surreal

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Art

First Look at 'Numina': A Wonderland Brimming with Bizarre Creatures and Fantastical Scenes Opens at ‘Convergence Station’ in Denver

September 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

Between a two-story metallic spaceship, gnarled trees teeming with strangely colored mosses and lichen, and fantastical creatures, the eccentric artworks that comprise the new space at Convergence Station by Meow Wolf (previously) rival those in even the most peculiar sci-fi universe. The immersive, swamp-like installation, which is dubbed “Numina” or the spirit of a place, is one of the anchors of the Santa Fe-based company’s latest undertaking, which showcases more than 70 installations by 300 artists across four floors. Four years in the making, Convergence Station opens on September 17 in Denver.

Accessible through a series of secret portals and wormholes, “Numina” scales 35 feet into the air and is designed as a multi-sensory experience inviting visitors to interact with their unearthly surroundings. When someone speaks to one of the four glowing creatures resembling sea urchins, for example, the forms warp and spew the echoed audio across the space. The color-changing “Fairie Orbs” similarly sing and vibrate with intonations when a person passes by, and the “Frog Egg Garden” emits kaleidoscopic lights and quiet sounds when activated with touch.

 

All images © Meow Wolf, shared with permission

Spanning three levels, the extraordinary, hand-built project is evidence of the team’s penchant for detail and ability to fuse seemingly disparate reference materials into surreal sculptures with various colors, textures, and shapes. The wood-like structural elements, for example, are wrapped in innumerable folds that artists modeled after the wrinkled skin of hairless cats, while pieces like the “Toad Piggies” are hybrid creations and the “Nudibranches” exaggerate the striking bodies of real-life mollusks by stretching them to seven feet. “Some ‘flowers’ were inspired by jellyfish, and some ‘jellyfish’ look more like flowers,” says Caity Kennedy, the project’s creative director and co-founder of Meow Wolf.

Although individual artists retained control over much of what they created—the expansiveness of this collaborative approach is part of what makes “Numina” so uniquely vast and diverse—Kennedy tells Colossal that she gravitated toward the more bizarre works rather than whimsical, fairytale-style pieces. “It is an interesting challenge to play with the balance of comfort and discomfort, to build a space that is welcoming but sometimes unnerving, to make people feel both safe and adventurous at the same time,” she shares. “There are so many things I could point out… Look for the sundial! Find the zoetrope! Point the sort of mollusk orchid/telescope creatures at the stars! Find Leomie’s Field Notebook in the library!”

Tickets are on sale now to visit Convergence Station in person. Otherwise, watch the video tour above for a more in-depth look at the unreal wonderland.

 

 

 



Art

Bizarre Wide-Eyed Hybrids Reflect Imagined Landscapes in Naoto Hattori's Miniature Paintings

September 3, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Green Walk.” All images © Naoto Hattori, shared with permission

At once adorable and unnervingly surreal, the fantastical creatures rendered by Naoto Hattori (previously) seamlessly meld the myriad textures and colors found in nature into unusual hybrids. They’re often fluffy, equipped with horns in surprising spots, and bear eyes so inordinately large and glassy that they reflect full-scale landscapes. Whether a furry sea horse-like character or a large bulbous head floating mid-air, the figures are musings on Hattori’s experiences. “When I (am) lucid dreaming, I imagine myself as a floating hybrid creature or something in harmony with nature,” he tells Colossal.

Primarily working in acrylic, the Japanese artist keeps his paintings small in scale, opting for miniature boards that generally don’t stretch more than six inches. He welcomes the technical challenge of such tiny spaces, although the size constraint originally developed when he was diagnosed with severe cervical spondylosis about 10 years ago. “When I tried to draw with my elbows and shoulders, my fingertips became numb and I couldn’t control the brush,” he says. “If it’s about the size of a notebook, I can draw without moving my neck or shoulders… So currently, I’m painting a smaller size that allows me to draw freely with the movements of my wrists and fingertips.”

Hattori, who lives in his hometown of Yokohama, Japan, will be part of The Blab Show opening at Santa Monica’s CoproGallery on September 11. You can glimpse his process on Instagram, and shop originals and prints on his site.

 

“Regeneration 3”

Left: “Floating.” Right: “Regeneration 2”

“Mind Pollinator”

“Lucid Dreamer”

Left: “Rooster.” Right: “Sing for Joy”

“Baby Fungus”

“Inner Sound”

 

 



Photography

Surreal Photos Convey Psychological States Through Minimal Color-Centric Scenes

August 26, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Loose.” All images © Dasha Pears, shared with permission

Through conceptual shots that focus on color and long lines, photographer and artist Dasha Pears emphasizes the chasm between inner and outer worlds. Her images celebrate myriad psychological states and phenomena sometimes deemed unsightly, capturing their beauty and inherent transcience with a surreal twist. Her focus on the minimal, she says, “is my way of expressing that controlling your mind and creating space is crucial for discovering who you are and who you are not.”

While many of the works deal broadly with inner tension, self-discovery, and perspective, others are grounded in Pears’s own experiences, like her ongoing series titled Synesthetic Letters. Through vibrant compositions, the photographer translates her understanding of synesthesia, a condition that can cause alphabetic characters and numbers to be conveyed as colors. Simple materials like lengths of fabric, tires, and bananas complete the perceptual scenarios, which Pears applies slight digital alterations to post-shoot.

The Helsinki-based photographer sells prints in her shop, and you can find an extensive archive of her emotionally charged works on Instagram.

 

“Up and Go!”

“A”

“B”

“C”

“One”

“Invasion”

“Scarlet Caravan”

 

 



Art

Infinite Architectural Metropolises Balance Order and Chaos in Benjamin Sack's Drawings

June 23, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Boxed In.” All images © Benjamin Sack, shared with permission

In Benjamin Sack’s imagined environments, it’s not uncommon to find angular mazes resembling dystopian structures, buildings packed so closely together it’s difficult to distinguish one from the next, and labyrinthine walkways that spiral like fractals. Working in pen and ink, the artist (previously) draws intricate black-and-white metropolises that waver between organization and chaos: He plays with geometry, angles, and dimension to render perplexing maps teeming with both traditional architecture and surreal additions, like treble clefs, astral shapes, and dizzying line- and dot-work.

While many of Sack’s works meld the past, present, and future into a single display, his recent feet-wide maze titled “Roots of Being (Per Aspera ad Astra)” is directly drawn from this last year.  “This piece was a massive, Daedalian undertaking that was started at the outset of the initial lockdowns back in March 2020 and finished upon my receiving the first dose of the vaccine in April,” the artist tells Colossal. “A large labyrinth emblematic of the epoch we persevered.”

Watch the timelapse video below and head to Instagram for a glimpse into Sack’s process, and pick up a print in his shop.

 

“Tokyo, Japan”

“Roots of Being (Per Aspera ad Astra)”

Detail of “Roots of Being (Per Aspera ad Astra)”

“Manhattanesque”

Detail of “Leitmotif”

“Endurance”

“Acoustaglyph”

“A Sensitive Chaos”

“Leitmotif”

 

 



Animation Art Illustration

Surreal Watercolor Illustrations Shake Back and Forth in Marija Tiurina's Chaotic Stereograms

May 27, 2021

Grace Ebert

All image © Marija Tiurina, shared with permission

Longtime Colossal readers will recognize the surreal, fictionalized scenes illustrated by Marija Tiurina (previously). Whether a bizarre mishmash of thoughts from quarantine or a crowded parallel universe in North London, Tiurina’s works are a seemingly endless exploration of mystery, delight, and general chaos, themes the London-based illustrator continues in her new series Stereogramos—the title is a portmanteau blending the “Spanish world for a bouquet (of endless objects and limbs, in my case) and ‘-os’ ending that is typical to the worlds of plural female form in Lithuanian language,” she says.

Comprised of three jiggling gifs and a longer, scrolling animation, the works deviate from Tiurina’s static paintings and build a playful, peculiar setting around three central characters in her signature style. The female figures exude an air of cool disinterest and are surrounded by objects defining their unqiue personalities, including greasy slices of pizza, cracked vinyl, and even a disturbingly severed limb.

To create the dizzying works, Tiurina began by drawing and painting the individual elements with watercolor, and after cutting each out, she layered them into rich, abstracted scenes with a single central character. Her stereograms, or two-dimensional renderings that give the illusion of greater depth, diverge from historical stereoscopic images that positioned two photos side-by-side on a flat plane viewed with binocular vision. Instead, the illustrator merges the two into one glitching visual that appears in three dimensions.

Tiurina recorded her entire process for Stereogramos, which you can see in the video below, and you can find more of her packed, sprawling illustrations and similarly looping Droste Effect watercolor on Behance and Instagram. She also sells originals, prints, and books on her site, and if you’re in Reykjavík, stop by SIM Residency to see her work as part of a group show that’s open through May 29, 2021.

 

 

 



Art Illustration

Graphite Portraits Distort and Intertwine Subjects to Visualize Metaphors of the Body

April 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Miles Johnston, shared with permission

Malmö, Sweden-based artist Miles Johnston portrays subjects whose figures are in states of flux, whether through fragmented bodies, multiplied faces, or limbs contorted into impossible positions. Often depicting Johnston (previously) or his partner, the graphite portraits distort typical anatomy in a way that balances the familiar with the unknown and visualizes the thoughts and emotions otherwise hidden inside the mind.

Whether set against a trippy backdrop or quiet beach, each piece portrays the experience of the body “through a kind of internal metaphorical language,” the artist says. He explains further:

We don’t directly experience the actual biochemical facts of what is happening in our bodies, hormones secreting, weird little proteins and neurons doing whatever it is they do. Instead, we have a whole language of expressions like stomach tied up in knots, feeling empty, torn in two, burning with anger, etc… I’m aiming for this sort of naive direct representation of what things feel like instead of a literal representation of how they look from the outside.

Keep an eye on Johnston’s site and Instagram for news on upcoming print releases and his latest works.