Zenyk Palagniuk – Thread Art

When we think of street art or portraits, we usually think of one medium: paint. Sure, there are hundreds of materials you can use to create art anywhere, from rocks to spray paint to almost anything else. But one type of material we often don’t think of when it comes to portraiture is nails and thread. Yet one Dallas-based artist has done just that.

In his studio, Ukrainian artist Zenyk Palagniuk started hammering nails into a large piece of wood, intent on creating a portrait of American singer and actor Justin Timberlake. Wanting to get as accurate a look as possible, Palagniuk then set about winding string between every nail, “drawing,” as it were, Timberlake’s face across the board.

The entire process took Palagniuk over 200 hours of work and labour. Starting with a rough sketch, he then used over 24km of string across 13,000 nails to create the work. The end result is a pencil-sketch type portrait of Timberlake that has a unique depth and feel thanks to the unique materials.

The technique is very similar to another artist, Kumi Yamashita, but with one important difference: Yamashita only uses one width of string to create her pieces, where as Palagniuk uses different widths and will wrap around the same nail multiple times. Comparatively, Palagniuk’s work is sparser than Yamashita’s, probably because the string can stretch over more space.

Palagniuk’s piece shows us that the process and work itself has influence on the end result. While an impressive piece on its own, this Justin Timberlake portrait becomes something else once a bit of the process is revealed. While all art has a right to be admired for its craft, this portrait’s beauty and awe is in part from knowing what the artist physically did.

Of course, Jackson Pollack had similar notions about art and the process of making art. Many of his most popular abstract pieces are done by bending at the waist instead of the elbow or shoulder, which is most common for paintings. Pollack’s work is in part an exercise in making the labour of art known, rather than shrouding it in mystery.

While Palagniuk has remained fairly quiet on what his future plans may be, his piece has already become a sensation online, and there surely is a fascinating career ahead for this resourceful artist. His commitment and transparency is impressive for the young, Dallas-based artist, and his peeling back the layers of how art is made will surely fascinate spectators far into the future.

Sea Walls – Murals for Oceans

Public art can serve many different functions. It can help raise awareness about certain issues, beautify a space, claim an area, or even make a bold political statement about a subject about which the artist deeply cares. These are all amazing reasons to participate in and make art in a public setting, and there’s one festival that tries to encapsulate all of these reasons into a single event. 

Taking place this year in Napier New Zealand, Sea Walls is a festival dedicated to art, the ocean, and everything that makes both of these things important and necessary. This year, the festival took place over eleven days in March and was comprised of many different kinds of events and moments, all of which were dedicated to promoting and drawing awareness to ocean conservation issues that effect the local area. The festival is different from most other street artist festivals in that it moves around. Previously, Sea Walls drew attention to ocean conservation issues in cities like Los Angeles, Vietnam, Mexico and Sri Lanka. The festival is put on by the international nonprofit, the PangeaSeed Foundation.

New Zealand is home to some of the most unique and interesting ocean environments in the world, including plenty of important coral reefs and ocean creatures that diversify the ocean landscape and make it stronger and healthier. But, like many other natural spaces around the world, New Zealand’s oceans are facing a number of different threats, from pollution to the impact of rising water temperatures.

Sea Walls tries to use public art and a street art festival to do three major things: beautify Napier’s streetscape, raise awareness about local ocean conservation issues, and to make bold statements about the importance of our world’s oceans. The goal is important and artists certainly seemed to agree: they came from around the world to participate in and create some beautiful pieces in support of Sea Walls’ project and goals. 

Even Napier’s City Council was on board for the festival, donating over $30,000 to help the festival with its costs, mostly to help the artists come and do their work. This move is especially important, since street art and local government are often seen as at odds. But Sea Walls has proven time and again that the relationship between a government and street artists and muralists can not only be productive, but mutually beneficial.

Sea Walls is an important festival because it proves that street art, murals, and local issues can share a strong and mutually beneficial relationship. Since our world’s waters are some of the most interesting places we have on this earth, and the most delicate, any and all tactics to raise awareness and money are important for future life on earth. Organizations like PangeaSeed Foundation are using street art to help draw attention to specific issues and, in doing so, can help make a difference in important issues around the world.

Michael Grab aka Gravity Glue

While we focus on painters a lot on this blog, this is only one form of public art. There are an incredible number of mediums out there that all contribute to the art we see on an everyday basis, from sculpture to topiary (hedge trimming art) to, in the case of this week’s featured artist, balancing rocks. 

Canadians and North Americans are probably familiar with the Inukshuk, the stacked rock sculptures made by the Inuit. These human-like figures have captured the imaginations and attention of people around the world. These beautiful creations come in many different sizes, but they have also inspired people to create smaller versions at places around the world. In fact, small yet intricate rocks piles are a common sight in many national parks and areas in Canada and North America, but one artist has taken this notion to a completely different level. 

Michael Grab, the owner and purveyor of Gravity Glue, is not a painter but a type of sculptor, one who creates intricate rock piles in places around the world. The practice started out as a simple hobby and fascination when he was in Boulder, Colorado in 2012. In Grab’s own words, he was drawn to rock piles because of an “awe at the stillness, let alone possibility, of such precarious formations, amidst sometimes very turbulent conditions. For me this reflects our own potential to maintain a still-point amidst the variety of challenges we each face throughout our lives.” 

Grab practices rock piling every day as a meditative and artistic practice and has gone on to create some truly wondrous and seemingly impossible creations. While many of them operate to challenge the laws of gravity, precariously positioning larger, pointed rocks onto smaller ones, others are more ambitious. One piece in his portfolio is an entire bridge of rocks, complete with arches, that was made entirely from rocks in the area. 

Since garnering a name for himself with rock piling, Grab has expanded his scope to include film, photography, and even DJ mixes and sets, but there is something serene and amazing in the work of his rock piles. 

What Grab’s art shows is that street art doesn’t require paint or even a street, it only needs a will and, at some point, an audience, even if that is an audience of one. Rock piles like Grab’s are artistic and meditative endeavours that draw people in at their simple mastery, but can also be left for others to discover. So the next time you’re in a national park, keep an eye out for rock piles, or make one yourself. It’s a wonderful exercise and an interesting way that people have been leaving pieces of art for others for centuries.

Artist Bio: DAIM

There are few graffiti artists with the acclaim, success, and widespread recognition like DAIM. This German graffiti artist rose to prominence in the nineties and has since been on the cutting edge of graffiti and street art. Widely recognized as the man who popularized the 3-D art style of graffiti, his work is often replicated by artists, but few have managed to match his skill and technical proficiency.

DAIM, born Mirko Reisser in 1971, showed an early interest in art and was already getting commissions by the time he left high school. He entered the world of freelance artistry soon after and spent the next five years making a name for himself in the German art scene. It was during this period, the mid-nineties, that graffiti art became a more widely-recognized form of art and DAIM’s pieces soon became the picture-perfect examples of the European and German graffiti scene. In his own words, DAIM’s “geometric figures and letters obey the laws of light and shadow but defy gravity and curve space.”

DAIM’s first major contribution to the art world was his now trademark 3-D style. Inspired by artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Salvador Dali, DAIM sought to create 3-D images without relying on outlining, as was common at the time, but with forms made from shading. The result is brightly-coloured pieces that seem to hang just off the wall, all with a profound eye for technical merit and style, something that DAIM further honed when he did his fine arts degree at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland.

While at school, cofounded “getting up,” an art collective that operated primarily out of Hamburg that consisted of DAIM, Gerrit Peters, and Heiko Zahlmann. The group works together to this day.

The vast majority of DAIM’s work even today focuses on letters and words, and his photorealistic stylings before he came to graffiti are present in each of his pieces. Combining a fresh look at graffiti writing with a strict adherence to the art and styles that form the backbone of European art, DAIM can be seen as one of the integral artists for moving graffiti from an attraction to an art-form with a history and connection to the European art scene.

DAIM’s impact is still felt on the graffiti and street art scenes to this day, not just for his early pioneering work, but for his contemporary projects. He was responsible for providing a certain technical mastery to the craft at a time when street art and graffiti artists were seen as amateurs unable to enter the art gallery, and his 3-D style has become a mainstay and standard for anyone who wants to make art with a spray can.