Aesthetica Issue 111

Page 8



Experiences of migration depicted through images of utopian dreams


Isaac Julien dismantles restrictive boundaries of genre and medium



Vibrant portraits challenge fashion photography’s narrow beauty ideals


Celebrating 20 years of independent publishing and global conversations

Issue 111 February
March 2023
UK £6.95 Europe €12.95 USA $16.49

On the Cover Spanish photographer Fares Micue's dreamlike approach is characterised by symbolism and attention to detail. Colour, location and mood create a palpable sense of narrative. In the cover image, the artist balances as a flock of paper birds rush past her. (p. 78)

Editor’s Note

Time waits for no one. I think about that phrase often. This issue of Aesthetica marks 20 years since the first issue was published. I have a whole host of emotions: cheer, disbelief, excitement, pride, surprise – the list goes on. Dale Donley and I set up this magazine when we were students. The pillars of this company were – and remain – equality, creativity and diversity. We are passionate about art and culture, and because Dale and I started from the right place with Aesthetica, we've had the longevity of 20 years. Everything we do is because we believe in the power of art to make positive changes to contemporary society: it helps us to make sense of the world and times we are living in. I look back and see myself as a younger woman with this unwavering resilience. I am proud of the Magazine, Film Festival, Art Prize, Future Now Symposium and Creative Writing Award. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worth it. I want to say thank you, readers, for supporting independent ideas and being part of our community. Inside this issue, we bring you two features about the 20th anniversary, including an article that looks at the magazine's history. It's almost mythological now, but it was a defining moment that I’d like to tell you about. We also curate a selection of our favourite images from previous editions. These are photographers who made a step-change for contemporary image-making. Beyond this, we are opening the 2023 Aesthetica Art Prize and Future Now Symposium. You're all invited. We have selected some amazing practitioners in this issue, including Nadine Ijewere, Cooper & Gorfer – and the venerable Isaac Julien. In photography, we feature experimental works from Sebastiaan Knot, James Tralie and the atmospheric Maria Lax, as well as the bold colour blocking of Prince Gyasi. Fares Micue returns as our cover photographer. Finally, for the Last Words, we speak to Alex Prager, who discusses her exhibition at Lehmann Maupin in New York. Thank you for being part of Aesthetica, and enjoy this very special issue.

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Cover Image: Fares Micue, Trust and the wings will grow (2022)
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16 News

An NGV group exhibition showcases the breadth of Australian art, whilst Aïda Muluneh challenges global portrayals of Africa at Efiɛ Gallery, Dubai.

42 Emotive Colour Play

Prince Gyasi incorporates vibrant palettes into intimate portraits of figures from his hometown, documenting the spectrum of human emotion.

72 Visionary Narratives

Isaac Julien dismantles restrictive boundaries of genre and medium. Now, a landmark exhibition surveys four decades of his experimental practice.

98 Reframed Perspective

Nadine Ijewere's fashion photography redefines narratives of beauty, encouraging more diverse representation in front of and behind the camera.


122 Exhibitions

We review Anastasia Samoylova at C/O Berlin alongside Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern, as well as new group shows in Hasselt and San Francisco.


131 The Latest Publications

Aida Amoako celebrates 30 artists whose practice challenges monolithic views of Blackness. In XXX, Aziz + Cucher speculate on the future of the body.

26 10 to See

How can machine intelligence manipulate art? Can the planet be preserved for generations to come? These topics are central to this season.

54 Altering Perceptions

Experiences of forced migration are examined through utopian dreams. Duo Cooper & Gorfer expose the inner and outer realities for women.

78 Defining Photography

Discover how the landscape of photography has transformed since the publication's first issue with some of our favourite artists from over the years.

104 Moments of Fantasy

Maria Lax's spellbinding images utilise innovative camera techniques to transform figures, buildings and plants into cinematic, otherworldly creations.

30 Vibrant Abstractions

Sebastiaan Knot's geometric compositions are calculated manipulations of light. Shapes in bold colours are crafted through analogue techniques.


Window to Other Places

Dreamscapes is a world of elegant imagination. James Tralie's digital renders reconstruct natural environments and architecture into serene scenes

82 Dynamic Self-Portraits

Cover photographer Fares Micue's imaginative and perfectly composed conceptual images are uplifting symbols that reflect the power of ideas.

116 The Story of Aesthetica

Celebrate the publication's 20th anniversary as one of the founders discusses how the magazine has become a trusted voice in contemporary art.

127 Film

Laura Poitras crafts an intimate portrait of Nan Goldin in All the Beauty and the Bloodshed. Jerzy Skolimowski highlights the value of nature in EO

Artists’ Directory

138 Featured Practitioners

This edition showcases artists using innovative and interdisciplinary approaches that consider human experiences, from the past to the present.

Aesthetica Magazine is trade marked worldwide. © Aesthetica Magazine Ltd 2023.

ISSN 1743-2715.

All work is copyrighted to the author or artist. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used or reproduced without permission from the publisher.

Published by Cherie Federico and Dale Donley.

Aesthetica Magazine

21 New Street York, YO1 8RA, UK

Newstrade Distribution: Warners Group Publications plc.

Gallery & Specialist Distribution: Central Books.

Printed by Warners Midlands plc.

The Aesthetica Team:

Editor: Cherie Federico

Creative Producer: Eleanor Sutherland

Content Editor: Saffron Ward

Editorial Assistant: Megan Jones Digital Content Assistant: Chloe Elliott

Media Sales & Partnerships Manager: Megan Hobson

Artists’ Directory Manager: Katherine Smira

Production Director: Dale Donley

Operations Manager: Helen Osbond

Designer: Matt Glasby

Contributors: Diane Smyth


Eleanor Sutherland, Laura Kirkwood, Jack Solloway, Saffron Ward, Matthew Harrison Tedford, Matt Swain, Kyle Bryony, Stephanie Watts, James Mottram, Fanny Wendt Höjer, Patrick Gamble, Megan Jones, Rand Al-Hadethi, Miranda Gabbott

129 Music

Fe Salomon's debut Living Rooms soars across experimental pop, whilst Chasms exchange postpunk for electronic drums in Glimpse of Heaven

Last Words

146 Alex Prager

The photographer's latest exhibition encourages participants to contemplate universal narratives, creating staged scenes with figures frozen in time.

Advertisement Enquiries: Megan Hobson (0044) (0)844 568 2001

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Aesthetica 15 contents
16 Aesthetica Desert X Installation View, John Gerrard, Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas) 2017 (2017-2019). Photo: Lance Gerber. Courtesy of Desert X.

Looking into Nature

Coachella Valley, California | Opens 4 March

Land art emerged in the 1960s and 1970s from a growing interest in wilderness preservation. Artists began to sculpt, arrange and change the Earth with temporary shapes, reframing nature to challenge human perception. For example, Robert Smithson’s (1970) was a 457-metre-long platform built into the Great Salt Lake, Utah, from nearby sediment and mud. Nancy Holt (1938-2014) likened her large-scale concrete sculptures to “seeing devices” that altered the landscape. responds to the legacy of this seminal movement. Since 2017, international practitioners have been invited to “activate” the Coachella Valley – an area that stretches across 400 and is boarded by a ridge of mountains to the north and southeast: San Bernardino, San Jacinto and Santa Rosa. The arid desert exemplifies nature’s majesty, which is echoed by site-specific installations on the natural world. For example, in ParaPivot (2021), Alicja Kwade (b. 1979) used interlocking steel frames and irregular blocks of white marble to symbolise glaciers: solid yet fragile, teetering on the edge of an irreversible collapse.

This year's exhibiting artists also examine social and political issues following extreme weather events. Commissioned works from Torkwase Dyson (b. 1973), Rana Begum (b. 1977) and Himali Singh Soin (b. 1987), amongst others, offer new ways to look at migration and globalism. “I am inspired by water cycles, how it moves across solid, liquid, and gas states,” writes co-curator Diana Campbell. “The show will help us imagine how our energy has a transference far beyond what we see in front of us.”

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Powerful Experiences


Efiɛ Gallery, Dubai | Until 24 February

One in 10 people across the world have no access to clean water near their home. The statistics are even starker in Aïda Muluneh’s (b. 1974) home country of Ethiopia: four in ten live without private taps for drinking and sanitation. The responsibility for transporting this scarce resource often falls on women and children, who walk on average 3.7 miles every day, according to Oxfam. In a commission for Wateraid, with support from the H&M Foundation, the photographer began amplifying these realities. Water Life (2018) depicts lone figures carrying canisters in salt flats of Dallol, Ethiopia – landscapes that seem otherworldly. Vivid clothes and wings adorn their bodies, appearing triumphant and empowered. The series references conventions of photojournalism, reimagining photographs of social plight from international news cycles to challenge global representations of Africa and the desensitisation of the “foreign gaze.” “My art can have more purpose than just hanging on a white wall,” Muluneh told Wateraid. “I want it to convey a message, to transmit an idea to different people regardless of age, class, race or nationality.”

Later projects tackle other pressing humanitarian issues, such as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in The Crimson Echo (2021). Anatomy is abstracted, obscured by elements of nature and Ethiopian body ornamentation. The show at Efiɛ Gallery, Dubai, echoes other contemporary changemakers in art, from Prince Gyasi (b. 1995) to Ismail Zaidy (b. 1997). A new visual language is taking shape, capturing the imagination to approach daily experiences across the continent with authenticity.

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Muluneh, In the Valley of My Shadow (2021).
Photograph courtesy of the artist and Efie Gallery Dubai
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© Edward Burtynsky, Tea Plantations #4, Near Kericho, Kenya (2017).Courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Gallery and Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York / Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto

Altered Topography

Howard Greenberg, New York | Opens 4 March

In November 2022, the world’s population hit 8 billion – a staggering milestone. Although the growth rate is slowing, the resources needed to support human life remain out of reach. Approximately 1.75 Earths are needed to sustain current activity. Therefore, the natural world has been morphing into something altogether different for centuries. In 2019, the United Nation’s global assessment report stated that 75% of ice-free land has been significantly changed by society, from agriculture to housing and industry. This “terrible beauty” is the subject of Edward Burtynsky’s (b. 1955) large-scale photographic works. Between 2015-2019, the artist documented the home of 16.72% of the world's inhabitants. African Studies at Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, records the continent’s varied terrain. Sublime oases, including Lake Bogoria, Kenya, and the red dunes of Sossusvlei, Namibia, are displayed alongside “residual landscapes.” These altered vistas appear untouched, but on closer inspection, the marks of rapid industrialisation come to the fore. Incised lines and junctures form an industrial fingerprint. Gradients of brown, green and blue mix into a heady palette, blurring the lines between nature and manufacturing. Burtynsky explains: “I am surveying two very distinct aspects of the landscape: that of the Earth as something intact, undisturbed yet implicitly vulnerable ... and that of the Earth as opened up by the systematic extraction of resources.” The aerial portraits reveal the cost of human progression on the wilderness. Ironically, amidst the destruction, traces of splendour and wonder remain.

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Symbol of Activism


Vitra, Weil am Rhein| Opens 25 March

In 2020, actor Tilda Swinton and the Art Fund led an unprecedented campaign to save artist, activist and filmmaker Derek Jarman’s (1942-1994) property. 7,300 members of the public and high-profile creatives, including David Hockney, Tacita Dean and Wolfgang Tillmans, flocked to support the fundraiser. In 10 weeks, a total of £3.5m was raised – the largest arts crowdfunding effort in history. The Kent site is open to the public and has become a symbol of individuality and activism.

The traditional fisherman's cottage was bought by Jarman in 1986, becoming a workspace and sanctuary in the year of his HIV diagnosis. Beyond the black-clad house, endless planes of shingle roll out into the harsh, unruly coastline. Conventional garden design is turned on its head, becoming a new facet of the artist’s experimental practice. Weathered driftwood columns replace benches and ceramic gnomes, whilst structural planting is swapped with native plants, including wild, sporadic patches of sea kale, viper's bugloss and foxgloves. The result is something entirely personal – an extension of self through gardening.

Prospect Cottage is just one of the case studies in Garden Futures: Designing with Nature, an exhibition curated by Italian research-based studio FormaFantasma. Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, traces the history and future of landscaping. These avant-garde practitioners offer new ways to combat biodiversity loss and the climate emergency, reflecting the growing trend of environmental activism and rewilding. Here, working with the natural world, instead of taming it, is the key to a brighter future.

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Innovation Revolutionised


Art in Australia has a rich history. The oldest intact Aboriginal painting depicts a two-metre-long kangaroo. In February 2021, researchers from The University of Melbourne wrote about identifying the ancient drawing, found in a shelter on the Unghango clan estate in north-eastern Kimberley. Their carbon dating research in Nature Human Behaviour journal suggests that rock illustrations have been painted for millennia, with individuals passing on their knowledge through naturalistic animal imagery.

Melbourne Now at National Gallery of Victoria reflects this sentiment, exploring how contemporary artists reference, reimagine and challenge the past with new representations of life. Innovations in architecture, fashion, installation and performance reveal the undeniable mark of history. Jenna Lee (b. 1992), for example, collaborates with Kyoto-based lantern studio Kojima Shōten on a series of illuminated Gulumerridjin dilly bags, a traditional woven accessory used by First Nations women. Balarr (To Become Light) recalls ancestral objects, providing new forms of cultural pride. In photography, Atong Atem’s (b. 1994) highly staged portraits draw on the revolutionary practices of Malian artists Malick Sidibé (1936-2016) and Seydou Keïta (19212001), providing visibility for the African diaspora in Melbourne.

More than 200 multidisciplinary practitioners paint a picture of the region as it was, is and can be. The group exhibition reflects a prolonged commitment by NGV to showcase the diversity, and international impact, of local art, following on from NGV Triennial (2020) and Who Are You: Australian Portraiture (2022).

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10 to See


Shows opening in February and March use multidisciplinary techniques to examine historical narratives and possibilities for the future. How can machine intelligence manipulate art? Can the planet be preserved for generations to come? How do we dismantle colonial legacies?

1Jenny Holzer

K21, Kunstsammlung, Düsseldorf | 11 March - 8 June

In January 2023, Jenny Holzer (b. 1950) became the 10th recipient of the Whitechapel Gal lery's Art Icon Award, celebrating her commitment to inciting crucial political debates through public installations. Two months later, the American artist will see her largest retrospective to date open at K21, Düsseldorf, with paintings, works on stone and photographs from 50 years of making. Projections and New York street posters from the 1970s demonstrate an appre ciation of text, which has a profound significance in an era of misinformation and fake news.

2Z eal Eva: Gentle Landing

Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh | Until 10 February

“Burnout” diminishes a person’s sense of worth, identity and accomplishment, a condition experienced by 84% of Gen Zs in 2021. In a world ruled by success and money, people are finding themselves stuck in an endless rat race. Zeal Eva’s work is an antidote to this overwhelming state of mind. Instead of asking “what’s next?” the photographer takes a moment to pause and appreciate the finer things. These visual narratives champion comfort, growth and discovery, drawing attention to experiences we take for granted on a daily basis.


Refik Anadol: Unsupervised Museum of Modern Art, New York | Until 5 March

An estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created daily. Los-Angeles based Refik Anadol (b. 1985) is at the forefront of machine intelligence, using algorithms and artificial intelligence to source, extract and transform digital information into large-scale experiences. Unsupervised goes further, reimagining MoMA’s collection. A specially trained machine learning model “visits” and reinterprets almost 200,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art into everchanging swirls that interrogate the future of creativity by positioning the machine as a maker.


M arina Abramović : Gates and Portals

Modern Art Oxford | Until 5 March

Marina Abramović (b. 1946) investigates the relationship between artist and audience in intense performances. In 2010, The Artist Is Present saw 10,000 people visit the Museum of Modern Art, New York, to sit across a table and look directly into Abramović’s eyes. Now, a site-specific installation at Modern Art Oxford goes one step beyond, inviting viewers to realise a higher state of consciousness through different “gates” and “portals.” “The visitors are silent witnesses,” says Abramović. “Their experience with the object is the artwork itself.”

5H ito Steyerl: This is the Future

Portland Art Museum | 11 February - 27 May

In 2021, 1.5 million homes in Britain did not have access to the internet. In the midst of Covid19 lockdowns, many households faced technological inequality. Hito Steyerl’s (b. 1966) multidisciplinary work is guided by the philosophy that “power is the necessary condition for any digital technology.” Portland Art Museum premieres This is the Future, where reality and the virtual realm meld. Heja, a prisoner, nurtures a garden whilst images of protest flash up on screen, leaving viewers wondering: are we heading for a digital dream, or nightmare?

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C raftspace: {Queer} + {Metals}

Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham | Until 2 April

Metalworking predates recorded history. In around 8700 BCE, people in present-day Iraq began shaping the material into weapons, and later, jewellery, decorative items and money. Craftspace’s touring exhibition stops at the Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham, to showcase LGBTQIA+ blacksmiths, performers, sculptors and welders. Artist John Moore, for example, references the sweeping roofs of pagodas to reconstruct the necklace. {Queer} + {Metals} uplifts creatives who disrupt longstanding design practices, becoming an act of resistance.

7Cédrine Scheidig: From Sea to Land

Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris | 1 February - 26 March

“My mind is an island, walking across oceans.” French-Caribbean artist Cédrine Scheidig’s Instagram biography encapsulates the poetics behind her multilayered portraits of young people from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. It is a Blessing to be the Color of Earth (2020), for example, investigates youth, identity and migration in Parisian suburbs. Scheidig moves beyond traditional documentary imagery with the Dior Photography and Visual Arts Awardwinning series, where reality melts away as the individuality of each subject comes to the fore.

8K arrabing Film Collective. Wonderland.

Haus der Kunst, Munich | Until 30 July

A nonfiction promotional video for an industrial company plays out, advising on the positive impact of manufacturing for sake of the planet. On the adjoining screen, an invisible, apocalyptic siege ravages a wooded environment. These contrasting “mirror worlds” are the creations of Karrabing Film Collective, an Indigenous group of around 30 members based in Australia’s Northern Territory. Powerful installations move between documentary and fiction, using the language of cinema to challenge legacies of colonialism, greed and eco washing.

9Victoria Sambunaris: High and Dry

Yancey Richardson, New York | Until 18 February

The great American road trip has been the catalyst for many iconic photography collections, from Robert Frank’s (1924-2019) The Americans toThe Road Trip by Stephen Shore (b. 1947). Victoria Sambunaris (b. 1964) follows this tradition, crossing the American west to document alluring Californian deserts. Death Valley, the Great Basin Desert, Joshua Tree and Mojave Desert are detailed from all angles, with humanity dotted throughout. High and Dry denounces ideas of Manifest Destiny – a phrase first used in 1845 to justify the dominion of land.

immy DeSana: Submission

Brooklyn Museum, New York | Until 16 April

Jimmy DeSana (1949-1990) championed liberation – in life and art – above all else. at Brooklyn Museum, New York, features 200 prints from the overlooked pioneer, alongside experimental postcard art and collaborative zines created between the 1960s and Marker Cones, a figure stands contorted on all fours, limbs lost in a quadrant of cones. These warped, dreamlike scenes provided a new realm for the exploration of desire amidst a backdrop of Gay Liberation, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and underground club culture.

In the Garden (detail) (2015). Text: Motion , by Octavio Paz, translated by Eliot Weinberger, from THE COLLECTED . Copyright ©1986 by Octavio Paz and Eliot Weinberger. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. (detail) (August 2021). Courtesy of the artist. 3. Image Credit by Refik Anadol Studio 4. Studio Marina Abramović, (2022). Courtesy of the artist and the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. Photo: Tim Hand 5. Hito Steyerl, Installation View, 11 April – 6 May 2019, Serpentine Galleries AR Application Design by Ayham Ghraowi. Developed by Ivaylo Getov, Luxloop, 3D data visualisation by United Futures. Courtesy of the artist, Andrew Kreps Gallery (New York) and Esther Schipper Gallery (Berlin/Paris/Seoul) Photograph: © 2019 6. John Moore, Pagoda II (2021). Photo: Chris Bulezuik 7. Femme-mangrove (detail) (2021). © Cédrine Scheidig 8. Karrabing Film Collective, Mermaids, Mirror Worlds (Film Still), 2018. Courtesy of the artist. 9. Victoria Sambunaris, Untitled, (Hercules Gap), Ely, Nevada (detail) (2004). © Victoria Sambunaris. Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson, New York. 10. Jimmy DeSana (American, 1949–1990). Marker Cones (1982). Chromogenic print, 21 3/4 × 26 in. (55.3 × 66 cm). Courtesy of theEstate of Jimmy DeSana. © Estate of Jimmy DeSana.

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Vibrant Abstraction

What defines a Bauhaus photograph? One of the movement's most famous pioneers was László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), a Hungarian artist known for abstract photograms: a cameraless form involving everyday objects and photographic paper. “He insisted upon its capacity to extend human vision,” writes curator Louise Curtis in The Spirit of the Bauhaus (Thames & Hudson, 2018). Sebastiaan Knot (b. 1970) is inspired by such ideas. In these scenes, which appear to be products of photo-manipulation or digital rendering, crisply folded shapes pop from vibrant blue, orange, pink and purple backdrops. However, Knot's work is strictly analogue: created from grey or white card stock. Bold colours are blended in real time from cleverly positioned shafts of light. “Simple shapes are placed in the studio, surrounded by lamps with filters,” Knot explains. “The composition is illuminated, creating a unique shot with scattered shadows and mixed colours.” | @sebastiaanknot

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Sebastiaan Sebastiaan Knot, N49581 (2021). From Colliding Colours
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Sebastiaan Knot, N49440 (2021). From Colliding Colours
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Sebastiaan Knot, N49532 (2021). From Colliding Colours
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Sebastiaan Knot, N50316 (2021). From Colliding Colours
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Sebastiaan Knot, N47904 (2021). From Colliding Colours
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Sebastiaan Knot, N49587 (2021). From Colliding Colours
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Sebastiaan Knot, N48013 (2021). From Colliding Colours
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Sebastiaan Knot, N51594 (2022). From Colliding Colours
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Sebastiaan Knot, N24588 (2018). From Colliding Colours
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Sebastiaan Knot, N51571 (2022). From Colliding Colours
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Sebastiaan Knot, N49253 (2021). From Colliding Colours

Emotive Colour Play

The first colour wheel is attributed to Sir Isaac Newton’s Opticks, which was published in 1704. We are still studying its nuances over 300 years later. Colour psychology examines the effects that different hues can have on human perception and behaviour. Why do some shades make us feel sad, and others energetic or driven? These concepts are central to Prince Gyasi (b. 1995), whose signature style involves vibrant palettes. The Ghanaian artist believes “colour can serve as a therapy, it can treat depression and transform emotions.” Most of the images are taken in Accra, the artist's hometown, and place its inhabitants front and centre. Each work – captured on iPhone – is about fundamental human feelings, set against a bright backdrop. “I represent people who don’t have the platform to speak for themselves,” he explains. This is a principle the artist carries into his new exhibition space, Maât Gallery, Paris. | @princejyesi |

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Prince Gyasi
Prince Gyasi, Before the Rains Came (2019)
Prince Gyasi, Crumple Zone (2018)
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Aesthetica 47 Prince Gyasi, Patience & Purpose (2019)
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Prince Gyasi, La Pureté (2019)
Aesthetica 51 Prince Gyasi, Almost Home (2018)
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Prince Gyasi, Protection II (2020)

Altering Perceptions


The first International Women’s Day was held on 19 March 1911, encouraging over one million supporters from Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Its 112th edition is marked on 8 March 2023, an event that remains alarmingly necessary. Over a century after people marched the streets to campaign for greater freedoms, the world continues to restrain them. Women in Afghanistan have been banned from all forms of education; Iran protests Mahsa Amini’s violent death by morality police. The #MeToo movement continues to demonstrate the abuse rife across societies, whilst restrictions to abortion access in Poland and the USA, in January 2021 and June 2022, have removed basic bodily autonomy.

These issues continue to make headlines but, to Sarah Cooper (b. 1974) and Nina Gorfer (b. 1979), they’re not news. Born in the USA and Austria respectively, these artists have collaborated on projects focused on women since 2006, working intimately with subjects to examine female relationships with identity, memory and migration. Their multidisciplinary approach to photography, which incorporates collage, embroidery and painting, transcends the medium to tap into the metaphorical. Through their exuberant portraits, individuals are shaped and overwhelmed by their environments, whilst fantasies enable them to rise up to challenges.

“Our subjects have the power to visualise themselves in new environments,” states Cooper. This subversion of perspective runs throughout their oeuvre. The duo frequently reimagine traditional portraiture, highlighting contemporary experiences through a historical lens. The male gaze – which considers men the main audience of the visual arts and relegates

women to positions of objectification or sexualisation – has defined centuries of art history. “Women are always carrying out domestic duties, lifting buckets, whilst men are wrestling and throwing javelins,” Cooper states. “We are interested in the catalogue of poses that inspired art, and we twist them.”

The canon is evoked through a focus on the sitter’s head and shoulders, bold earthy colour palettes and larger-than-life canvases, but Cooper & Gorfer subvert this dominant perspective. Women hold themselves in confident, defiant poses: bold gestures; stoic gazes, eyes fixed beyond the camera; enveloped in colourful clothing and decadent jewellery. “We’ve been playing with the male gaze through the female gaze.” Phonecia (2010), for example, details a woman from Qatar in an embroidered, golden veil beneath an ominous, circular sky, reminiscent of John Martin’s (1789-1854) dramatic biblical landscapes. The series Interruptions portrays several generations of Sámi women, with portraits like Maxida with Green Strings (2016) – in which a woman turns away, red and green skirts dancing against a black backdrop – recall 16th and 17th century Dutch Masters. Amanda and the Painted People (2017), contrastingly, is one of several works from I Know Not These My Hands (2011-2017), shot in Argentina, that summons Austrian painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the Vienna Secession movement. Throughout these series, women are viewed as more than background – or entirely absent – figures and exhibitions. Instead, they are elevated to the central focus: they become immortalised. “Women have this goddess status, staring down at you from the walls,” remarks Cooper. “It gives power to the subjects.”

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“These women are they are the real, the different masks they use to succeed or

current situation, their memories and defining experiences. There is beauty in this patterning of objects, colours and shapes, but the collages also highlight the multiplicity of identity and belonging. Forced to start life anew in a different country, or the second and third generation of migrants, these women describe a disconnect from their heritage. Through Cooper & Gorfer’s lens, they are transformed, becoming outward reflections of their diverse backgrounds and intergenerational stories. “What we make is not a documentary,” Cooper explains. These assemblaged portraits rejects conventions of photojournalism. Rather than drawing attention to external views of migration, the artists turn inward. “We reflect the inner lives and power of these women.”

This is evident in the documentary short film the artists

created alongside the portraits, in which four of the models discuss their experiences of forced migration and the impact this has had on their self-perception. Segal is an activist, playwright and poet born in Sweden to Somalian refugees. “What is my purpose here?” she asks. “Why is someone’s view of me where I am a statistic – or a colour, a body or a gender – an opinion that’s validated?” Like Segal, Cooper & Gorfer question the dehumanisation of these women, their reduction to data and collective archetypes of the migrant experience. Instead, their focus remains on each woman as an individual with unique dreams, influences and aspirations. “Utopia” was coined by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book, taken from the Greek and meaning “no place” or “a place that does not exist,” though it is commonly defined as a state of perfection. Cooper & Gorfer were inspired by this duality –a state of unachievable idealism – and suggested that utopia, therefore, was a space that had to be constructed. Parwana, for example, is featured throughout the series. She is originally from Afghanistan, became a refugee in Iran and then travelled to Sweden, alone, at 16. “I realised I had lost myself along the way,” she states, discussing when her family joined her two years later. “But I couldn’t remember where. I didn’t have any hopes or dreams left.” From this, Cooper & Gorfer discussed what the loss of the idea of utopia would mean, and who would be able to achieve this state. The resulting images in Between These Folded Walls, Utopia create a space for women who had lost or not had the opportunity to truly imagine, placing the definition of utopia within their hands. Moreover, Cooper & Gorfer highlight the importance of fantasy to visualise alternative futures and alter dominant perceptions. Current exhibitions worldwide are using specu-

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Previous Page: Cooper & Gorfer, Yellow Roseline (2020).
Left: Cooper & Gorfer, Sisters Holding Heads in Hands (2020). Cooper & Gorfer, Israa with Yellow Boxes (detail) (2020).

lative photography to expose and counter narratives that discriminate and marginalise. Ekow Eshun’s group exhibition In the Black Fantastic (2022), for example, at the Hayward Gallery, London, drew on myth and Afrofuturism to address ongoing racism and social injustice, whilst A Gateway to Possible Worlds at Centre Pompidou-Metz, Lorraine, which runs until 10 April, draws on intersections of art and science fiction to examine faults in 21st century society. Cooper & Gorfer heighten surreal aspects of their work through elements of the otherworldly – hands sprout from walls, whilst furniture replaces human limbs – and invite speculative thinking.

In their exhibition at Fotografiska, New York, in 2021, viewers become more than spectators to this alternative universe. Instead, individuals were engulfed by immense canvases, with lush vegetation springing from behind the portraits and artwork overflowing onto the walls. It is a theatrical world heightened by the size of the portraits, reinforcing the women’s strength and power – a symbol of their goddess status. Scale is hugely important to their iconography. “An image is successful when it becomes an immersive experience,” Cooper says. The artists also allow the architecture of the space to influence their installation process, curating unique design experiences. “The position of the images create different associations that you will never get from looking at images online,” Gorfer says. “Individuals are moved in the physical sense.” This imaginative production – in which dreaming of a world so vividly conjures it into being – harkens back to their understanding of a self-constructed utopia.

Now in their 40s, Cooper & Gorfer are also increasingly interested in the physical experience of inhabiting a female body. Their latest project, When We Are Giant (2022-ongo-

ing), represents the layers that make up individuals, each characterising “the different shells we inhabit.” Caricaturised women explode from canvases, an assemblage of collage, painting and photography that highlight women undergoing physical transformation. “We want to dissolve some of our own insecurities surrounding body issues and existing in spaces,” Gorfer states. These women are multifaceted and expansive. At once, they are the real, uninhibited selves of the artists, the personae they feel obliged to create and the different masks they use to succeed or hide within society.

Preconceived notions of femininity are also deconstructed within When We Are Giant. The women’s colossal forms are attributed to Greek mythology. “Immortal women don’t have the fears and worries attributed to a mortal life. You are going to have a long life, so you take control of it in a revered manner,” Cooper explains. “We’ve lost that idea of what power and beauty can be.” Women are again likened to divinity: monumental and physically imposing. “Giant arms might not be a stereotypical attribute of beauty,” Gorfer points out, “but they can crush you. They are useful.” The return to legend in Cooper & Gorfer's latest work counters negative connotations associated with women's physical strength, allowing them to transcend restrictive boundaries and ensuring their models occupy the space they deserve. When We Are Giant is the first installment in a broader series of the artists’ work that continues to dismantle perceptions of women – both physical and internal. Cooper & Gorfer illustrate a reality where women’s rights are unrestricted, opportunities are uninhibited and self-expression is limitless. At the centre of the work are individuals whose powerful and defining portraits epitomise the strength required to drive change.

Words Diane Smyth

Between These Folded Walls, Utopia Max Ström

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Right: Cooper & Gorfer, The Golden Maryan (2020).

Window to Other Places

Streams flow through living rooms. Aeroplane cabins are filled with plant life. Curtains open wide to reveal mountain realms. These are scenes by James Tralie (b. 1997), a 3D artist based in Washington, D.C. Dreamscapes imagines worlds adjacent to our own. Familiar spaces become overgrown or flooded, with great trees bursting skyward through cathedrals and lazy rivers snaking by. Elsewhere, fields of bright wildflowers surround classical architecture, like views ripped from the pages of J. R. R. Tolkien. There are nods to art history: Claude Monet’s famous Impressionist bridge, as found in Water Lily Pond (1899), appears amidst a sun-drenched colonnade. However, some of the compositions are tinged with foreboding, showing airports engulfed by greenery. Tralie is a producer for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and works on animations for space missions, bringing planets, asteroids and comets to life. | @james_film

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James Tralie, Zen River (2021). From Dreamscapes
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James Tralie, Archway Flood (2021). From Dreamscapes
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James Tralie, Lagoon Home (2021). From Dreamscapes
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James Tralie, Floral Cathedral (2021). From Dreamscapes
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James Tralie, Cathedral Lazy River (2022). From Dreamscapes
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James Tralie, Nonstop Flight to Paradise (2021). From Dreamscapes
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James Tralie, Layover (2020). From Dreamscapes
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James Tralie, Midnight Gardens (2022). From Dreamscapes
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James Tralie, Happy Place (2020). From Dreamscapes
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James Tralie, Beach House (2021). From Dreamscapes
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James Tralie, Lazy River In Spring (2022). From Dreamscapes

Visionary Narratives


Isaac Julien's (b. 1960) work transcends western narrative structures. He questions perceptions of time through film, dismantling restrictive genre conventions and the boundaries between artistic mediums, incorporating dance, painting, photography and sculpture into his practice. The 1983 short Who Killed Colin Roach? responded to the death of a 21-year-old shot outside an East London police station, and ensuing protests. Since this debut, Julien has continued to interrogate visual representation, racism and homophobia through portrayals of Black diasporic experiences on screen.

The Sankofa Film and Video Collective was established in 1983 by Julien, alongside Martina Attille, Maureen Blackwood, Nadine Marsh-Edwards and Robert Crusz. This initiative created a space for Black filmmakers to question the predominantly white industry and challenge filmmaking norms.

In 2020, Karen Alexander from Sight & Sound interviewed founding member Maureen Blackwood, who reiterated the Collective's intention “to make films about lives and issues that were not being told or were forgotten.” Julien's portrait of social activist, novelist and columnist Langston Hughes –Looking for Langston (1989) – examines racism in the 1920s, alongside homophobia in the African American community. Three decades later, Julien returns to that period in Once Again…(Statues Never Die) (2022), analysing the relationship between philosopher Alain Locke (1885-1951) and American collector of African art, Dr Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951).

In June 2022, Julien received a knighthood for services to diversity and inclusion, exemplifying his commitment to cultural activism. For example, Once Again…(Statues Never Die),

which makes its European premiere at Tate Britain from 26 April, demonstrates Julien’s renewal of dialogues surrounding repatriation. Looking for Langston also features alongside Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement (2019) in this solo exhibition surveying four decades of the artist’s practice.

A: Can you discuss the nine-screen installation of Lina Bo Bardi - A Marvellous Entanglement at Philadelphia's Museum of Art in more detail? How does the film interact with this space, and in return, how do viewers engage?

IJ: The installation has almost been completely recommissioned for the exhibition. It is in a huge atrium, and how it's viewed is profoundly different from how I would have originally shown the work. It has verticality. Lina Bo Bardi created a radical design for the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), Brazil, where the paintings are suspended in crystal easels. It was recreated in MASP’s Picture Gallery in Transformation (1968–2015). I played with the idea of approaching a work from different perspectives in other installations, such as Ten Thousand Waves (2010), and borrowed it for A Marvellous Entanglement. The nine-screen montage is an invitation to look at things anew, echoing Bo Bardi's scenography and curation.

A: In what ways does the multi-channel composition relate to the film's exploration of Lina Bo Bardi’s life?

IJ: In 1946, Bo Bardi moved to Rome, married art critic Pietro Maria Bardi and travelled to Brazil. From there, she adopted Brazilian practices, inscribing Brutalist designs and architecture into her work. One example of this is Bo Bardi’s staircase,

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What Is A Museum? (2019).

It's a wooden helicoidal structure. Instead of screws, there are intersections that mirror how the working classes would have made ox carts. The film is essentially about the integration of Brazilian culture into her buildings, where today, she retains an incredibly unique and important position.

How does the conceptualisation of A Marvellous relate to deconstructing notions of time?

Bo Bardi’s amazing quote, “Linear time is a western invention. Time is not linear, it is a marvellous entanglement” has defined my approach over the last four years. Time, as she states, is a European convention. I have been concerned with ideas of multi-temporalities, seminality and the simultaneous ways in which different times coexist in narratives. Screen work makes you question conventional methods of filmmaking, but also how we view time elsewhere. Multi-tasking and multi-screen use are also about transgressing time in a more normative sense. Linearity is fetishised in chronologies and master narratives. We should remove these dictations because they eclipse other nuances, such as questions of modernity, timelines and patterns of thought. Many of these concepts are intangible.

debuted in 1989. How has your practice evolved since then? What elements of the filmmaking process connect you to your earlier projects?

As part of the Sankofa Film and Video Collective, we challenged how moving image was made. We didn’t reproduce formal structures of filmmaking. My central question became: how would one make a work about Black gay

desire when it wasn’t visible in culture? This work was being silently produced and part of certain activism, but it wasn’t widely documented. Therefore, when creating Langston, we developed a language that was connected to Black vernacular and the activism of the Harlem Renaissance. I still challenge conventional filmmaking. Improvisational aspects, for example, such as not having a script or offering different possible readings and interpretations. In Once Again...(Statues Never Die), I return to Langston’s thematic narrative: its connections to modernism; the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 1970s; as well as the relationship between African sculpture and its repatriation from western museums.

A: Once Again…(Statues Never Die) can be seen as a prequel to Looking for Langston. Can you discuss revisiting the Harlem Renaissance period? How do the films speak to each other, visually and conceptually?

IJ: Interactions between the films are consciously quoted. Once Again was commissioned for the centenary of the Barnes Foundation. Dr Barnes assembled an incredible collection of African art and sculpture in the 1920s. I was interested in representing the collection through his contemporary, Alain Locke, and the parallels in their lives. Locke saw the intersections between Modernism and African culture and its appropriation through French art, and so the revisitation of this figure became an obvious connection between the two works. Questions of mortality and how humanity responds to crises also came to haunt their productions. Looking for Langston was made in the middle of the AIDS crisis, and Once Again was shot during the pandemic. This became a significant parallel, but with a

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crucial difference: in 1989, a pandemic that affected queer and Black communities in particular was not dealt with in the same manner as Covid-19. There were no vaccines. The world didn’t come together to save those who were dying.

A: Film and photography are acts of preservation. Locke’s 1925 anthology immortalised Black American writers. Is Once Again about sustaining this legacy?

IJ: The broader questions of conservation and archiving are influential across my work. How do we keep particular moments? Can we resurrect conversations that have been disavowed? It goes beyond using archival material in the film. Instead, I am interested in the conversations that can be enlisted by returning to historical texts and allowing debates to reverberate in contemporary settings. For example, the acquisition and appropriation of cultural materials remains an important and controversial discussion a century later.

A: Historical figures are often the inspiration behind your films. How do you engage with the ethics of representation when translating these events? How do you balance the line between documentary and fiction?

IJ: I’m not interested in how I fit between documentary and fiction. Genre expectations are conventions constructed to determine how we think about film. I transgress both these forms. I use the term “political lyricism,” which moves beyond those boundaries of the form. It postulates a visual argument and pursues an aesthetic interest in film creation. Documentary and fiction meld together. It's more important to consider how works can test their time. A project must be able to transcend when it was made. Looking for

Langston remains relevant and interesting to the current times 30 years later. You have to build a certain perspective and develop a method of considering the work over time.

A: In what ways does incorporating different artistic practices aid visual storytelling? How do these mechanisms deconstruct existing barriers within filmmaking?

IJ: Italian film theoretician Ricciotto Canudo defined film as the seventh art because it encapsulates all these different forms. Filmmaking is about forming relationships and engaging with interdisciplinary perspectives. It is a fascinating and exciting process. In film, the approaches can be concealed as part of artistic license, so I try to foreground the apparatus. The filming itself can be in the narrative. For example, this happens towards the end of Ten Thousand Waves and A Marvellous Entanglement, and it allows aspects of the work to be lyrically deconstructed. It questions and re-examines the structure of moving work.

A: Will immersive filmmaking gain traction? What work can we expect to see from you in the near future?

IJ: Immersive experiences are becoming prominent, where installations become whole environments and individuals are completely swallowed by the work. For me, it’s anti-cinematic. I won't be delving into this future of installation and immersion. However, technology can help to enhance the narrative experience. One reason I moved to the west coast in the USA was to explore virtual spaces and to engage with VR, but I haven’t been captured by it yet. I can't speak specifically for the future, but decades of work will be at Tate Britain from April, and I always have projects in progress.

Words Megan Jones

What Freedom Is To Me Tate Britain, London 26 April - 20 August 2023

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Right: Isaac Julien, Almas belas, almas menos belas / Beautiful Souls, Less Beautiful Souls ( Lina Bo Bardi - A Marvellous Entanglement ), (detail) (2019). Endura Ultra photograph facemounted. 180 x 240 x 7.5 cm. 70 7/8 x 94 1/2 x 3 in. Edition of 6 plus 1 artist's proof. © Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro. Isaac Julien, Tecnologia pré-histórica / Prehistoric Technology ( Lina Bo BardiA Marvellous Entanglement (2019). Endura Ultra photograph facemounted. 180 x 240 x 7.5 cm. 70 7/8 x 94 1/2 x 3 in. Edition of 6 plus 1 artist's proof. © Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro.

Defining Photography

Celebrating 20 Years

The landscape of photography has changed so much since 2003. Most of us now have a camera in our pockets. It’s reported that over 1,000 pictures are uploaded to Instagram per second. In this digital world, the question of “what makes a great photograph” is more complex than ever. At Aesthetica, we seek out artworks that look at the world from new angles, break boundaries and reinvent traditions. One example is the simple portrait. Humans have made them for millennia. Shown here is a contemporary image by Andrea Torres Balaguer, who combines analogue and digital, past and present. The subject sits as if posing for a large-scale oil painting, drenched in regal tones of red, green, black and gold. Balaguer layers faces with coarse brushstrokes, cutting across the composition to create a sense of anonymity. The following pages will introduce you more of our favourite images from across the past two decades, including Brooke DiDonato, Fares Micue and Yannis Davy Guibinga.

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Andrea Torres Balaguer, quince (2017). From the series the unknown Courtesy of the artist.

In 2022, the world got to see the first images from James Webb Space Telescope: the largest and most complex observatory ever launched into space. Its mesmerising shots – including the deepest infrared view of the universe ever taken – encourage us to think about our place in the cosmos. Ellie Davies’ Stars 8 has a similar effect. The artist expertly collages real pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope over dark, shadowy forest scenes. Woodlands are, already, innately magical, but Davies adds another layer to their mystique – blending science and fine art to remind humanity of our fleeting existence.

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Ellie Davies, Stars 8 (2014 – 2015)
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Ellie Davies, Stars
2015. 80cm x 120cm. Source material credit: STScI/Hubble and NASA. Ellie Davies/Crane Kalman Brighton Gallery UK.
Fares Micue, Burning Energy (detail) (2019)

You’ve seen Fares Micue’s work already. It’s on the cover. The artist balances, poised, as a flock of paper birds rush past. This image was chosen for its relevance to our 20th anniversary, symbolising the power of ideas and what it means to be brave. Micue is a self-taught Spanish photographer who creates conceptual portraits that are dreamlike, uplifting, and – at times – surreal, with facial features obscured entirely by blooming flowers and folded paper cranes. “Every element in my compositions has a purpose,” Micue remarks. “I want my images to provide a sense of hope.” They are crisp, imaginative and perfectly composed.

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Fares Micue, Burning Energy (2019)

During the 2010s, photographer Brooke DiDonato sparked an online renaissance in “the uncanny.” The concept is most often associated with Sigmund Freud, who, in 1919, defined it as a descriptor for something familiar, yet alien. For over 100 years, such images have generated fascination, from surrealist art to experimental cinema. DiDonato became known on social media for her pastel-tinged suburban world: a place that is slightly off-kilter. Windows, garage doors and pavements are locations for the bizarre. Cosy homes and gardens bristle with danger, humour and intrigue, encouraging us to look again.

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Brooke DiDonato, Long Way Down (2016)
Aesthetica 85 Brooke DiDonato, Long Way Down (2016).
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Yannis Davy Guibinga, Ivy Guerrier-Cadet and Atlas Hapy for Nikon Z50 (detail). From the series Of Colour (2020).

Yannis Davy Guibinga, Ivy Guerrier-Cadet and for Nikon Z50. From Of Colour (2016)

Yannis Davy Guibinga’s bold portraits are part of an expansive and necessary conversation about the representation of Africa and its diaspora. These portraits depict “a new generation of Africans” – using photography as a tool to face up to globalisation and western imperialism. To do so, the artist uses colour and contrast expertly. In this shot, found on our August / September 2020 cover, aqua complements luminous yellow, and soft shadows play with texture in the background. This incisive eye for composition has led to Guibinga being celebrated worldwide and collaborating with Apple, Nikon, Squarespace and Adobe.

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When we first published Alexis Christodoulou’s digital work in 2018, we asked: how far does a viewer need to be convinced that something is real? Can beauty be replicated through a calculated algorithm? Since then, there’s been an acceleration of dialogue around art and technology. AI image generators, the metaverse and NFTs have all made headlines, bringing a whole new set of questions. What’s certain is Christodoulou’s renders are mesmerising. This calming virtual space is filled with undulating rocks, rippling turquoise waters and asymmetric curves. The digital sphere is a place for seemingly limitless creation.

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Alexis Christodoulou, Summer (2020)
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Alexis Christodoulou, Summer (detail) (2020).
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James Casebere, Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #2 (detail) (2009). © James Casebere. Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly, New York.

The French phrase trompe-l'oeil – meaning “to deceive the eye” – has been used to describe artworks that create the illusion of reality. It’s the phenomenon of tricking the viewer into believing something exists in three dimensions. James Casebere is a pioneer of the opposite, crafting intricate architectural models that look like photographs. Landscape with Houses , informed by the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, reflects the sprawl of urban development in upstate New York. Casebere’s tabletop suburbia, meticulously assembled by hand, is replete with miniature trees, driveways, lawns and multicoloured roofs.

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James Casebere, Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #2 (2009)

Today, at the height of the climate crisis, we are seeing artists across all disciplines engaging with ecological dialogues. This is essential if we want to spark meaningful change. We need creative voices to visualise what’s happening in our world. In many ways, Kevin Cooley was ahead of his time with At Light’s Edge , a series which provides desolate views of American landscapes illuminated by eerie distress signals. Trails of light, coming from above or vice versa, cut through deep blue skies, falling to Earth. The resulting works highlight the vulnerability – and fragile beauty – of our planet as it sits on a knife-edge.

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Kevin Cooley, Madison River, Montana (2009)
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Kevin Cooley, Madison River, Montana (2009). Chromogenic print singular edition of 7+1ap, 30×38.5 & 48.5×60”. Courtesy of the artist.
94 Aesthetica Namsa Leuba, Untitled II Cocktail (detail) (2011). 42.84x60cm.

“I have always been characterised as the ‘Other,’ whether I am too ‘African’ to be European, or too ‘European’ to be African.” Namsa Leuba is a Swiss-Guinean art director making important work on African identity as seen through the western gaze. Her images are rooted in the experience of hybridity and duality, embracing – and questioning – what it means to exist between cultures in the world. Leuba pairs symbols traditionally associated with West Africa with accessories like gold Dr. Martens – a style of boot which dates to Northamptonshire in 1901. Here, the camera is harnessed as a tool to challenge assumptions.

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Namsa Leuba, Untitled II Cocktail (2011)

Pastels are associated with peace, calm and a sense of ease. In 2015, “Millennial Pink” was on the rise, with Rose Quartz becoming Pantone’s colour of the year. Now, Dulux forecasts a comeback: in 2023, soft blue and lilac are predicted to trend alongside playful pink. Adriana Mora applies this palette to architecture, placing 3D buildings within idyllic waterscapes. Isolated structures appear from rippling pools, surrounded by plants or small islands. Some designs are recognisable, evoking Ricardo Bofill and Herzog & de Meuron. However, Mora abstracts them: rotating, reconfiguring – digital dwellings that exist out of reach.

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Adriana Mora, 01. Anarchitecture - House (2021)
Aesthetica 97 Adriana Mora, 01. AnarchitectureHouse (2021).

Reframed Perspective

Nadine Ijewere


On 1 March 1966, Donyale Luna, born Peggy Ann Freeman, (1945-1979) became the first woman of colour to appear on the front cover of British Vogue. The striking portrait – her face half obscured by the V-shaped fingers draped across her cheek – taken by photographer David Bailey (b. 1938), gave Luna celebrity status. Time magazine dubbed 1966 “The Luna Year”, and she appeared in magazines like Cosmopolitan and Elle alongside campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Mary Quant and Paco Rabanne. In 1967, Adel Rootstein manufactured a mannequin in her image. Whilst Luna’s landmark career should be celebrated, her success did not lead to a significant diversity shift within the fashion industry. It would be another eight years before Beverly Johnson (b. 1952) featured on the August 1974 edition of American Vogue, and 42 before a woman of colour shot the cover.

London-born photographer Nadine Ijewere (b. 1992) photographed singer-songwriter Dua Lipa for the January 2019 issue of British Vogue. She later shot Selena Gomez for American Vogue, April 2021, becoming the first Black woman to shoot the cover for both publications. These features followed Tyler Mitchell (b. 1995), who, in September 2018, became the first Black photographer to shoot a cover for Vogue, 126 years after its debut. Together, these photographers marked the beginning of an increase in representation behind the lens within fashion photography. Their work continues to transform the industry’s narrow parameters.

Ijewere reframes perspectives on beauty standards, exemplified in her debut monograph, Our Own Selves, published by Prestel in 2021. She also features in The New Black Van-

guard, a group exhibition and book curated by Antwaun Sargent to showcase contemporary Black image-makers, alongside Namsa Leuba (b. 1982), Campbell Addy (b. 1993) and Arielle Bobb-Willis (b. 1995). The collection is now at California’s Museum of the African Diaspora until 5 March 2023. Alongside these creatives, Ijewere paves the way for younger generations to see themselves reflected in today’s media.

A: Beauty is a highly subjective concept. How do you draw on this in your photography? How does it relate to deconstructing stereotypes in the fashion industry?

NI: My work shows that beauty is multi-faceted. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, and these standards shouldn’t be limited to a particular ethnicity or age group. For example, my exhibition Beautiful Disruption at C/O Berlin in 2021 was designed to reflect this, rejecting these visual stereotypes and presenting a range of diverse models. I grew up looking at fashion magazines and thinking, “There’s no one that looks like me, my family or my friends.” I asked myself, “Why is that? Why can’t I take pictures like that?” I wanted to redress the balance through my work and to reframe misconceptions, as well as creating a space to elevate women of colour.

A: Your images pay tribute to your Nigerian and Jamaican heritage. How do you express both of these influences?

NI: In 2017, I visited Nigeria for the second time since I was five, and then I travelled to Jamaica for the first time two years later. For me, these were both important journeys. I hadn’t explored my Jamaican heritage until my late 20s. When

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Nadine Ijewere, Untitled (detail) (2019).

From Nina Ricci SS20 #futurestartsnow. Courtesy of the artist and Nina Ricci.

Model: Scarlet Peguero. Creative

Direction: Rushemy Botter & Lisi Herrebrugh. Makeup: Genesis Read.

Hair: Cuchi Sanchez.


Nadine Ijewere, Untitled (detail) (2020).

From British Vogue January 2021. Courtesy of the artist. Model: Adut Akech

Styling: Poppy Kain. Set Design: Sean Thomson. Makeup: Ammy Drammeh.

Hair: Sophie Jane Anderson.

– doing this through photography was cathartic. Now, Lagosbased photographers like Stephen Tayo (b. 1994) and Lakin Ogunbanwo (b. 1987) can capture Nigerians' incredible fashion styles, but in the media growing up, I saw mostly negative images of Black women – Jamaican women in particular. I wanted to oppose this because it's not true, especially with the women I spent time around. My photography is about embodying and representing my people: their greatness, positivity, sense of community and warm, welcoming energy.

A: How does photography communicate with viewers?

NI: Fashion photography didn’t reflect my reality when I was younger. I wasn’t shown women of colour in the industry, as models or photographers. I started taking pictures of my friends, and it was inspirational to celebrate our differences and subvert the standards of fashion and beauty at the time. The practice is still male-dominated, and I hope to encourage more women of colour to pick up a camera. I want them to feel that they can be photographers, make-up artists, like Ammy Drammeh, or hair stylists like Cyndia Harvey and the late LaTisha Chong. There is space for them in this industry.

A: Vivid, highly saturated colours are an important component of your work. What do these palettes signify?

NI: I love the warmth that’s achieved through these tones; it is bright and inviting, but simultaneously soft. I capture people and their energy. This correlates with the hues often seen in my work. I shoot a lot of people of colour, and these pigments best depict our vibrancy. It’s all about warm shades – I avoid cooler colours. You’ll often see burnt oranges, pinks

and reds. I do use blue, but it’s a warmer blue. Some people might see the palettes I use in a very different way. I welcome this, and I find the myriad of interpretations illuminating.

A: Your compositions place viewers in close proximity to the model. How does this sense of intimacy function?

NI: I always want my models to shine. I don’t see them as a flat canvas. Models are more than the clothes or brand they are wearing. My work focuses on movement. There’s a dynamic, playful nature to the photography, which I think makes the images more accessible. There is a level of connection and understanding that breaks through the photographs. Women capturing women, Black women capturing Black women; it’s powerful, and it offers a new perspective.

A: You were the first Black female photographer to shoot covers for both British and American Vogue in 2019 and 2021 respectively. How did these opportunities arise?

NI: I was planning to do a shoot with Kate Phelan, a stylist and editor for British Vogue, and I was heading to a meeting with her and the Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful. She called and told me Edward was going to ask about doing the cover and to have some references prepped. It caught me off guard. I was scrambling on the bus, trying to look through Pinterest and moodboard ideas. This was my first meeting with Edward, and we were supposed to be talking about our shoot, but when the subject of the cover came up, I just went with it. It was amazing and surreal. I was honoured to be asked to shoot a cover but, equally, I didn’t anticipate the extent of what it would mean. It was hugely significant to shoot the Vogue cover, both in terms of my career and the history of

Aesthetica 101 Nadine Ijewere. From Spring Dress (detail)(2019). WSJ Magazine March 2019. Courtesy of the artist. Models: Ayobami Okekunle, Yoonmi Sun, Elibeidy Dani, Huan Zhou Styling: Coquito Cassibba. Makeup: Grace Ahn/ Hair: Junya Nakashima. Manicure: Honey.
“There’s a dynamic, playful nature to the photography, which I think makes the images more accessible. There is a level of connection and understanding that breaks through the photographs.”

A: After breaking these boundaries, do you feel a responsibility and pressure to keep producing new work?

NI: I am grateful for the incredible shoots I have done thus far – and to be the first person to do them on some occasions – but the pressure is immense. I had become a spokesperson for my community. This wasn’t something I set out to do when I started. I used to battle with this idea of one individual representing a whole group of people, but I have learned that it is a constant. Society likes to categorise and create labels. Now, I look to use the platform I have to open up spaces for others and break down boundaries. People also want to see what you do next. You are constantly performing. I am better at handling it now, but it has taken me a while to get to a space where I take pictures purely for the love of my craft. Ultimately, I remember that I don’t take pictures for others; I take them for myself. I want to take photographs because I believe in the idea, for example, a specific location, background or garment – and this is what I love.

A: Social media continues to impact how images are shared. How would you define your relationship with it?

NI: Social media was hugely influential in starting my career. I studied at London College of Fashion for a BA in Fashion Photography (2010-2013), and I worked on personal projects that I would share on my early social media platforms. From there, I started to get work. Now I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. It was helpful, but it can make me doubt my ambition. I question whether people will like my

search a shoot, sometimes I can’t find certain images because they don’t exist. Even today, there are styles of photography that haven’t been created yet, but social media helps to share new content, as the younger generation produces it.

A: In Our Own Selves, you discuss pushing for greater representation of women of colour in fashion photography. Are you seeing real step-change in the sector?

NI: It is definitely changing. What's most important is that diversity is seen in front of the lens and behind it. Black creatives and people of colour are working in roles across the industry, as editors-in-chief, art directors, and directors of photography, but there is still more to do. We are tired of fashion imagery not reflecting society. It's important for me to fight for representation because, for a very long time, there was not enough diversity. It is still male and white-dominated; navigating the world as a Black woman is not easy.

A: As a child, you loved fashion magazines like Vogue, but you didn’t see people who looked like you. What impact do you hope young Black women seeing themselves reflected will have on the next generation?

NI: People don’t realise there is space to tell your story, not just through photography but with art and creative direction, too. I hope that work from myself and other people like me makes these possibilities more evident to the next generation. When I think of young girls seeing themselves in my images – their joy and passion – I am reminded of what my work is about, and it inspires me to keep creating in the future.

Words Megan Jones

The New Black Vanguard MoAD, California

Until 5 March

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Models: Scarlet Peguero, Nathalia Novas, Anamaria Figueroa, Jahika L. Gonzalez. Creative Direction: Rushemy Botter & Lisi Herrebrugh. Makeup: Genes is Read. Hair: Cuchi Sanchez. Nadine Ijewere, Good Me (detail) (2019). From Rogue Fashion Book Issue 5. Courtesy of the artist. Models: Pan Haowen, Manami Kinoshita. Styling: Nathan Klein. Makeup: Celia Burton. Hair: Edward Lampley. Casting: David Chen.

Moments of Fantasy

Maria Lax (b. 1987) comes from a small town in northern Finland. Now London-based, the photographer is known for spellbinding images that blend reality and fantasy. Experimental camera techniques turn plants and buildings into something otherworldly. Snow-laden trees appear like strange monoliths, obscured by magenta and blue stripes. Petals take on an uncanny, lurid tint, whilst monstera leaves glitter with pink water droplets. Nature becomes heightened, saturated and transfigured. Lax’s first monograph, Some Kind of Heavenly Fire, centred around UFO sightings in her homeland during the 1960s. “Some reacted to the mysterious lights with fear, some took them as a sign they were not alone.” Her second art book, Taken By The Tide (Nazraeli), is forthcoming. Lax's cinematography background and recent move into directing is evident in portraits rich in narrative and emotion, with dappled shadows and washes of colour suggesting twists to the tale. @maria_lax_ |

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Image courtesy Maria Lax.
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Image courtesy Maria Lax. Model: Nevena White (@nevenawhite)
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Image courtesy Maria Lax.
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Image courtesy Maria Lax. Model: Abdourahman Njie (@yagamoto)
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Image courtesy Maria Lax.
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Image courtesy Maria Lax. Model: Nevena White (@nevenawhite)
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Maria Lax, Tobak . Model: Agi Njie
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Image courtesy Maria Lax.
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Image courtesy Maria Lax. Model: Abdourahman Njie (@yagamoto)
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Image courtesy Maria Lax. Model: Katie Johnson (@katie.johnson24)
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Image courtesy Maria Lax.

The Story of Aesthetica


“What do you do?” It’s a common question in our society. I always fumble with it because not many people run a company like Aesthetica – publish a magazine, produce a BAFTA-Qualifying film festival, curate a major Art Prize and Symposium, as well as collate an anthology of new writing every year. I have had a myriad of emotions, as we approach this 20 year anniversary. It has been pride, nostalgia and even disbelief. I’ve never liked the idea of getting older, but when we discuss something that was two decades ago, there’s no hiding from it. I was 23 years old when Dale and I set up Aesthetica. I remember it like it was yesterday. The three pillars were equality, creativity and diversity. This was our statement then, and it still stands true today. I’ve told this story so many times, I often wonder if it was actually me at all? It feels very mythologised. People often ask me, “How do you start a magazine?” My answer is simple. You just do it. Our story begins on a Sunday in November 2002. I was living in York undertaking a master’s degree. Before I moved to the UK, I was fortunate enough to intern for a magazine in New York. It was a literary journal, and it was such a transformative experience. I learned so much, and I took all this with me when I moved to the UK. However, in York, there was not a magazine. The internet was dial-up, so the concept of Google was still in its infancy – I believe it was Ask Jeeves at the time. I was pining for the experience of working on a magazine so I said to Dale, “Let’s start one. I will do the writing and you can do the design.” The idea was born. It’s so organic and so special. I feel that in today's incredibly fast-paced, technological world, these sorts of things don't

happen anymore, and they do not occur in the same way. We made some very basic posters (which I still have) that said “Do you write?” and “Do you draw?” The magazine was a submission-based publication to start with and we set up an email account – – and hung these posters up across the city. Again, it seems far-fetched that this is how Aesthetica began. It’s so simple, but it embodies my can-do attitude. I’ve always had this view and outlook. Later that day, we returned to our dial-up and eventually logged-in to Hotmail. There were three emails from people asking about the magazine. We could not believe it. As the weeks passed, we hung up more posters and handed out flyers. Things were coming together; except, we didn’t have any finance or distribution. In some ways it was enough to just be doing something I was absolutely passionate about.

The first quote from a printer was too much. I remember crying and thinking that my dream of publishing a magazine was going to be over before it even began, but then, I realised I could shop around for better quotes. Dale and I didn't envisage how we’d pay for this – we did not even cost up production. I had no idea there were grants. I come from the USA – if you want something, you have to do it yourself. It’s this mentality, upbringing and resourcefulness that brought us to the conclusion that the best decision was to get a credit card. That's eventually how this magazine was established. In the end, we found a printer, and the first issue was published in March 2003. We had a launch party with people queuing to gain entry. It was a celebration of all we had achieved. At the event, someone said, “When is issue two pub-

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20 th Anniversary of an Idea

“I feel honoured that love the most for the past 20 years. I thank continuing to support independent thought. You are very much a

lished?” The best part of this story is that we hadn’t thought that far ahead. We were happy to have made it to issue one.

Many people ask me, “How did you get distribution?” I am a big believer in the “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” school of thought. I walked into Borders (RIP) and said, “I’ve made this magazine. How do I get it stocked here?” The periodicals manager was called Matt. He has a big role in this story, because he gave me the number of the buyer in London, even though he wasn’t supposed to. I rang the buyer, who asked me to send a sample copy, which I lovingly packaged up in brown paper with my fingers crossed. When I called back, he told me that they loved the magazine and would stock it at Borders nationwide. He said, “There is a market for it.” This is how we turned from two students running a project into a magazine with potential and reach. It was utterly exhilarating.

Aesthetica was called Aesthetica: A Review of Contemporary Artists until October 2005. We dropped the second part as we moved into a new phase, in which all editorial content was commissioned. This really changed everything. I remember when we first started to develop press contacts. I didn’t understand that it was me doing them a favour with the coverage; I thought that they were doing me the favour with the content. I was so grateful to get interviews with people like Benjamin Zephaniah, Grayson Perry, Jenny Holzer, John Pilger, Marina Abramović and Peter Saville, amongst others. Our first office was so small. It was a box room with four desks, and if we wanted to have a meeting, we’d all swivel the chairs around so our knees touched – creating a make-shift table. It was a joyous time. I believed we could do anything. Every time a challenge arose, I took great strength in finding a solution. There was no one that was going to keep me down.

There have been big milestones. In 2006, I won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, which was a game changer. I was 26 at the time and being a young woman in business was tough. Also, I am American, and that brings with it a whole set of connotations and preconceived notions when I open my mouth to speak. In 2007, we gained national distribution through WHSmith. We knew we had to be different, authentic and innovative. Another moment for publishing that year was the launch of the iPhone. I was terrified no one would read magazines any longer. I was wrong. Magazines are like vinyl – people still like the smell of ink on paper and something that is tangible. It’s an object just like any work of art. The recession of 2008 ushered a new age of austerity. The legacy it left informed our future. We changed the focus of the magazine and invested in the paper stock and our design. This was also the year that the Aesthetica Awards were created. In 2009, we started exporting around the world. In 2011, the film festival was launched and in 2016 – a mere three days before I had a baby – we produced the first Future Now Symposium. By 2020, as we hit the Covid-19 years, I was pushed again, in ways that I didn't think were possible. I had to think fast, but the fact that I’d been through the previous recession meant I could bring some knowledge of how to navigate the storm ahead. It was difficult. I took a lot away from that time period, and as a publisher, we made some crucial decisions. That is why this magazine is still here today.

I look back at the young woman that I was, and I can’t believe that it was me who did all this. This is why I have so much sentiment around this 20th anniversary. It was never easy. It’s still not easy. We produce some very large events and publish six magazines and two books per year. In 2016,

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I had a little girl. It was the most amazing thing that ever happened to me. I was once told, “You’ll need to choose to either have a family or run a business.” That stayed with me for a very long time. It’s hard being a woman at the helm of any organisation. My daughter is part of the story because she had a profound impact on me. I became a mother who runs a busy art and culture organisation. I pushed myself in ways I didn’t think were possible, and if I could do anything in the future for women in the arts or business, I’d develop a support network. I didn’t think it would be feasible to be a mother and run a business, but I have proved to myself that it is.

Aesthetica has played a major role in magazine design and visual communication. Through use of white space, we introduced a new way of conversing. We let the images breathe and allowed space for contemplation. There are people who write their dissertations on this magazine and on the film festival. It has been used in examination papers and plays a crucial role in discourse around contemporary visual culture.

We also have an interdisciplinary journalistic style in which we look beyond the art world to history, politics and socioeconomics to understand the valuable contribution that contemporary art brings to society. There have been a lot of magazines that have come and gone in this time – Art World, Cereal, Oh Comely, amongst others. The questions remains: why have they ceased and we are still here, flying the flag for independent publishing? Our reach is vast: the magazine is currently stocked in over 900 outlets in the UK and exported to 20 countries. It has a print and digital reach of over 500,000, which is impressive for two students with no money but ample ideas and a passion for art and culture.

We changed the possibilities for independent publishing.

Beyond this, the magazine is based outside of a capital city. Rewind the clock back to 2003; it was unheard of for a national magazine not to be based in London, New York or Paris. We were challenging the status-quo. We still challenge the status quo. Ideas have always been stronger than location. This makes sense in today’s digital world, but 20 years ago it was revolutionary. It seemed as if it was only me and Dale who truly understood that, but little by little, as our readership grew, we transgressed this notion. This approach has always given the magazine a different perspective. It’s about the content. It’s never been about the location of an artist, exhibition or gallery. We started showcasing experimental photographers such as Alex Prager, Juno Calypso and Mária Švarbová, who have now become household names. Our editorial has foregrounded radical change-makers like Gulnara Samoilova, who published Women Street Photographers; Zanele Muholi, a visual activist and champion for LGBTQIA+ individuals; and Tyler Mitchell, who has pushed the boundaries of fashion photography. We have looked at interdisciplinary practices, including Doug Aitken and Iris van Herpen, who combine organic forms with new technologies. We used our voice to shout about our concerns surrounding the climate crisis, featuring Richard Mosse and Edward Burtynsky.

I am proud of the team and the organisation we have become since 2003. Aesthetica stands firm in the art world because we are bold, different and never afraid to speak our minds. I grew up running this company. It has been the adventure of a lifetime and I feel honoured that I have been able to do the thing that I love the most for the past 20 years. I thank you, the reader, for continuing to support independent thought. You are very much a part of this story.



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Aesthetica Magazine Celebrating 20 Years of Independent Publishing
Right: Massimo Colonna. From the series (Non) Gravità . Courtesy of the artist. Thomas Wrede, Above the Valley (2009). 95cm x 129cm / 170cm x 210cm. From the series Real Landscapes.

Exhibition Reviews


Florida’s nickname is the “Sunshine State.” A Google search produces glossy turquoise seas, endless beaches and palm trees. Yet, it is hit by more storms than any other place in the USA. In September 2022, Hurricane Ian became the deadliest since 1935, and the third most costly, causing over $113 billion in damages. As global temperatures increase, experts warn that extreme weather events will become more frequent.

Anastasia Samoylova (b. 1984) holds a mirror up to this reality. The artist’s first retrospective in Germany offers a multidimensional view on the variety of people and places in the region, whilst highlighting increasing struggles with extreme weather and flooding. Shots of pink flamingos – reflected in rippling pools – are met with stark images of battered trees and armchairs half-submerged in water. These scenes challenge shallow representations that only scratch the surface.

2Infinity Mirror Rooms


The universe is made up of 200 billion trillion stars – a number so inconceivable it is hard to imagine. Most people never experience the true expanse of the cosmos. This vastness is central to Yayoi Kusama’s (b. 1929) largest artwork to date, Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life (2011 / 2017). An environment of mirrors, platforms and water, concealed in a box room, multiply the twinkling lights.

Shimmering orbs flicker and change colour before submerging the area in a deep, all-encompassing darkness. When the constellation returns, viewers spot their bodies floating in outer space. The loop continues, encouraging a detachment from reality. After two minutes, attendees are ushered out and returned to Earth with a bump, journeying on to learn more about the persona behind the installation.

The wider exhibition at Tate Modern, London, details

The socio-cultural identity of the area also comes into play, with saturated portraits outlining political divisions. “This is a very troubled paradise,” the artist says. “I try to use familiar motifs of the leisurely tropics, but I present them as images not of promise or luxury, but of fragility and uncertainty.”

The collection expands on the history of art, from the road trip series of Berenice Abbott, Robert Frank and Walker Evans to the New Colour Photography movement, sparked in the 1960s by Joel Meyerowitz and William Eggleston. Miamibased Samoylova combines symbols of environmentalism and consumerism in experimental compositions, forming an American fever dream. “My feeling is that photographs always pose more questions than they answer.” The show reflects this ethos, offering a fragmented vision that leaves audiences pondering their long held perceptions of reality.

Words Eleanor Sutherland

C/O Berlin

28 January – 4 May

Kusama’s monumental rise, from her early life in Matsumoto, Japan, to international attention in 1960s New York. Images and quotes produce a timeline of career highlights and creation of lesser-known works, including Walking Piece (1966). The performance follows the pink kimono-wearing artist walking around industrial areas of her new American hometown, examining the feeling of being out of place by visually merging two cultures. Elsewhere, John Jones’ (1926-2010) recently rediscovered c.1965 film offers a glimpse behind the construction of the instantly recognisable Kusama brand.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms has become an embodiment of this success, with multiple extensions, over 390,000 visitors and thousands of images shared on social media. The show is more than a backdrop for an Instagram selfie, providing the unique chance to “become one with eternity.”

3Bloomberg New Contemporaries


In 1949, a new exhibition of early-career creatives opened in London. Young Contemporaries, hosted by the British Society of Artist Galleries, was an opportunity to engage with innovations in creativity and to support the people behind the work. Fast forward over 70 years and much has changed, including the name, structure and sponsor, but their ethos remains. Bloomberg New Contemporaries, which is on view at South London Gallery, features some of Britain’s most exciting talent emerging from art schools and learning programmes. It is clear that this year’s panel – Turner Prize-winning Veronica Ryan (b. 1956), James Richards (b. 1983) and Zadie Xa (b. 1983) – were spoilt for choice. Over 1,500 entries were whittled down to 47, from paintings on the concept of gender to sculptures that evoke natural forms and memories. The variety of creators, mediums and topics from an open

call can become overwhelming. Here, eight clear categories signpost the lines of enquiry that unite practitioners today. Catarina Ludovico’s (b. 1994) large portraits, which fall under Communication and Disconnection, explore the language of touch with tenderness. Rudy Loewe’s (b. 1987) outstanding painting Carnival #1 (2020) bursts at the seams in a multilayered dancing crowd. Black joy prevails, despite police presence. Officers seem more helmet than human, one holding aloft a sinister baton. The violent act is forced to the canvas margins, given little space to overpower celebration.

“It’s important for emerging artists to get an early sense of how their ongoing practice will develop,” says Veronica Ryan. Experimentation is key to the wonder of the exhibition, offering a snapshot of the next chapter of British art. If these are the new contemporaries, they make the future look bright.

Words Saffron Ward

Tate Modern, London

14 June – 28 August


Fanny Wendt Höjer

South London Gallery

9 December – 12 March

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1b. Anastasia Samoylova,
1a. Anastasia Samoylova, Park Avenue (detail),
From the FloodZone project.
Window, Key Largo (2011/2017), Tate. Presented by the artist,
Fine Arts and Victoria Miro 2015, accessioned 2019

4a. Sunrise on Pilot Rock, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Oregon (2017). Chromogenic print. Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán. © David Benjamin Sherry. 4b. James Welling, 0775 (detail) (2006). McEvoy Family Collection, Inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist. 5. Lina Iris Viktor, No. XXV We once sought refuge there. (2019). Pure 24 carat gold, acrylic, ink, print on cotton rag paper, 25.9 x 21.6 cm, 10 1/4 x 8 1/2 in. 6. Mous Lamrabat, Money Trees (detail). Courtesy of Loft Art Gallery.

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Colour is fundamental to art practices. Even monochromatic images derive meaning and create an impact from the way tones are selected, applied and combined. But where do you start on such an expansive topic? McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco, has struck a delicate balance with Color Code, diving into the collection and commissioning new work to celebrate how pigments are used to convey emotion, incite symbolism and connect people across place and time.

In the show, Jackie Black’s photograph Last Meal of Charles William Bass, March 12, 1986 (2003) depicts a single sandwich on a small plate set against a stark black studio background. A strip of plastic-like cheese barely extends beyond the pale white bread, but it nonetheless reels in the viewer, contrasting with the other muted hues. The brightness conjures a surprisingly solemn feeling once viewers find out that

5Let the Sunshine In


Let the Sunshine In takes its name from the finale of musical Hair, which premiered on Broadway in 1968. The lyrics reference 1960s counterculture, becoming an anthem for the promise of change. Artists at Pilar Corrias, London, revisit this sunrise motif, responding to socio-political movements over the last 60 years, from anti-war protests to Roe v. Wade.

A collection of recent photography, sculpture and works on paper cautiously offer hope, asking whether the day will bring a new dawn. Sofia Mitsola (b. 1992), for example, subverts our malaise with oil painting Matrona. To the right of the composition, a sea goddess wields a red trident with devilish aplomb. The red sun looms in the distance, suggesting that something more hellish is afoot. It's the first of many ambivalent scenes about letting the light in or snuffing it out.

If the exhibition asks us to pick a time to exist in, it’s also an exhortation to choose wisely. Kat Lyon’s (b. 1991) compelling twilight landscape, Still More Changes (2022) offers

6Fitting In


Gen Z describes those born between 1997 and 2012, from students beginning secondary school to young adults several years into working life. The demographic has grown up in an era defined by globalisation, smart phones and the explosive rise of social media. Questions around identity have become a natural consequence of life online, with users finding freedom in editing images and connecting with likeminded communities. VICE’s 2023 Identity survey revealed that people in this age range have a more fluid understanding of selfhood than previous generations, with more than half stating that labels did not help to define them. This debate is central to Z33’s Fitting In, positing art as a source of self-expression. Christian Bakalov (b. 1973) welcomes visitors with a rainbow of draping ribbons in the gallery’s entrance. The sensory installation extends to the other side of the street, connecting acts of open-mindedness to the wider city. Inside the group exhibition, disciplines collide;

the series is about people's final food choices on death row.

A similar yellow appears in Spencer Finch’s (b. 1962) Study for Back to Kansas (2014), an index of swatches from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy holds a bouquet of flowers after killing the Wicked Witch of the East. Here, the sunshine petals signify celebration rather than death. The juxtaposition is just one example demonstrating how associations made with palettes are always contingent, never universal.

German-born Josef Albers (1888-1976) argued that colour is “the most relative medium in art” and that it “has innumerable faces or appearances.” To evidence this, the abstract artist placed various tones next to each other to see how they changed depending on context. Color Code serves a similar function, cataloguing some of the countless approaches used to evoke meaning from a spectrum of shades.


McEvoy Arts, San Francisco Until 11 February

an apocalyptic vision of what might happen otherwise. A severed horse’s head lies in the mud like a warning from The Godfather. Above, two kaijus – Japanese giant monsters in the form of an ant and a frog – dominate the frame. Lyon’s style is earthy yet surreal, a mix between Otto Marseus van Schrieck and Salvador Dalí. Freya Douglas-Morris’ (b. 1980) plaintive As One Sun Sets Another Rises (2022) has it both ways – morning and evening coexist in serene harmony.

In poet Dylan Thomas’ (1914-1953) radio drama Under Milk Wood, a cantankerous old lady baulks at daybreak: “before you let the sun in, mind he wipes his shoes.” The innovators here do no such thing, traipsing through the gallery with colourful footprints. Flashy and garish as it is, the explosions of atomic colour feel caught in time and nostalgia. Beneath a psychedelic veneer, many of the featured landscapes are stuck in limbo, reflecting the struggle between the past and the present in the search for cultural awakening.

Words Jack Solloway

Pilar Corrias, London

12 January – 18 February

hand-embroidered prints of Alia Ali’s (b. 1985) In Collective Rise (2022) wrap the stairs, whilst Nazanin Fakoor’s (b. 1978) moving light projection bounces and reflects from the walls. Works in the show touch on the multiplicity of self to highlight the endless benefits of an accepting society. Swiss photographer Marwan Bassiouni’s (b. 1985) Dutch landscapes shot through mosque windows, for example, investigate the coexistence of different cultures. Islamic motifs, such as girihpatterned wallpaper and elaborate carpets, juxtapose snapshots of bustling industrial life, creating a “hybrid” world of western Islamic identity and a symbol of his dual heritage.

In Mous Lamrabat’s (b. 1983) images, saturated portraits in endless deserts shift, merge and transform to questions the fusion of cultures. Fitting In is a wide-ranging show that transcends the boundaries between art, design, fashion and photography. It reflects the true complexity and vibrancy of the multiple selves that individuals share with the current world.

Words Megan Jones

Z33, Hasselt

2 October – 26 February

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4Color Code


A donkey travels through modern-day Europe in this poignant, picaresque tale from Polish veteran Jerzy Skolimowski. EO, which won a share of the Jury Prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, inevitably will be compared to Robert Bresson’s 1966 film Au Hasard Balthazar, which used this creature to reflect on mankind. Skolimowski knows the path he's treading but creates his own tribute to Bresson and, crucially, Mother Nature. The film begins with the donkey, EO, and a young woman, Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska), bathed in red strobe light. It is a surreal, disorientating start, and the story doesn’t become any less strange as it unfolds. EO is part of a Polish circus act, but this ends when animal rights protestors campaign against their exploitation. EO journeys through the countryside, meeting various folk who treat him with either kindness or cruelty. The tone

of Skolimowski’s film sways from shocking to hilarious. Violence punctuates scenes, sometimes in the most brutal fashion. Inhumanity – and not just to the animal kingdom – is placed under the microscope. However, the director, collaborating with his regular writing partner Ewa Piaskowska, also finds gallows humour at times, allowing EO to play both hero and villain. The film has an engaging, fable-like quality, not least when EO ventures into the woods, where creatures – from beautifully shot owls to foxes – are discovered in their natural habitats. The end credits note: “This film was made out of our love for animals and nature,” and it is clear throughout how much Skolimowski admires his protagonist. The camera frequently looks into EO's soulful eyes, finding depth and emotion in this creature and asking the audience to contemplate their relationship with nature.

2All The Beauty And The Bloodshed

All The Beauty and the Bloodshed – the second documentary to receive the Golden Lion at the 2022 Venice Film Festival – considers why photographer Nan Goldin’s work was so disruptive in the art world when she started exhibiting her slideshows in the 1980s. Her photographs of the LGBTQ+ community and sex workers are shot from her subjects' point of view, rather than from a voyeuristic outsider's perspective, which was rarely seen at the time.

Director Laura Poitras (best known for Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour) creates an intimate portrait, mixing archive materials, voiceover interview and original footage to tell Goldin's story in the artist's own words. Poitras documents the successful campaign to stop art institutions, including the Louvre, Tate and the V&A, from accepting donations from the Sackler family, the manufacturers and marketers of the addictive painkiller,

3She Is Love

British filmmaker Jamie Adams likes the high wire of improvisation. His process is a collaboration with actors, crafting projects such as Black Mountain Poets (2015) and Bittersweet Symphony (2019), which featured Suki Waterhouse as a musician managing a complex personal life. However, his improvised approach comes with inherent risks, as She Is Love – his 10th film – demonstrates. The story hinges on an unlikely, but not impossible, coincidence. Idris (Sam Riley) and Patricia (Haley Bennett) are a long-divorced couple who haven’t seen each other in 10 years. They’re thrown together again when Patricia comes to stay at a near-empty guest house in Cornwall. It's owned by a relative of Idris’ current girlfriend, Louise, a self-absorbed aspiring actress. Idris is still a DJ / musician, skating by on past glories, whilst Patricia is a talent agent working out of New York, but neither of them have

OxyContin. Details from Goldin's life are intertwined, including her sister's suicide, slideshow exhibitions, sexuality and difficulties with painkiller addiction, which contexualise a decades-long struggle for accountability.

Contemporary shots take Poitras’ signature cinéma vérité style. The camera roves with an easy intimacy prioritising the campaigners and protesters instead of mythologising the Sackler family. Proximity to the people affected by OxyContin makes the present-day scenes incredibly hard-hitting. Court testimonies, for example, are displayed with such raw emotion that physical distance between them and the viewers feels almost non-existent. Both Goldin and Poitras are disruptive forces, celebrating social activism and the use of documentary to hold people to account. The collaboration also succeeds in capturing why Goldin is such an important living artist.

Words James Mottram BFI

come to terms with the scars of their former relationship. When Patricia arrives, Louise extends the hand of friendship. They dine together but, as Idris and Patricia get reacquainted and the liquor starts to flow, recriminations about their past begin to seep out. Sam Riley has the requisite aura of faded cool for the role and Haley Bennett is a talented performer, but so much falls on their shoulders – forcing the pair to keep afloat a slender story. Even at a brisk 75 minutes, the film feels underworked, a consequence of Adams' improvisational style. One bright spark is Louise (Marisa Abela), who came to prominence in BBC drama Industry. She has real star quality, bringing humour and pathos to her scenes. However, it takes real skill to make a three-hander compelling. They do unpack their emotional baggage, but the film's climax doesn't quite have its desired impact.

Words Stephanie Watts Altitude

Words James Mottram

Signature Entertainment

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film reviews

1Living Rooms

Experimental Northampton pop singer Fe Salomon's debut album, Living Rooms, is a jaunty and chaotic journey. The inclination towards the bold and dramatic shines through in Salomon’s vocal performance. Large Kate Bush swathes, long notes and eerie swings are all delivered in a unique register. The production comes entirely from contemporary classical composer Johnny Parry, which is equally as detailed and epic. It is a powerful, tension-building score, which is not necessarily an enhancing background for a singer-songwriter. This combination of powerful forces means the album never quite paints a complete picture. Each song seems messy and not in the alluring, rhizomic manner of Björk; instead, it feels as though Salomon and Parry had very different visions of how the whole project should sound upon completion. Musically, it is expertly crafted, but the

album delivery feels somewhat disjointed – existing in a world separate to a wholly collaborative artistic vision. Salomon understands how to write catchy choruses. Her unique and interesting voice shines in the album stand-out, Due Respect. Here, time is taken to focus on the haunting nature of her vocals, with a delicate simplicity that balances the tone with backing music. The movement between sounds and emotions weaves a rich tapestry across the album, with large musical swings of experimentation. Salomon’s ideas are uninhibited, interesting and compelling; at the album's close, listeners are left wondering what is next for the talented vocalist. Living Rooms soars across experimental pop with enchanting delivery and visceral emotions, representing a stepping stone to future projects between the singer and producer duo as they navigate the road to equilibrium.


Someone is the alias for Dutch / British composer, producer and visual artist Tessa Rose Jackson. Owls continues in a similar musical direction to their debut album, Shapeshifter (2021). It draws on French band Air and the 1990s trip-hop sounds of Portishead and Massive Attack. This rhythmic heartbeat is interlaced with a more organic, acoustic side, reflecting contemporaries such as Feist and Sharon Van Etten. The album started life as a David Lynch-inspired screenplay, but Someone then morphed the tales into refined, ethereal psych-pop soundscapes. Thematically, each Owls track is about love or sadness in a small community, sitting somewhere between light and disturbing darkness. Interludes feature throughout to assist in weaving the songs together into a cohesive whole with a cinematic feel. This is further enhanced by a series of striking visuals that accompany the album’s

singles, created by Someone with her long-term collaborator and rising Hollywood film director David Spearing. Opener Suddenly is armed with a sense of nostalgia, a modern-day hybrid of progressive rock and layers of hip-hop – providing familiarity combined with intrigue. In Your Arms uses its propulsive bassline and an undercurrent of 1980s-style electro to meditate on the power of love in a dangerous world. Song For Slow Dancing is a haunting track that feels like an anthemic dream, with sublime vocals and lyrics reflecting on the impact of loss. Owls inspires listeners to keep looking to the future, despite what the past and present offer. It is both rousing and impactful, highlighting the impressive production values that span the entire record. Someone is a soulful singer-songwriter fuelled by hope and joy, and this is psych-pop at its best: both bold and strikingly plaintive.

3Glimpse of Heaven CHASMS

Chasms, the LA-based project of producer Jess Labrador, recorded their second album, The Mirage, in response to the 2016 ghost ship warehouse fire in Oakland that took the lives of 36 people, which included the brother of bassist Shannon Sky Madden. The album, organised around a vivid collective grief, reflected how this tragedy shattered and shaped the Bay Area music scene. The follow-up, Glimpse of Heaven, captures Labrador at a different moment in her life – shedding the dark leanings of her earlier releases for a more sensual approach.

Exchanging Chasms' trademark blend of dub and postpunk for a soundscape of vaporous synths and electronic drum samples, Labrador – operating for the first time without Madden – has warped distinctive sounds into something intimate and personal. On opener Ache, Labrador’s vocals are equal parts disaffected and

fatigued as she contemplates her nagging desire to have it all, whilst on Parallel, the craving for physical contact is palpable, echoed over soft piano and persuasive beats. Labrador cuts a faintly mysterious figure throughout the album, and the music tends to pull in opposite directions. On Submit and Things Have Changed, she commands her vulnerability – moulding desires and insecurities into flexes. However, the cold, threatening instructions in Decay and the elevated cardiac beat to Aftertaste suggest she’s still wrestling with demons. Glimpse of Heaven never shies from these contradictions. It emphasises Labrador's central motif: love is manifold, desire all-consuming and perfection a myth. The closing song, Waiting for the Spell to Break, doesn't so much end as disperse. It is a fitting finale for an album conjured in a mist of melancholy and frustrated desires.

Drink Me Recordings

Words Matt Swain

Tiny Tiger Records

Words Patrick Gamble Felte

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music reviews

“Sometimes Sonny felt like he was the only human creature in the town,” describes Larry McMurtry in his semiautobiographical tale The Last Picture Show (1966). “It was a bad feeling, and it usually came on him in the mornings early, when the streets were completely empty ...” This small-town experience is apparent in photographer Mikel Bastida’s (b. 1982) latest monograph. Anarene takes its title from the Texas location used in Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 film adaptation of the novel. The site is now a ghost town, marked only by a historical sign – a gravestone of its former existence. For the eight year project, Bastida travelled across the USA to seek out people and places with ties with cult classics, including The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Kill Bill (2003) and American Sniper (2014). Shots of empty streets, isolated motels and rural vistas provide an eerie backdrop for

lone individuals lost in the mundanities of the everyday. The constructed compositions depict cropped hands, torsos and distracted faces, appearing like fragments of a quietly-moving film sequence. In one scene, a redheaded teenager sits on a ledge submerged by muddy water, gaze fixed on the distance. Elsewhere, a crown of grey hair softy fades into a window – the outside view too hazy to make out. These muted scenes allude to everyday life after the camera stops rolling, recording what happens to the areas and stories that cinema left behind. In some cases, the photographer returned to a location twice, capturing it untouched years apart. Myth and memory allude to being suspended in time, exploring the dichotomy of reality and fiction. “They told me about a town that wouldn’t let them be, about the desire to escape,” shares Bastida. “I left them there dreaming.”

In October 2022, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the latest iteration of the metaverse: avatars with legs. The new feature was described by the CEO as “more expressive and detailed than anything else today.” As the digital realm continues to blur reality, the question remains: what will become of the body? This investigation into the post-human age has been at the heart of Anthony Aziz (b. 1961) and Sammy Cucher’s (b. 1958) partnership for 30 years. XXX, from La Fábrica Editions and Gazelli Art House, features photography, sculpture, tapestry and video from an oeuvre that owes its surrealist intrigue to editing tool Photoshop. Faith, Honour and Beauty (1992) challenges ultra-conservative politicians, including Senator Jesse Helms (1921-2008), who attempted to censor art on the human form. Nude figures holding guns and sports equipment are rendered smooth and sexless, like

plastic dolls. These nauseating, uncanny airbrushed portraits challenge American ideals and gender stereotypes. The theme of digital mutilation continues in Dystopia (1994-1995), with subtle nods to western art. Iconic images, from Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) to Man Ray’s Black and White (1926), are reimagined in an ode to the strangeness of life in the flesh. Sitters’ eyes, noses and mouths are glazed over by a film of skin. This, Aziz explains, is a theoretical outcome of evolution: “maybe your eyes will disappear because they’re no longer useful.” When sensory experiences become passé, human orifices will go out of commission. The body in conjunction to global issues is a focus throughout, from the HIV / AIDS epidemic to capitalism. XXX is a cautionary tale for the modern world, foreshadowing a probable march into techno-authoritarianism.


"The goal is to afford Black people the fullness of their humanity," writes Aida Amoako in her debut book. As We See It unpicks love, joy and socio-political turbulence, challenging monolithic views of Blackness. The cover image alone embodies the art and culture writer’s mission statement, suggesting the intricacies of masculinity.

Kenny Germé’s portrait, from The Godfather (2020) series, counters media representations of police brutality victims, who are often portrayed as older than their years. The Paris-based photographer and stylist uses a tender gaze – an approach that threads through the anthology.

Inside the book there are 30 artists who retrace canons of western art to reference overlooked pioneers and challenge contested histories. Lebohang Kganye (b. 1990) explores the boundaries of portraiture by diving into her family album. Ke Lefa Laka: Her-story (2013) records a

grieving period for the artist, who comes to terms with the loss of her mother by superimposing herself into old film photos, binding the past and the present together. Elsewhere, David Nana Opoku Ansah introduces “a new aesthetic of Blackness,” inspired by the legacy of fellow Ghanaian James Barnor (b. 1929). We Are All They (2020) depicts figures in locations across Accra, dressed in retro patterned suits. The image-maker collaborated with Manju Journal and Gucci to create the series, providing an alternative to stock images of the nation’s capital. Amoako’s timely compendium serves as another chapter in the “Black artistic renaissance,” following on from Antwaun Sargent's (b. 1988) The New Black Vanguard and Ekow Eshun's (b. 1968) Africa State of Mind As We See It is a diligent celebration of activism, but it also recognises the artists’ collective role in defining the future.

Words Laura Kirkwood


Words Miranda Gabbott

La Fábrica Editions and Gazelli

Words Rand Al-Hadethi

Laurence King Publishing

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Aesthetica 137 12 months from £24.95 + p&p. Available in both print and digital formats. Subscribe & Save 40% The Destination for Art and Culture


Helen Blejerman is a Mexican artist based in the UK. She investigates the nature of burials and the spiritual aspect of femicide survivors. In The Prayer, she builds models inspired by the structure of flowers growing in clandestine mass graves, where loose remains of women’s bodies have been found. She utilises the same glitter cardboard used by Mexicans to decorate local shrines – sites where people connect with the divine. Maquettes are transferred to the digital sphere whilst remaining on the threshold between absence and presence. I Instagram: @helenblejerman


Serbia-born Iliya Fonlamov Francisković is a figurative painter, predominantly inspired by the belief that human beings and the world in which we live are the most beautiful creations, whilst art exists to preserve beauty in its original form. The artist successfully manipulates colours and details, presenting them more or less realistically. The painting as whole does not change its meaning – it remains a thoughtprovoking window into the beauty of an ordinary moment. I Instagram: @fonlamov

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UK-based artist John Cutting is currently studying for an MFA at York St John University. He uses found and salvaged objects and materials to create three-dimensional art that challenges prejudice and inequality, as well as perceptions. The works shown here reflect trauma, specifically examining its effects on the both the artist’s personal experience and that of others in war environments. Cutting notes: “We need to look closer at the bodies enslaved by symbolic chains. Bodies and minds can be perceived and transformed by life’s challenges.”


Marilyn Borglum is an American painter whose work explores personality and human perception. Her works, which range from representative portraiture to crude surreal environments, are heavily reliant on metaphoric symbolism and memory. Raised during the latter half of the Cold War, the artist uses subjects of propaganda and whitewashing associated with the nuclear arms race and its concurrent product marketing to draw parallels to, and illuminate the vulnerability of, the human psyche to repetitive manipulative messaging and personalities. I Instagram: @marilyn.borglum

Aesthetica 139 For submission enquiries regarding the Artists’ Directory, contact Katherine Smira on


Amy Hughes is an award-winning representational painter based in New York. She has exhibited widely internationally – most recently a solo exhibition at the International Art Museum of America, San Francisco. Hughes’ oil compositions reveal the importance of human connection in 2023. In obscure and sometimes fragmented scenes of parties and social settings, she harnesses a subject matter that is ripe for exploration in post-lockdown cultures. I Instagram: @amyvhughes.artist


Photographer Ana Leal lives and works in São Paulo. Inspired by minimalist traditions and impressionist painters, her images are simple, geometric and often abstract. Photography is a tool both to portray and to escape reality – she captures images of nature and everyday life that invite the viewer into the inner labyrinths of her mind. The aim is to share sensations and feelings whilst finding new ways to push the boundaries of the medium. Leal has won numerous awards, including a Tokyo International Foto Award and a Julia Margaret Cameron Award. I Instagram: @analealphoto


Viktoria Ganhao is a Ukraine-born abstract artist based in Portugal. Countless details, imperceptible at first glance, abound in her multilayered paintings. The artist’s aim is to immerse the viewer into an inner world – a harmonious, meditative state that allows them to better understand themselves. Her artistic process is intuitive and she enjoys creative flexibility in this way of working, as she believes that art is about freedom. Ganhao’s work has been exhibited worldwide, and featured in publications as well as in museum and private collections. I Instagram: @viktoriaganhao

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Axel Schmidt is an interdisciplinary artist based in Germany. The Colors project is a collection of chromatically arranged plants, flowers and mushrooms –a detailed exploration of, and commitment to, an ecocritical philosophy of nature and its myriad connections to art, science and education. Schmidt notes: “I see myself as a mediator between nature and the viewer, and only try to open up what is already there. My subjective point of view does not matter.” I Instagram: @colorsprojekt


Janny Ji is an award-winning designer with a background in graphic design, illustration and fine art. Her wide-ranging practice includes brand identity, exhibition design and editorial design. Her work has been recognised by the Art Directors Club, the Type Directors Club, Graphis, Adobe, STA 100, Graphic Design USA, Applied Arts, 3×3 and the Society of Illustrators, amongst others. I LinkedIn: janny-ji-10096056


Noemi Daboczi is a conceptual designer and visual artist based in London. She works internationally across theatre and opera design, film production design and art photography, with each creative process informing the others. The artist harnesses her curiosity to uncover connections between seemingly mismatched ideas in an effort to explore the experiences that connect us all.


Olga Lomaka views her work through the prism of pop art. Primary features include a play with recognisable images and products of consumerism –pooling contrasting beliefs which give a second meaning to their symbolism. Lomaka exhibits worldwide, with regular participation in numerous global art fairs and biennales. Her Pink Magic series was selected to be part of the Grayson Perry-curated Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, and was also featured in The Sunday Times and The Guardian I Instagram: @lomakaart

Aesthetica 141 For submission enquiries regarding the Artists’ Directory, contact Katherine Smira on

Alessandro Ceccarelli

The work of London-based photographer Alessandro Ceccarelli is inspired by his graphic design studies in Florence and the work of photo reporters. Urban environments and coastlines are of particular interest; the dichotomy between the untouched environment and the constructed one does not generate contradiction – rather it shows how one complements the other. I IG: @alex_photographer_art

Antti Eklund

Finland-based artist Antti Eklund paints to highlight happiness. His aim is to create hopeful works that illuminate injustice and expose abuses of power – encouraging the viewer to take action and enable positive change. Eklund notes: "We all have a voice; my art is mine.” I Instagram: @anttieklund

Cecilia Martinez

Cecilia Martinez is an award-winning American artist from Jersey City. She has exhibited in galleries throughout the country, including the National Association of Women Artists gallery and the Augusta Savage Gallery at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Martinez’s work is also regularly published in art magazines and journals throughout the USA and Europe. Instagram: @cecilia_martinez_jc

Foteini Zaglara

Athens-based Foteini Zaglara focuses on self-portraiture. Her art practice explores concepts within fantasy and surrealism, and photography provides the opportunity to tell new stories and dive deeply into a world of emotions. Zaglara has won numerous awards, including the Greece National Award at the Sony Photography Awards 2022, and her work has been exhibited in Europe and the USA.

HUseyin GUler

Istanbul-based artist Huseyin Guler graduated from the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University with a Photography degree; his evolving practice examines social memory, human-space interaction and new ways of storytelling. He created the Terkos project, which is shortlisted for the Royal Photographic Society’s IPE 164.

Instagram: @hsgulerr

Olena Zubach is an award-winning fine art photographer from Kyiv; she is currently based in Split. Upon graduation from the Kyiv School of Photography in 2021, she began to explore the possibilities of still life: "I started working on the Watercolors series three months after the war in Ukraine began. These flowers represent my inner feelings about the uncertainty of the future for me and my family." IG: @olena.zubach

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Olena Zubach

olga baron

Olga Baron is a Europe-based art and fashion photographer. She creates images about dreams and fairy tales, exploring themes such as the unknown, connections, and places between reality and beyond. Her work is distinguished by its use of light and shapes, as well as the movements of her subjects – the aim is to capture emotions in a single moment. I Instagram: @olgabaron_

Piotr Szulkowski

Award-winning Polish artist Piotr Szulkowski is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw. His flora and fauna prints invite the viewer to explore the joyous world of nature and convey humanity's speed, strength and precision. Imaginary landscapes are filled with delicate and soft shapes, frequently sharing space with strong geometric formations and lines. Facebook: people/Sztuka-i-grafika-Piotr-Szulkowski/100069570550343

Rich DiSilvio

Rich DiSilvio is a New York-born artist and photographer. His aim is to “focus on the imagination, something unique only to humans.” DiSilvio’s visions are in oils and acrylics, with an emphasis on digital art. He has worked on projects for Pink Floyd, Yes and The Moody Blues as well as various films, whilst his fine art appears in galleries and museums, including the Tchaikovsky Museum in Russia.

Ryu Jiyeon is London-based artist; she uses painting to explore a sense of absence. Bright colours merge with dreamlike depictions of people and nature – Jiyeon's aim is to catch the everyday moments that we sometimes throw away in the hope of finding the truth of where they go. Instagram: @wonder_ryu

Sabrina V.V. is a USA-born Mexican artist based in Mexico City, where she studied Industrial Design at UIA. Her art practice evolved from a focus on the human figure to a need to connect to her roots, and then focused on the sign and symbols of pre-Hispanic cultures. Current works explore personal feelings, dreams and thoughts through the use of stark strokes and delicate lines. I IG: @vv.sabrina I Twitter: @sabrinavvg

Tianxing Xu is a visual artist born in Shanghai and currently studying for an MFA in Painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He creates clean and soft compositions, with an aim to construct chaos with absolute order. Xu notes: "It's just like a private story without a reading order, or a removed page from a diary from a stranger's childhood." I Instagram:

Aesthetica 143 For submission enquiries regarding the Artists’ Directory, contact Katherine Smira on
Sabrina V.V. Tianxing Xu

A. K. Nicholas

A. K. Nicholas is an American artist who works exclusively with the female form. Limited-edition photographs mix elements of sensuality with classic art, theatricality and performance. His unorthodox aesthetic is neither overpowered by eroticism nor bound by modesty. A painterly style brings an alternate reality inside the frame, close to the viewer.

Instagram: @bellanudaart

clare Marie Bailey

Photographer and filmmaker Clare Marie Bailey is based in Wales. She uses self-portraiture to explore a variety of female characters via the staging of images – revealing cinematic and dreamlike narratives. This allows the artist to ruminate on the hidden and the unknown, as well as feelings of loneliness, longing and an ambivalent sense of disconnection in her "parallel lives".

Instagram: @claremariebailey

Ilona Kacieja

Scotland-based Ilona Kacieja is a an award-winning multidisciplinary artist. She has developed a unique approach which is inspired and influenced by eco-awareness, community wellbeing and social justice. Kacieja holds a degree with Special Distinction from the Edinburgh College of Art, and has exhibited works internationally. Instagram: @ilonakacieja ikacieja

Julie A. Daniels

UK-based artist Julie A. Daniels has a background in textile design which informs her mixed media practice. She meticulously creates innovative, refined works inspired by emotion and coastal locations – signature textural techniques and plaster relief are incorporated into her unique interpretation of the local Cornish seascape.

Instagram: @jadaniels.seaart

carlos abraham

Carlos Abraham is based in Mexico, where he studied architecture and photography. His current focus is to highlight the beauty of the human body through black and white as well as colour photographs. Abraham's work has been published in numerous magazines and he has exhibited work in Central and South America. His images are part of the permanent collection in the Mediateca INAH, Mexico City.

Diane Weber-Seban

Diane Weber-Seban is a French multidisciplinary artist who utilises analogue cinema as well as photography to magnify everyday moments of life. Attention to detail and the beauty of light are key pillars which can be found in each of the artist's works. Weber-Seban is keen to expand her practice and is currently working on her first musical feature film.


Born in Shanghai and raised in California, Chinese-American installation artist jujuwang uses art to “seek for meanings of my existence.” Nature, poetry and Eastern philosophies are combined with contemporary materials to create a variety of large-scale installations – exploring commonalities between art, nature and culture.

Paul Critchley

UK-based glass artist Paul Critchley (BA, MA) established Sculptglass in 2002 at Arreton Barns in the heart of the Isle of Wight. He works with a talented team of sculptors to design and create a beautiful range of gallery art. Critchley regularly accepts commissions to create a variety of bespoke statement pieces for commercial and private clients.

Instagram: @sculptglass

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Sara Campaci

Italian artist Sara Campaci studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence and her work has been exhibited throughout Europe. She is based in Berlin, where she explores new possibilities and techniques in collage and photography. Key themes of interest include the female body, the relationship between humans and nature, and the evanescence of memory.

Instagram: @sc.collage

till Rückwart

Berlin-based media artist Till Rückwart studies the poetic and imaginative power of errors in the representation of satellite imagery. Large-scale photographs of colourful and abstract glitches appearing in deserted landscapes facilitates the exploration of new ways of thinking – about the impact of technology on the planet as well as our notion of reality.

Instagram: @tillrueckwart

Tushita Singh

Tushita Singh celebrates the art of hand embroidery in her New Delhi studio, where she works with an artisan to ensure that the skills of this craft are upheld in a changing world. She is inspired by a bird's eye view of Earth – one in which humans and nature are observed as colourful and ephemeral patterns. Singh has also worked as a designer for brands such as Massimo Dutti, Zara and Anthropologie.

Instagram: @bluerabbithole

ying lim

"Living once is enough" notes Auckland-based Ying Lim, a forwardlooking artist who aims to dissolve preconceptions of human materiality in all its shapes and forms whilst questioning the rules of art. As such, the themes in Lim's compositions help her consistent aim to break down the numerous barriers between chance and reality.

Instagram: @yinglim61

steve miles

Steve Miles is based on the Isle of Wight, UK, where he is an awardwinning artist and member of the National Acrylic Painters’ Association. An abstract language of painting is combined with a highly expressive and gestural graphic style that is representational of over three decades spent as a graffiti writer and graphic designer.

Instagram: @stevemilesartist

toni mayner

Toni Mayner uses the medium of jewellery to examine the human conditions of love and loss through autobiographical, historical and phenomenological lens. Her art practice spans wearable pieces, performance and installations; she also collaborates with clients to reimagine their inherited jewels. Mayner's varied works have been exhibited internationally.

Instagram: @tonimayner

WU Chia Yun

WU Chia Yun is a Taiwanese artist who holds an MA in Visual Communication from the Royal College of Art. Her practice has expanded from film to installation and conceptual art; to explore the materiality of images, she applies techniques of film narration, mise en scène and cinematic language to experiments in transmedia. WU is currently based in New York.

Instagram: @wuchiayunstudio

Zijia lin

Zijia Lin is a Chinese artist based in London and studying for an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts. He uses sculpture to ask questions such as: "What sorts of factors affect our living environment?" A variety of mediums and materials including sound, mechanical devices, mud and cement are harnessed to help describe a complex relationship with our surviving environment.

Instagram: @zijia_lin_lycan

Aesthetica 145 For submission enquiries regarding the Artists’ Directory, contact Katherine Smira on

“Art is responsible for reminding people not only what life is but what it could be. Everyday experiences were lost during the pandemic. Now, life has begun again: we’ve been reborn. Humanity is at the precipice of something new. Good portraits capture these details, the stories we carry within us – including those we imagined – and the imbalance between the outside and what is within. The metaphysical allows dreams and magic, emotion and psychological states, to dance with common reality. Others like me will observe the same unanswered questions in life, and we will meet through our search to understand ourselves and others. Art is a two-way dialogue. Without the viewer contributing their response, the piece is left unfinished.” Alex Prager - Part Two: Run, Lehmann Maupin, New York, until 4 March.

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Alex Prager Photographer Alex Prager, Dusk (2021). Archival pigment print. 24 x 22 inches (61 x 55.9 cm). Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

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