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Ian Rayer Smith, painting that makes visible the invisible

Since graduating in 2013, british contemporary artist Ian Rayer Smith has been prolific in his creating and is establishing himself as a highly accomplished and award winning artist, who explores and pushes the boundaries of contemporary painting with his own unique expressive style.

His work is highly charged with emotion, vibrant and energetic. Strongly influenced by the work of the abstract expressionists and the romantic light of the old masters, Rayer-Smith’s large oil and acrylic paintings effortlessly fuse abstraction, the figurative and the surreal. Ian Rayer Smith paints full time from studios in Manchester and in rural North Shropshire, England.

Voted one of Manchester’s Top 10 Artists by Manchester Confidential and Winner of the 2014 Warrington Contemporary Prize, Ian Rayer-Smith has been hailed as one of the North’s artists to watch. By the way, Ian Rayer-Smith is having a solo exhibition of new paintings alongside some of his sculptures at London’s Zari Gallery from 20 to 29 April 2017.

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1. Do you consider yourself as an emerging artist in contemporary art?

Ian Rayer Smith : I hope so. As a contemporary painter, I’ve been constantly experimenting and evolving to the point where I have now established my own artistic identity that validates me as an artist. Having said that, in many ways I feel I’m only at the beginning.

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2. How would you define your style?

Ian Rayer Smith : I would say I’m a contemporary expressionist, I like my paintings to show a raw honesty and passion in the way the paint is applied. I also want my work to look contemporary, current, fresh and of its time, although there are definitely classical references to be seen in my work.

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3. Can you talk about your formative years as an artist?

Ian Rayer Smith : I started painting relatively late in life after a career in business. Initially it was a distraction from the strains and pressures business life. But, slowly, painting began to take over. I wasn’t particularly well versed in technique at first, but I enjoyed it immensely. I gave up the corporate life and went to art school when in my late 30’s. Four years later, after completing my studies, I had established a definite sense of artistic direction, as well as valuable skills. I just knew I wanted and needed to paint full time.

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4. Do you remember your first interaction with art?

Ian Rayer Smith : I suppose the most impactful memory was seeing a particular contemporary painting in a gallery which inspired me to start painting myself. I bought that painting, I still have it on my wall.

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5. What other artists influence you, both contemporary and historical?

Ian Rayer Smith : There are so many artists that have influenced me. I think it’s important as a painter to know what is happening today in painting and what has happened before. It really helps in contextualising one’s own work and position. I’ve always been influenced by the abstract expressionists – for their passionate paint handling, invention and, most importantly, for the freedoms that come from dispensing with the representational image.

Over the years I have looked further and further back in time, and in particular I’ve found the Renaissance to be a hugely inspirational period. I find the use of light, dark and compositional techniques to be thrilling and strangely contemporary.

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I have always been fascinated by the abstract expressionists. Their reputation was made mainly by the masculine, almost macho works of the better known names, but in fact my favourite artists from the abstract expressionist movement are predominantly the female painters. Joan Mitchell is probably at the top of the list. Her paint handling seems so much more vibrant, visceral and passionate than that of any of her male contemporaries. Also, Willem de Kooning and the lesser known Milton Resnick are hugely important to me. I admire many of today’s major contemporary painters, especially Albert Oehlen, Adrian Ghenie, Georg Baselitz, George Condo, Cecily Brown, Eddie Martinez and Philip Guston. However, when I look at these painters, their subject matter almost seems less important to me than the inspiring way in which they handle their materials.

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6. How did you first begin to develop your unique style?

Ian Rayer Smith : About three years ago, I hit a ‘block’ in my work, like most painters do at some point. I had reached a stage where I did not know what to paint or what I wanted to communicate, and it felt that the ideas I had may be bogus. The idea of painting something representationally seemed stale. That’s when I became interested in psychic automatism and the work and teachings of Franz Kline. He essentially believed in first ‘pouring out’, then editing. I also became interested in artists whose work is centred around mark making itself. You could say my style combines these systems with my own ideas. Colour is more important to me now than it ever was, and I love the expressiveness and experimentation it can offer.

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7. How do you manage to fuse abstraction, the figurative and the surreal?

Ian Rayer Smith : Pure abstraction often lacks passion. Therefore, I feel it’s important to have some figurative element, or the suggestion of one. I want my paintings to have an emotional impact, and so the injection of organic elements can be a helpful tool for me. Yet I’m not interested in the recognisable human or any other figurative form. I lean towards the creation of new forms, that suggest something living in the image. Doing this means that I am not restricted by conventional figurative forms, which gives me far greater creative freedom. I love the element of surprise that this can bring to my work.

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8. How do you nurture your creativity?

Ian Rayer Smith : I like (and need) to paint every day. I have two studios, so having one at home and another away from home makes this easier to do. I have a strict routine, and I’m definitely at my most creative in the morning, so I start very early in the day. I draw a lot as well, although generally this is done as a form of warming up, rather than as preparatory work for my paintings.

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9. What can you tell us about your painting process?

Ian Rayer Smith : I find it easier to work on several paintings in a series, and I often have many paintings in progress at any one time. For me, that keeps things very loose and free, enabling me to avoid ‘tightness’ in any particular painting, which can stifle the energy in a piece.

I also like working on various scales and surfaces, changing things to avoid get too comfortable or formulaic. I have to have an idea of what I’m going to do, but it nearly always changes and develops during the act and process itself. I find this keeps things energetic and exciting.

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Occasionally, accidents will happen, and I will often embrace them and use this creative energy to inform new works and ideas. I need to paint in isolation. I’m at my most comfortable when I’m in my Manchester studio, where I get the buzz of the city around me, yet I’m alone and don’t get distracted.

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10. What can you say about the difference between light in a painting and light in nature?

Ian Rayer Smith : Light in a painting can be used to create emotion. In a painting you can exaggerate the light to highlight certain areas or elements in that painting. It helps to bring life to an image and create mood.

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11. What are some of your favourite art world hangout spots?

Ian Rayer Smith : From where I have been so far, it is hard to top walking around the Chelsea Gallery District in New York. It is so dense, with literally hundreds of important commercial art galleries. The Broad in Downtown LA is also an amazing building with a very impressive collection of contemporary painting and sculpture. The Louvre and the Pompidou are both breathtaking in their quality. The Saatchi in London is always great fun.

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12. What are your future goals and ambitions as an artist?

Ian Rayer Smith : I have always thought of different ideas, goals or objectives for my own future as an artist.

Yet, as many will know, it’s a very difficult world to crack. I like the challenge of that. I’m selling my work, and it’s very humbling when somebody wants to own something that you have made, something which is produced in a very personal way.

Ultimately I want to have some recognition in the art world as a painter of some importance. Being represented by an established gallery can allow me to dedicate all of my time to creating the work.

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More info about Ian Rayer Smith : www.ianrayersmith.com

Painting is silent poetry with Betsy Eby

In her paintings, Betsy Eby fuses the line between the musical and the visual composition. A classically trained pianist, she seeks in her work what Rothko described as “the place where music lives.” The layers and gestures of her paintings evoke musical spaces and rhythms while drawing on patterns found in nature. From her early childhood, musical and natural rhythms blended in Eby’s sensibility. She spent her first years of life in a small town on the Oregon coast, practicing at the family piano by the age of five. Today her work reveals that interconnected sensitivity: her delicate, organic compositions become synesthesias of sound and image.

Painting with Fire features the artist’s recent paintings that utilize the technique of encaustic, which means “to burn.” The process is an ancient one by which layers of pigments, sap, and wax are fused together by the flame of a torch. Eby has slowly refined the technique to her own language, composing dynamic surfaces and deep, luminous spaces. Her abstract paintings incorporate a soothing palette and subtly reference wildflowers, flowing water, migratory birds, frost covered leaves, and misty forests. By employing beeswax in her painting process, she slowly builds up the surfaces of her canvases, creating depth and texture that heighten the organic quality of her work. Her paintings are visceral, yet for Eby they shimmer with something more of the mystical, hovering between material and immaterial worlds as do the worlds of sight and sound.

Betsy Eby received her BA from the University of Oregon. She and her husband, painter Bo Bartlett, split their time between studios in Columbus, Georgia, and Wheaton Island, Maine. She savors the spaciousness and light of both of these studios, and her paintings evoke the atmosphere of the vast ocean that surrounds her small island residence in Maine. Her work has been shown and collected by the Georgia Museum of Art and the Columbus Museum, and she has shown frequently with Winston Wachter Fine Art in their Seattle and New York galleries.

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1. Do you consider yourself as a figure of contemporary painting ?

Betsy Eby : While my paintings have garnered a reputation for pushing the boundaries of the medium, and I show among other contemporary painters, sure, I’d consider myself a figure of contemporary painting. But there are multiple strata of recognition in the art world, and an artist is the least objective to judge themselves within the ranking. We have to trust that history will be the judge of that.

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2. How would you describe your style ?

Betsy Eby : A friend once told me my paintings are verbs not nouns. In the realm of nature-based abstraction, the paintings are reflections on the elements, on music, on light, mood and emotion. Perhaps they could be considered lyrical abstraction.

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3. Could you  describe the process of encaustic painting ?

Betsy Eby : Caustic, means ‘to burn’. The medium dates back to 4th century b.c. and is comprised of hot wax and resin. Egyptian funerary portraits that were placed on mummies were executed in the medium. John Lafarge used encaustic in the nineteenth century for paintings and murals (although often it was cold wax), but it was really Jasper Johns who resurrected it in the mid twentieth century, most famously in his flag paintings. Today there are several of us using the medium, and every artist handles it differently.

I make my medium out of beeswax and dammar resin, heat it to liquidity and infuse with pigment. I’ll have multiple pigments heating at a time. With knives I spread and manipulate the wax as I pour it onto a canvas wrapped birch panel, then with a blow torch, I fuse each layer or gesture with the flame. The process is physical, immediate and the medium is unforgiving. During the course of making a single paintings, it will be moved from horizontal to vertical countless times because it requires viewing and assessing from a distance in order to balance the intended composition. At times I may paint on it while it hangs on the wall, depending upon the intended direction of mark-making, but most of the process takes place with it on the table.

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4. Tell us more about your cursus…

Betsy Eby : Classical piano was my first discipline, and then as I entered University I chose to study Art History, specifically Greek, Roman and Egyptian. I earned my BA in Art History. I’d taken a few painting classes growing up and always made things. One of my grandmothers kept sketchbooks of horses and barn scenes and that inspired me. I took a few art classes in college, but it wasn’t until my junior year that something happened to changed the course of my life.

I was in a serious car accident which kept me in bed recovering for most of a year, and during this time I developed an overwhelming need to paint. I became interested in quantum physics, meditation, psychology, philosophy and devoured books on the subjects. I became interested in the notion of ascension, not in the religious way, but in the evolutionary way. And I wanted to paint what that felt like, I wanted to learn how to paint the place beyond the secular realm, the place, as Rothko once said, that music lives.

After University, I moved to Seattle, Washington. Seattle, at the time, was small but growing. I took odd jobs and taught myself how to paint in a cold basement. Vines were growing inside the windows of this space I commandeered as a make-shift studio. There was an art center in my neighborhood, Pratt, where I took night classes in painting, printmaking, figure drawing. Being on the west coast, I was 3,000 miles away from the pedigreed ateliers or MFA anointed programs. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, all I knew was self- invention.

My desire to express an emotional dimension on the canvas was so deep it was like a religion to me. And I pursued it with an unrelenting focus. (In young artists today, I look for that inner fire; because that’s what gets you through.) When I say it felt like a religion to me, it really did. It still does. Paint is about communication, the conveyance of the deepest emotions: pain, nostalgia, desire, euphoria… And as artists, we are the instruments. Joseph Campbell once said that the artists are the prophets.

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5. What missions do you paint ?

Betsy Eby : Good painting is balanced in execution (material skill), philosophy and concept.   My technical concerns are rhythm, motion, light, color and formal harmony balanced with a contrast of dissonant tension.

Historically, I’ve gravitated to the aesthetic fusion that results when the Western canon borrows from Eastern aesthetics and philosophy.  You see this in Hellenism and in the Fin de Siecle, for example. During Hellenism, exotic refinement from the “Orient” was imported during a time of great artistic and cultural prosperity resulting in some of the most beautiful and harmonic sculptures of all time. The poetic zeitgeist of the Fin de Siecle, particularly in France, was seen when Orientalism was in fashion and visual artists were borrowing from music, musicians were borrowing from visual artists and Baudelaire was writing Correspondence; creativity was not silo’d between disciplines.

When sensory fluidity is at play, great art can be made. Certain people, like Joan Mitchell, have had a real diagnosed form of Synesthesia. While I don’t have a diagnosed form of it, synesthesia seems to be at play constantly in my life. I have a bit of a gift with mimicry, and translations move from music to paint, paint to music, constantly. If I were to sum it all up into a single mission, maybe it would look like the religion of sensuality.

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6. What are your artistic influences ?

Betsy Eby : I was influenced at an early age by the Pacific coast. The misty light, grey palette, expanse of the sea and majestic mountains informed my sensibilities. The Pacific elements are powerful, engulfing, humbling and wild. The palette is reduced.

My early exposure to art was that of Morris Graves and Mark Toby. They were two members of what was called the Northwest Mystic School. Graves was Buddhist and painted meditation on nature. Toby similarly was influenced by eastern spirituality, and was a pianist and painted lyrical, overall abstractions that went on to influence Jackson Pollock. Toby’s White Writing paintings influenced me deeply, as they related to Pollock and music and the calligraphic paintings of Brice Marden (although not chronologically). Where I came from, we shared the Pacific Rim with Japan.

Much of Northwest Modernism was born out of the spare, elemental restraint of Japanese design. Within that tradition is color restraint. I’m quite certain this is the origin of my reduced palette and focus on tonal variations of a narrow palette rather than a broad spectrum. Some other influences include Cy Twombly, Pat Steir, Robert Motherwell, Marc Rothko, Asian landscape painting and ancient marble busts.

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7. Did your classical training in piano since the age of five have an impact on your artistic sensibility ?

Betsy Eby : Absolutely. I’ve played classical piano everyday since the age of five. Music is in my DNA. It informs how I see the world, how I move, how I hear. I’ve been working with a Russian teacher the past few years on technique as well as another professor in theory. The deeper the knowledge goes, the deeper the range of expression in playing. All of that gets into the paint.

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8. You’ve lived in Tokyo after graduation. Do you consider Japan as a source of inspiration ?

Betsy Eby : I haven’t been back to Japan since that time I was fortunate enough to be there in my twenties, but I want to visit again. There are tenants to the Japanese culture that resonate with me; restrained aesthetics, intention, a general reverence toward harmony through eastern spirituality. If my memory stands correct, the Japanese culture has a relationship to nature that is about cultivation. Even in the mountains and the “wilds” of nature, you won’t find places untouched by human hands. There’s an intervention with the intent to manage. I’m no expert; this is my memory of it.

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9. Nature plays a large role in your work…

Betsy Eby : My primary studio is now located in the South, where access to nature is limited. But that place of home within my soul, that place that is nostalgic for the wild Pacific, gets quenched during the three months we live in Maine every summer. We live and work on a small, private island that is out to sea in the open Atlantic. My studio sits within view of the crashing waves and granite boulders that make up the rocky coastline. We have minimal solar electricity, so we rise and sleep with the sun, schedule around the tides and sense the season through bird migrations. The elements are rugged, and the lack of creature comforts keeps the spirit vital and at peace.

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10. How do you work on colors ?

Betsy Eby : With R&F pigment bricks, I mix multiple tonal variations and multiple colors in small, heated tins. As I paint, I’d say my primary focus in how I use color is twofold: toward the illusion of depth and the illusion of motion.

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11. What kind of materials do you use in your paintings ?

Betsy Eby : Beeswax, dammar crystals, pigment.

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12. What are your future plans ?

Betsy Eby : This summer, Winston Wachter Fine Art will take my work to the Seattle Art Fair. The exhibition is focused on female artists who are influenced by the environment / their environment. And my lineup of upcoming solo shows:

October of 2017, Cadogan Contemporary in London.

Spring 2018, Octavia Gallery in New Orleans.

Fall 2018, Winston Wachter Fine Art in Seattle, WA.

More about Betsy Eby : www.betsyeby.com

Abstraction poétique avec Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu commence à prendre des photos en 2008 après avoir été comédien et réalisateur, enrichissant ainsi son travail. Sa formation théâtrale lui permet de réaliser des portraits d’artistes pour la presse et de comprendre les enjeux relationnels entre êtres humains, rituels, abnégations et travestissement de la volonté.

En 2010, il rencontre Nicole Wisniak la rédactrice en chef du Journal Egoïste qui va lui permettre de travailler quelques mois à ses côtés, lui permettant de publier son travail dans le numéro 16 (Mai 2011). En 2011, il suit la formation continue de l’école des Gobelins à Paris et découvre l’usage de la chambre grand format. C’est lors d’un accident qu’il découvre une autre manière d’utiliser le négatif de ses polaroids. S’en suit une première exposition solo à la galerie Karaly en parallèle avec l’édition 2011 de la foire internationale Paris Photo où une grande partie de la série est exposée à la galerie du Jour. L’exposition Noirs Miroirs contient des portraits de Henry Hopper et des paysages de Californie, les photos portent physiquement l’empreinte de poèmes de Jack Kerouac. Le livre Noirs Miroirs, auto financé, parait fin 2011.

Son travail mélangeant photographie argentique et transformation numérique, Microsoft le sélectionne avec 30 artistes pour créer une oeuvre en rapport avec Windows. L’exposition a lieu au palais de Tokyo.

Depuis ses débuts, Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu s’interroge sur la place de la jeunesse dans la société actuelle. En prenant des auto-portraits à côtés de ses amis artistes, il joue déjà avec l’illusion des genres. Cinq ans après les premiers portraits de Yuan (2008) une nouvelle série  “A la chambre” (2013-20–) illustre cette progression dans son travail.

1. Vous considérez-vous comme une figure émergente en Art contemporain ?

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu : Je considère effectivement que j’émerge au milieu de mes contemporains (rires). N’ayant pas fait d’école de photographie, je marque ma place avec mon travail et mon dialogue avec celui-ci. J’aborde des sujets qui me parlent depuis des années et  qui sont ancrés dans mon éducation théâtrale. C’est le cas par exemple des rapports entre les êtres humains et les identités que nous nous créons pour nous signifier les uns aux autres.rome_001-copie rome_013-2

2. Comment définiriez-vous votre style ?

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu : Je ne parle pas souvent de style. Il s’agit de traitements peut-être. Pour la série « à la chambre » j’ai choisi la chambre photo devant un mur blanc pour développer un flou lié à celui des corps humains qui dépassent les appellations femme/homme. Je voulais me concentrer sur le regard, le visage pour ne pas détourner l’attention portée au sujet car je n’aime pas le voyeurisme. Je privilégie les nuances qui font vaciller notre capacité à interpréter ce qui nous semble simple au premier abord.

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leonard_bourgoisbeaulieu_43. Racontez-nous votre parcours…

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu : J’étais comédien avant de prendre des photos. J’ai réalisé des court-métrages avec le collectif que j’ai créé en 2004 « Kartonpat Films ». L’image était déjà un aspect primordial de ce que je créais : être acteur c’est donner une image, du visuel, de notre interprétation. J’ai voulu garder le jeu comme source d’inspiration dans mes premières photos,  qui sont toutes des autoportraits.

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4. Pourquoi avoir choisi la Photographie ?

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu : Je n’ai pas choisi la photographie. En effet, j’ai choisi de créer des images pour illustrer mes idées, mon imagination. En faisant des films et des vidéos à la fin des années 90 et au début des années 2000, je refaisais des prises souvent à cause de l’image qui ne me convenait pas. J’avais aussi besoin de figer la vidéo et c’est ainsi que j’ai pris des photos en plus de réaliser. C’était un tout autre langage qui me rendait plus libre que de tourner. Ce langage était celui de l’intime d’abord puis s’est ajoutée la recherche plastique puisque je transforme mes polaroids avec des produits chimiques. La photographie, en plus d’être un instantané, prolonge cet état lorsqu’on la regarde et qu’on se concentre sur elle; nous recréons le moment photographié en tentant de le lire. C’est pour moi une sensation évidemment mais j’aime déchiffrer et passer du temps à regarder les différentes couches d’une photographie.

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5. Quels photographes vous inspirent dans votre travail ?

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu : Saul Leiter, Bill Henson, Bellmer, Fernell Franco, Masao Yamamoto, Sugimoto... J’achète aussi des photographies quand je le peux.

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6. Quelle mission donnez-vous à la photographie ?

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu : Montrer certains comportements que nous entretenons et qui me semblent dépassés comme ne pas accepter le changement d’identité, la transformation, et de vouloir continuellement aborder les choses de la même manière. Certains comportements me semblent si absurdes que la photographie me permet de les montrer pour ouvrir les consciences. Je suis intéressé aussi bien par l’évolution du rapport à la différence sexuelle mais aussi par les modèles que nous choisissons dans notre recherche d’identité.

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7. Quelles sont vos influences artistiques ?

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu : Le cinéma et le théâtre sont mes influences initiales. Des plans de films m’ont vraiment interpellé et c’est peut-être la volonté de les figer pour les regarder plus longtemps qui m’a inspiré de photographier.

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8. Les portraits occupent une place prépondérante dans votre travail..

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu : Les portraits sont une partie assez large de mon travail, je travaille aussi sur le sujet de l’affichage de masse (internet, smartphones, google etc.) avec ma série « googlize my work 2014» et la façon dont la valeur d’une oeuvre est calculée ou spéculée par rapport à l’artiste et sa notoriété, et le nombre de copies vendues (installation « printer » 2016). L’installation présentait une imprimante qui imprime à répétition sur une feuille tubulaire la même photo ad vitam aeternam. Un cartel numérique présente l’artiste et le titre mais le numéro d’édition augmente à chaque tirage et le prix change en fonction de la cote de l’artiste et de la rareté qui diminue. Mais est-ce l’oeuvre ou le tirage qui est vendu ? Le cartel devient fou. Aujourd’hui la spéculation prend une place considérable et ce traitement de l’art devient absurde.

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9. Parlez-nous de votre série “Noirs miroirs »

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu : “Noirs Miroirs” est une série accident, une série vivante. Alors que je découvrais le polaroid et la chambre photo j’ai fait la rencontre d’un jeune acteur qui faisait écho à ma propre expérience de comédien. Je l’ai pris en photo pendant une journée. C’est un accident qui m’a permis de révéler les négatifs qui sont apparus très sombres et brillants. Il y avait alors un traitement proche de la photo vintage, le temps était profondément brouillé et on a souvent cru que les photos avaient été prises au début du siècle. J’ai voulu développer un lien entre cet acteur dans mon pays, moi et son pays natal de Californie. Toute cette série traitait les liens entre ressemblances, flous et représentations. La Californie sous mon objectif semble s’être perdue dans le temps, il se dégage une mélancolie et un rêve qui semblent d’une autre époque mais pourtant bien contemporaine.

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10. Comment nourrissez-vous votre inspiration ?

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu : Je tente de trouver le juste milieu entre musées, expositions, vernissages et instagram (dans ce que le média peut présenter comme visions internationales), publicités, séries, films. Mon inspiration principale sont les échanges que les gens ont avec moi et autour de moi. J’observe continuellement ce qui se passe. Les comportements me semblent être la base de nos réactions et formations identitaires.

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11. Quels sont vos projets à venir ?

Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu : Je suis en train de finir mon second livre qui contient mes principaux travaux. Ma recherche sur « le rite de l’absence » sera publiée fin mars dans la Revue Innocente des éditions Chardon. La série « à la chambre » sera publiée dans la revue Young Photography Now en Mars. Je continue mon travail sur la série « à la chambre » qui demande un temps conséquent car je ne vais pas à la recherche de personnes pour ne pas stigmatiser les gens photographiés, ce sont avant tout des rencontres. J’écris aussi un scénario sur les rapports détachés que nos machines nous forcent à entretenir entre êtres vivants, entre nous.

En savoir plus sur Léonard Bourgois-Beaulieu 

EXPOSITIONS

  • SPRING/BREAK art show 2016 (New York City, Armory week)
  • Expolaroïd Montélimard (2015)
  • Creative Gallery au Palais de Tokyo
  • Noirs Miroirs (nouveaux tirages) REC galerie mars 2012
  • Parcours Paris je t’aime (solo) février 2012
  • Noirs Miroirs (Galerie Hubert Karaly) novembre 2011
  • A young french photography (nyc, galerie agnès b.)8
  • Paris Photo 2016
  • Paris Photo 2015
  • Paris Photo 2014
  • Paris Photo 2013
  • Paris Photo 2012
  • Paris Photo 2011
  • Paris Photo 2010
  • Paris photo 2009

Jonah Bokaer, at the heart of body language

Bokaer was born to Tunisian and American parents, and has been active as a choreographer since 2002. He has created over 55 works in a wide range of mediums, such as film, opera, applications, and installation, in a variety of venues, ranging from stages, to museums and galleries. He works internationally, exhibiting and touring worldwide.

In 2015 he is recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for Choreography, United States Artists Fellowship in dance.  Bokaer has created 57 works using different mediums such as video, dance, installations and app. His work was presented in within museum spaces that live between choreography, visual art, and moving images.

Recent production have been presented at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, at the Festival d’Avignon, at the Theatre de la Cité Internationale “New Settings” in Paris (Thanks to the support of the Fondation Hermès at the BAM – Brooklyn Academy of Music during the Next Wave Festival at the occasion of the inauguration of the BAM Fisher, at the Festival di Spoleto in Italie and have toured in Germany, Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Croatia, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, UK, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, and the United States.

In 2008, Jonah Bokaer was the first artist to be rewarded “Young Leader” in Dance by the French American Friends Foundation for « Chez Bushwick », and the « CPR – Center for Performance Research » two non profit organizations he has founded and co-founded in New York.

A few of Bokaer’s frequent collaborators are Daniel Arsham (2007-Present), Anne Carson, Richard Chai, Merce Cunningham, Anthony McCall, Abbott Miller, Tino Sehgal, Robert Wilson (2007-Present), along with other leading innovators in mediums such as performance, visual art, literature, and design.

Recent awards include the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in Choreography (USA 2015), the Prix Nouveau Talent Chorégraphie (Paris 2011), the Jerome Robbins Special Prize Fellowship in Choreography from the Bogliasco Foundation (Italy, 2011), and Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011), and from the United States Artists (2015).

  1. Do you see yourself as a Figure of the Dance ?

Jonah Bokaer : I see myself as a Choreographer, with an expanded practice that allows for many ways of composing a dance, and allowing dance to exist in a large cultural framework. The areas that I am involved in dance are as a Performer, a Choreographer, an Animator, an Author, and an Entrepreneur. Recently I have also done some work in fashion as well. It’s possible that I am seen as a Figure of Dance, but from my perspective, I just work very hard, and enjoy finding new ways of working.

© Beowulf Sheehan, from "Triple Echo" premiered at the Onassis Cultural Center t, costumes by Narciso Rodriguez, music by Stavros Gasparatos, lighting design by Aaron Copp

© Beowulf Sheehan, from “Triple Echo” premiered at the Onassis Cultural Center, costumes by Narciso Rodriguez, music by Stavros Gasparatos, lighting design by Aaron Copp

  1. How would you describe your style ?

Jonah Bokaer : The aesthetic that I work with is abstract, architectural, and very visual – but the public emerges from my productions having had an emotional experience. Using abstraction to expand the possibilities for dance and choreography is the way that I work. I also work with visual artists to create a space, set, or decor for each production – not a set designer, but a visual artist – which means that each production often has a visual style of its own. It has also been an honor to collaborate with some designers in recent years such as Narciso Rodriguez, Isaac Mizrahi, Daniel Arsham, Guillaume Boulez, and others whose work in Fashion and Style has had an impact on my choreographic thinking.

 © Jeffrey Hirsch

© Jeffrey Hirsch

  1. What led you to Dance and Choreography ?

Jonah Bokaer : Merce Cunningham influenced me primarily in terms of dance training. His classes were so strengthening, and training with him twice per week was instrumental to my formation as a performer. I do not believe that Cunningham influenced my choreography thought: for one, he composed almost purely by chance, and often in isolation. In my practice, I tend to work with conscious constructions, and always in a method of co-creation with other disciplines (recently, a biotechnologist, an entrepreneur, and design firm). I believe that Cunningham’s use of motion capture for the stage design of BIPED (1999) did lead to inspiration, and an impact on my thinking about the relationships between dance and technology. Shortly afterwards, dancing in that production was also formative – but I believe that dancers in the Cunningham company do not necessarily have any contact or experience with the technology he used. My own explorations into 3D animation evolved elsewhere, and bridged into other digital tools beyond dance.

  1. When did you first contact the Dance ?

Jonah Bokaer : My family of performers, artists, and filmmakers is really where I first encountered theatre, dance, film, and performance. My father was a filmmaker, originally born in Tunisia, and my mother was a theater director of Welsh/Scottish background, who grew up largely in Ohio, the United States. My parents met in Los Angeles, and I was born in Ithaca, NY. There are 6 siblings in my family, and as a young child, I began to stage the four brothers in the living room and backyard, creating dances, patterns, choreography, and productions. Way back then, it was always involving pop songs or videos. I then went to begin dance classes, at local schools, and also at Cornell University – and then began training substantially in ballet and contemporary dance. At the age of 15, I left my home in Ithaca in order to pursue training fulltime at a conservatory, and by age 18, was hired by Merce Cunningham to join his company.

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  1. What are the meetings or policy role that made you move forward ?

Jonah Bokaer : In 2005, I participated in a residency at Stanford University’s Laboratory for Motion & Gait Analysis, during which time I was used as a subject of motion capture to study “bio-mechanical rebellion” in Merce Cunningham’s choreography. Towards the end I started improvising: it had been a long day and my muscles were firing differently than usual. I started using the wall as a balance point, or partner, and saw ways that my body could improve its performance in other extremes of movement—through relying on architecture. I explored jumping with radical shifts in my torso; some of the sensors actually flew off. There was a certain balance that I hit, and I was able to rest there for what seemed like a long amount of time. In my mind I think I said something like “HERE.” To me, this and other moments in that lab felt like a peak of experiencing movement. I hope I haven’t peaked yet, but that day was informative for my technique as a mover—and I’m convinced that’s due to live visualization. Once I was hooked up to the motion capture system, I had the opportunity to view the datapoints onscreen, the movement of my breath was visible. Watching closer, micro-shifts in weight in my feet and lower legs were also visible. Even now, this impacts how I imagine my body, my breath, and the way I balance weight on my feet.

 © Michael Beauplet

© Michael Beauplet

  1. What is your vision of dance these days ?

Jonah Bokaer : I always work in collaboration between dance and visual arts, to create new visual and movement forms. My vision for dance operates in what I call an “expanded practice,” meaning that dance can expand beyond its traditional histories of creation, composition, or distribution. Working with new technologies for dance is also an inspiration of mine. Basically, taking dance into a broader field of cultural circulation, and working with new aesthetic signatures is where my vision is right now. The use of motion capture for dance, and for artistic purposes, or for documentation, is right at the front of my interest and practice. By working with motion capture, I can pre-visualize movement and actually explore. In 2007 I created a work called A Cure For Surveillance, in which I introduced a missing figure in a duet. Choreographed and improvised material would occur for 3D capture, and one body would be mapped, while the other would not. So there are partnering sequences happening, but one partner is invisible – so one person is being assisted, lifted, manipulated, partnered, but without the presence of the other person. There is assisted movement, but invisible, so the erasure becomes a presence too: one body is missing, but you can see that another presence is there partnering or interacting with the performer. One person’s presence gets sculpted by the other person’s absence.

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© Eric Boudet

  1. What missions do you dance to ?

Jonah Bokaer : I do think that all movement can be captured, including pedestrian movement in public space, and have made a number of media works that explore this, including a work called A Cure For Surveillance. While developing new choreography, I frequently question (and subvert) the spaces in which my work is performed, creating site-specific installations that playfully critique the venue presenting a dance. This generally involves a visual or sonic intervention in the periphery of each individual venue. I often choreograph with images or objects as much, or as frequently, as with bodies. Parts of the video create movement, too, which the videographer made, but the choreographer did not.

© Beowulf Sheehan, from "Triple Echo" premiered at the Onassis Cultural Center costumes by Narciso Rodriguez, music by Stavros Gasparatos, lighting design by Aaron Copp

© Beowulf Sheehan, from “Triple Echo” premiered at the Onassis Cultural Center costumes by Narciso Rodriguez, music by Stavros Gasparatos, lighting design by Aaron Copp

  1. How do you feed your work as a choreographer ?

Jonah Bokaer : Very recently, I’ve been taking a lot of inspiration from fashion and the way that movement is represented within the fashion world, and the fashion industry. This was a surprise to me – but I’ve learned it can be refreshing to view the ways that an artform, such as dance, circulates within another sphere of production. I also think that the field of dance has historically suffered from lack of funding, in proportion to other areas of the arts. I have enjoyed learning about the fashion industry, and in particular the creative designation of many creators / authors within one company or aesthetic. For dance and choreographic artists, this is something unusual, and incredible. I also believe that large discovery has been made in the areas of photography, set design, and art direction purely within the fashion industry, and I am curious to see if the dance world will incorporate these innovations, and to what degree.

 © Eric Boudet

© Eric Boudet

  1. Tell us about your band …

Jonah Bokaer : My main goal is to invent new forms within the field of choreography, and really on this topic, I should talk about the dancers I work with. There are about 8 in the core group, and many of them are international artists: CC Chang is originally from Taiwan; Irena Misirlic is originally from Croatia but we mainly work together in Holland; the associate Adam H Weinert is born in New York City but also has an English passport. A Cuban-American dancer named David Rafael Botana is also very involved in the production we just made for Les Hivernales, Avignon this past February. Recently my work has formally involved the American / Scottish dancer James McGinn for some time now, which has led to large discoveries for my work. For many years, my choreography evolved either as solos, or as group works: there are often large differences in the way of composing each. James’ knowledge of my work is very integral, especially at the level of the studio for composition. Creating movement material is by nature a very intense process moment, when it occurs. The fact that there is now dancers who understand this creative process has been transformational. James and I are also very similar in age, which allows for a nice connection between dancer and choreographer. He is an incredible performer, and is able to be present inside the many parts of choreographic output, and he is fluent in each.

 © Joachim Ladefoged

© Joachim Ladefoged

  1. What do you dance ?

Jonah Bokaer : My first experience of movement training was actually not dance—it was yoga. I think this might have influenced my thinking about anatomy, and joint mobility. I later began training in Merce Cunningham’s technique intensively at the age of 15 or 16. There are many differing views of this technique, but what I will say is that it systematically warms up every joint in the body.Still later, I began animating—first in DanceForms 1.0, and later in other 3D animation programs. DanceForms allows for animation of the body through key-framing, and highlighting the body joint-by-joint. Movement is hand-animated in sequence, and placed on a filmic timeline.In animation, joints are named by hierarchy—finger, hand, wrist, forearm, upper arm, shoulder, etc.—and form systems of ascending or descending order, meaning that they radiate out or in from the center. Hemispheres are used to represent each joint visually. Additionally, the pelvis is named as the Root Joint, because it is the connector of the torso and legs. Sometimes I think about joints like letters, because it allows me to think of my body beyond language, which only allows 26. In Avignon for example, I recently danced a show of ours called “Three Cases Of Amnesia.” It is a technology-influenced solo that I animated, choreographed, and performed  through the use of digital choreographic software. The movement for the piece has been designed through the use of 3D animation, and pays homage to the historical painting “False Start” by Jasper Johns (1959). This particular work will address the erasure of the moving human body, and the trace of its presence. As with previous two works, I use a solo choreographic practice to address the deconstruction of modernist portraiture, presenting a digital “maquette” which is mimicked by the dancer.

 © Liubo Borissov

© Liubo Borissov

  1. Tell us about your work with Robert Wilson, Merce Cunningham, John Jasperse and David Gordon ?

Jonah Bokaer : My work in digital media began through encountering the work of Merce Cunningham. I was actually recruited by his dance company and joined when I was 18. After that time, Merce began developing a series of solos for me using choreography software DanceForms 1.0, which is available through Credo Interactive. This was a big introduction to his process of keyframing, which is a very simple, three-frame production manner of placing movement on a timeline and animating it. He turned to that tool in 1990, I believe, because of his advancing arthritis – so it really is an “extension” in a very practical sense of the word, and how it relates to technology. That set the stage for my appetite and my interest for these tools, and how they relate to dance. There is also repertory of Merce’s that relies heavily on the film/video arts and also motion capture. Also, encountering his piece BIPED from 1999 was a big introduction. At the moment though, I am more informed by my work in choreographing the operas of theater artist Robert Wilson: the use of technical theater in his work is simply unparalleled, and I have been informed by  this in the very recent past. I do not think Opera is a next frontier personally, but I have been lucky enough to work on the productions of Robert Wilson, for example, with Charles Gounod’s FAUST commissioned by the National Opera of Poland. The ballet music for Faust, which is one of the longest of any opera, has a long history of being difficult to choreograph; Zachary Solov and Anthony Tudor at the Met Opera, and others, have tried to move it beyond kitsch but are often described as never having succeeded: it’s generally so over the top that the expression ‘like Faust’ has meant to go “all the way.”  I believe that Bob’s approach to scenography raised it to a new and surreal level and just might have clinched it. I hope the production will come to NYC, or at least that the documentation is strong, so that others may see it in the United States.

 © Jeffrey Hirsch

© Jeffrey Hirsch

  1. What resources do you use today to adapt to your Dance Company ?

Jonah Bokaer : These days, I am deeply committed to fostering interdisciplinary dialogue with artists across media. With this in mind, I have established two cooperative studio spaces in NYC (Chez Bushwick, and CPR) in which artists can congregate, develop ideas, and present work in a catalytic environment. I am interested in bringing innovative new work into direct conversation with contemporary thought and culture. That is a fueling motivation behind my efforts with Chez Bushwick. Increasingly, artists in NYC are having to “rewire” the way that they think about how to sustain themselves, and their artwork: Chez Bushwick provides a space for dance artists, but has larger generative power as well.

 © Eric Boudet

© Eric Boudet

13. Tell us about your collaboration with Daniel Ashram

Jonah Boaker : Daniel and I, have been working together for the past 9 years, we have met on stage while we were both engaged with the Merce Cunningham Company, in 2007. Daniel was the youngest stage designer and I was the youngest dancer – at that period in time. Merce left, we both took distinct artistic paths, Daniel started a design/ “sn”architecture studio with his partner Alex Mustonen, and I founded a studio space located in Bushwick, Brooklyn dedicated to the advancement of the performing arts while defined my own choreographic language by exploring outdoor spaces, digital possibilities and new technologies. However Daniel and I have never stopped collaborating since we met. I believe that we will probably never stop collaborating – because we are involved in creating a new language for the stage, which talks about today. Still today, Daniel along with the Galerie Perrotin creates set designs for most of my productions. I am interested in Daniel’s work because of his acuity on architecture, space and volumes, which are recurrent thematic in my work.

« The Future is Always Now » Jonah Bokaer and Daniel Arsham Opening Galerie Perrotin - June12th, 2014 © Claire Dorn

« The Future is Always Now » Jonah Bokaer and Daniel Arsham Opening Galerie Perrotin – June12th, 2014 © Claire Dorn

14. What are your future plans ?

Jonah Bokaer : In 2016, I will work on major projects. In May 2016, I will premiere Rules Of The Game, it is a project commissioned by the SOLUNA Festival of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, for its second edition. I will be collaborating on the piece with the visual artist Daniel Arsham for visual artwork, as well as Pharrell Williams, who will compose an original score which will be performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at the Winspear Opera House Dallas – I would like to say that it is a deep honor to steward the first original “Score” by Pharrell Williams, for the media of dance or theatre. This is a true honor.

Jonah Bokaer, Usher Raymond, Daniel Arsham at the Chez Bushwick Gala.

Jonah Bokaer, Usher Raymond, Daniel Arsham at the Chez Bushwick Gala.

This production will be performed by eight dancers: Albert Drake, Laura Gutierrez, James Koroni, Callie Lyons, James McGinn, Szabi Pataki, Sara Procopio, and Elisabetta (Betti) Rollo who is my favorite performer of all times, on the Globe: she was the star interpreter of our choreography in La Triennale di Milano, and she performed a choreography for an impressive 50 appearances in the Festival di Spoleto (also with an installation by Daniel Arsham), with “Change Performing Arts”, in the 2014 edition of the Festival, curated by the renowned Achille Bonito de Oliva – in La Rocca Alboronoziana, a historical castle for the Abornoz Cardinas of the 14th century. Rules Of The Game will also tour a bit in the United States, and internationally where most of my work is appreciated.

© Eric Boudet

© Eric Boudet

In October 2016, I will premiere a new choreography at the Royal Ballet Flanders in Belgium, commissioned by my dear colleague Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, an original version “Schéhérazade”, with live music. I am pleased for the opportunity to work directly with 20 dancers, whom are ballet dancers in that company, born in Flanders – but also Azerbaijan, Aremenia, Brazil – again the cross section of humanity in that company seems to naturally embodies the kind of diversity which I’m gratitated towards. This is often too rare in the ballet world, and it incites my passion for diversity, very deeply. It will be an exciting challenge, which I hope to share with the world, through a special “excursion” which the Board of my small foundation in NYC will host, for those who are interested in seeing this new choreography for the Ballet.

As I am not strictly working as a choreographer however – I have also been commissioned by the Parrish Art Museum for 120 consecutive days in 2016, to create a singular gesture as the “Platform” artist for 2016, with curator Andrea Grover. From July 9 to October 31 of 2016, my work will be presented in the magnificent architecture of Herzog & de Meuron for the new Parrish Art Museum – and I am very honored.

Please stay tuned, for the mischief of a lifetime, taking dance & choreography to the artworld – where it truly lives, in 2016.

Pour en savoir plus sur Jonah Bokaer :

http://www.jonahbokaer.net/

www.chezbushwick.net

www.cprnyc.org

Art in technicolor with Yashasvi Mathis

Contemporary Indian visual artist Yashasvi Mathis is a self-taught artist whose unconventional art work flits between simple sketches, painting and digital media. Yashasvi Mathis is an illustrator and print designer with a Bachelor’s Degree in Knitwear Design from NIFT in Mumbai. She is currently exploring set design and working on her fashion illustration skills.

Across her work there is a deep tension in the slightly contorted figures she depicts : her colorful work navigates between reality and fiction.

Depending on the elasticity of our imagination, the layers in her work can take us far away. Yashasvi Mathis’ personal artworks are often led by a female protagonist and an audacious use of colors. They are usually about the universe of her mind.

 Yashasvi Mathis produces a lot of fashion illustrations and also collaborates with various indie musicians. Her work has been published in New York based Unemployed Magazine, Elle India and 100% Sketchbook, among others.

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1. Do you consider yourself as a figure of Contemporary Art ?

Yashasvi Mathis : No, I don’t.

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2. How would you describe your style ?

Yashasvi Mathis : Contemplative, obsessive, elaborate.

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3. Tell us about your experience…

Yashasvi Mathis : I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I always knew I loved making things but it was only sometime around when I was fifteen that I realized that I hadn’t quite put in as much time into it as I would’ve liked to. I later studied knitwear design and that was an important experience for me since I was exposed to a lot of things during that time that I wouldn’t have had the chance to learn otherwise. I love music, metaphysics, theology and ancient cultures. It’s been a wonderful experience so far and I’m really grateful to all that is, for everything that I have had the opportunity to explore and experience.

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4. You have created your own artistic world, how did you manage ?

Yashasvi Mathis : I’m not very sure of if I have been aware of doing so, I’m still not. I think when you do something just because it truly excites you, the outcome stops mattering and you start to feel like a medium through which things happen. It’s a great feeling.
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5. Does your indian identity impact your inspiration ?

Yashasvi Mathis : Yes, it does. I love this country because it is always so overwhelming here. I love feeling overwhelmed because it gives me a chance to understand how I truly feel about certain things and that makes me more aware of facets that I would’ve otherwise not been able to reflect upon.

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6. What mission do you create ?

Yashasvi Mathis : I hope to make art that transcends being a moment of sensory delight or discomfort and enters realms of therapy in the sense that it becomes something like a source of solace by exposing how we, the entire domain of the living and maybe even the non living, function as a collective and that by expanding our inclusiveness, we become lighter and happier.

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7. Do you pursue a kind of artistic quest ?

Yashasvi Mathis : Only that of finding out more of who I really am.

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8. Which artists have a deep impact on you work ?

Yashasvi Mathis : A lot of musicians have impacted my work over the years. I love Fever Ray, Chazwick Bundick, King Krule, Little Dragon, Ariel Pink, Dan Bodan, Sean Nicholas Savage, Tei Shi, Pinknoise, Conan Mockasin, Mac Demarco, Peter Cat Recording Co. and a lot of Indian classical music. And Visual artists like Winston Chmielinski, Synchrodogs,  Anny Wang, Tristram Lansdowne, Michael Cina, Danny Fox, Pallavi Sen, Reinhard Weiss and Derek Ercolano have been pivotal to my experience as an artist so far. I really enjoy and look up to their work.

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9. Does Mumbai nurture your work ?

Yashasvi Mathis : Always. Mumbai is a great city to be in not only because it is full of really sweet, loving people but also because it pushes you to keep up (work-wise) whenever you’re slacking.


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10. What’s your relationship with colors ?

Yashasvi Mathis : I want to grow extra sensory powers just to be able to perceive more of them !

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11. What kind of materials do you use ?

Yashasvi Mathis : I draw and paint on paper with water colours, gouache and inks. I also paint digitally and once in a while mix all of these media. I also make clothes and jewelry sometimes though most times they are more keepsake art than wearables.

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12. Do you consider yourself as a spiritual person ?

Yashasvi Mathis : I am not yet as spiritual as I’d like myself to be.

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13. What are your future plans ?

Yashasvi Mathis : I have so many ideas but they just ebb and surge in my head and I’m left with all or nothing. In the near future, I want to study art and print-making academically. In the longest run though, I just want to be a better person, more loving, more open, more receptive and grow my arms really big so I can hug all of existence all at once.


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Portfolio: http://cargocollective.com/yashasvimathis

Ryan McGinley, Bearer of Light

Ryan McGinley is an american photographer living in New York who depicts the pleasure-seeking ways of the contemporary youth culture.

Although the photos have a background of violence and drugs, they have a lightness, a freedom and a velocity in the movements of the subjects.

MonoKultur Ryan McGinley

MonoKultur Ryan McGinley

Since his childhood he was interested in the marginal elements of society and used to hang out with musicians, artists and skateboarders.

In 1995 he joined the Parsons School of Design in New York to study graphic design.

Barren Marsh, Ryan McGinley

Barren Marsh, Ryan McGinley

The fine art community took notice of his work when he printed a book entitled “The Kids Are Alright” in 1999.

His large-format color photographs soon graced the walls of the Whitney Museum of American Art where he was the youngest person to be given a solo exhibition.

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Falling Light Leak, Ryan Mc Ginely

Falling Light Leak, Ryan Mc Ginley

Moonmilk, Ryan McGinley

Moonmilk, Ryan McGinley

Then he started doing ad projects and assignments for Vice magazine, New York Times, US Olympic Sports Team and Levi’s.

In 2007 he received the title of the “Young Photographer of the Year” at the International Center of Photography Infinity Awards.

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Jonas waterfall, Ryan McGinley

Dakotas Crack up, Ryan McGinley

Dakotas Crack up, Ryan McGinley

Sea inside heart, Ryan McGinley

Sea inside heart, Ryan McGinley

Blood falls, Ryan McGinley

Blood falls, Ryan McGinley

In 2012, McGinley published “Whistle for the Wind” chronicling his entire oeuvre until then. His most recent book “Way Far” was published in.

His newest photographs, shot in both natural and studio settings focus on subjects interacting spontaneously in joyous rebellion, and are a testament to his ever-evolving aesthetic and maturity as an artist.

Sienna Miller, British Vogue, April 2012, Ryan McGinley

Sienna Miller, British Vogue, April 2012, Ryan McGinley

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Daria Werbowy, Ryan McGinley

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Natalia Vodianova for Porter Magazine spring 2015, Ryan McGinley

Natalia Vodianova for Porter Magazine spring 2015, Ryan McGinley

McGinley’s work is featured in public collections in the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

His artwork is represented by Team Gallery, New York, Ratio 3 Gallery, San Francisco and Galerie Perrotin in Paris.

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Team Gallery in NYC, Ryan McGinley

Team Gallery in NYC, Ryan McGinley

Body Loud, Ryan McGinley

Body Loud, Ryan McGinley

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More about Ryan McGinley : 

www.ryanmcginley.com

https://www.perrotin.com/biography-Ryan_Mcginley-158.html

Pop art at the crossroads between worlds with Ketna Patel

Born in 1968, Ketna Patel  is a British-Indian contemporary pop artist based in Singapore. She has lived in three different continents: Africa; Asia; and Europe. She is of Indian descent but is born in East Africa and holds a British citizenship.

After graduating from The Architectural Association in London with a degree in architecture, Ketna Patel moved to Singapore to begin her career as an architect. Afterwards, a disillusionment with the corporate world led her on a journey of metaphysical exploration, when she started questioning her existence, her place in the world, and society in general. Having given up a corporate career, Ketna Patel then embarked on a career as an artist.

The art of Ketna Patel reflects much of her own personal journey as an outsider and global citizen, observing, discovering and embracing one’s cultural identity and the desire to belong to a community. Reflections of socio-political and cultural identity exploration in everyday life of today and yesterday are common themes portrayed through her art. Her mission is simply to communicate the story of the lesser-known individual within these landscapes. 

In addition to having won awards such as the ASEAN Art Award in 2002, Ketna Patel’s artwork has captured attention outside the arts circles. Most recently, her Asia Pop collection was used as inspiration for fashion label AllDressedUp’s Spring/Summer 2010 collection. Ketna Patel has recently been featured in Bridget Tracy Tan’s ‘Women Artists of Singapore’ published by Select Books, Singapore.

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1. Do you consider yourself as a figure of Contemporary Art ?

Ketna Patel : I feel that the term ‘Contemporary Art’ has become conveniently generalized, and often avoids the reflection and rethinking that is needed to understand our increasingly complex world.  Others call me ‘contemporary Artist’, but I straddle many realms that are independent of each other, yet connected through my world perspective.  These are:  Studio Artist, Designer, Observer / Traveller, Activist, Student, Communicator.

I think society exists in a ‘Heterotopic’ space today where Art can and should be categorized in ways that go beyond the contemporary!  We need a better critique of what Art is, and sometimes, words and limp definitions simply get in the way.

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2. How would you describe your style ?

 Ketna Patel : Global. Pop. Fluid. Chameleon. Relative.

Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, pose with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family at Buckingham Palace, after their wedding, 20th November 1947. The two pageboys are Elizabeth's cousins, Prince William of Gloucester and Prince Michael of Kent, and the eight bridesmaids are Princess Margaret, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott, Lady Mary Cambridge, Lady Elizabeth Lambart, Pamela Mountbatten, Margaret Elphinstone and Diana Bowes-Lyon. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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3. Could you tell us about your experience ?

Ketna Patel : We are a product of our conditioning and of original thought. For the former, my experience is my Indian background that I wear on me like a snail with a shell. Growing up in Kenya, East Africa, I always felt like I could not quite relate to all the people I was exposed to, and my inner world seemed larger than my outer. This gave way to creativity; to make things out of nothing. I was fascinated by human behaviour, and conveyor belt type lives where many individuals seemed like walking templates. It made me wonder about the opposite! Some people call it Philosophy – my favourite subject. So I was attracted to subjects that combined aesthetics and visceral expression with the rigour of thought, analysis and contemplation of life.

I studied Art, Interior Design and Architecture for a decade in London, and moved to Singapore to work as an Architect. Being trapped in an office all day for a few years brought out the rebel in me, and since then, I have become an official member of that expanding tribe of Global, cultural chameleons! Like many of us, I also belong to The older I become, all the ‘external labels’ of country, culture, nationality etc. seem to matter less compared to the geography inside of us.

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4. Does your dual nationality nurture your worldview ?

Ketna Patel : Absolutely.  Most of my acute realizations taken place when I am on the ‘bridge’ between things, places and people.  That middle space which is often invisible, overlooked, taken for granted or neglected. I am an indian who grew up in Africa, and yet have had a British passport all my life. All my extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins etc. live in London, and I am very close to them. Through them, I see how the British – East African – Gujarati diaspora works, and that has made me sensitive and therefore attracted to other diasporas. All my life, I seem to have constantly oscillated from ‘first world’ to ‘third world’; poverty to wealth; chaos to over systematization.  It is in these contrasts that the wealth of my observations lie.

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5. You’re living in Singapore, a good crossroad in Asia…

Ketna Patel : Singapore has been the longest I have lived anywhere, and it will always feel like home. For more than two decades, it has been the launchpad into countless travels; a myriad of lives and cultures, and has been the most cosmopolitan experience of my life thus. This is where I really discovered ‘Asia’, and ‘Asians’.  This is also where I made my closest friendships, many of which are all over the world today, and refreshed constantly.

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6. Your indian roots definitely reflect in your work, it could be considered as a tribute ?

Ketna Patel : My ‘Indianess’ is such a fundamental part of me. Having cultural and linguistic access to one of the most ancient living civilizations in the world is a source of immense joy, but also a responsibility for the ‘story telling’ part of me.   Even when the experiences in India have been painful, the life lessons embedded within are throbbing with human vitality, teaching me about the shades of grey between the dark and light sides of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I love delving into India’s history; its mythology and symbolism, and simultaneously partaking in its bewildering present day paradoxes. India and being Indian has been the biggest teacher of humility for me, and has helped me to see the whole world as a ‘stage set’, with each of our metaphysical experiences within this world as being temporal and fleeting. Its not what we do that matters so much as the state of consciousness we are in when we live our lives. That has made me see almost everything as a grand allegory, with myself being the metaphor.

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7. Do you think that Art is fulfilling yet a specific mission nowadays ?

Ketna Patel : Art and the ‘value’ of Art, combined with the rigging of the presentation of Art indicates tremendous manipulation. Art also seems to have become a fashion. The ‘platforms’ that Art has to sit on in order for it to reach an audience is quite problematic in that direct communication between the Artist and the audience has been impeded by the agents in between. Even if their intentions are sincere, crazy costs get in the way, and sales and marketing becomes pre-meditated, and increasingly loses its freshness and innocence. Capitalism is killing Art, for true Art expression requires freedom. For example London has become too expensive for an artist to have a full time regular Arts practice. Artists need to be largely free to comment, criticize, make Art. Instead, I see many Artists forced to ‘hustle’ so that they can make their ends meet.  Also, there is a lot of ‘fake it until you make it’ going on….

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8. Which artists have a deep impact on you work ?

Ketna Patel : The famous names are important as bookmarks in the narration of our human history, but these tend to be largely western, so apart from an educational, appreciative and respectful acknowledgement. It is Art coming out of the marginalized communities that I am fascinated by. Many a time, it is the ‘unknown’ tribal or folk artist and their expressions who leave the most lasting impressions on me. For e.g Indian truck art, graffiti by Palestinians in Israel, African street signs, newspaper caricatures, aboriginal art etc. Often, my compositions fuse both the sensibilities of ‘high art’ and ‘marginalized art’ resulting in what has been defined as ‘Pop’ Art.

Literature, more than visual Art also moves and influences me greatly. I am attracted by philosophy, so naturally gravitate towards the road less traveled; to individuals who do not have to belong to a group or organization or club to feel rooted. Forever trying to figure out how much of me is conditioned and how much original, and I delight in stumbling across / resonating with words from a book, a heartfelt story, a human wavelength that can explore the abstract; the mystical; the comic.

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 9. What’s your relationship with colors ?

Ketna Patel : Every emotion, person, experience, culture, smell and memory comes with associative colours, so to ‘unpack’ these intuitively is like second nature. Colour is frozen energy; compressed emotion. I grew up with very strong expressions of colour surrounding me; from the kenyan kitenge cloth and the masaai tribes, to the sarees and clothes of the Gujarati Indian community I hail from. I use colour very deliberately in my compositions; to highlight the passion, politics and tension behind each narrative. Often, the artworks appear very ‘pretty’, but are laden with subtext and darkness upon closer inspection.

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10. What kind of materials do you use ?

Ketna Patel : A lot of my work involves re-composing photographs from my travels, so my studio is often my computer! However, I love getting my hands dirty too, and this can be with found objects, paint, textiles, car bonnets….absolutely anything and everything!

300 bpi lr - 3.5 height 150610

300 bpi lr – 3.5 height 150610

11. Do you travel often ?

Ketna Patel : Yes. At least half my time seems to be ‘on the road’ or in temporary studios.

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12. What is your favorite memory as an artist ?

Ketna Patel : Walking through places with strong history. Varanasi, Venice, Balbeck in Lebanon, Jerusalem, Cairo, Petra (Jordan), Cuba, Borobodur (Indonesia) to name a few. My emotional experiences are always heightened in spaces that have been painted with the patina of ‘time’.

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13. Have you ever worked with fashion designers ?

Ketna Patel : Yes.  A Fashion label called ‘Alldressedup’ in Singapore recently worked with me for their spring summer collection, which was shown in 25 countries.  A fun project!

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 14. Are you an optimist by nature ?

 Ketna Patel : But of course!

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15. What are your future plans ?

Ketna Patel : For many years now, I have been witnessing the increasing urbanization of human society, and all the repercussions this brings.  For e.g, my studio in India is in Pune, one of the fastest growing cities.  There is a lot to analyze from just what is happenning there.

In India, where 75 % of people live in villages, 30 people leave rural environments to move to cities. What will this do to our national identity? Our policy makers seem to measure everything in terms of jobs and GDP and other such data. What about the loss in wisdom, local knowledge, our individual dignities? Rampant migration anywhere has a huge impact, and this is my main subject of enquiry.  My suitcase is always packed and on standby!

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More about Ketna Patel : www.ketnapatel.com