I was a very lucky student to have met Alessandro Piangiamore about a year ago during my curating course. Along with everyone in the class, I couldn’t help immediately falling in love with the magical air that his works diffuse. My admiration was soon reinforced by the profoundly solid and intangibly poetic ideas behind Piangiamore’s oeuvre. Born in Sicily, the artist is marked by a tremendous sensibility to nature and its cycles that find realization in his work.
- When and how did you realize you wanted to make art?
I grew up in Enna, a small town in the middle of Sicily. I didn’t have an opportunity to see art back then, except for a few art magazine illustrations available in the public library. Due to this shortage, I have discovered in myself a great attraction for images and for their visionary power, a sort of image bulimia. I also remember when I was a child my grandmother had an oil painting in the dining room. It was a mountain landscape with a river and a mill and there was a small human figure painted in red and white. I was very attracted to this painting and I used to climb on the sofa to look at it closely.
At the age of twenty, I moved to Rome and there I discovered a lot of classical and contemporary art and I realized that maybe being an artist was the most natural and pleasant thing to do. I was so naive at that time….
- Has the romantic allure of being an artist vanished?
Saying naive I was not referring to a romantic allure but to a sense of ruthlessness towards myself.
- Also, you say that you were much influenced by the power of imagery. However, most of your works are not pictorial. How did that transformation come about?
I don’t think that my work has transformed in a pictorial way. I’m still considering it as a disposal in which different possibilities are coexisting. Above all it’s sculpture, that’s due to a personal attitude to the matter.
Your question is obviously referring to works from the series La Cera di Roma. It’s a sculptural body of works with a formal aspect that at first sight is possible to mistake for a painting.
For me, it is a work based on a substance with its own origin and its original semantic and symbolic meaning. Of course this aspect, together with the formal component are contributing to the creation of an image. An artwork is always an image, whether it is two-dimensional, three-dimensional or mental.
- What is conceptual art for you?
It is just one of a multiplicity of re-definitions of what art could be, as well as an important step towards the implementation of contemporary approaches.
- I see. Are there any particular artists or ideas that have fundamentally influenced your approach to art?
I certainly looked back at the protagonists of the generations that are closest to me, especially Italians. I can also recognize a strong empathy for many of the images produced by the Arte Povera movement.
I remember this beautiful Bruce Nauman’s exhibition at Castello di Rivoli A Rose Has No Teeth, in 2007. It has changed my idea of making as well as the Tutto works by Boetti.
- I can absolutely relate to your admiration for both artists. But could you please elaborate on the idea of “everything”?
It’s an idea that finds its highest expression in Boetti’s tapestries entitled Everything. There is a marvelous affinity between the multitude of represented forms: they look as if they give birth to each other in a contiguous manner. I think the most beautiful element of these works is their realization, entirely assigned to the embroiderers. Boetti only asked them not to repeat the same form or pattern. Similarly, Nauman appropriates the time that he spent in his studio thinking, turning it into art; the attempt of making a work inside a work, such as in Manipulating the T – Bar, or Mapping the studio.
- And how has Nauman’s work affected you, and in what way has it changed your idea of making?
In 2007, after visiting A Rose Has No Teeth – a Nauman’s exhibition at Castello di Rivoli – I felt a strong sense of familiarity with his work. I remember a small, but a very powerful work A Cast of the Space Under My Chair, a concrete sculpture literally reproducing what the title describes. It was like hearing an unknown language and understanding it. A year before, in 2006, I made a work titled The Rainbow’s Gravity, a sculpture that is an upside down plaster mold of a puddle of rainwater. I do not want to compare the two works; there is a distance of 30 years between them. But I never saw Nauman’s work before this occasion and the similarity made me exalted. Something similar happened with a work titled All That The Wind Blows that I started in 2008 and that is still in progress. It consists of attempts to collect all the winds blowing in the world through small soil-made sculptures, abandoned for a period of time. Each of these periods are specific to a certain wind. When I started to give shape to this work, I had never heard of Alighiero Boetti’s book Classifying a Thousand Longest Rivers in the World (1977), but finding out about it made me so happy.
- I love your series All That the Wind Blows, which is indeed defined by a very beautiful and delicate thought behind it. And how would you define the red thread in your oeuvre? What ideas or aesthetics do all your works have in common?
In my work, I often try to crystallize everything ephemeral by flitting through a practical approach to the matter, which allows me to cleave to the reality. My research aims not to create single objects but to make their inner shapes and images emerge. Rather than being static or frontal, their features are accomplished through evocations and semantic and visual shifts.
In many of my works, there is a part in which I lose control, or rather do not decide the final result. This happens with the work of the series Tutto il Vento Che C’è (All That the Wind Blows- AK), as well as in a similar manner with the sculptures from the series La Cera di Roma, realized by melting residual candles collected from churches and people. The final result is a hybrid between sculpture and painting with a random color output. The same happens with the works from the series Primavera Piangiamore. These are sculptures in solid crystal within which fragrances are enclosed, or the inclusion of fragrances that add a color element but can no longer smell. The shapes have been decided by the crystal workers, I asked the crystal workers to decide on the shape of the artworks, using the new fragrances contained in the forms as inspiration. I did not intend to make designs, which can be a risk if you are using perfumes, and that is the reason why I decided to delegate the shape to the workers. I only want to make something which is generally related to an invisible realm, visible.
- In your works you widely use natural materials; soil, seashells, coral. Even visually they echo natural phenomena, for instance La Cera di Roma series have always reminded me of satellite photography. Also, your work process when “you lose control of the final result” much resembles the way objects emerge in nature. Where does this instinctively natural aesthetic derive from and does it have anything to do with your upbringing?
Of course, there are influences related to my personal education, or to a sort of familiarity with certain things. For example my mother has a great passion for coral; I grew up spending a lot of time in the countryside and I love to get lost in the sea.
Many natural elements appear in my work spontaneously, although recreating the nature has never been the goal of my practice. For instance, it’s very intriguing how volcanoes, which are part of my native landscape, came into my work. A few years ago, while I was rummaging through my archive of mountain landscapes, I found a postcard of a smoking volcano. There was also a piece of white coral from another work on my table. So I put the postcard on it: the coral was looking like the natural extension of the smoking eruption.
There’s also a folkloric aspect in my work. I have a great fascination for nature as something surprising and uncontainable. Beyond all doubt we can affirm that the worst natural phenomena are permeated with a sort of inexplicable harmony that bring about contemplation.
- And what about contemporary Italian culture? Does your work reflect or echo it in any way – are there any common areas or intersections?
Obliviously I think that ideas are in the air and in general there are point of intersections between arts. We can call this “sensibility of the time” or something like that. But to be more specific, it’s quite hard to reply to your question. I’m just having the sensation that there will soon be a great return to the essence of things.
- In 2014 you had a solo show at Palais de Tokyo, Pierre Bergè- Yves Saint Laurent foundation. Besides his genius, Yves Saint Laurent is also famous for establishing a continuous dialogue between fashion and art, thus lower and high culture. What is your take on mergence of higher and lower culture, utilitarian and sublime?
Where there is curiosity, different levels of expression meet each, which in itself is always a fruitful thing. And this is the place where higher and lower cultures meet also giving birth to new cultures.
January 29, 2016
On October 10, 2013, Phillips Auction House presented PADDLES ON!: the world’s first major commercial auction of works by artists using digital technologies as their medium. The auction, in partnership with the virtual art auction house and marketplace Paddle8, marked a change in attitude toward the already vibrant and diverse digital art movement, endorsing the cultural significance of digital art for collectors.
The digital art movement is seemingly all-encompassing as digital technologies are vastly diverse and easily manipulated. In turn, complexities of definition arise quickly, the most considerable of which regards digital production versus visual display in terms of the qualities necessary for an artwork to be classified as digital art. Some critics argue that a work of digital art can not be defined as such unless the final product itself is digital: ”on screen.” Despite disputes between scholars, however, digital art has become an umbrella term for different contemporary, digitalized art movements, such as internet art, net art, or new media art. The differences between them are contingent upon the audience, for the defining lines have been blurred into obscurity. At its essence though, digital art is an artistic work in which digital technology is the foundation or fabric of the artwork. Beyond the technological medium, the thread that ties the diverging sectors together is the contemporary artists’ reactions to the new modes of expression and cultural phenomena that they and their audiences have intimately experienced in their everyday lives.
With the rapid rise of the tech community, it is no surprise that the two worlds—both within the realm of creation and both culturally impactful—should begin to meld. Artists have always been some of the first to integrate new materials and technologies into their art, if not making such materials the central focus. As technology becomes increasingly influential, our lives have begun to shift towards a digital existence; intangible data empowered with new and physically disencumbered tools. Digital artists create works that are representative of this transformation. The range of art created by such artists is vast, spanning from mundane uses of a low-culture technology such as Google Image Search or Microsoft Paint to highly complex, interactive digital pieces that push the boundaries of technological innovation. Within this range, several artists have chosen to harness their experiences of our digitalized pop culture and day-to-day social interactions as a foundation for creation. They utilize digital technologies to reminisce on our fast-paced culture of technological obsolescence, their artworks infused with nostalgia for the constantly changing, digital pop-culture. This is Digi-Pop—the area of the larger digital art movement native to the computer and Internet that focuses on technology’s influence on communication, consumerism, entertainment, embodying the societal embrace of our digital metamorphosis.
In the 1990s, telecommunication exploded. During the end of the previous decade, personal computer development advanced to produce more powerful machines that were more capable and less expensive. As they became more common in the workplace and at home, it was not long before the Internet, previously used by the military and academic institutions, would infiltrate daily lives. The previous modes of communication like the telephone and TV have now been redefined by the Internet. Forms of personal interaction accelerated from face-to-face or phone conversations to Instant Messaging (IM) and social media networking. The birth of search engines allowed for libraries worth of knowledge to be almost instantly accessible, our constant “connectedness” a way to never be alone. Suddenly, a new, endless world existed to explore and excavate.
For those who witnessed the dawn of the internet, who tied up the phone lines forwarding chain emails, who spent long car rides with their Gameboys on hand and learned HTML for their Xanga site before even entering teen-hood, there is a sense of closeness. Our experiences of the birth and blink-of-an-eye growth of digital technology has created a personal and profound relationship beyond convenience. Like a friend or family member, technology has been with us as we grew and changed, growing and changing as well, helping to shape our identities. Seemingly overnight, how people present themselves to the world is no longer just physical. An entire generation’s development from childhood to adulthood was paralleled by the digital-technology and internet evolution. There is a certain unique attachment to, and nostalgia for, the technologies that defined our surroundings, relationships and experiences during these critical growing years.
Our interactions with technology and the internet has changed our lives in the real world; the cultural context in which we are entangled has defined our perceptions. Digi-Pop stems from this melding of online, digital persona and reality, relying on the audience’s familiarity with the digital realm for its artistic significance to be recognized. As our culture becomes digitized, a new visual lexicon has emerged that is greatly exploited by Digi-Pop artists. Internet veterans who have the most expansive knowledge of this symbolic vocabulary have changed the way we communicate. Emojis and GIFs are part of everyday correspondence, a reversion to a symbolic language like Hieroglyphs, but updated. Paddy Johnson, founder and editor of Art F City, compared the use of GIFs and Emojis as a mode of communication to Haim Steinbach‘s curated shelves displaying pop culture relics, “but whereas Steinbach’s selections are carefully arranged and often inscrutable, these…use a similar generic format for a very different purpose: high-speed conversation.”
Digi-Pop is engrained with nostalgia, as technology moves so quickly that obsolescence is almost a constant. Much of the artworks feel sentimental as the artists look back at the early days of the Internet, the pixelated animations and kitsch pop-ups, as the Romantics of the late 18th century looked back to the days before the Industrial Revolution, glorifying and longing a recent past suddenly so distant.
Digi-Pop also plays off of the inherent disjunction found within the experience of browsing the Web. There is a sense of safety and privacy while interacting with the Internet, one is physically closeness to a private screen. However, the content is “connected to the collective public commons of the Internet.” Digi-Pop is viewed in the same manner, it is a personal and private experience but of something immersive, a universal experience that is continuous with our daily interactions with the digital.
Utilizing the pop-cultural imagery and symbols from the digital age and using the internet as their foundation for presentation, here are ten artists that represent the Digi-Pop movement: Digi-Pop Part II: Who to Know
Digital technologies have given artists’ tools of creation whose capabilities seem infinite; artists write their own programs and algorithms and create digital, interactive, autonomous worlds, spaces. With such tools, digital art is growing at an exponential pace, matching the ever rapid development of technological innovation and further fueling Digi-Pop artists with a nostalgia for a not-so-distant past.
The collaboration between an online art market platform and an established auction house is only the start, it will not be long before cultural institutions begin to implement digital art into their collections, some, such as the New Museum, have already begun accommodating the rise in digital art by hosting online, digital exhibitions. With the Metropolitan announcing their mega-expansion and MoMA taking steps to reconfigure their space, one can assume they will be considering the proper infrastructure to house ever-more digitalized artworks and the multiple movements stemming from this new medium.
January 29, 2016
Krist Wood creates artwork that acts like a digital map, unfolding as you click through the artist’s website, each page taking you to a different URL complete with another hyperlinked image. Wood’s work is true to its medium, it is a sort of digital performance that occurs over multiple websites, mimicking the act of browsing by forcing the viewer to actively participate. The artwork is only realized if it is “surfed,” exploiting the nature of the Internet as the art itself is an interconnected network of websites—layers—that find its meaning only through interaction. His work also highlights the omnipresent, intangible quality of the Internet as it forces the viewer to acknowledge the invisible doorways of the web, the connectedness of the digital world.
Wood is the founder of Computers Club, a blog with nineteen contributing members that is a collaborative “digital sculpture” of GIFs, large-scale images with embedded videos and links, and software-based drawings. His website can be found here.
Another member of the Computers Club, Sassoon creates digital GIF environments that range from large, pixelated abstractions to digitized representations of his studio space or virtual rooms. Some of his works are full-fledged 3D models: though crude and lacking in detail, they depict the capabilities of early-Internet programing and visuals and create virtual environments that lack a narrative context and present a digital space for contemplation. Beyond the use of a low-tech, mundane medium such as the GIF, Sassoon’s works emphasize the extent that the digital has influenced, if not enveloped, our “IRL” (in real life) identities and lives.
As Sassoon states while discussing his artwork, “there is a form of darkness in my work process as well as in the environment surrounding my work…My studio is a very dark space inside a basement located in a city that is pretty dark for eight months of the year. A lot of my work emerges from extended periods of time immersed in that environment. This lifestyle allows me to project myself into a virtual world, but it also lacks the physical interactions of the real world.”
Tom Moody is a New York artist who entered the scene in 2001 with his blog and gained the attention of the art world in 2005 when he was featured by Art in America in the article “Art in the Blogosphere.” He uses obsolete, low-tech tools to create his digital artworks, ranging from pieces made on simple imaging software to drawings on MS Paintbrush (an earlier 90s version of MS Paint). Unlike many other digital artists, Moody’s skill-set would be considered amateur, as his coding knowledge stops beyond HTML—his under-designed blog layout a reflection of his limited technical abilities, as well as a nostalgic throwback to the early days of blogs and personal websites.
Moody’s newer artworks often are GIFs, hypnotizing optical abstractions that border on Op-Art with underlying pop-culture allusions. However, the endless loop reduces the impact of the images, creating a sort of soporific sensation within the viewer. “I am drawn to ‘cyber-kitsch’ in all its forms, whether in old programs such as MSPaintbrush, the amateur imagery that abounds on the Web, or the unintended poetry of technical glitches. My work proudly inhabits the ‘lo-fi’ or ‘abject’ end of the digital spectrum.”
Andrej Ujhazy is a Brooklyn based artist who creates Photoshop paintings that depict scenes inspired by video games. His works mimic the large landscapes and battle fields found in video games and allude to traditional history paintings. However, his style is gestural and expressive, which is paradoxical to both the medium and its digital inspiration. Ujhazy interjects his own individual and artistic touch into the video game’s narrative. While his works are still images, their massive scale and digital medium create an environment that consumes the viewer. Only by scrolling about the page can the full piece be realized. Ujhazy posts his digital artworks on various blogging platforms, his current blog can be found here.
Cory Arcangel in some way epitomizes Digi-Pop in that all of his works’ main purpose is to comprehend, or at least explore, the relationship between digital technology and pop culture. Arcangel has explored many facets of the digital world; however, his central focus has been video game culture. He uses the digital as his artistic style, often appropriating the visual language and sensory components of gaming and digital pop culture phenomena, if not manipulating the very technologies themselves. For instance, in his most well-known work, Arcangel hacked an early version of Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers, leaving only the sky and pixelated clouds floating past the screen. The game, with all of its other components reduced, is GIF-like, a constant, hypnotizing loop. In another piece, Arcangel modified an obsolete version of Super Mario where the game begins with Mario standing on a single cube in a vast world of nothing, left to just stand forever. Arcangel uses his knowledge of coding and software development to hack, experiment with and exploit common tools or objects of pop-culture as a means to expose and critique our ever-advancing relationship with the digital world.
Cortright’s name may be one of the most recognizable on the list, as she has garnered attention across multiple online platforms such as Tumblr and YouTube. Big in the GIF game, Cortright often produces digital works that emphasize the technological process of creation, including errors on the part of the artist.She makes use of the early internet visual lexicon, her work littered with the crude animated smiley faces, pop-ups, everything reminiscent of the “congratulations, you won!” era. She collages Google images with symbols from Internet Explorer’s toolbar plug-ins. Her YouTube videos are straight out of an early 2000s preteen’s bedroom where Cortright dances alone to hyper-electro, DDR music, her dance moves coming straight from the game itself. She’ll pause to play with her cat or adjust the camera. She interacts with digital technology in a familiar way, a nostalgic embrace of the early Internet, video game revolution.
Ulman has recently received a lot of attention for her digital performance piece on social media platform Instagram. Instagram and Digi-Pop go hand-in-hand, as social media has defined our pop culture, allowing its users to stay connected to quickly moving trends and influencing global tastes. Instagram is a network of curated lives, presenting an identity that, once posted, its consumption is out of your control, people can make up their own minds. Ulman’s Instagram series focused on this new-found ability to curate multiple identities in the digital world. The series follows a narrative arc of a girl in LA lost and found again. Scrolling through the works posted on Instagram over 21 weeks, one can see Ulman’s exploitation of the typical images and paired captions seen on a popular Instagram page, such as selfies, food shots, half-dressed girls and pop-culturally relevant memes. Her critical performance found its meaning as her professional and social relationships started to change as her peers began to assume truths about the artist through her social media presence, paralleling the experience
Lasko began creating his digital paintings at the age of 85, when his family gifted him with a personal computer that came preloaded with Microsoft Paint. The software, now obsolete and considered kitsch, was easy to use with high quality precision. Slowly going blind, the digital medium allowed Lasko to work pixel by pixel, creating large landscape pixel portraits and still lives. The translation of painting into pixels through the mundane software gives Lasko’s works an “old school,” early-internet and video game feel. One would not be surprised to find the scenes in the background of a early 90s computer game.
In 2013, “The Pixel Painter,” a short documentary about Lasko’s life and interest in the digital medium was released, it can be viewed here. Lasko died June 6, 2014, at the age of 98.
Olson is one of the founding members of the Nasty Nets’ “Internet Surfing Club”, a website where members all create web-based artworks that document and re-imagine their experiences online. Much of Olson’s artwork examines that act of searching the Internet and one’s response to this interaction as both the spectator and the performer. She often utilizes YouTube as her platform for both creation and presentation, playing off of the popular “response” videos found on the website. Olson’s interests largely lie in the cultural history of technology and the digital world’s impact on the future. Her series Assisted Living exemplifies this interest, parodying the typical domestic/home living TV show; however, Olson focused her video on DIY projects and recipes that are meant to help the viewer cope with new side effects of digital technologies and remain healthy in the technological world. The artist often attempts to point out the sometimes abusive influence technology has upon us, while in turn abusing technology itself. Her work can be nostalgic, as she sometimes works with mundane, out-dated technologies like the floppy disk or simple coding software, “Out of sight, out of mind…I feel like this is what’s happening with all of our tv’s, walkmen, air hockey tables, nintendos, etc as we follow our drives to upgrade. They just get pushed into dumpsters and disregarded. And I’ve been trying to think about my own role in this cycle, because I certainly love my iPod as much as the next gal.”
Similar to Cortright and Wood, Gorczynski creates websites as artwork that are composed of video, photography, digital painting and hyperlinked objects.
January 28, 2016
The film is overly ambitious at best.
Propped up by a clumsy narrative, it does not fulfill the ‘Musical or Comedy’ category that it was nominated for at the Golden Globes. It has zero comedic elements and may be described solely as a biographical drama. The film’s only salvageable element is the powerfully stunning performance by Jennifer Lawrence as daring entrepreneur Joy Mangano. Lawrence has just won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and has been nominated by the Oscars and the Academy Awards for Best Actress.
The film takes place in a small town in New York where everyday is cloaked in bleak wintery misery. It’s 1989 and Joy lives with her ex-husband, their daughter, her mother who never leaves the comfort of her bed and soap opera specials, her grandmother (who rather strangely narrates the film, *spoiler alert* even from her grave after she dies mid-movie), and then, to top things off, her bachelor father moves back in. Joy suffers from reoccurring flashbacks of her childhood when the family structure began to collapse but there was still hope for a promising future, perhaps away from everyone else.
Director David O. Russell seems to rely on the same stars cast from his previous box office hits (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook) to turn another blasé, overdone tale of entrepreneurship into something watchable. The film’s utterly misleading and ambiguous trailer only makes this fact more evident because anyone who watched it could not begin to tell you what the movie is actually about. Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro are shown front and center, exciting fans (myself included) and hinting at the potential for another love adventure between Lawrence and Cooper (Cooper isn’t seen until halfway through). There is absolutely no mention of any entrepreneurially-driven plot, simply a vague mood that drifts between intense and completely lackluster.
The tone of the film starts off as emotionally heavy and uncomfortable, employing taxing interactions between Joy and her deadbeat family as we see the depressing realities of her life play out. This not-so-joyful and unnecessarily long introduction finally leads up to the point of the film when Joy comes up with the idea for her Miracle Mop. Luckily, the pace quickens for the remainder of the film with the tone alternating between desperate excitement and hopeless dejection.
The film reaches its climax with a melodramatic and predictable legal battle, which Joy handles herself, in an ultra Hollywood-esque, cowboy western, don’t-mess-with-me attitude. Russell brings the story to a close on a rosier, more positive note with a clichéd happy ending, which we could all see coming from the start.
There are about a dozen or so cardboard characters throughout the film, all of which serve only as obstacles that Joy must overcome or props she may use in her desperate journey towards success. Everyone around her, from her family to friends to sketchy business partners, is portrayed with an exaggerated destructiveness that tests her patience and determination. Joy herself is stubborn and passionate while desperately trying to bury her overt discontent while simultaneously realizing her absolute potential (queue overdone American dream sequence).
Overall, the film seems forced. The story of lowly underdog struggling into self-made success is anything but original. However, the fact that this film centers on a strong independent female character gives the narrative more credibility. Lawrence, despite criticism that as a 25 year old she shouldn’t have been playing a 30-40 year old woman, perfectly fits the driven, blunt, no-mess role. Unfortunately, one has the feeling of entering this film completely blind (re: horribly produced trailer) and leaving rather disappointed.
Now, I don’t want to say this movie is a complete travesty, it’s watchable, but it certainly isn’t very good. I ended up having an alright time and only because of my undying love of Jennifer Lawrence. Joy Mangano’s story and achievements could have been portrayed much more genuinely and wholeheartedly had it not been for Russell’s poorly exhibited artistic endeavors. Russell has given less of a biographical depiction and more of his own over-exaggerated, clichéd, cinematic fictional fable.
January 26, 2016
One good thing about having friends from all over the world who live in London is that you can be informed about various events each one of them is planning to attend. This gives you a full glimpse of what is really going on in London, especially in the art arena.
Four final-year photography students from the University of East London took the initiative to form an organisation called RENEWAL which aimed to work with a community in London to raise awareness on using second-hand clothes and the importance of recycling unwanted clothes. These might benefit the less fortunate members of society who are in need of the basic necessities. But it all fell into place when TRAID charity appeared on the scene.
TRAID worked perfectly for these young, talented artists. What would they need anyway? A fashion charity with a sustainable and circular approach to the production, consumption and disposal of clothes across London. TRAID can be inspirational to most of us, in the sense that it has empowered RENEWAL to promote charity using a modern approach that would attract the youngest sectors of society through a charity fashion catwalk.
Labelled as the “Renewal Catwalk”, I cannot imagine myself being at any other place on a Friday evening. The effort put forth by the Renewal team is exceptional. The audience will experience a catwalk with different kinds of models, both conventional and unconventional, wearing clothes and accessories selected from many TRAID shops across London by the Renewal team. In the event, there will be a clothing collection point where people may drop off their quality clothes for donation to TRAID and the chance to get to know the team in person.
Such events, for me, may act as a turning point in such a way that art washes away all the dust and the chaos of the world. Art works as a stepping-stone to raise awareness. My motto has always been the same, art should raise awareness for what is going on in the world. The sad truth is that many people across the globe are in need of clothes and basic necessities that often are taken for granted. But as long as we have people like the RENEWAL, there is hope that the barrier of inequality could be eliminated.
Friday the 29th of January at the Loading Bay at The Old Truman Brewery – Brick Lane, London at 6:30pm.
Don’t miss it!
Be the change you wanna see in the world!
January 25, 2016
You may find that “Cambodian contemporary art” sounds unfamiliar, but it is actually emerging in the international art world. Cambodian contemporary artists were engaged in some international group exhibitions last year in Palais de Tokyo, Paris. This year, another French city, Lille would hold an exhibition solely of Cambodian artists, which is fresh, intriguing and educational at the same time. The exhibition “Phnom Penh” (capital of Cambodia) is part of the theme with four other cities under “Lille 3000 – Renaissance”. “Lille 3000” is a large-scale cultural programme with exhibitions, public installations, theatre programmes, etc. spreading all over Lille, which was elected as the European Capital of Culture in 2004.
Cambodia is recovering from its painful history of Khmer Rouge (1975-1979) which destroyed almost everything in the country, including art and culture. The recent rapid economic development is going alongside the reconstruction of its art sector. Bearing rich cultural tradition, Cambodian artists are constructing their new ways in the contemporary art scene. Seen from such contexts of the country, their art is refreshingly unique, and goes particularly well with the theme “Renaissance”.
The “Phnom Penh” exhibition consists of different mediums of art including painting, photograph, sculpture, video of performance and film, by both internationally recognised artists and those who have not before been exhibited.
Paintings by Theanly Chov depict people trying to get their heads out of water to breathe, symbolised by a line discreetly crossing their faces at mouth level. This is a metaphor for the situation of the artist himself and other ordinary people in his country who might have benefited little from the economic development.
Anida Yoeu Ali, who had an art performance at Palais de Tokyo, Paris last year, is one of the foremost performance artists in the world. The current exhibition displays a video of her poetic and aesthetic performance, where she appears to be dancing in the middle of rice fields –the representative kind of landscape of Cambodia. It is an act of rediscovery of the Cambodian countryside, departing from the growing city of Phnom Penh.
Another artist, Ti Tit is without any artistic or technical training, and started initially as a blogger, who kept posting funny pictures accompanied with provocative captions, either in French, English or Khmer. For example, he stages fake suicides to instigate existential questions. Born after 1990, this very young artist puts us in the perspective of the young generation in a rapidly developing Cambodia.
This exhibition gathering three generations of artists could give an overview of Cambodia’s traumatised history and recent economic development. Transformation and the search for an identity (or a new one) seem inevitably to be recurrent themes in Cambodian contemporary art … or actually in the art of our time in general?
January 24, 2016
I had the honour to meet a great artist and, above all, a great person. Maria Aristidou is a commercial artist from Larnaca, Cyprus. Her work went viral because of her own distinctive technique: using coffee as her medium. Maria studied BA Fine Art Printmaking at the Manchester Metropolitan University, and completed her postgraduate degree in Arts Health at the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom. Maria is interested in pop culture phenomena and trends and most of her pieces are influenced by movie characters and science fiction, which makes her work even more intriguing. Enjoy her words in our tete-a-tete.
- What do you think contemporary art really is?
Contemporary art is something very personal and open. It is the opportunity of an artist to express his or her feelings so broadly using any type of medium. The exciting part of contemporary art is that it has no limits. A person that never had an experience with artistic knowledge has the opportunity to interact with any medium and create art. So contemporary art opens its doors to everyone. Contemporary art is the new world we live in. For me, the media is the new distinctive form of art. We are not depending on galleries and agents anymore. From a personal perspective – I am not implying that this is absolute – contemporary art gives the opportunity to everyone to create something masterly, creatively and cleverly and consequently, to be successful from it. It’s the evolution of the history of art.
- Where do you place yourself in the “art arena” – are you conceptual?
I was given the label of a commercial artist. So, I am a commercial artist. I do love marketing and the fact that I am commercial does not necessarily mean that I don’t belong under the umbrella of the “visual artists”. I do work with concepts if I am asked to. I am drawn into teamwork, into communicating with other artists and customers. I became known due to my concept technique, which is coffee, and I think that this is a concept itself.
- I completely agree with you. How did the coffee technique emerge?
It all started in February 2015. It was completely accidental. I was painting using watercolours, and suddenly coffee poured on my paper and when I saw the effect of coffee on my paper I said “why not?”. From that day onwards, I started experimenting using coffee as my medium. I used different coffee brands and blends. I realised that if I worked with different blends, the colour effect was altering. Subsequently, the technique I have today came out of this process of experimentation. Every coffee has a different colour effect. The Greek coffee has a very interesting effect; it is between grey and sepia. I cannot really explain it.
- Is there another ‘unconventional’ medium you would like to explore in the future?
Yes. Tea will be my next attempt.
- Do you think tea will have the same effect?
I haven’t worked with tea as my medium yet. I do have some thoughts how the effect will turn. For instance, I presume that tea will be much lighter and smoother than coffee. You can use anything that extracts colour as your medium. It is up to the artist to use those colours to make up an unconventional technique. Even ketchup would do.
- When you create, do you instantly create or do you have a specific procedure you follow?
There is a procedure. I need to observe the picture that I am painting. I have to start painting the light areas and then proceed to the bolder ones. The tricky part of coffee is that as soon as you start painting there is no way back. You cannot erase anything. So every time I start painting with coffee I am a bit restrained and then I go crazy (laughter). I start splashing, throwing and lose myself in my painting.
- Are you a coffee lover?
I am indeed!
- So basically, one day while you were painting, your coffee was poured accidentally and that was it, you went viral as a coffee artist.
Exactly. The funny part of the entire story is that the coffee that was spilled that day is not the coffee I am using today to create my pieces. I spilled my latte. I always drink latte! But now, I am not using latte as a medium. You know milk is a bit risky so I’d rather use coffee. Plain coffee. But no sugar (laughter).
- What is so special about coffee compared to other materials?
Coffee is a material that can destroy your brush easily. With other materials, if you clean it properly you can go on with the same brush for years. But with coffee, it’s completely different. Coffee can wear your brush easily. Perhaps, coffee is what draws me into a painting. Coffee gives me that vibe of roughness and toughness. Perhaps it is the entire concept of coffee. I cannot explain it. When I use watercolours the essence I get is not the same. Watercolours reflect a smoothness. It is something nice, neat and perfect. But with coffee, I can express who I really am. I simply go crazy and wild about it. It is okay to be messy with it! Perhaps it is something personal. The addictive element of caffeine probably makes me more passionate about it. I could say there is a psychological implication to it. I will never forget the day I started experimenting with coffee. It was a turning point on my own career. I can still remember one day I was asked to do a coffee portrait of Einstein and Churchill. With Churchill it was an entire different story, I was so delicate about him. But with Einstein, I went crazy. Probably, the ambiance of each personality I am painting is what alters my technique and the level of roughness I use. So I need to relate and draw with the characters I am painting.
- What is truly your source of inspiration?
My source of inspiration is social media and pop culture. Movies, celebrities, not the Kardashians though. Something that questions my mind. When I did the Star Wars series, you have to bear in mind that I am not a fanatic compared to the fanatics. What made me completely fanatical about Star Wars is the thought behind the characters, that sort of personality building process. The team, the product design, the marketing behind that character. The background story of each character is my true source of inspiration. For instance, Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland diachronically, have had a project plan, a thought behind every character and that is what excites me when I am working.
- Do you think its important for a painting to be aesthetically nice?
It is important. But I do believe that balance is the key. What is “aesthetically nice” is up to the material you are using, the concept you are deploying and most importantly how masterly an artist delivers it into a paper or canvas. Being decorative is not what makes a piece aesthetically nice.
- What are your plans in the future? Is there something that the public should not miss?
My mind is always travelling. I am working on cakes right now. I do have dreams and ideas about what I want to do in the future but I am not sure because things change all the time. The only thing that I can define as a plan is that I want to be stable. Stable not in terms of being situated in a routine. I like messiness that will help me evolve as an artist.
- As a young artist what is your advice to those that aspire to be part of the “art world?”
Just go crazy. What you do, do it perfectly and masterly. I am quoting Walt Disney: “whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” This is my advice. And most importantly love yourself.
January 22, 2016
“There are thousands of ways to approach music,” we are told as we venture into the basement of La Gaîté Lyrique, towards the extraordinary augmented and electronic noise of Paris Musique Club. This is an audiovisual exhibition that dismantles and rebuilds the traditional idea of just listening to music. The notion of ‘approaches’ to music immediately implies the potentially varying experiences we can have as listeners, suggesting that there is more than just listening involved. Parisian label Scale, who were given carte blanche to produce the exhibition, make a sonic-visual collision the focal point of the show. The exhibition gains a lot from it’s surprising smallness in both number of works (6) and spatial scope, giving each intricate piece the space to explore ideas of listening, viewing and performing.
First, 1020s: a fusion of classical music – Ravel’s ’Bolero’ – with contemporary, CGI visuals projected onto a large structure resembling in equal parts an iceberg and an orchestral pit (a nice shout out to ‘Bolero’s’ roots if intentional). The experience is enticingly immersive, requiring spectators to put on headphones which block out about 80% of the outside noise and lets you just float along. What you see on the iceberg are light projections in various structures, colours and patterns, these being the visual counterparts of ‘Bolero’ that have been meticulously translated by numeric formula. ‘Bolero’ is therefore rejigged as 1020s retains the original music but presents an alternative way of experiencing the score through the audiovisual. The new dimension that is added to the classical in 1020s renders you both the traditional ‘listener’ and, newly, the ‘viewer’. Note, if you are one of those people who thinks classical music is boring, then this might change your mind.
Résistance and Playground together extend the roles of ‘listener’ and ‘viewer’ to include ‘performer’. Résistance, a self-playing piano which allows you to tweak its pre-installed melodies, also permits you to play it normally with the addition of an enormous network of tubes illuminated with various colours depending on the note. Watching people play is fascinating, looking back and forth between tubes and piano as if cracking a code. Even an adept pianist finds himself flummoxed by the connection between the notes and their colour responses. The new dimension that is given to this traditional instrument is clearly difficult to navigate as the seasoned player stumbles over his fingers, unable to immediately find the biting point between his roles as ‘listener’, ‘viewer’ and ‘performer’. This performative element is important as it helps you play an active role in your understanding of Scale’s multi-dimensional musical space, suggesting that it is equally as important as listening and viewing. Indeed, Scale’s decision to stress the importance 0f performance in an approach to music as a listener provides you with a fresh understanding of sounds as you are producing. What’s more, you are struck by the sense of music’s universality: no-one really knows how to play it and so no-one is too self-conscious to try it out.
In a similar way, Playground lets you play an enormous (36) set of drums by stepping on any combination of 16 pads, each corresponding with the self-playing drums which also feature a visual element in trippy abstract graphics that are projected onto the skins. Whether you are a kid storming gung-ho onto the mats or an adult with a slightly more methodical approach, everyone is trying to get their head around how to engage with this ‘uncanny drum kit’ that they only at least partially understand. And what is so brilliant about it is that gung-ho or methodical, either approach is totally acceptable, living up to its namesake Playground.
What is so appealing about this show is the almost unhindered allowance of interaction with the works. At only one point does an invigilator make a somewhat perfunctory intervention to encourage some kids not to jump “too hard”. This free reign provides an atmosphere that lets you approach the installations as you wish, guiding you to the ultimate revelation that the ideas of viewing and performing are just as important as listening. This contemporary concept of music references the prominence of electronically produced sounds in composition today, an approach governed by interdisciplinary approaches spanning computing, maths and visual arts to name a few. And with its crossing of both disciplines and listener roles, Paris Musique Club ultimately achieves the expression of music’s contemporary universality. We discover that we are truly an integral part of the music, both in the show and beyond.
Paris Musique Club is running at La Gaîté Lyrique until 31st January 2016. More information here.
January 14, 2016
Tonight marks the launch of London’s first ever festival of light, Lumiere. In a few hours time, when another long shivery evening will fall over the capital, a multitude of installations – some impressive and spectacular, others intimate and mysterious, all of them dazzling with light – will illuminate many of London’s well-known landmarks. Places like Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly, Oxford Circus, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and various sites in Mayfair and King’s Cross will be adorned, transformed, and made strange by the inventions of leading artists, art collectives and design studios from all over the world. The festival originates in the city of Durham, where creative producers Artichoke have staged Lumiere Durham biannually since 2009. Durham locals have grown both accustomed and attached to their beloved festival and might not feel that enthusiastic over its move to the capital. Luckily there’s plenty of art, love and light to go around which is why I’d like to give a taster of some of my favourite Lumiere London pieces, all of which you can expect to encounter every night after dark until Sunday 10:30 pm.
The purpose of Lumiere is to bring joy to the streets of London at a time that is infamously miserable and generally marked by debts, depression and darkness. To this end, Portuguese collective Ocubo has created an amazingly cheerful piece: an imaginary circus, staged with 2D and 3D light projections on the side of Central Saint Martin’s Granary building. Inspired by local school children’s drawings that tell the stories of classic circus characters, Circus of Light will make you jubilate with delight over a burlesque and playful light show filled with jolly tricks and capricious stunts. Accompanied by a hilarious soundtrack, the piece is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. On King’s Boulevard you can get involved in literally painting the town red – as well as every other colour. The ingenious technology of Stockholm based arts production company Floating Pictures allows you to colour the asphalt with either the torch on your smartphone or one of the gigantic glow sticks handed to you by the lovely volunteer on site. I’ve had the chance to preview the Light Graffiti, and trust me, it’s so fun you’ll find yourself embarrassed to have made those children queueing behind you wait so long. Less merry and lively than ghostly and entrancing are French-Korean artist Tae gon Kim’s dazzling Dresses that you’ll find along this street as well as Stable Street. These beautiful shimmering LED gowns look like eerie shells encapsulating invisible phantoms, frozen elegantly as if on their way to a fairytale ball in some wondrous different dimension. You’ll find a final glamorous guest trapped in a Liberty shop window over on Regent Street.
Regent Street undoubtedly features as a focus point in the Lumiere footprint, physically connecting the two hubs of Westminster and Mayfair. Starting at the top, at Oxford Circus, you’ll first encounter one of the festival’s most eye-catching works: a gigantic jellyfish-like net sculpture entitled 1.8 by artist Janet Echelman, suspended from the surrounding architecture drawing an exquisite radiating silhouette of light against the night sky. A little further down, you’ll find French collective Groupe LAPS’ glowing stick-men rebelliously overrunning the façade of Liberty house. These skeletal figures dance with delight as if the city’s architectural environment is their own personal jungle gym, almost like a real-life realisation of Walt Disney’s 1929 Silly Symphony Skeleton Dance. Further down, opposite famous Carnaby Street, you’ll find another cartoon figure in motion. British ‘post-pop’ artist Julian Opie has installed Shaida Walking in busy Soho, a work created especially for Lumiere in his instantly recognizable, signature style. As in much of Opie’s work, the piece explores the tension between the general and the specific, the masses and the individual. The artist asked random people off the street to walk on a treadmill while being filmed and used the resulting hours of footage to come to a generic graphic rendering of someone (anyone, everyone – Shaida) walking. He subsequently placed her in a billboard-like LED display box ‘like a bronze statue of a civic hero’ intended to ‘stride endlessly as a living drawing and as part of the crowd.’
Meanwhile, at the bottom of Regent Street, a character appears that will definitely stand out from the crowd: a majestic 3D elephant, which – projected onto the canvas stretched inside the Air street archway – will emerge from a cloud of dust stomping and trumpeting its way into its strange new surroundings. Created by the studio of French artist Catherine Garret, the Air Street Elephant echoes Artichoke’s very first intervention in London in 2006, when it paraded Royale de Luxe’s 20 feet high The Sultan’s Elephant through its streets. Lumiere allows a myriad of other animals to invade the city environment, from Sarah Blood’s songbirds hidden in twelve illuminated cages in Brown Hart gardens, their presence only betrayed by their song (which, I can reveal, is actually produced by people) through to neon balloon dogs à la Jeff Koons on the Strand. Finally, tropical fish feature as dreamlike silky sculptures swooping through the Piccadilly sky, and, over in Mayfair, they swim around in a London telephone box, leading you – once you grasp the odd redeployment of the familiar red object – to dream of tropical travel and an escape from everyday reality.
Creating a temporary alternative to the urban everyday – the daily bore of making a living, commuting, working and so on – is one of Artichoke’s key aims. So beyond the purpose of lifting people’s spirits – although entirely worthwhile in and of itself – Artichoke’s projects intend to radically reimagine the purpose of a city. They question what a city’s spaces can hold, and who they are for. What can they accommodate other than the perpetual movement of people and products, the smooth flow of funds and vehicles? How many streets and tube stations can be closed in order to momentarily create a pedestrian playground and give the streets buildings and infrastructure over to dreamlike shapes and figures, imaginary performers, liberated animals? Reinventing a city as a large-scale outdoor gallery, a canvas for the imagination of both artists and the public, Lumiere disrupts the productive routines that characterise world capitals across the globe.. and it makes for a very worthwhile spectacle. Make sure to enjoy it while it lasts, from tonight (Thursday) through to Sunday night, 6:30-10:30 pm.
January 13, 2016
I attended the preview of Saatchi Gallery’s newest exhibition, ‘Champagne Life‘, and it certainly did not disappoint. Saatchi is committed to its advancement of the art scene here in the UK and internationally, which is why for the first time in its history, the gallery decided to formulate a display of all female artists for the exhibition. Within this exhibit, visitors can see the work of female artists from around the world, ranging from Iran to the USA to Australia and Saudi Arabia, and all the artists produce distinctive pieces including paintings, sculptures, mixed media works, and more.
‘Champagne Life’ is a celebration of women in art but the subject matters that each artist deals with go far deeper than just femininity. The artists look at the media, at heritage and much more and they explore these issues in a range of interesting ways for visitors to take in. Whether it’s a taxidermy horse, a canvas, a wall of over 200 pans or a papier mâché animal, these women display the vast [and varied] forms that art can take, and placed within the gorgeous setting of the Saatchi it makes for a great exhibit.
Although the canvas pieces were excellent, for me the true highlights of this exhibition lay in the mixed media work and sculptures. These artists seem to have mastered the art of taking the everyday object and molding it into thought-provoking pieces. They are new, fresh and in the words of Maha Malluh, one of the artists featured, it ‘forces you to pause, to contemplate and think harder about your surroundings‘. So to see this groundbreaking exhibition, head down to the Saatchi from 13th January and be part of what will become a historical moment for the gallery.