Dark rainbows

Night photography can often be very colourful, crowded cities full of noisy neon, but this new series from Lucas Zimmerman uses colour in a much darker, desolate way. (via Kottke)

Traffic Lights 2.0Behance
I have been waiting for two long years to finally go out again and progress on my traffic lights series. It was worth the wait.

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Directing traffic that isn’t there—seems appropriate at the moment. As does another one of Lucas’s series of photos, highlighting our desire for connection.

Solitude PalaceBehance
Dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the smarthpone. A magical device that connects and divides us. Lets see what the future holds.

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Fun with colour

I thought these two went together well.

colors.lol – Overly descriptive color palettes
Created as a fun way to discover interesting color combinations. Palettes are hand-selected from the Twitter bot @colorschemez. The feed randomly generates color combinations as well as their descriptions, with each color being matched with an adjective from a list of over 20,000 words.

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A painting and photography duo poking fun at fine artIt’s Nice That
The idea behind the project is for the pair to travel to locations any arts aficionado may recognise. Environments painted by Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet or Vincent Van Gogh are all visited, but rather than replicating their celebrated works, Hank chooses to paint the pattern of his shirt instead.

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Hockney to the rescue

It’s lovely to see some more of his stuff.

David Hockney shares exclusive art from Normandy, as ‘a respite from the news’BBC News
“Why are my iPad drawings seen as a respite from the news? Well, they are obviously made by the hand depicting the renewal that is the spring in this part of the world.”

The point being that his images are the product of him looking directly at nature and depicting or representing what he sees by transmitting his sensory reaction through his fingers onto paper via a pencil, rather than mediating the process through a photograph.

His pictures are a record of how he, uniquely, is experiencing reality of his subject and the space in which it exists. The one-eyed mechanical camera flattens out all this individual nuance.

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“The only real things in life are food and love in that order, just like our little dog Ruby. I really believe this and the source of art is love.”

I was blown away when I first saw his ipad paintings up close in Saltaire. These look just as charming.

David Hockney’s iPad artwork goes on displayBBC News
An exhibition of artwork drawn on a tablet computer by artist David Hockney has opened in Saltaire, West Yorkshire. The 33 images depict the arrival of spring in the Yorkshire Wolds in 2011.

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Art world problems #2

I’m currently re-reading this coffee table book about the guy and enjoyed Brain Pickings’ recent tweets about him, so it was sad to read that one of his paintings has just been stolen.

Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum closed by virusABC News
“I’m shocked and unbelievably annoyed that this has happened,” said Singer Laren museum director Jan Rudolph de Lorm. “This beautiful and moving painting by one of our greatest artists stolen – removed from the community,” he added. “It is very bad for the Groninger Museum, it is very bad for the Singer, but it is terrible for us all because art exists to be seen and shared by us, the community, to enjoy to draw inspiration from and to draw comfort from, especially in these difficult times.”

Problems for museums over here, too.

Anish Kapoor fan gets stuck in virtual exhibitionThe Art Newspaper
A man had to be rescued by the London Fire Brigade after getting lost while taking part in a virtual museum tour. As museums worldwide have had to shut their doors to help fight the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), many institutions have instead put their creative efforts into online engagement with the public, including providing a plethora of virtual tours of their collections and exhibitions. Unfortunately, in some cases, not enough attention has been paid to the visitor experience.

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Viral responses

I’m happy to discover that plenty of people are meeting these “tests of severe circumstances” with humour.

Empty toilet paper rolls and a ‘closed’ sign: Emoji get redesigned for COVID-19Fast Company
“I believe what the world is going through right now is a big moment in history which will have a profound impact on the way people behave, communicate, and perceive their reality,” Lee says. “With this in mind, I thought we needed a new set of emojis which reflected our new reality.” The work is funny in some instances, though also quietly sad.

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Human figures removed from classic paintings by artist José Manuel BallesterColossal
Despite being a couple of years old, José Manuel Ballester’s artworks feel eerily familiar in the time of COVID-19. The Spanish artist recreates classic paintings like Goya’s “The Third of May 1808,” Vermeer’s “The Allegory of Painting,” and Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” except he leaves out one central aspect: humans.

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See famous logos get reimagined for the coronavirus ageFast Company
“I tried to find something in every brand that communicates perfectly in normal circumstances, but is wrong in these difficult times—mermaid without a mask, Nike telling us to simply do it, Mastercard circles overlapping,” Tovrljan explains over email. “If you turn it completely around, it becomes even more powerful.”

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Spots before your eyes

All this news getting too much? Just switch browser fonts.

Color Dot FontAnd Repeat
The Color Dot Font is a font composed entirely of colored circles. In the Color Dot Font, each Latin character is replaced with a circle of a certain color. For example, an “a” character is represented by a blue circle, a “t” by a yellow circle, and so forth. Available as a TTF file, the font can be installed and used on any computer operating system.

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Spring has sprung, don’t forget

Let’s take a break from all the news about job losses, exam cancellations and social distancing failures to remind ourselves of the date. It’s the first day of Spring!

Spring Equinox 2020: 5 weird traditions to celebrate the first day of Spring todayMirror Online
There is an ancient Chinese belief that you can stand an egg on its end on the first day of spring. The theory goes that, due to the sun’s equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, special gravitational forces apply.

Or was it yesterday?

Today marks the earliest “first day of Spring” in 124 years for CanadaNarcity
March has always marked the beginning of springtime. For the northern hemisphere, that date has fallen on the 20 and 21 for as long as you can probably remember. That’s because, March 19, the first day of spring 2020, is the earliest it’s been in 124 years.

Either way, it gives me a chance to share this, from David Hockney.

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A message from David Hockney: ‘Do remember they can’t cancel the spring’The Art Newspaper
David Hockney is currently in complete lockdown in Normandy, where he has been since his last exhibition opening. But he is still producing beautiful things, which he wanted to share with us as something positive.

An appreciation of trees

Let’s have a break from all that, with news of an exhibition in London I’d love to see, Among the Trees: “By turns poetic, adventurous and thought-provoking, this group exhibition explores our relationship with trees and forests.” As we saw earlier, they can be remarkably eloquent.

Five things to know about Among the TreesSouthbank Centre
There are artworks that push at the very limits of the building, and celebrate the soaring scale of trees. Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s huge, cinematic portrait of a 30-metre spruce, for example, takes over almost the entirety of one of the lower galleries, while Guiseppe Penone’s Tree of 12 Metres (1980–82), a sapling painstakingly excavated from an industrially planed piece of timber, stops just short of the ceiling.

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Among the Trees review – a knotty problemThe Guardian
Running the entire width of one floor at London’s Hayward gallery is a six-screen video which depicts, at about life size, a spruce tree swaying in the breeze in Finland. To accommodate its scale, the tree is projected horizontally, and at its foot stands the artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila, in a blue parka, dwarfed by the spreading conifer. The six projected sections of the tree tremble and sway out of sync with one another, adding to a growing sense of majestic befuddlement. You can’t take it in all at once, any more than you could if you stood before the real thing. Distantly, I hear the branches soughing and faint birdsong. Titled Horizontal – Vaakasuora, it makes you look and look some more.

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Here’s some more artistic woodwork.

Trees at night: stunning Rorschach silhouettes from the 1920sBrain Pickings
In his fifties, Young’s imagination fell upon a subject both wholly natural and wholly original — the expressive humanlike shapes, states, and emotions emanating from the silhouettes of trees at night. He began rendering what he half-saw and half-imagined in pen and ink — haunting black-and-white drawings full of feeling, straddling the playful and the poignant. These visual poems, replete with the strangeness and splendor of nature and human nature, become the kind of Rorschach test one intuitively performs while looking at the sky, but drawn from the canopy rather than the clouds.

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Dancing twigsKottke
Artist Chris Kenny uses bits of twig from tree branches to make these interesting found art pieces that exploit the human tendency for pareidolia.

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Wonderfully hypnotic wooden kinetic wall sculpturesLaughing Squid
A self-taught artist with a background in physics, David C. Roy has been creating mesmerizing wooden kinetic sculptures for nearly 40 years. Powered solely through mechanical wind-up mechanisms, pieces can run up to 48 hours on a single wind.

And finally, here’s a request for us to reconsider our view of trees within cities, and to appreciate the many benefits mature trees can bring to society. (via Sentiers)

Trees as infrastructureDark Matter Laboratories
[T]he ecological benefits of trees substantially start after 50 years of existence; we are currently building a deficient urban forest. Shifting our view to perceive public trees as assets rather than liabilities is an important aspect of maintaining and enhancing the benefits that trees provide in an urban setting.

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The long goodbye

Such a simple yet poignant photo series.

A photographer’s parents wave farewellThe New Yorker
At the end of their daughter’s visits, like countless other mothers and fathers in the suburbs, Dikeman’s parents would stand outside the house to send her off while she got in her car and drove away. One day in 1991, she thought to photograph them in this pose, moved by a mounting awareness that the peaceful years would not last forever. […] For more than twenty years, during every departure thereafter, Dikeman photographed her parents at the same moment, rolling down her car window and aiming her lens toward their home. Dikeman’s mother was known to scold her daughter for her incessant photography. “Oh, Deanna, put that thing away,” she’d say. Both parents followed her outdoors anyway.

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It ends as you would expect, sadly.

Hieronymus boats

Here’s something you don’t see every day, a floating theatrical and musical festival, dedicated to the work and spirit of Hieronymus Bosch.

A Parade of Earthly Delights: Floating Bosch Parade celebrates painter Hieronymus Bosch in spectacular aquatic eventColossal
A floating parade dedicated to painter Hieronymus Bosch honors the artist’s fascination with the fantastical and absurd in an annual event that embodies his philosophy and aesthetic. The 2019 occurrence of the Bosch Parade included a musical performance played on a partially submerged piano and a scene with two people straddling enormous horns, just two of fourteen vignettes devoted to an evolving story about “power and counterforce, battle and rapprochement, chaos and hope.”

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Stunning photos from the Bosch Parade, the sailing parade in the spirit of Jheronimus BoschDesign You Trust
This floating, poetic parade of art works portrays a universal tale of power and counterforce, battle and rapprochement, chaos and hope. From the chaos after the battle a new order has to emerge. Eventually, old opposites will form the foundation for a new hope in this storyline filled with symbolism and fantasy – as it is in Jheronimus Bosch’s works.

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More AI art

I’ll just leave these here.

This Artwork Does Not Exist
Imagined by a GAN (generative adversarial network) StyleGAN2 (Dec 2019) – Karras et al. and Nvidia. Trained by Michael Friesen on images of Modern Art.

∞ stream of AI generated art
Explore the infinite creativity of this AI artist that was trained on a carefully selected set of cubist art pieces.

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They’re all much-of-a-muchness, as they say around here. I think robot Rembrandt is still some way off.

Who’s a good dog?

TLS reviews a number of recent books on our best friends.

The ways of dog to Mann: Various responses to canine companionsTLS
For several of the contributors, the most prominent thread that runs through the book is love – both the love dogs have for people and the love that people return. Our love of dogs is in part a response to their happiness but also, as the legendary French actor and animal welfare activist Brigitte Bardot observes, to their wanting us to be happy. Our love, in effect, responds to their love. “Response”, perhaps, is not the ideal word. Certainly, love for a dog need not be an unconsidered, mechanical reaction to their affection. As Monty Don pointed out in his book on his golden retriever Nigel, a dog is an “opportunity” for a person to develop, shape and manifest love for a being that is not going to reject or betray this love. […]

Powerful stuff.

For other contributors, admiration stems less from canine virtue than canine wisdom – what, in other words, do dogs teach us? Alice Walker learns from the ease with which Marley bounces back after a telling-off that, when we behave badly, it is “because we are temporarily not ourselves”. Several other writers express admiration for the dog’s ability to “live in the moment”.

That reminded me of that line by Iris Murdoch about paying attention, to watch “as a dog watches”. The review continues:

This is an element perhaps in the wisdom that Mark Alizart attributes to dogs in Dogs: A philosophical guide to our best friends. It is an ability, identified by Stoics, Buddhists and Spinozans alike, of “accommodating oneself, with simplicity and gratitude, to what life has to offer”. “The dog is joyous because it made man”, he concludes, and since “the human descends from the dog”, its joy is like that which parents take in their offspring. Alizart makes no attempt to elaborate, or even to state in less paradoxical terms, what I take to be the familiar truth behind this rhetoric: namely, that dogs played a significant role in the origins and development of human society. Indeed, the book is certainly not the guide to understanding our best friend that its sub-title promises.

Here’s a look at a new photography book from Martin Usborne, The Silence of Dogs in Cars. They’re not the only ones who can feel a little sad and dejected sometimes.

Martin Usborne’s heartbreaking photos of dogs in cars speak to humans’ fear of abandonmentIt’s Nice That
Featuring rejected, lonely and expectant pups, often meeting the lens of the camera with unbearable sadness, the series extrapolates from his very personal experience while commenting on the way humans treat voiceless animals more widely. “The dog in the car is a metaphor, I suppose, not just for the way that animals (domestic and wild) are so often silenced and controlled by humans but for the way that we so often silence and control the darker parts of ourselves: the fear, the loneliness that we all feel at times,” Martin explains.

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It’s described as a new book, but this 2013 article from The Independent suggests otherwise. Not that it matters. Perhaps just a new edition.

The silence of dogs in carsThe Independent
Usborne didn’t frequent supermarket car parks in order to photograph dogs left in cars. He set everything up in a studio with careful planning. He says he even chose cars which “matched the dog”, for maximum impact.

“The camera is the perfect tool for capturing a sense of silence and longing,” Usborne says. “The silence freezes the shutter forever and two layers of glass are placed between the viewer and the viewed: the glass of the lens, the glass of the picture frame and, in this instance, the glass of the car window further isolates the animal. The dog is truly trapped.”

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Walking the dog

Trailer From The Loop

Two years after I first saw his work, it’s finally hitting our screens.

‘Tales From the Loop’, a wondrous Amazon Prime series based upon the artwork of Simon StålenhagLaughing Squid
The series takes its title from a pair of books written by Stålenhag about “paintings from a childhood that never was and a future that could have been.” The series focuses on a machine that unlocks such a future for those who enter.

Tales From the Loop enlivens the gravity-defying dystopia of Simon Stålenhag’s illustrationsColossal
Launching April 3, the television series is based on the understanding that “not everything in life makes sense” as it chronicles the lives of those residing in the Loop, a machine built to uncover answers to the world’s mysteries. It features a gravity-defying universe that sees floating objects, snow ascending from a pile on the floor, and pieces of a house ripped upward. Retro robots even foster relationships with the families and children immersed in the explorative environment.

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Next month, then, for Amazon Prime customers. Let’s hope it’ll spill out wider for those of us who aren’t primers. Meanwhile, here’s an interview with the man behind those melancholic images.

Simon Stålenhag: meet the artist behind Amazon Prime’s mysterious new TV showDigital Arts
Tales from the Loop is based on the books and artworks of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, so to coincide we’ve looked backed to when we interviewed him about how he conceives and paints his sci-fi worlds – and what the hell is really going on.

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Fending off the Jackpot

I’m about halfway through William Gibson’s latest novel, Agency, and was very happy to read somewhere that it’s part two of a trilogy. Here’s hoping we’ll all be around to enjoy the third…

William Gibson on the apocalypse: “it’s been happening for at least 100 years”New Statesman
His characters call it “the Jackpot”. “It’s multi-causal, and it’s of extremely long duration,” he explains. Over many decades, climate change, pollution, drug-resistant diseases and other factors – “I’ve never really had the heart to make up a full list, else I’ll depress myself” – deplete the human race by 80 per cent. The Jackpot is the mundane cataclysm of modernity itself. It is hundreds of millions of people driving to the supermarket in their SUVs, flying six times a year, and eating medicated animals for dinner. “If the Jackpot is going to happen,” Gibson says, “it’s already happening. It’s been happening for at least 100 years.”

As well as bringing to life an all-too-plausible future, he has a keen grasp on the present. (All science fiction is really about the present, I guess. As he has said earlier, “The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.”)

Putin is the pre-eminent figure in the klept that Gibson sees emerging in the real world. He describes Russia’s reported attempts to influence the 2016 US election as “the most cost-efficient black op in human history. It was a long shot, but it did work, and every day since then they must have had a good laugh, and gotten ready to enjoy yet another day of watching this endlessly exploding grenade at the heart of American government. I doubt they’ve tried to control him very much. It isn’t necessary.”

This story caught my eye. Another artist inspired by a frustrating political situation to produce something positive.

Artist Whitney Bedford is drawing a portrait of Elizabeth Warren every day until she is elected presidentThe Art Newspaper
“It’s really the only currency I have,” says Bedford, fresh from a powerful paintings show at Susanne Vielmetter’s gallery that explored ideas of landscape and toxic land use. “I felt that if I did something I’m known for in public, it could be an incentive for other people to act.” She calls her project “Elizabeth Warren Wins”.

“There’s never been a candidate I’ve been so excited about. And I’ve never done something so fangirl in my life,” she adds. “I don’t get the whole Bernie tsunami because he sounds angry to me. I like how measured and intelligent she is, and I’m on board with pretty much all of her positions.”

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The perils of DIY book cover design

Well, at least they’re trying, I guess.

The worst book covers on AmazonDesign You Trust
Who needs a professional designer when you can save money and make a book cover by yourself, right? Wrong.

But are the professionals doing a better job?

Horror books have lost their identityIn Praise of Shadows

Eloquent trees

Using trees to make paper to write on, I get that. But writing with trees? Katie Holten, an artist-in-residency with NYC Parks, has developed a typeface to allow us to do just that. (via Futility Closet)

NYC is planting secret messages in parks using this typeface for treesFast Company
It would be fair to say that Holten is at least a little obsessed with turning trees into typefaces. Back in 2015, she developed her first so-called Tree Alphabet, made up of sketches of 26 different trees that each stood for its own letter. The project led her to publish a book, About Trees, typed in forests rather than paragraphs. “I’m interested in creating something that lets us translate our words into something beyond us,” writes Holten over email. “It forces us to slow down and think about what we’re writing, or reading.”

To see the typeface in action, head over to nyctrees.org and try it for yourself.

New York City Trees
The New York City Tree Alphabet is an alphabetical planting palette, allowing us to rewrite the urban landscape by planting messages around the city with real trees. What messages would you like to see planted?

These messages aside, it seems the trees are busy communicating by themselves.

The fascinating science of how trees communicate, animatedBrain Pickings
But trees are much more than what they are to us, or for us, or in relation to us. They are relational miracles all their own, entangled in complex, symbiotic webs of interbeing, constantly communicating with one another through chemical signals dispatched along the fungal networks that live in their roots — an invisible, astonishing underworld only recently discovered, thanks to the work of Canadian forest ecologist Suzanne Simard.

The secret language of trees – Camille Defrenne and Suzanne SimardYouTube

Watch out men, it’s a Leap Day!

Vintage Leap Day postcardsPostcrossing
2020 is a Leap Year, so how about a look at some old postcards illustrating one of the best-known Leap Day traditions? If you’ve never heard of this, the tradition is that on Leap Day (and only on Leap Day!) women can propose to men.

And there were some serious consequences for those that refused. Huffington Post has more on this and other marriage superstitions and traditions, and check out this Flickr group for more Leap Day postcards.

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Balance and power

If you liked Universal Everything’s films on human and digital movement, you’ll enjoy this visualisation of the kinetics of sports.

Behold the invisible swoosh and swirl of athletic movement in digital artAeon
Forms is a collaboration between the London-based visual artists Memo Akten and Davide Quayolas, and it generates dynamic digital art from the bodies of world-class athletes at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Inspired by modernist and early photographic interrogations of bodies in motion, such as Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No 2 (1912), the project, in Akten’s words, plays with ‘abstract forms, visualising unseen relationships – power, balance, grace and conflict – between the body and its surroundings’.

The video above, Forms (process), shows how the source video was transformed into the final film.

FormsMemo Akten
Rather than focusing on observable trajectories, it explores techniques of extrapolation to sculpt abstract forms, visualizing unseen relationships – power, balance, grace and conflict – between the body and its surroundings.

The hills are alive with the sound of the Oomphalapompatronium ♪♬♫

More marvellous musical contraptions.

Len Solomon and his amazing DIY musical contraptionsThe Kid Should See This
Making instruments can be as simple as adding different amounts of water to a row of bottles or as elaborate as creating your own pipe organ-style instruments from any object that suits a musical vision. That’s what Len Solomon does. For over 30 years, he’s invented instruments by “filing and sawing” parts like “old vacuum cleaner tubes and plastic bottles, hardware supplies like PVC pipes and copper tees, and specialty items he makes himself like rubber squeeze balls and fipples.”

How this guy makes amazing DIY musical contraptions – YouTube

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Valentines cards, but with added acetic acid

Happy Valentine’s Day! Did you get any cards this year? Let’s hope you didn’t receive one of these.

The rude, cruel, and insulting ‘Vinegar Valentines’ of the Victorian eraAtlas Obscura
In the 1840s, hopeful American and British lovers sent lacy valentines with cursive flourishes and lofty poems by the thousands. But what to do if you didn’t love the person who had set their eyes on you?

In the Victorian era, there was no better way to let someone know they were unwanted than with the ultimate insult: the vinegar valentine. Also called “comic valentines,” these unwelcome notes were sometimes crass and always a bit emotionally damaging in the anti-spirit of Valentine’s Day.

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OK, so let’s assume your Valentine shares your feelings and agrees to go on a date. What could possibly go wrong?

Stupid Cupid: Valentine’s Day disasters, as seen by waitersThe Guardian
While some of us make too much effort on Valentine’s Day, others haven’t even mastered the first rule of dating: don’t perv on someone who is not your partner. Stephenson-Roberts observes that “wandering eyes” are a common feature of the evening. Digital flirting isn’t unheard of, either. Peppe Corallo, bar manager at London’s Kitchen at Holmes, remembers one woman who suddenly started screaming at her boyfriend during dinner. Why? He had been checking Tinder at the table. She hurled her champagne in his face before storming out. Unsurprisingly, her sodden lover soon paid up and left too. “I felt bad for him in some ways, but at the same time, don’t put your phone on the table where your girlfriend can see,” Corallo advises.