Japan-based artist Ayumi Shibata (previously) designs intricate landscapes using layers upon layers of white paper. Some of her sculptures are miniature, whereas others are immersive installations, and all are brought to life with the play of light and shadow, which create “movement” throughout her pieces. The works feature architectural domes, cave-like forests, and swirling suns hovering over tree-filled cities. These picturesque places aren’t based on a particular location but what the artist “hopes and believes the future of the planet could look like”.
Shibata’s ethereal landscapes envision a world in which humans and natural forms coexist, and she describes her pieces as having a “Yin and Yang” element. Paper represents Yin, the material, and the ways the works emit shadows correlates to Yang, the invisible world. “The light represents spirit and life, how the sun rises and breathes life into the world,” she explains. “I believe my pieces are a place to observe the material world and the visible one.”
The physical elements have a deeper meaning for the artist, as well: In Japanese, Kami means god or spirit but also paper, a sacred material in the Shinto religion. “Invisible ‘Kami’ spirits dwell in various objects and events, places, as well as in our houses and in our bodies,” she says. “I use my technique to express my thankfulness to the Kami spirits for having been born in this life. Each piece of paper I cut is a prayer.”
Shibata began constructing these sculptures when living in New York. She would visit a church to meditate and escape the noise of the city, and it was when she observed light illuminating stained glass that she was reminded of her love of working with paper. The artist explains:
The city was full of noise. Everything, people, time goes so fast and moves rapidly, and I needed a quiet space to go back to myself. One day, I opened my eyes after meditation and saw colorful light flooding the floor through the stained glass. It was breathtakingly beautiful. It reminded me of a memory from childhood where I used to cut black paper and stick colored cellophane behind it to make a ‘paper’ stained glass piece. I got the tools on my way home and tried it that night. From that moment, I continued to cut paper.
Currently, Shibata is working on an installation called “Inochino-uta, Poetry of Life,” for an exhibition later this year. The large-scale project is made out of 108 pieces of paper connected by strings and suspended from the ceiling. To view more of the artist’s work, visit her Instagram or website.
Share this story
Hailing from fifteen countries, the individuals participating in Eyes as Big as Plates have backgrounds as varied as their surroundings: there are zoologists, academics, and librarians; fishermen, wild boar hunters, and Sami reindeer herders; and opera singers, kantele players, and artists. They’re tethered by the ongoing project, which dresses each figure in sculptural wearables made of organic materials that allow them to blend in with the surrounding landscape.
Launched in 2011 by Norwegian-Finnish artist duo Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen (previously), Eyes as Big as Plates hinges on the idea that it’s essential to explore how humans exist within nature. The portraits center on lone figures partially camouflaged with their backdrops or outfitted with imaginative garments constructed with objects found nearby. Boubou (shown below), for example, is a Senegalese fisherman who wears a mesh shawl of sea creatures, while North Tolsta-based photographer Andrea (above) is almost entirely masked by spindly branches and peat near her home. Every portrait comes after a conversation with the subject and a collaborative effort to find the proper location and attire.
The duo has now compiled dozens of photos in a forthcoming book that marks the 10th anniversary of the project. A follow-up to their sold-out first volume, Eyes as Big as Plates 2 is comprised of 52 new portraits, conversations with those featured, and field notes from their travels. “While transcribing the interviews for each of the collaborators here, we got to experience what many of them often say is the most exciting part: ‘ … just being there, looking at a familiar landscape like you’ve never looked at it before. Letting the surroundings wash over you,'” they write.
Eyes as Big as Plates 2 is currently available for pre-order on the project’s site. Some of the series is on view through June at the landmarked entry at 200 5th Avenue in New York and will be up this May at London’s Barbican and at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto in September.
Share this story
An International Photo Competition Illuminates the Captivating and Remarkable Sights of Earth's Landscapes
From the brilliant dancing aurora of Iceland to Comet NeoWise hurtling above Mount Tamalpais, the winning shots of the 2021 International Landscape Photographer of the Year contest capture a diverse and captivating array of Earth’s topographies and phenomena. The annual competition is in its eighth year and garnered more than 4,500 entries centered on a variety of subject matter, including a mystical wood at Alcornocales Natural Park in Cadiz, the fairytale-esque flowers of France’s Vallée de la Clarée, and a wildlife fire in Yosemite National Park that appears more like a sunset on the horizon than massive blaze.
We’ve included our favorites from the 101 winners below, and you can see the entire collection on the contest’s site. For a deeper dive into the stories behind the photos, pick up a copy of the 2021 book.
Share this story
Artist Jill Bliss (previously) has spent the last few years wandering a small island in the San Juan archipelago of the Salish Sea foraging for mushrooms. When she comes across a patch where supply is plentiful, she plucks a few specimens from the ground and arranges them cap side down in compositions that showcase the diversity of each species. Layers of thick, fleshy gills in lavender, taupe, and bright orange add texture and depth to each work, with ferns, flat stones, and other organic matter framing the temporary constructions. Once complete, she photographs the work and leaves it in place.
Share this story
Otherworldly in appearance, Tom Leighton’s photographs center on stems and leaves that emit a luminous glow, unveiling their delicate structures and highlighting their chemical processes. His Variegation II series reveals the nightlife of foliage—Leighton focuses on plants from Cornwall, some of which he grows in his garden and others farther afield—and examines what humans might have been able to see if our night vision had evolved.
The ongoing project also explores the possibilities of color manipulation. After photographing the plants, Leighton digitally strips back their characteristic greenish hues, using dreamy fluorescent colors to represent the photosynthesis process. He tells Colossal:
Plants are incredible stores of energy. They grow towards anything which provides for them: nutrition, the moisture, the light, then they absorb, contain, and convert…The colours I have used in this series represent the light absorbed within the structure of the plants and its conversion to energy. Sometimes one small colour choice or different crop unlocks the potential of the image.
Leighton previously photographed Hong Kong and Tokyo, but COVID-19 shifted his work closer to home where he began documenting everyday greenery, focusing on their textures and details. “Many of the plants are quite common, and it was more about elevating and accentuating a complexity, which can so often be overlooked,” he says.
In addition to Variegation II, Leighton is also working on a series named Kynance, which explores the geological history of one of Cornwall’s most dynamic coastlines. To view more of his work, visit his website and Behance. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
Share this story
In Unseen Roots, artist Megan Aline fills silhouettes with brush, autumn foliage, and tall, skinny trees that span from torso to crown. Her solo show at Robert Lange Studio in Charleston consists of dozens of acrylic works that expose a small glimpse of a landscape hidden within each figure. “As we become increasingly disconnected from the natural world, I think the memory of nature becomes even stronger inside each of us,” the artist shares. “If you only spent weekends in the woods or summers at your grandmothers or you have a park you visit from time to time, it becomes the quiet space inside you that you can escape to even when you aren’t there.”
To render the contemplative works, Aline paints inside a stenciled silhouette on panel, which creates crisp outlines of each figure—she shares videos of this process on Instagram—and visible brushstrokes in pastel and neutral tones comprise the paintings’ backdrops. “As an artist, I spend a lot of time reflecting inwardly as I paint outwardly,” she writes. “I like the idea that we have an ‘inner landscape,’ a map created from emotions, ideas, and sensations collected throughout our lives.”
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.