South African artist Chris Soal combines concrete and other industrial materials with found objects such as toothpicks and bottle caps to create conceptual sculptures. Often set in contrasting textural elements, thousands of single-use objects take on a new identity and aesthetic as part of a collective. The works are a commentary on the destructive relationship humans have with nature while also reflecting notions of value and perception.
Birch wood toothpicks are held in place using polyurethane sealants on ripstop fabric and board. The toothpicks, some raw and others burnt, fill spaces in concrete slabs and appear to form soft dripping patterns as they snake down to the floor. The artist tells Colossal that his use of these “mundane everyday objects” began after he snapped a photo of some in a jar while having dinner. After initially dismissing the toothpicks as “stupid and worthless,” experimenting with them a couple years later changed how Soal perceived the material. “I was immediately amazed by how they transcend their appearance as hard and sharp objects to appearing soft and luscious when arranged in mass,” he says. “I then began to question the fact that I dismissed them upon first encounter, and the work led me to interrogate notions of value and perceptions through the works.”
Soal says that growing up in Johannesburg has had an impact on his work. “It is a city in tension, and I think my work is often about locating oneself within that space, both as a response and a critique.” He doesn’t, however, see himself as the only force that determines how the three-dimensional sculptures are realized. “I am merely a facilitator of possibility for the works,” he explains. “I created the conditions for existence, and the material then morphs and develops as gravity and other forces move it to. As laborious, time-consuming pieces the process is also very contemplative and meditative, very much about a connection between my body and the object and how the shaping of form is related to touch.”
Alongside artist Michele Mathison, Chris Soal will be showing a new body of work at the Artissima art fair in Italy with WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery from October 31 through November 3, 2019. He is also preparing for a large project in Brussels in the near future. For a closer look at Soal’s sculptures, follow the artist on Instagram. (thx, Anna!)
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Discarded Ceramic Shards Are Celebrated in Multi-Part Assemblages by Conservator and Artist Bouke de Vries
Bouke de Vries works with ceramic assemblage to reinterpret historical pottery in multi-part sculptures. The Dutch artist studied at the prestigious Central St. Martin’s in London and worked in high fashion before pivoting to ceramics conservation and restoration in the early 1990’s, which he learned at West Dean College. Confronting the moral dilemmas around valuation of imperfect artifacts in his vocational practice, de Vries challenges the value of imperfection, damage, and cultural history in his exploded artworks.
Broken blue willow plates amalgamate into a map of China, a shattered turqoise vase finds a new function as the contents of a clear glass vessel, and small shards of porcelain become the thorns on a blossoming rose. In a statement on his website, the artist explains:
Instead of hiding the evidence of this most dramatic episode in the life of a ceramic object, he emphasizes their new status, instilling new virtues, new values, and moving their stories forward… Where even an almost invisible hairline crack, a tiny rim chip or a broken finger render a once-valuable object practically worthless, literally not worth the cost of restoring. There’s something incongruous about the fact that such an object, although still imbued with all the skills it took to make it – be it first-period Worcester, Kang-xi or Sevres – can so easily be consigned to the dustbin of history.
De Vries’s work has clearly struck a chord with viewers: he exhibits widely and in 2019 alone has shown work at Hillwood House in Washington, Mesher Gallery in Instanbul, The Museum of Fine Art in Montgomery, Alabama, the Kuntsi Museum in Vaasa, Finland, the Museum of Royal Worcester, and at the Taiwan Ceramics Biennale in Yingge, Taiwan. The artist is represented by galleries in The Netherlands, U.S., and U.K. Explore more of de Vries’s work and stay up-to-date on his latest exhibitions via Instagram. (via The Jealous Curator)
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Artist Kathleen Ryan creates a conversation between the beautiful and the grotesque in her oversized sculptures of mold-covered fruit. The New York-based artist uses precious and semi-precious stones like malachite, opal, and smoky quartz to form the simulacrum of common green rot on each fruit. Working at a larger-than-life scale, Ryan creates a foam base, rudimentarily painted to map out the fresh and rotten areas on the surface. She then individually places each gemstone, with varied shapes, sizes, and colors that emulate the shift from desirable to disgusting. Lemons are a particular favorite, but Ryan also works with oranges and pears, with each work scaling 6 to 29 inches. “The sculptures are beautiful and pleasurable, but there’s an ugliness and unease that comes with them,” Ryan told The New York Times.
Ryan is represented by London-based gallery Josh Lilley, where she had a solo show in 2018, as well as François Ghebaly in Paris, where her fruit was the namesake for the recent group show Bad Peach. This year, Ryan exhibited her work in solo shows at The New Art Gallery in Walsall, U.K. and at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as part of Desert X in Coachella, CA. Two of Ryan’s lemons are also on view through October 20, 2019 with François Ghebaly at FIAC international art fair. The artist studied Studio Art and Anthropology at Pitzer College and received a Master’s of Fine Arts from U.C.L.A. See more from Ryan’s wide-ranging artistic practice on Instagram, and explore more of her work on the gallery websites of Josh Lilley and François Ghebaly.
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Los Angeles-based ceramic artist Curran Wedner of Canopic Studio creates sculptures and tableware inspired by nature and the human body. Disembodied fingers, toes, and faces wrap around the outside of glazed porcelain cups and bowls to form unique and functional works of art.
After studying Illustration at ArtCenter College of Design in California, Wedner spent nine years fabricating art for other artists. He opened Canopic Studio in 2017 and decided to focus on ceramics as his full-time practice. “Clay has always been a friendly medium to me since I have worked with it my whole life,”the artist tells Colossal. Detailing his process, Wedner says that each sculpture begins with throwing and trimming on a wheel. He then makes castings and applies them to the leather-hard clay before bisque firing the work. Each sculpture is then glazed and fired a second time. “From start to finish this process takes weeks,” the artist says. “Each individual piece has at least a dozen hours in it before it’s up for sale.”
Wedner credits his drawing and painting experience for informing his sculptural compositions and his focus on human anatomy. He also cites life cycles in nature and ancient history as influences, namely the bog bodies of northwest Europe and Bell-Beaker culture.
Wedner’s unusual creations will be exhibited for the first time as a part of the upcoming Blood & Fire II show at The Raven & The Wolves gallery in Long Beach, CA. Those hoping to take home one of the pieces should check out the Canopic Studio Etsy shop and fans of ceramics can follow @canopicstudio on Instagram.
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New York-based visual artist Kehinde Wiley (previously) recently unveiled a bronze sculpture of an African American man riding a horse in the center of Times Square at Broadway Plaza between 46th and 47th streets. Titled “Rumors of War,” the statue references controversial Confederate War monuments that still stand in Richmond, Virginia over a century after they were erected.
Commissioned by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Wiley’s first public artwork will be relocated to a spot near the museum’s entrance. Just over a mile away is the statue of General J.E.B. Stuart that inspired “Rumors of War”. The artist first saw the monument during a trip to Virginia in 2016. He said in an interview with the Washington Post that he chose it as a reference because of the “gestural feel of the horse.” Standing over 27 feet tall, Wiley’s sculpture mimics Stuart’s half-turned pose and the stride of the horse, but his figure is a Black man with locked hair and contemporary apparel, including a hoodie, jeans, and sneakers.
“Today we say yes to something that looks like us,” Wiley said at the unveiling event last month. “We say yes to inclusivity. We say yes to broader notions of what it means to be an American.” For a closer look at more of Kehinde Wiley’s important work, follow the artist on Instagram.
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A Swedish Art Collective Handcrafts 17,000 Unique Sculptures Signifying Refugee Youth at Risk of Deportation
Seventeen thousand unique sculptures are displayed in a new installation by Swedish artist collective Skaparkollektivet Forma. The group sought to draw attention to the individuality of 17,000 Afghan refugee youth whom the Swedish government plans to deport. The unaccompanied minors came to Sweden in 2015, totaling 23,500 in that year, and were fully integrated into their adoptive communities. However, the government seems to have shifted gears and has reversed its opinions on a majority of the young people.
Working with 1,500 volunteers, Skaparkollektivet Forma created petite sculptural works of art to represent each individual impacted by the planned governmental uprooting. The works are glued to 34 frames in groups of 500, which allows the installation to be easily transported and installed in different configurations.
Since the collective started working on this project, attention has been drawn to the issue, and some of the youth have been allowed to stay, but apparently the majority of the planned deportations are still set to happen. “In the debate on migration, living human beings tend to be transformed into anonymous volumes,” said Skaparkollektivet Forma told dezeen. “But we wanted to understand what this five-figure number actually represented. The installation makes the number 17,000 visible and above all shows that behind every number there is a person,” they explained. “Behind each figure there is a personality, a story, a work of art.”
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A detailed structural plan, hundreds of hand-fringed feathers, a custom-built wire armature: these are just some of the components artist Niharika Rajput uses to create her life-like paper birds. Rajput directly ties her art practice to conservation efforts by running campaigns to spread awareness of endangered species around the world.
To create her intricate sculptures, Rajput studies the anatomy of each bird, from its wing and tail structures to different types of feathers and facial features. The artist tells Colossal that she initially experimented with fiber and wire mesh, but found that paper best replicated the structure and texture of feathers. After creating a sketch of all the component body parts, Rajput begins the labor-intensive assembly process, which is complete once she has added finishing touches with acrylic paint.
The artist explains that she has had a lifelong affinity for wildlife and birds in particular, cemented by her family moving around a lot; nature was a steady presence even as Rajput’s built surroundings changed. As an adult, a visit to the Himalayas reconnected the artist to her passion for birds.
“As an artist I find it almost impossible to compete with nature’s sophisticated mechanisms and designs,” Rajput shares with Colossal. “I have taken this project on, to reach that level of perfection which can be applauded with a great sense of wonder by my audience and also acts as a reminder of what’s out there and needs to be protected.”
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.