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.
UK-based artist Candice Tripp’s paintings of youthful characters frolicking through dark forests are at once haunting and whimsical. The children in her works, who often wear masks and anachronistic outfits, appear at once sinister, demure, and naive, sending mixed signals to her viewers. Are they specters who haunt these mythical forests, or lost souls struggling to get out? We last covered Tripp’s 2012 solo show at Black Rat Projects here, and last week, she debuted new works for her one-night-only exhibition, “Credulous Morons,” at Baltic 39 in Newcastle, where she lives and works. To mark the occasion, today we survey some of the paintings she has created since we heard from her last.
Ashley Eliza Williams’ latest painting series is called “Sentient,” and for good reason. Williams paints biomorphic shapes that resemble both rocks and flesh. Overgrown with colorful moss, these mysterious shapes float in mid air or stand solemnly amid desolate landscapes. Their alien flora seems to blossom uncontrollably, evoking bacteria and plant life alike. Its ability to grow in otherwise desolate spaces gestures towards the tenacity of living things.
Though Athens, Greece-based artist Constantine Lianos creates mostly figurative work, he insists that it in no way is meant to be realistic. Instead, his dark, monochromatic drawings and paintings are created entirely from his imagination. “The painting process is for me the ultimate introspection process, where the rational and the emotional are inseparable, where the method meets the random,” writes Lianos in his statement. Sometimes humorous and sometimes disturbing, each character in his work appears preoccupied with an internal struggle that Lianos illustrates in unexpected ways.
Chinese painter Zhang Shujian creates stylized portraits that point out the beauty in characters that may not be considered conventionally beautiful. Focusing on the skin in great detail, the artist maps out wrinkles, lines, and hairs that paint a picture of the characters’ worldly experiences. Some of Zhang’s subjects face away from the viewer, obscuring their faces with their hair and hands. Their reluctance to be seen invites us to guess at their identities and imagine what might lie beneath the surface.
Originally from Japan, Yasuaki Okamoto lived in Barcelona, London, and Montreal before settling down in New York, where he is currently based. His paintings of quirky underwater scenes take inspiration from various experiences he had during his world travels. Through a storybook-like style, Okamoto paints cornucopias of brightly-colored sea creatures and underwater plants. His work draws a stark contrast between this aquatic paradise and the war and chaos on the earth above. While fighter jets and satellites fly through the sky, the colorful creatures coexist in perfect harmony under water.