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Art

Through Bronze Mushrooms and Gilded Cicadas, Xiaojing Yan Links Chinese Legend and Nature

March 2, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Tiger’s Embrace” (2021), painted wood. All images © Xiaojing Yan, shared with permission

The wide, reddish-brown fungi known as lingzhi, or reishi, has long been revered as the mushroom of immortality, said to grant eternal life to anyone who consumes one of its spores. This ancient belief founds some Chinese legends and is also a mainstay of Xiaojing Yan’s practice. Based in Toronto, the artist has created a body of work that’s broad in medium and subject matter, ranging from small sculptures installed in circular formations to bulbous paper lanterns with rotating parts. Each piece, though, hearkens back to Yan’s experience as a first-generation Chinese-Canadian and her interest in the way the formidable power of nature continually intersects with culture, art, and lore.

Displayed in precise patterns, both Yan’s 2014 work “Lingzhi” and 2020 installation “Fairy Ring” are comprised of bronze mushrooms finished with a turquoise patina. The texture is enhanced, the artist shares, to mimic concentric tree rings and prompt questions of aging and time. “I arranged them onto the wall in the way that bracket mushrooms would grow in steps in nature,” she writes.Against the white wall, these hoary objects appear to float in space. Bronze is often associated with monuments, images of power, or eternity and creates tension with lingzhi’s delicate nature and mythology.” In conjunction with immortalizing the fungi in alloy, Yan also uses the actual spongy spores in other pieces, including in coating busts and sculptures with the fleshy growths.

 

Detail of “Fairy Ring” (2020), bronze with patina

Similarly focused on symbols from nature, Yan’s more animalistic works involve gilded cicada exoskeletons suspended as a winding staircase and an animated series of cocoon-like sculptures that twirl in a circular motion. “Tiger’s Embrace,” a recently carved wooden sculpture, nests alternating depictions of the cat and a human figure in diminishing forms. Commissioned by the Royal Ontario Museum where it’s on display through January 2023, the piece celebrates the Year of the Tiger and is the first in a series of all twelve signs in the Chinese zodiac. The hybrid work, which blurs the distinction between people and animals, “is also based on the Chinese custom of dressing children in tiger hats for good luck and protection,” she says. “The warrior’s lion skin hat turning into a cute baby’s tiger hat can’t stop me from pondering over self-transformation and adaptation.”

Yan has exhibitions slated for Paris, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Nevada in the coming months, and she is currently working on a project supported by the Canada Council for the Arts. Explore a larger portfolio of folklore-infused pieces on her site and Instagram.

 

Detail of “Song of the Cicada” (2017), cicadae exuviate, filament, gold paint, 7.2 x 9 x 13.5 feet

“Song of the Cicada” (2017), cicadae exuviate, filament, gold paint, 7.2 x 9 x 13.5 feet

“Tiger’s Embrace” (2021), painted wood

“Fairy Ring” (2020), bronze with patina

“In The Shells” (2019), paper, reed, uv coating

“Lingzhi” (2014), cast bronze

 

 



Art

Hugging and Hungry, Adorable Cats Are Hand-Carved as Miniature Sculptures

February 20, 2022

Anna Marks

Wooden cat sculptures by Sakura Hanafusa

All images © Sakura Hanafusa, shared with permission

Japanese sculptor Sakura Hanafusa carves whimsical cat sculptures often carrying a range of foods, including vegetables, sweets, and biscuits. In one of the feline statues, a snowy-haired creature peeks out from underneath a vanilla ice cream cone, while in another, a smiling duo clings to mushrooms and acorns. Adorable and playful, Hanafusa’s poses sometimes prompt interaction and mimicry like with the seven cats pawing for high fives, which ask passersby to raise their hands, too.

Hanafusa whittles camphor and then adds details to their noses, paws, and whiskers with oil paint. The characters are modeled from family and friends’ pets, all of which have playful expressions whether grinning or shy and coy. While a few of Hanafusa’s pieces are the size of real animals, others would only fit into the palm of a hand, and some merge with other objects, such as his collection of plump felines with orange, satsuma bodies.

To view more of Hanafusa’s work, visit the artist’s website and Instagram. (via Supersonic Art)

 

Wooden cat sculptures by Sakura Hanafusa

Wooden cat sculptures by Sakura Hanafusa

Wooden cat sculptures by Sakura Hanafusa

Wooden cat sculptures by Sakura Hanafusa

Wooden cat sculptures by Sakura Hanafusa

 

 



Art Food

Wooden Apple Sculptures by Yosuke Amemiya Melt Into Succulent Puddles

February 18, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images ©Yosuke Amemiya, shared with permission

An apple oozing into a flat puddle or a round bulge is likely a sign of softening and rot, although the fruits carved by Yosuke Amemiya retain their supple, juicy freshness despite their melting appearance. The artist, who moved to Yamanashi, Japan, from Berlin a month ago, shapes succulent pieces and paints their likeness with reds, yellows, and speckles of brown discoloration. He’s amassed dozens of the intriguing fruits since he began creating the pieces in 2004—originally he used FRP and plastic before switching to wood—and likens the process to “trying to create human universality through the apple.” The sculptures are a small portion of Amemiya’s practice, which you can delve into on his site. (via Escape Kit)

 

Photo by Jiuk Kim

 

 



Art

Trees Burst from 100 Elementary Desks in Hugh Hayden's Installation Addressing the Disparities of Public Education

February 4, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Brier Patch” at Madison Square Park (2022). Image courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy, by Yasunori Matsui

Four lawns in New York’s Madison Square Park are now sites of a sprawling and insightful public installation by artist Hugh Hayden. On view through April 24, “Brier Patch” is comprised of 100 small wraparound desks arranged in neat grids evocative of an elementary classroom. Each cedar sculpture is distinct with barren, bark-covered branches bursting from their seats or tabletops, creating a snarled explosion of limbs and twigs that’s impossible to permeate.

Similar to his thorny dining sets in material and aesthetic, the metaphorical works speak to the inequities of education and cite the inherent barriers to achievement. The installation’s name references the tangled mass of prickly vegetation, an environment that’s only hospitable to some. It also draws on the stories of the trickster Br’er Rabbit, a folklore tradition that originated in West and Southern Africa before being repackaged as Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories. In those tales, the rabbit outwits his foes and finds refuge in the largely inaccessible thicket.

In addition to “Brier Patch,” Hayden’s Boogey Men, a solo show responding to cultural issues and a harsh political environment, is on view through April 17 in Miami. Explore more of the Dallas-born artist’s works on his website and Instagram.

 

“Brier Patch” at Madison Square Park (2022). Image courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy, by Yasunori Matsui

“Brier Patch” at Madison Square Park (2022). Image courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy, by Yasunori Matsui

“Brier Patch” at Madison Square Park (2022). Image courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy, by Yasunori Matsui

“Brier Patch” at Madison Square Park (2022). Image courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy, by Yasunori Matsui

Hayden creating “Brier Patch “at Showman Fabricators (2021). Image courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy, by Yasunori Matsui

Hayden installing “Brier Patch” (2022). Image courtesy of the artist and Madison Square Park Conservancy, by Rashmi Gill

 

 



Art

Nails Puncture Inscrutable Characters Carved in Wood by Artist Jaime Molina

February 1, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Jaime Molina, courtesy of Paradigm Gallery, shared with permission

Mysterious and enigmatic, the wooden figures that occupy Jaime Molina’s imagined world appear to be in perpetual states of meditation or slumber. The Denver-based artist (previously) sculpts small characters atop angular bodies and large heads that split open to reveal inner objects like a cactus, honeybee, or small, worn house. Many are then pierced with nails of various sizes and ages that frame their faces with blankets of spikes.

Molina adorns each figure with closed eyes, a serene, solemn appearance, and striped clothing of ambiguous shapes, and he sees the variety of textures and dimensions as part of their unique narratives. “To me, (facial expressions) are like syllables of a word or a unique note in a song,” he says. “These ideas of isolated language and invented slang are portrayed through the figure’s expressions and the patterns in their hair and bodies. These patterns are like an imaginary quilt made up of their histories and memories.”

His sculptures broadly evoke folk and outsider art traditions, particularly in their use of found materials—a partial logo remains visible on a bench for one character, rusted and bent nails are mixed with newer fasteners, and a gnarled hunk of wood becomes a stage—and he shares that he gravitates toward pieces “made purely for the sake of creating.” The artist explains:

My great uncle used to make a lot of different things when I was younger. He’d paint on old pieces of wood or old saws and even carve things out of wood. They were all over his house and some at my grandmother’s house, and I used to love seeing them. I guess it made an impression on me that you could just make art with what you had around you. You didn’t need to go to school or wait for an opportunity. You could just make things when you had the urge.

To explore more of Molina’s work, which spans murals, large public pieces, and other sculptural creations, head to his site and Instagram.

 

 

 



Design

These Wiggly ‘Nervous Chairs’ by Wilkinson & Rivera Channel Our Collective Anxiety

January 12, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images by Zelie Lockhart, courtesy of Wilkinson & Rivera, shared with permission

If home is a feeling, then the wriggling furniture collection by husband-and-wife Grant Wilkinson and Teresa Rivera are apt representatives of our collective anxieties. The design duo opts for squiggles rather than clean, straight lines in their collection of wooden pieces— the internet dubbed them “nervous chairs” —that appear to quake with uneasiness. Curved legs and arms offer base structure and coiled rungs back support in the ever-growing line of products by their eponymous brand, which is known for putting updated spins on classic pieces. Rivera shares:

Our tastes can be pretty contemporary but we’re fascinated by traditional techniques. We try to incorporate them in each piece: for the Windsor, it’s steam-bending the backrest. For La Silla, we weave the caned seats by hand. For our latest piece, the Welsh Stick Chairs, we included hand-carved barley twists.

Wilkinson and Rivera, who are based in Walthamstow, East London, will launch a few new designs in the next few months, which you can watch for on Instagram, and shop their current collection through The Future Perfect.

 

 

 

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