Reaching Art’s Higher Limits
Creative competition elevates cannabis-infused visual art.
This art is not the realm of dorm poster offerings, but you’ll find more than a few canvases filled with neon stoney swirls and psychedelic seven-pointed green leaves.
This is the High Art contest: the realm of intricate designs, fresh perspectives and original symbolism. Here, artists from around the world reinterpret the visions of canonical artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Hannah Höch and Paul Gauguin in order to celebrate the most cerebral and healing herb.
In its fourth annual High Art competition, which concluded on April 20, 2017 the Natural Cannabis Company and Juxtapoz magazine received over 3,000 submissions from 63 different countries.
While some of the submissions excelled within the visual language known to the cannabis community, others pushed the boundaries of what could be considered “cannabis-related art.”
Take, for example, the bulbous digital creation of Australian artist Bill Hope which won the High Art contest’s overall prize.
Hope’s piece, “Blob Tower,” balances the grotesque with the beautiful within a swirling pile of animals, body parts and vignette-like scenes such as a woman singing in the shower. Hope’s piece contains no marijuana leaves, no tessellating natural imagery and no joints. Instead, it depicts the layers of imagination and insight that might emerge after a particularly strong smoke session.
The surreal dreamscape from Austrian artist Mattias Richard Ramsey titled “Riches and Realities” is similarly imaginative and successful in avoiding cannabis clichés. Ramsey’s wild Salvador Dali-esque painting, which won second place in the print category, has original details such as a gold faucet dripping water into a martini glass, two hands holding up a blooming seed and miniature oxen holding up a vomiting frog with rainbow webbed feet.
Or consider the winning submission in the video category: “Memorooms,” from Adam Martinakis in Greece. “Memorooms” follows three animated swimmers gliding effortlessly between portholes connecting different colored rooms in an infinite, rotating circle. The looping memory rooms reverse and skip along to the beat of minimalist electronic music, evoking the feeling of non-linear memory and emotion.
The contest gave out over $45,000 in prize money to the top winners in three categories: print, photography and video.
“We received submissions from some very well known artists — though some of them want to be anonymous — who gave us some phenomenal art,” said Randy Barnes, the marketing manager for the Natural Cannabis Company. “The quality of art made the judging process a difficult one.”
Out of the 3,000 submissions, the Natural Cannabis Company broke the submissions — which came from countries such as Hungary, India, the Philippines, New Zealand and the Netherlands — into their respective categories and whittled the entries down to 500 finalists. Then, for two and a half weeks, five judges narrowed the pool down to 100, and then selected the top 40 submissions based in part on social media votes, Barnes said.
With such rigorous competition and involvement from artists around the globe, some incredible works didn’t even crack the winner’s podium.
For example, artist “Flavorhead” from Virginia made the top 40 with a multimedia print piece called “As You Are About To See,” which illustrates an aristocrat whose face has melted into overlapping designs and creatures beneath a gaudy wig.
In addition, Hollywood artist Bill Jonas’s top-40 piece “TV Land” takes a muted color palette of an old movie poster and infuses it with gothic imagery to create a digital collage.
The High Art contest’s winning designs will be featured on the packaging of the Natural Cannabis Company. Owner Dona Frank says the contest was born from the company’s passion for art and need for more creative packaging.
With dispensaries in three locations around California, the Natural Cannabis Company will soon be displaying the winning art on product shelves.
Originally published in Issue 27 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE
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