A lot of times as artists we try to communicate things like feelings, dreams, or ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. Sometimes a feeling, dream, or idea can be somewhat straightforward. Often though, with intangible things like feelings and such, just using words, or creating art that is realist in nature is inadequate. Sometimes as artists we need to create the worlds in our heads, and to do that we must often go beyond realism, to a genre of art called surrealism.
Filter/Gauge is no stranger to surrealist art; “surreal” is probably one of the most used tags on this site. Some artists in particular that I have shown before would fit this bill in particular; Thomas Doyle, Aron Weisenfeld, Ian Davis, and Anton Van Hertbruggen come to mind. This is however, the first week completely devoted to surrealism. A friend showed me the work of Nicolas Bruno—featured in the list below—and I was so intrigued that I quickly looked through more artists I knew to create a post devoted to surrealism. Multiple artists this week deal with dreams specifically, and as most surrealist art is dreamlike, the title this week reflects that.
Vikram Kushwah is this week’s first artist. Kushwah, together with writer, researcher, and fashion designer Trisha Sakhlecha created a series of photos called Memoirs of Lost Time to catalog childhood reflections—both what was and of what could have been; a project about the intangible, the effect of the past on our present consciousness. The photos themselves are very candid, as you would expect for a project about people’s memories, and the vintage effect on them is a brilliant idea that communicates the aged nature of the memories themselves. The photos being aged also creates a gap that makes them seem a little unapproachable, like a generation gap of sorts. These could have been your parents dreams as a kid or something; it is just an added layer of complexity and it is quite effective. There are more photos in the set and they are all quite dreamlike.
Alex Roulette is an amazing painter and has been featured on Filter/Gauge before. His paintings are perfect for this post, incredible detail paired with fantastical elements make for some great surrealist artwork. Roulette, like Kushwah, explores the distorted sense of time and space within memories. Including both the real and the fantastical represent the way that we have a tendency to splice memories together and alter the fact of what actually happened. Roulette’s combination of suburban themes and dreamlike landscapes serve to explore that ambiguous and ever changing nature of our imperfect memories.
Nicolas Bruno is the next artist, and as I said above, it was Bruno’s photos that inspired this post. Bruno has suffered from sleep paralysis since he was 15, and as a way to confront the terrifying dreams he has at night, he journals them and then turns those notes into the inspirations for his photoshoots. Fittingly, for images that come directly from dreams that terrify him at night, these images are a little unsettling. Haunting images of surreal dreamscapes draw us in and we are left to imagine how much more horrible these scenes must be at night, when paralyzed and unable to call for help. Bruno takes the images himself with only his camera, two lenses, a remote, and a tripod. Perhaps what is most inspiring about Bruno’s story is that he is creating these images by himself, and he is twenty-one. He has his entire career ahead of him and he is making stuff like this already. I am excited to see what the future holds for him!
Next, we move from one type of haunting image to another. Hungarian based David Szauder is out next artist, and is one that I have been wanting to show for a while (part of that Glitch themed post that I mentioned here) and this post is a great fit for his unique style of art. While Alex Roulette’s work explores the blurred, degrading effects on memory that time can have, Szauder’s work represents mental degradation and the effects that it has on memory. Each character in Szauder’s Failed Memories series has had their mental state affected in someway, causing the eponymous failed memory. Most images have a caption attached that narrates the particular affliction each character suffers from (I have included the captions for the photos I chose that have them).
Kyle Thompson is the last artist this week. He, like Nicolas Bruno above, is quite young and incredibly talented. His work is made up (mostly) of self-portraits that he takes while traveling around and getting out and constantly experimenting. He is a student of his discipline; he is completely self-taught and relies on trying new things to keep growing. Says Thompson:
“I’m always trying out new techniques, I’m pretty much always in a constant state of experimentation… Shoot through a broken mirror, cover people in flour and make them look like stone, mess with filters and do crazy things with light and smoke or anything. I think just constantly trying new things is the only way to improve. I’m always leaving my comfort zone if it will help the shot. Setting myself on fire or swimming in freezing water. Recently I started sleeping in abandoned houses to feel such vulnerability that I can reinterpret in my work. Getting out of your comfort zone is so important and its always when I create my best work.¹”
Thompson’s work is all about the “ephemeral narrative”, a nonexistent story line that only exists momentarily. There is no explanation for the images that we see, and thus we are trapped in a narrative “loop” that encapsulates our understanding of his work. Essentially, this adds a feeling of unease to our already bewildered minds upon seeing his work. Much like Szauder, Thompson explores what makes us uncomfortable and how that affects us mentally as we react to his work.
And thanks to Alex Kessler for the tip about Nicolas Bruno!
¹Interview with Kyle Thompson, August 23, 2013 http://www.emptykingdom.com/featured/ek-interview-kyle-thompson/