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verdure engraved 2016 issue 4

contents six questions: nicky hodge nicky hodge (works) six questions: charlotte brisland charlotte brisland (works) six questions: gabriella hirst gabriella hirst (works) six questions: maria kapajeva maria kapajeva (works) helen frankenthaler violette cornelius martha holmes eva besnyo ad windig nell dorr

cover image by pheobe riley law from veer

six questions series

nicky hodge

My paintings are created in series. Each painting leads to another. The paintings are always in the process of becoming, some are produced quickly while others get worked over many times. Seen together in a group, they form an unfinished and unstable inventory of fragments in which certain forms, gestures and colours recur, while proposing many and various relationships between them. The paintings are generally small and invite you to get up close. They are made through an indeterminate process that gives way to sudden impulses, often obliterating as much as it adds. Neither wholly geometric or organic, some of the forms make an oblique reference to the real world (the blue of a sea, the arch of a window) while setting out to explore the traditional position of abstract painting and, in particular, its relationship to the histories of modernism and minimalism. The playful titles of the paintings (and of the series) add another layer and are intended to encourage a diverse and unsystematic approach to work that is grounded in materiality, feeling and pleasure.

JrF: how concerned are you with the durability (physical or cultural) of your work ? NH: Probably not very. I like the idea of it having a cultural shelf life, perhaps through its associations with other things. The references that are in the work are there to be mined and yes, maybe some of those go beyond the temporal. JrF: where is the line between success and failure (you can choose to answer this in terms of your artistic career or the work itself) NH: Success and failure – those terms are so relative. On a wider level, much art that is deemed successful obliterates doubt and uncertainty, producing a hermetically sealed view of the world that to my mind is the antithesis of the space that art should be occupying. My own work treads a fine line with failure, investigating it and experimenting with it as part of the process, taking a resistant  (or jaded) view of the cultural norms or values around success. JrF: given that most artwork becomes a collaboration between the work itself and where it is experienced (physical or online) what is your approach to placing your work ? NH: Taking the work out of the studio and placing it in a physical or online space is really important – for the maker as well as any viewers. I have just sat for a few days with my work in a gallery space and have experienced this firsthand, allowing me to have a more conscious and critical understanding of what it is really about. JrF: what is the connection, regardless of the role of chance, between your first interest in art and your current explorations ? NH: My first real connection with ‘art’ was as a cartoonist. Art and words continue to be really important to me, as is a sense of humour, irony and the absurd. Drawing and line plus an ongoing fascination with building a series, or a strip frame by frame, and the relationships between these which does not necessarily have to be a narrative, but can rely on other more abstract devices such repetition, gesture and space. Some of these connections are clearly there in my more recent video work too.

JrF: do you remember your first experience of ‘art’ and how it felt ? NH: I remember being commissioned to produce some cartoons and staying up all night to finish them, shaky with coffee and the excitement of realising that my imagination had run wild with my initial ideas. JrF: in a world that both values (culturally) and often undervalues (as a sustainable career) art how would you describe the benefit to your daily life of being an artist ? NH: I have been making work for a long time now but on one level it feels like it is only just beginning. That’s one of the many good things that’s brought about by the thrill of the chase and the immersion in a never-ending process with no fixed goals. OK there may be no real money in it or you might not get the recognition you feel you deserve, but there’s immense pleasure to be had through the dedication to a process that’s boundless, consequential and continually surprises you.

charlotte brisland

At the age of 7 Brisland wrote a letter to Father Christmas asking that instead of presents that year she would prefer “to become a famous art worker”. As an adult; age 12, Brisland made the decision to begin her career as an artist and began painting in all her free time. Her first ever exhibition was at the public library in Portsmouth when she was 17. When she realised the landscape was possibly the most profound thing she could work with, Brisland decided to take long vacations to foreign countries as a way of truly experiencing them inside out. Sometimes the long holidays became independent residencies between 1 and 5 years. During that time, Brisland’s late Christmas present arrived in the form of an acceptance letter to the Royal College of Art in London. After that, Charlotte Brisland began to exhibit all over the world in Europe, Japan and New York. Recently, as a very old lady of 37, Brisland has settled right back where she began in the seaside town of Portsmouth with her two children. She is very happy.

JrF: How concerned are you with the durability (physical or cultural) of your work? CB: As the work gets stronger in itself and on the international art stage the physical durability of the work does become increasingly more important. At the start of my career I wasn’t fully prepared for how far the work would progress and so I wasn’t really using the right materials to make the painting last. Occasionally economic pressures will mean using less appropriate media. JrF: Where is the line between success and failure? I would like to respond to this through the idea of validation in art in this short essay The local, the amateur, the part time and the Sunday painter. What does it mean to be a ‘local artist’? The term smacks of the amateur in a landscape of professionalism while its literal meaning evades the secondary connotation entirely. A local artist is one making work near to where it was found. If it is found on a global market it can no longer be localised, yet it is always localised somewhere, perhaps artists should be sent into the desert to make sense of this, the bigger the name in the world the more remote from a neighbourhood should the artist be. There is something of the shaman still in the meaning of the term of artist, one that is removed from the main tribe, sent out into the wilderness to get better in touch with another dimension. All this aside, my own experience of moving into the world was wide from the one of my childhood. Painting from the local landscapes in Japan while living there made me a local artist until they were placed in art galleries abroad, yet I was already from abroad, so what did that mean to the work? Removing the paintings from the location of incept and placing it a distance away does not suddenly make it anything more or less than it was to begin with, yet perhaps there is a little more validation. It is a broader platform, even if the number of the audience is equal to if it had been shown ‘locally’. And then what if the artist had already exhibited globally and then exhibited work ‘locally’? The notion or perhaps a sense of inadequacy from the ‘art world’ to draw distinctions between what is professional or not, what is primary and what is secondary is worth discussing in my own work now I have moved back to my birthplace to create ‘local’ landscapes. What does it mean for the work that it is shown locally and what the hell am I doing not living in London or any other capital for that matter? Should this be a discussion of professionalism vs amateur or is it about validation? Grayson Perry's discussion on the notion of validation in art permeated all four of his Reith lectures.

Not a simple query to respond to, Perry sifts through ideas of sociology, tribalism, philosophy and economy. The who of whom validates the work of the artist from curators, collectors and “even the public” is a poke at the cold reality of the art world as a functioning industry within the global market. Most poignantly Perry suggests the seriousness of the artist is, perhaps, what makes art art in a contemporary context. Elaborating, the seriousness which is protected by language is what makes a 'show' or a 'performance' of a kind of validation of an artist and their work. The serious language which is adapted in art institutions probably only shows that the artist did, in fact, go to art school and ticked the box of good punctuality. Most importantly what makes art valid is the self consciousness from the artist. The serious language which Perry discusses in the Reith lectures feeds from and into the valid thinking the artist is making internally. Where words are thought and vice versa, an artist making work outside of contemporary ideas is often given the title 'outsider artist'. The artist making work on a Sunday, in his or her spare time and who is not aligned with the cutting edge of contemporary art and who is probably not living in any capital city. The outsider artist is essentially the 'amateur'. The twentieth century iconic artist, Duchamp, made an impacted statement on validation by addressing the question, 'what is art?' Duchamp placed a urinal in a gallery space and changed the thinking of modern art 180 degrees, or more specifically shone a light on the most important validation process art was already going through in 1912 and continues to pass through. Re-placing an everyday, quotidian object from the most base of human experiences was a challenging statement which broke through dusty thinking and yelled from the rooftops. Whatever is placed within the context of contemporary art, ie: a gallery, will become art, or at the time, 'Modern Art'. Moving forward nearly 80 years to Jim shaw's ‘thrift store paintings’ ;an exhibition which included approximately 100 works made by “unknown amateur painters”, was a re-contextualising look at a group of pictures bought from thrift stores and placed in a museum to reconsider validity in art. What happened in the shifted context from thrift store to museum was exactly nothing. Nothing happened because the paintings were still paintings, just no longer in the thrift store. re-placing the paintings into the museum; which for some is the most validating experience a piece of art can go through, did not alter the validity of the works. The exhibition was described as “an installation of found objects, created by a very gifted artist”. The paintings were not even considered 'paintings' in an art sense any longer but 'objects', used by an 'artist'. The concept of Shaw as curator and as artist extends Duchamp's ground breaking installation and high-lights the most important point of difference between a thinking and self critical artist and one who is not doing that.

The one who is not jumping through the hoops of critical thought is not producing work which is valid because it is not self aware nor is it aligned to current contemporary progress in art. Placing paintings found in a thrift store or flea market cannot be grounds for invalidation. These are paintings in their own right, created by people for whatever reason. The museum context can mean the work has gone through some kind of validation process, as Perry mentions, by a curator, collector or 'even the public'. But, the work in the thrift store paintings exhibition, placed in a museum, did not validate them. In fact, I think this was quite a degrading experience for the artists who made the paintings in the first place. By his selection process, Shaw decided then and there which of the found paintings were precisely not valid because the work was not self aware. Whether Shaw was correct in his assumptions is not the point. Local, amateur, part time, Sunday painter, cannot define the self consciousness and critical awareness of an artist, work placed on a contemporary platform may also not be quarters of validation. The obsessive mind working overtime on concepts and ideas which connect to the visual and to the broader landscape of current topics and trends is validation in real terms, no matter where it is shown and even if only a single person sees it. JrF: Given that most artwork becomes a collaboration between the work itself and where it is experienced (physical or online) what is your approach to placing your work? CB: My work is painting and I place it in a contemporary context. I respect the boundaries that presents by being selective about where it gets shown. Because of paintings traditional background, it’s important to draw lines between my work and that which is not a contemporary platform. If my work were to end up in a gallery that exhibits work brushing too close to those traditional roots in painting I don’t believe my work would have the right context.

JrF: What is the connection, regardless of the role of chance, between your first interest in art and your current explorations? CB: To respond to this question I have taken up dialogue with my work. We do this on a daily basis and have been having a continuous conversation for about 30 years. The conversation began when I was 7 years old. The work, having no age and being utterly timeless remained with me as our connection felt lovely from the beginning and we have never run out of things to say to one another. CB. “I’ll hand this one to you, I think you might have a better memory than me” TW. “Well, ok, but knowing you I won’t be talking long” CB. “That’s probably true” Smiles TW. “From what I remember it was in the folds of the dresses of the nineteenth century portraits at the National Gallery in London. You could see how the brushwork was really gestural yet the overall effect was almost photorealist” CB. “yeah, that’s true. I think I began alone then, just trying to draw like that, but it took ages to get to the point where I could re-create it. Do you remember the conversations from back then?” TW. ”You were a little girl wanting to draw care bears and my little ponies. I kept asking if you thought the drawings were good enough, that annoyed you, but your answer was always that it wasn’t. Maybe that’s why you never stopped?” CB. ”Could be. You’ve never stopped asking that really, just that now your questions are really difficult to answer, sometimes I have to ignore you. Sometimes you’re just asking too much” TW. “There wouldn’t be a dialogue if I asked you really easy questions, you would have stopped talking to me years ago” CB. “Yes, I would have. Still, I reserve the right to dismiss you entirely” TW. “Yes, you do, just not too often please”

JrF: Do you remember your first experience of ‘art’ and how it felt? CB: ’Art’ has always been present in my life. My dad was an Art teacher when I was born. Some days when my mum couldn’t take care of me I would go with him to his school. I was really young then, about two years old. He would sit me in his office next to the classroom with a lump of clay and I would spend hours making shapes and animals. I would also draw two dimensionally and then consider which I preferred. JrF: In a world that both values (culturally) and often undervalues (as a sustainable career) art how would you describe the benefit to your daily life of being an artist? CB: Firstly I whole heartedly agree with this question and what it’s saying. My opinion is that an art career should be taken seriously and be paid and supported. Being an artist is something of a calling, but so is being a nurse, a teacher, an archaeologist, a marine biologist, a psychologist etc etc. People are driven to do what they do because there is an interest and a desire. It is a form of abuse to not pay artists on the basis that it’s a spiritual calling they would do regardless. The sad thing is that artists everywhere do and accept being unpaid and even end up paying for and organising the exhibition of their work. Art is about the deepest parts of the human psyche, it gives form to dreams and nightmares. It touches people in different ways because we are all different, but there is a collective centre to it all. If artists stopped working the soul would drop out of the bottom of the social network. Not being paid as an artist is demeaning. I studied for the same length of time as an architect, but I had no structure to my study, I had to create Art out of thin air. Living as an Artist means constant critical dialogue. My own values within my work are about self-awareness and digging deep into my psyche. It’s also placed fully into the real world so being aware of myself in the world is a daily thought. I think that makes my experience of life and living a little richer than it would otherwise.

gabriella hirst

I’m from Australia but I live in Berlin, and I’m soon moving to London. My artistic work examines processes of forgetting and notions of permanence; the impulse to preserve, to archive and to structure, and the futility of these efforts and their relation to art as an enduring cultural canon of a people. The form adopted for each work is dependent on the research project from which it stems. I work with a material’s inherent or cultural sense of time, permanence or finitude. Over the past two years or so my work has taken forms such as a recarved abandoned tombstone, landscape painting in the midst of storms, a garden comprised only of plants with cultivar names commemorating military conflicts and photographs of the night sky in Greece with all the stars individually hand cut out. Perhaps it all looks a bit bleak, but there is a lot of hope in it all, too.

JrF: how concerned are you with the durability (physical or cultural) of your work ? GH: I continually return to the notion of durability, or lack-therof, in the process of making and thinking about my work, and about making artwork in general. Because in the western canon there is this underlying assumption that what we create culturally should be permanent, that in some format it will endure, if not physically then in some way archived (i.e. museums, libraries, online databases). I am super interested in the cracks in this assumption (which is, of course, a fallacy, but a fallacy that is endlessly stucco-ed over and revarnished), for example the story of the burning of the great library of Alexandria. At these moments we have to consider what human beings are without these  artefacts of cultural production  and contemplate just how erasable, how fragile we are. I like the tension that western civilisation continuously creates through the production of it’s myth of permanence versus the entropy that pulls at it constantly at all angles. I also consider when/where the art action ends and when/where documentation begins, and so on a basic level what actually does endure from the art action, if anything. These  curiosities  dribble into my work, in terms of permanence and durability. JrF: where is the line between success and failure (you can choose to answer this in terms of your artistic career or the work itself) ? GH: I don’t have a set answer for this question except to say that I don’t think there is a line between the two and that I think it depends on your societies’ idea of production and durability, and very often on a personal level my mood/sensitivity/ bravado/need for appreciation. JrF: given that most artwork becomes a collaboration between the work itself and where it is experienced (physical or online) what is your approach to placing your work ? GH: In terms of an online context, I have a website, which I guess is  kind  of  comparable  to a personally curated digital white cube gallery- it’s pretty conservative/basic in it’s interface and I don’t push the limits of this display medium as some artists do, so i guess that although I have for the last 8 or so years, constantly displayed work in a online context, I have not had a very conscious approach to this specific audience/artwork collaborative experience. However, I am interested in the subtleties of this interaction, and in physical contexts have played with and considered this with different projects. For example, I currently have an ongoing artwork which is a garden in a public communal garden complex in Berlin. I know that if this garden was shown in in a gallery space I could very easily communicate my  intentions  with this work as an art project, however,  although  it can be a headache, I’m currently really  enjoying  the blurriness of having this garden sit in someplace between artwork-non-artwork. perhaps it extends the amount of time that this project can remain an art action rather than becoming a documentation thereof. 

JrF: what is the connection, regardless of the role of chance, between your first interest in art and your current explorations ? GH: Im not sure if this was my first interest ,but if I think about what interested me in looking at images when I was a teenager, I was attracted to things because they struck me  as simultaneously kind of sharp/painful and beautiful. I saw a youtube video of a rainbow coloured hot air balloon that had caught on fire and was shrivelling up and plummeting to earth, grainy and pixellated. There was no sound.  I was fascinated by this beautiful visual spectacle of this hopeful human construction failing so quickly and violently.  I feel like an awful person recounting this, because I know I didn’t really consider the human element of this episode. In my (sheepish) defence, I remember reading at the time in the clip description that everybody on board and below survived   the incident, and so I would like to think in hindsight that it wasn’t me simply revelling in the trauma of others, but I was certainly enthralled by how this moment of destruction had produced such intense  visual beauty. And I think now I am exploring gestures of grand failure and the poetic, the beautiful element of the fall, but hopefully in a less directly voyeuristic sense, more sensitive to the individual human element.  JrF: do you remember your first experience of ‘art’ and how it felt ? GH: I don’t know if it was my first experience of art and I guess now I am unsure of what an experience of art is, as distinct from an experience of everyday life, but in a traditionally defined art context I have a very early happy memory of seeing/smelling Ernesto Neto’s hanging spice installation at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Or maybe earlier, it was a rock concert as a baby, or listening to Fernando by ABBA lying on the carpet in my parents living room.  JrF: in a world that both values (culturally) and often undervalues (as a sustainable career) art how would you describe the benefit to your daily life of being an artist ? GH: In daily life I get to choose what my job is and continually change what it entails, project to project. Also I can choose where and when I work. This is either freedom or precocity or both,   depending which way you look at it, so I certainly wouldn’t outright call it a benefit but at the moment, right now I find it preferable to other working structures. I am more and more aware that this wavery title of artist that I place over all these disparate activities I undertake carries a lot of  cultural weight but is also strangely undefinable.  Surprisingly this combination of cultural weight and non specificity has granted me access to a whole series of strange and wonderful situations that I would not have had access to otherwise.

If I conduct these activities under this title I can sometimes slip through the cracks of streamlined society, in minor but (for me) exciting and important ways. For example, guards let me into museum back rooms to collect dust from the shelves, people have opened their homes to me in obscure locations, strangers will entertain conversations with you where they otherwise would dismiss you. Spheres of private and public can be a little more flexible. There is no defined reason for making art, and its precisely this lack of reason, this moment of  doubt, that gives people (very much myself included) pause, and then unexpected, non-streamlined occurrences can happen within this pause. There are other benefits of course, but in recent years this is what I have found to be the most surprising benefit of being an artist.

maria kapajeva

JrF: how concerned are you with the durability (physical or cultural) of your work? MK: To be honest, I haven’t thought much about it. Often I think about work’s flexibility and lightness. What I mean by that is to leave for myself a space to experiment with the final presentation of the work and also to be able to reproduce some of the pieces considering the specificity of the space or place they will be shown. Ironically in our digital age, where we tend to think of digitalisation of everything, the hardest part is to keep up to date the digital versions of your own work. The systems and software update so quickly that it is hard to catch up with them and backup your work up to latest updates. That might be one of my reasons why, if I photograph, I do it on film. It is impossible although to do it with my video work. Cultural durability is an interesting term and you made me think about it. Culture(s) would always be here while humankind exist: so whichever conditions of living change, it will be still relevant to talk about current matters, experiment with techniques and technologies. Artists are people who reflect on the world around them. Same with me: I do not produce a work for the future but for my present as my way to deal, to cope with the past and present. JrF: where is the line between success and failure (you can choose to answer this in terms of your artistic career or the work itself) MK: Good question. I think it is about satisfaction with my own work. If I am happy with the final outcome and believe in it, then it is a success for me. I would lie if I say the public opinion does not matter. It matters, of course, but if I am confident with what I have done and, then, the public success will follow. It is just a matter of finding your public. For me public success means arisen conversations around issues I work with in the work. Any reaction is success, apathy is a failure. I must admit we learn more from failures than successes. So, it is important to have them both if you would like to grow as an artist and / or as a human being.

JrF: given that most artwork becomes a collaboration between the work itself and where it is experienced (physical or online) what is your approach to placing your work? MK: Most of my work so far was exhibited in gallery spaces. I really enjoy though when I get an opportunity to experiment by showing my work in public places. It is a totally different experience when you see an artwork by passing it on your way to work, home or somewhere else, for instance. Sometimes I find myself stopping because of an image, a poster or artwork placed on the streets. It is very refreshing: being overwhelmed within thousands of images we see everyday in public places, it is still possible to grab people’s attention with one image or an object. So, some of the images from my series ‘Interiors’, for instance, were shown like that: on streets of different cities including Mumbai. Also, when I get a chance to confuse viewers – I am enjoying to do so. Recently I showed a few cushions from my ‘I Am Usual Woman’ work at one of the exhibitions curated by Chinar Shah ‘Home for Two Days’ in Ahmedabad, India. The exhibition is set in a domestic space and a few of my cushions were placed on a sofa there, thus, they have become part of that domestic interior. At the same time, they are on display as art objects for the visitors, who might not realise it straight away but need to look at them closer. The curator said these cushions raised many conversations between visitors. Bringing public images to domestic space or the other way around is what I am interested in. JrF: what is the connection, regardless of the role of chance, between your first interest in art and your current explorations?   MK: When I came to the UK to study photography, I was sure it is my kind of medium. The further education, my own explorations and experimentations made me learn that art is not limited to one medium; it can be anything I want. By realising that, I have got very excited with an idea that I can learn so many new skills and crafts, which I could apply for my new ideas. At the same time, that thought has freaked me out because I realised also that probably one life is not be enough to do them all, so I still need to be selective.

So, at the moment, I really enjoy working with found and archival photographs and appropriating these existed images. I am intrigued and excited by their enigma and multilayerdness (does that word exist or I am making it up?). Speaking of the image making, currently I enjoy working with video. Funnily enough, a few video works I have already done: ‘Test Shooting’ (2016), ‘What Kind Of Fame You Have’ (2015), ‘Border State’ (2014) all look like still images. So, photography with its stillness is part of my practice. In a way, it is the same with textile and embroidery. My family connection to textiles somehow has started to come out in my work just 3 years ago. I still have to learn a lot and understand better how to use it but I enjoy to work with fabrics’ surfaces and to go into the monotonous practice of stitching or printing on them. It calms me down and keeps me focused. JrF: do you remember your first experience of ‘art’ and how it felt?   MK: I do not remember my very first time, probably because I grew up with the notion of my mother as an artist and whatever she does is considered art. She used to work as an artist / designer at a textile mill, where she, with a few others, worked on pattern designs for cotton fabrics the mill produced. And I always wanted to be like my mother, even though I never could draw as well as she did. I remember when, I was 6 or 7, I created my own pattern design and asked my mother to show it at the mill with hope that they could produce fabric with my design. But it never happened, of course. So, in a way, it was my first failure as an artist, going back to your question about failure and success. But now I am thinking to use this drawing in my current work about this textile factory.

JrF: in a world that both values (culturally) and often undervalues (as a sustainable career) art how would you describe the benefit to your daily life of being an artist ? MK: It gives me satisfaction in my own life and possibilities to do something, to achieve something, to experiment, to learn anew. I think these are the mains things. I have a degree in economics, which I got while I was living in Estonia. I wasn’t brave enough to apply to an art academy and economics was a kind of compromise to study something, which potentially could give me a job after. I didn’t enjoy studying it but I assumed it is normal not to like what you study. Most of us grew up in school culture of studying what you have to, not what you like. So, when I moved to the UK to study photography, I was amazed by what a massive difference there was between studies of what you like and what you don’t. I was so happy these days to learn something new every day and I saw how endless horizons of potential knowledge were opening up for me. That made me realise whatever I do, I need to stay in the field, which might be tough but I enjoy it the most. The reality is that artists hardly can survive on their work and most of them, including myself, do not do it for the sake of the money. So, in this capitalistic world, we need to find ways to survive and balance between your own art and earnings. That is why I teach at a university and manage projects, such as ‘Fast Forward: women in photography’, for instance. These jobs are quite challenging and exciting also, but they do take space and time, which I could dedicate to my own artwork. Overall, I feel quite privileged to be able to find in my life what I am interested in and trying to do my best for it: to be an artist.

helen frankenthaler

violette cornelius

martha holmes

eva besnyo

ad windig

nell dorr *

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Profile for jez riley French

2016 (4)  

an arts zine issue 4 of 2016 features interviews and work by: Pheobe riley Law Nicky Hodge Charlotte Brisland Gabrielle Hirst Maria Kapaje...

2016 (4)  

an arts zine issue 4 of 2016 features interviews and work by: Pheobe riley Law Nicky Hodge Charlotte Brisland Gabrielle Hirst Maria Kapaje...