Category Art

What Art Historians and Curators Can Learn From Scientists and Engineers

Jan van Eyck

Jim Cuno, the President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, has an interesting article in The Daily Dot where he describes a change he’d like to see in art historians, curators, and professors. It’s a trait that he sees working well in fields like science and engineering. It’s the simple act of collaboration.

The history of art as practiced in museums and the academy is sluggish in its embrace of the new technology. Of course we have technology in our galleries and classrooms and information on the Web; of course we are exploiting social media to reach and grow our audiences, by tweeting about our books, our articles, including links to our career accomplishments on Facebook and chatting with our students online.

But we aren’t conducting art historical research differently. We aren’t working collaboratively and experimentally. As art historians we are still, for the most part, solo practitioners working alone in our studies and publishing in print and online as single authors and only when the work is fully baked. We are still proprietary when it comes to our knowledge. We want sole credit for what we write.

He cites the open source Closer to Van Eyck project as a good example for this thinking. Create a ton of data around a piece of art and share it to the masses.

We should also be more open to open sourcing our projects. The recent Ghent Altarpiece Web application, Closer to Van Eyck (supported by the Getty Foundation) is a case in point. The Closer to Van Eyck project documents the masterpiece in incredible detail. Each centimeter of the multi-paneled, 15th-century altarpiece was examined and photographed at extremely high resolution in both regular and infrared light. The photographs were then digitally stitched together to create large, detailed images that allow for study of the painting at unprecedented microscopic levels, with access to extreme details, macrophotography, infrared, infrared reflectography and x-radiography of the panels. The Web application contains 100 billion pixels and the images and metadata are available free of charge as “raw” data to be used by any and all researchers, amateur as well as professional.

It would be great to see more resources like this come online, and not just in the field of paintings. It makes me think of the robot that’s wandering around the Tate at night, that anyone on the planet can control. Imagine if through that experience you could get 100x the data and learn about each of the pieces in detail. There’s a lot of potential there, especially if people start working together.

Ricardo Guasco Re-Interprets Mondrian, Bringing Life To The Neoplasticist Works

Ricardo Guasco Appropriates Mondrian

When you look at a piece of art, you see something unique, and when I look at a piece of art, I most likely see something uniquely different. When Ricardo Guasco saw the paintings of Mondrian, he didn’t see minimalism, he saw room/rooms for people. Ricardo is an extremely talented illustrator based in Alessandria, Italy who makes really energetic, expressive works that you can’t help but enjoy.

These pieces though caught my attention because they’re unexpected. Seeing an abstract figuring sitting in a Mondrian like it’s a jungle gym, laying on one like it’s a roof, or utilizing the panels like it’s a kitchen is such a great concept.

You should absolutely see more of Ricardo’s work by clicking here.

Ricardo Guasco Appropriates Mondrian

Ricardo Guasco Appropriates Mondrian

Daniel Temkin’s Creates Fantastic Art Through Digital Accidents

Glitchometry Stripes by Daniel Temkin

Glitchometry Stripes is an ongoing body of work from the American artist Daniel Temkin. Started in 2013, the series takes raw digital information and transforms it into beautiful op-art that could rival the likes of Bridget Riley or Victor Vasarely.

Glitchometry Stripes by Daniel Temkin

The process of creating these images involves Temkin taking a series of vertical black and white lines and then importing them into an audio editor. By adding a few simple sound effects to different color channels he finds beautiful results. According to Temkin the image manipulator has a sense of what each effect does, but no precise control over the result. He describes this as “wrestling with the computer”.

Glitchometry Stripes by Daniel Temkin

Glitchometry Stripes by Daniel Temkin

Glitchometry Stripes by Daniel Temkin

I love the colors and shapes within this work. New images from the series frequently get posts to Tumblr. You can check them out here.

Glitchometry Stripes by Daniel Temkin

More exciting projects can be seen on Daniel Temkin’s website.

‘Tone’ – A Short Film That Focuses On The Art of Painting, Not The Painting Itself

New York filmmaker Trent Jaklitsch has created a remarkable short film that documents the minutia of painting. Rather than focusing on the canvas the film focuses on the act of art making, the mixing of paint and subtle strokes that go into a larger whole.

The artist being filmed is painter Alyssa Monks who creates really wonderful large scale portraits of people. Her work is quite expressive and loose but filled with nuance and detail. It’s so interesting seeing all the details that are featured in the video and how they transform into one large, cohesive paintings.

Trent Jaklitsch

Trent Jaklitsch

Trent Jaklitsch

Yuto Yamasaki Carves Ornate House Plants Out of Nature Itself

Yuto Yamasaki

Japanese artist and woodworker Yuto Yamasaki cleverly utilizes nature to recreate nature. He carefully chisels and carves these plant sculptures which are realistic yet somewhat fantastic, having an extra ordinary quality. This quality is amplified by the brightly colored coat of paint he applies to each, an act almost unto granting eternal life to the plants.

Yuto Yamasaki

Yuto Yamasaki

Yamasaki recently had a show, aptly titled Plants, where he displayed his work like a well-designed greenhouse. It’s pretty awesome to see the amount of plants he was able to carve as well as the wide variety of plants. I think it’s also interesting to how he describes his process, that his pieces have no meaning, only that they exist.

I place great importance in the physical process of art making as a means of exploring subjectivity. Without any preplanned concepts, I utilize materials that are easily available to me. The issue is not what I make; there is no meaning to be found in my pieces beyond a confirmation of the existence of the artist and his experience of making the work. Making art objects with my own hands, void of conscious thought, is a therapeutic and meditative experience. The challenge is to put myself in a state where the materials make my hands move automatically.

Yuto Yamasaki

Yuto Yamasaki

Yuto Yamasaki

Yuto Yamasaki

Highbrow, Lowbrow, Middlebrow – Who Cares?

Highbrow, Lowbrow, Middlebrow – Who Cares?

Writer Thomas Mallon has a great piece on the quickly accelerating landscape of art, specifically, the decaying differences between highbrow, middlebrow, and lowbrow art. I think his analysis nails the issue perfectly on the head.

On the whole, however, the sheer availability of so much art, its ubiquity in the wide, wireless world of the present, assures that more and more blends and mash-ups and integrations are bound to occur. To some extent, people used to settle on a brow for themselves and then pattern their reading and viewing and listening accordingly. Increasingly, art at all levels now comes to us, seizes our attention for a few digital moments before being elbowed aside by something else. More catholic tastes seem bound to result from more catholic exposure, our brows raising and lowering themselves like a spreadable iPhone photo. (Of course, Shakespeare’s audience never had trouble doing that in the course of a single evening, laughing at rustic horseplay and thrilling to lyrical declamations in the same production.)

Artists Explore the Theme of Silence for Nobrow

Kali Ciessmier for Nobrow 9

“What does silence look like? How is it expressed? Can it be visual?” These are the questions Nobrow posed to over 40 international artists and illustrators for the ninth edition of their magazine. It’s a fascinating theme and one which has produced a wide-range of outcomes. Amongst its 128 pages you’ll find scenes of contentment, intimacy and the surreal as well as stories of the mundane, the morose and the amorous.

Owen Davey for Nobrow 9

As with previous editions, this version offers artists a limited 4 way color palette to bring their imagination to the page, and this restriction brings a wonderful unity to the magazine. The pink, orange and blue tones are a beautiful combination and it’s a joy to see how each artist plays with this restraint through their work.

Merijn Hos for Nobrow 9

One of the nicest things about Nobrow’s magazine is that it works as two magazines. On one side it contains large illustration work (as shown in the post), while the reverse is filled with stories by comic artists and visual storytellers.

Jun Cen for Noborw 9

If you’re in any way interested in contemporary illustration I can’t recommend this publication enough! With over 40 artists involved, it’s hard to imagine a more comprehensive magazine. For those interested in the work featured here, it includes (from the top) images by Kali Ciesemier, Owen Davey, Merijn Hos, Jun Cen and Ella Bailey.

Ella Bailey for Nobrow 9

Nobrow 9 is currently available to purchase from the Nobrow website.

Haruki Murakami’s New Novel and its Delightfully Designed Cover


Talking cats? Strange moons? Brooding teenagers? Yep, it’s time for a new Haruki Murakami novel. Next week the English-speaking world will be treated to the Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, the long-awaited novel of Japan’s critically acclaimed author. Published by Knopf and Harvill Secker of the Penguin Random House Company, it’s been eagerly anticipated since the release of Murakami’s best selling epic, 1Q84, in 2011. In preparation of the launch, we’re treated to an excerpt of the new book, as well as a look at the cover’s design—in which there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.

Murakami is a contemporary Japanese writer—born in Kyoto in 1949, he currently resides in Tokyo. His works have been translated into 50 languages and his best-selling books have been published in millions of copies. His most notable works include Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore. The Guardian praises Murakami as “among the world’s greatest living novelists.” He’s kind of a big deal and happens to be one of my favorite authors.


Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. Newly released in Germany, Spain, and Holland, it has already topped the bestsellers in all three countries, and it sold over one million copies within its first week when originally released in Japan of April last year. You can read Slate’s excerpt from the new book, “Haida’s Story,” which is a story within a story that touches upon the nature of narration and how stories change the more we retell them.

“A return to the mood and subject matter of the acclaimed writer’s earlier work… A vintage Murakami struggle of coming to terms with buried emotions and missed opportunities, in which intentions and pent up desires can seemingly transcend time and space to bring both solace and desolation.” —Publishers Weekly

As with every Murakami release, I’m quite excited about the book cover’s design. If you’re also a fan of Murakami’s work then you’re familiar with the designs of either John Gall or Chip Kidd—who’ve been primarily responsible for the classic covers of previous Murakami western releases. Always beautiful and ever evoking the abstract, these works never fail to catch my eye, draw me into the novel, or give new meaning to the words on page.


Unfortunately, neither designer was involved with Murakami’s newest release. But fret not; handling the new cover was Random House’s creative director, Suzanne Dean. She’s responsible for the fantastic work coming out of the publishing house’s Vintage Classics line, who previously commissioned the talented Noma Bar to redesign Murakami’s backlist. They’re some of the best-looking book covers in recent years. Under Dean’s guidance, the designs featured a circle motif, accompanied by a three-colored palette—in order to reflect the “seen and unseen” often portrayed in Murakami’s work. These covers were screen printed by hand to give a personal, softer edge, demonstrating the care that Dean puts into every piece under her guidance.


A circular motif reappears for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Dean states that the new cover is “an elegant abstract design, representing the five main characters.” The process began with her, as she recounts, “I cut out five circles and played with the position of each of them as physical elements away from the confines of a computer. I experimented with overlapping the circles to represent the interactions within the close friendship of the main characters. Gradually the design came together in a congruent and meaningful form.” Following the physical preliminaries, Dean transferred the design to Photoshop, where she could refine the color interactions and land on a look that quickly fell into place.


Accompanying Dean’s cover is a set of stickers. Dean explains, “Tsukuru’s name means to make or build and this was a gift, a completely perfect match for an idea to include adult stickers for the book buyer to decorate the novel.” As a result, Dean commissioned five Japanese illustrators, who brought a uniquely Japanese style and knowledge of Japanese detail to the project. Each illustrator was given a character, and therefore a color, and asked to read the novel with that character in mind. They were then asked to create images reflecting their character, using their specific color.


Mio Matsumoto: Colorless
“My drawing style here is very sharp and clean…Tsukuru is colour-less. But I thought he is influenced by the others so, based on the strong drawing line, I wanted to add all the other colours in his related objects.” Matsumoto graduated from the Royal College of Art and is currently living and working in Tokyo.

Fumio Obata: Blue
“I chose certain objects to illustrate from the text because of their noise, for instance Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas” was an inspiration for the first image I did.” Obata studied at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, where he worked in animation for some years before deciding to concentrate on comic books and illustration.

Ryu Itadani: Red
“In all my images I carefully chose other colors to highlight red, so (hopefully) viewers can imagine that the images have something to do with red.” Itadani currently lives and works in Berlin.

Natsko Seki: White
“All the items had to be beautiful as she was, and show fragility and sensitivity.” Seki lives and works in London.

Shinko Okuhara: Black
“I worked with the colour by considering how to express the difference between the image of her full name “Eri Kurono” and her nickname “black” and her character.” Okuhara lives and works in Tokyo.


As you can see, what at first looks like a very simple and basic book cover turns out to be a well-thought and involved process between many artists. The result is an exceptionally designed cover that readers can customize, turning the book into an interactive experience. Its design harkens day’s past and evokes nostalgia, something that I hope will only further my attachment to Murakami’s newest work. You start putting stickers on your own copy next week, August 12th, which you can purchase here (or here if you want the stickers and Dean’s design). Check out Murakami’s Facebook for release events near you.

Intricate Oil Paintings of Gem Stones by Carly Waito

Carly Waito

Toronto based artist Carly Waito is well-known for her oil paintings of gemstones, having an uncanny knack for capturing the light and contrast with perfection. Her work immediately grasps your attention as you find yourself scouring the piece for clues to tell you whether or not these are painted or photos. She works at such a fine level of detail that it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between the real and the imagined. In an interview with Carly from the Toronto Standard she nicely sums up the intentions of her work.

I don’t think anything man-made can ever really achieve the perfection of what exists in the natural world. I’ve always felt compelled to strive for that, even to the point of attempting to replicate natural objects in as much detail as I can manage, whether by sculpting pine cones in porcelain or painting images of mineral specimens. Nature has always inspired such awe and curiosity for me. Part of my motivation is that I want to capture a bit of that effect in the work I make.

We can’t do better than nature but we can certainly try.

Carly Waito

Carly Waito

Carly Waito

Life in Space as Azuma Makoto Captures Flowers in the Cosmos


Japanese artist Azuma Makoto is taking his work to new heights, literally. His art project, titled Exobiotanica, pits plants high above their home, bursting in color and beauty against the backdrop of a glistening planet Earth and the infinities of space that surrounds it. The project is simple in concept, visually beautiful in execution, and says volumes about the planet we’ve come to inherit.


Working out of Black Rock Desert, Nevada and alongside JP Aerospace, Makoto sent organic life to the borders of space, suspended by balloon. Bonsai trees, orchids, lilies, and other fauna or flora were subject to altitudes exceeding 30,000 meters and minus 50 degrees celsius. To the artist, exposing organic land-locked material beyond the confines of their earthly home transformed them into “exobiotanica,” or rather, extraterrestrial plant life.



While Makoto’s intent is neat and its results hold true, I believe that there’s more being said here than simply sending life where there isn’t any. Jonathan Jones wrote on the Guardian, “these images dramatize the startling nature of planet Earth itself.” Makoto’s photographs beautifully put forth the mystery of life on Earth—something to be treasured, once realized.



The fact of the matter is that our home, planet Earth, is the only known place in the entire universe to harbor life. We don’t know of any other planet that is alive as ours is. The richness of Earth’s organic matter is gorgeously apparent in Makoto’s arrangements, the brightly-colored flowers serve in stark contrast against the darkness of space that surrounds them.


In talking about the importance of Makoto’s project, Jones references William Anders’ iconic photograph, Earthrise. Shot aboard Apollo 8 in 1968, the photograph was the first color image to look back upon ourselves from the outside. It has been declared “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken,” and helped spark the environmental movement. To me, this reference couldn’t be any more apt, as Makoto’s project entertains the same sentiment in aiding our appreciation for existing in a lifeless universe.



While Makoto’s work might not be as historic as Earthrise, it’s certainly no less thought evoking. Projects such as these remind us that life on our planet is intertwined—Earth acting no more than a spaceship, nurturing its lively passengers. This concept has inherently been apart of our understanding for years, as demonstrated in the great landscapes of art’s past, such as Hokusai’s 35 views of Mount Fuji, which portrays the interlinking of sky and Earth.


If you’re having a bad day or just want to feel enlightened, then look to pieces like Makoto’s Exobiotanica, Earthrise, or even Hokusai. You’ll quickly cherish the importance of this very special planet we’ve come to inhabit—it’s the only one orbiting amongst a vast sea of stars that’s bearing life and all its beautiful intricacies. Revel in the fact that you live here and are a part of it.