interview with Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga

written by Trevor To

Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga's second solo exhibition with October Gallery opened this month. Titled 'Fragile Responsibility', the theme of the exhibition is the transition between "tradition and modern, colonial and indigenous" cultures in the life of Congolese society. 

His use of vibrant colours on the subjects in the foreground, together with subtle symbols in the underlying patterns on the skin of the characters in the paintings and the monolithic background, create a visual tension for the viewers to explore the canvas.

The surrealist nature of the paintings is also depicted through the gesture of the characters in the paintings. With their non-photogenic eyes and lack of direct eye contact with the viewers, they look more like ancient stone carving than contemporary people. They resemble more to static statues frozen in time or an Congolese version of terra-cotta army turning up in today's street scenes by mistake of the time tunnel. 

We have interviewed the artist during his visit in London for the exhibition, to share his creative insight with our followers:


Q1: Your paintings often feature human figures in an abstract background. What is the thinking behind this?

EKII work much on human figures as they are the foundation of humanity. I draw upon my personal experiences and I try to question reality through these figures. The abstract background represents a grey, hazy past – a history that we are not able to grasp nor understand due to the fact it was written in an insincere way.

Q2: How do you decide what symbols you select to be featured in your paintings?

EKII approach these signs, these ideographs, as a pre-colonial savoir-faire, which has existed for centuries. Today, these symbols do not exist as the society they are from was eradicated by colonialism. They were once used in politics, justice, religion, however, today they have been erased from the memory of the Congo.

Q3: Your art practice seems to focus in paintings. Do you have any interest in other media? Will you consider to explore other media (e.g. sculpture, digital etc.) in the near future?

EKII have a strong relationship with painting. For me there is a sort of life in paintings; when I see them in museums I see a life after beyond the artist’s signature. Paintings transform over time. In twenty years, I will look at my works and they will probably be different. I am also interested in other media, for example during my researches I took pictures and made films that I have never exhibited. This summer I am going to present in Austria a series of photographs of the Mangbetu people.

Q4: Could you share some insight about your international exposure - are there any first-hand inspirations or observations in person over the past few years that has some profound impact to you?

EKIThere is a particular moment that inspired me: the first time I saw a vitrine full of objects from our colonial past in the Royal Museum for Central Africa at Tervuren. It raised a lot of questions for me. This was about two years ago.


Further Readings -
Official instagram of the artist
Understanding the present through the past, Financial Times 11.05.2018 - link

(Images are part of the artist's paintings. All art work courtesy of the artist and October Gallery)

interview with easle's founders Nick Gubbins and Scott Wooden

written by Trevor To

We visited local creative-tech startup Easle's office in the TEA building in Shoreditch earlier to understand what their plan is for creative talents. 

Q1. Could you tell us what makes Easle different from other creative talent search websites? What's your unique selling point?

A: Our unique selling point is the quality of the creators on the platform. Other creative talent search websites generally go by price point, solely benefitting whoever is looking to have work done. More often than not this results in a race to the lowest fees, which drives away the top talent. Every creator that is on Easle will have been accepted onto the platform by an industry leader for their field, or 'Easle Ambassador’. While we don’t want Easle to be too exclusive, we do want to make sure that it is a community of creative professionals. This guarantees that we can attract the most exciting brands to post their work.

We're building Easle to be an end-to-end platform, meaning creators can handle their whole freelance process in one place. All negotiation takes place on the site, all paperwork is generated through the site. In fact, one of our biggest selling points is that freelancers on Easle never have to chase an invoice again. The client has to pay the balance up front, at which point the freelancer receives their 50% deposit. From there, Easle holds the remaining balance while the work gets carried out and we release the funds on completion of the project. Any disputes that arise are mediated and resolved by us.

Q2. When did you start to have this idea? Throughout the development process, what are the greatest challenges? Are they expected or unexpected? Have you managed to overcome all of them yet?

A: Starting in August 2016, we actually set out to build a completely different website but with a similar core aim. We began with a micro-donation platform that allowed creators to publish their work receive ’tips' from fans. We were immediately faced with the difficulty of building a social platform, and the chicken-vs-egg nature of getting creators to post work, which in turn generates traffic, which in turn encourages creators to post work...

One of the challenges of building an online product is to validate an idea you may have. It's dangerously easy to go off assumptions in your head about what a creator / artist / user might have difficulties with. The only way to have absolute assurance and confidence is to go out and talk to your market. You need to plunge yourself into that world to really get a feel of the current pain points, and where your product can help with this.

We went back to the drawing board and talked to as many of the 250 creators who did sign up as possible. Time and time again, we heard about the challenges of being a freelance artist, or of having an agent who doesn’t provide that much opportunity (but charges healthily when they do). This sounded like a problem we could solve. We stripped back the technology and made a simple one page website with an email and brief overview input. We then worked out a niche of clients per artistic domain, (e.g. video game developers looking for soundtrack music could be matched with our composers, people looking for custom Christmas cards could be matched with our illustrators), and simply attracted them to our site by posting in forums and on websites these people hung out. Before we knew it, we were matching creators and clients and thus Easle was born.

Q3. While Easle's service is mostly focused online at the launch period, do you have plans to have any offline events to promote the service or the talents enrolled?

A: We've got a ton of exciting ideas once we've launched Easle. While the online platform will hugely benefit freelancers, we haven't forgotten the importance of real world connections. We want to take as big a part in the offline world as well as the online. Through our roster we build up on our platform we'll be making steps to create events for various disciplines. From exhibitions for artists & illustrators, to screenings for filmakers & animators, we want to create opportunities for creators and clients to form meaningful relationships.

Otherwise, we are currently providing an offline service to match clients with creative freelancers before the site has launched. If a particular client wants a custom service, we will always be able to provide that using the creators that have signed up to the site.

We want Easle to be a place that reminds both creators and clients that working together does not have to be a chore. Whether its online or offline, the best work comes about from good relationships.


We quite like their idea and wish them great sucess!

Interview with Ibi Ibrahim

La vie m'est insupportable lll (2013)

Ibi Ibrahim is an artist from Yemen who would be represented by the JAMM gallery from Dubai in the upcoming ART14 fair. The gallery would be showing Ibrahim's photographs from the past four years, highlighting the artist's affiliation to monochromatic compositions and featuring self-portraits alongside portrayals of young women and men, which contest a traditional Muslim space. Here's an interview with the artist -

Q1: Your photographic works would be represented in the upcoming ART14 in London. Could you tell us a little about how you discovered your interest in photography and when you decided to become an artist for this pursuit?

A: I have been interested in photography from a very young age. I have memories of escaping to our basement to look at black and white portraits. Photographs of my parents when they lived in Europe, the way they dressed and the places they went to. The portraits showed much happiness in the life they once lived. I began taking photographs at 22 and showed in a group exhibition in Yemen in 2009, my family pressured and harassed me to quit art. To them, it was considered shameful to become a photographer so I left and moved to New York. I wanted to show the struggles I and my generation encounter growing up in Muslim conservative societies and spent the next three years working on black and white photographs that aimed to touch on youth, individuality, sexuality and other sensitive topics often considered taboos in the Middle East. During ART14, and thanks to my gallery JAMM Art gallery, I will have the opportunity to display some of those pieces along with my recent self-portrait work. 

Untitled, Black Tears Series (2012)

Q2: To many people not from the region, Islamic culture does not encourage the exploration of human bodies beyond the boundaries defined by traditions. Your works are very different from some of these common beliefs. How do you see your artistic practice within the broader Islamic culture?

A: I am passionate about black and white films, in particular Arabic films from the 40s and 50s. I also enjoy Arabic colored films from 60s and 70s. In those films, you see everything. Nothing is considered taboo, nothing is to be censored. Something changed about the Arab/Muslim world. You can sense that in the cinema. Those films that were once playing in cinemas and TV stations across the Arab world are now censored. Many scenes are cut out because they're considered sinful. How can it be sinful so suddenly? The society is gradually becoming more and more conservative. If I were to produce my work in the 70s, it would have not caused such controversy like it does now – because the society would be more liberal, more cultured and more respectful of the freedom of speech, and the freedom of art. Today, I am receiving death threats on social media because of the work I am producing. It is quite depressing to see how my country and society, a society once known to be the treasure of the world when it came to art, medicine, and religions has turned. However, those threats can't stop me from doing my work - if I don't remind the Yemeni society of what we once were, then who would? 

 Yemeni Orgasm, Trypitch (2012)

Q3: You have grown up in several different countries in the Middle East. Could you share with us a few moments in life in some of these places which becomes your artistic inspirations?

A: I am more inspired by the travels I've done on my own rather than when I was living with my family. I would like to say that I was encouraged by my parents to explore art at a young age, but the reality is I wasn't. I have the Yemeni government to blame for that. After all, there are no museums or galleries in my country. If I were to show my work in Yemen, it would be done through a foreign entity such as the French, Spanish or German embassy and due to the security situation in Yemen, even those embassies began hosting less and less art events. I try not to focus on all those negative aspects, and traveling has been quite therapeutic. I am happiest when I am in Europe visiting galleries and museums. I very much dislike censorship in particular when it comes to art. In the Middle East, and as you know it is not easy to show "provocative art". It often brings me down that I can't show most of my work in the Middle East, but it is a path I choose and I don't regret it. I am happy to have a gallery that's given me the opportunity to show my work in London. This is my first time showing work in London and I am beyond excited. I hope it inspires Yemeni artists to be more courageous and daring in their work – we are in desperate need for that. 

Girl Moment, Sitara series (2012)

Q4: With the rising wealth in the Middle East, events such as Art Dubai and Sharjah Biennale are attracting worldwide attention and coverage. Do you think these events help in bringing authentic Islamic and Middle Eastern art to buyers and the general public? Apart from these commercial events, how is the general art development in the region over the last decade or so?

A: I don't think I am eligible to answer this question; after all I am not from the gulf. I sometimes envy artists from the gulf countries because they have so many resources and 
finding available. The gulf is going through a huge art thrive, and artists in all media are so much encouraged by the government to move forward and enhance their work. In Yemen, the case is different. The ministry of culture is full of corruption, and I stand with my words. Opportunities are only given to established artists who hold personal relationships with the ministry. The national museum, a governmental entity that holds historical and ancient art with over 100 years old of value is running without an archive system or electricity. It's painful that those neighboring countries enjoy this art thrive while here in Yemen the struggle continues, and it gets only worse. But then again, one cannot focus on the negative side. I am a 2.5 hour trip from Doha where I can visit MATHAF museum to see the biggest exhibition ever held for Mona Hatoum in the region. I am also 2.5 hour trip from Dubai where I can visit some of my favorite galleries and enjoy the work of great contemporary artists. I accept the reality of being in Yemen but that doesn't mean I will stay in the dark and not keep up with my surroundings. 

 Jalsat Banat, Sitara series (2013)

Q5: We know you have made a film called Sounds of Oud and it was screened in public earlier this year in New York. Could you tell us a little about it? What does its name mean? What made you consider making the film and would it be shown in London?

A: 'Oud' is a Middle Eastern musical instrument. The name of the film refers to the sound of that instrument; something you often hear when you listen to old Arabic music or belly dancing music. The film discusses issues barely spoken about in the Middle East. It's about a love triangle between an Arab couple and a friend – Do you follow your devotion or your desires? I don't want to give much away about the film, but watching the trailer should give the viewer a little idea. I obviously enjoy discussing sensitive topics in my work, and I think it's because I find no one else in my country is doing so. If no one does it, then it's my obligation to do so. It's quite challenging because I dream to create all this imaginary and fictional art work and escape reality but I find myself obligated to create art work that comments on the status of the Yemeni society today. It's something that can't be postponed – this is the time to get your message across, before people forget the recently occurred Yemeni revolution where young men and women gave their life away so the society can live with full freedom and full rights. My friend Sara Ishaq's film is nominated for an Oscar. This is the first time Yemen's name is part of such a huge event. I feel excited and inspired. If our government won't give us the opportunity we deserve, we will do it ourselves. 

The film will be screening in London this year. I will announce the dates on Facebook once confirmed.

All photos by Ibi Ibrahim

Interview with Laura Facey

by Vanessa Champion

Q1: You were born in Jamaica and you are obviously inspired by your heritage. You are also known for exploring issues surrounding suffering, recovery as well as the natural environment. For you, what makes Jamaica and where you live, such an important part of your ‘voice’?

LF: The consequences of colonialism and the draconian brutality of slavery will play out for centuries to come.  The work of artists, such as myself, is pivotal in creating a dialog that commences a process of healing the psychological trauma that we have  inherited.

Laura Facey with Radiant Comb

Q2: “Redemption Song” is a stunning monument - the figures seem to ‘weigh heavy’ and like two mythological figures, they rise ‘proud’ out of the water. Can you tell us a little about the background and inspiration to this piece?  

LF:  For a society to not only endure but survive the horrors of slavery requires supreme inner strength and psychic fortitude.  I wanted my figures to not only portray the quality of endurance that is part of our culture, but more importantly a pride in the conquering of adversity.   The placement of the figures in water symbolises a psychic cleansing and emergence into a new era.

Redemption Song

Q3: What is your biggest challenge as an artist?

LF: Creating a space within which I can develop a subliminal connection with the forces that surround me.  Maintaining a studio, within the context of a working farm, is a constant challenge, there are many demands that pull my attention away from the thread of knowledge that runs into and through every work that I create.


Q4: Can you tell us a bit more about ROKTOWA and why you are involved? 

LF: ROKTOWA’s genesis began when Melinda Brown moved her studio from downtown Manhattan to downtown Kingston in 2005.  For decades people had talked about the need to place artists downtown, then out of nowhere, this Australian artist appeared and became embedded in the downtown community. From her experiences and observations of the dire economic conditions experienced by downtown residents, the concept for ROKTOWA emerged.  ROKTOWA is predicated around an Artists Residency program that allows both foreign and local artists to engage with the downtown community; by placing artists with tradesmen we have been able to create export quality products. ROKTOWA’s Mission is to: Plant Artists to Create Growth. We create both Fine and Applied Art, by expanding the visual and design vocabulary of the skilled workers downtown.

Laura Facey at the MAD museum, New York - video link

Q5: You are having a solo exhibition in the UK, “Radiant Earth” at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts. Did you choose this title? Why in particular? What will be the nature and feeling of the work on show?

LF: Yes, RADIANT EARTH, is my first solo show in the UK, it’s a retrospective of the last decade of my work and shows my departure from a more literal and figurative style to the metaphors that have appeared to me and emerged in such forms as liquid needles, hovering plumb bobs and yes, combs.  My last show was titled Radiant Combs and I was lucky enough to have a Trinidadian filmmaker, Mariel Brown, approach me to film the sculptures, the footage recorded was compiled under the working title “Radiant Earth”.  The farm where I live is truly Radiant and each day I am compelled to translate and reflect that radiance.

Radiant Combs 2012 - video link

6. What do you hope to achieve with this solo retrospective?

LF: I am excited about the possibility of commencing a dialogue with the Art World in the UK.  Jamaica has allowed me the freedom to explore and create my own
language.  However, given our small population, we do not have Gallery Directors or a commercial gallery system.  I am looking forwards to cementing a relationship
with a Gallery and in the process connect with Artists and Dealers with whom I can engage and commence an on going relationship.

Interview with Perrier-Jouet prize winner Hitomi Hosono

photo by Anja Schaffner

Q1: Congratulations on winning the Inaugural Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon Prize. Could you share with us the nomination/selection process and your feeling of receiving the award?

A: I was so thrilled to learn that I had won the Perrier-Jouet prize.  Even being nominated for such a prestigious new award was an honour.  The prize is wonderful in that consists not only of a generous cash award, but also travel to both France and Design Miami, which will broaden my horizons; I have never been to either France or America.  And preparing for my first solo exhibition in such a wonderful setting as the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is a dream come true.   

Large Leaves Bowl

Q2: Your education and career spans between East & West. What made you decide to pursue your study and career in Europe?

A: I was enjoying making ceramics in Japan but I became interested in Scandinavian design. That is the first reason to come to Europe. Also, I simply wanted to try to see what life and work was like outside of Japan.

Black Camellia Box

Q3: Your works are very different in Japan & in the UK, there seems to be a shift from the abstract yet colourful style to a more figurative but minimal style. What are the creative inspirations behind them respectively?

A: I use a technique initially inspired by Josiah Wedgwood’s Jasperware, in which thin ceramic reliefs or ‘sprigs’ are applied as surface decoration to a piece. I wanted to make innovative pieces featuring the sprigging technique, but to move away from the traditional use of sprigs solely as ornament, and to attempt to work with ceramic sprigs in a new and sculptural way. Extensive experimentation with different methods and clay bodies enabled me to create two new ways to use the sprigging technique.  One was to cover the entire surface of a shape with sprigs; the other was to construct asculptural object solely out of many layers of sprigs.

The subjects of my current work are shapes inspired by leaves and flowers.  I study botanical forms in the garden. I find myself drawn to the intricacy of plants, examining the veins of a leaf, how its edges are shaped, the layering of a flower’s petals.  I look, I touch, I draw.

Shirakawa Bowl

Q4: You have been living in London for some time. How do you feel about the city - what are the things you love most here and you don't miss at all when you are away?

A: I like many kinds of cultures in London. In a one-minute walkfrom my studio, I can have very good Moroccan food, pastries from Portugal, pizza, Indian food. The thing I would miss least about London is being packed like sushi in the Tube at rush hour.  

Black Dancing Leaves Box

Q5: What are your future plans after the St Pancras Chambers Club exhibition?

A: I will engage with new and inspiring experiences, and pursue creative challenges within my craft.

The more I look at the natural world, the more I have begun to feel the importance of the concept of flow in nature. I believe this is the heart of nature. From small, minute elements such as leaves to grand magnificent views, they are all in flow.   Flow is what makes nature alive.

In this sense, the flow seems to me to be confined to that small scale in my current work. What I would like to do is to make a whole form itself also become an element to express the active movement in nature.  I would like to challenge it at a larger scale I have ever done. I believe the result will show the dynamic energy of nature and make my work more exciting and more true to the natural world.    

This aim will bring both technical and artistic challenges to my current working methods.  Conveying flow on both a small and a large scale means that I will need to develop my techniques further to enable complex constructions in porcelain by experiments and research.  For the new work, I would also like to expand and widen my inspiration from nature beyond the familiar plants in my immediate environment. I intend to visit the collections, archives and libraries of botanical institutions like the Royal Horticultural Society and Kew Gardens to research extinct plants, or plants in countries I have never visited to see which of these will be most suitable to adapt into porcelain. I would like to concentrate deeply on this research and experiments taking enough time, possibly 3 -4 months.

(all photos of works above are provided by the artist)


Further Reading -

Page: Ceramicist Hitomi Hosono wins inaugural Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon Prize by Jessica Klingelfuss on *, 08.04.2013

Interview with New Movement Collective's Malgorzata Dzierzon - NEST producer & co-choreographer

Malgorzata Dzierzon, photo by Filipe Alcada

The Grade II listed Welsh Chapel on Shaftesbury Avenue, originally designed by James Cubitt in 1888 and counting 1980’s super-club ‘The Limelight’ amongst its past tenants, would soon host an exciting multi-disciplinary dance show for 2 weeks called NEST. Dance, architecture, animation and interactive light technologies combine to create a tapestry of exploration and adventure. Becoming directly involved with a promenade dance performance the audience are free to weave their own experience, threads of movement, structure, and live music draw participants around the striking spaces and hidden corners of a disused former chapel.

We have interviewed the producer & co-choreographer Malgorzata Dzierzon to learn more about the production.

Q1: New Movement Collective is a group of dancers and choreographers. Could you tell us a bit more about how this idea of coming together started?

A: New Movement Collective was formed in 2009 and currently consists of 11 members. Many of us have worked together at some point for Rambert , but our dancers/choreographers  come from diverse backgrounds and have worked with Mathew Bourne’s New Adventures, Wayne McGregor/Random Dance Company and Manchester- based Company Chameleon among others.

There were many choreographers emerging from within the group at the time, often dancing in each other’s work and we wanted to form a platform to showcase our choreography and continue the collaboration.

As NMC we presented 2 separate evenings of choreography, curated by Clara Barbera in Spain, but found that the traditional platforms for dance, such as theatres were quite difficult or too expensive to access.

During this time we started a partnership with AAIS (Architectural Association Interprofessional Studio) which is a post graduate course in performance and design with focus on collaboration, where we take turns to tutor a group of 5-6 students each year. 

This partnership added a new dimension to our work and created performance opportunities in unusual settings - a derelict building in Covent Garden, Matadoro Cultural Centre in Madrid, a post industrial building-turn gallery space in Cologne, Zaha Haidid-designed Roca Gallery in London.

Last year we created our first independently produced full length work, commissioned by Will Alsop for Testbed 1, a 650 sq meters ex-diary space in Battersea. Casting Traces was based on Paul Auster's New York Trilogy and performed within a giant architect-designed paper labyrinth. Following the opening performance we were approached by Stone Nest (former Welsh Chapel) and invited to visit and pitch a production proposal for their building in Shaftesbury Avenue. After a few weeks and several brain storming meetings with a group of invited collaborators we came up with a performance and design concept for NEST, based on Homer's Odyssey.

photo by Laurent Liotardo

Q2: the venue of NEST has not been used for a period of time, what are the key challenges you face when you first started to plan the show in this space? (Any particular exiting or frustrating moments you would like to share with us?)

A: The venue had an immediate appeal to us, not just because of its central location but also its lay out -  visiting the rooms of the former Chapel takes you on a real journey. We wanted to create a performance which gives the public a sense of freedom to explore, yet has enough structure for them to follow. 

The Chapel has gradually revealed itself to us, it has now been stripped down from the remains of the night club/bar era, and the original features became a lot more visible. We wanted to celebrate the building in its glory, so our designs needed to be sensitive and respond to the surroundings, unlike in a theatre, where you can create a new world with the scenery for every act, without e consideration of the building's style or history.

We put a funding application in before Christmas and while we had been able to start the  artistic planning with collaborators beforehand, it would be had been difficult to recruit a crew and technical manager without offering a guarantee of pay and you really need that expertise and man power as early as possible in a venue where all equipment needs to be brought in for the performance. The facilities are being improved for the opening and we are now working with a small technical team, but it is a huge job to provide power and transform the rooms in order to create the desired experience for the public.

Photo by  Andrej Uspenski

Q3: What are the differences between a project in the traditional performance venue and one in an alternative venue like this?

A: Every building is different, unlike with a more traditional performance you can't just turn up with a show and expect to re-created it as is. Each building will have its own technical and access challenges, for the performers and public alike.

The venues we have worked with offer the use of the building and give us a lot of artistic freedom, which is absolutely amazing,  but unlike theatres they don't have departments dedicated to fund-raising, marketing or technical support of the production, so that's our sole responsibility - in addition to choreographing and performing the work. 

Nest Trailer 2 from new movement on Vimeo.

Q4: There are a lot of collaborators from other creative areas involved in the production. How do you feel about the process and how would the production began to take shape with all the various inputs from different directions?

A: We have gathered a team of architects, lighting technology artists, costume designer and composer quite early on. They were all invited to pitch and discuss the ideas together, but their sides of production are being delivered across a staggered time line. 

It was important  for us to have the main set component early, in order to respond and choreograph with it, so the structure designed by architects from Studio Weave was finished a month before the opening. The music composition was delivered around the same time, but with the input from MLF (interactive lighting technologies), Chris and Anna ( the composers) continued to tweak it until a few days last week. We needed the costumes to be delivered quite early in order to generate some production images for marketing and test how the proposed reflective material "behaves" in the light. All departments are invited to feedback, so it was good to allow this time to accommodate any specific requests.

The choreography was developed in a series of research periods and then shared online, as we often work from remote locations in the early stages of the production.

This method has its challenges but also gives perspective and allows more time for reflection. However, it feels good to have everyone working in the same space in the final weeks leading up to the opening - it makes for a lot more enjoyable and productive process. 

Nest Trailer 1 from new movement on Vimeo.

Q5: We understand that the work is site specific. However it is only running for under 2 weeks. Are there any plans for re-runs or tour?

A: We are a young organisation, so we are taking it step by step. We have nearly tripled the amount of performances in comparison to last year's production. We want to continue to offer an intimate, unique viewing experience for the audiences, which means we need to limit the amount of tickets sold per show. We have nearly 30-strong team of artists and crew working each night, which makes for a rather expensive production. In addition, our members have ongoing commitments to their individual projects and employers, such as Rambert which need to be accounted for. 

We are travelling to Denmark this August to re-create Casting Traces at Carlsberg's former brewery site, and we hope to be able to perform NEST in the future as well.

The building is due for re-developemnt, so we will have to see what happens - it is a matter of finding the right space and enough money to bring everyone together again!


The show would be running from 15-24 July only, for details please check this link -

Interview with Ed Gray

Painter Ed Gray is the ambassador of Float Art, an innovative and high-profile art exhibition on the Dixie Queen paddleboat, moored by Tower Bridge. There is also a corresponding art award for emerging artists (deadline for entries is June 2013). The event would be part of this year's Thames Festival. We have interviewed him to learn more about the event and his connection with the River.

Q1: When were you approached for the opportunity to be Float Art's ambassador?
EG: My involvement came through Chris Livett, Director of Thames luxury Charters who own the venue. His enthusiasm for my work led to my show on the Dixie Queen 'Ebb and Flow' last November. The idea of Float Art came from that exhibition GX Gallery and I created for Chris on board the Dixie Queen. There was a real buzz about that show which saw me giving talks about my work to over 750 visitors over the course of the weekend that it lasted.  This event was picked up on by the Adrian Evans of the Thames Festival who loved the idea of using a boat as a floating art space. Davide Mengoli, from GX Gallery had wanted to create an event to showcase the work of graduate artists as extension of the in-house graduate shows they've been holding at GX for some time. Once Chris said we could use the boat again this all seemed like the perfect opportunity. I agreed to help with Floatart because I live in the area and I saw what possibilities are there for the space at my own show. Most importantly I know how hard it is to pick up on your own when you leave art college. Butler's Wharf has had a long connection with artists going back to the late 1980's when they  had their studios in the old disused wharehouses. It's amazing how much the area has changed. Hard to believe it's the same city really.

Vauxhall Bridgefoot, 120x120cm Acrylic on paper

Q2: What are you plans for Float Art? Do you intend to create or select some special pieces for the show?
EG: I'm working on new pieces in the studio. I don't think they'll be ready in time but you never know.

Billingsgate 2, 100x80cm Acylic, chalk and charcoal on canvas

Q3: You have been working with GX Gallery for a decade. How would you sum up the development over the past years?
EG: When I began working with Davide and GX I was a young artist with not much idea about how I wanted to be promoted or how to do it. At first I was wary and concerned about survival and keeping going. I kept to myself and concentrated on solely making my work. I was a school teacher in Peckham at the time. The success of our partnership led me to leave my job as teacher and my paintings sell for much more than I could have imagined after years of sell out shows. I've always tried to stay true to my interests as a painter despite this. Since I've been with GX my work has taken me all over the world. I've lived and painted  in New York and  Mexico, Tokyo and Cape Town. Davide has supported me all the way, giving me invaluable business advice and he's pushed me to have a more public profile. As an artist it's easy to lock the studio door and disappear but my work has gained much from meeting the Londoners that  I paint about at my shows and events and hearing their stories.

City of London  from The Gherkin Looking South, 230cmx180cm Acrylic on paper

: Do you have any works primarily associated with the Thames? If not, why and would you consider making some in future?
EG: The Thames has been a major source of inspiration for me. I've painted several of London's bridges - it's a long term theme of my work. I painted the Dixie Queen and the river from the top floor of  the Gherkin in City of London from The Gherkin Looking South for my Ebb and Flow show. I've also been offered the opportunity to go out drawing on the river on board one of Chris Livett's tugs which I'd love to take up soon. That might lead to some new river work.

Wintry Morning London bridge 2, 120x100cm

Q5: What advice do you have for fresh art graduates? Compared with the times when you graduated and came out of university, do you think the current graduates have more opportunities or less?
EG: I think you create your own opportunities as an artist. There's a lot of people still buying art despite the tough times we live in. Look at the media interest and the queues for the art fairs. When I graduated that was just beginning. Artists were taking control of their destinies and creating a buzz about the work themselves, working in partnership with their galleries. These days digital media means it's easy to do your own  PR if you haven't got someone doing it for you. You can create an online following and let people know about events and shows and the things that are developing in your career. If you engage with it all then the opportunities will be there for you, providing you are true to your work and that you capture the public's imagination in some way. Many artists by nature will not find it easy to engage but I would encourage them look beyond the studio walls and see the possibilities that are out there throughout their careers.

King Henry's Wharf, 100x80cm

Further Reading:
Page - Ed's official website 

interview with the berliner luft duo

Berliner Luft
the Residence Gallery


The Wall (All rights reserved by the photographers)

The photographers with the guests in the private view opening evening

Famous for its lively art scene, Berlin is undoubtedly Europe's capital of art production over the past decade. Residence Gallery has brought a photography show from Germany to London this month featuring the reborn German capital in the eyes of two young(-ish) german photographers Benjamin Tafel (BT) & Dennis Orel (DO).

Alexanderplatz (All rights reserved by the photographers) 

Originally from Stuttgart and studied visual communications in Weimar, both Benjamin & Dennis are award-winning members of the Art Directors Club, which is a global organisation for visual communication professionals. Here is a short interview with the two photographers about their exhibition -

Coming to Berlin (All rights reserved by the photographers)

Q1: Who were the people featured in the photos? Are they residents of the neighbourhood or just models? Do they have a say in how they are featured?

A: All the people we are shooting with had a background or connection to the situation or location. Our aim was to stage the situations but never lose the connection to reality. The coincidence plays an important part in our work to keep the people in their part of the real life and not to fall in a pose like a fashion model. Our purpose: Everyday life is theatre.

Girl Passing by  (All rights reserved by the photographers) 
Q2: There's an overall tone in all the photos - colours with some kind of hard contrast (or even conflict) and a deliberate use of flash. What is the reason for this take?

A: The use of a calculated composed light is our way to shape out the location or the people to gain a new interpretation out of it. Its a  way of remodelling it with light to stage a situation which shows the viewer a far side. Using the light in this way boosts our graphical view that we use in our work.

Konrad Tönz (All rights reserved by the photographers) 

Q3: If you have to pick your favourite neighbourhood in the city, which would it be?

DO: One of the interesting places right now is in the western part of the city. The bird view from the Top of the Pan Am Lounge. To one side into the penguin area at the Berlin Zoo and to the other the naked people jumping in the rooftop-pool of the "Europa-Therme".

BT: It depends what you're looking for. The southeastern part of Kreuzberg is one of the hotspots at the moment. You still find a neighbourhood that has grown over decades, but a lot of new spots and young creatives move there. The mixture you find there is the key. Turkish greengroceries next to young galleries next to a typical Berlin drinking hole. Because everyday life is theatre!

Video by the Residence Gallery

The duo also has another photo exhibition currently in Kunstschwimmer Berlin called Hundesalon running till 08.07.2011.

Girls at Stutti (All rights reserved by the photographers) 

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Further Readings -
Page: Official facebook Page for Berliner Luft
Page: Official Page of Benjamin Tafel
Page: Official Page of Dennis Orel

interview with ben ashton

A year ago, Simon Oldfield presented Ben Ashton’s first solo show in a former monumental stonemasons at 17 Osborn Street. A year on, Ben held an open studio last month in his Bloomsbury studio to let the public see his preparation of his next show. We visited both events and did an interview with the artist -

1. Did you plan your first solo show with all the different formats (painting, photography, installation) featured in the beginning?

Ben Ashton (BA): I started my last series of work by photographing different poses/attitudes with a mind to using the images in different ways. Some of the material was immediately translated into painting whilst others either stayed in their original format or were turned into optical installations. It was only toward the final weeks leading up to the exhibition when I started building the larger installation pieces that fused the whole show together. I feel that from the initial photograph my work follows a gradual freeform evolutionary path till it reaches its final destination.

2. Are there any particular influences throughout your artistic career, e.g. other artists, certain types of music, certain social phenomenon etc?

BA: I now have a very specific set of influences that I have narrowed down through the years. I try not to be overly influenced by other contemporary artists as I feel there is a risk of regurgitating what has too recently been done. I rather immerse myself in different parts of history, be that art history, the history of science or technology and innovation. I have been particularly interested in Victorian discoveries such as Stereoscopy and the Kaleidoscope. I meld these parts of history with my view of the contemporary world, often bringing to light things that have been lost through time.

cindy shermanCindy Sherman

3. Do you view your works to Cindy Sherman’s, as both of you are attempting to portray another person through yourself?

BA: My last series could definitely be compared to Cindy Sherman’s even though she has never directly influenced me. We both have used ourselves in the appropriation of other peoples’ images. In my next series of works I have moved away from playing out scenes from art history and instead my influence is much harder to place. In the context of the question, I feel that this is what separates me from artists like Sherman.

Artist's residence in the gallery during Ben's first solo show with Simon Oldfield

4. The curator/gallery owner mentioned that you are working in-residence during your first solo show. How does it influence you to have feedback from the audience directly or become a live exhibit of your own?

BA: I have always worked within my shows. I feel that it is important to show that the creative process never stops and I believe that it is interesting for the public to watch the show evolve over time. It is important for me to get feedback from the audience as I spend most of my time in complete solitude. I also think it is a great chance for the visitors to receive a different type of input directly from the artist and I hope this makes the whole experience more personal. The gallery is often perceived to be a cold and clinical environment and I wish to change that misconception.

bloomsbury studioA wall in the artist's studio during the Bloomsbury Festival Open Studio event

5. Do you have any future plans? What’s next?

BA: I am currently working toward a solo show in February 2011. This show focuses on my studio as a domestic environment, taking its starting point from the era of Dutch Genre paintings.  I am interested in the confined environment that I work in and the close interaction with my wife who also inhabits the space. I feel this introspective view of our life breaks down the barriers I had built up in my work and gives a very honest account of my reality.

Thank you Ben for the interview - looking forward to the show next year!


Further Readings -
Twitter: @benashtonart
Page: Official blog for Ben Ashton's residence studio
Page: Ben Ashton's profile at Simon Oldfield Gallery online
Page: Not too late for a trick or treat - Ben Ashton Exhibition at Simon Oldfield, by Pamela McMenamin for

Marina Abramović's twitter interview


Lisson Gallery has chosen the Frieze week to launch a twitter interview with their 'new' artist Marina Abramović. It looks like a successful event, with the artist spending an hour answering questions posted by tweeple (people who uses twitter). We compiled the interview below from tweets under the #marinalissonlive hashtag - there may not be the 100% correct sequence of questions & answers since it is not really that clearly arranged online, but it should give you an idea of what's been asked and how she thinks of those topics nevertheless.

Q: (Nicholas Logsdail, founder of Lisson Gallery) How do you feel about your first Lisson show?
A:  I feel great about my first show at Lisson. It is the right moment. Nicholas asked me last year if I could be his Louise Bourgeois. 

Q: (Nicholas) How do you feel about the future of Performance?
A: Every time there is a economic crisis around you have to start from nothing. I always like to confront my fears. I am staging my fears in my performance. It is also important to explore humor in art.

Q: (@Squirrelala) Hi Marina, have you ever done an impromptu art performance or is it always planned before?
A: I've never done any performance spontaneously. I believe in preparation. I like to see the space before hand.  I don't believe in performance as entertainment.

Q: Do you think the re-performing of historical performance work is necessary for a new generation to experience them?
A: I believe that performance is a living form of art.

Q: Marina, what is the first performance that you remember doing? The last major show you had in the UK was at MoMA Oxford in 1998, why has it been so long since your return to the UK?
A: In many ways there was no time for performance art previously. It was more about putting artists here on an international platform rather than bringing new artists to the UK.

Q: (@londonart - that's ours!) The 2 pieces with onion & potato with Marina - why she uses New York Times as wrap on one & russian paper another?
A: Russia was very present in my culture. Potatoes have so much to do with Russia.

Q: (@CreativeLondon) Marina, how do you get a lamb/donkey to sign a model release form?
A: I love this question. I didn't! I love working with the donkey - they are known for their emotion. They are stubborn like me!

Q: How have you spent your time recovering from your MoMA performance?
A: It means so much to be around nature. It was hard to go back to normality. This performance has affected me more than any.

Q: (@DANIELjonKING) Many participants in "THE ARTIST IS PRESENT" view you as a mother figure. Do you consider them as your children?
A: I see my work as my children. For me it was important to be in the present for my MoMA performance. I gave unconditional love to total strangers.

"Marina Abramović: Live at MoMA" by MoMAVideos

Q: What was the most special moment of your MoMA performance?
A: For me the special moment of my MoMA performance was an old woman who came and gave me a shawl as a sign of friendship. It was a symbolic appreciation of my work. It made me burst in to tears. There was a very spiritual element to the work. Also important for me was that the guard for the performance waited and came to sit in front of me. 

Q: (@OperaCreep) Marina, do you think that performance art can live outside the realm of art galleries? Could flashmobs be its future?
A: What are these flash mobs? This is recent for me but I think its a great way to go. It is something I never use in my life because my is very real. I'm also a fan of second life. Flash mob is a big possibility.

Q: Where did you make most of the work in this show?
A:  I needed to do something which is going back to simplicity, which i would have never been able to do if I had not made these works in the 70's

Q: (@annieh_artist) Does performance art need an audience?
A: Absolutely yes. Any performance without an audience doesn't have the same energy. The work is the audience.

Q: Can you tell us a joke?
A: Oh yes. How many artists do you need to fix a light bulb? I don't know I was only there 6 hours!

Q: (@gtvone) Marina, as a performance artist - how much input do you have into how your art is captured, technically?
A: In the beginning I never knew about control. Now I have complete control which is extremely important. To make such a performance you need to be invited and I have never been invited.

Q: Do you think you will ever repeat the performance in another part of the world.
A:  I would never say no to this but right now I can't imagine it because it was only three months ago. I need time to see if I have the strength to do this. 

Q: (@DANIELjonKING) Valuable friendships developed amongst many queuing for THE ARTIST IS PRESENT. Did you ever imagine this?
A: Why did Johnny Depp not ask anything? A community developed around my work at Guggenheim and this developed with the performance at MoMA. It was really emotional because people involved in the performance really felt it would change their lives. 75 people came 10 times to see me at MoMA.

Q: How do you feel when looking at work you made over 35 years ago in the 1970's?
A: It makes me very tired actually. It is the only time I feel old. I should really move on and I am always trying to move on. Let's say I have a healthy distance.

Q: (@yacabo) Do you believe that there is a star system in contemporary arts as well like Hollywood?
A: Oh definitely and I am against that. Artists should not be an idol. The work of art is important not the artist.  I have just been asked by a film maker in Russia if I can play the lead role a film. I refused. That was my big chance to get to Hollywood.

Q: Can I come meet you?
Who are you?

Q: (@rowanhull) How important is time in your work?
A: Time is everything. I really believe long duration is important in a work of art. It can change you emotionally and physically.

Q: Will your show from MoMA tour to anywhere else?
What is this 'back-up' question? I just got information yesterday that it is going to be in the Garage Moscow in September 2011

Q: Why and how do you think people relate to your work?
 My concern is to give everything I have to the audience and it is up to them how they want to deal with that. There are so many different reactions to my work. The ones who participate see something happen because we have shared the same experience. The audience are free to take what they want from the work. The public are an important part of the performance. 

Q: (@DANIELjonKING) if you could choose anyone (living or dead) to play you in a film, who would it be?
A: That is a good question. I need some time to think. I would like to be played by Maria Callas because she would understand me the best. Or I think it would be Anna Magnani. She's italian and she understands drama and emotions. 

Q: (@IsabellaBurley) When will you stop producing work?
A: For an artist is is very important to know when to stop, when not to repeat oneself and when to die. I should not stop producing work now. 

Q: (@delfinafdnThe Abramavic Studio at Location One is a powerhouse for development. Do you think residencies are still important in this mobile age?
A: I think artists today are modern nomads and residencies give them the chance to go from place to place. With residencies you are exposed to a new environment which is very important for artists making new work. 

Q: (@annieh_artist) Is performance art the only unmediated art form?
A: Before there was a bit of photography but not any more. Performance now has a chance to become mainstream art.
Q: How are you finding this interview process
A: It is very fancy. I've never done Twitter in my life. I'm not good with technology. I had a washing machine for one year which I couldn't use and it was only pressing one button! This is like science fiction for me. 

Q: How does your early work relate to what you are doing now?
I could never do what I do now if I didn't do early work. I investigated my body limits now I investigate my mental limits. So what do you do in this office? Is this only a Twitter room? And are these your Twitter girls? Is the final question 'Where do you want to die?' It is really important to start from the beginning to see where everything comes from. My biography would be great to understand my childhood. Everything comes in to place after that. You have to take something personal and make it universal. 

Q: (@dhmonroy) Dear Marina, who artist influenced you, when you begining as an artist?
A:  I really don't think I was influenced by an artist. Being influenced by another artist is like being second hand. Artists that I admire are Yves Klein, Rothko, Duchamp and John Cage among others. So now I've done Twitter for the first time in my life!

Marina Abramović private view 12.10.2010 by Lisson Gallery

See our review on her show at Lisson Gallery here


We will be covering the official Frieze Art Fair in the upcoming posts - stay tuned.