Thursday, 27 June 2019
Interview with Ibrahim El-Salahi
Saatchi Gallery, London
7 June - 18 July 2019
While the main part of Saatchi Gallery, London, is closed for installation, I – somewhat ironically – pop along to visit Pain Relief, a one-room exhibition by the Oxford-based, Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi (b1930). I say “ironically”, since, thanks to a sprained ankle, I am on crutches and have to hobble up and down numerous staircases, taking the back entrance to the gallery – rendering my own myriad forms of pain relief less than adequate. Nevertheless, the end goal is worth it: a splendid 13 large canvases – mainly monochrome in black and white, with some blue and red – depicting abstracted figures, some quite Arabic, some more western and Paul Klee-like, and others appearing to grow roots, stretching far into the ground on which they stand, asserting their physicality and corporality.
The canvases – unique monoprint paintings – have been transferred through silkscreen gauze from El-Salahi’s small-scale drawings in pen and ink, made on the inside of the packets of medications the 88-year-old artist takes for sciatica and chronic back pain. Fourteen of these original drawings are on display in a vitrine, looking at first glance like intricate doodles in comparison to the much more minimalist and bare large-scale canvases. My own favourite, Pain Relief (2019) – on display in both forms – is a blue, black and red work, depicting a head and torso, with the rib cage detailed to show each joint and its connection to the spine. On the righthand-side, a wheel-like construction, and, at the top, squirls and swirls, symbolise, for me, the concentrated, continual cycle of chronic pain.
In an essay in a new publication on Francis Bacon, Semir Zeki, a professor of neuroaesthetics, discusses the brain’s privileged facility for recognising bodies and faces in preference to other objects, even when they are distorted or mutilated. He also acknowledges our unconscious ability to read the emotion of fear. These observations seem to more than carry over to El-Salahi’s work, with its uncomfortable, discomfited figures and the emotion, or feeling, of pain – recognisable universally and instinctively.
I spoke to El-Salahi by email as he prepared for the exhibition.
Read the interview for Studio International here
Wednesday, 19 June 2019
Interview: Julie Cunningham
Julie Cunningham (born Liverpool) trained at Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London, before working with the renowned Merce Cunningham (no relation) Dance Company in New York for a decade, and later with the Michael Clark Company back in the UK. In 2016, Cunningham received a Leverhulme choreography fellowship and the following year established Julie Cunningham & Company. Openly gay themselves, the dancer-choreographer seeks to erase embedded patriarchal structures and fixed gender identities through dance, ensuring roles are flexible, so that nobody becomes an object to be manipulated. They are currently working on a new performance for Art Night 2019.
I spoke to Cunningham about their training, influences and processes of creation – as well as asking for some insider insight into what will be taking place at Waltham Forest Community Hub in north-east London on the night of 22 June.
Read the full interview here
Wednesday, 5 June 2019
Interview with Raffi Kalenderian
I first saw the work of Raffi Kalenderian (b1981, Los Angeles) in the Saatchi Gallery’s Painters’ Painters exhibition (2016-17), where his amazing blurring of subject and background, and use of stripes – with an almost unbelievably organic mastery – stood out and made him one of my latest artists to watch. Now, he is having his fourth solo exhibition at Vielmetter, Los Angeles – Memento Vivo – and so we took the opportunity to have a chat by email about what it is that excites him about his work, who and what he likes to paint and some of his influences, and it gave me the chance to glean a little insight into his practice.
Read the full interview here