Picture moody, foggy, mostly-grayscale scenes of a jungle. You can barely make out the gigantic forms of several giraffes, a leopard, or an eagle, and if you look really close, you might also be able to glimpse a tiny human figure. These are some examples of Dawid Planeta’s artworks. Planeta is a Polish graphic designer, illustrator, and NFT artist best known for his ongoing Mini People project, which he started in 2017 as a way to get through depression.
Planeta initially studied industrial design but soon found that his interests lay elsewhere and were much broader. His art mixes art with photography, and takes inspiration from psychology, delving into the mysterious world of the subconscious. For Planeta, a jungle is an ideal metaphor to represent this. As a European, this is largely a place of mystery for him, both literally and not so literally. It is also a place teeming with life that is not always easy to see, “the mysterious world of [our] emotions; as children, we explore the jungle with joy and curiosity, but as we age, we detach; the landscapes become alien and filled with fear.” He sees it as part of his role as an artist to venture into this dark world and bring something back for himself and others, his art being a physical manifestation of this. Planeta’s worlds are cloaked in shadow, but there is always a glowing beacon of light somewhere in the peace and are often accompanied by Planeta’s own thoughts or quotes by people like “Silent Spring” author Rachel Carson and Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. Ultimately, he has elaborated, his work is about using this darkness as a source of power, rather than seeing it as a weakness.
Several balloons dangling over cacti, a snail climbing up a lit candle, a leaf held together by safety bins, a ham pierced by a fork held right next to a rose on its stem, and pearls among grapes are among Stefan Visan’s recent artistic experiments. Possibly perilous yet oddly satisfying, inventive juxtapositions are clearly Visan’s speciality, and he unleashes his boundless creativity unto found, often ordinary, objects that wouldn’t be very interesting by themselves. Roses, cigarettes, lit candles are regularly shown objects but we can only guess at each piece’s meaning. The pieces are for as far as I could see titled “Untitled” and offer no clues. Curiosity seems to be at the centre of each one, where the explicit meaning would be, especially recent ones where sound is an enjoyable addition. Visan’s surreal pieces of work are both explorations into what can be put together and into what different mediums the artist can combine. For example, he has explored painting, collage, video collage, photography, and illustration. Visan has collaborated with haute perfumery Crème de la Crème boutiques (the most recent of which was released in late June). He currently has 189k followers on Instagram; his work gains a life of its own as it taps into viewer’s feelings of satisfaction and awe.
Convergences and dualism are common and pivotal themes for the next artist on this list, Canada-based 3-D and NFT artist Nate Talbot. Currently studying for his MFA at the University of Windsor, Talbot also works as a graduate researcher for INCUBATOR BioArt Lab, specialising in 3-D rendering, 3-D printing, VR model design, machine learning, and film. Biology and technology are big influences in his work and he has said that in the future he would like to look into Indigenous botany, photogrammetry, artificial intelligence, and holography. He explores themes like techno-shamanism, non-human intelligence, and symbiosis in his art as a philosopher would in writing. Following the post-structuralism idea that finding the “truth” is not a simple, straightforward process and instead, it is the contrast between parts that defines what the “truth” is. To put this into context, Talbot’s work isn’t about x or y but about the contrasting characteristics of x and y. In his work, there is an apparent tension between the simulated digital and real material worlds, Talbot’s Ojibwe-settler identities, the dead and the living, organism and machine. He does this by combining sea anemones, corals, and body armour on a human body which serves as a canvas of sorts and that appears to be underwater.
Czech 3-D artist Jan Sladecko has been in the industry for a long time, over 10 years, working as a Motion Designer and VFX artist at studios like The Mill and worked for clients that include Nike, Vodafone, EA Sports, and Peugeot. His experience applying his skills to broadcast TV shows, commercials, and music videos has earned him a good reputation and he has been invited as a speaker at conferences hosted by Adobe and the Motion Design Awards. Recently he has collaborated with best-selling Colombian singer J Balvin (produced by his newly-created studio) to make an animated music video for the song “Azul” and joining the NFT arts scene full-time. Apart from selling his older artworks as NFTs, Sladecko has achieved success with his more recent personal projects and to date, has made over $160,000 from them.
Sladecko has said that he is inspired by Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, the cinematography of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the craziness of “Love, Death & Robots,” and the humour of “What We Do in the Shadows.” Other 3-D artists whose work he admires are Ondrej Zunka, Sasha Vinogradova, and Alberto Mielgo. Sladecko’s most noteworthy projects include “Space Struggle.” This is a series of images in which he pokes fun at the sheer amount of NFT art featuring astronauts by putting them in highly ridiculous and tragicomic situations (like falling off a red car Elon Musk sent into space), and “Silly Wheels,” a series of surrealistic loop animations of toy cars. He has clearly had fun with animation, and viewers of his work with him, and Sladecko recently said that he will be looking into going beyond entertaining and instead creating work that can help people’s mental health. One such work, “Breathing Forest”, dropped on SuperRare in May this year. Described as “the first guided breathing and anti-stress NFT”, it shows a person seated in an idealised grassy field that exudes calm and contentment as a bubble right in the middle of the piece grows outwards and shrinks inwards on a loop to mimic breathing.
When Argentina-based artist Marcus Wahren self-describes himself as a 3-D doodle maker rather than just 3-D artist, it takes one look at his artworks to know that he’s perfectly nailed the description. His pieces feature highly vibrant, imaginative, mini doodle worlds populated by, you guessed it, mini doodle people. They are so dense in detail that they’re reminiscent of the illustrations on the “Where’s Waldo?” book series, and Wahren often accompanies his images with a text that follows the narrative thread established by the visual and has the tone of what could be Wahren’s inner thoughts as he tells the viewer something about each piece.
There is no concrete story per se, but image and text alike function as tiny windows into the sprawling world in Wahren’s imagination. These scenes range from the fantastical and mythical (a minotaur at the middle of a labyrinth and a war between the Western-influenced tooth fairies and its Spanish and Hispanic counterpart the “Ratón Peréz” or Peréz mouse) to the weirdly familiar (humanoids at what appears to be a supermarket, one seems to eat another’s guts like a zombie while another grabs the last remaining toilet rolls on the shelf) but are all tied together by an explicitly surreal atmosphere. Wahren has recently done the cover art for American rapper and songwriter Token’s new song “Sip,” which was released on July 9th this year, one of his pieces (a reinterpretation of Sebastiano Ricci's "Bacchus and Ariadne") won a prize at a competition held by the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid, Spain, and he dropped his first NFT on SuperRare in June this year.