Interview: Swoon Speaks to Finding Compassion Through the Act of Looking and Unearthing Her Own Vulnerability
In some ways, Caledonia Curry’s work as a public artist has come full circle, an evolution she discusses in a new interview supported by Colossal Members. Curry debuted as a New York City street artist known as Swoon right around the turn of the last century, her hand-worked portraits making striking, albeit illegal, statements on old walls. Today, she harnesses that same energy into intricate—and intimate—installations set in museums and galleries.
When I look at a face for days, when I take a portrait of somebody on the street, and then I stare at that face for days and days, there’s this part of my brain that’s like, “This human is utterly perfect. I’ve never seen anything more noble and beautiful than this person.” And then I think, “You think that every time.” That’s because it’s true.
Swoon spoke with Colossal contributor Paulette Beete about how the act of looking is at the center of her practice, why she’s started to address her own trauma in addition to that experienced by others, and why her body of work to date is like a lifesaving yarn, a map of both where she’s been, where she’s going, and everything she’s learned along the way.
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Movement and Instinct Inform Taquen’s Murals of Migrating Birds and Human Touch
Thin, structural lines delineate a magpie wing and contour a child’s nose or cheekbone in Taquen’s murals. Working with a color palette of pastels and neutral tones, the Spanish artist (previously) paints large-scale portraits, fragments of limbs, and birds, often leaving the composition’s skeletal forms visible. “The supports are just as important as the work itself,” he tells Colossal. “I look for camouflage, minimalism, and mixture. In the end, it is also a metaphorical form of the footprint that I believe we should leave in the places we pass through.”
Many of Taquen’s works consider the relationship between species through the lens of movement and impulse, focusing on gesture, touch, and instinctive acts. Birds mid-flight embody the tie between freedom and migration, while bare feet lounging in the grass or a hand grasping a flower channel a desire for physical contact. “I think we are very disconnected, living in parallel with nature, and it is a mistake. We must share it, experience it, live it, and thus we will be able to understand and respect it,” he says.
In the coming months, the artist will be working on murals in Belgium, Portugal, Ireland, France, and Spain, in addition to a conceptual project centered on paths and walking. You can follow those on Instagram.
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Awash in Color, Alice Pasquini’s Murals Exude Hope and Affection
For Alice Pasquini, painting outside among pedestrians, cars, and the milieu of local life is an inherent component of her practice. The artist begins each mural by studying the intended wall and its physical qualities. Material, paint color, and various markings and damages offer indications about the area’s history and people, she says, and form a well-worn, culturally situated canvas. She then renders large-scale pieces of affectionate couples, children, and figures with extraordinarily kind and welcoming faces, expressions that contrast the largely subversive and politically charged messages synonymous with street art.
“I speak about human emotion and the relationships between people,” she tells Colossal. “That is what influences me more. Walls around the world were a way to get out a message of being united—even if that seems banal—as opposed to rampant cynicism.” Whether painted in shades of pink or awash in vibrant primary colors, the murals advocate for strengthening bonds and finding connections in unusual places.
Pasquini’s murals grace walls around the world, including cities like her native Rome, Oslo, and most recently Toronto. This week, she’s directing the Cvtà Street Festival in Molise, Italy—the seventh annual event involves multiple artists previously featured on Colossal like Daku, Cinta Vidal, Icy & Sot, Ememem, and Akut—and you can follow updates on Instagram.
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Massive Leafy Murals by Adele Renault Magnify the Verdant Textures of Plants
Similar to her abstract masses of feathers, a new series of murals by artist Adele Renault highlights the vibrant colors and textures abundant in nature. Plantasia, which consists of smaller works on canvas and large-scale public pieces, magnifies the leaves from dandelions, banana trees, stinging nettle, and other species. Enlarging the specimens to reveal the intricate vein networks and subtle grooves in their midst, the lush murals are bright standouts among largely urban landscapes.
Although she’s spent the last few years painting birds, Renault tells Colossal that her interest in and devotion to plants is much deeper. “My mum taught me so much about growing your own food and growing vegetables as a kid. I didn’t know I was storing up important knowledge. Then during the pandemic, I think anyone who had a bit of love for nature and plants had time to get back to it, which was my case, too,” she says.
Renault works from photographs taken of her houseplants, those she encounters in the wild, and pre-pandemic, the gardens of the Ron Finley Project in Los Angeles—she splits her time between the city and her native Belgium. “I just get very excited whenever I see the beams of sunlight hitting leaves in a certain way, making that green seem translucent,” she shares, adding that her most recent obsession is with the prickly pear cactus and its iridescent sheen.
Some of the Plantasia series will be on view this September in Des Moines when Renault will also release a book cataloging the works. You can follow news on that show, along with her latest pieces, on Instagram.
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Massive Butterflies Alight on Architecture in Larger-Than-Life Trompe L’oeil Murals by Mantra
In October 2020, a remarkable scene unfolded on the side of a building in the neighborhood of Jussieu in Versailles, France. Larger-than-life ladybug legs scurry along a stem, violet flowers blossom, and ornate butterflies perch on delicate petals. During the course of six days, the French street artist Mantra completed the painting “Là où fleurit l’émerveillement,” which translates to “where wonder flourishes,” using rollers and brushes to apply acrylic painting to the multistory residential building. In the neighborhood named for French botanist Bernard de Jussieu (1699-1777), the artist pays tribute to nature and local wildlife.
Known for his trompe l’oeil murals of butterflies encased in enormous specimen display boxes, his recent paintings, including “Three Butterflies for Lana” completed last month in Lana, Italy, take a wilder approach to the insects. Drawing on childhood memories of exploring wildlife near his family’s home, the new murals are composed from photographs the artist took in his mother’s garden in Lessy. Referencing the shallow depth of field captured with his camera, Mantra pays special attention to bokeh—faithfully recreating the blurry background that blends the work with the surrounding environment, highlighting the vibrant colors and varied patterns of petals, wings, and leaves.
You can find more of Mantra’s work on Instagram.
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A Trompe L’oeil Mural by Shozy Imagines a 3D Architectural Addition to an Apartment Building
A concrete apartment building in Solnechnodolsk, Russia, seems to have added balconies, windows, and a few extra rooms in a trippy new mural by artist Danila Shmelev, aka Shozy. Created for the Urban Morpho Genesis festival, the massive optical illusion appears as a three-dimensional construction that juts out from the complex, despite lying flat on the corner walls. The Moscow-born artist says:
In Russia, we are all accustomed to the architecture of panel houses. Our eyes are so blurred that aesthetics are out of the question. With my work, I want to focus the viewer’s attention on a familiar landscape and show it from an unusual side, complementing the real ends of two five-story buildings with illusory geometry, so that they draw the eye of the viewer to the ordinary landscape, encouraging them to really consider it.
You can find more from Shozy and the festival on Instagram, and shop smaller trompe l’oeil works on canvas on Hiya.
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