires, wooden panels, and lengths of chain support the shelters, which tend to contain tiny outlooks with seating and remnants of provisions. In his most recent mixed-media sculptures like “Le 122,” Laveuve considers lawlessness and what it means to live in an organized society without rule.
The artist has an upcoming show in New York, and you can follow news about that exhibition on Instagram.
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Chaotic Facial Markings Express the Wildly Varied Emotions of Reen Barrera’s Imaginative Ohala Dolls
Growing up in the Phillipines in the 90’s, Reen Barrera would often repurpose scraps of fabric and wood into imaginative figures that became central to his play. The constructions were stand-ins for what the Filipino artist considers a “toy-deprived” childhood, and today, Barrera continues the visual language of those early sculptures in his recurring Ohala characters.
Often dressed in stripes and animalistic patchwork hoods, the wildly expressive figures are covered in a chaotic mishmash of symbols and patterns. Barrera likens these markings to the idiom “it’s written all over your face,” a concept that, similar to his earlier figures, continues to ground his practice. “Regardless of what we say, our true feelings can still be emancipated by our facial expressions,” the artist says. “For me, it’s a silent way of communicating something without noise.”
Barrera pairs this concern with fleeting emotion and more personal experience with larger themes about class and social standing. While some of the wooden figures are rich with colorful fabrics and splotches of acrylic, oil, and aerosol paints, others are more minimal. “One thing that I want to emphasize is the amount of detail each Ohlala artwork has. Like humans, some have little while some have more,” he shares, explaining further:
Some people are born rich, some are born middle class, some are born poor. But the common ground for everyone is, we all have to deal with it… I cover all the Ohlala dolls heads with canvas cloth to give a freedom to paint their own symbols on their heads, as if they are designing their own fate. I guess that’s what we all have in common; the power to make things happen for ourselves.
In a collaboration with Thinkspace Projects, Barrera’s solo show Children of Divorce is on view through January 15, 2023, at Mesa Contemporary Art Museum. For more of the artist’s works, visit his site and Instagram.
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Bound by Cord, the Women of Arghavan Khosravi’s Paintings Exemplify the Borderless Fight for Equality
Through layered, mixed-media paintings, Iranian artist Arghavan Khosravi (previously) alludes to the multivalent effects of losing freedom and human rights. Elastic cord binds her protagonists to their own limbs or surroundings, their individual characteristics partially concealed or fragmented as a result of restriction. Her subjects are often women who are confined to domestic spaces, hidden behind painted wooden panels, or physically tied to a situation or person.
Working in vibrant, saturated colors, Khosravi blends surreal imagery with the motifs of Persian textiles and architecture. The artist tells Colossal that although she still grounds her work in her experiences in Iran, she’s begun to broaden the conceptual aspects of her practice. “My goal is to have a more universal approach so women coming from different countries, cultures, and generations can relate to the paintings. The fight for gender equality is universal, and there is still a long road ahead of us,” she says.
Khosravi has a limited-edition print available through Art for Change, and her first institutional show is up through September 5 at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. She opens a solo exhibition at Rockefeller Center on September 6 and has another slated for later this year at Stems Gallery in Belgium. Until then, find more of her work on Instagram.
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Symmetric Drawings on Antique Ledgers Balance Energy and Consciousness
Conveying the “texture of a threshold,” the mixed-media drawings that comprise Tanya P. Johnson’s ongoing Wisdom Engines series invoke passing between wakefulness and sleep or life and death. Mirrored renderings entwine gears, levers, pulleys, and audio equipment with flowers and geometric motifs in elongated columns, referencing the shape of the human spine. The bisected works reflect both a connection between entities and finding balance through somatic experiences and symmetries.
Drawn on vintage ledger paper, the pieces are “tools for consciousness hacking,” Johnson says, instruments for confronting the systems we’re accustomed to. Each work “generates subtle awareness, cultivates wisdom, and wicks fear. They symbolize the ways movement and breath can be used to interrupt patterns, to strengthen electromagnetism, and to stabilize energy.”
Living between British Columbia and her native Cape Town, Johnson works across media, and you can find more of her projects on her site and Instagram.
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Bees Wrap Ava Roth’s Intricately Beaded and Embroidered Motifs in Golden Honeycomb
Seasons and the natural rhythms of bees determine much of Ava Roth’s practice, which hinges on collaborating with the fuzzy pollinators. The Ontario-based artist (previously) stitches elaborate embroideries with beads and intricate thread-based motifs that, once her contribution is complete, she turns over to her insect counterparts. The critters then finish the mixed-media pieces by embedding them in golden, hexagonal honeycomb.
Because the bees Roth works with only produce the waxy substance during the heat of the summer, the time available for inter-species cooperation is limited. In a note to Colossal, the artist describes recent shifts in her practice that more deeply embody the shared process:
The collaged portion of this season’s pieces, which are made largely of encaustic and stitch work, are designed to match the intricacy of the comb in a fair exchange of labour. I had in mind “a stitch for every cell.” I have also introduced more sophisticated shapes, and multiple shapes, into the comb, and the results have been very exciting.
In addition to the pieces shown here, Roth has also been developing a collection of larger encaustic paintings on photographs that she works on when her collaborators are dormant. “Using the beeswax in these different ways feels very holistic,” she says, “and having the intimate connection to the bees in the summer makes working with wax as a material during the winter months deeply satisfying.”
Explore an archive of the artist’s organically formed works on her site and Instagram.
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Jewelry Boxes Encase Curtis Talwst Santiago’s Elaborately Constructed Narratives of Nostalgia and Identity
Within the confines of a tiny jewelry box, Canadian-Trinidadian artist Curtis Talwst Santiago (previously) nestles miniature scenes imbued with in-depth narratives of home and intimacy, diasporic identity, and memory. The elaborately built dioramas are part of Santiago’s ongoing Infinity Series, which he began in 2008 and has since expanded to include dozens of pieces replete with lush foliage, architectural features, and minuscule figures preserved in time.
In recent years, the artist has referenced his childhood and family life in the mixed-media works, including in the “Soca in the Suburbs” collection that incorporates replicas of his parents’ basement complete with thick shag carpeting and a distinctly ’70s aesthetic. These environments, Santiago explains in a statement, reflect on the necessity of private gatherings in 2020 and the importance of sharing histories across generations:
This theme of ‘Soca in the Suburbs’ emerged during Covid with the closure of clubs in the contemporary sense, dancing at home, and quarantine discos at home started popping up, and I started thinking of the family members I couldn’t see, and the parties from my memory… I’m also thinking about what I want to pass forward to my son when photographs fail. I want him to have an archive of his family history, of his cultural heritage. I want him to know where his family came from, not just ancient ancestors but his grandparents, and see the clothing they wore, and those polaroids that a lot of Caribbean people have from their rumpus room adult activities.
Some of Santiago’s works are on view as part of the Atlantic World Art Fair through May 5. You can follow his practice that spans painting, sculpture, and drawing and see more of his process on Instagram.
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