ART

MAGAZINE FEATURE

Paul Kaptein

At first glance, Paul Kaptein’s collection of hand-carved wooden sculptures might appear as though it was conceived in the deepest recesses of his unconscious mind. But in fact, his warped creations were born out of a very deliberate and conscious desire to depict an unstable realism – one that represents the dynamic relationship between form and emptiness. We spoke to Kaptein about his inspiration, the role of symbolism in his work and the relationship with his medium. G—Wood is a dominant medium in your work. What type of narrative do you think it creates? PK—I think it assumes a narrative that predates the work, and commences a commentary around time and timelessness. Wood has a universal presence that speaks to everything from wooden spoons and chopping boards, to alter prices, totems and architecture – it’s like the backbone of culture in a way. It acknowledges that change is an inherent part of the work – that it may one day become something else. For now it is sculpture. Hopefully. G—Much of your work is sculpture based. What are the advantages and limitations of sculpture? PK—I’m interested in being in the world and therefore tend to have a very visceral response

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Kip Omolade

Kip Omolade is an American artist from Harlem, New York, with a background in graffiti art and a BFA from Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts. His latest series, Diovadiova Chrome, is a sequence of hyperrealistic oil paintings depicting massive chrome masks. Omolade casts these masks himself, which he then uses as a model for his paintings. The end result is a fascinating hybrid of African tradition and contemporary materials. We spoke to Omolade about Benin masks, Paris Hilton, and the meaning of chrome, “the poor man’s silver.”   G—In your series, Diovadiova Chrome, you explore immortality and contemporary notions of beauty and luxury. What prompted your interest in these themes? Kip Omolade—Paris Hilton. During the early phenomenon of reality TV stars, I became fascinated with the idea of the instant celebrity in mainstream media. I wondered if art could participate in this star-making machine. So, I ironically spent ten years developing the Diovadiova using one model as a muse. I drew, painted, printed and sculpted over 100 images of a single person. By confining myself to one model, Diovadiova also allowed me to stretch my imagination as an artist. I developed different styles including the current technique used in Diovadiova

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  The first image is arresting. A young girl stands before a woman. Both stare at the camera with ice blue eyes. Both wear the same shade of dress. Their skin is white and pale. Their light blue clothes almost the same shade as the wall behind them. Both subjects are in perfect focus, yet also blur together. The central feature of this stark and unsettling photograph is the hair of the two subjects. Blonde and braided into a thick rope it flows up and down from the left and right connecting the woman and the girl. But whose hair is it? The sturdy loop of hair streams over and behind both of their heads with no discernable break. It could be the young girl’s or the woman’s or half and half. Hair – such a natural part of one’s body here seems alien and unnatural. Hair is always our own, but here each person lays claim to the same hair like inseparable conjoined twins. Scrolling through Bara Prasilova’s 2014 series, Evolve, causes so many adjectives to spring to mind. Absurd. Disturbing. Playful. Precise. Stark. Frozen. Each photograph reveals hair as the common thread. “The braids are about addictions, dependence

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Daniel Aristizábal is a Colombian artist, illustrator, and graphic designer who has described his style as “pop surrealism”. His work combines elements of Cubism, Dadaism, and Futurism with pop art and postmodern design. Aristizábal’s work is saturated in 1980s pastel hues, bold geometric patterns, and a playful sense of the absurd. We spoke to Aristizábal about his influences, the role of symbolism in his work, and his recent project, Cósmica y sus huevos, which explores the ancient myth of the Earth being born from a primordial egg. G—Your recent editorial project, Cósmica y sus huevos, references the ancient belief that the universe was hatched from a primordial egg. How did you encounter this belief, and why did it take on such significance for you? Well, since I can recall I’ve been interested in philosophy, history and the origins of the universe. My concept for Cósmica y sus huevos stemmed from the idea of what happens inside a black hole, a place where the rules of physics don’t apply in the same way as they do here. Daniel Aristizábal—Well, since I can recall I’ve been interested in philosophy, history and the origins of the universe. My concept for Cósmica y sus

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  Matthieu Bourel is a collage and digital artist whose work veers uneasily from nostalgia to technological dystopia. Bourel combines traditional cut and paste collage techniques with digital editing, digital animation, and even sound design to create a body of work that blurs the distinction between illustration, graphic design and art installation. Bourel describes his work as “data-ism” and the reference to the original Dada movement of the early twentieth century is more than a play on words. Like his Dadaist precursors, Bourel delights in creating shocking juxtapositions, ironic distance and high-brow/low-brow mash-ups.   “One of the goals of art is not just to distract people, but more to reveal some ideas or share a point of view, to create a reaction/interaction with the viewer, with humour, irony or sarcasm. I feel probably closer to Dada than surrealism for these reasons. Surrealism was too coded by theory.” We live in an era full of information everywhere. A constant flow. Internet, phones, television. Commercials in the streets. The term data-ism is for me a way to digest all of this, in an artistic way. For Bourel, collage is a way of sifting through and responding to the glut of information constantly

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  Romina Ressia is an Argentinian-born photographer whose work is influenced by a lifelong appreciation for classical art and a fascination with modern-day behaviour. Driven to explore the ways in which the human disposition has evolved throughout the ages, she’s known for blending contemporary societal themes with Renaissance-style imagery. The end result is a portfolio of strikingly modern photos somehow also reminiscent of classic works of art. Georgie spoke to Ressia about her series, What Do You Hide?, which explores the human propensity to conceal certain aspects of our true identities in order to play a certain role, avoid judgement or meet others’ expectations. The subjects of these meticulously staged portraits have their faces camouflaged by vibrant, loudly patterned textiles, in what is a metaphorical visualization of the need to fit in – even if it means losing sight of who we really are.   G—Where did the idea for your What Do You Hide? series come from and what is the significance of camouflaging your subjects with mixed patterns? Romina Ressia—My ideas always come from the same place: society and the modern world. I love to analyze and represent how I see society nowadays…its behaviours. And, regarding camouflaging, I

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  Yes, those are origami sculptures hiding the faces of photographer Alma Haser’s subjects in her latest photo series, Cosmic Surgery. The Cosmic Surgery photos are created in two stages. First, Haser takes a photo of her subject and prints it. She folds that printed photo into an origami ball (known in Japanese as a kusudama or “medicine ball” structure). She then takes a second portrait with the paper kusudama suspended in front of her subject’s face, concealing the subject’s identity. The result is unsettling and strange. Why go to all that trouble to achieve an effect which could probably be closely imitated in Photoshop? Haser enjoys the process. “What is art or photography if you can’t use your hands?! That’s my initial thought. The best part of my work, and the bit I enjoy the most is the ‘making.’ I am very hands on, and always have been. I don’t see the point of spending hours on the computer, when you can perfect everything before you even look at it on Photoshop.” Much of Haser’s work involves labour-intensive manipulation of physical materials. She cuts and pastes her photos (IRL), folds them, and presents them in odd little pop-up books.

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Jen Mann is creatively restless. “I don’t think anyone plans out how they will develop or change but things sort of happen and mature out of experiments and fun. At least that’s what has happened for me. I think that my work and ideas developed out of my own life and what is happening for me at the time that I am making them.” The Toronto-based artist studied printmaking at the Ontario College of Art and Design, but her current work focuses on large-scale oil portraits of friends and family. These paintings begin life as digital photos which Mann shoots herself. Despite the double layer of artistic mediation between the viewer and the subject, Mann’s paintings are remarkably intimate. You feel as if you know the subjects, and care about them. The intimacy in Mann’s work can be partly explained by the fact that she works with friends and family members instead of strangers or professional models, as well as her low-key approach to the initial photo sessions. “I think my process of shooting is sort of intimate and casual. There is a process of removing shirts, where the subject sort of reveals himself or herself. We then talk about

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Travis Louie’s paintings exist in a place where memory and fantasy collide. In them, mythical creatures and sideshow freaks strike formal poses in what appear to be antique family photographs. In form, the images are familiar: they look like the kind of sepia-tinted pictures you might find in a flea market bargain bin, or in a shoebox in your grandmother’s attic. In content, they are otherworldly, depicting creatures from mythology, comic books, B-movies, and Louie’s own imagination. “I have always been interested in monsters. I think there is something about the mystery behind those stories of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, the yeti, and even those scientifically confirmed ‘monsters’ from the natural world, like the giant squid, which have been of great interest to me from when I was a small child. I must also mention those mythological creatures from many different cultures and the interpretation of ‘monsters’ on the silver screen as a great influence on my upbringing as a monster maker of sorts. It excites the imagination today as much as it did when I was five years old watching stop motion Ray Harryhausen sequences, Godzilla terrorizing those Japanese sailors in the original black and white movie, or

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I ask Josh Keyes a question about the relationship that humans have with their environment and the importance of balance in that relationship – a recurring theme in Keyes’ work. He presents me with a striking metaphor, the thumbnail of a myth. “A nest of ants living on an apple suspended in space will devour the apple and, having no food or place to stand, will plummet. The ants have no awareness that the apple is what gives the colony room to stand on and food to grow.” Many of Keyes’ paintings are like his answer: vivid, clear, and fantastically metaphorical. Keyes calls them mythological. He also likes to think of them as “visual puzzles that have no right or wrong solution.” His paintings, filled with images of animals in varying states of harmony and conflict, wandering an eerily post-human landscape, are like textbook illustrations of an ecological apocalypse which has come and gone. Humans are nowhere to be seen, except in our effects: abandoned cars, graffitied mailboxes, and statues overgrown with weeds. Each highly detailed image is presented on the canvas within a cubic or circular geometrical boundary. The effect is like looking at a core sample of a

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Juha Arvid Helminen

Since 2008 the Finnish photographer Juha Arvid Helminen has been exploring humanity’s literal and metaphorical dark side with a photo series entitled The Invisible Empire, which explores the ways in which power, authority, and violence express themselves through fashion and visual iconography. Helminen dresses his subjects in uniforms and accessories which suggest fascist and authoritarian political movements, conservative religion and contemporary policing. “I have always been fascinated by uniforms, and when I had studied arts and photography for a few years in 2008 I wanted to create photos with a meaning. To be honest, at first I was only intrigued by the aesthetics, but a bit later I started to think about human behaviour and how we convey different ideologies and professions by our clothes – how traditions and beliefs dictate our behaviour. How we hide our true persona and create walls around us.” This name, ‘Invisible Empire’, was on my mind for many years. Little by little just a few photographs grew into a whole narrative of humans’ incapability to learn from its mistakes throughout many centuries. The title, Invisible Empire, refers to an alternative name used by the Ku Klux Klan, an organization “known for violence, racism and

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It is remarkable how fresh and striking Christoffer Relander’s multiple exposure photographs are. Considering the volume of photographs and media we are inundated with lately, it takes something truly original to stand out. Photographers have experimented with multiple exposures before, but without Relander’s masterful composition and expert control over a technique that is too easily misused. Bodies become ethereal vessels holding trees and forests. The effect is magical. Born in 1986, Relander only came into photography in 2008 while serving with the Finnish Marines. “I had done a two-week course of photography basics in my graphic design school in 2007, so I happened to be the closest they could get to a photographer,” says Relander. Relander was hooked from the outset. Back in civilian life, Relander bought himself a DSLR and began to experiment. Photography became such an obsession that Relander began carrying his camera everywhere he went because he couldn’t bear to leave it at home. That passion sustained him as he learned the craft through trial and error. “I learned to shoot manually in the military and perhaps fully controlled it when I got my own camera,” says Relander. “But photography is about so much more than just

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Victor Castillo says he’s not a rebel, but you can be forgiven for thinking otherwise. His work is full of images mocking the traditional pillars of authority in society, whether churches, schools, or government. Patriotism, sports, the nuclear family, youth groups, mass entertainment, and even Santa Claus are called into question in Castillo’s relentlessly dark, but morbidly funny, view of the world. Everything in Castillo’s paintings hints at deception and intrigues lurking below the surface of everyday life. Lies and corruption abound. The veneer of civilization that hides our darker impulses wears thin in Castillo’s art, so that his cartoon characters live in a sort of nuclear holocaust, Lord of the Flies world. It’s the end of days as imagined by Looney Tunes. Or maybe it’s just a bad dream. The characters in his paintings are almost always children, which is appropriate. Castillo is interested in the barbarity that lurks below the surface of things, and at no point in life is that barbarity closer to the surface than it is in childhood. Castillo captures perfectly the naively sadistic, destructive impulses of childhood, and the fear and hostility children naturally feel towards all figures of authority. In Castillo’s imagining, children

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Like most North Americans – in cities, suburbs, and small towns alike – I am constantly surrounded by images of wildlife. It is usually wildlife native to North America, and often wildlife I could at least theoretically see in person by taking an hour’s drive from wherever I happen to be. In doctors’ offices and high schools, in living rooms and libraries, paintings of soaring eagles and predatory wolves emerging from misty woods are impossible to avoid. Bird watching field guides and Robert Bateman coffee table books are familiar to us all. The fact that we spend more time looking at pictures of wildlife than observing the real thing may be a contradiction worth considering, but there is no denying that North Americans are deeply immersed in the traditions of naturalist painting, even if our education comes primarily from spending hours in doctors’ offices staring glumly at paintings of moose. Ryan McLennan’s paintings poke fun at the convention in nature painting of arranging very realistically drawn animals in implausible and contrived scenarios – the eagle and the wolf that just happen to find themselves circling the same stump at the same time. McLennan’s paintings push this tendency to its limit,

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