with oil painting
Distorted Figures Navigate the Aftermath of Environmental Destruction in Portraits by Stamatis Laskos
Fantastically tall figures with elongated limbs and torsos inhabit the distorted, mysterious realities painted by artist Stamatis Laskos (previously). The highly stylized artworks, which extend upwards of six feet, imagine a universe marred by unknown destruction: an elderly man wades through waist-high water while fire burns in the background, a woman retrieves a human skeleton from a flood, and a self-portrait shows the artist shielding his eyes with detached hands. Working with Earth tones and an implied dim light, Laskos shrouds each scene with shadow, which obscures the figures’ faces and casts an eerie tension over the degraded environments.
At once distant and deeply personal, each painting draws on ideas of collective unconscious and Jungian archetypes, whether portrayed through wise figures, an apocalypse, or the unification of opposing forces. “Giving them the necessary deformation, my archaic protagonists carve out incompatible and irreconcilable trajectories,” Laskos says. “The unconscious and the hidden memories are framed by colors, shapes, and situations that complement my compositions in such a way that each work is a page from my diary, always reminding me how and why it was created.”
Laskos is currently based in his hometown of Volos, Greece, and some of his works on canvas are on view through June 25 at Lola Nikolaou Art Gallery in Thessaloniki. Later this summer, he’ll be painting a larger mural in Athens focused around a theme of environmental ruin, and you can follow his progress on that piece on Behance and Instagram.
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Single Eyes Gaze Out of Antique Cutlery, Tins, and Other Objects in Miniature Paintings by Robyn Rich
The Georgian era saw the rise in a jewelry trend that’s equally sentimental and peculiar: to remember spouses who had died or to honor clandestine affairs without revealing anyone’s identity, people would commission tiny renderings of a person’s eye to be painted on broaches, rings, and other accessories they could carry with them. Similar to a lock of hair or portrait hidden in a locket, the abstracted feature was anonymous and indiscernible to most but deeply personal to the wearer.
Robyn Rich evokes this centuries-old fad with a substantial body of work that nestles minuscule oil paintings into cutlery, tins, and other antique vessels. “With a love of reusing and recycling, the found objects I use give a simple and often nostalgic canvas, which offers little distraction, allowing the beauty of the eye to be the focus,” she says. “These objects that we use every day are often taken for granted, overlooked, and forgotten, but in my work, they have another life and help tell a story.”
Whether centered on the eyes, nose, or lips, each realistic snippet conveys a wide range of human emotions—the expressive works capture everything from surprise and worry to contentment—through a single, isolated feature. “I paint friends, total strangers, and the eyes from painted portraits from the past. Each eye I paint becomes a little part of me,” the Frankston, Australia-based artist says.
Alongside her ongoing series of works on domestic objects, Rich is currently collaborating with designer Kelty Pelechytik on a collection of custom wearables. She also has an upcoming solo show at fortyfivedownstairs in Melbourne. Titled I See You, the exhibition is the culmination of a call Rich put out in 2019 for women and female-identifying people to share their portraits and stories with her, resulting in more than 100 pieces that will be on view this October. Until then, find an extensive archive of her miniatures on Instagram.
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Artist Jon Ching strikes a balance between texture and color in his meticulously detailed oil paintings that make fantastic creatures—owls with plumes of mushrooms and fuzzy molds, seahorses sprouting leafy twigs, and fish with striped tulip fins—appear natural in their environments. This vague distinction between the realistic and surreal saturates Ching’s body of work, which imagines a magical ecosystem that visualizes the symbiotic relationships between flora and fauna. “I am inspired by the worldview of many Indigenous cultures that revere the natural world and see god in every aspect of our living world,” he tells Colossal. “I believe that perspective is key to their sustainable societies and one that must be reawakened in our colonized societies.”
While he dreams up the hybrid forms, the Los Angeles-based artist still roots each piece in the existing world. He has a keen sense for finding the enchanting and unusual in his own experiences, whether from watching David Attenborough documentaries or spending his childhood in Kaneohe, Hawaii. “My more surreal creatures, where the line between flora and fauna are blurred, is in part my attempt at depicting some of this unseen magic,” he writes. “By placing them in a realistic setting among species we’re familiar with, I’m envisioning them into the real world. Maybe if we look close enough or long enough, we’ll catch a glimpse of them and my work won’t seem surreal anymore.”
You can see Ching’s paintings at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles starting August 14 and find prints, stickers, and postcards in his shop. Check out his Instagram for glimpses into his process and the real-life animals and plants that shape his works. (via Iain Claridge)
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The lengthy exposure times required by 19th Century photography were not conducive to newborns and fidgety toddlers, a problem many mothers tried to remedy by cloaking themselves in fabric and hiding behind furniture. As a result, those Victorian-era portraits, while capturing an endearing stage of life, are often spectral and slightly unnerving, shadowed by phantom limbs and textile silhouettes that closely resemble an inanimate backdrop despite their lively features.
This desire for disguise informs the multi-media works of Philadelphia-area artist Sarah Detweiler, whose ongoing series Hidden Mother is on view at Paradigm Gallery through May 22. Depicted without children, Detweiler’s portraits subvert the original photographs to instead draw attention to the figures otherwise purposely relegated to the background. Fabrics rendered with a combination of oil, acrylic, gouache, watercolor, and embroidered elements further confront traditional notions of femininity and motherhood by literally cloaking the women in materials long associated with domesticity.
Because the artist has a personal relationship with each subject, the textiles, motifs, and colors all evoke specific aspects of their personalities and distinct experiences, resulting in idiosyncratic portraits tethered only by their shared identity. “In maintaining the anonymity,” a statement about the series says, Detweiler “preserves a universal relatability—the woman under the shroud could be you, your mother, your friend.”
If you’re not in Philadelphia, you can take a virtual tour of the sold-out exhibition, and watch this Q&A with Detweiler for a deeper dive into the series, which is available as a limited-edition print set on Paradigm’s site. Head to Instagram to see more of the artist’s process, including some of the original photographs that informed the portraits shown here.
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In Laurent Grasso’s Future Herbarium, small bunches of flowers evolve into bizarre forms with doubled pistils and petals sprouting in thick layers and tufts. Painted in distemper or oil, the transformed blooms are depicted as typical studies of specimens common in the 18th century. The mutations bring together historical aesthetics and transformations from an imagined future, provoking “an impression of strangeness where beauty and anxiety are mixed,” the Paris-based artist says.
Grasso works in multiple mediums, from painting to sculpture to film, and the themes of time and transformation permeate many of his projects. Future Herbarium stems from “ARTIFICIALIS,” a film slated for screening at the Musée d’Orsay, that considers the liminal spaces between nature and culture in relation to images. In its presentation at Hong Kong’s Perrotin (which is up through April 24) and the Jeonnam Museum of Art in Gwangyang (which is on view virtually and in-person through June 30), the series is paired with another project dealing with the impacts of solar wind on the earth. “The Future Herbarium’s flowers are thus subjected to an imaginary catastrophe, which would have produced mutations but also to these solar winds,” the artist says.
In addition to the two exhibitions in Hong Kong and Gwangyang, Grasso’s work will be on view at Aranya Art Center in Qinhuangdao, China, through May 16, at Artspace in Sydney from April 28 to July 11, at Pompidou Shanghai from May 1 to October 10, and at Musée de l’Armée in Paris from May 7, 2021, to January 30, 2022. Explore more of his multi-disciplinary practice on Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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In Beginnings, Spanish artist Paco Pomet (previously) visualizes a series of jarring and absurd scenarios born out of an equally concerning event. He juxtaposes disparate elements—a mushroom cloud erupting in a classroom, women cavalierly poking at a tabletop sunrise, a mountain range lying on an operating table—in a series of satirical commentaries infused with pop culture references and nods to art history.
Generally contrasting a black-and-white scene with a recurring, full-color sunrise or sunset, Pomet’s compositions merge time periods and situations to mark the start of a new reality, a broad theme tied to the current moment. “Romanticism with a twist of irony is a very powerful visual engine,” he says about the series.
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.