with trompe l’oeil
As if lifted by a breeze, oversized ribbons and bunches of fabric float across the trompe l’oeil murals by London-based artist Rosie Woods. The gleaming, prismatic textiles sway and subtly twist into folds and ripples in the spray-painted works. Through the flowing movements, Woods explores the fluid, ever-changing nature of the human experience by synthesizing abstraction and realism. She explains:
I often wonder what my soul would look like if it manifested itself as an object I could see and touch on this earth. My artwork today looks to express the depth, growth, and complexity of the mind as well as its ability to encompass both light and dark spaces emotionally. I’d like to think you can “feel” my artwork with your eyes.
Woods translates her massive, lustrous textiles to smaller canvases, which she sells in her shop. Although she’s sold-out at the moment, you can watch for upcoming releases on Instagram, where she shares a variety of process shots and news on where she’s headed next.
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The Wound: JR's New Anamorphic Artwork Appears to Carve Out the Facade of Florence's Palazzo Strozzi
French artist JR unveiled an imposing artwork at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence last week that mimics a massive gash in the institution’s Renaissance-era facade. Spanning 28 x 33 meters, “La Ferita,” or “The Wound,” is an anamorphic collage that appears to reveal the iconic artworks housed inside the building, in addition to a stately courtyard colonnade, exhibition hall, and library. Exposing different parts of the interior as the viewer shifts position, the artwork is in response to the lack of accessibility at cultural institutions since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Completed alongside a team of 11 in two months, the site-specific piece was constructed 30 centimeters in front of the 15th Century ashlar facade with a metal structure and 80 panels of Dibond aluminum. It features JR’s signature photographic style—similar projects were installed at Williamsburg’s Domino Park, the Louvre, and the U.S./Mexico border—and includes a mix of real and imagined elements, including black-and-white renderings of Botticelli’s “Primavera” and “Birth of Venus” and Giambologna’s “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” in addition to prominent spaces like the Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento.
“The Wound” is layered further with references to art history, from its use of the trompe l’oeil technique that grew in popularity in the 1500s to its evocation of ruinism, an 18th Century style that portrayed ancient architecture “as testimonials to a glorious past in a dramatic reflection on the fate of mankind,” a release says, noting that Palazzo Strozzi will not be preserving the piece beyond its initial construction.
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Vintage clothing and nature collide in the trompe l’oeil works of Ron Isaacs (previously). Autumn leaves flow from a pastel pocketbook, songbirds emerge from a dress seam, and branches extend the length of formalwear. Despite appearing as fully formed sculptures complete with layered textiles and organic ephemera, the illusory works are constructed as reliefs with Finnish birch plywood that’s painted with matte acrylics.
Isaacs’s oeuvre is poetic and deliberately evasive as the Lexington-based artist renders vintage garments that represent an imagined figure. Whether appearing to be lying flat or slowly drifting to the floor, the slips and blouses evoke a “vivid human presence, as well as their own histories and mysteries,” he says. Brush, withered leaves, and raw elements further enhance the lively qualities while drawing connections between people’s lives and nature.
In a note to Colossal, Isaacs shares how his art and experience intersect:
My work evolves slowly, mostly as a matter of increased and prolonged stages of refinement, and perhaps of concept. The passage of time continues as an undercurrent to the work; as I am now seventy-nine, I have to consider things like what constitutes a life-time supply of plywood and paint—and that I have to make proverbial hay while the proverbial sun shines.
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On the campus of University Hospital Marqués de Valdecilla in Santander, Spain, a trio of interventions by street artist Pejac (previously) simultaneously responds to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and offers potential paths for healing. The new series, titled Strength, is Pejac’s direct response to the 50,000 people who have died from the virus in his home country. “The idea of the Strength project arises as a gesture of gratitude to the health workers of Valdecilla, for their work in general and during this Covid crisis in particular. Offering them what I do best, which is painting,” the artist says.
In “Social Distancing” (shown below), a horde of people escape from a crevice in the building’s facade. The trompe l’oei artwork is a multi-layered metaphor for the ways the virus has ruptured society and the necessity of community care and compassion. “Caress” features two silhouettes standing six-feet apart, with Monet-style reflections on the ground nearby. The figures, which represent a patient and doctor, stretch their hands toward each other.
Pejac worked in collaboration with young oncology patients to complete the third piece, titled “Overcoming” (shown below), in which a child perched on a wheelchair recreates Van Gogh’s “Wheat Field with Cypresses.” “This is something that we, as a society could do—take this crisis and use it to propel us forward,” he says.
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Working with entomologists around the globe, the French street artist known as Mantra (previously) transforms brick facades and concrete walls into massive studies of local butterfly specimens. With framed outer edges that mimic a wooden box, the trompe l’oeil murals render the winged insects in detail, depicting their richly hued scales and delicate antennae. Each artwork features species native to the area, making it possible that a live specimen might flutter by its enormous counterpart.
In a conversation with Colossal, Mantra said he’s harbored a lifelong fascination with entomology that stems from spending hours in French gardens and bucolic areas as a kid. “As a child, I was interested, curious, and focused on the small life forms in those places,” he says. His current practice hearkens back to those carefree hours and connects with an adolescent desire to become a naturalist. “My approach is as a scientist,” the artist says, noting that education about environmental care and issues is part of the goal.
Although Mantra considers all insects and natural life beautiful and crucial to maintaining biodiversity, the focus on butterflies revolves around his artistic ambitions because the vivid creatures allow him to experiment with color, shape, and texture. Each specimen is rendered freehand before the artist adds detail and the illusory shadows that make them appear three-dimensional. By painting various Lepidoptera species again and again, the artist is “repeating a mantra,” a detail of his practice that informs the moniker he works under.
In recent months, Mantra has traveled to Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden, in addition to various locations throughout France, to complete public artworks, and he’ll be in Arkansas this month for two projects curated by Just Kids. Follow all of the artist’s entomological murals on Instagram.
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Dutch artist Leon Keer is known for his large-scale anamorphic and Trompe-l’œil projects, transforming the sides of buildings and sidewalks into illusory public art. His latest mural, titled “Safe House,” turns the side of a housing complex in Morlaix, France, into a massive, wrapped gift. Despite its flat surface, the gold paper appears to crinkle and bulge under the bright, imperfectly cut tape. “It is not obvious for everybody to have a roof over their head. Your home is precious and gives you the comfort and protection, a gift for the necessary needs in life. In honor of the great Christo and Jeanne-Claude,” the artist writes in a statement.
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