Israeli artist Nir Hod once told Interview Magazine, his greatest discovery was that “it’s not easy getting older.” In his painting series “Genius,” Hod pulls at the tension between childhood and adulthood and breaks open a space in between innocence and inurement. His images are of young children smoking cigarettes and looking at the viewer with expressions of disdain, arrogance and suspicion. Though there is certainly an element of dark humor in dressing rosy-cheeked toddlers in rich fabrics and endowing them with sweeping hair, the paintings are disquieting for their ability to reflect one’s now-corrupted inner child back unto him.
Painter Hilda Hiary uses bright colors and fleeting patterns to create images that unite instead of divide. Born in Ammam and self-identified as an Arab-Jordanian artist, Hiary forgoes ethnic markers in her characters in favor of soft swirls and fading lines. Just as her lines are never straight, Hiary’s characters are never still. Whether talking or smoking, they are always invigorated with a sense of movement. The dynamic energy is only bolstered by the oscillating patterns.
Tunisian artist Atef Maatallah paints people on grainy, monotone backgrounds to highlight the inner worlds of his characters. Maatallah often paints diptychs, in which one panel features only a single object such as a tea pot or small animal. Purposely separated from the human figures, the objects serve as outer manifestations of the peoples’ fears or desires. For example, an elderly woman with sun-baked sunken cheeks watches with a solemn expression as the feathers of a skinned bird — its’ complexion the same color as the woman’s — float downwards. In another image, a forlorn mother looks down as her two children sleep; one in her arms, the other slouched against her back. In the background, a bare light bulb hangs. The light is out.
Quebec, Cananda based artist Mathieu Laca often plays with shape and form in his oil paintings. His latest series increases his usual level of distortion in warped portraits of historical figures. These include famous icons, especially writers, like Virgina Woolf, Charles Baudelaire, and Henry David Thoreau. Throwing all visual conventions out the window, Laca contorts and smudges their faces with spots of intense colors, some beyond recognition.
Iranian painter Ali Esmaeillou reveals haunting parallel universes beneath the pleasant facades of everyday life. In each series of paintings, Esmaeillou explores the psyche of specific archetypes, such as warriors, or digs into the personalities of the characters that compose a particular story, like the great 10th century Persian epic, the Shahnameh.
Berlin-based American artist James Bullough splinters and fractures hyper-realistic paintings of women to open spaces through which complex and unfinished stories are revealed. The vibrancy of skin tone and naturalistic musculature in Bullough’s technique were learned through an intensive study of Old Master paintings. Bullough’s interest in Old Masters is also evident in the way in which several of his nude subjects stare at the viewer, while taking care to keep their faces at least partially concealed.