Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Interview with Naufus Ramirez-Figueroa at Gasworks

Interview: Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa: God’s Reptilian Finger 
Gasworks, London
25 November 2015 – 7 February 2016

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa (b1978) is a performance and visual artist whose work draws on disparate sources of inspiration. Growing up during the Guatemalan civil war was certainly an influence, but Ramírez-Figueroa is widely travelled and has studied and worked abroad, including in Vancouver, Chicago, Maastricht and Weimar. It was during his time spent in Weimar, lonely and unable to communicate with those around him, that he watched a large amount of YouTube videos, which indirectly spawned Babylonian Fantasy, four gold geometric shapes made from polystyrene and resin, which seem to wriggle and metamorphose as you watch them. Filling the first gallery space at Gasworks, they both intrigue and repel.

The second room in the exhibition is a dark cave, in which there are eerily glowing “rocks”, some hanging and swaying slightly, so as to add to the viewer’s disorientation. In the centre, a large finger points – is it accusingly? – dotted with celestial constellations: God’s Reptilian Finger. This installation was similarly inspired by YouTube videos, conspiracy theories and The Book of Mormon, although, Ramírez-Figueroa admits, he is not sure that followers of the religion would identify with his work.

Primarily a performance artist, Ramírez-Figueroa is also working on a new commission in participation with BMW Tate Live: Performance Rooms, to produce a work exclusively for web broadcast, which will be live-streamed on Thursday 3 December from Tate’s YouTube channel and website.

Watch the interview here

Monday, 30 November 2015

Interview with Mat Collishaw

Interview: Mat Collishaw
Mat Collishaw 
New Art Gallery, Walsall
25 September 2015 - 10 January 2016

Mat Collishaw: In Camera 
Library of Birmingham
18 September 2015 - 10 January 2016

At first glance, Mat Collishaw’s photographs and zoetropes are exquisite: flowers, butterflies, fairies and carousels. Look a little closer, however, and all is not as it seems: the flowers are rotting from the inside out, the butterflies are disintegrating, the fairies are but deception, and the entertaining roundabout is a repetitive cycle of violence and cruelty. Collishaw’s works make his audience feel attracted and repelled; intrigued and appalled; ashamed and complicit. And this is precisely the artist’s intention. Recognising human nature as both good and bad, Collishaw wants to explore the evil inherent within us all, believing that to face our own demons with honesty might be a step towards making the world a better place.

Collishaw (b1966), who is based in London, is currently exhibiting at both the Library of Birmingham and the New Art Gallery Walsall. He spoke to Studio International about his new works, his recurring themes and interests, and his views on the proliferation of violence.

Read this interview here

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Review of The Body as Language: Women and Performance at Richard Saltoun

The Body as Language: Women and Performance
Richard Saltoun, London
9 October – 27 November 2015

As early as 1918, German artist Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943) wrote: “The new artistic medium is a much more direct one: the human body.” However, it was not until after the second world war that artists began en masse to turn away from more traditional media and show an interest in the body as a “vehicle for artistic discourse”. In the late 50s and early 60s, this new trend for “body art” began to be exploited as a way of laying claim to “being” and of experimenting with and creating new identities, investigating ideas of temporality, contingency and instability. However, much art from this period, in particular that of the Viennese actionists, has all too often been omitted from art histories on the grounds that it is too disturbing. Even sympathetic critics have frequently concluded that artists’ use of their bodies in their works is sometimes little more than self-abuse or exhibitionism. In particular, while the idea of enacting the personal as political became the motto of feminist artists emerging in the 60s and 70s, and the use of the body to examine the (largely male) constructed identity of femininity was widely adopted by the likes of Yoko Ono (b1933), Gina Pane (1939-90), Carolee Schneemann (b1939), Hannah Wilke (1940-93) and Valie Export (b1940), others, such as Mary Kelly (b1941), whose writing and artwork have come to be paradigmatic of a 70s and 80s “anti-essentialist” feminist postmodernism, and even feminist commentators such as Catherine Francblin, continued to criticise them for “colluding with the objectification of women”.

Perhaps as a result, by the late 70s, female artists had generally moved away from the raw staging of themselves in body art projects, either turning towards photographic self-portraiture or producing what came to be defined as performance art. While performance art is still about the real-life presence of the artist, it is nevertheless subtly less visceral and direct than body art proper. It became accepted as a medium of artistic expression in its own right in the 70s, at a time when conceptual art – focusing on the primacy of ideas over product, and on art that could not be bought and sold – was in its heyday. Performance was seen as a demonstration of these ideas, and dedicated spaces were created in many international art centres. In addition, museums began to sponsor festivals, art colleges introduced performance courses, and specialist magazines appeared.

Lea Vergine wrote her seminal book, Body Art and Performance: The Body as Language, in 1974, and it remains an essential document – with texts by the artists themselves – of the birth and development of performance art in relation to gender, the body, language and the expression of the self. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Richard Saltoun has mounted this exhibition, featuring 12 female artists, past and present, all of whom use their body as their medium.

Read the rest of this review here 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Interview with Kathy Hinde at the CCA, Glasgow

Interview: Kathy Hinde

Kathy Hinde (b1975) is an audiovisual artist and composer based in Bristol. Her works bring together art, music, science and nature in an enticing, curious and educational way. Her Bird Step Sequencer video, in which the arrangement of birds sitting on a telegraph wire is used as a score for a broken piano, became a YouTube sensation, and, as an associate artist with the Glasgow-based company Cryptic, she recently had two pieces included in its biannual sonic art festival, Sonica.

Hinde spoke to Studio International at her Tipping Point installation at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow.

Read the interview here

Photo: Joe Clarke

Review of Lee Miller: A Woman’s War at IWM London

Lee Miller: A Woman’s War
IWM London
15 October 2015 – 24 April 2016

Born in 1907 in Poughskeepie, New York, Elizabeth ‘Lee’ Miller had a traumatic childhood that impacted on her personality and shaped the extraordinary and brave life she would go on to lead. Raped by a family friend at just seven years old, she underwent an intrusive treatment for gonorrhoea as well as psychological therapy. Nevertheless, her behaviour deteriorated and she was twice expelled from school. Her father, Theodore, gave her her first camera – a Kodak O Brownie – when she was 10, but he also took increasingly erotic photographs of her, a practice that led to Miller further dissociating from her body. At 19, she became a cover model for American Vogue, after being saved from being run over by none other than Condé Nast. Her decision to step behind the camera and become a professional photographer herself signalled a bid to take back control. With it, she left America for Paris, where she became part of the Surrealist circle, friends with Picasso, and later friends, lovers and then wife of Roland Penrose, the leading British artist and collector.

Read the rest of this review here

Monday, 23 November 2015

Winter Pride Art Awards: Call for Submissions

Winter Pride Art Awards: Call for Submissions

Following the phenomenal success of the first two Winter Pride Art Awards, Winter Pride has launched its latest art competition, the Winter Pride Art Awards 2016, targeting emerging artists regardless of their sexuality. “The competition has always been open to everyone,” explains director, Simon Tarrant. “It was last year and the year before too, but there was a general misunderstanding that you had to be gay to enter. I want to correct that. Why should it just be gay artists? It’s in the context of a gay event but I don’t think art should be limited like that. The whole ethos of the gay community is to be open and out there and I think it’s important for this to be open to everyone, in the way that society isn’t necessarily always open to us. The art is what counts. It’s not just to do with your sexuality.”

The Winter Pride Art Awards seek to promote and support artists, whose work challenges binary norms and celebrates diversity of sexual identity and expression. This year’s theme is Line of Beauty – exploring sexuality, gender and identity and entries are invited from the following disciplines: drawing, illustration, painting, sculpture, installation, fashion & textiles, jewellery, photography, print, moving image and performance art. Artists are encouraged to create work that examines modern day notions about the interpretation of beauty in relation to sexuality, gender and identity.

This year’s programme will include a press preview of the Art Awards finalists at the Fashion and Textile Museum on 14 April 2016, attended by key media from the national, arts and LGBT+ press, and a public exhibition at the Islington Arts Factory from 15–23 April 2016. Also, for the first time, the public exhibition will feature a series of works developed by students from Middlesex School of Art and Design, who have participated in workshops on gender identity and sexuality politics.

This year’s Art Awards selection panel includes the Winter Pride Art Awards director, Simon Tarrant; the celebrity sculptress, Frances Segelman; the director of visual arts at the Islington Arts Factory, Eleanor Pearce; the philosopher and writer, Daniel Barnes; and DIVA’s own arts editor, Anna McNay.

As Stephen Fry says: “The Winter Pride Art Awards is a unique opportunity for up-and-coming artists to showcase their creativity at a key LGBT+ artistic and cultural event – creative ventures of this kind are all-important for both the arts and LGBT+ communities.”

The closing date for entries is 31 March 2016. For more information and to enter, go to: http://www.winterprideuk.com/how-to-enter/

Also published via DIVA online