If you aren't already familiar with Simon Stalenhag's Scandi-scifi art, I suggest you get over to his site at once. He paints an ominous blend of the nightmarish and the calm, landscapes depicting the aftermath (or normalisation) of some horrifying techno-biological events. Often narratively linked, Stalenhag's work looks like concept art for the greatest film never made. It's surely only a matter of time before Hollywood comes calling – just imagine him paired up with Alex Garland, David Fincher or Denis Villeneuve.
The Recorder, Monotype's relaunched/redesigned magazine that explores type in a wider cultural context, has very quickly become a must-have for studio shelves. Issue four is particularly splendid. Not because of the exceptional (and refreshingly colourful) art direction from Luke Tonge, or Adrian Shaughnessy's look at the history of record sleeve design, or even Nicole Phillips' fascinating look at typography in education.
No, it's because 1990 Amiga classic Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (one of the greatest games ever) is on the cover, and every time I see it, I'm struck by waves of nostalgia and joy. The smile only gets bigger when you reach Darren Wall's article inside, looking at the pixelated type of Doom, Sensible Soccer, Street Fighter II, etc. Well worth the cover price alone.
As both a professional photographer and resident of the Barbican Estate resident, Anton Rodriguez has combined his passions to make the excellent Residents: Inside the Iconic Barbican Estate. The book explores the interiors and inhabitants of 22 flats; a sun-drenched blend of iconic modernist furniture and personal stories. There's also an essay by Katie Treggiden, looking at the history of the site and exploring why there is such an interest in peeking behind those curtains. It's a wonderful book about a wonderful place – probably the closest you'll get to actually living their yourself.
"For now cities sleep. But there are rumblings. Things change. And what if, tomorrow, cities woke, and went walking? If Tokyo engulfed your town? If Vienna came striding over the hill toward you? If the city you inhabit today just upped and left, and you woke tomorrow wrapped in a thin blanket on an empty plain, where Detroit once stood, or Sydney, or Moscow? Don't ever take a city for granted. After all, it is bigger than you are; it is older; and it has learned how to wait …"
— Neil Gaiman, Cities are not people (found in the SimCity 2000 library)
Since reopening last year, York Art Gallery has become one of the finest galleries in the country, with some fantastic permanent and temporary collections. A great example of this is Flesh, a major exhibition looking at how artists represent flesh (often in rather unpleasant ways – the show could easily have been called Meat). The word gets bandied about a lot and is almost meaningless these days, but this is curation at its finest, with work from the likes of Bacon, Jen Davis, Degas, Sarah Lucas, Steve McQueen, Bruce Nauman, Rubens and John Stezaker all skillfully selected, arranged and juxtaposed. Catch it while you can – it only runs until 19 March.
I keep seeing Alexay Kondakov pictures all over the web at the moment (although ironically, not in the real world), so I thought I'd pick out a few of my favourites. To those not familair with his work: he basically places characters from classical paintings into contemporary urban settings, imbuing the figures with a new seediness and violence. As well as some deft Photoshoppery, the real beauty of these is in the well-observed pairing of painting, location and lighting. I particularly like the comic shop one – those looks of indifferent superiority are absolutely spot on.
The black and white – sorry, black and chrome – version of Mad Max: Fury Road is finally coming to the big screen this April (a good excuse to appreciate Changethethought's wonderful heavy-type poster). It may seem like a trivial adjustment, but going black and white can change a film in unexpected ways. For example, Frank Darabont's superior cut of The Mist feels more like a particularly excellent episode of The Outer Limits. And if you watch Saving Private Ryan or Raiders of the Lost Ark with the colour turned right down, it somehow seems more realistic, closer to the imagery of the era that we're most familiar with. Anyway, this is apparently George Miller's preferred version of the film, so it'll be interesting to see how it differs. It looks wonderfully, appropriately oily.
In the latest episode of fabulous design podcast North v South, there's a big discussion about how designers use colour. There's some mention of the origin of pigments, pre-Pantone, and one particularly gruesome bit of trivia is mentioned. Mummy Brown, a rich brown pigment popular amongst the Pre-Raphaelites, was made by literally grinding up Egyptian mummies. It's impossible to tell which specific paintings it appears in, but it's believed that Martin Drolling's L’interieur d’une cuisine is a particularly good example of it in use. Here's what Wikipedia has to say on the matter:
Mummy brown was originally made in the 16th and 17th centuries from white pitch, myrrh, and the ground-up remains of Egyptian mummies, both human and feline. As it had good transparency, it could be used for glazes, shadows, flesh tones and shading. However, in addition to its tendency to crack, it was extremely variable in its composition and quality, and since it contained ammonia and particles of fat, was likely to affect other colours with which it was used. It fell from popularity during the 19th century when its composition became more generally known to artists. The Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones was reported to have ceremonially buried his tube of Mummy Brown in his garden when he discovered its true origins. By 1915, one London colourman claimed that he could satisfy the demands of his customers for twenty years from one Egyptian mummy.
Mummy Brown eventually ceased being produced in the mid-20th century when the supply of available mummies was exhausted … what a strange sentence to type. Anyway, for more on the history of pigments and cat-grinding, check out The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair.