Thursday, 21 April 2016

Interview with Hannes Koch of Random International

Interview: Hannes Koch, Random International

Founded in 2005 by Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass, the art collective Random International, based in London and Berlin, shot to fame with its immersive environment Rain Room, first shown at the Barbican’s Curve gallery in London in 2013, where people queued for up to 12 hours to get in. Taking a step back out of the limelight to focus on more research-based projects in the aftermath, the collective is about to show the results of its two-year residency in Harvard at Le Laboratoire, a one-of-a-kind culture lab exploring the intersection of art and science. During the residency, Random witnessed groundbreaking robotics research in partnership with Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ biomimetic robotics division, which inspired the artists to translate their research into the physical form of a sculpture series. The first sculpture in this series is a kinetic artwork made of 15 points of light, which can be recognised as the human form in maximally 150 milliseconds. “It’s all about precision,” explains Koch. “If you move a point to another point in space, it just doesn’t work. It has to be like Swiss clockwork.”

The 150 Milliseconds research exhibition is open to the public at Le Laboratoire, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 22 April to 25 June 2016.

• Random International will also be showing new site-specific work as part of the exhibition Wonder Materials: Graphene and Beyond at The Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, from 23 July 2016, and they have an exhibition at Pace Art & Technology (Menlo Park) opening in September 2016.

Their public sculpture commission at Nine Elms, London, will be installed in 2017.

Watch this interview here

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Interview with Lucy Jones

Interview: Lucy Jones

Lucy Jones: The Cycle of Life
Flowers, Cork Street
20 April - 21 May 2016

Perhaps better known for her self-portraits, addressing ideas of femininity, ageing and disability, Lucy Jones (b1955) has recently returned to painting portraits of others: a close friend, her husband and her father. These portraits, as well as a number of her lush and colourful landscapes, represent the Circle of Life in her latest exhibition at Flowers Gallery, Cork Street.

Jones spoke to Studio International about the compulsion to make art, the importance of her cerebral palsy and dyslexia, and what she looks to capture in a portrait.

Read this interview here

Friday, 15 April 2016

Interview with Peter Tatchell

Interview: Peter Tatchell

In the early 1970s, the windows of Melbourne’s main department store, Myer, regularly caused something of a stir. The young man working in the design and display department had a rather radical approach and created designs that stepped outside traditional design parameters: dismembered mannequins painted with psychedelic colours, vertical stripes that made the public ‘giddy and nauseous’, clothes lying on the floor at the feet of mannequins wrapped in brown paper and string. The young man responsible? None other than Peter Tatchell.

‘Art was one of my favourite subjects at school and I did very well at it,’ he recalls. ‘I left school at 16 and my parents couldn’t afford to send me to art college or university, so I opted for the next best thing, which was to work in the design and display department of one of Melbourne’s biggest department stores, where I learnt on the job, doing windows, interiors, graphic design and logos.’ Tatchell got hauled in to his boss’s office on numerous occasions to be questioned about ‘those windows of yours’, but, thankfully, each time, his boss relented. Not surprising, when you realise the talent that Tatchell brought to the job. Working overtime, three nights a week, he also designed and helped manufacture the Christmas windows, which, each year, featured a different fairy tale. ‘They took a whole year to make,’ says Tatchell. ‘One year was Sleeping Beauty, another year was an Australian fairy tale called The Gumnut Babies. The windows were animated and each one would feature a scene from the fairy tale. A team of us would design the windows and then manufacture the tiny mannequins, the costumes and all the mechanics to make the moving parts. Our Sleeping Beauty windows in 1970 won an international gold medal. Another famous series of windows that I worked on was for British Week in 1970 or 71. We chose to display the merchandise using Shakespearean plays. Each window was a modern adaptation set of a Shakespearean play. They were essentially making abstract theatrical designs featuring clothes. They also won awards.’

When Tatchell moved to London in 1971, he was immediately involved in campaigning work with the Gay Liberation Front and later with OutRage!. His style of activism has always been hugely influenced by his graphic design background. ‘From the outset in my campaigning, I always sought to use visuals and graphics as a way of getting across a human rights message,’ he says. In late 1971, for example, the GLF joined with the Women’s Liberation Movement to hold a joint protest outside the Royal Albert Hall during the Miss World contest. ‘Instead of the standard picket, the GLF organised an alternative pageant, which featured a bloodied and bandaged Miss Ulster, at the time of the war in the north of Ireland, and a starving and emaciated Miss Bangladesh, to symbolise the mass poverty and hunger there. We also had a number of other “contestants” including Miss Treated and Miss Conceived. It was a protest but also a spectacle. It engaged both people going to the real Miss World contest and also passers-by. Huge crowds stopped to watch, which they wouldn’t have done, if it had just been a bog standard protest with placards. I’ve always conceived a good protest as being one that can educate and entertain. The most effective way to get a message across is to make someone laugh or just give them a visual feast. People who may not be swayed by an angry fist, a militant slogan or a placard, are likely more receptive to a visual protest that involves a degree of humour and imagination.’

This ethos has held throughout Tatchell’s activist career. The Kiss-In and Wink-In organised by OutRage!, for example, were both highly visual spectacles, as are Tatchell’s annual Pride placards, ridiculing public figures, such as Nick Griffin, Robert Mugabe and President Putin, by mocking their pretensions to machismo, their heterosexism and homophobia. For example, the Mugabe placard shows the Zimbabwean president with pink lips, wearing a gold diamond tiara, green butterfly Mary Whitehouse glasses and drop earrings, with the caption: ‘Roberta Mugabe. Queen of Tyranny’. ‘I think that’s far more effective than the bog standard placard or banner,’ says Tatchell. ‘Obviously a bit of art and imagination goes into the design.’

This week sees Tatchell opening this year’s Emerald Winter Pride Art Awards at the Islington Arts Factory. The awards are open to everybody, regardless of gender and sexuality. ‘I think it’s a good idea that the awards are open to all comers, LGBTI and straight,’ says Tatchell. ‘It helps break down barriers and builds a community of interest between people of all sexualities and gender identities. The key thing about the awards is that they have some element of LGBTI relevance and focus, whether that’s by a straight or LGBTI artist is secondary. I welcome the fact that there are straight artists who want to do work with LGBTI themes – that’s terrific. The entries and winner should be judged on their merits, as long as they have some kind of theme around sexuality, gender and identity. I am not a gayist. There are some people in the LGBTI community who take the view: “It’s our life, it’s our community, it’s our struggle. Straights – f*** off!” I don’t take that view. I welcome friends, allies and supporters from the straight community.’ And, as regards selecting a winner, unsurprisingly Tatchell would be looking for an entry that is ‘imaginative, daring, unique and with a strong emotional impact. Whatever has the best and biggest impact should win’. From his very beginnings as a window dresser, to the height of his activist career, visual impact has clearly been the key to Tatchell’s success.

Also published at World Arts

More information about the Emerald Winter Pride Art Awards here

Friday, 8 April 2016

Interview with Bernard Jacobson

Interview with Bernard Jacobson

Bonheur de Vivre
Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London
17 March – 27 May 2016

Art dealer Bernard Jacobson has been looking at art for 60 years and selling it for 45. But he is becoming increasingly disillusioned. “I think it’s the end of an era,” he says, going on to lament the loss of generous spirit and increase in megalomania and consumerist drive amongst contemporary artists. In fact, he doesn’t call them artists; “I call them businessmen”, he laughs wryly.

As an antidote to this despair, Jacobson has mounted a splendidly colourful and vibrant exhibition, featuring works by Matisse, Miró, Calder, Motherwell and Sam Francis, who, to him, epitomise the “bonheur de vivre” of the 20th century.  Matisse is quoted as saying: “Colour above all, and perhaps even more than drawing, is a means of liberation,” and it is certainly the key element in this joyous show.

Although never having worked with Matisse or Miró before, Jacobson is a staunch supporter of Motherwell, was a close friend of Francis, and met and was befriended by Calder as a young man. He spoke to Studio International about some of his memories, as well as some of his opinions on the state of the art world and his hopes for the future.

Watch this interview here

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Interview with Terry Setch

Interview: Terry Setch

Terry Setch: Reduced to Rubble
Flowers Cork Street, London
16 March – 16 April 2016

Royal Academician Terry Setch (b1936, London) moved to South Wales in 1969 to live on the coast in Penarth. From then on in, his work has been a response to the beach- and seascapes that he sees on his daily walks: some pieces more playful; others responding to serious political issues, such as pollution and the Ebola crisis.

Dedicated to painting, and steeped in the British tradition stretching back to JMW Turner, Setch seeks, nevertheless, to extend his surfaces into and including 3D objects – often found objects and detritus from the beach, or reconstructions thereof, fossilised in polypropylene and wax. The result is a multi-sensual bombardment, synthesising the natural and manmade – far more than just an abstract work, but something that viewers can “feel” and respond to.

We spoke to Setch at Flowers Cork Street, at the opening of his exhibition, Reduced to Rubble.

Watch the interview here