What is It? Exhibition Catalog

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What is It? A group show exploring life, death & human consciousness

Curated by Cristina Villegas with the help of Benjamin Saucier. Book design by Cristina Villegas. Cover featuring art by James Lee Chiahan.

“Nothing could be more awe inspiring and majestic than the inconceivable vastness and stillness of space, and yet what is it?” - The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle


ARTISTS Ben Saucier Cosmina Sandu Coyote Quinn Ekaterina Kuzmina Ellie Hsu Francisco Galarraga Hope J. Harrison Huma el Diablo James Lee Chiahan Lena Shirin Ludorff

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Mădălina Panaghie Marina Alaeva Mario Fois Carta mel q Ren Phu Roger Dourado Themba Shabalala Tiana Traffas Weronika Nowojska Yohanes Soubirius De Santo


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BEN SAUCIER IG: @ben_saucier

Souls without a body, waiting to enter the vortex.


The Great Beyond, 2o21 (Graphite and Digital)

COSMINA SANDU IG: @s_cosmina_

Humans are complex creatures, capable of such things like transforming death into life. The way one can do it is by donating organs to those in need. In this way, one can transform death into life, giving a new beginning to someone, a new life. I’ve tried illustrating the veins and the bronchial tubes of some organs, where life travels in the form of blood and air and makes us function the way we do.


Heart, 2021 (Embroidery on cloth, 50 x 50 cm)

Lungs, 2021 (Embroidery on cloth, 50 x 50 cm)

COYOTE QUINN IG: @coyote_quinn

Tapping into deep recesses of the imagination, my works explore a variety of fundamental questions of existence. Each work can be thought of as a visual riddle, encouraging the viewer to challenge their sensory experience in order to arrive somewhere which transcends the physical, the mortal, the momentary.


Little Bang, 2021 (Pastel, 11.7 x 16 in)


Something from a parallel world, something from life beyond.


Elusive Serenity, 2020 (Oil on Canvas, 90 x 60 cm)

ELLIE HSU Twitter: @iridescentmilk

Nostalgia can tie in with our sense of consciousness. Sometimes, trivial, mundane things that hold personal meanings may unknowingly leave its impressions and influences on the way we view our lives.


insouciance, 2021 (Digital, 10 x 12 in)

FRANCISCO GALARRAGA IG: @francisco.galarraga

This work proposes visual notions of a future digital afterlife. “Stroke” is a stylized view of what our consciousness might be able to perceive in a digital “postbiological death” world.


Stroke, 2021 (Digital, 5906 x 1181 px)

HOPE J. HARRISON IG: @hopejharrisonart

This piece is a linocut inspired by a reading from a Greek mythology class I took during my undergraduate career in which the “lives of mortal men” are described as being “like the generations of leaves”. This work strives to illustrate the message of the literature and reflect upon the cycles of life and death that define human existence.


Like the Generations of Leaves, 2020 (Relief print on mulberry paper, 24 x 14.5 in)

HUMA EL DIABLO IG: @humaeldiablo

Everything that surrounds us disappears, is constantly diluted out of our consciousness but it exists. As it remains in another plane, in another dimension and the solids, the forms, things simply appear as a projection when they are illuminated for our consciousness.


Shining, 2021 (Digital, 8000 x 8000 px)


An expression of personal experiences and moments in time adjacent to the passing of loved ones.


Crazy, Happy, Foolish, Fleeting, 2019 (Oil, graphite, pencil crayon on panel, 18 x 24 in)


Part of a Whole, 2020 (Oil on panel, 30 x 24 in)


This piece is part of a series of sleep paintings, I want to portray the drift into the different phases of your sleep cycle and visualise the feeling of falling in and out of conciousness. Like when you had a dream you later can’t remember, everything being foggy and falling out of place. Sam and Kira portrays the phase where you drift off to sleep, still being aware of your surroundings but won’t react to them anymore.


Sam and Kira, 2021 (Oil on paper, digital paintover with Heavypaint, 105 x 93 cm)

MĂDĂLINA PANAGHIE IG: @madalina_panaghie

In a time when we’re constantly surrounded by noise and distraction, it’s getting more and more unaffordable to find the space to search within ourselves, the place where we can find happiness. During flow, the concept of time is distorted, the mind is completely immersed in the performance. One can obtain and sustain an inner tranquility by focusing on one thing, by becoming so absorbed in an activity that it becomes effortless. In many instances, my work is a form of release from a persistent sense of loneliness and isolation. In its essence, it explores the vulnerability and absurdity of the human condition.


Slumber, 2021 (Mixed media on kraft paper, 15 x 21 cm)

Uzumaki, 2021 (Ink on kraft paper, 15 x 21 cm)

MARINA ALAEVA IG: @marina_alaeva_art

I explored the theme of the cyclicity of being, the immortality of the soul (reincarnation) in my work Dahlia bulbs. And also I explore the individual’s experience of separateness as well as the experience of blending into a group - merging with the universe. I’m thinking about a person’s place there. Turning to the theme of childhood I’m rethinking life as an undervalued gift.


Dahlia bulbs, 2020 (Oil on canvas, 70 x 60 cm)

Somnambulist, 2021 (Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 cm)

Blue 3, 2021 (Oil on canvas, 70 x 50 cm)

MARIO FOIS CARTA IG: @mario_fois

My art is instinct, it is gesture whose union allows to express moods, it is a liberating act that substantiates my life, becomes body beyond myself. In my dripping there is a liberation, a scream, liberating precisely if it is usually full of anger, conveys stifled, repressed feelings. It’s like a dialogue with the support and with the color itself that pours on a background almost always black, which is a negation of all colors, but at the same time their procreator: it is from the total background that the work is born, emerges rich in color, multifaceted and detailed as the detail of a vision under the microscope of a cell.


Constellation of Venus, 2017 (Mixed media on canvas, 100 x 100 cm)

MEL Q IG: @cherubbum

every work of mine comes from a place in my nightmares specifically. every open piece is horrific and ghastly with the addition of shock. death is either a cause or a need when presented incredibly.


unlabeled, 2018 (Oil and hot glue on canvas, 52 x 40 in)

REN PHU IG: @phoodledoodles

My work is very much driven by my fear of death, and a desire to separate the consciousness from the physical body under the assumption that the latter is what drags the former to die. As the saying goes, “the captain goes down with the ship,” but if there is no ship, then the captain could perhaps live forever. I, as a spiritual entity that lives within a corporeal self, don’t want to be dragged into the Earth by my body. Within my pieces, I work upon and create this idea of how one might release oneself from the body, how it feels, and where we go.


The Ascent, 2020 (Oil on canvas, 24 x 62 in)

ROGER DOURADO IG: @golden_roge

These works represent a vision of the human race’s search for freedom, which can be found in the end (death) or in a way that simulates an escape from our own consciousness.


Abrupt Chaos 01, 2021 (Digital, 1920 x 2716 px)

Abrupt Chaos 02, 2021 (Digital, 1920 x 2716 px)

THEMBA SHABALALA IG: @thembashabalala07

I seek to portray all the struggles, adjustments and beauty in the shadows of the ugliest situations that I went through, through the phases of the pandemic. This body of work has allowed me to reincarnate all my struggles and burdens to cope, to cope with a loss of my right eye sight, to cope with a pressure of being newly a father and being able to self-sustain and to provide for my family. In this process I disintegrate the material, one will call it damaging but it is I deconstructing to construct, wounding to heal, evoking the problem for solutions and dissecting deep into the layers of the material to find truth.


Meditation, 2021 (Fire on wood, 60.3 x 50 cm)


Beneath, 2021 (Fire, pigment, acrylic on wood, 60.7 x 50 cm)


A sigil is a painted symbol considered to hold magical power. We are met with constant transition, cycles, rebirth, and with each new beginning, we crave guidance through these universal yet taboo experiences. I created these paintings to serve as meditations for those powerful cycles, so that each time the wheel of my life turns and I am met with rebirth, I will have a magic to guide me through. Each symbol holds an intention and rings our consciousness awake to bring forth a well-worn path. Color and emotion bleed across the paper to convey a soft power, a vibration, so that the viewer may be held at whatever stage they find themselves in.


A Sigil for Finding Strength in Motherhood, 2019 (Mixed media, 11 x 14 in)

A Sigil for Moontime Blessings, 2019 (Mixed media, 11 x 14 in)

A Sigil for Crone Alchemy, 2019 (Mixed media, 11 x 14 in)

A Sigil for a Smooth Birth, 2019 (Mixed media, 11 x 14 in)


“Land of gods” is a concept how the dimension between life and death, where the fate of countless souls can be decided, would look like. Small silhouettes of people by the river of blood are praying, bringing goods and sacrifices to gods.


Land of gods, 2020 (Digital, 100 x 80 cm)


This work that I made started from my vision of the environment around me that was currently working on a sculpture project. The sculpture being made by some of these people is expected to be a new entertainment in my neighborhood. This is my point of view about the world of art, where art cannot be a cure for a disease, but art can be a health therapy that can restore all the discomforts that exist in the soul and body of every creature.


Art is Self Expression, 2021 (Pen on paper, 86 x 61 cm)




A NOTE FROM THE GALLERY What is it that makes us alive? This is a question with no single right answer. Like Art, there is no clear consensus on what exactly life is - yet all of us carry an intuition about it. The pieces selected in this exhibition invite you to ask the question: What is It? for yourself. A Godhead surrounded by worshippers. A figure lost in light shining through a window. The familiar surrender of falling asleep. A snapshot of a memory with no context. Rather than looking for an answer, I sought to curate a body of work that leaves the viewer searching their own intuition about what it means to be alive. - Cristina