Superluminal The Fashtons Fiona Garden & Ben Ashton City Under One Sun. KitsunĂŠ. onedotzero Alex Chinneck. Nicolas Provost. Jamie-James Medina. Namsa Leuba. Oreet Ashery Takahiro Kimura. Beauty is in the Lens of the Photographer
Fiona Garden and Ben Ashton photographed by
12 ROOMS The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship
Editor Eva Peláez Creative Director Ana Afonso
Managing Editor Mia Johansson
Editorial Assistants Ralph Barker Abigail Yue Wang Writers Jesc Bunyard Heike Dempster Kristina Jensen Nate Jixin Zhang Maya Maria Linh Nguyen Rebecca Oram Kelly Richman Jeremiah Tayler Tatyana Wolfman Suzanne Zhang Jack Wynn
Fashion Editor Tania Farouki
Photography Director Alexandra Uhart Photography & Video Ivan Cordoba Abigail Yue Wang
Graphics & Web Design Ana Afonso Anna Ferry
Published in London by RAU Studio London National and international distribution by Central Books General enquiries email@example.com Subscriptions firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising email@example.com Thanks to our beautiful team and great artists of ROOMS 16 Special thanks to: Abigail for your passion and art. Tatyana, Kristina, Kelly and Ralph for your warm and generous energy. Jamie, for your true commitment and great work. Our ace regulars Alexandra, Jesc, Suzanne, Nate, David, Moha, Heike, and Mr Gosling. James LT for your believe and patience. Los Pelaez, Robert Dempster, Patri, Sabs, Amyra, brave Fra, las Lolas, Mari, Nesto, Lita, The six siblings and to "hai que sachar cas mans". Suzanne, when we grow up we want to be like you ;)
Media & Communications Paula Afonso Andrés Afonso Tom Gosling Mohamed Mahayni David Rawlins Jamie Steep
©RAU Ltd. London All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the publisher. The information and images, contained in this magazine, are materials supplied to the publisher by the artists and contributors. Opinions and images expressed in this magazine’s contents are those of the author. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, Rooms Art Uncovered Ltd. does not under any circumstances accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. ISSN: 2046-5505 Issue 16 – 2014 roomsmagazine.com
Superluminal Riders of Light This is how it all begins: from blinding darkness enters light; soft, beautiful, expanding, violent, maddening, defiant. It is through the cracks that we see possibilities, through the openings – of the eye, of the mind and of the heart. As a community, we are often preoccupied with keeping up with the appearances, with not breaking down and not letting anything shatter, but it is only through dissecting the vulnerabilities that make us human that we can grow. After the ‘breakable’ issue, it made sense for us to talk about the light that crept through the crevices. In a manner that suggests both strength and vulnerability, ROOMS wants to lift the veil of the concealed, to shed a light on all the creatives who, for so long, have pursued light through their relentless technique and style. When we spoke to the artists who make up this issue, we realised that none of them were ready to let go of darkness and vulnerability – only in them could the incandescent, the passion, and the innovation shine through. These photographers, filmmakers, musicians, writers, designers, all were striving for a balance in cosmology. Art defines us, and what guides art are the novel ideas behind them. We were interested in them as abstract concepts, as technical tools, as inceptions. We wanted to explore the mechanisms behind what makes a light bulb switch in an artist’s mind before he sets out to create. What happens when you suddenly stop seeing light and darkness in terms of binaries, but instead in varying nuances of the same driving force, the one that pushes us to create, destroy, and make meanings out of meaningless objects? What happens then is the blurring of liminal spaces, the creation of complex art, and art that moves you even more, faster than light itself. So this is how it ends: Art breaking barriers. Art opening old and new doors. Art leaking through the cracks. Art turning on the switch. Art immediately turning off the switch. Art as hunger. Art as light. Art as darkness. Art as riot. Loud Art. Quiet Art. Art for Art. And, in ROOMS 16, all of the above.
By Suzanne Zhang
Caves of wonders, visual delights, factories of dreams, predators of emotions, merciless provocateurs.
The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship
FKA twigs by Jamie-James Medina
Exodus by Nicolas Provost
24 City Under One Sun Autumn Casey Farley Aguilar Bhakti Baxter 42 Tim Van Laere Gallery Presents: Nicolas Provost Secret Language Of Film 50 Kitsuné Beats Fusion A La French Buscabulla Sego Citizens! 58 Onedotzero Builders Of Digital Sensory Light Surgeons David Hedberg 70 Block 336 Presents: Robert Bell Process. Transfer. Save
A pound of flesh for 50p (The Melting House) by Alex Chinneck
76 Cyril Lagel Paul Kaptein Julian Lorber Eduardo Gomes Karen Margolis Paweł Nolbert
Why Do You Do What You Do? 104 Peter Mix Willer Co-Founder & Creative Director At AIAIAI 106 Christopher Brosius Founder Of Cb I Hate Perfume 110 Misi Chanel Founder & Creative Director At Kiwi&Yam 112 Otto Lauterbach Founder Of Otto London 114 Sam Jones Co-Founder & Director At Weekend Offender 118 Jan Priepke Founder & Designer At Wood Fellas
Django Django by Fiona Garden
No Borders No Boundaries 120 A Mission To Inspire Andrzej Klimowski Oreet Ashery 130 Lucy Luscombe The Filmmaker Method 136 Alex Chinneck Now You See Me 146 Andreas Nicolas Fischer Sailing Digital Realms 152 Filippos Tsitsopoulos The Beauty In Everyday Tragedy 158 Kushana Bush Subtle Strokes Of Seduction 164 Beauty Is In The Lens Of The Photographer Namsa Leuba Colours From The Soul Ryan Harding Soothing Light Jamie-James Medina Instilling Presence 190 Takahiro Kimura The Reason Of A Face
The Cover Artist Uncovered 196 Fiona Garden & Ben Ashton Meet The Fashtons
City Under One Sun
Miami | US 24 ROOMS The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship
Autumn Casey Farley Aguilar Bhakti Baxter Bee and the Hot Lamp by Autumn Casey
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Agalma Large Collage
LIGHT Rainbows. IDEAS
They build slowly over time, and come in parts. Sometimes I will find the completion of an idea to span over years. But when it happens, it happens fast and then I realise the full story. I concentrate and imagine very hard on possible outcomes. PROCESS
It usually begins with an object that I find, or I have perhaps been in contact with my entire life. Certain musing in different environments offer different lights to be shed on my imagination, and I sort of work backwards to realise where the thought could have originated and figure out the title. I enjoy the way light has the ability to animate or dramatize situations. The chandelier is one of my favourite motifs. I am also interested in opposites; often juxtaposing them to try and find where they cross over, and obviously the dark is very cool too.
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Flowers and Purple Chair
Mam and Dad Back to Back
I tend to let the concepts dictate which material I decide to work in. I sort of go on hunts for materials to see what finds me, then I gather what I am attracted to and take it to the studio, get to know it and figure out what to do with it. It’s all a game of chance. I like to suspend things in the air, physically and conceptually. Agalma is an ancient Greek term for beauty, and it’s about how you go about finding it. And when this subjective beauty is reached, it’s ready to be offered to the Gods, so to speak – to the audience, collectors. In a way I sacrificed a lot of my personal history in an attempt to make real connections with people, and to show compassion.
I am working on my installation to have at Primary Projects during Art Basel Miami Beach. In an attempt to now transcend all this nostalgia, I’m venturing into the realm of what is sexually explicit.
All the freaks.
How a sailfish can become a holy grail to a subculture of people who know its history and where it came from, and how that same fish can be considered a piece of trash to others. All objects have secret lives, and sometimes they speak to you. By sharing so much of myself, in turn I have been graciously touched by others’ stories of their loved ones. I feel like I have made about 100 new friends. INFLUENCE
It’s a combination of play and control that I learnt from certain feminine and masculine energies growing up. I try to channel my surrounding chaos into more poetic terms that have to do with the reconciliation of opposites. 30 ROOMS The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship
Dad - Roaches and a Guitar
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Pestilence, 2014 Oil on canvas, 48 x 71 in Collection of Michael and Susan Hort
I think about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the painted stage sets; light used to make an effect. When I make paintings I use light in a manner pertaining more to character psychology. It all comes down to composition and aesthetics and has nothing to do with the source material. The ‘fakeness’ of the stage sets of Dr. Caligari and some German Expressionist cinema really impacts me because we as humans accept that what we are looking at is not real but play along, this fantasy space is one of the reasons I like making art in the first place.
The colour choices are the anchor to the whole image. It’s how I get into the image. It’s probably the hardest thing to discuss because it is the most intuitive. I believe that no matter what you are dealing with in terms of subject matter your colour arrangement should bring the spectator in to see it. That is what I owe the viewer, after that I can make any point I want. Anyone that walks in front of your piece should be able to get something out of it without it having to be explained.
Once I have a subject chosen the process before painting is very mechanical. I make a painstaking drawing. Then I transfer it onto the canvas, which is also tedious, and then I actually get to the painting. At this point it is more difficult to describe because it is not mechanical. I think a lot before getting started about what I am trying to do and who the people in this image are, how do they relate to themselves, the others in the picture and with us, the viewer. It’s a bit like an actor playing the role of all these people. When I go to work I am very much in the mode of a director/actor. This mind-set leads to the way I apply the paint and what I write onto the painting.
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For me painting is in line with poetry in that it’s a short instance of interaction between audience and artist. This interaction can be a wormhole that leads to a universe of feelings and associations. I also paint with inks on Mylar and it is very different, the impasto and grattage possibilities of oil are something that I have really taken advantage of in my larger more recent work. It’s the physical quality of the oil and canvas I really love.
Man and Dog, 2014 Ink on mylar, 25 x 19 in
I am a natural observer. I noticed this about myself since I was a child. I don’t really need to participate in things, for some reason I find it more interesting to put things into context for myself. Having said this, there is a lot of my own feeling in all the pieces I make. My frustration is all over the paintings; they are also scratched into the surfaces. In a sense, the images I make are like a diary for me, a sort of detached diary. It’s a painting that is coded with symbols and phrases that no one will ever fully understand – the tragedy of never being able to fully communicate through symbols is interesting to me. The work has an aspect of at once being private and public.
I am making a new body of work and everything I am interested in will be in this series of pieces. I usually don’t like speaking about work that has not been seen, or suggesting a way something should be looked at. What I can say is that Berger and Luckmann’s book The Social Construction of Reality has resurfaced in my mind and that the final paragraph of Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is also very important: “The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together “.
Usually my paintings are filled with people. The space within the frame is tight and the clashing colours and harsh lines all help bring this feeling of danger. I want to make the viewer remember the realities beneath his or her daily reality: the fact they are wearing a costume and a mask, the fact that their social roles are transferred through the generations, the fact they are looking at a painting, etc. I use the phrase ‘Fuck You’ a lot just because I want the viewer to look at it and smile. INFLUENCE
This changes all the time, but I just read a story by Dostoevsky after many years of not reading one. It reminded me of how close I feel to this writer. I read The Double, and the character really reminded me of the characters I make. I had forgotten how shocking it was to have someone like Yakov Petrovich the hero of a story. I’ve also picked up Holderlin again and have been thinking about his aesthetic intellectual intuition, this idea appeals to me very much. Apart from that, I am rereading Invisible Dragon by Dave Hickey and some Peter Sloterdijk. I always watch films; An Investigation of A Citizen Above Suspicion had a great impact on me, I’ve watched it many times.
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The Burning, 2014 Ink on mylar, 41 x 35 in Collection of Stanley and Gail Hollander
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LIGHT Light is everything. Everything absorbs and reflects light in some way or another. It’s a particle and a wave. Wow! It’s almost intangible but alters everything in its vicinity. Cells emit light. Light is life and warmth. The great sun, the centre of our solar system, the ruler of how we experience time and motion. Light is everything. IDEAS
Art makes art. Life is so interesting on so many levels that concepts and materials abound. But what I mean when I say ‘art makes art’ is that in the process of making something other ideas manifest and the desire to fulfil them continues. VISION
To do whatever it takes. MIAMI
When I moved to Little Haiti five years ago my art took a new direction. I never knew just how much the environment can affect what one does until this move. The street and the train tracks found their way into my studio and even the process shifted entirely. It was fun. I also see traces of Miami on my work particularly when I show outside of Miami. It makes me feel like a cultural ambassador of this place. CAPTURE This is the street making its way into the work again. For the first time in history a decent camera is embedded into a cell phone. You can point and shoot and as long as your framing was good, your lens wasn’t dirty, or your finger in the way, you can rescue a good composition via Instagram. The light, the textures of the architecture, the people, the moment; all these things add to the interest that draws my attention. And Instagram is such an interesting platform to share ideas and communicate with others. It’s made the world even smaller and yet richer in some way. It’s like having a thousand eyes, a customized newspaper, an open dialogue and also a diary of sorts. MEDIUM
I don’t have a favourite medium but I really dislike working creatively on the computer. Sometimes it can be very useful but the process simply sucks. I thoroughly enjoy building a sculpture or installation, whether it’s casting or stacking or what have you. I love painting and drawing and collage is great too because you can rearrange the pieces over and over again until they feel right before gluing them down.
NUMBERS To me mathematics has a spiritual counterpart. It speaks the truth again and again and is therefore a dependable reality. It’s abstract while being extremely specific. It’s a gateway into learning about ourselves and our place in the universe. Numbers have special spatial dynamics and geometric properties, almost like personalities, and I’ve grown very fond of them over the years. Like mathematics, there is a point of transcendence with numbers. There is a structure and a seemingly unbreakable law, but if put together in a certain way, these axioms transcend their individual parts and enter a realm of the sublime. It’s like sacred architecture. You don’t need to believe anything to feel the harmony expressed in the volumes and voids of a sacred space. Nature is just that. EXPLORING
Rubber Spine, 2014 Concrete, rubber 75.25 x 12 x 12 in
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Tim Van Laere Gallery presents:
Secret Language of Film Artist and filmmaker Nicolas Provost has his own particular vision of beauty, and each time he creates his own world. Over the past decade, he has shaped a body of work that explores the quirks of human expectation by playing with images from film, literature, and popular culture that are ingrained in our collective memory. This incredible Belgian talent creates universal work that appeals to emotions worldwide.
Antwerp | Belgium timvanlaeregallery.com 42 ROOMS The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship
Exodus Videoprojection without sound, 15', 2015 Courtesy Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium
Suzanne Zhang Nicolas Provost is a man of many mysteries. A filmmaker, a visual image artist, but above all a storyteller, his camera lifts the covers on the intricate forms of narration and fiction. Working with an indescribable and intangible tension, his films possess a tragic poetry that resonates so intimately with the human condition that the everyday life becomes pure cinematography. Working for and within empathy, his projects are real testimonies of what is still left for innovation in the art world. Provost plays with our projections and manages to place his stories in secret moments that are nestled in between every silence – he deliberately posits us in a visual loop that brings us forth to new dimensions where narratives are born out of empty moments. In Plot Point (2007), the ordinary streets of cities become stages for a fearful, never-occurring act, remaining suspicious and fascinating in its choreography of the seemingly secret. In The Invader (2011), Provost’s camera reveals the dark socio-political conflicts of our societies while maintaining visual illusions; in Moving Stories (2011) we plunge into a new world where tension and anxiety become peaceful moments – the visuals take a break from the narrative and suddenly exist autonomously. Brilliant, executed with finesse and possessing a beautiful sensibility, Provost’s work is definitely a gigantic and magnificent voyage.
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Your work reflects on the grammar of cinema and the idea of a collective film memory, could you elaborate on that? Every time I talk about my work, I ask myself: where do I start? I still don’t know. I’m a sculptor with images and sound, trying to objectify and make films into objects, trying to reach a point where the heart and intellect reveal a connection. I think stories and film language have connected us on a subconscious level. What makes for a good piece?
For me the experience of a work of art has to be mesmerising. I like
Plot Point Videoprojection without sound, 15', 2015 Courtesy Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium
stories that talk about universal subjects, where you introduce some ideas that fascinate you while also building on mystery. Stories that open up and let you reflect on new things – I like it when there is an abstract dimension that is as important as the reality presented. Is the purpose of creativity and art to push us to question ourselves, or simply to mirror the human condition? I actually think that art can save the world – everyone is born an artist but we are drilled into an education and social system. I think artists try to escape from that reality and try to act as a light tower that shows the way through a sea of mediocrity. Creativity has become institutionalised, which is a big problem. I don’t know how to answer that because I don’t feel like I am part of those institutional art platforms, I’m somewhere between film and fine art. I’m not the only one doing it but it feels like I’m on my own somewhere. I don’t know if I’m a rebel, an outsider, an anti-rebel… As a result, my work is shown on all kinds of platforms. My work is not hard to understand: it’s emotional and I’m very aware that I make something for an audience, not for myself or for therapy.
I feel like there is a strong sense of alienation that emanates from your work… I don’t know what alienation is – I know what it feels like, but I can’t explain it. It’s some abstract space where you understand something with your inner logic, that’s why it’s so attractive. You start reflecting. Maybe that’s what Art does. I just try to make something that is about empathy. It’s very broad and it’s also the strongest thing that a human being can have. We’re all in a chaotic world, we’re all very vulnerable, we know we’re going to die, we don’t know why we’re here… Do you think Art is a way of coping with the idea that we aren’t here forever? Most of art is trying to understand the chaos of the world. Artists are very empathetic. The future is going to be even more empathetic, because of the Internet and the new economic revolution with renewable energy. When and how do you get ideas for your works? For a long time I went on intuition and would start from an image or a strong emotion. If I get an idea, I will start working on it without knowing where it’s going to go. If I see that I can reach a point where
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Tokyo Giants Courtesy Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium
magic happens, then I do that for as long as possible. I don’t question much. Only when a product is finished do I know what it is or can I talk about it – during the process I can go in any direction. How do you remain innovative? I try to reinvent myself every time. There have been a few times where I repeated myself with the same technique, but that’s because I think it was so interesting I should try again and see what I can get out of it. When I look at my films they have the same pathos and emotion but they look completely different. Making a great one-minute film to me is as challenging as making a feature.
The Invader Feature film, 95′, 2011 Courtesy Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium
Speaking about technique, I love what you did with Plot Point, when you shot in New York, Vegas and Tokyo with secret hidden cameras. Why those cities? They are cinematic like big film studios. You walk in, point your cameras, and it’s like you’re in a movie. I went to Times Square because they have the most lights, and filmed two characters there: the police force and people I could turn into suspicious characters. With means of editing, and people being on the phone in those footages, you can create conversations and a suspenseful narrative. For the Tokyo film, I filmed Japanese people, then took samples from Asian films, lip-synced it to their movements, without me knowing what these people were saying both in the streets and in the samples… Then I subtitled in English whatever I wanted so I could make up a whole world of different crime intrigues inspired by Asian crime, Mangas and horror films.
*Moment of silence* So your subtitles are your own words, not the translation of the Japanese footage? Yes. [Laughs] It’s not even their own voice, and they’re not even saying that. The whole thing is being subverted three times.
When I first watched that video, I hadn’t read the description or anything, and thought that what I was seeing/reading was really happening in real life. I feel cheated! [Laughs] Did you also know that one of the characters who dresses up like Elvis (the one who is comforting his girlfriend in the street) is actually a really famous Japanese actor? I just found them on the streets at night, I don’t think they saw me. It’s the most beautiful scene and it looks like it has been directed. What are your thoughts on the Hollywood codes? Is that something you are trying to go against? I’m not against it. For the Plot Point trilogy, I just used the codes from crime and gangster movies, and used them in a Hollywood looking setting. I had to find those spaces between reality and fiction. That’s a magical space, as an audience, you watch something that has been filmed by someone and you don’t know if it’s real or a setup! I think that’s the closest an adult
viewer can come to a magical experience and it shows that we live in a reality somewhere between realism and escapism. We live in a world where reality and fiction become intertwined. That was my next question! Does your camera reveal or does it invent and create? Probably both, but the trick is to never reveal its magic, never to reveal the mystery. Of all your different pieces, which one stands out the most? The Plot Point trilogy. It was a lot of work, done over the course of 7 years. It was the best time of my life, filming and trying to create fiction with what I found in the streets, trying to invent characters, relationships… It felt like falling in love with characters in the streets and making them timeless. During the whole process I was like in a dream because you are imagining all of it. It was the most interesting project, even more interesting than my feature film The Invader.
Were you satisfied with The Invader? Yes, but I’m shocked that it hasn’t been distributed. It opened in Venice, Toronto and San Sebastian, all in competition, and it won 11 awards. But nobody dare to distribute that film.
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Moving Stories Videoprojection with sound, 7', 2011 Courtesy Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium
Illumination I, 2014 Videostill, colour photograph, 72,4 x 127 cm Courtesy Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp
Why so? I think there are several reasons, one of them being that it’s with an African main character that nobody knew, and the reality is that we live in a racist and prejudiced world, which is exactly what the film reveals. The journalists found it really good and it received good critiques, but they were very clear that this was something like an ‘alien’. It doesn’t belong to a genre, and distributors from the film industry need things that are clear – it can be controversial but it needs to be clear in its own genre. I like the way you manage to embed visual politics of identity that involve race, class, gender and sexuality. There’s also a commodification, a fetishisation of ‘the Other’ who is seen as exotic… Was this film a way to point out certain flaws in society? Yes. The main character and the love interest project their fantasy onto each other. Though, for the main character, that fantasy involves love and
The Painters Videoprojection with sound, 4', 2014 Courtesy Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium
economic prosperity. For her it’s a sexual affair with what she perceives as an exotic and charismatic man. He is a strong, charismatic and intelligent man but his naivety alienates him from the world he so desperately wants to be part of. From that perspective I wanted to expose the corruption and injustice in that class system. It was important for me to make him an anti-hero with flaws, a real human being in a fight with society and his own demons. Not a caricature of the suffering immigrant and the oppressing western world. The film makes you feel uncomfortable halfway through the story because you’ve identified with him and you become aware of your own prejudices.
Do you ever feel truly satisfied after creating a piece? [Laughs] When it’s finished, it’s finished! However, there are a few pieces where I could do new edits because I’ve matured. My last film is something I can’t get right. It’s a porn film, it’s interesting but I don’t think it works yet – I’m already showing it at exhibitions though. What is it? The film is called The Painters. It’s a 3 minutes datamoshing film with only cum shots and it looks like Jackson Pollock is painting with sperm. [Datamoshing looks like when an image freezes and is being dragged through the next image.]
I love the concept behind Moving Stories, when you have scenes of flying passengers. Again, you were playing with the codes of drama and narratives, using sound and images. I thought it was beautiful, melancholic and almost tragic in a sense. You’re using very few shots, very simple ones. In movies, when there is a change of location, they always show two seconds of an exterior shot of the airplane. I always wondered why these shots were so short, as it’s the perfect aftermath moment for a film. In storytelling, the aftermath is when you give your audience a moment to reflect peacefully. I decided to make my project 95% aftermath, with a little bit of narration at the beginning -that way you can reflect during the rest of the film. At the beginning you empathise with the voices of a young romantic couple in the airplane, they whisper about their uncertain future. You don’t see them because you only see the exterior of the plane making its way through the endless clouds, then a heavy storm and finally the sunset – you’ve projected everything yourself...
NY & Brussels nicolasprovost.com
Beats Fusion a la French Words by
Rebecca Oram 50 ROOMS The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship
P arisian brand Kitsuné combines fashion and music with their clothing company and indie electronic record label. In Japanese folklore the Kitsuné or fox is a cunning creature with the ability to shape shift into different forms. Reflecting this talent is the Kitsuné record label, hosting a diverse plethora of musical artists, morphing from the electronic depths to the skies of alt-pop. Founded in 2002 by Gildas Loaëc and Masaya Kuroki, the label has become most famous for its compilations, remix EPs and single releases, discovering some of the best new talent of the industry. Amongst them are internationally acclaimed Two Door Cinema Club, who have produced singles and two albums to date with the label. With a reputation for selecting alternative and original artists, Kitsuné exists as more than just a record label but a unique community of forward-thinkers and alternative music creators. Supporting a lot of up-and-coming talent, they sign artists at the very start of their careers, giving them support and in return get to witness their progression and popularity increase. November marked the release of the Kitsuné Maison Sweet Sixteen compilation, showcasing an eclectic fusion of the freshest new artists. Listeners are invited back to their adolescence, with the combination of music perfectly capturing the sound of youth. The Sweet Sixteen Issue gathers together the label’s already successful bands like Citizens! and introduces the talents of Buscabulla and Sego to delight our ears. The progressive and pioneering approach to music that Kitsuné possess will undoubtedly continue, their Parisian charm still attracting the most exciting newcomers into the fold.
B uscabulla’ is Puerto Rican slang for ‘trouble maker’ and perhaps in their spare time they are making trouble but the duo also produce a minimalist laid back style of music with a distinctive tropical curve ball. Behind Buscabulla are Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle, who both left their home Puerto Rico for a new life in Brooklyn. When Luis first met Raquel in New York she had all of these amazing demos she had been working on in her room. They had a sort of jagged and homemade style but also very tender and refreshing. I’d been looking for someone to make music with since I got to New York so I was pretty psyched. The pair instantly gelled with one another, with multi-instrumentalist Luis and designer Raquel, sharing similar visions for the music they wished to produce.
And as Luis said, their sound could not be more ‘refreshing’, singing exclusively in Spanish, with inspiration sparking from salsa gorda, argentinian rock of the 80s and cuban psych. It is this engaging latin twist to their music that must have captured the ears of producer Dev Hynes or Blood Orange, who gave them a chance to record their debut EP with him. Selected from 5,000 other artists, Buscabulla were chosen by Hynes as the winners of the Get Out of the Garage competition presented by the Guitar Center and Converse in Brooklyn, New York. Giving unsigned bands the opportunity and support they need to launch their careers, Buscabulla were rewarded by getting to record three tracks with him. An experienced producer, the band note that Hynes was really cool and laid back. We loved his minimalistic approach. He was a great mentor in knowing what to add and subtract. They also complimented his guitar skills as he joined the band for their song Caer, also included on the EP. The duo have nothing but praise for Hynes; the artists clearly collaborating well together to achieve an exceptionally original finished body of work.
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Buscabulla wanted the completed EP to feel tropical in a minimalistic way, through lyrics or production and have specifically spoken about their track Temporal which they hoped would mimic the sound of a ‘tropical storm’. The song occupies a fleeting moment in time, beginning slowly and getting louder before gracefully fading away with Raquel’s soothing vocals. The unexpected contrast between the modern electronic synths and the injection of these latin beats throughout the EP, is what makes Buscabulla so different from other artists. On concentrating on beginning their followup EP expected next year, the pair are surely one’s to watch for the future. It is therefore unsurprising that Kitsuné’s co-founder Gildas Loaëc loved their debut effort when he was first presented with it. When asked about the label, the duo stated that Kitsuné has always been a cool label in our eyes. We admire a lot of the artists who have released material on it, plus they’re French, enough said!
NY | US BUSCABULLA.COM
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N ew band Sego equally feel that Kitsuné has an approach to art, music, and style that is very unique and modern. They are also really good and involved people. Kind of sells itself. Their attitude to music and the collaboration of fashion and art differentiates the label from others like it. Being a smaller brand means extra attention is given to each individual artist, as well as the support they get from one another within the label. Sego, are a duo from Utah now living in LA. Spencer and Thomas have been playing music together in various iterations for several years up in Provo and now down in Los Angeles. The band itself materialised in its physical form last spring and they have since produced their first EP entitled Wicket Youth on Kitsuné.
While ‘Sego’ is actually a ghost town in Utah, the band’s music is far from quiet. They have been described as the ‘new rock spirit’ of the label with a lively fusion of guitars, synths and psych which makes them difficult to place
into a specific genre, transcending their boundaries. With very little material available until the release of their EP in October, the band had only one video and some images for people to see and listen to. Having at least a small body of work out there makes it a bit more official and helps cement the idea of what Sego actually is (without a verbose/tedious string of hyphenated genres, adjectives, and referential bands names attempting to describe the sound). Their EP comes as a five-track long introduction to the band, their music finally being able to speak for itself above the adjectives and comparisons with which the band have been described. Highlighting honesty as the inspiration for their music they also wanted to write and create songs they themselves want to listen to, but don’t worry, I don’t drive around cranking my own tunes. So if not their own music, who are the band listening to currently?
For that I’ll go to my ‘recent listens’ list. Digital Underground, Buscabulla, Prince, Broken Social Scene, Drew Danburry, The Platters, Albert Hammond Jr., Billie Holiday and Girl Band. From singer-songwriters to indie-rockers, the band have an eclectic and varied taste, which is undoubtedly reflected in their EP; merging a fusion of genres to piece together their unique sound.
Sego’s opening track, 20 Years Tall appears on the Sweet Sixteen compilation, injecting their LA slacker punk into the mix. The song’s lyrics about youth are extremely relatable and the infectious bass beat makes you press the repeat button to listen again. Their black and white video seamlessly captures in image form the way their music sounds and feels; opening a window into their LA lifestyle, featuring skateboarding, partying and most importantly guitars. The alternative animation in this video and for Wicket Youth paired with the song’s fuzzy VHS style, makes these equally as exciting as their music is.
The band now plan on touring and with a 3-night residency at the Bootleg theatre in LA already in the diary and a promise of more material to follow, Sego will probably pop up on your radio in the near future.
W hile Sego and Buscabulla are new editions to the Kitsuné clan, Citizens! have been with the label since 2011. A quartet from London who started out fighting over the music to play at a party, they naturally decided to get together to make the kind of music everyone wants to hear. And with this philosophy in mind, Citizens! create imaginative and intelligent indie-pop. Highlighting Kitsuné’s collective and progressive attitude, lead singer Tom is also the face of the new Fall/ Winter 2014 Lookbook, alongside Kilo Kish. Modelling clothes for Maison Kitsuné, the collection is inspired by 60s British rock culture, harking back to past trends. This shows just how inclusive Kitsuné is as a company, emphasising a transcendence of music into fashion and art into music and so on.
The band were first included on Kitsuné’s 2011 Maison compilation mix as an anonymous entity. They quickly decided on the name Citizens! and have since featured on mixes 12,14 and now 16. Being on the compilations forced us to give ourselves a name. You should definitely name your band, it really
helps with loads of things. Swedish producer Tobtok has remixed their latest single, Lighten Up for The Sweet Sixteen Issue. The track has been lifted from their forthcoming second album and spun into a funky disco inspired dance floor filler infused with electric guitar.
Expecting a Spring release for the new album, Citizens! have recently been recording in the home of Kitsuné, Paris. Seemingly obsessed with French breakfast treats, the band even go so far as to smuggle croissants back across on the Eurostar and sell them by the free piano in St Pancras. Joking aside, (if this is indeed one!) the French charm of Paris has drawn many artists to Kitsuné. Commonly known as La Ville-Lumiére or the City of Light, Paris has always been at the forefront of innovation and alternative thought from the Age of Enlightenment to being the first city in Europe to introduce gas lamps onto their streets. This light or even inspiration found in Paris, is mirrored by Kitsuné, who like the city itself, equally embrace originality and creativity in the artists they select. Citizens! though, do not only credit the City of Light for their inspiration but the whole of Europe. The cities, the songs, the cinema. I love how Bowie went to Berlin and let it shape everything he did for two or three years, or the way Munich was such a big part of what Giorgio Moroder sounded like. I hope we can capture a bit of that in our world on this record. We’re still London boys but we’ve always wanted to have a wider lens.
The band are clearly well-travelled having never actually recorded in England, recording debut LP Here We Are in Scotland, connecting with Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos. With a sense of nostalgia, the band reflect on their incredible time recording their debut. He’s [Alex] an amazingly talented writer, singer, and for us, producer. He brought so many ideas and just a totally unique way of looking at things. We toured with Two Door Cinema Club in Japan, did arenas round Europe with Franz and shared festival stages with Phoenix and The Hives, The Vaccines. Seeing bands like that blow people away makes you up your game. We’re waiting to see if Kanye will let us use the rap he put down. His lawyers are tough to get hold of. Returning back to London in October for their first show there in a year for the Kitsuné Maison party, the band previewed some of their new material to a home
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crowd at the Village Underground. It felt great. Coming back to play a hometown show in London is always a great feeling. And I can get the night bus home and eavesdrop on everyone trying to chat each other up on the way home. Shrouded in mystery with only the remixed versions of Lighten Up on offer still, what can we expect from Citizens!’ new album? It sounds less like a giant roller coaster that is on fire with Robert Mugabe at the wheel and Albert Einstein navigating, and more like a giant Rolls Royce, that is on fire, but blue flames, with Humphrey Bogart driving and Iggy Pop navigating. I think that’s progress. Well, there’s your answer and take from that what you will but no doubt that whatever the album sounds like, it is bound to be fantastique…
London | UK cITIZENSCITIZENS.com
onedotzero Builders of Digital Sensory Words by
We spoke with onedotzero founder and creative director Shane Walter to discuss onedotzeroâ€™s origins and how to survive in the current economic climate. We also spoke with two of onedotzeroâ€™s collaborators: recent graduate David Hedberg and media arts company Light Surgeons and how all three balance commercial and fine art projects.
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PD3 Intel Power Up Event, 2012
nedotzero is probably best described as a cultural creator and organizer. The company is responsible for producing incredible sensory arts events. Working within the realms of technology, audiovisual, film, media arts, and design, onedotzero also collaborate with and promote young artists and companies. This passion for collaboration and working with emerging talent, means that onedotzero are continuously developing and creating different and exciting works. Their work is also an opportunity for those just starting out to gain some much-needed experience, confidence and extra financial resources. The events and exhibitions that onedotzero create are truly outstanding, they demonstrate what is possible when artist, designer, an audio-visual aesthetic, and digital innovation meet.
I co-founded onedotzero seventeen years ago with Matt Hampson and I now act as a creative director and run the company with the rest of the staff. I do everything from coming up with concepts and designs to creative direction and curation. There’s also an element of creative producing to my work. onedotzero was in response to the digital tools of the time, primarily within filmmaking. Digital video became a lot more accessible and cheaper. Rather than looking at the standard filmmakers, making the standard short films using these tools, we decided to look beyond that to a more visual style of filmmaking, via graphic designers and new media people. So we started onedotzero as a festival in ’97, and it featured works from non-traditional filmmakers, which also included music video directors as back then they weren’t considered proper directors. It included people like Chris Cunningham and Spike Jones, and also collectives such as Fuel and Tomato. There were also illustrators making moving image for the first time, which was a very visual and graphic way of storytelling.
Each project is very different. We have a background of curating and making festivals and events, so our network is very wide. One crucial factor is that we usually collaborate with someone. We are very collaborative, whether it is for a brand or a museum, we are generally in a very collaborative spirit. We tend to bring in lots of creators, designers and artists, depending on the brief we have. The brief may be a brand, cultural, or it may be something that we set ourselves, or we’re looking for an opportunity to set up a developing artist. Our approach is about a convergence, about technology and across disciplines.
Whatever you do, I think it’s an economic reality that you need to earn a living. It’s often quite difficult to earn a living, especially when you’re starting out, just from a fine art area. It becomes a reality that you have to kind of do commercial work to some degree. Whatever you do, whether you’re in this grey area between art and commerce which onedotzero certainly is, is to develop your own distinctive and original voice. Never lose track of where you want to go, even if you have to take on a commercial job that isn’t necessarily what you totally want to do. You can learn a lot from it, whether it’s new tools or new contacts. Always develop but keep in mind where you want to be.
We use the commercial opportunities to bring something cultural. So if we’re curating an exhibition for a particular brand, we’re still showcasing artists’ work, although in a slightly different context.
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Ian Hobson of "Atmeture", 2014 By Loop
We don’t know David Hedberg so well because he’s just graduated, but I saw his project Smile TV and really liked the playful nature of it and the comment on society and media. From an interactive point of view it was very simple and very well executed. He is someone that we will watch, continue a relationship with and see where it develops. Often we are able to commission or find opportunities.
The same happened with the Light Surgeons a long time ago. I knew their work from the club culture. They used to make the visuals at a club, but they would always complain that they were the first to arrive and the last to leave and everyone would remember the DJ’s name and no one knew who they were. They wanted to be taken more seriously as creators and artists. We commissioned as series of projects with them, a series of short films and a developing, evolving audiovisual performance. We toured the performance with them for three years and as we toured it developed further. We creatively worked with them to develop their practice. Since then they are major proponents of the live cinema movement and do amazing work in that area. They certainly got more well known beyond club land. It allowed them to develop their kind of work and get the work shown to thousands of people, that wouldn’t normally see it. We try and push everything all of the time but, our work used to be 70% cultural 30% commercial but because we lost our Arts Council funding we had to turn that on its head. We would love to continue what we are doing but find larger opportunities to reach larger audiences. We conceived and proposed a show called Decode at V&A a couple of years ago, which the museum collaborated with us on. It was very successful. I think we would love to do something like that again, with the V&A or another major museum. We’d also love to do more art in the public realm; large-scale interventions across cities would be wonderful.
London | UK onedotzero.com 62 ROOMS The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship
Light Surgeons Light is an interesting substance because it is both a wave and a particle.
SOUNDFIELD By Light Surgeons
I n the very early days of starting out we used to do a lot of work with projectors and we worked a lot with analogue projections, slide and film. Light Surgeons was a name that someone else came up with but it sort of stuck. We were manipulating a lot of projected light and creating installations, prominently in nightclubs with music in the early 90s. Now, we work across sound, light and interaction in all sorts of different forms. Light is a central focus but it’s not the only thing we do. Based in East London, Light Surgeons work within the realms of commercial and fine art. They create extraordinary live cinema and installation work, but also use animation and motion graphics to produce film and video work for clients. Speaking to creative director and founder Christopher Thomas Allen, I was interested in discovering how they balanced these two approaches, if indeed he viewed Light Surgeons’ client based and personal work as two separate discourses. What I discovered was that with each project, Light Surgeons take a personal and measured approach: Rather than leaping to a conclusion, we like to think about what we’re trying to express and who we’re talking to, in terms of the audience and where the context of the work might be. Whether it’s in a gallery or a museum or a theatrical situation. We think about how we can explore that. Allen sits down with his permanent team: studio manager and producer Alice Ceresole and audio visual artist Tim Cowie, and they think about how they can approach each project. What they create each time is a unique and considered result. Whilst their work is at the intersection between graphics, media art and audiovisual work, speaking to Allen it became clear that these were visual and technological tools and references from which to create the work and not to let them inform too much of the actual result: Our work is routed in exploring actualities through an intersection of design, media, film and music. I guess there’s a style in that but ultimately we try not to have a style, we try to take each project and focus on what we’re trying to express and what experience we’re trying to create, whether it’s for a client or for our own artwork. We try to innovate and create something new that’s not purely based on technology or fashion. There’s a tendency with work in this area to be led by trends. We try to not be led by that; we don’t go “ohh we’re going to do some video mapping”. We really look to apply
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things for a reason. It’s a simple but obvious thing, to try to not be distracted. This is an approach that I admire. Too quickly are certain brands and creative companies attracted by a new technology and aim to use it no matter what the project. The result is not as engaging for the viewer. This is not the case with Light Surgeons, their work is incredibly engaging for viewer and technology buff alike. It’s not surprising then to look on their website and see a wide range of work for a wide range of clients, including being commissioned at the National Maritime Museum.
Alongside their client-based work Light Surgeons also work on their own projects, again, bringing a blend of interdisciplinary work. At the moment they are working on SuperEverything, which is a new live cinema performance project. Commissioned by the British Council Malaysia, SuperEverything uses a wide range of media, including motion graphics, documentary footage, music production and creative programming to produce a unique view of the Malaysian cultural landscape. SuperEverything showcases the potential behind the documentary image. The project will also be touring so as many people as possible have the opportunity to see the work.
When speaking to Allen we briefly discussed where Light Surgeons would go next. It’s an exciting prospect, when you work across disciplines the possibilities are endless and with the considered approach that Light Surgeons have, anything they do will be to a high standard and be visually impactful. We’re looking to do more collaborations, with theatre companies and kind of experiential theatre and digital theatre are areas that I’m interested in. There’s a whole string of subject matter that we’re looking to develop. There are really contemporary subjects like politics and democracy, with the election coming up next year. We’re really interested in this intersection between moving images and interactive art, music and performance. That’s a nice way of describing the different areas. Work that cuts across those different forms is something that we want to try and innovate and develop.
London | UK lightsurgeons.com
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Light can be a very useful 'material'. Light artists such as Anthony McCall, Dan Flavin and others has proven light as an actual sculptural medium.
T he whole idea of artificial light is quite fascinating. Artificial light is very accessible and you can easily get it off the shelf. What holds the light is different fixtures of various designs. In my recent work I’ve been focused on how we experience information and content. I try to design objects and scenarios that suggests alternative routes for how we interact with information. This could be about making us spend less time with screens and think up alternatives. In abandoning screens we need other methods of getting information across. The sounds we listen to, the things we read, the photos we share. Similarly to light artists I want to explore how the content is presented. I think of the information we produce in a very similar way to artificial light. Bits of content constantly in motion from one place to another. I'm interested in the fixture that holds this information and how it makes us behave. How does it appear, what does it look like, what ‘fixture’ will hold it. Recent graduate David Hedberg has attracted attention with his RCA final show exhibit Smile TV. This is intriguing and mildly disturbing work. Thanks to built-in facial recognition, the TV only has good reception if the viewer smiles. The work combines technology, flawless design and a clever comment on today’s culture, as David Hedberg explained: Today, in our culture, content is everywhere and available at any given time. I usually say that the question is no longer if we can receive but if we are receptive. If we also look at how content gets transmitted, in this economy of ‘liking’ things, it seems we have very much taken on the role of antennas ourselves. I combined facial recognition and image manipulation so that the only way of getting a clear image from the otherwise scrambled broadcast is by smiling. The viewer sits face-to-face with the TV in an armchair and depending on the intensity of the smile, gets exposed to a wide variety of clips. Hedberg has also been working on a project entitled
Chromophonic Radio, it is a sound-playing device which can be altered by any object with colour nearby. So an orange chair suddenly becomes a remote, depending on where it’s positioned in the room. With this work Hedberg asks us to reevaluate the relationship between objects and our environment. It’s clear that one of the things that drives Hedberg is an interest in information and content. I asked Hedberg why he found our interaction with objects so fascinating: I think it’s a sort of reaction to the fact that more and more focus is going into one ultimate device (the smartphone or the laptop) that is supposed to do everything for us. I make work that explores alternatives. We can make objects that we already possess more interesting and give them added value by attaching qualities to them nobody expected. David Hedberg undertook a design degree at Royal College of Art, so is fluent in the language of objects and the power they possess. More than this, he possesses an almost political sensibility. The objects and work he creates are fun and engaging, but they also examine our sometimes worryingly close relationship with technology and objects.
London | UK davidhedberg.info 68 ROOMS The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship
Robert Bell Process. Transfer. Save Robert Bell’s work emerges out of a very dedicated and physical painting practice. He works very obsessively. For the exhibition AXON at Block 336, he really pushed the dialogue between painting and digital animation that has existed in his practice for some time. The influence of the digital in contemporary art and the way in that it is being used by artists is fascinating. There is an energy and intensity that exists in Robert’s paintings that he uses to feed his digital works. The psychedelic forms that were projected and formed part of the installation in AXON are otherworldly and speak of the micro-macro realm. They originate directly from the surface of Robert’s painted works. Using a combination of traditional techniques and digital software he is thinking about how to expand what painting can do. The sculptural element in the installation in AXON was something new that was developed during the three months that Robert was working towards the exhibition when he was thinking about how signals are transmitted. The metal forms stacked on top of one another had a speaker like quality. The collaboration with Joe Goddard and the introduction of sound added something very exciting and introduced a slightly sinister edge to the exhibition that was really interesting.
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AXON Installation Photos by Corey Bartle-Sanderson
T o what extent do you feel it is important to include negative space in your work as part of the overall piece? For the AXON exhibition I was fortunate to have around three hundred square metres in total to work with. One third of this was used for the digital installation Clown Dust. The space had to function as a world of its own and work as a total experience, so light levels were crucial.
Upon entering, the darkness was all pervading and the eyes strained to make out the architecture, the three metre high forms mutating and rotating as if suspended in mid air. I saw people attempt to throw their arms around them so the result was pleasing. Darkness here was not a fog hiding lost details but an infinite void into which these strange creations existed. Dealing with these forms that expanded outwards from a point of singularity to create an enclosing membrane you get a great tension between the internal and external voids. Some were solid and some transparent each giving a different sense of mass and pressure, the life of the ‘organism’ and the pull on the viewer depended on this. Where would you say your work ends and the gallery space begins?
The digital work inhabits the gallery very directly with no clear line of separation. The main AXON installation built of 36 aluminium lamp shades forming a structure upon which I projected was also of undefined boundary. I painted surrounding walls in black gloss, which reflected the shifting colour and light and had coronas of light spilling out over the edges of the lamps. The viewer walking around could not avoid interfering with the projected light beams themselves. I like it when there are residual elements to an artwork which can be as interesting as the main event.
We can’t say where a painting ends, it’s so subjective. For me the aim of painting is to make works that do appear as if extracted from another ongoing existence. As soon as you reference systems of representation like the section or elevation then the painting will appear as part of a larger whole. This hopefully though, is not just spatial but also true of perceived duration. Painting as if capturing the action between two frames, not a long duration but enough to ask the question as to whether the thing you are looking at is in fact still.
I suppose whenever you manage to really interrogate the boundaries that appear fixed, that is when the magic happens. I still get so excited when in the studio I shift my stance from side to side and the surface appears to shift with me. I call it ‘trapped depth’, similar to looking through ice or Perspex with a depth of 1-2 inches. Or when the paint appears to pull away and hover off the surface as you move around it. When this happens I know again what I’m striving for. I am keen to know more about the use of the word AXON in context of your work.
What is the main ambition that as a painter you hold for paint and painting? This is what I wanted to answer with this series within the studio. Previously I had worked or overworked pieces so that I may have produced a dozen interesting works on the one surface over a period of weeks or months. Each day my emotions and energies change and so would the result. Here I intended to stop when the painting ‘spiked’, when the surface became animated in a way that both surprised me and transcended the boundaries we spoke of earlier. It was a quicker but more sophisticated way of working. At the same time I was reading a lot about advances in neuroscience and the developing understanding of brain mapping as well as deeper ideas behind consciousness and the mind. The Axon carries electrical signals between neurons upon ‘spiking’ in a timeframe and directness that I found relevant to this need for change in the way that I made work.
Secondly my work itself is all about the transferring of signals. The 3D work derives directly from the paintings. The forms are created from scans and photographs of the paintings. The red of the paint becomes light captured in a camera, data on a computer, co-ordinates in virtual space, pixels on a screen and back into projected light for the eye to receive. I am fascinated about how memories and mental images are generated, recalled and lost. In what form are they stored, how are they abstracted? The AXON installation was an attempt to consider how
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AXON Installation Photos by Corey Bartle-Sanderson
the brain might do this by abstracting and reforming my work through many levels of distortion. How much do you feel light and darkness play a part in what you create, and how does the interaction of colour fit into that?
I am drawn to moody, dark feelings probably more than bright ones. Melancholy is often seductive. My paintings are dark, I am not scared of using black and the act of painting can feel like an act of therapy when needed. For the AXON exhibition all of the colour was filtered through a veil of black gloss and there is not really any evidence of ‘natural’ light or any direct light source really. This may have been the influence of working for three months over summer in a basement with no natural light itself. I am a big admirer of Sean Scully and was looking a lot at his palette especially when testing the main AXON installation.
Working with colour has always been a direct result of innate feelings to do with combinations and contrasts rather than a search for realistic results. The balance across the whole surface is what is important. For the new series of paintings I decided to simplify the palette of each painting to usually just
one colour per piece, in the past I would have used a wider range. I was looking a lot at comics and figures from childhood toys and cartoons. The idea that they are designed so that it is immediately identifiable as to whether they are good or evil. The signal is in the colour scheme, the features and the stereotype. I wanted the paintings to have a sense of this more immediate signifier, tying in with the idea of ‘spiking’. The colouring along with the surface quality was influenced by whether the ‘character’ within the piece was ‘robotic’, ‘mutant’ or perhaps ‘ghostly’. How important do you feel it is to ‘play’ and experiment with an idea, and to use that to drive a finished piece?
Really, painting is never too playful for me, it can be a stressful tense experience where I can’t leave the work for hours on end and reach dead ends. But I suppose play is not necessarily always fun. As a child I went through phases of taking what people said and in my head dividing the sentence up into say groupings of three letters and if this did not result in a clean division moving onto four etc… This would go on indefinitely and I had no control over it and wished that it would be stopped. What was frustrating is that instead of counting the total number of letters and dividing using basic
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maths I would instead move along the sentence like a time line using trial and error until I got the result I was looking for. This sticks with me because it has similarities with how I approach creating art. I do not plan from an end point backwards; I simply work and work more until I get a result. The digital work is pure fun, but then I have edit>undo and save functions. How did you get to where you are now? How does your architectural background figure into what you do with your animations?
Working in the field of architectural visualisation taught me how to use the software that I use to a point but I spent days modelling curtains and cushions only to be told that they weren’t ‘cushiony’ or ‘curtainy’ enough. The day that I decided that I could not spend my life sitting down at the computer but would rather be standing up using my hands was the turning point in my life and I am so thankful that I followed through on this vow. I painted a lot until I hit twenty and then only really started again at thirty. The ten years in between were frustrating to be honest. I knew that I would only be happy in this life if I spent it painting and understood that I had felt like this since I was a child so could not make sense of the fact that I was not doing this. Architecture got in the way. At times you wake up in the middle of the night and ask yourself “how did I get here?”, often this is a confusing, negative experience but then when you are standing in the studio and realise that the painting that you have just finished completely replaces you and a particular feeling or experience you may have had then you ask it again but this time it feels great, even if it may bring a tear to the surface.
London | UK block336.com
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Cyril Lagel France cyrillagel.com
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Paul Kaptein I taught myself carving as a way of resisting the immediacy of contemporary digital culture after realising I was a sculptor that knew how to use Photoshop and Final Cut, but couldn't weld or make a decent mould. You could say it was a crisis of skill. Woodcarving is a slow process, generally unchanged since ancient times so I'm juxtaposing that old 'other worldness' to contemporary concerns of technological intervention – ancient and modern collide in a way. I don't use computer, or CNC etc, to create the work – it's all done by hand with chisels and gouges. There is a murky period of several weeks in the process where the whole thing looks like a horribly butchered piece of wood, but with each pass of the chisel the idea moves closer to the imagined work. The spaces in the work allow light to penetrate the form which is a way of undermining the materiality of the wood as a way of articulating the way matter is composed of empty space.
Photo by © Kingsley Burton
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Julian Lorber I'm driven to create visual work that not only expands visual language but also has positive intentions. This project is titled Externalities. It involves painting, from observing the visual effects of urban soot on architecture and interiors, and the paint build-up from graffiti writing and outdoor mural painting. When I started this body of work I was looking at soot accumulating on buildings around my neighbourhood of Brooklyn. I thought if I used colour to convey that accumulating it would be an interesting way to paint. So what I am painting is the illusory balance of colour and line in the light on my own surfaces. I make them to resemble cascading bricks and lines using layered archival tape or I cast the surface as a physical sculpture. I then coat the surface with acrylic mediums and paint using air brushes and spray guns. I mix and apply colours that will catch the light on the edges of the bricks (like fallen soot) as well as on the surface.
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Eduardo Gomes I love working with 3D Computer Graphics – it allows me to implement my ideas onto a ‘virtual world’. I’m currently working at Agency Africa, one of the biggest advertising agencies in Brazil. I'm a 3D generalist artist and am involved in the development process; modelling, textures, lighting rig. My responsibility is to create and produce objects and scenes in 3D which are used by the Art Directors in the construction of graphical campaigns – to turn ideas into images to explain a concept. Recently I have dedicated myself to personal projects, especially on creating characters. It has been a new and fun experience. Lighting is one of the most important factors in the creative process, leaving my work with appropriate and realistic image. For this reason, it is good to know their principles and behaviour, as well as their technicality. In the real world, every object absorbs light; the virtual one is no different. It is important to observe the behaviour of things around you, so you get to explore as much of its effect.
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Karen Margolis My work is concerned with conflicts we inherently experience straddling the exterior physical world and the inner spaces of our minds. I begin with the circle, the most basic component in existence. As my primary means of communication, I expand the circle's vocabulary through architecture and colour, imbue it with meaning as well as encrypt it to obfuscate comprehension. Compositions on paper record encrypted data of my interior monologues. Burned holes, embedded map fragments, as well as linear elements signify personal attachments. My work offers a glimpse into the ephemeral nature of the mind's operations; it is a way of translating meaning into pattern. I employ the entire spectrum of light in my work, particularly within empty space, which can be brilliantly bright or alternatively, a black hole of darkness. My concept of light emerges intuitively, not thought out, but like my colour composition, remains a consequence of subjective interactions.
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PaweĹ‚ Nolbert I focus on colour and composition of different forms and textures, and I treat it as a constant experimentation that also surprises me everyday. I often want my work to have the delicacy and intricacy of an art piece, but also to be possibly applicable to commercial use, in terms of the style that I work with. Reflected light is pretty much everything we see. Considering the style that I'm working in which along with an illustrative part, often features a photographic quality and light is a very important part of it. The entire shading process, as well as the choice of colours is an essential part of the process â€“ it is crucial to have a proper understanding of how light works and how much it affects the perception and its visual impact on the composition.
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Hereâ€™s a blank page for all your creative needs. Don't be shy. No holds barred.
Send your pics to blank@ roomsmgazine.com
Peter Mix Willer Co-Founder & Creative Director at
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Copenhagen | Denmark aiaiai.dk
I am Peter Mix Willer, Creative Director at AIAIAI. I have a graphic design and communication degree from the Graphic Arts Institute of Denmark and prior to this, a year spent at London College of Printing (part of the University of Arts, London and now known as London College of Communication). After the degree I worked at several advertising agencies in Copenhagen. While studying I co-founded AIAIAI with three friends and currently serve as the creative director. While other brands might have followed in our design direction, we still think we have the right mixture of functional, minimal design combined with an equally great sound. We are standing on the shoulders of giants:
The Danish design
of functionalism and affordability. Dieter Rams and other practitioners of simplicity in terms of product design are inspirations behind the design. Criteria we keep in mind are: giving people the best circumstances for listening to music, but also being a proper tool for DJing and producing â€“ a nonbranded design object, not intended for showing off or being a walking logo.
Like-mindedness is key to us. In collaborators, we look for something or someone we respect, and like personally, whether that is working with artists, music, labels or other brands. For instance, our latest product collaboration is with American record label, technology innovator and design brand Ghostly International, whom we have a long history with and fit all the above criteria. We have exciting new stuff coming up in the near future. Something that hopefully will both innovate the headphones market and take us to the next level of audio design. Stay tuned!
Interview by Kelly Richman
Christopher Brosius Founder of
CB I Hate Perfume
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WDYDWYD? I first got involved with the world of perfume after deciding to leave the city. Much of it came from the fact that I could find nothing commercially that I wanted to wear myself so it was simpler to make something. It was something very practical. I had been making perfume for a good eight years before realising that what I do is unusual, and that I’m a natural born ‘nose’. The technical aspect of it is really not something that interests me. It’s an art in itself and best left to those who do it well. As far as I’m concerned I start with the materials in as workable a condition as possible, although some things, like the natural materials, need to be prepared prior to use. I generally have an initial idea for a perfume in mind although I listen to clients and take suggestions, which sometimes go into development.
Perfume for me is all about the experience so it starts with an idea, which gets explored fully before I even decide what materials might be used. Then it’s a
matter of identifying, creating and gathering up the various olfactory pieces and actually creating a fragrance. I used to experiment a lot, blending little bits 108 ROOMS Why Do You Do What You Do?
NY | US cbihateperfume.com
and parts, and initially (because I’ve had no formal training) that process could be very time consuming and frankly expensive. Now, the majority of the work goes on in my head while I’m doing something entirely different. I’m able to imagine the various bits and pieces and combine them, so to do a final fragrance will take me considerably less time. I can usually do it in five or six different variations, whereas it once took me around twenty variations. Making perfume is not dependent solely upon a good nose any more than being an excellent painter is dependent upon 20/20 vision. It requires being able to experience the world yourself and then creatively translating that in a way that gives other people a very particular experience. Something that, when it comes to making perfume, very few people can accomplish. It is weird because in this age of the ‘amateur’ everyone with a cell phone is a ‘photographer’ and everyone with a blog, a ‘journalist’. So people think ‘if you can do it, I can do it too’. Anyone can mix stuff into a bottle but what comes out of that bottle is not necessarily a good perfume.
There are two main ways of capturing a scent: ‘enfleurage’ and ‘solvent extraction’. Those are basically classic French
extraction techniques. Solvent extraction is taking a natural material and putting it into a particular solvent until the fragrance oil is released. This is repeated until the solvent is saturated with the fragrance, and then the solvent is separated from the actual material, resulting in a floral absolute. Enfleurage is a process used to extract the fragrance from very delicate flowers which may be damaged in the process of solvent extraction. That was traditionally done by smearing a plate of glass with a fat, placing flowers very carefully in rows with tweezers, and pressing another plate of glass covered in fat on top to press out the oil. The plates of glass were then separated, the petals picked out, and the whole process repeated until the fat was saturated. It’s an incredibly laborious process. Most extraction processes require huge amounts of flowers to yield a small amount of fragrance.
The Box was kind of our ten year milestone. It’s interesting because people
look at it as a collection of perfume, but that’s not really the point. My perfumes are all very experiential in one way or another. That’s the way I make them and that’s the way I work with perfume. So what’s in The Box is really a full CB experience. Quite a while ago I was asked to write a book and immediately
thought that the kind of book I would really like to write was not so much text but just a beautiful volume that you would open up and find a blank white page with nothing on it. That’s all the book would be. In order to ‘read’ it what you would do is basically touch the page and maybe there would be microcapsules so you had this scent that would change on the page. As you go through the book, the scent changes and that’s what really tells the story. I realised that is really what The Box is. Of course people have perfumes they really love to wear from The Box, as they should, but it’s more important and much more interesting to sit down with it. Open the bottles, start at random, and just begin smelling. That’s how you get the journey from The Box. That is why I see it as much more of an art piece than a collection. One of the points of the Rare Flowers collection is that these are very beautiful things that very few people have direct access to. They deserve to be experienced and they deserve to be respected. Not only because they are rare and expensive but because they are beautiful in a way that the other perfumes can never be. No matter how well made a scent is it cannot compare to the real stuff.
Interview by Ralph Barker
WDYDWYD? I am the proud Founder, CEO and Creative Director of Kiwi&Yam. I come from a Nigerian heritage as both my parents were born and raised there. I was born into a creative household in Tottenham, North London, which is quite a multicultural area. My brother is a music producer and my little sister a singer/ songwriter so you could say that creativity is also part of our heritage.
I have always had an interest in fashion, but for a long time I kept it quite supressed. I thought it would only ever be a hobby. I did customise my own clothing but it wasn’t until a good friend of mine suggested that I could make things that people would actually buy. That’s when I started thinking about taking the next step and starting a business. Initially I had zero experience in ‘business stuff’ and no money whatsoever, but I saved and learnt as I went along. There’s still a lot of learning to do but so far it’s been a great experience! I sometimes feel that fashion is lossing its meaning and that a lot of brands are giving up on their values, becoming followers instead of leaders. This is one of the downsides of convergence culture. Kiwi&Yam is all about making a statement through bold patterns 110 ROOMS Why Do You Do What You Do?
London | UK kiwiandyam.co.uk
and prints, but is put together in a stylish, simple and wearable fashion. We try to stand out from other streetwear brands by the use of unique prints. We buy all our fabrics from Nigeria and most of them are a one off. The brand is inspired by my own upbringing. I was always very into my African culture but also deeply into the UK urban Grime scene and admire how groups like More Fire Crew have made a real impact in the musical scene, developing a mix of Garage, Drum&Bass, Dancehall and Hip Hop in the UK.
I wanted to create a brand that expresses my culture but also my love for London. This is why I chose the name
Kiwi&Yam. The Kiwi fruit has a piercing green colour once you cut inside it, which really represents the vibrant prints and fabrics used in our collections. Yam is a root vegetable, very popular West Africa, where our fabrics are sourced. It represents our ethnic roots. I like to think we in some way are bringing culture to the streets, whilst at the same time rebelling against conformity, against the stereotypes of urban clothing. We want to be different. We are trying to expand the brand, make it more interactive and connect with our customers. We will be launching a YouTube blog so people can really get to know about the brand. And we want people to have a little fun with it and to be able to be part of the movement.
Kiwi&Yam embraces multiculturalism
by the use of the prints but also by demographics. Our customers are not afraid to make a statement with what they wear and are very fashion forward so the more we can get people involved, the better. We are looking into opening a pop up store or two, so people can have a real feel for Kiwi&Yam. It is important to us that the brand really connects with the community. Joining the creative industry has been one of the best experiences of my life and it is something I will never regret doing. I’ve met so many amazing people and I get to do what I love – most of the time! But the best part of being a creative professional is seeing your vision come to life. When I see people I have never met on the street and they are wearing something I have created… I just love that! It is challenging, sure, but nothing good comes easy and that is something you need to remember when you are having a rough time finding your way.
Interview by Kristina Jensen
Misi Chanel Founder & Creative Director at
WDYDWYD? Otto London was born out of the necessity to wear a garment that would keep us dry while cycling but also look good off the bike. We simply couldn’t find anything in the market so Eleo [partner] and I decided to make our own. We gathered as many poncho samples as possible and started the design process which took a couple of months making samples and wearing them to make sure they were comfortable on the bikes. Two years later we finally found the right manufacturer and launched Otto London in August 2012. There are three reasons why the name Otto was chosen. The brand designers suggested it because we wanted a masculine name for the company in order to appeal to both genders. When it was suggested by them, we said yes immediately because Otto in Italian means eight – eight signifies infinity and also is a lucky number in Asia. The inspiration behind Otto London came from the need to look good on and off the bicycle. To create a garment that was designed for cycling but was not too obvious. We are sleek, unique and simple. We create garments in which function is hidden in the static. We are a life-style brand rather than a cycling brand because
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we believe cycling is freedom as a way of transport
rather than a hobby. We wanted to create a simple yet stylish look, a modern classic – to make a utility garment a fashionable piece, full of colour and youth. Vibrant and practical. The colours are bold and pop. Cotton as lining makes it warm and feels good to the skin while the outer nylon material repels the water. As we launched our website, I visited only the most stylish, unique and independent cycling shops in London. As soon as they saw the poncho they placed orders immediately and have been selling them until today really well. People love the ponchos for their simple design and most of all because they feel good on them, on and off their bikes. One of the best feedbacks is from the Bells bike shop: “For the first time I have customers that do not ride bicycles but walk in to buy the ponchos”. We now have retailers all over the world which are handpicked by ourselves. A famous person who got familiar with the brand was Paul Smith. He has one already and it makes us very proud. He is an inspiration to us. He is awesome as a designer and as a person. Very inspiring.
London | UK ottolondon.com Otto London has been running for two and a half years. The most difficult challenges were to raise the money for our second order because the first was wrong and we couldn’t see the garments. Also last year we had 400 ponchos stolen which was an awful setback. London has always been a place which the rest of the world has followed at every level; music, dance, art design, fashion, trends all over. At the moment I think London is on fire and everyone loves what comes from here. I don’t know why but it is simply so. London is the centre of the world in every sense. We are currently working on a bag that functions as a pannier, backpack and shoulder bag all in one, keeping with our design ethos: function hidden in its design.
As for the future, we would love to make our own bicycles!
Otto Lauterbach Founder of
Interview by Maya Maria
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Sam Jones Co-founder & Director at
My name is Sam Jones and I am a co-founder and director at Weekend Offender. We started the brand in 2004 by making a few tee-shirt designs to sell in the clothes store that I owned at the time, and we have just grown from there. The idea to design t-shirts came to light because we just wanted to create a few designs depicting things we were into like the football casual and acid house scenes. One of our first tees was quite controversial where we changed the letters ‘E’ from Weekend Offender to pictures of different ecstasy tablets. I describe the overall aesthetic of the label as clean, smart, casual, functional and real. We always take influences
from subcultures past
as well as film, music and sport. In terms of standing out, we don’t really look at other brands. We try to do our own thing and what works best for us. We’re based in London because it’s the best city in the world. It probably subconsciously influences some of our designs, but we are too busy having a good time to notice. Our flagship location is in Soho, and with its reputation and vibrant nightlife, I think it’s a perfect fit for us. We have started to sell into various European countries including Sweden, Denmark, Italy, and Russia. We also have an agency in the USA for which we have big hopes. People are taking to the brand well, and we have plans to expand in these markets.
Interview by Kelly Richman 116 ROOMS Why Do You Do What You Do?
Weekend Offender Soho Store
London | UK weekendoffender.com
WDYDWYD? I am the CEO, Designer and creative mind behind Wood Fellas. I love fashion and accessories and I always felt the impulse to upgrade the products or work I do. I started by selling accessories and I just felt that this was really not what I wanted for myself. Of course it was fun at the time but I felt there was a big empty hole, so I decided “why not do the designs myself?” I came up with ideas of what I wanted and how it should be, and together with my creative team and the manufactures we began production. Wood Fellas is a vast
We searched for an alternative to the bling jewellery we were selling and came to concept.
the far-fetched idea of making them with wood. After successful trading in the European market I tried to compliment the product range by introducing wooden designs. Everything from wooden iPhone and iPad covers, belts, watches and sunglasses were what I aimed to create. Throughout this 180 degree turning point it turned out sunglasses are indeed very difficult and expensive to produce, but left and still continues to leave the most impression on our customers. There has been a lot of competition and I had to really sit down and come up with something that would really impress people, so I started
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Munich | Germany wood-fellas.com
Wood Fellas. People around me, as well as the public were sceptical about how far wooden accessories could really go in today’s society, but my faith was stronger than anyone else’s opinion. We started off with a few models and our sales team would go out and hard sell, fortunately with the initial response being huge! And from there we got to increase the models and get new styles. We increased the models and improved the quality. This was when Wood Fellas was born as a brand. But moving forward with this transition from bling jewellery to wooden accessories wasn’t easy and making mistakes in finding the right manufacturers and factories for our products in the beginning had to be made. I felt I was becoming impatient in waiting to receive samples on a deadline and getting frustrated when sending them back with the corrections until I really got what I had in mind. Building up a good and loyal sales team is exceptionally difficult, to find a group of people with the same amount of passion for the Wood Fellas brand as I have. My career consistently involves making difficult and easy decisions in the daily running of a brand. For example, creating affordable products with the best possible quality in a sophisticated packaging and keeping these standards to a realistic budget is a challenge. However the easiest part of my job is to come up with ideas, drawing the sketches and seeing the designs you imagined come to life. In this industry, we are always keeping our eyes on new emerging talent. I honestly believe that
nurturing new designers is key to keep the industry going strong and the best piece
of advice I could give to someone who wants a career in this field is to keep straight and listen to your heart. Don’t give in to all the other people, they should never give up even when things don’t turn out the way they had planned. Instead we should take that as a challenge and learn from it, always try to improve wherever we make mistakes. Developing accessories began as a hobby for me and as time passed, I realised this was what I was destined to do. Throughout this whole process, my only career goal left is bringing happiness and positive attitude towards life combined with good business development.
Interview by Jack Wynn
Jan Priepke Founder & Designer at
A Mission to Inspire No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world â€” Dead Poets Society
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The importance of art education is often overlooked, but where would artists be without those who inspired them? Who taught them the techniques and the history of their craft? Traditionally, a skilful artist is seen as being so because of an innate, instinctive talent that drives their success. Whilst there is certainly some truth to this, what we sometimes fail to realise is that behind every great artist, there is a supporting figure that has dramatically influenced their working methodology. Rothko had Gorky, Gauguin had Pissarro; even Duchamp had his brother Jacques Villon to teach him the techniques he would later go on to adapt. The role of an art educator should be seen as nothing less than truly inspiring, and we at ROOMS have interviewed two of the UK’s most insightful teachers who also work as artists in their own right. Fine Art lecturer Oreet Ashery creates work that challenges and provokes thought about the human body and cultural dynamics, whilst also teaching at Goldsmiths. Andrzej Klimowski, who teaches illustration at the RCA, creates poster and graphic art that has been hailed by Harold Pinter as ‘unafraid’. His vivid and often surreal advertisements are bold in style and culturally charged with political imagery echoing his cultural background. We talked with these creators about the links between creativity and art education, and what the two can offer when experienced together.
The World is Flooding by Oreet Ashery
Andrzej Klimowski Professor of Illustration and Senior Tutor at Visual Communication, Royal College of Art
orn in London in 1949, Andrzej Klimowski trained at Saint Martin’s School of Art before studying at the Academy of Fine Art. A graphic artist and designer of theatre, opera and film posters, Klimowski is also an author of graphic novels (publishers include Faber & Faber and SelfMadeHero) and a teacher of graphic design. Klimowski has taught at Canterbury College of Art, UCA and the Royal College of Art, where he currently works as Professor of Illustration and Senior Tutor.
I never actually thought I would teach. Although I was born here in London, I did my postgraduate studies in Warsaw, Poland, where I started my professional life. After returning to London, I thought about my position and realised that I was not a very ‘commercial’ artist so I decided I would teach. That’s sort of the traditional way in England really. If you want to do your own work, on the whole it is quite tricky to make a living out of just that, so I knew that I would want to work in the cultural sector as I had in Poland. Before I left Warsaw my lecturer, the award winning graphic artist, Henryk Tomaszewski asked me to come over and gave me a letter from the board of governors at Canterbury College of Art, of which he was a member. After pulling a few strings, he got me a few talks there and I ended up lecturing on Graphic Design for a few days a week, before becoming involved with the Printmaking Department, which was very exciting for me. I was then asked by illustrator Lys Flowerday, a girlfriend of one of the
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Quay Brothers at the time, if I would teach at the Royal College of Art and have been lecturing here since then. My wife, who is also an artist, writes graphic novels with me although I don’t actually read graphic novels myself. However, I like the work of Hergé a lot; particularly the Tintin series. I now run narrative workshops and projects called Visual Editor which is to do with picture based narratives. They are kind of like experimental graphic novels in some respect. What we tend to try and do in the classes I teach is encourage a stream of consciousness approach where we give the students a simple title and two unrelated images, which they will then use as a starting point to generate lots of images without much analysis. I encourage them to generate images like dreams where you don’t really need to make sense of it. Then about halfway through the course we start to analyse it all and slowly a concept begins to form. That’s the way we work. I think illustration is just a form of graphic design through images and that they feed into one another.
It’s often mentioned that the things that are involved in creative activity are the mind, the hands and the heart. In a way that kind of sums it all up and I think it’s driven by curiosity more than anything. A curiosity about our condition, why things work and how, and also finding connections between things. However I think that sometimes one of these three is emphasised at the expense of the others. For instance at the moment in academic life it is the mind that is overemphasised. I think art schools in England have always been extremely original institutions where the imagination is allowed to roam with a great deal of space, whereas now the emphasis is on rigorous research and analysis. I think it’s simply because everyone is aping University. Of course art schools now are universities which is a good thing, but it has lead to a different activity to a certain extent because if you overanalyse initially then there is nothing left to surprise you. I think on the artist’s journey you only have an inkling of where you’re going, but you often get taken somewhere completely different.
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‘I see us in this industry as being part of one big family’
I always wanted to study with people I respected and admired because I see us in this industry as being part of one big family. I can sometimes tell that students are troubled with the difficulties they face and the psychological effect of those troubles but I always emphasise that they’re never alone. Even if they have trouble with tutors, they can go to the National Gallery and Picasso or Goya can be their friend! You learn from past artists all the time in very interesting ways. I think one has to generate an atmosphere of fun and enjoyment. The tutorials work best when we have fun and laugh a lot. Every student has a different angle on things. Even those who might be ‘less talented’ have an experience that is unique to them and if we can tap into that and probe it then something great happens.
London | UK klimowski.com
Oreet Ashery Lecturer in Fine Art, Studio Practise, Goldsmiths
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I was brought up in Jerusalem. My parents worked full-time, so I was often under the care of my neighbour, a seamstress. With her, I created my first works, (if you could call them that) ragdolls made out of old socks. I guess you could say my artistic career began there around the age of three. During that period, I discovered I could wear my t-shirt many different ways: this was a big creative moment for me. As a teen, my family moved to a modern flat where I began exploring my surroundings, including the overbearing Ammunition Hill on one side of the road, the valley leading to Palestinian Arab neighbourhood Shuafat on the other side, and the Orthodox Jewish ghetto up the road. During those walks, I began to experience
my gendered body as an invasion of space that created forms of deterritorialisation. I wasn’t allowed into certain spaces [Yeshivas]. This was also a very defining moment for me. I’m very inspired by people. Real ones are the best, always more interesting than anything fictional anyone can come up with. I love what people say, how they move and what they do. I am inspired by small acts of generosity and bravery, particularly in relation to minority discourses. Apart from this I look at a great deal of art which I find mostly inspiring, Animal with a Language by Oreet Ashery
reet Ashery is an interdisciplinary artist based in London. She is best known for her performance work as her character Marcus Fisher, an Orthodox Jewish Male, who was her alter ego for a period of time. She expresses herself best with language and text and much of her art focuses on minority discourse and socially constructed realities. “In many cases language is used in a way that normalizes things that should not be normalized, words and phrases that appear neutral are in fact loaded with ideology, and by pointing this out biases can be challenged”, states Ashery.
I have been involved in music for many years in different ways, films, food, literature, fashion, philosophy. I like trash, trash TV, trash aesthetics… I wouldn’t say that I am inspired by the political but it informs a great deal of my work. Language and text comes to all of what I do. I did my BA in Sheffield and my MA in Saint Martins. It introduced me to a lot of things I was unaware of. I didn’t come from an artistic family. My education gave me some kind of foundation in art. This is especially true during my BA at a time before the internet. I was fresh to England and everything felt unknown. In Sheffield there were great workshops and I did printmaking and photography. In Saint Martins one of my tutors was Shaheen Merali, who is still a good friend, and he really validated what I did and put it into context. His guidance was a significant help in this respect. Sometimes all you need to know is where your art belongs.
‘I discovered I could wear my t-shirt many different ways: this was a big creative moment for me’
I have been running workshops for years in community centres, hostels, prisons, housing estates, and art institutions. Most recently, I was commissioned by the Tate Modern to run a 128 ROOMS No Borders No Boundaries
series of workshops with participants who came to us individually or through a community groups (such as Freedom from Torture, UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, and Portugal Prints). The project, The World is Flooding, was an exploration of 1921 Mayakovsky’s futuristic play, Mystery Bouffe. We analyzed and discussed the premise of the play based around a world inhabited by The Clean and The Unclean. Through a development we created a set of ponchos, headgear, and banners made from cleaning materials, and worked towards an hour-long performance that took place at the Turbine Hall in Tate Modern. The play was a way of creating a body of knowledge coming directly from the participants that we put into a zine. A lot of information about asylum seekers comes from the media and politicians, and this was a chance to creatively collate the unique and urgent experiences of all those involved and make it public. The project was a meaningful experience for everyone involved. Although I have been doing talks and tutorials around the globe for years, I obtained a stable teaching job two years ago at the Art Department in Goldsmiths working two days a week. After so many years of constantly travelling with my work and performing, I wanted to feel more settled in London. Also, after running one-off art projects for so many years, I wanted to be able to follow the people I was teaching for a longer and more sustained period of time. I follow my students now for the duration of their degree, which is 3 years, and thereafter. I teach Studio Practice part-time at the Art Department in Goldsmiths. I am currently a Visiting Professor at the Painting Department at the Royal College of Art. I also mentor artists. The most important role of an educator is to give students and young artists the practical and conceptual tools that enables them to develop their practice; to infect them with a passion for art; and to validate their sense of experimentation if they have one. In an ideal world, education would be free! My education was free or virtually free. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
London | UK
Top: Animal with a Language Bottom: Party for Freedom by Oreet Ashery
The Filmmaker Method Words by
Nate Jixin Zhang
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Self-belief is something youâ€™ve just gotta get somehow, no one will grant you permission to do what you want to do.
ucy Luscombe is as beautiful in front of the camera as she is behind it. As a 28-year-old award-winning director whose film and photography works have been linked to names such as Channel4, BFI and VOGUE, her career started from very humble beginnings including going to University at Central Saint Martins which did not quite agree with her, doing magazine internships which did not quite agree with her, and pitching ideas to music record labels who did not quite agree with her. But her eventual success is in complete agreement with her rascal-like spunkiness and her persistence in selfbelief. How did she do it?
On Student Life Who were you before and after attending CSM? The fact that CSM does seem to have created lots of talents, how important was that institution to your success? I didn’t want to go to University so I only applied to one, CSM. Upon being accepted I thought I might as well give it a shot. The ‘give it a shot’ attitude didn’t lead to me being a great student. Time when I should have been studying was spent getting fired from magazine internships, working on numerous club doors, going to method acting classes and having a lot of fun. I think group education ain’t for everyone but one thing art school taught me was how to articulate a concept, something I would often push too far when I’d show up with no work and do an impromptu tap dance with spoken word accompaniment. On Metamorphosis Phase 1 How does one start to become a filmmaker? Where did you find your audience? I think you need the ‘burn’ of wanting to share ideas, stories and the conviction to see them through which comes with self-belief. Self-belief is something you’ve just gotta get somehow, no one will grant you permission to do what you want to do, especially if what you want to do is creative, in fact wanting to pursue a creative career will piss a lot of people off. So know that you’ve got something to say and a different way of saying it and the rest will follow. Pick up a camera, make a lot of mistakes, share your work; make friends with people who want to make films, work on each other’s projects. As far as finding an audience, align yourself with people who perhaps already have one, make a video for a band you rate or submit a piece of work to be 132 ROOMS No Borders No Boundaries
featured on someone’s blog/website who have a following. There are some great curators out there on the internet – say hi! On Pitching Pitching an idea seems to come naturally to some people but to many it is a terrifying experience which brings out some of the worst insecurities and self-doubts. How did you cope with pitching an idea and how did you stay confident in yourself and your projects? Again, know that you have something different to say and when you’re pitching, say it loud and clear. Look at the film/music video landscape; look at what’s been done, learn from other directors’ work and do it differently. If you stay true to who you are as an individual then it will be different because you are made up of your own unique experiences and outlook on life. The world needs you being you, not giving a commissioner something you think they want that’s been done a trillion times. I’ve done that before when I thought “okay I’m a director now, what
are ‘directors’ supposed to do” and I have failed. But I needed to fail to get back my voice. If all the above sounds a little challenging then pitch an idea you want to do and if it doesn’t fly say “fuck’em” and move on to the next knowing you will make that idea happen someday. On The Vocational Your skill set seems to be quite broad, was that born of necessity? From writing to photography to direction and everything technical that you have to learn along the way, how did you manage and how were you trained on the technical aspects of becoming a director? As you can tell from my previous answers group education is not something I’m very good at, I’ve tried doing different courses on editing and etc. My attention seems to slide to the teacher’s shoes or the hair clip of the woman in front of me. The technical aspects came through watching a lot of work by directors I love, looking at how they build a story and reading a
lot of basic books on directing so I could try my best to communicate with DPs (cinematographers). But I would say a lot of my technical film making knowledge was baptism by fire. Be clear and polite with the people around you and they will be generous in telling you how to do it. As far as writing I grew up reading a lot of plays as I wanted to write for theatre so I understood rhythm and dialogue. I would watch my favourite movie scenes and dissect them, look for the beats and subtext of what was being said. My acting experience has made me understand how to work with actors and get the best out of them, they deserve a lot of respect and the freedom to bring themselves to the role. On Getting Big It’s quite astonishing to see your extensive portfolio has been linked to many big names across the industry such as Channel 4, VOGUE, BFI and etc. How did this happen and who were you before all this? Along with wanting to create great work, you have to be realistic about how you’re going to get that work made, who’s going to give you the money. My first film Candy Girl was pitched as a music video for a track that was already released, obviously the record label thought I was mad when I marched in asking for some budget. But along with my complete naivety I had a lot of conviction that the film would be great, so I hassled some people at Vice who commissioned it for Channel 4. The whole process took about nine months, the film is under three minutes, but it was totally worth it. As far as the brands, I’ve just been lucky enough that my work has put me in good stead to be approached by them. 134 ROOMS No Borders No Boundaries
‘I would say a lot of my technical film making knowledge was baptism by fire’
On Signature There seems to be a coherent identity to your videos; instead of me putting technically inadequate words to encircle what I see, could you talk us through your process of constructing a look for your videos and how that is achieved? I’m not overly concerned with creating a consistent aesthetic throughout my work but certain locations and colour palates excite me. I suppose I just aim to put something different on screen and if that means pissing off my producer to shoot somewhere difficult I do it. I love the unpredictability of ‘live’ locations, something real. I search for locations which haven’t been used before which often means
leaving London. I find the concept of a studio shoot pretty confusing, I just don’t think it interests me.
Creatively there have been Eureka moments when I’ve produced a film I’m proud of, but I’m a little wary of Eureka moments as I just want to focus on being the best I can be.
On a Word or Two, to Inspire ‘I love the else you’d like to tell the people unpredictability Anything who dream of your success but are still Looking back finding themselves pulling pints in pubs or on the projects of 'live' making latte arts? you’ve done, Keep pulling pints and making coffee, it’ll come. Stay has there been a locations, focused on being the best film maker you can be and Eureka moment know you have something to say. We want to hear where you knew something from you and see your take on the world. And do it you’d gained the now. It will be uncomfortable and scary but the most momentum and real’ important thing is that you’re doing it. Take advice that things On Pivots
were really looking up? I think when you realise you can somehow forge a living out of doing something you love that’s pretty satisfying – when what you do doesn’t feel like a hobby anymore. However it’s all pretty unpredictable, it’s nice to pay rent on time but stability isn’t something I necessarily crave.
from people but don’t look for validation it leaves you vulnerable, be polite and kind to the people who are helping achieve your vision because they will be doing it for free and you want to work with them again. Trust your instincts – they are your best friend and will make your work unique. And making truly unique work in a world that bludgeons the individual or slams a Dr Martens’ logo on it is the most you can hope for. Once you’ve made that piece of work, be proud and thank yourself for pulling those pints.
London | UK
Now You See Me
Creativity is the root of progress in all areas of life
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A Pound of Flesh for 50p (The Melting House) Photo by Robyn Ross
Take my Lightning but Don't Steal my Thunder Photo by Jeff Moore
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lex Chinneck creates surrealist illusions on a large scale. His work seeks to provoke thought and make us look twice at the architectural environment that surrounds us. With a playful approach to sculpture, Chinneck is equally interested in exploring the possibilities of materials and innovative building practice, which often inspire his artwork and help spark ideas about future projects. Not only a brilliant artist, Chinneck also has a lot to say about the philosophical implications of his work and how the distortion of familiarity is an important factor in what he hopes to achieve. After the completion of his latest project at Covent Garden, we sat down with him to find out more about what goes into making a public sculpture possible and the artistic transformation of architectural practice.
Take me through the process of completing one of your large scale installations. When conceiving an idea, there are so many elements that need to be considered. Most of those elements are contextually sensitive. For example, when developing an idea for Covent Garden piazza, it doesn’t just begin and end with the visual experience. Using that as a case study, I knew that I wanted to do something of significant scale and sculptural impact. I largely wanted to do that because I was conscious of the footfall through the piazza and the demographic that visits there – it is a place of recreation and holiday making. With those objectives in mind and the length of time it would be there for (1 month), I knew we would need temporary planning licenses from the council. It made sense to develop an artwork that had a visual material synergy with the architecture in the square, so therefore, it acts as a celebration or integration, rather than something that would deter or argue with the architecture of the district. I also knew that I wanted to deliver an illusion because illusions are something that I’m excited by, but
Take my Lightning but Don't Steal my Thunder Photo by Jeff Moore
also they offer a kind of conceptual accessibility that any audience member could enjoy. That was really important because of the eclecticism of the visitors. When you are developing an idea, you think about who is visiting it, the mood and the pace at which they visit, the cultural identity and the visual language of the area, and finally the logistics, such as building regulations because it has to pass those. It also has to integrate and you have to develop a structure and a system that considers access. When developing an idea, despite the playfulness and seeming simplicity of the concept, a lot of consideration goes into what would work and why. For example, with the ‘hovering building’, it was an impact artwork for that kind of audience, whereas with the ‘melting house’, it is on a road where thousands of people go up and down the road to work each day as a commuter passage. In that way you can conceive an artwork that is about
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transformation and ‘At what change and one that is about an evolution of a point the story, because people see it every single day. cultural How important is location experience for you when considering needs to be a piece? It’s essential. Most of intellectually the time I don’t choose I am offered complex, in them, them, so most of the the artwork is order to be a time a response to that but sometimes valuable one’ location; we have the concept
From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes Photo by Stephen O'Flaherty
before we have the land and then we adapt it to fit. Covent Garden piazza is owned by a particular company who approached me and asked me to create a temporary artwork for the piazza. That was at the start of the year, so we then worked on it for about eight months. Largely their objective was to increase footfall and stay on the international pulse of cultural activity. It’s a strange process of contemplation and evolution and amendments to the work. Designing and installing something like that in somewhere as old, precious and busy as the piazza was extremely complicated, but a very valuable experience nonetheless. The hovering building was on the national news in 24 different countries and the overall footfall
Under the Weather but Over the Moon Photo by Stephen O'Flaherty
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increased by 18% while it was there so I like to think that they got a good return on their investment. Tell me about the titles of your work and where you come up with them. It is a distortion of familiarity. In one respect, my process and practice are so planned and engineered that it leaves very little room for abstraction, so the titles are often an opportunity to do that. The strange thing is that they are extremely simple in concept but extraordinarily complicated in execution. There is so much thought that goes into them that I like the title to reflect that consideration in many ways. Iâ€™m interested in language and the rhythm of the title but I also try to integrate familiar phrases and sayings into the titles, because it lends them a pleasing familiarity. I like the idea of distorting familiarity by integrating known sayings and expressions in a peculiar context; I think it fits well with the work. There is also a kind of narrative at play. Using Take My Lightning But Donâ€™t Steal My Thunder as an example, I kept thinking about something that is always together but forever apart. It felt like a pair with two objects at play. I justified the
Telling the Truth Through False Teeth Photo by Stephen O'Flaherty
inclusion of thunder and lightning because it was such a cataclysmic narrative and theme with such catastrophe that it sat well with the piece. It just made sense. I play around with around fifty titles until I land on one that feels right – the title itself took about six months to settle on. However, I also recognise the fact that it is known as the ‘floating building’. My work has its nicknames and I quite like that. I think public art can be described in a few words like the ‘melting house’ and this offers an immediate impact/accessibility that works well in the public realm. Your work is very playful. I have always been fascinated by Pierre Huyghe’s idea that “we must play with this culture in order to be a part of it”. To what extent do you feel that this is true, and how important do you see ‘playfulness’ as being in creating a piece of art? For me, there are two kinds of play at play. There is an experimentation with processes and possibilities and materials. The other kind of playfulness comes from the work itself which is unquestionably warm and humorous at times. It really walks a fine line
between humour and silliness, and I recognise that. I try to reinforce the playfulness and humour with a structural and sculptural complexity. A lot of thought goes into a simple moment and for me that is Minimalism in a nutshell. I think that the creation of pleasure is as important as the prevention of pain. What I struggle with is, at what point the cultural experience needs to be intellectually complex, in order to be a valuable one. That is where the art world confuses me at times; this necessity
to over intellectualise or justify something from an intellectual perspective. Some experiences don’t need that and don’t work well with that and not all walks of life need to be overconceptualised. So, with regards to playfulness, I try to create things which are hopefully extraordinary, but ultimately uplifting and things that develop a sense of optimism. I think distorting the real world makes extraordinary things seem a little bit more possible, and I quite like that. Your work often creates a sense of disorientation for the audience. Is this a deliberate part of the experience of the piece itself? I have always loved illusions and magic and the idea of offering visual and playful questions while concealing the answer. I have always liked them. Since day one I have always used illusion in my art. I think subconsciously, it does a lot of the things I like an artwork to do. It asks questions in a visual way, it has a kind of visual magnetism that draws the audience in and offers an accessibility that works well in the public realm. I just think art provides
‘Nothing lasts forever and I think it’s nice for my work to begin and end while I can control that’
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a fantastic opportunity for the distortion of reality, to present the world in a new and slightly different way – which goes hand in hand with innovation and progress. Creativity is the root of progress in all areas of life. We have such an unhealthy approach to creativity and culture in this country. I think the problem is that there is no obvious route from creativity into the service sector and therefore it is perceived as not essential. Creativity and commerce don’t often have an immediate, obvious link but if you scratch the surface and really explore the economy, creative input is extremely valuable. I think the general public are immediately suspicious of anyone who wants to explore a creative path in their future. I am interested in the permanency of your work. You often create pieces that are inevitably transient. What does this mean for you and how important do you feel it is both philosophically and psychologically for the viewer to experience? I think the most important quality is legacy. Even though the artwork is gone, the memory, the conversations, the imagery will remain. Even though the tangible experience is impermanent, the impact lasts considerably longer. For me, it offers a closure. When the piece in Covent Garden came down, it immediately liberated me to think about another project. It’s a strange anchor and I like the idea of impermanence because it creates better opportunity for legacy. An experience that you’ve had is stronger when you can’t have it again. Death is a really bleak but good example of that. When someone is gone, your appreciation for them typically heightens. I like the idea of an artwork having the same lifespan. Nothing lasts forever and I think it’s nice for my work to begin and end while I can control that. With that philosophy in mind, the ‘melting house’ was a particularly exciting step for me because its lifespan and its devolution are intertwined with the evolution of the experience and the narrative. It didn’t have a beginning, middle or end, so I made impermanence the focus of the piece and the story of the sculpture. We live in a society now where information and experiences are so frequent and so fast that I think it is quite nice to make art and installations that reflects that frequency. It allows the audience to move on and for it to not linger. A finite experience is somehow a more valuable one. What is creativity? What does it mean to ‘be creative’? A passion for progress, irrespective of profit.
Where do you look to for inspiration? Surrealism seems to influence your work quite a bit. I quite like surrealist objects that are sidelined from the main movement. From a creative level, largely the inspiration comes from the discovery of new materials and processes. It opens you up to new sculptural possibilities. I work very hard and invest a lot of time and travel to introduce myself to these things. I visit lots of companies and factories and specialists. I like certain artists and
Under the Thumb to Hide from the Fingers Photo by James Champion
certain elements of art history. I love the Abstract Expressionists and the Minimalists, and I’m also quite into American art. Certain individuals really get me going; typically individuals who are ambitious, progressive, innovative and brave and who put their work into the public realm. I believe in the idea of visual osmosis which is where the aesthetics of your environment inform your creative decision making. I used to live in a concrete factory which was next to an old parachute factory – which was an enormous dilapidated building with all the windows smashed. I walked past that everyday before making my own piece with identically smashed windows, so I do believe that there is a sort of subconscious at play as well – which is why I am open to the idea of people interpreting my work in their own way and finding messages that I haven’t set out to deliver. I like the idea that once I have abandoned my work, it then belongs to everyone.
London | UK
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Andreas Nicolas Fischer Sailing Digital Realms
ntroducing Berlinbased visual artist A N F currently in London with the project Dream:ON curated by Alpha-ville and commissioned by the Goethe Institute. After studying interaction designs and media arts at the Berlin University of Arts Studies, A N F has made a name for himself in the field of digital art. Combining the aesthetics of digital design with questions of social science he investigates the influence of automation on our lives and the consequences for contemporary art. We met with A N F to talk about the inspiration and creative processes behind some of his more recent projects and also to hear what exactly, according to him, is the meaning of it all.
So, Andreas, what does it mean to be a digital science artist? First of all, the perception of myself as an artist was a very gradual process. It took a few years for me to own up to the term ‘artist’. One thing I don’t like is when people who belong to the artistic scene become overly ‘scientific’ about digital art. When you start arguing about which
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algorithms are ‘fashionable’ – that’s too much for me. But, there is still some unobtainable mystique to technology based on what people don’t really understand and that mystique is i nteresting, artistically. Today people are used to technology – for many of us it’s an extension of our person. It’s very pervasive in our everyday life. Now, look at the Brute Force Method volumes. The term comes from the computer science process of cracking a password. Here, sculptures are being constantly rearranged by a program created to try out all possible combinations of these sculptures. This work started out as a still life arranged in the traditional way. The difference, however, is that a traditional picture is limited by the laws of physics but the sculptures are not – they are limitless in their rearrangement. Going back to what you said earlier about the mystique of technology. Would you say that your art depends on this mystical element? No, the artist should not count on working in the shadows of such mystical residues, as it is only a matter of time before it disappears and then what? No, art should be about the ideas behind the mystique and what they illustrate, what they can teach us. The art should be intuitive – you wouldn’t ask a painter what kind of brush he uses (normally), and digital art is the same. A project such as Skynet, which was part of the energy flow project curated by FIELD is no different. The project was named after the self-aware artificial intelligence system from the Terminator film. The idea was to make a film that gave the viewer a drone pilot’s perspective. It was created from pieces of NASA high-resolution satellite images to make a collage. The film portrays a journey going from very large scale to very small scale, starting far away but ending up in a perspective you can only have in technology. The Fractal Algorithm, which was used, is recursive – it repeats itself within itself at a smaller scale and becomes self-similar at different scales. The overall idea is that you can find patterns in nature that look the same at different scales.
You have expressed that your work illustrates the “physical manifestation of digital processes through generative systems” – can you explain that in more detail? A generative system can be a lot of things but mainly, as opposed to a closed body or series of traditional works (for example images), a generative system is open. It is about the system itself rather than what it makes. When you create the system you have some general idea of how it will look, but you will not know exactly what the outcome will be. Quoting Brian Eno, it’s sort of like with a garden; you know what you’ve planted, but you can still be surprised. And what this does is remove the creative process a bit as it becomes indirect action not direct manual labour, which means it’s ultimately out of your hands.
‘Rather than just displaying my work on a screen I attempt to make it tangible in as many ways as possible’
Now, most of the time you are dealing with a digital system, which is pliable. It consists of raw data and you can do whatever you want with it, on a computer. But when it comes to the actual, physical manifestation you have limited outlet. Much
Brute Force Method
Skynet / Energy Flow Director's Cut - FIELD
of what I do is trying to manufacture new ways of exhibiting the process behind the actual artistic expression you see. So, rather than just displaying my work on a screen I attempt to make it tangible in as many ways as possible. There are of course some economic concerns as well – after all, it does have to sell and this can set some constraints, because handing people a USB pen with artwork on it is not sufficient. But these are more ancillary concerns; the primary focus is always about demonstrating the diversity and complexity of the generative system. Can you give me an example of that? Well for instance the Schwarm series is a particle system. You have all these software agents – they are like little machines that walk together – and they all have a base, a starting point. Once the program starts running the agents start walking together, making a trail from their path. They are able to decide, in each split second where to take the next step. Once the image is created I cannot edit it, so if I don’t like it I take a step back, adjust the system and try again. Often it takes 50 attempts to get one good image. That’s a lot! Does it ever become tedious? Not to me and that’s when I realised how interested I am in this and how immersed I tend to get in new projects. I can imagine! So tell me how does automation affect your work? It’s about considering parallel developments in society, which have been on-going since the
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industrialisation, where it suddenly became all about efficiency. This is not necessarily bad but it does pose questions about wealth redistribution and re-education, as humans are replaced by machines and software. We have to consider what happens to society as a result. The investigations continue as we consider what happens to the art-making process when we place focus on efficiency. This investigation also becomes the art form in itself. It does not always produce good art but the primary concern is what that artistic outcome tells us. And what does this all mean? The overall effect of industrialisation, seen from an artistic point
‘The overall effect of industrialisation, seen from an artistic point of view, is that we as human beings have more leverage’
of view, is that we as human beings have more leverage. We are no longer placed under constraints based on time and our physical abilities. I can create and use a program to do what I cannot and this, by extension, makes me limitless. We have managed to extend our own natural capabilities. What I am really interested in examining is what happens with the art-making process if it’s removed from me in the same way as so many other natural abilities are. Okay, then, so what is the effect of automation and technology on society? Well, ultimately it is positive! Much of manual labour today is tedious. And there are so many aspects of
our existence that are easier if done by a machine – and the outcome is often better too. And this way you will have more time to create something unique, something that is fulfilling on a personal level. And how do you feel contemporary art fits into the society you have just described? I think the most important step is that distinctions of fields are becoming less and less rigid. It’s okay to be an artist and something else at the same time. There are of course varying degrees of strictness, depending on who you ask, but I certainly feel the whole ‘starving artist’ lifestyle is less of a prerequisite now. People understand that you have to sustain yourself. Personally I don’t worry too much about separating the ‘commercial’ work I do with the more experimental works as ultimately, to me at least, it’s all the same – it’s all my art. Also, whilst the significance has shifted in some ways, with the creation of ‘mega galleries’ such as Guggenheim, which are essentially commercialising artistic forms of entertainment, art is still quite an elitist thing to be worrying about.
Yes, I suppose it is! But are there not ways in which art can send an important message? There will always be artists whose focal point is on the interpretive meaning of a piece. And that makes very strong art. But for me it really remains about the underlying system and what that expresses and what that can do. It may not always create pretty art, but the resulting expression is very intriguing, creatively, and that is what inspires me to keep going. To keep pushing the boundaries of what is physically possible.
Berlin | Germany
Filippos Tsitsopoulos I see things as vivid snapshots, whose composition through painting and sculpture, theatre and opera or music is enriched.
The Beauty in Everyday Tragedy Words by
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eculiar in nature and undeniably enchanting, the sundry work of Athens-born artist Filippos Tsitsopoulos boasts a wide range of influences. A surrealist artist specialising in film, performance art, surreal photography, and everything in between, he is perhaps most renowned for his series of herbaceous, Giuseppe Arcimboldo-inspired masks. Though wildly eccentric and outwardly mysterious, each piece acts as a thoughtful homage to the artist’s inspirations, which range from Greek tragedy, preceding playwrights, likeminded artists, and, most notably, his late thespian father, Giorgos Tsitsopoulos.
My beginnings are on the floor of the family home, where my father was laying rolls of paper for his child to paint with markers – as he usually said, “without feeling the limitations of measures!” While Filippos poignantly cites his father’s approach to creativity as the predominant influence behind his ensuing experiences with art, it is but one of many ways in which he helped to shape his son’s approach and discipline. Although Giorgos’ theatrical experience spans myriad shows and characters, his starring role as Marquis de Sade in Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade resonates most strongly in Filippos’s memory. Performed in 1989 at Athens’ National Theatre, Filippos associates this play with the ironic, in both a literal sense and in terms of drama. To exemplify the more literal version, Filippos discusses the paradox of seeing his father in character. When I talk to my father on stage and to ‘Marquis de Sade’ simultaneously, it annuls the fourth wall that protects the spectator from the actor, and creates a state where things are contrary to what one expects. Filippos differentiates this from dramatic irony, a theatrical device rooted in Greek tragedy by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions is clear to the audience although unknown to the character. It involves a play inside a play. Whether literal or merely a theatrical device, to Filippos, the concept of irony is inherently a hard, devastating feeling and artwork to produce. Given his perspective on irony and an embedded interest in theatre, it is no surprise that the ancient Greek Tragedy has played a pivotal role in his artistic oeuvre. While he acknowledges that his Greek heritage has undoubtedly facilitated this fascination, he notes that he also feels connected to the concept as a result of his personal upbringing. Once you share the fascination for the tragic when you are young, all your life can be understood under that prism. 154 ROOMS No Borders No Boundaries
Cabinet of Curiosities of Mr Bonsai – The Hunterian Museum London 2012
‘What would have happened if theatre could be used in our life to replace reality?’
To Filippos, a key aspect of the Greek Tragedy is the concept of mimesis – a reciprocal phenomenon in which life imitates art and art imitates life. I know it is very common for an artist to use his home ground as a canvas, but the important thing was that having a repertory actor as a father makes you inevitably a silent witness of his rehearsals at home. This fact can change you forever. Filippos recalls aiding his father with the memorization of his lines by engaging in the scripted dialogues as they cooked dinner together. I would read him the text of the role he had to act, and he had to say the next line of the text. That in the theatre is called ‘to hold the line of the role’ and is part of the rehearsal of an actor. This has led Filippos to ask questions rooted equally in theatre and in existentialism: What would have happened if theatre could be used in our life to replace reality? What would have happened if our everyday life was transformed to tragedy? That’s where his masks come in. Eclectically inspired by vanitas paintings, theatrical costumes, aboriginal tribes, and memories of his father in the kitchen cutting vegetables, shaping forms together, Filippos’s ephemeral masks allude to the theatrical concept of mimesis. Imagined as a means to find the connections between human expression and
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grotesque, fascinating monstrosities created inside of man, Filippos creates self-portraits – captured as digital photos or film – and manipulates them by shrouding his face in flora and fauna. I express myself using my face. It’s the same face, digital and really troubled, damaged, funny and grotesque, covered with ‘nature’ or with pixels; a mask, or many masks, created to dress this face.
To Filippos, the relationship between his verdant masks and acting is straightforward and simple: If you place a vegetable on your nose as maybe Arcimboldo did before painting one of his paintings, this is a scenic element; this vegetable is transforming your nose to a ‘scenic nose’. We can think that with mimesis. This piece of lettuce, for instance, is crossing the border of reality and is adapted into its new theatrical form: a mimetic nose. This vegetable comes to form part of your facial muscles, substituting your real face – playing theatre! So, a vegetable that can interpret the nose of someone is a vegetable actor! And this is magical. And, undoubtedly, it is this magic that, through a fabricated, mimetic reality and an undeniable connection to tragedy, takes centre stage in Filippos Tsitsopoulos’ theatrical life, inspired practice, and enchanting body of work.
London | UK
Kushana Bush I do think the modern world lacks communal activities, rituals, and ceremonies. I think that was the reason the royal wedding was such a hit. We are all looking for reasons to come together.
Subtle Strokes of Seduction
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Life, 2014 Gouache, gold leaf and pencil on paper, 63 x 46 cm
hen Kushana Bush first laid eyes on a black and white photo of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Children’s Games in her childhood, she came to the conclusion that artists were merely adults who had the luxury of playing for a living. The thought of working in a field where her imagination took the reins delighted Bush. She was born and raised in New Zealand and drawing was as much a part of her family routine as eating three meals a day. In her youth, she played with Barbies in order to make sense of the world. When she grew too old for her plastic friends, drawing become her remedy for coping with what confused her. Bush primarily works in gouache, paper, and pencils. She creates modern illuminated miniatures that deal with intimate social moments in a satirical fashion. Bush paints with gouache in an opaque manner, which gives it a glowing quality, and she has recently incorporated gold leaf into her practice, which when burnished also has a unique light affect. “You can see why gouache and gold have been used for religious purposes for so long. They have a celestial light”, claims Bush. There are many meticulous details in your work such as body hair, genitalia, and intricate fabrics. Is completing works physically telling? Yes, I’m driven by the absolute awe evoked by Persian and Mughal miniatures. Some of the works at the V&A and the Chester Beatty Library are so unbelievable in detail and have a jewel-like glow. I feel shocked when I look at them. Sometimes, I have to turn away; they are too beautiful. I try to remind myself that they had a workshop of artists: one would be the designer, one the master of the clothing and one the flora and fauna painter. I’m trying to do all of those jobs! If anyone reading this fancied themselves an eyelash master or a fingernail master willing to relocate to the end of the world, I would be grateful but it’s poorly paid work and a pretty thankless task. I’m always questioning myself if the results were worth that amount of concentration and pain. Both your work’s Revival (2008) and Slump Series (2007) are quite disturbing. What are you aiming to achieve with your play of light spaces and dense, delicate details? In the past, I’ve been very keen to make imagery about the heartfelt themes of sex, death, and love, but these are difficult subjects to communicate visually. Looking at the delicate patterning and intimate scale of Indian miniatures and Japanese shunga, I devised a few methods to seduce the
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viewer closer. I used the delicacy of line and pattern in order to draw viewers into themes that can be quite unsettling. Your work with gouache is very fine; it remains unbound by the physicality and heaviness that other techniques and materials have. Have you wanted to explore other mediums, or is the light, clean quality of gouache important to your work? Gouache is an incredible medium for fine detail; it’s a quiet medium. With paper you don’t feel precious, it could be burnt or screwed up if it doesn’t go to plan. I’ve always thought stacked canvases in a studio would be a reminder of failed attempts. There is such freedom in paper. You use gouache with water too so it’s a medium you can easily travel with. I would love to experiment with egg tempera one day. There are numerous layers of historical art references in your work such as Giotto, Martini, Indian miniatures, and shunga art (to name but a few). Your work
Babes and Fools, 2014 Gouache, gold leaf and pencil on paper, 66 x 57cm
essentially blurs the lines of space and time. What are these hybridised spaces you create? My parents moved from England to New Zealand in 1977. I grew up imagining and longing for a place my parents called ‘home’. It was odd for a child, longing for a place you’ve never been and for a family you’ve not met. I wasn’t from the Pacific; I had no claim to the beautiful taonga (cultural treasures) of New Zealand. My Christian name further confused this quest for identity. My father collected ancient
Kushan coins (the Kushan Empire was located in Afghanistan) and I thought perhaps the Gods and Kings on the coins would give me the clues to who I was and what was home. In many ways it did, the Kushans employed Greco-Buddhism, a cultural borrowing of Hellenistic culture for their Buddhist imagery. This stealing or syncretism is a melding of ideas and imagery which forms something unique and your own. I’ve adopted the art of other cultures to invent a new identity of my own – one I can lay claim to. In English, shunga translates to ‘images of spring’, a euphemism for sex; some of your references also draw from Italian Renaissance. Is there a message of enlightenment or rebirth you want viewers to walk away with? Perhaps there is... I do think the modern world lacks communal activities, rituals, and ceremonies. I think that was the reason the royal wedding was such a hit. We are all looking for reasons to come together. Art openings in Dunedin are the modern-day version of Sunday mass for people.
‘I used the delicacy of line and pattern in order to draw viewers into themes that can be quite unsettling’
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In the series All things to All Men (2012), you shed the gruesome details from your repertoire. The limbs of your characters, fabrics and tones all flow into a larger abstract form. These works require a lighter gaze from your audience and are easier to visually digest. What made you go in this direction? It was only after seeing the Italians (Giotto, Martini, Lorenzetti, Piero della Francesca) in 2010 that I realised I painted people without clothes and it was time I gave them some modesty. I was also quite moved by the expressiveness of cloth, the way it could be tugged to depict grief or surprise. Your exhibition Untitled (Power Men) is heavily influenced by fetish culture and laced with humorous consumer goods (tube socks fashioned into bondage gear). Are you simply poking fun at commodified desires, or is there more than meets the eye with these pieces? I was thinking about three things at that time: the visionary paintings of William Blake; the phallic symbol; and I was stationed close to a gym at the time, so became over-obsessed by those tube socks. Sounds odd but with those power men, I wanted to make a kind of ancient universal imagery for today. They ended up looking like a kind of strange logo. Your latest work has moved away from the miniature aesthetic and towards the structures of Baroque or Renaissance Catholic painting. You have incorporated more colour but still use muted tones and refrain from using any chiaroscuro. With the nature of gouache, it is nearly impossible to create layers. Also, I have a lack of interest in depicting things mimetically. I’m just as satisfied with the use of symbols to indicate ideas. I have recently been experimenting with shadow, though, which is exciting. There is a lack of societal restraints/ constructs in your work (men appear to be quite silly rather than our perceived notions of masculinity, women have hair all over, and the wound motif we see in some of your work). Is breaking social labels important to you? No, it’s just the way I see things, woman grow hair just like men, blood sometimes comes out of skin, and men can be... silly. You have a very dark way of portraying intimate moments. Do you find most people or social interaction to be pathetic? Sometimes, it depends what work you are looking at, at the time. I can think of vivid moments when I have
been looking at too much of Georges Grosz’s work, it frames the way you see, the world takes a dark turn. Stanley Spencer is a wonderful artist to look at before you go to work in the morning. Everything has a lightness when you look through the Spencer lens. He is an especially good artist to look at before dusting or doing the dishes. Everything gets tinged with a spiritual dimension. Your work always takes a surprising turn. Can you tell us what direction you are heading next? I’ve just finished a show where the imagery is no longer floating in space on the paper. Instead, it covers the whole piece of paper, so there are backgrounds. I’ve just learnt to paint walls and floors for the very first time.
Cluster Prayer, 2008 (detail) Gouache and Pencil on Paper, 100 x 70cm
‘I've adopted the art of other cultures to invent a new identity of my own – one I can lay claim to’
Dunedin | New Zealand
Beauty is in the Lens of the Photographer The form that manifests in perfect stillness as photography does, is also the kind that
demands just as much mobility. The microscopic of light travel is in every sense akin to the photographic premise. The beam directly hitting the sensor or celluloid is a crisp energy that doesnâ€™t travel in curves; photography feeds on those crisp instances in the minute interest of time. Light is also about colour and colour is plurality. Sharp lenses can conjure up the wavelength of all walks of life. This is why we arrived at these wildly unalike makers of light, Ryan Harding, Namsa Leuba and JJ Medina; each reveals a possibility in the pool of the spectrum. Their work vibrates through the range of identities from the undistinguished to the esteemed. Their optical integrity channels an extent of our psyche that may not be orderly perceived, from the humdrum to the otherworldly. Other times, photography is less about shedding exposure on the shadows but revaluing the daylight we have grown so accustomed to. It is our constant attempt to outrun time, the radiation that bounces off a photograph always seeks for its first and next viewers. Seeingand-perceiving is our gift granted so naturally that it circulates lasting myths and impressions without trying, and just like the travelling light, it knows no full stop.
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Namsa Leuba Ryan Harding Jamie-James Medina
Image by Namsa Leuba
Namsa Leuba Colours from the Soul
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All images from fashion and beauty fanzine MoAki in Tokyo ÂŠnamsa leuba Clothes by Akiko and Morio Deguchi, from Japan
rt gives hope, strength and a way to think and open your mind, says artist Namsa Leuba, whose photography stirs the imagination.
In images with a central, often female model, Leuba explores humanity from various angles, unravelling ontological questions. Her photographs combine colours, textures, forms and symbols into a rich, detailed, emotional and multi-layered mosaic. She merges traditional fashion photography with anthropological details and theatrical aspects in often stagelike settings turning herself into the narrator and the model into the protagonist in a play that, scene by scene, tells a faceted story with details revealing themselves further at closer inspection. As a self-described “African-European“ born in Switzerland in 1982 to a Guinean mother and Swiss father Leuba considers her rich cultural heritage to be of great wealth. Leuba’s parents instilled the history and culture of both countries into their daughter, which now serves her as a well of inspiration and gives her the dual perspective that allows her to examine subjects from multiple angles.
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When Leuba began her studies at ECAL University of Art and Design in Lausanne, Switzerland, she knew she wanted to deepen her knowledge about her African heritage and henceforth decided to focus her work on African cultures. In the past three years, the artist’s research has specifically focused on African identity through Western eyes. In her young career Leuba’s work has already been published in a variety of significant magazines like I-D, Numéro, New York Magazine, Wallpaper*, Libération and the British Journal of Photography and she has been recognised with awards such as the PhotoGlobal prize at the 2012 Fashion and Photography Festival in Hyères. Her project Ya Kala Ben which was carried out in Conakry, Guinea, received the BCV Award and has been exhibited in London (UK), Athens (Greece) Toronto (Canada), Daegu (South Korea) and in Neuchatel as well as at Art Basel 43 in her native Switzerland. Leuba’s photography focuses on the invisible side of emotions. She uses her personal experiences to visualize a photo prior to the shoot. The photograph then exteriorizes her emotions and her past. Each image is a sentence or chapter in the artist’s story, told one photograph at a time and infusing her work with a sense of continuity. Leuba’s photography always exhibits clear historical and anthropological qualities, as no image is ever created in isolation. The permanent reference to her personal story but also her version of Africa, places Leuba’s work in a position of prominence as she participates in a rewriting of African history. As post-colonial Africa is no longer defined by the West the historical context nevertheless has shaped contemporary society and the present irrevocably. Can there be a new narrative, a new identity independently of and not marred by the definitions imposed by the West? To what degree have those definitions altered Africa’s self-perception? Can new, organically evolved definitions of Africa alter perception in the West? How much of this process has already happened and what will happen in the future? There is Africa through African eyes, Africa through Western eyes and Africa through African eyes within the context of Western perception and knowledge of identity stereotypes and interpretations by the Western world. These are some of the questions and notions Leuba seems to ponder and examine deeply. The aforementioned Ya Kala Ben is a series of photographs. The project, accomplished on a trip to Guinea, explores the construction and
deconstruction of the body as well as the depiction of the invisible. Leuba studied ritual artefacts common to the cosmology of Guineans such as the statuettes that are part of the ceremonial structure. “They are from another world, they are the roots of the living”, she says. Throughout her fieldwork, Leuba had to deal with sometimes violent reactions from Guineans, some angry, some afraid and some astonished, who viewed her procedures and practices as a form of sacrilege. By engaging with ceremonial structure, Leuba sought to “touch the untouchable”. The statuettes hold cultural value through what they symbolize or represent, whether it be modesty, luck, fecundity or a channel for exorcism. Through her work, Leuba transforms these statuettes from cosmological symbols of a specific community into objects that, within an international context, take on new meanings. Traditionally and as part of specific rituals the statuettes are part of a collective that they must not be separated from or they risk losing their value. “They are not the gods of this community but their prayers. They are integrated in a rigorous symbolic order, where
‘For me spirituality is tradition; plasticity is modernism’
every component has its place. They are ritual tools that I have animated by staging live models and in a way to desecrate them by giving them another meaning, an unfamiliar meaning in the Guinean context”. In recontextualising these sacred objects through her lens, Leuba brought them into a framework meant for Western aesthetic choices and taste.
What are defining characteristics of contemporary African identity? Essence, unique, union, struggle. How do you approach your research of African identity through Western eyes? I travelled through Guinea and observed different rituals and ceremonies to find the ones I was looking for to create the series and to choose the right models. I am particularly interested in the attribution of religious or mystical qualities to inanimate objects known as fetishes. The myths, the force of nature, and the deep, intuitive, impulsive culture of Africa offered me a lot of creative inspiration. My approach was to separate those sacred statuettes from their religious context in order to immortalise them in a Western framework. What elements specifically are you examining further? Now I keep going on my research about the symbols of African identity, cultural syncretism and the ambiguities of ethnocentrism. Through this arrangement of myths 170 ROOMS No Borders No Boundaries
or fetishes attributable to the ‘Other’, it’s also the outlook that the West has on those symbols that I would like to test. Do you want to achieve a thought process and maybe initiate change through your art in how Africa is depicted and/or how the West interprets Africa? I analyse myself through the lens of my camera – I constantly question myself which is very challenging. I travel from a spiritual ground to create the plasticity of the picture. For me spirituality is tradition; plasticity is modernism.
Can you share some of your process from idea of the story you want to tell to final image or series? Most of the time I choose my model in the street because they are more authentic, and it’s much easier in one way to work with them. For my Ya Kala Ben project, inspired by fetish statuettes, my photographs recreate the figures using models. Ya Kala Ben in Malinke dialect means ‘crossed look’. The final image is always layered and shows not only the picture but what is behind it, historically and religiously, as well as my experience. The statuette Ndobi is a fetish statuette. I put in her some medicine, magic words and things that belong to me. I created my own ritual in assembling all my statuettes and I became the feticheur who could animate them with my mind. I travelled through Guinea and observed different rituals and ceremonies to find the ones I was looking for to create the series and to choose the right models. I am particularly interested in the attribution of religious or mystical qualities to inanimate objects known as fetishes. The myths, the force of nature and the deep, intuitive, impulsive culture of Africa offered me a lot of creative inspiration. My approach was to separate those sacred statuettes from their religious context in order to immortalise them in a Western framework. How would you describe yourself as a person? Love. Communication. Social. Which artists and specifically photographers have inspired you in your work? Olaf Breuning, Lukas Wassmann and Stephen Burger. How much is light a factor in your photography? In my fashion-centred work, I use a lot of lights, colours and elements of graphic design to create my aesthetic, to give some volume, contrast, intensity and vibes. All these elements bring strength and power. Otherwise I use natural light in my own projects. It depends on the concept and context. What do you express through the use of light? Desire. What are your key ingredients? I use a mix of colours, mix of acidity, mix of freshness. What are some of the most important markers of identity to you? The soul. Johannesburg | South Africa
Ryan Harding Soothing Light
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Jetlag and the End of the World
yan Harding is a SouthEast London filmmaker and photographer whose work exposes the condition of the human being in its desolate form: envious, nostalgic, alienated, always leaving and never arriving. After having studied Film & Television at the University of the Arts London, he moved to Shanghai, China, to work on a documentary film about the hostel life, in the process immersing himself knee deep into that culture. A firm believer that artists have a duty towards themselves, Harding’s creative process is one of simplicity – if he likes it, he keeps it. In A Brighter Summer Day, he captures the mundane and a certain tension emerges – we’re all creatures of strong desires, and in the end that represents nothing and everything at the same time. Regarding Art as his everyday saviour, he finds photography a compelling analogy of our incessant desire to romanticise the past, which he describes as having been the present at some point, before adding that
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the “sun didn’t shine any brighter then than now”. Lyrical, yet fascinating in a post-apocalyptic, urban, quiet way, the freshness of Harding’s work lies in his insistent observation of the present. ROOMS spoke to the young artist about his work. Hello Ryan, could you tell us a little bit about yourself please? How and when did your adulation of the visual manifest itself? I’ve always loved films and the funk. Then I discovered the wondrous world of photography in my teens. Looking back though, I feel very fortunate because I think I actually grew up in a very creative environment. My parents aren’t artists or anything like that, but certainly my childhood was full of exposure to old music, cinema, TV shows and video games. I remember I had so many SEGA Megadrive games, the boxes used to pile up to the ceiling. Mind you, the boxes were huge back then! Stumbling upon photography in my teenage years and then studying filmmaking was an entirely natural progression. It all stems from what you’re exposed to as a child. And I still absolutely love music. Not a day passes where I can go without it. Let’s talk about your photography. I know you’ve written an essay on fact and fiction, so I wanted to ask, what is your take on the nature of photography in relation to that? Photography is always inherently factual in that it is a visual documentation of light and subject. But it is always fictional in so far as its perception of reality is always manipulated by so many variables: shutter speed, aperture, post processing etc. Can a photograph ever be 100% objective? Of course not, because a human being lies behind the camera and chooses everything. Thus if it cannot be objective, can it ever claim to be 100% factual? Of course not. It’s an art. It can lay claim to presenting facts: a bird in flight, the brutal violence in warfare, a flower in full bloom. But it can never claim to be factual in itself. Photography possesses this intricate quality of assigning objects, situations and people new meanings. Do things remain themselves if no one captures them through a lens? The beauty of photography is that you can forever immortalise objects, situations and people through that one frame. When viewed later, you will naturally always attribute a new interpretation of it. It’s like how we embellish the past but tire of the present. Really they are the same thing: the past never was holistically better than the present – the sun didn’t shine any brighter then than now. The past was once the present after all.
How much is light a factor in your work? Light is everything. It’s the single most important aesthetic choice for any photographic image. If you take it away, there’s no image, no subject, no colour, no atmosphere, no texture; in short, nothing. Nothing to look at and respond to. It exists to highlight the subject, create mood and engage the viewer on a visceral level. Nevertheless it’s an aspect easily taken for granted. You can sometimes find yourself neglecting its importance, particularly if you’re shooting on the go (as in street photography or documentary filming) or under tight deadlines to finish a particular project. I personally try to use natural lighting as much as possible, though recently I’ve been using an array of artificial lighting sources – external flashes, neon lights, LEDs and even flickering TV screens... It’s always good to experiment, especially with light. And I feel that’s something my work has severely lacked over the years. So I’m finally starting to address that issue. Here’s hoping it pays off.
A Brighter Summer Day
Jetlag and the End of the World
I love your series Jetlag and the End of the World, especially since the title reminds me of a Murakami book. The photographs have a distinct dream-like fantasy aura, while at the same time still retaining a sense of ordinary setting. It has a strong feeling of departure and arrival in my opinion. Could you tell me more about this series please? Yeah I totally stole the title from Murakami so let’s nip that one in the bud. But man, what a title! I couldn’t help myself. You’ve hit the nail on the head really – departure and arrival. I was majorly jetlagged when shooting that project and it was shot at all hours of the day. I’d gone through a break up at the time and life was kind of messy and up in the air. My resolution for that was to travel and take photographs of others potentially also experiencing feelings of alienation, the ravaging currents of change and uncertainty for what lies ahead. And China is the perfect embodiment of these chaotic themes. The country certainly exaggerates any feelings of loneliness you have as both a foreigner that doesn’t look ethnically Chinese, nor speaks the language. But anyway, departure and arrival is bang on the money. As long as it evokes that kind of feeling, and others feel it, then I’ve done what I set out to do and I’m glad others can relate. If I’m honest though, with street photography I just shoot whatever I see on the street that’s vaguely 176 ROOMS No Borders No Boundaries
‘Can a photograph ever be 100% objective?’
interesting. If it works as a photograph, I keep it. If even a part of it doesn’t work, I scrap it. Somehow for me, maybe because I’m always working on a project in one mindset and work using the same methods, a theme unfolds as I continue taking photos. So the projects and underlying themes unravel themselves as I try to discover what it is I am shooting.
Jetlag and the End of the World
What are the kind of challenges and limitations you face in the industry – or on a purely artistic level? I don’t think we should ever try to escape challenges. They’re there to help us improve and get better at whatever it is we’re doing. Artistically, challenges are normally stylistic but sometimes technical. I’m currently shooting a documentary about hostel life. In fact, I’ve stayed at this hostel in Shanghai for six months already, interviewing guests and staff about it and the nature of travelling, the transience of life,
those kind of things. But I’ve had to do everything myself. The directing, the shooting, the editing, the interviewing, the producing and even the sound! And I have no clue about sound! So certainly technically it’s been a real learning experience coordinating all these very different skill sets. Editing down almost 2TB of footage into a compact, consistent narrative is going to be my biggest challenge to date. I dread the thought. You’re based in London but are currently in Shanghai. To what extent do the cities you stay in influence your vision and your style? It’s weird, I really haven’t left the hostel that much since I’ve been here. So as of yet, I wouldn’t say Shanghai has significantly influenced my vision or style. The hostel is like a mini-world… I think that’s had a greater influence on me. Meeting people from all over the world in one small, confined space – it’s a really special thing. It’ll no doubt affect the style and shape of the documentary. Social circles are far more influential on one’s sense of vision and style than any city can claim to be. Cities are nothing without the civilisation that inhabits them. Artistic integrity is… Being yourself and not giving a shit about what others think.
Could you tell me more about your A brighter Summer Day series? What are the underlying themes and messages you are trying to convey? A Brighter Summer Day is not so much specifically about something as it is my way of trying to come to terms with a surreal feeling I felt travelling through Taiwan – glimpses of dreams intercutting reality, nostalgia, déja vu and the like. Moreover, for the first time I really felt I finally had the skills to pursue a proper street photography project. Let’s talk about High Hopes? What was the creative process and artistic intention behind it? High Hopes was my graduation film for film school. I think one of the biggest intentions behind it was to break the massive racist stereotypes that are still prevalent in cinema today – namely, that because a character is black, he must therefore bust caps in asses, be violent, swear a lot, do drugs, or some other utter nonsense that we’re all too accustomed to seeing on TV. The lead character, Kassel, pursues his passion against the odds, while
‘Cities are nothing without the civilisation that inhabits them’
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his best friend Andre is perfectly content doing dodgy dealings to support himself. Andre is really an alter ego of Kassel – he is a representation of what Kassel might turn out to be if he loses the drive to pursue his dream. Mind you, looking back on it, there’s a lot we could have done better – the ending especially, and my cinematography certainly. Also, we could have smashed stereotypes further by removing the drug deal and stabbing scenes. The most important thing is that it was a really great learning experience for all of us, stressful as it was to shoot. Dream collaboration? Wong Kar-wai, Christopher Doyle and the late and great Robin Williams. Where is the one place/ person you keep going back to, no matter how many times you try to stay away? When I find him/her/it, I’ll let you know.
Jetlag and the End of the World
Shanghai | China
Jamie-James Medina Instilling Presence
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ward-winning photographer and filmmaker JamieJames Medina’s projects are archives of intimate moments intertwined with moments of glamour, fame and everyday life. Working across several genres, he collects photographs from music tours (he has recently toured with FKA twigs and The XX in the US), shoots portraits of celebrities and creates in-depth reports on Darfur, North Korea and South Africa – his practice makes him an artist whose works are ultimately inscribed in the codes of modern time. The results of these intermittent voyages are a collection of visual treats that explore the life of those around us. What shines through Medina’s works is his ability to transform himself and adapt to his environment – his approach is direct in style and form, and communicates the importance of being ‘present’, an asset often overlooked in the creative world. Evidently, Medina’s genius shines through; he has worked with the likes of Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, King Krule and music legends Chuck Berry and Etta James. ROOMS caught up with him to discuss his work and his recent projects.
Jamie, you grew up in Bangladesh, Dhaka, where your father worked as an expert in tropical medicine. Is that something that was important for you in relation to your art practice? Hey ROOMS… Looking back now, Bangladesh was such an exciting and unusual place to grow up, but that was just my life. I don’t know if it affects my work, but I think I grew up with a sense of adventure and reality which pushes me towards finding my own place in everything I do. We didn’t really grow up with TV or magazines or record stores – I only had those things when I visited the UK during my Christmas holidays, so I have very clear memories of how content reaches people and how inspiring that can be. I think about that a lot.
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How and why did you know this was what you wanted to do as a career? I primarily work with music and musicians and think I just wanted to be involved – the camera was a passport or reason to be present. I love to travel, but I don’t really take holidays, so the work becomes a great reason to see the world. I love meeting different people, but I can be pretty distant in my everyday life, so the camera just helps to start those conversations. You are not only a photographer but also a director. How does one influence the other? For me, I think it all starts with still images. I’ll begin every project by going through my photography books and just getting my brain excited again. I have a folder on my desktop that is constantly updated with references that will find a home somewhere in my work. I’ll start to see recurring themes, so I’ll build ideas around that and just get it out of my system. With reportage photography, you’re observing, so you just hope that all of your preparation matches the opportunity and you get the right show.
Do you think the author’s intention is important, or does it come second place to the audience’s interpretation? For me, I want my work to be successful and sometimes that just means it needs to be seen. And hopefully seen by lots of people, so I try not to put a lot of walls between my ideas and the audience. With portrait photography, you want the viewer to fall in love with the subject or maybe not fall in love with the subject, so you have to work with the audience. With video, you’re playing with ideas and opinions that unfold over time, so you’re constantly trying to gauge the audience’s reaction. That’s exciting. Your work is an eclectic mixture of pop culture icons, adventurous, and at times, dangerous projects. How do you approach your projects? I’m a big researcher – I read all the time, I watch everything and I try to find something in common with all of my subjects. I was lucky enough to photograph Christopher Hitchens towards the end of his life and we had both lived in Finsbury Park in London, so I knew we could talk about that. With musicians, it’s very natural – we can talk about music. With more dangerous projects, I don’t think of them as ‘dangerous’, but it makes my life more interesting to jump between all of these worlds. I love the video you directed for King Krule, A Lizard State, with all the references to Hitchcock and the very distinct feel it has. Could you tell me more about the creative process behind it? Thank you. I’m a huge Hitchcock fan and I knew King Krule was as well, so it came together pretty quickly. We talked about Dial M For Murder, which is where the opening shot of the phone comes from, and I love the Alfred Hitchcock Presents series, so it felt like a natural fix. I just wish we had more lizards. I could do with 20 more lizards in that video. What do you prefer – working in photography or film? Are these simply different ways of manipulating colours and light or do you differentiate them as practices? Well, I don’t know if I prefer any medium, but I probably feel more confident when I’m taking photos. For me, photography is such a singular practice and film is so collaborative, I feel like I have more control over the process. But yeah, when you feel like you achieved your original vision, they just become different ways of telling stories.
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How do you choose your clients/projects? With music, it helps if I’m a fan, but that’s just not possible sometimes. I do try to find something that I love about every subject. With music videos, you’re going to hear the song a thousand times, so you have to love something about it. When it comes to the more ‘adventurous and dangerous’ projects, they can be reactionary. For example, I may have just photographed something quite glamorous and want to get back to shooting reality, so those projects seem to find me. What are the kind of challenges and limitations you face in the industry – or on a purely artistic level? With media, I think we’re just bombarded with images and ideas all day long, some of them great, but it’s mostly just noise. And I think we’re looking at quantity or popularity to judge quality and giving up on the time it takes to have real opinions. All of which I’m guilty of. You founded The Tourist (2010), an independent publishing house, and Hot Charity (2012), an independent record label. Were these two projects born out of a discontent
‘I pay a lot of attention to how people interact with content – the journey ideas take’
with what is currently being produced in both the music and the publishing world? I think with The Tourist, I was really trying to create a place to run extensive photo-essays, which was no longer possible in broadsheets, so there was a feeling of discontent. With Hot Charity, I was given an exciting opportunity to build on my experiences as a music photographer and use those skills to find talent. In your opinion, who is the most exciting music artist of the moment? I’m biased, but there is no performer right now that is more exciting than FKA twigs. That’s just a fact. Artistic integrity is… ...having a point of view and building a body a work that people can recognise. And professionally, I think integrity is being able to say: “This job is not right for me, you need someone who can really deliver your vision and it’s not me”. And then also having the confidence to say: “I can make this great”. And then personally, integrity is just keeping it 100% with everyone you meet. Who and what inspires you on a daily basis? I think I pay a lot of attention to how people interact with content – the journey ideas take. How do young people find music? How do journalists find their stories? What reaches me? Are my eyes open, are my walls up? With VBS.tv, you reported on the crisis in Darfur, and you documented life in North Korea too. Should art open up our eyes and become socio-political? I think we’re a generation that knows more (has access to everything) but does absolutely less. It’s everyone’s mission to break down those socio-political barriers, we can’t rely on art or artists. But yeah, art is a brilliant way to reach people on every level.
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Light, on both a literal and metaphorical level, is inevitably indissociable from many artists’ practice. How is it incorporated in yours? Well, in very literal terms, I spend much of my time chasing light; setting a scene and waiting for the right moment. With publishing and the label, I’m trying to shine a light on creativity that inspires me. But in the abstract, I think it’s in the darkest moments when light shines brightest. During my time in Darfur and North Korea, it was definitely in the most hopeless realities that you saw real humanity and faith come to life. What makes a good portrait? I think some of my favourite portraits give clues to what happened before and after the image was taken, and you feel like the photographer really stole the perfect moment.
Arirang Festival, Pyongyang, North Korea
â€˜My favourite portraits give clues to what happened before and after the image was takenâ€™
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King Krule - A Lizard State
You tour with bands regularly and document that experience with photographs, how do you manage to capture intimacy? I really love music and musicians and I really do respect their craft. I’m always reaching for that in my images – capturing the process of being creative and trying to match their ability with mine. Being on tour, so much time is spent not taking photographs and just being present. I just use all of that energy to set up those intimate moments and then muscle memory just kicks in. What is your dream project? I’d love to work on movie sets – photograph that atmosphere and the shift actors make into character. I love books like The Misfits, which documents Marilyn Monroe’s last film by different Magnum photographers and captures the division of labour between cast and crew so beautifully. I think what we see of Hollywood and that level of entertainment is so controlled (and I understand why) but it would be a dream to photograph that environment. Or to take the Royal Portrait one day and also photograph Spooky Black.
London & NY
Takahiro Kimura The Reason of a Face
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The different faces of Japanese artist/animator Takahiro Kimura 木村貴宏 could engulf you like a thick and malicious cloud. Looks of solitude and longing get passed on from one to another in his lengthy and possible lifetime-long project Broken 1000 Faces, invariably echoing our deepest fear – living amongst nameless faces whose outlooks on life include nothing but sombre grimness where no light passes through. At the same time, Mr Kimura is one of the most established animators in Japan, having reached celebrity status for his adult animation works, as well as being the son of Keiichiro Kimura 木村圭市郎, one of the most influential figures in Japanese animation history. Their names send shivers down my fingers as I slowly realize how many of my childhood favourites can be attributed to them, including City Hunter in particular, which has seen many versions of its screen adaptation. Broken 1000 Faces has a name that is quite ambivalent on its motive. Why broken and still incomplete after 14 years? Does it represent a life force? Is the state of being unfinished or the lack of lightness a reduction of Kimura’s take on being human? These faces have the power to diminish curiosity and the need for reasoning. Broken 1000 Faces is an oath that gives truth, not the whole truth but there’s nothing else but truth. You don’t have to see too clearly.
ou are currently on #435 and it has taken you 14 years. It must have taken so much dedication and faith in yourself to have progressed this far. What makes you keep going? Actually I don’t think I have dedicated myself to this project. I can’t stop working on this project because Broken 1000 Faces is the thing I need. That’s why I can keep going. Could you please tell me about how you started the project and why? Originally I was working on drawing portraits, but was becoming familiar with it; the way I drew and the forms became a preestablished harmony. I thought I wanted more adventitious ways of painting that
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even I can’t expect. After I established my original style with trial and error, I thought I needed to make inundating pieces in order to improve the quality of my face collage and spread it to the world. Has that reason changed over the years? What have you learned the most about yourself from making Broken 1000 Faces in the past 14 years? At first, my goal was to make 1000 pieces in 5 years, but working on this project, my feeling has been changed. Not only face collage, I work on making animations, characters and products. Doing those kind of client works, I often have no time to make face collage. Doing more works besides face collage, I found the face collage is my ‘sanctuary’ and I became disinterested in increasing the number of Broken 1000 Faces. Making face collage resembles meditation. Once I start working on one, the piece is finished in a matter-of-fact way. After making the piece, I become lighter both physically and spiritually. How would you like for the project to be seen? Each face individually or together? I don’t care about it. When you see any particular piece individually at first, I’ll be happy if you see other pieces together with a crow’s nest view. Inversely, when you see my works together at first, I’ll also be happy if you focus on any individual pieces. I myself see a lot of mystery and paradoxes in the artworks. What would you like to achieve with Broken 1000 Faces? I’m very happy to hear that you see a lot of mystery and paradoxes in my pieces. Mystery, paradoxes, clean and dark, front and back are the common themes of my whole works. Yet, when I work on face collage, I don’t care about any theme, just only on achieving a beautiful balance between caring about colours and forms. Why ‘broken’? For me they are as broken as they are complete. Who are the people that these artworks are based on? How do you find them? When I work on face collage trying to keep beautiful balance, it becomes broken face automatically. There isn’t any model.
Can you tell me about the process of making each piece? How do you know it’s time to do the next one? Do you have a target or plan for when you would like Broken 1000 Faces to be completed? I randomly make some black-and-white prints of photographs. I tear them with my fingers and mount them on cardboard. Then I put colours on it with acrylics and colour pencils. I also scratch it with my nails to put some details. I’m not sure when to work on the next one. I just make the new piece when I think “It’s now the time to work on one”. There’s no plan nor target of completion. It might be incomplete, or I might finish the remaining pieces just a month before my death. I just follow my inspiration. What are the responses that you’ve got so far that have made an impression on you? At my exhibition, there was a person who was staring at one piece for an hour. It was very impressive.
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‘After making the piece, I become lighter both physically and spiritually’
‘These desires are different from the fundamental desires of creating’ 194 ROOMS No Borders No Boundaries
Animation in Japan is obviously an industry that is valued way higher than anywhere else in the world. Could you please tell me briefly on why you think that is? I’m not sure about why Japanese animation is valued highly but I believe that my father Keiichiro Kimura, who has invented totally new ways of expression in action animations, it is largely attributable to him. Anything else you’d like to add? I live the actual moment without past and future, and I put the date on my pieces in order to prove that this piece is made at the right time. Also I do it because I recognise myself in those pieces I made from the past, and I want to be known by people in the future. These desires are different from the fundamental desires of creating, and I’m always doing my work feeling conflict and paradox.
Tokyo | Japan
When Gravity Fails
Meet The Fashtons
Fiona Garden & Ben Ashton
Abigail Yue Wang 196 ROOMS The Cover Artist Uncovered
Ben & Fiona by Alexandra Uhart
A husband-wife collaboration often will not take one by much surprise, but something is particularly beguiling about The Fashtons – half Fiona Garden, half Ben Ashton. The artistic team creates visual projects for music and fashion, yet both are artists on their own merits, collectively sharp and individually keen-eyed. Between the two, to think of that photo-realism by a photographer’s husband and the painterly duskiness by a painter’s wife, there’s a latent consonance in their separate practice, something that is excitingly transmittable both ways. To catch the pulse on Fiona and Ben’s creations, we need to hear them separately, then jointly.
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Whether it’s black and white or colour, your photography d e l i v e r s consistent vividness in the contrast. Is vibrancy also a way of life for you? I don’t know if vibrancy is necessarily a way of life for me, but contrast certainly is. I am most comfortable with absolute black – it pleases me to see shape and form in its relationship with shadow. Personally I suppose I am a bit of a contrast; I am definitely quite masculine in some ways, and quite typically feminine or maternal in others, but not much in between. I suppose there is a certain vibrancy to the work and life I share with Ben – we are constantly working and creating and reflecting ideas off of each other. There is definitely a spark that drives us both, something that we have in common and something that we each nurture in the other. What would you say is the coherent subject matter that you continue to look into? I will always be drawn to the play of light on bone. The architecture of a face or body, as it stands, in light, whether made up or bare, discovered or intended, is what inspires me. It’s a constant wonder that in that interplay between light and shadow, I can capture the essence of a person – it’s an endless marvel. I find also that more and more I am inspired by capturing things just as they are, with little intervention, in the sense that yes, I may offer some small, specific direction to my subjects, but I’m not showing them in any other way than as they are, whether they ultimately believe that or not! Has your creative focus shifted since the beginning of your practice? Hugely! I started in this industry as a model and so I came to photography as a profession largely through fashion. I have always admired a stunning image and fashion has long been an outlet for commercial expression of stunning imagery. Unfortunately there’s a lot of other rubbish that goes along with that, a lot of which I struggle with both intellectually and morally, so less and less am I inclined
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to push to shoot commercial fashion. I have certain muses with whom I will always collaborate, like the singular Ada Zanditon and her partner in crime Nik Thakkar, but I do that for the love and inspiration. I once thought that to be a success I had to be all things to all eyes, when in fact my best and most inspired work comes from just seeing as I see, so I don’t try to please anyone else anymore. I’m so much happier now, and I think my work is too. Do you believe that every photographer has a muse(s)? If so, how does she/he inspire you like no other? Well. I have called many women Muse. Annabel, Kyla, Anna, Victoria – they all are still my darlings, and all have a shared commonality in their utter sense of self. I was rarely shooting them as any character – it was always Themselves that inspired me. These are all women I have immense love and respect for, which is certainly where the inspiration stems from. In life, obviously I am inspired daily by my darling husband who is my partner in every way, who has pushed me harder in what we create than anyone ever has, and who has reflected back to me my best self. We laugh so much; I couldn’t ask for a more thorough inspiration – ‘muse’ barely covers it. Which artists inspire you as an image maker? There are obvious precedents for the style I’m most naturally drawn to – Avedon, Newton, Bailey, Von Unwerth, Lindbergh, Corbijn – I just really fucking love a high contrast black and white. There is also a Greek photographer called Vangelis Kyris who was and remains a serious inspiration to me, whose muse I once was and who never thought it absurd when I picked up a camera with intent. His work is unreal, at once effortless and rich in joy but elegant and timeless. I encourage a trawl through his archive. I am also incredibly inspired by the music artists we have the pleasure of working with. I am a huge music fan in general, so it is a privilege creating alongside them. Being able to capture a wholly unique image or moment of someone whose output I so seriously love and admire – it’s just the most sincere expression of my respect that I can muster.
Ada Zanditon Couture
Some argue that in our time, the craft of p h o t o r e alis m in painting is so close to actuality that it risks concealing the artist him/ herself. But is it in fact exactly the reality that you are peeling through with such precision? I personally see a certain type of expression in attention to detail, it is within the many layers of glaze and meticulous scrutiny given to the birthmarks or flushed red skin that seal my soul inside my works. Although photography is central to my practice, I believe my paintings are to transcend the source image to become hyper-real, through the slight exaggeration of the subject my paintings should speak of my personal connection with the sitter. My process of layering up my paintings could seem extremely laborious to some, but for me, seeing the subject slowly appear out of the murky ground layer allows me to formulate a nuanced relationship with my sitter. It is only when each hair follicle is in its correct position that the painting takes on the life of the subject. Friends and family have made up a volume of your paintings as subjects. There is also a lot of yourself. It was Nathan Oliveira who said, “If a figure doesn’t look back at you, you forget it”. Are your self-p or trait s intended as an anthology of the self? I feel with every self-portrait I produce, I am constantly reminded of my own mortality and as a result I have become fixated upon the idea of legacy. I have plundered the history of painting, initially to teach myself to paint but after that I would always turn to the security of history to make my next decision. The entire life’s work of many artists is neatly catalogued to be exhumed and then consumed by the next generation. 202 ROOMS The Cover Artist Uncovered
Stephen, 2014 Oil on panel
Countour Portrait, 2013 Ink on paper
I have been particularly interested in the self-portraits of artists like Rembrandt who managed to record his entire career using portraits of himself as a diary. I hope to leave a legacy of my life and who I have spent it with for others to consume when I die. Although self-portraiture is an unashamedly narcissistic pursuit, I like to think it serves as a bizarre gift for the next generation. Sometimes an artist’s job is to eliminate excess – a prevalent factor in The Study Is Final. Do you find it actually lib eratin g not to submit yourself to certain supposed completion in painting? The Study is Final series focuses on the subject as paramount, thereby rendering the background and any extraneous factors obsolete. When I was looking at the work of Durer I was struck by the intensity of his studies and noticed that the power of his initial observations did not translate into his final paintings. The subjects of his studies stood alone, removed from their environment to be properly appreciated. Taking inspiration from this I started removing the backgrounds from my paintings, in a sense reducing my works to simple studies, but in doing so elevating the status of my subject to all-important. There is something incredibly liberating in taking away unneeded clutter in your own work, realising what is truly important and focusing on only that. How was the parallel between instant photos and meticulous p a i n t i n g s conceived in iPaintin g s series? My iPainting series gave me chance to remove decision making from my process. I used the photos my wife took on her phone as the subject matter for this entire series of paintings. Prior to this project I had felt that my work was becoming too contrived and if I wasn’t careful could be misconstrued as pastiche. I needed to break all the rules and mental blocks that I had set up around my practice and I found that letting my wife create the subject matter that I painted from to be a great solution. Not only does 204 ROOMS The Cover Artist Uncovered
Crown, 2014 Oil on dyed canvas
Push Pull, 2013 Oil on linen
this series describe our life in a random way it also allowed me to paint all sorts of things that I would not dream of painting normally. These iPaintings serve as a period of change in my practice that I needed to go through for a better understanding of what I needed to do, I dare say in a few more years I may need to break all my rules again to start afresh. Does each p a i n t i n g require mental p r e p aratio n s besides the technical? Choosing the subject to which I am going to dedicate so much of my time is extremely daunting. There are countless times during the execution of my paintings that I question why I started the bloody thing in the first place. I think every painter should wonder why they are adding yet another image into a world that is already fully saturated with useless paintings that are taking up far too much space and natural resources. I feel that I really have to care about what I paint for the painting to survive the process of me painting it. I love and care about my subjects who are often woven deeply into the structure of my existence and will now live on for the foreseeable future in many layers of paint. You have worked with paint on metal as well as laser mapping. What is the attraction of the luminance and chiaroscuro for you? Why is light important? Light is integral to the practice of every visual artist. Light helps describe a subject but can also be used to trick and confuse the viewer, to create an illusion. Using lasers to create a contour map of my body was a great way of understanding form without using chiaroscuro. Nothing can hide in the shadows as it describes the actual reality of the body. My work on metal, on the other hand, was to create an illusory effect, a kind of hologram. I wanted to make the metallic background of these pieces move independently to the painted foreground. I realised that sanding the metal in different directions caught the light in a multitude of ways and as the onlooker moved past
Princess Julia in Meadham Kirchhoff, 2014 Oil on linen
the painting the background would undulate. As the background moves, the foreground remains static and the figure jumps off the surface of the picture as if itâ€™s in 3D space. The possibilities of using light to your advantage are endless; I love to experiment with kaleidoscopes, stereoscopic paintings and of course camera obscura to keep life interesting.Â
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Together The Fashtons Your team of two as The Fashtons seems only natural and bound from an artistic marriage. Did this idea of collaboration come soon enough after you met? Ben: It came very naturally for me as I have always used the people in my immediate vicinity in my work. My second solo show was built around the beginning of our relationship, living together in a tiny flat in Bloomsbury. The natural light in that flat was reminiscent of the Dutch Genre period so that influenced my approach to this series. It was during the creation of this series that I started working from photos Fiona had taken on her phone to get a more candid insight into our lives, which became the iPaintings series. She has remained one of my most regular muses ever since and will probably remain to be for the rest of my life. Fiona: Ben’s optical work inspired me from early on – this use of distorting elements struck me as a wonderful way to bring analogue effects to digital imagery. Instead of the purpose they were intended, I was inspired to use them to interfere with the shot; kaleidoscopes, lenses, Perspex structures – all lent a weirdness to my images that couldn’t be replicated with post-production, leaving a viewer wondering how it was done. This was the first level of Ben’s influence on my work; I used elements like this shooting in fashion, as well as artists like James Blake and Flux Pavilion. Later when we worked together from the concept up, on the Aluna George artwork, we really realised that we make a great team that can offer a lot in the way of production and
execution. This all happened and continues to happen very naturally; it’s such a gift, one for which I am genuinely grateful. Which role is more challenging: being each other’s subject or critic? Fiona: The criticism certainly does come naturally – I think the mutual respect we share for each other’s practice makes it natural to be honest and to receive the criticism as it’s intended. Being the subject, I think, we both find it pleasantly annoying. Ben insists on taking unflattering close-up pictures of my skin and painting them faithfully, and I’m forever shooting him with his kit off. Ben: I think we execute both of these roles with a surprising amount of ease. We work and live in a very tight environment, using each other as sounding boards. If we didn’t do these things extremely naturally we would have probably broken up long ago. A number of The Fashtons’ projects are made in dimness – the aesthetics inherent with Fiona’s photography. How important is the absorbing darkness for a project like WIFE’s album video? Ben: I think it’s fair to say that we are both equally interested in the play between light and shadow. I taught myself to paint from the likes of Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Van Dyke and so developed a strong appreciation for chiaroscuro. Funnily enough our appreciation of light and dark is reflected in our home studio, the ground floor is constantly blacked out and in stark contrast, the upstairs benefits from brilliant natural light from our many skylights. Fiona: I’m a complete Goth by nature. I don’t know what happened to me in my youth (probably Labyrinth) but I have always been drawn to the dark side of things, this naturally extends to my work. I believe in the case of the WIFE project, the darkness was vital to communicate the depth of audio element, to allow the eye to absorb a visual context that complements the music rather than demanding attention away from it.
You also employed optical elements in a recent film for Ada Zanditon’s couture. How then, did light come into play in this regard? Ben: I created the optical elements for this shoot, they were designed to be held in front of the camera lens, allowing Fiona to manipulate the image manually. All the effects that are used in our shoots are done in camera to allow for happy accidents to happen. I provide Fiona with Kaleidoscopes, prisms and mirrors to be used at her discretion. Fiona: In working with Ada and her team, I have the wonderful luxury of creating, genuinely – much of what we achieved on the day was improvised, as Ben says, ‘happy accidents’ which is something that I really do love and value in my collaborators: flexibility and spontaneity. Ben’s optical elements were a jumpingoff point for me in my direction, but the movement of our subject, Caitlin Curran, the structure and design of Ada’s pieces, and the stunning location were all characters in the final product, not to mention the extraordinary sound design by Sebastian Bartz. “Sanity is a cosy lie”, once said by Susan Sontag. With both of your interest in faces, have you found a framework for portraying the hidden emotions? Ben: I hope so! When I start a portrait I look to achieve a subtle, nuanced emotion, this comes with many layers and minute changes to facial features and posture. I am always looking for a better representation of the person’s character than the photo I work from. It’s important to really get to know the sitter
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before starting the painting. You need to understand the quirks in their personality, the idiosyncrasies that make one unique. The success of a portrait can come down to the turn of a lip or a glint in the eye, you often find that it comes down to a single brushstroke for the emotion to ring true. Fiona: I feel a real connection to the idea of portraying human emotion – it’s probably fundamentally why I do what I do. Photography is so ephemeral in nature, in the sense that what I am privileged to capture can only be there for the splitsecond of my exposure. It may be a second of far-away thought that the sitter is unaware that anyone else could see, or indeed the briefest relaxing of guard that many subjects naturally have up when they first sit for a portrait. I take immense pride in cracking that facade and leaving my subjects feeling relaxed
and happy and often surprised that they feel relaxed and happy. It’s in that release that I’m able to capture that human emotion, that essence that makes someone who they are. Without it, a photograph is edifice only. Finally, what do you look forward to next? The Fashtons: Beyond our individual endeavours, our next projects include video works for Maya Jane Coles and stills for Django Django, which we are looking very much forward to, along with countless other experiments and whims which we have in mind. But perhaps our greatest collaboration comes very soon in the arrival of our first child, at the end of this year.
London | UK THEFASHTONS.com
16 9 772046 550009
Superluminal The Fashtons Fiona Garden & Ben Ashton City Under One Sun. Kitsuné. onedotzero. Alex Chinneck. Nicolas Provost. JJ Medina. Na...
Published on Dec 22, 2014
Superluminal The Fashtons Fiona Garden & Ben Ashton City Under One Sun. Kitsuné. onedotzero. Alex Chinneck. Nicolas Provost. JJ Medina. Na...