The Art of Camouflage and Hidden Imagery

Last month I blogged about Emma Hack, a brilliant body painter based in Australia. After seeing her wallpaper camouflage technique, I became intrigued with the concept, and decided to learn more. In the process, I discovered four other artists who also create quite stunning hidden imagery: Maija Luutonen, Joshua Callaghan, Liu Bolin, and Desiree Palmen. Browse through the pages of this post for a preview of each, and if you know of anyone else I should keep an eye on, please let me know!


1Maija Luutonen

Maija Luutonen is a young and versatile Finnish artist. Though she does some interesting work with installations, drawing and photography are her true fortes. All of Luutonen’s art is about emotion and its visualization. With her notoriously quirky take on composition, she aims to capture the invisible, the absurd, and the fragile nature of the thoughts that lie hidden within all human beings.

Luutonen’s series, Let’s Pretend, is what I consider her best compilation of photographs. What makes this camouflage-inspired collection different than those of Hack and the other artists in this post is the fact that it depicts both a state of mind and a state of being. Whether you feel tired, dark, and gloomy, like the tattered black leather of a sofa, or upbeat and inquisitive, like a child searching for a fairy tale, chances are that if you look hard enough, you will find a piece of yourself hidden in one of Luutonen’s photographs.


2Joshua Callaghan

Of all of the artists that I discuss in this post, Joshua Callaghan takes the art of camouflage the most literally. In a series of public projects in Los Angeles, he blends man-made outdoor utilities into their lush, natural surroundings. By placing digitally-printed adhesive vinyl atop ordinary urban eyesores, Callaghan renders once drab and unavoidable landmarks virtually invisible. One downside of his method is the fact that the illusions break very easily. If approached from the wrong angle or at the wrong time of day, the utility boxes appear much less impressive than usual. Despite this slight setback, Callaghan’s work is meticulous. Look out for it if you are ever wandering the streets of Los Angeles!

3Liu Bolin

Liu Bolin is a Beijing-based artist, whose work is closely tied to the Aliveasart concept. In a series of photographs that he calls Urban Camouflage, he poses questions about how our environments define us. By blending anonymous Chinese citizens into raw cityscape settings, Bolin makes strong personal statements about the origins of human nature and animal instincts.

“In my photography, historical statues, costumes and architecture become symbols of that which confines us. I am expressing the desire to break through these structures. I portray subjects that seem to disappear into these structures and become transparent. Subjects are released from social constructs and are free.”

Bolin injects political commentary into many of his pieces to bring attention to the liberalization that contemporary China is experiencing. He believes that individuality is an important issue for his country, as it struggles to overcome a major cultural revolution.


4Desiree Palmen

Like Maija Luutonen and Liu Bolin, Dutch artist Desiree Palmen focuses on human beings in behavior-driven surroundings. By melding living figures into flat and spatial backdrops, she creates powerful visual effects that are often unforgettable. The manipulation of clothing is the centerpoint of Palmen’s camouflage technique, which is by far the most detail-oriented one I have seen to date.

About the author

Yolanda Muchnik is the Founder of Aliveasart. A working professional with a passion for the visual and performing arts, she's got a soft spot for all things creative. In addition to ten years of formal dance training, Yolanda has experience as a graphic artist, a management and strategy consultant, and digital marketer.

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