In: Contemporary Art
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.
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- 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!
November 30, 2015
Camden Image Gallery is a hire space gallery with 4 rooms over 2 floors situated in Camden Town, in central London. Camden Image Gallery has four rooms all with light walnut laminate flooring and clean white walls, perfect for displaying artwork; one large and one small room on the ground floor, and one large and one small room in the basement. The large room on the ground floor is fitted with adjustable LED spotlights, great for sculpture and installations. All 4 rooms have a fully adjustable hanging system with a variety of different lengths of rods to suit any artwork.
On the 5th of December until the 11th of December of 2015, Camden Image Gallery will celebrate its second year of success with a very interesting exhibition based on Mixed Media. On the 5th of December there will be a live performance by Periscope View at 7pm. The exhibition will continue from 12-7pm daily.
Let’s meet Elena Chimonas the gallery owner of this interesting hire space gallery.
1. Camden Image Gallery is situated in the heart of Camden Town, Camden Road. Is there a reason why you chose the gallery to be situated in an area like Camden Town? Do you think the area plays a role when artists choose a gallery to showcase their artwork?
Definitely. The location is definitely important. Camden Town used to be a very creative, artistic area, it still is, but it is more focused on music now. So I wanted to help bring back the artistic vibe in the area. A lot of people thanked me for it. I believe that it is important to welcome everybody, no matter on what stage his or her career is. So for me, it doesn’t matter if an artist is studying, or [has been] in the industry for the last 50 or 60 years. If they are passionate in what they do, then I don’t think age or experience matters at all, as long as they are passionate. In terms of artists choosing a space, for me it is very important to have a space next to a station for mobility and accessibility reasons. A space that is welcoming and friendly. I am very lucky to have found this place. It was perfect for what I was looking for.
2. What brought you here? What is your background?
My background is photography. I finished my degree and took full time and part time jobs and entered this space you see here into a gallery. I was very lucky to find this space. It took me a lot of time and work to turn this place into Camden Image Gallery. Initially, I found it in very poor condition, the staircases were not safe to walk down, there were no plugs in the space so I had to strip everything down and rebuild it from the beginning. The walls and the ceilings came down, the floors were renovated and we retouched the two floors. I was very lucky when I found out that there was a large space downstairs that didn’t exist when I took the property. The gallery originally had just two spaces – one upstairs and one downstairs – but then we realised that there was another trapdoor, which led to two separate hidden rooms downstairs as well. One of them was made by clay and concrete and it took us almost 4 months to renovate. We made the two rooms into one. It is actually my favourite room. It is a very long elongated room and works wonderfully for projections on the wall, great for sculptures in the middle of the room. I also have the same hanging system so artists can exhibit there as well. As it is a hire space gallery, the artist can choose either to hire the ground floor or the gallery as a whole, which includes the basement. In terms of Camden Image Gallery, as I said, it is a hire space gallery so people can hire the gallery for as many days as they wish. The gallery is open every single day, including bank holidays and weekends, especially during exhibition dates. I wanted to open a space that has this consistency otherwise it is very complicated to keep up with which galleries are open on which days – some of them are closed on Mondays, some of them on Sundays. I wanted Camden Image Gallery to be open 7 days a week, so people would know that they could always walk in.
3. Are there a lot of hire space galleries in London?
There are lots of hire space galleries and then there are other galleries that represent artists. Those galleries are the galleries that artists sign a contract for a specific time and then the gallery will sell their work through websites perhaps. Then you have hire space galleries, such as myself, where we welcome all artists. Camden Image Gallery for example, charges one fee for set-up, installation help, flyer designs, promotion, invigilating, take down. It all comes together. I wanted to open up a space that welcomes all genres of art. So I have photography, illustration, graphic design, fashion design, and painting – everything that comes under the arts. It is my job to support it. We also have poetry evenings and performance evenings so it is nice to have a space that welcomes anybody.
4. How hard is it for a gallery manager to choose the artists that will display?
It is a hire space gallery. So if the work is of a good standard and it is suitable for the space I accept them.
5. Do you have any restrictions to being exhibited in the gallery?
Generally no. But, I wouldn’t allow anything pornographic in the gallery. That is a genre that I wouldn’t allow. No matter how fantastic or talented an artist is – that is something I wouldn’t want in the space. But everything else is welcome. I have open shutters every day, so I wouldn’t want any children passing by and seeing something like that so I don’t want to accept that kind of genre. The quality has to be good.
6. What do you mean by “quality?”
I mean standard – Anything that has effort in it. Something unusual. Artists like Robin Lee; for me he is a great example of quality. He focuses on the expression of the eye. We had an exhibition a few weeks ago and I am very privileged to have worked with him. He is a great person and a great artist. I understand that it is a contested term and curators don’t tend to agree on what quality means, but in Camden Image Gallery, I stick with “standard”.
7. This leads me to my next question – were there any times when you had to differentiate between your personal likes and what the audience prefers?
Obviously, not everybody will like absolutely everything. If the artist is passionate then it all goes back to the main motto I have as a gallery owner to support artists. I opened up a space because I am passionate about the arts. There were not enough hire spaces to support artists. For example, performance art is not allowed in many galleries – but why not? If a dancer is good enough then why not give them the opportunity to showcase their work? If that is the way they express their art. I want to help. That is the main idea. I don’t differentiate. I just support. Because of that, I don’t target a specific audience; anyone can come into the gallery space. It is absolutely fine for one gallery to welcome just photography, I don’t criticise that. However, Camden Image Gallery has a different approach: to help everybody.
8. What was the hardest thing you came across as a gallery manager?
The hardest thing I came across is the lack of sleep (laughter). Generally, I am a positive person, there is nothing specific that made my life hard during these three years that I started this business.
9. What do you think is the role of art in society? Is there a role?
Of course there is a role. It is the only thing that can keep individuals creative – to keep creative minds buzzing. There are 10% of artists in the world – poets, musicians, and painters. They are the ones that keep the world more interesting. It is lovely that there are arts in the world. What would the world be without images? Imagine walking down the street without images. How boring that would be? It is fantastic to have creative things that people could view.
10. How do you think gallery owners contribute to this role?
By putting up exhibitions and by organising events. Not just that, our job is to draw [in] and engage people to contribute to exhibitions that they wouldn’t normally be subjected to.
11. Generally, the word “art industry” is contested – especially artists cannot accept that sort of label. Since you are an artist yourself, and a gallery owner, do you think art is an industry? Is it easy for you to be both? There is that general idea that the industry “exploits” the artists and it is rarely the opposite. What do you think about that?
It is very difficult to be both indeed. I am a gallery manager 7 days a week and I am a photographer occasionally. So it is difficult to be both. I have always wanted to open up a gallery that is open for everyone. A gallery that will give the voice to every artist regardless of background and experience. Camden Image Gallery is here to help and support artists, as the nature of the gallery promotes all types of genres. Unfortunately, not every artist has the ability to work as full-time artists to be able to support themselves. It is still a very hard industry to get into. That is why it is great that there are many galleries open. They make artists cater to their needs. There are curators and gallery managers that can help set out an artist. Unfortunately not many artists make their living out of art – that is why gallery managers are here to help.
12. Are there any current or future shows that you believe the public should not miss?
The Saturday of the 5th of December from 6 until 8pm will have the opening of an exhibition that celebrates these two fantastic years of Camden Image Gallery. It will be a great celebration and I believe it should not be missed. Periscope View will also be performing a live performance at 7pm. The exhibition will continue from the 6th until the 11th of December, from 12pm until 7pm, daily. Also, for the first time ever, the Camden Image Gallery is organising a charity exhibition – this will be from the 7th until the 13th of January. The gallery will raise money for Solace Women’s Aid.
Whenever the New York grind gets me down , I head straight to the Neue Galerie for German and Austrian Art on 87th and 5th for a heaping dose of old European romance and, of course, great art. Admittedly, I am often lured by the smell of apple strudel and hot chocolate mit schlag at the adjacent Café Sabarsky, but I am never disappointed by the museum’s permanent collection and their masterfully curated temporary exhibits. The Neue is currently featuring an exhibit called “Berlin Metropolis: 1918-1933” which opened on October 1st and will run until January 4th. This collection features paintings, photographs, films and other works by the great artists of Germany’s Weimar Republic. This period in between the first and second world wars was a brief, but prolific and innovative time for art and German culture in general.
The exhibition is chronologically divided into five themes that correspond to different aspects of Weimar Berlin: The Birth of the New Republic; A New Utopia; The “Neue Frau” or New Woman; The Crisis of Modernity; and Into the Abyss. This layout successfully illustrates the progression in Weimar society from the vibrant and hedonistic early days to the horrors of the Third Reich.
Upon walking into the “Birth of the New Republic” section, I was greeted by a pig headed mannequin dressed in a military costume suspended from the ceiling: “Prussian Archangel” by John Heartfield and Rudolf Schlichter. This whimsical yet austere figure sets the tone of the room, which features the great works of the Berlin Dada movement by Heartfield, George Grosz, Otto Dix, Hannah Hoch (the only woman in the group), and many other Dadaists.
I was especially drawn to a wild and grotesque series of 11 lithographs by Max Beckmann from 1922 called “A Trip to Berlin”. With titles like “Striptease”, each lithograph is extremely provocative and energetic and transports the viewer to the hustle and bustle of Weimar Berlin.
I definitely learned a lot about Berlin Dada from the first room, but my favorite section of the exhibit by far was the pink tinted room dedicated to the “Neue Fraue,” or New Woman. Not only does this room pay homage to the sophisticated and liberated Berliner woman of the 1920’s, it also showcases the innovative genius of Hannah Hoch.
In addition to Hoch’s clever collages such as “The Bride” (1924) and “Journalists”(1925) below, the room also features gorgeous costumes sketches from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) production stills from The Prince von Pappenheim (1927), and other posters and images celebrating the glamour and talent of the “Neue Fraue”.
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The exhibit ends on a rather grave note in the “Into the Abyss” room. It features the same Berlin Dadaists as the beginning of the exhibit- Grosz, Heartfield, and Schlichter, but deals with very different subject matter. John Heartfield’s sinister “Adolf and the Superman” (1932) is a far cry from the playful Dada collages from the beginning of the Weimar period.
“Berlin Metropolis” is definitely worth a visit, if not several. I will definitely be back to the Neue to learn more about this culturally explosive time period that unfortunately ended in such horrible tragedy. Should “Into the Abyss” kill your vibe, don’t forget to drown your sorrows in some pistachio and chocolate “Mozarttorte” and hot chocolate at Café Sabarsky. While you can’t take pictures of the art, you are certainly allowed to post your Viennese delights on Instagram (which for the record, taste even better than they look).
Facing the pain and fear of the bloodshed in the French capital, art is here to heal. After the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13th November, people all around the world show their solidarity with this city, with many stating “pray for Paris” on social media while others do not much like this religious note. Street artists show their love and support in a unique way –#sprayforparis. Street artist Goin started the hashtag #sprayforparis on Instagram with his artwork illustrating a muse resembling that in Eugène Delacroix‘s painting, Liberty Leading the People. Instead of holding a French national flag, Goin‘s muse is holding a paint roller dipped in the French tricolours, and the caption reads “The paint must flow, not the blood!” Many other street artists from different places echo this call with their talents, not only in Paris or France, but even as far as Melbourne, Australia.
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One week after the incident, I went to the Place de la République where people come with flowers and candles in memorial of the victims of the attacks. Then, I saw an artist spraying on a wall in the square, presenting colourful forms and words in French meaning “yes to life…” while on the other side, large graffiti on a black background with white font states “Fluctuat nec mergitur”, which has recently caught much attention on media . It was painted by a team of Parisian graffiti artists called the Grim Team. The team also made a similar piece in another spot by the Canal St. Martin, on the other bank where people come and gather in silence in front of the restaurant and café that endured horrifying attacks.
But what is “Fluctuat nec mergitur”? It is the motto of Paris in Latin, translated as “tossed by the waves but does not sink”. This motto is present in the city coat of arms depicting a ship floating on a rough sea, which can be seen in a recent piece of street art by yearz1 too. Both the motto and the city arms had been used for centuries by the powerful river Seine’s boatsman corporation, which ruled the city’s trade and commerce, before they were made official in 1853 by the Baron Haussmann. The artists have revitalised this centuries-old motto in a cool way, reminding heartbroken Parisians of this tough and persevering spirit.
On a wall right opposite the attacked restaurant and café, Fred le Chevalier, a well-known Parisian street artist who also lives in that district has stuck a figure dressed in black and white, holding a candle in her hand and a heart-shaped teardrop falling from her eye. The figure is able to cover some of the bullet holes in that wall. Being much lighter compared to the heavy atmosphere just metres away, his art offers comforting compassion to this miserable corner of the city and the devastated people around it. Near to this spot, another street artist juxtaposed the legendary Parisian photo The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville with red paint on the couple symbolising gunshot wounds, alongside French words written in red meaning “not even hurt”. The message is simple but compelling, that the love represented by the kiss would not be hurt even by brutal terrorist shootings.
All of these beautifully painted walls in the streets may not have comparable monetary value with the so-called “high art” that is being sold for millions in auction houses, but they are simply invaluable. These artistic walls are there to show love and support and to spread mighty spirits and positive energy, particularly at this difficult time when people in the city are most in need. There should not be any walls, or wars, to divide humankind, either by religions, races or nationalities. The walls are to defend those previous values and virtues of human civilisation which are the best weapons to counteract terrorism. So, yes, leave paint, not pain, on these walls; let’s spray not only for Paris, but also for Beirut, for all the suffering people, and for a brighter world!
November 26, 2015
I attended the opening night of White Cube’s new exhibitions including ‘The Banners’ by Gilbert and George and ‘Tightrope Walk: Painted Images After Abstraction’ which was curated by Barry Schwabsky. There was a lively atmosphere and a general buzz around the artwork, with everyone seeming to like what they saw. The Gilbert and George pieces were very tongue and cheek, striking the right balance between humour and political content, dealing with issues around sex, the environment and education, amongst other issues, in their eye catching banners. I particularly enjoyed this section of the exhibition because it not only encouraged thought but it also encouraged some giggles with its controversial phrases, and to see so many people taking photos of themselves next to the art was really refreshing as it showed a direct interaction between the visitors and the exhibition. I feel the placement of the huge banners in such a vast space as White Cube provided an excellent visual display and the beautiful lighting of each piece allowed the visitors to see the most intricate details including the pencil marks that complimented the spray paint on each hand-made banner.
The ‘Tightrope Walk: Painted Images After Abstraction’ were also equally as stimulating with their mixture of bright colours, surrealist perceptions and varied subject matters. Each piece was eye catching in its own way and I thought that Barry Schwabsky did an excellent job with curating the exhibition. So if you want an array of colour and a visual feast then head down to the White Cube to see their latest exhibition which runs from the 25th November 2015 to 24th January 2016, and it is definitely one not to be missed!
November 22, 2015
Power, passion, and raw, unadulterated emotion veritably oozes from the work of the relatively obscure artist, Oli Fowler.
Oli, (otherwise known by his tag name: ‘Flabby G’) has done work for Jeremy Deller, Emily Evans, Fraser Muggaridge, and LOM Architecture and Design. His work can be found in the unobtrusive exhibitions hosted at The Crown pub in Angel and Shaw’s Bookseller in Blackfriars.
Oli specialises in screenprinting and design, having mastered the mediums of illustration, photo-montage, photography, and printing. His work is nostalgic, colourful, abstract, and dynamic. It aspires to evoke sex, sassiness, and seediness. His creative process is fuelled by experimentation as he strives to ‘fuck things up a little bit, to create a bit of fun.’
Oli’s vivacious, vibrant, and furiously futuristic compositions instantly captivated me. To my delight he agreed to an interview, inviting me to the studio and gallery Print Club London. As I ambled down the dusky alleyway towards Print Club London, I was greeted by haphazardly hung fairy lights, fluttering flags, and walls scattered with street art. I found myself invading a hidden haven of creativity.
The following interview with Oli was inspirational and invigorating. Our discussion orbited not only around Oli’s career, method, and meaning, but extended to words of wisdom and guidance. Oli revealed how he shook the shackles of the service industry at tremendous risk so that he could follow his passion for creating art.
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- Could you explain your compositions and creative process to me?
Those shapes that you see in my art that are jagged and triangular, they come from me experimenting with sellotape. I like to mess it up a little, most of the time I’m completely unsure if it will turn out well, but if it doesn’t work I always save those prints and go back over them. It’s about saving money and being frugal, you don’t have to spend vast amounts of money to create art.
- What drives your art? Are you attempting to broadcast a particular message or meaning?
I’m not political so it’s got absolutely nothing to do with that. I like to do things that evoke memories. I’m currently working on a series depicting disco girls, influenced by the ’70s. I love the look of airbrushed album covers and the concept of really cool music. I’m trying to capture that coolness in my art. I’m trying to create work which I don’t want to say is nostalgic, but which recreates the sexiness of the ’70s. I want it to look cool and sassy.
- Why do you think you’re so fascinated with recapturing the ’70s?
Music inspires me. I’ve been listening to Jazz-fusion and Jazz funk disco since I was an eleven-year-old picking through my mums record collection. The more I listened the deeper I delved into it. That underground scene appealed to me. When you think of disco most people think of ABBA but it’s not like that, it’s the far out stuff that was underneath. I just think it’s got a good feeling of fun; there was so much innocence. People weren’t so serious back then, I love that.
- Bar the recreation of fun and innocence are there any other emotions you want your work to evoke?
I’m currently working on a series called Sister Power. My figures are all looking to the camera and are really hot. I want a girl who sees that work to be struck by it, to feel powerful, to be made to feel good by looking at it. I’ve also got another disco piece coming, it features people jumping and playing. I want people not to take life so seriously, to just have a good time and enjoy the moment. My metal piece of the sailor and his girlfriend is about passion. It’s about love joining two people. His feeling for her is eating her, consuming her. I want my prints to show things like that.
- What does the future hold for your forthcoming projects?
I want to play around with more typography and do massive past[e] ups. My next screen prints are based on nail bar signs. If I get hold of a wall I’m going to build a picture and people will be able recognise it. I’m always walking around being influenced by the things I see. It’s going to take time and money, a lot of money, but I’ll get there.
- What would you like to communicate through this article?
I want to say for a long time I wasn’t doing any artwork. I was doodling in my twenties and the art was there but it was just doodles on receipt paper; I couldn’t see how it could happen. Now I’m thirty-five and I’m doing great artwork. It’s never too late, it doesn’t take too long, and you just need great dedication and passion for it. You’ve just got to keep on going for it.
- Do you ever find yourself disillusioned by your choice to become an artist?
You could call me ignorant because some people are very good at marketing themselves and are very proactive in making money, but I’m currently at a point where I don’t care about making money. It’s about the art. I would prefer to go out onto the streets and hand it out for free or put it up on the walls somewhere. I’d be happy to give my stuff away or just have it hanging somewhere so people can see it.
I was working in retail for ten years and I knew I had to get out of it, then I heard about Print Club London and moved to Dalston, joined up and used my screen prints to get into university. Eventually you earn money, it’s not a lot, you don’t earn corporate money but it’s about being happy. I have to do art, I’ve got to do it, even without money I just couldn’t stop. I’d always find a way.
November 19, 2015
Yes. It is just a word. Some say it’s a way of living. Ben Rivers certainly depicts on that. But I don’t know if it is a way of living. I mean, we tend to think it is. But is it really? I don’t know if there is such thing as liberty – complete or partial liberty. We are some sorts of victims – either of the lives we choose to follow – or the paths we seek to walk through.
My thoughts on this were triggered by Ben Rivers’ black and white 16mm film shown at Camden Arts Centre in London. It was produced in 2008, but 7 years later is still more relevant than ever. I don’t think it will go out of date anytime soon. It is a diachronic issue on which artists and generally people feel the urge to talk about. In the film, there is no linear narrative, which perhaps – I think- was the main aspect that intrigued me in writing about it. It can much reflect on our everyday lives. We as human beings we don’t have a narrative – neither artists.
Even if we wish our lives had a narrative, a beginning, middle or an ending story, it is never really the case. Life comes up in unexpected ways. We set off on our path as human beings and end up somewhere else, which was not really planned. Ben Rivers focuses on a ‘cinematic essay’. This is the genre he deploys in his work. It’s the same way with human beings. Our lives are cinematic essays. I never felt that such a genre would fit so perfectly in the human nature.
His attempt to visualise all aspects of a liberated life is outstanding. I don’t know if there is a sense of irony in it or a sense of contrast to what is going on in the world today; it might have both elements. He might be addressing his ideal view of how life should be. But it is not. The sad truth is that it is rarely the case in reality. Liberated life? Liberty? What kind of liberty? And what is liberty really? On which terms? How can you be really free if you have restrictive boundaries? And we all do have boundaries and restrictions. Even at the time when we were children. We were carefree but not entirely free. Our innocence made us think we were free – or perhaps our parents perceived it that way because we were not entitled to pay taxes or for our own survival. Others did that for us. It is mesmerising if you think about it.
To be completely free in a world filled with ignorance, poverty, class struggle, capitalism, genre class and social inequality is utopian. Perhaps, Rivers wanted to depict that utopia. Only nature is free. And even that today – with all the climate change and the destructions of men – is not really coming through. It is slowly diminishing.
So my observations are really straightforward. You can never enjoy liberty or freedom. I mean, even the Statue of Liberty (the embodiment of liberty, ironic isn’t?) did not enjoy freedom. It came as a gift from the French. So spot the irony. Liberty always comes with a price. The price of knowing your own surroundings, what is going on out in the real word. Art, film, photography, and theatre are here to address these issues. Fiction deploys reality in some ways. There is a fine line between truth, documentary and fiction and that is – reality. But I keep thinking, the world needs magic for each person to choose its own liberty – whatever that is.