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The Burning Plain

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The dark, dream-like paintings of Chilean artist Francisco Rodríguez caught my eye recently. His show The Burning Plain from 2018 at Cooke Latham Gallery is featured here.

In Rodríguez’s case, his imaginaire clings to the mind like heavy woolens and wet winter air. It consists of firmly outlined figures that populate darkened or gray-toned landscapes: men in shadows, packs of dogs with red eyes and crows that occupy the central space of a canvas. It also prominently features portraits of lean male characters, some with cigarettes dangling from thin lips, others sporting broad impudent grins or wide brimmed hats of the sort seen in period images of Chilean gauchos or in Pablo Picasso’s early bohemian pictures, especially his portraits of Carles Casagemas, the legendary artist suicide.

Rodríguez’s imagery, in fact, calls up an array of bohemian antecedents: the Pre-Raphaelites (especially Dante Gabriel Rossetti), Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters of louche entertainments, the aforementioned Picasso of the Blue and Rose periods (note Rodriguez’s use of diamond checkered patterns, reminiscent of the Spaniard’s saltimbanques), the Viennese Secession (particularly Egon Schiele) and, skipping forward almost a century, the stylized, mischievous and oneiric figures of artists as varied as Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Wojnarowicz and Marcel Dzama. What they all have in common with the young Chilean-born, London-based artist is simple: they each sought to dovetail a hardscrabble, insubordinate view of city life with what Charles Baudelaire famously urbanely called “a way of feeling.”

Rodríguez, though, invokes a dark difference. If his pictures are romantic, they convey emotion in a way that is freighted with oblique references to still other far-flung sources: among these are the 1980s manga comic Akira, Irvine Welsh’s gritty Glasgow novels, Pedro Almodovar’s Pepi, Lucy y Bom, the lyrics of The Clientele’s Losing Haringey and the general pall cast over the artist’s native country by several decades of dictatorship, as reflected, say, in the 2008 Chilean film Tony Manero. Then there’s the painter’s choice for the title of his first London gallery exhibition. Called “The Burning Plain,” Rodríguez’s title is a translation of El llano en llamas, Juan Rulfo’s celebrated short story collection. Fittingly, Rulfo’s stories consist entirely of interior monologues spoken by characters that wander bleak, crepuscular landscapes. Like the painter’s figures, they haunt rather than traipse the desolate roads they travel. – Christian Viveros-Fauné, 2018.

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Jessica Bell

Monday, April 29, 2019

Jessica Bell is a Canadian artist I began following many years back. She had two shows on Art Hound’s sister site, Buy Some Damn Art, but I hadn’t seen her work in a while. It turns out that in the last few years she has blossomed and is making art on a much larger, more ambitious scale. These images are all from her 2015 MFA thesis, All things being equal. She also has a very fun quilt series from 2018, Forty Days and Forty Nights (Making the bed)

This series is really about exploring canvas as a medium. I appreciate that it is both serious (her exploration of lines, shapes, composition, repetition, juxtaposing incongruent parts) and playful (in this series I see bean bags, flour sacks, drying laundry and printed textiles ready to be cut.) It’s exciting to see one of my favorite artists building off of an already impressive body of work, pushing boundaries and doing new things.

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Dying Between the Violets: Guglielmo Castelli

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Guglielmo Castelli is a fashion illustrator turned artist whose paintings are beautiful and subversive. Every once in a while you see something new that takes your breath away, and Castelli’s work – which is tender, evocative and mischievous – did that for me. These paintings are from the artists’s 2014 show Heparin at Francesca Antonini as well as paintings from 2016. 





“Everything seems to take place in a limited time, in a chaos from which it is difficult to break away. The action of his figures, more and more submerged by color, does not rest anywhere, they are at the center of an infinite space. It is not clear whether they are ascending or falling. But they do not seem to worry about it, because what matters is to maintain the position, the tangle of that moment. The search for a formal balance leaves room for the freedom to suspend action without reference points. It is only the land on which everything takes place, in a syncopated tangle that steals the scene with hypnotic force, preventing the eye from moving elsewhere. ” – Claudio Libero Pisano






Images courtesy of the artist and Francesca Antonini Arte Contemporanea



Lindsay Stripling

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Lindsay Stripling is a San Francisco based artist and illustrator I really admire and whose work I’ve really enjoyed watching develop as she also made the transition to full-time illustrator. I admire is that Lindsay has stayed true to her own style and originality. I got to know Lindsay four years ago when she had a show on Buy Some Damn Art and this week we launched a brand new show I’m very proud of featuring six of her watercolors. Below is my interview with Lindsay and some of the paintings from the show. Enjoy.
It’s been four years since your first show on BSDA! How have you been? What’s changed since 2014? What hasn’t changed? 
Yea! I’m so glad to be back! I would say a lot has changed, but also maybe not much. I was looking at my paintings I did for the 2014 BSDA show, and I think it’s so interesting that similar themes keep showing up in my work. Back then I was relying heavily on photography and focusing on memory, but landscapes and the figure were still prominent, and since then I have set photography aside and have been really trying to create my own world and what I like to think of as a glossary of images and symbols, with more of an emphasis on illustration. 
I have to ask – what is the story behind the painting All The Fridas? 
A large part of what caused me to move away from using photos and try to create my own worlds was that I went on a road trip to see “In Wonderland”- women in surrealism at LACMA and actually ended up missing the show but I snagged the show book/catalogue and became somewhat obsessed with Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington. I have, like most people, always been a fan of Frida but I don’t think I really knew her work until then, and her piece Two Fridas became one of my favorites. It depicts two of her selves sitting side by side and connected by their hearts. I wanted to pay homage to that, but think more about women and female identifying people as a collective being connected. I love the duality in Two Fridas, the self reflection, but I wanted to explore and create thought about ourselves being reflected in others, and perhaps help us as women to lift one another up, rather than tear one another down. If we can see ourselves in the people around us, it can enable us to empathize more and realize that we are not alone. 
It’s super interesting how the women figures in these paintings have trees, flowers and animals across their clothes, hair and faces. How do the themes of Return, Reflection and Vessel connect to these objects? 
It is a similar idea to the interconnectivity of people like in All the Fridas, but instead focusing on the interconnectivity of nature and us, and seeing ourselves in nature and nature within ourselves. I live in the bay area and grew up across the bay from Mt. Tamalpais – which my mom always told me and my sister was named by the Miwoks and meant the ‘sleeping lady’ (this is one of those situations where upon reflection and with a little wikipedia, I now know is a little less straightforward than that, but isn’t that how it always goes) and I always thought about that. What if the earth literally is us? What if we considered the earth, the land, our living and breathing selves? Would we take more care of it? Our bodies are infinite ecosystems, and live upon and within another infinite, wilder than we could even imagine ecosystem, it’s pretty neat. 
Folklore and mysticism appear to be an influence in your work. If nothing else just the connection between psyche and the natural world. Does this connection have a specific origin for you? A specific meaning?
The symbolic meanings of nature, of mother nature, of the connection between the wilderness and our own wildness have always resonated with me. I am so fascinated by our ability as a society to try and control and make sense of this magical natural world that is so much more complicated than we could possibly imagine, and I think the same is true for ourselves. 


Clara Dackenberg

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Clara Dackenberg is a Swedish illustrator who specializes in children’s books and storytelling. These recent works from Instagram are part of GIFC or Got It For Cheap, a traveling group exhibit of works on paper all sold for $30. I admire a lot of children’s book illustrators and find it fascinating how they bring creepy, spine-tingling scariness into our lives. Menacing characters, like Clara’s wolves, enthrall us and live on in our imaginations. 





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Lindsay Bull

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Lindsay Bull of Manchester, U.K. paints dynamic, fuzzy portraits that emphasize color, brush work and above all, individuality. She currently has a solo exhibit at bo.lee gallery in London. 

This is a fabulous description of Bull’s eye-catching subjects by Matt Price:

Lindsey Bull’s paintings depict a curious cross-section of people – they often seem lonely, melancholy, shy and introverted, as if trying to avoid our gaze or to distance themselves from the world. But they are also often eccentric, gregarious characters who enjoy their subcultural affiliations and live out inner fantasies through their outward appearance – dressing up in unusual clothes or fancy dress, unorthodox hats, over-the-top make-up, way-out hair. It is a bohemian cast, an eclectic community of outsiders and auteurs, interlopers and introverts, waifs and strays, dandies and extroverts.  






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