RHODES, Greece — Leningrad-born, London-based illustrator Karina Eibatova is inspired by nature, both on Earth and up above in outer space. She draws on that sense of wonder to create surrealist art that keeps one foot in science even as it explores the further reaches of the strange.
A good demonstration of that is her tile currently lining the walls of the Casa Cook hotel in Rhodes, Greece. They look like biological illustrations and your attention is likely to file them away as such without much thought. Upon closer inspection, however, you realize that if these are biological illustrations, they come from an evolutionary path on some parallel version of Earth. We see a jungle filled with flying tree fogs, four-legged parrots, duckbilled koalas and flying snakes (terrifying). And that’s just on the surface. As you look deeper you notice an uncanny intelligence within each creature. They’re looking right at you with recognition, hell, maybe even amusement! Is that rhinoceros/zebra hybrid smirking at you? Strange!
It’s a cool motif for a hotel that describes itself as “bohemian.” And without reaching too far, we can guess that the tile has the effect of re-energizing our sense of wonder by taking us just a step or two away from the familiar. The species are alien, but they’re not radically alien. Each horn, feather and tail is recognizable; they’ve only been rearranged. So, if you marvel at these creatures you’re marveling at the natural world, the true one that is present in this reality every moment of every day. If you recognize the intelligence in the tile creatures, what other animal intelligences could be hiding in plain sight? Is that consciousness as evident as it appears in the tile, or do you only find it by patiently taking a long look at the world around you? Remember: your initial instinct with the tile would be to write it off as well-done animal illustrations and nothing more. Your gut reaction would keep you blind to the marvels that were right in front of you.
Why is this important? Let’s take a look at the artist’s biography:
Karina’s work is connected to the notions of nature, peace and love. Influenced by Earth and space, she delicately transforms floral motives into her own surreal, psychedelic scenes, rebelling against the remorseless actions of society and the continual destruction of the environment.
The tiles are a plea for empathy without any of the didactic hippie sermons you’d expect out of someone who uses terms like “nature,” “peace,” and “psychedelic” in an artist statement. These tiles are not sermons; they are an invitation for you to see the world the same way the artist does, as an odd but profoundly beautiful place. With that realization hopefully comes respect for that world and a renewed dedication to protecting it.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
Do you love or loathe these works of contemporary ceramics? Let us know in the comments.