Lately in the art world, the theme of deception seems to be a constant. Some photographs look real and instead are made by Artificial Intelligence, amazing places and architectures exist only in the Metaverse, billboards seem to come out of the margins and come at you. It is as if our eyes and minds have to be constantly challenged in order to still be amazed. German artistSteffen Kern also tricks us, but he does so with more ordinary means, ensuring the result.
Born in 1988, Steffen Kern began his studies in art at a young age and to date counts countless participations in exhibitions and solo shows. His technique is simple enough to leave one bewildered, and the only materials he uses are simple cardboard on which he creates with ink, watercolor and colored pencils.
So far, nothing strange, except that every gesture, every pass of color by Steffen Kern is aimed at reproducing the typical elements of analog photographs such as thick grain, flashes of light, particularly marked chiaroscuro. This technique is the real star of his works, which is why the subjects are often common places and objects: a living room, a steak on a frying pan, a bedroom.
Steffen Kern’s drawings look like photographs and are a beautiful illusion.
Milan’s ArtNoble gallery opened yesterday, March 30, 2023, the solo exhibition of artistZazzaro Otto (1988) entitled “Traslochi Heimat s.r.l.” with a text by Bruno Barsanti. The curious and unusual title of the exhibition best explicates the antithesis presented by the sculptural works on display. Heimat is a German word that refers to belonging to a place or, even better, to the feeling of being at home, leading back to a family dimension. Heimat is also the name of a moving company – s.r.l. to be precise – introducing in this way the concept of displacement, in contrast to the homely aspect heralded by the German term. Thus, a conflicting aspect emerges between what should be stable and what is in motion. This leads metaphorically back to the existential journey, to an intimate and personal sphere related to a warlike aesthetic, referring to an inner war. Zazzaro Otto’s works deal with concepts such as adaptation, change and danger with different nuances and, likewise, the mechanisms implemented by human beings in these specific circumstances.
An early metaphor is present in the work “I don’t know how, but I’m taller, it must be something in the water,” comparing a motorcycle to the path of growing up. The work evokes a conflict between childhood and adulthood. The former symbolized by the “bicycle” shape (typical of children) and the colorful little house it carries on the back, as well as the snacks in the small trunk; the latter, on the other hand, is expressed by warlike elements, such as the axe placed on the side. A series of contradictions, made up of “weapons and snacks,” make explicit the difficulties of growing up and how it is often unconscious, rapid, and unexpected.
A second emblematic work is “SuperPleasureEmergencySofa (My Arm for a Sofa),” which visually depicts the concept of survival and adaptability. Indeed, Zazzaro Otto makes a portable sofa-bed, which attempts to become a home through the presence of household elements such as a lamp, alarm clock, and books. Conflict, however, is always present: while it attempts a relaxation, it also remains at attention, ready to leave and run away from danger.
Other works in the exhibition, such as the bronze helmets and wall-mounted works, emphasize “the idea that everyone is responsible for their own movement and transformation”- as Melania Andronic’s text reads.
The exhibition is on view until May 18, 2023 at 9 Ponte di Legno Street, Milan.
You enter your bathroom, ready to strip off the clothes that have accompanied you throughout the day, you are surrounded by shiny tiles and an intent light hits your naked body, highlighting all those flaws you will observe and hate. A mirror reflects the contents of your soul, the body that tells who you are and appears to others every day. It is the moment of confrontation, painful most of the time. The works in oil and acrylic on canvas by U.S. artistSarah Slappey speak of this pain, suffering and anxiety to maintain-or rather, to try to achieve-those imposed standards of beauty.
An interweaving of bodies, particularly limbs (feet and hands) stand out overbearingly against a grid background that leads right back to the bathroom environment and its typical tiles, creating a contrast between chaos and perfection. The hands and arms, distinctive elements of her production, are accompanied in her more recent works by feet and legs. These two elements create a further contrast: on the one hand the hands, soft and gentle, caressing and cuddling, on the other hand the feet, rough and overbearing, trampling, crushing. This is accentuated by the artist’s rendering of the latter, especially highlighting the veins and creases that are created on the back and sole. Both limbs are shiny, silky, hairless but with obvious scars, cuts, and drops of blood. They are penetrated by pins that pierce the fictitious skin, almost perfect in mannequin manners, making explicit the constant sacrifice enacted especially by women. Sarah Slappey does not actually refer to a particular genre but, elements such as beads, bows, hairpins and threads, clearly refer back to the female universe, resulting in autobiographical at times. Sleppey’s works contain a strong tension that oscillates between sensuality and brutality, seeking to overturn the typical representation of the female body that has always been dominated by men. The twists and touches reveal a sexuality that merges with restlessness, posing the viewer with the question “how do bodies feel?“
ArtistPablo Bermudez performs a mutilation, a disembowelment, a defacement of the pop image. Terms with a strong negative and bloody meaning but that best explicate the operation carried out by the Colombian artist on mass-media images. In fact, his action affects the advertising image proposed by fashion magazines, comics and newspapers in general, with the aim of sabotaging the message conveyed by brands, which hijack the masses’ thinking through advertisements and implicit messages, conditioning their consumption and therefore their thoughts and habits. Pablo Bermudez (1988) starts with the image of a magazine, often an icon, a model or model, or just as often the cover, without separating it from its container -the magazine- but keeping the whole object, making a kind of sculpture. With the use of a scalpel, Bermudez carves into the eyes or mouths of the characters, digging deep and at the same time depriving them of their identity, of what makes them human and therefore recognizable. In this way, the icons lose their personality, bringing out what lies within the pages: phrases, images and colors. By losing their connotations, they lose their function as vehicles. The subversion of the image is complete.
The viewer in this way is placed in front of a magazine that no longer needs to be leafed through but is opened from the inside, emerging outward in a three-dimensional manner. The filaments, clippings and paper tears create an explosion, giving dynamism to the work. Pablo Bermudez performs a destruction of pop imagery, transforming images into other images. Destroying but at the same time creating. However, the destruction is not complete: the artist chooses to keep certain elements, such as the titles of the magazines – “Playboy,” “Batman” – or the rest of the subjects’ faces, thus creating a strong visual connection. The viewer immediately recognizes the manipulated element without being able to enjoy it, however, and thus is forced into reflection.
Artist Wang Haiyang (1984) was struggling to express his feelings until his psychologist advised him to represent his unconscious through painting. Since then, the Chinese artist has been able to represent his vision of the outer and inner worlds, reworked through subjects born as metamorphoses of human bodies. The inquisitiveness of the unconscious and psychology have remained a fundamental part of Wang Haiyang’s artistic production, which points straight to his own hidden desires and the most fantastic subconscious far from the real world.
Wang Haiyang’s works reflect on existential themes that allow for social issues such as that of identity for example, depicted by twisting classical ideals of beauty. Frighteningly hairy, almost animal-like legs are thus depicted in graceful and elegant poses typically feminine. Language is another of the themes of these acrylic-on-canvas works, as is lust, evoked with precise elements referable to sexuality and eroticism or more metaphorically with the dialogue of the subjects with abstract, tangled and in contact with naked body parts. The settings of the works are reminiscent of illustrations from science fiction comic books or cartoons, it feels like watching a scene from Little Chills but with a slight tinge that covers everything with eroticism. Animation is another of the techniques Wang uses to represent his subconscious, and some of his works have won awards at international film festivals.