with oil painting
Shipping Containers and Intersecting Lines Clutter Landscapes in Mary Iverson’s Paintings on Globalization
Latticed lines and brightly colored boxes overlay the chaotically transformed landscapes by Mary Iverson (previously). Based in Seattle, the artist uses a combination of oil and acrylic paints, ink, and found photographs to render shockingly prescient scenes blighted by globalization and environmental disaster: barges and shipping containers float in the sea and haphazardly occupy beaches, with their contents sometimes spilling out onto the surrounding area.
The largely natural scenes and the clean, angled lines and geometric forms clash in Iverson’s superimposed works in a manner that evokes the competition of industry. In a note to Colossal, she shares that given the dramatic changes the world has undergone in the last few years, her “paintings are no longer theoretical.” She explains:
Because at the same time as the pandemic was unfolding, the super mega-ships were entering the trade system. Everyone was stuck at home and ordering stuff at an unprecedented pace, the demand for goods got very high, the workforce shrank, and everything got backed up, creating “supply chain issues.” We now have actual real sea-level rise, huge apocalyptic fires, and shipping disasters unfolding before our very eyes. We are at the precipice of an apocalypse. The question is, how are we going to deal with it?
Often rendered on images of historically and culturally significant sites like Machu Picchu, the Colosseum, and the pyramids of Cairo, Iverson’s works indicate the evolution of human society with a bleak, discouraging perspective. “I look at photos of lost civilizations and think about their hopes, dreams, and ideals, and I wonder what the end will look like for us,” she says.
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Thick foliage in shades of green sprout from every inch of JA Paunkovic’s canvases. The Serbian husband-and-wife duo of Jelena and Aleksandar render luxuriant scenes brimming with realistic plant life. Patches of verdant grasses, shrubs, and flowering specimens sprawl across the oil-based works, which mimic the lush patches of vegetation that the pair encounters while hiking. “Visiting (a) new environment becomes material that will later serve us in the studio as a sketch for a new painting,” Jelena shares. “We have found a way to bring nature to a home or gallery and hang it on the wall to serve as a reminder that we need to think more about how our modern lifestyle affects the environment.”
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Within the confines of a canvas, Russian artist Ekaterina Popova nurtures the calm, familiar atmosphere of home. Her dreamlike interiors are comprised of blurred edges and thick brushstrokes in oil that cast a subtle haze over each scene, and Popova’s warm, impressionistic style lends itself to the lived-in feeling of her paintings: a quilt hangs off the edge of a mattress, a book rests in the window as if it was just set down by its reader, and the lunch remnants remain on a dressed table.
Often depicting her own bedroom and friends’ spaces, Popova focuses on an array of textures like slatted wood flooring, fur blankets, floral bedding, and lush foliage, and the natural light or soft glow of a lamp that illuminates the scenes bolsters their sense of comfort and intimacy. She explains:
For the past few years, I have been exploring interiors in my work. The interest started as a way for me to reflect on my upbringing in Russia, but eventually progressed to exploring the overall idea of “home” and what it means me now… My paintings include messy rooms, intimate items, and objects that refer to human presence without including the figure.
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Human Anatomy and Decomposing Flora Unveil a Surreal Mix of Dreams and Feelings in Rafael Silveira’s Portraits
In Rafael Silveira’s Unportraits, magenta curls and slick, turquoise coifs frame the bizarre scenarios unfolding in a subject’s mind. The Brazilian artist, who gravitates towards oil paints in shades of pink and blue, translates a character’s psyche through wilting flowers, gashes in the earth’s surface, and parrots with feathers that drip like wet paint. Anatomical elements like singular eyes, hearts sprouting veins, and twisting brain matter bolster the unearthly qualities of each work, which meld flora and fauna into a surreal mishmash. “From inside, we are a strange mix of dreams, thoughts, feelings, and human meat,” Silveira tells Colossal. “I think these portraits are not persons but moods.”
Peculiar situations surround the subjects as their sweaters melt like ice cream and spiders spin webs from the parched ground supplanting their necks, a visual that evokes thick wrinkles associated with aging. These fleeting actions are part of the artist’s reference to paper ephemera and the ways thoughts and feelings decompose over time. “This rich mental energy is like an invisible raw element, part of the immaterial alchemy of my works,” he says. “We can’t control what life brings us, but we can decide how to react. We make these small decisions all the time. These characters evoke the power of reaction.”
Silveira is based in Curitiba, Brazil, and has his work slated for a January group exhibition at London’s Dorothy Circus Gallery and in March in an immersive solo show at Farol Santander in São Paulo. Until then, pick up a print and keep an eye on his Instagram for new additions to his portrait series, which will be on view in July at Choque Cultural Gallery.
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Contrasting Shades of Gray with Vibrant Color, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe Paints Bold, Subversive Portraits of Black Subjects
Ghanaian artist Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe has a proclivity for contrast. In his striking portraits of Black people, he gravitates toward shades of gray to render the skin tone of single figures or small groups, who sport patterned garments, hats of textured fabrics, and generally vibrant fashions that are in direct opposition to their physical features. The bright, bold color palette is the artist’s preferred method for translating emotional states, inner lives, and idiosyncrasies, one he emulates with the richly textured impasto backdrops surrounding his subjects.
Quaicoe is currently a resident at Rubell Museum, where he’s created a trio of monumental works that consider the trope of the American cowboy. “Rainyanni,” “Moses Adomah” and “David Theodore” stand 12 feet high and are reminiscent of the bandana-wearing figures the artist painted earlier this year. Similarly subversive is “The American Dreamer” (shown below), which centers on a younger figure—the subject’s skin is covered in a swirling pattern of lines, a recurring trait in some of the artist’s most recent pieces—who wears a hat printed with stars and strips.
A few of Quaicoe’s portraits are on view through January 27, 2022, at Green Family Art Foundation in Dallas and at LACMA through April 17, 2022, and you can explore more of his oil-based works on Artsy and Instagram.
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Chinese artist Li Songsong (previously) obscures portraits and wider landscapes with thick dabs of oil paint. His textured, impasto works are based on found photographs or imagined scenes, and each conveys a narrative tied to ordinary moments or a broader shared history. Varying the extent of distortion in every piece, Songsong tells Colossal that interrogating personal identity is at the center of his practice. The “cultural and historical aspects are related to China, and the language and expressions are my own,” he explains.
Songsong’s recent works include a tender scene with an officer and his dog, a portrait of a hopeful pilot, and a panoramic shot featuring a crowd with hundreds of anonymous faces. The richly layered pieces speak to the haziness and fragmentary nature of memories and stories, especially those interpreted from a distance, and come into focus when viewed farther back with a squint.
Based in Beijing, Songsong is currently working on a new series of works, which you can follow on his site.
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Editor's Picks: Design
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.