For nearly three decades, Cuban painter Tomás Sánchez has been painting serene landscapes of calm waters and verdant forests full of towering palms and dense shrubs. Now part of a lengthy series, his realistic works focus on nature’s immensity as they contrast massive waterfalls and miles of endless treetops with a nondescript figure, who often can be found seated or standing amongst the lush scenery.
In a statement, Sánchez explained how his practice of meditation informs his work. “The interior spaces that I experience in meditation are converted into the landscapes of my paintings; the restlessness of my mind transformed into landfills,” he writes. “When I paint, I experience meditative states; through meditation, I achieve a union with nature, and nature, in turn, leads me to meditation.”
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During the first frost in the southern region of Finland, Christoffer Relander (previously) shot dense patches of branches, ferns, and blades of grass as part of a new set of double-exposure photographs. Titled We Are Nature Vol. 6, the monochromatic project merges human figures with nature to generate a portrait of a woman whose forehead is substituted with overflowing brush. Another image shows two kids whose features are obscured by leaves and vines.
The Finland-based photographer, who has a background in graphic design, tells Colossal that he decides how to pair each subject and natural element based on graphical compositions and forms. “The botanical textures are matched more after the overall mood. If it feels wrong, I will simply trust my gut,” he says.
Whereas many of his previous projects had been blended in-camera, Relander altered his method for this series thanks to extra time indoors due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “I decided, however, to still bring inspiration from both the multiple exposure film algorithms (negative film) and some basic darkroom techniques,” he writes.
When doing it in-camera, the manipulation is basically done instantly. Then while using external software (Photoshop) I get more flexibility and options. Not always for the better. I have ruined artworks by taking it too far. Doing it in-camera can feel really rewarding when done right. But the pressure can be tiring.
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Part of a solo exhibition titled Gimme Something/To Eat at Anomaly in Tokyo, a multi-level project by Japanese painter Yusuke Asai considers the structure of ecosystems and the relationship between humans, animals, and nature. In his mythical installation “The earth is falling from the sky,” a central figure with outstretched arms smiles down from the ceiling. Intertwined scenes of flora and fauna encircle the entirety of the dome-shaped room, with deer, rodents, and snakes scattered throughout the untamed installation. The artist previously shared this project in the Moss Museum at the Wulong Lanba Art Festival in China.
Asai is known for using simple materials like soil, water, dust, flour, tape, pens, and even animal blood gathered from local regions to create his sprawling projects, requiring viewers to interact directly with their surrounding environments. In his mud paintings, the artist literally binds themes of nature with physical elements of the earth.
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Norwegian-Finnish artist duo Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen bring a folklore-inspired vision to the relationship between humans and nature. The majority of their subjects are elders who often have a deeper connection to the lands they inhabit, work on, or cultivate.
In 2011, the pair started an imaginative series called Eyes as Big as Plates as a contemporary exploration of characters from Nordic folklore. Their photographic odyssey across 15 countries and creation of more than 100 portraits evolved into a general exploration of modern humans’ relationships to nature. The title of the series not only comes from a folktale but also represents the curiosity that guides the way Hjorth and Ikonen interact with the world.
Each photograph features a solitary figure in a landscape wearing a sculpture of the natural elements of their choosing. For example, Brit (above), a ceramic artist, is shown plastered to a rock with the blue clay that underlies much of her hometown in Norway. Bob (below), a retired fashion photography expert, wears a giant hat and coat of pine needles while sitting in Forest Park in Queens, New York.
Hjorth and Ikonen consider their subjects to be integral parts of their artistic practice, and in doing so, refer to them as collaborators rather than models. The two artists exude a natural, almost magical excitement for people and life. This is key to not only finding and connecting with the people in their photographs but also to convincing them to immerse themselves in the wonders of a landscape.
This ultimate harmony is the result of a long process of preparing for and setting up the photo shoot. Materials such as moss, bull kelp, puffball mushrooms, and millet must be gathered and assembled into what amounts to a wearable sculpture. The strangest materials they tell Colossal include “sea urchins and starfish. And there was the time we collected a whole load of Rhododendron tomentosum (marsh Labrador tea) while in the very north of Norway, luckily the intense smell made us look the plant up in more detail before engulfing our collaborator in its poisonous terpenes. Collecting wearable-sized-icebergs in Greenland was one of those moments that we both remember vividly also!”
On-site, Hjorth and Ikonen shoot with analog cameras on film. The process also can be long and challenging for the collaborator, who sometimes is wearing a delicate sculpture of itchy twigs or kneeling for hours in wet moss, not to mention dealing the variable conditions—wind, rain, sleet, and dense fog—that the environment throws at them day-to-day. The end result is a portrait of a subject who exudes a playful confidence as they are one with the landscape.
As for the future, the duo shares their vision with Colossal. “We are open to working with all curious souls and as we re-angle ourselves to looking at the effects of climate change and our role in it. The intergenerational movers and shakers exist in all demographics across ages!”
Hjorth and Ikonen currently are working on Eyes as Big as Plates Vol. 2, which they are attempting to fund via Kickstarter before March 15. Follow their fascinating journeys around the world on both Karoline’s and Riitta’s Instagrams and their growing project Eyes as Big as Plates.
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Canadian artist Hannah Kwasnycia stitches embroidery hoops inspired by moss, lichen, coral, mold, and bacteria cultures. Colorful strands are layered to form three-dimensional representations of living organisms. Kwasnycia freehands the abstract compositions, which means that no two hoops are ever the same.
Variation in stitching patterns, as well as occasional beading and sequins, give the embroidery texture and depth. Shapes are defined by changes in hue, but the limited color palettes bring each design together as one natural colony. Kwasnycia sells the unique hoops via her MildMoss Etsy shop and also accepts commissions via her Instagram page. Head over there to watch in-progress videos and to see more of luscious moss and vibrant coral come to life. (via MyModernMet)
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Inspired by a wildlife documentary he saw as a child, Paris-based photographer Jonk (Jonathan Jimenez) travels the world in search of man-made structures that have been abandoned and reclaimed by nature. A jungle fills a dilapidated theater in Cuba, roots snake through a mansion in Taiwan, and a wild garden sprouts in a former greenhouse in Belgium. A reflection of his ecological consciousness, Jonk’s photography shows that in the power struggle between man and nature, nature always wins.
Throughout his career, the photographer has visited more than 1,000 abandoned structures in 50 countries on four different continents. The Naturalia: Chronicle of Contemporary Ruins series has led to the publication of a hardcover photography book, and Jonk says that he is working on a second volume. The juxtaposition of weakened architecture with thriving plant life tells a full story. The images capture specific moments in time and allude to the past, but for Jonk, they hint at an inevitable future. “This series also tells the story of the progression of Nature,” he said in a statement, “from the infiltration in abandoned places, through the moment where She grows inside them, until their collapse. Burial comes next along with the disappearance of all traces of Man.”
Images from the Naturalia series are currently being exhibited at the André Planson Museum in Paris through March 1, 2020, with other exhibitions planned this year. To see more of Jonk’s urban ruin photography and to follow his travels, head over to Instagram.
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From her home studio near Bristol, Lisa Stevens designs heavily detailed sculptures that mimic sea life and natural elements. Her small bowls are complete with ridges and plant-like protrusions, while her organ-shaped sculptures are teeming with seemingly endless dots and scores that imitate coral reefs, flowers, minerals, moss, and lichen. Formerly a sculptor for Aardman Animations, Stevens forgoes stamps, texture sheets, or molds to craft each mark with a small set of tools, ensuring no pieces are identical. Most of her works are made of high-fired porcelain clay that becomes translucent when light shines through it. The sculptor often uses stoneware glazes, underglaze, or melted glass to finish her pieces with vibrant pigments.
Stevens said in an artist’s statement that she intends “to highlight the issues that human activity has on the environment. Small differences in each of our behaviours can add up to make a big difference.” More of Steven’s geologically inspired sculptures can be found on Instagram, and some are even available for purchase on Etsy.
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