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Uncanny worlds and bad dreams: The strange, surreal, and macabre paintings of Jolene Lai
10:12 am

Jolene Lai was working as a designer for an advertising company when a conversation with an artist friend made her realize her true vocation:

I had a moment of ‘epiphany’. I realized I missed the feel of a paintbrush, the smell of oils and turps, and the excitement of creating short stories through them. But trying to take a detour at 30 seemed more challenging, even in my own perspective. I had to work on building enough courage and confidence to convince not just myself, but the people around me that a career as an artist is really what I am meant for.

Lots of significant events happened from then that would shape the route to where I am today. But the root of it all was that conversation with my friend that changed my pathway and helped me discover what I really wanted to do in life.

Finding what we really want to do with our lives and then doing it, is one of the great blessings of existence. Most of us never get that far. Jolene Lai has worked damned hard to ensure she makes a success of her chosen career. She keeps to an intensive schedule that sees her clock-on early morning, and clock-off late every night. Jolene’s discipline and hard work have paid off. She has produced a sizeable catalog of quite awesome artworks which have been exhibited in LA and in Singapore to considerable acclaim.

Lai paints beautifully detailed canvases in oil and watercolor of strange, unsettling, and often grotesque scenes culled from childhood memory, Chinese myth, and lots of imagination. Sometimes she ties-in her latest topics of interest—anime, Edward Hopper, interior design, or maybe food. The results are like beautifully composed stills from some strange dream movie from which we can recognize certain details as true but are left unsure as to their meaning. The beauty and intricacy of the paintings often belie their bizarre and disquieting content, which ultimately serves to compel the viewer to look again.

See more work here, or follow Jolene Lai on Instagram and Facebook.
More of Jolene Lai’s strange and beautiful paintings, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher
10:12 am
Farting Monkeys, Devilish Imps, Grotesque Beasts and other Bizarre Creatures

A good imagination beats any psychedelic drug. Take a look at these drawings by 17th century Dutch artist Arent van Bolten featuring weird, grotesque hybrid creatures—part human, part cat, part dragon, part demon, part who the fuck knows….?

The last part is a fair description of what we do know about Arent van Bolten—which is little more than birth, marriage and death:

He was born about 1573 in Zwolle. In 1603 he there married Brigitta Lantinck. They had eight children. Some of them established themselves as solicitors in Leeuwarden where Brigitta Lantinck’s sister had married but remained childless so that the children of van Bolten became her heirs. Arent van Bolten must have died about 1625, for he is still mentioned in 1624, whereas in 1626 we read only of his widow.

Even his death date is uncertain as some put it up as far as 1633—which may have come as a surprise to his wife if she was already a widow in 1626. Apart from this slim entry we know he was a silversmith by profession, was in Italy 1596-1602, and left behind “a great deal of silverware and plaquettes.”

He may well have been one of those craftsmen who themselves made both the model and the finished article and perhaps even the original design which was not the normal practice at this time.

Van Bolten sculpted religious and rustic scenes and knobbly weird bronzes of “squat, ponderous” mythological beasts. It is for the latter that he is now best known—in particular his 400+ drawings of surreal and grotesque creatures compiled by an unknown collector circa 1637 which are currently held by the British Museum. 

It’s unknown what Van Bolten’s intention was in creating these rather fabulous beasts but the drawings do reveal the eye of a man who was a sculptor rather than a painter. His line relishes building up the layers, curves, depths, and organic growths rather than just offering a mere representation. Van Bolten’s grotesques have a solidity that makes it appear we could actually touch them.
More of Arent van Bolten’s beasties and grotesque creatures, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
08:53 am