A single color grounds the intricate, swirling paintings that compose Foster Sakyiamah’s body of work. Relying on reds, blues, and yellows, the Ghanaian artist renders dancers in choreographed synchronicity and demure women wearing thin lace gloves and wide-brimmed hats. Dressed in clothing that blends into the backdrop, the figures emerge through fields of pulsing, curled lines, which add texture and energy to the dynamic pieces.
Sakyiamah is currently a Noldor artist-in-residence, an Accra-based program designed to support emerging African artists that’s now in its second year. The residency is also an integral part of the newly founded Institute Museum of Ghana, which opens to the public next month. If you’re in Rome, you can see Sakyiamah’s paintings through March 3 at Andrea Festa. Otherwise, take a peek into his process on Instagram. (via Kottke)
Share this story
In his sensitive, introspective portraits, Ghanaian artist Annan Affotey (previously) sharpens the contrast between soul and appearance. His works are large in scale and rich with texture, and he often sets figures against solid, monochromatic backdrops with visible brushstrokes. Similar to artist Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Affotey renders his subjects’ skin in shades of gray and dresses them in vibrant garments and patterned accessories. The distinctions in color and fabric coincide with the figures’ facial expressions and gestures, all of which the artist uses as a prompt. He says:
The first assumptions made about people are based on sight. So things like skin colour, clothing, accessories, background, setting, and pose dictate emotion. There’s no guarantee those things match the character underneath. We’re often identified by what we’re compared to (or against). My work is a social commentary on this, asking the viewer to take a second look at what they read from my portraits and why.
Using a mix of acrylic and charcoal, Affotey also continues his signature red eyes, which reference his experience of being questioned about his lifestyle when he moved to the U.S. Now more bold, the recurring feature ranges from subtle halos around pupils to bright washes of pigment that spread across the sclera.
Some of Affotey’s figurative pieces are on view at both Arushi Gallery in Los Angeles and PM/AM in London through mid-March, and you can find more on Instagram. He also has two residencies slated in 2022, which will culminate in exhibitions in Saint Paul de Vence, France, opening on May 1 and another in mid-October in London.
Share this story
Hailing from fifteen countries, the individuals participating in Eyes as Big as Plates have backgrounds as varied as their surroundings: there are zoologists, academics, and librarians; fishermen, wild boar hunters, and Sami reindeer herders; and opera singers, kantele players, and artists. They’re tethered by the ongoing project, which dresses each figure in sculptural wearables made of organic materials that allow them to blend in with the surrounding landscape.
Launched in 2011 by Norwegian-Finnish artist duo Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen (previously), Eyes as Big as Plates hinges on the idea that it’s essential to explore how humans exist within nature. The portraits center on lone figures partially camouflaged with their backdrops or outfitted with imaginative garments constructed with objects found nearby. Boubou (shown below), for example, is a Senegalese fisherman who wears a mesh shawl of sea creatures, while North Tolsta-based photographer Andrea (above) is almost entirely masked by spindly branches and peat near her home. Every portrait comes after a conversation with the subject and a collaborative effort to find the proper location and attire.
The duo has now compiled dozens of photos in a forthcoming book that marks the 10th anniversary of the project. A follow-up to their sold-out first volume, Eyes as Big as Plates 2 is comprised of 52 new portraits, conversations with those featured, and field notes from their travels. “While transcribing the interviews for each of the collaborators here, we got to experience what many of them often say is the most exciting part: ‘ … just being there, looking at a familiar landscape like you’ve never looked at it before. Letting the surroundings wash over you,'” they write.
Eyes as Big as Plates 2 is currently available for pre-order on the project’s site. Some of the series is on view through June at the landmarked entry at 200 5th Avenue in New York and will be up this May at London’s Barbican and at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto in September.
Share this story
I'm Not a Look-Alike: Hundreds of Unrelated Doppelgängers Sit for François Brunelle's Uncanny Portraits
Do we all have a double? Montréal-based photographer François Brunelle has been intrigued by that question since he began his I’m Not a Look-Alike series back in 1999, which brings together two unrelated people who resemble each other so much that they could be twins. He’s uncovered hundreds of doppelgängers around the world since and taken minimal, black-and-white portraits of approximately 250 pairs in 32 cities.
Brunelle’s now-massive collection is a testament to the mysterious and strange phenomenon that’s captivated humans for centuries, which has roots in paranormal lore and continues to be the subject matter of a number of horror films and sci-fi series. The search for a “twin stranger” has also prompted entire online databases dedicated to finding look-alikes through facial recognition software.
It’s this enduring fascination that’s garnered Brunelle considerable attention for the now decades-long project, which has also sparked tangential endeavors focused on finding doubles exclusively in Colombia and Spain. At the core of the series, though, is the idea that people, no matter their background, are fundamentally tethered to each other. “The face is the ultimate communication tool that we have to establish and maintain relationships between us as human beings. No wonder we are drawn to the face,” Brunelle shares.
Focused on lighting and angle, the uncanny portraits are devoid of color to highlight facial structures rather than variances in hair and skin. The subjects are not exact doubles— “A very perfect pair of look-alikes would be boring,” Brunelle says—and it’s easy to identify their similarities and differences as they pose in such close proximity. He explains:
Of course, the look-alikes are not the same. They look-alike, not much more. But then, that’s what fascinates me. That someone, out in this world is looking at himself in the mirror and seeing more or less the same thing that I am seeing in my own mirror. Which brings us down to the question: Who am I exactly? Am I what I see in my reflection or something else that cannot be defined and is invisible to the eyes, even my own?
Brunelle is currently working on a book and companion exhibition for the project, and you can follow updates on that and see more from the I’m Not a Look-Alike series on his site and Instagram. (via Kottke)
Share this story
To create his thick, abstract portraits, Chicago-based artist Jose Lerma trades his brush for hefty, commercial brooms that follow the lines of preliminary sketches. “The process of these paintings is laborious. I make my own paint and fabricate my supports. The material is heavy and unwieldy,” he tells Colossal. “It is done in one shot because it dries very fast, so there is a minimal margin for mistakes.”
Lerma’s impasto works shown here have evolved from his original series of Paint Portraits, which revealed the general outline of a figure without any distinctive details. Wide swaths trace the length of the subject’s hair or neck, leaving ridges around the perimeter and a solid gob of pigment at the end of each stroke. His forward-facing portraits tend to split the figure in half by using complementary shades of the same color to mirror each side of a face.
With a background in social sciences, history, and law, much of Lerma’s earlier pieces revolved around translating research into absurd, childlike installations and more immersive projects. “In recent works, maybe due to returning to my home in Puerto Rico and a much more relaxed non-academic setting, I have eliminated my reliance on history and research and now concentrate on just making portraits,” he shares. “It’s an approachable, tactile, and disarming aesthetic, but the absurdity remains perhaps in the excessive materiality.”
Now, Lerma “works in reverse” and begins with a specific image that he reduces to the most minimal markings. “It’s a large work painted in the manner of a small work, and I think that has the psychological effect of making the viewer feel small, more like a child,” he says.
Living and working between Puerto Rico and Chicago, where he teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lerma currently has paintings on view in a number of shows: he’s at Yusto/Giner in Málaga through March 24 and part of the traveling LatinXAmerican exhibition. In April, he’ll be showing with Nino Mier Gallery at Expo Chicago and in May at Galeria Diablo Rosso in Panama. Until then, see more of his works on Instagram.
Share this story
South Korean artist Ilhwa Kim describes her meditative sculptural works as analogous to living architecture, “a live plant or the tree in (an) urban or natural space.” Comprised of carefully placed components in parallel lines and dense fields, Kim’s pieces materialize through innumerable rolled paper seeds that form organic, abstract landscapes and portraits—read about the artist’s painstaking process for crafting the individual elements previously on Colossal.
In each work, Kim arranges an assortment of depths, colors, and textures: she tucks visible folds among more upright segments and installs thin, sweeping lines evocative of a single brushstroke through vast expanses of white. “When moving from painting to sculpture, I wanted to do everything I was able to use in painting; even brush strokes and all the wide color paints,” she tells Colossal. “But I’d like my works to have a far stronger life presence in the physical surroundings as a sculpture.”
Because the dimension of each seed varies, the fluctuating compositions shift in color and texture depending on the perspective of the viewer, animating the scenes with light and shadow. Kim frequently photographs her pieces on sidewalks and in public places, which she shares on Instagram, to present the lively works within similarly bustling environments, and you can see the sculptures in person this October at HOFA Gallery.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Food
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.