February 14, 2016
Recently I had a pleasure to meet an incredibly inspirational young artist – Anouska Beckwith. Born in London, Anouska spent her early years traveling and exploring her artistic side with the help of good old photography. Moving on to pursue her degree at Speos Photographic Institute, Anouska lives and works in Paris. She is also the founder of the World Wide Women Collective. We caught up on life, art and spiritual in a pre-christmassy moody city of London that left me motivationally driven to go on and explore my inner self.
- When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?
My two Grandmother’s taught me how to knit and embroider and my mother always enoucuraged me in art classes, ceramics and photography from a young age… it wasn’t something that I decided necessarily on, but I enjoyed it a lot. Then it got to a point where I was about 22 and I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. So I thought to myself, what would make me really happy throughout my life, what is something I can do in my 80’s, or when I have a child? I live in the future, I find it quite hard to be in the present. I started taking photographs again, which I had done before but not on a specific subject, just on travels or of friends. I started looking at what I was inspired by, and by 23 I knew that was the field that I wanted to go back into. I think as a creative person, you should never say well, this is just what I am. Otherwise you get quite frustrated or have an artistic block. That’s the death of the artist, so for me I like to play with different mediums.
- So you don’t define yourself?
As just one thing, no. At the moment I’m working on two photographic series for myself, and then I’m building an installation room, which I’ve been working on with the architect, Omar Ouazzani Touhami for the past three months but I had the idea 4 years ago. Then I’m building a photographic light installation featuring my muse Flo Morrissey. The artists that I very much respect are Yayoi Kusama and Yoko Ono. Those are the people I’m very inspired by, because you look at their body of work and there’s just so much to choose from.
- Would you do performance, like Yoko Ono?
Absolutely. I would like to do a performance piece to do with dance at some point as I trained as ballerina and have always feel free when exploring that as a medium. I’ve learnt how to be in front of the camera and I’ve just done my first music video as a director for the musician Katy Rose which will be released in the next couple of months and I did a short film last year about Shakespeare’s Ophelia. It’s always about the right time and the right material, I never like to rush things. I studied photography at school, and then I studied at a Speos Institute a French school in Paris, so that was the initial starting point.
- Why did you decide to move to Paris?
I had always wanted to live there, inspired by the culture, beauty, and as a visual fantasy land, I mean, I love Tim Burton, that kind of Gothic, subtle, beautiful, but it’s not modern. Everyone still dresses like they’re from the ‘60’s or ‘70’s, and I love that style, so there’s a lot of things for me as a woman that I found very appealing. They have amazing food and culture, so I thought that if I could live in Paris and survive there with the French, I could live anywhere else in the world! I’m definitely a traveller so I like to go to different places. I believe in reincarnation, so I feel drawn to certain places that I haven’t been to, and usually if I’m desperate to go there, I end up just loving it.
- Do you get inspiration and ideas from traveling?
Absolutely, but not only traveling. I love film and literature, art and photography, poetry, I’ve got my head definitely in the stars, so I’m not somebody who’s very pragmatic, I like to be away with fairies and look at life as if its a miracle.
- Why did you decide to stay permanently in Paris?
Well I knew I wanted to move for a period of time. I’d grown up in London partly and I didn’t really ever feel very English. I’m someone who likes to see other cultures. At the end of the day if you can see as many places as you can before you die, that’s one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself, whether or not you have a boyfriend or you’re married, or you can show your children… so I’ve definitely got the traveling bug.
- Do you just go trekking with a backpack?
It depends, if I’m going to America, no. If I go to India, I used to go with a backpack, live on a hut on the beach. Once I slept in a broom closet, I’m quite versatile with how I can travel. If somewhere is special and it’s worth going to see, I like it to be as natural as possible. I’m very lucky that I’ve had some amazing people that I’ve travelled with and who have showed me lovely places. India was an eye-opening experience from a very young age.
- Do you think the art scene is different to each other in Paris and London?
Very much. Paris is a bit behind with the art. They don’t do so many installations, they love reportage photography, so Henri Cartier-Bresson is their mecca, they’re not so into fine art, they love fashion, whereas in London, fine art, fashion, reportage, they fit all of those aspects in the same, and you have nature and geographical but that’s very specific. But me, personally, I love New York as one of the places with the best art because there are just so many art galleries, it’s just a bigger industry. But Los Angeles is definitely becoming a hubbub of contemporary artt, photography & fine art, it’s becoming quite a cool place to be an artist. You have to know where you, as an artist, are inspired. It’s about standing as an individual and developing your own voice.
- Have you found it?
To a certain degree but I think with an artist you’re always looking at your work in a way that’s slightly like torture. You’re always wanting to be better, to push yourself, and you want it to be somewhat original. We’re all slight shades of grey to begin with because we’ve had so much work in the past thousands of years that it’s quite hard to come up with an original idea. I’m not thinking that everyone’s going to like my work, that’s not the goal. It’s more to bring light and positivity and hope and beauty to people, because I think there’s a lot of darkness in the world. Sometimes I make darker work but I don’t necessarily expose it. There’s a difference with making work just for yourself or having it to show others…
- Do you remember the first time you showed your work in public?
The first work that I exposed, was when I created the collective World Wide Women, in 2012 for the ‘ Wanderer’s Eye Exhibition’ in Paris. I was quite nervous about showing work, so I set up the collective with women who were just starting out and exhibit under common themes of nature, femininity, and positivity, and the esoteric which went under the banner of the positive. It was about empowering one another and not about extreme feminism. That was the beginning of WWW and since then we’ve done eight shows in the past three years. At present we are coming up with our next theme for an exhibition and expansion for 2016-17! Then I had my first solo show Transcendance curated by Andi [Potamkin] in New York in 2015, and then I did another female exhibition at the Box Studio in East London curated by Clio Peppiatt with Female Matters. That’s been my journey so far and then next year I would like to exhibit the installation room.
- What is this installation room like?
The project’s called “I am the other you”, and it’s about human beings relationship to nature, especially trees and how important it is to preserve the rainforest and for us as humans to live in harmony with the planet. I came up with the idea four years ago after a shamanic ceremony and had the vision to do 8 rooms, called the “Infinity Series”. My good friend designer/artist Koji Tatsuno was extremely encouraging of the original idea and really pushed me to create them so I am very grateful for his belief in me.
- Where do you see yourself in the future?
I’d like to be a working artist throughout my life. I like producing work and getting it seen, promoting it through social media or having it in an exhibition or in a magazine, because part of it is to share with others, and have feedback. It’s an interaction. Everything’s so personal and subjective. I want people to tell me what they like and don’t like. That’s what’s so interesting about art – it’s so individual.
- In the contemporary art world, though, artists could be forced to create something trendy in order to sell it. Have you ever experienced this pressure?
No, that’s why I live in Paris. In London, there is that feeling of having to confrom. I think a lot of art is the emperor’s new clothes, it’s something on the wall, invisible art as an example. If you’ve got to imagine what’s on a wall… Well I can imagine what’s on a wall any time. For free. For me, nature is one of the most important aspects. I love going somewhere and finding a completely beautiful and raw backdrop and having a very simplistic form, generally it’s women because I like photographing my friends or people I’m inspired by. I’m photographing more men at the moment. I just shot the actor and musician Reeve Carney for a two projects in Dublin. After a while of having just women, it’s a bit of a challenge to take a photograph of a man or do something slightly different. So I’m always exploring other options. I like beauty, but I don’t necessarily like what commercial beauty is. I’m interested in not just the outside, but the inside as well. I’m very much a romantic person, I’m a fantasist to a certain degree. I love Dali, Klimt, Millais, John Currin and Frida Kahlo those artists take you to another place, and that’s for me what art is about.
- Do you think art is necessary in society?
100%. Personally I feel that schools try to educate people to conform to being the same as everyone else. I don’t think that’s what life’s about at all. I think life’s about being happy and finding that happiness, and if you have to work three different jobs to make your art, I think personally that’s what I’d rather do. In some countries around the world, obviously that’s not an option to even think like that, so I’m very privileged to have grown up in England where you are given the freedom to have those kinds of thoughts. I feel that art is something that you don’t have to be taught to know what the picture is about. I don’t need to be told, this is why you should like it, you either like it or you don’t. I do different Shamanic ceremonies, and I met this incredible Brazilian doctor and he was saying at the beginning of the ceremony that he used to try to define who he was, like “I’m a doctor, I’m a husband,” and he said the moment you start defining who you are, that part of you dies. And I thought to myself I can totally understand what he’s saying.
- So it’s also a power of thought?
Absolutely. I believe in manifestation, and I believe there’s a lot more to the power of mind than we’ve been given access to. Everyone likes to put everyone in a box and categorize what that person is. I think it’s a challenge not to be put into a box. I think only a small group of people can know who you really are, and those are your close friends.
- Do you remember the best advice you were ever given?
Andi was definitely very helpful. She told me to embrace my weirdness, to not be afraid of that. That’s valuable advice. I’ve not been ever one to conform, but we all like to think of ourselves as not weird, but I think to embarce the light and darker aspects of ourselves and love them rather than repress them could all do us the world of good.
- Do you have advice to young people?
You need to not give up, to keep trying, to believe in yourself.. You never know when a door shuts it will lead you to an open window. Just believing in yourself is a very important thing. Follow your dreams. Life is so short, I try to live everyday as if it’s my last, and not wishing to be doing something else. If you’re wishing to be doing something else, then you should probably be doing that. I feel very lucky that I’m at the point in my life that I can explore what I want to. Even if you’re not in that position, having hope is very important.
February 13, 2016
Chris Burden’s ever-popular Urban Light (2008) might just be the most Instagrammed (yes, it’s a verb) installation in the Los Angeles area. The 202 restored street lamps that once lit the streets of Southern California in the 1920s and 30s have been reappropriated, now standing in a vast sea of light, greeting visitors as they approach LACMA, the largest art museum on the West Coast.
However, if you’re like me, the closest you’ll get to interacting with this beautiful, large-scale assemblage is by double clicking as you scroll through your Instagram feed. So, you can imagine my delight when Gagosian on Madison Avenue presented Buddha’s Fingers—a small, though no less entrancing, version of LACMA’s Urban Light.
Buddha’s Fingers is one of Burden’s last works before his death this past May at age 69. It features thirty-two similar antique, cast-iron street lamps as found outside of LACMA; however, the lights are grouped in tight, honeycomb cluster that disallows visitors to weave in and out, unlike Urban Light. Although the installation may only be viewed from outside of the circle, the bright, cold light of the LED bulbs forms a singular, radiating spectacle that envelops the ceiling and trickles down the hexagonal shaft, creating a play of light and shadow that one can only truly appreciate from the exterior. There is a disjunction between the classic, Art Deco-meets-Manchester style of the antique street lamps and the somewhat harsh blue glow of the energy efficient LED lighting. The combination of the old and new forms an arc through time, creating a whimsical realm in which antiquity and contemporary can be experienced all at once, fulfilling our longing for a not-so-distant past, without losing the conveniences (though, sometimes aesthetically disheartening) of the now.
Buddha’s Fingers is on view until March 12th, having been extended from its February 20th closing date due to popular demand. New Yorkers: check this out now before it’s too late.
February 3, 2016
A puzzle. That is how the London Art Fair looked from the first floor of the Business Design Centre in Islington. The 95 art galleries that have been present this year at the 28th edition of the London Art Fair were the extraordinary puzzle pieces that collaborated to create an image of the contemporary and modern art world as it is today.
Curated by Natasha Hoare, Associate Curator at Witte de With for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, the event was an absolute trip from the perspective of a one-day visitor such as myself.
The Business Design Centre proved to be an excellent space to gather so many galleries from around the world. Their representatives showed enthusiasm and excitement in sharing the work of diverse artistic voices with the visiting public.
I was impressed with the strategies of display, the international context created by the presence of so many galleries from outside UK, and especially by the warmth with which the gallery representatives would welcome and discuss with you the exhibited works and artists.
While touring the galleries, I remembered that Natasha Hoare wrote a book called “The New Curator” which basically consists of interviews with curators from around the world and this art fair definitely felt as though it has been a major international art project.
Through discussion with gallery representatives and some of the artists present at the fair, I could finally form an image of the major shift that has occurred in the art world. Art has become information, which is one of the greatest assets in the present time. Art can be accessible to anyone and this phenomenon gives the artists a larger platform and wider windows towards succeeding in the early stages of their work. If art is information, it travels faster and across longer distances.
You could say that there is actually no distance nowadays; this was apparent in the works of many of the contemporary artists present at the art fair. The main focus is time and closeness. Artists now have access to multinational and multicultural spaces and their source of inspiration has no limit when creating their narratives. Time remains the only competitor against the artist. In the end the winner is actually the public, who are growing in numbers, well-educated, well-informed and can more quickly gain access to art.
The new artist is focused on a cross-cultural dialogue with the public and also on extending the making of their work through a more interdisciplinary route. We now see painters, sculptors, and photographers working with writers, scientists, fashion designers, sound engineers, etc.
Galleries have quickly picked up this trend and are creating the perfect platforms for an artist of the new era, who is creating for a wider and much more knowledgeable public.
We are most certainly witnessing a surge of multi-media art and I absolutely fell in love with the work of Korean multi-media artist Guem MinJeong. Just like the rest of her fellow contemporary artists, Guem MinJeong adds to her art many adjacent skills and here, that is the deal-breaker.
The passage between the old and the new is being forged in a dramatic manner and Guem’s work brings the past, the old, the essence, and the roots into a virtual, futuristic, scientific plan. We witness it, but more importantly, we experience it.
Guem has showcased a series of site-specific video and sculpture installation works – Breathing, Twisted and Melting, Object series – on the theme of “breathing space”. Her installations transform the space of a white wall or embraces impossible external spaces such as forests and ocean into an interior space. Exhibition space itself becomes the subject matter for the artist.
In works such as “Breathing Door” (2007), the artist depicts a large white closed door which inflates and deflates to the sound of slow breathing. Conceived during the artist’s residency in Tamsui, Taiwan in 2014, the rhythmic cycle of the video loop reflects on the pace of 21st century, modern life.
Guem explains that “by making the space that I experience move and breathe, I would rather express the self in it – that is, the essence and value of humans. I wanted to take a closer look at it as a symbol representing the essence of people by moving a physical space, not a narrative film as virtual reality.”
Guem MinJeong holds a DFA from Yonsei University and BFA, MFA from Hongik University, Seoul. Her works are held in private and public collections, including the Seoul Museum of Art and Kumho Museum of Art. She has received numerous awards from Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture and currently lives in Seoul.
Guem MinJeong was represented by Hanmi Gallery and Ms. Yookin Choi was gracious enough to take me through the art works that they exhibited at the fair and to offer me precious information about the artist mentioned above.
Another artist who impressed me was Steve Goddard. This time, I had the pleasure of actually discussing with Steve how routine is just another madness for an artist. Mr. Goddard did agree that time is precious and that it can be overcome by hard work and dedication to inspiring ideas.
Steve told me that it takes him roughly 9 hours to finish a painting, once the idea has been imprinted in his imagination. He sometimes wakes from his sleep, makes a note of the idea that inspired him, and begins work as soon as he feels that he is ready to paint it.
Looking at his paintings and his sculptures, I felt as if I was an important piece in his art. He seems to attract you inside a tunnel of visions, turning you into his link to reality. Once you have observed the art work, you will become part of its story and it will offer you a place in the imaginary in exchange for your understanding in the reality.
Steve Goddard’s website is a contemporary story about nights of visions, colours in the dark, paintings of nothing that are traps for everything. Art.
Steve Goddard was present at the fair with Galerie Sardac. Mr. Rowan Shulver, Director of Galerie Sardac, was kind enough to answer to a few of my questions with regards to how they perceived the fair. He informed me that Sarah Monk (fair director) and Craig Brown (sales manager) “were a pleasure to work with” and that there was an overall feeling of accomplishment on all sides at the end of the fair.