Zealous X: So apparently I love film

If you're in London, you NEED to go to Zealous X. It's ace.

Starting, well, now, and carrying on through the weekend, the show features live music, performance, stand up comedy, poetry and dance... And of course the more traditional-ish artforms: painting, sculpture, film and installation. All of this comes from 100 artists handpicked by Guy Armitage and his team at Zealous.

Little reminder, for those who haven’t read my interview with Guy: Zealous is an online social platform for people to find new artists of all disciplines, and for those artists to collaborate with people both in and out of the arty sphere. Have a gander. I’ll give you a tenner if you spend 15 minutes browsing and don’t come across something inspiring*.

Anywho, Zealous online decided to celebrate its success so far with this Zealous X show. I minced on down to the opening night last night (because it’s not worth going anywhere unless you mince), expecting a pretty decent display of arty talent.

But it’s so much better than that. Set across four floors and ten rooms in the charmingly derelict Barge House behind the Oxo Tower, I minced (ok, I don’t mince as much as I pretend I do) through rooms as performance artists in stunning costumes wandered past. Each room represented a different discipline, but I spent most of my time in the film room.

Film is a new genre for me, so I can only pass judgement from a novice’s point of view, but the last film of the evening stuck in my brain (though perhaps I had been taking advantage of the booze on tap a little too much).

Richard Mansfield’s WOLFSKIN took three years to make, and a little birdy tells me it’s the first full silhouette feature film in over 80 years. This city has been swallowed up by thorns, leaving few survivors. Wolves are on the search for their lost sister, who has been kept prisoner by her evil step-siblings and some pretty creepy clockwork mannequins. The video is hosted on the Zealous site (click this link), but seeing it in a crumbly old room just made it even creepier (at one point a bit of ceiling fell into my drink. I jumped. I looked a fool).

Anyway, this is just one of many astounding pieces I saw on the evening. And the big shocker? I thought I wasn’t that into film. That’s the awesome thing about mish-mashing disciplines – it lets you discover inspiration where you previously had none.

So haul ass to Zealous X – just a couple of minutes from Blackfriars or Waterloo. Let me know what you find out.

*I so don’t have a tenner to give you, soz

I bloody love Las Meninas

Velasquez's Las Meninas may be one of the most widely analysed paintings in the history of EVER, but that doesn't mean you can't look into it and see something entirely of your own.

It's a hell of a noggin-scratcher, and doesn't quite fit into any pigeon holes. The scene shows court artist Velasquez at his easel, so in that respect, it's a self-portrait. But although at first glance it looks like you can't see who he's painting, you can. Their reflection is in the mirror. He's painting the king and queen, and because of the composition, it kinda feels like he's painting you. Ego boost, huh? There's that, and the fact that most people in the image are turned towards you. It's all very flattering - until you remember that you're not actually the subject of this portrait.

I love it when a painting explores a deep issue like the ego!

The five year old girl in the central light is the King's daughter, Margarita Teresa. She is flanked by her meninas (her ladies in waiting, or maids of honour), which makes it a genre painting of court life with, apparently, the token dwarves. Was that a standard thing in Spanish court? I don't know.

Everyone in this image is important in their own way. I won't pretend I get worlds of meaning out of each and every one of them, but this is the type of painting that a) is different for everyone and b) makes you notice something new every time you look at it. So although something might seem of small importance the first time you look at it, that's not necessarily the case.

For instance, I understand there are volumes written about old blokey in the doorway. I've never really found him that interesting, when we could be considering the fact that the subjects of the portrait are reduced to a reflection in a far-off mirror. But as I just said, everything here is important.

There's a big debate about whether he's just entering or just leaving, and what that could mean for the scene. By hinting that the outside world actually exists, by pulling back the curtain, he stops us from feeling too claustrophobic in this bizarre little set up. He also draws your eye outward, away from the room; while the king and queen's reflection in the mirror pushes the eye forward. Good balancing technique. The figure is Don Jose Nieto Velasquez, and it was basically his job to open and close doors for the queen (damn, I should have been a queen), which I reckon means this painting shows the king and queen getting ready to exit, now the painter has finished studying them.

Like Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, I could go on forever about it, but I'll leave it there and let you have a think about what else you can see in this oddly fascinating composition.

For further reading, check out this blog's interpretation of how 'self-aware' the painting is.

Artist Michelle Mildenhall dresses QE2 in latex in support of World AIDs Day

Contemporary latex artist Michelle Mildenhall has been chosen to exhibit at 100 Artists for World AIDs Day at The Dome, Brighton.

100 Artists for World AIDs Day is an established self-funding art project conceptualised by artist and art director Hizze Fletcher in 2008, and produced via Thirteen Art Productions. The private view will take place on November 30th, and the exhibition runs until December 8th.

The show gives artists a challenge - and potential buyers a treat - as all of the purse-friendly exhibited artworks are limited to a 40cm x 40cm size. Keeping the cause in mind, 20% of any art sales at the exhibition are donated to Sussex Beacon.

Among the exhibitors is latex-loving artist, Michelle Mildenhall. As the only UK-based artist working solely with latex, she balances stylised imagery with compelling minimalism.

“I’m proud to be part of a cause that raises funds and awareness of AIDs,” says Michelle. “It’s really important for communities to come together in the face of the disease – and that includes the artistic community.”

Each exhibiting artist chooses one artwork to present at the event. Michelle has decided to bring along QE2, showing the Queen in a collar and crown. It has been one of her most popular creations – even gracing the front cover of Skin Two.

“As a material, latex is so beautiful it really deserves to be looked at and admired. It helps me to strip down my subjects in a minimalist style, while still retaining the essence of their characters. I've really enjoyed taking a formidable icon and a sensual medium and combining the two to create the final piece." Mildenhall says.

You can see her other artworks below - stunning!

And with three little words, graffiti entered its next phase




I’ve just spotted the most amusing piece of graffiti I’ve seen in an age (sorry Banksy, dear). Someone has gone out of their way to write ‘huge breasted robot’, in small scale, on a wall near Essex Road train station. And this comes just after the announcement that the number of graffiti incidents reported to the British Transport Police has fallen 63% since 2007... INTERESTING.

Graffiti started off as a way to use words in a public space to get a message across. In times of old, graffiti displayed phrases of love declarations, political rhetoric and other notions that are simple in comparison to today’s popular messages of social and political ideals.

Having said that, the accepted ‘first piece of graffiti’ is an advert for a prostitute, so I guess its ‘simplicity’ is subjective.

But since the rise of graffiti art in the 60s, and the astronomic snowballing it did in the politically-charged early noughties, the definition of this means of self-expression has changed. What used to be a written art form has become an aesthetic art form. The artists moved in, and the ‘writers’, if we’ll call them that (let’s, just for the sake of argument), have moved out.

Don’t believe me? Google image search ‘graffiti. Almost every piece of graffiti is a picture. And with the rest, the only purpose of a single word (often something like ‘real’) is to stubbornly anchor it to the written-graffiti style of the past.

Look at it. That piece of graffiti is not about the word, but how the letters look.

The graffiti of tomorrow will continue to be aesthetic and in the present, we’re just left with a huge-breasted robot. Political messages have found a much louder voice on the internet, and now the street is the domain of the artist. Some pieces of graffiti will have the same messages as their written counterparts, some will have different ones, but the story we’re telling now is all about the aesthetic.

The arty interview: Hermione Carline

After coming across her work at The Other Art Fair, I caught up with contemporary artist Hermione Carline, to discuss the contemporary art scene and our mutual love - Japan.

Hermione Carline, Tokyo Storm 1

You recently exhibited at The Other Art Fair. Do you enjoy exploring new contemporary art?

I felt privileged to exhibit alongside some very talented artists and love the range of ideas and media possible now in contemporary art. In my own work I am interested in conveying an emotional feeling through the colours and textures I use in my paintings. I leave room for viewers to form their own interpretations.

What is your primary medium and subject matter?

My subject matter concerns particular memories of places I've spent time in and which have held a certain resonance for me. My work begins with drawing and photography, leading on to perspex face mounted photo pieces and oil paintings, using layering techniques and stencils onto wooden panels.

How long have you been active, and what made you become an artist?

I came from a long line of artists and my entire family were immersed in art. My earliest memories are of painting and drawing, so in that sense I have been active my entire life.

Hermione Carline, Tokyo Mist

You took a trip to Japan recently, which I understand was the inspiration behind some of your current artworks. What exactly was it about Japan that inspired you? 

It was the contrast between the fast paced vibrant street life of Tokyo and the serenity as well as simplicity of life in the villages which enriched my overall experience of the country. For me it was the whole culture, the country's history, etiquette and extraordinarily different way of life which I found so stimulating.

Hermione Carline, Tokyo Rain

Is travel your main inspiration?

Not always, but it is the colours, sounds and the feeling I get from being in a foreign place that often inspires me.

Favourite artwork of all time?

I have chosen this painting by my father Richard Carline ' Under the mosquito net on the Grace Harwar', 1931. As a child I used to hear the stories about his trip sailing down the Orinoco river on the last of the full-rigged cargo ships going to South America. There is a wonderful feeling of romance about the picture with the pink flamingos flying across the skyline and the billowing nets that make you feel as though you are inside the boat itself.

What is an artistic outlook on life?

It is constantly being aware and alert to ones surroundings and finding what it is that inspires or moves us personally in our everyday lives.

The Munich hoard: Maybe not so ‘degenerate after all’?

I’ve found this whole ‘Munich art hoard’ story fascinating. 1,500 modernist masterpieces have been found – almost by accident – at the home of Cornelius Gurlitt. It turns out his father, Dr Hildebrand Gurlitt, looted ‘degenerate art’ for the Nazis. Ever since, young Cornelius has been selling off these Matisses and Chagalls to fund his not-so-lavish lifestyle as a recluse.

Marc Chagall

The incredible story of Cornelius Gurlitt is almost old news now, but I’ve been thinking about everything I thought I knew about Nazi Germany. Admittedly, this wasn’t much beyond GCSEs and a couple of documentaries I’ve watched when trying to kid myself I’m being productive on a hangover.

I always assumed Hitler REALLY didn’t like modern art. In July 1937, as you might remember from school, they gathered together some absolute masters – including German artists Otto Dix, Georg Grosz and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – not in praise, but in mockery. The idea was that modern art was a conspiracy by the Bolsheviks and dastardly Jewish dealers to break down traditional European culture. They wanted to show their enemies in a ‘laughable’ light.

(It’s always amusing to recall that the Nazis’ ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition drew a far greater crowd than their exhibition of favourable art – own goal, suckers).

So, because of their words and actions, it seemed that Hitler and his henchmen hated modern art. We know the Furher wasted his inheritance trying – and failing – to become an artist in Vienna. I kinda assumed Hitler hated modern art because it had rejected him. But perhaps the alleged ‘destruction’ of ‘degenerate art’ wasn’t the mark of a failed artist throwing his toys out of the pram after all.

Otto Dix

The reason family Gurlitt got away with it for so long was because we assumed his hoard had been destroyed by the Nazis. But so much art went missing between 1936-1945 that it has become almost impossible to see the loots from the fires. The ‘monuments men’, art experts who searched for missing masterpieces in the aftermath of WW2, understandably focused on Titians and other artworks the Nazis would have deemed worthy of stealing. But the fact that this newly uncovered hoard was made up of entirely ‘degenerate art’ proves they should have been looking for the artworks they assumed destroyed as well.

We always thought the Nazis grabbed modern artworks to get rid of them, when actually, they did much more to preserve them than we could have imagined. The money element is the obvious alternative, but there is one more that I find infinitely more intriguing. Maybe Hitler loved modern art; maybe he hated it. Or maybe he loved to hate it. That seems most feasible. If you love to hate something, you do want to keep it tucked away somewhere so you can have a sneak peek every now and again (and that, dear readers, is the only reason why the Daily Mail is include in my browser history).

Somehow, I don’t think this is the last we’ll be hearing of Nazi hoards of degenerate art.

Berlin: a Holocaust Memorial and a whole lotta street art

Berlin is an awesome city. The street art is mental. Case in point:

And again:

A little bit more:

And one more:

Seriously, it is everywhere. I wonder whether it has been legitimised, or whether they simply can't control it? I kinda hope it's the latter.

But the piece (or pieces, depending on how you look at it) I'm going to look at isn't graffiti. It's not even 2D. Yes, it's been a while since we had a ponder about some sculpture, but the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is quite... something.

Designed by architect Peter Eisenman and designed by engineer Buro Happold, it Is a 19000m squared site covered with 2711 concrete slabs or stelae, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The architect says it's designed to give off an uneasy, confusing atmosphere - the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.

When my travelling buddy Anni and I first saw it, we thought it was a bit shit. Not pretty enough to draw you in, not compelling enough to make people stay quiet (the kids using it as a hide and seek playground were a little off-putting, when you put it back in its intended context). 

But then we walked 'inside' the memorial. It's exactly as they say; something seemingly ordered has lost touch with human reason. We felt uneasy because of the varying sizes of the  stelae. We felt claustrophobic because the blocks towered over us. We felt lost because it was a maze. And we felt unsupported because the ground is uneven. It kinda made you feel a bit sick, and there's no way that wasn't intentional. This is a sculpture that relies heavily on its spiritual effect on the - well, not viewer, more 'experiencer'. So much so, in fact, that its aesthetic shortcomings actually accentuate its effect. It looked a bit shit, yes, but I think that was the point.

As an aside, one of the creepiest things for me was that people kept appearing and disappearing. Putting that in the context of the holocaust is... Ugh, horrific.

I love the effect this had on Anni and me, and as much as I like my pretty Impressionists, I think it's really worth sacrificing aesthetic when it comes to driving an important message home.

Sorry for the sombre tone this week - I'll be super chirpy next week!

The arty interview: Rob Ryan

Good news! Rob Ryan's outstanding new show at Sims Reed Gallery in London has been extended until the 15th November. You can read my review of the opening night and the artworks therein here. Rob answered some questions on his latest works...

Where have your main sources of inspiration come from for the show? What has particularly inspired you?
I've been thinking and learning about very small things like atoms and very big things like the universe and of course being a human being (and obsessed with my own importance) how I fit into the space in-between. A lot of the work in this show has blossomed from the comfort I've found in my (and our) life's fantastic insignificance. Belief in only the existence of matter is incredibly liberating.

How has this body of work evolved since your last Show 'The Stars Shine All Day Too' at Dover Street, London in 2010?
Hmm, I don't really know about this. Maybe it hasn't. There are still a lot of themes relating to hope. I'm not the best person to judge this question.

Where did the title ‘There is only Time’ come from?
I wanted to make a clock (and I did, for the Chelsea flower show! It now lives in my shop) but I wanted it to let people feel less panicky about always having to feel as if they were filling their lives with event upon event of worthwhile things. The show's title come from that piece of work and are repeated in one of the major pieces of the show.

What is your process behind creating a show like this… do you start with words or pictures? Does the title come first?
I know it sounds ridiculous but I try and start by doing a picture I really believe. That sets the beginnings of a direction of the feeling for the show and the next picture strengthens that and builds on it and so on. Whether the words or pictures come first, that differs with each picture.

What aspects do you find the most rewarding and challenging in preparing for a show like this?
Starting on new themes and ideas that I know I can continue working on and developing even after the show has finished. The challenging thing for me is that I can keep trying to make things better, so the show is like the terminus at the beginning of a long train journey to fuck knows where... But of course, that's the exciting bit!

Do you consider yourself equally a writer, poet and artist?
An artist.

Which artists work do you admire? 
Titian, Brueghel and Stanley Spencer.

What inspired your new book, The Invisible Kingdom? 
The story is about a young prince that becomes a young king but runs away from his imposed responsibilities. Everyone wants to feel to be carefree and the master of their own destiny; how do you make that happen? What do you gain in the process, but then what do you sacrifice?  These are the questions that inspired the book.

Hidden gems at The Other Art Fair and the Affordable Art Fair

It's fair season in London, and unsurprisingly, Frieze has dominated the headlines. Snooze.

Being a lady with, let's say, 'limited financial means' and a flag waving for the under dog, I sniffed out a couple of alternative options...

The Other Art Fair

Ok, so it was a few weeks ago now. Apols for the tardiness. But it was a hell of a show, held in a huge space just off Brick Lane in London. It was October, it was raining, and true to form, the inhabitants of Brick Lane all had sunglasses on...

I may be disparaging of improper use of sunglasses, but inside, the dedication to aesthetic raged on. There was a heavy weighting towards contemporary art of the metropolis, but in amongst the madness, the graffiti and the social commentary, I found solace in Jonathan Speed.

Scattered Clouds, Jonathan Speed

He's a self-taught painter, working largely from photographs of nature. That, in itself, is refreshingly traditional; but the end-product isn't what you'd expect. It's timeless. If someone told me these pieces had been painted at some point between 1900 and today, I wouldn't quite know where to place them. And I like that stubborn refusal to join a movement.

The out-of-focus effect shows just how big an impact the photography has on the final canvas. But he showed me one of the photographs and it's entirely in focus; he adds that effect himself.

Hermione Carline was another artist who really caught my eye. We share a love for Japan, which is evident in her latest series. She'll be speaking to Artwork Wednesdays in the not-too-distant future about where her inspiration comes from, so I won't include any spoilers here.

Tokyo Mist, Hermione Carline

All in all, it was a fantastic show that, I'm sure, will become infamous for sparking the careers of the next big names.

The Affordable Art Fair

And here's a fair that needs no introduction. With wild success all over the world, the Affordable Art Fair does that most important work: introducing new artists to new audiences.

It's held in Battersea Park, which is so beautiful in the autumn. Just one of the many pretty views on the walk down there:

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm proudly Cornish, so perhaps I was biased, but I detected a strong influence from the St Ives School at this fair. Lots of objects on windowsills, looking out onto harbours. There were a few that were painted in a style like Alfred Wallis - the untaught old fisherman who painted on driftwood he found on the shore in St. Ives.

Alfred Wallis, St. Ives

When I came to the Cornwall Contemporary stand, I was really excited. I'm usually all about paintings, with a bit of photography here and there. Woodcuts aren't typically my thing - but that's clearly because I'm an idiot, and had never seen Rob Braybrooks before. His relief woodcuts are just so. damn. beautiful. He works from his studio-workshop overlooking Mount's Bay in Cornwall ad has been observing birdlife, flora and the local landscape for many years. Here's one of his pieces:

Wood cut, Rob Braybrooks

...Aaaaand here's the one I bought. Despite the fact that I have NO MONEY at the moment. Rob Braybrooks, you do beautiful work but I'll be blaming you when I'm having baked beans for dinner every night next week.

So, in short, those two fairs rocked.
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