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Art

Leaves, Insects, and Human Anatomy Converge in Delicate Pencil Drawings by Amahi Mori

January 17, 2023

Grace Ebert

A drawing of a leaf and butterfly hybrid creature

“Papilio ulysses,” pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor on paper, 22.7 x 22.7 centimeters. All images © Amahi Mori, shared with permission

Through veins and hybridized beings, Japanese artist Amahi Mori connects life across the plant and animal kingdoms. Various circulatory systems blend together in seamless compositions with leafy greens emerging from a blue morpho or cloaking an elongated human hand. Rendered in graphite, colored pencil, and watercolor, Amahi’s delicate works center on the vibrancy of life conveyed through brilliantly patterned wings and supple leaves. Many of the drawings are also tinged with the otherworldly and surreal, particularly as human skin stretches to account for a growing stem.

Amahi has a solo exhibition slated for this May at Ginza Getsukoso Gallery. Until then, find an archive of her fused creatures on her site and Instagram.

 

A graphite drawing of a leaf growing from a human hand

“Daydream,” pencil and acrylic gouache on paper, 33.3 x 24.2 centimeters

A drawing of a leaf and butterfly hybrid creature

“Papilio xuthus,” pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor on paper, 15.8 x 22.7 centimeters

A drawing of a butterfly and leaf hybrid creature

“Sasakia charonda,” pencil, colored pencil, watercolor, and acrylic gouache on paper, 22 x 27.3 centimeters

A drawing of a leaf growing from a hand

“Metamorphose into leaf veins,” pencil, watercolor, and acrylic gouache on paper, 22 x 27.3 centimeters

A drawing of a leaf and butterfly hybrid

“Papilio machaon,” pencil and watercolor on paper, 14 x 18 centimeters

A drawing of a leaf growing from a hand

“Shining,” pencil, watercolor, and acrylic gouache on paper, 27.3 x 22 centimeters

A drawing of human arm with a plant growing from a wrist

“Hello, see you,” pencil, watercolor, and acrylic gouache on paper, 27.3 x 22 centimeters

 

 

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Art Photography

Watercolor Accentuates the Surreal and Metaphorical Nature of Annalise Neil’s Cyanotypes

January 11, 2023

Grace Ebert

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna

“State Change” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper mounted on wood panel, 10 x 10 x 1.5 inches. All images © Annalise Neil, shared with permission

A “pursuit of the unknown” grounds Annalise Neil’s practice. An enduring curiosity and a desire to find answers shape both her approach to and the form of her works, which layer watercolor accents atop cyanotypes. The pieces depict the unassuming and magnificent, “the tender yet muscular emergence of mushrooms from soil, the brittle and also supple curve of a snail’s shell, the translucent husk of a crinoid on the beach.”

Constructed with hundreds of hand-cut negatives, the composites veil flora and fauna in shades of blue, evoking the color’s ubiquity within the natural world and the mysteries humans have yet to uncover. Lined with yellow or rusty-colored pigments, the works feature familiar subject matter with positions and scale that veer toward the surreal: large hands descend upon an arid desert landscape, birds escape from a trio of shapes that evoke a mushroom cloud, and flowers, butterflies, and dewy spores encircle a central bloom.

These unearthly pairings allow “for a re-thinking of the human’s relationship to reality and our surroundings,” Neil shares, an impulse that also informs her desire to reconsider and better understand change and possibility. “I believe metaphor is the most effective illuminator of new concepts and is an excellent midwife for empathy. One of the most fecund qualities of the human mind is our ability to ask questions, be curious, and make adjustments.”

Neil’s solo show Holobiont is on view through March 30 at Herrick Community Health Care Library in La Mesa, California, where she lives. The artist is currently preparing for a February residency at Playa Summer Lake and will open an exhibition at Sparks Gallery in San Diego this summer. Until then, explore an archive of her cyanotype series on her site and Instagram.

 

Two cyanotype composites of flora and fauna with rust watercolor details

Left: “Recalibration” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper mounted on wood panel, 24 x 18 x 1 inch. Right: “Vivify” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Hahnemuhle Sumi-e paper mounted on wood panel, 7 x 5 x 1 inch

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna and large drops

“San Diego/Sequoia National Forest/Cleveland National Forest: Chandelier Drops, Salp, Velvetleaf Pods, Wood Knot, Son, Sierra Tiger Lily, Corn Lily” (2020), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper mounted on wood panel, 11 x 14 x 1 inch

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna with a red line through the center

“Latitudinal Flow” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper mounted on wood panel, 6 x 6 x 1.5 inches

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna

“Propulsive Molt” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper mounted on wood panel, 10 x 10 x 1.5 inches

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna with chains connecting three bowls

“Ancestral Accretion” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Mohachi Shikishi paper, 11.5 x 9.5 inches

A detail of a cyanotype composite of flora and fauna

Detail of “Dynamic Mutuality” (2021), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper, 8.75 x 16.75 inches

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna with yellow details

“Extremophile Corridors” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Hahnemuhle Sumi-e paper mounted on wood panel, 11 x 14 x 1 inches

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna

“Dynamic Mutuality” (2021), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper, 8.75 x 16.75 inches

 

 



Art

Through Mystical Mixed-Media Narratives, Artist Rithika Merchant Explores Intrinsic Connection

November 9, 2022

Grace Ebert

A vivid mixed-media work with hybrid figures and symbols

“The Inner Sanctum” (2022), gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper, 100 x 70 centimeters All images © Rithika Merchant, courtesy of Galerie LJ, shared with permission

“I’m drawn to works that are rich in symbolism and also have a strong element of storytelling,” says Rithika Merchant. “I love seeing the artist’s hand in the work—I have a huge appreciation for small details and works that draw from a multitude of references—literary, mythical, and visual.”

The Mumbai-born artist manifests these same qualities in her practice, creating works that expertly translate concepts and themes through her own idiosyncratic allusions. Beginning with hours of study, research, and reading on an eclectic array of topics, Merchant tends to hone in on an image that she sketches onto sheets of paper, sometimes folded into generous rectangles or triangles. She then paints in gouache and subtle, muted washes of watercolor, layering translucent pigments atop inked renderings of landscapes, mythical hybrid creatures, and patterns of foliage.

While Merchant’s influences are broad—they range from the specific like 17th-century botanical drawings, Kalamkari prints, Mughal paintings, and Kalighat folk art to the general like religious iconography and narrative tapestries—they emerge as a distinct visual lexicon. The artist often gravitates toward symbols that transcend cultural or geographical boundaries, choosing to incorporate human anatomy, celestial objects, and botanical elements. Although universal, these images are married to language in Merchant’s mind and in service of an individual narrative. “I also have a notebook in which I make lots of written notes and diagrams, but I almost never make sketches or studies of things. I sketch more with words than images,” the artist shares.

 

A vivid mixed-media work with hybrid figures and symbols

“Bennu and Futuraheliopolis” (2021), gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper, 100 x 70 centimeters

Evoking the spiritual side of Hilma af Klint and the strange characters of Leonora Carrington, the resulting works are cartographic and chart-like, mapping surreal renderings of feathered wings, cycloptic figures, or a troupe of dancing creatures onto a plane intersected with creases and enclosed by a thin frame. Texture pervades each of the works through mixed mediums, collaged details, and patterns comprised of minuscule dots and lines.

Whether collaged or drawn on paper, each piece illuminates the intrinsic connections between the mind, body, and Earth. “I think there is something powerful in taking whatever scraps you can find and putting them together to create something meaningful,” she says.

Merchant is currently in a residence in Saint-Louis, Senegal, and will release her first monograph titled The Eye, The Sky, The Altar next month. For a glimpse into her studio and process, visit her Instagram.

 

A vivid mixed-media work with hybrid figures and symbols

“Seed Vault” (2022), gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper, 100 x 70 centimeters

A vivid mixed-media work with a green lion and symbols

“Midnight Sun” (2022), gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper, 100 x 70 centimeters

A photo of an open book with two artworks

A vivid mixed-media work with hybrid figures and symbols

“Festival of the Phoenix Sun” (2022), mixed-media collage with gouache, watercolor, ink, and magazine cutouts on paper, 140 x 100 centimeters

A vivid mixed-media work with hybrid figures and symbols

“Altered Destiny” (2022), gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper, 100 x 70 centimeters

A photo of a book cover titled the eye, the sky, the altar

 

 



Art Illustration

In Graham Franciose’s ‘Morning Coffee Paintings,’ Dreamlike Watercolor Works Capture the Day’s Unmediated Emotion

August 12, 2022

Grace Ebert

Day 75, “Always There, Always Changing.” All images © Graham Franciose, shared with permission

Many days, artist and illustrator Graham Franciose sits down with watercolor, gouache, and a small sheet of cotton paper to paint a whimsical scene or surreal moment. A skateboarder carries a tree in a backpack, an anxious figure peeks through a colorful monster mask, and an oversized lion snarls at an approaching man. “I like to do these first thing in the morning when I am still not fully awake and start with a blank slate and no preconceived idea,” he tells Colossal.

Dreamlike in style and subject matter, the works are part of an ongoing series simply titled Morning Coffee Paintings. Since Franciose began the ritualistic project in 2019, he’s created about 450 pieces, which reflect a range of moods through mysterious scenarios and quiet, contemplative figures. “I put my phone on the tripod and start the timelapse camera and just start drawing.  I’ve noticed that by filming them it keeps me from second-guessing myself or spending too much time deliberating about choices like color or composition and forces me to just trust myself and my practice,” he shares.

An exercise in experimentation and releasing perfectionism, the paintings are also a visual diary of the artist’s practice and unfiltered emotional states. “Sometimes recurring themes, symbols, or concepts will come up in different ways, and they do evolve and change over time,” he says.

Franciose is currently based in Seattle where he runs Get Nice. Gallery. There are still a few of July’s original paintings available on the series’ site, and you can shop prints at Sebastian Foster, Austin Art Garage, and Bloom. If you’re in New Hampshire, you can see some of his pieces in the Enormous Tiny Art #33 at Nahcotta Gallery early next year. Otherwise, follow him on Instagram for updates on new paintings.

 

Day 76, “How to Be Brave”

Day 78, “Shroom Shade”

Left: Day 66, “You Haven’t Even Mentioned My New Hat.” Right: Day 26, “You Can Take It With You”

Day 47, “Defense”

Left: Day 52, “Onward.” Right: Day 68, “What Your Rings Will Reveal”

Day 71, “Not Rowing Just Going with the Flowing”

Day 23, “What Was and What Will Be”

 

 



Art

Vibrant Botanicals Spring from Cheerful Pups in Hiroki Takeda’s Playful Watercolors

July 7, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Hiroki Takeda, shared with permission

Sprouting flowers and botanical sprigs, the subjects of Hiroki Takeda’s watercolor works exude the boundless joy and energy we tend to associate with canine companionship. The vividly rendered pieces are part of the Japanese artist’s whimsical body of work that defines the contours of cats, birds, and inanimate objects with delicate plants and other natural elements. Prints and originals of Takeda’s blooming creatures are available from TRiCERA Art, and you can stay up to date with his latest pieces on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

A New Collection of Works by Collin van der Sluijs Channels a Dreamlike Collision of Emotion

July 6, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Collin van der Sluijs, courtesy of Vertical Gallery, shared with permission

In one of his most ambitious bodies of work to date, artist Collin van der Sluijs (previously) references two forces being incidentally forced together. “These strange times have caused a collision between me as a person and my work,” he shares, “I want to be free and not a puppet on strings directed by anybody.”

This sentiment pervades the Dutch artist’s latest collection opening this week at both Vertical Gallery and Vertical Project Space in Chicago. Aptly titled Collision, the solo show is broad in medium and subject matter, containing 15 canvas paintings, 12 on panel, and more than 50 works on paper. Similar to his earlier pieces, this collection harnesses van der Sluijs’s signature dreamlike style, whether through depictions of nature’s most ethereal qualities or frenzied mishmashes of brushstrokes and smaller, more realistic elements. The works include emotionally chaotic portraits, serene renderings of singular birds, and dense landscapes in which life and death converge.

Collision runs from July 9 to 30. While in Chicago, van der Sluijs will also create a few murals, which you can follow on Instagram.