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The grotesque and unsettling animated films and artwork of Erik Ferguson
09.17.2018
09:48 am
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Yeah, we know, social media has changed the way we view art. Galleries and exhibition spaces and even movie houses need no longer apply—just an Instagram or Vimeo account to post the latest work and receive an immediate response from viewers. Artist and filmmaker Erik Ferguson has been using Vimeo and Instagram to promote his work and engage with his audience for the past few years. He considers these platforms as “focus groups” where he can test concepts and use the feedback (“hundreds or thousands of comments” per post) to develop future designs. Neat.

But Ferguson isn’t your run-of-the-mill artist whose work can sit easily on your..er…Facebook timeline without comment as his work is decidedly strange—an unsettling mix of the grotesque, the bizarre, the preternatural, and the quasi-sexual. It’s what some people might term “icky.” One of his most (in)famous creations is a misshapen character called “Rasch,” who he describes as looking like “a tumor on legs”:

People are simultaneously repulsed, fascinated and amused by “Rasch“, to the point where I’ve had up to 700 000 plays and 15,000 likes for some of his images/videos on Instagram. One of my fans recently called Rash “scardorable”, because he is cute and creepy at the same time.


 
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Ferguson was born in Norway, when he was a child, his passion was soccer until his old man bought him a Commodore 64 and he got the bug for computer games. He moved to Scotland where he studied for a degree in Media and Cultural Studies at Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh, but during this time, Ferguson became more interested in 3-D animation and would often stay up all night so he could focus on what he loved and what he had to do for college.

After graduating, Ferguson returned to Norway where he joined Bug, a production company specializing in motion graphics, visual effects and 3D animation. He stayed with Bug for eight years honing his skills as “Artist, Creative Lead and ultimately as a Head of Post-Production.” He then went freelance working with a range of clients across the globe in film (Guardians of the Galaxy, Pyromanen), animation (Rihanna MTV VMA performance), and design (The Horrors, P4/TRY/APT).

The rest of the time Ferguson works on his own projects. These usually start out as an idea like making something with a beak as he did with his short animated film Blind Bird. He rarely sketches out his ideas preferring to spend a couple days working with digital sculpting tool ZBrush before moving everything onto the 3-D animation software Houdini.

Zbrush gives you great tools to sculpt realistic looking flesh, muscle and tissue. The key though is to animate the stills that I produce in Zbrush, which is where Houdini comes in. Movement has been instrumental to making my creatures more believable and more realistic.

The finished results end up as startlingly original images and deeply unsettling animations.
 
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See Erik Ferguson’s bizarre animations, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.17.2018
09:48 am
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Pure Cinema: Watch Man Ray’s experimental film ‘The Mysteries of the Chateau of Dice’ from 1929
07.16.2018
08:57 am
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Man Ray never talked much about his childhood or his family background. He didn’t think it was important or relevant to his life as an artist. He never even acknowledged his real name, Emmanuel Radnitzky. He was born in Philadelphia to Max and Minnie Radnitzky in 1890, the eldest of four children (two brothers, two sisters). His father was a tailor and when the family moved to Brooklyn in 1897, Max changed their surname to “Ray” as he was concerned over the rise in anti-semitism in New York. This name-shortening led Emmanuel, or Manny as he was called, to edit his first name to “Man.”

Ray had ambitions to be an artist. At first, his parents weren’t too happy about their eldest son opting out of the family business but decided to let Ray follow his own course going so far as to rent him a studio/room in which to work. He became a successful commercial artist and furthered his ambitions by enroling in art classes.

In 1912, Ray saw the Armory Show, the “infamous” exhibition of paintings and sculptures by new “modern” artists like Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, and Duchamp which caused considerable controversy and outrage among New Yorkers. It was Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2.” that fired Ray’s imagination to the possibilities of art. The two met and Ray and Duchamp and became friends. Together they formed the New York Dada Group—a loose gathering of “anti-art” artists. Inspired by work he had seen at the Armory Show, Ray also started painting cubist pictures and began to experiment in different forms and techniques.

But it was when Ray moved to Paris in 1920, that he truly began his career as a photographer and filmmaker. He lived in the artists’s quarter of Montparnasse, and soon fell in love with the famous model, singer, budding actress and well-known Bohemian Kiki de Montparnasse (aka Alice Prin). Kiki became Man Ray’s lover and muse, who he began to photograph, which in turn led him to his first experiment as filmmaker Le Retour à la Raison in 1923.

Man Ray aligned himself with the Cinéma pur movement, which focussed on taking film away from narrative and plot and returning it to movement and image. Its proponents were René Clair, Fernand Léger, Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling, amongst others, and their short films were the beginnings of what is now described as “Art Cinema.”

Adhering to Cinéma pur‘s loose manifesto, Man Ray’s early films, Le Retour à la Raison (Return to Reason) in 1923 and Emak-Bakia (Leave me alone) in 1926, focussed on creating startling textural patterns through the representation of objects within rhythmical loops. The experimental techniques of Le Retour à la Raison was repeated and developed in Emak-Bakia. Many of the techniques Man Ray developed (double exposure, Rayographs and soft focus) were later co-opted by animators and filmmakers during the 1940s to 1960s.

Moving away from Cinéma pur, Man Ray experimented with narrative structures and dramatic sequences. In L’Étoile de mer (The Sea Star) (1928), he told the story of two lovers from the point of view of an (underwater) starfish. The story had been inspired by a friend who kept a starfish in a jar by their bedside, and was written by the poet Robert Desnos, who died in a concentration camp in 1945.

In 1929, Ray started work on his longest film Les Mystères du Château de Dé (The Mysteries of the Chateau of Dice). This time Ray presented the story of two young travelers who visit the Villa Noailles in Hyères—the home of husband and wife Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, the patrons of Picasso, Cocteau, Dali, and many of the Surrealists—with its Cubist garden designed by Gabriel Geuvrikain. The film is surreal, dreamlike, and relies more on atmosphere and suggestion than any real narrative form. In large part it was “inspired by the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé” in particular, his poem Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard (A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance), written in 1897. This poem was published over twenty pages in various typeface and structure. It contained early examples of Concrete Poetry, free verse and presented highly innovative graphic design that would later influence Dada. Some Surrealists criticized Ray’s films for not having enough narrative but Ray was more interested in creating something that didn’t relate to what had gone before. In the same way, he never acknowledged his own history before he became Man Ray.
 

 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘The Cameraman’s Revenge’ - Wladyslaw Starewicz Surreal Stop-Motion Animation from 1912
‘Les Avortés’: Surreal short film with music by Captain Beefheart, from 1970
Boys and girls come out to play: The strange, surreal, and phantasmagorical world of Jaco Putker
Meet the Cubies: Modern Art spoof from 1913
Dream of Venus: Inside Salvador Dalí‘s spectacular & perverse Surrealist funhouse from 1939
The Autoerotic Art of Pierre Molinier

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.16.2018
08:57 am
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In the Flesh: Beautifully grotesque paintings of the human condition
07.02.2018
12:01 pm
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‘Transition 2.’
 
Horacio Quiroz’s paintings are inspired by his observations of himself and the people around him. These observations form a “a deep inspection of the feelings and emotions that make us act in certain way through our experiences with daily struggles.” We are never just one thing, our sense of self alters on response.

For Quiroz, life itself is distorted:

...[T]he human experience is trapped between emotions, we live reacting among love and fear whether we are aware of our feelings or not. Humanity is capable of the most terrible acts as well as the most loving ones. We live inside this yin and yang and somehow my work tries to reflect about the dark side of it; about the things that as humanity and individuals we deny to see.

Quiroz likes to use a quote form Carl Jung to illuminate the idea behind his paintings:

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

According to Quiroz, “[W]e need to feel misanthropy to become philanthropists and vice versa – the darkness is the seed of light.”

Quiroz is a self-taught Mexican artist who came to painting after twelve years working as an art director. Working for others was fine but, gradually, Quiroz felt a need to express his own ideas, his own thoughts about existence. He says he has always been “perplexed by the human body”:

It is an amazing and beautiful machinery equipped to walk, think, pee etc… but not just that. The body for me is the container of our spiritual and temporal history. Every single cell of our body is coated with emotions, and we learn to be humans through the material nature of the body, so what I try to do with my work is to incarnate those emotions such as x-ray photographs of the feelings living within.

Quiroz’s paintings depict grotesquely distorted, often androgynous figures which are mutated by the internal turmoil of emotion and desire, stricture and conformity. He believes that we may all look different but underneath we have similar basic, animalistic, responses to life. Quiroz thinks “one of our biggest issues as the human race; learning to embrace our animal part.” He also hopes his paintings will connect with “the emotion inside” and help demystify the body and reveal the fluidity of “true human sexual nature.” See more of Quiroz’s work here or buy prints here.
 
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‘Horazzi’s Sex Revenge.’
 
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‘Girly Boy 1’
 
See more of Quiroz’s surreal work, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.02.2018
12:01 pm
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Frank Kunert’s darkly surreal and humorous miniature worlds
04.05.2018
09:28 am
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‘Climbing Holiday’ (2017).
 
Welcome to the miniature world of Frank Kunert, where everything is a little topsy-turvy and nothing is ever quite as it seems like a stairlift that can fire its unlucky occupant out of a window like Mrs Deagle in Gremlins or a funeral plot disguised as a bedroom for two eternal lovers.

Kunert’s handcrafted miniature models are inspired by the history found in the “decayed facades of suburban houses” of his hometown of Frankfurt.

[S]ometimes when I’m out walking and looking at these houses it sets off a train of thoughts in my head, and then later something comes out of it which reveals itself as an idea which I can perhaps use in a picture.

This can often lead to a play-on-words which suggest to Kunert another reality like the hotel on a concrete pillar in “Climbing Holiday” or the cramped accommodation of “One Bedroom Apartment.”

[S]ince houses play such an important part in my pictures it seems obvious to me that I should occasionally refer to the way words are used in property advertisements. For it is precisely when they’re writing advertisements that people try their hardest to make language excite great expectations. The question is always: what would the writer or the speaker like to say, and what does the reader or the listener actually hear? And that’s where my play on meanings begins. And though the titles of my pictures don’t actually lie, they can nevertheless be somewhat misleading.

Though darkly humorous and surreal, Kunert’s miniature worlds contain a recurring motif: “our deep human desire for security and our fear of loss, as well as our anxiety regarding the transitory nature of life.” He spends days painstakingly creating his miniature worlds preferring a handcrafted “analog” approach rather than the hi-gloss of digital effects.

Born in Frankfurt in 1963, Kunert became a photographer’s assistant after leaving high school. He then worked for various photographic studios before becoming a freelance photographer and artist in 1992. Since then, he has mainly focussed his attention on the creation of his miniature worlds.

More of Kunert’s work can be seen here, while prints of his work can be ordered here.
 
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‘Eternal Love’ (2014).
 
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‘Flying High’ (2017).
 
More small worlds, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.05.2018
09:28 am
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The Surrealist Pop Art of Till Rabus (NSFW)
02.13.2018
09:20 am
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‘Crânerie n°2’ (2012).
 
Till Rabus is a Swiss artist who uses his work to ask questions about our existence. His paintings suggest it is no longer possible to solely rely on Descartes’ proposition “I think therefore I am.” We are more complex. We are what we do and what we have. Rabus fills his canvases with the detritus of our existence—discarded toys, plastic bottles, used condoms, garbage sacks—and asks how these objects represent us and what these objects say about our relationship to the world.

Rabus often “eradicates any signs of human presence in his paintings.” When he does paint the human form it is cropped or presented as a collage of limbs and movement engaged in a sexual act. These images relate to pornography and how intimate personal moments can become so overly objectified with their original meaning lost.

Rabus is the son of two artists. Born in 1975, he originally trained as an engraver of pocket watches before gradually moving towards a career in painting. His style developed more fully after he saw an exhibition of work by American Pop Artist James Rosenquist in 2004. Rosenquist had earned his living as a billboard painter. He went on to paint collages of consumer goods, iconic film stars and politicians on large canvases in a powerful graphic-style that helped define much of Pop Art.

Another influence is British artist Sarah Lucas who uses found objects to create sculptures such as “Au Naturel” (1994) which consisted of a mattress, a water bucket, melons, oranges and a cucumber, or “Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab” (1994) which were used to suggest a female form.

With his paintings, Rabus collects together the various artifacts he intends to depict. Once composed as an image he takes a digital photograph which he then uses as the basis for his pictures. Rabus has been described as:

...a hyperrealist with a keen eye for the beauty of banality. His subject matter ranges from fast food to porn, but all his works refer to, and are firmly based in Art history. … These playful pieces celebrate the seductive surface and almost convince the viewer to disregard their darker themes such as overconsumption, objectification and the steady dilution of local culture into global uniformity.

The resulting paintings are beautiful, surreal, make reference to art history, and strangely disconcerting as they ask more than they answer. See more of Till Rabus’ work here.
 
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‘Cadavre exquis n°1’ (2016).
 
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‘Cadavre Exquis n°2’ (2016).
 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.13.2018
09:20 am
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Head Shots: Surreal collages by John Stezaker
12.21.2017
10:01 am
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Today, we’re going to make a collage like those made by John Stezaker. Now, for this you’ll need some glue, a craft knife—I like using a Stanley blade—and some white card. You’ll also need a stack of eight by ten black and white glamor photographs. Some old glamor photographs will do nicely.

John Stezaker is an artist. He makes collages using publicity photographs of movie stars and entertainers from the 1940s and 1950s.

Now you might also like to use some colorized postcards of distant exotic lands from around six or seven decades ago to add a bit of commentary to the original image.

Some are well-known stars, some less so. Stezaker dissects these photographs and places them together, sometimes overlapping, on to card or paper, to create, what he describes as “new beings.”

Once you’ve selected the photographs you want to work with—I usually select two—decide how exactly you would like to mix together. I usually lay mine side-by-side before making any decision about where to cut them.

Stezaker tends to work at night during “explosions of activity.” The next morning, he might dismantle the image and start again. This is all part of the creative process.

When you’ve decided how you’re going to place your two images together, use your craft knife to cut across the photos, like this, I use a ruler to keep the line smooth. You could, I suppose, use a guillotine. Now, do the same with the second picture then place the two together.

Stezaker’s collages are hybrid gender-bending portraits of sliced and spliced men and women. Sometimes their faces are lost in dreamy scenic beauty or are figures isolated by landscape. His collages are recognizable but oddly disconcerting. It is difficult to identify the separate parts without being overpowered by the whole. He is questioning our relationship to the past and ideas about memory and how we view the world and the people in it.

Occasionally he will add in a postcard to cover a headshot to suggest an inner reality or an emotional distance between people.

Once you have the two opposite halves of your new face ready, glue them down on to the card and you’ll have a new image.

Stezaker describes his collaged heads as “more like people than the original bland glamour shots of the 40s and 50s.”

Let the glue dry, I usually leave mine overnight, and then you’ll finish up with a picture that looks like one of Stezaker’s, except it’s not.

His collage work seems “deceptively simple” but Stezaker spends considerable time sourcing and choosing his imagery before creating a picture. He takes his inspiration from the Surrealists and Marcel Duchamp. The titles of his work are functional. For example, Masks where scenic postcards disguise faces. Marriages and Betrayals, were the glamor portraits of a men and a women are spliced together to create a new identity.

It seems kinda apt that Stezaker looks a cross between two other people—a bit of Kurt Vonnegut and some W. G. Sebald. He was born in 1949 and attended the Slade School of Art graduating with a Fine Art Diploma in 1973. Since then, he has exhibited his work on-and0ff, but since the turn of the century has had a revitalized interest in his collage work, which led to Stezaker being hailed as “a major influence on the Young British Art movement.” Most recently he has exhibited in the USA and Australia. See more of his work here.
 
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More faces from the past reimagined for the present, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.21.2017
10:01 am
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‘The Midnight Parasites’: Yōji Kuri’s surreal Hieronymus Bosch inspired animation from 1972
12.15.2017
10:19 am
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Yōji Kuri is the big daddy of Japanese animation. Now in his late eighties—he hits the big nine-“o” next year—Kuri was one of Japan’s key pioneering animators/artists/directors who produced around forty short animated films during the 1960s and early seventies—all of which brought independent Japanese animations to global attention. He was for a time namechecked as “the only Japanese animator whose work is known in the West,” which, although a nice piece of hyperbole, gives some idea of his importance at the expense of ignoring quite a few of his contemporaries.

Anyhow.

Kuri’s animations tend to be strange, surreal, experimental, and darkly compelling, yet often accomplished in what you might call a naive style. Take for example his Hieronymus Bosch-inspired animation The Midnight Parasites from 1972. Here Kuri imagines what would life might be like if we all lived in Bosch’s painting “Garden of Earthly Delights.” It’s a basically shit and death or rather a cycle of life where blue figures live and die; eat shit and shit gold; are skewered, and devoured; are regurgitated and reborn to carry on the cycle once again. It’s dark, dirty, oddly beautiful, with a groovy soundtrack—the kinda short flick that might pop up as a support to the late night psychedelic double-bill at the local fleapit.
 

 
Via Monster Brains.
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
A little ass music: Hieronymus Bosch’s 500-year-old butt song from hell
Collectable Hieronymus Bosch figurines
Incredible photographic recreations of Hieronymus Bosch paintings
Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden Of Earthly Delights’ featured on Dr. Martens bags and shoes
Take this mind-blowing virtual tour of Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.15.2017
10:19 am
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The Peopled Wound: The dark dreams, visions, and fantasies of Alessandro Sicioldr
12.05.2017
10:40 am
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The artist draws and paints pictures inspired by “visions.” These are fleeting visions, “images floating in the stream of consciousnesses,” the kind that everybody experiences. The only difference is this artist fixes his visions on paper and canvas. Maybe not the only difference…

We’re not in Kansas, anymore, but somewhere deep in the imagination of Italian artist Alessandro Sicioldr.

Initially they are just quick impressions and I sketch them in one of my sketchbooks. This is the moment where the image has the greatest power in me. The painting or the drawing is a sacralisation of an idea, but the real idea lies in the sketchbook. I am very jealous of them, they are like a diary of inner exploration.

Sicioldr was born in Tarquinia, he now lives and works in Perugia. Art was not his first choice. He graduated in computer science before taking up a paintbrush. He is self-taught, though his father, also a painter, gave him “some basis” in the craft which influenced his liking for Renaissance artists like Piero Della Francesca. But Sicioldr has never been to an art class in his life. Instead, he taught himself by copying paintings. He’s lucky. He lives in a country that filled with great art.

He has a liking for the Baroque, citing painters like Cagnacci, Cavallino, Stanzione, Ribera, as well a taste for Mannerism and for medieval art. Old art is better.

The quality of colours, the beauty of the composition, the technical capabilities, the concepts and the symbology was way greater in the past. I’m not a nostalgist, I just want to study from the best sources, taking inspiration from the entire history.

Once Sicioldr has sketched his visions on paper, he begins the process of “craftsmanship and improvisation.”

I have no rules for references, often I paint from imagination because it is hard to find models like a giant bird chariot with a strange head inside moving on roots with heads inside and pulled by sacerdotes wearing red capes in an icy landscape.

He has claimed he finds it difficult to talk about his pictures, their meaning, and imagery, “since they speak through a visual language which is ambiguous, sibylline.” Coming from a scientific background, Sicioldr is “careful when talking about mind, spirituality, symbolism and topics involving facts that are impossible to prove with rational means.” He just feels some images have an important meaning and so he paints them.

Rules and boundaries are useless when dealing with metaphysics, so I just let my inner world speak without asking questions. These images are important for me and when I think about them I get a particular feeling. They need to be represented and they follow their strange irrational rules. Why do I put an element there, or use that particular color? It is because it should go there, these are the rules of the painting. I don’t think about symbolism because deliberate and intellectual reasoning can spoil the purity of a composition and the result can easily be fake. I recently discovered that a lot, maybe all of my paintings are composed within the rules of the golden section without knowing, I find this incredible but this is how human minds work.

See more of Alessandro Sicioldr’s here.
 
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More strange visions, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.05.2017
10:40 am
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Big hair, animal hybrids and fleshy creatures: The surreal world of José Luis López Galván
11.22.2017
09:30 am
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Artist Jose Luis Lopez Galván describes his strange, surreal paintings of human-animal hybrids as taking place within “a different dimension” but “not in a dream.” He blends together every kind of element, whether animal, human, or object, to create “a collage that, in its integration, represents a portrait, not of the aspect of things, but of their essence.” Though their meanings are very personal, Galván’s pictures are intended to bring the viewer into a conversation about what is happening within the frame.

They are paintings to be seen not by the artist, but by the spectator, looking for a communication, so somehow the observer is surprised by the different, but feeling familiarity, feeling that behind it there is something that concerns him.

To encourage this interaction between viewer and painting, Galván has explained some of the symbolic meaning he has assigned to certain figures and objects:

When the rabbit appears I refer to innocence; when the mask of Zorro, hypocrisy; machines are cold and human characters live together without problems in a contradictory world of nightmare, that represents the real world without the wrappings that make it more digestible.

Galván was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. He originally trained as a graphic artist but gave it up to become a painter. He cites his lack of formal training in painting as allowing him develop “a more honest voice”—one that was not conditioned by the strictures of an art school. His main influences come from Rembrandt, Picasso, Goya and the Baroque period.

Galván’s weird and unsettling paintings have garnered considerable interest. He has exhibited his work since 2004. Last year, his work was included in the highly accalimed BeinArt Surreal Art Show, at the CoproGallery. Santa Monica. His paintings have also caused a frenzy of interest on the internet with some commentators describing Galván as “set to become one of the greatest artists of his generation.” Recently, his work featured on the cover of Swedish prog rock band Soen’s album Tellurian. You can see more José Luis López Galván’s work here or buy one of his paintings at the Macabre Gallery.
 
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More from the surreal and eerie world of Jose Luis Lopez Galván, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.22.2017
09:30 am
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Flesh events: ‘Human’ furniture makes for a disturbing body of work
11.15.2017
11:04 am
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“The house and the body are palimpsests of life events with their history inscribed into every surface,” writes Fiona Roberts in her artist’s statement describing her sculptural body furniture Intimate Vestiges. “They are repositories of treasured moments, of everyday routines and memories, of growing up or growing old, of accidents, of habits, and of fear and trauma.”

For Intimate Vestiges, Roberts created a room filled with ceramic, mixed media, cloth, and paper artworks featuring body parts (lips, eyes, fingers) artfully crafted into everyday artifacts. A hairbrush with a long mane of hair. A chair studded with glittering glass eyes. A carpet is a wrestle of fingers while pillows prepare to kiss.

Roberts describes her work as focusing on:

...the challenges we face by inhabiting a body that is constantly changing, decaying and regenerating, as well as the fragility and limitations that are intrinsic to all living organisms,” the artist says. “Within this, I explore the dysfunctional relationship between the mind and body, and in particular, the mind’s discordant perception of the body, which includes concepts of dislocation, emotional projection, fluctuating perceptions, fears, phobias and paranoia. Thus, with the body set as a canvas for trauma, my work becomes a series of flesh events that are visceral, tactile and faintly haunting.

Since graduating in visual art at the Adelaide Central School of Art, Australian artist Roberts has been exhibiting her artwork across Australia, Belgium, and England.
In 2004, she won the Peoples Choice Award, Exit Art, at the Northern Territorian Museum and Art Gallery, the firts of a series of awards and grants that she has won over the past decade. The following selection comes from Roberts’ artworks Intimate Vestiges and The Beginning of the End. See more of Roberts work here.
 
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More surreal interior designs, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.15.2017
11:04 am
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Strangely beautiful (but oddly disturbing) paintings of Scary Mutants and Super Beasts
09.25.2017
08:46 am
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Meet Dusty Ray. A painting contractor by day, an artist by night.

Ray paints pictures of strangely alluring dreamlike creatures and fantastic animals that sneak into his imagination while his mind’s busy working on other things. Ray describes himself as a “purveyor of surreal illustrations and dark art for the strange but discerning customer who enjoys a touch of weird in their life.”

“The strange mutants I paint come from my perception of the animals around me and the way my mind interprets their sacred, extra-sensory position in the natural world”

His paintings give me the sensation of an artist transcribing some deeply important message from a dream or nightmare, the meaning of which has become opaque on waking and only a sense of fear (threat) remains.

Ray is also a musician and a writer who graduated in English Lit. from Colorado State University. He filters some of his literary ideas into his paintings which he produces with watercolor, gouache, India ink, micron, and acrylic. His work ranges from dissected animal heads to strange unnameable figures lurking, moving, shape-shifting, out of the wooded landscape around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Ray’s work is on sale here or you can follow and see more on Instagram and Facebook.
 
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See more of Dusty Ray’s strange work, after the jump…
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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.25.2017
08:46 am
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Boys and girls come out to play: The strange, surreal, and phantasmagorical world of Jaco Putker
09.08.2017
09:08 am
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‘The Boy and The Hat.’
 
For Jaco Putker, the great thing about being an artist is waking up each morning and not knowing what he’s going do that day. It’s this great sense of freedom that really matters rather than being known by the appellation “artist.” Putker has said he doesn’t know what it means to be an artist. Mostly, he feels like “a regular guy who loves to create.”

Jaco Putker is an artist and printmaker from the Hague, Netherlands. He uses digital and traditional methods of printmaking to create his pictures but prefers to work with photopolymer, or solar plate, etching. This allows him to produce highly photo-realistic depictions as can be seen by the selection of etchings shown here. Putker’s artwork is described as strange, surreal, and phantasmagorical, sometimes amusing, often sinister. He offers no interpretation of what his pictures might mean—even the titles offer no clue but are merely simple descriptive statements like The Girl and The Berries or The Boy and The Masks. His intention is for the viewer to bring their own interpretation to each picture—thinking of each image as say, an illustration to a series of imaginary fables which are only given meaning in the viewer’s mind.

Putker has won several awards for his highly distinctive artworks which have been exhibited across the world from Tokyo to Chicago, China to Britain. He claims he has no one influence on his work but cites an abiding interest in “Nature and in how nature works, in its perfection and self-reliance and its power of rejuvenation and destruction. In how it has a profound effect on not just me, but on virtually every human being.”

I’m interested in the Hermetic Principles of Correspondence (formulated in the axiom ‘As Above, So Below’; the correlation between macro and micro cosmos) and of Vibration (which states that all is in constant motion. Both in a visually perceivable manner as on a (sub)atomic level. Every part of nature is connected to any other part of nature. These seem to be the parameters within which my work takes place. But within these parameters,  I try not to think too much about my work. Defining it sort of kills it for me. In hindsight, I see a development and recurring themes and elements. And it strikes me that I seem to be saying the same thing over and over, regardless of style, medium or technique.

A selection of Jaco Putker’s prints are available to buy here and more of his work can be found here.
 
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‘The Girl and The Berries.’
 
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‘Interior No.48 .’
 
More dreamland etchings, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.08.2017
09:08 am
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Contemplating death & turning heads: The strange and disturbing sculptures of Yoshitoshi Kanemaki
08.28.2017
09:34 am
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Yoshitoshi Kanemaki sketches out his sculptures on paper before taking a large chunk of tree trunk and carving out his pencil-drawn designs. He uses camphor wood which is an evergreen tree that can grow up to one hundred feet in height. As he carves and chisels, he draws onto the wood to highlight the details he wants to bring out in each sculpture. He then paints the finished work in soft pastel colors.

And what do the resulting works look like?

Well, Kanemaki’s sculptures include large intricate skeletal momento mori which achieve just what their titles describe—figures gripped by the bones beneath the skin. He also carves strange figures with multiple heads which depict human indecision, ambiguity, the swinging change of mood daily wrought by life like a unmoored boat upon torturous seas. And then we have the split personalities or “glitches,” the two-head figures that capture “the hesitations or inconsistencies” that we can never answer.

“I think that such ‘ambivalent’ emotions can be embodied regardless of whether they are ‘surface’ or ‘deep’ layer by giving the effect of an irregular shape deviating from [the] human figure. The sculpture series created with these feelings is the projection of my own emotions — it may be your figure.”

Kanemaki was born in the Chiba Prefecture of Japan in 1972. He graduated from the Department of Sculpture, Tama Art University, Tokyo, in 1999. Since then he has exhibited his work in group and solo shows across the country, won several awards, and has work in various public collection. See more of Kanemaki’s work here or follow him on here.
 
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More of Kanemaki’s scupltures, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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08.28.2017
09:34 am
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Uncanny worlds and bad dreams: The strange, surreal, and macabre paintings of Jolene Lai
07.19.2017
10:12 am
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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.
 
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More of Jolene Lai’s strange and beautiful paintings, after the jump….
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.19.2017
10:12 am
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Farting Monkeys, Devilish Imps, Grotesque Beasts and other Bizarre Creatures

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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.
 
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More of Arent van Bolten’s beasties and grotesque creatures, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.10.2017
08:53 am
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