There seems to be a history running through Carmel Seymour’s water colors, but it’s hard to pin down. Somewhere in the hazy but sublime gap between art and illustration, the paintings suspend an alternate reality in the canvas’ mid-air, depicting some hyperreal folklore in a wash of negative space. Seymour’s conceit seems simple enough: she places contemporary figures, such as girls in jeans and sneakers, in some private oasis, perhaps the figures’ dream landscape or perhaps some alien planet. But the landscapes where her figures exist are not so much ‘scapes as objects; entities without a before or after. Her water colors are deployed in highly restrained and linear strokes to focus on details, and then exploded to disrupt the hyperrealism and maximize the medium’s atmospheric emphasis. The paintings have no clear beginning or end, but beg the question: what’s the story here?
Creepy creatures, spindly figures and quirky narratives compose the illustrations of Bill Carman. Pigs in suits and yin-and-yang armored headgear stare at one another – snouts pressed together – with eyes wrinkled with age of wisdom. An angry bronze-faced rabbit sits in the foreground holding a screwdriver, gazing at the viewer and threatening to unscrew the boars’ masks. Though Conunganger has an Animal Farm aesthetic, They have My Eyes evokes a Tim Burton sentiment.
With a decidedly Victorian twist, Olex Oleole puts together images that don’t quite fit together. A phonograph emerges from a heart while what look like animals behinds are sliced off and held together by two strings. Eventually, themes begin to emerge. A Nike logo appears over a cryptic figure with the snarky title Throw caution to the wind and just do it. Another shows a woman’s head turned into a vintage camera with the words Maybe you should consider keeping your selfies to yourself? Each piece feels surreal even while it looks familiar. The juxtaposition of human and machine or modern logo and mysterious character feels like a puzzle waiting to be solved. Once you put the pieces together — mostly with the help of each biting title — the other little details make the joke that much funnier. The conflation of time works just right, as the men and women in Victorian dress remind us of the age-old folies of vanity, consumption and more.
Eric Petersen is a methodical, calculated artist. He opts to work digitally to remove any personalized evidence of the human touch. He chooses the colors of his works like a scientist dropping carefully-measured chemicals into a vile: The intended effect of these contrasting, bright shades, says Petersen, is one of unsettlement. He sets up compositions that are at once harmonious and jarring. Geometric shapes appear to slice through his planes with razor sharp precision of placement. Yet their rhythmic arrangements give his work a sense of harmony, even while the electric blue, neon yellow and sunset orange hues simultaneously vie for viewers’ attention.
Mark Gmehling’s 3D-rendered creations are instantly recognizable for their playful textures: rubbery legs that weave and stretch; gummy bodies that bounce off the floor; goo that drips and metal that glimmers. The artist (see our extensive interview in our current issue, Hi-Fructose Vol. 32) began as an analog illustrator and even cites graffiti as an early influence. These days, his digital illustrations lay the groundwork for prints, murals and sculptures. Gmehling has an exhibition titled “Plastic” opening tonight at RWE in his hometown of Dortmund, Germany filled with satirical, off-kilter pieces.
French duo Ciou and Malojo create illustrative works that combine their wildest fantasies and nightmares. Their previous show for Cotton Candy Machine gallery (covered here) displayed Malojo’s cartoony characters infused with colorful patterns, while Ciou’s work was mostly monochromatic. Their next show, “Freaks and Wonders” opens September 4th at White Lady Art in Dublin, and is inspired by scenes of celebration during seasonal holidays.