December 16, 2015
Ultra-precise bold lines, simplistic geometric design and cubist-esque abstractions characterize Caleb Kibly’s work. He excels in creating unique designs that play on traditional perspective yet retain the essence of their original form and subject. These designs are beautiful, far from over-done, and express a knowledgeable background in modern masters.
Standing as artworks in their own right, I was absolutely thrilled when an Insta post showing the work of Caleb Kibly popped up on my feed from East River Tattoo’s account.
The UK-based artist was on a visit to the city and was extending his tattooing hours over the weekend in the Brooklyn based shop. Having had the god-awful ink itch for a couple months I decided to set up an appointment.
Tall and lanky, with hair slicked back, Kibly was wearing a plain white t-shirt tucked into navy blue flaring trousers and woven espadrilles. As we stood outside the studio, he took a much needed smoke break and explained to me why he couldn’t give me a custom tattoo. “I’m not in that state of mind right now, you understand.”
The devotion to his craft is remarkable and honorable. He only does custom work when he is able to devote all of time and attention to the design and make something that he is proud of. No half-assing around here.
Disappointed but persistent in my quest to get one of his designs, I flipped through his portfolio, pointing at various sketches I liked. “No, not that one. I don’t repeat tattoos. I don’t feel it’s fair to the person getting the tattoo.” Fine. I made my decision–the face of a dreaming woman, one long-lashed eye closed, with voluptuous lips and three locks of curled hair. He approved, “perfect, that’s a good one.”
This is Kibly’s first time tattooing in NYC, a change of scenery from his UK studios: Old Habits in London and Two Snakes Tattoo in Hastings. He has been tattooing for years now but started getting them at a very young age. After experimenting on himself, he started to practice more seriously and then served as an apprentice for six years while also studying classical painting.
This is not surprising–his training and art exposure are evident through his craftsmanship. His lines are exact and expressive. His subjects evoke masters such as Cezanne, Magritte, and Picasso. The designs reflect his own style and individuality. He knows what he’s doing.
As I settled in to get my tattoo, the soothing Cuban rhythms of Buena Vista Social Club playing in the background, I asked Kibly which he liked better, getting tattooed or tattooing?
“At this point, I like tattooing way better. I hate getting tattoos now. Another artist in the shop and I will be tattooing each other and we are not looking forward to it.”
“What’s your favorite tattoo?”
“Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. At this point I don’t really have a single one that stands out.” After a pause, he pointed to one on his forearm, a design of his—a rugged-looking sailor type smoking a pipe.
Popular themes seen throughout his designs are people smoking or drinking, dreamlike faces, double-portraits with their faces merging into one another in a kiss, ferocious feline heads, women, cubist-inspired table scenes, and the occasional flower.
If you’re ever in the UK itching for an artsy, unique, and badass tattoo, hit this guy up–maybe he’ll even show you some of his paintings.
Sitting in a building of fine and historical architecture on an art school campus, I talked to Victor Cord’homme, a young and green installation artist who is in his fourth year of art studies at this prestigious National School of Fine Arts in Paris (l’Ecole National Supérieur des Beaux Arts de Paris). As a traveller, Victor has been inspired to create installations that transform exhibition spaces into works of art and lead people to discover new spaces and possibilities. While our conversation started with his life at art school, both his artistic practice and his perceptions of the art world speak loudly to a global perspective, which has been constructed through his numerous travelling experiences.
- When did you decide to become an artist?
When I studied marketing at high school, I was very bored of it. Then, I took a gap year after high school to go travelling for 6 months around Asia. I went to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India and Nepal. At that time, I missed painting and drawing which I did quite much during my free time throughout my high school years. So I started to think about getting into art school and start art studies. That was my first point of revelation that I started to have the idea of doing art. Then, I started going a lot to museums as my own art cultivation, such as the modern art museum of Paris and Palais de Tokyo. Paris is really a good place to get exposure to a lot of art, which gives me lots of inspirations.
- How did you get into the National School of Fine Arts in Paris (l’Ecole National Supérieur des Beaux Arts de Paris)?
After travelling around, I went to a preparatory school in Paris where I did art every day. That’s a school for people who want to get into all the big art schools. There are various art streams, like fine art, decorative art and so on. It’s pretty competitive to get into the National School of Fine Arts, like 1500 people competing for 70 places each year. At the beginning, you submit your art portfolio of paintings or photos of sculptures. After being screened, then you can enter into later stages like a writing test, a drawing test, and finally an interview panel with three professors.
- Can you share about your life in the art school? What’s the most important thing that you learn in the art school?
I feel the school is like my second home. The school is not just about getting knowledge, but about meeting people here and discussing art and our works with friends. Everybody tries to be an artist here and we’re helping and sharing with one another our views and experiences.
I think art study is not easy at all because there [are] no definite right or wrong answers and it depends on the comments of people around you. The school actually is not demanding, like around 10 hours of classes per week, but we spend most of our time in studios making art. Studying art is about investing a large amount of time while you need to have knowledge of art history. But it’s also out of passion –all the people are being here because they liking doing art. And I enjoy the process as I try to do things that are interesting.
One of the most important things that I learn here is self-motivation because nobody would push you to work. You wouldn’t be forced to do anything here. We learn art history here from many great art historians but you need to get some contemporary knowledge by exploring in museums or galleries yourself.
- Why do you focus on art installations?
Because I like experimenting with different media including painting and sculpture, and I would like to mix several smaller pieces together into one big piece of art. Somehow it’s like matchmaking –a sculpture and a painting can be compatible and even make each other stronger. Sometimes when art pieces come together, they speak a lot more. Installation is interesting because it’s about how to see and interact with space. Painting is my major art practice, but for me, it’s not enough to involve the space around. With installation, I’m trying to create an environment which gets people to discover new spaces, encounter and observe different forms of life and ways of understanding life.
- How exactly do you achieve this with your art – to get people to discover new spaces and ways of understanding life?
For example, with my diploma project in my third year, I created an interactive space that worked with sensors and computers, and there are sounds going on and when more and more people come into the exhibition space, the sounds would keep changing, and so the space would become different. Every person that came into the exhibition added two minutes of available electricity to the space.
And I like taking natural elements from the outside environment, like wind, into the exhibition space inside. Also, I would try to make all elements connected in an installation, like in our environment.
And I would not give out everything at one moment and people would have to come back at different times to discover new things from my installations. So I added lights to the installation so that the space and ambience would be different if people come in daytime or nighttime. I would like to show a temporal dimension of my works because I think time is an interesting material for doing art.
- The idea of exploring and discovering new spaces sounds like travelling. Do you travel a lot? How does travelling inspire your art making?
I had a lot of fun travelling to many countries; I’m just back from Canada where I stayed for few months. Before that, I went to Japan for an art competition and I went to Turkey last year. It’s really interesting to meet and talk to different people and to share experiences. I don’t know how to speak about all the feelings from my travelling but I would like to translate these feelings by art. Art makes it easier to share my travelling experiences and people can feel the connection through my art, maybe unconsciously. Travelling is one of the most important things for me. Being an explorer of this world has given all my inspirations for my art –every time I come back from travelling, I always have new ideas.
- Can you share your most memorable travelling experience?
When I was 19, I left my parents and I went to travel in India and met a lot of people there. Travelling there showed me the real side of life. It’s about meeting and talking to people and learning about their life. You’re in a different culture and environment. People would look at me curiously because I look different from them and some even came to me and asked if I could take photos with them.
- Any artists who have a particularly great influence on your perceptions and practices of art?
First is the Canadian artist, David Altmejd. We’re not in the same way of thinking about art, but he’s my main reference. His sculptures are dense, tell stories and give lots of information. He’s a really interesting artist. There was his exhibition in Paris last year, and I saw his exhibition again in Montreal and could discover new things from his works.
Also, I saw an exhibition of a Thai artist, Korakrit Arunanondchai, at Palais de Tokyo this year. He was making a huge installation with paintings and mannequins put in an interesting way. Actually, I didn’t like his formal way of doing art but his ideas are more interesting.
- How does your art interact with the French contemporary culture?
I think my art does not specifically interact with French culture, but rather the global culture. I don’t think art has to necessarily relate to a certain culture. I prefer to work in global culture rather than just French culture. And we’re in a world of globalisation; everything is mixing and exchanging. I’m more into exploring and mixing several cultures.
- Interesting perspective! So do you see yourself as a world citizen?
Yeah, I think I’m more a world citizen… I’m happy to say that I’m French and I’m having the colours of my flag on me. But actually, I’m French-Danish as my father is French and my mother is Danish. So I have double nationalities and I grew up in both countries, so I’m not solely French. And I also like travelling so much — I like to feel home and meet friends everywhere I go. So I think being a world citizen is more interesting; it’s about your way of acting and it makes your mind more open to different things.
- What do you think about contemporary art?
I think the contemporary art world is very different from the 19th or 20th century when there were prevailing art movements. There are now a lot of different directions happening because there are way more artists and more communication. Everything can kind of be contemporary art, it is way more diverse. Every direction can be interesting, and you need to discover and show to people new ways of thinking. Another thing in the contemporary art world is the need to deal with speculation in the art market, but I think that’s not totally a bad thing.
- How do you perceive yourself as an artist?
I don’t like to say I’m making art pieces… I think I’m kind of trying to be an artist… Being an artist is a huge thing for me and I don’t like this definition. I think I’m just someone who’s thinking and proposing something while using art to show it. I don’t mind if I’m being seen as an artist or not, and I think someone becomes an artist when everyone around sees him/her as an artist.
December 12, 2015
The saying that “less is more” has become a household phrase; you probably hear it many times around Christmas as your senior family members attempt to force you into a practice of festive humility. And it relates to us more than ever today, especially as the COP21 summit in Paris last week saw global political leaders meet to discuss the future of our planet. It’s just a stone cold fact that we consume way too much and that this is running the world’s resources dry. From the seasonal rewriting of what’s fashionable to the mass production of cheap, useless, plastic crap which begs you to replace it within one week, our planet is becoming cluttered and requires us to go back to basics if we want to preserve anything we’ve built thus far.
With Black Friday now behind us and Christmas beginning to pump out its festive cheer to a choking point, you really get to thinking about stuff. And on the other side of a full-length anti-consumerism diatribe that need not reveal itself here, comes the revelation that wanting some stuff isn’t bad at all. And that is where Korea Now! Craft, Design, Fashion and Graphic Design in Korea at the Musée des Arts décoratifs, comes in. The entire show makes a strong case for thoughtful craftsmanship as a superior alternative to mass production, its high-quality design and minimal aesthetic presenting a lifestyle where less really is more.
The idea of the term ‘function’ and how it relates to an object is interestingly presented. The overarching sense is that the exhibition’s artists are actually “redefining the idea of function” to not only encompass practicality and form but also culture. How can an object [emulate] but also provide for a certain cultural demographic? For example, a room that is given over to exhibiting the collection of wares that make up the country’s tea ritual is equally about design and Korean cultural tradition. Not only are we presented with the table and crockery but are also informed of the ceremony’s cultural heritage which is intact within the objects themselves. Whilst the cultural history of this rite is broad and complex – spanning regions, religion and specificities of design among many things – the objects themselves remain simple, retaining a sense of ancient tradition in their slick contemporary form. Yong-Il Jong’s teapots are notably fine; exquisite pieces of glistening, snow-white ceramic that capture the “serenity” of this daily tea ritual.
Clearly the emphasis for artists like Yong-Il Jon is contemporary simplicity combined with tradition. And it does seem that for this uncluttered aesthetic, the idea and story of the objects involved are as important as their tangible counterparts. Dae-Sup Kwon’s awesome rendering of Korea’s famous design export the ‘Moon Jar’ is a perfect example of this collision of culture and form; the ceramic’s spherical smoothness and milky shade embodying a satisfying homage to its centuries of importance rooted in the Joseon Dynasty.
The labour that is involved in creating these objects is pretty breathtaking. Dae-Sup Kwon is said to make just four to six Moon Jars per year, the long firing time and high kiln heat making them “exceptionally difficult to produce”. In textiles, Seulgi Lee’s creation of his extraordinary quilt, titled Ètre écrasé par une paire de ciseaux = faire un cauchemar, has been a process spanning decades and Hyo-Joong Kim’s textile piece uses the technique of kknekki which allows pieces of cloth to be sewn together without leaving any visible stitching. And despite all of this, these artists continue to produce their wares, unhindered by the mammoth processes that are required. The expression ‘lovingly hand-made’ merely scratches the surface of the efforts of these craftsmen.
In a short film that explores the working lives of some of the artists through interviews, we are encouraged by them to embrace the viewpoint that a better quality of craftsmanship leaves you with a better quality of life. And it’s pretty convincing. The key element is that less is more, from the colour palettes to the smooth lines, to the number of objects considered in a ‘collection’. Their wares act as a symbol of ancient techniques while embodying Korea’s cultural history, giving their contemporaneity a sense of timelessness. Reflecting on our excessive consumer habits, I can’t help but think that a little re-hash of these patterns to suit the Korean sense of minimalism might take us a long way. Indeed, if the artists’ words ring true then we could be more happy by striving to own fewer, more beautiful, high-quality, and thoughtfully crafted objects. The bonus is that we give the planet’s resources a break. After all, it would be rather unromantic if our ultimate earthly demise was caused by one demand too many from a homewares bargain bucket.
Korea Now! is showing at the Musée des Arts décoratifs until 3rd January 2016. Entry free for EU residents under 26. More information here.
December 11, 2015
This week the Saatchi Gallery in London launched their show ‘UK/RAINE: An Open Competition For Emerging Artists From The UK and Ukraine‘, a project which is designed to display the best emerging talent from two very different European countries.
The work that is featured has a fresh and provocative vibe to it, feeling so new and innovative. There were a range of pieces on offer from James Fitzpatrick‘s bizarre and eye-catching sculptures to Matthew Spencer‘s street art pieces, meaning that this was no conventional art show.
One of the highlights of the exhibition, and the deserving winner of the whole competition, was Sergiy Petlyuk‘s ‘Untitled‘ video piece which gave a new meaning to this type of installation. The video almost seems to come alive as Petlyuk projects his pieces in a range of original ways on a range of different materials and it is definitely something that needs to be seen to fully appreciate its detail and its intricacies.
Overall the show is a massive success, allowing people to see not only up and coming artists from the UK, but expanding this and allowing them to see the international talent on offer as well. The exhibition contains an array of different genres and each room of the gallery provides a new experience which is as bold and as stimulating as the last. The show is running from the 24th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016 so make sure you don’t miss out on seeing the array of talent from the artists of tomorrow.
December 10, 2015
Europe is a major topic of discussion, now in the eye of the refugee crisis, more than ever. Some people are scared and see the challenges Europe is confronted with, while others are more optimistic and focus on the bonds and the cultural roots European countries share and see this as a chance for European nations to grow closer together. The Victoria & Albert Museum has always had a special role in conveying European history to the public. Therefore, it assumes its role once again now with the opening of the new Europe galleries Europe 1600-1815.
These are a continuation of the Medieval and Renaissance galleries that lead up to 1600, and whereas the galleries from 1600 to 1815 have existed before, they have not been renovated since the 1970s. Therefore, the museum decided that it was time to do so. This was a major project that lasted over five years and was sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund and private funds. Architects ZMMA made a great job in opening up the gallery space and giving the ceiling its original height back, as well as providing more gallery space for the exhibition, by taking back the attached rooms that were previously used for storage. The lead curator for this permanent exhibition is Dr. Lesley Miller and she and her team of restorers, conservators, curators and technicians did an incredible job.
When you walk through the seven galleries you immediately sense that you are in an old historic building, but in very modern rooms. Every transition, from one work to the next and from one room to another, is smooth. The large windows are blocked to not let sunlight in, but the artificial lighting is efficiently pointed towards those objects the curators meant to lead our attention towards. There are little leather sofas scattered around the exhibition for visitors to rest once in a while, again, strategically positioned in front of particularly important work.
The gallery compromises seven rooms in total, most are long galleries and each one is in a different color and in periodic order. The room in the middle is round and allows a natural short break before visiting the second half of the exhibition. Additionally, you can find some smaller rooms attached to the sides of the galleries, which show us dressing rooms and bedrooms from the time. These are beautiful and richly decorated rooms, entirely reconstructed the way they used to be.
Room 7 is called Europe and the World, 1600-1720 (the one highlighted in the V&A above), but it is chronologically the first room visitors enter after having visited the Medieval and Renaissance galleries. It is also the first room you see when entering the V&A through its main entrance. Its walls have a deep purple color and it demonstrates to what extent Europe at the time was shaped by trade, colonization, and religious conflicts. It also touches upon the regions colonized by major nations like Portugal and Spain.
Room 6 is the second room and it is called The Cabinet and displays collections of all sorts of objects that people at the time collected.
Room 5 is called The Rise of France from 1660 to 1720 and contains objects and paintings related to French society, culture and, of course, politics. Particularly memorable here is a very large painting that required seven people to hang it onto the wall. It shows the gardens of a castle designed by the architect of Louis XIV; it is incredibly detailed and it is one of the few objects the V&A acquired while renovating the Europe Galleries, whereas most of the objects were already in its collections.
Room 4 is the above-mentioned room, the center room of the galleries, round and connecting both long corridors of galleries with each other. It’s main content is a specially commissioned artwork called The Globe, which serves as a space for meeting, discussion and debate. It is also the Enlightenment room; during this time the Enlightenment emerged in Europe and, for example, a controversial Encyclopedia intended to encompass all human knowledge was published. Various objects relating to this theme can be found around The Globe.
The second-to-last two rooms are called City & Commerce and cover the time period from 1720-1780. Following the French Revolution, wealthy Europeans started enjoying a less formal way of living. During this time, artists and designers developed the Rococo style. Catholicism plays an important role during this time and thus these rooms contain several historic objects from churches.
The last room is called Luxury, Liberty & Power, 1769 to 1815 and it is dominated by Neoclassicism, inspired by the then recent discoveries of ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt. Here, France and the French Revolution play an important role, as well as Napoleon’s rise to power, as both movements used the arts to promote their cause.
These galleries are an absolute must-see and on Monday the V&A’s Director Martin Roth hosted a roundtable in honor of the opening of Europe 1600-1815 so stay tuned to hear more about it! But you absolutely have to go see the galleries for yourself.
December 9, 2015
Once again I took a dive into the internet archives of artwork and photography from Albania, in order to bring you relatively unknown work. For this article, I want to focus on women, because I realized that my last one presented you with mostly male artists. Having said that, the options are fairly limited. It seems difficult to be an English-speaking user of Google searching for Albanian work. I came across a lot of amateur photography, but in terms of more established artists, there was internet silence. Maybe this indicates that there is not much of it, or more likely I am ignorant as to the best way to find it.
What I did come across, however, is endlessly fascinating. So this article will integrate two very different concepts and styles of photography, governed by three broad themes: gender, photography, and Albania. It could also be argued that there is fourth theme creeping in around the edges, which is identity.
The first incredible project is by a portrait photographer named Jill Peters, whose complex and difficult work explores questions of gender identity and social acceptance. I recommend viewing her project called “third gender”, which documents the Indian hijra.
Peters herself is American, but she travelled to Albania to photograph a puzzling gender-bending tradition wherein women in the north decide to become sworn virgins, and to take on the social role of a man. This essentially involves a gender transition. The woman dresses like a man, wears her hair short, in some cases even changes her name, and is allowed to partake in the social positions occupied only by men in Albania. As I understand it, this is a dying tradition, so Peters’ work is particularly relevant as an historical document. A short video (must-see!) on the website describes the different reasons why women choose to take on this role. It mostly has to do with the fact that in traditional Albanian society, they are not considered social equals to men, and are basically in the power of their fathers, brothers, and later husbands. The sworn virgins sacrifice their sexuality and gender identity in order to work independently, to provide for their families, or, as the video states, to be free.
Obviously, this project opens many questions and problems about the nature of this transition, but it does not necessarily seek to answer them. The portraits are straightforward, often posing their subjects with landscapes of Albania in the background. It shows them in their everyday clothing, in the process of doing work, or in their homes. What the project exposes in its best photographs are the subtle non-binary physical attributes that blur the lines of gender and present the viewers with something entirely new. It is a deeply complex situation to choose, or be pressured into, and so the photographs achieve something significant which is to probe and disrupt the visual and intellectual vocabulary of their viewers.
The second woman I discovered is named Eni Turkeshi, who is a contemporary photographer and artist from Albania’s capital, Tirana. Her work has been featured in many publications and group exhibitions, all of which can be found on her Flickr account. She works in all mediums of photography but specializes in alternative processes; cyanotypes, albumen printing, and other analogue techniques. Because of her interest in these processes, her photographs often take on the blurry, romantic, and layered qualities of darkroom mistakes. But for Turkeshi, this has become an entire aesthetic. In their less developed forms, the photographs appear to be amateur, but at their best, they are intricate portrayals of emotion and self-awareness and display a talent. Part of why I was so excited about her work is because I found her on many different online websites, none of which are particularly edited or curated, so I was able to take part in her process. This is, for the most part, experimental. I could see her attempts, which were more and less successful. She has seemingly endless amounts of projects posted on her Behance account, most of which are titled from songs or poetry. She makes many self-portraits, and photographs other women as well. This combined with the romantic and soft aesthetic led me to understand that her work has a distinctly feminine undercurrent, where she explores her own identity. Find a selection of her photographs below:
December 7, 2015
Juliette Losq is a London based artist, both born and raised in the city. Before taking an artistic path, she undertook an immersive training as an art historian, graduating with an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and continuing on to study fine art. Having had a number of solo and group exhibitions in the past, the artist mostly works with traditional technique of watercoloring, though adding a touch of contemporaneity to the artistic feel of a piece. I caught up with Juliette in her studio in Southwark (n.b. the artist just moved to a new location, DZ), where surrounded by a variety of her pieces we talked about art, literature, and life.
- How do you see contemporary art per say and its purpose, if there is any.
I don’t really see it’s having a single purpose. I just feel like it’s got to that point where if you’re making contemporary art you can use any medium to make it that you feel fitting to your ideas, so I don’t think anyone’s really restricted anymore to painting, drawing, sculpture…
- Do you think it’s in a way easier to be a successful artist because there are so many types of medium you can use, or are there so many different choices you can make that it’s in fact harder?
I think it’s always been hard – artists have always struggled. It’s probably more difficult to be recognized for a particular medium as a standout person within that medium because it’s no longer just about being a painter or a sculptor, or even a photographer, is it, you can mix them all together and be making work in all of them, which a lot of successful artists do.
- So be original in a way…
It’s always been difficult to be original hasn’t it, but it seems that throughout history people just look around them and see what’s come before them and then just reimagine it or reuse it in some way, so it is like the most exciting people are aware of what’s happened before or a range of things that’ve happened before and then they’re changing it in their own particular way.
- Is that something you’re trying to do because you’re using techniques of watercolour?
Technically I do look way back to 19th century painting and drawing, I look at things like the Hudson River School who are American landscape painters, and I look at the preRaphaelites in terms of their colour, not in terms of their subject matter. I look at etching, woodcuts; I just like to collect images. I must be drawn to particular things because they sort of feed into the work, if not instantly then a little bit further down the line. But I do definitely like the aesthetics of print and graphic drawing.
- But it’s still a traditional art form seen through contemporary eyes?
Sure, because we can’t avoid that. Instantly, I’m filtering it through contemporary vision but definitely I’m interested in changing historical techniques slightly so even though I’m using materials that have been used traditionally in watercolour, I’m doing it slightly differently, so I might be using watercolour more in the way that you might use ink as a drawing tool. I use modern mediums with watercolour as well, so things that have only been invented or refined into their current fom maybe in the past 50 years or so.
- For instance?
I use something called masking fluid which is a stopper, so I can stop the ink from touching the paper at all and then remove it right at the end to just have the raw paper, so it’s almost like diluted latex solution.
- So do you research these kind of things in advance?
Well it’s trial and error, really. But the way I happened upon it was because I liked the process of etching and I worked out a way of reimagining that process using ink and watercolour and this masking fluid stuff so rather than building up an etching plate I was building up an individual image in the same way you would, so you have to have a certain knowledge of materials but then you just experiment until you find something that you’re happy with, and then it’s always interesting when someone takes something to the extreme limits of how you can use it, so I guess I try to do that.
- Also, watercolour was always an artwork of a smaller scale, and you are trying to make it a largescale piece?
Definitely, I think that’s a different way of using it. Traditionally it was used as a sketching medium, but I really do enjoy working on a large scale with it and I think that’s another way of making something contemporary that’s historically been used in a different way.
- I know you studied art history first. You are an art historian. Were you always fascinated with the 19th century art practice? Did you want to be an art historian or an artist after all?
I always wanted to be an artist really but I think I was too easily persuaded out of it when I was at school. They wanted me to do an academic subject, and I did enjoy studying art history. I was drawn to particular eras, it was 18th and 19th century, because if you look at some of those 19th c paintings, the pre-Raphaelite ones are almost photographic and you just wonder, it was always fascinating to me how did they get that effect, ignoring the subject matter, the vibrancy of them… it still looks hyper real now when you look at some of those paintings.
- So would you say that they are your inspiration?
Not really, there’s lots of things that go into it, there’s literature…
Mainly British, I suppose. Things like old magazines and newspapers that I read and found and collected and images that appear in films, also objects…
- Just everyday objects, or?
Sometimes specific things I collect, I literally trawl ebay until I find something interesting, just a cover of an old newspaper or a poster for a film, and I’ve just acquired them and had a few walls of my studio plastered with pictures that could then become an inspiration for something else. There’s only a couple left up there now but like. Right now I’m quite interested in looking at traditional Chinese painting… Those artists were not bothered about whether a landscape really can make sense as we would think about it in terms of Western perspective; they’re just narrating a landscape almost, which is quite interesting.
- So that’s what you’re doing with your landscapes in terms of trying to make them realistic, isn’t it, though could you elaborate on why it is landscapes that you’re mostly interested in and what’s behind them?
I guess it’s the idea of using the real world as an inspiration for creating your own environment, and that’s what happens with the big installations as well, I’m using elements of the real world but reconstructing them to form my own…
Yeah. It is not a real place, but obviously I’ve taken elements of real places and reconstructed them, and I do the same thing when I’m making one of those installations, I take elements of a real landscape and put them back together a different way and then blow that up into a large installation.
- In terms of a viewer, are you trying to communicate something to them? Perhaps an experience?
I want them to be drawn into that world, I want it to be believable and I want them to… yeah I want them to experience… You’re looking at somewhere where society is broken down a bit and you’re just surrounded by nature, which I do quite like the idea of. I want you to be drawn into it and then find something in it that you think is a bit jarring or not quite right so it’s slightly threatening and also quite enticing at the same time. I’m often thinking about science fiction films where they’re set in these kind of broken down landscapes and certain horror films, postapocalyptic films but I’m not seeing them in that way, I’m not seeing these landscapes as being totally threatening…
- So that’s why you’re trying to make it look wild, or imperfect?
I just like imperfection, I always have done as a child being brought up in London just finding places that are overgrown because it is unusual to find an area of greenery or an area of interest, or an area that you could crawl into or make a den in in the middle of the city. I read a lot of science fiction, so for me, it’s not a reference to something, but it kind of reminds me of all the imaginary cities or buildings in the books and comics.
I saw some really nice illustrations for Jules Verne…
- He’s classic.
I saw some etchings by Édouard Riou…. it was this underwater scene with jellyfish floating like clouds, wacky things like that…
- In terms of being an artist today, do you think it’s important to finish university to be actually qualified in terms of MFA, for instance, in fine arts to be successful?
I think life is always more difficult if you haven’t been through the art school system. I do know people who have gone straight from another degree. I know someone who did a languages degree and then went into art but in a different sphere, but I just think generally, your life would be a lot easier if you studied at art school. I think an MA can help as well if it comes at a time when you’re ready to break down your work and then go back and refine your own practice, it’s also good for meeting people and getting exhibiting opportunities. But there is a whole raft of outsider artists who have not studied at art school. The Museum of Everything is a great place to see this kind of art.
- Do you have a favourite artist? Or an artist who is your inspiration?
I like Samuel Palmer, some 18th c artists, quite like Rococo design rather than painting, so things they did for designing ornaments, they call it rocaille. Contemporary artists… I like the installation artist Wade Kavanaugh. Mark Fairnington was a tutor of mine and is a great painter. I met some interesting painters through the John Moores Painting Prize – Neal Rock, Mandy Payne, Conor Rogers…
- Would you ever think about trying another medium?
At the moment I’m mainly working on paper, when I was at the RA I was doing oil painting, I tried acrylic painting as well. I definitely wouldn’t mind, I mean, I suppose for me it’s more about mixing 2D and 3D so I like doing installations and I like the way that they evolve over time and the way that they can be changed when you put them somewhere new. I like collecting objects and thinking about where those objects might lead. I’ve got a show coming up next year where I’m making a new installation which is going to be in collaboration with a furniture maker, so he’s going to make a nonfunctional piece of furniture that looks like it should have a purpose but actually it’s always going to be quite Escherlike, and then my drawing will respond to it. That’s a bit of a new direction.
- And finally do you have a few words of advice for young artists or young people in general?
I think it’s easy to be put off by people. So be consistent, put in the hours, do the work, don’t worry too much about where it’s going to end up, just have a body of work that you’re interested in, make it according to your own interests, not according to what you think you ought to be doing because everybody else is doing it. And other than that, someone gave me the advice that as long as you’re continuing to work, eventually it will go somewhere or it will feed into some other work that does. It’s when you give up and get out of the habit it of it that you can lose it.
December 5, 2015
A few weeks ago, I moved to a new place and as always, I took a walk around the block to see who my new neighbors would be. My interest was already piqued, so each new cafe and shop that I passed became a beacon of excitement as I rambled through. And without realizing it, I landed in front of a tiny gallery whose facade was completely made of glass. Before I noticed its name, I saw inside something that made my heart beat a little faster… gelatin silver photography.
For a photographer whose focus has been mainly black and white, large format film for over seven years, this is a treat to see. Not many people use the process anymore because of the digital revolution. But it is my understanding that many photographers still hold it dear to their practice, because it was through that process that they learned the art (and craft) to begin with. At my college in the United States, gelatin silver process is still taught as the foundation of photography, before the digital curriculum even begins. So it is very important to me and as you can imagine, I was thrilled at the discovery of this place.
I found out that it is called Rough Print Gallery, located at 14 Bradbury Street in Dalston, London. They mainly show darkroom work there, and have a new opening every Thursday evening. As it happened, it was Thursday, so I slipped inside to see the show.
All of the prints on the walls were tiny, maybe 5×7 inches each. Everyone was taking turns and crowding each other to get an intimate one-on-one appointment with each image. This was a lovely experience because even though I had to wait and allow others to take their time, once I arrived at the photograph, I entered into another world. The photographer is Mick Williamson, who I gather is the Head of Photography at The Cass (London Metropolitan University), and who has been photographing for over 30 years. His project, entitled Photo-Diaries is soft and beautiful. Each image is a black and white, brief meditation in the home and in nature; moments that could easily be passed by. They floated me into a state of reverie. When I read the small leaflet included in the show, it was noted that “Photographers often pride themselves on their ability to capture the decisive moment. The work of Mick Williamson however purposefully shuns the key moment, preferring instead to focus on what might be constructed as the missed opportunity.”
Indeed, I felt as though these moments had previously escaped me, and I was being reintroduced to them through Williamson’s work. They felt like real ruminations, not on anything particularly complex, but on something like the mystery of time passing or light shifting. Many photographs resembled each other and clearly flowed as a series. Each had a certain off-kilter moment of capture, feeling less like a completed thought or sentence, and more like a fragment. This forced me to think twice – look again – and look deeper, and in doing so connect in a greater way with each instance. Plus, they had those luscious grey tones only achieved through gelatin silver printing, which automatically won me over.
All in all, it was a great introduction to Williamson’s photography, and to Rough Print Gallery. I recommend paying a visit some Thursday evening to this tiny house of worship in Dalston. And though his website is currently under construction, there is a limited selection of Williamson’s work available for viewing here and here.
December 4, 2015
The Royal Academy of Art is known for its impressive exhibitions and their Ai Weiwei show is no exception. Providing a deeply political experience through the medium of art, the exhibition takes you on a journey through the life, work and struggle of the artist. This is more than just art, it is conflict, division, hope and resistance all rolled into one visual display.
With a mixture of sculptures, photographs, films, ceramics and much more, the exhibition acts as a provocative display of Ai Weiwei’s life and his relationship with his country, which is an extremely powerful thing to see. Weiwei’s work is so expansive that he cannot just be limited to the gallery setting, with one of his vast sculptures welcoming guests and I believe that this bold statement piece being brought onto the streets and directly to the people truly sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition.
However, if you want to catch one of the most significant exhibitions that has been displayed in London this year you’ll have to be quick as it finishes on the 13th December. Don’t panic though, to make the exhibition even more accessible, so as many people as possible can see this important collection of work, The Royal Academy of Art are extending their opening hours on its final weekend, offering art to the people 24 hours a day so there is no excuse for you not be able to catch this monumental display.
December 3, 2015
Unlike our previous articles about art fairs, this will not be able to provide you with any names or recommendations of galleries’ booths to visit. It is about the experience of an unusual art fair…
In a brownfield site of 3000m2 in the centre of Paris, the first edition of EXPERIENCES Art Fair is born. The art fair set out with an initiative to annually promote contemporary creation in empty buildings of the French capital, in partnership with a real estate group which provides the venue. This unique event features works created by more than fifty artists especially for this purpose including large-format photography, sculptures, video installations and urban art.
Committed to redefining obsolete codes of traditional art fairs, EXPERIENCES Art Fair offers an innovative and immersive panorama to reconnect the public with the artworks. At the same time, it aims to change the [normal] economic model of an art fair since all works are available for rental as well as for sale, and the organiser is directly funding art projects without galleries as the intermediary. In addition to selected French and international artists, this first edition of the art fair has also invited young Israeli contemporary artists while it presents simultaneously ten French artists in a hotel venue in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The venue and ways of display have lived up to the expectation of being unusual as the name of the fair may have denoted. The exhibiting venue is three storeys and can be described as shabby (but in a cool way, with hipster aura) compared to the usual setting of major art fairs (which can be bright and grand but perhaps more intimidating). The first floor is a large, dimly lit, long space, scattered with installations throughout. I was mainly fascinated by Alena Gaponova’s paintings in a room at the very end because they give different visual representations when colours of the lights in the dark room change –at one point you see a woman’s face painted on the canvas but the next moment it changes and you see a man’s face only.
On the brighter second floor, which is mainly dedicated to photography works by various artists, Maximilien Franco’s “InsideHEADphones” project stands out. It invites visitors to put on the headphones fixated in front of each photograph that depicts an anonymous passer-by in the street listening to music with his/her headphones. By listening to the same music to which the portrayed strangers were listening when the photos were taken, we can suddenly intrude into each of their personal worlds, as if a strange intimate link between the viewer and the subject is created through the music or songs.
At one moment during the vernissage, while fair-goers were chatting with friends and enjoying their glasses of wine in front of photography works, the light was suddenly dimmed and a team of performers came down the stairs, with the majority of around ten women wearing only underwear but each of them tied to an ironing board. They lined up in the middle of the exhibition space and started to perform [the act of] struggling to free themselves from their ironing boards while all visitors gathered around and paid full attention with the aid of mobile phones or cameras… This live performance, as I perceived, was probably about the emancipation of women from their family roles and social stereotypes. Besides the live performance art, observing other people’s reactions could be seen as part of the interesting “experiences”.
The top floor is for larger sculptural and installation works, but unfortunately, I have to say that the display on this floor did not seem as carefully curated and exposes incoherence. This can be a slight weakness when such an art fair is without any booths and artists just bring their own works to be exhibited next to one another in the same space, unlike any curated exhibition. On the other hand, several rooms at the back provide wonderful spaces of creativity, where one artist occupies and designs the setting and display of each whole room.
On the whole, the concept of EXPERIENCES Art Fair is innovative and has provided an alternative experimental platform to traditional art fairs. It has also demonstrated the creative energy in Paris, still being a breeding ground for young talents and an indispensable contemporary art scene. So come to experience this unique art fair from 28 November to 6 December 2015, it’s free entry anyway – also unusual for an art fair!