oil painting

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Ji Xin Reflects Eastern and Western Art Historical Traditions in His Elegantly Languid Portraits

January 19, 2023

Grace Ebert

An oil painting of a woman with a mirrored reflection

“Pearls and daffodils” (2022), oil on canvas, 59 x 47 inches. All photos by Nicolas Brasseur, courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech, shared with permission

Through ethereal portraits that vacillate between Eastern and Western traditions, Ji Xin coaxes an ambiance of contemplation and ennui. The Chinese artist blends elements of Song dynasty paintings, like the relaxed, unhurried poses of his feminine figures, with particulars of Renaissance works, producing compositions that place calm women among gilded, elegant interiors.

Rendered in a subtle palette of gold and pastel hues, the portraits are delicate and laced with longing and introspection. The subjects all shy away from the viewer, and as shown in “Pearls and daffodils” and “Ripples,” many are in the midst of confronting their emotional states through mirrored reflections of themselves or similar figures. Their elongated limbs stretch across their torsos or hang from their bodies, conveying a sense of stillness and repose.

The paintings shown here are on view through February 4 at Almine Rech Paris as part of the artist’s solo show, Moonlight · Butterfly. You can find more from Ji Xin, who currently lives and works between Hangzhou and Shanghai, on Instagram.


An oil painting of two women sitting on a chair with flowers

“Moon light” (2022), oil on canvas, 71 x 59 inches

An oil painting of two women and a sunrise

“Sunrise” (2022), oil on canvas, 75 x 59 inches

An oil painting of a woman lying down wiht a mirrored figure below her

“Ripples” (2022), oil on canvas, 59 x 47 inches

An oil painting portrait of a women and fan

“Pistil” (2022), oil on canvas, 16 x 12 inches

An oil painting of a woman seated on a chair

“White swan” (2022), oil on canvas, 59 x 47 inches

An oil painting of a woman lying down

“The dream of the water” (2022), oil on canvas, 59 x 47 inches





Leafy Subjects Exemplify the Social Life of Trees of Shyama Golden’s Verdant Portraits

January 4, 2023

Kate Mothes

A painting of two figures or trees cloaked in vines.

“Intertwined” (2020), acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches. All images © Shyama Golden, shared with permission

On the banks of the Martha Brae River in Jamaica, artist Shyama Golden noticed greenery that appeared like lovers embracing. She “started to see these anthropomorphic vine-covered trees everywhere, taking on the forms of various archetypes.” The scenes inspired a series of paintings titled With or Without Us that merges facets of landscape and portrait painting into verdant works expressing nature as a social entity.

The Los Angeles-based artist’s practice is influenced by myriad sources, especially literature and everyday experiences. “Sometimes the idea can come from reading, and sometimes I take inspiration directly from life, but I often do research to add more details as I go, even if the original idea didn’t come from anything I read,” she tells Colossal. With or Without Us takes cues from Richard Powers’ 2019 novel The Overstoryan evocation of the natural world comprised of interlocking narratives in which each character is deeply connected to trees.

For this series, Golden was fascinated by the invisible means in which trees communicate with each other using a network of soil fungi, an ecological survival mechanism that is under threat from deforestation and impacts of the climate crisis. By combining recognizable portrait imagery redolent of family photographs, headshots, or the art historical vogue for reclining female figures, Golden reimagines the leafy denizens of forests as individuals with distinctive personalities and relationships.

Find more of Golden’s work on her website and Instagram.


A painted portrait of figures or trees cloaked in vines.

“Familiar Phantasm” (2021), oil on canvas, 60 x 60 inches

A painted portrait of figures or trees cloaked in vines.

Detail of “Familiar Phantasm”

A painted portrait of a figure or tree cloaked in vines.

“The Hero” (2021), oil on panel, 48 x 48 inches

A painted portrait of a reclining figure or tree cloaked in vines.

“The Muse” (2021), oil on canvas, 60 x 40 inches

A painted portrait of a figure or tree cloaked in vines.

“Blue” (2021), acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches

A detail of a painted portrait of figures or trees cloaked in vines.

Detail of “Intertwined”




The Denizens of ‘Submersia’ Breathe New Life into Ancient Artifacts in Oil Portraits by Kajahl

November 18, 2022

Kate Mothes

An oil painting by Kajahl.

“Amphibian Resurfaced” (2022), oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches. All images © Kajahl, shared with permission courtesy of moniquemeloche

From his studio overlooking Monterey Bay, California, Kajahl has created a new series of paintings that draw inspiration from the sea and ancient heritage, continuing a practice that employs portraiture to subvert white, European historical narratives. The artist merges classical motifs and mythical realms in Submersia, a fictional underwater world where artifacts take on new life.

Greek and Roman vessels like glass balsamarii, wine jugs known as oinochoes, and conical rhyton vases often depicted figures or were fashioned in the shape of human or animal heads. Kajahl reimagines artifacts like these as mystical seaborne figures, redefining the historical portrayal of “aethiops,” an archaic term for dark-skinned people. On household containers, these often showed “individuals possessing phenotypes typically associated with Sub-Saharan Africa,” he explains in a statement. “Harkening back over two millennia, I interrogate these fascinating and controversial subjects, probing our relationship to these objects that confront us from an alien world.”

Kajahl’s “Iceberg Entities” are human-iceberg fusions that are starting to thaw, isolated in deep water. The figures gaze intentionally at the viewer, who is given a simultaneous view from above and below the surface that separates “the visible from the invisible world, emphasizing water’s ability to obscure, conceal, or reveal what was once beneath,” he says. On the sea floor, the “Oceandwellers” and “Coral Kids” inhabit a realm brimming with colorful rocks, coral, and shellfish. Air bubbles escape from their mouths, and their gaze also meets the viewer, represented not as inanimate artifacts but as living, breathing figures who are capable of emotion and perception.

Submersia is on view at moniquemeloche in Chicago through January 7, 2023, and you can follow more of Kajahl’s work on Instagram.


An oil painting by Kajahl.

“Rocky Reef Inhabitant” (2022), oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

Two oil paintings by Kajahl.

Left: “Iceberg Entity I (Pointed Peak Crown)” (2022), oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches. Right: “Iceberg Entity III (Ultramarine Gold Turban)” (2022), oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches

An oil painting by Kajahl.

“Iceberg Entity (Glacial Fracture Head)” (2022), oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches

An oil painting by Kajahl.

“Underwater Exhale” (2022), oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

An oil painting by Kajahl.

“Kelp Forrest Ocean Dweller” (2022), oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

An oil painting by Kajahl.

“Iceberg Entity IV (Cracked Head Thawing)” (2022), oil on canvas, 72 x 48 inches



Animation Music

1,300 Oil Paintings Flow Through a Dreamlike Animated Music Video for The Beatles

November 7, 2022

Grace Ebert

London-based animator Em Cooper captures the hazy daze of slipping from wakefulness to slumber in a new music video for The Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping.” The short animation stitches together 1,300 oil paintings on celluloid that swirl and twist from one scene of euphoric stupor to the next. “We used to listen to this song on a tape in the car when I was a child,” Cooper told Creative Boom, “and the song itself evokes such a mesmerising, languid, dreamy state. In a way, my job was only to follow its lead with a paintbrush in my hand.”

Originally released in 1966 and now part of the new Revolver: Special Edition album, the harmonic track remains relevant and subversive for its soporific, unhurried approach to modern life, which Cooper echoes in her laborious process of hand-painting every frame. You can find more from the Emmy-nominated animator and director on her site.


An animated image of two painted portraits

A painted image of a man sleeping

An animated image of fossils, shoes, lipstick, and oil rigs

A painted image of a hand plucking a guitar




A Major Exhibition and Monograph, Amy Sherald’s ‘The World We Make’ Shapes a Hopeful Future Through Monumental Portraiture

October 12, 2022

Grace Ebert

“For love, and for country” (2022), oil on linen, 123 x 93 x 2 1/2 inches. All images © Amy Sherald, courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

In her first major exhibition outside of the U.S., artist Amy Sherald (previously) presents a body of work that’s distinctly American. The World We Make, which is now on view, brings Sherald’s signature grisaille portraiture to Hauser & Wirth London. Monumental in scale and primarily rendered on flat, monochromatic backdrops, the oil paintings reference a sense of determined optimism to shape reality. “The works reflect a desire to record life as I see it and as I feel it. My eyes search for people who are and who have the kind of light that provides the present and the future with hope,” the artist says.

Included in the exhibition is a strikingly subversive interpretation of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s black-and-white photo “V-J Day in Times Square,” which shows a Navy sailor dipping and kissing a woman following Japan’s surrender in WWII. In Sherald’s “For love, and for country,” two men dressed in mariner garb embrace in a similar pose, subverting the iconic image of U.S. victory, while illuminating the inequities that Black, gay men in the military face still today.

Questions of masculinity and American identity pervade the show, particularly in works like “A God Blessed Land (Empire of Dirt),” which positions an overall-clad farmer atop a John Deere tractor. This agricultural equipment echoes the themes of freedom and movement in Sherald’s “Deliverance” diptych that features two figures balancing on their dirt bikes as they perilously soar mid-air. “The tractor and motorbike paintings explore different expressions of self-sovereignty in our communities and how these expressions might carry into the future. Vehicles become a literal metaphor here for forward momentum, for movement, and potential movement,” Sherald says.

Hauser & Wirth Publishers has released the artist’s first comprehensive monograph to coincide with The World We Make, which you can see through December 23. Find more from Sherald on Instagram.


“To tell her story you must walk in her shoes” (2022), oil on linen, 54 x 43 x 2 1/2 inches

“A God Blessed Land (Empire of Dirt)” (2020), oil on linen, 96 x 130 x 2 1/2 inches

“Deliverance” (2020), oil on linen, 108 x 124 x 2 1/2 inches

“Deliverance” (2020), oil on linen, 108 x 124 x 2 1/2 inches

“Kingdom” (2022), oil on linen, 117 x 92 x 2 1/2 inches

“As soft as she is…” (2022) oil on linen, 54 x 43 x 2 1/2 inches




Vintage Cameras Focus on the Surveillance of Modern Life in Jeff Bartels’s Uncanny Paintings

October 5, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Surveillance Speed Graphic” (2021), oil on linen, 30 x 30 inches. All images © Jeff Bartels, shared with permission

“I’m not sure it’s possible to walk down a city street these days and not be caught on a camera somewhere, either by choice or not even knowing about it.” This idea grounds Surveillance, a series of uncanny paintings in oil by Canadian artist Jeff Bartels. Situated in urban settings with a distinctly retro flair, the works nestle vintage cameras among architecture and infrastructural elements. Oversized lenses, knobs, and levers echo the shapes of windows and doorways with branding imitating signs for shops and restaurants.

Sandwiching the devices between cafes and storefronts or subway stairs, Bartels explores the ubiquity of cameras and how they’re embedded into modern life. “If you look at the people in the paintings, none of them are doing anything particularly noteworthy or interesting. They are all just living their lives in front of a camera, some by choice, some oblivious to that fact,” he shares, noting that the surreal scenes aren’t intended to be altogether sinister. Privacy concerns aside, the paintings also speak to the increased prevalence of photographs and the ability to document and share even the most mundane moments on social media.

In addition to the cameras that feature heavily in Surveillance, the Toronto-based artist has placed other technologies like cassette tapes and stereos among his street-side scenes. See some of those works below, and find more on Instagram.


“Surveillance Target Six-16” (2021), oil on linen, 22 x 14 inches

“Surveillance Yashica” (2021), oil on linen, 24 x 20 inches

“Surveillance Rolleiflex” (2021), oil on linen, 24 x 30 inches

“Surveillance Electric Eye” (2021), oil on linen, 30 x 20 inches

“Surveillance C16” (2022), oil on linen, 24 x 20 inches

In reference to the song “Grace, Too” by The Tragically Hip

“Post and Truth” (2021), oil on linen, 30 x 40 inches