Shiva Skull by Aitor Throup
The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship
We Enter Sacred Ground
No Borders No Boundaries
Why Do You Do What You Do?
204 The Cover Artist Uncovered
FACTORY OF DREAMS On the run up to the Spanish film industry Goya Awards 2014, we dropped by Madridâ€™s major film studios to capture some of the buzzing creative energy and caught up with the filmmakers that are shaping Spanish Film and colouring the cinema screens with bold storytelling. MADRID/ SPAIN
Photography by Olaya Pazos olayapazos.com 20 ROOMS We Ent er Sacred Ground
José Manuel CARRASCO Actor and director, José Manuel Carrasco’s films have won him over 120 awards in national and international festivals. El Diario de Carlota 2010 (Carlota’s Diary) was his debut feature film and his latest short film Sexo Explícito (Explicit Sex) has been praised by the critics. At UNIR School of Actors
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David BARREIRO With a successful career as a writer with three novels behind him, a book of short stories and a play published, David Barreiro began his film career as writer and director of short film Patatas (Potatoes) which won him the New Director Award of the GijĂłn Film Festival â€“ the Spanish version of Sundance Festival. At Sala Berlanga
Esteban ROEL & Juanfer ANDRÉS
With established careers as teachers at the Film Institute of Madrid, Esteban Roel and Juanfer Andrés have just shot their first feature film, Musarañas (Shrews) a horror film produced by Alex de la Iglesia featuring an exceptional cast. At Instituto del Cine de Madrid
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Esteban CRESPO His latest short Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasnâ€™t Me), a beautiful and brutal story of redemption, won a Goya Award for Best Short Fiction in 2013 and is already a modern classic. Aquel No Era Yo is also nominated for an Oscar this year. At The Kitchen Corporation
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After a long career in the short film industry, Manuela Moreno’s latest work Pipas (Sunflower Seeds) has been a massive hit in Spain and was nominated for Best Short Film at the Goya Awards 2014. Manuela will be shooting her first feature film this Spring.
At Café Comercial in Malasaña
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Herminio CARDIEL Herminio Cardiel counts seven short films in his filmography, including the outstanding and internationally awarded Splash and The Cold Side of the Pillow. He is currently developing his first feature film. At El Retiro Café y Té on Alcalá Street
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Rodrigo SOROGOYEN Despite his young age, Rodrigo Sorogoyen has a solid career as a TV writer. His critically acclaimed film Stockholm has received numerous awards in Spain and 2014 will see the young filmmaker making a start on the international scene. At Sorogoyenâ€™s place
The Barbican presents:
PYKE A Visually Immersive Universe London/ UK
I have been following Matt's work for many years but was blown away by his major show in Paris and recent work at the Science Museum's Media Space. When I first saw his work I was surprised by the emotional impact, full of grace and vitality.
The curation and display process occurs in close collaboration with Matt himself and our architects and media designers. Matt, as part of Universal Everything, will be taking part in our upcoming exhibition Digital Revolution. The collective will be showing work at the entrance to the Barbican, which puts additional pressure on us to create a work with both impact and intimacy. The work that will be shown is called Togetherness and is a usergenerated work. You can contribute a drawing and be part of the larger multi-screen work. It speaks directly about the way in which digital tools allow us to create work and share, I am really excited to see what Londoners come up with. It is one of a number of new commissions in the exhibition, which explore digital creativity across the areas of art, design film, music and videogames.
Conrad Bodman, Guest Curator for Digital Revolution at the Barbican, London
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The Barbican’s upcoming exhibition Digital Revolution will bring together a range of artists, musicians, filmmakers, companies and collectives such as Google and will.i.am. The exhibition will celebrate the history of digital technology whilst exploring its potential and impact. The group of invited creatives will examine the impact of digital technology in different fields such as film, featuring Framestore a visual effects studio whose latest projects include: the film Gravity, music, gaming and art. Digital Revolution will present interactive art works creating an immersive technological environment.
Universal Everything at Science Museum. Photo by © James Medcraft
Digital Revolution: An Immersive Exhibition of art, design, film, music and Videogames. Barbican Centre 3rd July – 14 September
Words by Jesc Bunyard
Matt Pyke is the creative director and founder of the digital media collective Universal Everything. Their works are renowned for being visually immersive, while often providing an active element for the viewer. Working for brands such as Chanel and Nokia, whilst also selling and exhibiting artworks in locations such as La Gaîté Lyrique and S[edition], demonstrates that Universal Everything have also successfully balanced fine art and the commercial. One of their most recent projects, entitled Universal Everything & You, is formed of two digital media works – Presence and 1000 Hands – and was commissioned for the new Media Space at the Science Museum. The installation is an audiovisual delight, as shapes pulse in time to a throbbing soundtrack. Universal Everything’s works are seductive to the senses, whilst engaging with digital technology. I interviewed Matt Pyke to discuss these extraordinary works, the collective, and where they’ll go next. How did Universal Everything start? I founded Universal Everything in 2004. At first it was just me working on hugely diverse projects – which is how I came up with the name Universal Everything, a blank canvas that opens up things beyond design and art direction. My studio is in Sheffield near to the Peak District, but all of my clients are in London or worldwide. It started on the cusp of the development of motion graphics, creating animated or graphic content for screens, for television, for viral videos, and for retail stores. One of the first commissions was for a series of flagship stores that Nokia were doing about six years ago. From that we started moving more and more into creating video art works and interactive art works, both for brands who were commissioning art for their stores or an event they were doing – brands like Chanel or Audi. Then, in parallel, we were asked to create exhibitions for galleries and museums. Now, we find ourselves halfway between artists and designers. I’m interested in how the collective works. Do members have certain roles or elements that they bring to the group?
We’ve always thought about it a bit like a band, in the sense that we don’t want a structure like a commercial studio where it keeps growing. We’re really doing our best to make sure it remains small and tight, and to make sure we only take on the best geeks to do it, I suppose. The way it works is that I am the creative director, and do a lot of the art direction of projects and figuring out the conceptual direction. We have a small group of full-time people: Chris Perry who is our CGI animator, Mike Tucker who’s our interactive designer, a studio manager called Greg and my brother, Simon, who does all of the music and the sound design. Everyone is in their own studio set ups and we communicate virtually, but then we meet in London 36 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship
or Sheffield every week. Beyond that, for certain projects, we do expand the group. When we were making work for Hyundai’s video art gallery, we had about 32 people working on that commission. So it can expand and contract depending on what we’re doing. So as you’ve said previously, the collective works within both fine art and commercial. How do you navigate between these two areas?
They both feel very similar to me. I know in the outside world they’re always considered distinctly different, and there are different audiences and different languages you can use. But to us as a studio, the approach is pretty much the same in that we’re always taking an idea and amplifying it, and turning it into something which is beautiful and engaging. When we have a commercial commission, there are obviously some constraints – with Chanel, for example, there are guidelines as to which textures and colours the brand uses, so we would express and amplify something within that. Within a gallery, there are still constraints to work with. It’s never a blank canvas, as we have lines of inquiry that we are pursuing in terms of ideas running through work, but also we are responding to the architecture of the gallery and the context. Essentially we’re always responding to the environment, whether it’s commercial or art.
How do you approach a commission from a brand? Is there a checklist that you go through to set an idea up in the first place?
Deutsche Bank commission
One of the main motivations for us is to work really closely with people in the brand who will often be the chief executive officer or creative director, someone who’s responsible for steering the brand. The types of brands that we choose to work with are the ones that have got the right attitude, they’re trying to push things forward and challenge them. We do carefully choose which brands we work with. Our approach is working really closely with a brand, and taking their tone of voice and amplifying it in some way. We hope to make experiences that have never been seen before – an impossible challenge these days, but what drives us forward is to create something that stands out. How do you use reality in your work, is it your inspiration, or do you use it within your work?
We use reality and realism in our work to play with the idea of the impossible – impossible video sculptures which contort and move with believable realism. This gives a sense of magic to experience.
I saw the Universal Everything & You piece, which includes 1000 Hands, at Media Space. How did that come about and what did you want to achieve?
The criterion that we and the directors of the Science Museum talked about was that we have a central physical hub for media and digital communities in London and worldwide, but how do we create an installation which engages
and involves the public in the museum in a physical sense, but also beyond? As a studio, we really like the idea of creating a tool. Thus we designed an interactive tool for Android and iPad which allows you to draw and create these audio-reactive forms that dance to a soundtrack, so any member of the public can walk into the space, download the app and create their own work for the show. What we found really interesting is that we just created the rules for the aesthetics, the behaviours and the soundtrack, yet the public created the work. The exhibition would not exist without the audience. We like that risk; that we’re handing the trust over to the public. We wanted a strong dialogue between the audience and us. What’s great is that people can experience this physical manifestation of the 1000 Hands space in the space, but that’s also online as well. People are submitting works from all around the world and seeing another version online, too. Looking through your previous work on your website one of my favourite pieces is Everywhere, the oneperson installation with infinity mirrors. Could you explain a little more about it?
It was our first solo show in Paris at La Gaîté Lyrique at the inaugural show when the museum opened in 2011, so we had this big space to fill. A lot of the other works were big scale and grand gestures, and we wanted to make one piece that was very singular. We built this installation that was a black monolithical cube with a single headsized hole in it, so the viewer would step in and put his/ her head in the hole to see a video installation. We were 38 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship
Hyundai Vision Hall commission
using artificially intelligent behaviour on individual shapes within the installation, so some of them had behaviours like chasing blue shapes or getting scared of other shapes. You could throw all of these different behaviours into this and get interesting reactions. It became almost like an ecosystem generated through these really simple rules. The viewer could see this screen-based experience where we surrounded the main screen with mirrors in which the screen repeats itself forever. How do you see digital art in relation to other art forms, and how do you think others in the art world perceive it?
My background is in drawing and painting from art school, and I always thought I would end up as a landscape painter. I’ve got this traditionalist, romanticist approach to responding to the environment, but I’m using the wrong tools for it in a way. That’s how I see the relationship – I’m seated in both analogue and technical worlds. In terms of how others see what we do as media or digital artists, there’s definitely a lot of excitement about it at the moment. We’ve been approached by a lot of collectors and galleries on how things can move forward in that world.
The biggest challenge is really the difference in the format and the commodification of it, because digital is such an easy format to distribute and there’s no sense of scarcity – therefore no value and therefore no money to be made from it. That’s how the commercial galleries struggle, how can this medium be sold to collectors? That’s the challenge and I think there are a few people out there trying to solve it. The medium on the cusp of something; there are more people interested in it. Where do you see Universal Everything going next? Is there something in particular you wish to create or explore?
We’re spending more time in the laboratory mode, developing prototypes that then manifest themselves as commercial, gallery
Hyundai Vision Hall commission
or exhibition pieces. We’re turning from reactive people approaching us and then making something, to actually developing something in the studio and then letting it out into the wild, in some ways or another. We’re probably about 50/50 gallery and commission-based now. We’re always looking at new emerging technologies and how we can work with them, such as 3D printing and touchscreens. It’s interesting producing an artistic response to something that is often really commercial. What’s next for Universal Everything? Have you got any projects coming up you can tell us about? We’re doing an interesting non-linear video app for Radiohead, taking the music and creating an exploding view of the song. We’ve also got an installation in the entrance to the Barbican in Summer 2014. It’s in a show called Digital Revolution, which is a big digital survey, so it’s got stuff like Hollywood visual effects, interactive designers and Google. Our entrance piece is developed from Loop, which is a social animation app we made and we’re developing that into an installation in which, like 1000 Hands, we’re creating a tool and the public will create these hand drawn animations. It’ll be nice to see it take on its own life. Thank You Thank You
Royal College of Art, Platform 21 - Design Products presents:
SUZUKI Constructing Sound
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From its beginnings as a collaboration between the departments of furniture and industrial design, the Design Products department at the RCA offers graduate students the opportunity to explore product design across the broadest range possible. Small study groups – we call Platforms – led by practicing designers ensures the curriculum content is up to date and gives us flexibility to respond quickly to the changing landscape of design. The list of past and present Platform tutors includes many of the best known names in contemporary design such as Jurgen Bey, Martino Gamper, Sam Hecht, Max Lamb, Onkar Kular, Tony Dunn, Julia Lohmann and Tom Dixon. Yuri Suzuki joined us this year, to run Platform 21 together with Oscar Diaz. Suzuki’s work is not easy to categorise. Inspired by music or sound design, it falls somewhere in an undefined area that might be installation, advertising, interaction design or product design, but probably the experience of where they overlap. Beyond the pragmatic or socially motivated approaches to problem solving and styling, students in Platform 21 are encouraged to no longer think about and define ‘design’ through an object-centric approach, but the design of the relations between things – the systems, networks or formats. So far his students are asked to work like DJs, to mash-up, hack or re-mix, to become experts in Arduino (open source electronics processing platform) and to design a ‘jukebox’ using digital music kit from Teenage Engineering tools. Yuri Suzuki, a graduate of 2008, continues the work of the department that is based on a questioning of convention, encouraging risk taking and stimulating experimentation.
Hilary French, Deputy Head of Programme, Design Products at Royal College of Art, London designproducts.rca.ac.uk
Looks Like Music. Sound installation comissioned by Mudam Luxembourg. Photo by ©Hitomi Kai Yoda
Words by Alexander Glover
I believe sound has lost its physicality. Since moving to London from Tokyo in 2005 to study at the Royal College of Art, Yuri Suzuki has caused quite the stir in the art, sound and design worlds. Suzuki began by working on projects for Yamaha and Moritz Waldemeyer whilst still studying at the RCA. Since graduating, he has worked on several sound projects across the world, as well as designing new and exciting sound-related mechanisms from scratch. On top of this, Suzuki has also released his own music as well as mixes over the past few years, both digitally and on 12” vinyl. Not simply an artist or a musician, Suzuki falls somewhere in between as a sound artist. In order to understand this extraordinary individual’s progression as a sound artist and designer, we meet up with Suzuki to discuss his influences and career thus far.
Having asked how this all began, Suzuki states that it all started when I tried to be a DJ and before that when I played trombone in a Ska band based in Tokyo. Suzuki is more than aware that this is quite a strange idea to grasp, as he answers whilst smiling. He does, however, insist that at the time – the nineties to be more precise – both Ska and Punk were big in Tokyo. Not only does this begin to explain Suzuki’s western influences, it also helps to decipher the DIY aspect to his creations and the punk attitude of making something from nothing and getting it out there yourself. One of his works for example – Three Radio Theremin – is a theremin constructed simply by using three different radios, all tuned into specific frequencies. Suzuki insists that works like this were DIY in nature out of necessity and that at the start I had to work from scratch. As we discussed his influences further, Suzuki revealed that his relocation to London from Tokyo had an important impact on him – when I moved from Japan to England, I converted all of my vinyl collection into mp3s. From then on, I became interested in keeping data physically. Not only did Suzuki convert his music collection, it was at this point he converted himself into a designer of soundrelated mechanisms. One of Suzuki’s projects, entitled Sound Chaser, demonstrates more directly the influence that the conversion of his music had on him. Sound Chaser is essentially bits of vinyl connected together in the style of a train track, with a moving train-like mechanism travelling on the vinyl and creating different sounds as it passes along the grooves. Different pieces of vinyl connected together create different sounds as the mechanism rides along it. Suzuki sums up this particular project as ‘sound tracks’ – pun fully intended, of course.
A significant proportion of Suzuki’s influence on his work and projects come from either America or England. When Suzuki was a child growing up in Tokyo, he was exposed to American culture on a daily basis, through television and film. One of the key examples of this, that he points towards as an early inspiration, was the music video for Herbie Hancock’s Rockit: My dad was really into MTV. When I was in kindergarten he just showed me Rockit. It’s quite creepy and scary, but I watched it every night for a while. I was obsessed. It also had socio-political importance, as it was the first music video on MTV to show black people. It’s a very remarkable video, and yet nobody ever really talks about it. It is the mechanical aspect to the video in particular, with the weird and wonderful contraptions operating throughout a domestic home that Suzuki felt particularly influenced by. Another key influence from America, mechanically speaking, is the artist Alexander Calder. It was the fact that Calder was an artist who experimented with mechanical constructions that really influenced Suzuki from an early age. He explains that it started when my parents took me to New York and I saw an Alexander Calder collection at the Whitney Museum. At the time it
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‘basscar’ . Photo by ©Hitomi Kai Yoda
was a Calder collection called Calder Circus. This artistic interpretation of a circus by Calder consisted of wire models of circus performers, rigged to carry out their own specific action. Although Calder is a key influence, Suzuki admits that Calder’s more popular works are not to his taste – I don’t like his mobile stuff. Suzuki’s other nation of key influence is Britain. Suzuki notes that when I grew up, I became more influenced by English culture. This was because all my favourite music came from here, such as Mute Records and the new wave scene of the eighties. His love for British music is quite straightforward – I’m really into synthesizers, so I started off with groups like Kraftwerk and then moved onto English new wave with bands like Depeche Mode. As we discuss synthesizers in more depth, Suzuki points towards the company Teenage Engineering as a new and exciting synthesizer manufacturer. He describes how their synthesizers are truly amazing, really compact, portable and very distinct. This description sounded rather similar to how you would describe the microKorg and so, I then asked Suzuki for his view on the impact of it – I think it’s great that Korg helped popularise synths into the mainstream over the last few years with the microKorg. It has some great features and sounds on it. Whilst on the topic of instruments, I proposed to Suzuki that music critics and fans alike always seem to point towards a crisis in the progression of popular music. I then asked him whether he believed that it is necessary to build new instruments in order to
create new genres and push music forward. In response, Suzuki pulled a cassette tape out of his rucksack that appeared to have Korean writing on the cover. He then revealed to me that the tape, given to him by a friend, contained music of the Pon-Chak genre – otherwise known as Korean dance music from the 80s. Suzuki then proceeded to educate me on how this genre was born on a bus that went around South Korea, from Seoul to other destinations. As the journey time was a couple of hours, the bus attendant decided to entertain his passengers by singing karaoke whilst playing on a cheap keyboard. Suzuki explained that this genre couldn’t have existed without a Casio Tone keyboard and that it’s really ugly music, but it’s really great at the same time. So through this particular example, Suzuki demonstrates how he is a believer that certain instruments define certain genres and periods in sound and music. When I asked him about sound and its relation to reality, Suzuki began to discuss what he describes as the physicality of sound – I believe sound has lost its physicality. What’s happening now is people are trying to get that physicality back with companies like Teenage Engineering, building and manufacturing hardware (synthesizers for example) instead of using built-in computer software. In an age where Pro Tools and iPods dominate the making and listening to of music, Suzuki feels as though a void has been created as a result of the digitalisation of sound. That void being the physical nature of sound. Whether it is the way you consume it or the way it is produced, Suzuki feels as though there needs to be a physicality to sound. If you were looking for examples of sound-related designs, Suzuki’s projects are a perfect expression of that notion.
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Tube Map Radio. Commissioned by Design Museum London. Photo by ©Hitomi Kai Yoda
Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea
HESHKa Vancouver,B.C/ Canada
For me, Ryan Heshka was a pleasant discovery. I ran into his works a few years ago, leafing through The Upset. Young Contemporary Art, which is a fundamental book for me because it includes artists that cannot be simply categorized in the Lowbrow or Pop Surrealism genres, but belong to the larger sphere of visionary art. I am obsessed with images, graphics, comics, illustrations of all kinds, and looking through those pages, having already seen a lot of illustrated Science Fiction, I wondered why they attracted my attention in a different way.
Antonio Colombo, Gallery Owner at Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea, Milan
His Science Fiction is never horror or splatter. Even in the ‘harder’ drawings there is always a certain grace, a smile, a perfectly coiffed woman, attractive even when she is getting devoured by a monster from the lagoon. An almost late-medieval grace and attention to detail and light, as in certain illuminated manuscripts. To be honest, this is one of my ways of appreciating artists: with the distorting magnifying glass of art history. Ryan too is obsessed by images, and we both feel the old electricity, the big tubes and zigzags of current all over the place. Magical electrical mystery master.
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Radio, Drugs and Money, acrylic and mixed
I wrote Ryan a note saying, “Hey, I love your work”, and that was the start of a very straightforward, lasting and honest relationship. Just like him: a passionate, precise and generous person, ironically perplexed by the absurdities of life, but free of the visible anxieties I’ve gotten used to seeing in artists.
Canadian-based Ryan Heshka has made a name for himself over the last decade for his own unique brand of illustration. Tying in a diverse range of influences ranging from American B Movie posters to old jazz and blues music, Heshka’s work is encased with a deep sense of nostalgia. It is the Sci-Fi subject matter; however, that really defines Heshka’s work. By combining the futuristic Sci-Fi elements with both the glamour and surreal nature of the B Movie posters, Heshka has truly carved out his own individual style. Having published his own books and exhibited his works all over the world in both solo and group shows, ROOMS caught up with Heshka to find out more.
When You’ve Eaten Unwisely, acrylic and mixed
As an illustrator who looks towards Sci-Fi for inspiration, do you feel that your work is escapist in nature and that you strive to create a reality of your own? I think ‘escapist art’ is an appropriate label for my work. The creative process has been a form of escapism for me all my life, as a way to dream while I am awake, to chase that dream-state and capture it with paint, ink, and marker. As a child I sought escape not only in art, but also in the microscopic world (via a hand-me-down microscope) and the natural world as well. I value this escapist quality highly; it keeps me young at heart. Collectors have expressed to me that my paintings allow them to dream, which is the highest form of praise I can imagine. I love that escapism can be contagious. Working in a style divorced from reality, rather than trying to mimic it, supports that otherworldly quality – the quality of fantasy, of dreaming. If anything, I hope my work can evolve into something even more vague. Work that forces the viewer to mentally squint at it like a distant street sign, trying to bring it into focus in their minds’ eye. Ideally my work will become increasingly interpretative, so that would allow the viewer to create their own reality within the framework of a painting – my created reality. I don’t believe in telling viewers what they are seeing. I like them to see what they want to see in my work. I try to encourage that sort of interaction.
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How and why did Sci-Fi come to play a dominant role in your work? Science fiction and the future have been interests of mine for as long as I can remember. This was fuelled early on as a child when I discovered some old pulpmagazine covers painted by Frank R. Paul, an Austrian immigrant who was an illustrator early in the last century, and later became known as the grandfather of Sci-Fi art. His early renditions of moonwalks, space stations, astronauts and alien invaders stuck with me, and his art continues to be an influence up to today. I discovered Paul around the same time that Star Wars came out, and I think those two forces combined meant for me that there was no returning to Earth.
Beyond the aliens and spaceships though, there is a visionary quality about Sci-Fi art that approaches Surrealism, and that is where my artwork has been headed in recent years. The contemporary painter Glenn Brown is appropriating Sci-Fi art with incredible results, and I hope to continue to explore that sort of approach. A lot of your work stylistically resembles that of the early American B movie posters. If you agree, are there any in particular that really caught your imagination?
I can’t deny that statement. I have always been a pop culture junkie, and I am still searching and discovering B Movie posters I have never seen before. Some of the posters that stand out to me are: the Bela Lugosi/Ed Wood Jr. movies, specifically Bride of the Monster, outstanding visuals and typography; early exploitation film posters
Sensational Future Pleasures, oil on wood panel
Words by Alexander Glover
Girl Team Grouping, gouache and mixed on paper
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such as Devil’s Harvest and Marihuana, of which I own a nice original example; Devil Bat and The Phantom Creeps, both starring Bela Lugosi. I have also found in recent years that foreign B Movie posters are a great source of visuals. Generally, the worse the movie, the better I like the poster. I have had the good fortune to have been invited to see some of the finest private collections of B Movie material and, like a piece of original art, you have to experience this material in person. You’ve said in the past that music is an inspiration to your work. Is there a particular genre that really ignites your creative juices? Oddly enough, I swing between really old Jazz and Blues (20s and 30s) and very current Electronica. There’s not much in between I listen to these days. I thought about this question the other day and it made me realize that my musical tastes reflect my art. I am caught somewhere between the distant past and the remote future. Maybe Jazz and Electronica are not so different. I think that much of the Electronica now must have been how Jazz sounded when it first came out – fresh, clean, experimental, uninhibited by formality, underground. When asked to do commissions, what sort of requests do you find yourself getting?
As of late, quite a few Batman paintings! People seem to like the way I paint a vintage looking Batman,
who happened to be my favourite childhood character. I’m the go-to artist if you want a 1939-era Batman. I enjoy playing up the dark, crude elements of the character from that early period, and I think customers appreciate that.
Mock comic book and pulp covers are the most requested themes – basically, creating covers that never existed before but in my own style. I enjoy the approach to this sort of commission, treating it like a lost relic of the past that was rediscovered in some grandpa’s attic. These commissions give me a lot of room to play with typography and collage, and push the themes I enjoy even further into my own world. The B-movie theme is also a popular starting point for commissions. You have had your work featured both in books and exhibitions all over the world for years. Does the preparation for these present different challenges and, if so, what are they?
The preparation stage is definitely different between the various types of work, and yet all ties in together. With commercial work such as illustration for magazines or newspapers, the art fits a specific function and has to go through a sketch and approval stage. Sometimes it’s just the art director that signs off on the sketch and sometimes an editor gets involved. With book covers or children’s books (where the entire book is illustrated), the sketch and approval stages are exponentially more involved. With an art show, however, the theme and content are pretty much always up to me. I’ll start with numerous ideas and loose sketches before I begin painting a show, narrowing down the content into a cohesive body. Even within that framework, I allow myself room to explore various ideas, so that a show doesn’t become too rigid or one note. Painting these personal works becomes an important balance to the commercial work I do, and they end up feeding off each other indirectly. For instance, the commercial work provides me with structure and discipline, while the personal work allows me to explore, experiment, and grow. What would be the best advice you could give for a young and upcoming illustrator?
As many artists have said before me, be original and true to develop your own vision. I think being observant is crucial, whether you keep a sketchbook or not – keep your brain on and your eyes open. Also, contact your favourite artists and illustrators and meet them, if at all possible. I can’t believe how fortunate I’ve been to have met many of my art heroes, and even have had a few of them buy my work, which is the highest form of flattery to me. Speaking to them in person and learning about their career trajectories has really shaped my own career. Not all people are going to be open and helpful, but it’s amazing how many of them are.
Meeting Shantell in person was one of the highlights of Alpha-ville EXCHANGE 2014. Shantell irradiates pure talent and it is impossible not to smile while watching her speak. Shantell questions the world through endless drawings and through her creations she reminded us of the power of spontaneity.
We were fascinated by Eno’s set designs for dance performances, and it was only last year when we had the opportunity to enjoy one of his works at the London Royal Opera House. It was truly a special moment, not only to see the show but to discover a man of integral principles that transmits a sense of equilibrium and depth. For this reason, we invited Eno to open Exchange conference and share his quest of bringing ethereal technology into the human realm.
Sougwen’s creations are full of intensity and emotions. Her process is totally mesmerising, starting from drawings and sketches, she develops ideas into screen based experiences and installations that challenge the senses. Sougwen represents a group of artists born after the digital revolution who are pushing the medium much further into the physical and the unexplored.
Carmen Salas Pino and Estela Oliva, Founders and Directors at Alpha-ville, London alpha-ville.co.uk 52 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship
Photo by © Theo Coulombe
MARTIN The Endless Drawing Syndrome NY/ US
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Photo by ÂŠ Connie Tsang
Words by Heike Dempster “My drawings start from a line that exists in this world; that is from this world, but my lines/ drawings quickly run away from me with their own agenda to create something new through me. I sometimes feel a little bit used by my pens in this way”. Shantell Martin draws imaginary worlds and fills white walls, canvases, shirts and more with contemporary tales inspired by her life and the modern metropolis. The stream of consciousness drawings appear to have neither a distinct beginning nor end, but rather to be continued, interlooping and intertwining to create a vivid visual narrative full of detail. Each glance reveals a new line that triggers the viewer’s imagination and offers boundless opportunities to indulge in a dream world. Faces peek out from simple black lines to observe flowers, animals and whimsical creatures inhabiting a landscape full of wonder. Words, like snippets from poems and tales, reveal the artist’s thoughts yet avoid intentional fallacy. Names hint at stories of people, maybe an interested passer-by who caught the artist’s eye and engaged her in a conversation or maybe she just catches the fleeting thought of a friend. The drawings are inspired by urban life. The big city has always been home to Shantell Martin. Born and raised in London, she remains at home, surrounded by the excitement, fast pace and dynamic energy of a metropolis. London’s edgy streets that combine past, present and future in such a unique way turn into the crowded streets of Tokyo and its mix of tomorrow’s technology, ancient tradition and a love for the theatrical. For now Martin’s journey has brought her to New York, the art and fashion mecca and international creativity and business hub. When talking about herself, Martin often starts the conversation with a photograph of her with her siblings, a brother and four sisters, who are all blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Assumptions won’t get you far with Martin. Anyone who had expected to see “brown brothers and sisters with afros”, as she says, were completely wrong. Martin uses a visual way to demonstrate that a clean canvas and fresh ideas are always best. Find out for yourself who the person next to you is, where they are from, what their family looks like and what he or she does for a living and you might be surprised and inspired.
Starting out Martin did not have access to or interest in art until, at the age of 15, she discovered her love of creating things. She decided to apply to only one art school, and was accepted at her choice, Central Saint Martins in London. She credits her different way of seeing the world for her success at school. “It was very intimidating to get into art, especially when you are very young, because everyone is trying to be someone else and you think everyone has this advantage
over you”, Martin says when reminiscing about her days at Central Saint Martins. “It takes a little while to figure out that you have your unique story... and when I first started art school I really realized that I was coming from a completely different place in the way that I saw and in my background and everything, that gave me not an advantage but my own style and view”.
The years at Central Saint Martins brought Martin in touch with Japanese culture through her many Japanese friends, which laid the basis for her move to Tokyo. After graduating in 2003 she decided to take a year out to travel around Japan, teach English and place art on the backburner to gather new experiences. Alas, the creativity could not be pushed aside and art crept back into Martin’s life. She started live-drawing in clubs, illustrating the beats of DJs and musicians, which marked the beginning of a professional career as an artist, performer and VJ.
Martin’s digital livedrawings, projected on walls and ceilings of night clubs in Tokyo, were explosions of colours and messages in neon brights while her private drawings were always in black and white, which the artist finds calming and meditative. Nevertheless, the colourful club drawings inspired by the music and the audience quite literally remained centre stage. “Other people bring so much other colour into your work. It is very
hard to just draw in black and white with that much creative energy and other people involved”, Martin says. As much as Martin embraced life in Tokyo, the artist always knew the city would not be her permanent home. Four years into her stay, Martin woke up one day and knew she was ready to move on. In 2008 Martin decided to travel to the US for the first time and visit New York for a holiday. Intrigued by the city’s celebration of success, Martin fell in love with the Big Apple and spontaneously decided to move.
New York changed Martin’s style and approach to art, mainly because the technology, production and cultural relevance of the digital art she had created in Tokyo did not exist. She started to draw with pens on paper, walls, cars, objects and people’s faces. Martin has created a world of lines with its own language of characters and messages that bridges the gap between fine art and the commercial. Her narratives leave space for her audience’s thoughts, imagination and interpretations, therefore connecting everyday life
and the often elitist and exclusive art world. Martin’s stories are refreshing, fascinating, and inviting to a wide audience. The interpretations may vary but the illustrations of life resonate internationally, whether sprawled across a wall in Nashville or whimsically covering a canvas in a gallery in London. Writing and drawing on her own crisp white shirts has gotten Martin noticed by the fashion industry, with a recent collaboration with New York designer label Suno to produce a limited edition dress and t-shirt. More commercial collaborations are in the planning stages as Martin continues to expand her career. Her drawings have already garnered cult status and the artist, who was named New York’s ‘coolest it girl’ in 2011 by French Glamour, has a lot more up her sleeve – once she finds the time to explore music and dance and shoe making and… so much more.
as an artist at first. If you stay here and you keep working and you work hard and you progress and people see that, New York really celebrates that. I really love that about New York.
The documentary The Universe of Keith Haring made me think of you. Haring constantly drew on everything. His friends said he wanted to bring the arts to everyone and take the elitist out of the arts. Is that something that also drives you? We are similar. We can’t help it. We have to draw on everything. Also, my background in Japan plays a big role in that. I started my career as a performer; drawing with an audience. I am drawing on paper, drawing on a car, drawing on people. I like there to be an audience, and I like for people to see it and for people to have access to it. Sometimes people don’t have access to art. Sometimes people don’t have access to seeing the process of art being
What did you come to love most about New York?
When I did finally move here, of course – that’s a different story, because being here on a holiday and living here are two different things. When I did get here I was “oh what did I just do! I left this very comfortable career and way of working in Japan, and now I moved to New York and no one knows who I am as an artist, and this career I was doing in Japan doesn’t really exist here”. It was very hard at first. Now I have been in New York for four years, and the thing that really stands out to me and the thing that I really love is that New York really celebrates your successes. If you stay in New York and you don’t give up, because it is very hard 56 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship
Photo by © Theo Coulombe
created. It is hidden in a frame and put on a wall and no one really can touch it. I have a way of building a connection between me and an audience. If I am doing a big drawing and I feel someone is very much looking at my work, I ask them what their name is and I put their name into the wall or something like that. I feel like it is very important to bridge that gap between art that you can’t touch and art as a connection, and that’s one of the reasons why I do it. Also, I don’t just want to put myself in a box, if I am an artist that just paints with one medium. My attention span isn’t that long. I am always wanting something next. Are your messages and characters a spur of the moment imagination or do you plan beforehand?
There is no planning. There is never any planning. I can plan as much as I like but it is never going to happen as I plan it, so I stopped planning a long time ago. The way that I work is very spontaneous, it is very intuitive. I like to say that the pen knows where
Photo by © Lane Crawford
it’s going and I got very good at following the pen. If I am drawing a stick figure or if I am drawing lines or if I am working, it’s all the same and it all comes from the same place – I guess where I am in my life. I have these messages I want to get across or I have this kind of idea what space looks like and even though it is very spontaneous, I have these ideas I kind of want to include and they come out in the drawing. Does each drawing have its own story or is there continuity?
To be honest, I don’t think about it. Each drawing is its own drawing. Maybe they are all connected as a bigger story because they are connected through me, but if that’s the case I am not going into it with a plan or thinking intentionally. I draw when I want to draw. Collectively, I am sure, if you look at them all together there is a bigger message in there and there could be a bigger story, but that’s not the plan. The plan is that I enjoy drawing. I feel very lost if I don’t draw. I just draw. Together maybe it builds a bigger message of sorts. I do not want to tell anyone what that story is. I want them to see it and everyone takes something different from it. People ask me, what does it mean? Well, you look at it and you tell me. It is going to be different for you and me. That’s the whole point.
Is the transformative aspect from blank canvas to occupied space, that tells a part of your story, important to you? I think it’s more about intimidation and freedom. What I mean by that is that a blank canvas to me used to be very intimidating. If you look at a big blank wall or a big blank piece of paper, it is very intimidating to want to put a mark on it because you can make a mistake. Now, I tell people that my work is all one big mistake. I’ve just really learned how to enjoy all of it. I’ve slowly over time turned the intimidation of the canvas into freedom. Now, instead of looking at a blank canvas and this intimidating white space, ‘if I touch it I might mess it up’, it is a big space of freedom which is full of potential and full of possibilities. It is full of ideas and it is full of excitement. When I make that drawing, I’m accessing some of these possibilities and I am accessing some of my freedom and accessing some of those ideas. That’s really the fun of it.
Do you have a favourite surface to draw? It doesn’t matter. If I see something that’s white, it could be a car or a business man’s shirt or a nice white wall, I am like ‘oh my god, I want to draw on it!’ Where do you buy your white shirts?
Nearly all the shirts I wear are from UniQlo or Staple Pigeon – then, I just draw on them. Is there a building or a wall anywhere in the world you would love to draw on?
I draw on a lot of things, so I really want to draw on something that will take off and fly away, like a big jumbo jet or a helicopter or something fun like that. It’s also fun painting things white, so it might be fun to go out there and paint some landmark buildings white and then draw on them. There are no limits.
I follow your Instagram and see you often draw on people. Has anyone ever turned your drawing into a tattoo permanently?
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Photo by © Catalina Kulczar
I’ve been learning to tattoo for a while. A lot of people have my drawings on them that someone else tattooed, and some people have my drawings on them that I tattooed. I am still in the very early stages of learning another medium.
HENZE Cohabiting with The Digital Berlin/ Germany
Overture. Set Design for a new collaboration with David Dawson. Ballet performed by Dutch National Ballet
60 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
Words by Zoe Kingsley At January’s London-based inter-art conference event, Alpha-ville EXCHANGE, it seems the biggest trend being practiced and discussed by artists of various disciplines was that of ‘The Digital’. A lot of the speakers were not occupied with doing screen-based work at all – it’s really about bringing ‘The Digital’ into a real form, comments Berlin-based artist and scenographer Eno Henze, one of the selected speakers at the event. Having grappled with the presence of ‘The Digital’ in his artwork for years, Henze’s progressive ideas have never seemed more relevant until now. Harbouring no illusions, Henze is uncompromising in his position as a digitally based artist on what mainstream art neglects to do in reflecting contemporary life. Our condition of being, how we see ourselves as humans, is very much defined by the use of machines. Yet despite that reality, as Henze highlights, mainstream art continues to shy away from it in both its own production and subject matter. If you look at the role of art in our society, a lot of the art, a lot of the art that is successful on the art market doesn’t really use machines. It is largely art that is produced with a manual process that is really successful. With the revolutionary concept of a digitally contextualized ‘New Aesthetic’, emerging from the online underground as far back as 2011, the evolutionary turn of the tide in both art and working life, as astutely prophesized by Henze, is beckoning. Yet such a tip in the aesthetic scheme is all-dependent on the still unfocused looking glass paradigm, from which current and future artists and spectators choose to gaze through. I think there is like an autonomous force that is somehow irresistible in the proceeding of technology, like an optimal force in evolution. There have been these humiliations of humanity in the past, in the history of humanity. One of which, being, for example, the proof that the earth is not the center of the universe, and I think that digitality does something similar to mankind. It is kind of showing that mankind’s not the pinnacle of evolution forever.
According to Henze, the social response of being bewildered by that fact has ultimately resulted in two avenues of formal thought, particularly in art. Firstly, that of an active curiosity either critical or celebratory, which is inclusive of the digital in artistic discourse. Or secondly, as manual analogous artwork can suggest, an anthropocentric escapism which further perpetuates an idea of art, that is narrowly of paraphernalia of the human. To position the machine, which has evolved in tandem with, and arguably independent of, human development, as either a friend or ‘Sci-Fi’ foe, or as an intrinsically good or bad entity, is to obscure the ontological significance and possibility of ‘The Digital’ within our own framework of reality. Henze has tried to bridge these two traditionally opposed worlds by various means in his art. Fascinated by the machine and the digital from early in his career, Henze’s queries on the differentiation between Media Art, which he originally studied in Karlsruhe at the ZKM Centre for Art and Media Technology, and Fine Art which he was to then pursue at the more traditional art academy, the Städelschule, Frankfurt, has ultimately laid the theoretical groundwork for his current artistic ventures. His experience at Städelschule, as a student who received strange looks for integrating the computer into his work, further reinforced the common ‘machine versus man’ dichotomy, which Henze still desires to deconstruct. For me, for my work, I always try to develop a bodily understanding of art in both directions. Either making myself the arm of the machine when creating complex images in an analogue way, or to use the computer or the machine as a sparring partner in the production of art. What results in the final image, achieved by numerous trials of algorithm or by alternative methodological means, is something of both the machine and the human. The philosophical weight of, and ontological point being made in such a process being that there is part of human creativity and part of machine creativity in the work itself. For Henze, whose point of departure is the machine and corresponding point of reference is the body, his latest work Overture (2013), a collaborative piece with choreographer David Dawson performed by the Dutch National Ballet, may be one of the closest executions of the ideal art. Henze’s role as set designer and co-conceptualist in the project allowed for an active performativity of human-machine interaction through the presence of the dancers. I suddenly had the body inside the image and therefore obtained a temporal quality which has never been visible in the frozen image before. This inversion of roles of the human and machine, the body dancing and interacting within the machine-set motifs, is
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The Little Search for the Absolute – HOLO 2013
also telling of the vast difference in scale which characterizes Henze’s work and employment of artistic mediums. The Berlin-based artist’s interest in creating spaces rather than pieces speaks of his preference for that of a stage context in communicating his overall message. Such large-scale inclinations feed into Henze’s own curatorship ventures, such as The Rules exhibition in 2012 and abstrakt Abstrakt exhibition in 2010 at NODE10 Forum for Digital Arts in the Frankfurter Kunstverein where communication of ideas in a stimulating environment is encouraged.
However, the compromises of executing art on such a scale, within a commercial context or at the hands of a fellow collaborator, can be a sacrifice too great. It is within the private process of alternatively creating art pieces that Henze, like most artists, can find refuge and express his ideas in different mediums. RandomCondition(Arabidopsis) (2012), an installation based on a generative system of mathematical structure growing on genetic code, tackles the idea of the experienced world and the positing of it as one of either semiotics, signs and codes, or that of something potentially metaphysical and less tangible. Henze offers an alternative outside of such a dichotomy via an analysis of subjectivity, inherent in the consciousness, which ultimately shapes our worldview: We live in the physical world, we can’t think of consciousness outside of the body. But we’re approaching the construction of this consciousness inside the body [constructed from a genetic code]. The work is just a formal clashing of these two worlds in this one material. If RandomCondition(Arabidopsis), in its sparring attitude against the generative system from which it is produced, is reminiscent of Henze’s latter artistic approach, then the former approach can be discovered in his earlier work The Little Search for the Absolute (2008) where by contrast this modest looking piece calls to the gestural inherent in the methodology of being the arm of the machine, and in effect, it conveys the physical properties of the human and the machine very poignantly. Intrigued and attracted by the beauty of form of the particle signatures found in scientific experiments on an abstract plane, Henze’s work is representative of the humane within that machine digital world. Mimicking the shapes of these traces via a tested algorithm, Henze touches on the metaphysical driven by these scientific investigations and their search for the absolute, funneling towards an anticipated core. Singular in its mission and humble in scale, the work is ultimately symbolic of a search for that needle in the haystack that finally solves all the equations that we have opened so far. For Henze and other artists engaged within this digital discourse – which is all too pervasive and ubiquitous to be conceptualized by the average spectator – what the new Aesthetic offers is a key to unlocking that ontological sphere. Through the recording of pure digital visual impressions made by machines that look at the world, the abstract digital becomes concrete and tangible. Whereby, the blocky ‘Tetris-like’ artifact imprinted on the computer screen becomes a portal for the viewer and artist into an uncharted discourse of art.
RandomCondition(Arabidopsis) 2012 Laser drawing on ca 48m of photo paper. Wood, Aluminium. Dimensions ca 3m x 5m x 50cm. Installed at the Max-Planck-Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne. mpipz.mpg.de
Before that final leap can be taken by those in the art community, several questions remain about the two tandem ontological spheres of existence, that of the digital and the human. Is the digital another dimension? Does it inhabit us, or do we inhabit it? The least we can do, suggests Henze, is be open to the range of possibilities and use digital art as a new lens – a refocused ‘looking glass’ – rid of formalistic reticence or illusion.
Reality is mediated, subjective, atemporal, negotiable. It either has a place or it doesn't, depending on the viewer. Perhaps my work is able to create a sense of unreality for the viewer, or an alternate reality.Â
CHUNG Temporal Transmutation
Moonlit Sky. Experiments in Light and Form
Words by Linh Nguyen Sougwen Chung defies definitions. The New York based Chinese-Canadian interdisciplinary artist creates a space in which to project the ever changing self through drawing, video, sculpture, performance, sound and installation. The dynamics of life and human ephemerality are explored in Chung’s work, and there is a distinct nature to her art whereby architecture breaks down, concepts blurred and lines are crossed. Chung grew up in Canada and is now living in New York for the past eight years. The city, according to her, is perpetually in a state of transformation and decay. The city reinvents itself and at the same time it’s falling apart. In the space between there’s a sense of fragility that defines the city. I think it creates a sense of unity for New York as a city, as disparate as its communities can seem. New York is a city sprawling with immigrants, nomads; the displaced seem to forge a sense of place here. As a ChineseAmerican artist, my own background is a hybrid of eastern and western cultures. I’ve been on the road quite extensively over the past few years and lived everywhere from Middle America to Stockholm. I’ve come to cherish that New York is immediately recognizable yet can feel like all these different places at once. Recently, her work has been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Geneva, and she’s been featured in The New Yorker, Dazed and Confused and The Creators Project. Those who are aware of Chung’s work are also aware of the usual questions asked of the relationship between traditional and digital modes of production. Her work is hard to categorise, and Chung has stated once before that we shouldn’t consider 66 ROOMS T he Beginning Of A Beaut if ul Fr iendship
ourselves as this or that, but that creativity should be interdisciplinary and adaptable. When asked about the dangers of trying to categorise and define, she replied: It all depends on the approach, and what necessitates the desire for categorisation and definition. Structure can be scaffolding for growth or the adoption of unnecessary constraints. It’s useful to oscillate between both diligent introspection and wild creative abandon. Chung creates an impression of flux through her art. Her light installation, Chiaroscuro (2013), is an example of the cross disciplinary work in which she attracts all the human senses. The installation explores the relationship between light and dark, in which Chung extends boundaries and dissolves the bastion of defining, which separates, confines and therefore limits experience, and in turn, immerses us into a more acute, cognitive experience. The hand drawings display just how involved Chung is with her work. Patterns are intricate, highly detailed and large-scale for a more immersive, spatial experience. The whole encounter is almost mesmerising and hypnotic. Light, too, is often embraced in Chung’s work; as shards, fragments, but also as an opening. With Chiaroscuro, light is seeping through, trying to break out, to fill up the space in which we dwell and expresses itself. Her short film, Experiment in Light and Form (2013), portrays light in a way in which it appears to dance on top of the geometric structures. The effect of time is felt as we – the static body in front of the screen – become alert to it with moveable perception. Perhaps this is what Chung means when she states that the screen is not the medium; we are. I’m curious about the implications of networked and screenbased systems on behaviour. How do they influence cognition and process? I’ve found that how a person chooses to live
Étude Op. 2, No 1
within these systems can be a statement in-and-of itself. Rather than trying to assert an idea, Chung insists that those who view her work take whatever they need to take from it. This statement opens up the kind of free reign and sovereignty Chung gives to those who view and experience her art. Her series of meditations on form and memory, Etude (2012), oscillates between two worlds of order and chaos. The abstract, tidal like drawings are delicate but by no means fragile. What comes forth is a projected strength, which creates furore, and is fortified by a textual impression. Etude is an interpretation of movement sustained, movement which comes after a crux of outburst and hangs in mid-air. The philosopher Heraclitus once wrote that nothing endures but change, and we can see how, with the virtuosity of Chung’s work, she translates those words once written. Her interdisciplinary work demonstrates the open stance nature of her approach, in which she invites a myriad of tools and materials such as MadMapper, CINEMA4D, paper, magnets, steel rods, LEDs, Arduino, film, acetate, silk, Photoshop, Illustrator, nanocontrollers, electric violin, Wacom tablet, wood and projectors, to name a few. Because she often combines the aesthetic and experiential, I asked Chung whether she was more inclined over one or the other?
Aren’t the two mutually exclusive? I suppose categorizing a work as aesthetic or experiential depends largely on the approach of the viewer. Shifting between the visual/ perceptual/observational to spatial/physical/interactive. To that point, it lies in subjective experience… it’s an impression in flux. With her background also as a violinist, Chung submerges us into a visual discourse which overlaps with sound. It’s clear how her childhood association with sound paved the path to her progressive, temporal and evolving style. Music, which is so constituent and therefore essential, to her work, is itself an ephemeral form of art. It unfolds in time, ontologically and psychologically. Chung’s dimensional art latched onto time experienced rather than what’s seen on a clock and reverberates within us. We are transcended, willingly, fully, and are transported into another realm, to another fabric of reality.
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Lee HOWELL leehowellphotography.com UK The desire to create… to be blissfully obsessed by your passion to create something new, to bring to life with photography a reality which has only existed in your head. The urge to question, to engage with the viewer, to express an opinion, an emotion, to be who you want to be…
As a photographer first and foremost my work is a combination of digital capture and creative retouching in postproduction, creating works of fiction that fit a preconceived theme or concept. Their aesthetic and influence quite often comes from that of classic art, with much of the imagery I create containing an almost painting like tone and quality. We are bombarded with an insurmountable amount of digital imagery on a daily basis, yet much of my work is more heavily influenced by things closer to home, my daughter, the beautiful city I live in, wildlife, beautiful natural light, subtle colour tones, classic movies, old oil paintings, music, art, people, the human spirit… it all gets digested into one’s psyche, in turn influencing the work one produces.
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MILLO millo.biz ITALY/ UK
It's like depicting an inner world that shows itself slowly, line after line, like a poetry of shapes that breaks onto your face with all its complexity but without any misleading options. It's the only way I can explain some feelings. I can't separate it from my life, from what happens to me and to the people that surround me. I draw what I feel and what I see, and sometimes I like it so much that it makes my heart explode.
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My work reflects my interest in genetic modification and its possible impact on the human condition. The sculptures are a fusion of geometric, architectural and organic abstract forms, suggesting a bleak evolutionary future where biotechnology has been used to make us perfect.
Jason Hopkins abhominal.com UK
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Tobias HALL tobias-hall.co.uk UK Aesthetically, I guess my work is a mixture of relatively crudely drawn lines, drawn/scanned textures and quite clean digital gradients/colour. It's mostly figurative, although I plan on changing that up in the future. I'm a commercial illustrator, so for the most part my work answers a set brief, but in my personal work I like to reflect on stuff I see or hear, especially the music I listen to.Â I'm driven a lot by the need to improve. Not only in order to survive in the industry, but also just to see how good I can be. There's a huge satisfaction that comes with noticing improvement â€“ it's really tangible when I look at how my work has changed over the last few years.Â
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I describe my work as moments in time that will never happen again. I like to shoot very much in the style of Cartier Bresson, in that I rarely set anything up and I like to capture reality as it happens. All my favourite pieces have come from capturing a moment that happened while I was there. Â I really want to create pieces that communicate the feelings, physical and emotional, that I experienced when I made them, as near as possible. The titles of my pieces are also very important to them. The words suggest the angle of approach. I have fibromyalgia, and as a result I am extremely isolated and I have been told numerous times that this isolation is very apparent in my work. Because of my bad health getting out to shoot is difficult for me. I am also mildly autistic and I think this is what allows me to see things in a different way to most people, and through my photos some people really seem to be able to understand things from my view for a change, rather than me having to conform to their views - as society seems to think I should. As a result, all my work is very personal, but in a way that wants to connect with other people, something I struggle to do in my everyday life.Â
Thom Bleasdale bleasdalephoto.comÂ UK
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I've always gone for a minimalist approach. I like lots of symmetry, subtle tones and geometric shapes. What that comes under I'm not sure... Nu Skool Modernism maybe?
Work life can get pressurised at times, with tight deadlines... but, comes with the territory unfortunately. It's a labour of love, I've never thought about doing anything else to be honest, at least outside of media anyway. I'm certainly not financially driven. With illustration, I think it's about putting your heart and soul in to it and connecting with people through your work. Love what you do. first, the rewards will follow.Â
Marcus REED marcusreed.com UK
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My latest series of oil paintings is titled Resort Archaeology. Influenced by oil painting of past centuries, as well as minimal architecture and sculpture, these painted locations attempt to speak about the human mark, which is established through structures that try to survive time, loss and history. These resorts are usually architectural fragments from the near past, which intend to become part of the landscape. Each painting depicts a fictional place characterized by human absence, but nevertheless reminds us of its identity as place, rather than as a generic landscape. I'm generally interested in the history of the medium of painting, and driven by a curiosity about its potential as a visual language within contemporary art. Work featured: Human Level, Somewhere Near, Backyard, Bunker
Vasilis AVRAMIDIS avramidis.infoÂ GREECE
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Bold, bright, simple, complicated, optimist, Bauhaus fuzzy felt. I've never second guessed why I do what I do, I made the decision to follow it when I was very young… I got a little lost on the way but it all worked out in the end. I do it because I would be so unhappy if I didn't. I'm driven by curiosity and positivity…. and my friends…. and weekday trips to the pub. 96 ROOMS Handpicked
Ben Newman bennewman.co.uk UK
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Minimalistic opulence and sublime beauty. I love creating. Bizarre surreal moments of everyday life. The wonderful inspiring collaborators I work with and taking a risk - to dare.
Madame Peripetie madameperipetie.com UK/ GERMANY
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Fx GOBY I see myself as a storyteller. I use any visual support and technique, books, films, animation to tell a story that excites me. I've always loved being able to transport people in my imagination since I was a little boy. Although I could talk, my first stories were told without words, I only made sound design with my mouth. Being curious and willing to explore new territories, whether it is stories, people or techniques, makes this job endlessly fun.
fxgoby.com UK/ FRANCE
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Creative Director at
The Royal Opera House
Natalie Abrahami. Photo by © ROH / Catherine Ashmore
I think that if you can make a little change with each show that you do, then you’re making an impact in the world
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I first became interested in theatre directing when I was quite young. I had never acted. I always wanted to be behind the scenes, and I really wanted to be a photographer. I did some work experience when I was about 15 or 16, to try and understand a bit more about photography. I ended up going on an advertising shoot, where I saw Chris Palmer directing a commercial. I thought it was so exciting, watching him work with the performance and seeing how he put something together live. From then on, at school I started reading more plays trying to direct them, not really knowing much about the plays but using my imagination to stage an idea. I work from project to project – I’ve worked in the theatre, with old and new writers, dancers and actors. I feel really lucky working with such talented people and I always feel I’m still learning and discovering things. I guess I have quite a short attention span, as I’m always keen to be exploring new things, challenging myself and learning more about the world. I love that I can work on lots of different projects with lots of different people.
The role of a theatre director is to work on every part of the process, from the beginning idea of which play to direct and which actors to have in it, and how you want to present it, whether you have a period you want to set it in or a concept you want to convey. Then you work with a creative team – you work with the designers to figure out a design for the show and how you want to light it, which takes you to your sound and lighting designers.
There isn’t really a nine to five in that sense, because at times my day consists of being in the library doing research for a project, or sometimes a full day of meeting actors and auditioning them. I’m usually working on a project for a year before it going into production. Once you’re in rehearsals, that’s the really intensive bit. You work ten till six with the actors, and then around that you’ve got meetings to make sure the set is being built correctly, the designs are going ahead, and the props and objects you need are being searched for. The ten till six element is for the four weeks of rehearsals in a studio. Then you go into the theatre for technical rehearsals, on the set with light and sound, and you then start to craft it – those can be very long days. So you start the previews, which is when an audience comes in, and after that you have the press night and reviews. I really like to do quite a lot of research, because I feel that if I know a lot about the background of the writer and the context in which the play was written, then I feel like I’m able to interpret it better. I really like to read a lot around the subject and share the useful bits of the research with the performers, so that I can help them in their roles.
The thing that drives me forward is facing a new challenge, something that I’ve never done before. I’m always thrilled with what seems unachievable and how to make it achievable. To make work that really excites audiences. I’m really passionate about making work for young people. I feel inspired by those first moments when I saw live theatre – people doing extraordinary things with their bodies and amazing talent on stage. I feel very passionate about trying to make that work for others, so that I then can inspire others. Thus what they see on stage will help them understand their place in the world and how to live their life. I think that if you can make a little change with each show that you do, then you’re making an impact in the world. I found the Young Vic Directors network particularly useful. It helps you know more about the opportunities available, ask questions to your peers and talk to people who are at the same stage as you.
Tenacity is really important. There is no clear career path in something like this, because it’s a craft where you learn and apprentice yourself to people. I assisted other directors a lot – the way I achieved this was by writing a lot of love letters to directors, saying things like “I really love your work. Would you please meet me for a cup of tea, because I’d really like to work with you?” Writing letters (or now emails), and the tenacity to do this, help you initially make your way in the world. Know what your goal is and then you can keep striving towards it. It’s about preparation and tenacity, and making inroads in your industry.
Faust. Photo by © ROH / Catherine Ashmore
Carmen, Act II. Photo by © ROH / Catherine Ashmore
Interview by Jesc Bunyard
Die Frau ohne Schatten. Photo by © Catherine Ashmore
Pete Hellicar & Joel Gethin Lewis Founders at
Hellicar & Lewis
WDYDWYD? A day in the life of Hellicar & Lewis – tea to start, compulsory. Battling studio mates for control of the office stereo. Moans/lolz at Dad Jokes. The constant slow erosion of the romance between us all. Our work is split into three areas: commercial, therapeutic and artistic. So there is always a huge variety of activities going on, an average day doesn’t really exist. The best thing about it is getting to work with your friends, having a choice about who you work with and how you do that. Variety of projects in lots of different areas. Being able to work at pace, and to change direction quickly. Lack of wage slavery. Freedom at work is freedom from work.
How did we make our dream a reality? We started slowly, tested the water and then iterated. Communication is key. However, because we are the business, we are irreplaceable – great for the ego, but bad for sleep and family life. Communication is the only way to overcome this and maintain a healthy amount of perspective on our position in the universe. The most rewarding aspect is seeing people using our work and smiling. Watching our team and collaborators being amazing. Having the
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Pete Hellicar & Joel Gethin Lewis
Truth is the killer app in design and communication. Knowing you know nothing. Friendship. Music
opportunity to travel and experience the unexpected. To formulate new ideas about design and technology and take them into action. To be able to come up with an idea and see it through to reality. Seeing other people take our work and run with it.
The driving force behind Hellicar & Lewis is honesty. Truth is the killer app in design and communication. Knowing you know nothing. Friendship. Music. We try to be honest with each other, personally and creatively. Don’t believe the hype. Technology is not an idea in itself. Ideas are easy, doing is hard. Be observant. Knowing when to loop and when to start afresh.
The agency aims for continued survival and sustainable growth. Make, develop and share creative platforms, exploring them in terms of technology and design. Our recent Feel TV project for Nike was the culmination of six years of the studio – the first time we felt we really achieved a nexus of design, technology and art. It was great to build an identity, a social broadcast system, a space and see it all activated by the audience and performers. We love Paper Prototyping. It’s what we use in house and it’s great to share with people, especially those who self-label as ‘non-creative’ or ‘non-technical’. It allows you to ignore budget, experience and knowledge, but still to make new and communicate it.
Our identity is a work in progress. See our Twitter stream. We’d like to be identified with joyous and engaging projects – challenging for us to make, but not for others to use. We are particularly focused on interactions that create other interactions through technology, art direction or artistic quality. Variety is also something that we value.
Our creative vision is that through genuine honest exchange between people, places and technology, amazing experiences can emerge. The vision begins in fantasy: “wouldn’t it be great/funny/terrifying/amazing if...”, but ends in reality. It’s always interesting to see how things are actualised. Our three areas of business all feed back into each other – commercial, artistic and educational/therapeutic. Each informs and influences the other, conceptually and contextually. A good example of this is the path from ReacTickles to Coke 24 Hour Music to Somantics.
The H & L team on what inspires them:
Joe: Tintin; The Universe; The Pantheon. Pete: Buddy Blue; Fear; Curiosity. Kieran: Arsenal Football Club; Grime; Information. Amalie: Uncertainty; History; Beyoncé.
Our aspirations for the future… Fix the leak in our studio roof. Contain Joel’s detritus. Keep Pete awake in the office. Keep Amalie [Englesson, Producer] in the manner to which she is accustomed. Totally ‘southernise’ Kieran [Startup, Art Director]. In all seriousness, continue to grow in a sustainable way and get the chance to develop and creatively explore all the areas we are interested in as a studio. It’s all an illusion. The only thing that matters is love. That’s the truth.
Interview by Adan Jerreat-Poole
Save the Artic, Greenpeace, 2013
Creative Director and CEO at
MYKITA’s Founders: Moritz Krueger, Philipp Haffmans, Daniel Haffmans and Harald Gottschlin
WDYDWYD? Before founding MYKITA I worked at a shelter for the homeless in Berlin while doing my alternative civilian service. After finishing that, I studied media and political science and started looking for a job. I came across an eyewear company by coincidence and started to work there. I discovered I liked the business world. It was all very exciting and challenging, with lots of new insights. I was just twenty years old then.
It was a positive thing that we had very little experience. It really helped us to find our own path 112 ROOMS W hy Do You Do W hat You Do?
At the eyewear company I was working at, in Berlin in 2001, I met the other three founders of MYKITA and we decided to venture out on our own. We just followed our instincts, step by step. At one point it was clear that we either had to forget about making glasses the way we had envisioned it or we basically had to make the glasses ourselves. We chose the second option. With the help of a retired engineer, we built individual machines and tools to craft the glasses. So it became the philosophy of MYKITA to pretty much produce everything in-house. We had a naive, intuitive approach to business and creating a company. That was our wish: to found our own business, and go our own way independently. Looking back, it was a positive thing that we had very little experience. It really helped us to find our own path. The name MYKITA is actually two words: The English ‘MY’ and the German word ‘KITA.’ When it came to finding a name for the new venture, our first premises, a nursery, provided inspiration. The abbreviation of ‘Kindertagesstätte’ (German for ‘nursery’); ‘Kita’ became MYKITA. If MYKITA were a term in a dictionary, I would define it as a ‘modern manufactory’. Modern manufacturing is the combination of classical, traditional expertise and craftsmanship with new innovative and modern
technologies. These are the two ingredients from which we are creating our products. It doesn’t mean that one part of MYKITA is more forward looking and the other part is more traditional. It is the opposite. It’s all part of the recipe, but you’re cooking one meal.
Modern manufacturing constantly needs new ingredients: Firstly skilled craftsmanship, comparable to skills needed when working with diamonds, leather or stone. This then becomes more interesting when combined with new technologies. In our metal collection, called No. 1 because it was our very first line, all frame components are cut from stainless steel and – in a similar style to the Japanese principle of origami – are then bent and folded to become a three-dimensional object, without using conventional hinges. Research and development is a very strong pillar of our business, which we strongly focus on. We like to look outside of the eyewear realm into other fields: engineering, medical industries and so on, to find ingredients, which could be used in our kitchen. Everybody likes to buy traditional products. But if there’s a modern product that is more adapted to our current needs, it makes sense in my opinion that this product is more relevant than the older one.
A major benefit of being Creative Director at MYKITA is that I am involved in all the different aspects of our business, because I am also the CEO at the same time. This way I naturally developed a holistic business perspective, as well as overseeing the creation of our collections and products. It is important to take good care of the employees – they have to be inspired, challenged and happy at the same time. I like to describe MYKITA as a ship: When the crew is happy, the ship can sail its own route. And to always keep that spirit up, even in times of strong growth, when this can prove challenging. We know that commercial success is the key to preserving our creative independence. That’s extremely important to understand. There is a strong analytical part involved when we create our collections. We have to take the needs of each individual market into consideration, in over seventy countries. All countries have totally different requirements and tastes. This is something you learn over the years; you need a lot of experience.
In April this year, the HAUS and the Maison are coming together: MYKITA + Maison Martin Margiela. It was something we wanted to do for a long time, and we are thrilled now this is finally launching. We are starting with two eyewear collections. One is called ESSENTIAL, stainless steel frames reduced to the essential elements. It’s all about aesthetic functionality. We have employed a thick, transparent powder coat that seals the frames and gives them a radical, pure look. The other concept is called DUAL, which are twin frames which are born of one form and deconstructed. It transports a lot of Margiela and MYKITA DNA at the same time. For us, a collaboration is a lot more than creating eyewear together. It’s about creating small standalone brands under the roof of MYKITA, which are combining the best of both worlds. In the case of MYKITA and Maison Martin Margiela, you can clearly see that it worked out.
We are working on an exciting project right now: The MYKITA HAUS is moving! Over the last years, we have been outgrowing our HAUS, because so many new people started working for us. What had been before under one roof has been spreading over a whole district – we rented out apartments and a little remise (coach house) in a backyard. It ended up becoming a MYKITA neighbourhood, which was quite funny. These times are coming to an end this summer. We’ll be able to finally all sit together in our new home in Berlin’s multicultural Kreuzberg district. We are planning to open up our own coffee shop, to have a restaurant in there and also open up the HAUS for other creative minds and companies to move in with us. It’s a very open minded approach, which we feel comfortable with. If you open up and get together with interesting people, good projects evolve very naturally.
MYKITA Modern Manufactory
Interview by Rachel Worth
Ernest Capbert Marketing Director at
WDYDWYD? We’ve always believed in being reasonable about growth, where our fabrics come from, and where our products are made
Being the marketing director of this company is to be a pioneer, to open up cold water surf spots, travel to them, live in them; we often call it chasing space. The job involves reporting, building relationships, and getting people excited about cold water surfing and the products we build for it.
I’ve been here since the beginning. I’ve never been huge on formal titles, I just love cold water surfing and what I believe the cold water surf industry is going to become down the line. Not many people are in a position to build a new category – 9 out of 10 businesses are usually built to join already established categories. We are the only cold water surf company in the world, and we believe there will be many more in years to come.
I have a very bad attention span. I often have to move around, toss things in the air, think whilst walking. My mother told me at a very young age that my super power was my inability to focus, to see everything. From this has grown my interest in a lot of things, always finding inspiration everywhere. But if I had to say one thing inspires me, I’d probably say it’s the belief in something.
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Tom Kay believed that he needed something to keep him warm when he got out of the sea back in 2002. From this we’ve driven to build the vision of cold water surfing and the beautiful products we make for it – it’s what gets us waking every morning. It’s rewarding when someone challenges
the idea of cold water surfing and the industry we believe it’s going to become, and with poise and confidence we project the vision. People come to understand that living off the land, chasing space and finding world class beautiful cold waves is growing and happening. On an average day I drive along a Cornish coastline checking the surf. I walk into the workshop, pet three dogs, give company founder Tom Kay a high five, say hello to rest of the team and then get on the phone to people, talk about film, imagery, storytelling, sales updates, maybe a surf. The best thing about it is that I can do what I value, and what I do naturally – cold water surf. I can create a vision around it, excite people and drive in the direction of anything I feel is going to make it happen.
It’s always a challenge finding ways to grow the business and walk the fine line of preserving our culture, maintaining brand equity, and at the same time achieving growth and sales. These are the toughest things without question. People grow businesses, successful ones, but time and time again, people begin to get recruited solely on what they can do and culture begins to take a knock. Growth is a prerequisite of business and I understand this, but for us, so is the happiness of our employees, our culture – this is very important to me. From the very beginning we’ve always believed in being reasonable about growth, where our fabrics come from, and where our products are made. This has won us a Volvo Design Award, an ISPO BRANDNEW Award, an Observer Ethical Award and an RSPCA Good Business Award. We don’t outwardly project that we’re doing green things. Ethics, the environment, our sourcing, these are not marketing tools here at Finisterre, they’re just what we do.
A project that embodies the Finisterre vision: our Bowmont project. The Bowmont is one of the rarest sheep breeds in the world and it was our belief that in investing in them and growing them, we could strike down our dependency on foreign Merino. Eight years later we’ve launched the only Bowmont products in the world. At the start many told us that this was commercial suicide. They’ve said the same about building a cold water surf company and we’ve always believed otherwise – to simply believe that something is possible is one of the most powerful things we can ever have. Everything starts with an idea. But most of the ideas that we have are powered by imagination; they often come from the line of thinking that anything is possible. People have told us that a cold water surf company was not a good idea. You have to build everything off the vision and always stay focused. I often reference Simon Sinek – people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it – so we always focus more on the cold water surfing and why we do it, whether it’s for a photo shoot or an advertising campaign. I do believe that avoiding the hard sell is a good thing. The landscape has changed: bring people in emotionally, share with them what you believe and why you do what you do. It always starts with the imagination and then we come back down to earth and begin formulating a plan that can work within our framework.
I’ve been cold water surfing ever since I was a child. The experience is an unbelievable one. It starts with the hope that the waves will be as good as they can be; the eight man canvas tent; the living off the land and off grid; the wood burner; the coffee; the whiskey, and of course, the waves.
To see an idea actually unfold in front of your eyes is an unbelievable thing; it couldn’t be a more exciting time.
Interview by Adan Jerreat-Poole
Producer and Composer at
Raz Olsher and Fossil Studios
I like to hear personality in music. If it is genuine and real, it just gets my juices flowing
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WDYDWYD? Before I founded Fossil Studios, I did everything from being a zoo keeper, a taxi driver and even had a short spell at KFC. I was working in a chicken shop in Central London, then that shop went bust. I remember that I made a conscious decision that day: “I am a musician, and I don’t want to do anything else with my time other than making music”.
I was a session bassist/keyboardist and a bedroom producer. At the same time, I was playing in many bands of all styles of music in the London music scene, from live dance acts to African music, some pop bands and also a classical collective. I have always considered myself as an outsider in the music business. The way it works just didn’t make any sense to me. At the same time, I do make my living from music, so I’ve had to identify my strengths and found them in production, writing and composing. Since then, I’ve been creating working relationships with a number of different artists, directors and musicians that have been growing organically over the years. I have produced my own music from my bedroom in Dalston for ten years and collaborated with filmmakers, animators and performance artists, and have also done sound installation. Fossil Studios’ creative approach and ethos is unique in two ways. Firstly, we make a selection of killer gourmet toasties and an infamous pint of ice coffee. Secondly, we have created an atmospheric intimacy and a creative vibe that people just love to come to, being creative while also getting some work done.
At Fossil we like to fuse the organic with the electronic and the human with the machine to create a harmonious mixture of both a lively feel and a produced sound. We take the best from both worlds. We are always full of passion and love for what we create. The best thing about producing, writing and composing music is that I just feel blessed to be able to wake up in the morning and do what I love most – to be creative on a daily basis. I love making people dance. I get to meet some incredibly talented people and music takes me to beautiful places around the world. To finish a working day in the studio listening back to a new piece of music is the most rewarding feeling I have felt to date.
There are some challenges, though. I really struggle to find some time to eat. At times my ears ring quite a lot. Explaining to an artist their song is not a masterpiece in a subtle and constructive manner – that is quite demanding physically and mentally. Having said that, these challenges are also what get you up in the morning. Looking at that blank canvas at the beginning of a project gives me this buzz of excitement that I love so much. Some of the most memorable moments of my career include having Michael Madsen in the studio recording his poetry and telling Marlon Brandon tales; that was a nice day in the office. Playing Glastonbury Shangri-La on the Saturday night at 3:00 a.m. in front of thousands of cannibals was also definitely memorable. And, of course, selling over 1,000,000 records worldwide from a record made here in Hackney felt quite monumental and surreal.
My creative process is different every time. I have no formula. It can start from a beat and bass line, a sampled loop from an old vinyl, a detailed brief or just from sitting at the piano. I usually have an aim or a vision but always leave room for random mistakes and sometimes it unfolds in a completely different way. The initial idea or vibe comes pretty quick and then it takes more time crafting it into a finalized piece. I usually make 90% of the composition in a day and then the other 10% are more detailed little changes that take a few more days of work. I get my inspiration from many things: 19th century French composers, a homeless man at the corner shop or a well matured single malt. I try and listen to music I haven’t heard before. Sounds inspire me very much. I like to hear personality in music. If it is genuine and real, it just gets my juices flowing.
Buoy short film by David Higgs
Ayanna Witter Johnson, Black Panther
I like composing soundtracks and scores very much. Music has always been a very visual thing for me and I find the marriage of sound, image and narrative very natural. Film is the most complex of works that combine all art forms together. It is a challenge to do so harmoniously and support whatever it is you are working with. The work varies a lot depending on the directors I work with. Some give me total freedom and some are with me in the studio playing the instruments. At times, I write the music before the film is even shot and at others I get a week to do all the music for the final cut.
At present, we are launching our own record label Fossil Sounds and the first release will be from Rubato. This is a contemporary classical threepiece band taking old piano pieces and reconstructing them in a modern way. Then we’ve got a live Deep House band ready to go out and conquer some dance floors, and a ten piece disco band hard at it with an album due later this year. We’ve also been writing with some exciting artists such as Thabo Mkwanazi, Ayanna Witter-Johnson and Lady Chann, to name a few.
Interview by Rachel Worth
The Ninth Cloud
Yard Life Festival
YL is all about helping people discover all the breathtaking new talent out there
Being the founder of this music & arts festival is absolutely a dream really (sometimes a nightmare too!). I just love music and organising things so I’m in my element really! It’s a challenge just having enough time to do everything mainly; I use a lot of lists and spreadsheets to try and organise my time as best I can! It’s a lot of hard work but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. As YL is all for charity, (Multiple Sclerosis Research), I run it as a volunteer, and I have a full time job too, which is in the music biz too so it all goes hand in hand. I don’t have a lot of spare time at the moment let’s put it that way! I am constantly at gigs finding new talent for the festival, which I love, and a lot of time is spent at my desk bringing all the different elements together.
The best thing about it is that I get to listen to fantastic new music all day! And raising money for such a fantastic charity is so important to me. And of course I get to showcase this incredible talent to a load of true music fans. YL is all about helping people discover all the breathtaking new talent out there, and to help bands/DJs get discovered is hugely rewarding.
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The festival hopes to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis Research, raise awareness of MS and to help provide a platform for all the artists. We are a tiny team of friends and we all work as volunteers. I couldn’t do it alone and everyone is just fantastic, they are as passionate as I am about the
goals and we have great fun! We all believe in the cause massively and that’s reflected in our work. We are insanely passionate about new music and the charity and that’s why we spend all our time doing this.
I chose Multiple Sclerosis Research as my dad suffered with MS for many years before passing away in 2006. I wanted to raise money for the research centre to help them to find a cure so other families in the future don’t have to go through what we did: my Dad was unable to walk, talk or move for several years and it was absolutely heartbreaking. Dad was a massive music fan too and I wanted to do something in his honour, something he would be proud of and would have enjoyed himself. Yard Life is THE place to discover new music; it will be the most fun weekend with lots of wonderful people who carry the same values as us, people who love new music and art and want to raise money for the charity whilst having a great time! As well as the music, we also have a great arts programme, being programmed by friends of ours at Riff Raff Productions. There will be lots of interactive live art projects that you can take part in over the weekend!
We are very lucky to have a super talented and wonderful web designer who is working with us pro bono, Jake Giltsoff. Jake made our first website too and he just gets YL and what works for us. We wanted it to be clean and easy to read but vibrant with our passion for the project. It also incorporates illustrations from the wonderful Amy McCarthy (on our posters too) and the incredible Mr Gresty, who has designed our logo, posters, tote bags and the signage for the festival. We’ve really been taking our time to find the right musicians/DJs for the line-up; we are at gigs almost every night searching high and low for the right people. We’re looking for musicians that we believe in, put on an incredible show and have huge potential, but also artists that believe in YL too. They are all waiving their fees so that we can raise the maximum for charity, which is just wonderful.
Yard Life is my ideal! I am hoping that we raise lots of money for MS Research, everyone has an incredible fun weekend and goes away with a huge list of new musicians/DJs to follow and all the artists have a whole load of new fans. My goal is to keep the YL ethos going whether that’s with more festivals or smaller events, to keep raising money & awareness for MS Research and helping to provide a platform for music/art we believe in. So please help spread the word— we don’t have any big corporate sponsors or budgets for marketing/PR so if you like the sound of us and what we do, please tell your friends and come along and help support.
Interview by Adan Jerreat-Poole
Designer and Founder at
WDYDWYD? Despite having no formal training in design, fashion or tailoring, a keen interest in fashion from an early age, largely influenced by music and counter culture from Hip Hop, skating and alternative music, was what led me to direct Beggars Run. The first real push came when I started working with tailors in Dublin to realize a trouser style I could not find. Then it slowly blossomed from there.
As an independent, boutique company, we pretty much follow our own instinct
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Essentially I’ve been able to run the label alone thus far, although I collaborate with Edward Hussey on design, copy and social media. There are others on the margin who understand the philosophy behind the brand that I hope to involve at a later date. Originally due to circumstance, having lived in West and North London, I ended up moving East. Obviously it being a dynamic area for creative enterprises has helped enormously, especially on the social side, as I’ve been able to make some great contacts with other designers and artists. Our workshop is based in South Delhi, where we have a team of five tailors. So I’m regularly travelling over there to work on new collections. Location is less a factor in our inspiration, although from time to time inspiration from travel is drawn. The original suit I took inspiration from was by a London company which existed in the 1960s called Roulette. It was wound up sometime in the 60s and the suits were in storage for forty years. I picked up a brown velvet pinstripe suit from Old Hat in Putney. Its owner David Saxby had procured them
at auction. So essentially, our suit silhouette is early 60s but we take influence from 30s, 40s and 50s, while trying to maintain a contemporary edge rather than a purely retro one. As an independent, boutique company, we pretty much follow our own instinct. The creative process is always very natural and intuitive. Our ethos is to offer high quality products while working very hard to deliver our wares at economical prices. The key to retaining independence and intimacy whilst growing and expanding as a business is believing in your convictions and not chasing money. Being able to say no to opportunities that don’t reflect the label, and the interaction with customers is key; the relationship that is built with the customer is and always will be key to the business.
Made to measure suits are very personal items. Whether it’s for a groom on his wedding day or a band member at an award ceremony, we understand that we have to get it right. Having the web-site is useful as it gives the customer a chance to have a look at what we do and then when they come in to the showroom we can hit the ground running. This approach has time and time again resulted in further recommendations and returning customers. Also, we understand that not everyone can make it to the showroom here so we’ve created a video that recreates the fitting process with myself as a guide. The suit can then be purchased online with confidence.
We recently collaborated on the look for Metronomy’s album Love Letters. Having designed suits for them a few years back at the Mercury awards, the band’s founder Joe Mount got in touch with us about the new record. He felt the need for a consistent style for the band on this occasion. His brief was a Motown feel, looking at The Temptations, The Miracles, The Four Tops, and so on. From there I chose the fabrics and came up with a colour palette that would work. I took a risk or two but we’re both very happy with the result. The suits hark back to the doo-wop era bands, which works well with the record. It gives a strong image that compliments the music, especially in the Michel Gondry music video for Love Letters.
For our 2014 Spring/Summer collection we continue with our central aesthetic but have brought in a new suit jacket style, a one button peaked lapel jacket. We’ve tweaked our summer shorts and added a summer rain coat to the range. Again, there is no one place we found inspiration for the new collection but we believe strongly in our classic designs and tend not to stray too far from this. As for future ventures, we are opening a pop-up shop on London’s Commercial Street in March to celebrate the launch of the new collection. Plans are afoot for some overseas pop-ups too. Our ready-to-wear line is also now stocked at The Post Office Shop, a store in Osaka, Japan, which is an area we are keen to develop. We’re also in the early stages of putting together a luggage line.
Interview by Zoe Kingsley Metronomy
Marko Brajovic Architect and Founder at
Marko Brajovic. Photo by © Christian V Ameln
Architecture is not a format, it’s an attitude
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Atelier Marko Brajovic
WDYDWYD? After more than seven years of our studio in Barcelona, in 2006 I came to Brazil as a teacher of a series of workshops in the Amazon rainforest, and continued as Director of Industrial and Interior Design department at the Istituto Europeo di Design in São Paulo. After two years of academic direction, inspired by a ‘beautiful monster’ called São Paulo, I could not resist settling down here and restarting my professional career mixing different formats of architecture, design, scenography and media arts. Atelier Marko Brajovic was officially started in 2008 in São Paulo, with a great team of professionals and finally the associated architect Carmela Rocha as a Project Director of my firm.
The Studio experiments with formats and exchanging knowledge. I was never interested in distinguishing professional disciplines. I am inspired by creating experience environments. That requires a multi-disciplinary approach,
where the final format is just the consequence of the parameters we introduced in the project development process. Our outputs are mainly set design and mixed media installations for events and exhibitions, product design and creative direction. Our research is in biomimicry, phenomenology and behaviourology.
The most difficult aspect of the studio is explaining to our architects that architecture is not a format, it’s an attitude. And surely, getting a good Internet connection supplier!
It’s difficult to discern the best projects, but let’s say there are some projects that we were more critical about. Projects that intrigued us are EXTACITY concept artworks, David Bowie and Stanley Kubrick exhibitions that we designed and installed in São Paulo, CAMPER Together Store in JK São Paulo, and our upcoming project at Faena Art Center in Buenos Aires together with the Russian artist Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich. At Atelier Marko Brajovic I am a Creative Director but still the final result of our projects is a fruit of collective work as an ‘atelier’ should be. I imagine my role is to inspire our team and bring them out of predictability. At the studio we learn, we have fun, we share knowledge, and I believe we make people laugh and think. Clients choose us for what we do and how we do it. Each project is different and custom made with great dedication to research and strategic design.
My advice to others starting out in my field would be: Be yourself and do what you believe in.
Interview by Jesc Bunyard
MADE 2013. Photo by © Bruno Fernandes
Assento Escola São Paulo. Photo by © Pedro Strelkov
Camper Together Store. Photo by © Fernando Laszlo
Joyce Pensato's studio, 2014. Courtesy the artist
124 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
My pieces have to be alive; they have to offer me something. The works I produce are my own reality, but I realize that they might connect with other people too.
PENSATO LiFE IN POP
Words by Suzanne Zhang
oyce Pensato’s work is one that demands attention. Her large-scale paintings of cartoon characters and comic-book heroes are painted through relentless, exuberant strokes of black paint, creating worlds of terrifying yet captivating heroes. Mickey Mouse glances at us in a ferocious way, while Homer and Felix the Cat’s portraits overlook the entire room with their menacing, possessive yet beautiful gaze. For her debut exhibition at the Lisson Gallery, the New-York based artist will transport the majority of her Brooklyn studio to London, including toys, stuffed animals and posters, in the hopes that it will capture her essence in one room. With a fascination for American Pop culture that she inherited from her dad, Joyce’s paintings are radically innovative and arresting in the legacy of Abstract Expressionism. The compositions of Joyce’s work are such that it boldly pushes the limits of action painting with an intimidating tone which is charged with emotions. We caught up with Joyce Pensato to discuss Batman, obsession and growing up in New York as a kid. Tell me a little bit about yourself, how and why did you get started in fine arts? You initially Oh, yes, but that goes way back when I was a high school student. I was always talented and awarded at school; my brother was a commercial artist, so I thought of making a living out
of commercial art… but then realised I wasn’t very good at it. At the same time, I took a class
in fashion for about a day, and the teacher told me I’d be better off somewhere else as I didn’t like to put details into my work, which is what fashion is all about. Then, I went to painting
classes, which I loved, and I promptly realised this is my world. So I decided to go to the New York Studio School, which is a very good school.
Was that a decisive step in your career, going to the NY Studio School?
Oh, yes, absolutely. In the mid 70s, when I was there, I was one of the oldest students there, and my teacher at the time, Mercedes Matter, said to me ‘I don’t care what you’re painting,
but you have to look at something’. I discovered I was into Pop culture and discarded toys, things like that, so I just went on from there.
Yes, because your work comprises of portraits of iconic faces from popular culture, such as
Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. Where does your fascination with comic books and cartoons come from? It all came from my father, who emigrated from a small town in Sicily to New York. He fell
in love with New York and the American culture, and that’s what he gave my brother and I. As children, he would take us to 42nd St for a parade, or to the Statue of Liberty, the cinema etc… It was great growing up because the city felt like a playground. It had always been in
me, then. I grew up in Brooklyn so we would always take the train, and when we came out of it, everything would open up; bright and coloured… the lights were all on – they always are in New York. As a kid it was fantastic, I was really brought up in that American Pop
culture. My dad is really my number one inspiration, he always encouraged my brother and I – he used to make puppets and toys for us too.
In that sense, would you say that there is something inherently American about your work? In an abstract expressionist way, there might, yes – that was very American. Popular
culture, by definition, is very American. The icons I use in my work, such as The Simpsons,
for instance, are inherently American. I don’t know if it goes any further than just ‘USA’, but I was definitely inspired by American pop culture, so that translates into my work.
How does an idea for a piece come about? What is your creative process?
I have to look at something, objects, and figurines in my studio. Sometimes I take different parts of objects and put it together, but really I have to be looking at the object, and I run
that visual in my mind over and over. It brings me to new places, I have a lot of things lying around and that creates this visual language that inspires me. The faces I paint were all around me when I grew up, on t-shirts, postcards etc… 126 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
Joyce Pensato in her studio. Photo by © Debora Mittelstaedt
tried to work in fashion, didn’t you?
It was some time later, in my studio, that I thought
‘this is it, I’ve got it’. I could really splash around and move my arm freely and connect with my pieces.
I’m attracted to this connection and it may not work
exactly when I first try, but in time it comes through.
There’s a lot of people calling your work ‘frenetic’ and ‘obsessive’, especially in your technique. Is that an accurate description?
Obsessive, yes. I am obsessive: if I have something in my mind, like Batman right now, that’s all I can
think about and I can’t get it out of my head. I guess
this obsession ties in with the idea of creating a piece that is perfect, at least perfect in my head. It has to
feel right to me and I always work with the drawings. My pieces look like they only take a day or two but I
spend much more time on them, sometimes a couple of weeks.
But you also need to know when to stop, especially with obsession.
I like the way in which you reinvent the characters I grew up with, like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, and put them in this other world that is much darker, and threatening... My feeling with my work, is that I need to own it, I need to make it my own, to embrace it, to inject it with an emotional life. Nowadays, Mickey Mouse
looks like he has had a lobotomy! The old Mickey had some character, but now he’s just Mister Nice, Mister
Goody-Goody. Actually, Donald is the one who has an
edge; he is my favourite, with Homer. Over the last few
years I have started mixing different parts of different characters, so in the end some of my portraits look like Frankenstein.
‘I need to own it, I need to make it my own, to embrace it, to inject it with an emotional life’
Does your art and reality ever blend into one? My pieces have to be alive; they have to offer me
something. The works I produce are my own reality, but I realize that they might connect with other people too.
You only work in black and white, why is that so?
To keep the image clear. Way back when I first got out of school, I was doing the drawings and I tried to use traditional paint, but it was totally abstract and the
feeling got lost in it. I didn’t want to use traditional paint anymore, so I spoke to Christopher Wool and asked him what he was using, because he just seemed so hip and cool, and he replied ‘enamel’. So I just went for it.
In the beginning, in the mid-90s, a lot of people said my
work was dark and angry because of the lack of colours, and I know that I was angry at the time. I mean, the
French also thought I was mocking Disney, when really I was embracing its characters and really not trying to be political. I’m just having fun with my work.
Is this dark and menacing atmosphere something you deliberately try to get across in your work?
It’s true that sometimes they are dark and sinister, I
don’t want it to be sweet and sappy but it’s definitely
not something I am doing consciously, or on purpose.
As long as I connect to my work, that’s all that matters to me. I am aware of where it’s going, though.
Yes, especially since they are on such a big scale.
I like large things nowadays. It’s more fun to work on
because it’s more physical, and it works better for me
The name came about when I was talking about my
studio and I remember describing it as ‘Joyceland’; I
thought that was a nice name for a show. I want to have the essence of my studio contained at the Lisson, so it can act as an introduction to me in London.
What is it about the medium of paint that attracts you, as opposed to photography for instance?
I like photography too, I’ve been doing some of that
but I just haven’t shown it. I like painting and drawing, it’s something I enjoyed as a kid and got rewarded
for. Now my ship has sailed in and it’s still here – I’m
living my dream right now, getting recognition, and it certainly took a long time. I’m doing what I love to do and now I’m getting rewarded for it!
What is the most challenging thing about being an artist nowadays?
Keeping your integrity, for sure. Not getting caught up by whatever the system is, and remaining truthful to yourself.
Do you believe there is an ulterior motive to art other than
especially with my technique. And recently I have been
was a great opportunity to travel. It’s about observing
What drives you as an artist?
getting back to wall painting, which is really fun. I had
first started doing it in the 90s as a young artist, and it
what is around you, and taking that in. I’m planning on doing a piece on the walls of the Lisson Gallery too. I’m planning on messing up their white walls!
People call your paintings ‘terrifying’, but what really terrifies you?
Having a horrible sickness and not being able to do anything. Not being able to create.
Could you tell me more about Joyceland? It’s the name of your upcoming show in London, at the Lisson Gallery, but also of your studio… Yes, and I am planning on bringing parts of my studio to London. My studio is filled with things. I have so
many stuffed toys, collages, posters, drawings and a lot of paint. My feeling is to really own that space, to make it mine and reconstruct the feel of my studio here at the Lisson.
128 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
Oh, I hope not. I hope its motive is creation purely for the sake of creating.
My work is always fun and I like creating – it brings me to new places in my mind. I enjoy the process as well, I
usually work with music in the background and I listen to Pop radio, as well as talk radio shows.
You’re coming to London soon for your show Joyceland!
Yes, I’m so excited about it; they have been so great
with me and so supportive! I really can’t wait to start
working on this wall painting there and taking over of the whole space. I’m also looking forward to meeting the Queen! Although I don’t think she will actually want to meet me…
Joyceland by Joyce Pensato, 26 March 2014 – 10 May 2014, Lisson Gallery, London
NY/ US joycepensato.com
Buzzy, 2014, Enamel on canvas, 50 x 50 inches, 127 x 127cm Signed dated titled verso in china marker, Courtesy of the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York
What the hell is reality, anyway? I feel that my biggest reality is when I'm climbing trees or sitting in the sand pit with my kid. Or, when I look at the moon and wonder what the fuck it's all about!
Words by Jeremiah Tayler
What is a Poet to You?
felt instantly giddy, I must confess, when I first checked my inbox and
Jokes! That took me a while to get!
saw that I had received a
Moving on from those
kiss (x) from poet Hollie
classic roots and romantic
McNish… It’s right up
there on the list under
brought our streams-
the time when David
Bailey gave me a hug
to the forefront. And
and a peck on the cheek.
today, poetry’s even more
Hollie opposes me in many
readily available than
ways. She’s female, she’s
ever, so what do you think
grounded, she stands
will be poetry’s next
for today and has a lot
of interesting things to talk about. But make no mistake. She’s a poet all right and for all her niceties, her words can be scathing, should she so choose! Hi Hollie, let’s start with a joke. Did you hear about the special offer on poetry at WH Smiths?
130 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
It’s Byron get one free!!
I have no idea whatsoever.
Seriously, no idea. I think though
there is still a huge mix of poetry,
some observations and still a lot of meditations, if
they can really be separated at all?
Also, I think before classical poetry
there was spoken
poetry. Don’t forget its real origins!
You’re absolutely right. Spoken word made
poetry, and that made rap. The spoken word scene is now full of people relaying their personal experiences, often witty, sometimes political, with a quick pace. Within some of your own work there are a few musical motifs. Do you think you may have picked up on this and contributed to the scene in that way? I was always
influenced by music,
Hollie McNish Photo by © Andrea Siegl
always written in rhyme for some reason, but to
stick to a beat and really rap well, that’s something I can’t do. And won’t.
So you don’t rap?
relative success in a line of work that career advisors seem to synonimise with suicide?
not rap in particular,
I think the term is thrown around too loosely for
I only did gigs when
But I think a lot of poetry, classical included,
videos up that
just music with
good lyrics. Hole, Chapman... So
perhaps, the rhythm of song writing
inspired me as it
does a lot of people. But I don’t rap. No
any type of rhythmic poetry. Perhaps, if anything, my poetry could be more like spoken song lyrics. has been rhythmical, Shakespeare being a good
example. It’s got verse, rhythm and rhyme. But it’s not rap either, I don’t think so!
Do you ever consider doing like Dante, and writing in free or blank verse?
I am probably the wrong person to ask this as I
matter how fast
have never sat down and thought about the form of
nerves!). This is
words and experiment with poetic forms like that,
I read the poems (which is often
not because I don’t like rap that I say
this, but because I work with a lot of
rappers and I cannot do what they do.
It’s a superb skill to rap well, to keep on the beat, to make
your words dance
any of my poems, which I probably should. I would love to be a poet who could ooze beauty from the
but I’m not. I’ve always written poems quickly. Ever since I was eight all my diaries have been in rhyme, but I never studied poetry or experimented with it and I never sit down and say “I’d like to write a
poem today”. I just get something in my head and write it out before I forget it. I just don’t have a
minute in my day to say “I want to write a poem”. It’s more like “Damn, I forgot that poem!”, then I
get on with cooking three types of soups to freeze between gigs or getting my kid ready for school!
to a rhythm and
Ah, yes, the glorious life of a poet! It lacks the glamour
do that. I’ve also
you begin to realise that people were paying attention
keep to that beat so
meticulously. I can’t
associated with the music industry – so, that’s not a
viable reason for making it an occupation. When did to you, and how did that feel to think you’d found
people asked me to. I only posted
people asked me
to. So I never really pursued this as a
line of work at all,
and I’m still not sure how long I’d want
to do purely poetry for, although I feel
extremely honoured that I can do this so much. But a lot of
the poetry work I
do has been in the education sector
still – workshops, commissions
for charities or
wanted to work
with or support, like NHS and
Liberty. I worked
in an Architecture Centre for five
years dealing with
planning and public
development, and I like doing practical things.
I have never been
do with young people, the more I realise how good
class or retreat or
I never thought poetry could be practical but
actually, I’ve realised it can. The more workshops I it is for people’s stress, depression, and anger to
write poetry for themselves, or to share it. That’s
what I love about the work. I do love it for that. And it’s exciting, I meet some brilliant people and get to
see loads of the UK I wouldn’t otherwise. But I don’t
know how long my nerves can take it. Getting up on stage in front of people makes me throw up quite a bit! Really I mean it. I’m not a shy person, but I
never longed to be on stage and that part is pretty
intimidating! I don’t want a glamorous life though. I don’t care about that, life’s too short.
I appreciate your modesty and your honesty. You
mentioned stage fright. Do you think this contributes
to a poetry group, a poetry lesson or
anything like that. That’s not to say I wouldn’t, I just
never have. I don’t think my poetry’s
complicated enough for that! But I’m
sure if I did go to
these things, I might actually improve –
my writing is pretty similar to when I was 12!
to your lack of insistence or, rather, why you don’t try to
When I was 12, poetry was
‘uncool’ as an adolescent.
I don’t want to sell myself because, to be honest, I
Fit only for the feminine
lot more gigs. I love it, but the travelling is more
of. When I approach older
and forth a lot more, while other performers would
with a certain stigma.
so long writing in private!
same acclaim like the high
barely have time to do the gigs I do. I’d rather work
and all the female poets
difficult when you have a young kid. I don’t want to
people today and say I’m
just stay in one area and do loads of gigs there. I am
Sure, I’m a lofty dreamer
on my book and CD, and get those done than do a
were relatively unheard
be away for weeks at a time, which means I go back
a poet, it’s sometimes met
surprised by it all. It’s shocking, because I’ve spent
but I don’t garner the
for being beautiful, for its sound or use of language
‘I realise how good it I wrote poetry all is for people's stress, the time when I depression, and was a kid. I loved rude rhymes and anger to write poetry light-hearted poems like Please Mrs for themselves, or to Butler, which then became a love of share it’ lyrics in music as a
my last jobs – architects, managers, planners,
to at school, but not
Yes, locked away at night, all alone is when I like to do all my writing. A little narcissistic, maybe, but is it so criminal? A guilty, indulgent pleasure, or is it just a human right?
Generally, I don’t read out poems that have nothing in them except personal references, but I think
there’s space for it all. I don’t think anyone is so
individual that their experiences or feelings can’t be shared by others and some poetry is loved simply or whatever. And there’s self-absorption in every line of work. I met more self-absorbed people in
councillors – who felt like everyone ought to listen to them, than I have poets! I think poets get a bad
rep, but it is definitely not the most arrogant or selfabsorbed career!
How about poetry societies, where people sit around
and compare their wit? Do you ever attend, and what are your thoughts on them?
132 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
society days of yore.
teenager. I studied what poetry I had
with a lot of interest. Most people I know don’t have any
experience of poetry outside GCSE’s and you don’t choose what you study. So chances are,
you might not like
what’s chosen. But there has always been poetry for
different groups. I
think we just need to realise it is all
poetry and none of
it is more worthy or
important to people than the rest.
What’s the most
important poem to you on a personal basis? Barry McGuire’s
Eve of Destruction will always be the
poem that sticks in my head forever. I just used to listen to it on loop as a
teenager. That, or Deanna Rodger’s
Where are you from? And what ‘is’ a poet to
you? I wear a lot of black, drink coffee and ruminate on death – circumscribed to the classical notions of what a poet was, or is. So how does your very contemporary image hold up today in the minds of your peers, fan base and self? Hahaha! I think it’s
about the words, not the image. A poet
writes poetry, reads poetry, speaks it
or performs it. You
can do that wearing a beret or not. You
can do that wearing nothing at all!
I think a wordsmith
knows best of all that each word is fundamental to convey our ideas, to paint our impressions (false or
Photo by © Andrea Siegl
otherwise) of reality. Do you feel this is a concern of yours? I just write what I’m thinking or feeling or seeing.
But if I think I might share the poems (I don’t share
most of my poems), then I look much more carefully to see if anything is too ambiguous or could be
misinterpreted or is not researched etc. If I think about what I write too much, I won’t be able to
write. It won’t be natural anymore. What the hell is reality, anyway? I feel that my biggest reality
is when I’m climbing trees or sitting in the sand
pit with my kid. Or, when I look at the moon and wonder what the fuck it’s all about!
Last night, called out on always keeping a notepad and pen in my pocket (I do, it’s true!), my friend flatteringly accused me of being the type to write beautiful poetry for girls I meet – sometimes true... So, quite literally caught red-handed – as a consequence of the ink I’m using – I assented, and then I thought to ask you: do you favour the pen, the ‘Dictaphone’ or just the power of the mind to write and memorise lines of poetry? I write with a pen, on the computer, on my phone,
whatever I have at the time. I prefer writing on the computer, but I don’t want to forget how to use a pen!
And have you ever conjured a poem as a pick-up?
Haha, I think my poems are far too many to work for dates! I have written lots of lovely poems, but
about my partner or baby. But no, never for a chatup technique – I think people would run a mile!
Right into your arms, I’m sure!
London/ UK holliemcnish.com
134 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
GIBB My life is kind of my work really, they are not separate parts of me. If you're lucky enough to love what you do, then I guess that is all part of the protocol.
The Printmaking Limited Edition
Words by Joseph Meldrum
y approach to my work is one big, happy accident” declares Kate Gibb. The prolific screen print artist is perhaps best known for her creative work with the Chemical Brothers and Dries Van Noten, but her noncommercial artworks are also fantastic. Producing iconic, playful images – constantly shifting, misprinting, experimenting – Kate’s intuitive and adaptive approach have been responsible for producing some modern classics of illustration. The Paddington-based artist was launched into the spotlight with a set of quirky, atmospheric artworks for the Chemical Brothers. Her poster for their Earl’s Court concert is the epitome of a high summer’s gig – laid back fans against a packed arena, rainbow motifs littering the crowd. Working often with simple, bright shapes and colours, Kate’s trial and error approach is continuously inquisitive. It’s a delight to scan through her prodigious back catalogue and view the output of a curious and informative mind. Despite the popularity of Kate’s more abstract pieces, it’s her figurative work which resonates with me the most. As much a comment on fashion and style as anything else, there’s still a hint of social prejudice and segregation through the division of Kate’s bright colours. However, it’s done with so much taste and
Stussy. Bi-annual collaboration with Art Director Adam Weissman and Stussy
flair that even these segregations seem unimportant – they’re merely the differences which make our society that bit more colourful. Originally created for the fashion brand Stussy, Kate’s clever depictions of dancers and actors being watched by crowds of people are a true statement about the positive values of fashion and style, how they help us to define ourselves, and how we group ourselves accordingly. Within Kate’s figurative works are some amazing cover art pieces made for Sonny J’s Disastro album. Printed on top of Technicolor, Americanised sunny scenes, a riot of shapes, patterns and colour explode around the figures. They’re incredibly fun, rich and varied dioramas. In her early days in which she was struggling as a textile designer, Kate moved on to paper-based work and her self-taught practice evolved after completing an MA in Illustration at Central St. Martins. Being selftaught forms the basis of her experimental approach – using incorrect mesh counts for example – and the mistakes and accidents learnt along the way help to form new techniques. Kate’s career kicked off with producing album artwork for the Chemical Brothers, 136 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
and since then the likes of Kate Nash and John Newman have called on her talents. By learning and adapting from her more commercial projects, Kate has brought new approaches and methods into her own creative practice, finding that the two influence each other greatly. Now focusing more exclusively on her own artwork, Kate has taken her abstract and shape-filled compositions to another to keep up to date with her latest developments, we leapt at the chance to interview her and earn a glimpse of the artist at work. How does the reality of your life around you affect your work? What drives you? In short, my life is kind of my work
really, they are not separate parts of
me. The reality of what I do is that I
Kate Nash, My Best Friend Is You
plane altogether. Keen
at high school – twenty odd years later I feel the same sense of wonder and un-
knowingness as I raise the screen as I did back then. This will always drive me on.
To what extent are accidents and intuition determining factors in your work?
Both are key to my practice – they form the basis for the majority of my work. My attitude to the silkscreen process is continually inquisitive and experimental. I have no set procedures and it’s often a case of ‘just try it, see what happens’.
Producing album covers for the Chemical Brothers was your big break back in 2000. How did you see your career take off after this point?
think about it pretty
This was a time when record companies still had decent budgets which allowed
to love what you do,
advertising, record sleeves, fashion campaigns etc. A sort of mini renaissance, if
much all the time. If you’re lucky enough then I guess that is all part of the
protocol. I never
tire of print making
designers and artists to create iconic covers that fused fine art, illustration and photography. It was also a golden time for the employment of illustration in
you like, for illustration. The Surrender campaign happened towards the beginning of this, and suddenly I became very popular! I had only just left college so it was somewhat overwhelming, but obviously incredibly exciting too.
Each artwork of yours is very unique, yet screen printing could be described as a
and exploring the
‘mass production’ technique. What do you find are the difficulties and advantages of
or aesthetically. I
obvious plus side to this characteristic is that you can make multiples of your work
producing screen printed artwork with regards to keeping it individual?
In its origin silkscreen is a print method of mass repetitive production. The
first time I made my
interest. By applying different pressures to your squeegee for example, you create
was sixteen the
first screen print
with ease. But for me this sort of regimented, carbon copy technique holds less
a different impression for each print/layer applied. My passion for silkscreen lies
I kinda knew I’d
end up living here.
Maybe ‘tantalised’ is a more appropriate adjective than
‘terrified’! There is no room for being
bored and there’s so much to do for free – creatively it’s an
artist’s playground. It can feel calm and inspiring as well
as overly noisy and stressful. I love all
of its contradictions and never tire of
it. Apart from the traffic…
What would you say is Kate Nash test prints
your favourite or most defining piece of work? I produced around 20 silkscreened/ hand painted in the very fact that your outcome can be varied every time you apply a colour, thus producing
unique pieces of work, often in the same vein but
still individual. I really don’t want anything to be the same!
To what extent do your artistic and commercial works influence each other? Are there benefits that overlap
‘My attitude to the Usually I am working on both at the same time, so one very much influences the other. A commercial silkscreen process is project may come in that challenges and pushes me in a direction I wouldn’t naturally gravitate to. For continually inquisitive example, solving a more technical problem for a client may present a new application to my printed and experimental’
between the two?
work that my personal work hasn’t steered me
towards, and vice versa. This, hopefully, allows me
to retain freshness within my work and prevents it from appearing stale or dated.
Have you always been based in London? What is it about this city that is so good for helping artistic talent? I’ve loved London since visiting my grandma in
Brook Green when I was a kid. It always slightly
terrified me especially in the winter months, but
138 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
illustrations for a Spring/Summer Catalogue for
Fashion House Dries Van Noten in the early 90s. Being
a long-time fan of
their clothes, it was a dream job. The
Menswear collection was inspired by
David Hockney –
stripes, geometrics, bold colours – the
Womenswear by Art Deco and the 40s.
It was technically
challenging as the
prints had to reflect their garments’
tactile nature and
still retain accuracy in the colour and
choice of fabric. At
Kate Gibb’s print table
the same time they
Colour is always at the core of my work, so I’m
(so many ideas I
time to interpret
twins Gert & Uwe Tobias, Copenhagen based
my vision briefly
gave me creative freedom and
Ellen Nolan, styling by Nancy Rhode) in my own way,
which was very
the fashion world. I
loved every moment of it, notably hand delivering the
folder of prints to
Mr Dries Van Noten
himself in Antwerp. Naturally, my longterm collaboration with Art Director Mark Tappin and musicians The
Chemical Brothers is up there too.
Which artists do you most admire, and are there any who influence your work?
easily seduced by artists who challenge my
perceptions of it. Ongoing favourites are Romanian designers Hvass & Hannibal, London based
illustrator and ceramicist Laura Carlin and the
multidisciplinary artist cooperative Nous Vous.
I’m excited to see the formal structure of different practices fall away for a more collaborative
approach. The crossing over of disciplines and techniques are creating something fresh. It’s
slightly reminiscent of the ethos of the Bloomsbury Group and their country retreat, Charleston – it’s my spiritual home! It’s crammed with painted
furniture, hand printed wall papers and textiles
and ceramics all created by the artists and writers living there at the time. Richard Diebenkorn,
Lothar Götz, Eduardo Paolozzi and Patrick Caulfield have been a steady and consistent influence to me
have!) but yes, the
above encompasses and a little un-
succinctly! I’d like to curate a show
that is based around printmaking. I’m
lucky to meet many talented artists in my work and feel
collaboration is a big part of what we all do. Now I’d like to
put my spin on this and curate a show.
throughout my career.
How do you see your work progressing in the future? At the moment I am trying to push my own
practice the most, the aim is to make my living less commercial as a print maker. I’m obsessed with
interiors, textiles, wall hangings, rugs, any form
of printmaking (often commercial but not digital), paint colours, ceramics. I’d like to be involved in
applying my prints to three dimensional objects
London/ UK kategibb.co.uk
Spring, 2012 Oil on linen backed with sailcloth 230 x 320 x 5.1 cm (MA-COOKN-00634) Image courtesy of the artist, Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.
140 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
COOKE Maybe it's just the moment by which different subjects can converge on a temporary sense of the way things standâ€Ś
A portrayal of Human Essence
Words by Suzanne Zhang
am driven by an intrigue, that of the yet to be born image”, says Nigel Cooke when asked about his inspiration. With a few (not to say many) brushstrokes and paint, “the yet to be born image” becomes fantastic worlds filled with bizarre creatures that are as odd as life itself. Cooke’s paintings are worlds which pose questions that draw you in and leave you unsettled on a planet that is not yet yours – it belongs to Cooke. Impossible landscapes welcome you with all the realism of life, inviting you to delve deep into them and play on its street corners. Cooke’s paintings have an energetic bite that plunge you into mysterious meanings, layered over one another in the manner of an organised cobweb. ROOMS caught up with Abstract-Figurative painter Nigel Cooke to discuss syntax, nature’s conflicts and the spirit of art. Buckle up: you are about to embark on a remote journey into another dimension. Can you tell us a little bit more about your style? I feel like your paintings are a curious hybrid between figurative and abstract. All paintings are abstract, but I enjoy the
‘There is a warmth towards human frailty in there I believe, even if you can hardly see it!’
boundaries and rules the mind sets up on the
topic. Now it’s mostly a discussion about words
and definitions, but there is something important that happens visually when an image slips away
or breaks down. To me, abstraction to figuration
is not a contrast but a question of vocabulary and
range – I like pictures to have great range in their
articulation, because it’s what paintings do best...
How do you get the picture to cover the most visual and emotional ground?
Your paintings incorporate strong elements of street art. What is the intention behind it? I have no real experience of street art, and I’ve
always felt it to be a little corner of what I do, a
minor detail. There was something actually quite low-key about it when I first started; it wasn’t
a cool thing at all. It was quieter and somehow
more thoughtful to me. In fact, my interest was
more about the act of blending in aerosol with oil paint – something fast and new converted into
something slow and old. There was a shift from one state to another in this, and such things are found everywhere in my work. The destructiveness of it was the key. It was a way of harbouring a vandal within the work that went around working on a 142 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
different kind of painting within the painting, one
White Orchid (With Party and Splint), 2013 Oil on linen back with sailcloth 220 x 220 x 5.1cm (MA-COOKN-00655) Image courtesy of the artist, Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.
from a different
What do you believe is the spirit of art?
timeframe and with
I don’t think I know what that means. Do you mean
At the same time,
screw with your mind. Everyone thinks like an
different values and reference points.
drawing on walls is the origin of art, so
it was also a take on cave paintings. This doubling up of the
author is a constant in my work.
like the spirit of jazz in the Mighty Boosh? I can relate to that – a nocturnal JuJu man coming to
artist at some point in every day. In the midst of
that is some sort of spirit. But strangely, only a few
have any confidence in their tastes and opinions on the subject.
Why do you do what you do? What made you choose painting as opposed to other mediums? I’ve always done this and I am continually
fascinated by the machinery behind painting. I
can’t shake off the possibilities and limitations of
it, which are impossibly intertwined. Also it’s really,
things that take
I was confronted by it and I had to ask myself, ‘is this
really hard to do, so early on my lack of ability at it
was also a challenge. I don’t feel like I chose it. Rather impossible medium going to work for me because
it’s going to take years of work to become remotely average at it?’ One has to be very serious about it
from day one. For me, it felt like I had found a part
of myself in it – even if it looked wretched, and that I would have never been able to exhaust it. It could also be a mental illness, of course.
I know you stayed a few years in the academic world,
having obtained a BA, an MA and a PhD in fine art and painting. This is a rather traditional path for a painter. How did that shape your style and who you are? You mean traditional for someone other than a
painter? That it’s more traditional to go about it
differently? If this is what you mean, then I suppose it is, and it’s probably not the best way to get things
‘What's more a different matter. I did that because I wanted to weird than write about painting, I wanted to spend some time descending into my fascination. It was an amazing everyday life?’ going. You have to do quite a bit of art school just to get started with painting, but the PhD thing is
thing to do and I’m really glad I took it on. I met
place are more like
changes of syntax or take the image in a new direction. I am in these
worlds, as they
contain quite a high autobiographical
may be surprising. Things I see,
and difficulties I
experience in real
life help me create,
and they contribute to the metaphorical flavour of each one. There is a warmth towards human
frailty in there I
believe, even if you can hardly see it!
several people who changed my life, and I built
Some of your paintings
unthinkable joy and enrichment to my life.
natural processes, like
I think it was necessary for me. That was my
something you are
something for myself by doing it, something like a code for looking and thinking, which has brought
are of areas that blend
in human constructs and
Did you feel it was necessary to complete these levels in
an urban jungle. Is the
definition of enjoying culture to the fullest.
Enjoyment to me is sort of an obsession, I think.
interested in? Or, rather, do you see that as a dichotomy?
There’s no general formula because it’s all about
The idea of ‘nature’
psychology and theory behind it. This is why I was
been in the interests
finding your own way. I felt I had to apprentice
myself to the craft of it, its culture, as well as the
in education for such a long time. I wanted as much richness and as many dimensions as possible.
A lot of your paintings feature dystopian worlds where strange creatures inhabit the corners of each object and place. Would you see yourself living in one of them? I never see them as ‘dystopian’, although it’s a word commonly used in relation to my stuff. To me they are quite real, and I certainly never see creatures in there or apocalyptic devastation. I try to rein
them in and try to keep an aspect of the deadpan
to the scene, to avoid being too fantastical. The odd
144 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
is itself a fiction we have created. It’s
of human vanity to consider nature as
a spectacle at arm’s
length, but in reality it’s a flow of matter, information and
energy that is the
world, and human
beings and cultural artefacts like
Smoking Flowers, 2013 Oil on linen backed with sailcloth 220 x 230 x 5 cm (MA-COOKN-00669) Image courtesy of the artist, Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.
paintings are just crystallisation points within this flow. A lot of our problems as a species come from ignoring this simple fact.
My work is fuelled by this idea. At the same time,
itâ€™s also about economies of growth and destruction within both nature as a system and creativity as an expression within this system; about wastefulness, selfishness, even ecology and the delusional, 146 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
Captain's Cabin, 2012-2013 Oil on linen backed with sailcloth 195 x 220 x 5.1 cm (MA-COOKN-00665) Image courtesy of the artist, Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.
reactionary human thinking that drives our sense of our own importance within the natural world.
There is an almost nightmare-ish atmosphere to your work… It’s dark, gritty, yet there is a strong sense of fantasy in them… The above is the backdrop to this feeling. I’m
uneasy with the idea of fantasy, because to me it implies uncritical thinking and self-indulgence. The bizarre is present but that to me is a very
real feeling, not a fantasy – what’s more weird
than everyday life? I don’t conceive my paintings
as dark deliberately. In my mind I think of scenes that capture the awkwardness and vulnerability
of the human existence. I’m more interested in the
kind of melancholic gaze that transforms ordinary
objects into stories. The process of painting for me is about a very slow way of looking, and it’s one
in which your view of things distorts over time,
creating disruptions in the consistency and sense of a picture. I know I am finished with a painting
when I have lost my connection to a known thing
and moved towards something new. The darkness comes into it during this process, which I think is more about atmosphere than nightmares. I
like historical paintings of landscapes and enjoy
blending together my favourite bits from the world of old paintings.
What inspires you in your everyday life? What drives you, as an artist?
I’m driven by an intrigue, that of the yet to be born image and by the opportunity to bring something that has yet to be seen into the world. The hope is that your work makes something unpredictable appear… It’s like pure magic.
Some of your work features elements that can be drawn to ideas of decay and rebirth…
I see creative failure and success as overlaid and different only in polarity. Transitions of value
between elevation and abjection, or construction
and entropy are part of my work, because creativity breathes in and out between the two. It builds and destroys at the same time, and this results in an image.
Are you working on anything at the moment? What about upcoming projects? I’m currently working on a large exhibition for my
gallery in Los Angeles, Blum and Poe, in May 2014.
You have also written several papers on popular
artists, like Kanye West, Francis Bacon and Van Gogh.
Is popular culture an influence on your life and work? The Kanye West thing was about
because of this, not despite it.
Are your paintings reflections of our
the painter George
and who painted
What is reality, anyway?
Condo, an artist
I admire greatly,
the cover for one of
West’s albums. The article was about
censorship and art, and why a rapper
would be interested in using his more explicit work to
achieve a ban on the cover, increasing
his notoriety. This
struck me as quite a curious moment for painting! I try to let
everything be an
influence if possible. The worst aspects of popular culture and consumerism
They have no choice, do they?
Maybe it’s just the moment by which different subjects can converge
on a temporary
sense of the way things stand… A
by-word for social agreement and
captures a commonsense attitude of
survival, enabling us to share and
discuss experience against the chaos of individual
are very important for me, as they
show universal human traits. I
like to use them in conjunction with
classical threads in
my work. Art people sometimes pretend
to be removed from the crap of popular culture, but their
antics are often no different. Bacon
and Van Gogh are very important painters, and
Kent/ UK nigelcooke.net
148 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
WALES I'm trying to abolish size labels, or should I say, abolish a way of thinking â€“ categorising our body shapes into general sizes when we're all so different. Stop feeling like we should fit a certain size, it's what we want to wear that should fit us.
All photos by ÂŠ Christine Kreiselmaier
Words by Samantha Coombes
magine a world in which the fashion industry isn’t ruled by size; the contemporary standards abolished and replaced by clothing that isn’t made for a size 6 or 16, but is made only for you. It seems like an almost impossible vision, but for British designer Catherine Wales, it’s a reality that is closer than we think. Having worked within fashion for 15 years, her ground-breaking work entitled Project DNA has had her hanging off the lips of fashion fanatics running up to its debut in 2013. She created a revolutionary collection that combined 3D printing technology and fashion, which is inspired by the concepts of identity and the visual structure of human chromosomes. The result: eight pieces which emphasise the interchangeable nature of individuality. The works were channelled from completing an MA in Digital Fashion from the London College of Fashion. But what is most fascinating is how it all started and what that means for the future goals Wales holds for the fashion industry. It all started with my desire to take size labels out of garments. Why do we need this antiquated system we’ve been using forever and now feel we can’t get rid of it? Why should we have to think about our body size and be inhibited by it when trying to create an image? This led her to use 3D printing to design and produce pieces of clothing... It was about scanning your body to be able to create a second skin. Then, using two different applications within 3D design, I was able to come up with something not only organic, but engineered and functional. It’s instant prototyping. I can see my design on screen in 3D, then instantly it’s made. It was really fun and gave
‘Why should we have to think great results. about our body size and be The results were four transformative headpieces – a scaffold corset, a blossom feathered shoulder piece, a inhibited by it when trying to bra and a waist bracelet that was all constructed using white nylon. Not only did her collection embrace new create an image?’ technological developments, but in its production she questioned the conventional production of clothing in the modern fashion industry. She was able to reduce wastage and give better support to consumer demands, through creating garments which allow individuals to interchange their image in order to express their own message. There are three sections to Project DNA: it needs to be functional– that’s the helmet, bra and waist bracelet;
we need to be able to express ourselves – that’s the horns and feather shoulder piece; then there’s the need to conform or 150 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
not to society with how we
Mask. If you want to hide from society, you put the mask on
dress – that’s the corset
and it reflects your surroundings; it represents the judgement
within fashion as opposed to who you are. So if someone looks
DNA components and the
at you, they’re judging you by what they see in themselves. But
it’s a two-way mask, so it works both ways.
The corset is at the centre
Developing each piece begins with sketches and
of her concepts, with
associated mood boards. However, the biggest
influence came from Catherine’s own life experiences.
to resemble the human
Each piece is something I’ve taken from myself and my
personal experience. The section mask is identifying who you
These can be ‘mass
are; the feather shoulder is about grunge, rebellion and flight;
customised’ with the
the horned mask is dramatic. I was actually going through
use of ball and socket
a break up at the time, so the mood board was Shakespeare,
joints to represent how
graveyards, torn wedding dresses. The horns are gilded in
different DNA structures
gold, so it’s good and evil with a balance because you can’t
create differences within
have one without the other.
individuals, like eye or
But of course, even with such potent inspiration and
hair colour, as well as the
advanced technology, many new challenges come to
need to conform or rebel
face. For me it was new applications and trusting them. It
against society. This is
was exciting since everything I was doing was new. There
also prominent in one of
was body scanning, object scanning and manipulating that
the more stand out pieces
online, which was incredible and then designing around it.
in Catherine’s collection
But also a lot of what I was doing involved data. The mesh
– the two-way Mirror
was very complicated. It was a process of slicing and dicing to
It also means you’re relying on it all to work at the end! Which luckily it did! But it’s so different to how we currently do things. Her determination to incorporate new technologies with fashion despite its many challenges is owed in some part to her favourite designers, Skylar Tibbits and Alexander McQueen. Skylar is currently developing the idea of 4D, whilst McQueen inspired Catherine to never give up. I love Alexander McQueen. What inspired me was not just his incredible work, but that he faced so many challenges, but continued and loved what he did. He persisted. Skylar Tibbits’ work is phenomenal. He talks about 4D and the use of a self-assemble element in the material. Imagine a material that dresses itself around your body! It goes to show it never stops. This emphasis on new developments in technology is also on Catherine’s mind for future projects. She said there is a need to look forward and see what’s being developed, and how we can merge what we treasure as traditional with the digital world. This goal is underpinned with her emphasis on freedom of expression for individuals and a more thoughtful way of consuming fashion. Catherine explained that it was important for her work to have a purpose. I don’t see why we should be body-conscious when it comes to shopping. I hope re-triangulate the mesh,
what I do can be of use to people. If it gives people the freedom
so there wasn’t as much
to express themselves how they want, and that’s what I want
data being fed into the
to achieve in 2014, to learn more about people’s needs. I always
machine, which would
want what I do to have a purpose.
sometimes crash. Catherine found herself giving a talk at Open One of the more
Innovation 2013 at the second Moscow International
Forum for Innovative Development, back in 31st
made for Catherine,
October. She explained that the response she received
however, was the way
on her work was overwhelming and truly gave her
in which 3D printing
reasons as to why her work is important. You realise
completely changed the
there’s a need out there for something else. It’s not that I feel
I’m the person who’s going to change the world, but when you
process for creating
start to talk about something and you get a response from
garments. Your timelines
people who want to know more and are interested, you start
are very different. You have
to feel a responsibility to fill and carry on.
so much more time up front to
It seems that in 2014, there may be a few things hiding
design and develop your ideas
up Catherine’s sleeve in her goal to create hassle-free
because the manufacturing
fashion. She hinted there are a few collaborations in
process is so quick and short.
the works, which is an exciting prospect considering she’s previously worked with some of the most
154 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
prestigious fashion labels in the world. This includes the likes of Jasper Conran, Saint Laurent, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and most recently Ralph Lauren in New York, where Catherine now resides. I definitely want to work with galleries and other artists, and see how far we can go with building a silhouette around our body, from the extreme to the sensible. Then, this business proposal I’m working on is about a more individually-based retail environment, so it can satisfy specific needs rather than mass production. I’m hoping that will be something that can be introduced, benefiting the consumers and the way the industry functions. But that will be the hardest challenge. It’s inspirational to see a fashion designer stepping out to change the current fashion industry; to have a need to satisfy the needs of everyone else so they can be free to express their individuality through whatever they wish to wear. A world without size labels? You may have been sceptical at the beginning, but Catherine Wales is bringing us one step closer to that future.
NY/ US catherinewales.eu
Funky Great Wall ÂŠ Chen Man, courtesy of Studio 6, Beijing
MAN Everything we see and own is a dream, a hallucination, an illusion. Itâ€™s a collective dream â€“ we all dream it together. Is it a nice dream?
Fashion Photography in Equilibrium
Words by Suzanne Zhang
ithout a doubt China’s most accomplished fashion photographer, Beijing-born Chen Man’s work is of such impact that it has graced covers of international leading magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and I-D Magazine. Chen Man’s photographs are always of beautiful models whose eternal youth is captured by her bright and luxurious eye. Her work is about achieving absolute beauty, although she concedes it is all a beautiful illusion, before explaining to me that true luxury in life comes without
‘Contemporary China needs a kind of fashion that is positive’
a price or a brand. In the most culturally interesting hybridity, Chen Man’s fashion photographs capture our culture as an ever-learning essence, a fluid entity that moulds itself around whomever is willing to shape it and define it. She has dedicated herself to the modern presentation of traditional minds, and rather than seeing the old and new as two conflicting ideologies she makes them meet on familiar ground, before bringing it forth through her colourful photographs. ROOMS spoke to Chen Man about her desire to show people the beauty of contemporary China, and her wish to unite Nature with Mankind. Chen Man, tell me a little bit about yourself. How and why did you get started in fashion photography? My career journey can be divided into three
stages. The first stage was when I worked for
Vision Magazine, back when I was in college at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. I used to take a lot of photographs and process
them, which not a lot of people did at the time. I
was experimenting with a kind of passion that only young people have, and I edited my photographs
a lot, adding a lot of things to make it more lively – it was a lot of fun. When I entered the fashion
industry, people thought I edited my photographs
too much and didn’t really believe in me, they were scared I would turn the models into monsters... So, without any kind of smooth transition, my
work immediately jumped to its second stage:
minimalism. My fashion shoots were like enlarged
ID pictures. This kind of showed people that I could do something other than just digital manipulation, and I started collaborating with some pop stars,
gradually establishing my position as a mainstream fashion photographer.
158 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
Long Live the Motherland Beijing © Chen Man, courtesy of Studio 6, Beijing
After that, I started working on my Chinese
Chinese faces in a contemporary Chinese context
Contemporary Context series. It was a very special project for me because I was the first one to put and background, and use them in mainstream
fashion photography. China had been imitating
Western countries as well as Japan and South Korea for a while. The most famous photograph of that series is the one with model Lu Yan at the Great
Wall. This was, incidentally, the first time that a
mainstream fashion magazine did a photo shoot in front of the Great Wall and it actually caused quite
a sensation at the time, I remember that The Mirror
the environment, remaining
as a whole and maintaining a
the inner and outer world, all through my civilizationspoilt eyes.
How would you describe your style?
in the UK made an article about it, saying this was
In terms of its
The third stage of my work is a kind of philosophy
the new face of the fashion revolution in China.
combining Eastern and Western ways of learning and being. Using today’s visual language, I try
to explore the ancient Chinese philosophies. It’s
work uses the
of the body as an essence, and the
Western ways of
learning. It is like I’m using the hardware from
need that kind of
modern presentation of traditional minds. My
too much like
taking the least
Chinese culture. I’m dedicating myself to the
work is a mixture, it fits the time of today: being Eastern and Western, mainstream and indie, past and future, accessible yet elegant at the
same time. I have worked with many different
agencies and models, both from West and East, and there are no differences in terms of work
ethics. I usually shoot a lot of Asian models, and
that’s because I feel like I need to provide water to people who are thirsty rather than to people
who already have a litre of water. Metaphorically speaking, China is thirsty, especially in regards to the fashion industry.
My work also features a lot of bright, vivid
colours because I visualize everything in colours in my head, I’m very sensitive to that.
You graduated from the Central Academy of Fine
Arts in Beijing, could you tell me more about your curriculum, and to what extent your degree has affected your style? I started learning and practising art when I was
they thought my
photographs looked paintings. Artists
didn’t think of me as
an artist because my work appeared in
fashion magazines rather than in
galleries. Nowadays, people see me
as a successful,
commercial fashion photographer but
it wasn’t until I had
two solo exhibitions at Beijing’s Today Museum and the
Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art that people really
started to see me as an artist too.
two. I went to the Fine Arts School, the Central
The people you
creativity. The schools I went to only taught
beauty, and we can only achieve it by amount possible
from Nature and
Earth, and using our human wisdom to
its fullest in order to create some kind of value.
Is beauty an illusion?
Everything we see
and own is a dream, a hallucination,
an illusion. It’s a
collective dream – we all dream it together. Is it a
nice dream? That depends on the
way you choose to
look at it, and if the dream helps the
development of the
Academy of Drama, and the Central Academy
photograph as well as beautiful. What is your
What do you think is the
traditional mediums of fine art, like painting or
definition of beauty?
role of the photographer?
of Fine Arts. I was constantly surrounded by
your photographs are all
Earth, I think it’s a nice one.
sculpture, so I had never even thought of being
Your page description
wasn’t such a good career choice, unlike nowadays
of beauty. The first
to present fantastical
a photographer. I became a graphic designer for
some time, just to make money. Back in the days, art when some artwork can sell for millions of RMB. This was inconceivable at the time.
I studied Art simply because I was good at it: I
would win many prizes and my parents would
always be very supportive. However, I don’t see
myself as an artist per se, and for some time I was disgusted by that word. When performance art
began to appear in China, many young, passionate people began performing, and the public thought they were strange, absurd and ridiculous which was a shift in perception – before that artists
were admired and respected. This shift was one of the reasons I wouldn’t associate myself with the word ‘artist’. When I started working for Vision Magazine, I was kind of in between disciplines. Photographers didn’t look at me as one of their
160 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
reads, ‘as a photographer,
one is the beauty of
there are two kinds nature. All naturally born creatures
are beautiful. The second one lies
in human beings’
wisdom. Any manmade production like furniture,
digital design, and
even artworks, find their place in the
beauty of humans’ wisdom. The best
is when these two aspects of beauty
are combined. We
Chen Man is licensed
Everyone is a
‘All the real luxurious things in life are getting destroyed nowadays’
Love & Water
Western cultures, and the software from ancient
from your portfolio. Could
audience at all times, they exist in their own reality.
you see is a story that only you direct. The thing with photographs is that they don’t require an However, one’s eyes are always wide open...
Your beauty and fashion covers are quite ground-
breaking and influential in China. How would you describe the socio-political scene of fashion and lifestyle in China? Contemporary China needs a kind of fashion that is positive, uplifting in a socio-political way; it
needs to belong to Mainland China. In that sense, my work acts as a good translation, as a good story. The development of the contemporary
fashion scene in China is just like the experience of
you elaborate a little bit more on Sight, smell, sound,
taste and touch are the Six Dusts in
and behaviours into
six categories. These are basic human
needs, so I chose to represent them in my work.
‘building socialism with Chinese characteristics’.
You have worked with a
countries. Now, contemporary China is all about
Has there been a favourite
It underwent cultural faults because it was trying
lot of luxury brands, from
self-exploration and constructing itself without
project of yours?
to imitate Western countries, or its neighbouring imitating others.
Some of your photographs include very modern and glamorous models in front of old, traditional and iconic places in Beijing. Is there an effort to reconcile old and new? For a very long time, China was content just
imitating Western countries, as well as Japan and South Korea. I was one of the first to put Chinese
faces into a contemporary context, and inject them in mainstream fashion photography. The reason I was able to do that well was that I had never
studied overseas, so I am very familiar with the
local culture. I’m also very at ease with the Visual Arts industry, having grown up in a time where it was constantly evolving, and having gone to
an Arts School. I think that this was something
I simply had to do. China shouldn’t always focus
on its past. I wanted to show people the beauty of contemporary China, what it looks like today.
All your female models stand strong and fierce in front of the camera. Is this an important image for you? I’m not sure fierce is the good angle, but women are
definitely strong. They are the ones who choose the destiny of the whole family as they are in charge
of the husbands, the children and the elderly. They even get to impact the spirit of a whole country! I
don’t only work with female models, I collaborate with everyone and no one – as long as they’re human beings and I have an interest in them.
I love your sights, smells, sounds, tastes, touch series 162 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
Céline to Cartier to Dior.
I love the project
Love & Water with
M.A.C, because the series combined
traditional Eastern philosophy
towards nature; all the real luxurious things in life are
getting destroyed nowadays. Real luxury has no
name, no brand. It’s unique, special… like a fragment in time.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on my Chinese paintings, which is what I
do when I am not
taking photographs. There is so much I
enjoy doing, if I were not a photographer I would love to
become a chef or a
doctor of traditional Chinese medicine.
What are you currently obsessed about?
Right now I’m in
and fashion. It
least once in your
represents the idea
of ‘oneness’, which is a big theme in my work.
How would you
characterise luxury? Luxury is not about money, gold or
love with this book called Be a fool at
life. And I have one
wish that people live a life in harmony
with nature. I hope one day we’ll be
synchronized with the Earth.
Chen Man has a solo show
is left for us from
USA, in March 2014 and
thousand years is a
luxury comes from
planned at the RedLine
the past. A tree of
a solo show at the L.A
nature, and what
Art Centre in Denver,
a hundred, or even
Louver in Los Angeles in
luxurious thing. And yet we chop it down, we keep destroying. It’s a complete
lack of respect
Beijing/ China chenmaner.com
Big Green © Chen Man courtesy of Studio 6, Beijing
journalists. Your eyes are the camera and the world
164 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
Long Live the Motherland Beijing ÂŠ Chen Man, courtesy of Studio 6, Beijing
White I like the ambiguity that is implied by an image taken out of context.
Camera Pictorial Words by Joseph Meldrum
mbiguous, slick, glam – Harriet White’s immaculate artworks are items of incredible skill and beauty. Focussing on the theatrical and the personal, her portraits of performers and actresses are uncomfortably intimate. Bold and serene expressions calmly hold your gaze, their super-sized scale and heavily cropped faces lure you into an extremely personal proximity. Executed with a perfectionist’s touch, the paintings are flawless, the make-up perfect
and the performer’s façade complete.
166 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
Her recent works are an exploration of photography and cinematography, which goes a long way to
explain the obsession with actors and actresses. Hidden behind the glitter and glamour of stage
make-up, a double hit of intimacy and veneer in
the closely-cropped portraits is echoed in the fight
between photography and painting. Almost like an
actor playing the role of a different person, Harriet White’s portraits are not paintings of people, but
are instead posing as something else – a painting of
‘Superficiality is celebrated in It’s this duality that forces the impact in Harriet’s my paintings, as they are all work. Her images, so obviously taken from about surface and less about a photographic source, lose the immediate connection of a portrait – there is no personal link between the artist and her model – and the focus what’s underneath’ a photograph.
turns to the skill and development of creating a
painting of a photograph. And there are certainly abundant skills on display within Harriet’s style.
Standing next to one of her artworks, it’s hard not
to do a double take. Photographically exact, it’s only under close inspection you can confirm that, yes,
these are indeed paintings. And even then, you’re
still not entirely sure. Taking three to four months
to produce each artwork, the exactitude within her painting style is incredible. Every aspect seems
super-real. Pores glisten. Make-up sparkles. Sweat 168 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
shimmers. In fact,
of the performer – being near it is a slightly
version of reality.
glittery effect of Wanderflower’s enticing make-
the paintings seem
like an accentuated Wanderflower,
Harriet’s inclusion in the 2011 BP
Portrait Award, features a
with green, enticing
eyes that stare from underneath a veil of dazzling blue
eyeshadow. As the
loses focus, Harriet paints the blurred light refracting through the
earrings. Misplaced hair falls across the performer’s
forehead. It’s an
incredibly intimate scene. Taking up nearly all of the
uncomfortable experience, and one which requires
a certain self-analysis of your own appearance. The up was in fact a happy mistake – proof perhaps of the creativity required when working from
photographic sources. Harriet’s interest in pattern and light is at its most visible here, and when you
break the painting down into its small details you can find her creativity at its most apparent.
Since graduating from Bath Spa University in
2001, Harriet has lived and worked in Bristol.
Her painting space has been based in the city’s BV Studios, a cultural and artistic hub south of
the river. Entwined in Bristol’s affluent and still-
burgeoning creative scene, Harriet has ensconced herself in a happy home. She regularly exhibits in the area when her artworks are not being called up for prestigious exhibitions like the Holburne Portrait Prize.
ROOMS eagerly grabbed the chance to catch up
with Harriet as she took us through the background and interests within her artistic practice.
Your work is more centred on the photograph as an item, rather than the scene it portrays – would you say that this is a calculated step away from reality?
canvas space, we
Yes definitely, I like the ambiguity that is implied
to edit and construct histories. This happens a lot
are confronted by the make-up and
by an image taken out of context. I think that the camera actually lies all the time and can be used
with photo albums; for example, the negative stuff often gets filtered out. As soon as the shutter goes
What is it about the glam and make-up of a performer that attracts you to them?
on the camera everything outside of the frame
I think it’s really purely an aesthetic thing. I find
spilt second, with the wigs and the makeup and the
paint. Superficiality is celebrated in my paintings,
immediately becomes irrelevant, and the little
scene within it only exists in the real world for that flashgun all contributing to an image consciously removed from reality.
How long does it take to create one of your pieces?
It really varies, but on average it takes about four months, start to finish. As the paintings are oils
and built up in layers there is a lot of drying time
involved, so I usually have two or three paintings on the go at any one time.
the odd shapes and colours reflected by this kind of surface so absorbing and seductive; it’s a delight to as they are all about surface and less about what’s underneath. So the idea of heavy make-up really appeals, but I also like the idea of an image not being totally what it seems – a painting that
seems quite slick and showy may contain a slight
suggestion of reality or vulnerability, like a bittendown fingernail or the edge of a contact lens on close inspection.
Are there any issues with creating photorealistic
What kind of paint do you use? Do you have to use
work? Do you feel that painting can go further than a
metallic paints and other materials to capture the
photograph ever can?
I think that painting and photography have such
I don’t use any metallic paints but I do use a wide
stand-alone finished image, but I think that some
fragments of colour and then re-constructing it on
different qualities and potential. It’s definitely
possible for a photograph to be just as ‘valid’ as a
photos just do have qualities which lend themselves well to paint and can be taken, if not further, then certainly in a different direction. Although from
range of colour oils and do a lot of mixing. I enjoy the challenge of breaking down the image into the canvas.
Your earlier work focuses on swimmers and
underwater scenes. Why did you move away from this?
a distance they seem quite photographic, up close
I really enjoyed the underwater paintings and it
left out or enhanced and I’m constantly making
although I felt that the photographs were working, I
my paintings do differ quite a lot from the source photographs – there will be things that I have decisions throughout the painting process.
Your paintings are taken directly from photographs. What are the restrictions and benefits of painting directly from a taken image? Painting from photographs is a very different experience to painting from life. For me, the
subjects of the paintings are the photographs
themselves rather than what they depict. I think
that the things that make the paintings interesting come directly from the quirks of photography rather than reality – taking a photograph
immediately removes an image from its context
and begins a new narrative which can remain open to interpretation. Also, and this may seem pretty
trivial ,one of the benefits of using photography is
that once I am at the painting stage I can completely absorb myself in the painting, without being
conscious of anyone else or worried about taking up their time.
170 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
was refreshing to use different subject matter for
a while. I think that I moved on from them because
wasn’t really adding anything by making paintings from them. There were practical reasons as well,
such as lack of access to suitable equipment, but it’s a subject that I would maybe like to revisit one day as I haven’t ruled anything out.
How has your work evolved over time?
My work has pretty much always been based
around faces, although in recent years the paintings have become much more staged and artificial
and less about the sitter, with the focus being on surface, texture and pattern.
Which artists do you most admire, and are there any
What can we expect next
who have influenced your work?
from Harriet White?
Particular artists I have been looking at include
I’ve just had a baby
work is more generally influenced by the images
painting at the
Gerhard Richter, Marilyn Minter, Franz Gertsch and Cindy Sherman, but I’d also say that my
that surround us from the media, specifically advertising and cinema.
You are currently based at BV Studios in Bristol, what do you love about the city?
Bristol is a fantastic city to live in – there are a huge number of artists living and working here, well
supported by several large artists’ studios and a great artistic community.
Your work often deals with the subject of ‘ambiguity’. How do you like to tackle this subject, and what does it bring to your paintings? I generally don’t say much about my work. I like
to leave the paintings open to interpretation and
it’s so interesting to see how people find different
meanings and attach different stories. I like the idea that a contradiction can exist in the work and that
it can be both glamorous and intimate, intimidating and voyeuristic.
so I’m taking a bit
of time away from moment, but I’m already looking
forward to getting back to the studio. I’d like to do some more exploration into light, colour
and pattern, maybe experimenting with different
subject matter or concentrating on photography for a while.
Bristol/ UK harrietwhite.co.uk
172 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
When you’re working in any medium, you unconsciously reflect the time you are in, and there are all sorts of realities at play.
Brock The Art of Storytelling
Words by Jeremiah Tayler . Photos by JustINa ŠuminaitE
o put you in the scene Jeremy Brock is an English BAFTA Award winning screenwriter, actor and director, whose works include Mrs. Brown, Last King of Scotland, How I Live Now, to name but a few. When I had first entered Jeremy’s studio, entirely
of view, and the
point of view is the camera and the
camera’s point of
view is chosen by the director.
flustered and late, I thought to kick right off at the deep
end: Reality. What is it even, and what does a concept
everything like that…
like that mean in a field where what’s real is usually a prop or make-believe? Little did I expect the insightful discussion that followed, or the circuitous way that everything seemed to be so interrelated across our fields’ divergences, and always came back to the grand abstract that reality is. How do I choose to portray reality in a screenplay? Well, it’s difficult. There are two ways of
answering; one, that film (unless you’re talking
about something obscure) deals in the illusion that what you’re seeing is the real world, so you’re in a
contract with your audience that this is your reality and I’m going to furnish you with this imaginary
world, to that extent, all writers of fiction are liars, de facto. And the other is, every film is a point
Exactly. Narrative film in particular
has traction where the camera is
always looking for
points of view that will intensify the
experience; the most obvious example is the close-up.
So, that’s another
level of reality I’m engaging in that’s
an intensification, and therefore a
manipulation of the truth. And if, when you’re
Everyone’s, who, in
of truths and my perception of the world that I put
by the grand scheme of
talking about reality, you’re talking about truth, it’s
their own world, you’re
into the screenplay, is no less true than anything in
really interesting, because there are any number
interrelated to, as granted
the real world with the caveat that it is extremely
I know it’s a
manipulated and extremely fashioned, and that’s what art is.
What a great question to open with!
On the other hand, I could say to you, film is
narrative driven. Screenwriters are in the business of writing images, not theatre of dialectic, so most of my time is spent breaking down a sequence of
scenes and trying to stop it from being sequential
and make it consequential. I mean most of our lives are spent in a sequence of moments, a, b, c, d, e, but
if you forced an audience to watch that, they would
be bored rigid. And that’s what plot is: consequence.
I think there’s an element of causality that permeates through everything in that way, some people might be more exposed to exploring their own personal causalities…
Some people look for patterns, sure. On the whole,
I think that life is very random. I just had a play on at the Hampstead Theatre that put me in contact
with other people, you could argue that I wanted that to happen, but I didn’t know it was going to
happen because there was no guarantee they would want to do it. I don’t know about causality in life, I know there are reasons why one’s behaviour has consequences, but I’m not sure there’s much of a pattern.
I’m willing to believe causality, but I’m never quite
sure what it is – I like the idea of will being the most governing force of the universe.
philosophy, and I
think Schopenhauer writes brilliantly
of it, but I suppose
my own experience of working in film is, as opposed to theatre, that it’s
very industrial and it tends to mock a
deep philosophical take of the world
unless you’re talking about the very
highest of European film makers, like
Haneke, who might make a film like
Amour which for me was beautiful and
I can’t imagine that film being made in the UK and I can’t
really tell you why. They’re not afraid to go high, they’re
not afraid to go up into the big kind
Your personal will?
of questions. We
‘You have to do the best work you can within the limits of your talent, your culture, or whatever, and just give it up’ 174 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
have great, British film makers, and there are great,
British films, but on the whole, it’s
d’Or at Cannes,
Blue is the Warmest Colour, which I don’t
know if you’ve seen?
Amazing film, just about love and
sexual passion, but it’s just beautiful,
and it has scenes in
it where artists are sitting around in a
garden talking about the female and the
male orgasm, and I
just think, ‘no, I can’t see this being made in London. I don’t know why…’
you’re working in any medium, you unconsciously
reflect the time
you’re in, and there are all sorts of
realities at play;
cultural relevancy, which dictates
how it looks as a
consequence, and the impact that it has, and so a lot of what it is you
are doing is just
out of your control anyway. Control is
an interesting thing.
Does reality occur,
then, when an instance becomes history?
very gritty, very
Yeah, I take the view
(thriller, or horror,
handed it over and
‘down and dirty’, it’s very genre specific even) and if you
compare all those
films with the film that got the Palme
that once you’ve
written something, it’s been made,
it’s none of your
business anymore. It belongs to other
people. For a lot of artists it's difficult to deal
find the best way
isn’t there, it will
hurt your feelings that you haven’t connected, but
that it’s limited in
with, but you have to let it go and know that some people will like it and some people won’t. It can
nevertheless, if you are in the business of writing
something, be it a script, poem, or play, you have to do the best work you can within the limits of your
talent, your culture, or whatever, and just give it up.
Do you think some people reason to never finish?
You may laugh, but that’s one of the reasons, and I have a lot of sympathy with people who fail to complete work because they’re afraid that the
minute they put it out there it will be rubbished,
and if you’ve poured yourself into a piece of work,
it’s very personal, the feeling of exposure that you experience (of being exposed), it’s very painful, it’s got to be very intense and if you’ve invested yourself in it, then it may hurt. It’s difficult.
There’s a relevance to art, as a visually communicative language, which film is. However you choose to portray it – I wonder if you literally picture everything, as it is, that you want to write?
to tell it. My worry
made to feel from
the outset, that any
country, we’re very
kind of neurotic tick
screen, I struggle with
because I can set up a
afraid of appearing
When I put that into
with us, whereas
using directives, like
pretentious, and as a
narrative without jarring
pretentious, it’s a
the focus of writing for
I don’t think
fades and things…
Europeans are as
set of moving images in your head, and the process
that, the rest are
messy and it’s quite organic.
You conjure worlds, create populations, make your own lexicon, if you’re James Joyce…
Well, if you look at Ulysses, an entire lexicon, but
also an entire way of creating the world. I consider it to be an extraordinary piece of work but most
of us don’t reach that far because that requires a
level of genius gifted to very few, but in that that’s the paradigm of a creative process, it’s the same
for everybody. Everybody is attempting to draw
into the world all the divine, sublime, ridiculous,
funny, droll, tragic, versions of the story and then
ever, and actually, oddly enough, all
works to be stigmatised
Sure, it’s a tiny
screenplay. I think that’s just how it works. It’s
refer to the camera,
Ergo, people separate
John Logan who say the same thing: there is the
something and then he has to coalesce into a single
Ironically, I never
afraid of that.
desk is just a pile of bits of paper on which he writes
you who you are.
a certain point is
effectively are the writers like Peter Straw and
Ball, who wrote American Beauty, says that his
the things that make
I enjoy that aspect
for not complying with
feel like water running through your hands. Alan
combination of all
about screenwriting, and the writers who talk most
is a perfect movie that’s in your head, and it can
instinctual; it’s the
industry is. You’re
they don’t want their
of getting it on paper is a downward curve. So there
be trained. It’s
industrial the film
which means they work akin to the way like artists,
film, it’s not entirely in focus, but you are seeing a
because it can’t
because of how
moment where you imagine, obscurely, the whole
in an original or
its own inhibition
Yeah, all screenwriters I admire work visually,
so they’re imagining. I curate a series of lectures
never be expressed
with a lot of work is
group of people who are allowed to do
just ignored, largely and unfunded. And
the unspoken thing here is talent. You
have to have talent. The risk of any
is artists can protect themselves from the harsh reality that
they aren’t talented enough, and talent resides separately from who we are
so it’s not governed
by will, or ambition and it’s a very
tough thing to deal with. If the talent
I know, never use It is!
that, if it’s any consolation. They write
directions that are entirely to do with
the emotional state of the character, or if it’s a visual description of a
place, they simply describe it as if
they were telling you what that
place is like – they would never say
‘the camera sees’, they leave that
to the director.
What you’re doing is looking at the
way you can best render a story as
as visually as you
can, and the rule is, the less dialogue there is, the
so you are constantly dealing in the juxtaposition
sex tourist at the
stronger the screenplay, in opposition to theatre. In film there is no limit to the space you’re using and
of one image from another. If you’re defining what makes film Film, it’s the cut; the cut from and the cut to. A lot of the time, the visual medium is not
used cinematically, it’s used in quite a pedestrian way and the shots are quite predictable.
When you’re adapting a story then, and you have to pay fidelity to that original, creative image, how do you go about that? The challenge of adapting is quite different to that of writing an original because if you’re adapting someone’s stamped novel, for example, Harry
Potter, millions of people have read it. The usual rule is: You read it and you read it and you read
it, and then you put it away, and it’s not because
you’re ignoring it, but because the two media are
so different, that if you tried to draw down a book
into a film, you would fail. So it means finding a way to stay true to the spirit of the book, but not being
too reverential. You hold those ideas and the broad
in the case of The
Last King, is a naïve
beginning who falls in thrall of Idi Amin because he has a
with his own father, then you have a
scene, that you know you want to write. I knew I wanted
to write where Idi
Amin has just taken
‘The creative process is a moment he’s taken Garrigan’s British state of happy identity away and made him an discontent’ extension of himself. basically, he’s taken
his identity, and that
narrative and then you bully your way in and you
Is it often you’ll read
a fantastic moment
own it, in an egocentric way. It’s kind of honouring the spirit, but you have to be quite tough or you’ll
And when you plot those scenes, do you visualise a real, physical, counterpart? Often I’ll have an actor in my head whose voice I’ll use to help me jump in. If I’m describing an
emotional state, I’ll describe that actors’ emotional state. It helps me to give it flesh, if you like. I want
the characters to have a strong enough identity of their own for the ideas within the film, or in the
novel, to be implicit; I don’t like films and books and plays where the theme is stated.
The best work is where the characters feel as if
they were entirely separate from who you are, you
stop feeling able to predict what they say, so you’re writing away and you’re thinking, ‘that’s odd -
where did that come from?’ Because actually, those people have taken on a life of their own.
How does that compare when you’re writing historical figures, as with Last King of Scotland or Mrs. Brown? Well, all the same rules apply. Mrs. Brown was
public domain, so there wasn’t a book. Last King of Scotland was Giles Foden’s novel; you just
concentrate on the broad principles; what’s the
story, who’re the central characters, what’s their
176 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
something and think
‘wow, this could make of cinema’? Yeah, I do. It’s
difficult because I
don’t have enough
time just to wonder, that’s the thing I
miss from when I was younger. I’m
very lucky, but when
I come here I usually have a lot of work
to do – I don’t come here and sit on the
sofa and just think, and I’d love to do
that but I suppose
it’s in the nature of
being a professional writer that I am
trying to do a job of
work, but I’m trying to invest myself in it as if it’s not just
work, as if it’s an
writers who think about the impact of every
dichotomy, and I
play recently that’s just finished: Iran, and I was a
expression of me, so I’m always in that
don’t mind because I’m very used to it,
it’s just unusual and
in a weird way, quite humbling.
Have you ever considered that one day you’ll think
moment, but for me, I would say that you have to feel like you trust what you’re writing. I wrote a
bit shocked by how uncomfortable and unhappy
some people were at the behaviour of the central
character Abby, and I had people coming up to me
afterwards saying ‘she’s so horrible’. So it can have
a slightly destabilising impact later, because I work from the point of view that if I love that person, other people will too, and it’s not always so.
‘Oh, this could be my
I have the impression that you’re very open to
Very much so. I don’t find that I can say that easily,
surprises you, and
discontent, and the way that work can emerge
I think the best
is the work that
the management of
expectation is one of the hardest parts of writing because my
job is to shut up and do the work, and if
the noise in my head
is always about ‘how
will this be received, is this going to be
the best work I’ve
but I like accidents and I like surprise. I’ve come to learn that the creative process is a state of happy most effectively is often just when you’re able to
contain the anxiety that comes with that low hum of uncertainty. Again, it’s about management of
expectation, the more you cope with that feeling
of ‘oh, I’m not sure how I’m going to manage this’,
the more likely you are to stay open, because being an artist is often about not knowing and the more
you can cope with not knowing, the more you’ll be surprised.
Getting back to the idea of the artist as oracle, and
having an openness to your own creative energies,
ever done?’ then I
rather than be very pre-determined.
do anyway – the
I guess that’s really what we try to do…
won’t be doing the best work I can
best work is when I’m completely
immersed in it and
not second guessing. Ironically, you have
to lose yourself in it
so that the work has the most integrity possible.
So you try to disassociate from the idea of there being an audience at the end? Yeah, I don’t know
whether that’s just
me or whether that’s true in general.
I know there are
I love that, I mean, that’s exactly what I’m talking about, and yes, totally agree.
It’s unusual to find a magazine which is
unapologetically trying to reach across all the
different media and trying to have a discourse
about the relationship between art and film, or
poetry and screenwriting, and when you open the two disciplines up to examination, as we’ve just done, there are many parallels between them.
The creative process in poetry or in creative
writing or in what’s often described more as a
‘craft’, (which is screenwriting) and I passionately disagree with that, I think screenwriting is an
Art, and if you look at the greatest practitioners like Charlie Kaufman, or Allan Ball, these are
screenwriters who are unquestionably artists.
178 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
ADEN When exploring new and emerging technologies, it is very important to ground it in a believable reality that can help my work be more engaging, opening it up to a broader audience.
An Organically Designed Future Words by Jesc Bunyard
ondon-based designer and researcher Shamees Aden explores the potential of materials. Her recent project Protocell Trainers used 3D printing and synthetic biological materials to create a running shoe that would repair itself overnight. The shoe could be printed to the size of the wearerâ€™s foot, whilst the material would react to pressure, growing or inflating where extra cushioning was needed. The protocells themselves are not alive, but can be combined in order
Amoeba Trainers. Photo by ÂŠ Sam J Bond
to create a living organism. These non-living cells can become artificial life and have the potential to respond to stimuli such as sunlight. Adenâ€™s interaction with materials and approach to her work is building he a reputation within the design and scientific communities.
How do you work with reality within your practice? Does your concept of reality change with each project or scientific discovery, as you realise what may be possible? I work with todayâ€™s
reality by looking at how I can innovate, create future
consider what could be the future of
these new scientific discoveries in
design. They are
just concept ideas for now, because
they are not ready to be scaled up for
can become a reality in the future.
new and emerging technologies, it is very important
to ground it in a
believable reality. Underpinning my
work within a sense of reality is a useful tool and process
that can help my Amoeba Trainers. Photo by ÂŠ Sam J Bond
work be more
180 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
engaging and opens it up to a broader
it is a future reality
or a current reality, it is important to express how this
product, application or object will exist in our everyday
exploring these new
Amoeba Trainers. Photo by © Sam J Bond
scientific discoveries, it’s exciting to understand
I had inspiring tutors, one being Carole Collet, the
the technology is in a petri dish and turning that
Futures Research Centre at Central Saint Martins
the potential reality of these new technologies and showcase a future possibility – where currently potential technology into a future scenario.
You recently completed the Textile Futures MA at
Central St Martins. What was the environment like on the course? How did this allow you to explore new materials and technology? The Textile Futures is a two-year master program based at Central Saint Martins College of Arts
in London, dedicated to exploring the future of
materiality. I was exposed to emerging scientific practices, new technologies and craft processes. I was encouraged to explore these new concepts and processes, and to merge these ideas into
new sustainable design applications, therefore
cultivating a new awareness of our relationship with materials.
founder of the Textile Futures course and now a
full-time Reader and Deputy Director of the Textile College. Carole explores the potential of how
living technologies can create a sustainable future in the textiles industry. It was this knowledge
and expertise that allowed me to openly explore and investigate how science could revolutionise
future fabrication, and in particular what makes a material be in a fixed or active state. Could
modern materials be engineered to live and engage more extensively with the natural world? Can we
engineer living systems that would be in constant conversation with their surroundings, enabling them to react, respond and adapt in real time?
New technologies, including 3D printing, are changing the way science and fashion view materials. How do you view materials?
The course offered me the freedom in pushing
My view on materials has changed. I take more
materials, but most importantly having awareness
believe that if you explore the material at its early
the boundaries of what a material could be, to
revaluate and reinterpret my understanding of
of sustainability issues within the textile industry and questioning my role as a designer.
of a chemist’s viewpoint to materials, I seek to
understand the chemical make-up of materials. I chemical states, you can best understand and
utilise all of its benefits. I work with the material’s
characteristics and natural attributes to create a
together are, and
Your Protocell Trainer
shape or form that requires you to use aggressive
quality of life
describe more about the
design application which best exhibits the unique qualities of the material, instead of imposing a manufacturing processes to the material.
With that in mind, what do you think will be the potential of 3D printing?
Project is incredibly
for thousands of
project and the process?
of improving the people with this technology.
I currently feel that 3D printing technology as
Have you got any new
qualities. In the future, maybe when placed in
to start working on?
a manufacturing process hasn’t found its place or right purpose yet, to best utilise its unique
modern medicine, it could really be a powerful tool in designing custom made-to-measure knee joints, printed organs and soft tissue prostheses.
You work with scientists to produce your ideas. How does this collaboration work?
During the MA Textile Futures course, we
collaborated with scientists in our first year. This exposure in exploring biological principles, and what potential impact that science could have
in the design world, was very inspiring. I gained
new insights and was curious to know how I could design with these potential new technologies, in order to create a more sustainable design
application that could potentially remove some of the damaging manufacturing processes that are present in the textiles industries.
The Amoeba trainer project is a tangible product
concept looking into how these new and emerging sciences, in particular the science of Protocell, could potentially revolutionise the future of
materiality. I was very fortunate to have the
opportunity to collaborate with Dr Martin Hanczyc, a leading figure in the science of Protocell and
explore my design ideas with him, engaging with
the promising possibility of this new exciting living technology and developing a concept product that could communicate the potential implications of
projects coming up, or anything you would like The plan is to
start exploring the
possibilities of how we will construct
the Amoeba trainers, while we are
still at the early
It is important for
us to allow for the freedom of the
living technology to develop and spend time
exploring; to allow for that process of
exploration to better inform our designs, and work alongside
the material instead of imposing our
design ideas onto it.
interesting. Can you
This project started in my final year of
MA Textile Futures course. I wanted to ask the question: can the study of
Protocell principles provoke a new
vision for future materials?
The study of
Protocells is a
new and emerging science that has the potential to revolutionise
future materiality. Essentially,
Protocell science is a form of synthetic biology that blurs the gap between
the non-living and
living. Encouraging the emergence of life from lifeless. Artificially
manufactured (in the laboratory),
‘Science is becoming the future technological advancement? designer's toolbox, opening up the I’m really interested to see how 3D printers will impact the health and medicine industry. The idea potential to engineer living materials of having a 3D printer that prints cells for tissues, soft tissue prostheses and bionic ears, fascinates and products’ this technology in the future.
What do you think will be the next scientific/
me. I believe that we are just at the beginning of understanding how unimaginable and exciting
the potential power of these two forces coming 182 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
Protocell 'living' Technology
could provide us with the building blocks to create
concepts that communicate the future potential of
to use 3D printed
a new man-made nature. Through this project,
I seek to envisage and propose tangible product Protocell science.
Advances in science will shape the future of new
materials, completely changing the look, structure, function and performance of future products.
Harnessing the principles of Protocells, I seek to
envision new material encounters and develop new concepts and scenarios, in order to explore this complex and abstract subject.
We are on the cusp of a material revolution that embraces the advantages in new science and
technology. My project aims to explore if Protocells could be a driving force in future design scenarios. I believe science is becoming the future designerâ€™s
toolbox, opening up the potential to engineer living materials and products.
surface-adapting trainer proposes
biotechnology to create a second
skin around the
user foot. The effect to the athlete is
that the Protocells synchronise to the individual
foot, because this living technology
is responsive and reconfigurable,
adapting in real
time to the current
activity of the runner by adding extra support in high impact areas.
London/ UK shameesaden.com
The Secret Life of Shadows. Photo by ÂŠ Sylvain Deleu
184 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
I want to see more than I can actually see. I want to be able to view this almost makeshift reality where everything can happen and everything has its interaction and a reaction in an environment.
Words by Heike Dempster
nspired by fluidity, nature and the ephemerality of motion and time, Geoffrey Mann’s art captures fleeting moments by giving them a visual form and through the recreation of emotion. Mann’s glass and ceramic pieces look whimsical, light and airy as if a breath or wind surge could carry them away and leave behind just the feeling on the skin. The movement he conveys in his work seems to continue as soon as the eyes wander yet the pieces remain still and hold the moment forever. The Scottish artist captures moments not just visually, but rather by telling the full narrative based on an emotional connection. Mann’s art embodies a specific moment in time and makes it touchable, almost as if that supposedly fleeting moment was caught and lingered to tell the story again. Geoffrey Mann combines art, craft and design and has created a studio practice that challenges the existing divides. Each of the media he works in, from glass to ceramics, silver, resin, wood and video installation, has unique characteristics of movement that Mann
Crossfire, wineglass. Photo by © Sylvain Deleu
incorporates into his work. After studying for his undergraduate degree at Gray‘s School of Art in Aberdeen, Mann moved to London for his postgraduate degree at the Royal College of Art in London. He then returned to his native Scotland, where he keeps a fulfilling balance between quality of life and practice, as an artist, lecturer and Program Director of Glass at the Edinburgh College of Art. Mann pinpoints his career break to an exhibition at Digitalability in Berlin and has since exhibited at MoMA New York, the International Bombay Sapphire Awards in London and Milan, MAD New York and the European Glass Context in Denmark, to name a few. In 2008, he was awarded the World Craft Council Prize for Glass and in 2009 he won the Jerwood Contemporary Crossfire, jug. Photo by © Sylvain Deleu
186 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
The artist’s creation process starts with extensive research and a decision on the course of the narrative. Mann’s work is always based on a solid conceptual foundation that he can then question along the way. Every piece of art he creates is based on a new thought or a narrative taken into a new direction, as the artist wants to add to the subject matter he is exploring rather than to rehash something that has been examined previously.
Crossfire, cutlery. Photo by © Sylvain Deleu
Once Mann has decided on an idea and started his research he sketches the object, then takes it into a motion capture facility and from there, he creates raw, organic data, usually based on an animal or a voice or breathing. Once he applies the information to the object and he feels that it encapsulates that moment in time he 3D prints the object, “pushing it further to more traditional craft processes such as casting for a glass cast”. The narratives connecting Mann’s art are based, as before mentioned, on ephemerality in nature and motion. He captures moments, the intangible, something without material properties which “exists every day in our familiarity”. With the use of digital technology such as animation, motion tracking and 3d scanning, Mann can see beyond the capacity of his eyes. “I want to see more than I can actually see. I want to be able to view this almost makeshift reality where everything can happen and everything has its interaction and a reaction in an environment. Almost the properties don’t hinder anything. They actually exaggerate an interaction”. To capture the intangible, Mann has to find a way to combine two aspects. He needs to translate something without material properties into form and he needs to transform an emotion felt in a fleeting moment in connection with that form into art. Mann makes this connection touchable – he materializes moments in time. What is the art scene in Edinburgh like? The art scene is very good. Every year there are Turner Prize nominees from the
several Scottish art colleges. Obviously, in Edinburgh we have the Festival Fringe
in August, which is one of the world’s leading events that covers a whole city and is focused towards creative and cultural practices.
Do you personally collect art?
I try and collect art. I have obviously my own pieces, which is the bonus of being an artist. I have some other work but nothing that’s yet of any value. I am not
Crossfire, still. Photo by © Chris Labrooy
attracted to the pieces everyone thinks that I should be attracted to. Usually, it’s
the things that have no relation to the work I do. I like to disembody myself or take myself away from perhaps my peers and people I work directly with.
Have you ever encountered a work of art that had a profound impact on you?
I would have to say, it is Roni Horn’s work. It’s a glass object, part of a series called
Well & Truly. The scale of these large coloured objects, it just blew my mind when I
first saw them in Venice. I just could not stop viewing them. I kept looking at them from different angles, getting closer and from far away. It was the colour and the scale connected together as a single piece that really blew my mind.
What is the significance of colour in your work?
I don’t use colour a lot within my work. It is about the exaggeration of form, when
it comes to something as intangible, that colour connection will overpower it. I am currently looking at how I can grade in colours to embody shadows or the illusion of reality.
How do you approach ‘reality’ in your art practice?
My approach to reality is using different tools, digital and tangible – I question what we can’t see. A good example is a hummingbird. A hummingbird flaps his wings so fast your eyes cannot actually see what is happening. All we see is a
blur. What our reality is, is the blur, but the real reality, if that makes any sense,
is actually this slow motion figure of eight. I suppose we start talking about what
subverted reality is at that point. With my art practice I started looking at objects which are intangible, such things like sound, motion. They never have the same impact twice.
188 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
‘I don’t use colour a lot within my work. It is about the exaggeration of form’
Is there a medium or any idea that you want to explore further in the future? There are a few ideas I am currently working on. I am still following a lot of my research that comes from readings of Gilles Deleuze and his notion of
the ‘objectile’. This is about objects that are set in between states. Something else I am looking at
currently is this idea of stillness, the true nature of stillness. You find a lot of people and a lot of critics describe objects with this inherent stillness built
into them. I am interested in what that actually is and how you could actually create something from that.
How important is the viewer’s interpretation of your work to you?
It is important for me that the viewer can connect to the work. The connection can be completely opposite to what I intended. I work with this understanding that most objects have this
unfamiliar familiarity to the piece itself. From
that sense, if an object has a hint or a highlight
of its previous nature that’s where you have this familiarity kicking in.
Who is Geoffrey Mann as a private person?
I am actually quite a private person. I learned to divide who I am privately from who I am as an
academic, or a teacher and who I am as an artist or
designer. I keep it quite separate. That way I can put different hats on. I can actually be on or off, cause
I think having these off, these reflective periods, is massively important and it’s more important than anyone has ever realized.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I cycle a lot, I am an avid cyclist. I also play ice
hockey. I like high impact kind of sports. It relaxes
me in a very weird way because during those really intense periods I can’t phase out my work. It is
one of those things where I have to give 100%.
Which book is a must-read and why?
One I have come across in my practice but also in
Crossfire, still. Photo by © Chris Labrooy
probably want to
been of a very high
of individual places
or five exhibitions
go somewhere to be lost. There are lots but that’s not the
point for me. I really enjoy switching off, I mean, stepping
off the grid. No cell
phones, no internet, no access in that sense. I suppose
Scotland does that very well for me
because I can go up north and I would
not have any of this. It would be very
basic living, very
thoughtful and very genuine. Innocent
living, which I feel it would be fantastic to actually go to
and experience that at the same time.
What do you have planned for 2014?
my private life, would be Jun’ichirō Tanizaki and
I have been very
are quite interesting. I find it actually is a very
writing recently and
it’s In Praise of Shadows. It’s a book of essays and it’s
about Japanese aesthetics. Some of the observations good read. It is something I have read four or five
times now. I keep on finding new narratives hidden within itself.
Where would you love to travel and work if you could pack your bags at any time? I would like to travel with my partner. We would
busy. I was doing
some reading and
I think over the last eight or nine years
standard, so 2014
for me there are four my galleries are
aiming for but, at the same time, for me
it’s about reflection. I want to just
finalize The Secret
Life of Shadows but also another body of work that will compliment it at
the same time. At
that point I really
think I am pushing
for a solo exhibition for myself. I will
have such a diverse body of work, all
falling within one idea of the space in between. I
think, it could be a
fascinating insight into my practice
but also the current state where we are
with art and design
and the connections or fusions between art and design.
I have done over 55 exhibitions and the majority have been overseas and have
Edinburgh/ Scotland mrmann.co.uk
THE POWER OF THREE
Words by Linh Nguyen
Eric Lau Black Forest Ghetto Little Simz
190 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
Each are different in their own special, talented ways. Separating the best from the rest may seem like hard work, but these musicians are so distinct that it made our job pleasantly easy. What weâ€™ve gathered for you is fresh, cuttingedge sound from the London underground scene: a brilliant and soul-stirring producer, an impressive six piece energetic band and a rapper with infinite words up her sleeve. We welcome you to Eric Lau, Black Forest Ghetto and Little Simz. We suggest that after you read, go give them a listen and experience it for yourself. And as Funkadelic once declared, letâ€™s have one nation under a groove.
Eric LAU IS ONE OF MANY “When we project something out of our mouth, the sound can either be music or noise. So a swear word to me is noise. That’s why I don’t swear”. There is something undeniably calm about being in the presence of Eric Lau. The Soul/Hip-Hop producer and DJ possesses a wistful wisdom which he imparts with Zen-like mannerism, naturally of course, because of his teaching background. Lau’s debut album New Territories (2008) was released to critical acclaim, and his latest, One of Many (2013) follows suit, featuring an array of talented musicians including Rahel, Kaidi Tatham, Fatima and Tawiah. We can describe Lau’s music as gravitational, feeding our visceral needs with his melodic and chilled sounds. When ROOMS sat down with Lau to discuss values and outlooks, it’s clear that, upon talking to Lau, his musical production comes from a betrayal of the self, in which the music is sovereign, and he either creates, or is the channel through which it flows. How did you get into music production? I came from Cambridge and moved to London for university where I was studying a Business & Marketing Degree. I was young, I didn’t know what to do and I wasn’t specialised in anything. Then my friend lent me some software and I started making music in my second year of uni, and it was really good fun! It was a really simple software called Hip-Hop eJay where you just drag loops. You’ve often said in previous interviews that ‘the song is king’ – what do you mean by this? Me, the artist, musicians, we should serve the song. Sometimes you instigate it by just going ahead and doing it. Then you just let go, that’s usually when I’m by myself. When it’s with a vocalist, you create an environment for them to be in that space to channel, where they feel comfortable. To make sure we’re channelling the source from where it is, and it comes through it. It’s like spray paint coming through us as stencils. We are physical stencils, and whatever pattern that comes through is partly the source and partly us. Do you ever struggle to create? It should come naturally. Sometimes you can set starting points, a catalyst. Usually creation is out of love; fear is when you destroy it. If you focus on love, then something will come through.
192 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
Eric Lau. Photo by © Alexandra Uhart
Your latest album is called One of Many, where did you get the idea for the title? A long time ago. I’m just one of many living things in this universe. We’re affected by the moon, the sun and beyond that. But we’re so arrogant nowadays that we think we’re not. Your music, to me, is very chilled and soulful. Would you say that’s a reflection of your personality? We’re multidimensional beings,
we change all the time. I think it reflects my spirit, but not me as a person. How has music changed your perception? That there’s no need to fear anything, really. There’s no need to use up the energy. I feel fear, but I don’t let it consume me. I used to be a perfectionist and I learnt from that. I would make about 30 versions of the same song and would kill the vibe. As long as the energy is right, is more important than what’s technically right. How would you describe your music? Nutritious. It’s wholesome. It’s good for you. I don’t think I’ve released anything that’s harmful. Would you say creating is a disassociation from reality, as a form of escape? Escape defines that this moment is not good enough. It implies you’re escaping from something bad. I think it’s a case of you exiting a different realm because when you go in spirit, that’s what it means. When you listen to music, or look at a piece of art, you don’t feel like you’re even in your body; you’re not aware of it. That’s what art and music does, it evokes that. I wouldn’t say it’s an escape. You’re just in another realm. The painting is physical, but the emotion you’re feeling can’t be explained.
What are your views on our digital age? We’re in a digital age where everything is an approximation rather than the actual full spectrum. You can look at the same thing taken on a digital or an analogue, but you don’t feel something from the digital. The feeling isn’t the same. I think on a global scale, we’re more connected than ever, because of these devices we have. But I feel like time is quicker now. I never try to catch up with time. I hardly look at the time, I don’t have a clock, I hate the sound of a clock. Unless I’ve got appointments I don’t look at the time. This may be weird to say, but I think a clock or Greenwich Mean Time or this whole system of time is designed so that we can’t bend it for ourselves. Because if you’re not conscious of time, a moment can seem like forever and a long time can seem like an instant. And that’s bending time within our own perception of it. What kind of impact would you like to make on the world? A positive one, that’s it. I want to be able to give to people. To uplift people. What are your plans for 2014? A lot of things. I’ve done this EP with Tawiah, it’s called Love Call. It’s a nice little project between us, very natural. I’ve done this other thing for this Japanese label called Freedom School, and they specifically approached me to do two tracks that are like house-tempo under a different name. I’ve also got the album as well. Recently I’ve really been into films, I would love to direct. One thing I would like to do is tell the story of my parent’s generation here in England. The story hasn’t been told about Asian culture in England. I’ll be very disappointed if someone did it, and did it really badly. I just want to instigate it so I’m planting the seed now into people’s minds.
BRINGS THE BOOGIE
The BFG (that’s Black Forest Ghetto to you and me) are something of an iconoclastic band. With the perfect blend of Pop, Rap, Electro, Funk and New jack swing alongside choreographed dance, BFG is revolutionising shows one dance move at a time. Jess, Jacob, Jason, Tom, Guy and Dan all started out as friends before deciding to collectively create, and their talent goes beyond music, in which the art of showmanship is at the fore of their image (unsurprisingly they cite Prince and Zapp and Roger as some of their influences). It’s undeniable to overlook the refreshing quality this band has to offer, simply for the fact that we’ve not heard anything like this for a while. As of now, they’re making their mark within the London music scene for all the right reasons – originality, theatrics and crowd chemistry. Under the guidance of independent label Rogues Records, they’ve released singles Purest N.G.T and Invincible, a concoction of retro throwback and rhythmic grooves that gets you dancing involuntarily. They are now currently in production for their EP which is set to launch in February and an album later this year. I interviewed them for ROOMS 13 at their North London base.
Black Forest Ghetto. Photo by © Alexandra Uhart
194 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
How did you all form? Jacob: Well, we all met at university originally where we all studied music together. Jason: Yeah, and it wasn’t until a year after we left that we formed on Christmas 2010, and I remember this because I sent a Facebook message a day after my work Christmas party where I was at a transvestite cabaret. After the message, we booked a rehearsal and that was it. How would you describe your music? Guy: We were listening to a lot of Bobby Brown and the idea was to play New Jack Swing, and from the start that’s what we wanted to sound like, but we didn’t sound like that for ages. We sound more like a Funk band. To describe the band to other people is hard, because the vision for all of us is really clear. I know exactly what it is, but it’s really difficult to explain. Jason: We’re still always aiming for 90s New Jack Swing. But where are we? I suppose funky, Electro Pop. Tom: I like the idea of just saying Pop because everything else comes under that. It must also be quite challenging to incorporate rap? Jacob: I guess so. Originally, even before I met everyone, I used to just mess around and make Rap tunes, but it’s all very tongue in cheek – still kind of is. I even put on an American accent back in the day, just as a joke, called myself Seal. Although my rap has kinda changed, it’s only recently that I feel like I’m starting to find my own voice. In terms of the shows, there’s more of a monologue, more spoken word. I don’t know, I write Rap, but I don’t really think of myself as a rapper, more as a front man. Jason: I think the whole thing with BFG is that Jacob’s function in the band is more than just a rapper, and because of all the theatre, he kind of leads the show. We just knew that when we had these parties and we’d put on Bobby Brown, everyone could just see the chemistry between Jess and Jacob and everyone would be watching their lead and follow their choreography. What drives you all creatively? Jacob: To me it’s a cycle thing, I love playing shows. The more I do that, the more I want to play shows and write tunes. Guy: When I listen to something really cool, the prospect of writing like that is really exciting and inspiring. How does living in London impact that? Guy: I never thought about it before, but I wouldn’t say we have a particularly London-y sound. Because we find it really hard to find gigs to play with bands that sound like us. We don’t fit into any sort of London scene. Jason: We don’t think about it on any other deeper level than we just want to make people dance. And I think loads of people forget that, it’s just entertainment. We try and do all these things, talk about creativity, when really all we want to do is make people smile. It’s as simple as that. What is your definition of entertainment? Jacob: Roughly, I reckon, somewhere between 10-30 press ups on stage. Guy: I feel like you know when people are entertained because they feel like a part of the party happening on stage.
Tom: There’s less focus on the band and more about the tunes and everyone being there. It’s more of an interaction instead of a bunch of people gormlessly staring at us. Jess: When they’re just not standing there. N.G.T stands for Natural Gaming Talent, can you expand on that? Tom: To display above average, natural ability and flair with something where you don’t necessarily have the appropriate experience or training. For example in a gaming context, Guy’s been playing a game for ages and he thinks he’s pretty good at it, Jacob would pick up the controller and finish the game in half the amount of time. That’s N.G.T! Is there always a stage persona to performance or is it a reflection of who you guys are? Jason: I think there is, but it’s not acting. With many of our idols, like Prince and Bobby Brown, there’s an element of performance where they’re playing hyper versions of themselves. It’s an extension. I’m really into it being an arc, so even though loads of it is improvised, there’s a shape to the whole show. There’s a framework. Guy: But you want to leave a little risk. What is the best solution to a creative dry-spell? Tom: Constantly listening to tunes. Listening to stuff that is beyond what you play. Get some fresh ears. Guy: Something completely removed, from the least expected place. What’s the most important thing you’ve all learnt so far? Jess: Not to forget it’s all about the music. What do you all hope to achieve this year? Guy: An album. The EP is coming out in February, so it will be the singles plus two new tunes. But we’re working towards the album this year. In a one word answer, if everyone was dancing to the same song, what would the world be like? Jacob: Camembert. Guy: Yeah, I’m going with Jake’s answer. Jason: Boring! I like disagreeing with people. Jess: Free. Oh what, is this supposed to be forever? Tom: Weird.
Little SIMZ PAINTS THE PICTURE
While we’re busy doing earthly activities, Little Simz has been living it up in space and channelling her cosmic creativity through music. The rapper may possibly be one of the best Hip-Hop artists to emerge from the London scene, and she has full intention to break through. So far, her talent has got her teaming up with the likes of Dizzee Rascal and Kelala, not to mention her overseas encounters with J. Cole, Chance the Rapper, and Epic Records executive L.A Reid. With a history in performing arts since the tender age of 9, including acting, it’s no wonder that Little Simz’s stage performance comes across natural and even infectious. Her ability to engage with the crowd through dance and frequent eye contact feels rather instinctual, combined with the catchy beats and effortless vibes of her music – even when as a solo. I always like to bring good vibes and energy to the stage. Crowd interaction is very important whenever I do a gig. The ability to engage the audience so they too are performers demonstrates the kind of resonating impact Simz creates. There is a certain charged essence to her personality; she is assertive but not imposing. Furthermore, the confidence instilled within her is fuelled by a deep passion for the music she makes, and for those whom she makes it for. Her fourth mixtape, Blank Canvas, was premiered via Jay-Z’s Life + Times website. The mixtape is an exploration of life through the eyes of an individual, in which Little Simz creates a space to delve into the human condition.
196 ROOMS No Borders No Boundar ies
The concept behind the mixtape was us as humans looking at ourselves as blank canvases, and as we go through life we start to create our own paintings. We choose our own destinies. But overall, it’s just a product of good music with songs anyone can vibe to. Songs like Subject Matter and Deranged define the style of the self-analytical perspective from which she speaks. For example, in Subject Matter, she addresses us with universal questions such as: “How do you find your purpose in life?” and “What does it mean to be unique?” Deranged also works in a similar vein, as she ruminates over the troubled self, telling herself, and perhaps even us, not to “answer the empty questions asked in the mirror”. Her lyrics are straightforward and the conviction of her firm and solid vocals allows you to feel the full impact of her words. Despite her young age, Little Simz is able to intelligently use language to fully express her thoughts. The contents of her lyrics are explicit, unapologetic but
also very modest. Although she does not hesitate to state her opinions, she understands that they are opinions and solely unique to her. As a result, her music acts like a compass with which we can choose whether or not to follow. Blank Canvas is a great example of the new wave of conscious Hip-Hop hitting the scene, which includes artists like Joey Bada$$ and Earl Sweatshirt. The mixtape is in depth but also manages to maintain a feel good rhythm to it. When she tells me of her influences, it’s clear to see the aspects of each musician who inspired her in her music. I’m influenced by life itself on a day to day basis, and my musical influences stem from the likes of Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley, Erykah Badu, Fela Kuti and Jimi Hendrix. She exhibits the sass of Badu, the sincerity of Hill and Marley, combined with the showmanship of Kuti and Hendrix. But more importantly, what all of these artists manage to do is create something we can relate to, and Little Simz reminds herself of this when she makes music. We know that the best kinds of music attract both the mind and emotions; we appreciate it more when it connects with us on a personal basis. When she’s not going solo, Little Simz is also part of a collective called Space Age, which consists of Josh Árce, Chuck20 and Tilla, who are all making impacts respectively. Space Age is pretty much a group of friends who have similar interests and each are talented individuals. They are my family and my foundation for support. I love my team. Without the support of her collective, we may witness a different sound to Simz’s music. The importance of surrounding herself with like-minded individuals goes back to the concept of her mixtape; the idea that we can paint the life we want. This means choosing to an extent, who or what influences you and how to live your life. With Space Age, Little Simz demonstrates the extension of talent she inhabits. She is also able to play both the guitar and drums, which displays a more traditional approach to the computerised production of contemporary Hip-Hop. Space Age makes brilliant music, the sound is tight, and the catchy track 3000x, also on Blank Canvas, proves just how talented these young individuals are. They’re a solid bunch, and truly feel like a unit on and off the stage. The steady but sure-fire progression of Little Simz is a certainty. The Islington rapper is making headlines for both British and female rappers, and we can’t forget to mention her forthcoming EP set to be released late this Spring. ROOMS shall end this article in a Simz-mannered exit: #Space.
ON CHOOSING EMPATHY RATHER THAN POLITICS
198 ROOMS T he Cover Ar t ist Uncovered
Some artists’ intentions are very political, but there is no desire to do that in my work. There is nothing political about still feeling the memory of being a victim of racism, or feeling sad for the loss of an innocent life, or the decimation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It’s about empathy and I choose to respond to that. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 really affected me. I think it’s arguably one of the richest parts of the United States in terms of culture, and it just got wiped out. So, my project The Funeral of New Orleans was about the story of five members of a marching band, who protect themselves and their instruments in the face of the city’s decimation – which is as much a metaphorical as well as a literal interaction. Another project that was directly influenced by the news was On the Effects of Ethnic Stereotyping, after the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian who was mistakenly shot by anti-terrorist police at Stockwell underground Station in London in 2005. There was a reign of fear and terror following the bombings and the police were telling us not to wear black backpacks. I’m quite tanned, I have a beard and I always travel with a black rucksack, it’s part of my daily uniform. People used to give me funny looks and even get off the tube when they saw me. I find it fascinating rather than offensive, and this project was born out of those stereotypical judgements. I created a black rucksack in the shape of an upside-down, oversized human skull. It’s the idea of misconstrued threat – the skull is a symbol of death, terror and threat, but only if you look at it the wrong way. I’m trying to tell negative stories in a way that suggests the positive transformation at the end, and I believe it’s irresponsible to not talk about it. I love this ability that products have to work as outlets, encapsulating messages that can be worn. Function is very important to me, but not necessary – you can still create something unique that tells a story even though it has no function.
ON CYCLICAL NEWNESS AND REFUSING TO ADHERE TO IT
Incidentally, I never feel the pressure of having to come up with something new and innovative. I do it in a very organic way. All that matters is that you’re you – that’s the feeling I strive for, which I feel more and more. That’s why I could never come up with new ideas in a timed, cyclical way like in the fashion industry. I prefer creating my own systems without feeling the pressure of creativity, which is why my narratives are still relevant even six months after their conception. The amount of ‘newness’ on a cyclical term goes against the essence of creativity – you can’t subscribe to that. I don’t like transitional, surfaced things. Subverting all these pre-conceived ideas on form and techniques is my duty as an artist.
It’s important to create because when you don’t, you consume. However, I definitely think there should be a higher purpose to creating and designing than just that. The true essence of creativity is to be responsible enough to commit yourself, to allow that knowledge to become part of you rather than inform what you want to be. I think one of the most frustrating things in my job is this uncompromising nature. When you set out to reject standardized things on a daily basis – how to stitch a garment, how to create an art installation, etc. – you really have to take a deep breath in the morning. Everyday is a battle, because you’re rejecting the systems that make life easy for people. My work is exhausting, but I find it very natural as well. I can’t do anything else. I have come to accept that my work is consuming.
Some people say they see some Japanese influence on my work but I don’t think it’s a direct one, to be honest. You mentioned Tekkonkinkreet, which I love and can be similar to my work, but I never knew about Taiyō Matsumoto up until two years ago. I found so many connections with the way he draws the body and the animal heads. It’s incredible that we had both been working and touching on the same aspects, without knowing of each other – it’s like collective consciousness. To come back to the Eastern influence, I had never really seen it that way. But it’s true, my work holds a lot of sensibility that is connected, culturally. It’s a very humble line of work – you don’t have to shout about the richness. Also, I think the value of purity is very much present in that culture and in my work as well as the idea of sacrifice for it – I find that fascinating.
London/ UK aitorthroup.com
â€˜I love this ability that products have to work as outlets, encapsulating messages that can be wornâ€™
The Funeral of New Orleans (Part One)
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ON SINGULARITY AND THE PRODUCTS’ OWN REALITIES The idea of origins and ‘home’ is something that I definitely struggle with and I think it’s at the root of a lot of questions that I ask in my work. The essence of human existence is singularity, which is a wide spectrum – we go from the positive to the negative really fast. It’s important for me to encapsulate that word, ‘singularity’. Often, there is this sense of dual identity like both your parents were from different places, and that sense of duality is instilled in you through that, thus creating a kind of conflict. Two opposing factors always create this antagonistic identity, but what is interesting is when you place a third element in there, turning it into a system that is more dynamic. So for me, that system is composed of London, Argentina and Spain, where I lived for seven years.
‘My whole work is composed of only black – it’s a study about form and technique’
I see my creations and products as having lives of their own. They exist in my reality as what they are, accompanying sculptures and messages. That’s why I can put my pieces in a fashion store, in an art gallery or a design museum – they exist in all these different contexts. Boundaries are useful for people to navigate and I don’t want to break them, they’re useful. To a certain degree, I could see myself living in my products’ realities, because they are always my reactions to things that I feel, and I have had a very instinctive response to it. I’m really interested in the idea of responsible creativity and also ethical creativity on a personal level. It has foundations. It has an explanation, a life and a story. My work is composed of exaggerations of those situations and I believe that is the way to distil the essence. Even art is often exaggerated realities of personal feelings. Weirdly, I don’t feel possessive about my creations when I show them. By the time they are in a gallery, the pain and exhaustion of the work is gone. That’s the torture – I feel incredibly vulnerable because of my work, when it’s not right and unfinished. I only release a creation if I feel that I have achieved what I set to, if I feel 100 percent right about it, otherwise it goes against who I am. As an incidental reaction, I feel very comfortable by the time my work is out there. The recognition, the validation or other people’s opinions don’t matter.
ON ELIMINATING COLOURS AND RE-IMAGINING TECHNIQUES
My whole work is composed of only black – it's a study about form and technique. I want to unify the products as much as possible, so you begin to see the components that make them different from each other. If my jackets were blue and red, that would instantly be the first thing you notice, and from there you would analyze and digest it in terms of colours. I’m eliminating this option by forcing you to look at things that matter to me – form and materials. As a monochromatic approach, my work is one of non-colourless since black and white are neutral. As a third layer, I also like the idea of black representing death, it’s a recurrent narrative thread in my work. The ultimate creation is the representation of death. The most recurrent fabric in my work is this weird, fine-stretched transparent mesh. I really enjoy using wool too, as you can really listen to it, you can feel what it’s doing. I work a lot with heat and wool. When applied to the wool, heat transforms the physical properties of the fibre, it distorts and moulds it in shapes. It took us about six years to develop that technique. It’s like a real architectural construction and that’s the beauty. We’re able to apply that to any fabric type now. Everything is constructed in a completely new architectural way, so that’s an achievement. I’d like to invent an alternative solution to the zip – I mean I’ve re-done the buttonhole system, the stitching methods, the way shoulders are constructed and the way pants are worn, but I have yet to re-imagine the zip. That’s on my to-do list.
ON SUCCESSFUL ART, GLASS BOXES AND AUTHENTICITY
For me the ultimate expression of successful art is the ability to fully explode creatively inside the boundaries you set yourself. Imagine the intention of your work as a metaphorical glass box – that’s the boundaries of your purpose and your message. You need to treat it with respect. It’s very powerful and can easily become abstract in a nonsensical way. The creative essence is a ball of paint floating within that box. Being creatively explosive is to let that ball burst. In that light, boundaries are important as the work can easily become irrelevant, indefinable, diffused and diluted. That’s why there is a hierarchy of purpose and reason that is involved – the aesthetics or the function. Interestingly, when the ball of paint explodes in the box, the work that we consume isn’t the ball or the glass box. Rather, it’s the unique splat that is formed on the glass. It creates an aesthetic that is new and interesting. People are subconsciously attracted to it, because it’s authentic and we are very acute, as humans, to recognize authenticity. I’m not a perfectionist, because I don’t believe in perfection. If you truly understand perfection, you understand it’s not attainable and therefore to long for it is futile. You shouldn’t want perfection anyway. I spent a number of years creating unique forms that had never existed to tell a specific message, but that could be made in a variety of techniques and existing solutions. Once you have that unique, innovative form based on personal thought process, you create a very unique form to convey it. To execute that using techniques and methods that are not new in the same way would be like cheating – there is no commitment to purity! It needs to be a more powerful, liberating statement.
‘I need pieces to metamorphose, to tell stories’
Words by Suzanne Zhang
rgentinian-born, London-based Aitor Throup is a wise and peculiar man whose work encompasses product design, illustration and creative direction with a strong focus on forms and aesthetics. A graduate from the Royal College of Art, London, his work is a soothing collection of noble, humble narratives that re-evaluate techniques and standardized archetypes. A play on forms, Throup’s hand-drawn characters often become the primary tools in his projects and collections, wherein he exhibits his sleek and structured garments onto his own sculptures rather than models. Throup first came to the public’s eye with his widely acclaimed graduate collection When Football Hooligans Become Hindu Gods, where the narrative thread combined elements from generic military garments and Hindu symbolism. Since then, he has exhibited at the London Fashion Week in 2007, where he showcased The Funeral of New Orleans (Part 1), the story of a marching band who protect themselves and their instruments in the face of the city’s decimation by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Throup has also worked with i-D, VMAN, GQ Style and Dazed & Confused, and he has recently been appointed creative director of Damon Albarn’s (Gorillaz, Blur) first solo album and single Everyday Robots. Aitor Throup’s work is distinct and intelligent in a way that is uncompromising, honest and unrelenting. Rooms Magazine sat down to have a conversation with him about his ideas and projects.
ON BEING A MULTI-DISCIPLINARY ARTIST
A lot of people say it’s hard to pigeonhole me as a creative because I work across so many disciplines like fashion, design, product design, illustration or sculpture. My problem has been the opposite: how can I define what I do? I feel the need to fully understand the context in which I’m working as well as the concept. I need to know what I’m doing, I need to create boundaries. In that sense definitions are very important to me, which is one of the main reasons why I wrote my Design Manifesto last year – it’s about understanding the process. If there is one term I refuse to be labelled with it’s ‘fashion designer’. A lot of my work deals with things that exist in that industry, purely because it is in the medium of clothing and wearable(s). I like fashion, but my work is not about that – it’s about whatever message I am trying to convey and this uncompromising commitment to newness, authenticity, and purity. Arguably, that can make it clothing design, or product design. I see my creations as objects, and I also think about how they can transcend form – I need pieces to metamorphose, to tell stories. For me, it’s an exploration of the form and the new. To be new is to be authentic. It’s the ability and the result to break down pre-conceived standardised ideologies, to go back to our child-like state of mind where anything is possible, where there are no restrictions.
Damon Albarn, Everyday Robots
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A I T O R TH R O U P I could see myself living in my productsâ€™ realities, because they are always my reactions to things that I feel, and I have had a very instinctive response to it.
Innovation in its Pure Form
New Object Research 2013. Featuring Sergio Pizzorno. Photo by ÂŠ Mads Perch.Styling by Stephen Mann
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