Kirkwood Brothers

Selected Small paintings by the Kirkwood Brothers

Our artists this month are Brothers from Glasgow, Jonny and Jordon  Kirkwood. Working collaborativly, they make paintings, sculptures, zines and posters about mental health, scottish identity, japanese cartoons , and other interesting things. Jonny Kirkwood agreed to meet me for an online chat to talk about the work they make.

 Jonny met me at http://www.lite-of-worlds.ca/
Ben Duax and Jonny Kirkwood in Conversation

Thanks for joining me

No worries! Thanks for having me

 I was thinking I could ask you about a few specific pieces you’ve posted or included in your email, but first i was wondering if you’d talk a little about your process as a collaborator

Cat in a bucket

yeah sure, just fire the questions over. Our collaboration started quite a while ago. Obviously Jordon is my brother so it’s been life long but I started making art about Autism way back when I studied at college. Then I sort of started going off in another direction during art school at first. Before long though I realised there was something there between me and my brother where this pretty rich work was getting made. So it just turned into a really natural way of making work while chatting away in the studio.

its interesting to collaborate on a physical object, or a specific visual project, its less as opposed to an installation or a narrative piece

Yeah we quite often work on the same piece of paper or canvas at the same time. Right now there’s a bit more going back and forth, but we’ve weirdly been making even more work than usual.

the same canvas, like on opposite ends? have you ever looked at the work of the CoBRA artists? they worked on collaborative paintings as a sort of marxist gesture, but there are a few examples the basquiat and warhol collaborations for example,or those twin brothers from “spring breakers”

Aye well we done that once, like sat a big canvas down then kept rotating it till it was covered ha but mostly we just lean over each other or take turns. Yeah, I looked into it a lot while in my last year at art school. There’s also these Dundee based brothers that I liked a lot too, I think it was Brownlee Brothers? And Basquiat is definitely one I always come back to for a little inspiration

Brownlee Brothers, I will look that up

They deep fried a sword, that was me sold on them.

 Something like the lady in the lake giving king arthur the sword? or like the inversion of the sword being forged Kind of something to do with Scottish identity? 

Yeah! they fried it in batter. I guess I’ve always liked playing on that Scottish identity theme too so I’m drawn to work that works with it.

I saw the photo of your Maw with “Maw” written in sharpie

like not “mum” not “mom”

haha Aye she was surprisingly really up for helping us with that photograph. Less than impressed when she found out we were using it for an exhibition

A Portrait of the Brothers Mother

I also wanted to ask about dispersion, your  work is kind of suited to social media, I guess because of the scale and also the content has sort of hooks for the audience , pop culture references.

Aye I used to be quite naive with social media but I’ve really looked into how platforms like Instagram work, it really suits our work. There’s usually so much of it that it sort of needs condensed, it also fits nicely with that fast and furious finger swiping. Quite often I’ll try and tie the posts in with what’s going on in the media or other times I just throw it out there.

Work by the Kirkwood Brothers

You’ve also made zines and done zine workshops, which is kind of a similar way of prioritizing content or the speed of dispersion?

Zines were a way for us to filter our smaller drawings, the ones that might be cast to the side. they also really help us to understand narratives in the work

More Narrative Work

What about the missing parakeet poster?

That’s actually based on our Mum “accidentally” leaving our veranda door open when we were wee. We had a budgie called Dude who was honestly possessed by Satan, One day we came in and he was sitting on the tree outside our flat. My mum swears it was a mistake but I’ve always had my suspicions..

painting of the Brothers pet parekeet Budgie

Are there any  exhibitions or publications that you’ve seen recently that really impressed you? like in glasgow or anywhere, people are looking at art online a lot these days so could be anywhere really

I’ve not actually been to an exhibition in a long time. I guess it’s mostly been online that I’ve been looking at work. I always come back to artists like Kentaro Okawara and Misaki Kawai. Okawara tends to have symbols or characters that appear in his work a lot and that’s something I’ve come to realise about our own practice. There’s a lot of repetitive patterns

I’ve actually really enjoyed seeing all the murals that keep popping up in Glasgow. There’s a real street art scene coming to fruition

Do you have anything else on the horizon? 

We’ve got a few things in the works, an exhibition coming up in England that’s really exciting and then some work showing in SaltSpace in Glasgow . Then a few other wee social media features here and there.

Great one last question i’ve been asking everyone, is can you tell us about a guilty pleasure something you really like, but think is dumb/embarrising

There’s so many! We still watch a lot of cartoons. Like this morning I watched Pokemon while eating cereal in my boxers. It’s definitely a guilty pleasure at the age of 28. I also try my hardest not to care so much about football. But it almost feels ingrained, it’s something I’ll often say is really daft but can’t shake off.

haha great,

Well thank you for joining me

Thanks so much! This is a great way of interviewing, was pretty relieved when I realised it was this and not zoom!!

yeah i can’t handle zoom, it removes the elegant thing about text based interaction which is that either party can pause it to some degree

Aye I definitely need pauses. Not the best at articulating my thoughts when I’m speaking on camera. 

Check out the Kirkwood Brothers on Instagram

interview by Ben Duax.

Angela Kincaid

Quite a bit of what you sent us seems to have been produced in recent months, so I guess you’ve been productive in a generative sense during lockdown, I was wondering if you’d tell us a bit how you’ve been looking at art?

You’re right I was extremely productive during lockdown as I was working towards the completion of my Honours Degree in Contemporary Art Practice. Despite the disruption to previously thought out plans, and no access to studio space, I had to keep working and stay focused no matter what.
I’ve always been fascinated by the geological history of the Scottish landscape, the way it’s been sculpted over a time span of billions of years, by a series of different plate tectonic events. So visiting All the lochs, mountains, and coastal areas of Scotland which have such a wide diversity of rock types was the initial starting point for my latest body of work. As lockdown progressed my concept became more philosophical and my thinking more metaphorical. I began to develop a deeper understanding of, what I wanted to communicate from my work and started to make a connection between the rocks I had been studying as a visual metaphor for the fragility of Human life.

Fragile LayersWeather Beaten Canvas. Mixed media, emulsion, acrylic, ink and pastel on unstretched canvasHere is a video element of this piece 

We were always asking people what exhibitions they had seen lately, but there weren’t really exhibitions for most of the year. Did you see anything online that you’d like to recommend? Or offline in some other way, murals for example?

Well since you’ve asked me that question, I would first like to recommend you visit the Degree Show of myself and fellow classmates. The show went live back in June but can still be viewed by clicking on this link, and hopefully a physical Degree Show will take place later in the year.
As soon as lockdown restrictions were eased I spent a few days in Liverpool and made a point of visiting The Tate Liverpool, which was really fantastic. One of the paintings currently being exhibited here and that really touched me is ‘No Woman No Cry’ (1998) by  Chris Ofili. The painting is dedicated to Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen a strong matriarchal figure who never gave up hope that justice would be done. Each of the tears falling from the eyes of the woman in the picture contains a tiny photograph of the murdered boy.

‘Orithir Garbh’ (meaning rough coast). Mixed media painting on canvas, ink, acrylic, emulsion and pastel.

Could you tell us a bit about your process? You said that you’d leave paintings out of doors and let the elements affect the surface and that this was a bit disrupted by quarantine, would you talk about this a little, if there’s something durational or preformative about this kind of process driven abstraction?

 Getting outside and visiting the locations that interest me has always been an important part of my process. I think there’s a different energy to work that’s been created outside as opposed to work made indoors, with only digitally sourced images for inspiration. Through the process of visiting a location and submerging myself into my environment, I use my senses to fully absorb everything around me and it all emerges from there. I hope to communicate an awareness of place through my work sometimes as site responsive art installations, paintings or sculptures which yes do very often have a performative aspect to them. Leaving the paintings outdoors was a way for me bring the outdoors indoors during lockdown, allowing the elements of nature to interact with my work, whilst documenting the changes through film and photography as the days went past. I guess it was my own personal creative loophole around the restrictions of how far we could travel and how much time we could spend outdoors.

DUENDE’ 
 
Oil on canvas board

I wonder if you’d tell us a bit about titles, I noticed you used a bit of Gaelic for one of them. Do you suppose your work has a place in a specifically Scottish branch of art history?

I’ve never really thought about my work as having a particular place within a branch of Scottish art history. For me using Gaelic in some of the titles just feels more honest to what my arts about in terms of peeling back the layers of the geological history of Scotland and peeling back the layers of ourselves to reveal our deepest truths. I think the more time we spend outside and connect to nature the more we connect to our authentic self.

Lunderston Bay, oil on canvas 
 
30 x 24 inches 
 

My two last questions are both about things you’ve seen, I wonder if there is another painter who you think is kind of underrated? Like someone who is due for a critical reapraisal for example, and then I wanted to ask if you would tell us about a guilty pleasure, could be another painter, but could be some other kind of media, something you love that’s kind of dumb or silly.

Ok well I wouldn’t say he’s been underrated as he’s very highly rated but rather momentarily forgotten. The Artist I’m referring to is Anselm Kiefer, who’s work is some of the most honest I have ever seen. Always searching trying to uncover deeper truths, he is as much a philosopher as he is an Artist. His painting Margarethe, created 1981 was based on the poetry of Paul Celan, who was the only member of his family to survive a concentration camp during the Holocaust. In the poem “Death Fugue”he talks of the inhabitants of the camp drinking black milk and digging graves in the sky. Two figures are contrasted in the poem and act as the central metaphor: Margarete, with her cascade of blonde Aryan hair, and Shulamite, a Jewish woman whose black hair denotes her Semitic origins, but which is also ashen from burning which we see in Kiefers painting. Kiefer was never afraid of offending his fellow Germans with his paintings during a time when most would rather forget the sins of their fathers.
Ok well to answer your last question I’ll
Say this. Why should we ever feel guilty about a pleasure?
As long as you’re not harming yourself or anyone else then I say embrace it, enjoy it. Life’s too short to worry.

 

Interview By Ben Duax, 8/11/2020. 

Sara Sonas

We are pleased to present a short interview with Sara Sonas, Having previously studied in Seville and Zagreb, Sonas recently completed a Masters course in painting at the Glasgow School of Art. Paintings and sculptures which are monumental in prescence if not in scale, her work was among the last featured at Glasgows Tontine building before the school moved its painting department back to the main campus. Besides showing in Scotland Sonas has a show opening in Croatia this sunday at Galerija
Kazamat.

Hey thanks for speaking with us, 

Some of these titles have a fairly intuitive relationship to what’s depicted, Mosquito Andaluz for example, some of them are more like riddles, the Éire/Ireland had me thinking of a GPS route. Could you talk about the scale of the work and how it relates to the content? Because the images are singular or solitary the scale of the space depicted is a bit open ended

MEMENTO – MOSQUITO ANDALUZ Bitumen on hessian, 220x160x4.5cm, 2018

The series of works ‘In the tabernacle of memory’ are depictions of places I travelled to and lived in, so they represent a sort of mapping diaries of my routes as mementos. These works are time-based experiences on a large scale as a generated record. 

Mosquito Andaluz is a painting made of mapping my time of living in Spain, remembering its summer heat and mosquito bites well. The path was a deliberate sketch, a map I followed, and when tracking down my routes – it ‘coincidentally’ formed the shape of a mosquito. 

The size of each of the works is done to scale of each country, but they also capture the distance travelled. Metaphorically, the underlying theme is the connection between my travels and memories; it is also a trip into exploration of my inner nature. 

This series is not yet finished and will continue to expand as my travels go on, following my path through life. 

In part because of the use of Bitumen, there seems to be quite a direct relationship to architecture or construction, or a sort of laboured mechanical procedure of excavating forms, would you talk about your process and the materiality of your work a bit? 

MEMENTO – IRELAND Bitumen on hessian, 200x 170×4.5 cm, 2018

Material is a vital element of my practice. I think of it as a subconscious respond on my longing for natural environment in this more and more digitally connected world; giving emphasis on tactility, physical presence and its qualities. 

A continuous tread of architecture can be found in all of my works, as that was a part of my former education. Therefore, I tend to construct my works as geometrical games, utilising and interacting between various textures and forms of materials. 

In this particular series, a natural texture is selected and juxtaposed with bitumen to meet a symbolic and visually tactile expression of an experience. Hessian was always related to transportation, often associated with bags in which potatoes and other agricultural products were carried and delivered. Hence, in hessian there is the element of translucence. In a way the hessian is me, acting as a view finder – of little snippets of memories. 

On the other hand, bitumen, as a heavy polymer road paint, acts as a signifier to the movement I made through that particular chapter in time, which is now a path inside of me. It is a symbolic representation of the land we all walk on and leave a trace – a path that marks and remembers. 

UP THERE THE MOUNTAINS BURN WORSE

We’d also love to know what you’re reading lately? 

I have read quite a few books lately. At the moment I am finishing up reading John O’Donohoe’s Anam Cara, and in the same time reading Thich Nhat Hanh booklet on How to See. Both books perfectly capture a poetical essence of spirituality which always gives me a lot of inspiration for the further development of my works. 

The previous interviews we did, before quarantine, we were asking if people had seen any recent exhibits they really enjoyed, but with things closed I wonder how your viewing habits have changed? If there are any online events, ones you’re involved in, or just ones that you’ve seen that made an impression. 

This worldwide challenge have had a lot of effect on my viewing habits, as I usually love wandering around galleries and museums to absorb the ambiance and physically experience artworks. 

At the moment, I am in preparation for an exhibition which will take place in Croatia this July. Some of my works were and some still are exhibited in couple of online shows. Particularly, I would like to mention RSA’s Annual exhibition for which I am so grateful that they have decided to continue with their programme in form of virtual exhibition to support and promote artists. 

I find it of vital importance that cultural and artistic programmes have found a way to continue with their work through these times, and bring the uplifting aesthetic experience through the online medium. 

The last two questions, Can you think of an established artist who’s due for a critical renaissance? Someone who’s either unfashionable now or not very well known to begin with who you think deserves a second look? 

In my view, many artists are being overlooked, but everyone should be embraced for their individual differences, without being subjectively criticised. After all, what is objectiveness of someone’s creative expression? It is either perceptive opinion of one’s taste or opinion set by current trends. 

With that being said, I could not pinpoint to one specific artist, as my appreciation goes wider than individual admiration. What I do find the most important is to love and truly enjoy in the process of creating. I believe a work with a ‘soul’ can always be felt and drawn to observers, as well as to the artist who has created it. 

And also if you have a guilty pleasure you’d share with us? 

I love to go for a hike with my friends and occasionally do something that is part of my tradition; on each conquered peak, we have a sip of rakija (a brandy from Balkans) to celebrate our immaterial success before returning back down into ‘reality’. 

More work by Sara Sonas can be found here.

Inteview by Ben Duax, June 2020

Sam Tahmassebi

Our Featured artist this month is London based Sam Tahmassebi, previously a reciepient of the Road to Rio Award, Tahmassebi’s paintings use images from pop culture to describe how our social selves are represented online. Please keep reading for a short interview.

Juncture, 2018, 60 cm X 100 cm

Hey Thanks for speaking with us, I’m interested in your use of the same characters in multiple paintings, if you see an implied narrative across paintings, or how specific the signifiers are. Wile E Coyote is a figure that it’s pretty easy to project a narrative onto, I was struck by the painting where he’s pixelated out, looking at the plate of thai food.

The use of characters is very specific. Minnie Mouse, made by Disney, is an American company and encoded within that is its significant market and global cultural dominance. She signifies that partially, but also normativity, orthodoxy and hegemony. Wild e Coyote, on the other hand is the product of Looney Tunes and Warner Bros., a company of Polish Jewish migrants who fled to the U.S, in this sense, Wild e, signifies the Other. There’s a narrative or perhaps, a dialogue between the characters on both a micro and macro level throughout all the paintings in the series.

The pixilation I hope his easy to understand – the moment when you become your digital-self IRL – the idea of two identities, the online and the ‘real’. Context is everything, right? Context shapes us, and our experiences, so in this way, it’s crucial to fully experiencing this series of paintings and the ideas within them. I plan for there to be around 20 and hopefully a couple of sculptures and an interactive installation element, too.  

As an aside, what you’ve been reading lately?

Reading is a great passion of mine but it does take up time, so I’m quite into audible books. Still unsure if that’s reading to the reading aficionados or intelligentsia. Nevertheless, I’m a huge fan of Blinkist and most recently I’ve listened to On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin and Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman. My actual reading of late has been Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard and Nobody Knows My Name, James Baldwin.  

We were always asking before, what shows people had seen that stood out to them, focusing on UK painting, typically. Because most things are shut down, how have you been looking at art? Or did you have any projects delayed by quarantine that you’d like to share, either how they’ve been rescheduled or if they found a new form?

I mostly use Instagram to experience art or mailing lists from galleries. I would still rather stand in front of an artwork, but adaptability is the key to survival. I haven’t had anything delayed, but with everything that’s going on, I’ve felt compelled to make different work in response to it. My practice has always been socially and politically directed, so I should have a video piece or two coming out soon.  

Speaking of work presented online, I was wondering about the photographs printed on aluminium, which I saw on your website, images which in many cases I was quite familiar with, the Two kids in Mcdonalds, the Syrian Boy in the Ambulance, but also some images whos provenance was unclear to me, The Vegan Donut for example, or images that look like they are from social media or the New York Times.

I have been debating whether or not to still include those photographs in my practice. They were a failure; sometimes it’s good to keep those as a reminder. They were a response to another book, Camera Lucida, by Roland Barthes. I think he missed the exploitative nature of photography and now with social media we can see that more clearly. Everything’s being exploited and then organised by people of their own volition for consumption through hashtags. The process was just searching the most random hashtags I could think of and seeing what came up if anything. As with my paintings, the majority of imagery is taken from the Internet, and throughout my practice there’s a interest with how the internet is changing our relationship with images, reality, commodities, and more importantly, each other. 

The last two questions, Can you think of an older painter whose due for a critical renaissance?
I think Michel Majerus, made exceptional work that really drew attention to the complex relationship between media and landscapes. I hope he gets a revival.

And also if you have a guilty pleasure  you’d share with us?  

Guilty pleasures? I try not to feel guilty ever –  it’s kind of a redundant emotion. I like giving and seeing the look of surprise and joy on other people’s faces. They think it’s about them, but it’s all about me.

Interview by Ben Duax, June 2020

Sam Tahmessabi on instagram and twitter

Sabrina Choi

Our first feature post Covid is London based Sabrina Choi, who works in a variety of mediums and caught our eye in part becuase of the novel way that she presents two dimensional work online.

“HEADS UP!” (2019)
Acrylic and inked pen on cotton canvas

I was really struck by the presentation of the same painting in different edits, having been manipulated (presumably) in photoshop and then presented as the same work. I was wondering if you could expand a bit on how you see these different images, if one version is the “real one” or if there is a hierarchy? Your peice Nuison is one example. 

Binge, From 2019

A: In my portfolio, the first image of each project is what I considered as the original work, and the final representation of the image that been somewhat repainted or redesigned. I have the habit of putting a work aside for some time and coming back to it after months, just to see whether there’s anything I can do to elevate the painting itself, and ‘Nuison’ was the perfect example of that. No photoshop or any digital editing, just the good old splash of paint here and there to spice it up even more. 

When I looked at, Binge, For example, it took me a second to find the differences, And then to think about why both are presented? 

A: ’Binge’, in the other hand, was simply the first ‘draft’ and the refined version. As a perfectionist myself, I never know when to fully consider an artwork as ‘truly completed’, and that was shown in ‘Binge’. Personally I repainted ‘Binge’ to give the painting itself more depth while experimenting with the blend of pastel colours (e.g. shadows) as a dreamy and feminine touch , while the original version lives up the style when I started experimenting with this 2D superflat painting technique. I put both versions together, hoping to let the audience have a look and follow up with the thought process while I was making art. 

Could you tell us a bit about how scale factors into your work? You wrote that “Jizzed” for example, was originally a kind of maquette for a sculpture, but these divisions seem kind of subsumed into an online experience. Looking at “girls Girls Girls” the visible canvas tooth kind of blends into this different physicality that is specific to a computer screen, where these things that seem like imperfections in person are emphasized through photography. 

A: Personally, I’ve never even thought of editing out the imperfections of my paintings, no matter what surface I was painting on or how ‘rough’ it looks. To me, imperfections, bits and cracks of each painting is what makes it more realistic and relatable to the audience, and I have always find myself being attracted to art that openly embraces small things like water patches and blending streaks. At least that was what I wanted while painting ‘Girls Girls Girls’ years ago, when I first entered Goldsmiths for my Foundation Course. ‘JiZzed’, on the other hand, was a completely different story. I was more experienced and confident when I painted this. Originally, it was supposed to just be a sketch on my notebook highlighting the key points of my ideal sculpture, yet when I saw this extra canvas in my studio space I couldn’t help but 

think of what it would look like as a painting, where I will have even more freedom to express myself through colours that I’m familiar with. While I was planning out ways to present ‘JiZzed’ online, I really didn’t think too deep into anything. I simply wanted to show the audience the closest representation what the actual work is like in real life, and the only way to do it is to separated the art itself into different close up digital images, ignoring the flaws and textures that would be seen on the canvas and present it as it is. Nothing else, nothing too complicated, nothing too fancy. 

I also was struck by how you incorporated text into the portfolio you sent us, that it sort of became a gestalt work, 2 dimensional artists sort of have to navigate how work is framed online, or if a portfolio should be framed as a print object, but you kind of sidestep that, could you maybe talk about that process? Curious also about your use of text in multiple languages, if this creates a barrier to perception, or functions as a kind of self selecting tool for the audience. Or if there are any signifiers that seem specific to living in london, any way your work reacts to living in the UK. Even though they are paintings, they have a relationship with comic books, or the text around the edge kind of reminds me of that old crust punk typography, like CRASS album covers for example. 

A: When I was working on my portfolio, the one thing that come into my mind was how will I be able to elevate the digital form of my artwork just so that it would catch the attention of others. Personally, I do not have a lot of experience with photo editing apps or anything, hence all I could use was my limited knowledge of Pages and make the most out of it. Being born and raised in Hong Kong and coming all the way to London to further pursue my studies, career and dreams certainly has a huge impact on me. Not only am I bilingual, but I’ve also learnt to embrace the beauty of the cantonese language, and I wanted to share it through my art. I included elements of my background and culture in both ‘Nuison’ and ‘Oct1”, hence Chinese Characters were used. Personally, I do not think that It is necessary for the audience to understand cantonese in order to fully appreciate the difference pieces, for I do believe that my work will be able to speak for themselves, emotion-wise. (Also, I enjoy giving the audience some space to let their imaginations go wild when it comes to experiencing my work. What’s the fun of making art when I’m the only one who is allowed to talk?) And yes, comic books does have a huge influence on my art. In fact, Japanese Comics (Manga) has always been one of the main reasons why I became interested in arts as a child. Also Pop Art and the SuperFlat Movement, which I’m sure is quite obvious in my paintings. But when it comes to design, not gonna lie, I just did what looks good to me, and tried my best to make it work. 

Everything is closed right now, I was wondering if there were any really good shows you saw before the quarantine, or even better, if there were any exhibits that got cancelled that you were really looking forward to? 

A: I was so excited for the upcoming exhibitions that were supposed to be held in spring/summer! I was really looking forward to the Andy Warhol and Yayoi Kusama exhibition in Tate Modern, and of course, Alice: Curiouser and the Curiouser exhibition in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Oh and the degree shows across London. I was so excited to see the works of graduate students this summer, just like the past few years, and learn a few things from them. 

Or if you’d like to talk about how its disrupted your course or any of your personal exhibition plans. If youve been productive at all since everything went bonkers, what you feel the impact on your practice will be? 

A: This term, Goldsmiths has officially decided to try online teaching, hence a lot of students have flown back to their respective countries. To be honest, I don’t think that online teaching will be anywhere similar to the teaching we’re used to, hence we cannot show our working progress to our tutors directly. Also, I was supposed to have my first solo exhibition in Cambridge, and sadly it got cancelled too. A lot of plans have been either postponed or cancelled and it was certainly upsetting and frustrating, but it’s definitely for the best. We’re living in a strange time right now, but I’m sure this period of time also give fellow artist time to come up with new ideas in our practice. Is there anyway we can help the world a little through art? Is there any way we can spread positivity or hope? That’s what I think about every day after I started my home studio work. Luckily, I’m a painter, so the lockdown has not stopped me from working, but from time to time I still miss working in the studio with other students while joking around day to day things. 

Outside of work that you were hoping to see, would you tell us about an artist (could be painter or not, could be British or not) who you think is underrated? Someone from the past who you like who you feel like has either fallen out of fashion, or never got the due they were warranted? 

A: There’s soooooo many underrated artist out there but please I really hope that more Asian artists will get the kind of exposure they truly deserved! Do check out artist like Hikari Shimoda, Jonathan Tsang and Roby Dwi Antono! They have been around since long time ago, and honestly deserve recognition all around the world, since they’re just crazy talented and managed 

to blow my mind every time they produce something new. 

Also as a last fun question, I was wondering if you would tell us about a guilty pleasure, something you like that you don’t think is very serious. Could be a TV show or Movie. 

A: Anime! Personally I’m more of a comic (manga) fan, but there are just so so so many nice anime on Netflix right now that i’d highly recommend watching. As long as you like cartoons, don’t be afraid to give it a go! Try Naruto, Haikyuu, Fate: Stay Night etc., I promise you won’t regret it!

https://www.sabrinackt.com/

Interview by Ben Duax, 2020


Jeremy Wolf

Jeremy Wolf works in Acrylic and Oil stick, creating readable narratives with mostly featureless figures. Motifs from the history of painting reappear at different resolutions and physical angels to create a a sort of foundational mythology. Click through for some recent work and a short interview.


Denialis a river in Egypt- head of St.John-the-Baptist 36x48_-2018

Relativity in Values. 25×36″. 2017
Saturn Devouring His Son Fearing a Loss of Control in an era of Great Uncertainty. 40x70_-2017

1. First, Have you seen any really good painting shows lately? Along the same lines, I was wondering about a painter you’ve been thinking of who maybe isn’t on many walls. That is, if you could think of someone due for a critical renaissance, someone you think is under rated. 

I’m always hunting for good painting shows, and I happen to have seen a number in the past few months that stand out in my mind. I accompanied my wife to Copenhagen maybe in October (she had a work conference and I just tagged along to screw around) and got out to the Louisiana Museum where they had a retrospective of Marsden Hartley’s work. I think that kind of hit on both parts of your question for me as he’s not someone really talked about with the giants of American painting, but the work was really phenomenal and kind of a revelation for me. I also got out to the Felix Vallotton show at the RA when that was up which is another name I wasn’t too familiar with and was kind of blown away by. Another at the RA I enjoyed was the show of Lucien Freud’s portraits. He’s kind of a complicated figure for me because I find him to have been a pretty big scumbag in his personal life, but the work is undeniably amazing. I’m a big fan of bits of texture and impasto and he definitely used those devices a good deal. 

Guerra. Acrylic and oil stick on canvas, 60×70 ” 2018
The-End-Is-Nigh.-Oil-acrylic-on-canvas.-36x24_.-2018.-JEREMY-WOLF.jpg
The End Is Nigh. 36×24. 2018

2. You have a degree in economics, would you talk a bit about how you came to painting, or how it informs your work to be mostly self-taught? I’m reminded of a bit of TS Elliot, writing his poems during his walk to work at a banker’s office. 

You know, it’s funny because the degree in economics is probably more random than my interest in painting. I had always drawn and been encouraged creatively at home as a kid, but it was never really pushed on me or structured in any sort of way. When I was looking at college as a high school student I didn’t have a strong direction. I had been a fairly well regarded musician on the trombone and thought I might go into a jazz studies program or something like that. However, I was also very lazy and while I had some talent I just knew deep down that without the work ethic to back it up I wouldn’t amount to much. I was also terrified of auditions, so that didn’t help. As a result I just picked a major that sounded sort of specific and challenging but in reality was fairly general and hazy in terms of curriculum. I thought I would figure things out and switch majors after freshman year or something like that. But by the time I realized I really enjoyed painting (and would be willing to put in work to get better) it was junior year and I would’ve needed to add a year to my education to graduate with a degree in art. So I just stuck with economics and here we are. 

American Daydream 68×50 -2017

In terms of how it informs my art, I feel like it has a double-edge effect. In the first place, I feel very free to explore whatever I want in terms of subject matter, medium, style, etc. There really aren’t any boundaries for me in terms of idea generation when it comes to my art. It also leaves me with a lot of rough edges in terms of style that I kind of enjoy. However, on the flip side, not having that education background can leave me a bit unfocused, and I don’t necessarily develop a narrative with the work. I’m not great at speaking about my work either, maybe because I’ve never had to sit through a critique with other artists and explain myself. So it works both ways, but at the end of the day I think it’s probably a good thing because it makes me me, you know?

3. Cooling towers are a reoccurring motif – Is it sort of a stylistic nod to (for example) pictures generation artists, or is it kind of a narrative device, a stand in for other anxieties? 

I’m definitely interested in nuclear energy, bombs, the atomic age – all that sort of stuff. I think it speaks in microcosm to a lot of the other issues facing the world today. In all honesty, I had never even considered the reference to Picture Generation artists, but that’s a very interesting thought. For me, though, it was definitely more of a narrative device, like you say, about anxieties in today’s world. I want my paintings to feel uncomfortable or unsettling and there’s something about cooling towers that does that. Like, who wants to live next door to a facility that has those things?

Blue Room-Leda and the Swan. 36x48_.-2018

4. Tell us a bit about Leda and the Swan painting. Some renaissance versions of this story include an audience, which is perhaps represented by the video camera in your version. Paintings based on Ovid tend to show the encounter as more tender, and paintings based on Fulgentius more violent. Yours is a bit ambiguous. There you go with that mushroom cloud again. 

Greek mythology has always been one of my favorite topics. I always found it fascinating when we studied it in primary and secondary school. I think they’re really interesting stories just on the face of it, but when you consider that it was all a part of the foundation of what they believed I think it takes on a whole different connotation. I’m very critical of religion in a lot of my work and this is really no exception. I find it interesting (or perhaps disconcerting?) that whether you look at the Bible, the Koran, or Greek myths, so much of it we’re told is prescriptive and a guide as to how to live our lives. But at the same time there’s just so much senseless violence packed into those stories that it’s hard for me to look at any of that and view it as a pathway to a higher existence. Obviously, the Leda and the Swan story is no different. I know there have been more sympathetic takes on the encounter, but I’ve personally always imagined it as more of a violent scene – I mean if an animal was about to try to enter me there would be a serious struggle. What I wanted to capture here, though, was that false feeling of ambiguity around the story and how to me that could really represent being desensitized to that level of violence and abuse of power. So, the female in the image is rendered in such a way that she looks almost disconnected from the entire experience. She even nearly has the appearance of being a blow-up sex doll, which would obviously provide no resistance to the advances of the swan, but in my view wouldn’t make this any less of an unsavory scene. I felt like the strange devil-man filming the whole thing just made the whole image even stranger and the viewer ask more questions – Are these willing participants? Does that even matter if the whole thing is just wrong? I think the mushroom cloud again adds to the uneasiness of the image – What’s happening outside? Why aren’t the subjects in the room reacting? How close is that bomb? Are they going to die?

Here we are with what we have done. 60×50 2017

5. Do you worry about finding an informed audience? Have you found you get a different reaction to similar work when you’re in the UK versus stateside?

In all honesty, I don’t worry about that. I really do this because it’s who I am and I can’t imagine any other way. If people are informed and they bring that to the table when they see the pieces, that’s great and it’s a bonus to be able to talk to people about the work on that level. But if people just find them visually striking and interesting to look at, then I’m ok with that, too. I’m able to say what I want to through the work and that’s what’s important to me. 

I definitely have received a stronger reaction to my stuff over here in the UK. I think the scene in general is a bit less cutthroat here – not that it’s not very competitive in its own right, but I don’t think other artists mind seeing you succeed as much here as in NYC. It’s a bit more collaborative in my experience and so I’ve enjoyed being able to participate a bit more now that I live in London. I’m sure there’s also a bit of a novelty element with my being an American and having that perspective in my work, but hey it’s working for me right now, right?

6. After asking about painting and audiences, how about a lighter question, I was wondering if you’d be willing to share a guilty pleasure with us, something that you really love that you think is truly dumb.

Oh man, I love this question. I have so many, so I’ll try to give you a nice variety across categories. I’m a huge fan of bad action movies, whether it’s a big budget one like the newest Rambo, or a B-movie like the more recent Steven Seagal stuff, or even lower end than that. I saw this really bad movie with Vince Vaughn where he’s playing this truck driver with super human strength who goes to prison for trafficking drugs. It’s called Brawl in Cell Block 99 – definitely one of the shittiest best movies I’ve seen in a while. He’s just punching through skulls and stuff like that.  The Steven Seagal flicks are really weird because he has this strange love affair with Russia going on in his real life and that all plays out on screen in the new movies. He’s also like 70 and fat and can’t move anymore so the fight scenes are disastrous. I remember I watched a movie called Assault on Wall Street with my old roommate a while back where this guy basically has a Job-like experience in his life where his wife and kid die, he gets fired, loses his house, etc. And he just goes nuts and goes to a firm on Wall Street and shoots the entire place up. That one was pretty wild. I would consider myself a true connoisseur of the genre.

I also love Professional Wrestling. The WWE kind of sucks these days, but I’m into some of the new promotions that they have going like AEW and NWA. There will never be anything like the Attitude Era in WWF ever again, though. I’m a massive fan of Stone Cold Steve Austin. But I think probably the most overlooked character in the entire thing is Vince McMahon himself. He’s the epitome of being an over-the-top moron and I just can’t get enough. 

I’ve got loads more like pop music and stuff like that, but we’ll leave that for another day.

Interview By Ben Duax

Froso Papadimitriou

Froso Papadimitriou produces bodies of work across mediums as well as a robust curatorial practice. She spoke to us about her work as a painter and curator, the materiality of her work, and how different audiences react to the same content. Please see a short interview below.

 

 

 

 

 First,Have you seen any really good painting shows lately? A follow up question, is there any artist from the past who you think is due for a critical renaissance? Either someone who was always underrated, or someone who became unfashionable who you think should get a second look?
Because you also work as a curator, I’d like to ask about the impermanence of independent exhibition spaces. When I set up group shows in the past I sometimes felt like I was throwing stones into a river, like they disappeared without a trace. But just putting a photo of your painting on the internet doesn’t seem like a good solution. Just curious if you have any thoughts or advice for how to find an audience.

One of the recent exhibitions I was very glad to visit was the retrospective show of Dorothea Tanning in Tate Modern. I am an admirer of the surrealist movement and it was very refreshing to see the work of a lesser known surrealist, however of the same importance. I loved her subject matter and symbolism, her translucent painting technique and her textural sculptures. I would give five stars if you asked me.

An artist that I think should be looked at again, as since his death he fell into obscurity, is Felix Topolski, a polish born artist who worked and died in the UK. Topolski was a man that managed to be at the right place in the right time. His work is a record of the history of the 20th century.

Just to mentioned a bit about him. He was trained in the Fine Art Academy of Poland, and in his early years visited London just before the Blitz; from there he remained in the UK and became a war artist, who while fighting in the front lines, would supply with illustrations from the battle fronts the newspapers and magazines back in the UK. After the end of the war and during his life time he published hundreds of newspapers named ‘Chronicles’, where he recorded from up close some of the historical corner stones of the century, (such as the declaration of the Indian independence and its first official government, being appointed one of the official war artist at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg at the trials, was commissioned by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh to create a painting of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, in America he witnessed the civil rights protests and spend time with the Black Panthers while Martyn Luther King spend a day at Felix’s studio during his visit in London. Topolski was the artist of face to face BBC program, where he sketched the portraits of the most prominent figures of the century, while spending time with the hippie community of Eel Pie Island venue and the major hippie squat on the River Thames at Twickenham.) Until his late years Topolski continue working in his studio in South Bank, under the arches, where he created a monumental work, that of a chronological labyrinth of murals of all of the major events he witnessed during his life time.

His studio became a museum years after his death and this is where I encountered his work and also was the start of my curatorial endeavours. During my time as a volunteer at the museum, I made a proposal to the trustees to use one of the spaces of the museum as a contemporary gallery, for exhibitions inspired by the permanent collection, in order to attract a wider audience and increase the footfall. Unfortunately, by the time we received the approval the funding for the museum had been limited. Although the museum had to close its doors to the public, we (Collaborative Art, founded by myself and artist Jonathan Bradbury) managed to run a three-year long program of exhibitions in the museum, where the museum would open to the public only during our exhibition and other special events. I have to admit that we were very proud to have created a free space for artist to showcase their work in the centre of London and introduce Felix Topolski’s work to new audiences.

In 2013 the entire funding was withdrawn and the museum has now been turned into a bar, maintaining few of the paintings of Felix Topolski as deco, however stripping his work from its narrative. That was though the only way to fund a smaller storage space for the entire collection, which one can visit by appointment.

Since then, I have organised other exhibitions and projects in galleries, independent spaces and institutions. I suppose the question here is what type of audience you are after. There are various known steps we all take to bring more people though the doors such as strong mailing lists, good marketing, social media activity, budget for advertising and big names being involved in the shows but networking is at the core of it. Nowadays as an artist or independent curator one of the skills needed the most is marketing knowledge, in few cases that has taken some further than the art itself…if I dare to say. However, whilst that has allowed the art world to oversaturate, it has also given a platform for very talented artists to reach out wider audiences bypassing the tight managed gallery/curator/art dealer art market.

I do agree though with your point about art shows being ephemeral. Apart from the documentation of an exhibition, whether that is a catalogue, images and reviews, exhibitions themselves fade from memory. Except the physical publications, nowadays everything ends up on the net. It’s almost like the net is an enormous archive without locks, where you can find past information and even revive past events. I suppose its also a matter of contemporary relevance, a photo online, a mention, a good review, an interview are things that sustain one active and at the top of the search list, in a system that the turnover of information happens in seconds.

Recently you travelled to Taiwan in order to arrange an exhibition of both British and Taiwanese painters, I was wondering if you felt the context of your work changed overseas, – If the Audience reacted differently or if it truly was a different audience. I suppose the series of paintings mounted on Crucifixes would be read very differently from city to city.

The exhibition in Taiwan was designed for a specific audience. It was a collaboration with Professor Chih Fen-Chai of the art department of the National Normal University of Taiwan for the art students of the university, looking at the development of paining in contemporary art and examining the western and eastern art trends. Therefore, the majority of the work we presented was designed specifically for this exhibition.

In general, my work addresses subjects that can be of a global understanding and concern, even when the initial point of reference is location specific. I have to admit that I like to create work and leave it to the viewer to discover whether they can identify with it or not, especially nowadays were access to information is literally in our hands…or pockets.

You work quite a bit with fabric, I was wondering if you’d speak about that briefly, if you see your work in as in a lineage of textile arts, or if the question of medium seem even seems relevant these days, I’m not sure.

I suppose my work could be considered borderline with textile art but I find the requirement of categorising artworks by medium, which happens a lot when it come to art applications, very restricting in relation to the work I produce. I use a wide range of materials and operate usually with an idea that defines what medium I will use to express it, such as painting, installation or digital. However, the use of thread is more like a signature in my work. In short it represents human lives and social clusters, as a parallelism to the Greek myth of the three fates.

I suppose nowadays the artists have the freedom of choosing whether they will embrace the categorisation of their work or not, however it seems to be still relevant when it comes to institutions and funding.

 I was wondering if you’d be willing to share a guilty pleasure with us, something that you really love that you think is truly dumb.

Human race hahaha (including myself)

https://www.frosopapadimitriou.com/

 

 

Interview by Ben Duax

Joel Nicholas

 

After a few months of slight activity, we have two artists to share with you.  Joel Nicholas,  a Brighton based painter was kind enough to speak with us about his subtle assemblages and the narratives they contain.  Please click through for a short interview.

 

First off, have you seen any really killer painting shows lately? Your work uses assemblage and found materials, so perhaps this idea of medium specificity as a criteria for a review isn’t important, what are some other great exhibitions that our readers might have missed?

I actually came across Howard Dyke recently at Ridgeway Gallery in Brixton. The one that Dom Kennedy is running. He and I got along really easily due to our work sharing a lot of the same enquiries, in respect to assemblage. We just flipping love materials that are chucked out and giving them new life. It’s a little bit of fun and can carry a new underlined meaning at the same time. That’s like a whole potential area for enquiry – the theory of how context can change meaning and re-appropriation of text being a part of that as well. I particularly enjoyed how he allowed a painting to decompose and come alive again in another form, carrying over elements of the previous form into the next in this urban-decayed collage. Especially a fan of how he’d got the Lorry tarpaulin vinyl, complete with the Ratchet straps amidst the canvas. I’m not limited to the language of materiality when it comes to what I go out to see though. Although I missed Tal R at the Hastings Contemporary – I’ve no excuse as its just along the coast from me – but his approach to mysticism and the human condition is exactly what I enjoy outside of my own experience. He’s been an influential figure in respect to seeing how a man can carry the Hebrew heritage, being born in Israel, and the Norse mindset, being brought up in Copenhagen. This is something that has carried through my journey of faith and painting; set off by the spiritual struggle that the character Athelstan has in Vikings. As a (still fairly new) Christian making art, I’m quite keen to see how stories are told and mysticism is used in paintings. I really think keeping an eye and an ear out for art that is confronting preconceptions, and unraveling unnecessary boundaries, in a humble/humorous way, is paramount for any artist making healthy art.  I’m seeking to re-contextualise the Christian faith in the cultural mindset of western society, so any shows dealing with tribalism/mythology/humanity and its rituals are good. Jess Power had some of her recent work in ‘Detritus’ as part of the Wells Projects space in Battersea. Now she’s someone to watch – definitely handling some themes that I’m interested in and excited to see it develop and engage with it. There’s almost a sense of relief when you find others making similar work that is still different. It’s like you are part of the same consciousness, finding a new way to express itself.

 

 Would you speak a bit about your use of fabrics, socks and trousers that might be considered garbage. I took these initially as signifiers of domesticity, sort of gendered objects, but perhaps they are complicated by relationships to objects that can be read within the applied paint

I think there’s a lot to be said for not adding anything to this world, unless you can be sure that it isn’t just as damaging as the rest of what is being produced. If, for example, you look at the pressure being applied to fast fashion and taking more sustainable routes to bringing style to the table, you can see there’s a shift in our society’s conscience. What’s going on at the moment with how we are changing the way we view materiality and consumerism is an exciting thing, and it’s refreshing. It’s only in recent years, generationally, that we have been accustomed to everything being new and fast turn around – up until this point it seems to have been a lot more focused on longevity and altogether slower. I enjoy the shake up of challenging what we agree on as normal. I’d like to think that art is a way of giving a different time line to cultural thoughts. Not in a documentative way like Journalism or an historic account but in an otherworldly sort of way. I like the way that objects carry history and are quite complex, like you say the way they relate to the other objects within the space and applied paint. The Kuleshov effect speaks into this a bit with how meaning alters based on the order in which the eye receives information. The same frames, expressions, objects etc. all appearing completely different based on their ordering and context. I love it. Take the sock in ALTAR for example – I had no idea it was a Levi’s sock, but I used it as this signifier for a sacrifice, purely based on its materiality and colour, as if it were another form of paint – and the whole theme of the altar and sacrifice was enhanced by the fact it’s a Levis sock: there is a whole book, called Leviticus, in the bible that describes the sacrificial system ancient Israel had to go through in order to be able to sustain their relationship with their God. The tribe that was called to handle all that were the Levites, descended from Levi. I could go further in on an interpretation but, in essence, there’s meaning being pumped out of a sock in a painting. Isn’t that something? I’m not the first to do it and I’m sure I won’t be the last. But even more so worth noting: it’s on curtains and not canvas – one could go in on the link to the curtains in the temple that separated man from God and eventually were torn in two on the day Jesus got crucified. Besides the fact that it’s cheaper and more sustainable – domestic objects have this power to call to mind things that are more human and every-day and dance them around in the same space as higher thoughts and eternity. I hope that it helps dispel the idea that spirituality has to be irrational or cerebral when actually it can be a very physical thing.

 

How about a lighter question, would you be willing to share a guilty pleasure with us, something that you really love that you think is truly dumb?

Bubble bath in a candle lit room of course.

 

 

https://www.joelmichaelnicholas.com/

Joel is part of Vicious Circle an exhibition  at the Old Biscuit Factory,  in Londong.

100 Clements rd ,Block F

Up through January 19th.

 

Interview by Ben Duax

 

 

John Carroll

 

The Butterbiggens Prize is pleased to announce our featured artist for July, John Carroll.

Recently completing a large scale collage of a full breakfast as part of an exhibition in France, Carroll works in pastels and acrylic paint, largely on paper. Please click through for a short profile and some images.

Have you seen any good painting shows lately?

As you know I spent some time in France recently, I went to the City art gallery in Lille and really enjoyed looking at there collection of 18th-century French paintings, they also have a superb collection of European medieval religious sculptures.

french children visiting the exhibit 

A follow-up question, is there any artist from the past who you think is due for a critical renaissance? Either someone who was always underrated or someone who became unfashionable who you think should get a second look? 

I have a particular interest in still life and have been a bit obsessed with the work of the 18th century painter Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin lately. I know he is a renowned master who is widely admired, but I don’t think he has had a retrospective exhibition in the UK for a long time, I think it would be great for young artists to see his work, He was greatly admired by the progressive artists of the cubist movement.

Curious about the subject matter seems very British in a way, but parallel to artists who make images of junk food in other countries, or perhaps there is something about the ironic still life which is of the moment, wonder how it was received in France.

The idea to make an image of a plate of food grew out of a series of still life compositions I have been working on for the past four years. The compositions consisted of objects that myself and my partner had accumulated over the years from our family, placed on our kitchen table . These were intermingled with everyday ephemera from our everyday life {kitchen utensils, gas bills etc} . I decided to focas on what we all do at a kitchen table , which is eat . My Mother passed away a few years ago and I was thinking about the family ritual of making meals etc , The meal depicted in this artwork is a typical meal that my mother might have made for me , sausage egg chips etc , and this is the same meal that i have prepared for my own children . So the idea behind this artwork is to celebrate the humble everyday plate of food, made with love. Strangely enough the exhibition opening was on the 29th March , which was supposed to be the date UK left the EU . There was no political message I was trying to say in this work . It was fascinating to here the response from people who visited the show , whoever heard of a plate of northern grub as being BEAUTIFUL !! also they thought that we put cream on our food , because Uk mayonnaise is white , its yellow in France , and our peas ? why are they say crazy luminous green?

 

https://artistjohncarroll.tumblr.com/

 

interview by Ben Duax 

 

Beatrice Mar

 

Our Featured Painter for the month of June is Beatrice Mar, based in the south of England. Also working as a curator, Beatrice mines shifting details of memory to catalog interior states of her subjects.  Please click through for a short interview and some photographs of recent work.

 

First, Have you seen any really good painting shows lately?  

The last exhibition with paintings that I saw was at Hauser & Wirth in Somerset, it was called the Unconscious Landscape with works from the Ursula Hauser collection. They had a couple of Maria Lassnig paintings which I always wanted to see. Also a series of Eva Hesse paintings which had a very disengaged feeling, almost like a confessional or trying to expel an event in to the canvas.

All-focus

as a follow up, is there any artist from the past who you think is due for a critical renaissance? Either someone who was always underrated or someone who became unfashionable who you think should get a second look?

I have a soft spot for Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, his famous paintings don’t easily disclose his mastery of colour and understanding of painting techniques. I saw some his studies when I was doing my course in old master painting techniques and absolutely loved him. I think that whole era of romanticism is bound to have a come back in painting, not exactly with the content but the principles of it.

Your work has to do with changing states of memory, I wonder if that’s applicable specifically to painting in a way that’s different from other mediums, perhaps related to process? 

the difficulty in representing the changing states of memory with painting is for the first part finding ways to portray missing senses that make up a memory, as in movement, smell and touch or taste. Storytelling in this sense requires layers of both abstract and representational elements to create a ‘third word’ ,almost like a ven diagram, which can then articulate the process of time being consumed in a two dimensional frame.

The pacifier kind of reminds me of Hans Belmar, but also of 90’s rave culture, I’ve also seen some of your work that suggests tarot cards, I wonder if there are other visual references or motifs that you’d care to elaborate on?

some of the symbols that I use have a reference to a country I have lived in, whether that is political or cultural. The tarot and playing cards are predominately a reference to superstitious beliefs in Greek culture, as well as childhood memories. I really enjoy the playful relationship between abstract forms on representational elements.
As for the pacifiers, I was trying to think of a symbol that related to perfection. One of the most common times you will hear that is at the birth of a child, how they are perfect. In contrast to that, when an adult is represented with a pacifier it signifies a silencer, politically speaking, a way of keeping quiet to avoid compromising their necessities.
interview by Ben Duax