Friday, 29 January 2016

Essay on Julia Margaret Cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron
Victoria and Albert Museum
28 November 2015 – 21 February 2016


Julia Margaret Cameron: Influence and Intimacy
Media Space, Science Museum
24 September 2015 – 28 March 2016

The aspects of her photography for which Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) is most celebrated are – and indeed always have been – those for which she is also most criticised, namely her imprecision, lack of focus, and deliberately vague, artistic subject matter. Regardless of one’s opinion on her style, however, Cameron’s impact on the development of the medium and its acceptance as an art form cannot be denied. She was the first photographer who took repeated advantage of the Copyright Bill of 1862, paying one shilling per picture to register some 505 of her photographs, and, in 1868, she became the first “artist in residence” at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum), when its then director, Sir Henry Cole, allowed her to use two rooms as a studio. Her experimental techniques and penchant for scratching or drawing on to the negative, as well as her deliberate use of smudges and swirls, from applying an excess of collodion, render her resultant imagery poetic and alluring, far removed from documentary style. Indeed, Cameron herself acknowledged in a letter to her friend and mentor, Sir John Herschel, at the end of 1864: “My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and beauty.”

Read the rest of this essay here

Interview with Rose English at Camden Arts Centre

Interview with Rose English

Rose English: A Premonition of the Act
Camden Arts Centre
12 December 2015 – 6 March 2016

Camden Arts Centre
11 and 12 March 2016

Rose English (b1950) came to the fore on the 1970s feminist art scene, in particular with her 1975 performance Quadrille, a ballet for six horses and hoofed dancers presented at a dressage show – and her work crosses boundaries between performed installation, vaudeville, film, spoken drama and opera. She has appeared on stage and in films and has been writing, directing and performing for 35 years.

English has been working with Chinese acrobats for more than a decade now and her collaboration with them has evolved through various performances and exhibitions, including Ornamental Happiness – a show in song and circus – at the Liverpool Biennial in 2006 and Flagrant Wisdom commissioned by the National Glass Centre in 2009. Her current exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, A Premonition of the Act, is described as “reconfiguring elements of a major yet-to-be-realised performance”, hinting towards two live performances that will take place after the show has been taken down, on 11 and 12 March 2016.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is the sound work, Lost in Music, an operatic piece for 10 voices and percussion, scored by Luke Stoneham for English’s libretto. It plays in a darkened room, on the walls of which extracts from the score and English’s notes, as well as images of the acrobats at rehearsal, and glassware being blown, are displayed in lightboxes: image juxtaposed against word; sight against sound. Next door, three screens show breathtaking footage of the acrobats, performing complex and almost unimaginable feats with the specially made glass vessels – a selection of which are displayed on a table nearby. A girl carries a tiered tray of champagne flutes on her feet; a boy tosses a seemingly weightless vase lightly into the air. One slip and disaster would ensue.

The work as a whole has been described as “a meditation on the temporality of ephemeral work” and “a meditation on the correlation between word and image, inspired by the Sister Sledge hit Lost in Music and a resonant line from the writings of Walter Benjamin”. Studio International spoke to English about her inspirations, aspirations and the practicalities of producing such complex and enduring – if ephemeral – performance pieces.

Watch this interview here

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Reviews of David Jones: Vision and Memory at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester and Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft and Works to Know by Heart: An Imagined Museum at Tate Liverpool

David Jones: Vision and Memory 
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester 
24 October 2015 - 21 February 2016

The Animals of David Jones
Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft 
24 October 2015 - 6 March 2016

Works to Know by Heart: An Imagined Museum 
Tate Liverpool
20 November 2015 - 14 February 2016

Published in The Mail on Sunday, 24/01/16

Friday, 22 January 2016

Portfolio: Liz Atkin

Portfolio: Liz Atkin

“I was pushing up from the bottom of the bath and the oily, inky water was swirling around me like liquor. It was such a perfect way for me to try to get that sickly, horrible feeling, that was in my body at the time, out into something visual.” In 2014, Liz Atkin suffered a 10-month bout of severe depression. An artist, who was already using her work to help combat her life-long battle with Compulsive Skin Picking (CSP), she was able, once more, to turn to creativity as a means of survival. “It enabled me to pull myself back to health,” she reflects. The resulting works, including Curdled (2014), were shown at ORTUS, for Bethlem Gallery, as part of the Anxiety Festival that year.

For Atkin, her chest and collarbone are particularly significant sites, since this is where she used to pick the most – up to eight hours a day sitting in front of a mirror, picking until she bled. Works like Blue (2014) revisit this violent battleground, touching it gently with chalk dusk on her fingertips. The fact that the colours conjure up a bruise is, of course, no coincidence.

Atkin has recently returned from a week-long trip to UCLA, where she was invited to exhibit her artwork and speak to medical students and staff about her lived experience of CSP, her artwork and her recovery.

“I don’t really talk in terms of being cured because it’s something I live with every day,” she says. “It’s something I’ve done for more than 25 years and my body knows skin picking better than anything. I have to work really hard for it not to happen and art helps. I’m always taking photos on my phone or drawing on the tube. It keeps me centred, focused and calm. It’s mindfulness in action.

“6-8% of the population are said to suffer from some form of body-focused repetitive behaviour, be that skin picking, hair pulling or a physical tick, but CSP is very misunderstood. I have a duty to tell the truth because every time I do so I am destigmatising it. It is not just a personal story, it becomes something that is human and universal.”

Liz Atkin is showing some work as part of LETTING IN THE LIGHT, a temporary lightbox installation organised by Daily Life Ltd in collaboration with Outside In and Bethlem Gallery at Gerry Raffles Square, E15, until the end of March.


Liz Atkin
© the artist

See the full portfolio in the February 2016 print issue of DIVA magazine

Display: Every Breath We Drew by Jess T Dugan

Every Breath We Drew by Jess T Dugan

Jess T Dugan began making this series of photographs in 2011 after she moved from Boston to Chicago to begin graduate school. Finding herself alone in a new, big city, she stopped making work solely about gender and identity and moved to looking at intimacy and connection. Indirectly, however, this brought her back to exploring her own identity and how it is reflected through her relationships with others.

“I repeatedly found myself drawn to people who embodied a gentle kind of masculinity,” she explains, “whether they were men or women, gay or straight, because they represented something I either saw in myself or wanted to embody.”

The resulting book is a collection of beautiful and sensitive images, portraying subjects of all genders, who, in their chosen expression, perform a more typically masculine role. It also contains a number of self-portraits. “I was trying to figure out who I was in relation to other people and who I could connect with in a meaningful and profound way.”

Dugan’s photographs offer encounters – and moments of intimacy – with a range of strangers. They also invite us to look inwards. Essentially, this is a book about developing that most important and intimate bond there can be: with oneself.

Every Breath We Drew
Photographs by Jess T Dugan
Daylight Books


See the full feature in the February 2016 print issue of DIVA magazine

Interview with Virgile Ittah

Interview: Virgile Ittah

Once you have seen the work of the London-based French artist Virgile Ittah (b1981, Paris), it is not something you will easily forget. Her life-size, haunting wax bodies, seemingly melting or decomposing as they lay collapsed across their metal bed frames or chairs, seek not to be sculptures, but to be human beings. Their transparency gives them an eerie, uncanny quality, and yet, in their abjection lies a beauty, perhaps a result of their inherent contradictions: fragility versus solidity, warmth versus coldness, life versus death.

Currently one of the 14 women artists in the Saatchi Gallery’s first all-women exhibition, Champagne Life, Ittah spoke to Studio International about her technique, her current collaboration with her partner, Kai Yoda, and her thoughts on the status of female artists today.

Read this interview here