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JustMad – Stand C6 - Est_Art: “Eerie Beauty”; How Can One Be Both?
The word “eerie” is defined as; (adjective) strange and frightening. While the word “beauty” is defined as (noun); the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit. In looking at these definitions, how can one thing be eerie and beautiful at the same time, exist in some realm between the two, and be content in being there? The artists Kristina Stuokaite and Ksenia Shinkovskaya combine these two seemingly contradictory terms to do just that; dwell in the strange, mysterious world of eerie beauty.
With anthropomorphic rabbits dressed in Victorian garb surrounded by intricate patterns, Kristina Stuokaite constructs universes that root themselves in reality, but the artist uses the recognizable as a springboard to conjure up these fantastic images. Her constructed environments where these animals and humanoids exist are finely executed and attest to the artist’s command over her medium; these rigorous drawings are typically done in black and white ink, occasionally bringing in pops of monochromatic color.
In one such picture, two rabbits stand wearing filtration face masks, hand in hand, dressed as the infamous twins from Stanley Kubrick’s, “The Shining”, an image notorious for its unsettling nature, while richly decorated wallpaper is visibly peeling behind them. Identical twins are often used as moral allegories for our internal struggle between good and evil and Stuokaite utilizes this commonly held anxiety to portray an uncanniness that subconsciously disturbs our notion of individuality.
In Social Sense I, a rabbit dressed in a plaid dress removes her mask. Behind the mask, which is also rendered in the manner of being the face itself, we discover a collection of daisies instead of muscles and blood. An intense eye is glaring off beyond the frame. Masks themselves carry significant metaphorical weight surrounding dichotomies such as concealment/reveal, known/unknown, safe/dangerous. Typically, once the “bad guys’” mask is removed in television and cartoons, we discover his identity and we feel safe and secure. This image reverses that narrative, by removing the known face(mask) only to reveal something unknown, which makes us uneasy because what we expected to see was not revealed to us.
Ksenia Shinkovskaya felt sculptures, often surreal in their appropriation of the representational images and antiques such as eyeballs, hands, and mirrors, are not always humorous and playful but are imbued with a strange or mysterious feeling. Born in 1976, Shinkovskaya is a designer and artist based in Lithuania. She received her education at Lomonosov Moscow University, Institute of Architecture, and TAF studio. Using felt as her main medium, Shinkovskaya sculpts creatures that possess such ambiguous status, appealing in their cuteness yet causing us to pause, to caution, as the intense, exceedingly realistic eyeballs seem to stare back and us. “Felt is one of the most ancient ways of obtaining textile material that existed in prehistoric times,” she explains, “it is a completely natural and environmentally friendly material”.
By using felt and found objects in an assemblage style called “biopunk”, which she describes as “a concept, a dream, describing the world of the future, when, due to various scientific discoveries, human civilization will become a harmonious part of the biosphere”, Shinkovskaya creates creatures whose existence is one of repurposing, which inherently takes on notions of haunting, phantoms, and the uncanny.
In one piece titled Flow, two white figures’ bodies are connected by deep red felt, molded as though its blood. Each figure possesses a single glass eye, modeled into the head and surrounding by a felt eyelid. As the title of the piece suggests, this work alludes to the connection between two entities and the invisible red thread that binds us to one another. Another piece, Spring Laboratory, felt sprouting seeds are places inside little glass vials, with pairs of eyes situated in the center of the felt. Shinkovskaya created these brooches “dedicated to spring”, referencing how springtime represents cycles of beginning, rebirth, and prosperity. The smallness of scale and the soft, budding leaves evokes a whimsical aspect yet this is juxtaposed with the eerie black and white eyes glaring out at us. Her work is currently in the Mark Rothko Art Center and Team Koyala collections, and in private collections in Japan, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, and Litva. Estonia, Russia, China, Canada, Ecuador, and Brazil.
These works denote something known but not familiar, and each artist locates strangeness in the beautiful, the ordinary, the places we forget to look. The eerie beautiful allure contains enough uncanniness to keep our curiosity and enough beauty to keep returning to, to find something different each time.
You can see the work of Kristina Stuokaite and Ksenia Shinkovskaya at Est_Art booth C6 in the contemporary art fair JustMad July 8-11. Read more about the art fair here: https://justmad.es/en/
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