Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Amir Zaki

A fascinating series shot in 2010, Amir Zaki's 'Relics' show shuttered beach towers, presumably closed during the off-season, making them appear like weird self-contained capsules or miniature elevated mausoleums. Zaki, living and working in Southern California, describes the architecture and surrounding landscape of this part of America as "an evolving bastardization of styles and forms - in other words, a pastiche" and his work explores and attempts to subvert these architectural styles. Perhaps his artist's statement says it best: "The work begins with the familiar, by looking at objects, structures and locations that are often pedestrian and banal. And by capitalizing on the presumed veracity that photographs continue to command, along with the transformative yet invisible digital alterations he employs, his images depict structures that aspire to be added to the list of the hodge-podge, built landscape that creates the Southern California mythology."
So perhaps what we see here are not simply shuttered beach towers, but actually more complicated, altered photographs, with Zaki creating a new and fascinatingly functionless type of building. The reader can decide...

All images © Amir Zaki

Monday, 28 November 2011

Joseph Gartell

London-based artist Joseph Gartell has been painstakingly crafting these intricate drawings of animals over the past couple of years. Rendered in pencil and ball-point pen the almost obsessive level of detail is amazing - the Bison image, above, is virtually life size at 2.5m wide and 1.8m tall. Considering that each section is carefully shaded in ball-point, you have to hope Gartell doesn't get Carpal Tunnel! This technique means he manages to capture the sinews, muscles and dynamic movement of each animal he draws, but the results are more stylised than scientific, and owe much to Native American styles.







A sketch of a work in progress, 'Pronghorn'

All images © Joseph Gartell

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Hisaji Hara

Often the most interesting photographers are those who have a single-minded obsession with one subject, relentlessly exploring it and pushing themselves within certain parameters. Hisaji Hara is one such photographer who has created a beautiful series of photographs that painstakingly recreate the paintings of Balthus, the revered Polish-French painter who died in 2008.
Hara's work, until recently rarely seen outside Japan, was one of the gems at this year's revamped Paris Photo fair. Remaining faithful to Balthus's original compositions, Hara's careful casting and beautifully lit modern reinterpretations of the settings make for a really unique series of photographs. The photographs are initially disconcerting, appearing vintage with their impeccable, cinematic lighting and sepia tones, but the modern flourishes make the viewer look again. Below are a couple of Balthus's paintings alongside Hara's photograph for comparison.
At present Hara seems uninterested in photographing outside of his obsession, but surely its only a matter of time before a forward-thinking fashion brand or magazine collaborates with him using his unique approach to create something special.
Whilst paintings have unquestionably influenced photographers since the medium's first days, its rare for a photographer to dedicate himself solely to a project this reverential. Guido Mocafico notably produced a stunning series of still life works - Nature Morte - which were exhibited seamlessly alongside Old Masters at the Bernheimer gallery in London in 2008. But Hara seems to be attempting something even more ambitious, almost trying to become Balthus with his camera. In fact in the final image shown here, he poses as the great painter in a self portrait homage.

Portrait of Therese, 1956 by Balthus

Le Salon I (1941-43) by Balthus

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

David Favrod

Born to a Japanese mother and a Swiss father, David Favrod is a young, gifted photographer whose work explores his sense of dual nationality and identity through staged dramatic scenes and lyrical, nostalgic landscapes and still life tableaux.
Whilst still a young boy, Favrod's family left Japan for a small village in Lowers Valais in Switzerland, where, he explains: "my father had to travel for his work a lot, so I was brought up by my mother who taught me her principles and her culture." With his fascinating series 'Gaijin' (meaning foreigner in Japanese) he set about creating "my own Japan in Switzerland, from memories of my journeys when I was small, my mother's stories...and my grand parents' war narratives." The portraits range from haunting, beautifully lit set-ups with characters in traditional Kabuki make-up to more startling and unexpected scenarios, like a masked naked man emerging from a lake or a noosed man staring from a bath. Favrod says these portraits are "a tool for my quest for identity, where self-portraits imply an intimate and solitary relationship that I have with myself." The colour palette in his photographs is usually a mix of warm Autumnal colours - greens, browns and blues with hits of red, and when seen with the still life work and the landscapes, the whole series has real power and poignancy.
For someone so young - he graduated from ECAL this year - Favrod already has a mature and distinctive style and we'll be interested to see how his career and vision evolves. Below are examples from the 'Gaijin' series.

All images © David Favrod

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Jean Baptiste

Showing the evolution of simple, strong natural leaf-forms, and man-made geometric patterns, these plates were drawn in 1896 by Jean Baptiste to explore and explain symmetries and repetitions. With their pared-down simplicity and muted palettes they are strangely undated, and still a fascinating source of inspiration.