As It Transpired – An interview with Victoria Lucas

There is something undeniably fascinating about an artist who is able to work in different disciplines. It’s a fascination comparable to how you might feel on discovering your friend’s secret talent. UK based artist, Victoria Lucas, is one of these artists. Working between sculpture, film, and photography – with a little interactive work thrown in here and there for good measure – Lucas is most certainly not a one trick pony.

 

With a background in sculpture, Victoria Lucas has moved into the digital arts later on in her artistic career, and has now fully established herself as an exceptional digital artist. Although Lucas admits that she is still her own biggest critic, stating that she is still working towards the “feeling of calm and satisfaction” that all artists seem to chase after. Perhaps this revelation wouldn’t come as such a surprise if Lucas didn’t have so many successful artworks to her name already. So, how does the artist who has created pieces such as, ’12 Months of Neon Love’‘Interruptions’, and ‘After’ repeatedly create such intriguing and diverse work? When asked to describe her own work Lucas said that she always “starts with a place”, she “finds a hook” and creating work she hopes might “make people think about things in a different way.” “I kind of experience things and I’ll find poetic meanings in certain objects and places” Lucas says, explaining a little further how the “Non-places” she randomly encounters often become perfect starting points for her work to launch off from.

 

Victoria Lucas art

‘Market East, Philadelphia’ Victoria Lucas

 

Much of Lucas’s work over the past several years has been focused around these “Non-places” – places that many of us encounter and travel through or have past by on a daily basis without even batting an eyelid. This nondescript invisibility of these places to the everyday passer-by plays perfectly into Lucas’s work, as she turns the tables, photographing and videoing these usually crowded and unnoticed spaces in their unusually empty states. It is easy to understand when looking at pieces such as ‘After’ and ‘Interruptions’ how Lucas could use the word “Apocalyptic” in relation to much of her own work. Lucas takes spaces that otherwise would seem run-of-the-mill and mundane and displays them in a rather ominous and uneasy manner. The spaces themselves suddenly become void in their emptiness, and Lucas’s photographs and videos alike show much more than an idle set of stairs or an empty shopping centre – they display a lack of humanity and life, that otherwise would have gone unseen and unnoticed. “Everything will crumble and everyone will disappear.” Lucas stated, after addressing the way in which her own work helped her to “grapple with all the big questions”. Perhaps this is what makes so much of Lucas’s work, which is mostly void of any human presence, seem so human and emotive nonetheless.

 

Victoria Lucas had a lot of great advice for any wannabe practicing artists who might be struggling to find their footing. “Setting up your own things stops you getting really low from rejection.” Lucas advised, admitting herself that the most difficult obstacle she’d faced in her career had been the simple, yet all-important matter of, “Earning money.” Before honestly adding, “It’s a real struggle and it really affects your mental health I think. Being that close to the edge it can get quite desperate.” However, most importantly Lucas wanted aspiring artists to know that, “You have to make mistakes, you have to fail, you have to have those moments. You learn things from it and it doesn’t matter. It’s all part of striving to be an artist.” “Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to fail. Just keep pushing, even when you think it’s impossible.” If any more inspiration was needed on this point it’s very clear that Lucas herself has proved this advice to be true; using her art to work through hard times, and continuously pushing through uncertainty and financial struggle, Lucas is steadily making her way to exactly where she wants to be in life.

 

Victoria Lucas Art

‘Remedy’ Victoria Lucas

 

Finally, does Victoria Lucas believe artists can use art to change the World? “We can, in a very small way, change the world.” Lucas replied, adding, “I think artists have a lot of freedom, freedom that the media or other institutions don’t have, so we can tell things as they are. We have a really valuable responsibility to keep questioning our environment and the things that are happening.”

 

So, perhaps we should all start viewing art in the way Lucas does – as a platform to express our own thoughts while also forcing others to look at things from a different angle. Who knows what we could change?

 

Reviving Romford

Fact File

Name: Sarah Walters
Born: Upminster, Essex
Age: 27
Studied: Fine Art and Art History at Goldsmiths, London
Job Title: Director of Romford Contemporary Arts Programme (R-CAP)
Random: Holds a black belt in karate
I speak to Sarah Walters about life after graduation, being a visionary and never giving up…

Reviving Romford R-CAP

 

If there’s one thing I don’t doubt, it’s that Sarah Walters knows how to take on a challenge. Five years after graduating and two and a half years after the birth of R-CAP (Romford Contemporary Art Programme), Sarah never seems to have lost sight of her desire to see this side of East London culturally transformed.

The first time we met came after I’d heard whispers of artists rallying in Romford; if there was something creative – anything creative – happening here, I had to find out who was responsible. Positioned in the north-east London borough of Havering, Romford has – in recent years – begun to develop as a large centre for retail. However its provision of creative opportunities has yet to reflect its proximity to east London’s art scene or the number of art graduates in the area.

Over the last two years, R-CAP has inhabited some of the town’s seemingly unloved and vacant spaces, drawing on local artists, college students and undergraduates in order to utilise art as a regenerative tool. Live events and site specific projects have animated abandoned restaurants and empty shops in a bid to bring contemporary art to places where its presence may seem alien. With a particular soft spot for students, one of their public projects was even consolidated with a ‘graduation’, after the participants had completed their ‘studies’ in such subjects as confidence, collaboration and resilience.

‘I think that’s where it started for me,’ Sarah says, recounting her time at university. ‘We were pumped full of all these ideas about ethics; about what we should be doing and what the art market should be.’As she graduated from Goldsmiths in 2009, Ideastap was starting to emerge. ‘I was organising the degree show at the time and thought, ‘I like this!’ So I applied for a grant to curate another exhibition once I’d finished. We wanted it to talk about what it was to graduate into this recession and how we were supposed to negotiate that. We couldn’t afford to make work anymore; we couldn’t afford to show work because competition entries have to be paid for.’ It would later be these same hurdles that would fuel future projects.

From that initial post-graduation exhibition came an art collective but – after a year and a half of waitressing full time and seemingly getting nowhere with sourcing more space and funds – Sarah was exhausted and ready to walk away. ‘I’d applied for about 30 grants and decided to apply for one more, thinking that I would stop if I didn’t get it. I was so desperate – I was basically begging them.’

As fate would have it, she did get the grant and – with that money – Exchange Studios was birthed. ‘We created a model based around the idea that it doesn’t always take money for things to be exchanged. The question we asked was: what does a graduate have to offer?’ I smile and wait for her to answer her own question. ‘They have lots of time – presumably because they don’t have a job; they have loads of energy and passion and enthusiasm; and they have all this knowledge from the education they’ve just paid for. But what don’t they have?’ This was answered by providing artists with equipment, rent-free studio space and an exhibition as payment for their time.

 

Reviving Romford R-CAP

 

I comment that Sarah clearly has a mind for business, especially seen through her seeming ability to negotiate almost anything with the council. ‘I definitely used to be the least business minded person in the room,’ she laughs, ‘but it’s a skill that has become necessary. The council know that art equals regeneration, which equals profit. It’s like having a second language – if artists can speak business, then they can also start to demand that things are done more ethically.’

‘What do you really want to see happen in Romford?’ I ask.
‘I think Romford has the potential to be a really creative place. I don’t want it to be the new Shoreditch – I want to tap into what Romford is. New creative graduates look around their home towns and think, ‘What’s here apart from my rent-free parents?’’ I wince slightly at the truth in her words. ‘Nothing! But we want to do whatever we have to do to keep those people in the area. Putting art somewhere isn’t a miracle worker in itself but – when you build a culture of creativity – you can start to change not only individual lives but whole communities’, she says.

 

And that’s exactly what R-CAP are aiming for. With a just-signed contract for a year’s access to a block of empty retail units within Romford’s busy centre, setup is already underway to host artist residencies, creative startup businesses, a performance festival and a fashion design competition. Another facet of their plans is to set up a shop where local artists, designers and art students can test a market for their work. It is this want to provide a platform for ideas that Romford so desperately needs if it is to keep hold of its young artists.

 

What advice would she give to graduates wanting to transform their own community?

‘Never give up! Don’t lose sight of the end goal and just keep going.’

All That is Solid Melts Into Air, Jeremy Deller, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne

All That is Solid Melts Into Air, an exhibition curated by Jeremy Deller (Britain’s representative in the Venice Biennale last year) explores the impact of the Industrial Revolution on contemporary British society.  Deller combines contemporary music, archival film, historical artefacts and written text panels to forge connections between materials and finding new meanings in familiar objects.  This exhibition is a personal, intuitive journey which reveals how the trauma of urbanisation and modernisation has affected the culture of this country, from our music to our shopping habits.  However, the exhibition is an extensive survey of our cultural heritage and how every aspect of British life has been informed by the Industry of the country.  Because of the enormity of Deller’s project, I will only attempt to write about a small part of this remarkable exploration.

 

This exhibition opened in Manchester last October, and has travelled through Nottingham and Coventry before finally arriving in Newcastle upon Tyne.  This last stretch of the journey is being shown in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle’s city centre, a gallery which features a notable historic permanent collection, including John Martin’s 1852 painting, The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, a biblical illustration of Gods destructive power; a glowing pit of fire as a whole city are punished for the sins of its people.  This incredible apocalyptic painting, familiar to Laing Gallery audiences, is the first that we see as we walk into Deller’s exhibition.

 

John Moore

‘The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah’ John Martin . 1852

 

The red light and smoke of Martin’s historic painting is cleverly paired with imagery of the steel industry, exemplified in Steel, a British Council produced educational film made in 1945, which depicts men producing steel in a factory.  In this film, displayed on a large monitor in the space, bright orange molten metal bubbles in huge crucibles while showers of sparks fly over the heads of the workers who stare into the hell-like mouth of the intense, fiery heat.  Martin grew up in the rural Northumbrian countryside, but it is easy to see the influence of London in his painting; the smoggy urban landscape of the capital and the glow of industry are definitely in this painting of the burning city.  Bringing the imagery up to date is the jacket of Unleashed in the East, the 1979 Judas Priest album, where the band are shown standing in smoke, amber lights illuminating them and their instruments.

 

Deller draws comparisons not only between the imagery of the theatrical Victorian painting, the heavy metal album artwork and the post war steel industry, but he also uses Martin’s painting as the starting point for other associations.  In the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the people of Gomorrah are punished for their vice and their desire.  Just as there were similar moralistic Victorian concerns about excess and sexual desire leading to sin and disease when Martin was painting, so we too, in contemporary society, worry about the physical and ethical effects of our consumerism.  This anxiety is reflected in Ben Roberts’s large photographic print Amazon Fulfilment Centre, Towers Business Park, Rugeley (2013).  This image shows the vast interior of an Amazon warehouse where unskilled workers appear tiny among the expansive shelving units, each one filled to the brim with stuff.  The text panel mounted underneath this image explains that most of these staff members are on zero hour contracts and work for minimum wage.  To the left of Roberts’s image is a poster, the rules of Church Street Mill in Preston from the nineteenth century.  The very first rule feels particularly poignant.  It reads that factory workers must ‘give one month’s notice, in writing, previous to leaving his or her employment …but the Masters have full power to discharge any person employed therein without any previous notice whatsoever.

 

Deller’s careful juxtaposition of materials draw worrying links between the rights of mid-Victorian factory workers and the current working conditions for low level employees.  All That is Solid Melts Into Air is a carefully curated exhibition which is full of incredible objects, ideas and artworks, effectively exploring British culture and the roots of capitalism in this country.  The works read like a  piece of research, a visual essay where you can draw your own associations and conclusions.  If you’re in the North East between now and October 26th, this is an opportunity not to be missed.

An Arts Guide to Amsterdam

A colloquial reason for many to travel to the Netherlands is to get a whiff of the green stuff,however if this and Madame Tussaud’s are not for you, there is a great art scene to take advantage of on your visit. Amsterdam is a museum lover’s destination as much as the gallery goers; with a mixture of historical and contemporary you could spend up to week absorbing the culture, but only as long as the bike lanes don’t get on your nerves.

 

‘TherIs No I’ at W139 Gallery

 ‘W139 explores the unknown; we value the freedom not to know.’

I first came acrossW139 on Warmoesstraat, close to the Red Light District and known as one of the oldest streets in the city.  W139 sets out create new dialogues in art by taking artists out of their comfort zones into an experimental space. Focusing on painting and employing ‘energy, difference, theory and monochrome’ as categories of departure, the emphasis lies within the process of painting as opposed to the result. By expanding ideas around the processes of painting we can hope to extend the boundaries contemporary art is conformed to today. Featuring 20 international artists numerous works measured a large 3x5m, a staircase wall mural amongst smaller pieces and a ‘painting installation’. Many of the canvases may have been collaborations between two artists alongside approaches with performance such as Raymond Cuijpers kicking a painted football onto a constructed canvas goal.

 An Arts Guide to Amsterdam

Museumplann

 The Stedelijk museum boasts some of the greats from the 20th Century to the present day, hosting contemporary art exhibitions alongside its permanent one all within an oversized bathtub architecture. Neighbouring Stedelijk is the Van Gogh Museum where during peak times you will find over four floors of tourists absorbing the Dutch masterpieces. For the price ticket of 15.00 euros you also witness a small display about methods of conservation and an insight into Van Gogh’s more successful contemporaries where he failed to make money attempting to fit in with commercial trends.

Not far from Museumplann is Vondelpark, a picturesque setting with complimentary sculpture from ArtZuid, an international sculpture exhibition hosted across this area of the city. These works by ArtZuid Junior were particularly playful and greatly enhanced my colour contrast bar and is a great encouragement for any young artists.

(We should do more of this in England).

 

Personal Codes of Conduct’at Torch Gallery, Jordaan

 

 Personal Codes of Conduct alludes to the theme of our lives becoming increasingly digitised amongst the role of surfacing subcultures; each artist exhibited here visualises their online identity with a partially negative premise. Suzan Holen’s embroidered code communicates a paradox between constructive functionality and irrational feelings we may encounter as females using social media. Artist duo Pinar & Viola looked to emulate ‘the streets of the internet’ consisting of Trompe l’oeil Human Barbie Dolls with fantasy overlays. ‘I’ll Make You Feel Real’ is provocative of the height of narcissism we now encounter either on Instagram or embedded in the underground of net fetishes, almost verging on idolatry self love.

 

Do your own Human Barbie Overlay here: http://www.overlayer.com/u/pinar_viola

 

South Africa Art Nowat No Man’s Art Gallery

 Towards the west of the city centre, slightly off the beaten path, I came across No Man’s Art Gallery who set out to represent scouted talent at their boundless pop-ups around the world. ‘South Africa Art Nowpresented a healthy variety of photography, installation, painting and prints representing a small body of young artists often confronting domestic subjects sensitive to display. Standing out from the exhibition is Hidokuhle Sobhekwz’s undiscovered photography documenting those he knew who have succumbed to addiction of Nyapope.Nicolene Van Der Walt’s deconstructed pig graves focuses on our role in consumerism and waste as well as challenging the animal’s stereotype using the medium of soap and site-specific soil to show the futility of the still-born piglet as a product.

Mia Chaplin’s minimal palette creates an expressive set of paintings with a sense of detachment. The voyeuristic nature of her work could be said to concentrate on the inner-self and our difficulty engaging with the outer world, visually communicating this through still lives and figurative portrayals.

 

Cobra Museum

Venturing outside the city to Amstelveen, the Cobra Museum is host to a large collection of contemporary art and more recently exhibiting a host of 1950’s masters from the Guggenhiem Museum. Wherever you visit in Amsterdam, you are bound to find yourself in a creative body depending on how far you scratch the surface. The majority of gems you may find in Jordaan, where the gallery art district is the most condensed in the city. Just remember to book tickets in advance for the largest museum attractions as we do not have the privilege of walking straight into them as we do here.

All about Wes…

To many cinemaphiles, Wes Anderson is a director like no other. In a world full of sterile blockbusters, unnecessary sequels and unwanted remakes, the films of Wes Anderson offer a safe haven of brilliant weirdness, vivid imagery and original storytelling. Anderson has a filmography to rival the likes of greats such as Quentin Tarantino, Werner Herzog or the Coen brothers, with stellar titles such as the Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012) delighting both audiences and critics worldwide, and just like Tarantino and the Coens, Anderson has an ever-growing and loyal fanbase who hang on his every word.

 

Wes Anderson

 

Wes Anderson has long been seen as the one of great titans of the indie cinema circuit, a true auteur who really understands the power of cinema, a Kubrick-esque figure who makes every single frame count. The director rose to fame and reached international recognition shortly after the release of his debut movie, Bottle Rocket (1996), which also helped launch the careers of both Luke and Owen Wilson (with Owen being credited as co-writer). Early hits such asthe phenomenal Rushmore and the groundbreaking The Royal Tenenbaums cemented Anderson’s status as a talented director who blended comedy and drama with the absurd and esoteric. As he became a more recognisable figure, his films became noticeably grander. Recent projects such as The Darjeeling Limited (2007), The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and particularly, his newest release, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) showcase Anderson’s brilliant eye for the big screen.

There are several visuals motifs, techniques and traits that Anderson employs in his films in order to bring his creative vision to life and many keen cinemagoers have been amazed by Anderson’s clever and subtle use of colour palettes. In The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson utilises colours that are closely associated with autumn (yellows, oranges and browns) reflecting the earthy and organic bearings of the film. Similarly, in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) the colours feel much more vibrant and eclectic (think of Team Zissou’s red caps!), in touch with the tone and feel of the movie.

 

Wes Anderson

 

Perhaps the most brilliant part of any Wes Anderson movie is the focus on practical effects and tricks of the camera over CGI. In the most memorable scene of The Life Aquatic, the infamous Jaguar Shark is revealed to us, second by second it’s beautiful luminescent pattern is shown, then finally, we get to see the beautiful creature in all of its majestic glory. In reality, the shark was a stop-motion puppet courtesy of animation genius, Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), but during the movie, the shark seemed to have a life of its own, obviously it looked fake, but I believed it was alive in Wes Anderson’s cartoon-like world.

In one memorable moment, Zissou faces the shark that killed his dear friend and utters the line “I wonder if it remembers me?” to the melancholic sound of “Starálfur” by Sigur Rós. This particular moment of the film caused many cinemagoers to tear up and that’s the power of a great Wes Anderson film. You invest in the lives of characters that you will only know for a few hours, but you believe in their problems and adjust to their crazy world. Anderson manages to make the fantastic seem normal but never quite takes the magic away.

It’s no secret that the director has a fondness for nostalgia. If The Life Aquatic was a very personal love letter to the work of the underwater filmmaker and explorer Jacques Cousteau, and Moonrise Kingdom was a bittersweet youthful love story set amongst an antiquated Eagle Scout 60’s backdrop. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s most bold and welcome attempt at bringing a lost period in time back to the big screen. He has a strange love for life’s peculiarities and the self-imposed rules we live by.

Wes Anderson

Anderson appreciates film as an art form, something that sets him apart from his contemporaries. He has a unique way of bringing his kinetic passion for the moving image to the screen. The Grand Budapest Hotel, offers a different aspect ratio (1.33, 1.85, and 2.35:1) for each timeline in the film.

We are very lucky to have a director like Wes Anderson in our lifetime. Anderson’s films fight against the popular image of modern cinema as a greedy, cynical and self-fulfilling creature. He treats his wide-eyed audience with respect that they deserve and he knows exactly how to play them. Anderson somehow manages to blend a childlike sense of wonder with offbeat comedy and just a tad of weirdness, whilst throwing in the serious issues that plague our everyday lives, from the fears of infidelity, to parenthood and even the death of a loved one. After watching one of Anderson’s films, I come away feeling heartbroken but underneath there is a feeling of hope, an uplifting sense of wonder, for all of his credit, Wes Anderson is an original.

Didactic Display: The importance of personal experience

Information hungry, the way we live revolves around what we know, how quickly we can collect information and how much information we can retain; this is true of the way we consider education, the way we live socially and the way we encounter the world. This also very appropriately describes the way we view art. Encountering wall texts, audio-guides, guided tours, information booklets, catalogues, not to mention the usual amenities such as artist’s names, titles and mediums, upon entering the vast majority of art galleries we are faced with fixtures which in terms of knowledge and understanding leave few stones unturned. Although what could be considered the current standard curatorial method (a didactic approach to viewing art) allows a viewer an impressively comprehensive theoretical understanding of a particular work, it does not seem to invite more creative approaches to the process of mediation or understanding. Such a heavily didactic approach to information greatly reduces the probability of a viewer forming any sort of personal or emotional connection to a work. People don’t fall for a Rothko because they understand it.

 

In Wonderful uncertainty a text by Raqs Media Collective, they write: ‘people bring their own histories, memories, scars and desires to bear on any work they encounter’. Surely the more prescriptively one is fed a work of art, the less one is able to bring of one’s own and thus is supposedly far less connected. Colours, shapes, objects etc. all have there own cultural and social associations, layers of representation or ‘meaning’ which we bestow upon them.  However, often colours, shapes, objects, etc. are also inexplicably tied-up with personal association, representation and emotion. When one experiences a work of art, one undoubtedly experiences the work from one’s own individual viewpoint of the world.

 

Suzanne Lacy in her publication Mapping the terrain: new genre public art talks of engagement in terms of particular artworks, within the text is a diagram depicting what Lacy refers to as ‘rings of engagement’, which in concentric circles transform the notion of different audiences into a diagram representing different groups’ levels of interaction with a work of art, and their importance insofar as the works existence. Lacy states that the ‘innermost circle represents those without whom the work could not exist’, the outermost circle being ‘audience of myth and memory’. I suppose, the question this poses (at least to me) is whether one could consider the perspective of ‘the audience of myth and memory’ as either part of the inner circle or a different diagram completely, as although yes, the work could exist without their perspective, the work from their perspective could not exist without them. Without a specific viewer having gone through an individual process of mediating a particular piece of work, their ideas would have never been realised. It’s arguable that works of art exist as a multiplicity of individual interpretations and understandings (of which the artist is one), in which case, the individual experience is of extreme importance and the work couldn’t exist without each and every viewer (in whatever capacity that may be).

 

Additional information in which I am including titles, mediums, descriptive and/or explanatory wall-texts, etc. is just that – additional. The information, at least that which is crucial, is unspoken and present in the work itself. Looking for more, it’s easily forgotten that these often over-didactic methods employed by the gallery are not the only place to search. It’s important not only to understand what the work has to offer but what one has to offer to the work – experiences, memories, emotions which ultimately one has in common with the work are as, if not more important than any conceptual understanding on the part of the artist. When does information or understanding become counter-productive?

 

Do we really engage with a work we are told everything about? There are most certainly works that more effortlessly lend themselves to a more fluid, creative process of mediation. Just as there are works which it is much more difficult to engage with in this way, of which conceptual art proves particularly problematic. How can a work’s conceptual ideas be explained, whilst still allowing the space for a viewer’s personal thoughts and feelings to manifest? It is, I suppose, important that conceptual understanding, in terms of the artist’s understanding of their own work, is presented in some way and in that sense, a didactic attitude towards the work’s meaning is difficult to avoid – but do we really want to close off the possibility to the artwork’s full potential? Do different varieties of work require different levels of mediation and do some works in particular require there to be a more open, more fluid form of viewing?

 

Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled 1989-1990, a stack of endless sheets of printed paper, along with Dominique Gonzalez-Forester’s Tapis de Lecture (Reading Rug), a carpet on which an ‘L’ shaped stack of books sits waiting to be read, are both works which invite a participatory viewing.  Both works surround specific conceptual meaning with an aura of ambiguity and in this sense encourage the viewer to engage in a deeper, more intrinsic encounter with the work. Gonzalez-Torres’ paper-stacks, which are intended to be taken one by one, by the viewer and are constantly replenished by the gallery, are a heavily conceptual body of works and yet in their minimal forms, do not necessarily dictate the experience or understanding of the individual. Inviting the viewer to engage in an act seldom acceptable in an art gallery in both touching and removing the work, the viewer is offered another rare opportunity of experiencing an original work of contemporary art (or at least a piece of) in their home. Tapis de Lecture is entirely different in its methods of non-specificity. The foundation of its bibliography being Gonzales-Forester’s practice; the books are ones commonly referenced within her work. Despite the specific nature of the selection of material, what the viewer (or reader) chooses to read is completely up to the individual. A viewer could read the entirety of information present in Tapis de lecture and yet their thoughts, ideas and connections between documents would be completely unique to that of Gonzales-Forester’s. Whether viewers read at all is, I suppose, dictated by the situation they might find themselves in; participation is more likely to occur if some level of participation is already taking place. As I have already attempted to establish within this text, current methods of curating and viewing art often stand in the way of the potential for a more engaged, creative experience, and this is true also of physical participation.

 

At the 2014 Tate Summer School Jenny Dunseath gave a talk specifically focused towards making; she had her audience/participants occupying their hands molding plasticine and their mouths with the act of chewing gum. Dunseath who sculpts and has a particular interest in idiosyncrasies and processes of making, had her audience fiddling and chewing whilst following various instructions. As her audience/participants became increasingly involved with their own process of making she spoke about an array of works, ideas and theories by both herself and other practitioners.  She reeled off huge amounts of of information, including information about her work as an assistant to Antony Caro – making remained at all times the theme of her monologue. It was both my understanding and that of all other audience/participants that we experienced a point at which we had stopped listening to what Dunseath was saying. Discovering an inability to sculpt with the plasticine, follow instruction, chew gum and listen to/digest information, there came a point at which each audience/participant sort of ‘woke up’ in a panic that they had failed to take notice of what Dunseath had to say. Thankfully Dunseath reassured her listeners at the very end when she spoke about the importance of the talk/exercise being in the process and experience that each individual had had with their materials (plasticine and gum) and that learning was intentionally taking place through the physical process of doing and not listening.

Finding Vivian Maier

Finding Vivian Maier is a documentary film created by amateur John Maloof that is based upon the somewhat obscure and mysterious career of Nanny Vivian Maier. It was unknown that Maier had a cache of over 100,000 photographs in her collection. This has led to her posthumous reputation as one of America’s best and The New York Times regarded her as “one of America’s most insightful street photographers”. The documentary itself has won a variety of prestigious awards and been chosen as part of the official selection of Berlin and Palm Springs International film festival 2014.

 

vivian maier

Vivian Maier was born in the U.S and spent most of her childhood in France. She was a self-taught photographer and was meticulously private. She shot mostly urban life in Chicago and New York. Maier had a talent for catching the most striking monochromatic street photographs and examples of her work are shown continuously throughout the film. Themes that are popular with street photographers such as the down and out, crying children (or children with ice-cream), crime scenes and the interesting old man with a hat and a cigar is prominent within the Photographer’s work. Nonetheless, Maier’s photographs are beautiful. I absolutely adore how she captures truth and strong emotion from her subjects. Maier has a sense of humour documented within some of her photographs that include cheeky shots of women’s skirt’s flying up, dogs that provide comedy value and various other random shots. Within the situations Maier has been able to make her subjects feel at ease and capture close and personal shots that is highly commendable.

Of the various interviews throughout the film from the children she had cared for, none of them knew much about her. Truthfully, they all appeared as rather odd individuals that described Maier’s imagination, her stern demeanour and her political views. They all stated that Maier was never without her Rolleiflex Camera and guarded her possessions zealously.

 

vivian maier

John Maloof encountered Maier’s negatives at a thrift store in Chicago’s West side that led to his decision to reveal the photographer’s work to the world. This raises the question of the artist’s rights and if Maloof had the right to promote and curate Maier’s work. It was widely advertised throughout the film that Vivian was very private and showed her work to no one. Maloof questions himself continuously throughout the film and debates if he should continue to promote Maier’s work without her permission. To begin with, the photographer’s work was not even accepted or recognised by major galleries. The film documents Maloof’s struggle of raising awareness in regards to Maier’s photographs. Currently, Maloof has catalogued over 90% of Vivian’s work and is in the process of receiving recognition from major galleries across the USA.

Vivian Maier documented American street life from the 1950’s and continued for the next five decades. Maloof relates her to Henri Cartier-Bresson, which is a rather strong statement although her photographs are striking and each one is stronger than the last. The film is mediocre and does what it says on the tin (describing the life of Vivian Maier). The most important part of prying into this photographer’s life was being able to see the magic of her work on film. It is inspiring and is a must see for an aspiring photographer.

 

 

Limbo

‘Uncertain of his sister’s fate, a boy enters Limbo

 Darkness, terror, isolation and tenaciousness, these are some of the traits present in Playdead’s atmospheric platform adventure Limbo.

 A contour of what seems to be an unconscious child lays lifeless, its form fused with the silhouetted landscape, the stillness is broken when the game is interacted with. A confirmation of life comes from two vacant white spots for eyes, glowing amongst the darkened surroundings.

 

Limbo Game

Without an introductory animatic, one is immediately immersed in the game, with no precursors or guidance we are forced to proceed onwards. There is a clear reservation regarding the boy’s ambition until later in the game, raising questions about why the boy is there and where he is going.

Unlike other games, at no point does Limbo introduce the controls or objectives, it unifies the ignorance of the characters objective with the unfamiliarity of the player. This introduction sets the tone for the entire game, presenting the ambience and the vignette viewing screen through which we control the child’s movement.

The name of the ‘boy’is never mentioned, much alike the characters in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, preserving the anonymity of the characters throughout the novel; I’ve found that having nameless characters is an alluring feature in any game or work, it forces the viewer to take consideration of the context in which the characters are placed. This is imperative to the sophistication of Limbo’s storyline, given that it is incredibly bleak and minimal, the immersion the viewer has with the game is drawn on the journey, forcing a relationship to manifest with a very distanced and vacant being.

One notable attribute of the game is the bleak landscape, and the way that the boy must traverse it. The challenges present themselves when one must distinguish the threats from the safe routes, in order to progress onward. When presented with a spike pit or trap, the repetition of failure presents the solution which allows for progression, as the developer stated the ‘trial and death’technique is inexorable and part of the games mechanic. Admittedly, I’ve been compelled to abandon the game on a few occasions, certain puzzles in the game were a little arduous at times.

Limbo Game

The desolate and noir landscape, with its harsh grain and distanced vistas is paired with an equally disturbing monotone soundtrack. The tension intensifies and the sound distorts when in close proximity with any other being. The use of harsh brazen sounds is complimented with a drone that is perpetually present throughout the development of the chapters. It’s almost as if it follows the boy through his cumbersome struggle for progress.

The latency of the tension is something to be admired, it seems appropriate for the horror element of the game to manifest sporadically; the first encounter with any being is with an unnaturally massive arachnid, which is only threatening when in near proximity. This notion of threat often comes from dangerous objects such as oversized hacksaws or bear traps.

On occasion, the game managed to make me jump, mostly from the abruptness and the harshness of the death animations, primarily from the exaggerated and accentuated sounds.

The aesthetics of the game are the most striking of its features, bringing focus to the developers style, redeeming the fact that the gameplay is relatively slow in some areas.

Publicly, the game has received strong praise with undertones of criticism, mostly down to the streamlined yet monotone nature of the gameplay. Most of the attention has been evoked from its aesthetic presentation and purely visual plot, supported by the immersive atmosphere and haunting ambience.

If you want a lengthy, aesthetically pleasing, artistic platform game, Limbo is the one to get.

Limbo is available to download for Xbox, Ps3, iOS and Android.

Counterpoint

I find myself standing in the street outside the Talbot Rice Gallery, here to view Counterpoint’s showcase of eight contemporary artist’s work. I find myself here on the back of a recommendation from the festival’s art director, interviewed in last month’s FMG Monthly. My curiosity roused, I cross the threshold into the building. Many beautiful, intriguing and provocative pieces adorned the walls and floors. Of the eight artists, two in particular captured my imagination.

 

The first of these artists is Craig Mulholland. As you walk into the first room, placed right by the stairs for the second level, Mulholland’s installation – constructed from various materials and media, including sand paper, wood and visual projections – takes the shape of a bowling lane, a singular slice extracted from an alley which appears to be in some state of disrepair. I find myself searching for the background to this intriguing construction before me, and in this search my mind connects this sight with emotion, a longing for narrative, as if entering an abandoned, aged property, which oozes character. Upon the wall above the lane, the words “Potemkin Function” are projected in a font reminiscent of the fond neon squiggle used by many establishments to indicate whether they are open or closed. Thin wooden bricks have replaced the pins and these too are displayed in the projection which cycles through moving images of a bowling ball being cast down the lane towards these bricks. For me, Mulholland’s bowling alley offers an insight into how the picture painted can often differ from the actual function. The warping of an area usually utilised solely for recreational purposes into an area harrowed by black paint reminds me of how propaganda is utilised to portray whomever in disfavour in a negative and objectified light. As this feeling rested inside me, I made my way through to the next room of Counterpoint’s exhibition.

 

Counterpoint

Talbot Rice Gallery
Installation views
Part of Edinburgh Art
Festival and GENERATION
Photography by Chris Park
Courtesy Talbot Rice Gallery

Before me lies two full size street lamps, a neat stack of magazines cut zig-zag down their middle, and a large wall of corrugated iron graphitized with black spray paint – an eclectic mix provided by artist, Keith Farquhar. Farquhar’s intention is to “rework the inherited visual of the original appropriated work”. As I stand by these full size street lamps I begin to have some comprehension of Farquhar’s goal in these pieces. Removal of these commonplace functional installations from their usual surroundings and placed with intention on the floor by one another, they begin to feel personified, as if feeling emanates from them. I noticed that I no longer found this material object to be simply that, instead I began to form some type of human connection with them. From when I entered the room, I had presumed the writing on the steel wall to be written in spray paint but upon closer inspection, the paint is pixelated at it’s edges, and within the exhibition booklet, my curiosity is sated. Farquhar reveals his use of a large UV printer – which can print on any material – to create the text within the graffiti. Graffiti, created outwith artistic purpose, is often considered a thoughtless act of vandalism alluding to the carelessness of its creator. Farquhar however, appropriates graffiti, using the UV printer to create what appears to be spray paint. Through this exact act we reconsider this “graffiti”, knowing now it has been carefully and thoughtfully created.

 

Counterpoint

Talbot Rice Gallery
Installation views
Part of Edinburgh Art
Festival and GENERATION
Photography by Chris Park
Courtesy Talbot Rice Gallery

Leaving the Talbot Rice Gallery, I am left with a feeling of lightness and whimsy. All too often artwork and exhibitions are portrayed as being heavy events for the soul – Counterpoint’s Exhibition however, is not such an event. Despite no conscious thematic connection between the eight artist’s works, the quality of each piece creates a feeling of unity. Evident throughout all the work on display is a demonstration of each individual artist’s ability to play and experiment with mediums and media, ultimately creating work that is fascinating, stimulating and wholly intriguing.

 

Edinburgh International Film Festival

The 68th Edinburgh International Film festival ran from the 18-29th of June, and I was lucky enough to score a press and industry pass for the occasion. Showcasing over 124 films, including 11 World Premieres, 8 International Premieres, 7 European Premiers and 95 UK Premieres, the festival boasts a range of indie surprises alongside several recognisable faces. Inviting glamour and red carpets to Edinburgh for 12 days, the atmosphere inside and outside the various showcasing screens was incredible. Buzzing with industry casts and crews, there seemed to be an infinite amount of activities to ignite excitement in any cinephile. From question and answer sessions, panel discussions, outdoor movie screenings, and interactive workshops, it became hard picking the best events to attend out of an overall impressive list. I was very thankful for the final day, entitled: ‘Best of the Fest’, allowing a catch up of some great films I’d unfortunately missed. And since I know how thankful I was for that day, to anyone who missed the whole event, here is my article for you: a chance to hear about the 2014 festival and a guide to some brilliant independent films.

An elegant red carpet masking the familiar floors of your local cinema is not something you experience every day. Either is Elljah Wood casually strutting along said walkway, for the World Premiere of his new film, Set Fire to the Stars. Albeit a classy and VIP filled event, the welcoming atmosphere of the fest really made the world of film feel accessible. Not just something we sit back and watch behind a screen, but something anyone who appreciates cinema can be a part of. Stick on a nice dress and anyone might think you’re some sort of elite tycoon. Furthermore, the director of Set fire to the stars, Andy Goddard, is a past graduate of the BA (Hons) course I’m currently attending, and it shows success is clearly possible so very far from Hollywood.

FMG Arts

Feeling just slightly underdressed in my jeans and T-shirt, I sat next to a couple sporting a picturesque tux and frock. With high expectation of Set Fire to the Stars, I was marginally disappointed. The film is a semi-biographical portrait of the complicated relationship between the poet, Dylan Thomas, and John Malcolm Brinnin, the manager of Thomas’s final American tour of 1953. I felt that the idolisation John felt towards Dylan wasn’t portrayed effectively enough, and I didn’t feel the emotions, or believe the bond, that was trying to be conveyed through their relationship. After the end applause, I was asked by the smartly dressed lady to my left what I thought of the film, and I said just that, not knowing she was in fact the sister of lead actor and co-writer Celyn Jones… Thankfully, before I gained this information, I also mentioned that the film was beautifully shot, well acted and an interesting depiction of a literature hero. She told me very proudly that Celyn had wanted to make the film since he was 13 years old. As I listened to him answer the audiences’ questions during the afterwards Q and A sesh, I truly admired his ambition and determination. It evidently paid off in the end.

Although it would be impossible to comment on all of the many movies that appeared at the festival, there were a further three significantly accomplished films that captured my interest. Firstly, Uncertain Terms uses a very organic and raw approach. It may not be the first ever film to use improvisation, but it’s the first indie I’ve ever seen that didn’t shoot with a pre-written script. Director David Silver has a small role in the movie himself, alongside his own mother, and ‘Exit Elena’ cinematographer David Dahlbom. Keeping it personal within his circle of family and friends, the film is based loosely on his mothers own experience as a pregnant teen. The girls starring as the pregnant teenagers attended the LA film festival just a few weeks prior, wearing their pregnant stomach suits for the occasion. Shame they couldn’t make it across the ocean, but Silver’s Edinburgh attendance was just as appreciated.FMG Arts

A second personal piece, which isn’t so loosely based, is the autobiographical final film of Nils Malmros: Sorrow and Joy. The tragic account of the Danish directors adult life depicts the death of his infant daughter at the hands of his mentally ill wife. The directors presence made the viewing deeply intimate due to the sensitive issues the film deals with. Pouring the most personal time of your life onto screen is intense, let alone opening the floor to prying questions, which Malmros commendably did. However, my favourite film has to be Jim Michle’s revenge thriller Cold in July. Being a huge Michael C. Hall fan, it was a rather strange experience seeing him sustain the role of feeble redneck Richard Dane, who accidentally kills an unarmed intruder. The intruders father, a felon recently released from prison, eerily sets out to inflict justice upon his son’s murderer, leaving Richard fearing for his families safety. I felt a part of me was waiting for the Dexter in him to come out and show everyone who’s boss… And although this didn’t happen, moral justice is served up rather nicely with a trio vigilante team. I’m glad I didn’t watch the trailer before watching the film as it annoyingly gives far too much information away. All i’ll say is there’s something satisfying about initial enemies teaming up and working together. The film corresponds a tense atmosphere with unpleasant brutality, and some subtle aspects of comedy. Its electro soundtrack also adds a sleek and stylish vibe. It was the last film I seen at the festival, and I’m glad I ended my experience on a high.

So there we have it. Your short recap of the Edinburgh International Film festival. And since I feel the small amount of films I’ve discussed doesn’t even nearly do the 124 films shown justice, I shall leave you with two final films that also deserve a watch. The powerful drama Joe, directed by David Gordon Green and starring an emotionally complex badass/hero Nicholas Cage, and the independent horror film Honeymoon, which follows newlyweds Paul and Bea to a cabin in the woods. Best known for her Game of Thrones role as feisty wildling Ygritte, Rose Leslie was present for the films UK Premiere at the festival. I hope you check out these films. I hope you enjoy them. And see you all next year!

Tor Simen Ulstein & Geir Stian Orsten Ulstein – Featured Artist August 2014

Tor Simen Ulstein & Geir Stian Orsten Ulstein collaborative series’ ‘Det Som Var: Er’. For this series Tor travelled with his brother around europe and photographed the remnants of concentration camps and Geir Stian Orsten Ulstein wrote poems to accompany the individual photographs.

 

FMG Art

Majdanek

Hinderet bak det største hinder.
*
Skjult av avstand, det uformidlede,
Det absurde i elendighetens nåtid.

FMG Art

Gross-Rosen

Reveljetårn i stillhet.
Ingen å vekke,
Ingen å terrorisere.
Ikke lenger en leir.
*
Stadig går mennesker til grunne
I urettferdighet.

FMG Art

Belzec

Bortenfor alt kjent,
i ugjennomtrengelig grått.
Natt. Tåke. Utslettelse.
*
Bortenfor deg og ditt, de utslettede.

 

FMG Art

 Soribor

I naturen eksisterer ikke tilgivelse.
Ufortrødent visker den ut våre ugjerninger
hvor mye vi enn skulle kjempe imot.
*
Menneskene bryter tausheten i naturen;
Kommandobrøl, redselsskrik…
Og vi, vi ser mot fortiden, 
Vi ser alle andre veier
Mens vi lytter til gode formaninger
Om det som var. Vi ser ikke vår egen tid.
Vi ser bare skogen.

The Art Magazine


FMG Arts MonthlyNow I needn’t ask if you’ve read an art magazine, because you’re clearly reading one right now, but are they becoming the compact, convenient alternative to art exhibitions? I know this sounds far-fetched (and it is a little bit) but there is reasoning behind it.

Firstly, an art magazine is a publication whose main topic is art. They exist in both print form, online or sometimes even both, and are often aimed at different audiences, including galleries, collectors, amateur or professional artists and the general public. As a reader myself for both leisure and research reasons, I am aware of the importance of these magazines within the art world as a whole. However, if we take a step back, are these journals providing such an insight to the visual, theoretical and creative content of exhibitions, that we no longer need to experience them first hand?

We are spoilt with glossy, high resolution images when reading these magazines. This is even more prominent since the transference into digital form, where HD screens allow photographs to mimic reality. It makes you wonder, since the fast development of technology in the past twenty years, how we can read about and see images of exhibitions on our mobile phones. We can access this on the train, in bed, and on the way to work – every reason to not see the real thing.

The reproduction of popular exhibitions within magazines adheres to the fast-paced (yet often lethargic) lifestyle we lead, where often it is hard to set aside time to experience art in all its glory; experience being the operative word here, for a magazine cannot capture this. Imagine reading about a Rothko exhibition, or a Tino Segal performance in one of these journals – you’d never be able to imagine how it feels to speculate the art first hand. Don’t get me wrong, different art is hated by some and loved by others but if you are reading a biased article then you’ll never get any personal feeling about the original work.

The publications themselves are branded in a similar way to how galleries are – they adhere to a particular audience and are formed of a certain kind of content. With branding in mind, both exhibitions and articles are chosen to represent a core set of ideas or concepts. Sadly, many journals are clogged up with advertisements (often about galleries or exhibitions), which dilutes the flow through article to article. I guess it’s obvious to state that if you view art physically, you would have no problem with pages and pages of unnecessary, similar adverts with the odd perfume campaign.

It seems that in contemporary society we may be running the risk of compacting experiences into digital or object forms. I’m not saying in anyway that it captures the essence of these experiences, nor do they pose a threat, but I know I’m not the only one guilty of skipping the latest box office movie in exchange for a review and a trailer or simply looking at the pictures of current popular exhibitions. Art has developed alongside art journals, magazines and monologues so these aren’t new additions to the workings of the art world, yet does convenience, lower cost (or buying something you can keep) and a commentary neglect an afternoon spent in the company of art itself? Probably not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not the only one reading this magazine and not viewing the art in its full glory.

Fresh From Sheffield – S1 Artspace

 

FMG Art

Sheffield is a growing power in the UK’s art scene.

Hosting not only a contemporary art biennial festival but also the Sheffield Doc Fest.

Being home to S1 Artspace, Bloc projects, CAD, Yorkshire Artspace, Site Gallery and Sheffield Museums. Sheffield boasts a thriving street art scene, the most amount of studios in the UK outside of London and having one of the oldest established Art & Design institutions Sheffield’s Institute of Art.

We talk to Pippa Shaw, Geo Law & Joseph Cutts from S1 Artspace about the state of Sheffield’s art scene and their place in it. You can view there videos by clicking on the videos below.

Daily Rituals

Every artist will at some stage feel a block, and go seeking guidance. I myself am guilty of having spent far too many hours reading about creativity as opposed to actually creating stuff, so I know the risks involved when you go looking for advice (the risk being spending too much time chin-stroking and not enough time making). To those seeking guidance: I feel your pain, and I would like to spare you some time.
There is an overwhelming quantity of writing about how to find and sustain inspiration. Books on the subject can be found in almost every section from self-help to business, to biographies and psychology. From the viewpoint of their respective disciplines, the authors try to address the daunting questions that arise while maintaining a creative practice. How do you make meaningful work while also earning a living? Does hardship make us work better? Is the opposite true – that getting down to work actually necessitates a basic level of comfort? When time is tight – must you make sacrifices, and if so what – income, social life or a clean house? If it is possible to have it all, how do you organise your time so that you can pay the rent, keep in touch with friends, clean the house, and do what you love?

 

Developing a better understanding of the creative process is clearly a widespread (not to mention lucrative) concern. With such a huge amount of information available, it’s hard to know what to trust. Even the researchers, TED-talkers, ‘gurus’ and authors who are the supposed voices of authority in their fields would have to admit that the creative process is a highly subjective matter and “whatever works – works”. Unfortunately vague sentiments like this aren’t much use to those who are actually experiencing a block. Those who wake up one to discover that they don’t have a single idea worth writing down. Those who, try as they might, have never quite been able recover from a particularly brutal crit. Those who can’t remember the buzz they first experienced when they first picked up a camera and are secretly terrified that they won’t ever feel that way again.

 

In 2007, Mason Currey was sitting in the office of the architecture magazine he wrote for, suffering from a block. It was during a particularly restless afternoon of online procrastination that he started the Daily Routines blog, which was eventually reconfigured into the book ‘Daily Rituals’. The blog is simply a collection of the day-to-day routines of 150 great minds, including Ingmar Bergman, Sigmund Freud, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Frederico Fellini, Slyvia Plath, David Lynch, Marcel Proust, Twlya Thwarp and Marina Abromovic, etc.

Daily Rituals Mason Curry

Whenever writing about revered figures in any field, their successes can often overshadow the context of their private lives. The sheer randomness of events which lead them to create the masterpieces of which they are famed can be very easily overlooked. It’s an easier and more saleable to go for the age-old artist-genius story. What sets ‘Daily Rituals’ apart is that it isn’t about the masterpieces – it’s about the circumstances in which the work happens. Put the work itself to one side for a second, and it’s possible to glimpse at the artist as a creature of habit. By focusing on the mundane details of his subjects lives – Currey give us a novel angle on the creative process.

 

Marina Abromovic undergoes a militant routine to prepare for her performances but lives a loose and unstructured lifestyle when she isn’t working. Some work by day, others by night. Some desire solitude others can make progress by sharing their ideas. F.Scott Fitzgerald could only write in gin-fuelled bursts and insisted that alchohol was an essential part of the process. The book presents an expanded, and much more thoroughly researched versions of the blog, drawing from biographies, obituaries, interviews, letters and dairy entries of his subjects which make up a summary of each individuals routine (or lack there of).
For some, a vigorous routine is perfect. Edward Gibbon was a dedicated historian who persevered with his studies even when he was recruited for military action. He could often be found reading up on theological debate in his tent, recalling ancient history while on the march, always awake at the crack of dawn to get on with his research before the day’s maneuvers began. The adverse conditions didn’t faze him in the slightest. VS Pritchett said of Gibbon: “Sooner or later the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never loose a minute. It is very depressing”. Yet, for every cheerfully industrious type like Gibbon, there exists the opposite. Franz Kafka was an extremely talented writer who produced astoundingly vivid and influential stories while living a civilian life. Working lengthy hours in claustrophobic conditions with a highly-strung home-life, he seemed to live most of his life in a state of perpetual horror at these surroundings. This undoubtedly contributed to his nightmarish tales, but his torturous blocks are well documented. As he waited for inspiration to strike, he suffered from agonizing anxiety and self-doubt.
If the case studies in ‘Daily Rituals’ are anything to go by then Gibbon and Kafka are some of the most extreme examples. It’s encouraging to note that most people in the book fall somewhere in the middle-ground between these two. Most of Currey’s subjects make time for their passions as often as they in spite of the obstacles in their way. Yet they are never 100% confident in their approach. Even during the good days, they are superstitiously looking for anything that might upset the delicate working conditions that they thrive in.
It just goes to show that whatever works, works. No-one can answer the question of how to work better in a way which is meaningful to everyone. As Currey puts it – this can only be resolved “on an individual level through shakey personal compromises”. Or, as Kafka puts it (speaking from his tiny office where he is scolded and terrorized by his colleagues and family) – “time is short, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers”.

 

No one said a good working routine is easy to achieve, and if you are in a block and seeking guidance then this might all be getting a little depressing. My advice to you is this: if you go looking to the greats for advice, then bear in mind that they too are reliant on the circumstances of their day to day life in order get on with their work. Put their masterpieces to one side, and it’s possible to glimpse a person’s life’s work as the consequence of thousands of tiny day-to-day decisions. You too can choose to see your life’s work as the miraculous realisation of grand creative vision. Or, you can see it as the product of 89790 cups of coffee, 90015 cups of tea, 299930 early starts, 299981 glasses of water, 279 u-turns, 800 false starts, 400 tearful conversations, 399 hours of networking and 337 hours of online procrastination (approximate figures – do not hold me to these). Whatever helps you to ‘wriggle through.’

 

A quick guide through Edinburgh Art Festival

The Royal Mile seems to have shrunk and Grassmarket has become denser, the whole town has a new tempo and the pulse beats its way up through the city skin. The festival month lies like a thick layer in the air, an atmosphere you almost can touch with the tip of your finger. August is an exciting month for Edinburgh with a compelling amount of theatre, music, dance and art.

FMG Arts took a closer look at the Edinburgh Art Festival, the UK’s largest annual celebration of visual art. With over 45 exhibitions during August, the festival can begin to feel a bit like being lost in the jungle. We at FMG Arts took the opportunity to interview the director Sorcha Carey to get a better insight into this year’s program.

FM: First of all, could you briefly explain what your role is, as Director of Edinburgh Art Festival and what it entails

SC: Our festival programme consists of major solo and group exhibitions developed by partner galleries; an associate programme selected from applications received each year; and a programme of new commissions with a particular emphasis on work developed for beyond the gallery. I lead on our commissions programme and the selection of projects confirmed through our open submissions process, as well as taking an overview of the festival programme as a whole, to ensure that there are meaningful routes through for our visitors. As director of a small organisation, my role involves everything from curating to fundraising, depending on what stage we are at in the festival cycle.

 

FMG Art

Tessa Lynch
Raising
2014
Courtesy of the artist and Jupiter Artland

FM: How did you become involved with Edinburgh Art Festival?

SC: I joined the festival in 2011. I’d previously worked for the British Council in Scotland, and before that I worked on three editions of Liverpool Biennial.

 

FM: This will be the 11th year for EAF. Can you tell us how the festival keeps developing each year to attract new audiences?

SC: We work very hard to ensure that each year we bring our audiences the very best in visual art, contemporary and historic, established and emerging talent. Our interest in programming beyond gallery spaces as well as special cross art-form events such as Detours, is one of the ways in which we try to bring our programme to new audiences, as well as to give returning audiences the opportunity to discover something new.

 

FM: Is there something that distinguishes this year’s festival from previous years that could be interesting for our readers to know about?

SC: This year for the first time we are leading on a major exhibition of international contemporary art. We are collaborating with 5 curators and over 20 artists from Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK to explore the ideas and ideals behind commonwealth and the commons.  The exhibition takes its title from a work by Shilpa Gupta,’Where do I end and you begin’ and will be presented on 4 floors of the City Art Centre as well as in several offsite locations, and many of the artists exhibiting are showing in the UK for the very first time.

FMG Art

Ross Birrell
Being and Time (a copy of Being and Time is thrown into the Abyss, Grand Canyon Arizona
2012

FM: What would you say are the main highlights of this year’s programme?

SC: Where to begin? Isa Genszken at Inverleith House is a must, and there’s an amazing opportunity to reflect on the past 25 years of contemporary art practise in Scotland with lots of solo and group presentations as part of GENERATION – highlights include solo presentations of Jim Lambie at Fruitmarket, Katie Paterson at Ingleby Gallery, Dalziel and Scullion at Dovecot, as well an extraordinary survey show at the Scottish National Galleries.

 

FM: FMG Arts ethos is to develop opportunities and support for emerging artists and creatives. Are there any early career artists that are in this year’s festival that you can recommend?

SC: Our festival features artists at all stages of their careers, and we are always keen to ensure there are opportunities for our audiences to discover emerging artists. This year we are delighted to be collaborating with The Skinny to realise their Showcase as an exhibition featuring a selected graduate from each of the major Scottish degree shows. We are also collaborating with Talbot Rice Gallery to commission 6 emerging artists to make new work or performances for the festival. Our Film Club invites emerging spaces to curate an evening of artist film during the festival, and this year we have asked 4 international artist run spaces to contribute.

 

 

FM: Do you have any wise words for early career artists hoping to exhibit in an Art Festival?

SC: Festivals can represent a really great opportunity for early career artists to exhibit their work – I’d recommend subscribing to the relevant festival websites. Those festivals that issue open calls will generally do this through their website and social media channels. If you decide to apply to exhibit in a festival, make sure your application is clear and the images are strong – the selector can only assess on what has been submitted to them, so it’s really important to communicate your ideas and/or project in the clearest possible way.

 

 

FMG ART

Katie Paterson
Earth–Moon–Earth (Moonlight Sonata Reflected from the Surface of the Moon)
2007
Disklavier grand piano
Installation view, Cornerhouse, Manchester 2011
Photo © We are Tape
Courtesy of the artist

 

FM: Do you have any wise words for young creatives who want to work within Art Festivals as an organiser or a curator? 

 SC: Like most of my colleagues, I started my career with an internship. It is such a valuable way not only to get hands on experience, but also to begin to understand where your strengths lie, and what particular aspect of exhibition making or curating interests you most.

 

FM: And finally, what value and impact do you think Edinburgh Art Festival has for the city of Edinburgh and its art scene?

SC: We’re very proud of the way in which some of our public art commissions and off-site projects have revitalised neglected areas of the city or allowed people to access buildings and spaces that are normally closed to them. The value of this is immeasurable – not only in genuinely improving the fabric of the city, but also in continuing to engage new audiences with contemporary art. Each year, more and more of our visitors tell us they are visiting Edinburgh in August specifically for the visual art programme we run – it’s enormously encouraging that we have been able to put visual arts centre stage, in the context of a festival city which has in the past been more usually associated with performing arts or comedy.

 

 

Edinburgh Art Festival is on from 1st August – 31st August.

Grey Up North

London is firmly established as the heart of the art world in this country: with over 1000 permanent art spaces and more artists per square mile than anywhere else in Europe, this huge, thriving, creative hub of a city seduces and fascinates us Northerners.

But the North of England is working hard to make a name for itself as a creative hotspot. Medium sized, post-industrial cities like Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield are rebranding themselves as centres for creativity. Big, publicly-funded galleries, as well as smaller, independent art spaces and studios are popping up all over the North, and from them a distinctly Northern style seems to be emerging.

Middlesbrough’s mima is currently showing ‘Chance Finds Us, a project initiated by Anne Viebeke Mou and Nick Kennedy in 2010.This exhibition showcases eight artists, including Viebeke Mou and Kennedy, based in the North East of England who share similar approaches to the art-making process. The exhibition, according to mima’s curator Alix Collingwood, is a “fantastic opportunity to highlight the wealth of talent and the calibre of artistic thinking that is present in the North East”.

The artists represented in this exhibition use routine and repetition, devising strategies or appropriating frameworks within which they can explore chance and serendipity. Drawn grids, mathematical instruments and imposed rules juxtapose intuitive mark making, random encounters and unpredictability.

James Hugonin art

Courtesy the artist and Ingleby Gallery

Inside the gallery space, the silver-grey light mimics the overcast, gloomy weather outside—a typical day in the North, and the perfect backdrop to the vivid colours of James Hugonin’s ‘Binary Rhythm’. Hugonin’s large paintings are composed of tiny rectangles of colour, picked out from the Northumbrian landscape, and their is a quietness to their vibrancy. Meditative and deliberate, this work systematises and slows the wild and constantly changing colours of the countryside.

Apart from Hugonin, most of the artists showing their work in this exhibition employ to a very minimal colour palette: Anne Viebeke Mou’s faint graphite drawings on paper seem to be particularly modest works. However, closer inspection reveals that her drawings have been made up of thousands of tiny marks. In 2011, she and Hugonin jointly won the ACE Award for Art in a Religious Context, where they were both commissioned to design stained glass windows for St John’s Church in Northumberland. In their works in this exhibition too, a spiritual devotion seems to be apparent in the ritualistic, devout mark-making, and in the light which seems to emanate from the pieces. These artists are influenced by Northumberland’s beautiful countryside, something that I don’t think the London art scene would understand. The English Landscape? Yuck! It’s a heavy topic, reserved for musty old art historians. But Northern artists aren’t let off the hook so easily, they are constantly confronted with the awe-inspiring sublimity of the land which surrounds them. This force has no concern for whether on not it is cliché: it simply persists. These artists have the challenge of addressing it, and speaking from where they stand.

The art scene in the North of England is definitely on the rise and with it is a distinctive voice and style. In fifteen years we will be able to define exactly what that is—but for now, you can just come and feel it forming for yourself.

Middlesbrough’s Institute of Modern Art is in the centre of the town; it’s family friendly, and wheelchair accessible.

‘Chance Finds Us’runs until 4th September.

An Interview With Tim Manthey – Don’t Quit Your Daydream

You can often understand a lot about an artists’ work just by the way the artist himself talks about it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but perhaps the words are sometimes enough. Tim Manthey – an artist who is being referred to more and more as ‘Cloud Nectar,’ a name he originally paired with his work itself – is a contemporary collage artist creating dreamlike pieces that could easily be compared to the works of artists such as Salvador Dali, Andre Breton, or René Magritte with a modern day twist. Describing his own work as being “dipped in a surrealistic batter and deep-fried with love” it’s more than clear that Tim Manthey is connected to his work as an artist should be – he is in love with it, and he is in love with creating it, forming a passion that is readable through every collage he creates.

 

Penumbra

Courtesy of the artist Tim Manthey

So, how does an artist such as Tim Manthey – a previous self-confessed dabbler – create these works of art? Wondering whether it’s a matter of finding one image as a kind of launching off point for each piece and going from there, I was curious to find out exactly what Manthey’s own process for working was. To this question Mathey replied in a somewhat nonchalant manner, “You hit the nail on the head. Unless I’m embarking on a thematic piece, it starts with one image flying off the page.” He continued to explain that “Once [he] gets back to the studio the starter image will mingle with different backgrounds, foregrounds, and other random bits that are in a messy pile on [his] desk. It’s the primordial soup method.” Creating art in such a trial and error manner most definitely works well for Manthey, creating pieces that are constantly free and organic in feeling, even despite the combination of images and colours being far from natural itself. This laid back approach to the creation of his collages works extremely well with the images Manthey chooses to use – with most of them being extracted from “books, magazines, and ephemera that are 20 to 100 years old” everything about Manthey’s work and the retro feeling that it creates rings true to a time of empowerment, creativity, and adventure.

 

Having said that Manthey’s work hints at empowerment, creativity and adventure, it became clear throughout our interview that he himself is also very passionate about all three of these traits. Sounding like some kind of an Artistic Freedom Fighter, Manthey didn’t have a rehearsed or even slightly narcissistic or selfish response when I asked what he’d still like to achieve in his career. Instead, Manthey took the opportunity to make a point of what too many of us know all too well, stating that “So many artists are not able to devote the right amount of time to their work to really let it blossom, because to make art a sustainable livelihood is challenging right now to say the least.” However, Manthey wasn’t simply pointing this out – or worse, rubbing in the fact that he was one of the lucky few that this no longer applied to – instead, he continued to explain that he wants to “see this change soon”, before announcing that he himself “would love to help be a part of that shift.”Manthey also went on to mention that he would “seriously like to get more in touch with the audience”, creating a ripple effect in my mind that perhaps these two wishes for the near future were related. It’s far too true that artists of all kinds are struggling to create – with todays economic climate just proving the cherry on top of a long list of obstacles still to overcome – but with Manthey later describing collaborations as the “hidden treasures in this journey” perhaps working together is in fact the first step towards a better future for all artists. “It’s the wave of the future.” Manthey declared when referring to collaborations, before adding that we should all “Seek out some collaborators. You won’t regret it.”

 

Tim Manthey

Courtesy of the artist Tim Manthey

Unsurprisingly, due to this way of thinking about art, Manthey also had an impressive answer in line when I asked the eternally hopeful question of whether we could use art to change the world. “It’s interesting how currents move. I grew up in the eighties. Western culture and media in the eighties was highly influenced by what artists were doing in the sixties. There is a gestation period sometimes, but art always has lasting effects in the world. Now with streamlined forms of media gathering steam, that gap is narrowing. We are seeing the perspectives of artists shaping culture sooner and sooner. Art can put people in touch with their own original thoughts. Original thoughts when accepted as true, lead to action. Let’s watch this unfold and take part in it, and connect along the way.”

 

With that in mind, perhaps it is time to review the advice Tim Manthey would like all wannabe practicing artists to know. Here is a list of points he wishes he’d “heard from teachers, mentors and sages”;

 

1.)   Run. Physically go running, at night if you can. Visions will come.

2.)   Your unique way of seeing things is important, real, and something you’ve already been using. Be honest with yourself about what you truly desire and it will become art.

3.)   Make lots of mistakes and experiment with mediums until you find a process that you can get totally addicted to. The rewards will flow immediately, because the process is the reward. Everything else is icing.

4.)   Stay very, very curious and let go of cynicism.

5.)   Trust your intuition like gravity, it can’t fail you.

6.)   Doodle in traffic. Sing in the produce aisle. Make art constantly: good art, bad art, mediocre art, it all goes into the soup and leads to the next thing, so keep your hands moving.

7.)   Ask for help. Be specific. Help will emerge from the woodwork. A time will come when you will help others, too.

 

It’s all quite simple, but I doubt many artists can admit to ticking off each of these points as often as they actually should – so, what are you waiting for, take the advice of an artist like Tim Manthey and who knows what you’ll be able to achieve. It seems the simple fact is, you’ve just got to keep moving, in Manthey’s own words, “What will you create?”

Tor Simen Ulstein – Featured Artist August 2014

This months featured artist is Tor Simen Ulstein. We feature parts of his series ‘Przystanek’

FMG Art

FMG Art

FMG Art

FMG Art

 

 

Fresh From Sheffield – Pippa Shaw S1 Artspace

S1 Artspace

Pippa Shaw on the Sheffield art scene. 

S1 has a very unique position in Sheffield, within the cultural horizon. In that it supports a level of artist that are very key to the cultural economy, not necessarily recent graduates but very much in the emerging field.

We work very closely with SHU, we do an educational programme with them and we co-host there degree show.

S1 is a very nurturing environment there is a real community, the studios are pretty much all open plan, which is very much unique within Sheffield. All the studios on the mezzanine level are committed to fine art practice, so there’s a real dialogue that goes on and that’s there everyday. I feel in terms of the studios there’s a real particular ethos that exists at S1.

The gallery programme itself again supports emerging artists largely and is commissioned focused so we really try to provide a pot of money for them to do whatever they want. That’s a really unique thing and it’s really important to S1.

To see Pippa’s full interview watch the video below

Fresh From Sheffield – Geo Law

Geo Law sheffield

Geo Law on the Sheffield art scene. 

Currently the art scene has many facets to it. I concentrate mostly on graphic design, illustration scene and the street art scene.

We have a lot of art festivals here, mostly contemporary art and they are always interesting to go to because you see a lot of people crossing over into each others events, so you end up supporting a lot of the artists.

At S1 Artspace we all go to each others shows to support each other, but also because its intriguing as you have first hand knowledge of the artist and we know them as people as well as creatives.

Sheffields art scene is diverse and I do feel that certain practices cross over. I’ve not really worked alongside any of the artists that are here (S1 Artspace), but I do get interesting feedback from them because of differing opinions and likewise I give out my opinion on their work if is visually intrigues me, or makes me ask questions of it.

To see Geo’s full interview watch the video below

A whale o a whale o a time…

The McManus Galleries in Dundee offers a dreadfully cliché experience that promises a whale of a time with Nick Evans latest exhibition entitled The White Whale. Evans has created a sculptural installation in conjunction with the GENERATION PROJECT that celebrates 25 years of the development of Scottish Art. The project culminates in a generation of ideas, experiences and of prestigious art that the country has to offer. Nick Evans latest solo exhibition is inspired by the Gothic architecture and décor of the McManus building. The exhibition title ‘The White Whale” has deliberate mythical connotations. It relates to the Narwhal, which was hunted by Dundee whalers in the nineteenth century. The Narwhal’s long pointed ‘tusk ‘ was believed to belong to the magical unicorn.

 

Evans was influenced by “The Geometry of fears”- a group of sculptors that consisted of Lynn Chadwick, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull. They created twisted and spiked forms of the human figure post Second World War. Evans’ plastered humanoid forms lend to this distinctive style and are originally drawn from ethnographic sources. The sculptures appear as if floating in a fantasyland. They exist in their own distinctive environment scattered across the monochrome printed floor (that was replicated from a textile within the McManus’ collection). I am a very tactile person and I admire the artist’s limited use of material. The simplicity of the monochrome floor in conjunction with the white plaster sculptures and hints of wood throughout the gallery complement one another magically. It adds to this idea of being lost in a dream.

 

There are a few sculptures that stand out to me. “ Petrosphere” suggests a strange molecular structure whereas ‘Hunger’ that can be viewed from different angles insinuates two bodies bending over one another… highlighting the wanderings of a strange hallucinatory mind. My favourite sculpture is “Children of the sun’ where a light appears to sit on top of a human figure. The light was like a beacon calling out to the pursuers of the white whale. The story of Moby Dick represents a universe trapped by its protagonist’s subjectivities instead Evans’ exhibition is a refusal of the subjective. Evans argues that the development of each sculpture is a re-arrangement of form instead of focus on interpretative and symbolic value.

Nick Evans

Nick Evans: The White Whale © The Artist; Mary, Mary

 

Within the high ceiling gallery, the sculptures appear like creatures rising up from the abyss. If you listen closely the sounds of a whale reverberates throughout the hall thanks to the thumps of the little children’s feet. This exhibition is definitely worth taking your children along to visit. They provide the best humorous responses when asked about Nick’s strange parallel universe of sculptures. When sitting on the gallery floor drinking in this strange dream, I want to imagine a dark misty night with the possibility of finding Moby Dick in a strange sea of monochrome.

 

The White Whale was a fantastic exhibition that allows your imagination to run wild through a sculptural dreamland. I highly recommend this exhibition and Evans’ work will be available to see until 31st August.

Summer In The East End

In a lot of ways, I feel quite privileged to have studied fine art in Sheffield: my three years spent there demonstrated to me the importance of seeing beyond the capital for amazing artist communities. Yet now that that chapter has closed, I am once again living on the edge of East London and wandering what this new location will bring.

London can sometimes seem very big and menacing; saturated with artists and possibly intimidating to fresh graduates, who really require the support network of smaller gallery spaces. With the majority of the country’s big name galleries dotted around London’s centre, locating the slightly more hidden art spaces can seem a bit of a mammoth task. With that in mind (and with an abundance of free time), I set myself the task of doing the leg work and learning more about the art scene on my own doorstep. Besides, where would be better to start looking than in East London?

The East End has seemingly undergone a transformation in recent years with several galleries – like the White Cube – relocating to more central locations. There does appear to be a question mark about how areas like Shoreditch – previously the playground of the YBAs, when they were in fact young – will evolve, especially as property prices increase. However, there is still a strong alternative gallery presence and a multitude of spaces to discover. Heading to Cambridge Heath (just a couple of stops on an overground train from Liverpool Street station) would be a good place to start and puts you in walking distance of a host of galleries between Bethnal Green and Aldgate.

That’s exactly what I did when setting out on my gallery search and (just to warn you) sometimes you do have to search. On an impulse, I made my way straight to Supplement Gallery – a short walk from the station on Teesdale Street – which I soon realized was in the middle of a whole terraced street of small galleries and artist work spaces. Another thing to note about many of the spaces in this vicinity is that they are only open Thursday-Sunday, with some open on Wednesdays. It so happened that this particular day was a Tuesday, so it was advantageous that I’d emailed ahead about my visit. Supplement has strong links to the Sheffield artist community and represents a group of already well established artists – their July show Ends Again looked excellently considered (Cecile B. Evans’ video work especially caught my attention) and sat well within the domestic-sized space and beautiful wooden floors.

Vyner Street signFrom there (after being given an amazing list of galleries in the area by Supplement’s director Adam Thomas) I walked to Cell Project Space (Cambridge Heath Road). Set back from the main road and sandwiched between a snooker club and a dry cleaners, it would be easy to miss this gem. Their next viewable show opens on September 18th but they also have a passion for providing affordable studio space for artists working nearby. Furthermore, they also run a yearly internship program, aimed at new graduates and artists in further education.

My route then went as follows: I continued on to Minerva Street, where I found a rather silent matte black building front and an interesting solo show inside. I then carried on to Vyner Street which is lined with artist initiated galleries, Wilkinson Gallery and Vyner Street Gallery being examples. Next was The Approach Gallery – one of my favourite finds. The gallery space is actually the top floor of a pub, which makes an excellent resting point after a while of trundling around on an art adventure. Their current painterly exhibition runs until August 10th.

Supplement, by Cecile B. Evans

If you’d like to follow this same route and find yourself not fully satisfied at this point, you can make your way to Herald Street (nearer Bethnal Green station) where you will come across Herald Street Gallery, Laura Bartlett Gallery, Maureen Paley and Campoli Presti – all of which consistently boast fantastic shows. Mile End Road is home to Carlos Ishikawa – a space that plays host to young, experimental work. Another space that has become a personal favourite is Chisenhale Gallery, which you would find if you were to continue east from the Approach – I admire the way the gallery appears to completely transforms for each show it holds.

Back at Aldgate, there is of course the Whitechapel Gallery: my favourite thing about this well-established space is the Zilkha Auditorium, where they are currently showcasing artists’ film from around the world (their café is pretty delightful too). As you get closer to Shoreditch, you’ll also find smaller spaces like Raven Row, which is very near to Liverpool Street station. Their Yvonne Rainer retrospective is open until August 10th, with four dance performances happening daily.

Now, I would think that that’s quite enough gallery hunting for one day. Maybe we should go find some coffee.

Cutie and the Boxer

Documentary films have the rare power to capture life like no other medium. Great documentaries like the phenomenal Act of Killing and Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine offer us a very unique and personal exercise in the human condition. Cutie and the Boxer is something of an enigma; for one thing, it defies tradition with its abstract picture of a self-proclaimed “boxing artist”, Ushio Shinohara and his assistant, Noriko, who also happens to be his loving wife.

The documentary chronicles the inner workings of a highly creative couple, husband Ushio is highly regarded by the underground art scene for his surreal alternative works and wishes to be recognised by a larger audience through a dedicated exhibition. Ushio is famed for his unique style of painting; dipping a pair of boxing gloves in colourful inks and paints and then striking the canvas, creating brilliant patterns, bursting full of energy. Ushio’s wife, Noriko, wishes to break free from her husband’s shadow and wishes to be seen as a credible artist on her own merit.

Cutie and The Boxer

Cutie and the Boxer explores the dynamic, and sometimes strained, relationship between two very creative people, who both have very different attitudes and motives behind their art. Noriko’s art is very self-reflective and autobiographic whereas Ushio is based on impulse and raw energy. Though they are very different people in their own right, there is no denying the underlying affection they have for each other, it is refreshing to see such an honest and truthful relationship on screen.

This is very much a film that is open to interpretation; I don’t believe that there is any profound message behind the film and I don’t think there was meant to be one. Cutie and the Boxer is for lovers of art and those who are interested in real human drama. I felt attached to both Ushio and Noriko to a certain extent; I warmed to them both as people and as artists. Though I can’t say that I have fallen in love with Ushio or Noriko’s art, I can see the thought, direction and hard work behind each piece. Ushio was part of Japan’s rebellious avant-garde scene in the 1960’s, and at the age of 81, you can still see what drives him to paint, sculpt and draw. For Noriko, her art is far more melancholic and emotional. As a young woman she lived for art but after so many years caring for her family she simply lost the energy for it and now as an older woman, her art tells the story of her life. She may have lost her way in the past but her burning artistic vision never truly died.

Cutie & The Boxer

There’s no doubt that Cutie and the Boxer celebrates art and artists but the film led me to believe that the whole art scene was a very cynical and shallow system. I found myself feeling very bitter towards the art dealers who were praising Ushio with such a nauseating atmosphere of elitism and pretention. For what it’s worth, I truly felt like I was experiencing the day in the life of an artist, from the highs of selling a piece to the excruciating lows of rejection and self-loathing.

My only real criticism of the film is its blatant objectivity in certain places. I wanted someone to address Ushio for his actions or learn more of Noriko’s past. This is what great documentaries do, they invest us in the lives of others. After the film had finished, I was still thinking about the couple and I wondered what future they may have together, whether Ushio will thank Noriko for everything she has done for him, for standing by him for so many decades.

I really enjoyed watching Cutie and the Boxer, I definitely feel that I have take something away from the film. I feel that I can appreciate the work of artists more. This is an excellent documentary for those interested in the arts or just people just looking for a real-life love story.

Monument Valley

Having being born in the 90s I can safely say I’ve experienced the most exciting development in gaming. My first gaming platform was the Gameboy Colour, which was bought by my Father on our holiday in Majorca at the cusp of the millennium, along with the original Pokémon Red game and one or two 15-in-one games. Owning a Gameboy at the time was the most fashionable thing a kid could own, alongside any of the new gaming platforms such as a PS1.

The gaming world has moved quick and fast since then and with the introduction of Apps in the late 2000s, gaming has been revolutionized by this accessible platform. Anyone who owns a relatively decent smartphone or tablet can choose from literally thousands of free or affordable games. One game that I chose in particular was Monument Valley, a game that won the 2014 Apple Design Awards, developed by Ustwogames. The game is available on iOS for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android and Amazon.

 Most app-based games have relatively simple fundamentals, such as a progressive story or addictive gameplay. Monument Valley has digressed from this basic tradition to offer a more mature and artistic stance on gaming.

Upon opening the game you are welcomed by an art-deco frame surrounding the words ‘Monument Valley – ustwo’, followed by the title screen. The level select screen is an interactive podium as such, that rotates in ascending order in accordance to your progression, marked by roman numerals (I – X).

Monument Valley art

My curiosity drew me to rotate this podium. On rotating the form I was immediately presented with a soft strum of a stringed instrument, only to discover that the tempo of the sounds changed in relation to the movement of the structure. This early interaction with the object set an expectation of what was to come.

The first level introduces the player to the two most simple yet fundamental movements ‘tap the path to move Ida’ and ‘hold to move’ (one can assume from this that the protagonist is named Ida). This instruction would be the only one of the entire game. Never before have I played a game of such beauty and such simplicity, in so much as it has a subtle introduction to the controls of the game.

The most immediate quality of the game is the simplicity of the illusionistic landscape Ida has to navigate. From moving a path to create another with a lever, the ‘infinite triangle’ object manifests itself in the terrain, defying traditional physical restrictions. The premise of utilising the surreal and illusionistic landscape is apparent throughout the game, only to become more stunningly complex whilst preserving its visual simplicity.

Chapter II entitled ‘The Garden’ introduces the first hint at a storyline with ‘Ida embarks on a quest for forgiveness’, setting the mysterious tone for the game. This early chapter gives a taste for the symmetrical layout that creates the ‘impossible’ quality of the architecture.

Ida is drawn to a tile that activates a shift in the terrain. As a plinth rises, an implausibleconnection is made to the upper tier of the map, demonstrating the intricacy of the design and the consideration for perspective as well as introducing the puzzle element of the game.

For me, the most exciting feature of the game is the minimalistic design of the architecture, and the interpretation of MC Escher’s Relativity. The ongoing visual theme echoes the gravity defying qualities of Escher’s work, drawing on the surreal existence of the characters and their interaction with the illusionistic environment; in this case we are presented with Ida. The smooth and seamless transitioning between each environment maintains the beauty of the game and allows the gamer to enjoy the artistic qualities of the design.Monument Valley

In later chapters of the game, it goes on to tell short stories revealing more about Ida’s character. The game also consistently pushes the boundaries of aesthetic design with it’s depthless confines, complex structure and illusory formations seemingly impressing you that little bit more as the game goes on.

Monument Valley is one of the most immersive and strikingly beautiful games I have played on any platform. The combination of soft aesthetically pleasing landscapes, architecture and ambience paired with simple yet captivating game play presents an impressive combination that should be explored, whether you game for entertainment or to pass the time.

Fresh From Sheffield – Joseph Cutts


Joseph Cutts interview

Joseph Cutts on the Sheffield art scene. 

I think the Sheffield art scene is very cutting edge both S1 and Site Gallery have very different approaches to the way they put on shows.

Site Gallery is predominately media based, so it has a different method to the way it programs its year projects, especially with platform projects.

Where as S1, in the last year we have seen is relationship with Sheffield museums and the Henry Moore institute form.

There is a great relationship between how past artworks from archives can now inform future artists and commission so as a whole to explore different mediums of the way of putting on works. Its becoming more of an all round city.

To see Joseph’s full interview watch the video below.