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ROA staff's picks

April 2022

At Return on Art we are lucky enough to work with talented individuals and inspiring artworks every day. With so much beauty around, it is almost impossible not to have one of those pieces catch your eye, to come across an artwork that just captivates you in that special way. These are the Return on Art team's current personal favourites. 

"Unaiza Shahid’s 'Smiling Eyes' is my favourite work this month. Her edgy take on a well known motif - the smile emoji - is mind blowing. Pictured on a pitch black backdrop, the soft pastel work has tremendous depth and texture - it almost looks like a tapestry, which also brings out hues from her home, Pakistan. We’ve had the pleasure to work with her for less than a quarter now but I am very much looking forward to seeing her work develop in the future."

— Amir Akta, CEO & Founder of Return on Art

"I can be a social butterfly or the most quiet person at dinner parties. In short, my mood and personality fluctuate between optimism and mild depression. That's why I love Alexander Haywood's 'Woods Edge' so much.

At a first glance at this painting, you may feel inner peace: the dark midnight sky is quiet and distant, and the trees under the stars seem to be whispering. But, when you look at it closely, you see that each tree is different, and it is as if they are dancing, jumping, and discussing impatiently, and that starry sky feels like a dense crowd, observing you. One piece: two emotions, two interpretations, I just want to close my eyes and sink in."

 Simon Tsai, Operations & Customer Service Assistant

"There are no traces of people in Cassady Fulbright's paintings. Instead, the artist focuses on the natural beauty of the American landscape. Painterly scenes unfold through geometric elements. The artist has developed a personal vocabulary of abstract forms and compositional strategies. A remarkably rich and vibrant colour palette hallmarks Fulbright's works. Colours change their shade in subtle transitions. The complex interplay of flat fields of colour evokes a sense of oscillating depth. Her paintings explore how individual tones relate to a painterly palette; the simplicity of a single phenomenon juxtaposed with the complex interdependence of the whole. 

In her painting ‘’Joshua Tree’’, Fulbright depicts the iconic motif of the spiky plant. Fulbright’s Josuha Tree simultaneously blends in and comes out of the second plan. In nature, the Joshua tree is an important element of the Mojave Desert ecosystem. The plant grows in fiercely adverse conditions. It was named by early Mormon settlers after the Old Testament prophet Joshua and became a symbol of hope in the midst of aridity. Joshua tree forests tell a story of resilience, and beauty born through perseverance. 

In her practice, Cassady Fulbright distills the natural world into a choreographed spectacle of geometric forms. Through the process of eliminating distracting details, the artist attempts to capture the essence of her subject matter. The reduced elements and controlled gestures can celebrate themselves as imagination in the mind of the viewer. The abstract images retain traces of figurativeness, which enables them to balance between artificiality and being true to the natural world. Clean-cut shapes are translated back into a visual representation of nature in the eye of the beholder while the resulting narrative seems to question whether the landscape is real or mere fantasy."

 Marzena Wolowicz, Art Director and Curator

"What I admire about Helen Shulkin’s art is the way she uses depth perspective in a very playful and joyful way. The incomplete, yet realistic representation of architectural buildings tempts me to wander and dream. This is exactly what I look for and love in an artwork. Especially 'Hafen City University I' triggers a warm and happy feeling for me, as it reminds me of nice sunny days spent with friends while studying. The blue shades used in combination with the rays of light summarizes this feeling perfectly."

 Marie Scholten, Head Of Operations

"As I am a big fan of Pop Art and comics, I decided to choose 'Tintin' by Elizabeth Candy. What really fascinates me about 'Tintin' and her art in general is that every artwork is fully made out of candy. Her art reminds me of the feeling of joy I always got when someone offered me candy and also to sometimes not take life too seriously, to appreciate the small things and not take everything for granted.

'Tintin' evokes so many childhood memories and a feeling of nostalgia; it brings me back to the highlight of the week, back when was reading Tintin comics and watching Tintin on television with my sister and my dad. Especially in difficult times like these, we need to find small things in our everyday life that put a smile on our face and remind us about simple things that bring us happiness and joy."

 Daniel Kajaba, Curatorial Assistent

"I really like this artwork because of the detailed edges of the clouds. Clouds can be painted really vaguely because they are far away, but they do have a lot of detail to them when you focus in on the edges. I think the artist captured this beautifully. I also really like the play of colors in this work. The clouds evoke a certain emotion of wild unrest, but the sun then again calms everything down. This painting resonates with me on a personal level because it gives me a unique feeling of calm. I can easily imagine having this piece of art in my apartment as I just enjoy looking at clouds."

 Isaak Shalfoun, Full-stack Developer

"I gravitate towards the work ‘Growth’ by Lebohang Motaung because of its relative visual simplicity which stands in beautiful contrast to its complex subject matter. A young girl, seen from the back, her face invisible, all the focus is drawn to her intricate traditional hair style, while the materiality of the long braid that seems to escape the picture plane gives her an almost physical presence. 

By obscuring the face, the hair becomes the identifying factor, highlighting how a woman's hair holds a certain power. A power beyond the ornamental, beyond making someone ‘beautiful’, it gives women the ability to construct and reconstruct a visual identity; to navigate politics of self-definition and self-expression and to acquire agency over what is, for POC, often a source of shaming and stereotyping. 

The young girl as a subject in development seems to me a symbol of growth, both in a literal and allegorical sense. The female body remains, throughout her lifetime, a playground for identification and negotiation with the opinions of others, but especially in those early, formative years, the stories a girl is told about her body have a huge impact. 

As both an artist and a hair stylist, Motaung’s body of work showcases the beauty and variety of hairstyles for women of colour, but also its inherent potential. How it can become an instrument of communication that gives women agency, not only over their appearance, but also their narrative."

 Marieke de Kan, Head of Content


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