In her ongoing series of self-portraits, Spain-based photographer and artist Fares Micue (previously) trades her usual monarchs and lush, leafy botanicals for bright airborne balloons. The perfectly round vessels appear suspended in motion as they encircle Micue’s torso, conceal her face, or lead her up a painted stairway. The amorphous clusters follow the artist’s distinct use of color, adding either a stark contrast to her clothing and the backdrop or blending with the existing architectural palette.
In a note to Colossal, Micue shares that while she brings in organic elements like flowers and leaves to evoke the earth’s seasonal patterns, the ballons are derived from the universe’s more foundational and constant elements, like the sun, the moon, and the planets. She explains:
For me, the round shape represents perfection, feelings, energy, and the natural flowing of things…(It) has the ability to move easily like a ball and helps us to move forward like a wheel. They are delicate and soft. Nothing can be hidden around a circle cause it has no edges or pointy corners, and that’s what they represent in my work: the pureness and naturality of our feelings and how they help us to move forward, the energy we share with the world, and how they are always surrounding us shaping our everyday life
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Valencia-based duo Anna Devís and Daniel Rueda (previously) add a playful twist to mundane settings and architectural backdrops. Whether flaring a skirt into a wide, cheesy grin, posing to prop up a facade’s stripes, or gripping the tail of a balloon that looks like a tethered sun, their minimal compositions turn geometric elements and open spaces into theatrical sets ripe with humor and joy.
Devís tells Colossal that each narrative-driven image is the result of extensive planning that begins with an initial sketch, involves pairing a concept and location, and later constructing the props. They don’t use any photo-editing software, meaning that every shot is precisely composed on-site with natural lighting, a process she explains:
We carefully set the stage in real life using all sorts of everyday objects, colorful papers, matching outfits, and tons of natural light. At first glance, one would probably think that most of our images are not very difficult to capture because of their modest appearance. But, with the passing years, we’ve learned that achieving this level of simplicity is really, really complicated.
In the coming months, the duo plans to travel to various locales for photoshoots— “there are a lot of beautiful spaces where we’d love to tell a story, but we haven’t figured it out yet,” Devís says—and are in the process of working on a forthcoming book and a few exhibitions. You can find an extensive archive on both Devís’s and Rueda’s Instagrams, and buy prints on their site.
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At the heart of Matt Small’s practice is the idea that “there’s always potential within everything.” The British artist gravitates toward an overarching theme of disregard in both subject matter and material, choosing oxidized hunks of iron, bits of patinaed copper, and crinkled aluminum strips that have been relegated to the trash to construct his metallic portraits.
Expressive and emotionally charged, the corroded mosaics link rampant overconsumption and widespread tendencies to throw away what’s deemed obsolete or undesirable to the ways adolescents are marginalized and subsequently not seen as viable members of society. “Because of the social backgrounds they come from, young people find themselves overlooked, disregarded, and left uninvested in,” the artist says. “Marrying the discarded item and painting a portrait of a young person on it or utilizing the material to construct a mosaic face, I hope that the viewer sees that everybody and everything has a right to be viewed as valuable and of worth. It’s just up to us to see that.”
In a conversation with Colossal, Small references Marcel Duchamp’s urinal and the way that readymade sculpture upended long-standing notions of worth as a foundational concept he draws on his own practice. By turning debris and seemingly useless materials into works of significance, he hopes to prompt questions about the arbitrary values assigned to objects and people alike, explaining:
The scrap metal has worth because of what I did with it, not because I say it is of worth. The rusted tin can becomes a tone in the face. The shiny metal brings out a highlight on the forehead. All these worthless items have been incorporated into something that someone may now appreciate, and the potential of this scrap item can now be realized.
Small, who lives in his hometown of Camden, currently has work on view as part of Vanguard, which is considering the role of Bristol-area artists who’ve had an outsized impact on British street art since the 1980s. The extensive exhibition, which includes memorabilia and dozens of originals works, is open at M Shed through October 31. If you’re in London, watch for a large-scale mural portrait of the young British entrepreneur Jamal Edwards that Small is working on in Acton, and follow the artist on Instagram to stay up to date with his latest projects.
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More than two decades ago, Noah Kalina started taking a daily self-portrait, a ritualistic practice that’s culminated in a few timelapses collating the images as part of his Everyday project. His most recent manifestation in that ongoing series melds together photos from the last 7,777 days in a striking two-minute compilation that vividly shows how he ages over the 21-year period.
A collaborative effort with sound designer Paul O’Mara and programmer Michael Notter, the timelapse uses five of Kalina’s facial features—his eyes, nose, and corners of his mouth—that Notter aligned in all of the photos to ensure smooth transitions from one to the next. Not all 7,777 portraits make it into the final video, though, because they opted to use the average of 60 faces in each frame, meaning Kalina ages two months every second.
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Vietnamese-American artist Antonius Bui highlights the flexible, evolving nature of identity and the value of community through a series of unapologetically affectionate portraits. Elaborate hand-cut botanicals and geometric motifs envelop and give shape to Bui’s subjects, who include chosen and biological family members, friends, and colleagues. Painted in deep blue or inked in smaller spots to emit a warm glow, the pieces are monumental in scale—some extend upwards of 10 feet—and saturated with underlying stories that reveal themselves through smaller portraits and displays of domestic life embedded in the central image.
Continually focused on the power of narrative, Bui leaves gaps in the metaphorical, mesh-like works as a way to create space for more nuanced understandings of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, immigrant experiences, queerness, and the prevalence of false binaries. A child of Vietnamese refugees, they draw on their family’s heritage with “allusions to the spiritual significance of Joss paper, an incense paper used both to imitate value and as a form of blessings, position(ing) each work almost as an offering to honor queer communities,” a statement about the portraits says.
All of the works shown here are part of The Detour Is to Be Where We Are, which is on view through August 14 at Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago. You can find more of Bui’s intimate pieces on their site and Instagram.
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Obscured faces peek through tangles of leaves and stems in the ethereal portraits of Toronto-based artist Christine Kim. Her mixed-media collages layer textured graphite gradients and mesh-like cuttings into splintered depictions of her subjects. “‘Fragmentary’ is one word that I return to again and again because I think portraiture is an act of catching glimmers of a person,” she tells Colossal. “I like the idea of not being able to see everything. Having multiple layers partially conceals but the patterns of foliage, (which) also act like a kind of shelter.”
For each work, Kim first illustrates a single figure—the subjects shown here are models Yuka Mannami and Hoyeon Jung—and then digitally draws a corresponding botanical pattern. Those motifs are cut with the help of a Silhouette Cameo machine before they’re built up sheet by sheet. Graceful and at times surreal, the resulting portraits portray fractions of faces and hands that are duplicated or filtered through colorful webs.
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Editor's Picks: Photography
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.