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Chun Chun Chang Matthew Owen Gwathmey Brandon Halley Juliet Hillbrand Susan Kamber

Keflione Barbara Krupp Michael Kunzinger A. Lazaro Jose Santiago

issue 56 / December 2020

Matteo Scarpa Johanna Marie Schimming Mario Spagolla Sam Nejati Art Paris 2021


CHUN CHUN CHANG

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#56

MATTHEW OWEN GWATHMEY

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BRANDON HALLEY

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JULIET HILLBRAND

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SUSAN KAMBER

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KEFLIONE

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BARBARA KRUPP

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MICHAEL KUNZINGER

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A. LAZARO

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JOSE SANTIAGO

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MATTEO SCARPA

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JOHANNA MARIE SCHIMMING

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MARIO SPAGOLLA

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SAM NEJATI

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ART PARIS 2021

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F E A T U R E D

ARTIST MATTHEW OWEN

GWATHMEY

Matthew Gwathmey was born in Richmond, Virginia and studied creative writing at the University of Virginia. He became a Canadian citizen in 2013 and lives with his partner Lily, five children and a dog named Luna in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where he is a PhD student at UNB.

More at pages: 126-131

On the cover: Matthew Owen Gwathmey, “Flower as Bird�


Chun Chun Chang Los Angeles, USA Chun Chun is a motion designer and a filmmaker, born in Taiwan. Currently based in Los Angeles. She starts her creative journey as an Augmented Reality animation designer at Taipei, and finishes the master degree at the animation program, School of Cinematic Arts at USC in 2020. Her films and motion graphic works have been shown in the US, the UK, Japan, Spain, Italy, and Ireland. My latest short film “Aura” is about a man encounters the goddess of the wind inside a deadly storm. The initial idea came from the interpretation of watching the choreography In the middle somewhat elevated by William Forsythe. It triggered my desire of creating a film that relates to both fierce and calm. For me, it’s the storm and the wind; therefore, I picked the wind goddess Aura from the greek mythology as the background of my female character. During the time of struggling on the story structure, my friend happened to send me a postcard with the icon of the Icelandic stave Wayfinder. And that gave me the idea of making the human finds the way back instead of staying together happily after. For me, the film “Aura” is the letter I wrote to myself about my feelings toward things. The creative process of my previous short film “Between the Shadows” was fairly easy. I was really into sculptures of Philip Jackson and architectures that have arches, then I decided to create something mystical. The world of “Between the Shadows” is based on me imagining what my mind would look like visually. The woman is wandering in her own little world. It’s dark and quiet but she’s not lonely. When the moon comes, she embraces it.


Art Reveal Magazine

Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice?

In your opinion, what does art mean in contemporary culture?

My animated films are all more or less based on mythological elements.

It’s a compromise between oneself and the world. Before working in animation, I thought art was only about expressing myself through my creations. However, animation is heavily related to the viewing experience. When developing artwork, it’s essential to consider the audiences’ perspectives, my message, and how the audiences understand the stories. Also, I must sustain their interest by editing the shots in a certain way. For me, art means finding the balance between what I want to create and what people want to see.

The piece Danae by Gustav Klimt has a lasting influence on my work. Not only because it’s related to Greek mythology, but also because I’m fascinated by the dwelling vibe that makes it seem that everything stops at that moment and that the character is just drifting in a dream. I want my films to be pure and simple like that and that they don’t have any complicated or unexpected plots or twists. They only focus on moments—the ones when we glimpse into fantasies.

How would you describe the art scene in your area? It is thriving and full of possibility. Animation is widely used now. Having many different approaches to making animation can be very exciting. With patience and perseverance, individuals can easily find ways to produce high-quality works by learning from the internet.

What is the most challenging of being an artist? As an artist, I am always struggling with the amount of time I put into my work. I’m hyper-concentrated, so multi-tasking is always hard for me. When I was pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Southern California, most of my days were spent creating. I ran through shots of animations in my mind every day without thinking about anything else. It made me base my value only on my artistic achievements, and I was worried that I was spending too much time on my works rather than on the other aspects of life.

I’m currently based in Los Angeles, which has some of the very best studios and companies. It’s always thrilling to work with talented artists and understand other aspects of animations that I have overlooked before. What do you like/dislike about the art world?

Now, I’m in the opposite situation, in which I think that I haven’t spent enough time on my works. As a new grad, I spend most of my time working for studios and making connections. I make some looping animations in my free time, but it’s hard to get into the mindset of creating the next film. But on the other hand, I guess it’s a good time for me to take some rest and find my balance before I get too obsessed with making another film.

I like and dislike the trend of pursuing efficiency. Everything today is so fast-paced that determining how to reduce production time has become increasingly important. Things that might take days to make may be completed in a few clicks. More time can be saved by using or modifying something that already exists than by making it again from scratch. I enjoy those conveniences because they make my life easier when creating work. But it also makes me wonder 6


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if convenience can lead to replication. Is it good or bad if a guidebook directly gives the answer when you’re searching for how to do something? Sometimes, space and time are needed to make art. Name three artists you admire. When I was working on the short film Between the Shadows, the serenity and the mysterious vibe of Philip Jackson’s sculptures intrigued me. The elongated silhouettes were so elegant and full of emotions and stories. His work sparked my interest in finding inspiration in sculptures and architecture. The choreography of In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated by William Forsythe motivated me to create my next film, Aura. My mentor, Michael Patterson, showed the choreography clip in his Visual Music class, and I was immediately drawn to every pause and acceleration in the dancers’ movements. The production time of Aura was quite long, so every time I felt lost in the project, I would just go back to see the choreography again to remember the initial idea for the film. Another mentor of mine, Candace Reckinger, showed me the photographs of Lillian Bassman to help me develop the idea of presenting the female figure in Aura. I enjoyed the treatment in those photos because they looked so much like watercolors. Her work influenced the painting-like art style of my film. What are your future plans? Well, I have many plans, but they’re a bit all over the place now. I want to work on more projects, join some cool studios, and be productive as much as possible. Above all, I want to make more animated short films to enrich my mythological universe. Although I’m eager to work with talented artists to widen my views of both art and the business of animation, I still want to leave a place for my personal creation so that no matter how I grow and adapt in the future, there is still a part of me that will remain unchanged by creating personal works that purely represent who I am. 7


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Fredericton, Canada Matthew Gwathmey was born in Richmond, Virginia and studied creative writing at the University of Virginia. He became a Canadian citizen in 2013 and lives with his partner Lily, five children and a dog named Luna in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where he is a PhD student at UNB. Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice? Well, certainly for this series, it has to be the kids. I have always been fascinated with found objects, and this fascination turned domestic, to what we could find in our home, when all we could do was explore this one confined space. The act of recasting/refiguring/reshaping objects and family photos creates new meaning to what we’ve managed to keep and adds resonance to the everyday. I keep coming back to thoughts around creating something and having kids. If we imagine

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a silent room without distraction and a few quiet hours as essential to work, then kids are the antithesis of what’s needed in generating a conducive atmosphere. So I’m wondering how kids help artistic endeavors, for I would say that they make me generate things, in a way. There’s a sense of urgency present, a sense of forming or modelling, that’s compounded with a sense of mortality and empathetic perspective. A lot of senses mixing around here for sure! Which were compounded when we were all locked in quarantine together. Luckily, we’ve been out of the house since.


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What is the most challenging of being an artist?

midst of all the shit going on in the world, or maybe it’s because of all the shit going on in the world. The challenge is to get your work out there more, through whatever methods possible.

Finding the time and space. With everyone home from school and work, sequestered in our house, the only place I could find a bit of solitude was in the shower. So I locked the bathroom door and brought in a stool to put my laptop on, ran the water till it went cold or I heard knocking. Certainly, I’m not doing any of this for the money, or to put food in the stomachs of my children, for if that were the case, we would all starve. I’ve been very fortunate enough to be afforded the opportunity to carve out some time in which to create, where I’m not just concentrating solely on the cost of living. This is essential for creativity —a bit of time in which you can focus or not focus, as the case may be, on something other than making a living or grinding out a day-to-day existence.

How would you describe the art scene in your area? For such a small city, we have quite the happening art scene in Fredericton. We have a world-class art museum in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery (currently under construction). We have some great galleries and centers displaying local work (check revised hours, people limits and social distancing protocols). We have murals being painted on brick walls as we speak (our goal is to take the moniker “Mural Capital of Atlantic Canada” from Sussex, New Brunswick, and then the “French Mural Capital of Canada” from Legal, Alberta, and then take on the world). We have remarkable artist and art-adjacent and art-loving generating machines in the university and college of craft and design. And don’t get me started on the festivals. I’ve said this before about poets, and I’d say the same is true about artists: Fredericton has the most creators per capita than anywhere else in Canada. Everyone’s up to something.

In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture? Unfortunately, it’s hard not to be a little discouraged given the current landscape, the artist (writer, musician) making a small splash in the background ocean that no one notices. Except to say that he/she/they are only adding to the already rising sea levels. In all seriousness though, art is out there, in public, making itself known. At first glance, it may seem that creative activity is currently on hold right now, but art is happening. It’s been encouraging to see the amount of art created during quarantine, and I’m not just talking about sourdough bread starters. I just attended a friend’s book launch in a backyard with patio furniture perfectly two meters apart. Seriously, we measured. She read on some stone pavers and a dog joined in at the end. This time of isolation has brought up the question —what is there to do but create? It is clear that art means quite a lot in contemporary culture because we are turning to it in the

What do you like/dislike about the art world? Well, I’m pretty removed from the art world, so I don’t really have an opinion. I will say that the Canadian writing community is close-knit and very supportive of each other, but we can always do better in a lot of areas. More championing of a diversity of voices and viewpoints. More exploration into the gatekeepers of literature with questions like: who gets published? Who publishes them? Why? More political engagement with the larger world to proclaim: Black Lives Matter. Indigenous Lives Matter. More cutting away, more discarding what’s harm12


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ful, more growing something new in its place. More variation and variegation. (Claudia Rankine sees right through me: “he joined all the “woke” white men who set their privilege outside themselves—as in, I know better than to be ignorant or defensive about my status in our world. Never mind that the capacity to set himself outside the pattern of white male dominance is the privilege.” Just Us, pg. 41.) I’d say, again without much of any experience in it, that the art world is grappling with the same concerns. Name three artists you admire. Diane Arbus immediately comes to mind. Until recently, I had no idea about all her familial connections (brother Howard Nemerov, a former U.S. Poet Laureate; ex-husband Allan, Dr. Sidney Freedman on M*A*S*H, among other artists). There’s nothing I can really say about her that hasn’t already been said. I’m trying to write a couple poems wondering what she would see if she stared at a motel down the street from me. I took a deep dive into the work of David Hammons when his In the Hood sculpture graced the cover of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (yes, I’m going to try and mention Rankine as much as possible). I loved everything about everything I found: the fur coats, the selling of snowballs, the world’s highest basketball goal, the humor, the metaphors, the politics, the mystery. Emily Carr was the second youngest of nine children (Hammons was the youngest of ten, so there may be something in this), and she’s a true Canadian icon and an honorary member of the Group of Seven (composed of eleven male modernist landscape painters and her). She’s also a writer, though I haven’t read any of her work. I love Emily Carr, but I have to wonder about the potentially problematic nature of a lot of Carr’s work, about all her sketches and paintings and depictions of First Nations’ culture in British Columbia. Seeing Indigenous art through a white lens? I also wonder about the act of naming, about the Emily Carr House, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, the Emily Carr Public Library, all the Emily Carr public schools and the Carr crater on Venus. It might be time to rename that crater. What are your future plans? Finish reading Just Us, finish up this PhD, put together another book of poetry, keep going with the art, pack 100,00 school lunches, buy stock in Wow Butter. 13


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matthewgwathmey.com 15


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Brandon Halley Chicago, USA I am a surrealist photographer based in Chicago IL. I have been doing self portraits for as long as I remember to combat severe anxiety. Because of this, my entire portfolio has evolved into various bodies of works with me as the main subject. I like to play off of surrealist ideas as it gives me a sense of control that I do not have in my everyday life. My work is a constant push for my mental health, through the lens of a camera. By bridging the gap between darkness and ligth, I hope to bring together both the beautiful and harrowing.

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Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice? There are a few specific things that have a lasting influence on my art practice. In particular, most of my influence comes directly from intense emotions; specifically of grief, solitude, love and loss. I have always learned to explore these emotions through my artworks, through conceptual landscapes and surrealist portraiture. I have found that, like anyone, self expression through art is incredibly rewarding and easily the most fulfilling for me. Taking that, and creating individual pieces of artworks that correspond with a specific mood or current emotion is a cathartic experience that I want to continue to cultivate, experiment with, and put out into the world. When I first discovered surrealist art, I was introduced to many incredibly fascinating surrealist photographers; specifically Kyle Thompson, Brooke Shaden, and Eric Johannson. These 3 photographers impacted me in such a positive way. Brooke and Kyle have created these breathtaking surrealist self portraits that took the internet by storm in the early and mid 2010s that I really latched onto and wanted to recreate. You can definitely see their influence in a lot of my early work and it is because of them for furthering my passion in surrealist art and branching off to try new things. I give a lot of credit to a lot of modern-day and OG surrealist photographers and artists. I have also found that my self discovery has also had a lasting influence on my artwork as well. As I learn new things about myself every day, I have been able to use that personal growth as a driving factor in trying new things artistically. Internal growth is something I have forever cherished and held onto for influencing my art. 18


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What is the most challenging of being an artist?

as a means of expressing emotions and telling a story. For another, it could mean the use of the tool, a camera, to record events as is. It is important for me as a photographer in contemporary culture, to use the medium in a way that not only benefits me but everyone around me who gets to experience my works as well. It is important for me to evoke emotion, regardless of my original emotional intent, to the viewer through consistent, striking surrealist photography.

Too many things to count, perhaps two that are equally as challenging for me: I think one of the most challenging parts of being an artist for myself, is the hurdles of not becoming stagnant or complacent with my work. I often find myself in between art projects trying to “figure out where to go next” and sitting on it for so long, instead of just getting up and doing something. I am learning every day that instead of sitting and dwelling on these emotions, I must get out and create. With persistence, you will open yourself up to a whole world of opportunity that might not show itself should you remain complacent. Even if I shoot every day of the week and do not come up with anything that I can use in any of my portfolio work, I come out with a different sense of accomplishment knowing that I at least put in the effort to create something new. That alone motivates me to continue on in hopes of getting at least one good shot out of the many I took. That “aha!” Moment of finding a diamond in the rubble makes all the hard work for that brief period of time I spent shooting worth it.

The usage of photography has shifted from the origins of photography, we no longer have to sit in front of an exposure absolutely still for one minute just for 1 photograph. We can now take snapshots of our everyday life whenever or however we choose. We have the luxury of thinking less of the mechanics of the photograph, and more on the moment in which we are capturing. And I think that is the essence of contemporary photography. We live in an era of instant gratification, and having the ability to take photographs of simple and quick moments of our everyday lives is truly a sign of the times we’re living in. Tell us more about your “What Night Brings” series. Growing up I have always experienced pretty severe forms of anxiety. I rarely left my house and spent (and still do) spend most of my waking life online staying up until the wee hours of the morning. I have always felt more comfortable living on a night schedule. I wanted to find a way, through photography, to express the feelings of isolation, melancholy, or curiosity during those hours. With that, this series was born. “What Night Brings” is a surrealist photographic exploration of the many emotions that come at night; including grief, isolation, love, discomfort and more.

My advice for anybody who goes through periods of being idle in between their artistic endeavors is just to keep at it. While you might not be consistently creating portfolio work that you will show to the world, you are giving yourself not only the satisfaction of knowing you’re not wasting time sulking because you cannot think of “where to go next,” but you are also honing your skills and developing your artistic style every day. I think while it is incredibly important to take a moment to allow yourself to breathe, it’s also important for you to not remain stagnant longer than need be. And it’s up to you to determine how long that period may be. Some may be comfortable taking a breather for a week, others may be okay with taking a month or even a year to collect and recompose yourself creatively. The most important thing is picking your camera back up or picking your paintbrush back up, and getting back to it in full force.

While all of these shots are in essence, environmental shots, I have done my best to keep them as minimalist as possible but still follow suite with my surrealist touches throughout. In taking these shots, I am forcing myself outside of my usual comfort zone and setting up, composing, and taking these shots within the real world. I am forcing myself to be vulnerable with these shots, as “I” am the main subject of the shot.

Secondly, the overwhelming urge to self-doubt myself as an artist. “Is my art good enough” “Is it just as striking as x, y, z” “Why can’t I do this or that correctly.” I’ve been creating artwork that has been in galleries since 2013. My artwork has been shown locally and abroad, and I still have the occasional self doubt when I am faced with criticism. Every day I learn to take criticism with stride, and learn from it. It is important for me to not turn a blind eye away from all criticism, because then I wouldn’t learn anything, but to analyze the criticism, understand the connections it makes with my work, and reflect on how I feel about the criticism overall. In a lot of scenarios, I have found that I am understanding where the criticism is coming from and while I may or may not make changes going forward, it is important to be receptive to learning. Being open and honest with yourself and others is so incredibly important.

There are many technical aspects to this series that I have also fallen in love with. The editing process has always been my favorite part of this series. I chose to keep a consistent color palette throughout this series, consisting of hues of blues, greens, oranges and blacks; colors that you would typically associate with night settings and add a heavy hand of fog, dust particles and light spreads to give it a surreal, focused subject. Almost as if nothing else matters in that moment besides you, the subject, and how you feel in this moment. Whether you are putting yourself in the image as the subject, or even a distant viewer. How would you describe the art scene in your area? The art scene in Chicago really is really something to admire. As many people will tell you, locals or not, Chicago is known internally as one of the best hubs for art and design. Every neighborhood that you visit seems to have new and emerging art galleries to visit, whether they’re small and local only or more established. My favorite thing about Chicagos art scene is that people here are not afraid to experiment and try new things. There are new types of art galleries opening up every day that are non-conventional and break the norm and I think that

In your opinion what does photography mean in contemporary culture? Photography in contemporary culture could mean something different for every photographer or artist you ask — and honestly I don’t have a single answer to this myself. The development of artistic styles in modernized contemporary photography is such a beautiful thing. For me personally, I use photography 19


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is a really beautiful thing. Everywhere you look there are art galleries, museums and even a ton of public works of art. I have always been a fan of various forms of graffiti and there is an abundance of that here. Self expression to Chicagoans is incredibly important, and you can see that every day through the many public artworks we have available just by driving through. When I have a free day and I’m feeling adventurous, I really love hopping on the train and visiting a new neighborhood in search of artwork I haven’t seen before. You really don’t have to search hard for it here. Another thing that I really admire about Chicago is the opportunity it has for the artist themselves, there are a lot of new and established living and studio spaces in just about any neighborhood you can think of. To be honest with you, living in one of these spaces is my ultimate dream. One day! Most important, I really do feel like the people here within the art scene truly

makes it what it is. Everyone in the scene is seemingly so open and inviting, it all just seems very real within the community. We work hard, and we have eachothers back. Everyone is connected and willing to collaborate, it is so easy to find other artist with similar ideals through Facebook groups or even at somebody’s apartment during an impromptu art exhibit. There is a sense of honor that is felt when being part of a community like this. A lack of entitlement, and a willingness to help others grow and evolve as a person as and an artist is really what makes the art scene here in Chicago thrive. Despite us of course being behind say NYC and LA’s art scene, I think it says a lot that many well established artist have been built from the ground up in Chicago, and then they stay in Chicago. We may be a breeding ground for the next upcoming artist, but many of them stay here. There truly is something here for everybody here. And if you’re ever keen on visiting, check out the Zhou B Art Center. It’s one of my favorites :) 20

Name three artists you admire. There are many photographers who I have latched on throughout the years but only a few have stuck out to me the most. One of the most notable artist duo are the surrealist photography duo Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison. I was first introduced to them back in 2016 with their Architects’ Brother series. I was immediately drawn to their images because, at immediate glance, it’s almost like you’re being transported back to a time in history that doesn’t exist. Going through each photograph in this series was like reading a storybook, anagram style. Every photo tells a different story, maybe even a myth that was passed down from generations. I have always admired their creativity in not only photography, but mixing mediums as well. Another one of their ongoing series, Acts Without Words, is breathtaking. They use a beautiful mix of acrylic on photographs and the results are stunning. Their use of paint on photograph is something that I have always wanted to try.


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Another one of my favorite most notable photographers is Brooke Shaden. Back when I first started getting into surrealist photography, Brooke was one of the first photographers that I found that had an immediate impact on the creativity and development of my work. Her usage of self portraiture really gave me the confidence to start anywhere, even by taking photos of myself, and develop my own style. I feel like because of her, I have continued to use self portraiture as one of my main forms of self expression within my work. The last artist I have been inspired by since the beginning is René Margritte. A lot of my older work draws inspiration from his paintings. Because of him, I have found that a lot of my photographs have taken on an almost painterly feel to them. My first introduction to Margritte was with The Son of Man (1964). If you look at a lot of my older and newer works, you can see the inspiration as I continuously obscure faces within my photographs. I think the anonymity of a surrealist photograph carries its own form of intimacy with the viewer. What are your future plans? I think this is the hardest question in the interview! Right now I want to continue my creative endeavors as I am feeling more inspired than I ever have before. The current global pandemic has really given me an opportunity to take a step back and do a lot of self reflecting, and ultimately figure out what I want my “ future” in photography to be; and while I am ready for the world to go back to “normal” (whatever that looks like,) I am thankful for the opportunities that have presented itself because of it. I even went back to school earlier this year after dropping out in mid 2016 after moving cities, so I’m very excited about finally finishing where I left off as well! I also hope to start showcasing my latest series “What Night Brings” in different galleries in 2021, and am thankful for this opportunity to be interviewed in Art Reveal Magazine. I took a step back from galleries whenever I moved to a new city mid 2016, but I feel like I am in a better place emotionally with a beautiful support system behind me to get back in action and do what I love. I’m not too sure of many physical galleries that would be exhibiting right now, so I have been focusing my efforts in submitting my work to the many various online/virtual galleries that have popped up in the last year, you would not believe how many there are! Overall, I’m so happy with the progress I’ve made as an artist within the past year and a half and I’m so excited to see where the wind takes me. I have a lot of ideas, and so much ambition and hope for the future.

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Juliet Hillbrand Houston, USA


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It’s your second time in our magazine, what changes since the 45th issue? The world’s been flipped upside down in 2020, but my art has experienced a softer shift this year.

Humans have a deep capacity to feel, and heartbreak will always impact someone more than a positive experience. Negativity bias is worth being aware of, but I tend to air on the side of optimism, hoping that from the pain, something beautiful can emerge.

In 2019 it was interview after interview, busy at art-shows, hauling my tent set-up around city after city. I may have gotten swept up in the glamour a bit, thinking it would be there forever, but the pandemic knocked everyone on their ass and has tested us all so much.

Outside of the pandemic, perhaps the greatest change of my year has been realizing that I can do something more with these gifts. Not to sound like a ham sandwich, but I’ve always looked for more ways that my passions could do more for people, to serve others in some way.

There has been a great deal of pain, relearning, and healing, which are all things that create great art. My art is always influenced by the human experience, by love, by pain, and anything natural that surrounds life. Pain can result in the most impactful artwork. If you don’t believe this, look at cinema, where we are more drawn to the likes of The Notebook and Titanic than we are Singin’ in the Rain.

When I get distracted by accolades or accomplishments, I gently guide myself back into the straight-forward line that leads me home. Like a compass, I realign myself by remembering that I’m dedicated to the craft, not it’s offerings. I don’t need anything from art, only to love it, create it, and serve others in the ways that come most naturally to me.

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Excitingly this year, I’ve worked with large-scale energy clients developing strategies to reduce carbon emissions, poetry clients needing art to illustrate their soul-soothing words, and brands that are helping people stay afloat in a difficult time. These are the kinds of projects that fuel my fire. They help me to know my art is doing something useful to others, valuable to their self-image, and ultimately, contributing something real to the world. Are you glad you became a full-time artist? Being a freelancer and painter is the most challenging, most wonderfully rewarding, most time-consuming, most lucrative, and best work I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine life any other way. I had no idea painting was going to enter my life. Only starting about five years ago, it has been a wild ride and a rapid journey. Beginning a new life at age twenty has taught me that your vocation can arrive at any time. Before this, I had too many bad jobs to list. I knew none of them were feeding my spirit’s happiness and, therefore, were not sustainable. The turning point was realizing what was important to me. It wasn’t money, fame, attention, or even stability. I didn’t mind the challenges of being my own boss, knowing I could ride the waves of uncertainty and create contingency plans that have money coming in that I planned for months ago. It took me a while to learn the flow of refining remote job security, but I knew I had to figure it out because it offered me what I needed most Freedom. Being self-employed has its disadvantages and has demanded more hours of me than any other job. Running a business as the head of every department can be daunting. Taxes and expense tracking don’t come naturally to me, but everything can be taught if you want it badly enough.

Now I am sincerely living my dream, accountable to only myself instead of a boss, which is the most freeing thing of all. These days, I chase my curiosities to whatever work calls to me, hopping around every industry like a do-gooder fairy that adds magic and pixie dust to the details of things. I know with confidence that I will use my art to help people, save animals, help the ocean, donate to organizations that are utilizing funds properly, and give back in the ways that I can. I’m not trying to save the entire world. I just want to make things a bit better. What has been the most touching moment you’ve experienced as an artist? That is such a difficult question because there have been so many wonderful moments. I’ve spoken to my art idol, sold hundreds of pieces, and have connected to so many great people. But I would have to say the most touching moment is when someone messages me to say that my art helps their anxiety and depression. Or just makes them feel good in their day. Art should be playful! It should awaken your inner-child and give you an excuse to be free, messy, and you. Art promotes escapism, which I’m all about. It gives people permission to leave the present moment and be somewhere 25

else, somewhere that may not even exist in this reality. When my art can amplify someone’s joy, this makes me happy. Another situation that sincerely touches my heart is when a collector is creating something in memory of a loved one that’s passed. I’ve painted three customs for clients that had lost someone important to them and two custom guitars for a man hoping to honor his brother who had passed earlier that year. When I have clients like this, I feel a great sense of responsibility. I want to honor their grief, pain, and the love that they still hold in their heart for that person. When someone says they will cherish my work forever or it brings them to tears, I will automatically start crying with them! I am a sap tree, but it’s a truly overwhelming feeling. When I can cheer someone up, bring joy, bring play, or bring healing to someone with my work, those are the best compliments of all. Tell us more about your recent artworks. My recent work has been a blend of abstract and realism. Every piece seems to be inspired by nature, whether that’s the forest, the ocean, sex, or the universe’s synchronicity.


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What are you working on right now? Right now, the studio is actual mayhem. I’ve got 3 customs lined up against the wall, 12 cosmic coasters by the door, 2 orders out for shipping, 10 holiday cards I hand-painted, 8 paint baskets on the floor, and a partridge in a pear tree!! Just kidding about the partridge in a pear tree. It’s the oddest thing, but lately, I’ve been incredibly drawn to circles. It’s random, yes. And I’m typically pulled to a more organic-shapes that mimic nature (erratic, unpredictable, and non-perfect). But circles are so innately calming, despite lacking the unpredictability of my usual abstract work. I read somewhere that organic and non-uniform shapes calm the human eye (think clouds, trees, leaves, etc.), while angular shapes that are too perfect can feel man-made and unnatural, inducing a sensation of fear. I have a theory that circles are an exception to this.

Probably my most beloved creation from 2020 is my dining table. My grandma told me to leave it out by the curb. She’s a hilarious queen and said it was trash! But I knew it had another incarnation somewhere inside, so it turned out very beautiful and simple, in a watercolor design. The premise was inspired by a piece of artwork I picked up in San Francisco’s Chinatown years ago. It depicts a foggy landscape that seems to fall off the world; the airy mountains dissolving into eternity, with their snowy-tops almost melting into the clouds. The images I paint in my head lately are massive abstracts, filled with movement and color. I like the idea of combining many different textures and mediums, painting a mysterious portrait that feels caught in a daze, the way that a watercolor smear can make the subject even more delicate or withdrawn, the way a drop can add a sense of sadness and disillusion. Every brushstroke has an influence, just like the parts of the canvas you leave blank. I’m finding a balance in the versatile styles I explore, combining them for an abstract realism that feels out of this world in a whimsical sort of way. I want my art to feel like a bite of cotton candy melting on your tongue, or sunshine peeking through the leaves, or running through a field at dawn. I want it to feel like the dreamy moments that you can’t always be in literally, because you have to work, or do the dishes, or whatever life demands of you. Not everything can be a magical run through a field at dawn. But you can send yourself there through the tangibility of a canvas.

Because they are abundant in our universe, we are calmed by the mere sight of them. Circular shapes embody a dreamy outline that reminds us of the moon, the sun, the planets, and forms that are indeed natural. I’ve been seeing them everywhere lately! In tree rings, the sky, and rain drops. I hope to translate their calming sensation of wholeness, completion, and infiniteness, because it balances out a room beautifully. There are always a million and one ideas bouncing around my brain. But for some reason, right now I’m stuck on circles. Anything else you’d like to mention that I didn’t ask? Thank you to everyone that has sent me love and support this year. 2020 has tested everyone’s hope, and I know we’ve all felt defeated at some point this year (or many times). It’s so hard for humans to lack hope. We simply don’t do well without it. So my only message is to hold onto your hope. And know that everything is temporary. Even this. We will have brighter days, more freedom, and more play, but we must be patient for now and find new ways to satisfy those hungers. I’m growing more comfortable with the vulnerability of not knowing the future. All I know is that I want to take pieces of my soul and turn them into things. I am honored to add color to your world and have no destination in mind, except to always create, encourage escapism, and to live like a walking permission slip, granting anyone the blessing they may need to be their authentic selves and chase their dreams. Lastly, you can’t be shy about the plug! – If anyone needs any custom artwork, gifts, luxury home décor, or originals, check out my Etsy: Juliet Hillbrand Art. You can also visit: www.JulietHillbrand.com or email me directly at JulietHillbrand@gmail.com Sending love to you all and follow @Juliet_Hillbrand for more color play! 26


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Susan Kamber Allentown, USA

Rivulets of Rhyme The colors, the colors all running down my back, poured on by water and disturbing the black. The flow of these colors creating rivulets of rhyme. They motion and curve and fall out of line. They ease into places, they forage a dream, they turn into blossoms, completely it seems. They become like the rhyme of a beautiful song, they touch you in places that probably long. For something so simple as colors on rhyme. The idea...colored water is simply sublime.

Art forms over the millennia, the many genres created during which the state of the world impacted both their forms and vision. People in turn delight, are shocked, curiosity is stoked and the fervor of creation admired. Art, the ideals of which are meant to enlighten, to inform, to soothe, to strengthen the very insides of humanities hope for peace amidst the ever constant backdrop of change. Around the frames of these creations we exist, in all the varied ways of being. Within the frame the artist in a most individual fashion takes his tools and brings them to a life that transcends the frame. This is the hope of an artist; to reach others in forms that unites each of us to another. To this endeavor, I too present my work. Photography gathers memories, this was the purpose as a young mother photographing my family during special occasions and holiday events over the years. Quite some time ago I began to photograph in a new way, choosing to learn how to create from a photograph an artistic impression that finds a place within it. Much can be read about the creative process and as a source of inspiration I researched and still find enlighten29

ing, conversations with others on this topic. Particularly, I connected to the writings of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the concept of “flow”. Exposure to photography involves the process of taking a photograph along with the sensitivity of observing the subject matter in new and varied perspectives. Looking at photographic work is a vast exploration into style and vision which helps me to understand how others approach this genre. Somewhere within this process, I began to write because it is a way of expression. A way of giving a voice to the work. A way of connecting this voice to others. Creating an identity that is literary from art, gives art a new language in addition to the visual. The mixture of thoughts in a rhythm that compliments the colors, the musical rhyme of poetic thoughts, the poetic verse that emerges solely from the work is an instrument I want to play. Ekphrastic poetry engages the poet to explore art. The transformation of visual into literary began as a description of art forms. “The term ekphrastic originates from a Greek expression for description. The earliest ekphrastic poems were vivid accounts


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of real or imagined scenes. Later poets moved beyond description to reflect on deeper meanings. Today, the word ekphrastic can refer to any literary response to a non-literary work.� Recently I was asked what do I enjoy photographing. My response was weighted with hesitation and then I replied, people. This though is not solely represented in my endeavors out in the field. Nature is a source of much of my current photographic experiences. Within nature the sights and sounds, the very air comes into me and all around me is opened. A Song for the Birds and People That Fly The sound of the leaves written primarily by trees. As such was the beauty heard plainly with ease. Up mountains, round rivers. A song for the birds. For the people that fly there. Across valleys was heard. Now what be the mention of this, you may wonder, Alone to unravel the blur from down under. A song can be sung from the language of trees. I heard in the sky and then carried to thee.

The Red Earth the red earth changed me. turned me into a feeling of warmth. that red earth place of opened walls and play stations. a condensed ocean, sky blue above it. the air filled with breaths of majestic opulence like flowers coming out of one’s mouth, blooming the essence of gold. songs, the rhythm an intersection of ideas tumbling into me. as dance steps, as lines becoming colors, drawing trees, their flowers. people, their homes. words, their poetry. red like the earth.

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The Perception of Solitude Solitude has a gentle wind to it against my face. I feel the colors between my fingers. This perfumed scent of solitude. The kind of solitude that lays in the field and grows flowers. Pink and blue ones with yellow shadows and purple shade. The gentle breeze sends them. The scent of sky and earth fills me. I cannot be restrained.

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Every Forest Bulwarks, forest inhabitants mixed in with the tree branches and leaves and everything else. Sometimes they speak, A mirthful blend of rhymes and sometimes they carry handfuls of colorful fruits. Limes and plums and oranges. A juicy concoction when squeezed. Or turned into colorful balls they play with, Until one lands on you. Looking up I always know they are around when that happens. A particular bulwark had a conversation. It was quite long and for the rest of the day I was happy. (A playful way to speak with children about the forest)

Girl Near a Fish Pond Ripples in the water...in the forest...On the leaves...In the air...In the movements ...Making motions on the trees. the fish often tell her. as so often do the birds. the girl calls it special. in her seamed together words. that are tunes sung with purpose. near the fish pond by her home. her voice will often carry. sweet intentions to her song. Ripples in the water...in the forest...On the leaves...In the air...In the movements ...Making motions on the trees.

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Keflione Shanghai, China

Keflione is a French artist based in Shanghai, China. In his work, he focuses on combining street art with various cultural symbols and bringing this mix onto the art pieces you can see in the art galleries around the world. Keflione uses different techniques to create rich and detailed illustrations. He describes his artistic style as a constant search for perfection and excellence. A large majority of the artist’s works are black and white, because he prefers strong perfect shapes with an impact that shouldn’t be hidden behind bright colors. 34


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Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice?

tion is great, but can be a way to get lost, since the possibilities are infinite.

I would say design and graphic design, in general pop culture. As much as it sounds cliché Graphic design is my background, and is still what I do everyday when run Royalclub studio. I’m always looking at what’s new, what’s going on, to follow the game. Art influences design and the other way around also. My work always had a strong graphic foundation. I doubt it will change over time. I’ve been always digging in works from the past, in both art&design there’s always something to take/being inspired from. I like old design works because the technique limitation made them go straight to the point. The access of new techniques/digitaliza-

What is the most challenging of being an artist? Being all good. I figured it out over the years, when shit happens you have more to say, exactly like in a Disney. Keeping up with delivering something interesting is an everyday challenge. The pattern/routine is somehow my main phobia, especially if (financial) success happens, there’s a natural motive to keep going this direction. I don’t blame success at all, just saying it comes with even more challenges to keep up with a clear idea of the path. 35


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In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture?

How would you describe the art scene in your area? Not born yet. Shanghai has a really unique relationship with Art. I would say it was “decorative” for years. There are few galleries that provide interesting/international level exhibition ( https://artlaborgallery.com/ http://magdagallery.com/). From an artist point of view, it has alway been easier to monetize through commercial project, so a lot of artists take that path, including me. Shanghai is a fun but expensive city and everybody has bills to pay.

Art melts with design more and more, and of course goes more and more commercial. Art was always close to commercial Art, nothing new here. Everybody has bills to pay. Nowadays, Artists figured out they can monetize differently than the traditional gallery path. It’s actually great to see raw talents rising by believing in themselves and using the power of social media. Only result matters. 36


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Name three artists you admire.

It will change over the years, since commercial art has its limits, but it would also require buyers on the gallery side. Hundreds of museums opened in the last year in China, with top notch exhibitions, of course it sets standards and inspiration for the youth, It will just take few more years to be processed.

Kaws, for his path from graffiti to top of the Art game. Youada, for his one of a kind style, influenced by modern Chinese culture. Myself, If I don’t believe in myself, nobody’s gonna do it for me, it’s the rule number 1.

What do you like/dislike about the art world?

What are your future plans?

Like: The freedom to create, no rules to follow. Dislike : The slow pace, and ironically the lack of constraints, and self complacency.

Re-invent the wheel or something similar. 37


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Barbara Krupp Vero Beach, USA

Barbara Krupp’s new series is titled “Interconnection.” The interconnectedness of people and events is one of history’s most fascinating topics and is becoming more evident daily. As information, trade, travel, and communication become stronger, faster and more ubiquitous, it has a growing impact worldwide. We are learning the hard way that such an impact is not always beneficial. As Henri Matisse and Joan Miro did, Barbara’s new work combines curvilinear forms with biomorphic shapes - those shapes which evoke the living forms of plants and animals. A result is a unique form of beauty built on color and fluidity. Barbara, a former X-ray technician with a background in science and a love of gardening, combines her knowledge of the body with her love of nature to produce art that grows out of the interconnections of these two very distinct forms. Barbara sees a future where her paintings will become the basis for video pieces, as her changing direction both reflects and motivates her inward acceleration. 40


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Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice?

learned by day and took x-ray call at the hospital at night. I was 2 years into the training when my mother suggested I take art classes at a local gallery. She had a friend with a specialneeds daughter, and she suggested I drive the daughter to art class. That was the beginning. I took night classes for a couple years. The daughter quit after six weeks, but I was hooked. I loved the feel of the paint and the color. Years later, the excitement still comes from the paint and the colors.

My art career and practice started many years ago. As all things in life, it has changed directions many times. The longest and lasting influence has been my own inner drive. I was born with it. I always knew where I was going and how I was going to get there and nothing about the drive has ever changed. Of course, on the journey the course has changed many times. Sometimes, it was not always in my plan, but in the powers to be around me. The person that started me on my art career was my mother. I had just graduated from high-school and I was starting X-ray school and training. At that time, we studied on the job. We

Another important influence on my art practice has been traveling. Each time I take a trip I have no idea how it will change my art but it always does. When I first began to paint, I would 41


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go to traditional places such as lighthouses, covered bridges, a gentle stream and the ocean. One day I thought there must be more. I went to Ireland, the land of the green. When I came back to my studio, I painted Ireland without the green! It was a fascinating way to twist the imagination! My trip to Sicily took me to the ruins at Villa Romana del Casale, 3 km from the town of Piazza Armerina. I l began to look at ruins different. I could play with juxtaposition, curves and straight lines in new and exciting ways. Juxtaposition played its part twice in this instance. One could compare the fragments of ruins side by side and one could compare the old and new buildings side by side. Another influential trip was the north central part of Italy. This time it was the architecture. In Bologna I had the idea of making an ink drawing of detail of buildings and/or objects and animals. I started with a horse and then used paint for the rest of the canvas. In future pieces I used found objects, artifacts and sketches of landscapes.

learned from the artists nearby. I started doing outdoor art shows, first close to home and as the years went by, I traveled the USA and eventually started going to Europe. All this has influenced me deeply. I am still challenged to find the opportunity to exhibit in high end galleries or work with a curator to help me on my journey. Another challenge that I have faced is my creativity which causes me to constantly change my style. I like to think that I am not changing but growing. Lately, I see a combination of all my different creations culminating into one. Another challenge I faced was finding the time to read books. I have read many books by Italo Calvino, a gentleman who grew up in Italy. Each time that I read one of his books, they have been incorporated into my art. When I read “Invisible Cities”, a novel in which the imaginary Klublai Khan and Marco Polo had descriptive dialogue, I translated their dialogue into my paintings. Most of these paintings were purchased by the University of Tampa, Tampa, Florida for their newest building, The Graduate and Health Studies Center. Another challenge was the time I thought about the excess in which we live: old structures are abandoned or torn down; new ones are put up unnecessarily. What would happen if we could take the lumber, steel, metals, etc. and make beauty out of the old steel mills, out of the hurricane damaged structures and even out of the hidden places in our minds? Could we rearrange them? I painted a series of paintings titled, “Restoration, Recycling and Remembering” It became my summer’s magnificent obsession; I completed it in six weeks. The results were a one-person show at the Canton Museum of Art, Canton, Ohio.

What is the most challenging of being an artist? I lived in the small town of Elyria, Ohio, by Lake Erie. The closest large city near me was Cleveland, Ohio. It was the home of American Greeting card company. Some of the best watercolorists in the world worked there and I took time in my busy life to continue my art education with artist, Fred Leach, AWS, Lowell Ellsworth Smith, AWS and many others while I was still working in X-ray. I married a farmer and had four children. While working at the hospital, taking care of a family and milking cows, I was challenged. But as usual, I went forward and painted and 42


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In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture?

Covid-19 everything is topsy-turvy. We have experienced the loss of many galleries and museums and everyday we are losing them for many different reasons, mostly financial. In the future, we can only hope new ways of marketing and finding collectors will change in a beneficial way for all.

To answer this question, I would like to talk about two of my favorite artists that I admire in different ways. First is Takashi Murakami. I first saw his work at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. The vastness alone was more than the mind and soul could absorb. Takashi came from Japan after an earthquake and never looked back. He has broken through from the old school, yet keeps his figures alive from his past. Like him, I have come through from the past and into a new way of thinking. I cannot shout my thoughts out on a street corner, but I can put them down on canvas with paint and say powerful things with my brushstrokes. Like Takashi, I have gone from natural to fantasy but still remain true to my former self. My second artist I admire is Mark Bradford. I first saw his work at Hauser and Wirth space in Los Angeles. In a two-block complex formally a mill, I saw large scale abstracts created out of paper. His work explores social and political structures that objectify marginalized communities and the bodies of vulnerable populations. I feel that I am working on the same thoughts in my series “Interconnection”. The interconnectedness of people and events is one of history’s and my most fascinating topics and it is becoming more evident daily. As information, trade, travel, and communication become stronger, faster and more ubiquitous, it has a growing impact worldwide. I and they are learning the hard way that such an impact is not always beneficial.

How would you describe the art scene in your area? I live in Vero Beach, Florida. It is an upscale community. We have an ocean, fine homes, and eclectic group of residents. An art district has many small galleries. I frequently visit the Vero Beach Museum of Art which houses regional, state and national art exhibits and includes a sculpture garden. It is the principal cultural arts facility of its kind on Florida’s Treasure Coast. We also have the Riverside Theater, a modern, multi-building performing arts campus with live-theater, children’s programs & lectures. I think we have an excellent cultural community even if It is not on the scale of a large city. What do you like/ dislike about the art world? After reading , “Boom” by Michael Shnayerson, as quoted by the New Your Times, book review, “a story of untrammeled growth and undreamed-of excess.” I believe the artworld will start anew after the world returns for new regrowth and this time maybe it might be done differently. Also, another recent book, “Dark Side of the Boom: The Excesses of the Art Market in the 21st Century by Georgina Adam, was another fine read. On the other hand,

Sometimes I wonder about the art. Is it still art? Of, course it is, but has something been lost along the way? In this time of 43


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the art world has brought much to the world. It has given artists a chance to present their point of view, whether it be gender related, political, or social. My favorite thing about the art world, is that it allows us freedom. We are in charge of our thoughts, plans, days etc. We have to be our true selves.

Times have changed rapidly in regard to global societies, geography, economics, and political. In the future each of my brushstrokes will be meaningful in describing these changes. The goal is to have each piece of art, relate to another painting in this series. As peoples’ ideas, goods, and knowledge move around the world, people think in a more similar manner. Elements in these paintings will not be sitting gently but swirling with speed to keep in line with the energy of the world. In the future I will include sculpture around my paintings to make an installation. This is still in the process so I can’t say much more. Beneath the paint lies a feeling of gentle peace. My goal is to bring the world together for the next generations to come. My past goal was to be in the Venice Biennale. If there continues to be such exhibitions, it will still be my goal. The world is tenuous but the artworld will remain strong. Over the span of time from the cave dwellers to the present day, we artists we have never left the path to make the world a stronger, peaceful, and more beautiful place.

Name three artists you admire? Richard Diebenkorn, Mark Bradford, Takashi Murakami What are your future plans? Essentially, we are all looking for something and my thought is to make each day the best we can and to live in the present. Looking and being thankful for what is around us is important. Making each of the five senses count in the moment is vital. I use them all when I paint and I expect the viewer to respond emotionally when they look at my work.

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Michael Kunzinger Hartfield, USA

I look for images in reflections that occur on the surface of water. Although the dreamlike designs are reminiscent of modern abstract paintings, they are entirely real. The effect is achieved by a combination of the angle of light, water texture, light intensity and other factors. No oils or digital touch-ups are used; the process begins and ends organically with the art created around us by nature. Picasso once said that there’s no such thing as abstract art; one always starts with a real-life concept and strips away reality afterwards. Using reflections on the water as art transcends the line between reality and art, as well as documentary and non-representational art. It also challenges the viewer to examine their surroundings in a new light, or in the word of one reviewer, to adopt “a new way of seeing.”


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Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice? It is heavily influenced  by water, but in a transcendental sense. Watching it helped me appreciate the artistic potential of the things that are around us everywhere. It’s everywhere, but we take it for granted. It’s ordinary but capable of so much variety and beauty. It resembles abstract art, but it’s created by nature- the difference is in how we see it.    What is the most challenging of being an artist?      It’s a vaguely defined profession for visual artists who work outside the realm of industry. There’s the nagging question of “am I doing enough or putting my energies in the right outlets?” Finding a niche is not hard, but establishing a “brand” and nurturing it over time is more difficult. The best remedy may be to sit back, let the work speak for itself, and to remember that for all the contests we artists enter, art is not a contest!  In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture?    Art is a means of expression. All the artistic movements we look at are just artists finding a way to do that, whether it’s baroque painters, postwar abstract expressionists,  or alternative musicians. The styles change with time but the motive is the same. In a world that is increasingly homogenized and challenging, art is more important than ever as a way for the individual to express themselves.    How would you describe the art scene in your area?      The art scene here in Tidewater Virginia is influenced heavily by nature. There’s something scenic everywhere and it reflects in the work of the many painters around here. It’s a little 48


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unorganized, there’s no focal point or “school” of art but there are a lot of veteran, old school artists who have retired here and brought their talents which people like me who are  starting out can learn from. The art scene in rural areas is different from that in the cities. It’s underdeveloped, and mostly without that collective energy that’s so helpful to developing art communities. But that itself is an opportunity to create opportunities. It’s always exciting during open calls at the variety of talented artists of all ages that respond from remote corners of the area.    What do you like/dislike about the art world?  I like how it’s always there, it’s everywhere, and everyone can be in it. You can dip into it at any time. You can pursue it as far as you like, however you like. And it can be anything you want it to be: purely visual art, a social statement, emotional therapy, etc. It’s the ultimate flexible, tailor-made activity. As far as dislikes, it’s very uncertain from a business perspective. There’s no realistic way to quantify what a piece of art is worth which is problematic if you’re trying to sell. I think art should be accessible. The more accessible it is, the greater the amount of people who will stop and appreciate it and balancing that with the needs of covering costs and running a business is difficult. Name three artists you admire.  That’s a tough one! I’ve met some who are alive and (right now) rather unknown who I think are more fascinating and masterful artistically than any “name” I could name. One I had the good fortune to get to know in Havana; he studied art before going into the military and now lives mostly on the street. Using some charcoal he found and pieces of cardboard for paper he quickly sketched out several amazing portraits from his imagination of figures from legend. He had been dealt a difficult hand but he was composed and cheerful about everything and his art-making was such a natural part of just who he was. I admire photographers like Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams who take ordinary scenes and use composition to elevate them into something both artistically profound and socially meaningful. I would also add Beethoven because although his medium was music, the themes he expresses and explores in music are universal.    What are your future plans?  I’d like to expand my shows to major cities. I have done some shows overseas and I’d like to build on those too. And beyond that, to just keep on making art!  50


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A. Lazaro San Francisco, USA

My work focuses on gender equality, by exploring the lack of female representation in most fields of work. Growing up I was often immersed in encyclopedias, ignoring the fact that none of them showcased female professionals. After I had my daughter, I was determined to shine a light on the lives and work of trailblazer women, using my art as a form of activism. My painting technique involves numerous thin layers that gently interact with each other. This painstaking, almost meditative process, allows me to immerse myself in the uniqueness and individuality of each subject.  Some of the women portrayed in my series are Maya Angelou, Yayoi Kusama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dorothea Lange, Rosalind Franklin, and Tarana Burke. San Francisco based visual artist, A. Lazaro, has had a passion for portraiture since childhood. Born in Spain, she considers herself a world citizen, as she has lived and worked in 7 countries, which greatly influences and informs her art practice. Her portraiture comprises mostly of acrylic on wood painting, and printmaking, and is centered on honoring her subjects and their legacy. She spends time researching each subject, their work, and the challenges they faced as a woman in their industry, adapting each portrait style and technique, in a tribute to the subject’s work and legacy.


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Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice? I have lived across the globe and have a passion for different cultures, which deeply influences my art practice. This has also helped me keep an open mind in life, and in my approach to the creative process. I find that there’s a deeply moving strength and sensitivity in the work of female painters. Growing up I was never exposed to globally established female artists, so I always make an effort to discover and learn more about women painters worldwide. In terms of artists who have had a lasting influence in my artistic style, I greatly admire Yayoi Kusama, Helen Lundeberg, Romaine Brooks, Sonia Delaunay, and Jenny Saville. The work and legacy of these female artists is also helping to rewrite the narrative of how women’s bodies are portrayed in the art industry, distancing it from plain objectification. What is the most challenging of being an artist? I feel the most challenging part of being an artist is effectively managing all aspects of art as a business. Most people may not realize how much of our time goes into marketing, sales, accounting, and other basic tasks integral to running a business. For artists to really reach our “creative zone”, we would need to spend our time completely immersed in our creative practice, instead of stressing out about all other facets of business management. It is otherwise a beautiful career that allows for personal growth and great emotional connection. In today’s society, when the global scene has been hit by the pandemic and economic recession, the art industry has mostly been considered disposable, which is ironic because we are all consuming art, music, and movies in the confinement of our homes.

In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture? Art helps us connect throughout languages and cultures. The proliferation of social media has contributed to the democratization of the art world. It has become easier to admire and buy art from emerging and established artists across the globe, while at the same time it has become easier for artists to share their art seamlessly and simultaneously on numerous platforms, widening their reach, impact, and appeal. Social media has also prompted the success of immersive art experiences such as Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors Exhibition, since more people are using online platforms like Instagram to share their selfies with art at museums and galleries. In the current political climate, art has clearly been an ever-lasting reflection of the times we live in. I have particularly enjoyed seeing artists worldwide respond to these challenging times with protest art, posters, and illustrations that have quickly been shared globally as a form of activism. Art unites us and frees us, and remains long after we’re gone as a testament of our joy and struggles. How would you describe the art scene in your area? I am based in San Francisco, which is a melting pot of different cultures. There is a vibrant art scene, with hundreds of small galleries promoting local emerging and established artists. The diversity in cultures and eccentricity of the city are a constant inspiration. There’s a rich Latin American and Asian influence in cuisine, music, and art throughout California. As an artist one of the aspects I value the most in this city is its open mindedness and welcoming attitude. The culture in San Francisco is very open to new creative ideas, which I feel reflects a genuine interest in understanding the background and story behind the 54


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What do you like/dislike about the art world?

colourful cultural fabric of the city. The booming tech industry in San Francisco has also inspired a lot of artists to combine new technology with visual and performing arts, enhancing the experience of consuming art.

I truly enjoy the camaraderie of the artistic community, and support of like-minded and like-wired individuals. Once I decided to pursue a career in the arts, I felt instantly at home. However, the same inequality issues that affect other industries are present in the art world.

Regarding music, San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and San Francisco Ballet, are some of the oldest performing arts companies in the United States, and still draw large audiences to the city from all over the country. San Francisco has a rich music culture, and every year it offers popular music festivals such as Outside Lands, SF Jazz Festival and Fillmore Jazz Festival, to name a few.

Customers of well-established galleries purchase art as an investment, instead of buying art for its aesthetic value. The highend art industry system replicates a similar structure to that of financial markets, where decisions are solely made on likely 55


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return on investment. Such a system disproportionately impacts women artists and minority artists, and ultimately relegates them to a secondary place. Art universities are boasting larger numbers of female students every year, nevertheless the art market is very far from achieving gender equality. Name three artists you admire. I admire many artists from around the world. Iris Van Herpen, is a Dutch fashion designer that blends technology and Haute Couture in her outstanding designs, creating striking optical illusions and unexpected movement and silhouettes. Zaha Hadid is an Iraqi born British architect who uses curves and unexpected movement in her deconstructivist designs. Her work includes the London Aquatics Center, the Heydar Aliyev Center, Azerbaijan, and the Bridge Pavilion in Zaragoza, Spain. A great source of inspiration during my

creative process is music. Nina Simone is one of my all time favorite artists. I specially enjoy revisiting her old videos online to see her as a performer. She had an exceptional stage presence. What are your future plans? I always have tens of ongoing projects at a time, from painting and illustration, to textile design. In the near future, I would like to continue painting, and exhibit my work in art galleries. I also intend to grow my art business through online galleries, and expanding my own online presence. It is my intention to continue to explore the use of different media, and merging of new technology and art, while keeping women’s portraiture as my primary focus. Ultimately I would like to be part of a wider effort working toward gender equality in the art industry. We’re still far from having an equal number of male and female artists in major galleries and museums, and from eliminating the gender based pay gap in the art world. 56


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Jose Santiago

Philadelphia, USA

My name is Jose Santiago. I am a contemporary pop artist and digital artist based out of Philadelphia, PA. I have been painting with acrylic paint for about 6 years now, and have been using the digital medium for just under 2 years. Art has been a part of my life since I was a young boy. Doodles that I have created while in school has turned into a passion for making canvases come to life. 59


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Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice? That’s a tough question to answer because so many things have a lasting influence on my art practice. My father, who is an artist himself, really encouraged me to pursue art and would teach me and provide me with art supplies when I was young. His passion, in time, became my passion. Then, I think about my childhood influences, where I would watch cartoons and draw in front of the TV for hours studying the cartoons; I would study the shading, the color schemes, the way the background was used, proportions, etc. I use popular cartoon characters in my art today because of the influence and the creativity that

these cartoons brought out of me when I was a child. Japanese art and culture is another lasting influence in my art. I fell in love with Japanese culture and began to study Japanese art; art depicting dragons and samurais and war. I then began to study teachings and philosophies from Japanese philosophers that delve into the balance of life, being a master of all things, kuro shiro (which means black and white, and also means right and wrong); all these things that I was learning and adopting began to bleed into my art naturally. I think the best way to answer this question is to say that my life influences my art. Everything I soak up in life, whether it be travel, love, past works of art, cartoons, cultures, cities; they all influence my art. 60


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What is the most challenging of being an artist? I would have to say the most challenging part of being an artist for me is balance and focus. There are many times when all I want to do is paint, especially when I have a new idea I want to work on. I don’t want to go out, or hang with friends, or take my dog on a walk, because all I want to do is get this idea out of my head and put it on a canvas. I struggle with balancing life and my work, and ironically I need to learn to live more, because those life experiences inspire me to paint. Also, I struggle with focusing my energy on one thing. There are so many things I want to do and try, so many things I want to create, and so many mediums I’d like to experiment with; it becomes hard to focus and hone on one skill. Often, when I’m working on one piece, I’ll get an idea for another piece and start working on that, and the previous piece would never get finished. It’s challenging, but I’m learning to keep it in check. In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture? I think art means more to contemporary culture than people think or realize. I really thought about this a few years ago when I would have parties at my house in Philadelphia. My guests would hang out and cram into my tiny art room and socialize, instead of hanging out in the living room area where there is an abundance of space. That, then, got me thinking about events that I’ve gone to that would have a photo section with neon light fixtures, or an abundance of art in the background; the party-goers would be taking pictures for their Instagram and tagging the event and that, in turn, became free promotion for that event. If you expand that further and you think about cities such as Miami, Austin, or Philly, cities that are known as artistic cities; tourists come to these cities to take pictures in front of amazing sculptures and murals. Art brings life to those cities, and to those events, and even to my old house parties. I believe art and the artists need to be more involved in the current culture, and I do believe it’s trending that way. The same way that a DJ or music is absolutely necessary for a party / event, I believe that the art and the artists should be considered just as necessary for that event. I, especially, believe artists should play more of a role in the development of metropolitan areas. Think

about Wynwood Miami Art District, or Hudson Yards in NY, and expand that to every city around the world; allow more artists to place sculptures on sidewalks and empty areas. Allow more artists to paint murals on dilapidated buildings. Try it and see what that does for your city. That’s foot traffic, that’s Instagram posts, and that’s money generated based on the art piece(s) in that area. Art has the power to change the culture of a city. How would you describe the art scene in your area? I believe the art scene in Philadelphia is amazing. On almost every other corner of the city you can see some type of art; you can see street art graffiti on walls and street signs, to an abundance of amazing murals that portray the culture of our city, and you’ll even see local small businesses / restaurants that commissioned artists to either paint on or hang their art up on the walls of their establishment. This “art friendly” environment is the reason why you see so many talented artists come out of this city. On top of that, there are organizations focused on allowing local artists to make an impact and contribute to the city using their talents. I know of one organization, which brings local artists to paint on the walls of certain sections of the Philadelphia International Airport; another small organization focuses on using the emp61

ty advertising blocks within the walls of the Broad Street Train Line, and fill those empty ad blocks with art from local artists. Even the Philadelphia 76ers, our local NBA basketball team, had an art exhibit where local artists were brought in to showcase their art that had an NBA/ Sixers theme to it. So, I truly believe Philadelphia realizes and appreciates the importance and the role that local artists have in this city, and I feel that that appreciation continues to grow. What do you like/dislike about the art world? If I had to give my opinion about the “art world” I would say I dislike the fact that the majority of artists cannot monetize their artwork properly. Artists typically have to haggle and convince prospective buyers why their painting is the price that it is. I don’t think the average consumer fully comprehends the amount of hours, days, years that can go into a certain piece of art. I believe that just as the music industry adjusted from hard copy albums sales to then monetizing digital streams, the art industry also needs to adjust with the current times. Similar to how the music industry has platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify, the art world needs a universal app / platform that artists can place works of art at certain price points. I am aware that there are apps like Etsy


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and DeviantArt out there already, but those apps typically cater to new and unknown artists, and don’t hold much validity to the average consumer. I want to see an app that includes ALL artists (from the famous artists to the unknown artists), just as Spotify and Apple Music has a catalog of ALL sorts of musicians; that way, the app can be considered a “valid” place to purchase high quality art to the everyday consumer. This art app can have “New Art Fridays” where they highlight new artists every week, artist of the month, and other sorts of curated lists to appeal to the art consumers, just as music apps do currently. I don’t want to portray this idea as if I care so highly about money, because I don’t; money isn’t what I do this for. However, I do realize that artists should be properly compensated for their hard work, and should be able to have a better chance of making a living doing what they love. Name three artist you admire. I admire so many artists; artists like King Saladeen, who’s an artist that came out of Philadelphia and constantly gives back to his community. I also admire artists like George Condo, Sean Harrington, Nina Chanel, Daniel Arsham, Matt Gondek, Takashi Murakami, Louis Carreon, Reginald Sylvester, and many other artists that I can go on and on about. But, I would say my top three artists that I admire most would be KAWS, Basquiat, and Keith Haring; so much so that I have their artwork tattooed on me. I not only admire them as artists, but I also admire their life’s journey. I admire that Basquiat was a troubled man that painted in a way that really expressed his emotions. I admire KAWS’s ability to navigate through the “art world”, coming from a graffiti artist in NY to now a world renowned fine artist. I admire the way Keith Haring used his art to express his opinions on America and its political values, even when it got him arrested. I draw so much inspiration from each of their journeys. What are your future plans? My future plans are to just continue echoing the narrative that we as artists are important to culture and to the progression of our society. Art is not just painting and drawing on walls and papers, it’s more than that. This is a craft, a skill, which artists take very seriously. We work countless hours studying, fixing, planning, altering, inspiring, destroying and recreating our work. I plan to elevate my fellow artists as much as possible. Especially, for me as a Latino, I plan to elevate my Latino community in any way I can as well; whether it be through supporting other Latino artists or inspiring the next generation of Latino Americans to pursue their dreams. As far as my own personal plans, yes, I do plan to have an art showcase in Philadelphia; and I do plan to expand my skill set by experimenting with other mediums like oils and sculpting. But, the one thing that will be constant, is that I plan to elevate the artists and the art community. I don’t create art so that people can just come to a showcase and just stare at a picture on the wall and tell me how good it is, just to feed my own ego. I create art to make people smile, to make them think, to make them feel inspired, and to open up conversations and ideas. I create art so that people who are interested in becoming an artist, can look at my work and say, “If I keep working and practicing, I can do this too!” I create art because I love the feeling that art gives me, and I want to spread that feeling with through the world.

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Matteo Scarpa Feltre, Italy

I do not do it for work. And I would not even like it. I love photography because it stops the instant, never the real one. Photographer exclusively on film, developing the same at home. A craft work that requires time and passion (and often frustration). You never know if the image that from your mind travels through the photographic lens will actually be that. My photographs are full of dust, lint, grain, distorted colors or a not perfect grayscale; my mind is the same. I do not have a preference for close-ups, landscapes, still life or anything else. Only photography!


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Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice?

that makes you move towards what you would like to expel and express outwards. The only person who, I think, I could say as my “influencer” is my grandfather. He died in the eighties, a photography enthusiast, an excellent printer and an excellent photographic eye. He probably passed something on to me in some strange way.

I don’t like to be influenced by anyone, but it is clear that it is inevitable during one’s biography. I started to produce photographs (slag of myself) after some difficult situations I had to face. The catharsis through the image happened almost inevitably. So, to answer the question, I can only comment that an influence occurred exclusively thanks to feelings, emotions and facts that surrounded me and still surround me today. I didn’t have and I don’t have a technical or artistic training, I didn’t know any other way than by name artists and authors. Difficult to be influenced therefore. Only a centrifugal push

What is the most challenging of being an artist? The most difficult thing for an artist in his early days is to find his own lane. For the things said above a person can be strongly influenced by what others have done before him. It is therefore 68


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What do you like/dislike about the art world?

difficult to detach yourself from that line and produce what you have inside you in an absolutely original and unique way. Secondly, for those who live in art, or would like to live in it, to make themselves known. This would open an infinite chapter on what skills you need to have to enter the “ fabulous” world of paid art.

At the moment I do not belong to the art world. I make art but I have a limited audience of people around the world who appreciate my work, I prefer it that way. I don’t think I could express the concepts I express through photography to a wide audience. I can only imagine a wider art world and I think I would hide from it. Or maybe not, I can’t know that now. It is a world that scares me and attracts me at the same time. I like the possibility that an artistic message can be amplified by the artistic community and I don’t like the possibility that the community itself can swallow it up by cancelling it out.

In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture? Art is a necessity, not only in the contemporary world. It is a necessary expression. It is a condensate of word, gesture, movement enclosed in a single outflow of element. The shot of a photographer, the movement of a dancer’s foot, the synchronization between eye and colour of a painter...are necessary. The need for people to express concepts that would otherwise have no other way out. The lack of art, or in any case the low esteem with respect to other values such as gain or appearance, just to name a few, in the contemporary world, produces a burnt-out soul, and we have this element in front of our eyes every day. In conclusion, the meaning of art in the contemporary world is salvation.

Name three artists you admire. Jack London (yes, he was also a photographer), Jacob Riis, Diane Arbus...but it is a non-exhaustive list of all the photographers who have contributed to document the society of the exploited and excluded. What are your future plans?

How would you describe the art scene in your area?

I have no plans for the future. I work with satisfaction as a health care worker in a public hospital, I have three wonderful children (Simone, Gemma and Stella) who grow up well, a cat who adores me, I have photography that purifies my anxieties, I experience new analogical photographic techniques, I love to feel the shooting mechanism of my Leica IIIF and Rolleiflex Old Standard, sometimes someone notices that they like my photographs and wants to hang them at home or have an exhibition. That’s all I want and if something new comes along I welcome it with open arms.

I live in a small mountain village in northern Italy, rich in culture and with many people and associations that deal with art and try, despite the many economic and bureaucratic difficulties, to evolve and evolve through the promotion of cultural activities. But the specificity of these people goes against a complex mechanism of concealment of beauty so that everything, in the end, is solved by pulling the chain of flushing the toilet and forgetting. 69


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Johanna Marie Schimming Paris, France

With my background in design painting revealed itself as a vital counter-practice to the minute and figurative work of drawing. I am an abstract painter with a tendency towards minimalism. I aim to pare expression down to its most essential and to balance emptiness with substance. I use few gestures, but they are strong and decisive. They may be spontaneous or the result of deep reflection. Space as the ‘void’ that surrounds a gesture plays a central role, that I perceive as being similar to the space of resonance that encloses a sound. In certain places I apply amounts of thick acrylic paint on a flat background thus creating relief. This ‘third dimension’ lends even more sensuality to the artistic experience and allows the observer to ‘enter’ my paintings as though they were abstract landscapes. The rhythmic marks may seem to be a code or recall Braille script, and I like to imagine that you can have the feeling to touch my paintings with your eyes. For me painting involves the discovery of my own language as well as an exploration of myself. It is both an act of freedom and an acquisition of self-awareness. I’m inspired by nature and I aim to render its vitality through my paintings, most of all by the movement of brushstrokes and marks, blending colours and fluidity. I also explore the same elements as those of musical composition, like time, dynamics, rhythm, harmony, acceleration and silence, which are essential components of life, too. To the contrary of many artists, my work is not driven by pain or suffering. Although such has not been absent from my life, in my work I choose to share my most harmonious emotions instead. Through my work I search to express vitality, balance, serenity and profound joy. The pre-condition for my artistic work is therefore to overcome any kind of struggle, which demands a constant work on myself even before applying brush to canvas. Johanna Marie Schimming is a German artist; she was born in Dresden in 1988. Loving to immerse herself in diverse cultural and linguistic environments, she lived for six years in Rome, Italy, from the age of 18. Shortly after enrolling at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma she won a competition for a scholarship in fashion design which allowed her to pursue her studies at the Istituto Europeo di Design Roma. Since 2013 she has been based in Paris, France, working also as an Embroidery Designer for Haute Couture Fashion. In relation to this discipline she has previously presented works in fibre-art exhibitions held in France and Italy. Abstract painting has become her main artistic practice. Her most recent shows have been two solo exhibitions in Paris, at Galerie Louchard in February 2020 and ‘PRIVATE VIEW 01’, held in October in the private residence of collectors of her work who opened their doors to the public for this special event. 73


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Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice? My technique of dragging paint over the canvas has been clearly influenced by the abstract work of Gerhard Richter, an artist who was born in Dresden, Germany like me, by the way. My style differs from his, however, in my more minimalist approach and the importance that I give to space and its interaction with gesture. Furthermore I’m inspired by nature, its colours and atmospheres and I aim to render its vitality through my paintings, most of all by the movement of brushstrokes and marks, blending colours and fluidity. I also explore the same elements as those of musical composition, like time, dynamics, rhythm, harmony, acceleration and silence, which are essential components of life, too. I suppose one of my favourite books: “The music lesson / A spiritual search for growth through music” written by the jazz musician Victor L. Wooten has inspired this approach. Another significant influence was my piano teacher whom I thank for experiencing the connection between musical improvisation and abstract painting. Lastly the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff must have some kind of influence on my work, as I like to play his compositions on the piano before painting which is a way to centre myself and to get into harmony. I also love to listen to his music while painting, it makes me feel connected to the genius and the divine. What is the most challenging of being an artist? To me the most challenging part is not in the craft itself, but rather in the myriad of things you have to do in addi74

tion to your artistic practise. Starting out you realize it’s actually like being an entrepreneur. You have to gain skills and handle areas like PR, photography, writing, editing, marketing and all the bureaucracy, and at some point you feel like you need to make space for painting itself. It’s also challenging to constantly have to put yourself out there. In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture? I see art as a form of truthfulness and awareness and therefore inspiring and most meaningful in contemporary culture. Moreover, to me, art is a form of courage, and therefore exemplary. Artists are connected to their core and reveal themselves through their artistic work. An artist’s path of self-realization might seem a selfish quest. In my opinion, the personal search of self-awareness and transforming emotions is, to the contrary, most valuable and stimulating for a larger audience. They feel something of the artwork resonate inside themselves and experience a connection and sense of unity. I believe nurturing these feelings of connection, unity, and inspiration does have a valuable healing effect on society. How would you describe the art scene in your area? I feel so lucky to live in Paris with the richest art scene imaginable, yet there’s still room for innovation and chance encounters. My second show this year at Galerie Louchard was cancelled due to the covid 19. However, during a studio visit, collectors of my work proposed to organise a solo show in the private setting of their beautiful Parisian apartment. For them it was both a manner to celebrate the installation of their newly acquired painting 089 with their friends and to present a larger selection


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rewarding to realise and become oneself. I am tempted to name some recent discoveries but will just quote those who have moved me deepest the longest time ago, and who accompany me ever since. I admire Gerhard Richter for his vivid liberating large scale expression and use of colour. I discovered his “Abstraktes Bild Nr. 567” at a secondary school art class while flipping through a book with famous paintings we had to be familiar with, and it stroke me outright. I also admire Francesco Guerrieri, of whom I love deeply in particular “la serie dei quadri luce”, his series of the paintings of light. I discovered this series at the gallery Ph7 back in Rome in 2008 and they were a mind blowing experience. I truly feel close and drawn to artists who engage in studying light and space and whose work vibrates at a higher frequency. Last I’d like to mention Camille Claudel for her work, authenticity and, once again, courage to pursue her craft as a profession especially as a woman at her time of history. I read the book “Une femme, Camille Claudel” by Anne Delbée as adolescent. My art teacher handed it to me in the school library and the discovery was a treasure to me. What are your future plans?

of my work to the public. « PRIVATE VIEW 01 » was the suitable title of this exhibition presenting 21 of my paintings in October, just in time before the second lockdown. It was such a beautiful experience and a huge success. I feel deeply honoured that my art collecting friends made space on their walls to present my work and opened the doors of their home, and beyond that they loved the experience of « full immersion » into my work. What do you like/dislike about the art world? Some people inside the scene warned me it was a shark tank, which made me feel quite intimidated. I guess it’s like everywhere, good people, rough people, unqualified ones, those who just want to avail themselves and those who are all talk, no action. You have to navigate past them and choose your allies wisely. I like most the rooting audience, art collectors, who empower the artist and provide resources to fulfil their quest. I also appreciate very much all entities and institutions sustaining artists, such as galleries, art centres, museums, magazines and all publishing media that help gain visibility. (Oh, and the art market remains a mystery to me.) Name three artists you admire. First and foremost besides talent, sensitivity, technique or genius, I admire all artists for being truthful and courageous in choosing this path. It’s not always the easiest, but it’s most 76

I’d like to explore larger formats and expand my studio space, enabling me to do so. I will keep exploring colour and space, it’s such a vast field. A personal quest is also to paint joy without compromising the seriousness of its nature. I will of course continue exhibiting my work. The next scheduled event is the International Contemporary Art Fair Brussels, which has been postponed to 2021, February 26th -28th. Beyond that I am delighted that my friends who organised the ‘PRIVATE VIEW 01’ exhibition are keeping their apartment available as a private showroom by appointment here in Paris. I am also looking forward to a future collaboration with art consultants and the increased exposure it enables, even in times of lockdown and art show cancellations.


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Mario Spagolla Como,Italy Based in the north of Italy not far away from the lake of Como, I’ve started with digital art after getting my hands dirty with pencils and brushes for years, and I still consider traditional art the best approach to this world. But I found in digital art the perfect way to express my ideas, a place where I can play with lights and shadows. Asian cultures lover, curious about myth and legends, ancient folklore, and dark tales.


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Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice? I don’t see myself as a conventional artist but more like a dark composer of surreal worlds. I rarely start with a bright idea when I am working on something new, and usually, I let my imagination driving me in the right direction after the first struggles. Following the rule of lights and shadows, my art blooms in something different and unique every time, inspired by ancient myth, legends, and folklore. In these tough periods we’ve been facing worldwide, I’ve found a further motivation in crafting something beautiful. Something able to transmit hope and curiosity, beauty, and sometimes also a sort of pleasant fear. My creative journey could be a bit different from others since I’ve never chased art in my life. Art found me one day, and now we are just sharing a path. What is the most challenging of being an artist? Being an artist is not challenging in my opinion. The challenge is not being an artist itself, but being an appreciated artist. Any artist on this planet aims for a common purpose, which is the recognition of their work. Myself as well, what I love most about my creative journey is the final reflection of my work over the people. Besides these personal thoughts, I would say that the most challenging part is, as for most of the artists I guess, the start. At the beginning of a creative experience, the mind is overwhelmed by pure chaos, an arena of fighting ideas. Sometimes the only way is to go with the flow, being patient, and waiting for the best concept. After that, the process gets usually smoother and promising. Another challenging aspect in this field is the capacity of being noticed and appreciated by the people. But at this early stage of my artistic journey, I will rather be focused on the quality of my work which is the most important thing to me. In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture? Art will always find a way in each culture and age. I don’t even know if it is fair or possible to give it a meaning since art is nothing more than the expressive curiosity of human beings. Definitely a different impact in our modern and structured society where states of mind are imposed and dictated, rather than during the artistic anarchy of the past centuries.

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How would you describe the art scene in your area? Being a digital illustrator in Italy it’s tough. Digital art became a worldwide rising form of art in the last decade or two. Accessible, clean, and limitless. And I personally believe that digital art adds a unique atmosphere and stunning visual effects to illustrations, hard to equal in a traditional way. On the other side, is still widely considered a blaspheme way of making art in this old country. Italy has still a conservative mentality when it comes to art, because of its artistic heritage, and for this reason, is not the best reality for an innovative mind. What do you like/dislike about the art world? I love art as a distraction tool, an excuse to look away from what we are forced to think is real. Art has no boundaries and is one of the most ancient ways of expression and freedom. But what I really don’t like about art, or more precisely about the art market, is the aristocratic world that surrounds it. If we think about the old masters of the past they were mostly poor people, their aim wasn’t becoming rich but delivering something great to the world. Leaving a mark through art. Today we can see a painting with a couple of straight lines or some mix of colours with no soul and no meaning and we call it a masterpiece, maybe sold for a ridiculous price. Art should be accessible to all, free, and meaningful. In the end, I think that some of the most talented artists don’t make art for money or fame, but just for pure artistic passion. Appreciation is the best reward for any artist. Name three artists you admire. Nature is definitely my favourite artist. But if we speak about human artists I might say some of the old Japanese masters as Ohara Koson and Takeuchi Seiho. And of course, the living master Hayao Miyazaki. What are your future plans? Well, I hope this awful period will be over soon because is getting hard to make plans nowadays. I would definitely keep going with my creative journey, I’ve been trying to share my work and I am confident about finding some good artistic opportunity. I am still at the beginning and I am not a well-known artist, but I want to grow and to find my way. I want to thank the team of Art Reveal Magazine for giving me the opportunity to share my art and apologize if my English wasn’t always perfect. I wish to invite you all to visit my new website, I hope you will find my work interesting and don’t hesitate to contact me anytime for any kind of curiosity about my work. 82


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Sam Nejati

San Francisco, USA Sam Nejati was born and raised in Tehran. He attended the Tehran Visual Academy of Arts. In 1999 he moved to Los Angeles and Later on to San Francisco Bay area. He eventually went on to study art at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Since his graduation in 2012, he has been living and pursuing his painting practice in the San Francisco Bay area. In my work, I seek to externalize the internal realm and the spiritual elements of human existence by visualizing and defining a sense of space, mood, and atmospheric themes. I am a prolific photographer. However, the photographs I produce are not ends in themselves, but raw source material, that affects my painting process. At times, I am drawn to literary references that extract and illuminate the spiritual properties that reside within and form the narrative structure in the piece. I am fascinated by the cognitive experience, in which humanist and spiritual conditions coalesce to bring something more meaningful to the surface. To me, a painting is like a living being, in which the whole is more significant than the sum of its parts. The finished artwork is a blend of perfect imperfections in terms of surface and compositional qualities, which alludes to a personal journey that accentuates universal human conditions, mindfulness, ethics, and memory. In my work, I contend with the contrary notions of flatness and depth, solidity and fluidity, permanence, and transience to spark emotions. Evoking a redemptive experience as well as a sense of transformation is what I yearn for through the medium of paint. 85


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Art Reveal Magazine

Who or what has a lasting influence on your art practice? I go to museums, artist exhibitions, lectures, and enjoy reading poetry extensively. All of these activities permeate my mind and have a direct effect on how I perceive the world and my work but in a very indirect way. I Live every day and go through life by being mindful. In a direct way, for me, going through life is like a living, breathing, and dreaming painting. I am particularly interested in spiritual elements of human existence as well as cognitive experience which emanates from living life with a hope to make some sense out of it. Nothing comes from nothing. Even the most abstract subjects come from somewhere. My interest is to trace dots and find relations that are at the core and emerge them to the surface as my narratives. I try to show the essence of beings without showing them but creating an atmosphere that alludes to their presence. What is the most challenging of being an artist? To be open to experiment and willful to challenge yourself. Be self-critical while staying honest with yourself. World seems a very tempting place for many. It’s so simple to be influenced in today’s world, especially with all the social media, news, and a lot more data blitze. Almost Everyone wants to get a snippet of your attention and that can be hard not to fall for. The challenge is to stay focused. It appears that it’s easier more than ever for an individual to give in so perhaps to fit in. It’s imperative for one to remind oneself of what and why one is here for and what are the motives beyond all the hard work one puts in. This can be extremely challenging but for me, that’s how things work, or I make them work. To be open, to accept to not get too comfortable with the work and not seek the accolades which you may or may not deserve. Remembering that artist is the only one who has to feel comfortable with his or her creation before anyone else. Being able to let go at times and to create new problems to solve and to extract meaning from can be very challenging. It is not easy to be hard on yourself. I look at it as an internal battle. I understand if I am not hard on myself no one else will and in turn, nothing will come out of it. Oftentimes what I create comes from stories that I see in

the world and I try to develop that on canvas. So, I am dealing with stories from the outside world plus my own stories. When these two collide, there is going to be tension to make one narrative out of these two stories. To me, this sounds like giving birth to a visual narrative that in my case, happens to be a painting. Being an artist can be extremely challenging depending on how one takes it and to what degree one can embody a level of truthfulness. The process can be incredibly self-rewarding. I look at it as a labor of love and also remind myself that art is going to outlive you because of this very long practice so just enjoy the process. In your opinion what does art mean in contemporary culture? This can be a very broad realm. Art can have different definitions depending on who is answering it. I can only speak for myself and my experiences. I think every period on its own is contemporary. Velasquez was contemporary of his time and now Anish Kapoor is contemporary. There seem to be three ways to look at this; some of the artists’ works are more relevant to their times. While Other artists who live at the same time and produce artwork may not be so relevant to events of their time. The third group and most interesting group, in my opinion, are the creative minds whose works lean toward certain universality and timelessness which can transcend beyond their time. For me, all these three groups are contemporary and again it all depends on how one looks at it. What is more surprising in recent years is how much the term contemporary has become a trend and misused as much as the word organic. What do you like/dislike about the art world? The term art world is so immense and can be confusing at times. The so-called art world has a certain level of enormity that may be ungraspable. I tend to envision it more like a vast garden where you have different plants with different characteristics and beauties as well as some not so appealing. It has many areas and circles, and I am sure everyone will look at it differently. For me, the art world is a sort of arena where I can create and be able to exchange ideas with like-minded people and create discourse with other artists from a different array of disciplines, with the hopes to build a certain level of the community. What I don’t like is that I see a systematic 87

level of trendiness happening. It feels that there was a time that the artist created the work of art from necessity. Now that’s hardly the case. I see many works that their main intentions are just to fill the niche. In recent years, certain individuals entered the art world for not the right reasons. Meaning they are here, in the name of art but in actuality, they are aiming for everything else other than art but with a veneer of art. There are so many influences out there and they are very tempting, however, in the end, it all depends on the artist and what path one is interested in which can result in how that artist will define the art world. All the entries seem to be open. One needs to know what he or she wants and go for it. Name three artists you admire. I am interested in many things, life, nature, books, and many great artists. To name a few. Morandi, Anish Kapoor, Anthony Gormley, Enrique Marinez Celaya What are your future plans? No one knows what the future holds for us. I can have so many plans cooking in the back of my mind, but all these can go down the drain in a split second. Look at how the COVID-19 impacted the world. But what I do know is that what I do now will be going to have a direct impact on my future. What I do now will be the stepping stone for the future in the making. For instance, I have been working on fifteen large canvases since March. The whole art world is pretty much shut down and no one can predict when things will sort themselves out. I have these paintings ready to unveil when the right opportunity will present itself. So basically, I worked on these pieces and that is to say, as if I worked on my future. In a way, everything you do for yourself is an investment in yourself on so many levels, and keep in mind that not all investments have to be financial. I also think it’s extremely important to have hope and the desire to reach whatever you define as hope. I see desire as more practical than passion. One needs to decide how one will make one’s future and be comfortable to live with oneself. Others and outside forces can indeed have a tremendous impact on you as an artist and on your career. It’s very important to know that without your hard work, self-drive and knowing what you may want from life none of these outside forces will ultimately put a step forward.


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Profile for Art Reveal Magazine

Art Reveal Magazine no. 56  

Chun Chun Chang (USA), Matthew Owen Gwathmey (Canada), Brandon Halley (USA), Juliet Hillbrand (USA), Susan Kamber (USA), Keflione (China), B...

Art Reveal Magazine no. 56  

Chun Chun Chang (USA), Matthew Owen Gwathmey (Canada), Brandon Halley (USA), Juliet Hillbrand (USA), Susan Kamber (USA), Keflione (China), B...

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