To paint his murals, Sean Yoro, aka Hula, yields to the shifting tides of the ocean. The Los Angeles-based artist (previously) paddles out to underpasses and concrete barriers only accessible by water where he balances on a surfboard with a minimal number of supplies—all paints, brushes, and other materials have to fit within the 10-foot space. There he renders portraits of women half-submerged in the sea and singular hands that appear to burst from the surface. “I had to learn not only a faster and more efficient way to paint while on a surfboard but also blending layers together needed to be able to adapt to the tides and other variables that might restrict certain areas of the wall,” he shares.
The visibility of Yoro’s large-scale works shifts depending on the water level, allowing the celestial patterns that mark his subjects’ faces or splotches of paint on their backs to peek through. “I loved incorporating more surreal elements to my painted figures—always trying to balance the water and concrete aesthetics,” he says.
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Back in spring, Swiss photographer Jennifer Esseiva visited the remote forests of Vallorbe, Switzerland, as the trees and rugged, wooded terrain emerged from their winter stupor. There she captured the lush mosses and foliage that cloaked the area in a thick blanket of greenery and the recently thawed stream flowing through its midst. Now compiled in an enchanting series aptly titled Fairyland, the ethereal, long-exposure photos depict the trickling body of water as a hazy fog that clings to the landscape.
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Through serene, idyllic landscapes, Tomás Sánchez visualizes his long-harbored fascination with meditation. The practice, the Cuban painter says, is “where I find many of the answers to questions that transcend from the personal to the universal. Meditation is not always a fleeting time. Meditation is not a punctual exercise; it is a constant practice.”
Rather than conceptualize the exercise as a temporary state, Sánchez views mediation as a lens to interpret the world, a recurring theme that has foregrounded much of his work during the last few decades. His acrylic paintings and hazy graphite drawings, which take months if not years to complete, highlight the immensity and awe-inspiring qualities of a forest thick with vegetation or a nearby waterfall and offer perspective through a lone, nondescript figure often found amongst the trees. Distinct and heavily detailed, the realistic landscapes aren’t based on a specific place but rather are imagined spaces available only through a ruminative state.
If you’re in New York, stop by Marlborough Gallery to see Sánchez’s solo show, which is on view from November 18 to January 22. Titled Inner Landscape, the exhibition encompasses multiple pieces never shown before, including the pristine scenes shown here. Until then, explore more of his works on Instagram.
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A lucent half-circle, “Hometown Moon” is nestled within the rugged topography of China’s Mount Tai. The glowing orb, which was designed by Syn Architects, radiates on a surrounding water feature, creating a dramatic, mirrored reflection that appears to make the cleaved design whole. With illuminated pillars to support the concrete chapel below, the construction mimics “a moon that never sets,” designers told Dezeen. “We returned to the birthplace of Confucianism, rebuilding the relationship between dualities such as city and the countryside.”
Inside the venue, a mountain-like sculpture covered in moss sprawls throughout and ends at the bottom half of the massive design. Similar to its above-ground counterpart, “Hometown Moon” is reflected in a mirrored ceiling to intensify the natural light. It’s the second organically-shaped structure built in the area, with the nearby Gad Line+ Studio terrace evocative of clouds. “The buildings complement each other as symbolic counterparts…after crossing a mountain, a river and exploring a few curved pathways, visitors finally arrive at the building,” Syn Architects said.
For more of the Chinese firm’s projects, visit its site.
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What began in July 2003 as a single visit to the frigid Ilulissat Icefjord in western Greenland morphed into a years-long project for German photographer Olaf Otto Becker. That initial trip prompted fourteen subsequent voyages to the Arctic coastlines, where he captured monumental glaciers calving and crumbling into the ocean and still expanses of water through bleak nighttime light. “Every day, huge thundering masses of ice break into the sea, causing the sea level to rise slowly but incessantly,” he writes.
Becker compiled the striking images in his Broken Line series, which frames the remote regions from Ilulissat to Uummannaq and Upernavik to Melvillebay. Navigating thick fog and unpredictable waters alone in a rubber raft, he traveled along 4,000 kilometers of coastlines between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. when the midsummer light illuminated the landscape and used long exposures to capture the vistas. Becker details his grueling excursions—these involved being struck by an iceberg that plunged him into the water, broke his rib, and caused a concussion—on PetaPixel, where he also explains the urgency of documenting the glacial forms:
Numerous houses in the village of Nuugaatsiaq were washed out to sea. Scientists found the debris avalanche was triggered by the growing warming of the rocks. The brittle rock is no longer held together by the permafrost, so the danger of rockfalls has been increasing for years. Scientists have calculated that, in addition, the coasts of Greenland and the island itself will rise significantly because of the melting of the tons of ice, while the rising sea level will literally drown some coasts. Everything will change.
The stunning photos shown here are compiled in a book by the same name, and Becker shares more of his projects that document the changing landscapes on his site. You also might enjoy the diverse glacial shots captured by Jan Erik Waider.
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Metaphorical Paintings by Calida Garcia Rawles Obscure Black Subjects with Gleaming Ripples of Water
Artist Calida Garcia Rawles continues her explorations into the myriad possibilities of water with paintings distorted by bubbles, pockets of air, and ripples reflecting the light above. She suspends Black figures in otherwise imperceptible moments, like the pause that immediately follows a fully-clothed plunge into a pool, conveying a vulnerable and fleeting interaction between her subjects and their surroundings. With submerged profiles or mirrored features, many are unidentifiable. “You really can’t see a face. They become almost forms and a part of their environment,” she tells Colossal. “I think there’s a spiritual element to water… They’re formless, and we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Many of the poetic renderings depict figures in billowing gowns or collared shirts in white for the color’s association with virtue and purity, a symbolic choice that’s connected to the artist’s interest in broader questions of race and its implications. “A lot of times innocence is not associated with the Black body. I thought it was a place to start,” she says. In an exploration of Rawles’s work, writer Roxane Gay further connects these questions to the water itself, sharing that the ripples in the artist’s paintings reference “the topographical maps of cities where Black lives have been tragically lost.”
Each painting is based on photographs the artist takes herself—read more about her lengthy research process previously on Colossal—and captures water’s incredible power and meditative qualities. For Rawles, the fluid spaces are metaphorical and tied broadly to Water-Memory Theory, or the idea that the vital liquid can preserve all of its interactions. “(I’m) remembering what water does, that it holds history in a way,” she says. “Water has everything that’s been through it, and that’s fascinating to me.”
Her practice is circular, and she’s likely to return to a thought or broader theme after setting it aside. The ethereal, abstract paintings that comprise the new series On the Other Side of Everything, for example, are extensions of those in A Dream For My Lillith, six paintings featuring clothed figures who are obscured by lustrous ripples of water rendered in acrylic. “It’s not a departure,” Rawles says of her new work. “It’s just showing more range of what I can do.”
On the Other Side of Everything is on view at Lehmann Maupin in New York through October 23, and the artist is currently working on her first mural at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. You can follow her progress on that large-scale work and see more of her process on Instagram.
Update: This article was updated for context on October 13, 2021.
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