Art Archive

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    It was London Design Festival last week and so creative stores city-wide joined in the excitement; perhaps none more so than Darkroom. The design accessories store launched a season of products based on the work of Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass using themes he introduced during his time with the legendary Memphis group.

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    “When I draw people in profile, it’s like sitting down to a favourite meal” writer and illustrator Leanne Shapton says. Her drawings, paintings and prints are infused with so much happiness and affection, leafing through them is like eating the meal and then sitting back with a hot chocolate, shortbread on the side, smiling to yourself. Her new book Sunday Night Movies is filled with beautifully painted profiles, two-shot, capturing those romantic eye-gazing moments between couples in films – a collection of so much beauty.

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    As someone who spent all of their formative years in the city of Oxford, I feel that Radiohead are much more than just a band. They’re part of my history, my childhood and the childhood of pretty much everyone I grew up with. They are my band. Back off! As a result I’ve always been pretty keen on the artistic products of their honorary sixth member, Stanley Donwood, who, from his Somerset studio has produced the artwork for almost every Radiohead release, developing his own visual language as the band developed their sound.

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    Inspired by the testing task of piecing together archaeological remains within a museum context, Matthew Craven’s new exhibition Oblivious Path has a fun time of recreating the opaqueness which its title suggests. The works included in the show are collages composed of drawings, relics, and images from lost cultures, and to see them gathered together in a collective seems to recreate the sensation one has when walking around a haughty museum with impenetrable captions. The pieces are all there – it’s just the act of placing them in a comprehensible order which proves tricky.

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    Dan Singer burst fresh from the seams of Kingston’s Illustration and Animation BA in May, and he has wasted no time about getting his work into the world. He’s currently relying on friends with comfy sofas and goodwill to keep him away from his hometown Kent, so we were all the more chuffed when he popped in last week to show us what he’s been up to.

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    Reminiscent of those dreams that leave you feeling discombobulated Swedish artist Camilla Engman’s paintings are eery, slightly haunting yet so beautiful that you can’t help but want to spend time in front of them. Perhaps it is her neutral pastille palette or the greys and mustard yellows; or maybe it is the animals or the curious situations she creates where people walk through empty swimming pools or humans walk as animals, masked on all fours, they are fascinating.

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    We were calling out to London-based creatives last week about the Cutty Cargo Showcase, an utterly unique evening of multi-disciplinary creative treats, from music, theatre and light installations to food, art and design. So now that the event has been and gone leaving an enormous crate-shaped absence in east London where the revelry took place, we thought it was only fair to show you exactly what went on.

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    “Public murals often serve to reinforce a sense of unity amongst groups of people by celebrating the heritage of a place and the diversity of its residents” artist Ruth Angel Edwards explained as she presented her vast painting Life in a Peaceful New World where seven people stand, squat, hold buckets and work staple guns, saws and cement. They are strong and colourful, their faces animated by emotion woven into the canvas by a mastered palette. They are a collective.

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    There’s nothing like a photographer with an instantly recognisable style for a dose of mid-week inspiration, and Czech Republic-based photographer Michal Pudelka has just that. His very beautiful, almost eerily perfect shots have more than a hint of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides about them, with their subjects dressed in matching outfits and posed in girlband-esque stances – look too long and you get the impression that he might have dumped a whole bottle of irony in with the developing fluid in his darkroom.

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    Artist Daniel Ginns is fresh out of a degree in illustration at Camberwell, but as it turns out he’s a dab hand with a camera too. His series Rothko Walls records the walls in and around London which used to boast graffiti, and now display only the “free-floating geometric shapes” which remain after it has been badly concealed by a halfhearted paint-job. The new layer of paint is often “only a slightly different shade of colour from that of the original wall,” he explains, “creating imagery that could be considered reminiscent of the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko.”

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    Every year by dint of their size and the publicity machines behind them certain LDF projects get more attention than others. But to really appreciate the festival in all its glory, it make sense to seek out some of the hidden gems which always help make LDF what it is. So today we are looking at a show inspired by abandoned shoes, one which celebrates London in graphic novels and a Mexico/London-inspired exhibition form the award-winning Bethan Laura Wood.

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    It’s only been a few months since we last talked about the work of the wonderful Oliver Jeffers. And, well, we couldn’t resist it. He’s back again. This time with an exhibition at Lazarides Rathbone art gallery, London showing off his fantastic collecting of surreal paintings. Slipping reality they play with dreamscapes, matching traditionally painted 18th century landscapes with sinking skyscrapers and aeroplanes as great boats tip over cascading waterfalls; or portraits dipped, frame included, losing half of the image as other paintings appear to have been played with, faces blotted out by recklessly applied paint. Teasing the delicate balance that is the everyday, Jeffers paintings hold onto their mystery and we cannot wait to see where else they might take us.

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    Some parts of the world (I’m looking at you, Norway) don’t get much sun in the winter time. Some get none at all. It may come as surprise but some of the inhabitants of the darker parts of the world have actually immigrated as refugees from hot countries that are drenched in sunlight day after day. Norwegian artists Lisa Pacini and Christine Istad decided to work on a collaborative project to bring the sun to the places and the people that saw so little of it.

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    Ryan McGinness is a New York-based artist who creates enormous, intricate, kaleidoscopic images and similarly detailed three-dimensional sculptures from hundreds of individual elements, largely inspired by graphic artwork, public signage and contemporary iconography.

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    And so the London Design Festival rolls around for another ten days celebrating and showcasing the city’s design pedigree in various ways. The event has its detractors but rather than sniping from the sidelines it makes sense to put some time and effort in to discover the best bits of what – because of its size – offers something for everyone.

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    “Art as investment” is one of my absolute least favourite phrases and the media’s breathless coverage of multi million pound auctions similarly sticks in my craw (good phrase that). The counterpoint to this fetishisation of art’s financial worth comes in the form of Herb and Dorothy Vogel. A retired postman and librarian respectively, the couple amassed the most extraordinary collection of contemporary work and their story was told in a 2008 documentary by director Megumi Sasaki (see trailer below).

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    Usually any mention of food in that dangerous final hour between breakfast and lunch is strictly forbidden in the studio for fear of rousing rumbling stomachs, but when it comes to Jeffrey Dell we’re more than happy to make an exception. The artist is still on about cake, as he was last time we checked out his work, but we’re happy to turn a blind eye to our hunger to admire his sweetly frosted creations, as Jeffrey’s deft touch with a printing press means every image he puts his super-skilled hand to comes out laden with beautiful and tricky colour gradients, precise edges and impressive compositions.

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    With the unfurling discussion surrounding the USA’s place in the world in relation to events in Syria, the time is ripe for a coruscating exploration of contemporary American culture and society. Few artists working today are more adept at such an exploration as the mercurial Eric Yahnker, whose work jabs, laughs at, questions, ridicules and satirically mythologises the Land of the Free.

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    There are times when the colours used within an image make it difficult to resist (something like what those Skittles adverts do to our child-like brains), and artists who are able to create this effect successfully, capturing the tone of an environment simply through the representative colour palette, are often hard to come by.

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    For one day only I would like to see what life looks like through illustrator Keith Warren Greiman’s eyes. It would undoubtedly be a colourful experience, filled with people and maybe some animals, both doing supernatural things that seem everyday because everything is, well, animated. His explanation? Humans are “conduits of the gritty, vibrant energy that propels our day to day living.” So it is no wonder really that his illustrations, prints, drawing and paintings are as toxically hued as they are, seeing surfaces split into mazes of manic encounters between people, boldly coloured with bright lips and fluorescent hair. It is everyday life but Keith presents it with that giddy feeling you get sometimes, often passed off as déjà vu,; that feeling that you are seeing the experience as you are living it.

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    In a celebration of creative collaboration, whisky brand The Famous Grouse is embarking on an exciting and innovative sculpture project.

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    The strength of ceramic work which has been gracing It’s Nice That recently has been bowling us over on the regular, and the recent emergence of Ruth Borgenicht proves again that the magical spring providing us with all of these clay-minded creatives has yet to run dry.

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    A year and a month ago almost to the day we featured the artist Morgan Blair whose paintings ran circles around us in the post-Olympic slump that was August 2012. Her work saw bold pastel shaded brickwork vibrate on the page followed by manic cascades of technicolour shapes tumbling over themselves. It was noisy, kaleidoscopic, trapping us in a background reminiscent of a 1990s, 16-bit era computer game.

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    Gregory Gallant, aka Seth, has an almost mythical status in the minds of comic book aficionados. The Canadian cartoonist has been creating comic books since well before I started eating school dinners, and his strong and very recognisable style harks back to the illustration of years gone by. He’s best known for the excellent series Palookaville and his mock-autobiographical graphic novel It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken which is the focus of the new exhibition at New York’s Adam Baumgold Gallery.

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    Los Angeles-based artist Laura Owens is something of a celebrity in her home town. She was one of the youngest artists ever to have a solo show at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003 and has since been involved in a number of community driven art projects that her large-scale paintings have facilitated – she’s used her painting studio as a gallery space and performance and exhibition centre for all sorts of interesting collaborations.

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    If his artwork is anything to go by, Shan Hur was a true champion of hide and seek as a child. The Korean-born, London-based sculptor specialises in the partial and illusory deconstruction of gallery spaces, be it a twisted column, a hole in the wall or a broken pillar, in which he often conceals unexpected items of treasure. A porcelain vase for example or a handful of coins stuck in the cement of a crumbling wall, or even a basketball in the centre of a pillar. Taking his inspiration from closed shops and construction sites, his work directly confronts the confines of a gallery space and the viewer as participant to create brilliantly stalling work which questions what we know even as it sits in front of our very eyes.

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    Unsure where to pop that pin you’ve just pulled out of your newly repaired hem? Well do not fret, friend, Eleonor Boström has designed a ceramic dog with a pin cushion for a head which will be suitably equipped to meet all your pinning needs. Not a sentence I ever predicted I’d write, but I’ll embrace it with open arms because not only has Eleonor designed tiny ceramic pups for fans of needlework, but also as salt and pepper shakers, and peeking out over the rims of teacups, and with eggcup pots for heads. And other less functional kinds which are just as lovely.

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    At its best, creative culture feeds itself with different disciplines influencing and inspiring each other to create urban hotspots greater than the sum of their parts. That’s precisely what Cutty Sark is celebrating at their inaugural Cutty Cargo event taking place next month, and the whisky brand is kicking off its global campaign right here in London with an evening of music, food, performance and art and design.

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    If you’re going to get a brilliant artist to have an enormous show at your gallery, you may as well give them full run of the place and make it one of the most eye-catching exhibitions in the country. To step inside the Palazzo Grassi in Venice now is to step inside a world that resembles the depths of an eastern souq, and it’s all down to Rudolf Stingel. Rather than simply hang 30 of his conceptual paintings on the already beautiful walls of this magnificent, crumbling gallery by the famous canals, he chose to completely cover the interior of the building in blood-red, ottoman-influenced carpets. Wow. Can’t get to Venice to have a look yourself? Here’s a virtual tour.

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    What better way to create a thought-provoking portrait of way young people are often portrayed in contemporary culture than to take a whole series of sleazy, not-before-the-watershed images and render them in through a time-honoured craft reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry? This somewhat brutal juxtaposition of the sordid with the traditional has the effect of creating a satirical and brow-furrowing reflection of modern society, and Erin M. Riley is leaving no stone unturned in her search for subjects.

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    We don’t really need to say very much about the brilliant new collection of artist Amy Woodside’s because they speak for themselves – literally. Silkscreened on paper or painted, words geometrically arranged, stack into themselves, overlapping or slipping away from form. Playing with colour, the letters move between warm pastel shades breaking occasionally into sky or splitting completely as though slicked with oil.

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    Think of those dreams you have after watching too much Twin Peaks where you find yourself walking across delirious landscape shots that just keep on repeating and you will come somewhere close to the Royal College of Art graduate Neil Raitt’s painting. It is a pretty extraordinary experience, from canvases cratered by mountains to multiplying forests barely broken by their trunks; perspective slips your grip, abandoning you somewhere between the cinematic and an untrustworthy reality.

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    As if you needed any more reasons to take an interest in the work of Finnish graphic powerhouse Kustaa Saksi he’s recently added more skills to his already impressive arsenal, making use of the jacquard loom to move his work into exciting new territory. Kustaa’s latest exhibition, Hypnopompic takes inspiration from the state of sensory confusion that exists between sleep and wakefulness, using the visual delusions experienced during this strange period of consciousness to inspire a set of intricate psychedelic tapestries, busy with distorted flora and fauna. There’s strobing monkeys clambering through trees, some giant technicolour grasshoppers and a particularly ominous looking spider haunting a tapestry of deep reds and blues.

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    Meet 79-year-old Jerry Gretzinger, a very methodical worker. For 50 years now he has been creating a map of a fictional world, and not just any, fold-it-up-and-shove-it-in-the-glove-compartment map; spreading over more than 2,500 sheets of A4 paper, Jerry copies and adds to the imagined landscape each day in his coffee break, deciding which sheet he will work on according to which card he draws from a specially customised deck.

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    The council always stick by the fact that a lick of paint can make a world of difference to an otherwise unsightly street, and you know what, they’re not wrong. Luis Vassallo’s got the right idea, he’s been taking photos of classic street paraphernalia and accessorising them with thick, painted pastel shapes. Funny how something so ludicrously simple can completely transform things that we pass unthinkingly every day into objects of fantasy. It makes you wonder what else you could paint on…runs away from desk to nearest paint shop. While you’re still here, check out the rest of Luis’ wonderful work – he’s the kind of person that draws on and around everything and everyone with nothing but fantastic results.

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    There are a lot of surreal, hybrid forms floating about in the art world; gigantic eyes are one of the most potent symptoms. Every now and then though a collagist with an eye for the absurd succeeds in creating these images in such a way that you find yourself utterly taken in by them.

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    Rather than doing what most other artists and illustrators of his ilk do and put on a nice show of their work in a gallery, Ian Stevenson’s decided to mix things up a bit and splurge his work on to the streets of London. Luckily for the townsfolk, it’s hilarious and amazing and, like most of Ian’s work, this new collection is mildly insulting and delivering mockery at arm’s length to the more culturally-inclined city-dwellers. It gives you a feeling of “Why didn’t I think of that?” especially that bin asking you to follow it on Twitter. They’re probably not worth quite as much as a Banksy but, in my opinion these are a far more worthy asset to our streets.

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    Incredibly it’s been three years since we last dedicated a post to Owen Gildersleeve so a whole host of updates is the perfect excuse to check back in with a creative who we’ve long admired. Whether it’s editorial for the likes of Wallpaper*, Fast Company Magazine or Grafia, commercial work for KPMG or personal projects based around the poetry of Robert Desnos, Owen’s hand-crafted creations are meticulous, communicative and uplifting. Let’s not leave it so long next time eh Owen?

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    “My tongue is not for rusting and so my words must be harsh” – from this a huge steel tongue spills rusted in place. London-based artist Sara Nunes Fernandes’ sculpture Rusty Tongue Sticking Out exists as a powerful reconstruction of a Portuguese folkloric tale told to her by her grandfather. The story tells of a farmer who while herding his master’s sheep, shoeless, is met by two policemen. The farmer’s naked feet causes the policemen to believe he is actually a thief who has stolen the sheep and take them away despite the farmer’s reasoning. Sara’s sculpture morphs the two types of tongues – the flexible, wet tongue that flies from the mouth in retort and the rusted tongue forced into compliancy.

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    We were definitely wowed the first time round by Bryan Olson’s surrealist collages, so when we clocked that he’d updated what was an already admirable collection of work, we were the first to demand a leg-up onto his bandwagon. The latest additions to his bizarre compositions are largely concerned with gems and planetary matter of all shapes and sizes and preferably with tiny little people gazing up at them, awestruck. It’s an absurd world that Bryan has fashioned, scissors in one hand, Pritt-Stick (maybe) in the other, but his excellent execution allows his images to take on a startling reality. So much so that you almost feel like you’re watching a retro 1970s science documentary…