Contemporary sculptor Irma Gruenholz makes scenes that seem to oscillate between the most ordinary moments and the magical, each scene populated by finely rendered hybrid creatures. The artist’s carefully constructed photographs feature figures and the narratives within are meant to evoke a sense of intimacy, appearing tantalizingly open-ended. Irma intends to –
“involve the viewer, to provoke questions about the characters as well as wonder about what has happened or what is going to happen.”
Indeed, a sense of mystery pervades each photograph, and one feels drawn in by the unexpected details found on the sculptures, subtly scaled legs, natural colors and magical creatures, immersed in a story that is not entirely readable, but as such is absolutely intriguing. The sense of breathing, dreaming and beating hearts mean each picture possesses a strange and beautiful charm…….
Irma’s images and compositions arise from the artist’s imagination and remind one of book illustrations overall. In fact, Irma began her training in graphic design which has acted as a basis for her sculptural work, allowing the pieces to have an illustrative sensibility. As a child she spent hours playing with clay, building houses of paper and making her own dolls. The sculptures made in her studio are like creatures from dreams, a harmony with nature and transformation pervades…..
Much of the artist’s work reminds one of a myth or an enigmatic folktale and she notes that some of her inspiration draws upon time spent in the forest where she collects natural elements and objects. Irma’s process begins with an illustration evolving into a three-dimensional piece as a model of foam board and plasticine so she can study and adjust the dimensions, composition and framing.
The main characters are made of clay or plasticine and the backgrounds are made of cardboard, plaster or painter wood. Finally, Irma takes a photograph, carefully calculating the lighting and framing. While many of the sculptural projects are often meant to illustrate a concept or story, she is now venturing more and more into making stand-alone sculptures. Each portrait has a painterly intimacy, almost like watercolor – as if from a nineteenth century fairytale book, the blue or pink tinged skin, the subtle tones of green and even mottled surface have a graceful sensitivity and eerie strangeness as well.
American Photographer Bryan Sansivero has become renowned for his colorful and deeply evocative photographs of ruined and abandoned homes and businesses. In Bryan’s pictures, the idea of the abandoned place or ruin is imbued with a sense of loss, nostalgia, of strangeness, an artful fluctuation between presence and absence, creating a poetry of lost words, experience and story.
How do belongings and places once inhabited so steadfastly become traces? How do we read the past in such contemporary photography? The answer will not come easily, and hours can be spent looking, all with the uneasy feeling that one is being watched in all our watching. We feel the language of ghosts.
Bryan began exploring abandoned properties about ten years ago, venturing into these spaces curious to see what lay beneath. The artist studied photography and film making and had his beginnings in dark room photography as early as high school and one of his earliest creative memories is making films with his parents. The layered life of the domestic realm takes on the character of a novel in Bryan’s hands, emotion, memory, subjectivity, pain and loss and happiness seem intertwined, multiple stories and protagonists becoming present and then revealing themselves to be incomplete in his strangely lush and spectral pictures.
Many of the locations are discovered simply by driving around and the photographer only uses what he finds on site to take his photographs, and usually everything is taken as it is found. Bryan uses a Canon DSLR and various film cameras for the exterior views. He shares that each place has its own sense of history:
“The mystery of why it was left behind. What happened there? Why was everything just left behind? I’m drawn to the unknown, you could say.”
Contemporary painter Sretan Bor’s work is distinguished by bright geometry and imaginative patterning and a way of immersing the viewer into botanical worlds.
The artist is from Osijek, Croatia and works today in Belgrade, Serbia. From the time he was a child he liked to draw, and recalls a fascination with an old children’s encyclopedia. Today, the artist begins with a small sketchbook, a repository for ideas, and developing projects whether personal or site specific. Sretan typically will make drawings on paper but he also creates digital sketches as well, all of the mural work is hand painted, a time-consuming and complex process, the scale allowing the artist to become lost in surface as well as fully enveloped in the world he creates.
The drawing work has a flatness and puzzle like aesthetic, marked by an idiosyncratic sensibility, set against bareness….what seems straightforwardly delightful graphic is in fact often more enigmatic at further examination, leaving one wondering how spareness becomes fullness…
There is a flourishing in the simplicity of Sretan’s drawings, the bright color and abstracted shapes giving impressionistic feeling while as well appearing to be thoroughly contemporary.
While much of his work is focused on a schematic color and shape patterning, there is also a particular place -the jungle room – that exceeds such distillation and seems to foray into a realm of dense forest, replete with living breathing creatures and plants. The jungle room has three painted walls and a fourth wall of windows that looks out into a small garden.
The jungle is the most complex project so far. I spent around two weeks finishing the sketch for the client and then forty days painting it on location. It has more than 30 colors, and who knows how many plants, flowers, and birds. The idea was to paint a jungle with a little creek that surrounds the room so that you would get a feeling that the room is some sort of small island inside the jungle. On the smaller wall, there is a boulder from which a small waterfall comes down and a creek goes on the left and on the right (on both long walls of the room). The jungle is full of red flowers and blue birds. There is no horizon behind the jungle, it is instead covered in different bushes and trees – so, together with the rock, it gives you a feeling that you are in some kind of warm jungle hug.
Cody Cobb is a contemporary artist whose photographic work transports the viewer to both extraordinary and ordinary natural spaces and seems to touch on two important themes in landscape: the intimate beauty of sacral almost secret places hidden in the quickly disappearing wilderness…..the beauty of aloneness quietly glittering within, and secondly, the sublime, the grandiose extravagant splendor of mountains, valleys, harsh landscapes and rolling hills.
Undoubtedly, these themes are important to the history of American art, particularly when it comes to our national imagination and mythology of the west. And yet here, all of this finds itself delightfully rendered and rethought in Cobb’s work.
In many ways photography has become for the artist, an escape from analytical approach, and he notes that when he intends to photograph a certain place or thing, there is always some sort of deviation so it seems best to leave the process unplanned, the finding of the place coming in a more fluid way. “Solitude is a hugely important part of my process, though. Walking in silence for days at a time becomes a meditation and I find myself in a state of pure observation. Most of my photos come out of this state of mind, allowing me to stumble upon these mysterious scenes rather than intentionally seeking them out.”
The artist’s work as well expresses an abiding interest in conservation, the untrammeled vistas revealing the enduring and often endangered worlds of remote natural landscape and wonders.
Cobb has had a successful career in motion design, but is a self-taught photographer although he has been using a camera since his teens, wandering about abandoned buildings and the pine forest of northwest Louisiana. His first encounter with the wilderness was the Olympic Peninsula, and this place remains a treasured sites, beloved for its “rugged coastlines, glaciers and rainforests all contained within 1400 square miles.”
Almost surreal rich color is offset by the wondrous forms of rock and sky in some pictures whereas still others show a monochromatic elegance that seems full of mist, light and texture. Poised between ether and form, Cobb’s elegant presentation of the grandeur of the natural beauty of this world leaves one full of wonder.
And so we leave you with the artist’s words on his own practice…. “Meditations on the illusion of form in nature. Emotional portraits of rocks and trees. Subtleties of enormity.”
There are certain paintings and drawings one seems to remember forever, etched into memory not only for the visual ingenuity but the way in which a singular piece of art stirred something within, something deeper, an enduring admiration of sorts, often lasting a lifetime.
Portraiture in particular can have this effect. Within the sensitivity of form, one can read the breathing thinking being in charcoal drawing or layers of oil — this is a sensed yet invisible animation.
This is, for me, true of the Spanish artist Isabel Garmon’s classical work that builds on academic practice, and as well seems to create an intimacy born of the study of her subjects, and the human form. Isabel’s penchant for realism is paired masterfully with an elusive abstract quality….a balance difficult to achieve for most painters…
Isabel Garmon was born in Zaragoza and her first training began with studies in graphic design. The Spanish painter’s practice and interest transformed under the tutelage of the artist Amaya Gúrpide as well as direct instruction with the painter Jordan Sokol. Isabel went on to study at The Florence Academy of Art where her practice continued to grow and she came to create an approach she describes as “a combination between the worlds of illustration and academic art.”
Classicism is an important theme in Isabel’s academic oeuvre and yet within this anachronistic style there is a quality of reverie and dream, allowing a timeless beauty to emerge. She notes that she likes to see a notion of dream worlds within her work, this serving as the connection between historic techniques and contemporary lives.
“I have always been fascinated with the beauty of the human figure and constantly wanted to explore every corner of a body – in order to feel strongly the volume of every form and just to get closer to this. For me working on the human figure or even just a portrait magical because I get to connect with the soul of the person that is posing. This comes from my searching to understand how to give an impression of what I see. This should be the purpose of the representation of nature: to talk about our experience of the scene.”
Of all Isabel’s work, I found her portraits of male subjects the most engaging. There is a quiet observation of form that exceeds the female portraiture, a way of accurately depicting the body and face certainly, but as well something that extends beyond a sense of academic realism, there is present in each portrait a sense of the subject’s soul and a profoundly delightful sensuality, rich in paint and charcoal, unfurled carefully yet sumptuously before our eyes. A sense of delight in subject matter seems to reveal itself, a certain wholeness of depiction, an illustration of character and of beautiful image rendered in deep painterly lines.
The poetry of silence, of the grandeur of landscape unfettered by memory….
Los Angeles based photographer and filmmaker Sinziana Velicescu makes meditative work artfully composed, the flat color expanses like a Hockney painting, illuminated often by stark natural light and a sense of strange emptiness coupled with a sense of heartache. A trip at 18 to Romania drew the artist to a journey of tracing places with stories, told in stark language. The brilliance of her work seems to be in the way she is able to balance a sense of lost stories with the heroic arc of empty skies, snowy landscapes and voided place. Minimalism is suddenly full of evocative power – a spiritual imagining spun out of ether…
From the Iceland series- like many of the artist’s works this picture captures the stark beauty of landscape left with a trace of the past…a fullness of untold stories.
Sinziana notes: “I am drawn to places that are mysterious and have a sense of history to them. I enjoy exploring these areas and imagine, similar to a detective or an archeologist, their previous manifestations. I am also interested in purely aesthetic details such as lines, shadows, and graphic shapes, which is more or less just an exploration into form.”
Recently Sinziana purchased a drone and began to investigate aerial landscapes from a new perspective -seen in her two films Dyan and Drone. The artist remarks: “I love the new perspective and being able to find another way to see the world as flat that is different from my still photography work.” Indeed, The artist’s work may be seen as layered sequenced vignette, even the films are moving still frames. Somewhere between the refinement of graphic design, structured balance and architecture, and topography these icily assembled pictures and films come together to evoke a sense of elegant despair, and a place of beauty.
By subterranean, I mean within the terrain of the mind, the imagination of the artist…and indeed contemporary painter Przemyslaw Widel’s interior Studies seem to be about the depth of pigment, of dreams and horror, of familiarity and erasure. There is complexity in these ordinary scenes….
These strange rooms – they are the moments in dreams when you find yourself in a space without any real accounting for how you arrived. You remember this place, nevertheless and suddenly something unrelated appears, or something horrific. It is memory without remembering, echoes of ideas. There is a suggestion of something waiting ……what the artist calls a scenography painting, inspired by the dramatic moment in a thriller before…… This tension of emptiness and fullness.
Conversely, unlike these empty spaces, Widel’s disturbing picture Witnesses evoke something different, heavy with bodies meant to “depict something uncomfortable and hypnotizing.”
In all of the paintings there is a relationship with the brush, the dirt of painting, the moment where the pigment takes you to another space. In this practice, Widel expresses as well his interest in being connected to the corporeal and earthly experience of living, and notes that “the painting possesses is kind of magic for me. When I paint I know that I am in another reality.”
The artist is interested in the philosophy of Buddhism, and as well points to his fascination with Velazquez, saying the artist possesses a certain wizardry. This sense of engima remains at the core of Widel’s practice, immersed in a very corporeal expression of space, feeling and texture. A baroque painterly impasto reminds us of the grim yet ornate pictures of Hans Makart, a sensibility transformed through the funnel of the mind of Oskar Kokoschka whose interest in the primacy of the immaterial as expressed in the material….a way of painting that seems to continue in the work of Widel.