Friday, 25 November 2011

Little White Lies Review: An African Election

(Originally published on Little White Lies)

Barely distinguishable political parties, colourful characters, dodgy rhetoric, corruption and fake smiles… It must be election time again. Although this might sound like a familiar scenario, any comparisons with British or US politics are purely coincidental. This is the lead up to the 2008 Ghanaian democratic elections, during which filmmaker siblings Jarreth and Kevin Merz goes behind the scenes to document the political to-ing and fro-ing of the leading parties and the battle for domination that ensues.

A solidly structured approach to the very slippery subject of democracy, An African Election relies on the natural build up of tension and anticipation in the lead up to the electoral contest. The New People’s Party have been in office for eight years, and the National Democratic Congress, the more left-leaning opposition, want to knock them off their perch.

On the streets and in the workplace, Ghanaians just want more jobs, greater access to healthcare and education, and increased food production. Each party is willing to promise whatever it takes to convince the population to put the X next to them on the ballot paper.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Murder Disco! at Pop-Up Circus, Sunday 27 November

My video installation Murder Disco! will be screening as part of Pop-Up Circus in Hackney on Sunday 27th November. See their website for a full list of screenings, performances and art.

Monday, 21 November 2011

ArtSlant Review: Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery

(Originally published on ArtSlant)

Digital photography has gifted us the monkeys and typewriters theory in action: with no printing costs we can snap away and fluke ourselves a beautifully constructed shot. But pinpointing exactly what makes a magical photo and reproducing this by design not chance is a different matter, especially when it comes to portraits.

When a photographic portrait works it’s incredibly powerful and nuanced; in a fraction of a second the photographer distills something of their complex subject. A truly affecting portrait must be intimate but simultaneously metaphorical, detailed but still mysterious, speaking of the personal as well as the universal.

So on what basis do the judges for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize whittle-down thousands of entries? Every year the selection throws up a host of contradictory views on whether the entries are brilliant or in fact a monkey with a camera could have done as well, which makes it an exhibition well worth seeing.

ArtSlant Review: Jennifer West, Heavy Metals : Iron and Zinc at Vilma Gold

(Originally published on ArtSlant)

There’s a long tradition of cameraless filmmaking that takes in the likes of Man Ray Norman McLaren and Stan Brakhage, so LA based video artist Jennifer West is in good company. Whether her male counterparts applied substances to the celluloid surface via headbanging remains fairly doubtful, but this performative approach manipulating celluloid film is partly what sets West apart.

The headbanging in question formed part of the making of her two Heavy Metal Sharks Calming films, inspired by an article by an Australian shark breeder who discovered that playing heavy metal music to Great Whites actually calmed them down. West took footage of the movie Jaws and literally applied heavy metal to it in the form of black dye. The performance came about as the means of application, for which West and another flung the dye from their hair onto the surface by headbanging along to heavy metal music.

A behind-the-scenes documentary would have been great, but there’s not hint at the mode of production in the work itself. What results is a beautifully distorted version of Jaws in which scenes are still recognizable but colours play across the screen and imbue the shark-based thriller with a rich abstract overlay.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Photos: Jennifer West at Vilma Gold

Some images I took at the Jennifer West show at Vilma Gold. West transforms the surface of celluloid film using different substances and physical processes to create new imagery or adapt existing footage into new projected works. Her works undergo a transformation from the tangible, solid object into dancing, intangible light. Of course, taking a photo of them transforms them once more, but it's a Sunday and I'm more interested in looking at the images than theorizing them...

Monday, 14 November 2011

See Film Differently Interview: Rebecca Hall for The Awakening

I was the interviewer for this one rather than the filmmaker, but I got to meet the lovely Rebecca Hall to talk about her part in The Awakening for See Film Differently.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Saatchi Magazine Interview: Hayley Lock

Photo by Laura Bushell

 (Originally published on Saatchi Online Magazine)

Hayley Lock’s works are populated by a cast of intriguing characters whose visual form and biographical history have been absorbed, mulled over and reformulated by the artist as part of her ongoing game of truth versus illusion. Like a writer with series of novels in the pipeline,
there is a melting pot of stories, ideas, snippets of overheard conversation and a multitude of characters that bubbles away in the background, only to be drawn upon when the time is right. Unusually, the act of writing and research is key to Lock’s artistic practice, which so far has encompassed painting, drawing, collage, sound, video andsculpture as a means of articulation of its text based roots. This year, Lock’s work has been shown around the UK as part of Transition
Gallery’s The Count of Monte Cristo and she has a collaborative project, (Now that would be) Telling, creating site specific works for five National Trust stately homes together with five writers. She sat downwith Laura Bushell to begin to unravel the complex tale of her work itself…

Photo by Laura Bushell

Could you describe where you’re at with your practice now?

I’m currently exploring the idea of duality and reflection. This is
why I’m really interested in fact and fiction, so I’m exploring those
ideas of subverting truth… what’s truth and what isn’t truth? Lots of
the projects I’m working on at the moment are about me looking at and researching things on the surface and then trying to make up new histories, which may or may not be true, beneath that surface. It’s quite layered my work, quite complex.
With (Now that would be) Telling I’m actually quite privileged to work with writers and we’re coming up with new ways of working, which is really interesting. I’m trying out new things, seeing if it’s successful or not, trying to measure that. I’m really interested in portraiture and where these people may or may not have come from, truth, rumour, playing with rumour.

Narrative plays a strong role in your work, whether its historical or fictional, or somewhere in the grey area between.

The blur of the edges is what I like. Something will for some reason scream at me and interest me and I’ll end up twisting and turning it and then putting it back into its original setting. It’s about exploring
both the visual and the written word too, I’m working with text a lot. I’m also really interested in conversation so I’ll be out and about somewhere and if I hear a particularly interesting statement or someone says something silly I tend to use that as titles for work. That gets fed back in.

What I’m doing within my work is developing what I see as a really big concept or story, a big body of work. When I’m making work for difference places or something I’ve instigated, it’s all going into the melting pot. So these portraits that I’m exploring are all part of a bigger story and as I’m making them I’m talking to them, having a conversation, and writing these things down. Then that goes back into the story again to be mixed around and explored as and when is relevant.

So you have a big cast to choose form for your work?

Yes, there is a big cast, it’s quite theatrical. I think film is where my work needs to go next, to try those ideas in some kind of moving imagery of some description.

Do you come from a theatre or writing background?

No. I’ve always made work, drawn and fiddled around since I was quite young, that classic thing. I love painting and collage but I don’t stick with them, I’m constantly trying out new working ways. It twists and turns all the time and I don’t think I’m in control of it, which I quite enjoy. I feel like I’m steering it and I don’t know what the end is going to be, I don’t know even if there is an end.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

FAD Video: Pipilotti Rist, Eyeball Massage at Hayward Gallery

Here's a video that I made for FAD at the Pipilotti Rist, Eyeball Massage exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, when the artist and curator gave a tour to the press. Directed by me, music by the marvelous Jake Ridley.

Monday, 17 October 2011

ArtSlant Review: Gerhard Richter, Panorama at Tate Modern

(Originally published on ArtSlant)

The world is divided into those who think painting is dead, and those who continue to do it anyway. German master painter Gerhard Richter is defiantly in the latter camp, and Tate Modern’s extensive survey of his fifty-year career at the easel shows this in spades. 

From the range of painterly concerns on show in Panorama, it seems that Richer has never let up. He continues to experiment with the application of paint and to question painterly representation, moving from his distinctive blurred photograph paintings through giant bright rugged abstracts, traditional pensive still lifes and portraiture, and stark colour grids. Panorama sometimes feels like a group show from one person’s multiple painter personalities.

But this diversity doesn’t signify a lack of focus, in fact it’s how we focus that’s at question here. There’s a thread running through Richter’s work that questions representation, most famously in his meticulously rendered copies of black and white photographs with their feather-light blurring. Endlessly reproducible tabloid imagery gets fixed in oil paint, while old family photos of relatives lost to war gain extra distance and poignancy as they fade into gentle grey smudges.

ArtSlant Review: Grisaille at Luxembourg & Dayan

(Originally published on ArtSlant)

An exhibition celebrating the use of grey paint doesn’t sound like the most spectacular of prospects; the pigeon amongst the peacocks of the gallery world if you will. But NYC gallerists Luxembourg & Dayan have demonstrated how limitation can be the mother of invention with the compact but compelling Grisaille, which inaugurates their new London space in Mayfair. 

Without colour dominating the works, other ideas can come to the fore, like form, texture, surface, shape and contrast as well as the spectrum between figuration and abstraction. Curator Alison Gingeras has asserted her wish to defy Delacroix’s statement that “the enemy of all painting is grey.” Instead, she sees the reductive qualities of the grisaille palette as a launch pad into a world of formal and conceptual possibilities.

That makes things more intriguing even before we get to the list of names on show here, the likes of Gerhard Richter, the workshop of Dürer, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Rob Pruitt, and Cy Twombly.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

FAD Video: Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács at Moving Image

A video I made for FAD when I met the makers of Mastering Bambi at the Moving Image Contemporary Video Art Fair.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

FAD Video: Edward Winkleman at Moving Image

I met with Edward Winkleman, co-founder of the Moving Image Contemporary Video Art Fair, to make a video introduction to his fantastic event all the way from NYC. Originally published on FAD.

FAD Interview: Oliver Michaels at Moving Image

(Originally published on FAD)

With his work showing at Moving Image Contemporary Video Art Fair, FAD caught up with Brooklyn based artist Oliver Michaels for a quick chat about the show and the video installation he is exhibiting…

Why do you use video?
It’s the language of our times. Over the past decade film making has been liberated from it’s previous financial restraints. Advancements in consumer equipment and software has opened up an area that is really exciting to work within as it uses the same vernacular as the media encompassed society we live in today.

How do you combine video and installation?
I’m not sure where installation stops and sculpture begins but I see these pieces more as sculptures than installation. I built the structures to host the videos, to bring them off the walls so that the viewer interacts with them within the space. Each structure is stage appropriate to each video and it’s form reflects this.

What’s the background to your work showing at Moving Image?
In the Museum Postcards series I wanted to liberate these beautiful and powerful objects, to give them a rest for a while from their burden of history. I also wanted to create bastard children of the actual historical objects and pop software. I developed my understanding of the space of history from a diverse range of sources over the years; a good understanding of The Greek landscape say, was informed as much through carry on movies, hip hop videos and computer games, as it was museums, neo-classical architecture and textbooks etc. so I found this relationship to history and it’s artifacts an interesting area to work in.

Can you tell us about the specific piece you’re showing?
In ‘Lover’s’ a beautiful and authoritative black marble bust of Abraham Lincoln presents a dialogue that is a compilation of hundreds of snippets of sourced descriptive writing pasted together; a spoken word version of the juxtapositions of materials in sculpture. The piece presents three experiences of the same thing, looking at a sculpture, listening to a description of a sculpture and watching a video of one. This moves in an area that explores the discrepancies between experiences, one that is relevant to the greater theme in the work that explores the role of understanding in the phenomenological moment.

If someone liked your work how would they buy it?
Museum Postcards can be bought as an edition of the film only, this comes in a 1/4 box set that contains a Blue-ray and a flash drive with a number of different versions on it. Or the sculpture is available as a one off. Here you’d receive the sculpture  and hand drawn plans and instructions for it’s reconstruction, including a computer with the original work that plays directly from the application.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

BEV Interview: Julia Leigh for Sleeping Beauty

(Originally published on the Birds Eye View blog)

The Australian novelist’s first foray into film directing is not the Sleeping Beauty we all know and love. The story of a young woman’s induction into the strange sexual practice of being drugged to sleep whilst older men pay to be alone with her, Julia Leigh’s debut is a very creepy yet visually elegant work. BEV sat down with the director to talk about her inspiration and the leap from the literary world to the cinematic.

Part of your inspiration for Sleeping Beauty came from a recurring dream you had, can you tell me about that?

After the publication of my first novel I had to do a little bit of press and I contracted this horrible nightmare of being filmed in my sleep. It was quite compelling because the dreamer dreams she’s asleep in her own bed, when in fact she is asleep in her own bed. I realised we’re all quite vulnerable in our sleep and sometimes it’s as if we wake up and edit out our nights as if they haven’t happened. So I wondered what would it be like to know that something was happening in your sleep and know it probably wasn’t good for you? How would that seep through into your waking life?

Was this always an idea for a film script or could it have been a novel?

Yes, this idea came to me as a cinematic project, I never asked myself if it should be a book or a film, that didn’t even occur to me. I wrote the script quite quickly and I wasn’t thinking any further than just finishing the draft, so I didn’t think I would necessarily direct it. Then at a certain point in time, and I honestly can’t remember the occasion, the sentiment became ‘I’ll just do it myself’.

How was the development process and finding a producer?

I tried many producers, about fourteen or so. Some said ‘No way’. Some said ‘We really love it but we want you to make changes to the script’, changes that I didn’t agree with. In the end I found a producer who recognised the script for what it was and we made a deal that this would be the script that would be shot.

How did you prepare for the transition between the literary and the cinematic?

The cinematic qualities of the film were in the script, in the conception of the project. I did an enormous amount of preparation! Some scenes we even prepared so much that we got actors that weren’t in the film just to block out the movements using a video camera and then we took that into rehearsal with the real actors. So it evolved through that process and then we took it to set on the day.

Aesthetica Review: Guy Sherwin at Siobhan Davies Studios

(Originally published on Aesthetica)

The profile of artists working in moving image has been elevated in recent years by those who’ve made the leap into cinema – Steve McQueen, Sam Taylor-Wood, Gillian Wearing - and those taking over leading gallery spaces - Tacita Dean at Tate Modern, Pipilotti Rist at The Hayward. From ancillary practice to fine art media in its own right, it seems moving image is in the ascendant as a powerful, relevant and consumable context for visual art practice.

Things weren’t quite so rosy for the art form when Guy Sherwin first switched from painting to video in the 1960s; it’s taken time for this embrace to take hold. But this profile elevation for the form has prompted a renewal of interest in the work of pioneers of the 1960s and 70s. So Sherwin’s continued commitment to exploring the rendering of imagery on film and the process involved in doing so bestows great value to his work in the field.

This new exhibition at Siobhan Davies Studios, curated by Charles Danby, combines historical works with a new three-screen installation made especially for the space. Staircase (2011) embodies the synthesis between Sherwin’s work and this dance studio setting perfectly by recapitulating the actual staircase in the building into shadowy images projected onto another wall. So one blank architectural surface becomes a ‘screen’ for a digital rendering of another architectural feature, a ghostly duplicate with figures (one assumes dancers) spiraling down it. With this the solid becomes intangible, but the dancers still dance, as shadows this time.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Little White Lies Interview: Paul Bettany

(Originally published on Little White Lies)

Paul Bettany must be the kind of co-star most actors dread. Not bolshy or flamboyant in a quest to get noticed, just a bona-fide scene-stealer. He’s done it to Russell Crowe. Twice. Now in the low-budget Brit drama Broken Lines Bettany gives another standout performance, this time playing an ex-boxer trying to deal with the after effects of a stroke with stunning authenticity. Bettany sat down with LWLies recently to talk about the role that brought him back to his hometown London and the challenges of getting films out there these days.

LWLies: How did you first get involved in the film?

Bettany: I got sent a script by my friend who said, ‘Would you do us a favour and read it, and if you like it there’s a part in it for you.’ And I read it and very quickly realised that it was him doing me a favour and that he’d thrown this great part my way. So I said absolutely, I’d do it. So it was a very simple process.

Were you always in mind for the part?

It was a very long process writing the script and I think it went through many different stages, so I don’t think he wrote it with me in mind. I think they came to a point where they felt they had finished this script and he sent me it with this rather lovely offer. I was so gobsmacked by how great I was, the pair of them had been beavering away for a couple of years on this thing and then suddenly it’s there and it’s beautiful.

What attracted you to the part of Chester? He’s a pretty raw, intense character.

Well, I mean… that, really. It’s nice to do things occasionally that feel they’re about stuff. They seem to be few and far between nowadays. I think that there’s a dreadful sense of shame in Chester and I found that really moving. There was something that I could comprehend in that.

And what kind of research did you do?

I did a fair amount. I did a lot of reading of different firsthand accounts from stroke survivors. I live in New York and I didn’t want to talk to stroke survivors there because there is a real stoic national characteristic that British people have, a reticence. So what I did was I got the filmmakers to interview British stroke survivors on film, hours and hours of footage of these really frank, moving interviews. I watched them, and their responses to the predicament in which they found themselves were really varied, as varied as human beings are.

But, and I speak for myself here, I thought there were some unifying things that all of these people felt which were overwhelming frustration and anger at their body; a fury at having to re-learn simple things; a terrible sense of injustice; and a shame surrounding feelings of dependency. I thought in somebody like Chester that would be so compounded because he’s lived an incredibly physical life, an almost exclusively physical life, and now he is left with an almost exclusively cerebral life and his mind is not a place where he feels comfortable.

Little White Lies Review: Broken Lines

An urban melodrama set against the mean streets of North London, Broken Lines tells the story of a clandestine affair between two troubled hearts played out in Finsbury Park. But with plot holes and character flaws aplenty, it’s a bumpy ride through an otherwise credible depiction of the capital.

Dan Fredenburgh and Doraly Rosa collaborated on a script in which they play the leads; him as Jake, a well-off property developer sent reeling by his father’s death, her as B, the waitress in a local cafe carrying the emotional burden of a recently disabled husband. Jake comes to B’s attention when he orders a bacon sandwich in her cafe, still wearing the kippah after his Jewish father’s funeral.

With the ice broken the two get acquainted and gradually find refuge in each other’s company. Jake’s post-bereavement breakdown puts him at odds with his fiancé in the lead up to their wedding, while B struggles not with affection but passion with her ex-boxer partner who’s now debilitated by a stroke. Both are stung by the guilt of the affair, but proceed anyway... (read more)

Monday, 26 September 2011

FAD Preview: Pipilotti Rist at Hayward Gallery

Very excited about the upcoming Pipilotti Rist exhibition at the Hayward. I'll be making a short film at the press view tomorrow but for now here's the gallery's trailer, which I previewed on FAD

Enter the weird and wonderful world of Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist as the Hayward stages the first major survey of her work in the UK this autumn. Known for her lively and provocative work in video, installation and sculpture, she tackles all the big themes of love, loss, birth, nature and the family in playful, colourful yet often challenging ways. This new exhibition brings together over 30 of her works reaching back to the 1980s. Here’s a sneak preview of what to expect…

Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre,
28 September 2011 – 8 January 2012

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Dazed Digital Interview: Tom de Freston, On Falling

(Originally published on Dazed Digital)

Tom de Freston uses the human figure in his paintings as a director would on film or the stage, manipulating the person into a scenario loaded with dramatic tension. Using performance and theatre (along with multiple other sources) for inspiration, de Freston plays out contemporary concerns and historical modes across his canvases, resulting in what he has described as ‘contemporary history painting’. Before his solo show in Clerkenwell this month, the artist talked to Dazed about this dichotomy and the roots of his practice as a painter.

Dazed Digital: Why did you choose to be a painter?
Tom de Freston: I don't know if I did. I certainly can't pinpoint a light bulb moment when I decided to be an artist, it was more the result of a myriad of decisions.

DD: You've described yourself as a 'contemporary History Painter’; can you explain?
Tom de Freston: I'm interested in the idea of History Painting as a bankrupt notion, and if it's possible to have such a thing as contemporary History Painting. My paintings are not historical in that they are not illustrative of a specific geographic or historic source. Instead they are an amalgamation of numerous sources, fusing timeframes in order to produce autonomous scenes which could be read metaphorically and metaphysically in relation to a contemporary or historical context.

DD: Can you tell me a bit about your literary/theatrical influences?
Tom de Freston: I have worked closely with poets, academics and theatre companies and directors. I don't see the dialogue as necessarily different to that which I have with the History of Art or painting. They are all just sources to exploit and scavenge for new end points.

DD: And the Shakespeare references in On Falling?
Tom de Freston: The painting ‘Bathroom’ shows Macbeth sat upon the loo, with a sense of Bacon's paintings of George Dyer. The figure in the bath could be one of a few characters from Macbeth, but nods to David's Marat and images of the Deposition, whilst the entire structure of the space is being threatened by a swirling, descending estuary of paint. In’ MSND’ Bottom and Titania sit apprehensively on a stage above a foresty abyss with witness figures featured crow headed women, flying pigs head, winged and masked putti and a couple both sporting halos and Marilyn Monroe masks.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

FAD Video: Christian Jankowski's Casting Jesus at Lisson Gallery

A recent film interview with artist Christian Jankowski for FAD talking about his brilliant new film Casting Jesus, showing at Lisson Gallery:

If something good came out of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ it was that Christian Jankowski was inspired to make his latest film, Casting Jesus, now showing at Lisson Gallery. For it was the vision of Jim Caviezel dressed as the Big J taking acting tips from a priest that prompted the artist to stage a talent contest, much in the style of X Factor, but this time with professional actors auditioning for the role of Christ in front of a panel of judges from the Vatican. The resulting dual-screen film is often comical, but never disparaging towards its participants, pointing the finger instead at our quick-to-judge, image obsessed culture. Casting Jesus is a must-see, at the Lisson Gallery until 1 October 2011.

Monday, 15 August 2011

ArtSlant Review: Minor Revisions at Tenderpixel Gallery

Found objects take pride of place in Minor Revisions, Tenderpixel’s new exhibition in which works from seven artists reappropriate pre-existing items that have never functioned as art before and turn them into exhibition pieces. Sure, conceptual art is not everyone’s cup of tea and artistic appropriation has had its detractors ever since Duchamp debuted his urinal, but this small group of contemporary artists are by no means the only ones still operating in this particular mode of artistic practice.

What this collection of work does reveal is how many of these modern found objects are two-dimensional printed images, be that a found photo or an envelope lining or a catalogue. The artists tamper with the image, layer up their own ideas onto what’s already there, like Rebecca Chalmers, who adds to the linear insides of found envelopes to evolve them out of pure design and into drawing... (read more)

ArtSlant Review: Look With All Your Eyes, Look at Frith Street Gallery

This year’s summer exhibition at Frith Street Gallery is a very monochrome affair, much like our summer in fact. Again it brings together works from the gallery’s stable of artists in a loosely-themed group show, this time entitled Look With All Your Eyes, Look, examining the concept of materiality and/or illusion in art through painting, sculpture and photography.

It’s much smaller than 2010’s After the Volcano, occupying just the upstairs gallery and presenting work from only eight artists across an open-plan space. But space and sparseness (along with subdued colour) are key here. Just take the sculptures from Sara Barker and Rudolf Polanszky that sit in the centre of the room – both are marked by a distinct lack of mass and a quality of containing empty space within their structures (be that Barker’s spindly aluminium frames or Polansky’s Perspex boxes) rather than being a manipulated mass themselves.

Rachel Adams’ pieces have more of a form but still a sense of lightness – she takes sheets of paper and crumples them into large forms which suggest much more weight and solidity than they actually possess... (read more)

Friday, 29 July 2011

FAD Video: Asbestos Curtain at Galleries Goldstein at Goodhood

Short and sweet! Asbestos Curtain opens this week in Old Street and I grabbed a quick chat with its curator for FAD.

Monday, 18 July 2011

ArtSlant Review: Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography.. at the Royal Academy

Asked to define what makes a great photographer, Robert Capa famously replied that “It's not enough to have talent, you also have to be Hungarian.” And there’s some truth in it. Even a cursory inspection of the most influential photographers in world history turns up a remarkable number of Hungarians, whose aesthetic and innovations influenced every facet of the medium from war reporting to fashion photography to artistic abstraction. When you consider how deeply ingrained the photographic image has become into our understanding, expression and negotiation of contemporary life, this is no mean feat... (read more)

ArtSlant Review: Nan Goldin's Fireleap at Sprovieri

Nan Goldin is a photographer less interested in capturing the decisive moment than gathering snapshots of those people closest to her over a prolonged period of time. Her images of friends and acquaintances since the 1980s, famously including drag queens, club kids and drug addicts, have imbedded in them a sense of time and development of her relationship with her subjects, as well as the way she collates images to create a portrait rather than summing it all up in one shot.

This sense of intimacy and wanting to memorize people through photographing them is key to Godin’s snapshot aesthetic, which she now brings to imagery of children in Fireleap... (read more)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Saatchi Magazine Interview: Wendy Elia for BP Portrait Award and WW Gallery

(Originally published in Saatchi Online Magazine)

When Wendy Elia paints a person they don’t look away. They don’t exist as an object for artistic consumption but as a being, or at least a likeness, who looks the viewer in the eye and raises more questions about her or himself than they would appear to have answered by posing for Elia in her studio. Large scale, crafted in detail and laden with clues and comments, Elia’s portraits register all the enigma and contradiction of a real sitter, not an idealized muse, especially if they’re female. In her smaller, looser and portable paintings that are produced concurrently with these works, she looks to photography or moving image stills as a kind of imprint of a person or persons to then be re-interpreted by the swift stroke of the paintbrush. They may not necessarily be addressing the viewer directly, but these people have already infiltrated our minds through mass media and by painting them Elia makes us view them afresh too. With a painting currently in the BP Portrait Award 2011 at the National Portrait Gallery and a joint show opening at WW Gallery in July, she spoke to Laura Bushell about her work and the pleasures and pitfalls of painting people.

LB: You’ve got two shows with works that are quite distinct from each other, how would you describe your practice?

WE: I seem to work in different painting languages, so there’s the series I do that are my friends and family in my studio with the boarded up fireplace and the laminate floor that are very intense. Within those images that are painted mostly from observation there are lots of small images, which is almost like the outside world coming in. All of these are private, this is the inner world, this is the world that we’re reduced to in a way, shut in the studio coming up with painting. Last year I got a painting into the BP Portrait Award called The Visit V which was a painting of my mother in the studio with the boarded up fireplace and the laminate floor. The laminate floor represents painting really, as it’s a flooring that is supposed to stand for wood flooring, it’s made to look like wood flooring but it isn’t. So in a way it stands as a metaphor for painting that’s supposed to look like the real world but is not. That’s one strand of work and that’s the paintings in the National Portrait Gallery, this year’s one being I Could Have Been A Contender.

Friday, 24 June 2011

FAD Preview: Watch Me Move at Barbican Art Gallery

(Originally published on FAD)

Be prepared to set aside a sizeable chunk of your life for Watch Me Move, because for their summer blockbuster the Barbican Art Gallery have assembled the biggest ever exhibition on the history and influence of animation, and once there its hard to tear yourself away from these colourful, dynamic, sparkling moving images.

So diverse and comprehensive is the show’s coverage of animation, from makers including the Lumiere Brothers, through Disney, Pixar, Tezuka, Semiconductor, Lotte Reiniger, Ari Folman, Roy Harryhausen and Christian Boltanski using stop motion, claymation, puppets, drawing, CGI… that this review is in danger of turning into a list.

So instead of reiterating how great these great names of animation are (as indeed the lesser known names who appear here), it’s suffice to say that to have them all available to view is a great thing, but to have them choreographed over seven carefully themed sections is sublime.

Structured to cover the early development, later technologies, character development, narrative ticks and experimentation in animation, as well as the gamut of themes and concerns within these films from through time and around the world, Watch Me Move is so comprehensive it’s impossible to take it all in during one sitting. But it’s worth a try. There’s something intrinsically magical about animation that captures us from an early age and Watch Me Move shows how mesmerizing it can be at any age.

Friday, 17 June 2011

FAD Video: Interview with David Lamelas at Raven Row & Bloomberg Space

Two video interviews I did for FAD with artist David Lamelas for his screenings at Raven Row and installation at Bloomberg Space. He's a very engaging man, a great interviewee.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

ArtSlant Review: Piccadilly Community Centre

Visiting Piccadilly Community Centre is probably one of the most disconcerting encounters with ‘art’ that I’ve ever had. This place does what it says on the tin: it’s a fully functioning, socially enriching community centre bang on Piccadilly in the space normally occupied by Hauser & Wirth’s up-market gallery.

There’s a canteen, a prayer room, charity shop, access to the internet and a constantly rolling program of classes to enhance one’s physical and mental well being – hula hooping, laughter sessions, zumba, aromatherapy; you pick your therapy. More than that: there are people. Yes, actual humans who occupy the space not as paid up components of an installation but of their own volition... (read more)

ArtSlant Review: David Rickard at Sumarria Lunn

The interesting thing about David Rickard’s work is not that he leaves large chunks of its production up to chance, but how much structure and pattern surrounds this surrender to the unforeseeable. In this small yet well-put-together solo show at Sumarria Lunn, Rickard relinquishes part of his artistic control and lets the unknown creep in; the two are collaborators and the results are surprisingly coherent.

Exhaust takes main stage in the show – a performance piece in which Rickard exhaled into metallic balloons for a full twenty-four hours, assembling them into a silver tower of captured breath. Rickard’s need to breathe and the passage of time set the parameters of the aesthetic, but of course he couldn’t foresee how much he would exhale over the day, so the volume and shape of the piece was determined as it happened... (read more)

Monday, 13 June 2011

FAD Preview: Jan Švankmajer at Barbican Film

If there’s room in your life for a bit of animated Czech psychoanalytic comedy then you could do worse than going to the Barbican’s short and sweet Jan Švankmajer season. With the likes of Tim Burton, The Brothers Quay and Terry Gilliam citing him as an influence, Švankmajer is certainly a surreal force to be reckoned with and his loopy, nightmarish yet highly amusing animations are fascinating.

Said psychoanalytic comedy comes in the form of Surviving Life; one of the director’s more gentle pieces and a good introduction to his work. It’s introduced by an animated version of Švankmajer, who apologises for using stop-motion animation instead of real actors in his film, only it was cheaper… This sets the scene for the delightful wacky, deadpan animation to follow. It screams Monty Python, although Švankmajer was of course there first... (read more)

Monday, 6 June 2011

Aesthetica Review: Jerwood Painting Fellowships

Jerwood Visual Arts’ support for painters has morphed over the years from an annual cash prize through to the group show format of Jerwood Contemporary Painters to the inauguration of the Jerwood Painting Fellowships this year. These awards afford three selected early career painters the time, funds, guidance and exposure to undertake some sustained professional progression, developing and contextualizing their practice under the guidance of a mentor before exhibiting their work. Jerwood have sought to address exactly what it is today’s upcoming painters need to progress, and the results are now on display. As such, this collection of works by the three graduates - Clare Mitten, Cara Nahaul and Corinna Till – does feel slightly disparate. Walking into the gallery we encounter three separate mini solo shows, each to be encountered each in their own right. This will obviously be coloured by the viewer’s familiarity (or lack thereof) with the artists’ work, deciding whether the work displayed is viewed as a product influenced by the Fellowship’s developmental aims or as a snapshot of an upcoming artist deemed outstanding enough to receive the award... (read more)

Friday, 27 May 2011

Saatchi Magazine Interview: Phoebe Unwin

(Originally published in Saatchi Online Magazine)

Phoebe Unwin is an artist who revels in the use of paint, in all its tones, textures and applications. Her paintings take as their subjects the everyday familiar (bananas, a key, a man holding flowers) which she chooses to depict from recollection and imagination rather than observation from life or photographs. Then what happens when she hits the canvas is the conjuring of a world of expressive colour and mark marking, a remembered reality swathed in magical colour combinations, shapes, patterns and textures that render the world we know afresh. Such is the appeal of her work that Unwin has recently featured in both the Saatchi Gallery’s Newspeak and the Hayward Gallery’s British Art Show as well as staging a solo exhibition at Wilkinson Gallery. In July Unwin hosts a talk at Core Gallery in Deptford, but in the meantime she took some time out to talk about her practice and the process behind her continually evolving, highly regarded body of work.

You have some sketchbooks here, how do you use them?
PU: They’re somewhere where I start to work out particular combinations of form, colour, mark. Some of the images are completely abstract, although they never are completely abstract in my paintings. Then some of them are much more recognizable images. They all live together here. There might be an element of say a page of an idea that I then develop into a painting, and that might be a week later or two years later. The basis of the work is a combined approach in a way, it’s very intuitive at the beginning and then the formal qualities, especially in the process of making the painting become very important. 

It’s a reference tool, storage for your ideas.
PU: Yes, it’s very much a reference tool in that it’s somewhere to refer to that feels really close to first instinct. But it’s a longer process until it becomes a painting, there are other things that come into play, because the paintings for instance are all different scales, whereas these books are always the same size.

Another thing about working in the books is that I use a lot of different papers and a lot of different materials and those elements also get translated into the paintings in the sense that I use many different types of materials, I’m not working just with oil or acrylic, there’s a whole range. One of the main reasons for this is really the qualities of colour, because I feel that a colour in a particular paint will be different in another paint, the difference between a spray-paint mark and the colour and maybe the opaqueness of that colour in spray-paint is different to oil paint.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

New writing for FAD: Nathan Cash Davidson at Hannah Barry Gallery

I'm now Moving Image Editor at FAD - - and here's my first review...

Nathan Cash Davidson has youth on his side and his energetic vaulting from oil painting to poetry via rap and now video installation by way of Renaissance painting, Alan Sugar, mythology and YouTube (to name a few influences) is, frankly, dazzling. He garnered a lot of favourable attention recently for mounting a solo painting show at Parasol Unit aged only 22, and is now at Hannah Barry Gallery with his latest video installation, Feather That Boa An Email.

In a darkened cinema space in the gallery’s Bond Street branch, Cash Davidson screens 24 of his YouTube mash ups – short films in which he’s taken video footage freely available on the site then cut it, looped it, stretched it, jammed it, married it to a completely different soundtrack and generally riffed with it before feeding it back into the site via his own channel... (read more)

Monday, 16 May 2011

New writing for Aesthetica: review of Barbara Kruger's The Globe Shrinks at Sprüth Magers

There’s a game children play when they want to enrage their siblings; that of repeating verbatim everything the other says. Maintained to a suitably relentless level, this method of throwing someone’s utterances straight back in their face is passive-aggression at its most potent, with humiliating and infuriating results.

Over the course of her career as a visual artist, Barbara Kruger has enacted something akin to this in her work, drawing on the crisp imagery and pithy language from her days on magazine editorial to pitch consumerism, sexism and other unsavoury cultural mores right back at the viewer. ut intriguingly, rather than provoking the wrath that childish repeating games guarantee, Kruger has managed to maintain her place as part of the mainstream that she skewers. Her striking monochrome images, dashed with red and bearing deadpan slogans like ‘I shop therefore I am’ and ‘Buy me I’ll change your life’ are so slick she even sold them to Selfridges as advertising... (read more)

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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Dazed Digital Interview: Maxime Angel at Centre for Recent Drawing

In the entrance to her upcoming solo show, artist Maxime Angel is creating a walk-in art work: a hand drawn pencil mural across flattened cardboard boxes covering the walls from floor to ceiling that will, by the time the show officially opens, be a fully immersive introduction to her intensely beautiful work. Fascinated by sexuality and mortality, Angel is not afraid of divulging the personal in her work and has cultivated a body of drawings that are inscribed with her life, both in terms of content and the way in which they bear imprints of the artist’s presence... (read interview)

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Saatchi Magazine Interview: Margaret Harrison & The Girls at Payne Shurvell

Feminism was a dirty word, or at least made for some obscene art, when Margaret Harrison put on a one woman show in 1971. Her beautifully rendered drawings of Captain America complete with boobs and stockings and Hugh Hefner dressed as one of the bunnies he so adores were deemed indecent by the police and promptly whipped off the walls. With forty years between then and now, Harrison is showing these works again along with new pieces, joined by The Girls (Andrea Blood and Zoe Sinclair) with a new static performance piece. Bridging the revealingly narrow gap between second wave feminism and contemporary feminist issues, Harrison and The Girls bring the f-word out of the annals of history to the pole-dancing-as-liberation generation. Together they sat down to discuss their work and inspiration…

Margaret Harrison: I’d been invited by a gallery to show some work and actually they gave me a little stipend, which was amazing because the market wasn’t great. They didn’t see all of my work until the show was put together, but it was fine except that the police apparently went into the gallery the day after it opened and warned the gallery director that it should come down otherwise they would take it down. By the time I arrived it was down, I couldn’t believe it... (read more)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Dazed Digital Interview: Sam Holden at Moves 11

As someone well acquainted with the slick imagery of newspaper supplements and style mag spreads, photographer Sam Holden knows exactly which is your good side. But glossy falsity held no lasting fascination for Holden, whose work as a video artist deliberately deconstructs the premeditated pose, taking portraiture into the moving image and seeing how it, and we react. Holden’s film Focus No.1 has been selected for Moves 11 in Liverpool this April and May; a festival that brings together the most exciting video art and experimental film in a challenging and boundary-pushing programme. Ahead of the festival, Dazed caught up with Holden to talk about his work… (read interview)

Monday, 25 April 2011

ArtSlant Review: Nancy Fouts at Pertwee Anderson & Gold

Reminiscent of a 16th century cabinet of curiosities, Nancy Fouts’ Un-think presents a collection of curios manufactured by the artist to throw our ingrained view of everyday things, especially those from nature, thoroughly off kilter.

Taking us back to a time when collectors would gather stuffed exotic birds, pictures of deformed people or strange foreign artifacts to delight at the freakishness and strange, Fouts re-invokes a sense of the uncanny as she rolls out this plethora of whimsical and darkly humorous pieces. As the exhibition unfolds, it’s hard not to entertain a macabre, excited anticipation of what’s going to happen next... (read more)

ArtSlant Review: Wim Wenders at The Haunch of Venison

Wim Wenders’ photographs are like establishing shots; the wide angle images at the beginning of film scenes that locate the action to follow. This is no surprise since they were taken as the filmmaker scouted for locations in countries including Brazil, Japan, Italy, Germany and the US, taking the roads less traveled to seek out the enigmatic, evocative places that haunt these large scale images.

The forty photos, spanning 1983 to 2011, play out over the walls of the Haunch of Venison like a road movie, taking in a vast Japanese urban sunset in Onomichi Sunset (2005), a corner of contemporary America that still looks like an Edward Hopper painting in Street Corner in Butte, Montana (2003), and an empty al fresco cinema with bright orange rows of unoccupied seats in Open Air Screen (2007)... (read more)

Monday, 4 April 2011

ArtSlant Review: Hybridity & Mutation at The Old Truman Brewery

This vibrant gathering of works from 13 emerging and mid-career artists addresses the very prescient fact that change is the only constant. Taking a quote from Ovid’s Metamorphoses as a springboard – “nothing in the entire universe every perishes… but things vary, and adopt a new form” – the show investigates how this state of continual flux and the rethinking that ensues can be captured and articulated through the form and context of art.

The responses here come more in the form of installation, sculpture and video rather than painting or drawing, with many of the artists taking a biological stance on the subject... (read more)

The Old Truman Brewery, 4 Wilkes Street, London E1 6QL
March 29 to April 17 2011

ArtSlant Review: Ida Applebroog at Hauser & Wirth

When she paints, Ida Applebroog treats the canvas like a three-dimensional object, a structure that she annotates with her distinctive monochromatic paintings. These canvases stand freely around the gallery, sometimes in groups, sometimes physically bolted together, other times jutting out from a wall, telling a story across the room like a three dimensional graphic novel.

Hauser and Wirth’s Saville Row space is cavernous enough to accommodate many of these Marginalia paintings, across which Applebroog depicts human forms with bold outlines and economical detail using oil and resin. They are everymen, -women and animals but each body is damaged or restricted – blindfolded, bandaged, handcuffed, or bound... (read more)

Hauser & Wirth, 23 Saville Row, London W1S 2ET
March 17 to April 30 2011

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Little White Lies Review: Oranges and Sunshine

Wearing its social conscience well and truly on its sleeve, this theatrical debut from esteemed TV director Jim Loach (son of Ken) hardly breaks the family filmmaking mould. But that’s not to disparage the director’s talents in bringing this extraordinary tale to the screen with a measured and very subtle approach.

Oranges and Sunshine tells the personal stories behind the apologies issued by the British and Australian governments to thousands of British children in care who were systematically shipped to Australia and other Commonwealth countries over nigh-on a hundred years until the 1970s.

It was a shady little secret until the 1980s, when a Nottinghamshire social worker began to make contact with the victims, some of whom were as young as four-years-old when they were told their parents were dead before being shipped out, alone, on a boat to a ‘better place’. Not only were some of the children’s parents very much alive, but the institutions in which they were placed were more often than not physically, mentally or sexually abusive. All this in the name of saving a few pounds... (read more)

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Little White Lies Interview: Jim Loach

It must be hard to stand in your father’s professional shadow in any industry, but in film even more so and much more conspicuously. That Jim Loach’s heritage looms large even before the similarity between his socially conscious style and that of his father is noted must be endlessly frustrating. So when LWLies met up with him, we didn’t mention it. Instead, the director talked about the challenges of adapting a powerful true story to the screen for his directorial debut, Oranges and Sunshine, while caring about the repercussions for those living with the real version; avoiding turning the sentimentality up to 11; and the joys of co-producing a film between countries on opposite sides of the globe.

LWLies: Can you tell us how the project came about?

Loach: I first read Margaret Humphreys’ book and I went to see her – this was about eight or nine years ago – and she’s got a small office in Nottingham above a sandwich shop. I just sat opposite her and I was just completely spellbound by what I heard and the story that she had to tell. I found her a deeply inspirational person, slightly intimidating if I’m honest but nevertheless very inspirational. At that moment I knew I wanted to make the film because I was straight away taken by the personal dilemma set against the bigger story, so it was when I first met her that I knew I wanted to make it. Then I just got to know her over the years and spent a lot of time going up to Nottingham. I was doing different stuff at the time. Then Rona came and met her and we started to work on the script.

Did Margaret take some convincing to do the film?

Yeah, she was pretty wary. She was quite wary about what the film would be, what it could do and I think she was worried that it would be sentimental. It’s a question for her really but I would think that she was worried it would be sentimental or mawkish or offer easy answers, all of those things. Also she’s quite a private person so I suppose she didn’t necessarily want to put herself forward as a subject for a film particularly.

Monday, 28 March 2011


These are some stills from my installation Murder Disco!, created around the time that pixelisation and atomisation of imagery really captured my interest. The reason I post them now is that I still refer back to them regularly and consider them a piece of work which is a fair articulation of my themes and concerns. I'm also really interested in the idea of the film still as an entirely different beast from the photograph, and various the implications of this.

Monday, 14 March 2011

La Petite Mort - a project in progress

This drawing is part of La Petite Mort, a new series of ink on paper drawings that I'm working on at the moment. This one is nearly done and there are more to follow, but as you can imagine they're pretty time consuming, hence no posts of my own work for a while. But I'll keep dotting and keep posting...

Monday, 7 March 2011

ArtSlant Review: Morgan Fisher at Raven Row

Across the elegant floors of Spitalfields’ Raven Row, Morgan Fisher’s work delves deep into the belly of Hollywood. Specifically classic Hollywood, where 35mm film was the standard industry format and Fisher began his career-long obsession with peering beyond the confines of the silver screen to reflect on the art form and the means of its production.

The film Standard Gauge really helps establish the artist’s mindset. An ode to 35mm narrated by Fisher, it brings together off cuts of film that he foraged since his first job in movie production; the bits that did not serve a purpose and were subsequently binned. Fisher reveals what film tries to hide, and what audiences habitually ignore; namely its constructed nature, its mechanics and fakeness... (read more)

ArtSlant Review: Nancy Spero at the Serpentine

Nancy Spero worked on the frontline defending the rights of female artists to express themselves creatively amongst the patriarchy of her contemporaries both in art and American society from the 1950s onwards. She also campaigned tirelessly in life and art against the atrocities of war. So it’s very much in this context of her conscience taking the lead that her retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery operates.

It’s an exhibition where reading the notes and bearing in mind the conditions in which she worked helps illuminate the pictures on the walls, otherwise some of them may leave you cold... (read more)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

ArtSlant Interview: Ben Rivers for Slow Action at Matt's Gallery

February 2011 - Ben Rivers currently has a solo exhibition on at Matts Gallery which showcases four 16mm films. The resulting work is a mix between science fiction and ethnographic investigation all set in several fantastical island landscapes. London ArtSlant writer Laura Bushell had the great opportunity to discuss his epic work Slow Action.

Laura Bushell - You worked with writer Mark von Schlegell on the voiceover narrative for the film, can you tell me how that collaboration came about?

Ben Rivers - I had been developing the film with an idea of narration that I was going to write myself, or at least collage together from various bits of slightly adapted existing pieces of fiction - excerpts from books which I had been reading for years, stories of Victorian explorers searching supposedly undiscovered lands and finding Utopias or strange races, as well as travel writing from the 19th and early 20th century. So things like Erehwon by Samuel Butler, After London by Richard Jefferies, The Green Child by Herbert Read, The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon.

Anyway, I was struggling a bit and then went to a show called Dreaming the Mainstream at Vilma Gold (, and what seemed like the press release was written by Mark. It was fascinating because it wasn't a press release, it was a piece of work in itself, a very strange piece of fiction. I immediately read his book Venusia and loved it - so got in touch. Then we started a long email discussion about these books and he came back with things like Melville's Mardi and Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island, and it was obvious we understood each other.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Dazed Digital Interview: Paul Kindersley for TVOD at Transition Gallery

Last time Dazed checked in with artist Paul Kindersley he was a shiny new graduate from Chelsea College of Art and was mounting his first solo show as winner of the Transition Gallery prize. Being thrown in at the deep end was no bad thing for the artist, who for the last 11 months has dodged the post-graduation blues with busy schedule of curating, writing and exhibiting across London and Europe. Developing his fascination with our interaction with media glitz, glamour and stars, Kindersely has curated TVOD, a forthcoming exhibition continuing his relationship with Transition Gallery which collates work reflecting on the residual effects of the mythologised film and TV experience. Dazed spoke to him in the lead up to the exhibition… (read interview)

19 February – 13 March 2011, Fri-Sun 12-6pm
Transition Gallery, Unit 25a Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road, London E8
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