Brazillian artist Ernesto Neto (previously) is known for his enormous, fiber-based installations that plunge viewers into a multi-sensory landscape of organic elements: people are encouraged to walk through canals of stretched yarn and grasp the structural weavings, while spicy scents like turmeric and cumin are often diffused throughout the room.
Similarly immersive and imposing, Neto’s latest work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is one of his largest to date. “SunForceOceanLife” is a hand-crocheted, walkable maze of yellow, orange, and green threads that stretch 79 feet across the gallery and spiral 12 feet in the air. The pliable installation centers around “fire, the vital energy that enables life on this planet,” the artist says, sharing that each polymer string utilized is burned at the end to further infuse the piece with sacred, meditative rituals. “I hope that the experience of this work will feel like a chant made in gratitude to the gigantic ball of fire we call the sun, a gesture of thanks for the energy, truth, and power that it shares with us as it touches our land, our oceans, and our life,” he writes.
Plastic balls also fill the pathway and shift underfoot, which forces those passing through the suspended structure to intentionally maintain their balance. Neto explains:
It directly engages the body as does a joyful dance or meditation, inviting us to relax, breathe, and uncouple our body from our conscious mind. The sensation of floating, the body cradled by the crocheted fruits of our labor, brings to mind a hammock: the quintessential indigenous invention that uplifts us and connects us to the wisdom and traditions of our ancestors.
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In “XXXX Swatchbook,” Evelin Kasikov (previously) explores all of the variables of CMYK printing without a single drop of ink. She catalogs primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, two-dozen combinations showing how rotation affects the final pigment, and a full spectrum of rich gradients. In total, the printing-focused book is comprised of four base tones, 16 elements, and 400 swatches of color entirely hand-embroidered in 219,647 stitches.
The original idea came from Kasikov’s desire for a reference tool, one similar to loose sheets of Pantone swatches, that she could share with potential book design clients interested in CMYK embroidery. During the next six years, though, the project evolved into the uniquely comprehensive artist book it is now.
“XXXX Swatchbook” features three-dimensional color studies in the style of precisely arranged halftone dots employed in four-color printing. “I use cross-stitch technique to replicate this. It’s a very simple idea,” Kasikov says. “I prepare the image in InDesign or Illustrator, then pierce the design onto paper and stitch with CMYK colored threads. Of course, my ‘print resolution’ is very low, about 3-4 lines per inch compared to 300 in print.”
Stitched with varying thickness, the swatches use conventional screen angles—cyan 105˚, magenta 75˚, yellow 90˚, and black 45˚—to produce a wide range of colors and gradients, all of which you can view on the artist’s blog. Each French-folded page features geometric patches of thread, alongside hand-written details about the CMYK values shown. The spine of the book also reveals a vibrant gradient spanning magenta to cyan.
“XXXX Swatchbook” is founded on Kasikov’s earlier “CMYK Embroidery,” a project that grew out of her MA studies at Central Saint Martins and was influenced by her background in advertising. Merging the two into the broader project of graphic stitching grew organically and offered an outlet to create a piece that was the artist says was “valuable, timeless, and trend-less,” in comparison to the more transitory projects of commercial work. “When you add tactile qualities to graphic design, it changes perspective. The structure of color can be touched. The printed image becomes three-dimensional. A flat page comes to life so to speak,” she writes.
Kasikov splits her time between Tallinn and London, where she’s working on a project called Small Hours. Centered around a theme of silence, the collection features still-life photographs with freehand dots stitched on top in a pointillist style. Follow the ongoing project and find a larger archive of Kasikov’s book designs and embroidered works on her site and Instagram. You also might enjoy Tauba Auerbach’s RGB colorspace atlas. (via Present & Correct)
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Brenda Risquez is deliberate in her use of texture, density, and color in her boldly embroidered portraits inspired by friends and pop culture icons. Varying patches of long, single-stitch rows and rounded tufts map onto the subjects’ faces, many of which display the textile artist’s affinity for pronounced, single-hued cheeks. Her hoop-bound portraits are expressive and dotted with playful elements, like a jaw outlined in pink or highlights stitched in bright, geometric shapes.
Textiles have played an outsized role in Risquez’s creative trajectory—she holds degrees in Fine Arts from the University of Granada and Textile Art from the School of Art of Granada—although she only started embroidering in the last five years. Currently, she teaches at Workshop Granada and is exploring a variety of techniques involving fabric painting and pattern design. Find shots of works-in-progress, along with information on commissions and other opportunities to buy her dynamic pieces, on Instagram.
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Nicole Havekost describes her towering figures as exhibiting the contradiction of “sublime embarrassment… Bodies are magical and glorious and gross and bewildering. Bodies are civilized and feral.” Through hand-sewn sculptures, the Rochester-based artist explores the ways aging affects peoples’ figures and the emotional process of adjusting to a new reality.
She stitches large anthropomorphic works from industrial felt, shaping bodies that are bulging and covered with knots and uneven seams that serve as a reminder of restoration. Havekost explains:
These are the visible representations of the making and mending, repairing and refinishing, we are engaged in as human beings on a daily basis. It shows where we have been and marks where we are going. My figures show their imperfect repairs outwardly, unlike most of us who put on our best public faces. As I have aged, I have become more of a partner to my body. To have a body and accept its imperfections is a privilege and that is what I continue to explore in my work.
Coupled with the varying stitches are the figures’ loping movements and gestures: they lean against the wall, slouch on the floor, and stretch stiff limbs, exposing their “lived-in bodies. They are soft but hold their shape and are in poses open to nurturing and comfort though they have already given so much. They are protectors that need protection,” the artist says.
Although much of Havekost’s work centers on smaller creatures, this collection is monumental in scale and a natural progression from the doll-sized pieces she’s made previously. The nondescript works loom within the 18-foot gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where they’re currently on view through June 26, 2021. “The idea of these figures really owning the space, of the audience having to adjust to their size and presence is what really drove the increased scale and bulk of the pieces. I owed it to the figures to let them be as big as they needed to be,” she says.
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Through nine ceramic bowls, Yurim Gough untangles the complex narratives surrounding performance, appearance, and gender fluidity. Her identity-centric pieces—which are infused with layers of pencil renderings, thread, and other materials that can require nearly a dozen rounds of firing at multiple temperatures to complete—depict figures outfitted with ostentatious costumes and elaborately painted faces. Drawing on aspects of queer culture, Gough’s vessels are disruptive and revisionary, simultaneously exposing the dated and constructed nature of traditional gender categories while reveling in the history of those who’ve subverted norms.
Gough’s gold-trimmed collection will be on view as part of Salvage, a group exhibition curated by Colossal’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief Christopher Jobson at Paradigm Gallery + Studio in Philadelphia. Opening tonight, January 22, Salvage shares how artists are revitalizing fragments of tradition and culture that were destined to be lost, relegated to the periphery, or buried forever. The exhibition, which you can tour virtually, launches with a live talk with Jobson, Gough, André Schulze (previously), and Debra Broz (previously)—tickets are available on Eventbrite—and runs through February 20.
Now based in the U.K., the South Korean artist has a background in fashion. Explore more of her work, which includes a variety of self-portraiture and considerations of contemporary culture, on her site and Instagram.
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Merging traditional craft techniques and the natural world’s abundant materials, Hillary Waters Fayle (previously) meticulously stitches brightly hued florals into found camellia leaves and other foliage. From simple lines and ribbing to fully rendered botanics, the thread-based embellishments interrupt the fragile matter. The resulting sculptures evidence nature’s durability while juxtaposing the organic material with the fabricated additions.
In the interview below, Waters Fayle describes how she gathers leaves and seed pods from areas around her home in Richmond, Virginia, and notes that her practice is rooted in sustainability. By using materials that are already available, like thread from her grandmother, the artist strives for zero-waste in her practice. Overall, her intention is to “bind nature and human touch,” magnifying how the two interact.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.