The unique visual universe of Esther Barend

The impressive output of Esther Barend (over 500 acrylic paintings), consists in a fascinating arrangement of colors, textures and motion. This colorful and positive universe is livened up by a great dynamism. It’s composed of abstract or semi-figurative paintings that represent unique faces that bring comic books to mind.

Esther was born in Eindhoven (Netherlands) in 1964, in a family of artists. After finishing her studies, she first moved to Paris and then Eindhoven for a while where she worked as a designer in a jewelry store. After that, she undertook a 3 years curriculum at Arendonk Fine Arts Academy (Belgium). This experience enabled her to acquire her own style years after years. Her paintings come from a very personal world, inspired by the passing of time, current events and nature’s colors.

« Day Dreamer », 90x110x4 cm, acrylique sur toile, exposée à la galerie Van Bellen Art
Willemstad, Pays-Bas

Her paintings could be compared to street art or even 60’s–70’s psychedelic art. However the artist doesn’t necessarily relate to those styles and never claimed to be inspired by them. By the way, Esther stated that the artists she admires, like Willem de Kooning, are in no way comparable to her work and that they are merely a spiritual inspiration, rather than a stylistic or technical one.

Barend’s work is an alternation of thick and thin layers of acrylic paint. One must really cast their eye in this texture to truly appreciate its mesmerizing depth that lets the spectator’s imagination rule their sight, through their own volume experience.

This visual realm draws the spectator in an imaginary world, marked by the use of intense and contrasting colors as well as the power of movement. There is no fixed standard that allows to categorize her work, but only a great freedom of interpretation, for the artist and the spectator as well, who remains free to use their own imagination to see what they want to see.

‘Windows of the Soul’, 60x60x4 cm, acrylique sur toile

The artist’s purpose is to exteriorize what happens in the “inner world”; her own as well as the spectator’s one. She believes that the look we take at the exterior can be strengthened, weakened, completed or corrected by the sensations and thoughts that are sometimes hidden. She also invites the spectator to let their mind drift away and think about what this visual world evokes.

“Erubescent Love Sonnet”, 80x140x6 cm, acrylic on canvas

To this individual universe that anyone can relate to, are added remarkable esthetic researches and technical tasks. Esther Barend’s work deserves a particular attention and I invite you to visit her website: http://www.estherbarend.eu as well as her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/EstherBarendArtist

(translated by Noé Jacomet)

The MoMu, a mobile museum for children

The MoMu or Mobile Museum is an initiative of the association “L’Art à l’enfance”, founded by Ingrid Brochard in 2010. This contemporary art enthusiast, who originally owned a cosmetics company, called in many artistic personalities in order to create a museum which goes directly towards children across the worlds, in places where art is most out of reach. The museum was conceived by architect Adam Kalkim and it takes the form of a truck which unfolds in a W-shaped platform. The museum holds a great collection of sculptures, videos and installations that were given by a worldwide selection of artists such as Daniel Buren, Paul Mc Carty, Maurizio Cattelan, Ghada Amer, Pierre Huyghe, Nari Ward, Florence Doléac, Chéri Samba, James Turrel and Eija-Liisa Ahtila.

Exploration of «Baisers», a sculpture by Ghada Amer

MoMu is not an academic area. It’s an interactive and fun museum that teachers and kids don’t visit at the same time. The initiation is led by Magalie, a specialized speaker, whom I interviewed to have a better understanding of the way the museum works.

How would you define the purpose of the mobile museum?
MoMu brings contemporary art to children who don’t have access to it. We travel to isolated places, where museums lack and contemporary art is unattainable. We tend to stop nearby schools, where we unfold the truck into a museum. It features four distinct spaces, in which children can dive to apprehend a whole different experience each time: paintings, sculptures, installations, videos, designs, etc…We receive classes one by one in order to handle smaller groups. In addition, teachers and truck drivers who accompany me can also enjoy the installations. To sum-up it’s about giving a direct access to contemporary art to people who are deprived of it.

How do you pick the pieces in order to sensitize the children to contemporary art?
The pieces were all given to the museum by reputed contemporary artists. The museum was conceived in conjunction with child psychiatrists in order to make it a safe and fun place. In addition, the museum adapts to the visited area and the collections are regularly renewed. For example, the Spanish tour, which will begin shortly, will feature exclusive pieces by Spanish artist Mickael Barcelo, so the kids can relate. During the first tour in Africa (Ivory Coast, Cameroon, etc.) a Chinese artist created a huge rhinoceros that was split in two in order to sensitize African children to ecology through the wildlife they know. 

Are the pieces presented in this museum bound by a common theme?
Ingrid Brochard proposed the theme “living together”, but of course showing art pieces to children involves other confines: like being fun and not too delicate.

How does the typical visit of the museum take place?
When the MoMu gets in touch with a school, the visits always involve one class at a time. The kids enter the museum without their teacher, and they are free to roam around the pieces. I lead them to think about those pieces and we discuss several themes together. I ask them what they feel in front of the pieces they see first, when they’re in front of those; I also speak about contemporary art, about what is a museum and of course about the artists who created those pieces. Then, the teachers get in the MoMu and are invited to download the informative folder from our website, in order to give rise to this experience. Eventually, we get in touch with an art center, an artists’ residence or a museum nearby and we encourage classes to go to these places in order to discover contemporary art in their neighborhood.

How do schools get in touch with the MoMu?
Thanks to word of mouth and the communication that the association and the media provide. Teachers are invited to contact us directly so we can meet. The service is entirely free because the association is financed by several sponsors. They just need the permission of the city hall. By the way, our next French tour will begin in February 2015 and we hope to be called by many classes.

 Photo studio, hosted by the  « Faux Amis » collective in Savins, June 2, 2014.

The MoMu’s website, which is linked below, presents each artist whose pieces are featured. It also lists tour projects for various countries. This museum is an amazing initiative which unlike some, doesn’t necessarily appeal to the most literate or privileged few. This one is moving and goes to meet young sensitivities. In addition, if you think about it, the specific “childish” form of art, which was repressed and restrained by the adults for a long time, has acquired a certain amount of recognition since the birth of contemporary art. I invite the reader to inquire about this project and teachers to get in touch with the MoMu in preparation for their next tours! http://www.musee-mobile.fr/index.html

The land art of Martin Hill

Martin Hill’s environmental art captures the beauty of nature to frame tiny abstract sculptures made of natural materials. There is a subtle and serene esthetic emanating from his art which underlines the contrast between nature shaped by Man and wild nature. His creations raise many questions regarding nature’s contribution in artistic creation. But most of all, in the eyes of the artist these creations imply a change in our habits towards the preservation of nature as well as they highlight the importance of ecology.

Kanuka Circle, branches de Kanuka, 1500mm de hauteur, 2011, Lake Wanaka, Nouvelle-Zélande*

Diamond Lake Leaf Circle, feuilles d’Hoheria, 1300mm diam., 2011, Diamond Lake, Wanaka, Nouvelle-Zélande
Alpine Ice Cycle, Glace, 500mm de hauteur, 2013, Albert Burn Saddle, Wanaka, Nouvelle- Zélande

Martin Hill was born in 1946 in London, where he studied art and design. He is a photographer, a sculptor and a land artist who also campaigns for ecology. His photographs of environmental sculptures have reached a broad international recognition. Since 1992 and in partnership with Philippa Jones, he has been creating eco-conscious land art settings that express the impact of Mankind on the environment. They accentuate the beauty that results from a respectful exploitation of nature and they make use of various natural materials to create those sculptures, of which, most of the time, only the pictures remain. In fact, the importance of this work resides in its artistic and ecologic philosophy and some sculptures are conceived only to be ephemeral, from ice, branches, leaves…

Ice Guardian, morceau de glace, figure humaine, 800mm de hauteur, 2012, Albert Burn Saddle, Mt Aspiring National Park, Nouvelle-Zélande

2000 Circles, neige percée, 1200mm diam., 1998, Mt Ruapehu, Nouvelle-Zélande

It’s merely the connection with nature that motivates the artist to relate the ongoing ecological transition. An adaptation that is mimicking the way nature works by heading towards a circular economy. In fact nature is essentially cyclic: food becomes waste and waste becomes food to something else. Martin Hill believes that the new circular economy and social systems are modelled on nature. In his eyes, the transition to a new kind of progress which does not destroy living things, demands a new way of thinking. He reckons art can help start off this change and encourage people to consider ecological problems as opportunities to innovate. That is the reason why the artist often uses circle patterns that refer to the cyclic system of nature as well as the industrial ecology model.

Interconnected, neige, 1500mm de hauteur, 2012, Albert Burn Saddle, Mt Aspiring National Park, Nouvelle-Zélande

Interwoven World, branches de Kanuka, 1500mm de hauteur, 2010, Lake Wanaka, Nouvelle-Zélande

We Walk on Water, brindilles de Raupo, cables de nylon, 2 m, 2013, Hawea River, Wanaka, Nouvelle-Zélande

Out of the Ashes, branches de kanuka brulées, 2500mm diam., 2008, coll. privée

Synergy, brindilles de Raupo, fil de nylon, 1300mm, 2010, Lake Wanaka, Nouvelle-Zélande

Interdependence, métal rouillé, 5 m. diam., 2010, coll. privée

Martin Hill’s photographs are soothing and everlasting, they convey contrasting messages, modern and committed at the same time. The New Zealander landscapes he stages, although uncommonly beautiful, appear to be deserted. However the human presence is suggested by his geometrical constructions. They give a mysterious and almost surreal aspect to these places, which appeals the mind to dream, in a world of both familiar and strange feelings. A temporal loop shaped world in which Man and nature would be united again. A Delicate Canvas, a documentary on his artistic practice has been realized in 2011. 

See the trailer: http://vimeo.com/42940525
Visit the website of Martin Hill: http://martin-hill.com/

(translated by Noé Jacomet)

Alexa Meade, painter of illusions

Alexa Meade is an American artist who paints directly on the medium she wishes to depict. She turns people, things or even real places into pieces of art that ultimately seem to be two-dimensional. Her original concept though, was merely to accentuate shadows and lights that appear on the human body. The result, which resembles a living painting, is completely accidental.

 exposure – 16″x20″

Alexa Meade was born in 1986 in Washington DC and she did not especially embrace an artistic career as she studied political sciences at Vassar College, (Poughkeepsie, NY). In fact it was a personal project that eventually led her to asking a friend to pose for her, so she could heighten the lights and shadows on his face by painting them. Once she had done her experiment, the result was so striking, that she decided to use three-dimensional objects as mediums for some more traditional painting works. Her work is obviously reminiscent of the creations of body painting performers or professional make-up artists. However, Alexa does not restrict herself to painting the human body, she stages it through performances or installations. Basically the clothes and accessories and sometimes even the walls and floor where the models stand end up covered in paint.

Spectacle – 24″x18″

Blue Print – 24″x18″

Jaimie – 16″x20″

She doesn’t limit her models to studios either, making some of them use public transport, carrying the pieces of art where they’re not expected.

 Transit – 24″x18″

She also applies the illusion that her technique creates on her very own body, particularly in the two following pictures. On the first one she appears against a background that was split in two by a vertical axis of symmetry which allows her to paint only the left side of her face and body. This picture provides an interesting questioning about the illusion that her technique creates, but it is only when compared with the second picture that it takes on its full meaning, in the second one the artist makes the exact same gesture but this time she paints the left part of her body on a slab placed before her. Alexa Meade therefore becomes her own piece of art in two different ways that complete and impregnate each other.

double take – 16″x20″

 double take take two 30″x40″

Her work hangs a fascinating question mark over the very nature of an art piece, the connection between art and the real world, but also between the artist and its creation. That is probably why some of her pictures were used to illustrate philosophers Slavoj Zizek’s and Alain Badiou’s manuscripts. Her work has been holding the attention of many art theoreticians across the world. For instance she gave lectures at California Institute of the Arts, at UC Berkeley National Geographic in London as well as WIRED and TED Global. Her “Your body is my canvas” speech during the latter conference gathered over two million views.

Alexa was asked to perform by several companies; brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Denim & Supply, Ralph Lauren or MINI Cooper. The Grammy’s triple winner Gotye also figures among her models. She exhibited in many galleries like the Saatchi Gallery in London, The National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC (which is in the Smithsonian building), the Ivo Kamm Gallery in Zurich and the Ingo Seufert Gallery in Munich.

self alignment – 16″x20″

self malignment – 20″x20″

Portrait, Meet Portrait – 18″x24″

Activate – 160×80 cm, Edition of 3 | 50×100 cm, Edition of 5 | 75×37.5 cm

The constant renewal of the way she applies artistic staging to reality seems endless and Alexa Meade’s creativity is undeniable. In addition to her work on the human body, which is particularly famous, she has several side projects, like turning her garage into a camera obscura, designing flagstone-shaped tiles or creating a conundrum for the blind. I highly recommend that you take the time to visit her website, of which the link appears below, it features a lot of her photographs, but also some videos that are particularly fun : http://alexameade.com/   
(translated by  Noé Jacomet )

Meena Kayastha, the elegance of junk

“union”, 165x70x28 cm, steel, 2014

Meena Kayastha is a young Nepali artist who builds contemporary sculptures that incorporate elements of traditional Nepalese art. Her works combine hybrid garbage collected from junkyards in Nepal with figurative elements made from papier mache which brings about a transformation into art of elements, a priori deemed unnecessary and destined to destruction. This enhancement of waste is not only an environmental claim, it has a political dimension. Indeed the Nepalese social system is traditionally based on a division of the population into castes, some of which are valued and other despised and rejected. Thus, a certain portion of the population was considered as waste by birth. The caste system has been heavily criticized, particularly during the Maoist revolution, but some aspects still persist in practices and imagination. This is why Meena Kayastha ‘s work of recovery and transformation of waste into art takes on a particularly strong dimension in this context, as a reflection of the cultural changes taking place in Nepalese society and as a mechanism to accelerate them. The new life that the artist offers to these objects recalls certainly the social change experienced by Nepal but it also echoes the process of reincarnation inherent to Hinduism and Buddhism. Meena leaves the outer aspect of objects recognizable and identifiable, but she changes their value and meaning by modifying their form and assembling them. Strangely enough, she possesses a magic power to transform garbage into extremely elegant and precious art pieces. Thus, while providing a modern and ecological discourse, the artist not only enhances the Nepalese cultural and political heritage and commits to greater equity, but she also makes a magisterial demonstration of the power of enchantment which set apart real artists. She kindly agreed to answer some questions to further explain her work:

“untitled”, 172x75x75 cm, tiles, wheel, tubes, steel, 2014

When and upon which design did you start doing Art?
– Whenever I come across a piece of junk, it sings of its glory to me. I would gaze, listen and get mesmerised with all that it has to say. It confused me utterly at first but later I realised that it was reflecting upon the reality. As a child I loved the idea of reusing. I would cut the better pieces of my old clothes and sew those together to make a new one. This reflection made me think- nothing is old, if you got purpose with it. After graduation in 2007, I started my journey, exploring the junkyards which for me were an unexplored artistic terrain. I thus started visiting many junkyards and collect elements which were considered useless and disposed. I developed my first junk sculpture assembling different junk objects and welded them together enhancing it with patterns.

“Evolving Conciousness”, 60x12x15 cm, plâtre de Paris, ciment blanc, tuyaux de fer, 2012

“Evolving Conciousness”, idem, 2012
Are there influences (artist, group or themes)  that you would relate to?
-Yes indeed. Rather than influence, I am highly inspired by “DADA” movement, an international anti-art movement which began in Zurich and flourished between 1916 and 1923. They developed the vision of an art created from readymade and made affordable for everybody. Likewise, I tried to awaken the power of imagination by using junk material in my sculpture. People have tendency to use and throw and I seek to find and establish aesthetics into elements that are considered useless and to be disposed of. I want people to enhance their imagination power on rubbish materials in order to give them note that junk, reinvested and reinterpreted, can be an efficient tool to explore their creative expression.

“Lyrics of Chaos”, taille variable, papier mâché, roues de bicyclette, perles, 2010

“Lyrics of Street, 160x109x85 cm, papier mâché, klaxons de bus, tuyaux, feraille, 2011

How was your work received and did you get support?
-In the context of Nepal, I am known as junk sculptor. I am the first artist who came up with exploring junk materials for artistic purpose. My creation is well appreciated here ; this is a great support for me in every step I take in my creative endeavour. I feel proud of having introduced junk art (sculpture) in Nepal.

“Lyrics of Agony”, 64x103x30 cm, papier mâché, ferraille, cire, 2010

“Lyrics of Hope”, 95x35x30 cm, papier, mâché, chaines, feraille, 2011

“Lyrics of Navarasa”, 80x170x65 cm, papier mâché, 2011

Did the political situation in Nepal have an influence on the way you work?
- The political situation of Nepal has been very volatile for almost a decade now, and my society has been affected severely through the years. People’s lives were affected socially and economically to a great extent. All the changes, struggles and lives in the society have been of great influence to my work, from socio-cultural to personal issues, human relationships, provided deep feelings of joy and sadness altogether.

“Lyrics of Queen”, 117x69x33 cm, papier mâché, billes, perles, 2011

Could you briefly describe your main techniques?
-I worked in Hybrid style, fusing both modern and traditional elements. I mostly choose papier mache, brick dust, mud colour, junk materials (especially steel), different colour of tiles for mosaic. I assemble different junk materials accordingly how I conceptualise and weld them together. I never planned that I will be sculpting what I have created because you never know what kind of materials you will get in junkyards. So I believe in process work. For embellishment, I incorporate traditional nepali patterns as well.

“Lyrics of Night”, 133x37x37 cm, papier mâché, ferraille, 2010

Where do you find and how do you choose the objects that you use for your sculptures and installations?
– I mostly collect materials from different junkyards. After my exhibition in 2010 entitled “Lyrics from the Junkyard”, my work received good media coverage and good responses, not only from art circles but also from non art-related people as well. Thereafter, I was pleased that people called me to collect their junk stuff to which they believed I could offer a new life.
Choosing materials from massive junkyard is quite a difficult task. There are lots of stuff you have to choose out of. Junk itself has its own stories, from the stage of having its own purpose to the time its value vanishes into uselessness. I get enthralled by its twisted forms and rusted effects. Generally I collect random stuff from junkyards and play with objects to give a meaningful form.

“Lyrics of Soul”, 126x66x38 cm, papier mâché, klaxon de bus, pot d’échappement de camion, 2010

What are the new designs and patterns of reflection that you want to explore?
- My work reflects socio-cultural, political and personal issues. I would like to work further on the human characters incorporating socio-psychological issues, personal expressions, human intimacy, modern evolution of the society due to cross-territorial/cultural bringing up, family structures, etc.

“Lyrics of Last Era”, 95x76x36 cm, papier mâché,tuyaux de fer, cire, bruleurs à gaz, feraille, 2010

“Lyrics of Circus”, 150x64x45 cm, papier mâché, ferraille, roue de bicyclette, 2010

Do you have projects that you would like to mention in this article?
- I am working on incorporating more junk elements than before, where large portions of my sculptures incorporated figurative papier mache. My current projects involve mosaic, traditional Nepali patterns and more of semi-abstract symbolism.

“Happy Guard”, 115x65x30 cm, tuiles, ferraille ,papier mâché, 2014

Meena Kayastha does not yet have an entire site dedicated to her work, however, she has a tumblr: http://www.tumblr.com/search/Meena+Kayastha and a profile on Arts Nepal http://www.eartsnepal. com / artist / meena-kayastha.html where she proposes the sale of some of her works. I would strongly advise readers to take an interest in her work, which deserves our attention, and follow her artistic progression.

AntHillArt: The Architecture of Ants Revealed

The “sculptures” of AntHillArt, who prefers to remain anonymous, are in fact castings made from anthills. With a remarkable aesthetic, they offer the possibility of appreciating nature’s beauty that is otherwise inaccessible to the naked eye and can be understood from an artistic point of view as well as a scientific one.

 Fire Ants (Solenopsis genus), #043, 10/19/2013, 17.9 lbs., Aluminium, 18x 12x 13

The artist makes castings of anthills by using melted aluminum to fill their tunnels and chambers. After waiting for the aluminum to cool, he digs around the anthill to loosen the earth. The result is an astonishing sculpture showing the complex detail of the anthill’s architecture. This is then mounted on a wooden stand, either right-side up or upside down depending upon the artist’s aesthetic judgment. Each one contains a rust-resistant steel plaque upon which information about the model and a unique casting number are inscribed.

Fire Ants (Solenopsis genus), #033, 8/10/2013, 20.8 lbs., Aluminium, 17 x13 x14

Carpenter Ants (Camponotus genus), #030, 6/14/2013, 2.3 lbs., Aluminium, 19x 16x 11

Originally from the southeast United States, the artist is also a civil engineer and expresses a lively interest in multiple scientific disciplines, especially biology. This is what inspired this work and caused him to start pouring aluminum as a hobby.

Fire Ants (Solenopsis genus), #009, 2/23/2013, 16.6 lbs., Aluminium, 13″x12″x13

Fire Ants (Solenopsis genus), #047, 12/20/2013, 8.8 lbs., Aluminium, 13x 8.5x 12.5

He mainly creates castings of fire ant colonies but has also discovered other types of ants on his property. The variation of the colony structure between different types of ants is particularly interesting in the eyes of the artist, who is always hoping to discover something new. He has notably been able to use his castings to observe that red ant colonies consist of a matrix of interconnected tunnels and chambers, whereas those of carpenter ants are usually formed around a single tunnel with a small number of chambers that branch off from it. He claims to have also found other even more fascinating structural variations in other types of ant colonies, which he hopes to make available on his site soon.

Fire Ants (Solenopsis genus), #006, 1/20/2013, 5.9 lbs., Aluminium, 10x 9x 11

 Carpenter Ants (Camponotus genus), #031, 6/14/2013, 2.3 lbs., Aluminum, 16.5 x4.5 x8

As far as the more controversial aspects of his artistic process, the artist asserts that he has limited himself to colonies on his land and has remained limited in his castings. The red ants present on his property (fire ants) are dangerous and reproduce uncontrollably because they have no natural predators. There are thus hundreds of colonies over a space of several acres. Most people who have a yard kill them with poison and other methods, and the artist claims that he has never heard anyone oppose the practice until he started posting his videos online, at which point certain people expressed lively opposition to the process of annihilating an ant colony to create these castings.


American scientists are in fact trying to reduce the number of these ants, which were introduced from South America and have a harmful effect on local species. Furthermore, small farmers frequently use boiling water to kill them. As far as other types of ants are concerned, the artist limits himself even further in his castings, though there are still a relatively high number on his property. Though his process is not beyond criticism, it is undeniable that these castings allow for the appreciation of beauty that would otherwise remain hidden underground. The artist aesthetically materializes the architectural sophistication that insects create and, through comparison, allows for the observation of each anthill’s specificity.

 Fire Ants (Solenopsis genus), #025, 5/31/2013, 10.7 lbs., Aluminium, 14.5x 10.5x 11

 Fire Ants (Solenopsis genus), #020, 5/18/2013, 4.25 lbs., Aluminum, 8.5″x5.5″x8

By thus accentuating the ants’ creations, the artist reveals to the viewer the aesthetic elements of the insects’ works that are otherwise considered harmful and are even exterminated. If his artistic.  http://www.anthillart.com/  
(translated byAnna Provitola)