Tag Archives: artist

Alternative Realities: Olya Tsoraeva

I’m fascinated by animators. The best thing I could form out of play dough as a child was “rock cakes” or if i was feeling especially creative, a very ill-proportioned stick man. I suffered and still do suffer from the fatal combination of impatience and stumpy, clumsy fingers. “No,” my friend kindly told me, “you could never be a hand model. Unless it was for modelling bricks on a construction site.”

I’ve never seen Olya Tsoraeva’s hands but i imagine them to be long and elegant, quick and nimble. Surely they must be to create such mini masterpieces out of plasticine? And I know she’s got patience. For her stop motion film, in which she remoulded Thom Yorke’s face in an alternative video for Radiohead’s “Creep”, she spent a year in darkness: four months fiddling around with his features and nine handcrafting the animation. That’s perseverance verging on obsession.

“Don’t you lose inspiration after the first six months?” I asked an artist once.

“Yeh sure you do,” she replied “but you just keep doing what you’re doing.”

“Like a job?”

“No, not like a job. Like everyday life.”

That stuck with me. It’s a relief to know that you don’t have to be wildly creative every single day to make something wonderful. Inspiration can be a little exhausting. As I took it, don’t give up if you’re struggling to see why you started.

Here’s ‘Skinless’ written and directed by Olya Tsoraeva. It’s my favourite of her small but impressive portfolio.

Keep an eye on what she’s up to here.

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Photographing the Photographic Image: Anne Collier

Anne Collier is an unusual type of photographer in the sense that she takes photographs of existing photographs. Largely, of famous women role models, Marilyn Monroe, of course, amongst a few lesser known feminine starlets of the past. Yet it’s not as straight forward or as unimaginative as it sounds. Collier holds her images quite literally at arms length, working with not just the image itself but with the background on which it appears: a frame, magazine, book, poster, a blank wall or textured surface. It has a distancing effect and totally readjusts our perspectives of well known work (reminiscent of Fiona Banner’s curated exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery here in London). A lot of her work, unsurprisingly, focuses on the “gaze”, forcing the viewer to reassess the way we view not just images but advertisements and people themselves. This naturally plays into the interesting and ever going debates surrounding female objectification and sexualisation. Taken out of their commercial context, what do these images mean and how should we view them?

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Enfant Terrible: Ed van der Elsken

Ed van der Elsken isn’t a name you come across often in the mainstream world of photography. Partly because he steered clear of commercial work and partly because of his reputation as the ‘enfant terrible’ (loosely translated as the troublesome child). Like a lot of great artists, he refused to play by the rules, photograph nice people and pretty landscapes, instead he aimed to photograph all aspects of reality – the best and the worst of human nature.

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“I report on young, rebellious scum with pleasure … I rejoice in everything. Love. Courage. Beauty. Also blood, sweat and tears.”

Born in Amsterdam, der Elsken started off his career with the intention of becoming a sculptor before moving to Paris and discovering ‘la bohemes’ of Saint-Germain-de-Prés who would become the focus of his photography. Though much of his work purports to be documentary, it remains closely intertwined with the theatrical and surreal reflecting on the drug hazed bohemian society in which he lived. That said, the pictures are clearly rooted in the everyday rather than the transcendent, recording ‘characters’ in their intimate daily routines of drinking coffee, dozing and daydreaming. These are people who really existed despite polite society’s attempts to believe otherwise…

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der Elken also made a pretty hypnagogic film, Death in the Port Jackson Hotel, which features the star of the artist’s most famous photography series, Love on the Left Bank, Vali Myers, and is worth a watch if you can handle drawn out interviews with doe eyed hippies and bizarre sequences of toads mating.

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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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Fish and Cocks: Ernest Goh

Photographer, Ernest Goh has a great sense of humour. His series of animal portraits, brilliantly named ‘The Fish Book’ and ‘Cocks’, capture the titled animals in very humanistic and hilarious poses against stark, bare backgrounds, making it all seem rather grand…

I’ve always thought chickens and fish were rather odd looking creatures, there’s something unsettling about the way they look at you, as if they’re plotting something…

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Goh’s work just confirms my suspicions.

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Check out Goh’s website to see some of his more serious stuff, it’s not all about fish and cocks: http://www.ernestgoh.com/

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Interview with Akio Suzuki

Taking his lead from nature, the Japanese sound artist on his latest performance at the North East festival, which sees him finding ‘sound spots’ around Newcastle city centre

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Akio Suzuki began experimenting with sound in the 1960s and is now recognised as a forerunner of the international sound-art scene. Despite of his numerous exhibitions and performances across the globe, Suzuki is a modest man modest who lives a humble life closely connected to nature. His gentle personality is reflected in the meditative nature of his work, which encourages listeners and viewers to experience an alternative perspective of the world.

This month, Akio Suzuki brings his work to Newcastle upon Tyne for AV Festival 14: Extraction. The biannual festival runs throughout March, and marks Suzuki’s first major solo exhibition in the UK featuring new work inspired by his visit to the North East coast. In keeping with the central focus of the festival, a re-imagining of the geologic through the exploration of the earth’s raw materials, Suzuki has created original artworks, both visual and aural, that make use of stones taken from the local pebbled beaches.

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Millie Walton: When did you first begin experimenting with sound?

Akio Suzuki: Originally I was studying architecture, but somehow I gave that up and became a sound artist. I’m not really sure how it happened! [Laughs] As an architect I was always working in a space and developed a fascination with the relationship between sound and space – that’s really the foundation of my art.

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Millie: All of your sound is created using instruments you have constructed by hand, the most significant of these being ‘Analapos’… how was the idea conceived?

Akio: I didn’t learn about sound in school, but from nature. Nature was my teacher. I would immerse myself in the surrounding environment and play around with natural sound phenomenons. For example, I would go to the mountainside or shout across the valley and listen to the way the sound came back. My interest in natural echoes then led me to start thinking about an instrument that could also create that kind of sound.

At the time I was collecting lots of junk in my studio, pieces of metal I found on the streets, and then one day when I was playing around with a metal can I attached a metal coil, and found that together they could create an echo effect similar to that of nature. So it was really by chance that I conceived the basic idea of analapos. I am always searching for these chance encounters and moments in life. It’s a bit like chemistry between objects, similar to that between a man and a woman. Sometimes there’s chemistry, sometimes there isn’t. If you just take a metal can it doesn’t make a sound but if you just attach a coil it creates a sound.

Millie: In the late 80s, for the ‘Space in the Sun’ project, you spent sunrise to sunset listening to the natural sounds of your surroundings. What was the purpose of this project?

Akio: I had no intention to become a performer, but in the 70s I somehow became one through people requesting live performances and exhibitions. ‘Space in the Sun’ was really about returning to my starting place, which was nature. I began learning from nature not as an artist, but just as a human being, and I wanted to be reminded of who I really was. I was listening to ‘La Mer’ a composition by the French classical composer Claude Debussy and I formed this idea that to create the piece, Debussy had sat on the beach for a day listening to the ocean. Debussy was actually inspired by Japanese print, but I was very moved by the idea that I had imagined so I started to build two red brick walls. It took two years to build the walls, which I then sat between for one day listening to the sounds of nature. In that time I didn’t create any other artworks but just channeled all of my energy into this one project. It was a way for me to reconnect with nature.

Millie: The AV Festival is very much centred around natural resources and landscapes this year. How is this theme explored in your solo exhibition at the Globe Gallery, and live performances?

Akio: I really love stones. I have a big selection of stones collected from beaches all around the world. When we [Aki and I] visited Newcastle last July, we went to a local beach and collected specific stones for the exhibition. I found ‘stone-flutes’, stones with natural holes in them, which I will be playing in our duo performance.

Millie: Your exhibition Na Ge Ka Ke meaning ‘to cast, to throw’ reflects on the general idea behind your artwork but also includes a collection of installations that are ‘of sound but are soundless’…

Akio: All of the pieces make sound but I have arranged them at the point before sound, the point at which I imagine the sound. I want visitors to imagine the sound before they actually hear it.

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Millie: This interest in provoking other’s imaginations seems to be at the centre of your work: tell me about your oto-date project, which invites people to explore their cities in unique ways.

Akio: When I was in my 20s, I started walking around various cities looking for echo points and specific locations, which have interesting sound phenomenons. It started off as a personal project, a ‘Self-Study Event’ before it developed into something I could share with the public. On our visit to Newcastle last summer, I walked around the city exploring the different sounds, but I didn’t actually choose the spots for the oto-date project until returning this time. Newcastle is a great oto-date city because the geography and architecture is very complex. Especially around the centre, there are lots of layers of stairs, big wide buildings and unusual sound spaces.

Akio Suzuki’s solo exhibition runs at Globe Gallery for the duration of the festival (until 31 March) along with the oto-date project. To find out more about the festival, and the performances, click here

Words: Millie Walton

Translation: Aki Onda

Photography: Janette Scott, courtesy AV Festival

This article was originally written for and published by PORT Magazine: http://www.port-magazine.com/music/av-festival-14-extraction-akio-suzuki/

To properly understand Akio’s art watch this short film of him exploring the acoustic of the Walthamstowe Marshes railway bridge in London:

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Activist Art: A chat with street artist, Chris Fleming

Ex-Newcastle University student Chris Fleming, street name Ida4, has attracted a lot of attention over the past couple of weeks for painting a mural in protest against Russia’s laws banning the publication and distribution of gay rights propaganda.The law has led to a dramatic increase in homophobic violence, putting Russian people’s lives and wellbeing in danger whilst also challenging the primary principle of the Olympic campaign that guarantees nondiscrimination. When questioned about the new laws Putin claimed that they were not at all discriminatory and were purely in place to protect children.

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As a member of the gay community in Newcastle I was curious to see how Chris responded to this backward attitude.

‘They’ve linked [being gay] with any alternative sexual kind of lifestyle. They’re saying it’s the same as paedophilia or bestiality or any thing that isn’t heterosexual is put in that group. No one is going to argue against protecting children from paedophiles but its implying that if they’re surrounded by gay people or they’re told that being gay is a viable lifestyle, it’s the norm, then its going to turn loads of kids gay. You can’t turn somebody gay just like you can’t turn somebody straight.’

The mural Chris painted on the day of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics aims to show support for those suffering from homophobic attacks in Russia and ‘just to say there’s people over here who know what’s going on.’ The image is based on a photograph taken at the St. Petersburg pride rally of a young boy being pushed to the floor and arrested by a policeman.

‘I did it originally last August… there’s some like graffiti arches round the back of the Sage and they do events every now and then so I decided I would just put it on one of those arches. I put it on Twitter and I sent it to Stephen Fry saying I’ve done this will you help spread it around and he retweeted it and it went absolutely mental. It got retweeted like 900 times and I got this email saying I was trending in the UK.’

The original image was painted over, but Chris decided to re-spray it opposite the Jurys Inn, adding the powerful background text from the Olympic charter. The new version of the mural has received wide spread media attention and personal responses. I ask Chris why he thinks street art in particular is such an effective way of addressing political concerns and issues.

‘I think it’s because it’s just judged and viewed. You’re walking along and bam it’s there in a doorway or you’re driving along and you see it. It’s not meant to be studied and looked at for hours. If you think about the history of street art… all the places that have big street art scenes generally had two groups of people who wanted to say something to each other. You’re just trying to say something in pictures or a couple of words.’

‘I’m very happy in my life but I’m aware that’s not the case with everybody. I’ll stand up for what I believe, just like personally, excluding all the street art, if I’m just sitting here and I hear somebody say something I will always challenge them because I’m in a position where I can. I hated that craze when everybody was saying ‘that’s gay, that’s totally gay’. That really used to bother me. It’s not going to change my life but I always think that if there’s like an 18, 19 year old boy in that group who’s in the closet and there’s people he really respects and they’re using the phrase, what he is, to mean shit… I always ask people to explain what they meant, and make them aware of the impact of what they’re saying. I think everybody has a responsibility ,whether you’re gay or straight to stand up for what you believe in.’

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Though Chris does not believe that the Olympics should have been boycotted, he feels disappointed that nobody has used it as a platform to speak out explicitly against the Russian government.

‘It would just be nice if somebody said we completely disagree with the laws. In recent years, it doesn’t matter what the government says, it just matters what the people say. That’s the only reason the Tories are so behind [gay rights] now. David Cameron voted no to every kind of gay law years back, but now he’s suddenly the ultimate supporter because he knows if he was anti-gay the British public wouldn’t like it.’

The laws in place have made it difficult for voices to be heard though. Athletes who wish to speak out against anti-gay legislation can only do so in a special ‘protest zone’ which is located 11 miles away from the Sochi Olympic village. The sponsors of the games however, Chris reminds me, still have the power to demonstrate their support for the gay community. ‘Budweiser always has a big party at the opening ceremony and they took that away. Coca Cola made a feeble attempt, sticking some gays in their adverts, which they didn’t even show worldwide.’

Having recently returned from a trip around Europe, ‘an art exchange’, painting murals in return for a room at various hostels, I wonder if Chris has considered visiting Russia.

‘I’ve thought about it but I’ve always thought I would never go to a country that didn’t support me as a member of the gay community. I’m not going to deny myself. I don’t deny what I am if anyone asks anywhere but I don’t want to be somewhere where you had to because otherwise you were putting yourself at massive risk. You’re always going to meet an arsehole, but it’s a different situation when the state is on your side.’

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Chris and his partner Jamie plan to continue their exchange in March, taking part in festivals and working with LGB charities all across Europe.

‘I’m kind of toying with the idea of cutting the image [the Olympic mural] out but smaller and then doing a run of like 25 or something and selling them for whatever and giving half of it to a Russian LGBT charity and then the other half will pay for the petrol to go round Europe. When we’re working for charities and stuff we don’t have the accommodation or food provided. Obviously we need living costs so we’re thinking that’s what we’re going to do.’

You can read more about Chris’s work and projects around Europe via his blog http://www.ida4ineurope.blogspot.co.uk or check out his website http://www.ida4.co.uk

This article was originally written for and published by ‘The Courier’: http://thecourieronline.co.uk/feature-activist-art/

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London Art Fair Discovery 2: Rosa Basurto

Probably the most impressive and interesting thing about Rosa Basurto is that she’s a self-taught photographer. That may not seem like much on paper but when you look at her work it’s really quite awe inspiring. I can’t pretend to know a huge amount about the technicalities of photography (most of my holiday snaps turn out blurry), but I like to think I can recognise the good from the bad, the great from the average and in my books, Basurto’s work definitely falls into the category of ‘the great’. Her photographs re-imagine real landscapes and scenarios in mysterious, intriguing and even at times, amusing ways. It’s playful but also seems sort of poetic and serious at the same time. I can’t help but feel, for example, that her image of a sky full of birds behind giant, looming red poppies has some very poignant significance…

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‘Habitat’ and ‘Mirando al cielo’ are amongst my favourite series of Basurto’s work but all of it is brilliant in it’s own way. Head over to her website to see fully appreciate her talent and versatility: http://www.rosabasurto.com/

Also watch this moving video of Basurto’s photography. It’s very cool indeed:

 

 

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Freeze frame: Lights in Chicago by Satoki Nagata

I came across Satoki Nagata’s work whilst idly browsing the internet for pictures of snow so that I could imagine myself blissfully sipping vin chaud on the slopes (the skiing snapchats are really getting to me) and though lacking the mountainous landscape I craved, I found myself mesmerised by Nagata’s beautiful wintery images.

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His series ‘Lights in Chicago’ is a collection of surrealist black and white photographs of people captured on the cold streets of the Windy City. Using a slow shutter speed, the Japanese photographer manages to create interesting layerings that produce an oddly ghostly effect and capture the action of that moment. Though the figures are nearly transparent, they are surrounded by a bright, angelic light that highlights their presence and creates an intriguing dynamic between shadow and light.

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Head over to Nagata’s website for a real visual treat. His documentary photography is also extremely powerful and well worth a browse. http://www.satoki.com/

[All images sourced from Nagata’s website]

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Fernando de la Rocque: marijuana smoke paintings

Fernando de la Rocque when questioned about his artistic motivation answered, ‘I always like to create art with pleasure’… in other words with wine or weed…

His most provocative series ‘Blow Job – Work of Blowing’ consists of a collection of images of political and religious icons created out of marijuana smoke which he blows onto paint in pre-cut stencils. Inevitably it was a laid back process – each image apparently took approximately a week to finish with the smoke of about five joints a day, leaving the artist, no doubt, feeling a little hazy eyed and confused. Admittedly, the golden-hued images are fairly impressive, maybe not quite worth their price tag ( $2, 500 a piece ), but all in all weed well spent.

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Check out Fernando’s blogspot to see what else he’s up to: http://www.fernandodelarocque.blogspot.co.uk/

 

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