Dozens of Mushroom Characters Populate a Family Tree in Whimsically Painted Photographs by Jana Paleckova
An affinity for fleshy spores runs in the long line of ancestors laid out in a family tree by Jana Paleckova. The Prague-based artist layers antique photographs with playful oil paintings of spindly enoki or ribbed chanterelle, creating hybrid characters brimming with fungi-fueled personalities. “There are many types of mushrooms, all of which have different characteristics. Just like people,” she says.
In a note to Colossal, Paleckova says she was prompted to start the whimsical project when she was flipping through her family’s atlas of fungi. “Czech people are known mushroom hunters. It’s quite common for families to go out looking for mushrooms together,” she says. This atlas later served as a reference point for the 90 small portraits, which consist of the dozens of vintage photographs that the artist sourced from flea markets, that comprise the sprouted kin.
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In his architectural portraits, Patrick Akpojotor visualizes the exchange between humans and their built environments, whether real or imagined. The artist’s spatial body of work, which explicitly contemplates the relationship between interiority and exteriority, is founded in his childhood in Lagos, a city checkered with traditional, colonial, and contemporary structures where he still lives today. “I saw how a former residential area became a commercial one changing how people interacted with that community,” he says.
Rendered in bold blocks of acrylic, Akpojotor’s paintings encourage introspection as they consider how identities inform the design of single buildings and infrastructure, which in turn shape the people who occupy those spaces. The anthropomorphic structures evoke cubist geometry and illusion, fracturing the body with a staircase, brick chimney, or entire house, and some works shown here, including both “In Memory of the Living” pieces, are self-portraits.
Beyond his surroundings in Nigeria, Akpojotor derives inspiration from ancient African sculptures and masks, particularly “the way the forms are intentionally distorted to pass messages and symbols of their (beliefs),” he shares. “In my work, the way object(s) are placed does not matter. What is important is that the object(s) are represented, and the message is passed.”
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Swollen, glistening, and saturated with illusion, the ubiquitous water drop absorbed Kim Tschang-Yeul throughout his career. The Korean artist, who died earlier this year, was faithful to the seemingly mundane subject matter, choosing to depict the dewy orbs repeatedly after an initial painting in 1972 following his relocation to France. Inspired originally by a water-soaked canvas in his studio, Kim nurtured the viscous element in his hyperrealistic paintings created across nearly five decades. In an essay about the artist’s unending commitment, Dr. Cleo Roberts writes:
It is a tendency that seems to unite many of Korea’s avant-garde who took from Art Informel in the early ‘60s, including Ha Chong-Hyun and Park Seo-Bo. In this generation of artists, there is a ritualistic devotion to a chosen form, process, and, at times, colour. One could venture that, in the context of living in a volatile country ravaged by war, the security of immersion in a singular mode was an empowering choice, and may have been a necessary psychological counterpoint.
Whether depicting a singular pendant-shaped drop or canvas strewn with perfectly round bulbs, each of the oil-based works exhibits a deft approach to shadow and texture. The bloated forms appear to bead on the surface and are imbued with a sense of impermanence: if disturbed by even a small movement, they look as if they could burst or run down the surface.
Gleaming with occasional patches of gold and white, the transparent renderings foster a deeper connection to Taoist principles, in addition to questioning the tension between nature and contemporary life. “The act of painting water drops is to dissolve all things within [these], to return to a transparent state of ‘nothingness,’” Kim said in a statement, noting that his desire was to dissolve the ego. “By returning anger, anxiety, fear, and everything else to ‘emptiness,’ we experience peace and contentment.”
If you’re in London, you can see the first posthumous show Water Drops, which covers Kim’s entire career and features many of the works shown here, at Almine Rech from March 4 to April 10, 2021. Otherwise, head to Artsy to see a larger collection of the artist’s paintings.
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A Massive Seven-Volume Collection Chronicles the Pioneering Legacy of Abstract Artist Hilma af Klint
Following a wildly successful retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2018, Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) has firmly secured her place as a groundbreaking figure in abstract art. In recent years, her colorful, spiritually-minded body of work has reshaped art historical timelines, supplanting male artists like Vasily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, and Josef Albers, who have long been regarded as the pioneers of the 20th-century movement.
Throughout her lifetime, the prolific Swedish artist created more than 1,600 works, an impressive output now collected in Hilma AF Klint: The Complete Catalogue Raisonné: Volumes I-VII. Published by Bokförlaget Stolpe, the seven-volume series is organized both chronologically and by theme, beginning with the spiritual sketches af Klint made in conjunction with The Five, a group of women who attended séances in hopes of obtaining messages from the dead. These clairvoyant experiences impacted much of her work, which the books explore in her most famous series, The Paintings for the Temple, in addition to her geometric studies, watercolor pieces, and more occasional portraits and landscapes.
“What makes her art interesting is that the works are highly interconnected. A catalogue raisonné is necessary in order to see the different cycles, motifs, and symbols that recur in a fascinating way,” said Daniel Birnbaum, who co-edited the volumes with Kurt Almqvist. Each book is around 200 pages with hundreds of illustraitons.
The first three volumes are available now on Bookshop, where you also can pre-order the entire collection, and the remaining four are slated for release later this year. You also might enjoy Beyond the Visible, a 2020 documentary exploring af Klint’s iconic legacy. (via Artnet)
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In her poetic body of work, Chidinma Nnoli draws on her experiences growing up in a patriarchal, Catholic home. It “felt very stifling, and I existed in an environment of anxiety and fear where it felt uneasy to relax,” says the 22-year-old Nigerian artist. She channels these memories into her acrylic- and oil-based artworks that are simultaneously ethereal and subversive, distinctly centering on somber, unsmiling women and their hazy environments rendered in pastels.
Subtle comments on a variety of cultural issues pervade Nnoli’s paintings, including the trappings of diet culture, impossible beauty standards, and how many widespread societal beliefs impact mental health. In some pieces, these themes are apparent in the women’s facial expressions, gestures, and vintage clothing. High necklines or collars, lace details, and puffy sleeves cloak their bodies in a manner that evokes traditional values like innocence and modesty in works like “A Poetry of Discarded Feelings/Things (III).” Other paintings, like “None of These Clocks Work (I),” center on a subject wearing a corset, which contorts womens’ bodies into the idealized hourglass.
Whether alone or in a pair, the figures are demure, solemn, and depicted at home amongst impasto backgrounds. The quiet, humble scenes are filled with indistinguishable artworks, bouquets of flowers or plants, and sofas, customary domestic elements that allow Nnoli to tease out an implied tension. The women, she says, exist in “spaces that are supposed to be safe yet it’s toxic and they somehow can’t get out… I try to create a safe environment using flowers, a space that is almost dreamlike, a utopia where they can heal, even if it’s only happening in their heads (until) they find their own safe space.”
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Nelson Makamo (previously) is known for his oversized, lively portraits of the children and teens he meets around Johannesburg. Using a distinct blend of acrylic, watercolors, monotypes, silkscreen, and oil paint, the South African artist often delineates their silhouettes with a thick line of charcoal before adding colorful details to their clothing and faces. The resulting works are simultaneously earnest and imbued with a sense of wonder.
Whether posed or engaged in rowdy activities, many of the subjects sport bright, round glasses, emphasizing Makamo’s focus on viewing the world through the lens of childhood. His subjects “embody the peace and harmony we all strive for in life, the search for eternal joy lies in the child within us all. We are just so consumed with worldly things that we forget the simplicity of life through a child’s perspective,” he says in a statement.
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