Friday, 6 September 2019

Gerty Simon: Missing Pieces in a Photographic Puzzle

Berlin/London: The Lost Photographs of Gerty Simon 
The Wiener Library 
30 May – 15 October 2019

One side effect of the forced migration of so many thousands of Jews from Nazi Germany in the 1930s was the significant number of highly-trained and professionally-active women, including photographers, who arrived in the UK, bringing with them new techniques and approaches. Among them, and, at the time one of the best known, was Gertrude (Gerty) Simon (1888-1970). Born into a well-to-do Jewish family in Bremen, she had moved to Berlin in the aftermath of the First World War. Both her husband (Wilhelm) and her father were lawyers. Paving her own career path, however, and teaching herself how to handle a camera, Simon started out with editorial photography in 1922, getting a work published just one year after the birth of her son, Bernard (Bernd). She soon became a successful portrait photographer, attracting, by the end of the decade, such renowned sitters as the singer (and Simon’s friend) Lotte Lenya, the artists Max Lieberman and Käthe Kollwitz, the scientist Albert Einstein, and the French politician Andre Tardieu (who later became the French Prime Minister). The recently deceased, then six-year-old, Judith Kerr, who went on to write the Mogseries and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, is also among those portrayed. Alongside these well-known personalities, Simon also captured the ‘new woman’ of Weimar Berlin, with her short hair, cigarettes, and frequently androgynous appearance. 

Read the full essay here

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Interview with Callum Hüseyin

Interview with Callum Hüseyin

Callum-Hüseyin (b1993, London) is a composer, conductor and pianist. His work frequently takes the form of collaborations, the most recent of which sees him working with the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) to create an – as yet – unfinished piece, which is being used in a fundraising campaign to help complete a new building, the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery, in which the ICR can carry out further life-saving work. The composition, entitled Let’s Finish It, is available on SoundCloud,and there is a music video, showing the musicians and the building site, on YouTube. The idea is to complete the “symphony” at the same time as the building and to perform it in full at the opening. In order to write the music, Hüseyin has immersed himself in research and reading, as well as speaking to the scientists, incorporating their stories into the score. 

Studio International spoke to Hüseyin about the collaboration, the process of creating a musical score, and the challenges of being a musician today.

Read the full interview here

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Interview with Ibrahim El-Salahi

Interview with Ibrahim El-Salahi
Pain Relief 
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 with Julie Cunningham

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

Spotlight: Stratford-Upon-Avon


Book review: Drawing in Tintoretto's Venice


Preview: Grete Marks: An Intimate Portrait at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester


Interview with Ifeoma U Anyaeji


Published in the summer 2019 issue of Art Quarterly

Interview with Raffi Kalenderian

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

Friday, 31 May 2019

Review of This Is What It Is To Be Happy at Paulilles Gallery, London

This Is What It Is To Be Happy
A group exhibition with Eleanor Johnson, William Kennedy & Gabriel Kenny-Ryder
Paulilles Gallery, Copeland Park, Unit 91, London
29 May – 2 June 2019

In an era where mental health issues are one of the main causes of health problems worldwide per se, with major depression thought to be the second leading cause of disability, and an estimated one in six people said to have experienced some form of mental health crisis during the past week (and this data is already a few years old), the underlying thread of this three-artist group show, This Is What It Is To Be Happy, could not be more relevant. Timing-wise, too, short as its run sadly is, it falls right at the tail end of Mental Health Awareness Month. 

Ostensibly, however, this is an exhibition about biophilia, or our innate love for the natural world – or at least that is how it is described on the press release. Painter Eleanor Johnson (b1994), whose original concept it was, and in whose gallery it is being held, has created a new series of works, Modern Bathers, which collages together fragments of Rubens, François Boucher, and Old Master paintings, with images of her friends, in pastel, idyllic, bucolic settings, which she describes as “forest bathing”. Photographer Gabriel Kenny-Ryder (b1993), co-director of the gallery, presents panoramas, and one series of four freely hung images, of landscapes that absorb and envelop the viewer, while, simultaneously, providing stark reminders of their created materiality. It is William Kennedy (b1993), multidisciplinary artist and, here, film-maker, who freely verbalises the fact that he came along, as the third person in, and liberally interpreted this concept of inside and out, interiority and exteriority, inward and outward experience, to be a question of the mind and body, and thus, of our mental health. His frighteningly raw and visceral works, with their phantasmagorical finish, lay bare emotions many of us will have felt, but to which fewer of us will have admitted. 

Read the full review here