Arie van’t Riet – The radiant beauty of nature

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Arie van’t Riet‘s beautiful x-ray photographs gracefully combine the outer visible surface and the inner invisible structure of the natural world in images that give new life to the definition of ‘radiant beauty’.sandersonia_new

A medical physicist, Arie van’t Riet has turned into an artist almost by chance, when a friend asked him to take an x-ray picture of a painting. On that occasion he became interested in the creative possibilities that x-ray technology opened up by means of exploiting the different densities and degrees of light absorption of the materials it touches. Made of thin petals and leaves, a bouquet of flowers became Arie van’t Riet‘s first ‘artistic’ experiment. After taking the x-ray picture of a bunch of tulips, he digitalized the silver-bromate analog film, then inverted the gray scale and eventually selected some areas to be coloured. The resulting image perfectly restitutes the impalpable lightness but also the vivid strength that flowers have. Parrot Tulips lowWith this new and exciting possibility to explore nature at hand, Arie van’t Riet started including insects and animals, elegantly composing flora and fauna while playing around with the different x-ray intensities required in order to capture thin and thick tissues in one image. rontgen17The Dutch scientist/artist only uses dead animals (which he gathers when the sad event has already taken place) for his x-ray photographs, as he does not want to expose living creatures to the danger of x-ray exposure. Van’t Riet defines his pictures as bioramas where the natural elements variously assembled literally radiate the sheer splendor contained even in the tiniest natural element. rontgen6 duckmettekst rontgen15 ChickenThe artistic path embraced by Arie van’t Riet bears witness of the fact that to be an artist is first and foremost a matter of creative disposition, enabling one to look at the world in an open, curious and actively responsive way, no matter what expressive tools are chosen. Playing around with the technology he better knew, Arie van’t Riet discovered that he could fix in a single image both the outer surface (that we see in colour when touched with visible light) and the inner structure (only showed in grey scale by invisible x-rays) of nature. Chamaleon Strilizia rontgen1Looking at Arie van’t Riet photographs is like ideally wearing a pair of x-ray glasses that make us participate to the wholesomeness of the natural world.

Invited by TEDx in 2013 to hold a lecture, in this video Arie van’t Riet explains how he discovered the expressive potentialities of x-ray technology:

To explore more of Arie van’t Riet‘s bioramas, please visit his website here.

Images courtesy of Arie van’t Riet.

(via e MORFES)

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Delightful Grotesque: Katie McCann’s collages

Italy-iconKatie McCann‘s collages portray gracefully odd creatures that could easily fit in a forgotten Victorian fairy tale. They evoke Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, Jules Verne‘s sci-fi adventures and Frankenstein all at once.

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The main inspiration behind Katie McCann‘s collages is summarized by a quote from Charles Altamont Doyle (who was the less known father of Arthur Conan Doyle): ‘I have known such a creature…’ In fact McCann‘s art originates from her imaginative – but no less real – response to the natural world. The artist has managed to keep alive her childhood ability to see the extraordinary in apparently ordinary objects and natural elements like butterlies’ and insects’ wings, shells, bones and leaves. As a result, her collages are populated by hybrid figures reminiscent of the fantastical creatures animating children’s literature in the Victorian era. 04a050602
Katie McCann assembles her bizarre characters with fragments cut out from vintage photos and illustrations that she finds in medical, scientific and natural history old books. She meticulously cuts tiny wings from insects, leaves and petals from plants, bones and other anatomical parts from animals and humans, so that her collection of collages resembles a personal and subjective cabinet of curiosities, as if it was a record of her imaginative entomological and anatomical discoveries. 07a09a

McCann‘s fantastical Frankenstein-like animals become specimens collected in a scientific catalogue while her elegant paper dolls stand on bird legs and have lobster claws. The artist often incorporates lace, beads and fabric into her collages. The intricately delicate effect has a tactile three-dimensional quality that makes her figures more ‘grotesque beauties’ than ‘monstrous freaks’. 0809101107
In our contemporary times ‘to be contemporary’ sounds too often like a constraining creative imperative. Luckily, Katie McCann is not afraid of defining herself as old fashioned and of reinterpreting the sense of the grotesque so typical in Victorian art. A ideally contemporary heir of those times, she mixes heterogeneous visual sources, such as nature and fashion, triggering that feeling of sudden surprise arising when the boundaries between strange and beautiful cease to exist. 1213Similarly to Tim Burton‘s films and Edward Carey‘s novels, Katie McCann‘s art retains a timeless poetic quality that comes out of its being dark and hunting and for that same mysterious reason delicate and tender. 1516To discover more of her collages, visit Katie McCann‘s website Beetle Blossom and check her portfolio on Flickr.

Thanks to Katie McCann for the use of the images.

via e MORFES

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Christy Lee Rogers’ underwater spells

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Photographer Christy Lee Rogers creates wondrous underwater scenes of utter beauty, where seemingly choreographed entanglements of bodies and drapes weightlessly float in a muffled yet lush universe that brims with unbounded sensual energies.

Elan_fantome_du_coeur_webSmoke and gold_The_Touch_of_your Skin_is_BrokenReckless_The InnocentsFor the sensual rendering of the fleshes, the bright coalescing colours and the dramatic lighting, Rogers’ work has often been compared to Baroque painting. Similarly to the pursuit of the marvellous typical of Baroque art, her images excite the senses and  arouse a pervasive feeling of awe and wonder in the viewer. But each work also elicits feelings that can be assimilated to sublime, romantically intended as that ungraspable mixture of high pleasure and deep fear we feel in front of something majestic.

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Notwithstanding the above mentioned comparisons concerning the magnificent results, Christy Lee Rogers is endowed with an original and rare talent that made her  develop a unique way of expressing universal and timeless feelings by means of breaking with the conventions of her medium of choice and by obsessively experimenting with underwater photography. Elan_perdu dans l autre_web OdisseyIf the World Earth Could SpeakA self-taught photographer born in Hawaii, Christy Lee Rogers has always had a special relationship with water. But it wasn’t until eleven years ago – when one night, almost by chance, she started taking pictures of a friend jumped on a swimming pool – that the first inspiration hit her. As she told me when I interviewed her for Elephant magazine, that day her creative adventure had started and since then she has relentlessly experimented with the expressive possibilities that a camera, some models, a swimming pool and the moon light opened up to her. Water is an unpredictable element and during a shooting session many adverse events can occur. The night light can suddenly change. The wind can blow and ruffle the water. Although there is a lot of preparation involved in the process (from sketching down ideas to finding the right props and rehearsing with the models), Rogers‘ art is the outcome of a delicately perfect balance between  planning in detail and being ready to make the best out of the many unpredictable aspects of shooting at night what happens underwater. Outside of a swimming pool she combines the two apparently opposite aspects of the process and always manages to magically transform her rough materials into visually lush explosions of dramatic energy.  Reckless_0133_Reckless Unbound

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Thanks to a first-rate artistic awareness and an outstanding craftsmanship (enthusiastically pursued with years of practice, trials and errors), Christy Lee Rogers has invented a totally new and original photographic language, where no digital trickery is either needed or wanted to deliver the (im)perfect beauty of life.

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Water is commonly perceived as a positive symbol standing for the origin of life but at the same time it evokes the impossibility of breathing in it. Experiencing the underwater space can be beautifully soothing but also mysteriously dangerous, thus being a perfect metaphor for the contradictions of life and the opposite poles (good and bad) around which human existence revolves. Rogers‘ bodies are captured with such a degree of barely contained tension that it makes difficult to decide whether they are joyously realising their sensual energies or rather trying to free themselves from unknowable dark forces holding them down. They are imbued by the same vibrant tension exhaled by Michelangelo’s Slaves in their attempt to free themselves from the dead stone. Stone for Michelangelo and water for Rogers, the materials could hardly be more different. But the Renaissance master and this contemporary master of photography share a deep and compassionate insight into human nature. Elan_cirque sous-marin_web

Reckless_From the SkyThere is art you can enjoy, art that shocks you, art that you can rationally understand, art that you can appreciate for the technical mastery it displays and art that you simply find pleasant. But then there is a special kind of art that has something so self-sufficiently magic that you are totally bewitched by it. As an artist, Christy Lee Rogers is a benign witch casting a visual spell the secret ingredients of which are her original intuition, her refined craftsmanship, her artistic instinct and  her deep understanding of human nature, all blending together in a flawless universe of sensual and vivid beauty. Rogers_0184_The Triumphants

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To have an insight into the process behind Christy Lee Rogers’ underwater photography, see this behind-the-scenes video:

To plunge completely into her underwater universe visit her website, here

Thank you to Christy Lee Rogers for the images and for her incredibly inspiring art.

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In the Land of Punctuation – Tara Books (2)

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For aspiring writers the land of punctuation is often a metaphorical minefield. Recently Indian publishing house Tara Books has released an amazing visual translation of Christian Morgenstern‘s poem In the Land of Punctuation, turning it into a visually compelling tale that restitutes more than the literal meaning. Punctuation_1Beautifully designed by Rathna Ramanathan, the images through which the verses develop are all ‘assembled’ typographically, using only punctuation marks as both independent characters and visual signs forming the elements of the landscape. landofpunctuation_02Written in 1905 by German poet Christian Morgenstern, apparently In the Land of Punctuation is a cute non-sensical nursery rhyme that plays with punctuation marks. They become the living characters engaging in a violent fight against each other and for supremacy. trrops

Defined by its author as a linguistic caprice, the poem is actually a dark satire on the absurdity of intolerance and the pointless but unavoidable violence that comes out of it. Since its beginnings committed with a strong socio-political vision, Tara Books could not miss the occasion for rediscovering this literary gem, translating it into a book to be read both textually and visually. dashesThe making of In the Land of Punctuation has involved a double translation. First Sirish Rao came up with a brand new translation from German to English. Then, designer and illustrator Rathna Ramanathan provided the translation from written language to visual typography. Each page is masterfully animated by the aggressively dynamic actions of the characters. corpsesThe spiral of violence, which is the central thread running through the poem, starts when stops and commas form a belligerent alliance against the semi-colons, seen as parasite owning their existence to them. All the semi-colons are left dead on a bloody battlefield. But violence only results in more violence and the aggressor easily become the aggressed. So, when the blade-like dashes join this civil war in the land of punctuation they direct their hatred against the commas, beheading them. The once commas are reduced to semi-colons corpses adding up to the death field. killerdashesThe design of the book perfectly restitutes the war atmosphere. With its red and black rendition and the dynamism of lines and marks, it is clearly reminiscent of the visual language used by Russian avant-garde in the 1920’s that had in Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge by El Lissitzky its most famous propaganda work of art. But the original reinterpretation of art does not stop here. There is also a homage to Alexander Calder‘s mobiles in the image presenting the main characters of the story, with the lightly suspended semi-colons still unaware of the lurking tragedy embodied by stops and commas. calder

Tara Books has produced yet another gem to its catalogue, confirming the passion and commitment that has made it a favourite of mine (see my previous post here).

To check more gems from Tara Books please visit their website here.

Thanks to Tara Books for the images.

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Livres en Vie by Jean Marc Godès

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It is not uncommon for art lovers to be also book lovers. This makes artist Jean Marc Godès, who devotes his practice to books, a favourite of mine. With his evocative photographic mises en scène Godès celebrates books not as mere objects but as lively entities organically interacting with the world. His series of poetic images is called Livres en vie (Living Books).

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dryingBorn in Guadalupe but citizen of the world, Godès has focused on the universe of books as a form of homage to both his father – who was a writer – and poet Jacques Prévert. He describes himself as ‘director of still images’. In fact, each scene depicting the living books in action is carefully staged before taking the picture so that no photo-manipulation is involved in the final result. The artist’s tireless work is inspired by the passionate belief in the power of books intended as living organism carrying personal and collective histories.

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waiting meditatingLivres en vie offers us Godès’ many imaginative answers to the question ‘what a book can be and do’…

Books challenge and push us:

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Books hook us:

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Books urge us to slow down against the contemporary myth of a fast-paced life:

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Books uplift our lives while keeping us grounded:

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Books are powerful tools of freedom….escape…because they open up unforeseen new horizons…horizons1

new horizonsnew horizonsa…thus becoming the bricks forming our inner personal paths…bricks new path

bricks…the necessary equipment for our variously adventurous existences…equipment

…and the vital oxygen for imagination. hoxygen1

hoxygenAll of Godès’ mises en scène are pervaded by a sort of magic realism. His photo-poetic celebration of books calls for interpretation. At times they trigger the need to ‘decode’ the situation behind them. shoes

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Other times, they work as the starting point for imaginative associations. And when art meets books, it should not come as surprise if a specific book come to mind. So, the mouse protagonist of some of Godès‘s images reminded me of Firmin, the rat whose life writer Sam Savage has recounted in the eponymous book. Just like for Firmin books became the very things keeping him alive, Godès little mouse can rely on books as shelter, lifesaving tool and ideal nourishment.mouse2mouse3mouse1

To explore more of Jean Marc Godès‘ poetic homages to books, please visit his website here.

All images ©Jean Marc Godès courtesy of the artist

(via Memo Grandi Magazzini Culturali)

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Beck meets Bowie in Sound and Vision

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When in 1977 David Bowie‘s album Low was released, it was anticipated by the single Sound and Vision. In line with Bowie’s unique inclination for ambiguity, the song is characterised by a catchy and cheerful tune while the lyrics darkly mirrors what Bowie defined one of the worst periods in his life. In 2013 Beck re-imagined and re-staged the song. Covers are always a tricky matter not only for devoted fans and – like him or not – Bowie is a legend (well, especially for me…). But Beck managed to build up a masterful version of the song. The fact that he subverted the minimalist fashion of the original version with an almost baroque rendition (I cannot say if there is an instrument missing from the performance) is maybe key to the magnificent result. In Beck‘s version the bond between sound and vision is literal. In fact, I think that watching the performance enhances the emotional power of the song. And I am left here waiting for the gift of sound and vision…

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Collage as bas-relief: Handiedan’s contemporary Pin-ups

Italy-icon Berlin, Bülowstrasse 7 at the intersection with Zietenstrasse. A gigantic pin-up overlooks the passengers of the elevated railway with a languidly winking gaze. The weathpaste by Dutch Handiedan inaugurated last September as part of the initiatives organized by Urban nation. It covers the whole surface of the building and can be seen as an oversized version of Handiedan‘s astonishing art.

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