narrative

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Art

Enigmatic Sketchbooks Record Visual Stories in Colored Pencil and Ink by Katherine Akmulun

November 21, 2022

Kate Mothes

A sketchbook spread of two drawings by Katherine Akmulun.

All images © Katherine Akmulun, shared with permission

One way to approach the cinematic sketchbook drawings by Katherine Akmulun is to think about literature. “When we read a book, not only do we look at the characters, but the characters are looking at us,” she says. “And they see much more than we think.” This awareness forms the basis of the artist’s ongoing series of drawings that capture intimate interactions, bold gestures, and momentary expressions. From a young age, a fascination with human anatomy and love of reading inspired a wish to become “a kind of writer,” she explains, and “since I feel insecure about words, the only way out for me was to keep a kind of personal diary with sketches instead of words.”

In ballpoint pen and colored pencil, Akmulun explores the duality of two facing pages by creating images that are distinctive from each other yet empathetic to one another. A close-up of hands grasping lightly at the fingertips complements a joyful scene of two women dancing, or a young child clasps her mother’s hand while gazing across the binding at a man who walks briskly across an open plane. Part story and part snapshot, the mysterious narratives reference historic images and are open to interpretation. “The funny thing is that different people can see different scenes in the same picture,” she says. “And this is incredibly cool, because we all have different life experiences, different environments, and different interests.”

Akmulun travels often and is influenced by the nuances of everyday experiences, which she captures using a minimal palette. She aims to collect and record feelings and memories in the books, but she’s not precious about keeping them intact. “I love to rip out pages,” she says. “I like to realize that the pages of my personal diary can travel the world, and can find their home not only in my sketchbook. I am pleased that people want to have a piece of my personal world in their home.”

Akmulun occasionally makes pages available for sale, and you can follow more of her work on Instagram.

 

A sketchbook spread of two drawings by Katherine Akmulun.

A sketchbook spread of two drawings by Katherine Akmulun.

A sketchbook spread of two drawings by Katherine Akmulun.

A sketchbook spread of two drawings by Katherine Akmulun.

A sketchbook spread of two drawings by Katherine Akmulun.   A sketchbook spread of two drawings by Katherine Akmulun.

 

 

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Art

Through Mystical Mixed-Media Narratives, Artist Rithika Merchant Explores Intrinsic Connection

November 9, 2022

Grace Ebert

A vivid mixed-media work with hybrid figures and symbols

“The Inner Sanctum” (2022), gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper, 100 x 70 centimeters All images © Rithika Merchant, courtesy of Galerie LJ, shared with permission

“I’m drawn to works that are rich in symbolism and also have a strong element of storytelling,” says Rithika Merchant. “I love seeing the artist’s hand in the work—I have a huge appreciation for small details and works that draw from a multitude of references—literary, mythical, and visual.”

The Mumbai-born artist manifests these same qualities in her practice, creating works that expertly translate concepts and themes through her own idiosyncratic allusions. Beginning with hours of study, research, and reading on an eclectic array of topics, Merchant tends to hone in on an image that she sketches onto sheets of paper, sometimes folded into generous rectangles or triangles. She then paints in gouache and subtle, muted washes of watercolor, layering translucent pigments atop inked renderings of landscapes, mythical hybrid creatures, and patterns of foliage.

While Merchant’s influences are broad—they range from the specific like 17th-century botanical drawings, Kalamkari prints, Mughal paintings, and Kalighat folk art to the general like religious iconography and narrative tapestries—they emerge as a distinct visual lexicon. The artist often gravitates toward symbols that transcend cultural or geographical boundaries, choosing to incorporate human anatomy, celestial objects, and botanical elements. Although universal, these images are married to language in Merchant’s mind and in service of an individual narrative. “I also have a notebook in which I make lots of written notes and diagrams, but I almost never make sketches or studies of things. I sketch more with words than images,” the artist shares.

 

A vivid mixed-media work with hybrid figures and symbols

“Bennu and Futuraheliopolis” (2021), gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper, 100 x 70 centimeters

Evoking the spiritual side of Hilma af Klint and the strange characters of Leonora Carrington, the resulting works are cartographic and chart-like, mapping surreal renderings of feathered wings, cycloptic figures, or a troupe of dancing creatures onto a plane intersected with creases and enclosed by a thin frame. Texture pervades each of the works through mixed mediums, collaged details, and patterns comprised of minuscule dots and lines.

Whether collaged or drawn on paper, each piece illuminates the intrinsic connections between the mind, body, and Earth. “I think there is something powerful in taking whatever scraps you can find and putting them together to create something meaningful,” she says.

Merchant is currently in a residence in Saint-Louis, Senegal, and will release her first monograph titled The Eye, The Sky, The Altar next month. For a glimpse into her studio and process, visit her Instagram.

 

A vivid mixed-media work with hybrid figures and symbols

“Seed Vault” (2022), gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper, 100 x 70 centimeters

A vivid mixed-media work with a green lion and symbols

“Midnight Sun” (2022), gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper, 100 x 70 centimeters

A photo of an open book with two artworks

A vivid mixed-media work with hybrid figures and symbols

“Festival of the Phoenix Sun” (2022), mixed-media collage with gouache, watercolor, ink, and magazine cutouts on paper, 140 x 100 centimeters

A vivid mixed-media work with hybrid figures and symbols

“Altered Destiny” (2022), gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper, 100 x 70 centimeters

A photo of a book cover titled the eye, the sky, the altar

 

 



Art

More Than 500,000 Black LEGO Structure Ekow Nimako’s Vast Afrofuturistic Cityscapes

November 3, 2022

Grace Ebert

A photo of a detailed cityscape made of black LEGO

All images © Ekow Nimako, shared with permission. Photo by Don Hall

Through vast environments constructed with hundreds of thousands of black LEGO, Ghanaian-Canadian artist Ekow Nimako envisions an Afrofuturistic landscape brimming with strength, power, and liberation. Sprawling metropolises nest small buildings, regal towers, and fantastical details like the unhinged jaw of an enormous snake in their midst, structuring the architectural realms around legacies of myth and optimism.

Nimako’s current project, Building Black Civilizations: Journey of 2000 Ships, encapsulates this Afrofuturistic vision and invokes the mysterious story of Mansa Abu Bakr II, Mali’s ruler who’s said to have sailed from the coast of Africa in the 14th Century and never returned. The Atlantic voyage is one possible example of pre-Columbian contact and the founding narrative behind the artist’s latest sculptures.

Part of the ongoing Building Black series, this new collection comprises upwards of 500,000 sleek, black LEGO built into speculative cityscapes and figures. Nimako, who is currently based in Toronto, collaborated with studio assistants Janeesa Lewis-Nimako, Karen Osagie, and Keisha Agyemang to construct the utopian works, which are on view now at Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Each topography requires more than 600 hours of build time and contains an Adinkra, a symbol traditionally representing an aphoristic concept. Nimako shares that the emblems “are meant to connect the successive medieval empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai across the centuries to the present, while providing a proverbial and moral centre for each sculptural narrative.”

Visit Dunlop Art Gallery before January 10, 2023, to see the incredible detail of Journey of 2000 Ships up close, and find more from Nimako on Instagram.

 

A photo of a detailed cityscape made of black LEGO

Photo by Don Hall

A photo of a detailed cityscape made of black LEGO

Photo by Don Hall

Two photos of a animalistic mask made of black LEGO and a figure made of black LEGO

A photo of a detailed cityscape made of black LEGO

A photo of a sculpture of a child riding a turtle made of black LEGO

Photo by Don Hall

A photo of a detailed cityscape made of black LEGO

A photo of a detailed cityscape made of black LEGO

Photo by Don Hall

A photo of the artist with a ship sculpture

Photo by Don Hall

 

 



Craft

Dreamlike Plush Characters by Marina Glebova Inhabit a Safe Haven After an Imagined Apocalypse

October 26, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Marina Glebova, shared with permission

Istanbul-based artist Marina Glebova envisions a post-apocalyptic dream world inhabited by enchanting plush characters. Hybrid creatures with both animal and human features are members of the artist’s Northern Forest community, a warm and welcoming refuge amid the chaotic catastrophe of the imagined outside universe. Dressed in layers and whimsical headdresses, the characters are often overly expressive with large, surprised eyes, wide smiles, or sly grins.

Glebova shares with Colossal that she often begins by creating the face or head, which helps to determine the figure’s body and garments. “The narrative, the story, always appears at the end of the interaction with the doll,” she says. “When the doll or series of works are ready, I can look at them in a detached way and translate the feelings that have arisen into a story, thereby connecting them to the rest of the characters already living in this universe.”

Take a peek at Glebova’s Behance for more of the enchanting characters, and see which are available for adoption on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Vintage Baubles and Foliage Encircle the Enchanting Glass Dioramas of Artist Amber Cowan

September 23, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Fountain with Fans in River and Jade” (2022), flameworked American pressed glass, mixed media, 
22 x 19 x 6 1/2 inches. All images courtesy of Heller Gallery, shared with permission

In her solo show Gathering the Sky, Mining the MilkAmber Cowan emphasizes the legacy of color. Through intricately layered dioramas of pressed glass, the Philadelphia-based artist explores the histories of lavender, jade, and opaque white. Her assemblages meld custom and found pieces sourced from primarily defunct factories in the United States, many of which produced a specific palette of colors like the sky blue of “Ecco to the Bridesmaid: ‘I Know Not What Has Happened to Your Pod.” Comprised of two symmetrically shaped panels, the diptych blends an array of materials and generational references, including the 1992 Sega video game Ecco the Dolphin and the emblem of Louis Comfort Tiffany, the artist behind the iconic opalescent stained glass lamps.

Similar to Cowan’s earlier works, these new reliefs are brimming with foliage, flowers, and small baubles that encircle a scenic component embedded in the center. Figurative statues like the artist’s recurring bridesmaid character, miniature bird sculptures, chalices, and Greco-style columns infuse the pieces with narrative detail.

Gathering the Sky, Mining the Milk is on view through November 19 at Heller Gallery in New York. Find more of Cowan’s work on Instagram.

 

“Ecco to the Bridesmaid: ‘I Know Not What Has Happened to Your Pod'” (2022), 
flameworked American pressed glass, mixed media
, 33 x 48 x 8 inches

“Powder Box and Offering in River and Jade” (2022), flameworked American pressed glass, mixed media, 18 1/2 x 16 x 8 inches

Detail of “Ecco to the Bridesmaid: ‘I Know Not What Has Happened to Your Pod'” (2022), 
flameworked American pressed glass, mixed media
, 33 x 48 x 8 inches

“Hummingbirds with Column in Helio and Lavender” (2022), flameworked American pressed glass, mixed media, 
19 x 16 x 8 inches

Detail of “Powder Box and Offering in River and Jade” (2022), flameworked American pressed glass, mixed media, 18 1/2 x 16 x 8 inches

“Pen & Cygnet Swimming in Sky” (2022), flameworked American pressed glass, mixed media, 
21 x 17 1/2 x 7 inches

“Cherries in Milk with Creamer and Compote” (2022), flameworked American pressed glass, mixed media
, 19 x 16 x 8 inches

“Simplicity in Bittersweet Orange, Lemon and Mandarin” (2022), 
flameworked American pressed glass, mixed media, 
28 x 38 x 10 inches

 

 



Art Illustration

Let the Wild Rumpus Start! A Retrospective Celebrates the Illustrated Classics of the Late Maurice Sendak

August 18, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Where the Wild Things Are” (1963), tempera on paper, 9 ¾ x 11 inches. All images ©The Maurice Sendak Foundation, courtesy of Columbus Museum of Art, shared with permission

The late artist and author Maurice Sendak is responsible for bringing us some of the most beloved, iconic childhood stories, and his distinctive style and fantastical beasts defined classics like In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There, and of course, the ever-popular Where the Wild Things Are. Opening this fall at the Columbus Museum of Art, an expansive retrospective surveys Sendak’s unparalleled contributions to both children’s literature and the discipline, more broadly.

Wild Things are Happening is the largest exhibition of the artist’s work to date, containing more than 150 sketches, original illustrations, storyboards, and paintings from his own projects and collaborations. The show also references his myriad inspirations and influences with works by William Blake, Walt Disney, and Beatrix Potter, among others.

Wild Things are Happening runs from October 22, 2022, to March 5, 2023, before heading to Paris and other locations. A concurrent exhibition of Sendak’s performance-based works is on view at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry in Connecticut through December 16. (via Creative Boom)

 

“Where the Wild Things Are” (1963), tempera on paper, 9 ¾ x 22 inches

Mockup for the Cover of “Nutshell Library” (1962), ink and tempera, 10 3/8 x 8 1/8 inches

“Higglety, Pigglety, Pop!” (1967), ink on paper, 11 ½ x 9 inches

“Little Bear” (1957), ink on paper, 11 x 8 ½ inches

Design for the Poster of “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Higglety Pigglety Pop! Opera,” Glyndebourne Production (1985), watercolor on paper, 33 ½ x 23 ½ inches

“Rosie and Buttermilk, her Cat,” character studies for “Really Rosie” animation (1973), watercolor and ink on paper, 13 ¾ x 15 5/8 inches

“Self-Portrait” (1950), ink on paper, 10 ¾ x 16 ½ inches