portraits

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Art

Interview: Swoon Speaks to Finding Compassion Through the Act of Looking and Unearthing Her Own Vulnerability

August 1, 2022

Paulette Beete

“Seven Contemplations” (2020 to 2021) at Albright-Knox Northland. All images © Swoon, shared with permission

In some ways, Caledonia Curry’s work as a public artist has come full circle, an evolution she discusses in a new interview supported by Colossal Members. Curry debuted as a New York City street artist known as Swoon right around the turn of the last century, her hand-worked portraits making striking, albeit illegal, statements on old walls. Today, she harnesses that same energy into intricate—and intimate—installations set in museums and galleries.

When I look at a face for days, when I take a portrait of somebody on the street, and then I stare at that face for days and days, there’s this part of my brain that’s like, “This human is utterly perfect. I’ve never seen anything more noble and beautiful than this person.” And then I think, “You think that every time.” That’s because it’s true.

Swoon spoke with Colossal contributor Paulette Beete about how the act of looking is at the center of her practice, why she’s started to address her own trauma in addition to that experienced by others, and why her body of work to date is like a lifesaving yarn, a map of both where she’s been, where she’s going, and everything she’s learned along the way.

 

“Yaya,” Hong Kong

 

 



Art

Movement and Instinct Inform Taquen’s Murals of Migrating Birds and Human Touch

July 26, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Magpies and swifts.” All images © Taquen, shared with permission

Thin, structural lines delineate a magpie wing and contour a child’s nose or cheekbone in Taquen’s murals. Working with a color palette of pastels and neutral tones, the Spanish artist (previously) paints large-scale portraits, fragments of limbs, and birds, often leaving the composition’s skeletal forms visible. “The supports are just as important as the work itself,” he tells Colossal. “I look for camouflage, minimalism, and mixture. In the end, it is also a metaphorical form of the footprint that I believe we should leave in the places we pass through.”

Many of Taquen’s works consider the relationship between species through the lens of movement and impulse, focusing on gesture, touch, and instinctive acts. Birds mid-flight embody the tie between freedom and migration, while bare feet lounging in the grass or a hand grasping a flower channel a desire for physical contact. “I think we are very disconnected, living in parallel with nature, and it is a mistake. We must share it, experience it, live it, and thus we will be able to understand and respect it,” he says.

In the coming months, the artist will be working on murals in Belgium, Portugal, Ireland, France, and Spain, in addition to a conceptual project centered on paths and walking. You can follow those on Instagram.

 

Briançon, France

Detail of mural in Briançon, France

“Discover and learn,” Port of Sagunto, Valencia

Grenoble

Camprovin

“Hold the oak, be a tree for the trees,” Mostar

“Apology for the wild,” Stockholm, Sweden

Madrid. Photo by Gustavo Bulnes

 

 



Art

Energetic Markings in Charcoal Delineate Nelson Makamo’s Candid Portraits of Childhood Joy

July 21, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Untitled” (2022), charcoal, acrylic and pastel on paper, 116.3 x 87.2 x 3.5 centimeters framed. All images courtesy of Rise Art, shared with permission

On view at Rise Art is a new body of work from South African artist Nelson Makamo, who continues his charismatic portraits rendered in lively, gestural lines of charcoal. Whether on paper or canvas, the mixed-media pieces depict children and teens, and the artist’s quick, sometimes chaotic markings echo the unfiltered immediacy of the sitters’ cheerful and contemplative emotions—prior to each portrait, he spends time learning about his subjects’ lives, their joys, and worries, a practice he finds essential for capturing such candid, honest expressions.

Makamo’s latest pieces diverge slightly from his previous works by exploring themes of togetherness. Whereas he often focuses on fragmented portrayals of solitary figures, the artist hones in on community in this new body of work, painting two children grasping hands or in the case of “Mission Possible,” a group of friends huddled in a tight cluster.

If you’re in London, head to Rise Art to see Makamo’s solo show before August 25. Otherwise, find more of his works and news about upcoming exhibitions on Instagram.

 

“Untitled” (2022), charcoal and pastel on paper, 116.3 x 87.2 x 3.5 centimeters framed

“Face Off II” (2022), oil, acrylic and pastel on paper, 89.7 x 71.2 x 3.5 centimeters framed

“Untitled” (2022), charcoal and pastel on paper, 89.7 x 71.2 x 3.5 centimeters framed

“Untitled” (2022), charcoal and pastel on paper, 116.3 x 87.2 x 3.5 centimeters framed

“Untitled” (2022), charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 102.9 x 102.9 x 8.8 centimeters framed

“Untitled” (2022), charcoal and acrylic on paper, 78.2 x 63.2 x 3.5 centimeters framed

“Mission Possible” (2022), charcoal and acrylic on paper, 116.3 x 87.2 x 3.5 centimeters framed

 

 



Art

Set Against a Backdrop of World Events, Tim Okamura’s Bold Portraits Emanate Commanding Energy

July 19, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Fire Fighter” (2021), oil on canvas, 60 x 76 inches

Marked with visible brushstrokes and drips of paint, the portraits of  Tim Okamura (previously) blend realistic portrayals of his subjects with the fervent, unrestrained qualities of street art. The Japanese-Canadian artist, who recently moved his studio from Brooklyn to Queens, centers his practice around storytelling and honing in on the distinctive energies of those he paints.

Much of Okamura’s portraiture develops in series, whether as the Healthcare Heroes collection devoted to the nurses and doctors working tirelessly throughout the pandemic or the commanding figures of the ongoing Women Warriors—many of these works will be on view as a solo exhibition in September of 2023 at Pittsburgh’s August Wilson African American Cultural Center. Rendered primarily in oil with the occasional acrylic or spray paint addition, the pieces capture the raw nature of Okamura’s process and the distinctive, powerful presence of his subjects.

If you’re in Los Angeles, visit the Academy Museum to view the artist’s portrait of the late writer Toni Morrison. Otherwise, find more of his paintings on his site and Instagram, and browse limited-edition prints in his shop.

 

Toni Morrison circa 1993

“Nurse Tracy” (2021), oil on linen, 40 x 60 inches

“Blood, Sweat, and Tears (Portrait of the Artist Marc Andre)” (2022), oil on linen, 32 x 26 inches

“Rites of Spring” (2021), oil on canvas, 64 x 64 inches

“Rich Medina” (2022), oil on wood panel, 24 x 24 inches

“Luminescence” (2022), oil and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 inches

 

 



Photography

Playful Portraits by Elke Vogelsang Catch Cats’ Cranky and Silly Emotions

July 13, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Elke Vogelsang, shared with permission

Unlike the affectionate canine companions that grace many of Elke Vogelsang’s portraits, the cats she finds in front of her camera exhibit more irritable, even stereotypical emotions. She captures her feline subjects with a range of reactions, whether snarling and baring their teeth or showing off their more playful sides with leaps into the air or a quick flick of their tongues.

A professional pet portraitist, Vogelsang mostly visits her subjects at their homes rather than bringing them to her Hildesheim studio. This tends to make the animals more comfortable, she shares, at least enough for her to coax out more genuine emotions with the help of string, feathers, treats, and sometimes catnip for mood-boosting. “Let’s face it, cats can be so much harder to photograph than dogs. If they can’t be bothered, they won’t do it for our sake,” she says. “In general, sessions with cats are shorter than sessions with dogs. They are the ones to determine the schedule.”

Vogelsang maintains an Instagram account devoted to her feline collaborators, and you can find much more of her portraiture on her site.

 

 

 



Craft Illustration

Vivid Contours Conjure Hope and Resilience in Yulia Brodskaya’s Quilled Paper Compositions

July 12, 2022

Kate Mothes

“Phoenix” (2022). All images © Yulia Brodskaya, shared with permission

In Greek mythology, the sacred phoenix, with its characteristically striking plumage in flaming yellow, orange, and red, is known for its ability to resurrect. When the bird’s long life is nearing an end, flames engulf its body, and the being is reborn as a chick in the ashes of its predecessor, giving it the distinction of resilience, regeneration, and immortality. As Yulia Brodskaya began to apply the curled and crimped tendrils of paper to her latest work, she tells Colossal that the firebird portrait “started as a visual representation of a powerful feeling rising from the deep,” adding that “it felt like this portrait has been ‘channelled’ through me.”

Brodskaya captures the subtleties of individual expression and character in her elaborate portraits (previously) and depictions of flora and fauna. Through boldly colored papers that are rolled, folded, and layered, she reveals a flurry of feathers or the contours of a face in intricate detail, like the sense of serene contemplation that permeates “Samurai Dreams.” She wants every piece to send a message, suggesting viewers “pay attention to what emotion or feeling comes up for you in the first moments you see it—until the mind begins to dissect the details and offer loud opinions about why you like or dislike it. That initial quiet voice is the whisper of intuition. That’s the place I create my best work from.”

You can find more information about Brodskaya’s work on her website, and she regularly shares videos of her process on Instagram.

 

“Phoenix” (detail)

“Phoenix” (detail)

“Samurai Dreams” (2022)

“Samurai Dreams” (detail)

“Samurai Dreams” (detail)

“Parrots” (2022)

“Parrots” (detail)

“Butterflies” (2021)

“Butterflies” (detail)