The technically gifted Mauricio Ortiz is originally from Costa Rica, but now lives in London, where his artistic star is on the rise. His octo-beetle, above, was recently selected to appear in a deck of playing cards as part of a high-profile British charity fundraiser, alongside a card by British bad boy Damien Hirst.
The octo-beetle is one of a number of painstaking drawings in the style of scientific illustrations, and inspired by Wunderkammern, the “wonder cabinets” of the Renaissance. Rather than starting with completely unfamiliar wonders, though, Ortiz remixes familiar animals into chimeras, making them new again.
Ortiz wants his unexpected wonders to serve a silo-breaking function in an ordered, modern world:
As scientific discoveries. . . became better known, many wonders were explained away and once familiarized lost their charm. Wonders that demonstrated aberrant nature gave way to more regular specimens illustrating natures’ uniform laws. One of the authors of the great 18th century Encyclopedie even sniffed, ‘the marvelous is not for us’.
To be a member of the modern elite is to regard wonder with studied indifference. Yet wonders still persist, stubbornly, on the margins of our modern age. A wonder is something that so forcibly grabs your attention you are incapable of ignoring it. And because they don’t fit into existing categories, wonders are perfect objects for making you rethink the world. (source)
Ortiz also likes to play with similarities between disparate objects, like his “spheres” series, which juxtaposes Jupiter and the Moon with pearls, a coral bead, and an Ernst Haeckel-style structure which might be a radiolarian, titled “Fossilized Explosion.”
Ortiz’ lustrous, vibrant oil paintings are reminiscent of still-life masterworks, but also of the brightly colored science toys and illustrations of the 1960s – with a little dash of velvet Elvis thrown in. It’s a style that’s classic and pop culture, perfect for the lowbrow art scene. Here’s hoping Ortiz’s work appears at a gallery in the US soon!