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Massimo Vitali

Massimo Vitali has had a long whirlwind romance with photography. Starting off in the Sixties as a photojournalist the Italian artist came to be recognised as a “Concerned Photographer”  i.e. someone who uses their pictures to educate and change the world, not just record it.  Driven by humanitarian impulse if you like, rather than vain inspiration. Admirable stuff. Yet, at the beginning of the Eighties Vitali and his camera hit a rocky patch. He grew increasingly suspicious that the still snapshot lacked the capacity to reproduce the subtleties of reality he felt and saw. And so, he switched to film. The affair was short lived and before long he returned to his camera. “Photography as a means for artistic research” or better described as jet setting to far flung places to spy on semi naked bodies in the name of art… Though perhaps all photographers are secret voyeurs.

Here is just a little taster of what he does…

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http://www.massimovitali.com

Ones to watch: Ed Fringe Recap

This was my first year at Edinburgh Fringe – a very generous late birthday present from a good (now even better) friend who I suspect bought me the flights so that she wouldn’t have to go alone but never mind the reason, it was probably the best birthday present i’ve ever received (apart from a puppy on my 8th birthday, nothing beats that). It was the highlight of my summer so far and I’ve had a pretty great summer as far as summers go. Anyway as Fringe officially finished today, I thought I’d write down a few of my favourites as a self-reminder for next year but also in case they head to London in the near future…

THE DUCK POND: withWings theatre company apparently turned heads at last year’s festival with their clever re-imagining of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and this year’s re-telling of “Swan Lake” was just as much of a success, selling out the night before each performance. Without giving too much of the story away… the action takes place at a fairground seeing the Prince hook his true love on his 21st birthday under moonlight. What follows is a passionate and amusing love story as the Prince attempts to break the spell that suspends his love in feathery (or rather rubbery) form. The physical performances by the two leads were utterly absorbing as was the music all written and performed by the cast – an exceptionally talented bunch of individuals. Rumour has it that the production may be coming to Hoxton in December. Fingers crossed.

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BIG BROTHER: BLITZKRIEG: Max Elton’s concept of Adolf Hitler in the Big Brother house sounds simple on paper but makes for a very clever and genuinely hilarious play.  The Furher’s housemates include the usual bunch of unfortunately very realistic stereotypes: dodgy dealer/self-acclaimed entrepreneur Clive, performing arts student/kate moss wannabe Camilla, bejewelled chav Michael (aka M-CAT) and the food obsessed middle-aged widow Maude. The compact venue at Fringe worked to the play’s advantage, maintaining an uncomfortable line between humour and fascism as Hitler spat globules of spit onto nervous audience members. Here’s a couple of  their teaser trailers…

BOTTLENECK: Luke Barnes’s play about the Hillsborough disaster is perhaps one of the most impressive pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen. The story (performed by one actor, the brilliant James Cooney) follows fourteen year old Greg from Liverpool on his mission to earn enough money to pay for tickets to the Liverpool FC game on his birthday. It would be a mistake to ruin the power of the performance, but it left us stunned, mesmerised and completely humbled. It’s something you need to see when you’re feeling ecstatically joyful or stable, otherwise it might be difficult to cope.

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CALYPSO NIGHTS: Essentially this is just an hour or so of Juan Vesuvius, a Venezuelan Calypso DJ (aka Barnie Duncan) mixing calypso music and saying random things about cunnilingus whilst rudely gesturing with a pair of maracas. It was one of the most surreal experiences i’ve ever had, but also the funniest. It ended with us all dancing on stage to Soca which sounds a little like this…

 

 

 

 

 

Alice Rainis: Ongoing Projects

London/Paris based photographer Alice Rainis has a way of finding beauty in the everyday – it’s an enviable talent and often makes her pieces very poignant. She’s got a number of long term projects which she adds to every now and then, such as the series of Polaroid Portraits, Music Artists Off Stage or Late Nights Early Mornings (well worth flicking through), but the most recent of these and the most interesting is XXI Century which features portraits of the creative or inspiring people who have crossed her path. She adds a new image every two weeks with a one line blurb beneath telling you who’s who and what’s what. 

 Check out her full portfolio on her website: http://www.alicerainis.com/. She’s a cool kid.

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London Art Fair Discovery 1: Karine Laval

I’ve only just returned to the list of names I jotted down at London Art Fair back in January (rediscovery is so exciting) and over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing the best of the bunch on here. First up is New York based photographer, Karine Laval. I’ve always been fascinated by images of the human body and water so it’s no surprise that Laval’s series of poolside photographs grabbed my attention. Her images of bodies submerged under water are utterly compelling in their focus on the natural process of distortion and intense colour.

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They make a vibrant contrast to much of Laval’s other work which heavily utilises light to create sunlight saturated images that are bare by comparison. This, however, is no criticism. There’s something very intriguing about the whiteness of her island images, for example, where the sand and sky are barely separated by a thin strip of blue sea and seem to go on forever… A landscape of dreams. At least that’s what it looks like to me – it’s hard to imagine such brightness with wind and rain slapping against your window.

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View Laval’s full portfolio here: http://www.karinelaval.com/. It’s also well worth checking out her videos via  vimeo. There’s a few very hypnotic and brilliant shorts including this one of a professional dancer performing underwater:

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Solange reveals video for ‘Lovers in a Parking Lot’

You can always count on Solange to wear some crazy outfit whilst dubiously dancing in equally dubious places. Last time it was in a suit outside a caravan, this time it’s in a silver metallic shirt (possibly made from tin foil) inside what looks like an old school video arcade. Unlike the last vid though, this one’s dark. I mean that literally, not so much in a sinister way. We’re talking a pitch-black screen for the first six or seven seconds. And it’s exciting. You find yourself wondering if this is actually Solange’s new video or some massive hoax. Perhaps the video has been removed from youtube due to explicit content? Sadly it hasn’t. The raunchiest it gets is a pair of lycra pink hot pants which, let’s be honest, these days is almost prudish. What really happens is….

On second thoughts I’m not going to tell you what appears when darkness gives way to light, I had to sit through a tense seven seconds and you’ll have to do the same. So there.

And here’s a question for you: Solange’s dancing – malcoordinated or pretty nifty?

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Conceptual Photography by Juliana Manara

Brazilian artist and photographer, Juliana Manara’s conceptual series ‘MiniB’ takes you into the surreal world of imagination; a world where you can paint a zebra, walk along a telephone wire and get your head stuck in a cloud, literally. Whilst all these scenarios would seem utterly ridiculous and let’s be honest, probably drug induced if they were paintings or illustrations, they seem more plausible in the black and white photographic medium and it takes a minute or two to register that anything peculiar is going on.

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Yes that is a shark in a goldfish bowl and yes, that young man does look ready to dive in at any minute. Well, at least he’s taking a float ring with him. Safety first.

In the words of Manara herself: ‘Each work brings ideas of feelings, facts or attitudes. It introduces multiple meanings with the universality of landscapes, sometimes surreal environments and always a good relationship between human and other animals or the needy relation between humans and material things. MiniB invites us to dialogue about our existence and also can claim to some absurdities of the human conditions.’

286289-11461814-7What I really love about the series though, is the way it pokes fun at human existence. Enough of that existential angst. Just laugh.

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Prints of the series are available, for a pretty penny, via the Saatchi Gallery: http://www.saatchionline.com/julianamanara

And you can find more out about Juliana Manara on her website: http://www.julianamanara.com/

 

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Fashion inspired watercolour paintings by Cate Parr

UK-born fashion illustrator, Cate Parr blends a combination of bold and pastel colours to create graceful, ethereal paintings that soften the air-brushed precision of glossy magazines.

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Her paintings transform well-known figures into beautiful works of art, preserving their natural elegance and restoring a sense of old age glamour.  You know you’ve made it big when people start making watercolour paintings of your face. One day. One day.

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Whilst originals are priced at around $200 each (Cate is currently based in California), you can pick up a print via Etsy for as little as a fiver. Cheap as chips. They would make a nice set of birthday cards too…

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To see more of Cate’s paintings head over to her website where you can also find links to her store and Etsy: http://www.cateparr.com

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King Krule Releases Snazzy New Video

With a voice more manly than Danny Dyer, ginger hair and lanky arms, there’s a lot to love about Archy Marshall (aka King Krule) and his new vid just adds to the charm. Not only is the track ‘Easy Easy’ simply splendid, paving the way for an equally excellent debut album, but the video is super cool too. Shot partially through a fish eye lens, partially through something grainy looking (I’m not one for camera technicalities), the video features London looking at it’s edgy best whilst Archy, dressed in a suit (of course), smokes a cig, hops over fences and hangs out with a rather suspect looking character on rooftops. Ladz.

Here’s Archy looking well ‘ard:

KK-467And here’s the vid:

 

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Drinking tea with Hannah Adamaszek

‘I really like native Indians,’ Hannah Adamaszek smiles when I ask where her inspiration comes from. She sits opposite me, nestled into the sofa in her living room in West Sussex. It’s not obviously the home of an artist. For one thing there’s a lot less mess than I expected. In fact, it’s meticulously clean, but the paintings on the wall of Pocahontas like figures with colourful hair and strong eyes are somewhat of a give away.

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‘Yes I guess the girl in my paintings does look a bit like Pocahontas,’ Hannah agrees. ‘I normally source photos online and merge maybe two or three faces together to make one person. Somehow, they all end up looking fairly similar. I’d love to do a photo shoot with a model at some point though.’ It’s not hard to guess what Hannah’s favourite film was a child! ‘I’m also really into native fashion. I take bits of inspiration from Spell Designs (http://www.spelldesigns.com/) who make clothes and jewellery and also from the Native Americans themselves’.

Interestingly, however, it seems to only be Native American women that fascinate Hannah. ‘I prefer to use women in my paintings. I have done men in the past, but it’s more fun painting a woman and I’m a woman so I find I can connect with the figure more’.

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It’s also largely Hannah’s use of women that makes her work as, at least partially, a street artist so unique. To a predominantly male dominated world, her work brings femininity and beauty without passivity. Though the colours she uses are subdued (‘I like to listen to calm music when I paint’), her women are expressively bold and powerful.

‘My work has changed a lot since Uni.’ Hannah trained at Bournemouth Arts Institute where she mainly focused on photography.  ‘ Not that I was very good at it!’ She adds honestly. ‘ I was really interested in documentaries. I worked with the homeless for a bit and that kind of thing. Then when I finished uni I got an office job, which lasted about 6 months before I decided it wasn’t for me and went travelling instead.’

It took a while for her to actually start painting again and it wasn’t until she got back from ski seasons in Austria and Switzerland that she picked up a paintbrush – and a spray can. ‘I tried playing around with a few stencils to see what it was like and found that I really enjoyed using spray paint so I started to incorporate that into my work as well. It took quite a long time to get it how I wanted though!’

The result is – especially up close – very impressive; a unique blend of the precision and neatness of fine art with the gritty, spontaneity of street art – not unlike the work of current artist, Conor Harrington (who incidentally Hannah’s a big fan of). Harrington generally works on huge canvases or paints directly onto street walls.‘The only work I’ve done actually on the street is during live painting sessions where you’re given some boards to paint on’, says Hannah. ‘I’ve got one up in London at the moment, which has been placed on the side of a building. It’s such an amazing feeling to see your work out in public’.

Hannah’s also hugely admiring of abstract artist, Kristin Gaudio Endsley, who she sometimes collaborates with. ‘We normally meet up in Kristin’s studio in London and share ideas – she’s got a really great studio where we can work together.’ Hannah currently paints in her spare room, where disastrously she spills a pot of acrylic when showing me the sheet she uses to cover the floor – one of the hazards of being an artist. ‘I usually start by painting the figure and Kristin will pick the colours and paint around it. I really struggle with background and colour – so she really helped me out with that.’

Looking at Hannah’s paintings it’s hard to imagine she struggles with anything. They seem so effortless and relaxed. I wonder how long it takes to finish a painting on average? ‘It depends. The longest part of the process is deciding what to paint. I’m not the world’s best decision maker, but once I’ve started it can take 3 or 4 days maybe.’

With a show this month and her first solo show in September (‘which I can’t believe I’m doing!’), Hannah has lots of painting and planning to do, but she’s still looking forward to the future.‘I’d like to do some work abroad, do the stroke art fair in Munich and perhaps see what’s in the US as well.’

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She seems to be an artist whose not only comfortable working with lots of mediums, but also with working in different environments and with different people. It is perhaps her flexibility (alongside her talent – of course) that has opened so many doors. When I ask her which was the most exciting project she’s done, she can’t choose: ‘I really enjoyed doing the Brandalism project, working with about 25 other artists. We were each given a brief and had to create something for a sort of anti-advertising campaign. The guys running the project hijacked billboards across the UK and pasted up our anti-adverts across the top of them. It was nice to have a bit of focus and do something different to my usual work.’

The project certainly caused quite a stir with the press (described by Dr. D in 2012 as ‘taking the piss with a point’) and was covered by the Independent.

I ask Hannah how she feels about the rise of social media as an artist. ‘I’ve only really got into social media over the last 6months to year. It takes a long time to understand, but there’s huge potential to use it as an artist to find new customers, new events etc.’

As an advocate of the ‘shop local’ concept, Hannah’s especially a fan of blogs, which work closely with local artists and bring more attention to art in general. ‘Places like Ikea sell prints for the same amount as an artist might sell an original limited edition print and I don’t think people perhaps realize that they can get something from a local London artist (if they live in London) for a similar sort of price’. At the very least it prevents your sitting room from looking like an Ikea catalogue. Who says individuality is dead?

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This interview took place in Hannah’s home on 25th July 2013.

All photographs were taken by the wonderful Corin Brown: www.corinashleighbrown.co.uk

Hannah’s solo exhibition runs from 5th-21st September at the Curious Duke Gallery.

You can buy Hannah’s paintings via her website: http://hannahchloe.com/

Read more about the Brandalism movement here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/brandalism-street-artists-hijack-billboards-for-subvertising-campaign-7953151.html

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Film of the week: Beasts of the Southern Wild

I hate it when a film receives a lot of hype. I know it shouldn’t have this effect, but when somebody tells me to watch a film because ‘it’s the best thing they’ve seen in years’, I become instantly wary. With a statement like that, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is one such film. Released in 2012, with 4 Oscar nominations and an unusually enticing title, it certainly had a reputation to live up to. And live up to it, it most certainly did. It may not be ‘the best thing I’ve seen in years’, but it’s definitely one of the most truly original, stunning films I’ve ever seen.

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‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is an eccentric and wildly magical tale of life seen through the eyes of a six-year-old girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), living on the margins of America. Adapted from a one-act play by Lucy Alibar, the story takes place in a remote region of Louisiana where Hushpuppy lives in a ramshackle trailer with, or rather next to her unpredictable father, Wink . This is a community where children feed, wash and teach themselves, but with the imminent destruction of her community (rising waters will flood the bayou) and orphanhood looming (her dad is ill, her mum dead) Hushpuppy finds herself in a position of terrifying independence. Suppressed emotions (crying is absolutely forbidden in ‘the Bathtub’) manifest themselves in extraordinary imaginings of melting ice caps, avalanches and ferocious pre-historic beasts as Hushpuppy’s world looses stability and she learns to survive life’s struggles. 

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Beautifully poetic and colourful, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is fun, fantastical and as gritty as a hard-hitting documentary. The acting is phenomenal – Wallis is well deserving of her oscar nomination for best actress – and the cinematography pretty top-notch too (the film is shot on grainy 16mm – nice!). If you have time to watch one film this week make it this – if it disappoints, I’ll eat my hat.

Hit play to watch the trailer. I’m excited for you.

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