Counting Katherine Hepburn, kaleidoscopes, human contortions, inertia, braided topknots, face paint and “the dance of death” from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as her current fascinations, designer and illustrator Tara Dougans capably brings these ideas together in her pieces. Born in Canada and based in London, Dougans’ work is “heavily influenced by the virtue of ‘taking one’s time’ and focuses specifically on handcraftsmanship, the value of process and detail oriented design.”
Her meticulous attention to detail is what makes Dougans’ work particularly intriguing. Specifically, the intricate pattern work, which takes inspiration from catwalk couture, graces the bodies of the Ziggy Stardust-esque characters that feature in her illustrations in beautifully complex designs. The blending of high drama, striking colour and a haute couture sensibility results in a truly distinctive style that marks an evocative threshold between fashion illustration and drawings made by hand.
Although Éric Rohmer is sometimes rather unfortunately overlooked in favour of his contemporaries within the French New Wave, he is perhaps the one auteur from the period who maintained a distinct style and thematic approach to filmmaking across his career. While Jean-Luc Godard became increasingly political and iconoclastic as his career progressed and François Truffaut moved between genres, Rohmer’s commitment to a series of films – under the collective title of the Six Moral Tales – presented film viewers with an individual cinematic treatise on relationships by gravitating around the themes of desire and morality.
I thought audiences and producers would be more likely to accept my idea in this form than in another. Instead of asking myself what subjects were most likely to appeal to audiences. I persuaded myself that the best thing would be to treat the same subject six times over. In the hope that by the sixth time the audience would come to me.
– Éric Rohmer
Composed of six films – The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1962), Suzanne’s Career (1963), My Night at Maud’s (1969), La Collectionneuse (1967), Claire’s Knee (1970) and Love in the Afternoon (1972) – the Six Moral Tales all replay the same narrative conceit that portrays a married or committed man’s reaction to sexual temptation. The individual results are varied (his 1962 and 1963 short films are generally regarded as inferior); however, they collectively reveal a consistent thematic vision. With their naturalistic filming style and introspective, highly intellectual dialogue, they could easily be passed off as banal in some scenes and overbearingly didactic in others. This, thankfully, is not the case.
It is the notable addition of director of photography Néstor Almendros, who was responsible for the cinematography of all of the films from La Collectionneuse onwards, who instills the Six Moral Tales with a restrained and elegant sensuality. The sight of a young girl’s knee, bent as she climbs a ladder, inspires lust in Claire’s Knee, the tanned curves of the provocative Haydée arouses both desire and repulsion in La Collectionneuse, and the problematics of negotiating sexual passion in the face of conservative religious values is at the forefront of My Night at Maud’s. These gestures and dilemmas enliven Rohmer’s loquacious scripts with a subtle eroticism.
Indeed, it is the quiet and gentle eroticism of Rohmer’s cycle, which creates a tension with the underlying ideas of morality, that make the Six Moral Tales such compelling viewing. Although more than 30 years have passed since the films were released within a particular social period that harboured specific ideals, Rohmer’s films still resonate today. If only desire was still portrayed so eloquently.
Geography appears to be a silence preoccupation in the work of Canadian photographer Chelsee Ivan. Although she does not focus on landscapes in a conventional fashion, place and location are more than backdrops to her series of portraits. Rather, the environment extends the mood encapsulated in each image and emotionally frames her subjects, who are often pictured alone. The psychological tone that is derived from her photographs gestures towards a sense of isolation and loneliness that is compounded by the scale of space – whether it is the narrow hallways of interiors or the expanse of nature. Tinged with melancholy, but beautiful in their composition and imagining, Ivan’s photographs reveal a sophisticated understanding of the manner in which space shapes subjectivity.
If you have ever had the pleasure of staring at a painting by California-born, Perth-based artist Matt Doust, you will most likely have been overcome with an eerie sense of voyeurism; the feeling that you have intruded on a moment to which you should not be privy. However, the majority of Doust’s subjects meet your gaze, almost daring you to continue tracing their exposed bodies with your eyes, at times with a confronting stance that borders on obstinate.
His most recent works – under the title of Recollections and Obsessions – is a considered study of intimacy and subjectivity featuring children and strangers. The results are raw, unapologetic and so realistic in their detail that they could easily pass for photographs. But then you look closer and observe the layered shadows and soft application of pigment that reveal the contours of oil paint that make up his bodily landscapes. Although the idea of capturing a semblance of a subject’s interior life is an oft-cited cliché in writing on portraiture, Doust actually records the emotional intensity of the people he paints, creating art that resides on the intersection of passive observation and confrontation.
One year for Valentine’s Day I received a surprise package from my then paramour. Inside was a book and the following message (paraphrased from memory, of course): “I know that you don’t particularly care for Valentine’s Day, but I know that you like things.” It was – and still is – as true an assessment of my obsession with tactile objects as any I have come across. Stumbling upon a new project by graphic designer Trine Hisdal and copywriter Astrid Hagen Mykletun, I think I may have found kindred spirits.
For the inaugural issue of Artist Diner – a limited edition mini-magazine, exhibition and website that follows four different annual themes – Hisdal and Mykletun have focused on the theme of “Folk + Things”: “We surround ourselves with things. We really need some of them; and we think we need others. Is it OK to admit to liking things?” Not merely a document of commodity fetishism, the contributions to “Folk + Things” beautifully shed light on the personal significance attributed to unassuming objects and the narratives that accrue around them. Stories of inheritance, desire, nostalgia and the simple happiness of looking at a familiar object are juxtaposed in evocative ways that suggest that it is indeed more than OK to like things.
There is something of the occult to the work of Buenos Aires-based artist Irana Douer. The haughty and seemingly shady female characters that fill her artworks are reminiscent of Pagan goddesses and mythological spirits who spend their time whispering incantations and concocting spells. However, beyond this very base interpretation of her work is a more serious artistic trajectory. In an interview with Evolve Happy, Douer discusses her process as shifting interior life onto canvas: “I like to think of my images as taking my internal world to the outside. I like using all kinds of symbols and images to represent things that I feel or think. I guess all of my work talk about what’s going on in my mind and my life.”
In this sense, her work externalises complex emotional states, internal tensions and extreme pathos. Collectively, it is a primal, honest and – above all – beautiful exploration of feminine experience.
Douer is also the editor of online art magazine Ruby, which is updated monthly and features the work of young and upcoming artists. You can also find more of her work via her blog, flickr and purchase select pieces through her etsy store.
If you spend enough time staring at letters, words, sentences and paragraphs, language becomes defamiliarised and starts to gradually lose it’s meaning. No where is this idea better explored than in the sculptures and drawings of British artist Sam Winston. His entangled and labyrinthine examinations of language transform the banality of words into strangely evocative works of art. This interrogation of typography reinstates new meanings and understandings, displaying what he describes in one work as “an archeology of [the] writing process.”
Winston’s reference to archeology is underlined in the construction of layers and the creation of visual palimpsests that make up his pieces. For example, in Dictionary limited edition, he reflects on the often overlooked – and yet intertwined – relationship between language and design, effectively presenting words as an image or two-dimensional architecture. Looking at his construction of letters, as they float like feathers across the page, I couldn’t help but think that people might be more inclined to pick up an average dictionary if they looked a little more like this.
Los Angeles-based illustrator Nancy Mungcal, or Pretty Little Thieves as she is commonly known in artistic circles, creates drawings and paintings that are reminiscent of dreamy high school doodles. Perhaps I am making this association due to her proclivity for using graph paper – which is commonly employed in maths books – as a canvas? Graph paper aside, it is the intricately compulsive patterns and the unimpressed, seemingly disillusioned feminine characters that evoke something of the mood of high school. Or at least high school as I remember it. I just wish that it had been tinged with Mungcal’s multi-coloured palette.
You can purchase prints and other miscellany designed by Mungcal via her etsy store and check up on her daily inspirations and observation through her blog.