Unease Emanates from Alexander Harrison’s Painted Portals to an Uncanny World
Through small paintings that often stretch less than a foot, artist Alexander Harrison coaxes scenes of both delicate natural beauty and profound unease. Once-fresh flowers wilt and fall, night descends around a decaying tree with a figure trapped inside, and malicious roots entangle a fleeting foot, puncturing the skin with thorns and cuts. Rendered in acrylic on panel with trompe le’oiel elements that add illusory depth to the tiny portals, the works are brimming with intrigue and mystery about what lies beyond the frame.
The pieces shown here were on view at Kasmin earlier this month in Harrison’s solo show Big World, a title that alludes to the vast unreality from which he imagines his scenes emerging. Supernatural and uncanny, the works contain recognizable symbols that cite art historical and religious references, while the watermelon of “Down in the Mouth,” for example, draws on the long legacy of racist imagery. “I see my paintings as another dimension, or a universe that feels like a fever dream as shown through my eyes,” Harrison told Kasmin Review. “I always like to have cosmic symbols in my work, like shooting stars and moons, because that creates distance and curiosity, but I also like to create intimacy by painting the roots under the ground.”
Often reflecting on his upbringing in South Carolina, the artist tends to situate Black men at the center of his pieces, considering the way racism proliferates both American history and life today. In addition to the paintings included in Big World, he also recently completed works featuring Black cowboys and their under-acknowledged legacies. Shown as part of a corrective exhibition at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, “Beyond the Horizon” similarly relies on caricature and emanates a sinister, foreboding feeling like that of the works shown here.
To view more of the artist’s paintings, visit Kasmin’s site and Instagram.
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Lively Botanicals and Organic Forms Cloak Juz Kitson’s Ceramic Vessels in Dense Topographies
Focused on movement and vitality, artist Juz Kitson sculpts supple vessels that harness the lively qualities of Earth’s landscapes. Densely packed with pieces mimicking flowers, fungi, moss, coral, and other organisms, the shapely works “feel like they are pulsating, giving inanimate material a spark of life,” Kitson tells Colossal. Medium and subject matter both nod to the natural process of regeneration and rebirth, with the “malleable, composite of Earth, water, and fire inherently (carrying) the imprint of memory.”
After many years of an itinerant practice that allowed her to travel frequently, Kitson settled in Milton, New South Wales, at the beginning of the pandemic. Given mass uncertainty and closed borders, she simultaneously had to shutter the studio she occupied for nearly a decade in Jingdezhen, China. Much of her work reflects a mélange of these two environments.
Often sculpted from Jingdezhen porcelain, the vessels are topographic and evoke the rugged coastlines and bush of the artist’s native Australia alongside the mountains and lush jungles of East Asia. “I have a deep fascination and attention to detail, constantly observing, exploring, walking through landscapes and creating visual mind maps of surfaces, layers, crevices, and abundant metamorphic forms that will later feed into the works I make,” she says.
Often monochromatic, many of the sculptures are glazed in a clear coat, blush, or black. The latter, especially on Kitson’s urn-like vessels, directly connects to the charred remains of Australia’s bush following the disastrous fires of 2019. At the time, the artist had just purchased her house and studio, which she refused to abandon despite mass evacuations. She shares:
I had just bought my first home, and here I was, standing protecting it by drenching it with a hose, watering my house and soon-to-be studio to protect it from the flames that were only three kilometers away…(I started) a series of funerary urns as a lament for the summer wildfires that devastated the landscape and has seen a region still mourning the loss of vegetation, homes, animals, and lives lost in which the pandemic overshadowed.
If you’re in Australia, there are several opportunities to view Kitson’s works in person, including a July solo exhibition at Sophie Gannon Gallery in Richmond, Victoria, and group shows at Craft Victoria opening in May, Hazelhurst Arts Centre in July, and Sydney Contemporary Art Fair in September. You can also find more on her site and Instagram.
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Flower Press Studio’s Colorful Compositions Preserve Botanicals and Bouquets for Posterity
Knowing that flowers only blossom for a short time, there is romance in their ephemerality. Naturally, we want to preserve their characteristics; we bottle up floral fragrances, and the practice of pressing flowers dates back to time immemorial. It’s thought that the Japanese first elevated the process to an art form with a 16th-century tradition known as oshibana. The practice spread worldwide, and by the late 19th century, it was a popular pastime in England and the U.S. Flower Press Studio keeps this tradition alive through preserving delicate petals, stems, and fronds beneath glass.
A thriving small business run by Rachel Parri and Keith Kralik, Flower Press Studio began as a hobby that quickly blossomed into a full-time occupation. In 2019, they purchased a house in Denver and xeriscaped the front yard, a landscaping method that reduces the need for irrigation by planting flora naturally suited to drier climates. They planted vegetables, flowers, and added two beehives. By the summer of 2021, the garden was producing quantities of calendulas, sunflowers, poppies, and other wildflowers, and Kralik began to press them. He then started designing and gluing the flattened blossoms onto paper and constructing hardwood frames. By the end of that year, demand had grown to a point where the business was formally born.
“Wildflowers are our favorite, but that’s probably because we are in a state that grows absolutely sensational wildflowers,” the pair tells Colossal. “But really anything with color—we look for variety. Size, shape of petals, dying flowers, straight stems versus twisty-turny ones, foliages… non-perfect flowers are some of the best.” A bridal bouquet, for example, typically takes about three hours to deconstruct piece by piece, then it takes several days—often weeks—to make sure the flowers have properly dried and flattened into the desired shape: “We check the presses regularly throughout the first week, going through every page of flowers and adjusting petals, changing out all paper, chipboard, cardboard, and using alternative methods to get excess moisture out.”
Parri and Kralik want to make sure their work remains sustainable and environmentally responsible, and they often practice on flowers that would otherwise be discarded after weddings. The pair look forward to working with flower farms both locally and further afield, collaborating with other makers and designers, and focusing on producing limited-edition prints and online workshops.
You can follow updates on Instagram, where the studio often shares before-and-after images of the elaborate, reinterpreted bouquets.
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The 2022 World Nature Photography Awards Vacillate Between the Humor and Brutality of Life on Earth
Moments of coincidental humor, stark cruelty, and surprising inter-species intimacies are on full display in this year’s World Nature Photography Awards. The winners of the 2022 competition encompass a vast array of life across six continents, from an elephant’s endearing attempt at camouflage to a crocodile covered in excessively dry mud spurred by drought. While many of the photos highlight natural occurrences, others spotlight the profound impacts humans have on the environment to particularly disastrous results, including Nicolas Remy’s heartbreaking image that shows an Australian fur seal sliced open by a boat propellor.
Find some of the winning photos below, and explore the entire collection on the contest’s site.
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Azuma Makoto’s Temporary Sculptures Freeze Hundreds of Flowers on a Snow-Coated Lake
On a frozen lake in the Notsuke Peninsula, a tendril of land that juts out from Hokkaido’s east coast, acclaimed floral artist Azuma Makoto (previously) has constructed the third botanical sculpture in an ongoing series called Frozen Flowers. The first edition was composed in this same location in 2019 and again in 2021, and every year, the conditions have been a little bit different. The artist is interested in how variables like temperature, wind, or snowfall can alter the surrounding environment and make every version unique.
An important facet of Makoto’s practice is working alongside and adapting to nature and striking a collaborative balance so that he’s neither trying to control it nor controlled by it. Arranged on a scaffold and surrounded by a field of snow, bunches of flowers and foliage in a range of colors and textures are doused with water before they solidify into thousands of icicles. The artist and a team of assistants worked through the night, waiting until temperatures were at their lowest so that the ice would form quickly. The following morning, the sun revealed the finished composition, and by design, ultimately melted it.
Through the seasons, Makoto sees how the area transforms and over time has witnessed the effects of climate change on the peninsula. He aims to continue installing new versions of the icy blooms for years to come in order to document the ever-evolving environment. Find more of his work on his website and on Instagram.
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The 2023 Underwater Photographer of the Year Contest Dives into the Stunning, Heartbreaking Lives of Aquatic Creatures
Dedicated to spotlighting the most vibrant, awe-inspiring aquatic organisms, this year’s Underwater Photographer of the Year competition centers on the mammals, fish, and plants occupying the world’s oceans and seas. The 2023 contest garnered more than 6,000 submissions from photographers in 72 countries, many of which document the striking scenes of life below the surface: stingrays glide along the rippled sands in the Cayman Islands, an elephant plunges its trunk into the waters off the coast of Thailand, and an orca gracefully dives into a school of fish near Norway.
While some photos highlight life at its most energetic and vibrant, others focus on the heartbreaking impacts of pollution and the climate crisis, more broadly. One image shows a humpback whale as it dies of starvation because its tailfin has been trapped and broken by buoys and ropes. “Taking this photograph was the saddest moment I’ve experienced in the ocean,” said the photographer Alvaro Herrero Lopez-Beltran. “Especially because I have spent so much time with humpbacks underwater, experiencing eye contact, interactions, and seeing how the whales are such intelligent and sentient beings. The photo is a reflection of how our oceans are suffering, the product of man’s selfishness and lack of responsibility.”
See some of the winning photos below, and find the full collection on the contest’s site.
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