"Call Her an Angel" by Alessandra Franca Akiwumi

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Exhibition Catalogue

"Call Her an Angel" by Alessandra Franca Akiwumi GALLERY

SNEHTA

NODNOL EXHIBITIONS


Introduction The human presence begins to slip away as the silence takes hold and time stretches on. The body cracks and the face dissolves. What was once there withers away, leaving behind the faintest of memories. This exhibition explores loss and visualizes the process of a human presence slipping away. The polaroid negatives are deteriorated over the course of several weeks using multiple household items. By applying heat, water and acids over the course of several weeks, the material transforms and begins to disintegrate. Time is corrosive and it is replicated through the manipulation process. The polaroid becomes fragile and takes on an unexpected and unplanned form. The chemicals eat away at the body, damaging the skin and dissolving the human presence. Inspired by Aldo Tambellini and his Retracing Back series, this work confronts the artist’s desire to hold into information and the resistance to accept loss. Akiwumi’s practice questions the materiality of photography and breaks down the constraints of the medium. Working predominately with analog film, Akiwumi aims to move images away from their traditional framework. Through this investigative way of working, the artist invites the viewer to engage with images differently. With a background in Art History, Akiwumi also draws upon historical practices and photographic techniques like the 19th Century phantasmagorie and Victorian Séance photography to evoke mysticism and ephemerality in her work.


Trances of a Ghost, No. 1

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No. 2

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.3

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.4

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.5

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Artist Interview Is there any advice you would give to your younger self? I would definitely tell my younger self to not force anything. I think it’s extremely easy to feel the need to try and please others in order to “succeed” and by doing that you lose sight of your own goals and what you want to achieve. If you do what makes you happy then it will show in your work. Another piece of advice I’d give, is to not wait around for somebody to give you your shot. I think taking the initiative, making something for yourself and believing in your capabilities is very important. If it fails, it’s okay, one day everything will fall into place. What is your favorite part of this job? One of my favorite parts of being an artist is meeting incredible people from completely different backgrounds. It’s amazing how many talented artists you get to collaborate with and forge relationships with. And through meeting these people, you discover new projects you want to work on and think of ideas you hadn’t previously thought about. You also learn and are influenced from the people you surround yourself with and its absolutely amazing what can come about from your relationships with other artists. What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio? My most important artist tool is definitely my camera. My favorite camera has to be my Mamiya RZ67. It was one of the first cameras I started using and now I use it for most of my photographic projects. I just love medium format and don’t think I will ever stop using it. The resolution of it is incredible and the lenses are equally as good. One thing I can’t live without in my studio probably is my polaroid sx-70 camera. Initially, I used it for testing shots but now I’ve incorporated it more into my practice and I absolutely love the physicality of the camera and the immediacy of it.

How have you developed in your career over the past 5 years and where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Over the past five years I have progressed from more traditional black and white portraiture to a more experimental, process driven style of photography. I have developed an interest in subverting the constraints of the medium and started to challenge the materiality of the negative. I’ve incorporated more experimental chemical manipulation into my work and have been more confident in exploring how my manipulation of the negative can inform my work and what I want it to say. I’ve also been interested more in the curatorial side, and have been curating a series of exhibitions. Hopefully in 5 years from now, I’ll still be working and developing my current practice. I’d also love to be fully involved in curatorial projects and create a series of exhibitions that support emerging artists.


How do you choose your themes? Is there a theme you return to regularly? My themes are influenced by my interest in phantasmagoria, Victorian gothic literature and séances. I have always been interested in spirit photography and the idea of capturing the ephemeral. Based upon my research, I gravitate towards films and tv shows that relate to these ideas. I also look to a lot of contemporary artists who modernize the illusion techniques you see in phantasmagoria and spirit photography. The theme, right now that I keep coming back to is phantasmagoria and the illusion techniques used in French theatres in the 19th century. I’m really intrigued in visualizing the constant shift between real and imagined presences. Give us some behind-the-scenes from the creating process / What is the last thing you do before starting working / What is the first thing you do when your work is done? My creative process is purely driven by experimentation. I normally start off by researching different chemical techniques used in the past and experiment by changing the process. I look at how my theoretical research and ideas can be visualized through my manipulation. More often than not, the process does not work out, so I try again. In my studio, I have at least two projects going on at once. I find it hard to just focus on one as I find myself hitting creative blocks. So it’s good for me to be able to turn to a completely different project and focus on that for a while. The last thing I do before working is write in my sketchbook. Writing is a very important part of my process as it helps me clarify my ideas, document my process and plan for future projects. And the first thing I do when my work is done is document the process that worked and how I got there.

Is there a connection between your process/the materials you use and the message you want to convey in your work? My process and my use of analog materials is really essential to my message of my work. Through my process I want to visualize a physical presence slipping away. Over the course of several weeks, through the repetition of manipulation, the image begins to deteriorate. The materiality of the negative replicates time and what is left behind is a ghost of what was once there. The degradation of the negative also mirrors the degradation of memory. As time goes on, the clear definition of ones face becomes muddled and the line between the real and the imaginary are blurred.


What are the next steps in your career? Focusing on curating a pop-up exhibition series is the next big project. Myself and a friend, Georgia Dymock who I met at Chelsea College of Arts are creating this exhibition series that will take place in spaces one would not initially think would be appropriate for an exhibition. These shows will feature emerging artists and we hope to create a network of artists that work together and support one another. Additionally, I am aiming to create a photographic publication with a fellow photographer, Ewald Rist.

What do you think is more important: the concept, the techniques or both? I think concept and technique are equally important. It’s all good if you have an amazing concept, but I think you need to have the technical foundation to materialize it and bring the idea to completion.

How do you deal with the art scene during/after the Coronavirus pandemic? Like for everyone, the pandemic was an extremely difficult time. For the artists I know, it was so challenging to have everything stop and transition to working in isolation. Everything had to move to an online platform and personally it was really difficult to stay motivated and find inspiration. I think after the pandemic, the art scene has changed. I think the idea of what an exhibition is and what it can be has dramatically shifted. Artists have discovered some really experimental and innovative ways to get art out there and I think that radical thinking will continue well into the future.


Trances of a Ghost, No.6

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.7

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.8

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.9

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.10

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.11

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.12

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.13

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.14

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


Trances of a Ghost, No.15

140 X 140 FINE ART PRINT


www.alessandraakiwumi.com @studio_x_alex


"CALL HER AN ANGEL" by Alessandra Franca Akiwumi


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