When considering the nature of watercolor, it can have a wide variety of applications when it comes to communicating ideas. Historically, watercolor media was used to depict nature scenes – naturally lending itself to a light and whimsical way of representing subjects. Consider Charles Burchfield; during his time as an artist he devoted many of his resources to studying the mysteries of nature. Burchfield’s main point of interest was capturing the moments in between seasons, as he never viewed the four seasons as separate entities but rather one gradual change over time. His watercolors showed how he often viewed nature as some sort of romantic and fantastic subject. He viewed nature as a way of discovering his own inner sense of self and emotion, once stated, “an artist must paint not what he sees in nature, but what is there. To do so he must invent symbols, which, if properly used, make his work seem even more real than what is in front of him.” The idea goes beyond what can be seen in plain sight, and dives further into the relationship between humans and nature – a never-ending dialogue that offers limitless potential for reflection and contemplation.
Moving forward within the art world, contemporary artists face a daunting task. We are all faced with new and different issues that cause great controversy and debate, that involve a higher level of thinking and consideration when confronting. Some may say that the job of the contemporary artist is to bring to light, or make aware, the issues that present themselves and affect us not only as a society and civilization at large, but also how these problems affect individuals and our sense of self.
The grim reality of it all is that not everything is as nice and pleasant was we would like it to be, and Russian-born watercolor artist Dima Rebus recognizes this. Born in 1988, illustrator Rebus came from a small town and graduated from art school in Moscow in 2011. He now works on a variety of projects ranging from his personal artwork to illustrations for magazines and other publishing houses. Most recently, one of his works became the image of National Geographic’s film Saints and Strangers – a film about the real story of the first Thanksgiving, showing struggles amongst the Plymouth settlers and the Native Americans. Rebus’s work can often be described as dark, filled with impeccable technique, extremely detailed and thought-provoking material, inspired at times by his Russian roots.
Rebus’s work tackles controversial, contemporary topics head-on, and although visually dark, usually offers some little slice of dark humor within the mix. Take for instance, the above painting titled, Abide by the rules of our Supermarket (2016.) For those not familiar, this work is a satirical take on one of the big issues during the summer of 2016 regarding leaving pets and children inside cars on hot summer days while out running errands. In this work, we can see a small dog dragging grocery bags outside of a car with fogged-up windows, and inside that car we see a small child licking the window. Above the dog, we see a familiar warning symbol followed by the words “People allowed to be left in parked cars only in case of installation or performance.”
The works like that of Dima Rebus that offers the current world a favor. That favor being informing an audience of viewers on any set of relevant and present issues, and offering a fresh perspective on what may seem already familiar. Here, on the horizon of contemporary arts, we see new content emerging, and it takes media to new and different levels. Dima Rebus:http://dimarebus.com/
Douglas Jankowiakis a Graduate student at SUNY Buffalo.