A marbled Marilyn by Mikael Takacs

I was recently walking around the Lower East Side checking out art galleries when I made a stop at Krause Gallery, located on Orchard Street just south of Stanton Street. I’ve been in this gallery before, and always like the art that they show here, and when I wandered down to their “Downstairs Gallery” (which is in the basement of this storefront space), I noticed this unusual painting featuring Marilyn Monroe, whose face appears to be morphing into a skull (below left).

The painting has a fantastic effect, as one sees something different depending upon the distance away from it as well as the angle at which one views it. As you can see from the detail below right, it takes a much-more abstract appearance when viewed up close. There wasn’t a wall tag identifying it, but I was able to find online that this painting is by Mikael Takacs, an artist based in Stockholm, Sweden. Scroll down for more …

Marilyn Monroe painting by Mikael Takacs
Painting of Marilyn Monroe by Mikael Takacs on view at Krause Gallery in NYC. Artwork is © Mikael Takacs.

So what exactly is going on here? What technique is Takacs using to make this unforgettable image? His website’s “About” page explains that he is using a “marbling” technique, where he takes pipettes (a laboratory tool commonly used in chemistry, biology and medicine to dispense liquids) to distribute acrylic paint across his canvas in order to create his subjects. But then he distorts the original image by dragging the paint around using various tools, such as sticks and combs, which certainly helps to explain the appearance of the detail above right.

I find it pretty interesting (and cool) that – as the artist states – many people think his work is somehow created or enhanced by digital methods, yet the truth is that he’s utilizing a painting technique that has been around for hundreds of years. The origin and development of marbling was practiced in Japan as early as the 12th century, where it was called “suminagashi,” which translates to “ink floating.” A little research further finds that during the 15th century, other types of marbling were developed in Turkey and Persia. A type of marbling called “Ebru,” or “cloud art,” was practiced in the Ottoman Empire.

In addition to the links to Mikael Takacs’ website posted above, please make sure to check out his Instagram feed (@mikaeltakacs) as well to see more of these incredible paintings. If you scroll through his Instagram feed, you’ll see several pictures of him using a stick (or paintbrush handle?) inserted into the wet paint, moving the paint around, which gives a visual insight to part of his technique.

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