While Billy Norrby’s previous work was soft and airy, evoking the Romanticist paintings of the 18th century, his latest series flashes forward a few centuries to a dystopian future that calls to mind the film Bladerunner or cult science fiction author Phillip K. Dick’s book covers. Norrby says he found inspiration in 1970s pulp sci-fi novels, vintage Soviet space race propaganda, and special effects from movies such as 2001. Titled “Pulsar,” some of the pieces in the new series will appear next at Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York in August. Norrby just shared some images from this body of work with us. Check it out below.
New York is often described as concrete jungle, a notion Matthew Grabelsky explores in his paintings of fantasy creatures invading its subway. In his work, unsuspecting bystanders sit on the train looking at their phones as bear-headed men read the newspaper and lions hold the handrails wearing dapper suits. The artist, who is a native New Yorker himself, says that his style is influenced by the 19th-century French Academic painters. “My work is not intended to be viewed as fantasy or as allegory, but rather as a blend of every-day experiences and the subconscious,” he says. “My paintings are enigmatic, and they create dream-like worlds that invite viewers to form their own interpretations of the imagery presented.”
Jessica Hess considers herself a landscape painter, but rather than capturing vistas of waterfalls or forests, her paintings document the ephemeral graffiti she observes in Oakland, San Francisco, and in her travels (see some of her paintings here). Adding another layer to the images-within-images she has going on in her work, Hess teamed with sculptor Christa Assad to create a collaborative series of hand-painted ceramic sculptures. Assad created wheel-thrown, constructed stoneware pieces that take inspiration from Hess’s subject matter — spray cans, paint buckets, fire hydrants, pigeons, and other markers of urban detritus. Hess then hand-painted them with acrylic, filling them with images of tagged-up cityscapes. Hess has an exhibition coming up at Art Works Downtown in San Rafael, CA on March 6 and some of these collaborative ceramic pieces will be in the show.
Polish artist Jacek Yerka’s paintings invite us into a world where things are not what they seem. Caves turn into gaping dragons’ mouths, houses float above the clouds, and gardens become seemingly infinite puzzles of time and space. The artist blurs the boundaries between the biological and the mechanical, creating strange hybrids of animals, architecture, and geological formations. Yerka began his career making band posters in the 1970s and has been exhibiting his work in Poland for decades.
A skilled hyperrealist painter, Eloy Morales creates large-scale portraits that play with the expressiveness of the human face. Often using himself as a subject, his mural-scale paintings immerse his viewers in the hairs and wrinkles of his subjects. With each face towering over the viewer, the details becomes much more apparent than what we see in our day-to-day interactions with others. Morales often uses the face as a sort of canvas, as well. For many of his self-portraits, he lathers himself in paint to create an interplay of textures. In other pieces, he covers his sitters’ visages with props like googly eyes and butterflies. If you find Morales’s skills impressive, he frequently teaches painting workshops in Madrid, where he is based.
Japanese artist Toru Kamei creates sensual, dreamlike paintings that reference nature and mythology. While some of his pieces delve into the enchanted worlds of serpentine gods and mermen, other works offer a surrealist take on vanitas painting. Like the Northern Renaissance still lifes, Kamei’s work meditates on the fragility of life and the imminence of mortality. But his work takes on a bizarre dimension when one notices the eyeballs popping out of the flowers he paints, making them look haunted and eerily alive.