Ise Ratinan: Mistress of glamour

Ise Ratinan Thaicharoen’s art often seems to stare straight back at the viewer: her images tend to centre on a glamorous woman who gazes seductively like a model in a fashion magazine. Swirling around this central figure are other characters, scenes and emblematic objects – everything from scarab beetles to retro cars, hinting at outlandish adventures and exotic lifestyles.

The 25-year-old Bangkok-based illustrator says she scans hand-sketches into Photoshop, painting them up and colouring them before collaging them. Her work has appeared on book covers and dresses, and in magazines.

She says her style is “feminine, with delicate objects”, adding: My line is also important, as is the motivation [behind the image]. The whole piece will never ‘activate’ if something is missing from this.”
To make the central figure alluring, she focuses on “the expression in her eyes, perfect lips, and detailed hair. I’m struck by these things, they’re really fascinating and add passion.”

Ise Ratinan’s digital illustrations are infused with the glamour of fashion photography, although she adds a fairytale twist. “I can’t describe clearly what beauty is,” she says. “I just know when I’ve achieved it, when a piece of art is finished.”

There’s an occult undertone to Ise’s work, and an air of menace which stops it feeling sugary. Crows and half-eaten apples that look like they were dropped by Snow White may feature. The effect is feminine as well as edgy, lush, detailed, mysterious – and very beautiful.

Defining beauty

For something that is instantly recognisable, beauty is hard to define: aesthetics shift between eras and cultures, and the sights which cause a rush of pure pleasure to the viewer are often highly personal.

“Beauty is always changing: I find that I am always questioning it and changing my perception of it,” says  Sarah Arnett. “It could have something to do with age and definitely experience, and cultural influences. As I get older I find the less obvious things more beautiful. I have refined my own perception of beauty and its subtleness.”

Beauty is sudden and eclectic, says Raphaël Vicenzi (aka mydeadpony). “I find beauty in a flower, in an abandoned building, in women’s hair and in walls full of graffiti.” He adds: “Death, disease and decay are not beautiful in themselves, yet they can enlighten us about these matters in a beautiful way.” Context is key, he says.

Beauty can be found in mundane places, says Ana Montiel: “It’s a wide concept which can vary depending on the viewer, the moment, the weather. Many things are beautiful in some way: there’s no recipe.”

Murilo Maciel points out that the things we consider beautiful are often distinctly feminine. He says: “In general, the feminine universe is much more engaged to aesthetics, as opposed to the masculine universe, which I believe is more related to virility and power.”