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Level 25 ArtJournal

Level 25 Artjournal

Victoria Cank Otha Davis III Jeff Edwards Hayley Fullerton Dagmar Hrickova Melissa Huang Eve Laws Chris Mear Archana Mishra Heidi Phelps October 2013

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Level 25 ArtJournal

Victoria CANK...4

Otha DAVIS III...12

Jeff EDWARDS...18 Hayley FULLERTON...26

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Cover Ar

Dagmar


rtist

r HRICKOVA...34

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Melissa HUANG...46

Eve LAWS...56

Chris MEAR...64

Archana Mishra...72

Heidi Phelps...78 3

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Victoria Cank (UK)

Through my work I like to question relationships in society. Suffering from a personality disorder I find relationships both intense and unbearable at times. I find that though questioning their value in society I am able to better understand my self and the world around me. I can find working on one project at a time frustrating and I often have many works on the go at the same time, but all will focus upon contemporary relationships. I question the pressure that society has put on us all that we have to ‘conform’ and ‘be’ a certain way to be acceptable. I often wonder if at the core we are really ‘happy’ with what is deemed an ‘ideal life style’-if we have it, or if we could fully engage with ourselves, our deepest hopes and dreams, we would be different in some way and potentially live a more fulfilling and satisfying life that also enriches the lives of all those around us.

“Welcome”; butter icing and food colouring; 65cmx40cmx3cm Victoria Cank

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“TAPP”; Photograph 70cm x 70cm Victoria Cank

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I very much intrusions an


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Your statement speaks boldly and frankly of your personality disorder. Are there times when the frustrations you feel with relationships ever prevents you from creating? VC: I see my work as a way of communicating with people. So very often my frustrations with relationships help me produce my work. I find that I am able to ‘get stuck in’ This may be into researching a particular item or making work. By getting stuck in I am able to reflect on difficulties and almost escape my own feelings. It is often a way for me to ‘cool down’ and avoid any impulsive behavior which can often happen when things in life go wrong. By going to my art I can answer my own questions. Your work “Welcome Mat” is brilliant. There is such a feeling of trespass and violation evident in that single footstep marring the butter icing. It almost makes one paranoid. Do you see Life as a daily series of trespasses, violations and intrusions? VC: I very much see life as intrusions and trespasses. Life has evolved for many into a way in which everyone over promotes themselves, on Facebook and Twitter, etc. This can be very good and informative, allowing you to interact and form deeper relationships, or at times seeing peoples ‘status updates’ whilst in my own home can feel like an intrusion, like they are forcing their lives and views on itter etc. This can be very good and informative, allowing you to interact and form deeper relationships, or at times seeing peoples ‘status updates’ whilst in my own home can feel like an intrusion, like they are forcing their lives and views on me.

see life as nd trespasses.

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Relationships are hard, even for people without personality disorders. When you yourself find yourself struggling with a relationship--be it a romantic relationship, a platonic or familial relationship, or even a business relationship--do you ever direct those involved to your artwork as a way of explaining how you think or feel? If so, does it help? VC: I have never directly asked anyone to view my work as a way of explaining how I think or feel, but many people who know me and know my work often tell me they know more about me by viewing my work than by being with me. I am naturally quiet and shy and find explaining myself hard, however I want people to know the real me, and not the person I am though art, as it is ‘the real me’ that will be with them when we form a relationship so they need to be comfortable in knowing that that relationship might be hard for them to.

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“Escape from Diving Man” Fibreglass, resin, plaster and clothing 140cm x 50cm x 40cm (variable) Victoria Cank


Level 25 ArtJournal Your “Escape from...” photographs are whimsical but packed with symbolism. Can you talk us through the creation of those photographs, from start to finish? VC: The photographs are the only thing left of the Escape from series, which consisted of 6 figures in total. The figures where made from fibre glass and resin and taken to different locations and photographed. My initial thoughts was based upon the pressure which society puts upon us to live hard and fast and be successful. This often ends up making us want to escape from our lives and question what success is. By taking the figures and placing them in different locations I want people to question what their views on success is, and what happiness is to them.

“Escape from Leaning Man” Fibreglass, resin, plaster and clothing 140cm x 40cm x 40cm (variable) Victoria Cank

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Level 25 ArtJournal “This I What I Ask” creates an interesting relationship with your subjects by asking them to actually place your artwork on their bodies. Even though those people may be complete strangers to you do you feel that their participation in the project by wearing your t-shirts creates a level of intimacy between you and them? VC: Yes, I really do, the people that are wearing the t shirts and interacting with me though these t shirts. I feel that by sending these t shirts all around the world people are forming a contract of trust with me. Even though I don’t know them I feel that it is important to form deeper relationships with all people across the world. I have sent them to LA and Germany along with all around the UK. I hope that by wearing them, and having fun with each other when taking them, they are also able to create levels of intimacy with each other and form better relationships with people around them.

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Level 25 ArtJournal What makes creating art easy for Victoria Cank? VC: I’m not sure if making art is ever ‘easy’ but opposite ends of emotions always help. Feeling very happy, or feeling very frustrated and sad. As I use art to work though emotions, especially when alone in my studio, I have time to think and time gets away from me and I have spent 10 hours on a piece without stopping or realizing what time it is. (I also have my rabbit, Max, in my studio with me, and having him hopping around makes creating art easier as he relieves stress and lets me think!) What makes creating art difficult for Victoria Cank? VC: This is the same answer!! When frustrated and sad I can feel unable to go out and create work, and when really happy I sometimes don’t want to!!

I feel that it is important to form deeper relationships with all people across the world.

“This Is What I Ask” Installation/performance piece using printed t-shirts Twitter: @thisiswhatiask Victoria Cank

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Otha Davis III (US)

As a creative mind, the arts have played a major role in my life from a young age. I grew up overweight, so I wasn’t always the most confident. I never really had a voice until I grew older. Sometimes you can’t find the words to express your innermost thoughts and feelings and art always served as that emotional release for me. Art and creativity tend to play the role of my therapist and help me maintain sanity in this crazy world. The paint brush is my weapon of choice these days as I create mixed media paintings using acrylics or oil with water color. It’s never been my intention, but red, black and white always seem to be a common denominator in my pieces. I didn’t even realize this until a friend brought it to my attention. I’ve always loved the dramatic contrast and power that black and white images create. At the same time, red is so sensitive. Red is intense and one of those colors that automatically demands your attention. The combination of these three elements allow me to create so much depth and emotion so I guess I’m just naturally drawn to them.

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I’m invigorated by relationships, feelings and emotions. I’ve always felt they were God’s greatest creation, so my work tends to evolve around women and their natural allure. Women are very emotional beings so naturally they allow me to channel various energies through my work. I guess for a man I’ve always been rather in tune with my feelings and emotions, so I want to suck you into my world, even if it’s just for a brief moment. I want my work to captivate the viewer’s senses.

“Heartache Sit Down” 24in x 18in Acrylic and oil Otha David III

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Imagine a conversation with a stranger in which you have just told the person that you are an artist. Imagine also that you do not have samples of your work on hand and that the Internet is unavailable. How would you describe your works to that stranger? OD: That’s not as far fetched as you make it sound. All of my work tends to be abstract, as true realism is kind of boring for me. My art tends to evolve around women and it mainly touches on emotions and insecurities. I think these are things every human can relate with, no matter how confident you are. Personally I feel woman are the greatest work of art created, not to mention, they’re emotional beings, so I use women’s natural allure and sensitivity to my advantage. I’m very in tune with my emotions so I use the canvas to sort of…connect, let go and release. I want to invoke some sort of emotion when you view my work. I think that’s the main cohesive aspect of my work. I consistently use black, red and white in every piece as well. The combination is so powerful and really enhances the overall impact. I’ve heard a few random comparisons at times, but I’d like to think I’m forging new ground and creating my own distinct lane. I’m a fan first, so I just create things that I love. I just do me. 2. You mention in your statement about how art is therapeutic for you. Can you please expand on that more by talking about how art has helped quiet demons in your past? Lol well I wouldn’t say it quiets demons, per say. Honestly I don’t know how to describe it. Creating is just a thoughtless task for me. When I’m working, I’m just there in the moment. Nothing else really matters. It’s my creative release. Working in the music business, my days are mentally intense. It’s truly chess. It’s great to come home and not have to think so much or be strategic. I was really blessed with a gift. I just get a vision and work to bring that vision to life.

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“Toujours” 24in x 18in Acrylic and oil and watercolor Otha Davis III


36 in. x 36 in. Oil and watercolor Otha Davis III

“The Burden of Love”

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Your work “Morning Glory” is striking in how boldly and nakedly your subject is staring at us, the viewers. Tell us about the creation of that piece, from inspiration to completion. OD: Thank you! She’s one of my paintings that a lot of people connect with for some reason. Her stare is so captivating. I’ve found myself hypnotized quite a few times lol. Morning Glory is a piece I created that represents the strength, poise, confidence and natural beauty of the African-American woman in today’s society. She’s “Superwoman”, but more so out of necessity. There’s still a keen sense of vulnerability displayed and it doesn’t make her any less amazing. I think a lot of women, regardless of race, can relate with this.

work to bring that vision to life.

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“Morning Glory” 24in x 18in Acrylic Otha Davis III


“Heartache Sit Down” looks almost like a section of a stained glass window. When creating such a piece how do you determine the placement and sizes of the various shapes you used? And why is that portrait so fragmented with various shapes and colors? OD: People really love this one as well. She’s actually a piece from my Jazz-cubism collection; Billie Holiday to be specific. That explains the “fragmented sections” as you mentioned. Honestly, I just go with the flow. There’s not much extensive preplanning involved. I mean all of my pieces start out as an exact sketch of what you see painted, but it’s not like I plotted where the colors will go etc. I’ve only done that with the very first piece I did in this collection. A lot of my work is simply vision, experimentation and “mistakes”. Mistakes in creativity are amazing. I’ve stumbled onto so many new ideas by going with the flow and simply creating. I agree with your statement that women have a natural artistic allure. Does creating artistic representations of women help give you a better understanding of them? OD: I wouldn’t say it helps me have a better understanding. I’m actually blessed to be one of the few men that has a great understanding of women; if that’s possible. I was raised by my mother and have always had more female friends than male. I really spent time learning as much as possible and soaking up game directly from the source. I can definitely say it’s helped me tremendously in relationships. I’d say my work more displays my inner connection with them. “Ignorant Butterflies” 40in x 30in Acrylic and oil Otha Davis III

Mistakes in creativity are amazing

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Jeff Edwards (UK) What if it seemed everything was slipping away from you, your past, present even anticipated future? How would you see things; how would you remember where you came from and how you got to where you are now? Working almost entirely in analogue, I like to push the boundaries of how a photograph is viewed and perceived by physically altering my negatives and final prints to explore the many physical and psychological layers of the human body, and isolated structures. These subjects are intrinsically similar in that their identities are formed by their memories.

“Untitled 3� 50cm x 60cm Chromogenic Analogue Photograph Jeff Edwards

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Level 25 ArtJournal “Untitled 1” 50cm x 60cm Chromogenic Analogue Photograph Jeff Edwards

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I like to think about when art wa


Level 25 ArtJournal In an era in which it seems virtually all photographers have gone digital you still remain analogue, even in the techniques you use to manipulate or alter an image. I applaud that. Tell us why you have decided to remain attached to that process. JE: Well, years ago I started talking photography classes at Bristol Community College in the US and they were entirely black and white and I fell in love with the process. The way you have to think about all aspects of the image - from the camera, the negative, developing the film and finally processing the image. Watching that image appear from light to paper in liquid was amazing and I was hooked from then on. While I do sometimes use some aspects of the digital process I really think you lose most of the image and feeling when working entirely with digital. I also find more freedom working in an analogue format. I think that the image print has more permanence and durability, allowing me to be much more hands on and tactile. For example, with previous works I would actually hand stitch and burn prints which would leave finger prints and residue, so I needed to wipe the print with alcohol. You just can’t do that with a digital print, the ink would just smear and fade. All of your works are untitled. Is there a reason why titles are absent? Is it because you don’t wish to influence a viewer’s perception of each image? JE: This is something I struggle with constantly. I do not like to just throw any title on an image because it most certainly alters the viewer’s perception. If anything, when I must, I prefer more descriptive titles. While thinking up flamboyant titles can be fun, with my work it just isn’t necessary as it is primarily about the image and how you view it. Titles and statements are all secondary. Heavy handed titles are part of the problem of over-conceptualisation that the art world has been consumed by. I like to think about when art was primarily about visual beauty or documentation and how simplistic the titles were, yet they still sparked imagination and inspiration without saying anything and just being seen.

“Untitled 4” 50cm x 60cm Chromogenic Analogue Photograph Jeff Edwards

as primarily about visual beauty...

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Usually when a photographer photographs a building there is a sense that, no matter how much time has actually passed between when the photograph was taken and now, that the structure will remain that way forever, because it is frozen in a snapshot. However, in “Untitled 2” you have actually managed to create a photograph which tells the viewer, “Guess what? These ‘permanent structures’ will one day be dust.” What is it about the passage of time which fascinates you as an artist? JE: When I started my first serious photographic project it was about urban abandonment in a capitalist society. So I was photographing these grand and not so grand abandoned buildings scattered throughout New England. In particular hospitals, some abandoned for the better part of a century that were rotting away and falling in on themselves while new hospitals were erected. So I guess you could say that was my first experience of working with “time” while some of these buildings were replaced for progress others were sites of abuse and crime so they were abandoned from painful memory and trauma. Now what interest me in time is how it has shaped us and how our mind and memory perceive it. I use high rise flats in Glasgow which has become an iconic symbol of failure and poverty and I found it all the more fitting that this particular group of high rises is located next to a cemetery. Now some who have grown up in that building may have fond memories of life there while others may not, and I believe structures are remembered by the identity individuals have created for it. Memory is also a very particular construct where as time passes the memory changes or is lost or faded. So what really interests me is what we do and do not remember, why or why not we remember it and what impact that has had on an individual.

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Level 25 ArtJournal “Untitled 2” 50cm x 60cm Chromogenic Analogue Photograph Jeff Edwards

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Chromog

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I generally think more about what I wan then go from there..


“Untitled 5” 50cm x 60cm genic Analogue Photograph Jeff Edwards

Level 25 ArtJournal My favorite is “Untitled 5.” I love the way the vertical strokes are open to interpretation. Is she is being transported upwards or is she materializing down here from up above? Tell us about the conceptualization of that piece. I, personally, would like to hear your explanation for the positions of her hands. JE: This is actually one of my current favourites as well, and I like your idea of being transported up or down. I actually see it as she is dissolving or disappearing in a slow evaporation upwards. When I first started working with these new images the first “batch” were purely experimental. I wanted to make images that looked as if they were immerging, disappearing or fading but in mid action and I had a vague idea how to do it but I wasn’t exactly sure how. I wanted every stroke, line and detail to be in the negative rather than an addition or over lay to a print. Once I found the technique and the process and started to get a good feel for how it would turn out I saw that it would work with my ongoing project on identity, memory and the subconscious which is something I have been working with for a few years, and these in particular focusing on the fading of memory and time. Now as for the positioning of her hands, years ago the hands would have been tense with the nails showing tension on the chest or wherever they were located. This was originally done to create a sense of opening or revealing inwards and I would then create an opening in the negative and stitch over it or on the actual print to reveal what the print was mounted on which was aluminium. Now I see that gesture with these images as holding yet releasing so the hands are pressed against the skin allowing a sense of presence and pressure, yet they are opened allowing it to slip away. As an artist I am sure that you get many ideas for series or projects all the time. How do filter them and decide which are worth pursuing? JE: Personally I never approach my work as a project or create individual project ideas, and find that if I do it is very counterproductive and distracting as then the idea because more important than the work. I generally think more about what I want something to look and feel like visually and then go from there. Ideas for new work come to me all the time, some I know will be awful and others I am not too sure about so I try to pursue them all to an extent. If I don’t then they keep running around in my head, even the ones I know will be terrible I still try just so I know that yup that was a bad idea and that it isn’t worth thinking about anymore. It has led to some pleasant surprises at times as well where I proved myself wrong. There are also some ideas that I just can’t do right now either because of my location, funding or laws. There has been an idea in my head for ages that involves black powder but it isn’t so easy to come by in the UK, if I was back in the States I would have no problem at all! So for those types I keep a journal and jot everything down or I send myself a txt message for those times when I have nothing to write with.

nt something to look and feel like visually and 25

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Hayley Fullerton (UK) My own insecurities, are my inspiration. Like any other girl my age, these self doubts range from feeling too fat, not looking perfect, frustration with certain body parts and feeling pressure to be in shape. A lot of these issues are caused by celebrity magazines and reality television shows applying unnecessary pressure. It can be frustrating, lonely and boring when you start analyzing yourself and pulling on imperceptible fat. I’m becoming more aware of my body, aware of the changes and examining everything. My body influences my work and it is part of my everyday life. When I feel down about myself, my emotions become exaggerated and my mind imagines the worst. Females go through a lot of appearance issues such as stretch marks, pressures of ageing, scars, weight gain, weight loss, periods, size of breasts, genitals and imperfections and I try to reflect this in my work. The women I paint are not made up; they are self portraits and deal with issues which I feel insecure about.�

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“Sometimes I Want Hope” 27 24 in x 24 in Acrylic on board with wishbone Hayley Fullerton

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So what is it about rooms? Is it the limitations four walls represent? Is it the sense of confinement inherent in any room, no matter the size? HF: The rooms are representations of my own environment. I paint in a room which is claustrophobic and dark. This seems to have become a prominent subject in my work. I feel the room helps me create my paintings. In your statement you mention all of the societal and pop culture pressures placed on women to look a certain way. This has been recognized as a problem for decades, so how much anger is in your art that this paradigm still exists? HF: I feel magazines portray this glamorized world of perfection but it’s false. I have read through lots of magazines and everything is so perfect. I feel magazines give young girls and woman a false sense of what is beautiful. I sometimes use magazines as a starting point for subject matter. I want to ask about “The Presence of Nothingness…” Muted colors, almost monochromatic, really. A small room, a toilet and what I assume is the flush chain with a fish at the end of it. Talk about how the concept for this painting came to you and about the creation of it, please. HF: I became obsessed with dead creatures like a fish, squid and moths. These creatures are so beautiful and I like taking them out of their natural elements and put them in a dark abandoned room. The fish looks different hanging next to toilet and I wanted to show a sense of fragility and uselessness. This painting came from an installation I created in my own toilet where I nailed a fish to my ceiling and photographed it. I painted from the installation and I always make sure I am in a dark room while making the piece. 28

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...I wanted to show a se


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“The Presence of Nothingness� 24 in x 24 in Acrylic on board Hayley Fullerton

ense of fragility and uselessness.

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Level 25 ArtJournal “Sitting Room” 10.5 in x 11.5 in Acrylic on board Hayley Fullerton

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Now I would like to ask about “Sometimes I Want Hope.” There is violence done to that painting! Who are the two girls? And what about the scratches? HF: ”. I painted this piece and ended up engraving into it. I wanted to take my frustration out in my work. I was feeling angry and frustrated. My paintings normally have engraved stretch marks, scars etc. I like showing imperfections in my work and when I did it, it was a release. Who are your artistic influences? HF: My artistic influences are Tracey Emin, Marlene Dumas, Sarah Lucas, Francis Bacon and Jenny Saville. All these artists have influenced my practice and I feel my own style has been created. What do you want to accomplish with your art? HF: I make art because you can get away from reality and create something completely unusual. I love an idea being created with lines and paint. I want to accomplish by having my own collection of incredible pieces and to see my work change throughout my practice. So tell the world now, of the works you shared with Level 25 Artjournal this month, which one is the most personal to Hayley Fullerton? HF: The work most personal piece to me is “The Stench”. This piece took me a long while to create and so much emotion went in. 31

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Level 25 ArtJournal “The Stench� 24 in x 24 in Acrylic on board Hayley Fullerton

I make art because you can get away from reality and create something completely unusual..

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Dagmar Hrickova Cover Artist (Czech Republic) In my painting, people are existing and inhabiting the space equally and even the smallest paintings all fit together in a specific way and allow each individual to dwell into the dreamlike and surreal, sometimes fantastic scenes that reflect vague memories of childhood and adolescence. My goal is also to capture the essence of a feeling of escapism, loneliness,or a thought, where images are floating and blending with the background. Limitless possibilities, and at the same time, nothingness. Itis likely that the urge to confront this subject matter comes from achildhood spent growing up in a small industrial town in Czech Republic. However, my new concept is about unhappiness-the desire of people to be someone else or look like someone else.I have been struggling for a long time with my identity after deciding to work towards my creative passions.I became very free and confident about my decisions, failuresand the real myself.

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“Piercing” Level 25 ArtJournal Oil on linen Dagmar Hrickova

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Level 25 ArtJournal Your paintings are very much about identity. But I see it as identity two ways: one is your identity; the other is the viewer’s identity. I want to start with your identity. Since you speak in your statement about how your childhood memories are connected to your creativity, tell us specifically what about your childhood fuels your art, please. DH: I think that mostly the suburban industrial place in Czech Republic I grew up in imprinted on me… memories from childhood, travels, personal histories; people loitering on street corners, in doorways.I extended the field of references to situations and processes that are grounded in local realities. Realities of this small suburban town, for better or worse, are part of me. Although the work is dark and brooding, there is

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“Childhood Memories 1” 30 cm x 40 cm Oil on linen Dagmar Hrickova

always a ligh

Now let’s dis al, somewha about ourse

DH: I want t eryone feels skies, landsc


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ht which represents hope. I’m mostly interested in telling intimate stories.

to share little bit of an intimate feelings- of uncertainty, uneasiness, instability.I know that evlike that sometimes, but lots of people are ashamed to accept it or talk about it. These surreal capes that are sort of teeming with the personal stories and histories that anybody can relate to.

I’m mostly interested in telling intimate stories.

scuss the viewer’s identity. Your paintings have the ability to draw people into that surreat ghostly world you create. So…while we are in that world what is it you want us to learn elves?

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Level 25 ArtJournal “Restlessness” 60 cm x 60 cm Oil on linen Dagmar Hrickova

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Level 25 ArtJournal Describe for us your creative process, please. From concept to completion, what does Dagmar Hrickova do in order to create such works? DH: Speaking of the process, it is something extremely unpredictable with lots of failures involved. I would describe my concepts as a summary of a 25 years long journey from childhood till now. I don’ t usually make any preparatory studies, before I begin the actual work and I do challenge the painting along the way a lot so it usually ends up looking completely different than intended.. I begin by creating a collage of old photographs, Polaroids, objects that serve me as a reference for my work. However all my evolution is taking place on the canvas and in my head. Very often, it is an absolute chaos. I do work mostly with oil paint but also using charcoals, textile, photography, experimenting. I think one has to take the risks and not to get too comfortable in one way of working. There are many abandoned works which will never be finished. But If I sum up the whole process, I do not worry about the trends.

“Childhood Memories 2” 30 cm x 40 cm Oil on linen Dagmar Hrickova

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“Rain” 80 cm x 60 cm 40 Oil on linen Dagmar Hrickova

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I would like to ask you about your painting “Rain.� I believe this is a work which invites endless interpretations depending on who is viewing it. I, for example, can empathize with the figure in the center as I often feel isolated as the rest of the world and Life all blends into a hazy nothingness in which very little can be discerned. But tell us what brought about this painting, please. DH: Yes, you are right and I am happy you felt exactly what I wanted to transmit .It is a mixture of memories from childhood after years distancing myself from its influence. Only now I am letting the aesthetics and patterns of that period come into my work. However, I painted this work in New York shortly after I arrived. It is a capital of loneliness, where people eat alone, think alone, talk alone. For me, this painting sums up the feeling of isolation, fragility and instability. On the other side of that, I am an optimist. Very often it take me a while to understand why I have painted what I have painted, truly. Your self-portrait is striking. Tell us, what compels an artist to recreate herself on canvas and how do you decide exactly how you will portray yourself once you Interesting question. Some artists do nothing but self portraits as it’ s usually the subject we are supposed to know the best. I decided to paint a portrait of mine after such a long time of painting practice because its only now I begin to understand who I really am. It is the feeling you can look at yourself in the mirror, slowly and deeply without fear. For me this self-portrait serves as a psychological mirror.

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“Self Portrait” 40 cm x 40 cm Oil on linen Dagmar Hrickova

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You have done many showings. When an artist shows his or her work there is a certain level of vulnerability in that act. How do you cope with that vulnerability? DH: It’ s a total risk, it can be very intimidating but in my opinion ,whatever the artist does and does it with passion and drive, there is no such a thing as a failure. Of course that one encounters lots of uncomfortable situations but you know, once one accepts himself/herself fully, the fear of being judged evaporates. Over time I have met a great deal of people who work with and who have been giving me a constructive criticism and I am very grateful for that.

...once one accepts herself fully, the fear of being judged evaporates. 44

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Level 25 ArtJournal “Lost in Thought” 40 cm x 50 cm Oil on linen Dagmar Hrickova

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Melissa Huang (US)

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“Melissa” 36 in x 48 in Oil on canvas Melissa Huang


Level 25 ArtJournal Initially, I was drawn to art because of its potential for social change. As a young feminist, I am eager to change people’s minds about what is beautiful and what is important, particularly in regards to gender and sexuality. The naturalistic, figurative oil paintings I create draw upon symbols and scenes from my childhood. While one painting can focus on how a religious upbringing affected my sexuality, another uses dolls to represent my conflicted relationship with femininity. These pieces are full of things that are beautiful and delicate, contrasted with objects or people that don’t quite fit. Certain aspects of my work address art historical gender inequality. A specific example that springs to mind is one of my recent paintings, “Drew”, featuring a semi-nude male figure and its companion piece, a fully clothed female figure. By creating a modern day male Odalisque I hope to flip stereotypes of male and female roles in the art world. I intend to further develop the presence of the female gaze in my paintings while subverting audience expectations. Equal opportunity objectification is not the end goal; however, I find it an important step to recognize the aesthetic appeal of the nude male form as seen by a female creator. I am influenced by contemporary artists addressing third wave feminist issues as well as by the current political climate surrounding women’s bodily autonomy. I hope to add to the artistic dialogue around themes of women, gender, and sexuality through a new series of work and to share my perspective on femininity with those who view my paintings.

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Level 25 ArtJournal Let me start off with a fairly simple question: When I look at your work I see a handful of influences. But I would like to hear from you who your artistic influences are. MH: Currently, the artists I’m most influenced by are Jenny Saville, Kerry James Marshall, and Sylvia Sleigh (How many artists can I list? I’d like to keep going!) I usually find figurative work the most striking, particularly figurative paintings with a message. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about Renaissance altarpieces and have tried to incorporate similar symbols and techniques into my work. You mention in your statement about wanting to “change people’s minds about what is beautiful and what is important.” I support that sentiment and I support your belief that art can be a medium for social change. Therefore, tell us how you define “beautiful.” MH: Beauty is subjective, but we often view a Western perspective as somehow being objectively best. Even though I think, for instance, that Renaissance paintings are aesthetically appealing, other people might not. And that’s ok! People like what they like, but we should remember that not everyone has the same background or stylistic preferences. One of the series I’m working on includes many paintings of men. Images depicting women are everywhere, but artwork depicting the male form is rare. There are people who believe women’s bodies are naturally beautiful while men’s bodies are somehow unappealing; you even sometimes hear this from people who are attracted to men. I think that men’s bodies are beautiful and feel it’s important for women-created work depicting men be created and shown. Right now I’m doing a Female Gaze Friday series on my blog, where I showcase works of art created by women of men. It’s been a fun and eye-opening experience! There are many women whose images of the male nude have been censored, and whose careers have been jeopardized by these biases. I think beauty is subjective, but we should be aware of the institutional biases against certain types of imagery. Now let me speak about specific works of yours... I will start with your beautiful “Self-portrait As A Young Woman.” Obviously, many, many artists create self-portraits, but speak about, please, what it took for you to create a nude self-portrait: How did you find the courage to overcome the vulnerability of exposing yourself on a canvas for the world to see?

MH: I painted Self Portrait as a Young Woman during a class in Florence in which my teacher had us do a final presentation of our work. This included shots of our work in progress, explanations of the concepts, that sort of thing. When preparing my presentation she asked if we could see the reference photo. That was much more difficult for me than the painting! A painting is like being clothed in a way. Everything I show in a painting I choose to show. A photograph captures all of the little details I ma But for me, a nude self portrait felt pretty good! It was almost relieving, in a way. I’m comfortable with m ity and the pressures put upon young women, and in keeping with my vision the painting is more effecti

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ay not be comfortable with. my body and think the nude human form is beautiful. The piece deals with issues of sexualive nude. “Play� 20 in x 20 in Oil on canvas Melissa Huang

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A painting is like being clothed in a way. Everything I show in a painting I choose to show.

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“Self Portrait as a Young Woman� 41 in x 31.5 in Oil on canvas Melissa Huang

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Level 25 ArtJournal That just isn’t any fruit in “Self-portrait...;” it is a pomegranate, which is rich in symbolism when used in art and literature. What is the pomegranate meant to tell the viewer in this case? MH: Good eye! Viewers of this painting always ask me about the pomegranates, and I’ve found that everyone has a different interpretation. Pomegranates represent forbidden fruit (Persephone being tempted and trapped in the underworld by Hades), and fertility (because of their many seeds). I’m using pomegranates here to represent the time in a woman’s life where she may be torn between the purity demanded by our society and the pull towards sexual knowledge. For me, sexuality and religion are impossible to untangle, and everything I learned as a child influences who I am today. For a long time I felt betrayed and trapped in a place I didn’t want to be. This painting is a way of expressing some of the anger and confusion I was feeling. The two dolls in “Play” seem almost angry with one another, positioned as they are as if in confrontation. I suppose I

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Level 25 ArtJournal should connect this with the declaration in your statement about how you use dolls to represent your “conflicted relationship with femininity.” Can you expand upon that, please? Describe the conflict you have with femininity. MH: I use gendered toys like dolls to create a feeling of being angry and trapped. This ties in to Self Portrait as a Young Woman in that I felt trapped in a child-like state. Play sexualizes a feminine, seemingly innocent toy. One of the things I didn’t consider until afterward is that I know quite a few women who played dirty games with their dolls as a child. I mean, Ken comes home and has an orgy with all the other Barbie dolls, that type of thing. Sometimes women will look at this painting and either share their childhood fantasizing or just give me a knowing nod. And believe me, some of the things that young girls are creating stories about are pretty intense. Not that an eight year old will actually go out and do something sexual, it’s just a way of exploring their fantasies and sexuality in a safe environment.

“Drew” 48 in x 36 in Oil on canvas Melissa Huang

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“Play II” 20 in x 20 in Oil on canvas Melissa Huang

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Level 25 ArtJournal “Play II” is one of my favorite works of yours because it shows a scene which, to me, represents my perfect idea of how to spend a weekend morning. However, I fear that my mind is simply hanging on to that vision and refusing to look deeper. Therefore, what am I missing? What is “Play II?” MH: You’re actually pretty much on point! Play II is a painting of two of my close friends. They’ve been together for a while now and are still so in love. I wanted to capture that quiet, sleepy feeling you have when you care for someone so much and just want to lay there and hold each other. I created this as a companion piece to Play, so sadly I will ruin some of the sweetness of the scene. I think one of the reasons I was so eager to paint my friends is that I wanted what they have. I was going through a strange time in my life and felt like I could never find something like that. So while I made a self-portrait where I was frozen in time, playing with angry dolls, I made a companion piece of two people who really love one another. Obviously, the world at large has a long way to go yet in improving its representations of women, especially in popular culture and the arts. Many female artists are addressing this in their works. However, what would you like to see male artists do to help fix this? MH: One of the easiest ways to help is to consider your reactions to art by women or art that focuses on feminine subjects. I’ve seen a lot of knee-jerk reactions from men that they can’t relate to a painting because it deals with things that are thought of as for women. I think if we look a little deeper, we can relate to art that deals with an identity other than our own. While my art is often about female sexuality and gender roles, anyone can relate to the larger themes of feeling trapped, pressured, or left behind. Men in the art world holding positions of power can look at the demographics of the gallery they run or the shows they jury. Women aren’t asking for a leg up, we’re asking for fair representation. At a time when 51% of visual artists are women and only 5% of the artworks in US museums are by women, we have a problem. And knowing that and considering it in the decision making process is a step in the right direction.

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Eve Laws (UK) The relation of the disintegrating and distorted figure. One of the significant fears of humanity is an awareness of its own mortality. We shall always question the possibilities of what – if anything – lies beyond our final passing. On that final moment when oxygen leaves our lungs forever, when we take our final breath, perhaps utter our final word – what then? Life is uncertain, and the possibilities of an after-life even more so. What is certain is that our bodies, our shells, will eventually lay cold in a final resting place. The thought of death leaves us with an uncanny chill yet it is one of the only things, throughout our race’s existence, that we have never come to fully comprehend. My paintings explore the reality of the decaying human body through resin, oil application and mark making. Our flesh attains a transformation – an uncanny new form of beauty through the natural distortion of the self. Through anatomical drawings and photographs I explore the relation of the disintegrating and distorted figure. We rot, yet our form and the spectrum of colour created in the decomposing process, takes our bodies to a new form of universal power. Death, the omnipotent figure, is a creator of true beauty.

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Level 25 ArtJournal “Broth” 78 in x 66 in Oil on canvas Eve Laws

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Level 25 ArtJournal Your statement is laden with references to mortality and death; yet your paintings (at least those which you submitted to us) have a brightness and lightness to them as if they reference springtime and rebirth, with colorful tendrils of paint reminiscent of flowers. Tell us how to “read” a painting like “Face Down and Flat.” EL: Although it maybe of interest to a viewer to have inside information about the specific inspiration behind my work (and I should emphasise that I’m responding, of course, very directly to your specific question) I want my paintings in this form to remain deliberately ambiguous. Having said that: ‘Face Down and Flat’ was inspired by a photograph of a cadaver – a female palm and thigh – and the metal trolley in the anatomy rooms at Newcastle University used to transport her. I am delighted that you (and other viewers who have commented on my work) feel that my paintings resemble something floral and beautiful, because my intent here is to question the relationship of something that is generally viewed as chilling or disturbing with a viewer response that, instead, sees only beauty. “Salt” 66 in x 78 in Oil and animal bone on canvas Eve Laws

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Level 25 ArtJournal I consider my work to be not only figurative abstract in general, but also paintings of sensation (rather than descriptive). The latter remark has been made in relation to Monet, although there is no direct correlation between what I am producing and Monet’s style. Although I know what is behind every brushstroke of my work, I do not wish to pre-determine a response from the viewer, but instead create for that viewer an engaging individual response. The colour spectrum in the human decomposition process and the form of the corpse throughout this process can be strangely beautiful. Like springtime, nature has initiated it. Beauty in both life and death takes many forms. In ‘Face Down and Flat’ I also used animal bone (that of a Muntjac deer, which had died of natural causes). I allow the paint a meticulous amount of control and blend the thick, tactile lumps of bone into the canvas. I have a deep interest in anthropology and have been studying the work of several forensic anthropologists. For instance, Dr. Steve Symes, during research, studies the effects of saw marks on bones for forensic research. Other anthropologists for example deliberately set alight limbs to view the burning process and its effects. These are just two examples of what I find to be fascinating research. In my own work, I wanted to experiment with bone and discover its relationship with paint.

“Branch” 60 in x 72 in Oil on canvas Eve Laws

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Your paintings have a very dynamic quality to them. They seem to dance wonderfully. They have the appearance of works which were created quickly, but with care. But am I right about the speed with which you work? Or is your painting process far more deliberate and time-consuming? EL: I spend a great deal of time on preparation. I study anatomical specimens and cadavers in great detail, using pencil to detail areas whilst leaving other areas open to question. I can make several sketches before arriving at a particular drawing that inspires a painting. I work in an instinctive manner. Colour charts come into that factor and I spend a great deal of time observing the hues of decomposition. I would describe myself as a perfectionist and spend a great deal of time preparing the canvasses also. During the actual painting process, I focus considerably on intricate and complex areas, my favourite part of the whole process. In other areas of the canvas the paint takes more control. I do enjoy letting resin control the oil; that way, the piece becomes more organic as I am working. I can also be particularly self-critical. Sometimes I put a painting to one side and return with a fresh mind a few weeks later to finish it. My favorite piece of yours in this magazine is “Please Do Not Disarticulate.” Your use of white, in particular, is masterful. I feel like I’m looking at a dream when I stare at that piece. Talk us through the painting, please. Tell us what Eve Laws sees in it. EL: Thank you for your kind words. I visit anatomy labs very frequently and I took great inspiration from the clinical nature of the labs themselves. A particular favourite drawing of mine also features in this piece; I spent about 4 hours observing and sketching a sliced midriff section of a preserved human face. Again, although I enjoy the power that my initial drawings hold in my paintings, over-analysis can ‘kill’ a piece of art – I wish for the flow of the paint and the intricate detail to do the talking. I personally find the mist-like white quite disorientating, as if it is covering and hiding something.

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We have a primitive childhood desire to touch.

“Face Down and Flat� 78 in x 66 in Oil and animal bone on canvas Eve Laws

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“Please Do Not Disarticulate” 72 in x 60 in Oil on canvas Eve Laws


Level 25 ArtJournal The colour spectrum, again, is inspired by my decomposition colour charts. Tactility is heavily present, not just in this piece. We have a primitive childhood desire to touch. Viewers have described how much they wish to feel the paint although it is forbidden; yet that which we wish to touch and what at first seems quite beautiful and attractive, is also repelling. I find your view of my painting very interesting and personally pleasing. I have a great interest in the subconscious mind. After all, as said by Edgar Allen Poe, “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?” I look at your paintings and I don’t fear death. Is that your goal; to make people aware of death but not fear it? EL: Thank you for putting this so well. I strive to achieve the connection of beauty and nature with the subject, as well as our personal connection to the matter and our subconscious relation. I want the viewer to leave with the subject still in thought. Give us your Art Bucket List. Name 3 things you’d like to achieve as an artist before you face your own mortality. EL: Turner Prize, please! I would love to continue what I’m doing – it’s a tough world for artists to succeed, but all I want to do is continue working and painting as it is my passion. I have been astonished since I graduated this July; I have won a national prize, have exhibited at a number of fantastic locations, sold a major work to an international client, have established connections with a number of galleries, and I’m currently in discussion with an international art dealer on exhibitions abroad. This has all happened very quickly and I’m learning an awful lot about the business as I go on. However, I am taking none of this for granted and my passion for my work continues unabated. I’d also love to meet my greatly admired artists. For example, Glenn Brown and Caravaggio (if the latter was still alive!)

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Chris Mear (UK)

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Level 25 ArtJournal The result of four years of photographing the county of Leicestershire, the county in which I grew up, a county infamous for; pork pies, stilton cheese, fox hunting and not unlike many other parts of England, has a long and proud coal mining heritage. My interest was to photograph a point in time that feels like the final stages of a significant transitional period in the region’s history. With the the people of the coal mining communities now reaching their final years of life alongside the development of thousands of trees (planted throughout the region since 1990) now beginning to take shape as the “National Forest”, a very new direction and way of life is now setting in. My motive was to capture this feeling transition and uncertainty. Tanzania assumed its present form in 1964, and it currently remains one of the poorest countries in the world with many of its people living below the World Bank poverty line. It has however had some success in wooing donors and investors over the years managing to avoid much of the internal strife that has blighted many African countries.

“ “Freddie and George” West End Club Coalville Chris Mear

My photographs of the country - made in 2011, juxtapose the similarities and differences in the ambition, needs and the wants of a life lived by the rich and the poor Tanzanian and of that fat white man just passing through on the popular East African safari circuit.

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Level 25 ArtJournal There is a truth to your photos. They have a very documentary style which offers an unadorned vision of what you see. How difficult is it to achieve that? CM: Photography is subjective. I have total control over when and where, what to include and what not to exclude in every frame. It’s my own interpretation of reality - it can’t be “truth”, I’m leaving out to much important information. But I have truthful intention, and thats the important thing that I have to keep in check - my intentions. Because I don’t won’t to lie or harm, or be judgmental. I want to learn, and I want to describe what I learn - the way we lived during the period I lived. The more unanswered questions I can raise through my pictures the better - I think. Most people who own cameras seem to also own a misconception about photography. They seem to believe that there are strict rules for what makes a “good” photo: the subject must be centered in the frame; the person must be smiling; everything must be in focus; etc… So I need to ask you, as a photographer, why do you believe that even after 150 years of photography being in existence it is so hard to get people to think differently about what makes a “good” photograph? CM: I don’t know if it is? A good photograph’s a good photograph - it’s as simple as that really - you know it when you see it, thats one of the reasons I love photography - it’s a very unpretentious medium. I think though you also have to take into account why people are taking photographs. Most everyone has a camera of some description in their pocket these days, and most of these people take photographs everyday - but they’re not thinking about their next book publication or art exhibition. They’re thinking about adding it to a Facebook album - they’re capturing a personal memory to take home to Mum and Dad. And for this purpose the age old “rules” of focus and smiles seem pretty sound to me. When it comes to people who actually want to call themselves photographers though, I think craft and technique should come second to what it is you are actually doing - especially nowadays. It’s all very well being very good at something, but I’m much more interested and moved by a real, original and honest story than I am by a story I’ve heard twenty times before, but just happens to be done very well. The influence of past masters can be to much at times as well - at least I’ve felt that way. It’s all very well being inspired and loving the work of William Eggleston for example, but if you want to be a photographer in your own right there has to be a point when you say ‘enough of that, it’s time to do it my way’ Your photographs of Leicestershire are personal seeing how you grew up there. Do you feel compelled to capture the region in your photographs because you expect it to become almost unrecognizable in the near future?

CM: Yes, but I think that’s one of the major motives for all photographers, past and present - well, documentary ones at least. Things change, thats one fact of life we can all be certain of, and photography is the perfect medium to articulate that fact. But as much as I want my pictures to be historically important and record passing time, I also want more. Diane Arbus said “the more specific you are the more general it will be”. And I think I’m slowly beginning to understand what she meant by that. ‘Disintegrating Histories’ for example is on one hand a straight up survey of the development of the NW Leicestershire coalfield since it ceased production, but on another hand it describes many internationally relevant themes at the moment, regarding the current economic state of our little planet. The decline of industry, cultural identity, unemployment, community, and so on. These are all things that those pictur want people to get out of my pictures what they will though, which is why I’m hesitant to say in any certain terms ‘this is wh

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I want to learn, and I wan


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“Coca-Cola” Tanzania Chris Mear

res talk about - when I look at them at least. I hat it is’ because I only know what it is for me.

nt to describe what I learn...

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Level 25 ArtJournal Your photo called “A Popular Supermarket Café” performs something of a magic trick in that even though we know that it was taken fairly recently it looks like it has captured a snapshot of time from 50 or 60 years ago. Is it easy to achieve such an effect photographing in Leicestershire County? And do you believe many people living in Leicestershire County have a kind of “old-fashioned” self-identity not only about themselves but about their region? CM: It’s not specifically an easy thing to achieve photographing in Leicestershire, no. And I don’t go out to make the world look old fashioned either - I want to record this little bit of time that I happen to be knocking about in. I think the “old fashioned magic trick” says more about photography and the way in which we view photography than anything else - because I do get told that a lot, and I see it myself in the picture. But its not something I actively set out to achieve. I don’t think they have an old fashioned self-identity - well, maybe the older people I photographed in Disintegrating Histories do. But I think the majority of Leicestershire is suffering from a lack of self-identity since the coal industry ceased production. Because that industry was literally at the center of everything - from putting food on the table to knowing everyones business nothing’s filled the hole it left in the community really. What was it that made you visit Tanzania? CM: I went as a volunteer as part of the pilot for International Citizen Service – it is a government funded project in which a selection of British based charities are funded to send 18- to 22-year-olds to developing countries to help with international development. I am sure that most Westerners (the “fat white” people which you mention in your statement) who visit a poor place like Tanzania and bring their cameras with them take photographs only as a means of documenting their travels and showing the folks back home a far off and exotic place they have visited. However, you seem to have approached it differently. What did you feel your responsibility was as a Westerner with a camera in Tanzania? CM: To be honest I really struggled as a photographer, because I was straight out of uni with an opportunity to add an Africa project to my portfolio - and I put a lot of pressure on myself, you know, to make the cliche hard-hitting journalistic story of poverty stricken Africa. And also my primary role there wasn’t as a photographer, but the biggest reason for my struggle was because as soon as I stepped off the plane, Tanzania snatched all of my preconceptions and booted them into the indian ocean! Everyday I experienced the widest smiles and the kindest of hearts. I just began documenting my experience really, and then one day we visited a particular village. It was located next to a gravel mine, where the majority of the villages income comes from. The responsibility of earning that income however is placed firmly on the shoulder of the female - the women and girls. I went into the mine to make some pictures, and the defining moment of my time in Tanzania happened.

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“A Popular Supermarket Cafe” Whitwick Chris Mear


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Level 25 ArtJournal She was about 13 or 14 - maybe younger, and she was right in-front of me as I entered her place of work. It was pitch black - only a few tea lights placed on the floor every so often, there was a constant cloud of dust caused by the gravel, which made it harder to breath the further from the only way in and out you went, and there was no plan - they were just digging, around and around, the roof collapsed in front of us - it happens all the time. But as I was going in the girl in-front of me turned around and looked straight at me with an expression I could only read as fear - I put my camera to my face and got the picture, I’ll never forget her. A few hours later I found myself in a tourist packed restaurant in town, with a plate full of food - far more than I needed, and a bottle of coke. I think this is the first time I actually realized how unjust the world is, and it didn’t sit well with me, and I still struggle with it - I feel uncomfortable and guilty. I’m the fat white man, stuffing my face on the popular East African safari circuit. I’m not really sure what my responsibility as a photographer was, other than to try and take advantage of my unique position with one foot in two different worlds. I wanted to celebrate the local people and Tanzanian way of life and I wanted to confront my own wealthy greed and selfishness. I do intend to go back in the near future to work on a project with slightly more structure and photographic awareness of what I am doing. (I have made a book of this work called Life is Life, Hakuna Matata. From which all the money I receive I am donating the the Rural Community Network - the NGO I worked alongside. www.christophermear.com)

“Girl” Tanzania Chris Mear

Lastly, it seems that since the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001 and the attacks on London of July 7, 2005, photographers are now viewed with a certain level of suspicion as they wander around cities taking photos of landmarks and people. Have you experienced such suspicion yourself? And how do you make your subjects feel at ease with you and your camera? CM: A little, although I don’t photograph cities so much. But I have experienced it a few times. I think you need to accept it, 9/11 was a defining moment, the worlds guard suddenly went up and so it should. I know there are a lot of photographers who are up in arms about being ‘treated like terrorists’ - and trying to fight against it, but most of the time it isn’t about treating photographers like terrorists, it about being ‘better safe than sorry’, thats a phrase I was brought up with and I find a great deal of comfort living by. If you’re doing nothing wrong and have nothing to hide then what’s the problem with a few questions about ‘what are you taking pictures of?’ I just smile, explain myself and embrace it. For me photography is about interacting with the world anyway, so suspicion is just another interaction. In terms of making my subjects feel at ease I’m just honest and smile. I smile can still go along way you know.

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I think this is the first time I actually realized how unjust the world is... 71

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Archana Mishra (India) Right from the birth till being mature to give birth to a new life, I am blessed to experience every emotional feeling as a woman. At the very tender age itself, I realized that the Lord who created this Universe has scattered upon this earth diverse hues and forms and varied patterns, but maintained similarity in spirit of emotions that flow through these creations. This is the only reason why we are able to simply collegiate equally with the living and non-living objects of this earth. Sensing this minor yet mysterious knowledge has swayed me away into a very different thrilling and spirited world, the world, where everything is spiritual and very dear. It has a spell of magic from which I am not able to come out, or it would be apt to say that I willingly deny coming out. With times, this affection has compelled me to develop a very different kind of world by giving forms and coloring these emotions. At the age of thirteen I was thrilled by my very own, first creation of this aura. It guided me to vent my creativity in an influential manner. I loved to work in Print etching style and the period from 1993-1998 is most cherished period for me. This is the period when all the dimensions that were necessary for my creativity, were unveiling before me and I happily ventured towards my creative world. In 1999, I acquired lot of success in the field of Art, but for me the most valued thing was appreciation by S. H .Raza who praised my work and said, “You age is too small for the kind of artwork that you have created, it is a rare entity to find such thought in the youth of your age. Your creative world is bright so let it flow continuously.” These precious few words of appreciation made me realize that the surge of feelings in my creations is capable of binding the attention of beholders. Thus, I was ready to bind the world into the magical spell of my creative world.

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“Volcano Cup” 72 in x 72 in Mixed media on canvas Archana Mishra


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Level 25 ArtJournal “Volcano� 24 in x 24 in Acrylic on canvas Archana Mishra

How do you define your art? AM: Art is world of expressions which artist use to convey intangible emotions. Art is filled with answers to many mind-boggling questions. Through my art I want to express all forms of nature since my belief is that the answers to all our questions lies within nature. Nature is highly complicated and simple at the same time. Questions stirring from ups and downs in human emotions can be found in the simplicity of nature. All you need is to understand it. Change in climate changes things around it, and natural destruction is the source is the foundation of creativity. Every situation is natural and simple. Due to numerous such factors I am always attracted to nature.

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...nature and human emotion


Level 25 ArtJournal “Untitled” 24 in x 24 in Acrylic on canvas Archana Mishra

We could not help but notice that 4 of the 5 pieces of yours which weare featuring in this issue have the word “volcano” in their title. That has to be far more than a coincidence. Do you live near a volcano? Are you attracted to volcanos as an artist? And if so, why? AM: Volcano is my the favorite topic. Even though I have never seen an actual one I have experienced the heat, explosions and its serene turbulence’s within myself many times. Volcano plays big role in human existence. Its exploding power destroys relationship by tearing apart layers by layers. It has always amazed me and remained a mystery .It is impossible to keep volcano hidden and cold . Its explosion is certain and the ferocity at which it comes out depends on how you nurture it in yourself. At the same time, if you take its pressure out yourself in time. Its destructive power can be minimized. I wish to work on this topic lifelong.

ns are analogous to each other.

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Level 25 ArtJournal Destructive volcanos , hurricane’s and twisters churns the emotions and awakens the artist inside me to explore the deepest depth point. Your paintings don’t just lie flat on the canvas. There is a very tactile element to your works. As an artist and a person what do you feel you gain from being able to mold and shape the materials you work with? AM: To express my art, I don’t rely on one specific medium. It is true that all my creations are curved. In nature things are not just flat or round . Only through touch you can experience and relish different curvature’s. Even scientifically each atom has particular shape. Similarly, emotion which is the base of all ups and downs in life cannot be flat and plane. Every living and non living being can be found in different shapes. Similarly I feel the need to use different shapes and dimensions to express my art. That is why apart from different colors I use different objects accordingly in my painting. I have used different texture of nature and combine them to convey unreal facts. In the art forming process expressing state of my mind is very important aspect and I use any object needed and not just limited to colors to get the job done. The city of Mumbai has influenced you and has obviously spoken to your creative side. Tell our readers, please, what it is about Mumbai which makes you feel like you have found a creative home. AM: Mumbai people from different walks of life and different dreams comes every day here and often loses them self in the process of finding a lot of materialistic things.The friction of local trains ,offices and responsibility is shortening the life itself and before we notice life disappears. Usually we hand over ourself to emotions. But here in mumbai, every emotion is handled at surface level. People instead of letting out their emotions and dealing and expressing them fully they keep hiding it under layers and in time it becomes bad and finally comes out and destroys their relations in life.The topic of volcano is too complex to put it on canvas I have to think a lot in the process like why it is like this and how it can be stopped.

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“Volcano Waterfall” 80 in x 80 in Acrylic on canvas Archana Mishra


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“Waterfall” 36 in x 48 in Acrylic on canvas Archana Mishra

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Heidi Phelps (US) Heidi is the founder of Wayward Broad Studio, a one-woman renegade art studio in Adams Morgan, DC that promotes empowerment for women and awareness of women’s issues through creative expression. Heidi’s passion and drive to create art can be succinctly summarized by a famous quote from Jean-Luc Godard: Il faut confronter les idées vagues avec les images claires (“One must confront vague ideas with clear images”). Indeed, she is fascinated by the process of giving shape and form to ideas through images and conveying multiple messages through visual art. Wayward Broads is an exhibition of 18 screen printed art pieces that showcase images and stories that evoke literary, historical and mythological depictions of women, inspiring audiences to consider how women are so often vilified or canonized (sometimes both!) for behavior that goes against cultural norms.

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“Saint Teresa of Avila” 11 in x 14 in Two-color screen print on canvas Heidi Phelps

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Level 25 ArtJournal “Women’s issues,” which you mention in your statement is rather vague. What particular issues does your art address? HP: My work tends to focus on female sinners and saints, the Madonna v. the whore, and women who are all over the ethical spectrum, but with one common thread they are all considered “wayward”, or going against their culture’s definition of acceptable behavior. The mission of Wayward Broad Studio is to get people thinking about how we define both personally and culturally “good” v. “bad” behavior for women, and what aspects of women’s behavior we choose to focus on in pop culture, literary works, fairy tales, folklore and the media. What do we glorify and what do we shun? How do we perceive and treat women that go against our expectations of what is “right” and what is “wrong”? The works you submitted to us are stunning and eyecatching in their use of colors and/or contrasts. Tell us, please, how you came to adopt this style. HP: I’m attracted to stark, high contrast images that reflect a punk rock/DIY style. I grew up listening to punk and garage rock, which emphasizes nofrills, strippeddown equipment, simple beats and rhythms infused with raw energy, anger, frustration, aggression and passion. Handmade black and white photocopied music zines definitely made a strong visual impact on me early on, as did growing up in and around Providence, RI in the late 80’s/early 90’s, where there was a strong underground music scene, solid independent record stores and vintage clothing shops, and things like Shepard Fairey’s “Andre the Giant has a posse” stickers were ubiquitous. I was too young at the time to participate in all that was happening or to even fully understand it, but there was this sense of a genuinely “alternative” culture that really appealed to me, and this feeling of making your ideas heard through whatever means and materials you have at your disposal. I think all of these things contribute to the bold lines, stark contrasts and handdrawn/homemade quality of my digital and screen printed pieces. Other visual/style influences include vintage midcentury sewing patterns and Victorian fashion plates, late 19th c. French art nouveau lithographs (I actually made a pilgrimage to Henri de ToulouseLautrec’s house a few years ago in Albi, France because of this), and classic horror/scifi (Twilight Zone, Bride of Frankenstein).

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“La Novia Muerta” 11 in x 14 in Screen print on paper Heidi Phelps


Level 25 ArtJournal “Saint Teresa of Avila” 11 in x 14 in Screen print on paper Heidi Phelps

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Level 25 ArtJournal I want to ask about your work “La Marquise de Merteuil.” As simply as she is drawn she still seems so dynamic and alive. Tell us why you chose her as a subject and also how you determined the style with which you would represent her. HP: I think it’s the way she’s turning and the striking black/white contrast that makes the Marquise pop out from the background and seem like she’s moving, or about to move. I also think that her offcenter placement gives the viewer the sense that she’s dynamic or not staying still. A lot of my portraits (the Marquise de Merteuil, my veiled Victorian ladies, Joan of Arc print and my newest piece Olga of Kiev included) have an intensity in the eyes that remind you they are, in fact, “alive” beings with thoughts, anger, determination, passion. La Marquise de Merteuil is a notorious main character in the epistolary novel Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos de Laclos. I chose her because of her dark, deceptive nature and the fact that she uses sex as a weapon to exact revenge on her enemies. She’s one of the reasons why Les Liaisons Dangereuses has historically been condemned as an “amoral” story. I like to get people thinking about why it is that the Marquise is seen as “amoral”, and her punishment at the end of the novel is especially thought provoking and symbolic (I’ll try not to give it away if you haven’t read it yet!) Talk to us about how Heidi Phelps works. What is your routine when creating a new work? All of my pieces start off as a handdrawn pencil sketch, India ink drawing or watercolor/gouache painting. I simply start thinking about different women or stories of women that intrigue me, why they intrigue me, and I just start sketching on paper until I get an idea. The sketches or paintings are then manipulated digitally to create a graphic print. Then I burn the image into a screen and make it a screen print (which I sometimes further modify by painting over, or by screen printing on gouache/watercolor painted surfaces). Living and working in Washington, D.C. must provide you endless inspiration as an artist on many levels. But tell us how the city and its activities particularly inspire your mission to want to empower women through art. HP: There’s a strong sense of activism in D.C. that I find inspiring. People live in group houses, start bands, collectives and independent businesses that align with their political beliefs and causes that they want to promote and support. Organizations such as Girls Rock! DC (for which I’ve done some design work and taught a “History of Women Who Rock” seminar) empower young girls by teaching them how to express themselves through music. We’re a dynamic city filled with passionate, dedicated people who want to change contribute positively to society. It’s an exciting place to be, and inspired me to think about what *I* was doing and what I can contribute, as well as how to find my own voice to express what I was thinking. I feel like I found my voice through art. There’s a sense of empowerment that comes with the feeling that you’ve created something substantial out of nothing, and with putting your thoughts and ideas out there, making yourself both seen and heard. I think, as women, we’re raised to put other people’s needs before our own, and often we’re meant to feel guilty for carving time out to focus on our own thoughts, needs, desires and interests. Art is a way of claiming my space, claiming my thoughts, and encouraging discussion about our perceptions of women, what qualities we admire and discourage.

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Level 25 ArtJournal “Joan of Arc” 11 in x 14 in Screen print on gouache, paper Heidi Phelps

“Marquise de Merleuil” 11 in x 14 in Screen print on gouache, paper Heidi Phelps

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Profile for Level 25 Artjournal

Level25 Artjournal October 2013  

The inaugural issue of the new online art magazine, Level 25 Artjournal! 10 amazing artists for the world to discover.

Level25 Artjournal October 2013  

The inaugural issue of the new online art magazine, Level 25 Artjournal! 10 amazing artists for the world to discover.