Greg “Craola” Simkins has a nickname to set him apart, but maybe that’s not needed: his versatility is enough to separate him from others. With a career that includes many years as a graffiti artist, a painter of beautifully rendered fine art pieces, and one who keeps his fingers in a variety of commercial art pursuits, including clothing, animation, toys, and album art, Simkins might well stand alone as a success on many artistic fronts.
The old-fashioned portraits rendered by Travis Louie are decidedly unlike those which might hang in the home of one’s great-grandmother. A gentle-looking monster with delicate flowers sprouting from its head, conjoined one-eyed twins sharing a single suit, a woman posed with her improbably large pet damselfly, and similar characters have “sat” for Louie, who often provides parts of their stories through the written word as well. Louie’s portraits are alternately whimsical, disturbing, and poignant, the culmination of a fertile imagination and dedicated skill.
The work of David Stoupakis may look dark, but don’t let that fool you: in his mysterious paintings there is also tender hope and affirmation, exquisitely rendered with a quality that is at once realistic and dream-like. Stoupakis has irons in a few different creative fires as well, which means that his audience can never quite tell where his work will end up next!
The artwork of Kikyz1313 is a beautiful study of the grotesque in art. Her delicately rendered subject matter is initially easy on the eyes, but this aspect only acts as a lure. When her viewers fully take in her main subject matter of innocent children or animals, often in various states of disease and decomposition, an unresolvable contradiction occurs in their minds. Her artwork is stunningly uncomfortable, yet unbearably beautiful. Her concepts are not the fodder of horror movies; they are more complex and involved than that. They are tools of nature, opening the mind to the wonderful sublime reality that is human life on earth.
Scott G. Brooks noted not long ago, perhaps half-jokingly, that what most of his paintings have in common is “flesh.” And it’s true that flesh abounds in his work, but there is so much more: in his figurative art, Brooks incorporates technology, religious imagery, and even cartoonish animals into tableaus that explore sexual politics, domestic strife, the self, and occasionally politics at large.
In the world depicted by Martin Wittfooth, humans are conspicuously absent, but their detritus remains: a junked car, a well-appointed apartment, a partially demolished building. That world is given over to animals in paintings that are at turns alarming, sad, and mysterious but unfailingly beautiful. Wittfooth’s work encourages us to think about our place in this world perhaps precisely because we are not in it.
These days it's a cherry on top when a conceptual artist has impeccable technical skills, and is able to play with various painting tools to alter the viewer's state of mind. Artist Brad Kunkle has this ability. There is quite a lot going on beneath the surface in each of his luscious paintings. He purposely uses a limited palette and overcast light source to flatten his imagery. It’s a trick painters use - both colour and light are elements in painting, which can be used to create the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface. Yet his works depict a wonderfully rich depth and motion. His use of contrast, gesture and composition guide the viewer’s eye and emotions through his impossible landscapes.
There is a great catharsis in Chris Mars’ dark paintings. Read any interview with him and you’ll read about how the plight of his brother’s struggles with schizophrenia spurned the subject matter of his paintings. His concern for his brother Joe’s well-being, as well as the concern he has for others in need, translates powerfully and magically, speaking out for those who can’t. The attention his paintings attract bring awareness to what Joe and others have been through, which is monumentally important.
It is impossible to capture in a few brief sentences the immensity of what Laurie Lipton achieves in her art. Her work is excruciatingly detailed and complex, and nothing in it is to be taken for granted: let your eyes pass lightly over a gown, for example, and you’ll miss that the trim is made of tiny skulls. Lipton’s dedication to drawing has yielded skills that alone are reason to rejoice in her work. But that would by far shortchange the impact of her unflinching commentary on the complexities of modern life, both in society at large and for individuals.
To look upon the work of Christian Rex van Minnen is to imagine oneself walking down the cool, damp halls of a forgotten laboratory in the country: his paintings are part Old Masters, part mad scientist, part carnival. Classical still life and portraiture are reimagined with sumptuous beauty that paradoxically can be hard to look at. But it is van Minnen’s masterful technique and eye that draw the viewer again to consider that which looks impossible.