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Photography

BLACK SUN: Amorphous Flocks of Starlings Swell Above the Danish Marshlands

November 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Søren Solkær, shared with permission

Captured in the marshlands of southern Denmark, Søren Solkær’s ongoing project documents one of nature’s most mesmerizing phenomena. BLACK SUN focuses on the quiet landscapes of the Danish photographer’s childhood where nearly one million starlings congregate during the vernal and autumnal seasons. Set at dusk, the photographs frame the migratory birds as they take to the sky in murmurations, amorphous groups that transform the individual creatures into a unified entity.

The fluctuating flight patterns swell above the horizon as the birds move from tree to tree or sometimes, in response to an impending threat. “Now and then, by the added drama of attacking birds of prey, the flock will unfold a breathtaking and veritable ballet of life or death,” Solkær says, further comparing their airborne appearance to inky sketches or calligraphy. He expands on the starlings’ adaptability:

At times the flock seems to possess the cohesive power of super fluids, changing shape in an endless flux: From geometric to organic, from solid to fluid, from matter to ethereal, from reality to dream—an exchange in which real-time ceases to exist and mythical time pervades. This is the moment I have attempted to capture—a fragment of eternity.

BLACK SUN culminates in a forthcoming book by the same name, which will be released November 16 and is available for pre-order in Solkær’s shop, along with prints and some of his other works. Follow the photographer on Instagram to keep up with his phenomenological projects.

 

 

 



Photography

A New Book Documents the Magnificent Experience of Swimming with Humpback Whales

November 10, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Jem Cresswell, shared with permission

Between 2014 and 2018, Jem Cresswell spent countless hours submerged in the depths of the southern Pacific Ocean surrounding Tonga. There he captured a group of humpback whales as they gracefully maneuvered around him, allowing the Sydney-based photographer to unveil the details of their grooved underbellies and barnacle-clad skin. The original project has culminated in a new book that documents the creatures’ movements and idiosyncrasies in striking black-and-white images.

Giants spans 220 pages detailing the humpbacks and their calves. To complete the massive book, Cresswell pared down more than 11,000 shots, the majority of which haven’t been published previously. The photographer shares memories and historical details about the massive creatures throughout, including the incredible awareness that comes from swimming with sentient beings so much larger than himself. “You never forget your first humpback experience,” he writes. “The sublime sense of insignificance that it instills in you. It has to be one of the most humbling experiences on Earth.”

Only 1,500 copies of Giants, which are signed and numbered, are available for purchase on the book’s site, which also offers glimpses into Cresswell’s process creating the compendium. To stay up to date with the photographer’s latest underwater projects, follow him on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

A Colorful Geometric Mural of a Cityscape Visualizes Humans’ Impact on Nature

November 2, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Love of Nature” in Chelyabinsk, Russia. All images © Vitaly Tsarenkov, shared with permission

Artist Vitaly Tsarenkov, who works under the moniker SY, depicts the threat of ecological catastrophe through a new mural featuring geometric flora, fauna, and objects typically found in bustling city centers. Created for the Urban Morphogenesis festival in Chelyabinsk, Russia, “Love of Nature” is a vertical rendering of the human impact on nature, with color-blocked trucks, road cones, and towering buildings near the top and a fire, flowers, and tufts of grass occupying space at the bottom.

Based in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Tsarenkov says the 50-meter-high mural conveys that each person has the agency to protect the planet’s resources. “It’s impossible to stop all harmful factories at once, but to make the first step towards the clean Earth is not difficult and within everybody’s power just by taking the trash away after recreation in nature,” he writes on Instagram.

 

 

 



Illustration

Metaphorical Editorial Illustrations by Eleni Debo Incite Reflections on Contemporary Life

October 28, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Eleni Debo, shared with permission

Belgian illustrator Eleni Debo works within subdued color palettes rendering curious scenes that illuminate the human condition and modern life. Often supporting magazine articles or other editorial endeavors, Debo’s drawings generally focus on a moving figure, whether a woman attempting to work while she whorls around a red tornado or a single biker speeding along—her piece “The Road” was included as part of Colossal’s 2018 print show Chain Reaction. Largely situated in outdoor environments, the illustrations are rich in details that visualize a larger narrative about family bonds or the mental-health impacts of artificial light.

A tabletop game featuring Debo’s work is slated for release soon, and she recently was named the professional editorial category winner of this year’s World Illustration Awards. During the next few months, she’ll be working on a pair of illustrated books from her home in the Italian Alps. Until then, follow her reflective projects on Instagram, and pick up a print in her shop.

 

 

 



Design

A Japanese Forestry Technique Prunes Upper Branches to Create a Tree Platform for More Sustainable Harvests

October 27, 2020

Grace Ebert

Image via Wrath of Gnon

Literally translating to platform cedar, daisugi is a 14th- or 15th-century technique that offers an efficient, sustainable, and visually stunning approach to forestry. The method originated in Kyoto and involves pruning the branches of Kitayama cedar so that the remaining shoots grow straight upward from a platform. Rather than harvesting the entire tree for lumber, loggers can fell just the upper portions, leaving the base and root structure intact.

Although daisugi mostly is used in gardens or bonsai today, it originally was developed to combat a seedling shortage when the demand for taruki, a type of impeccably straight and knot-free lumber, was high. Because the upper shoots of Kitayama cedar can be felled every 20 years, which is far sooner than with other methods, the technique grew in popularity.

To see daisugi up close, watch this video chronicling pruning, felling, and transplanting processes. (via Kottke)

 

Image via Komori Zouen

A scroll depicting daisugi by Housen Higashihara, courtesy of the auction house

 

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Art

Overflowing with Flora and Fauna, Collaged Paper Installations Comment on Earth's Dwindling Biodiversity

October 21, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Intimate Immensity” (2016). Photograph by Trevor Good. All images © Clare Börsch, shared with permission

Sprawling across paint-chipped walls and tiny alcoves, the collaged installations of artist Clare Börsch mimic overgrown jungles and whimsical forest scenes. Layers of flora, fauna, and the occasional gemstone or human figure comprise the amorphous paper artworks as they transform spaces into fantastical ecosystems.

In a note to Colossal, Börsch shares that she began her artistic practice as a way to translate her dreams, which are often lucid and informed by memories and a strong tie to nature, into physical objects that others could immerse themselves in. “Growing up in Brazil, I had the ocean, rivers, and jungles that always existed in stark contrast to the industrial cities (I lived in Sao Paulo). So my earliest and most formative memories are of lush, humming tropical ecosystems —and the encroaching industrial landscapes of Brazil’s cities,” she says.

The Berlin-based American artist sources her many of the vintage photographs from open source archives, including the Biodiversity Heritage Library (previously), Pixabay, and Unsplash. Some of the botanical elements she draws or photographs herself before cutting around the organic elements and assembling them in new, sometimes bizarre, compositions.

 

Jungle installation commissioned by Book A Street Artist Berlin for Riem Arcaden in Munich. Photograph by the artist

Despite the vibrancy and lively qualities of the three-dimensional collages, Börsch uses her artworks to reflect on the ongoing climate crisis and destruction of biodiversity, commentary that’s laced with themes of decay and death. She explains:

This came into focus for me when I made a series of collages and then later realized that many of the species in the vintage illustrations had already gone extinct. Humanity has wiped out 68% of all our planet’s biodiversity since 1970, so working with vintage illustrations can be very heartbreaking as much of the diversity in these gorgeous old naturalist prints has been wiped out by human activity.

Since then, Börsch has been collaborating with scientist Louisa Durkin, of the Nordic Academy of Biodiversity and Systematics Studies, to identify ways the artworks can spark awareness and dialogue about environmental issues. “I often say that I do not want my art to be a funerary dirge for everything we could have saved,” she says.

In recent months, Börsch has been working on a commissioned series that will culminate in a forthcoming book, titled Why Do Tigers Have Whiskers? And Other Cool Things About Animals, which is scheduled for release by Thames & Hudson in May 2021. Follow the artist on Instagram to see her latest projects, including an immersive installation commenting on regenerative approaches to tackling problems of biodiversity, which she plans to unveil in early November. (thnx, Elsie!)

 

“Intimate Immensity” (2016)

“Intimate Immensity” (2016)

Jungle installation commissioned by Book A Street Artist Berlin for Riem Arcaden in Munich

Photograph by Kolja Raschke

“Intimate Immensity” (2016). Photograph by Trevor Good

Photograph by Kolja Raschke

Photograph by Kolja Raschke