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’.
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. With 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. The 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. The 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. Looking 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.
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. 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.
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’. 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. Similarly 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. To discover more of her collages, visit Katie McCann‘s website Beetle Blossom and check her portfolio on Flickr.
To stumble upon Tang Chiew Ling graceful art is almost a case of serendipity for me, because a few things that recently attracted me combine harmoniously in her work – specifically what an artist can do with leaves (see the work by Hillary Fayle), make up with a few marks on a white background (see the work by Rafael Mantesso) and some miniaturized paper dolls (see the work by Jorge Miranda).
The adorable work of Mexican Ricardo Solís depicts a personal version of the myth of animal creation. Solís draws on his child’s imagination and transposes on canvas his whimsical and amusingly bizarre hypothesis on why animal species look the way they are.
Canadian Nicole Dextrasis an environmental artist whose work stems out of her reflections on consumerism and its detrimental effects on nature. For part of her rich and varied artworks (from sculpture to installations, all realized with ephemeral materials) she uses fashion as a way of looking at and meditation about the human relationship with the natural world. Her series Iceshifts and Weedrobes give beautiful visual shape to her ideas.
Last year, roughly at this time, I collected some of the beautiful leaves that literally cover my path back home. Surely, I had in mind to create something with them, which I never did at the end. Luckily, and certainly with a million time better results that I could have gained, some artists don’t give up and create inspiring pieces out of this beautiful medium…
A land artist, Walter Mason has created a series of works and installations inspired by the seasons. Here some from his Fall intervention in and with nature: For more of Walter Mason exciting pieces of land art visit his Flickr page here. (via My Modern Metropolis)
Rachel Sokal practices an alternative form of photography. The works are chlorophyll prints, with no photoshop involved. Sokal places a photo printed onto clear acetate on top of a leaf. The acetate image creates a protective filter while time and sunlight make the rest:
Rachel Sokal works with many forms of photography. Check her website here.
Illustrator Mehdi Moeeni has created lovely images of animals, shaped with leaves. They are so simple and yet so unique:
‘Most toads can swim if they’re forced to, but unlike frogs, they rarely enter water. Since the world is two-thirds water, where would you say the limitations lie: with the frogs or the toads? Frogs are smooth and sleek and moist; toads are rough and dry and warty’ (Tom Robbins, Half asleep in Frog Pajamas)