There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual.
Rare species, specimens, and scientific wonders of all sorts from both nature and his own imagination are the starting points for German artist Michael Weiss’s (b. 1991) hyper-realistic paintings. Whether it’s a one-of-a-kind butterfly exhibiting four different wing types, a peacock spider sitting on a bed of Cryptanthus plants, or dazzling mineral and crystal formations from Mexico, the earth’s most beguiling natural phenomena find forever homes in Weiss’s landscape and still life paintings.
Weiss received his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from Alanus University for the Arts and Social Sciences in Bonn — where he is currently an instructor — and later traveled to the U.S. to earn an M.F.A. at the New York Academy of Art. After three years living in Brooklyn, he took his newfound education back to Bonn and set up a studio, where he now paints imaginary and realistic imagery incorporating all of the artistic training, epiphanies, and explorations he’s experienced thus far.
Weiss’s desire to document the awe-inspiring elements of nature comes from his interest in the Golden Age of Exploration, his admiration for 19th-century American landscapists Frederic Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt — who used an almost scientific level of observation and detail while depicting the bucolic wilderness of the Hudson River Valley — the writings of German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, and his own infatuation with natural history.
“In my paintings, I create environments that act as living curiosity chambers or Wunderkammern,” the artist explains. “Although seemingly otherworldly, each piece is, in fact, rooted in or inspired by existing natural beings, formations, or phenomena.”
Weiss is now inventing realistic organisms and environments in his paintings based on sketches and photographs from life, as well as his knowledge of light and color. The multi-element composition “Specimen I” is one example.
“The residency I completed in the cloud forests of Veracruz, Mexico, was a major source of inspiration for this work,” Weiss says. “Seeing surreal images of the blue cloud forest millipede, the mineral specimens mimetite and wulfenite, and the Giant Crystal Cave in Naica all nurtured my thought process of combining these amazing rare things into environments rather than isolating each, as I had done previously.”
With his acute observational skills, curious mind, and sharp eye for nature’s hidden treasures, this young artist has endless visual adventures in front of him — and he’s taking viewers along for the ride. “By presenting the familiar in unfamiliar ways, my work allows for a sensation of discovery and inquiry,” he notes. “I seek to reconcile the tension between artistic expression and scientific objectivity, between romanticism and enlightenment. I pursue the divine within the detail, devoting countless hours to create an object in which my technical obsessiveness and meticulous mimesis serve the overall narrative of the piece.”