ART Habens Art Review, Special Edition

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ART

H A B E N S C o n t e m p o r a r y

A r t

R e v i e w

PHIL MCKAY JAKOB ZAAIMAN NAZIK ASLANYAN HEGE HARALDSEN IRENE GEORGOPOULOU MILA RACZKOWSKA ALEXANDRA VAINSHTEIN MAHSA MERCI ARD DOKO

ART

photo by


ART H A B E N S C o n t e m p o r a r y

A r t

R e v i e w

Jakob Zaaiman

Nazik Aslanyan

Mila Raczkowska

Irene Georgopoulou

Mahsa Merci

Hege Haraldsen

United Kingdom

Armenia

United Kingdom

Greece

Iran

Norway

My art is about discovering, and then exploring – the strange and the disturbing – hidden in the everyday and in the ordinary. From this point of view, everything else in art is either merely decorative or inconsequential. The strange and disturbing is where art has its true power to fascinate and enthrall. I create digital collages using photographs. I’m trying to bring to life strange and distur-bing realms of the imagination, using static visual imagery.

I search for the meaning and essence of life in elements of nature, which then transform into series of artwork, such as «The Tree», «The Flower», «The Sun», «Scenery», etc. In series called «The Flower» I underscore the idea of «an individual» and have depicted the living and breathing depth of this small element. The Sun is the light with its round shape that symbolizes eternity.

Coming from an architectural background I’ve always had great admiration for art and the conceptual thinking processes involved in it.

I am mainly a still life painter but I also enjoy portraiture. I am constantly obsessed by colors and I find myself spellbound by the playful impact of light while it piously strikes objects and creates luminous reflections. I enjoy depicting the uncomplaining movement and mesmerizing illusion of water. Pebbles, glass marbles, shells, toys are among my favorite subjects. Combining light and dark flavoring with brilliant colors gives an eyepopping sense to my deliberately chosen paintings.

One of my main concerns was sexuality differences between men and women.Because I’m living in a country with patriarchy social system, this subject was a very important issue for me and I wanted to show these paradoxes in my art.Showing violence and rage and in a very expressive way is so clear in my artworks. always shock, paradox and violence are the main aspects in my artworks.The same thing was reflecting in my sculptures.

My work is heavily driven by purpose and meaning. It’s important for me to have a personal connection with the content, it’s meaning as a message, transmit my energy into the piece and give it authenticity. I’m passionate about inspiring to be more compassionate and connected, with our self and others. In some work I address the relationship between the external environment and the internal self, and in others I address the relationship between the internal self across individuals.

An important aspect that influenced me was the multicultural background I’ve developed over the years while living abroad which enriched my cultural dosage and led me to create my own fusion of those cultures. As I always say: “an artist is a prisoner to his imagination, jail with no chains”.


In this issue

Alexandra Vainshtein

Mahsa Merci

Jakob Zaaiman Irene Georgopoulou

Mila Raczkowska Nazik Aslanyan Ard Doko

Phil McKay

Alexandra Vainshtein

The Netherlands

United Kingdom

USA

From illegal graffiti to contemporary museums, Ard Doko has been taking the international art scene by storm since the age of 19. Armed with spray cans, markers and brushes, the artist is not only tackling 900 square feet walls but has also proven to exhibit his paintings around the world alongside artists like Shepard Fairey, The London Police, Max Zorn and Joseph Klibanksy. The works of Ard Doko combine melancholy as well as his need to devour the beauty of life.

All my ideas to create art are from any own imagination. as i have said that music influences me a lot, it was a music album i was listening to and the name of the album was called shine so hard. a lightbulb came to mind when i was listening to it. i had in mind a giant lightbulb. the lightbulb is 3 dimensional. i created it hi 3d software then i added a metal texture wrapped around it. the figure of the man is any friend.

For many people, their place of residence defines them completely. My definition comes from deeper within. I am a photographer. Living in New York and travelling the world have only added to my intrinsic drive to capture life through my lens. My view of the world in clear lines and contrasts definitely lies beneath my inclination towards black and white photography.Nonethel ess, I am constantly trying to create unique photographs from familiar scenes in New York City and wherever I travel.

Hege Haraldsen Ard Doko

Phil Mckay

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Special thanks to: Charlotte Seeges, Martin Gantman, Krzysztof Kaczmar, Tracey Snelling, Nicolas Vionnet, Genevieve Favre Petroff, Christopher Marsh, Adam Popli, Marilyn Wylder, Marya Vyrra, Gemma Pepper, Maria Osuna, Hannah Hiaseen and Scarlett Bowman, Yelena York Tonoyan, Edgar Askelovic, Kelsey Sheaffer and Robert Gschwantner.

On the cover:


Lives and works in New York City, USA

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Alexandra and welcome back to ART Habens we already got the chance to introduce our readers to your artworks in a previous edition and we are now particularly pleased to discover the development of your artistic production. When walking us through the genesis of this captivating body of works, would you tell us how did you structure your process on a technical aspect, in order to achieve such brilliant results? I get a little hesitant with my response when asked about a process, as my photography is very much what it looks like - a moment caught on camera, accidental perhaps but nonrandom, a serendipitous design that was sent to me from above. With a fair bit of self-irony, I sometimes say that the only equipment I need is coffee and my camera. With that, I’m ready to go, keeping my eyes wide open to how life presents itself. Alexandra Vainshtein

I guess this is a practice of many years, no matter what goes around you and with you, you never stop observing, always preparing for a shot, always trying something new. And if it did not quite work, I just let it be. I don’t like to “rescue” a shot or rely on Photoshop much, I believe that a shot is a shot and if it did not work – it was not my shot to begin with. At the same time, taking a risk and not going for the safe shots – something that worked for you before – is a constant challenge and a conversation I have with myself.

In particular, we have appreciated the way it rejects any stereotypized idea about the city of Venice belonging to common imagery, and we have been impressed in your sapient approach when capturing subtle details of the city, as hanging sheets and empty chairs, without tourists. Would you tell us something about the genesis of this stimulating project?

For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected Venice, a recent project of yours that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article:

When I visit a place, any place really, I’m always interested to see how people live there, feel the air they breathe, hear the sounds they hear, smell the scents that they smell. That all

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constitutes the true composition of their casual life, and the life of this place. I don’t like crowds and tourist places because they don’t let you feel all that, there is a lot of visual and auditory “noise”. Sometime you need to really try to see the true soul of the city like early in the morning, sunset, when kids return from school, people come home from work… and that “life” usually does not show itself around busy tourist spots. For your Venice series you have drawn heavily from the peculiar specifics of its environment and we have highly appreciated the way you have created such insightful resonance with the landscapes: how do you select the specific locations and how do they affect your shooting process? I walk a lot. But jokes aside, I do walk a lot and discover my locations by foot – not through a guide or some preconceived notion of what I want to shoot. When I walk and feel a connection I have to a place, I sometimes make a mental note to return to it – either at a different time of the day, or with a different state of mind. I sometimes mark it on a map, but more often just keep it in my memory until I return there. What was your technical equipment to create this interesting series? In particular, it seems that you choose particular moments when shooting, and that you avoided places that are usual crowded by tourists: what was your working schedule like? Did you carefully plan each shot? In Venice, I mostly used my go-to prime lenses 24mm and 50mm. I prefer sunrise and crowdfree places in general, and in Venice it was especially tough to avoid all the tourists. I was up before sunrise to be one of the first people on the street, and more often than not it

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worked. But it’s not about the technique per se. I do not carefully plan these shots; I create space for them to happen, for these moments to come to me. I strongly believe that a good shot is given to me if I have my heart and eyes truly open to see it. For example, that shot of a gentleman between the columns. It was around 6am in the morning, but the place was already crowded with photographers and their tripods, trying to catch the rising sun. I turn around and I see that man walking through the columns, statues looking down at him. It’s not a photograph I could have ever designed, but I was prepared to see the irony of it. Not everyone is recognizing that and not everyone should, it’s just how I see the life around me. We have really appreciated the way your series breaks the emotional barrier with the audience: what do you hope the viewers will take away from your Venice series? I hope that the viewers will see the beauty of the moments the way I see them. We are all different and see differently, and it’s such great gift of art to provide us with a way to see through someone else’s point of view, or lens, and see something that we did not expect. I don’t really focus on showing my perspective though – it’s just a natural state of things, and I can just hope that my own appreciation of beauty comes through my work. A visual quality that marks out many of your landscapes is your sapient use of such a huge amounts of black and white nuances, that seem to be laboriously structure to pursue such powerfully thoughtful visual impact. As you have remarked once, your view of the world in clear lines and contrasts definitely lies beneath my inclination towards black and white photography: what are your aesthetic decisions about the use of black and white and

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how do you decide to shot a specific photo in b/w? Black and White is my palette, that’s something that I always loved working with, and with time I’m finding myself completely focusing on Black and White almost exclusively. So there is never a decision to do it or not. B&W is my default, and color is a very rare exception to this rule. Some of the artworks from your new collection are marked out with evokative images, as children's baloons, wedding dresses and wine grapes: how importance do symbolically charged images and reminders to collective memory play in your work? And how do you think your works respond to it in finding hidden, crystallised moments in the everyday? The meanings that I put into my work are part of a frank conversation I have with myself. Any artist has to be honest with herself, there is no way around it. All your emotions – happiness, sadness, melancholy - even if you are trying to conceal them, will come through in your work. They may show up as a balloon or a flower, but there is no hiding behind symbols; it’s all in the open. Provocatively, German photographer Thomas Ruff stated once that "nowadays you don't have to paint to be an artist. You can use photography in a realistic way". You can even do abstract photographs. What is your opinion about the importance of photography in the contemporary art? Everyone is taking photographs nowadays, everyone is able to edit or apply various filters to the images. This does not take away the role of photography in the contemporary art, if anything, it challenges photographers to be clear about their message and stay sharp with

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their technique, perhaps even push boundaries they were not otherwise considering. I think photography, just like all art forms, is constantly evolving and it is fascinating to see how it’s shaping the contemporary art. Sometimes I think of dance as a parallel. When we go see classical ballet, it is beautiful and clear, with every scene masterfully perfected over the centuries. And we still admire it, after all this time. When we see contemporary dance, some things may be clear to us, some things may not, something speaks to us and something is just bizarre and puzzling. This language may be not as clear to us as the language of classical ballet, but it is a reflection of our today’s esthetics and today’s conversation, where we are looking for new meanings and new answers to what is happening around us. We sometimes tend to ignore the fact that a photograph, and a work of art in general, is a physical artefact, and to treat it more as a window, or a even as a portal. Artist Lydia Dona once remarked that in order to make art today one has to reevaluate the conceptual language behind the mechanism of art making: as an artist in continuos travel, how do you consider the role of the physical act of creating your artworks, of being there, when an artwork takes birth? And how does your daily routine has changed over the recent years? The moment when you make a decision and physically press a button is an important and almost a sacred one. It's combination of innate intuition and years of experience. When you sense that this moment may come, when you just focus on it and when nothing else matters. Just like in a game of pool, when you make a shot and then observe how the ball is rolling

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into a pocket, almost in slow motion. It's a very emotionally charged moment, or rather series of moments, and you have to make a precise decision when to press a button. That is a moment which also is the most reflective of my attitude towards the scene. In my example earlier, when I saw that man moving through the colonnade, I sensed that in a second or two he will be passing through the statues, and chose that particular moment to press a button.

I try not to make an eye contact with people I'm shooting, because I don't want them to know I'm shooting them at the moment. It's our human nature to start acting or pretend to be something we are not, and when that happens, authenticity of the whole situation is lost. Over the years, my daily routine has changed dramatically. I have family and kids now, and my routine largely evolves around them. Being a mother and an artist is both a challenge and a blessing. When you have children, every moment becomes so much more valuable and

Another physical act is your communication with your object. When photographing people,

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vivid, and you learn to value time - each magical moment - as the greatest treasure that is never in abundance.

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a photographer as an observer that has special tools to capture images at poignant moments that are not necessarily obvious to everyone but so vividly expressed to me.

Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts again, Alexandra. How do you see your evolution as an artist over time? Are there any things that you do fundamentally different from when you started years ago?

Over time, I completely stepped away from staging any of my shots, and I now clearly understand what I DO NOT want to do in my work - and it is a very liberating feeling.

I have been always gravitating towards street photography, even documentary approach to work.

, curator

An interview by and

curator

With time, I have realized that I see my role as

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Mahsa Merci

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Jordi Rosado

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Mahsa and welcome back to ART Habens we already got the chance to introduce our readers to your artworks in a previous edition and we are now particularly pleased to discover the development of your artistic production. The new body of works that we have selected for this special edition of ART Habens and that our reader can view at www.mahsamerci.com has captured our attention for the way you are developing a more and more distinct visual identity. How does your practice has evolved over these two years and in what direction are you currently addressing your artistic research? Hello ART Habens Group! I am delighted that I can share my new works and ideas with you and your audience after two years. I believe, at least in some respects, my works are developed in a significant way. Reading essays and books on sexuality, such as Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, The Unconscious by Antony Easthope, and On Ugliness by Umberto Eco, has opened many doors for me to see these issues more deeply; this has been reflected in my works.

Mahsa Merci

Moreover, even though I started off by considering gender issues in my works, recently I have been trying to concentrate on making series; that is, I have been trying to make my works more coherent. This, I believe, is the aspect of my works that has been developed the most. In addition to reading books and articles, I have spent a lot of time searching the web as a part of a research I have been doing during the past couple of years, a bulk of which has been

about observing and taking note of these concerns in my homeland, specifically in the city I have been living in, namely Tehran. The new project I have been working on is about street as well as online prostitution. For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected FINGERS, an interesting mixed media installation that our readers have

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Mahsa Merci

500fingers . plaster.acrylic.artificial nail.nail polish.resin.real size (each finger) . 2018

already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. Moving from the idea of gender construction elaborated by American philosopher and critic Judith Butler, you sapiently recontextualized in order to create a successful attempt to identify the idea of sexuality. Would you tell us how did you conceived FINGERS and how did you develop the initial idea?

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Gender is an identity that has no foundations, created outwardly through time by repetition of certain actions and habits. In fact, sexuality is not the result of our physicality, but a social construct, which demands a repetitive action in a period of time. This repetition creates an illusion of communication and coherence that we call sexuality. In other words, “gender� is the result of the repetition of certain actions. Inspired by Judith Butler, this sums up my

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approach to making my fingers series. At first, I thought about taking the two sexes and bring them into one form, so that it could contain my ideas. After a while, I came to the conclusion that the form of a finger with long nails is what I was looking for: a finger suggest the male organ and long nails refer to femininity. Also, finger is the organ mostly used to give orders and dictate, implying compulsion in social mechanisms that created

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uniformity in the human society. Ultimately, I saw that repeating this form can create the illusion of stability and coherence. Your works, and in particular 500fingers from the FINGERS series, are structured in order to provide the viewers with an immersive, almost surrounding visual experience: what were you aesthetic decisions in relationship to the exhibition space, in order to provide

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Mahsa Merci

Fingers . plaster.acrylic.artificial nail.nail polish.resin.real size (each finger) . 2017

500fingers with such visual and also tactile quality?

impress the audience by the form and repetition of fingers, and because they were sticking out in a rather wild fashion, I wanted to depict the idea of repetition in sexuality and the identity imposed by the society.

The gallery space was very important for installing these fingers, because I wanted to

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Mahsa Merci

There was a sign in the exhibition that read “Please Touch!” So my audience could pick up each finger and touch them. Some of them would fall and break. I left them on the gallery floor throughout the exhibition, so that the audience could interact with the works.

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exhibition asked me, “This looks exactly like a sex shop. I would like to take the works off the wall and discover them for myself.” This was one of the most memorable feedbacks in all my career. Drawing from your personal emotional sphere, your artistic research also responds to our particular cultural and even political moment: do you think that artists can raise awareness to an evergrowing audience on topical issues as freedom of expression and women's rights in our globalised age?

Marked out with such powerful evokative quality, your work are sapiently pervaded with symbols, as reference to parts of human body: how do you consider the role of symbols playing within your artistic process, especially in order to raise specific reactions in the viewers?

This is a difficult question for it depends on numerous factors. For instance, one needs to consider the cultural contexts and infrastructures in which an artwork is presented, through whatever media it might be. However, we all know that social media plays an important role in presenting an artwork; not only in a regional, cultural context, but internationally. So artists can have a measure of freedom on these social platforms.

I think symbols are among the most important elements of a work, for they can present the intention and the idea of the artist to the viewer indirectly and implicitly through the clues they provide. It is ultimately the viewer who connects the dots, as it where, and discovers the hidden meaning and concept behind the work. Throughout the years that I have been working, due to the limitations that working in Iran presented, I learned to communicate with my audience indirectly, that is, through signs and symbols. As a matter of fact, I learned to take advantage of censorship and forced myself to speak indirectly through my works. This process opened up new opportunities for me to convey my ideas in a new way.

And since artists are usually marked by their creativity and unconventionality, they have been encouraging people to speak more freely. In the restricted society of Iran, in which women have little rights and freedom, female artists and women have been using these platforms to express themselves. So I think arts and social media have been instrumental in this process. So I think the answer is yes: arts and artists can have a positive influence on freedom of speech and the rights of women.

My goal has been to incorporate mundane signs and symbols in my works in a way that they make my audience think. For instance, in my exhibition in Mohsen Gallery in 2017, I conveyed sexual attraction by using different materials and installations, without using male or female genitals. An audience of the

Another interesting body of work that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled HESHE, a series of acrylic on canvas

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artworks that research about beauties, contradictions, the violence that stems from them, the hidden aspects of these seemingly unending pains. We daresay that you art practice also responds to German photographer Andreas Gursky when he underlined that Art should not be delivering a report on reality, but should be looking at what's behind. We like the way you artworks convey such a stimulating combination between figurative elements and captivating abstract feeling: how would you consider the relationship between abstraction and figurative in your practice? In particular, how does representation and a tendency towards abstraction find their balance in your work? Early on in my career, I started experimenting with different techniques until my teachers and instructors pointed out that my works are both figurative and abstract. In the “Heshe” series, given the background I just mentioned, I sought to juxtapose and mix these two techniques; much like street photography, as I think they have both of those qualities at the same time. Nevertheless, I think the abstract bring a poetic aspect to an artwork, sometimes even conveying a dual sense of being and not being or uncertainty of a notion, for, as it is well known, viewers can have any number of interpretations of an abstract artwork. Now I believe I have directed that interpretation two some degree, as invite the audience to think about those people, “Heshe,” as I do: beauty, contradiction, violence, irony. We like the way the artworks from your DESIRE series condense general ideas about sexual desire into such tactile form: how

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important is for you this aspect of your artistic practice? When I started drawing and painting, I was always looking for a sensation and a feeling with which I could engage the audience with the work other than by merely seeing. Since I was a child, I always touched the things around me in order to better understand them. I did that unconsciously and so it was reflected in my works later on, as I realized there are things that stick out from my works, tempting my viewers to touch them. Even my paintings are made with masses of color that are dense, through which I can communicate the same idea. Interestingly, in that same exhibition in Mohsen Gallery, my audience started to touch the works as soon as they saw the sign “Touch me!� A blind person can only recognize things through the sense of touch. So I think touching can convey the true nature of things more immediately. Moreover, I think touching is very important in sexuality, and without it a relationship does not really start: touching is the beginning of everything. We sometimes tend to ignore the fact that a work of art is a physical artefact, and to treat it more as a window, or a even a portal. Artist Lydia Dona once remarked that in order to make art today one has to reevaluate the conceptual language behind the mechanism of art making: how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? And how does your daily routine has changed over these recent years? I believe the idea behind an artwork is in fact a process that may have begun from the artist’s

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Mahsa Merci

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Limited area . mixed media on canvas .18x24 cm . 2018

conscience since childhood. Now how that turns into an image or a conceptual work depends on the artist’s experiences and her self-awareness of her abilities. Ideas don’t fall like apple from trees (at least it is not so in art); rather, it is the artist’s inner world in which she lives and breathes, or in other words, her concerns, create a representable idea or a concept for her. Encountering with

an artwork, contemporary audience might react to an interesting idea or artwork wonders: “Wow! What an idea! Why didn’t I think of that?” I would answer: “That is not so!” It is through the processes of her work that an artist comes to maturity, so that whatever she makes looks simple, yet interesting and deep.

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I blow up my hair Mixed media on canvas. 13x18 cm . 2018


Mahsa Merci

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Hands, 2018

Untitled, 2017

Artifcial eyelashes and photo on canvas. 13x18 cm

Acrylic . fur and photo on canvas. 40x32 cm

The idea of a work of art is not similar to having an idea for a successful business. However, today we can see numerous artworks that are expressive of a pure idea than the artist’s concern or thought. What I mean is idea in technique, idea in presentation, and idea in exhibition. I am usually skeptical about these kinds of works. So whenever an artist is dealing with her own mental space, she is moving towards it on a daily basis. What improves her art is her daily practices, as she gives quality and depth to his works. In these past years, I have been trying to stay in my office as much as possible. Sometimes, I only sit there and gaze

at my works, as I start to talk with them. Sometimes I start to touch my works, so that I can know them better, and so that I can start discoursing with and listening to them and my own concealed concepts, and then begin to work on a new idea. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts again, Mahsa. How do you see your evolution as an artist over time? Are there any things that you do fundamentally different from when you started years ago? I think an artist is like a child who is constantly exploring the world around her as well as her

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Limbo. 2017-2018

own self. She likes to experiment with everything and in this process, to find herself. I feel that, during the last years, I have come back to my inner world and my subconscious, and consequently have come to know myself better, which is precious to me. Also, I have become less hasty in making my works and I am much more patient: I am not in a hurry to complete them, as I start a dialog with them, as if they are like other people with whom I am making a discourse. These dialogs are no longer one-sided and I no longer have a

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dictatorial approach to my works. I think about many other issues as well and I have become more mature as I have grown and developed in them. Now I know much better what I am doing and I have become more conscious about things. I hope I can continue on this journey and know myself better as a result. An interview by and

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, curator curator


Mahsa Merci

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Lives and works in London, United Kingdom

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Jakob Zaaiman

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Jordi Rosado

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An interview by and

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Hello Jakob and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and you studied in England and in the United States, obtaining your degrees from the University of London: how did those years influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your current artistic research? Thank you very much for this opportunity to showcase and explain my artwork – I greatly appreciate it. Actually my formal education did not contribute much to my idea of art, and for many years I wasn’t sure exactly how and where I could fit in to the artworld as such. None of my artist friends – some of whom are exceptionally talented technically - had succeeded to any great extent, and the whole process of trying to get somewhere in the artworld was deeply disheartening. You could, for example, have a successful exhibition – with everything sold - in a minor inner-city gallery somewhere and still come to nothing. Years could slip by with absolutely nothing happening. Zero. But the most important element in all of it was that I didn’t have a clear idea of what it was that ‘art’ was all about – other than obviously ‘creating stuff’ – any fool can work that out - and this made it very difficult to have a convincing idea of either what to do, or how to do it. I kept working at various projects, but without any real hope of a breakthrough. That only came much later, very much later, after decades in the wilderness.

Jakob Zaaiman

travel - I’m completely wedded to inner-city modernity and to heavy industry. I love everything to do with metropolitan life: public transport, 24 hour shopping, noise, fast food, neon, advertising, cars, prostitution, immigration, crime, conflict, fashion, idiocy, brutalist architecture, the lot. That’s not to say I ‘partake’ in all these things, but I very much enjoy being able to witness city living in action, and witness it directly. On the other hand I’m also not against the ‘poetry of nature’ and long

Now as regards ‘cultural substratum’ – as it applies to the general direction of my artistic

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walks in the countryside, and identifying

mall any day. So my field of artistic exploration is firmly situated in a contemporary urban mentality.

different kinds of birds, and so on, but give me a terrifying steel factory or a crowded shopping

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they’re an intrinsic part of western secular life, whether we like it or not. And having myself read the Bible attentively and carefully cover-tocover, I’m afraid I regard it as unspeakably deranged and bizarre and stupidly cruel, though quite useful as a source of peculiar imagery. It should be repackaged as an exercise in psychopathology. So if you’re ever stuck for ideas, you can always go there for inspiration of the most disturbing kind. That anyone should take the Bible seriously says a lot about us as human beings: we’re just a herd of sadists,

Of course there is also the question of the cultural context of inescapable ideas and ideologies, and in this regard I sometimes feel compelled to address certain Judeo-Christian absurdities, having been brought up in that tradition. I did produce a deliberately obscurantist and perplexing photo-roman series about the ‘Garden of Eden’, and I occasionally use Biblical references here and there, but not out of any religious conviction, only because

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Jakob Zaaiman

power to compel, or its power to summon you in. In a way, you could see my artworks as lobby cards – advertisements and flyers - to subtle movies which exist unseen in the disturbing recesses of your own mind.

idiots and the mentally ill. You are a versatile artist and we have appreciated the way the results of your artistic inquiry convey such a coherent combination between intuition and a rigorous aesthetics, and we would like to invite our readers to visit http://alldaynight.info in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production: when walking our readers through your usual setup and process, we would like to ask you if you think that there is a central idea that connects all your works.

This all ties in with my conception of art – that is to say, authentic ‘art’ as opposed to mere ‘creative crafting’ – as being essentially narrative and theatrical. ‘Art’ goes beyond technical crafterly skill and the achievement of aesthetic beauty and tries to tell us something narrative and imaginative – art presents us with portals to unusual and unsettling realms. Francis Bacon and Joseph Beuys didn’t give us classical beauty, but they did give us glimpses of fascinating worlds that we could never have come across had they not uncovered them. Their artworks are not static representations of the things we already know, they are invitations to a ‘somewhere else’, and you enter into these realms ‘narratively’, by connecting with them as if they were real environments. This is not about ‘resonances’ or letting your imaginative thoughts flow, this is about congruence with this other world you are being presented with, and entering into it on its own terms. You don’t reduce a Francis Bacon to an interpretation about ‘distorted perspectives’ or ‘heavy drinking’; you join him in his quest to negotiate this mystifying experiential realm that he has managed to portray in his paintings.

Yes very much so: the central idea is that each artwork is a portal to an experiential and imaginative realm above and beyond normality, in the same way that a product advertisement is an invitation to a certain very specific state of mind. Advertisers want to beguile you – however momentarily – with the idea that you need to purchase their product, and to do this they have to present you with a glimpse of a ‘realm’ which they hope you will think you will want to be able to incorporate into your own life. Advertisers – whatever the product, whether holidays, fast food, or computers offer you a pinch of stardust, and try to get you will take the bait. Now this is exactly what I want to do with my artworks, but instead of the payoff being the purchase of an everyday product, I want to invite you into an unknown imaginative realm. This realm will have its own peculiar and unsettling possibilities, together with its own internal logic, and you explore them in your own way. This has nothing to do with decoding symbols or treating a work as a visual brainteaser; this is about connecting directly – in a type of mental congruence - with a world that I am trying to present to you. A movie can achieve exactly this type of process more easily, which means that an artwork is a more subtle and allusive object than a movie – and therefore possibly more baffling initially, but that doesn’t necessarily detract from its

Special Issue

The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of ART Habens and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article has at once captured our attention for the way they trigger the viewers' perceptual parameters and at the same time go beyond a mere research of hidden meanings. Differently from what many artists as Man Ray and Max Ernst — who often decontextualized their objects in order to attempt to nudge their audience to new conceptualizations — your artworks seem to

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Jakob Zaaiman

ART Habens

The temptation – and the easy way out – is to go for extremes, but you have to be very good at what you do to manipulate extremes successfully. Instagram is full of ‘teasing’ nudes, but they’re only worth a passing glance; and in the same way contemporary art is full of surprising and unexpected assemblages, although most of them are wholly devoid of the least narrative invitation. What I try to do is to avoid extremes as far as possible, and to concentrate on ordinary, seemingly innocent objects – food, cardboard boxes, toys, plastic bags, bottles, trees; honestly anything - and try to find ways of portraying them as oddly sinister, and disturbing and mysterious. This might require their juxtaposition with found photographs, as well as using repetition and overlay; but I normally start with my own photographs of something simple and unquestionably ordinary, and work outwards from there.

address the viewers to a more direct visual experience. As you have remarked in your artist' statement, your art is about discovering, and then exploring – the strange and the disturbing – hidden in the everyday and in the ordinary: how does everyday life's experience fuel your creative process? And how do you think your works respond to it in finding hidden, crystallised moments in the everyday? There are at least two ways in which I try to employ the ordinary and the everyday and turn them into art objects: there are mundane objects and scenes which, given an almost imperceptible twist, can suddenly act as portals to mystery and disorder; and then there is the ubiquitous and ever-present world of media images – including advertising and branding all the rest of it – which tends to come already loaded with a peculiar potential which is just begging to be interfered with. Warhol has already shown the way by celebrating the extraordinary form of ‘mindlessness’ inherent in the ubiquity and banality of famous brands, but the possibilities in this are endless, and go well beyond the parameters of simple pop imagery. For example, I love the idea of Coke being present in a world which is so dark and indeterminate that Coke’s quintessential blackness would be sinister rather than ‘refreshingly’ reassuring. I’ve explored this very possibility in a number of posters. But this whole line of thinking would in itself only be the beginning – an entry point - and not the end of my exploration of a Coke advertisement.

With their powerful narrative drive, your digital collages challenge the viewers to explore realms of the imagination, how do you consider the tension between the real and the imagined playing within your artistic research? For me the important thing is that ‘art’ is essentially recreational, and a form of entertainment. It’s an aid to contemplation and reflection, but not in a spiritual or religious way. If you want spirituality, go to religion; if you want activism and a socially meaningful pursuit, go into politics. Art has its own domain, and a very powerful and enjoyable and life-enhancing one, but twisting it to suit narrow purposes just trivialises it. Political cartoonists, and artists like Banksy, for example, may think that they have weaponised art in an incredibly powerful way, but really they are deluding themselves – it’s a giggle for a second and then forgotten.

Now to try to answer the question somewhat more directly: give or take the moments of excitement or pain, we all experience everyday life as dull, ordinary and flat. It is our ‘given’. But ordinariness contains within it infinite possibilities, and it is up to the artist to represent aspects of it in interesting ways. The ‘aesthetic creative’ tries to find the beauty; the ‘artist’ looks for the strange and the disturbing.

Then the question becomes, ‘what is the role of art in life ?’ How does it related to

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Jakob Zaaiman

ART Habens

‘Social media’ has connected everyone to everyone else in a way which was completely unimaginable only a generation ago, yet the elemental difficulties inherent in artistic creativity haven’t changed in the slightest. Nor will they ever. The only thing I can think of which has changed significantly is the arrival of the delusion that being able to upload your artworks to the internet now means that everyone knows who you are, and is interested in your work. It’s really difficult to remind yourself that merely being another face in ten billion is no guarantee of anything. You still have to do all your hard work, and promote yourself.

everydayness? What’s its ultimate value ? Well, when all else is said and done, art is only one of the many recreational possibilities in life. It’s not everything. It’s not God. Art can be incredibly powerful and immersive, and stay with you as you go about your life, but it’s just a certain angle on things, and not a mystical solution. You can try to inhabit a certain imaginative realm permanently – and this is what many musicians and artists and celebrities try to do – but that’s a personal choice and not a road I would want to go down. Not to say I haven’t tried – we all like to think we can bend reality to our imaginative will - but if you start believing your own imaginative conception of life and existence, you are asking for trouble. You’re asking for serious mental illness.

Rejecting any attempt to create works responding to traditional interpretative psychoanalytic categories, your works aim to challenge the viewers perceptual parameters, to look inside of what appear to be seen, rather than its surface, providing the spectatorship with freedom to realize their own perception. How important is for you to provide your spectatorship with the experience of getting rid of the urgence to elaborate personal intepretation?

Digital manipulation plays a relevant role in your artistic research: Multidisciplinary artist Angela Bulloch once remarked "that works of arts often continue to evolve after they have been realised, simply by the fact that they are conceived with an element of change, or an inherent potential for some kind of shift to occur". Technology can be used to create innovative artworks, but innovation means not only to create pieces of art that haven't been before, but especially to recontextualize what already exists: do you think that one of the roles of contemporary artists has changed these days with the new global communications and the new sensibility created by new media?

For me the key is to offer, through an artwork, a window into another world, another realm. Hopefully this realm is sufficiently weird and unsettling and fascinating to draw the viewer in, and have them inhabit it. This is exactly what all real art is all about. But of course nobody can stop the viewer from thinking their own thoughts about a work, no matter how trivial and reductionistic those thoughts might be, though I would be disappointed if that’s as far as they can go. I’m not producing work which is any way complicated or intellectual, but it is meant to be unsettling. And if you go this route you are sure to get people who, no matter how simple and straightforward your explanation, will say ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about: I just don’t get it.’

Andy Warhol said that advances in technology made art ‘much easier’, but the role of the artist – to create and uncover portals into imaginative realms – doesn’t change with changes in technology. We still have to try and find ways to construct interesting and compelling works; and simply being able to execute them more ‘easily’ won’t – and can’t - make up for a deficit in artistic imagination.

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Jakob Zaaiman

ART Habens

There is of course an aesthetic element in all this as well, meaning that I like the image to have a seductive quality to it, but the seduction is not designed to lead to beauty and reassurance but rather to disturbance and confusion. The stronger the sense of weirdness, peculiarity and horror the better, but remember of course that this is recreational crafting and not the real thing. If people want a direct experience of real horror they should join police forensics: art is not that. Art may allude to dreadful and troubling events but it is many steps removed from reality itself. Art is presentational and theatrical and mediated; art is recreational: reality is the exact opposite.

American photographer and sculptor Zoe Leonard once stated, "the objects that we leave behind hold the marks and the sign of our use: like archeological findings, they reveal so much about us". We’d love to ask you about the qualities of the materials that you include in your artworks: how do you select them and what does you address to combine found images? Choosing materials for the collages is extremely complicated and is very difficult to articulate with any real depth of insight. What I’m about to say is very familiar to all artists, and artists say the same things over and over, but it’s how we create, so how else to put it ? The process goes like this: I tend to choose and put together images that have – at the moment I feel like working on something new - struck me as interesting, and then I keep arranging and rearranging them until something like a ‘narrative’ starts to emerge. Now by ‘narrative’ I don’t mean a plot driven story, or a meaning, or a symbolic allusion; rather I mean a special ‘something’ which announces the presence of a ‘coherence of some kind’, which can establish itself with sufficient force to be worth pursuing as an artwork. I then keep working on the images until this ‘coherence’ starts to tell me where to go, and this may well involve swopping some of the original images for new ones, and ending up in a completely different place. Along the way, I try to make sure that the artwork is wholly devoid of visual puns or jokes or clear references to trivial meanings and decodings, so that what I end up with is as mysterious to me as if it had been created by someone else. I like to be bewildered by the finished product, and to have to be forced to wonder what on earth it might be trying to tell me. Then I can be sure that it’s exactly right. This may be a clichéd account, but there you go.

Your approach deviates from traditional art making to provide the viewers with such a heightened visual experience, to subvert the clichéd techniques, developing the expressive potential of the symbols that you included in your work: how importance do symbolically charged images play in your work? This is a complex subject insofar as it unavoidably involves accepted and standard principles of visual grammar, but in a way which is counter-intuitive to what many people have come to expect of modern art. The prevailing view – and I have many shelves of books all proposing exactly the same thing – is that modern art – especially in its extreme and unusual forms – is to be understood in terms of a one-to-one decoding of symbols. I hear lecturers in galleries telling their group ‘this bit of the artwork means this, and that bit means that; and the artist created this when she was depressed, and that’s why she used these colours’ etc etc. It reduces anything remotely challenging in art to a kind of classroom puzzle. It reduces art lovers to schoolchildren. Now of course the problem is that if you are creating a visual work, you can’t avoid making use of some kind of visual grammar; in other

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ART Habens

Jakob Zaaiman

words, employing elements which each have their own recognisable and unavoidable meaning, even if you then want to distort and subvert that recognisable and unavoidable meaning to create something else. This runs the risk of the viewer automatically decoding symbols in the normal way, whereas I’m trying to lead them into a wholly different zone. A ‘McDonald’s’ logo does mean ‘McDonald’s’ – that is, the fast food franchise - but not in a satirical or parodic sense; I’m not trying to present a critique of junk food or consumer society – that kind of semi-political activism doesn’t interest me at all - I’m offering you a portal into a McDonald’s of derangement and aberration and distortion. Go into it. And having achieved congruence with that kind of a McDonald’s, you can then fill in the rest of the world around it. Then the artwork is achieving its magic. Over the years your artworks have been showcased in several occasions: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks? Right now I’m just concerned to keep producing works which I hope will be widely seen and enjoyed, even if for the wrong reasons. I know from lengthy discussions with all kinds of people – including other artists - that art can produce the most extraordinary and unintended responses, and that it is completely hopeless to try to direct people down certain avenues. I’m often left completely bewildered by what others say about my work, which leaves me wondering if we’re in the same universe. I think we’re probably not. Which is fine. I’m sure this is a common problem among artists.

like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Jakob. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? I hope to have a book – maybe two books - on my conception of art published in the next year or so, while I continue working on visual artworks, as well as occasional works in video. I’m still very

We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would

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Jakob Zaaiman

much interested in exploring the realms offered by ‘bizarre advertising’ – promoting deranged products which defy explanation – and it looks to be a gift which will just keep on delivering. I can’t see it ever running dry as a source of inspiration, but other unforeseen avenues may appear and take over. But whatever comes along, I won’t stop working this side of death.

ART Habens

Thank you again very much for this interview – much appreciated – and I hope it finds and entertains its audience.

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Lives and works in Athens, Greece

Treasures From The Past pastel on paper 8x11 inches 2

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Irene Georgopoulou

ART Habens

video, 2013

018 422 0

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ART Habens

Irene Georgopoulou

Door Knocker Special Issue pastel on paper 10x8 inches 2018

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Irene and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your works we would like to invite our readers to visit https://irenegeorgopouloufineart.c om in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production and we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background: as a self-taught painter, are there any experiences that did particularly influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your current artistic research?

Irene Georgopoulou

First of all I would like to thank you for your interest in my work and for this great opportunity to be featured to the Special Biennial Edition of ART Habens.

artistic support. I was always interested in painting and I also had this innate flair to draw but my busy schedule as a wife and mother of two boys prevented me from pursuing my passion since 2006.

As you well pointed out, I am a selftaught artist. I grew up without any artistic background and I didn’t have the chance and the means to attend an Art Academy. I had no

I followed my instincts, worked hard and although it wasn’t easy I never quit. My artistic journey has brought me unspeakable happiness so far, although great amounts of

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ART Habens

Irene Georgopoulou

discipline and determination were needed. I “Keep Walking� and of course there is so much more to learn and to discover in this personal path of growth! The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of ART Habens and that we our readers have already got to know in the introductory pages of this article, has at once impressed us for the way your images convey a consciousness that implores us to seek out the details and subtleties of nature and explore our relationship with it. When walking us through your usual setup and process, would you tell us what did address you to focus on this kind of painting? Inspiration comes from fortuitous places most of the times. For me it could be the intensity of the color of a marble; luminous reflections on silverware; water droplets on a pebble. I create a still life composition by picking objects I love to paint and I create arrangements. I adjust the lighting and select which light best captures the desired mood and

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Irene Georgopoulou

ART Habens

Precious Memories pastel on paper 8x11 inches 2018 21 4 06

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ART Habens

Irene Georgopoulou

Mary's Harley, pastel on paper 12x16 inches 2016 Special Issue

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Irene Georgopoulou

ART Habens

move the objects until I arrange them in a pleasing manner. I photograph my set ups in order to determine what the composition needs and also because a photo captures the light, angle and colors so we can work slowly and methodically. I prefer painting from images on my iPad. I love transforming ordinary objects into extraordinary ones and praise the beauty and their undeniable contribution to the surroundings. You are a pastelist by preference and we definitely love the way your artworks are meticulously refined on their surface. As you have remarked once, you find particularly fascinating the way pastels reflect light in such way that the painting's surface emits a glow. Your realistic approach establishes such an emotional bond with the viewers: how does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones that you decide to include in an artwork and in particular, how do you develop your initial inspirations?

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Special Issue



Back In Time pastel on paper 8x11 inches 2018


Just The Two of Us pastel on paper 12X19 inches 2011



ART Habens

Irene Georgopoulou

I love vibrant colors and most of the times I tend to exaggerate. Pastel is the ultimate medium to captivate the viewer with its magical glow and to inspire him to consider his relationship with the surroundings. My realistic approach emphasizes the beauty of subjects that one wouldn’t have noticed. It’s not my mood that influences my artwork, quite the opposite. When I pick up my pastels life is colorful and beautiful. We daresay that your artworks and in particular Back in Time, Treasures From The Past and Precious Memories - draw heavily from memories and direct experience: how does your everyday life's experience fuel your creative process? And how do you think your works respond to it in finding hidden, crystallized moments in the everyday? I usually paint objects that carry special memories of my beloved people as the old coins that I have recently painted. They are from my father’s personal collection so I have an emotional bond with them. But there’s not always significance or a hidden meaning in the chosen

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Irene Georgopoulou

ART Habens

Old Glove and Ball, pastel on paper 9x12 2018 21 4 10

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ART Habens

Irene Georgopoulou

Shipreck II pastel on paper 8x10 inches 2018 Special Issue

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Irene Georgopoulou

ART Habens

subject. Sometimes I just paint objects that I like for their color, texture or even for the challenge to depict them on a two dimensional surface. I paint simply because I enjoy the process of painting. It's important to remark that you are a collector of objects that stimulate your creativity and that you love transforming common objects into luminous still life paintings. Photographer and sculptor Zoe Leonard once stated, "the objects that we leave behind hold the marks and the sign of our use: like archeological findings, they reveal so much about us". We’d love to ask you about the qualities of the materials that you include in your artworks: how do you select them and what does address you to combine found materials? I collect pebbles, glass marbles, vintage toys, shells, old keys and other objects either for their beauty, design, colors or as memorabilia that evoke memories. I am impressed with the beautiful colors I see on a surface of an oxidized coin or with the luminous reflections on a tiny glass marble

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Terrace pastel on paper 11x16 inches 2018


ART Habens

Irene Georgopoulou

when the light strikes on it. Such collectibles often convey special meaning to the viewer and travel him into his memories. The way you saliently combine realistic details and evocative and symbolically charged images, as in the interesting Door Knocker, urges the viewers to push the envelope of their perceptual parameters, walking them through a journey into a whole other world that is waiting to be discovered. In this sense, we daresay that your practice responds to German photographer Andreas Gursky's quote, underlining that Art should not be delivering a report on reality, but should be looking at what's behind: how are important the symbols in your work and how important is for you to trigger the viewers' perceptual parameters in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? And in particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? As I previously said, there is not always a hidden meaning or a symbolism behind my paintings. And why should there be any? Sometimes I just paint simply because I enjoy the process itself.

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Irene Georgopoulou

ART Habens

Reflections of Temptation pastel on paper 11x14 inches 2011 21 4 14

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ART Habens

Irene Georgopoulou

Would You Play with Me pastel on paper 11x13 inches 2019 Special Issue

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Irene Georgopoulou

ART Habens

If the viewer chooses to discover a special meaning to my artwork, that would be their privilege. I have to admit that in the case of Door Knocker, there is a sequence of thoughts that can lead the viewer to different paths. Everyone can make up their own story about what lies behind that old door, depending on his mood and his own experiences. Meticulously composed, your artworks are marked out with exceptionally precise attention to details. It goes without saying that there's an obvious bond between hyperrealism and the care to details: but in your artworks we daresay that details offers such an Ariadne's thread that provides the viewers with new perspective to relate themselves to the act of viewing. Could you comment the importance of details playing within your artistic research? Detail and pinpoint accuracy is most important to me. I am focusing on the smallest detail and I render subjects larger than life-size aiming at making the viewers feel the need

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Keys pastel on paper 8x10 inches 2014


ART Habens

Irene Georgopoulou

to reach out and touch the objects in my paintings. These objects are carefully composed so as the viewers can connect with them and realize the special meaning of them to their lives. In a controversial quote, Thomas Ruff stated that ''nowadays you don't have to paint to be an artist: you can photography in a realistic way". Provocatively, the German photographer highlighted the short circuit between the act of looking and that of thinking critically about images: how do you consider the role of painting in our contemporary age, constantly saturated by ubiquitous images? Photography is an art that needs studies and skills. I am a keen amateur photographer and I should learn more about it but I obviously prefer painting. A photograph captures the moment and subject in time with accuracy. Painting is a meticulous job, takes more time than a click of a camera. We painters can draw or paint realistically but our work also reflects skill, emotion and of course our perception of reality. In this digital age we painters continue

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Irene Georgopoulou

ART Habens

Five Bulbs pastel on paper 8x10 inches 2014 21 4 18

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ART Habens

Irene Georgopoulou

Innocent Smile pastel on paper 23x19 inches 2017 Special Issue

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Irene Georgopoulou

ART Habens

We have appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Irene. What projects are you currently working on and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?

painting, receive external influences and apply these to our work in order to create art that will inspire. Painting helps us to perceive the world in a profound and unique manner. It excites, affects, gives beauty, emotion, joy and meaning to our lives. Your artworks are in many private collections worldwide, and over the years you have participated in numerous exhibitions in Greece, USA, Turkey, Italy, France and China, including your recent participation to the 33rd Annual Pastels USA International Exhibition at the Haggin Museum and: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience takes away from your artworks?

You are welcome! I have really enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you. I have so many ideas and as much as I want to create a consistent Body of Work, I love experimentation, challenge and variety. I start a series but then I get bored and proceed to the next project. I will continue painting, learning more in order to improve my knowledge and sharpen my skills. I will also continue entering shows and exploring all kinds of opportunities and projects regarding the arts.

As every other artist I wish my work to resonate with the viewers and to exert a deep impact on them. By creating effectively expressive still lifes I invite my audience to connect with my work on an emotional and personal level and to experience something deep and unexpected.

An interview by and

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, curator curator

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Lives and works in Manchester, United Kingdom

Just Fly acrylic painting on the wall - 3 x 4m, Glasgow

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Mila Raczkowska

ART Habens

video, 2013

, UK 422 0

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ART Habens

Mila Raczkowska

3 Special FamiliarIssue Feelings acrylic painting on the wall - 2 x 3m, 40Manchester, UK


An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Mila and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate on your artistic production we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have solid formal training and you hold an MFA in Painting, that you received from the Akademia Sztuk Pięknych, in Warsaw: how did these formative years influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does your cultural substratum due to your previous studies in Architecture direct the trajectory of your current artistic research? My first study, which was landscape architecture at the University Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, developed my awareness of the space in which I am surrounded. The space of art, sometimes imperceptible, transforms into architectonic space and, likewise, the space of architecture into the space of art.

Mila Raczkowska

has at once captured our attention for the way your images convey a consciousness that implores us to seek out the details and subtleties of nature and explore our relationship with it, and we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.instagram.com/milafineart in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production: when walking our readers through your usual setup and process, we would like to ask you if you think that there is a central idea that connects all your works.

The ability to look with affection allowed me to recognise painting in unity with the geometry. For me, it’s a kind of background, a symbolic element that provokes considerations of the place and, above all, to expand reality. Through places, I try to portray imaginary, or real places that show the relationship of a man with is surroundings. Thanks to painting, I can unleash all the limitations that architects must face, which helps to create my world in another reality.

All the worlds depicted in my paintings are wandering through emotions, feelings, experiences and time.

The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of ART Habens and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article,

I am inspired by the movement of a brush, spatula,a hand through a given shape, form

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ART Habens

Mila Raczkowska

Around oil painting on canvas, 60 x 60cm

and colour.It is an attempt to illustrate the linking of reality and dreamstate and to illustrate the structure and shape of sleep. Where time is heterogeneous and puzzling -

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where the place has no borders. My story with art started far in the past at the time when I was born. I grew up in a family with artistic origins. My childhood was full of many kinds

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Mila Raczkowska

ART Habens

Dreamspace oil painting on canvas,20 x 20cm

My father was a native painter, and my mother was also painting and sewing beautiful clothing. When I discovered that art was more than a passion, I decided to move out of my

of expression, which was accompanied by crafts from the formation of stained glass, wood, through the renovation of antiques and my favourite image.

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ART Habens

Mila Raczkowska

Come In oil painting on canvas, 20 x 20cm

hometown Rypin and start studying. Firstly I degreed Landscape Architecture, at the UWM in Olsztyn. Then I successfully finished the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. There, under

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the protection of my master Leon Tarasewicz, I was able to develop skills, and soon after I started to publish for public. It was a time when I met many people from the creative

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Mila Raczkowska

ART Habens

Inside oil painting on canvas, 20 x 20cm

people in cooperation with cultural centres and theatres. I had the pleasure of working as a set designer and costume designer for many theatrical projects or fashion projects in

site, and that was a reason to get interested in many different ways of expressions. From designing, creating clothing collections for fashion shows to art workshops for young

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Homogenic - fashion project, paper, collage, 30 x 40cm


With me - mixed media on canvas, 40 x 60cm


Mila Raczkowska

collaboration with cultural centres and art agencies.

ART Habens

relationship between figurative and abstraction playing within your artistic research? In particular, how does representation and a tendency towards abstraction find their balance in your work?

I gained skills that led me to the next levels, wherever I then moved to Paris, London, and now Manchester. I try to discover the world every day and draw inspiration from it. It's here that I find myself and feel the conferences with the world around me.

The tendency to abstraction delights me with its directness of expression. I try not to appeal to forms known from reality, but to tell directly what I feel at a given moment, giving this form.

With its thoughtful, dreamlike quality, your palette creates a balanced sense of dynamics: how do you structure your palette in order to achieve such brilliant results? And what are your aesthetic decisions that determine the nuances of tones that you include in a specific artwork?

By giving her shapes through speculative reception, I want to express the harmony of the world. My world. You use many different tools on various mediums. Photographer and sculptor Zoe Leonard once stated, "the objects that we leave behind hold the marks and the sign of our use: like archaeological findings, they reveal so much about us". We’d love to ask you about the qualities of the materials that you include in your artworks: how do you select them and what does address you to combine found materials?

My paintings have evolved many times. It started from the "Man". The main question was - who we are and who I am in the present world? From the portrait, I escaped with my art to a mysterious world of dreams. Less predictable and less obvious in the message. I travelled all the time between the question of what is happening to us now and what is on the other side of reality. I found very useful pins for long colour strings, dark contrasting patches. Then I added very expressive media, such as hands, sponges or wallpapers, following the imagined, colourful creatures.

I like to firstly prepare my background. Often when I get the idea, I have to make it live asap. I don’t hesitate to strip off even wallpaper from my hallway, just to make art “right here, right now” to create a structure or texture for my latest painting.

Those mysterious shapes are often a representation of myself and my beloved mother. I am no less sure that everyone sees something else. I try to express my feelings and emotions through work in a non-unified and abstract style.

Applying, shaping and scraping off paint mixed by myself. And then repeat the process all over again a few times until I receive the willed texture of my base. At this point, I already try to imagine how the final paint will look like. Then, using a chosen texture on the path of experience: brushes, sponges and metal spatulas. I select my very favourite tools while experimenting with many different mediums. I like to control the tool but still let

We like the way you approach conveys such a stimulating combination between figurative elements and captivating abstract feeling, whose background creates such an oniric atmosphere: how would you consider the

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Biophilia fashion project,paper, collage, 30 x 40cm



ART Habens

Mila Raczkowska

Sound Acrylic painting on canvas, 40 x 60cm Her World

the structure be less predictable as it's still fresh and wet. The next stage is finishing the work with details. I contour the shapes, make last eye reflections or fill the highlights. The last but not least is the touch up of highquality varnish.

acrylic painting on canvas, 40 x 60cm

interpretation and an attempt to organise experiences and desire. Secondly, I try to make assumptions that there is the possibility of identifying with colour, and its form by connecting and integrating with the entire picture and message.

Selected carefully not only make this polished look of new art but help also prevent the colours from decolouring, resist UV lighting and be just more time-resistant. We like the powerful narrative drive that marks out your artworks: what are you looking to emotionally raise in the viewers and how do you hope the viewers connect with your artworks?

As you have remarked in your artist's statement, you create in a vigorous and often spontaneous manner lead frequently by emotions. You artworks have a very distinct visual identity: how do you consider the role of chance and improvisation, as primordial

The narrative in my paintings is a kind of

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Mila Raczkowska

ART Habens

On The Long Legs

Silence

acrylic painting on canvas, 69 x 102cm

acrylic painting on canvas, 69 x 102cm

aspect of the creative process?

needed. It gives me an edge over everyday life, where everything has its consequences, and once done things cannot be undone. This freedom makes the space around me much more comfortable and explorable.

The very true aspect of my creative process is influenced by emotions. They are very integral to my perception and understanding of reality. In painting, I can feel free. This is the place where I can be myself, and all the mistakes I do, are treated as lessons. I adhere to the principle that in my painting I can afford courage, I can learn acceptance, improve something until I feel that I am completely satisfied. That's why I give myself all the time that is

The way you sapiently mix illustrative and abstract styles provides your artworks with a dreamy quality that urges the viewers to push the envelope of their perceptual parameters, walking them through a journey into a whole other world that is waiting to be discovered. In this sense, we daresay that

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ART Habens

Mila Raczkowska

Mystery I

Mystery II

oil painting on canvas, 69 x 102 cm

oil painting on canvas, 69 x 102cm

your practice responds to German photographer Andreas Gursky's quote, underlining that Art should not be delivering a report on reality, but should be looking at what's behind: in particular, you seem to urge your spectatorship to challenge their cultural categories: how are important the symbols in your work and how important is for you to trigger the viewers' perceptual parameters in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? And in particular, how open would you like your works to be understood?

equivalent of my emotional state. It's the deepest decking drives my expeditions beyond the cradle of daytime vigil and experience. It is metaphysical content that I get to know through intuitions and subconsciousness. It is a language of abstract characters that communicates my experiences and emotions.

Mainly through symbolism, I try to show the

Direct relationship with the audience in a

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I try to materialize my imagination, which precedes the creation of the visible. It is a form of communication with the world.

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She - acrylic painting on canvas, 69 x 102cm


Wildlife - acrylic painting on canvas, 40 x 60cm


Mila Raczkowska

ART Habens

could have happened to Art over the years. Thanks to the Internet everyone can experience and get the latest information of event calendars or newest works of a favourite artist. Our instinct still will be the essential criterion, thanks to which we would be looking for real experience art and feel it on the emotional level. It is a way that stimulates our thinking and imagination. Therefore, it is possible to say that the Internet helps to increase both the popularity and availability of our crafts. We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Mila. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? The current project I am working on is a series of paintings. It’s called “39� and is accompanied by few costumes. It will be an attempt to interpret the relationship with everything that surrounds us and what allows us to be right now. It is a symbolism of the idea of life, alchemically responsible for emotions.

Inside Of spirit oil painting on canvas, 69 x 102cm

physical is definitely the most important one, in order to snatch the spirit of a work of Art. However, as the move of Art from traditional gallery spaces to the street and especially to the online realm increases. As an artist whose work dives into digital platforms as a site of subjectivity and consciousness formation, how would in your opinion change the relationship with a globalised audience?

This is the house, it's the most stable part and perseverance. It is an inspiration, communication, expansion and passion. It is quintessence, space where lightness and subtleness can be applied to the state of mind. An interview by

The emerging art market as on online platforms is one of the better things that

and

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, curator curator

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Lives and works in Yerevan, Armenia

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Nazik Aslanyan

ART Habens

video, 2013

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Jordi Rosado

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Nazik and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your works we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.nazikgallery.com in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production, and we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background: you have a solid formal training and you graduated from Yerevan State Art Academy: how did these formative years influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does your cultural substratum due to your Armenian roots direct the trajectory of your current artistic research? I have received my main artistic education at Yerevan State Academy of Fine Arts, where I learned academic art, studied art history, as well as the basics of design. Those years went by full of discussions on aesthetic issues. I’ve learned not only to notice and depict the external image of objects, but also study and comprehend their characteristic features. Nowadays, when I cast a glance back to the works of my student years, I see the cradle of today’s paintings, which have undergone ideological and artistic evolution through the years. For example, I had abstract paintings that were emotional compositions of black and white. I had named them The Feeling, The State, The Emotion. Later, based on these, I created the series called The Reality. Or, I used to draw a circle a lot, in the spirit of returning back to the starting point, the idea of eternity, which later evolved into The Sun series.

Nazik Aslanyan

I have pondered a lot over the rich Armenian culture and modern art and often try to draw parallels with my works. This is a complicated issue and an important one for me. If I try to characterize Armenian art through my vision

using two words, I would underscore the minimalism and monumentalism at the same time, as well as perspicuity and depth, features

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ART Habens

Nazik Aslanyan

that are characteristic of Armenian Church architecture too. The realization of my Armenian roots is key for me in this world of open art full of globalization ideas. The research and comprehension of this deep cultural substratum/heritage makes me firmer in my creative convictions as I present my art in international platforms. The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of ART Habens and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article has at once captured our attention for the way you sapiently combined abstract style with reminders to reality, to unveil the ubiquitous bond between the real and the abstract. In particular, in your interesting series of paintings entitled The Reality, you highlighted the the constant dynamism and the balance between the contrasts that affect our everchanging and multifaceted reality. How did you conceive this stiulating series? We perceive the surroundings through our senses, feelings, inner understandings and convictions, which can be objective or subjective depending on various circumstances. I believe that our views of the reality and truth are strongly intertwined with creative and imaginary perceptions. Everything is dynamic, because everything flows in time. In that sense, the reality is also the time, or rather the reality is in the time, meaning that the reality is variable, dynamic, as the time is variable and dynamic as well. Similarly, our thoughts, senses and perceptions are alive, variable with time and dynamic. So, where is the truth and what is the reality? I suppose these belong to the list of eternal questions. When I lectured art history in Quantum college, which was a while ago, my students used to ask how to distinguish a good painting from a bad one if both are professionally performed and both are nice to look at. I used to respond that it’s important not only to see the paining but also to feel it,

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Nazik Aslanyan

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search for the hidden truth in it and find the reality by feeling it. What is more real: what we see or what we feel? I think invisible phenomena, such as thoughts, emotions, feelings or convictions play a key, if not decisive, role in the process of forming our “reality�. On the other hand, we are surrounded by visual abstraction. It is everywhere, we will notice it as we change the viewing angle or look at something fragmentally, sectorally. The nature too has created unmatched, abstract sceneries full of deep philosophy of life. Apart from dynamism I underscore the contrast in my paintings, which I think exists in all spheres of our life. As if opposite ideas or phenomena balance each other out. I think that phenomena ensure each others’ existence through the countering. In other words, the light and the darkness, the joy and the misery balance each other out as if on a scale. It seems to me that this balance makes the world go round. Your artworks are marked with such a rigorous sense of geometry, to create such a coherent combination between intuition and peculiar aesthetics: do you conceive you works instinctively or do you methodically elaborate your pieces? In particular, how importance does spontaneity play in your work? Before staring a painting, I have its tentative image in my mind: I see its size, composition and colors, sometimes even the painting method. Even though at times that painting is created in my mind, yet when I stand in front of the canvas and start to work, the process tends to get out of control in a certain sense. In the process of creation I somehow disconnect from the surrounding world and time. At times I may divert away from the initial idea, at others not, but one thing is for certain - the subconsciousness, senses and emotions play a decisive role in my creative process.

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Nazik Aslanyan

consciousness and sub-consciousness function parallel and simultaneously. When I feel tired after completing a painting and sense the spirit of my creation, it seems to me that I had transferred my entire energy to the canvas.

I love it when I complete a painting emotionally, in one breath. One painting may be completed in a very short time, while another may take longer, but I would still finish it with several decisive strokes of a brush, conveying that spirit of spontaneity to the painting nonetheless.

We have appreciated the vibrancy of thoughtful nuances of your canvas, in particular we like the way your paintings show that vivacious tones are not strictly indespensable to create

It seems to me that in the process of creation my feelings and thoughts, as well as

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Nazik Aslanyan

tension and dynamics. How did you come about settling on your color palette? And how much does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones that you decide to include in an artwork and in particular, how do you develop a texture?

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possible to say everything. There are works during creation of which I set that artistic task for myself, an artistic goal to express the most with only few colors. Just like with ideas, that particular palette would need only two-three colors. However, if I consider my entire art in general, all its series, my palette is rather multicolored. It all depends on the particular series and the idea I am aiming to convey.

I think you would agree that one may use numerous words, but fail to convey any idea. And vice versa, with only few words it is

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ART Habens

Nazik Aslanyan

Even cold and gloomy colors may be very alive and expressive, depending on emotions and feelings that the artist injects into the mix. In addition, the expressiveness of each color depends on the surrounding colors. All are interconnected and interdependent. Developing the texture of colors with a palette knife or a brush I want to demonstrate that even one color can be deep and expressive through its shades and application methods. I do not attach much importance to diversity of colors: the way they interact and find their expression matters more to me. In The Reality series the selection of colors is driven by the emphasis on the idea of contradictions as well. It is a conversation between two colors, an emotional debate. Naturally, I express my inner world, my thoughts and ideas through my art. I find it difficult to match or combine color tones with my psychology, but I am confident that all the shades of my palette correspond to my philosophy. To quote the words of your artist's statement, while looking for the reality, it seems to us that the reality are the things which can be touched or seen: in this sense, we daresay that you art practice also responds to German photographer Andreas Gursky when he underlined that Art should not be delivering a report on reality, but should be looking at what's behind: in particular, you seem to urge your spectatorship to challenge their cultural categories: how are important the symbls in your work and how important is for you to trigger the viewers' perceptual parameters in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? And in particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? If our perceptions of the reality were limited only to the visual, the life would have been uninteresting and simplistic. We may draw a comparison with psychology, in which human consciousness is rather limited compared to the subconsciousness. We perceive the reality through our subconsciousness

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Nazik Aslanyan

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Nazik Aslanyan

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too, don’t we? People often think that the reality is just what we see, while what we see is merely the appearance, the shape, the garment. Among invisible phenomena are the meaning, the essence, the gist, which should be searched, seen, comprehended in order to approach the reality. I believe the objective of art is not to merely reproduce the visible, but rather to make the invisible visible. Of course I concur with Andreas Gusrky and consider him a very interesting artist. I see the abstract art in his photography and his philosophy is rather close to me. I take the symbols of my paintings from the nature. The scenery of nature, its elements, the circle and the light of the Sun are symbols of eternity and life for me. I believe that the spectator is free in his/her perceptions, and this is the beauty of art, where any perception is unique and inexplicable. After being born, the painting lives its own life, entering a tête-à-tête monologue with the viewer, the painting finds its unique wall, its environment. Even though through the years I have gained selfconfidence in my work and understand what I am doing clearly, nonetheless I value the perception of the viewer. By emerging the viewers into the depth of the painting, conveying my thoughts and feelings through colors and lines, I aim at evoking unprecedented inner emotions in them. I wish them to feel the way they have never felt before and to see what they have never seen before. While watching the painting, I think the spectator creates alongside with me, with the canvass, evoking exceptional emotions and experiences that are unique only for and belong only to him/herself. I believer that every individual perceives differently, depending on many circumstances. As Tsvetaeva said, the reader is a co-author. When exploring the the struggle of contradictions existing in every sphere of life, your paintings walk the viewers to such an hybrid dimension, providing them with a multilayered visual

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ART Habens

Nazik Aslanyan

experience. How do you consider the role of memory, as a crystallization of everyday life's experience playing within your process and how does your daily life fuel your work as an artist?

memory, which may give birth to an idea of a painting or its light and color solutions. As if it is stored and cooked in my subconsciousness. In 2012 I was deeply impressed by the view of the freeway connecting Philadelphia to Washington, where amidst the speedy ride my glance traveled alongside the endless, dense, dark green forest, topped by a cloudless, clear,

I think the memory is what shapes and develops us through the years. My impressions and sources of inspiration are derived from my

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Nazik Aslanyan

light blue sky. I was sensing an inexplicable depth in this clarity, and this impression was imprinted into my memory, into my subconsciousness, which I simply had to express: months later The Landscape series and its artistic solutions were born. Any phenomenon in a daily life can be a source of inspiration for me: the light or the shadow, dry grass or a bright ray of the sun reflected on a

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leaf may prompt me to start painting in my mind. Though marked out with engaging abstract feature, your paintings convey such a powerful narrative drive: we like the way you artfully meld science and nature to show the beauty of these two opposites and their symbiotic balance as they harmoniously blend together. As a realistic abstract painter, how do you

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ART Habens

Nazik Aslanyan

consider the relationship between abstraction and figurative in your practice? In particular, how does representation and a tendency towards abstraction find their balance in your work?

expressive, on the other hand it is not a coincidence and one may accomplish abstraction by means of studying the figurative. You reach the abstraction by breaking the figurative shape, and then purifying, simplifying, revealing the essence and characteristics. In this sense, a significant number of my paintings

I have never thought of my art from that viewpoint. I suppose one may look from various angles. On one hand, I consider abstraction

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Nazik Aslanyan

ART Habens

that a series could be considered as a storyboard of a more universal artistic discourse that goes beyond the nature of the single artwork?

are abstract, while at the same time visually resemble realistic concepts. I have named the series correspondingly: The Landscape, The Flower, The Sun, The Tree, etc. Thus, a number of my paintings are semi-abstract.

The idea and the theme are the foundations that connect my works to each other into series, where each painting pursues its artistic objectives and solutions. Those can be solutions with colors, compositions, or experiments through mixed techniques. When I complete a painting I feel the urge to find new artistic solutions in another canvass, new ways to express the same idea differently, and thus a series is born. I believe that exhibiting a series of canvasses, where the same idea is expressed in different artistic solutions, conveys my thoughts

On the other hand you encounter my series of paintings called The Reality, which is an expressive, complete abstraction, which can balance out with his/her notion of “the reality�. As we contemplate a complete abstraction, we mentally find the notion of the reality and sense the spirit of the reality at the same time. Maybe that’s where the balance is. It's important to remark that you work in series: is there a channel of communication between each of your paintings? Do you think

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ART Habens

Nazik Aslanyan

I have noticed that viewers enjoy a painting, where thoughts, feelings and emotions expressed through colors and lines are in harmony with their own thoughts, emotions and feelings; resonate with them. My hope is that people will reevaluate their system of values through experiencing the essence and greatness of the nature, noting the power of the light. I strive to create a state that will pull the viewer away from the real world, and the evoked emotions will serve as food for thought. My goal is to convey feelings and thoughts to the audience, which will bring them closer to the concealed, deep and meaningful reality. I long to transfer positive energy to the viewer through my art, convey warmth, light and positive emotions and thoughts even through a black and white gamma. We have appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Nazik. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?

in a more expressive, holistic and comprehensive way. At the same time, any painting represents a holistic idea and is complete when presented to the audience. I perceive each series as a choir of solo singers.

I am preparing to an individual exhibition this fall at Armenian Artists Union exhibition hall. I will present five series, approximately 60 paintings. I would like to thank you for this interesting interview, which presented one more opportunity for me to contemplate and look at my painting from a different angle. I am extremely touched by your interest in my art and consider it an honor to be published in your journal.

You are an estalished artist: your works are in public and private collections, over the years you have exhibited internationally. We have really appreciated the originality of your artistic research, and especially the way your artworks break the emotional barrier with the audience: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks?

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An interview by and

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, curator curator



Lives and works in Arendal, Norway

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Hege Haraldsen

ART Habens

video, 2013

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ART Habens

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Hege Haraldsen

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Hege and welcome back to ART Habens we already got the chance to introduce our readers to your artworks in a previous edition and we are now particularly pleased to discover the development of your artistic production. In particular, for this special edition we have selected I Am Also You, an intriguing series that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. When walking us through the genesis of this captivating body of works, would you tell us how did you structured your process on a technical aspect, in order to achieve such brilliant results?

Hege Haraldsen

I wish I could walk you through a very well thought through process where I’d amaze you with my brilliant technical mind and advanced process, however, the matter of fact is that I aim to include as little technicality as

Hi ART Habens, thank you for the positive response to my newest work and for having me back; I’m quite flattered.

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Hege Haraldsen

the subject matters that was needed to shape the series. This individual really grasped the concept and why I was doing it and ended up being just as passionate about the project as I am.

possible in my work; a camera, natural light and a backdrop in this case. We have really appreciated the essential quality that marks out your works, that are often marked out with simple compositive style and that provide the viewers with an intimate visual experience: what’s your philosophy on the nature of the portrait? How did you select the people that you decided to include in I Am Also You?

If it hadn’t been for this particular persons dedication I wouldn’t have been able to collect the level of strong stories and emotions that I did and for that I am forever grateful. It’s important for me to include individuals from all walks of life in this project; the only thing connecting the subject matters in the Nablus series is Nablus itself and of being a human being.

There’s an extensive process behind the creation of I am Also You. For the Nablus version; First of all I did not (and still don’t) speak any Arabic, and communication is key in this project.

The statement attached to every portraiture is created between the subject matter and myself through an in depth conversation about them, their life experiences, dreams, hopes and fears.

I was fortunate to establish a ‘once in a lifetime’ friendship with a well respected local and ended up working close with this amazing individual whom assisted me in reaching out to

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Hege Haraldsen

All of these conversations are recorded and works as an additional effect to open up for the viewer to connect and feel a relation to the work. So, if you head to my website you’ll not only see and read the work, you can listen to it as well. The philosophy I guess would be that I aim to include as many of the five senses as I can.

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and what role you play in society but it also gives an opportunity to speak your truth - without any judgement. It’s allowed people to talk about the aspects of their life that they would never dare to open up to about with their family and friends and I feel extremely humbled by the trust that all of these individuals have showed me; a stranger who doesn’t even speak their language. It is in fact such a humbling experience that once I had finished up all the 30 portraits and exhibited them I had a bit of an emotional break down. To take on all of these stories is both a privilege and a burden. I wouldn’t want to be without them.

It's important to remark that I Am Also You was produced during a 2 month artist residency in the West Bank, Palestine: how importance do symbolically charged images and reminders to collective memory play in your work? And how do you think your works respond to it in finding hidden, crystallised moments in the everyday?

Back when I experimented with the project with my family, friends and colleagues, I encountered some individuals who had to kindly declined to participate based on the fact that they actually had no idea of who they are; they only

I have come to the belief that every person that’s participated in my project in Nablus will never forget the experience; me included. The way the project is formed doesn’t only force you to think and reflect on who you are

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Hege Haraldsen

recognized themselves with the role they have been allocated in their family, or their work and had no grounding of who they are beside those aspects of their life. Even tough we weren’t able to create a part for them in the project I hope that just by asking them to participate and explaining the project that it’s planted a seed in them and made them reflect on themselves.

work even more, and it’s importance. We need to ask these questions to people in our life. As you have remarked in your artist's statement, the aim with I Am Also You is to break down barriers created to divide and separate, and enable people to see each other and accept each other through our many similarities. As an artist particularly passionate about inspiring to be more compassionate and connected, with our self and others, how do you consider the role of artists in our media driven and globalised contemporary age?

There was also some interesting experiences where I’ worked with couples that’s been married for years and years, listening in on each others conversation with me and being completely blown away of what their spouse think and get emotional about.

The role of an artist is important; we have the ability to visualize an idea or a thought in which can spread and emphasize the importance of a particular challenge in the world, a particular society, or environment. With this we can really change the world by provoking a thought or giving

So, through these conversations I find crystallized moments or feelings that’s been buried and bring them to the surface which creates yet another treasured moment between all of us. For me some of these experiences saddens me but at the same time it strengthens my belief in my

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a-ha moments to one individual at a time. When you do this you are creating art and can consider yourself an artist. Art is; wether we want to or not; political. One way or another it’s always political. Even if it’s a portraiture and you are conveying their story; it’s political, cause most likely their story is political. For me, a pretty picture is not art, it’s simply interior decoration or a public decoration - and we need that too in this world, but it’s not art. Art is bigger and deeper than a brief visual satisfaction.

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I believe that no matter where you have been placed in the world to blossom you always have some fundamental social aspects that an artist can work with. Obviously in parts of the world where there’s war and occupation the majority will focus their work on the war and occupation rather than the social challenges they have in their society; it’s only natural. I don’t know if my work responds to a particular cultural moment, however I do think the issues that I address in my work have a greater audience in this day and age and it’s relevant no matter where you are in the world.

A major part of the history of photography has been concerned with the ability to affect social consciousness through images. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "artists's role differs depending on which part of the world they’re in. It depends on the political system they are living under": does your artistic research respond to a particular cultural moment?

To emphasize their uniqueness and their values, the only stylistic device that you used for I Am Also You is a particularly simple background, with the aim to focus on the individual and not their living conditions or lifestyle: we have really appreciated the way your series breaks the emotional barrier

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Hege Haraldsen

with the audience: what do you hope the viewers will take away from your I Am Also You series?

are strangers to them and actually with time discover all the similarities with joy, and have nothing but respect for the differences.

I work towards pushing the viewer to think about themselves on a deeper level. How do you act? How do you present yourself to this world? What do you give to this world and the people around you? What do you care about, and most importantly, do you act according to your values at all?

Inviting the viewers to inquire into the relationship between personal experience and the creation of identity, I Am Also You urges the audience to capture the uniqueness of human journey: how is travel and contact with other cultures influencing your artistic research?

During conversations with the subject matter I can make sure that I raise some questions in the subject matter which forces them to think. With the viewer the only thing I can hope for is that they recognize something in themselves in the subject matters.

Getting to know other cultures is vital for me on a personal level and hence just as important in my artistic work. I am a firm believer that traveling in a way where you get to know the place and the culture over time will make you blossom as a human being and have a greater understanding and appreciation for others.

When and if the viewer does so I hope that it opens them up to the idea of seeing others in a different light; to consider and think before passing judgements on individuals and groups that

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I enjoy short vacations but I’d rather stay in one city to work

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Hege Haraldsen

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over a few months period to really get to know the place, the people and the culture.

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the way I have had to go about it. If the abstract feature; the concept, the idea is well thought through then once you are ready to show it in a physical form you can facilitate everything around it down to details to emphasize the idea.

When you grow as a human your work will grow simultaneously. We sometimes tend to ignore the fact that a work of art is a physical artefact, and to treat it more as a window, or a even a portal. Photographs have that quality and that evokative power: how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? And how does your daily routine has changed over these recent years?

We have particularly appreciated the way your artistic research unveils the relationship between memory, imagination and symbols, as in your interesting Blâ Awe series: in this sense, we daresay that you art practice also responds to German photographer Andreas Gursky when he underlined that Art should not be delivering a report on reality, but should be looking at what's behind: in particular, you seem to urge your spectatorship to challenge their cultural categories: how are important the symbols in your work and how important is for you to trigger the viewers'

I think people have different ways of approaching this. For me I can develop the concept of an idea for years and slowly experiment alone before I introduce it to anyone. Not sure if that’s a good approach but I guess that’s just

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Hege Haraldsen

perceptual parameters in order to address them to elaborate personal associations? And in

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particular, how open would you like your works to be understood?

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Hege Haraldsen

For me everything is about triggering the viewer, and I think that goes for the majority of artists. But this desire to trigger must not be misunderstood with the belief that I create the art for the viewer; I create it for myself. I create concepts around themes and social aspects that interests me - but when I present it I obviously would like for the viewer to be triggered to feel and see the magic that I myself have experienced and felt.

ART Habens

different from when you started years ago? That’s a good question! Now when I’m thinking about it, everything has changed and yet nothing’s changed. I still develop work with the same fundamental values but it’s evolved as I’ve gotten more confident in my decisions and I stand more secure and strong in my work. Some projects are life long projects for me, such as BLÀ AWE and I Am Also You; they will differ in locations and versions but they are for life. Right now I’m working on something that’s completely new where I’m mixing photography and drawing which I’m showing for the first time in Oslo in June - that’ll be a whole new experience.

It’s always interesting to hear people talk about how they perceive your work and it immediately becomes obvious who’s grasping the whole message as intended and who isn’t - but I never tell people what they should see or feel; that’s not my place.

Thank you for having me back, I’ve appreciated your in depth and knowledgeable questions.

Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Hege. How do you see your evolution as an artist over time? Are there any things that you do fundamentally

An interview by and

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, curator curator

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Ard Doko

ART Habens

video, 2013

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Ard Doko

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Ard and welcome back to ART Habens we already got the chance to introduce our readers to your artworks in a previous edition and we are now particularly pleased to discover the development of your artistic production. The new body of works that we have selected for this special edition of ART Habens and that our reader can view at http://arddoko.nl has captured our attention for the way you are developing a more and more distinct visual identity. How does your practice has evolved over these two years and in what direction are you currently addressing your artistic research? Basically the past two years have been very much a period of self-exploration for me. I took the time to sit down and ask myself; “Who am I and what direction do I want to go?” I came to the conclusion that I’m more comfortable when I don’t make promises. Whether this is a promise to myself or towards an online audience. I decided not to focus on social media, leaving it at a max of two posts a month. Not answering phones or busy texting with people. This gave me time to read about art, and invest myself in abstract art.

Ard Doko

me because I lost and gained people in my life, but to both extremes I guess. This left me a bit in between with a feeling like;”Should I be sad or should I be happy?” That exhibit is a visual representation of love and I hope it is not only relatable to me but to others as well. We all have endured excastic love and heartbreak in our lives.

You are going to have your new solo exhibition Between Pain and Pleasure that will start on May 25th in Amsterdam, at the GO Gallery, one of the most important street-art galleries of the Benelux: what are you preparing for your incoming show? So Between Pain and Pleasure has been a concept that I’ve been toying with for around 18 months or so. It was a very confusing period for

Your work vary in size and material texture, and elicit different feelings from viewers when

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Ard Doko

viewed from different distances. Marked out

white background: would tell us something about your aesthetic decisions, to achieve such brilliant results?

with such a powerful narrative drive, each of your painting seems to convey a unique story that you tell through vivacious as well as

There is a certain level of intimacy when you paint people. Whether it’s a live model or a

thoughtful tones, that you often contrast with a

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Ard Doko

ART Habens

picture, you are connecting on a higher level. In

time and effort in the relationship that they

life, we choose which side we show to people.

understand the person. The same goes for my

I’m definitely not showing my sad or angry side to

paintings, you can have a quick glance and see an

people that I don’t know. It’s when people put

aesthetically pleasing image, or you come up

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Ard Doko

closely and discover the story between the cuts

makes the subject more part of its environment than the part of the painting.

and cracks. I tend to avoid mixing colors but just go with what I have because those colors seem

Some of your recent artworks, as I'm not your Cathalina James, December kid and I'm not your

the most vibrant. As for the white background.. it

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Ard Doko

ART Habens

Venus Extravaganza have a more evident

representation, but not too much beyond it, to

figurative feature. What we have mostly

provide your characters with strong identity.

appreciated of this new artworks is that you

How do you select your character and who are

seem to be wanting to move beyond standard

the people that you include in your artworks?

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Ard Doko

They’re based on the people around me.

bring a bat with me”. I don’t want to be another

December kid for example, is based on a story

headline in the news”. That comment stuck with

my friend told me. He said; “Whenever I go to

me since there is this misconception about The

meet-up for a date with a guy that I don’t know, I

Netherlands. We’re not that free-spirited and

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Ard Doko

liberal as people think we are. We still have issues

ART Habens

me by nature and it pisses me off to a level that I have to express it in my work.

about gender, feminism, ethnicities and violence against said LGBTQ communities. It is not that I’m

As you have remarked once in a previous interview with us, your work could be

really focussed on this, it’s just that it comes to

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Ard Doko

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discuss these subjects and just to have this philosophical friendship where he taught me to enjoy the little things, to embrace people and love and forgive. He always seemed ok to me, until I received a message from a mutual friend that he committed suicide. This wasn’t the first time in my life to receive such a message but this one was perhaps one of the most upsetting to me. I promised myself to keep his lessons alive and to focus on the things that are important to me, which is love, happiness and freedom.

considered a reflection of the troubled ones of your generation, affected by lots of issues concerned with war, as well as by the overgrowing saturation of information. How does in your opinion the role of artists has changed in our fickle contemporary societies? Could Art give us a different - and more human, indeed - perspective about our ever changing reality? It’s hard to answer without sounding too pessimistic regarding your question. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that there is an opportunity for that, which is something art could offer. However the art scene has evolved so much over the course of ten years that it also has it’s toxic elements, mainly the people out there looking for fame or excessive wealth. Art should be something that let people feel or think, either showing that harsh reality without a filter or give us the opportunity to escape that reality not just to gain likes and attention.

As a graffiti artist, your practice is marked out with a pronounced physical quality. We sometimes tend to ignore the fact that a work of art is a physical artefact, and to treat it more as a window, or a even a portal. Street art has that quality and that undoubted evocative power: how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks? And how does your daily routine has changed over these recent years?

Your recent works are very physical, and grounded at points. What I find personally compelling though, is elusive tenderness, the way your art captures the multifaceted nature of human experience – like a desire to move from our physical plane into something resembling transcendence, that invites the viewers to capture the beauty of ordinary, daily life. Can you talk about that?

I’m always on the hunt for that strong correlation between a powerful message and an aesthetically pleasing image. That sweet spot is something that I didn’t nail, yet, but I’m getting there. If I look back at the works I did before they all have this certain rawness of, for example; a first album. I do believe that exhibits and albums are sharing similarities and I feel like I am in a phase that it is way more polished than 5 years ago. Not that those works were bad, but the works weren’t that developed as now. I took my time to study art and study various directors, musicians and artists that I enjoy. This helped me develop my style and mindset. Other than that, it is just constant trial and error when painting.

It is something that I had to learn in life. I used to be angry and frustrated with myself. This was a major part throughout my existence until I met this kid that was the complete opposite of me. We met during this show we both took part in. He was this Jimi Hendrix, peace loving guy who was an incredible guitar player and an incredible human being in general. We stayed in touch to

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Ard Doko

street-artists, collectors and galleries each week.

It's important to mention you became Street-art Expert at Catawiki and that you are currently involved in setting up community art projects. Interdisciplinary communication between the art forms is a massive resource and inspiration and it's no doubt that collaborations as the one that you have together are today ever growing forces in Contemporary Art and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project: could you tell us something about your collaborative projects? What does direct you to such stimulating community projects?

The main shift that I see is that artists are becoming more and more self-sufficient. In a way, they are becoming their own brands. With platforms like ours and social media like Instagram, the market is opening up for a lot of people. Not just the artists themselves have the opportunity to create a stable income but buyers have these easy accessible ways to purchase works from their home. Some might say this is causing an oversaturation of the art market, others say it is great for the industry. I’m in the middle, I do think it is good for the artists and

Doug Leunig, who is a friend of mine from the U.S told me about Backyardism. Which in essence means: You can’t change the whole world, but you can change what is happening in your “backyard”, meaning the community you live in. I believe that community building is important, especially when it is getting lost due to the globalization of our lives. With projects like Big Picture Festival in Illinois, the aim is to create opportunity for children in arts. This is not only a graffiti festival, it has science lessons, dancing, music, food and dialogue projects. It is more of a creative way to educate and giving tools to others. I’m in favor of educating and connection people from all types of classes. That is my big motivation.

industry, however I am concerned that some might lose the essence of street-art or art in general. Time will tell and I am happy to work with online platforms and traditional galleries because I think they can have a stable relation. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts again, Ard. How do you see your evolution as an artist over time? Are there any things that you do fundamentally different from when you started years ago? I don’t know where I see myself in, let's say, 10 years from now. I strive to become more rooted in my work. Creating pieces that tell a story and do more work with museums and organizations. The fundamental change is that I learned to say no and to give things time. This gave me the opportunity to develop my work and to do business in a professional way.

As the move of Art from traditional gallery spaces, to street and especially to the online realm increases, how would in your opinion change the relationship with a globalised audience? Besides my work as an artist I share my street-art expertise at Catawiki, which is an online auction platform. We auction off around 300 works by

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An interview by and

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, curator curator




video, 2013

above the clouds


ART Habens

shine soIssue hard Special

Phil Mckay

4 03


An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Phil and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. As a completely self taught artist, are the any experiences that did partcularly influence the evolution of your creative process? thank you so much for having me here and to be gived the opportunity to discuss my artwork. i was born in anfield, liverpool where i still live today. in my early years i never went to college or university. my school career attendance was poor, i was never there. i hated school. the teachers, the system, the rules everything about school. i could never handle the military style regime. i was glad to get out of there. In 2005 it was photography that came first before i discovered digital art. i built up a fantastic collection of photography lenses and cameras and photography equipment. i was always out doing photography, coastal and street photography. my photos were getting noticed and having great publicity. i always looked at other peoples photos on the intemet and looked at their websites then one day i came across these strange surreal images. they were fantastic. they did not make any sense at all. so weird and unreal. i did more research on them and how they were created. for over a year i was just reading up and finding out exactly how to create them. with doing photography i already had photoshop so i had the software to create this style of art. in 2007 i was buying books, visiting libraries to teach me how to do digital art. i was

Phil Mckay

detennined to create digital art. over the next two years i was really getting into the swing of things. my digital art was really coining along fantastic but i never had a direction or a style that could settle myself into. being a pink floyd fan i looked up the the artwork of stonn thorgerson. that changed my direction completely. His work is excellent and that is when i decided i wanted to create surreal ait i started

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Phil Mckay

take my hand

researching surreal artists on the interne and i

We have appreciated the way the results of

came across the belgian surreal artist rene

your artistic inquiry into the realm of

magritte. those two people and their art set

imagination convey such a coherent

me on my way to create surreal art.

combination between intuition and a rigorous

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Phil Mckay

aesthetics, and we would like to invite our readers to visit http://philipmckaydioitalart.com in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production: when walking our readers through your usual setup and process, we would like to ask you how do the works of Storm Thorgerson and Re. Magritte influence you.

ART Habens

lightbulb. the lightbulb is 3 dimensional. i created it hi 3d software then i added a metal texture wrapped around it. the figure of the man is any friend. i asked him to pose especially for this shot. above the clouds is about my late mother looking down on me from heaven. (that is not her on the swing). i had many ideas for this image. a woman floating on the clouds and a bed in the clouds. i settled for this version which i am very happy with the final result. all thoughts and ideas i have to create a artwork come to me straight away. once i do have a picture or a scene in mind i start to build on that by waiting down and sketching exactly what i want in the scene. shine so hard is a perfect example. the lightbulb is the main subject. what sort of lightbulb shall i add. i could have created different types. i decided to create a 3 dimensional lightbulb. once i created that it was back to looking at my notes i have written down and experimenting with different bases, for example, grass field. a beach, concrete floor for the lightbulb to rest above.

there are many surreal artists out there who's art i admire very much but it is the art of rene magritte and stonn thorgerson that appealed to me most. rene magritte's art is so everyday life. people, houses, businessmen, apples pears, cats, hats, field, trees. no fantasy or gothic images just artwork of simple everyday life. stonn thorgerson is the same but a modem version of rene magritte. thats any own opinion. that is what i wanted to create myself. simple everyday objects we see tinned into a surreal image. The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of ART Habens and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article has at once impressed for the way it unveils the connection between imagination and experience: when walking our readers to the genesis of above the clouds and shine so hard, would you tell us how did you develop the initial ideas? In particular, do you conceive you works instinctively or do you methodically elaborate your pieces? How importance does spontaneity play in your process?

i always plan out before i start creating a scene of artwork. We can recognize a subtle, still effective socio political criticism in goodbye blue sky Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "artists's role differs depending on )do you think that your artistic research responds to a particular cultural moment? And how do you consider the role of artists in our globalised and media driven contemporary age?

listening to music influences me a lot. all my ideas to create art are from any own imagination. as i have said that music influences me a lot, it was a music album i was listening to and the name of the album was called shine so hard. a lightbulb came to mind when i was listening to it. i had in mind a giant

i can only speak for myself about this. would my syle of art be different if i live in syria or afghanistan or any other part of the world. if i did would i be thinking differently and what art would i be creating. artists do create art based on the culture and enviroment they live

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a casual affair

in. goodbye blue sky is the only political image

from the wall album. the idea came to one

i have created. i dont involve politics in my art.

straight away to create artwork on war

the idea of that image came about when i was

related, not a scene from a war zone or a

listening to goodbye blue sky by pink floyd

battlefield thats not my style to create

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Phil Mckay

ART Habens

take my hand

something like that. its partly my own life that i

thoughtful nuances that marks out your

portay and imaginary surreal places.

artworks, and we like the way they that vivacious tones are not necessary to create

We have really appreciated the vibrancy of

tension and dynamics. How did you come

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Phil Mckay

eclipse

about settling on your color palette? And how much does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones that you decide to include in a specific artwork and in particular, how do you develop a texture?

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tones and color are the two important applications that play a big part in my artwork. they create mood and atmosphere. i use very little color im some of my artworks. muted color is what i like working best with. the

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Phil Mckay

ART Habens

staring at the sea

overall effect is down to muted colors. a full blown color image would not work, it will take away the atmospheric effect of the whole scene. i have been told lots of times how quiet and tranquil my images are especially my

silent world series. can you imagine the silent world series hi full blown color. it would ruin the mood and feeling. Chats what i set out to do when first started to create digital art is to create art with feeling. textures also are

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Phil Mckay

the sky is falling

important in my art. together with muted colors they both combine very well. some days i go out with my camera and take photos of clouds. they make a good texture once i manipulate the cloud image in photoshop. by

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the time i have been working on it, you would not think it was a picture of a cloud also i take photos of old rusted metal. they to make a good texture also brick walls and plastered walls and brown creased paper.

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Phil Mckay

ART Habens

brainwashed

Your approach deviates from traditional visual arts to provide the viewers with such a heightened visual experience, to subvert the cliched techniques, developing the expressive potential of the symbols that you included in

your work: as telephones in a casual affair and escalators take my hand: how importance do symbolically charged images play in your work? before i beging to start creating any artwork i

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Phil Mckay

without warning

need to have a story and a meaning. the scene

the slient world project is about me also it

is created in my head or sometimes i sketch it

could relate to other people in the same

out. all of my artworks have a storty to tell

cirounstances in their personal life. the main

some of them about me and my personal life.

image ha the scene is the centrepoint. the

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ART Habens

mystery trip

telephones in a casual affair is the

the two telephones which was perfect also to

centrepoint. its a true story about me. i had

add surrefism to it. there has to be a main

different versions of this and how it will be

image or subject. ha the image called take my

completed into the final scene. i settled for

hand, once again the escalator is the

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Phil Mckay

escape the past

centrepoint. as soon as you look at the image

story in place and the centrepoint image then i

the escalator dominates the whole scene as

can build around that and add other images.

with the two telephones in a casual affair. it snakes it a lot easier for me once i have the

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Meticolously refinish., your artworks are

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Phil Mckay

ART Habens

brainwashed

marked out with exquisite details:

manipulated artworks is increasingly blurry.

manipulation in visual arts is not new, but

How do you consider the tole of digital

digital technology has extended the range of

technology playing within your work?

possibilities and the line between straight and

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Phil Mckay

detached

painting will always be the munber one

software even photographers. ha 2005 i had

median for art and will continue so for many

never heard of photoshop. it was only when i

years to come. digital is slowly on the way up.

took up photography more seriously that i

more and more people are using digital

came across photoshop. i would not be here if

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ART Habens

no friends

it wasnt for photoshop. i cant paint or draw so

creating book covers for famous authors and

i found something that i knew i could learn. its

other successful projects. digital is getting

taken me years of hard work and the rewards i

more and more advanced. some of my art is is

have with exhibitions all over the world also

created ha 3 dimensional.

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Phil Mckay

Living the dream

Another interesting couple of works that we

relationship between natural landscapes and

would like to introduce to our readers are

the human: we have particularly appreciated

entitled staring at the sea and the sky is

the way you seem to convey a surrealistic

falling, and are centered on the interlinking

quality in object from everyday life's

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Phil Mckay

experience: how would you describe the relationship between ordinary surroundings and your creative process? Moreover, as an artists who draws basically from over imagination, how does everyday lee's experience fuel your creative process?

ART Habens

when i am creating a artwork i do it for me and not for any followers. the audience out there can either like it or not. you have to look closely at my work and work out what it is i am saying or what the story is about. some artworks are personal about my life and events that have occurred in the past. it is a bit like a diary. instead of writing i express my past in visual art form. the audience who view my art have noticed these visual stories and that is excellent that people are taking notice as to what the story i am telling.

staring at the sea is any favourite artwork. by where i live there is a stretch of coastline crosby bead'. on the beach is antoney gonnley's art creation called "another place". 100 stables of iron men spread along the beach staring at the sea. thats how i got the idea to create this image. another reason why i like this is because of the mood and its very atmospheric.

We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Phil. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?

i visit crosby beach quite a lot, its any spiritual home. when i am out walking i am always on the lookout for anything that will inspire my art work. along with staring at the sea, the image called the sky is falling was inspired when i was visiting the coast. the clouds that day were really dramatic and it was really heavy weather about to head into a storm. i took lots of photos of the clouds and the sky that day to jog my memory when i got home. thats how the sky is falling was inspired. being a big fan of rem magrittes work, the scene was already in my head to create artwork influenced on his work.

at the moment i am working on artwork to add to my silent world project. i will be getting out with my cameras and start to take photos of new textures and objects. once i get them into photoshop cs6 extended there is a process of manipulating with different filters maybe convert them to 3 dimensional. it quite a long process to get the exact final result.

You have also created illustrations for music album covers and over the years your works have been showcased both in the Unit. Kingdom and abroad: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks?

As for the future i just take everyday as it comes. i never look ahead. too many disappointments. i will keep doing art and working harder and hope to achieve the goal i am reaching for. An interview by

i dont really create art for the viewer or the audience. its for me only. once the artwork is finished then i wait for the critics and reviews.

and

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, curator curator

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