Artists Paul Ressencourt and Simon Roche, a.k.a. Murmure (previously), have worked collaboratively for the past twelve years to synthesize a studio-based practice with large-scale street art. In high-contrast acrylic paintings, the duo reference the climate crisis and enduring problems of overconsumption, especially regarding the immense impact that humans have on marine life and rising sea levels. The artists’ new exhibition Jusqu’ici tout va bien, which translates to “So far so good,” approaches environmental catastrophes like thawing glaciers and overfishing from a characteristically sardonic perspective.
Ressencourt and Roche focus on the absurdity of capitalist systems in the face of destruction. Paradoxes abound as surveyors plot developments on a melting ice sheet, supine whales are served up as giant sushi rolls, and oblivious holiday-makers dive from icebergs and wade around shorelines devoid of flora and fauna. “In spite of everything, Murmure favors in their art a form of beauty which contrasts with the cruelty, the stupidity, and the urgency of the situations depicted in their works,” the exhibition statement explains.
Through oversized faces of primates and busts of elephant calf and cow, French artist Quentin Garel examines the pomp and gratuitous impulse behind hunting for sport. His large-scale sculptures cast in bronze or carved from wood evoke taxidermied trophies of wild animals. Often scaled to greet the viewer at eye level or tower well above human stature as they appear to emerge from the ground or wall, the imposing works “modify our relation to sculpture and to what it represents. It creates distance and intimacy at the same time,” the artist shares.
Garel tells Colossal that he became interested in the animal kingdom about 20 years ago when considering human consumption and how the preservation of a dead creature could become “a symbol of man’s pride.” His intent was “not to denounce hunt(ing) as a practice but rather to show how ridiculous men can be when showing off their social success.” This critique evolved into a variety of bestial creations, including archeological works of skulls, jaws, and skeletal fragments that further extrapolate the fraught relationship between humans and animals.
At the moment, Garel is working on a public fountain commission and a series grounded in polymorphism, which will be shown in London in the coming months. He has a limited-edition octopus print available from Galerie LJ, where he’s represented, and you can follow his practice on Instagram.
“I’m drawn to works that are rich in symbolism and also have a strong element of storytelling,” says Rithika Merchant. “I love seeing the artist’s hand in the work—I have a huge appreciation for small details and works that draw from a multitude of references—literary, mythical, and visual.”
The Mumbai-born artist manifests these same qualities in her practice, creating works that expertly translate concepts and themes through her own idiosyncratic allusions. Beginning with hours of study, research, and reading on an eclectic array of topics, Merchant tends to hone in on an image that she sketches onto sheets of paper, sometimes folded into generous rectangles or triangles. She then paints in gouache and subtle, muted washes of watercolor, layering translucent pigments atop inked renderings of landscapes, mythical hybrid creatures, and patterns of foliage.
While Merchant’s influences are broad—they range from the specific like 17th-century botanical drawings, Kalamkari prints, Mughal paintings, and Kalighat folk art to the general like religious iconography and narrative tapestries—they emerge as a distinct visual lexicon. The artist often gravitates toward symbols that transcend cultural or geographical boundaries, choosing to incorporate human anatomy, celestial objects, and botanical elements. Although universal, these images are married to language in Merchant’s mind and in service of an individual narrative. “I also have a notebook in which I make lots of written notes and diagrams, but I almost never make sketches or studies of things. I sketch more with words than images,” the artist shares.
Evoking the spiritual side of Hilma af Klint and the strange characters of Leonora Carrington, the resulting works are cartographic and chart-like, mapping surreal renderings of feathered wings, cycloptic figures, or a troupe of dancing creatures onto a plane intersected with creases and enclosed by a thin frame. Texture pervades each of the works through mixed mediums, collaged details, and patterns comprised of minuscule dots and lines.
Whether collaged or drawn on paper, each piece illuminates the intrinsic connections between the mind, body, and Earth. “I think there is something powerful in taking whatever scraps you can find and putting them together to create something meaningful,” she says.
Merchant is currently in a residence in Saint-Louis, Senegal, and will release her first monograph titled The Eye, The Sky, The Altar next month. For a glimpse into her studio and process, visit her Instagram.