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Art

Embodying Vibrance and Joy, Gio Swaby’s Patterned Portraits Celebrate Blackness and Womanhood

December 28, 2022

Kate Mothes

A silhouette made from colorful, patterned fabric sewn on to a neutral canvas background.

“New Growth Second Chapter 11” (2021), thread and fabric sewn on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. All images © Gio Swaby, shared with permission courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery

In Bahamian artist Gio Swaby’s colorful sewn portraits, an invisible yet integral thread comes in the form of an invitation to celebrate Blackness and womanhood. Through the language of textiles and pattern, her practice centers on accessibility and facilitating connection with the viewer. “I think about people like me and how I didn’t get into art or museums or anything until I was 19,” she tells Colossal, sharing that the historical exclusion of Blackness in art motivates her to make pieces that reflect individuality and joy in a mirror-like way.

The Toronto-based artist began working with sewing and textiles around ten years ago, and her use of the medium acknowledges the intersection of traditional craft and fine art, viewed through the lens of personal relationships. “My mother was a seamstress,” she says. “I grew up in that world, but I didn’t come back to it as an art medium until around 2013. I associated it with a special love between us, and I wanted to share that with the viewer, too.”

 

A portrait made from colorful, patterned fabric sewn on to a neutral canvas background.

“Seated Figure” (2022), thread and fabric sewn on canvas, 55 x 66 x 1 inches

Sharing in connection and conversation is central to Swaby’s process, which involves sitting down with her subjects prior to beginning each piece. Most of the portraits represent women in her immediate circle of family and friends. “I already have a sense of who they are, but I learn more about them, and they learn more about me,” she says. The conversations lead to the selection of fabrics, which the artist chooses based on the individuals’ stories and personalities, with an emphasis on exuberant hues and bold designs. In self-portraits, she considers family histories and memories. She says, “I picked out a hummingbird print for my dad because I heard a story that when he was a kid, he was the only one in the neighborhood who could run fast enough to catch a hummingbird.”

In her larger portraits, Swaby incorporates sewing directly onto canvas as a drawing tool, outlining the contours of faces, hands, and hair. Loose threads dangle from the surfaces, suggesting the reverse—typically unseen—side of embroidery and the individuals’ sense of self being perpetually in progress. The titles of her concurrent, ongoing series imply dualities and connections. In New Growth, vibrant silhouettes celebrate Black hair while also alluding to a person who is thriving; Love Letter references a sentiment passed from one person to another—or perhaps even to oneself; and Another Side To Me recognizes the innumerable, intersecting facets of every identity.

Recently exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida, Swaby’s solo exhibition Fresh Up travels to the Art Institute of Chicago and will open on April 8. Find more of her work at Claire Oliver Gallery, on her website, and follow updates on Instagram.

 

A silhouette made from colorful, patterned fabric sewn on to a neutral canvas background.

“New Growth Second Chapter 8” (2021), thread and fabric sewn on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

A portrait made from colorful, patterned fabric sewn on to a neutral canvas background.

“Another Side To Me Second Chapter 3” (2021), cotton fabric and thread sewn on muslin, 28 x 36 inches

Two silhouettes made from colorful, patterned fabric sewn on to a neutral canvas background.

Left: “New Growth Second Chapter 10” (2021), thread and fabric sewn on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. Right: “New Growth Second Chapter 9” (2021), thread and fabric sewn on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

A silhouette made from colorful, patterned fabric sewn on to a neutral canvas background.

“New Growth Second Chapter 7” (2021), thread and fabric sewn on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

Two portraits made from colorful, patterned fabric sewn on to a neutral patterned background.

Left: “Love Letter 10” (2021), thread and fabric sewn on canvas, 38 x 84 inches. Right: “Love Letter 5” (2021), thread and fabric sewn on canvas, 38 x 84 inches

A portrait made from colorful, patterned fabric sewn on to a neutral canvas background.

“Seeing You Through Her and Me: Carissa” (2022), cotton fabric and thread sewn onto canvas, 62 x 78 x 2 inches

A portrait made from colorful, patterned fabric sewn on to a neutral canvas background.

“Another Side To Me Second Chapter 5” (2021), cotton fabric and thread sewn on muslin, 28 x 36 inches

 

 

 

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Art

Serene Wooded Landscapes Nestle Inside Introspective Silhouette Paintings by Megan Aline

January 24, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Everything Changes,” acrylic on panel, 16 x 12 inches. All images © Megan Aline, shared with permission

In Unseen Roots, artist Megan Aline fills silhouettes with brush, autumn foliage, and tall, skinny trees that span from torso to crown. Her solo show at Robert Lange Studio in Charleston consists of dozens of acrylic works that expose a small glimpse of a landscape hidden within each figure. “As we become increasingly disconnected from the natural world, I think the memory of nature becomes even stronger inside each of us,” the artist shares. “If you only spent weekends in the woods or summers at your grandmothers or you have a park you visit from time to time, it becomes the quiet space inside you that you can escape to even when you aren’t there.”

To render the contemplative works, Aline paints inside a stenciled silhouette on panel, which creates crisp outlines of each figure—she shares videos of this process on Instagram—and visible brushstrokes in pastel and neutral tones comprise the paintings’ backdrops. “As an artist, I spend a lot of time reflecting inwardly as I paint outwardly,” she writes. “I like the idea that we have an ‘inner landscape,’ a map created from emotions, ideas, and sensations collected throughout our lives.”

Unseen Roots is on view through January 28, and you can shop prints of Aline’s introspective silhouettes on her site. (via Supersonic Art)

 

“Deepest Pathways,” acrylic on panel, 16 x 16 inches

“Deeper Time,” acrylic on panel, 20 x 20 inches

Top: “Constantly Growing,” acrylic on panel, 20 x 30 inches. Bottom left: “Emergence,” acrylic on panel, 18 x 24 inches. Bottom right: “Radiance,” acrylic on panel, 16 x 16 inches

“Deeper Change,” acrylic on panel, 20 x 20 inches

“Positive Light,” acrylic on panel, 8 x 8 inches

“An Underlying Message,” acrylic on panel, 24 x 24 inches

“Beyond the Surface,” acrylic on panel, 16 x 16 inches

 

 



Art

An Eerie, Fairytale Forest and Silhouette Creatures Sprawl Across a Three-Story Mural by David de la Mano

September 30, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images by Sol Paperán, Nicolás Pezzino and David de la Mano, courtesy of David de la Mano

Set against a forest in shades of blue and white, a dark, twisted fairytale lines the entrance hall of the Catholic University of Uruguay. The three-story mural by David de la Mano is titled “Cosmos” and uses the Spanish artist’s signature silhouette figures and thin, branch-like lines to create a sinister narrative consumed by mystery and disorder: hybrid creatures escape down a stairwell, an army marches along the balcony, and myriad characters twist and flail in chaotic clusters.

Completed with the assistance of artist Andrés Cocco, the large-scale piece is derived from the shared etymological root of “university” and “universe,” which means a totality or everything that exists. “Cosmos” evokes Fernando Gallego’s 15th-Century painting of constellations and the zodiac that once cloaked a vaulted ceiling at the University of Salamanca library in de la Mano’s hometown, although this new iteration is devoid of stars. “It is a work full of mystery… There is my own iconography. There is the idea of ​​migration, a constant in my work from years ago,” the artist says in a statement. “The stars were replaced by two forests. There is a dark forest that does not let you see, and there is a clear forest in which the light comes.”

After spending years in Uruguay, de la Mano is back in Salamanca, and you can follow his works on Instagram.

 

 

 



Craft Photography

Clever Paper Cutouts by Paperboyo Transform Architecture and Landmarks into Amusing Scenes

August 4, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Paperboyo, shared with permission

Rich McCor (aka Paperboyo) has a way of imagining the potential for quirkiness and whimsy in existing architecture. Using tourist attractions, landmarks, and urban settings as his backdrops, the Brighton-based artist and photographer (previously) dreams up amusing scenes that he fashions with precise angles and black paper cutouts: the Arc de Triomphe playfully morphs into a massive LEGO figure, an upside-down shot of Regent Street becomes a boat canal, and the King’s Place facade functions as individual swimming lanes. McCor tends to travel widely to photograph his temporary silhouettes, although he’s focused on local regions in recent months. The Netherlands, New York, and Taipei are next up on his list, so keep an eye on Instagram for dispatches from those spots and add one of the clever collages to your collection by picking up a print in the Paperboyo shop.

 

 

 



Art

Moonlit Forests, Fish, and Branches Populate Kirie Silhouettes Cut from a Single Sheet of Paper

April 20, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Kanako Abe, shared with permission

From a single sheet of white paper, Kanako Abe (previously) carves exquisite silhouettes of children and young adults who are awash in seas of fish or occupied by quiet campouts. She utilizes the traditional Japanese art form called Kirie—which translates to cut picture—a technique that Abe begins with a sketch before slicing the delicate material with a variety of knives. “I don’t have a chance to change the design once I start cutting, so I find it challenging,” the Seattle-based artist says. “I have to think of the right patterns, controlling negative space, and make sure all the lines are connected so the art won’t fall apart once it’s finished.” A single piece can take anywhere from six to 60 hours to complete.

Abe shifted to full-time in 2020 and now balances her practice between commissions and ongoing personal projects, a few of which she’ll be sharing soon on Instagram. No matter the context, each artwork reflects a broader connection to nature and its ability to provide an escape from the complications and heartbreak of the current moment. “I find the process of art-making is a way for me to meditate on everyday thoughts and emotions, and it’s much easier for me to express complex feelings or emotions visually than verbally,” she tells Colossal. “The cycle of nature teaches us about the power of letting go or accept things as they are and that there’s a silver lining in everything.”

If you’re in San Francisco, you can see Abe’s intricate portraits at her September solo show at Rare Device. She’ll also be included in a group exhibition at Today’s Gallery in Ehime, Japan, which opens in December.

 

 

 



Animation Illustration

Paper Illustrations and GIFs Explore the Body and Mind in New Work by Eiko Ojala

March 6, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

New York Times Sunday Review cover, animation for "Life After a hear Attack at Age 38"

New York Times Sunday Review cover, animation for “Life After a hear Attack at Age 38”

New Zealand and Estonia-based illustrator Eiko Ojala (previously) creates cut paper illustrations that present shadow and depth through creative layering of colorful pieces of paper. Recently, his editorial illustrations have been focused on the mind and body, like a cut paper GIF he created for a story on heart attacks in the New York Times. Others, like two Washington Post illustrations, attempt to uncover the thoughts and feelings sequestered in children’s minds by layering images inside the shape of a boy’s profile. You can see more of Ojala’s designs on his Instagram and Behance.

Washington Post cover illustration for "Kids Special."

Washington Post cover illustration for “Kids Special.”

New York Times Sunday Review illustration for "I Did a Terrible Thing. I Needed to Apologize".

New York Times Sunday Review illustration for “I Did a Terrible Thing. I Needed to Apologize.”

New York Times Sunday Review cover, animation and spot illustration for "Life After a hear Attack at Age 38"

New York Times Sunday Review cover, animation and spot illustration for “Life After a hear Attack at Age 38”

 

New Yorker illustrations for "Literary Hoaxes and the Ethics of Authorship."

New Yorker illustrations for “Literary Hoaxes and the Ethics of Authorship.”

Washington Post cover illustration for "Kids Special."

Washington Post cover illustration for “Kids Special.”

New York Times Sunday Review cover, animation and spot illustration for "Life After a hear Attack at Age 38"

New York Times Sunday Review cover, animation and spot illustration for “Life After a hear Attack at Age 38”

 

 

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