Arts Editor: Christopher George
Hubert Neal Jr. grew up in Chicago and has experienced the toxic relationship between his community and the police dept first hand. A relationship duplicated in other communities across the country. Neal uses a combination of playful, striking and haunting imagery to portray victims of police violence in order to evoke an emotional response, an alternative call to action through art, rather than waiting for the next video of a murder to do it, and a way to keep the memories of the victims alive.
The issues with acceptable uses of force, systemic racism, and corruption in the nations police departments are an ongoing epidemic seeded deeply in a historical culture of oppression. Waiting for another person of color to die, for passing off a fake $20, for falling asleep in a Wendy's parking lot, for breaking up a fight, or for simply walking along the street dancing, and being scared and confused when arrested, is not an acceptable method for weeding out "the bad apples" in the police force and showing the inadequacies of police training.
"Black & Blue" aims to be a timeless record of continued excessive police violence on minorities, in an age where social movements are trends that come and go, the power of art as a historical reflection of the times is sorely needed. Neal hopes "Black & Blue" will keep the conversation going, and challenge us to look deeper than the symptoms, police violence on people of color being one. From the outside we may not realize, but there is a war between "Black & Blue" in poor communities, a vicious circle of fear, hate and violence, on both sides. The reasons for the war are the disease. If the quality of education was uniform across the country, not inferior in lower income, underserved communities, if working a minimum wage job didn't keep you below the poverty line, then maybe the culture that led to the "Black & Blue" war wouldn't exist. The bigger conversation is, why is the system set up this way, and why is it allowed to continue? Let's focus on the curing the disease, only then will we be symptom free.
Hubert Neal Jr: Contemporary Fine Artist |
Mark Charles’ perpetual act for creating chaos is not usually for effect- to the contrary, it is an out of body reaction to the fucked-up world we live in.
Arts Editor: Christopher George
Mark Charles a bonafide anti-hero and legend of the sub-culture art world. Stemming both the fashion and music industry for the past three decades with his graphic fashion designs and boundary pushing music. He has been desired, admired and avoided; whilst othe are addicted or repulsed.
From his crack-taking models causing him to dislocate his shoulder during one of his fashion shows; to being a first for a fashion designer to crowd surf off his own catwalk, face first into his audience- his life has been more of a rock show on par with Iggy Pop as he documents his life as art.
The release of his new album DISOBEY gained us access and an exclusive interview from the country gothic mansion where he now resides. Hidden away from the general public, with the intention to cause as little offence as possible to the unaware, this habitat sums up his life which has veered away from commercial success.
I for one, have been fortunate to witness first hand much of the creative output produced by this iconic legacy and punk Demigod. Always surprised, hypnotized and enthralled- while at the same time having a bloody good time experiencing an artist purely producing for the sheer hell of it; Each project is an uncharted journey and not even the creator knows where it will end- which doesn’t sit in the constraints of your bog standard artist’s ego.
As a producer he has an ability to source and direct other creatives, allowing them to be fully engaged in their artistry while working alongside his ideas. In a world where the creative has been suppressed by the commercial, Mark Charles shines a beacon, sticking two fingers up at the ‘establishment’ and its factory of slaves producing ‘art’.
From the very beginning Charles has refused to conform to a stuffy and subservient industry that has unfortunately taken such control of the fashion and music business, churning out a multitude of nothingness with a price tag attached.
You’ve been absent on the creative scene for a while, what brought this latest project and album together?
After years of what was like throwing up the ‘crown jewels’ on demand, and expected to create, I consciously decided to float about ominously, like a neon sponge soaking up ideas.
I was like- take a look around and have a break. Don’t force anything, let it arrive out of the blue. Fuck-all arrived for quite a while!
I was like a barren desert, a dry mouth camel hump. But you know you can't keep a creative freak down for too long.
So basically I was expelling waste on some fucked up porcelain, when this melody just exploded in my head. I just flushed the chain and walked over to the sink to wash my hands. I looked in the mirror, and although the reflection wasn't what I expected, I kind of whispered to the person looking at me, “I want to record an album”. So I got some ideas on my memory stick and fucked off to Berlin, then to London, ending in Hastings while gathering an amazing array of talent to help put the album together, and forming the incredible White Reflectors. All of which are successful artists in their own right- including: Gene Serene, Valerie Renay, Sebastian Lee Philipp, NkdV, VeeVee, Richard Heslop, Takatsuna Mukai, Susan Diamond, Frank Cutter, Black Triangle Films, Andrew Neate and Michael Bishop.
What influences are you drawing on for the new album Disobey?
I don't consciously draw influence, but of course influences are there in the subconscious. I basically summon up sounds, images and script in my head, and suck up frequencies and soundscapes from the gutter to the stars that twitch skyward and beyond. Then regurgitate and spit them out in the studio, with no preconceived idea how it will sound.
It's just pushed out like a screaming baby- shouting noise and complete mayhem, and then a new song is born, slapped arse and crying with joy. I don't hang about in the studio you know. I work quickly, and in some ways the album sounds that way, fresh, raw and not overdeveloped. It's the embryonic essence, the quirkiness, the spontaneity that I like.
Spontaneity is a recurring theme in all of your work. That sense of emergency, mayhem, debauchery, violence, yet a constant stream of fun encapsulating it all. Can you explain this?
Spontaneity breeds a certain energy that I require in my work. I am not one to cross the t's and dot the i's. I like to let things breathe, evolve naturally and with that it takes you down some very unexpected roads. I deal in creative and intellectual violence. I'm a natural provocateur, I like to stir things up and that can piss people off, but equally inspire.
Fashion and music have been a huge part of your creative life, and have for many years worked hand in hand for you. Why is this?
Well, I think fashion is sometimes music's pool boy, and sometimes the other way around. Sometimes fashion comes first and music comes limping along after, and visa versa. I believe they should go together, but I'm not sure it really applies like it once did. Something needs to change to bring back that buzz.
You seem to love collaboration, not just because it’s productive, but also collaboration seems to be part of your being. Can you enlighten us on this.
This probably stems from me being an alien abducted only child with attention deficit disorder!
As a child I craved company, I was almost scared of my own company for many years. I was a fucking pain in the rump roast. Although I no longer crave company so much, that sense stuck. In any case, I can't do it all myself, and it's much more interesting working with others.
It seems things were uncomfortable as a young person. Was the school environment a challenge and how did you fit it there? At what point did you begin to search and find a part of society and people you could relate to more completely. We all have a situation, a moment, it can even be just a song or visual from our childhood that awakens our direction in life. What was yours?
I was uncomfortable at school, especially at the beginning because I was a pretty live wire. I felt a bit like a caged animal, sitting around in a stuffy classroom with some boring red faced adult chatting shit, and force feeding me what I considered useless information. I sussed out at the age of 7, it just wasn't for me. I was an undiagnosed dyslexic throughout, which did not help. I was a fish out of water, and in the early years I was sent to a strict boys school. I was the rebel, I had the longest hair, I spoke back, never did my homework. They thought I was disruptive, I was.
I won the chess championships just to prove them wrong. Next was a move away from a strict institution to more of a hippie commune, so it felt, a school but without many rules, a bit like the movie ‘If’. Anyway I left at fifteen without any qualifications.
I waited till I sixteen to leave home to live in a junkie squat and play drums loudly. Music was a big inspiration for me from an early age. Tripping out to Tago Mago by Can, was a turning point musically, realising there was more to it than a catchy chorus.
I saw Bowie when I was 13teen, that was a big influence in how I looked; punk taught me that enthusiasm was as important as talent. Punk’s DIY ethics have really stayed with me throughout my life, and I will always be grateful for that- the gift of the blag. The band I played drums for Umptys Balcony in the punk days will always stay with me as well, the raw, unbridled energy was amazing.
You're quite anti-commercial in what is an excessively commercial world. What really gets your back up about the arts, fashion and music industries following such a commercially motivated mindset, almost abandoning the artistry in today's world?
I've never been interested in schmoozing with the ‘top knobs’, industry duffers- and quite frankly the feeling is mutual. I'm way too much trouble for them, I'm no puppet and I have never played the game. I'm an outsider and happy to be that way. It's all down to money I guess, it always has been, but more and more the experimental avant-garde side of things is getting drowned out with mass production.
During Charles of London and Gobsausage, London was a very different place to what it is today. You have been a part of the creative industries for many years. Give me a brief lowdown from your point of view.
It seemed to me it was easier to get away with liberties and easier to create a scene. I mean we ran our club Funny Farm in a downtown strip joint in Hackney, where the girls would join our Band Gobsausage on stage. They really added to that already raw debauched sound, it was fresh, arousing, energetic and fucking messy. Also with our fashion label, we would just show up at shops in Soho or wherever with our collection, and they would be like cool, we will give them a go.
I'm not so sure that kind of spontaneous acts happen so much now, with the exception of Never Fade London.
Charles of London had great success and a huge following- what was the nail in the coffin for you in fashion that made you step aside?
Susan Diamond and myself had a good run for our money with CoL. And although we did well and did it on our terms, while causing a stinky stink within the fashion world, it was fucking hard work and we were getting ripped off more and more. Watered down versions from brands such as 'TopShit' etc, so we thought fuck it, it's time to knock it on the head.
I remember we defaced a Vogue cover with a naked girl bending over. The T-shirt was getting quite a bit of attention, and one day a shop in Covent Garden phoned us up and said that a Vogue representative had come in and threatened them with legal action if they carried on selling them. I believe they were confiscated.
The next day I had a call from, Condé Nast (cunt and nasty as we called them) from their solicitor on the blower (plumb in mouth) saying; unless we stop selling these T-shirts he will fuck me up the ass! Anyway we kept selling them in our space in Brick Lane. Then another phone call came one day, this time it was from the person who took the photo of the nude girl- I had no idea who had done it as I had randomly acquired the image! Mate… it was only flippin, Ben Westwood, Vivienne's Westwood’s son who took the photo.
I'm like, oh FFs! But no, He fucking loved it!! haha
So me, Ben and the Diamond met up in a Soho dive bar and we did a collaboration with him. He invited us to Paris to see Viv's show. We also passed by her Paris studio which was wicked. We saw the show and went out afterwards on the razz with Vivienne's Mum Dora who kept us entertained for hours.
When it's a hybrid fragrance for men, designed by innovative perfumer Francis Kurkdjian
BY SARA DARLING
Men's scent is a tricky business. Go too earthy or woody, it can be suffocating, and anything “traditionally manly” like leather, tobacco, whiskey, tar, ocean spray, or desert bonfires is far too contrived.
The modern man encompasses a lot more than the stereotypes of his predecessor, and perfumer Francis Kurkdjian along with Marc Chaya, Co-founder and President of the fragrance house, Maison Francis Kurkdjian has developed a fragrance for chaps which incorporates the scent of roses.
Working closely with Fabien Ducher, from one of the world’s most famous rose-breeding clans, Kurkdjian tracked him down in his farm near Gier, outside of Lyon to begin a quest for the perfect, multi-facetted perfume for the modern man.
Considering how important the rose is to fragrances- in some scents it is the central facet, Kurkdjian was on a mission to create an undetectable elixir in a combination that was appealing to the modern man. Selecting delicate May buds, the combination of absolute of Centifolia rose from Grasse, grapefruit accord, amber woods, essence of cistus from Spain, essence of Damask rose from Bulgaria, essence of sage from France have been blended to create a sensual scent with fruity notes and a woody accord on the bottom.
With a mission to eliminate the antiquated ways of thinking and smelling, L’homme a la rose is animalistic yet earthy, and is set to to test masculinity by jarring traditional gender values of rose is only for women.
Any man who appreciates the finer things in life will appreciate this new emblem of self-expression, which is encapsulated in a mysterious, sophisticated, indulgent fragrance that will last all day.
Purchase the perfume at Harvey Nichols for £180.
Arts Editor: Christopher George
Like most during this period, Rogers has spent much time close to home. Fueled by the events around the world she's taken this opportunity to dive in to her latest underwater collection, Human.
Drama, movement and light come to life in swirls of color, set against the darkness of night in Rogers' depiction of the strength and opposing vulnerability of humanity. With many public exhibitions closed indefinitely, she decided to release this collection online, one image a month, with complimentary outdoor installations around the world. The first being in London on the streets of the design district, with 20 foot outdoor images posted along the walkways.
The name human was selected to presuppose a coming together of humanity into a modern renaissance, kindled by adversity and tribulation, and flowering into unforeseen new realities. If art was a passageway into the soul and something more profound within ourselves, she reminds us of our own vulnerabilities within a landscape of hope and magic. In Rogers' unique way, she urges us to look beyond the finite boundaries of what's in front of us, and to see between the spaces into a new future.
All of her works are photographed in water, using the refraction of light to create painterly images, and often compared with Baroque and Renaissance paintings. The water within the images flows life to all areas, taking on bold curving forms and transforming everyday people into angelic creatures, seemly from some other place. In these works Rogers hypothesizes the idea that if photons of light are without mass and only perceived because of the eyes, then there must be other things around us that we can not perceive of as of yet.
In 2019 Christy Lee Rogers was selected as Open Photographer of the Year for the Sony World Photography Awards. She is a two time finalist for the Contemporary Talents Award from the Fondation François Schneider in France, and has been commissioned by Apple to create underwater images with the iPhone 11Pro, as well as being featured in one of their behind-the-scenes process films. The Independent of London compared her underwater photography to the works of Caravaggio, Delacroix, Rubens and Titian. CNN mentions "Rogers is changing the way water is used in photography to create images that can easily be mistaken for paintings and that push the boundaries of reality."
Christy Lee Rogers
Arts Editor: Christopher George
No fashion event these days is complete without the presence of legendary illustrator Sue Dray working from the wings, from the front row or in the photographers pit as artist in residence. With a career that has spanned over four decades, Dray has seen the seismic changes in the creative industries, especially in illustration where it was almost wiped out during the 1990s, followed by advent of the digital age.
Working both on paper and canvas, and as a digital illustrator, Dray is always in demand due to her adaptability in this ever changing industry.
Having studied art during the emergence of women’s liberation in the 1970s, and being good friends with Mike Jones from The CLASH, Dray had first hand experience of the London punk scene before relocating to LA during the 1980s, and this period has inspired her both creatively and culturally.
We eventually tracked Dray down, and found her working from an isolated chateau in France. With nowhere for her to escape, she shares her life and career that spans over 40 years, and we would love for you to join us.
When was the first time you discovered a passion and the gift of illustration?
Where do I start, I don’t think I have a gift- for me I had no option in life. I was rubbish at the more academic subjects during school, but loved the more creative ones such as Home Economics (mostly cooking) Dress Making/Designing, Art and Music. These were my favourite topics and the ones I seemed in excel in.
I suppose I stumbled into illustration and it found me. I never really knew what it was until I went to Art School. But I have always loved getting lost in the activity of drawing, there’s a timeless romance to it. The first fashion illustrator and designer that really ignited and fired me up creatively was the Russian-born French artist Erté. His vision and mind was extraordinary to quote “I start a picture and I finish it. I don’t think about art while I work. I try to think about life”.
On leaving school I went on to study at London College of Fashion, 1972. I was a hell raiser (think I still am) and amazingly in that short year I was there I was elected as Vice President of the student union. My manifesto was to allow women to wear trousers into college. It’s unbelievable that we were not allowed to wear them, not that I did, I preferred voluminous vintage Afghani dresses, but the injustice annoyed me. Remember this was the beginning of the ‘Women’s Liberation Movement’ and I wanted to fight our cause. Needless to say, I was asked to leave the college but at that time I was ready to go. I found the course really limiting.
I went on to study at the Hammersmith College of Art and Building in Lime Grove to do a Foundation course in Art. My best mate was Mike Jones who later formed the punk band The Clash. We partied and we drew a lot, and I loved the freedom of producing fantastical images and getting lost in being creative. Illustration just was the natural choice after that.
My first commercial commissions on graduating were for the ground-breaking Women’s Liberation Magazine ‘Spare Rib’. I also worked for all the subcultural publishers such as the Women’s Press, Gay News, Gay Men’s Press, Gai Pied in France and Virago. This work is archived in the British Library, and trust me it’s not my best work, but it gave me an inroad into the industry which I have been involved in for the past 48 years.
Fast forward to 2011; I was recruited to head up the Fashion Illustration Course at London College of Fashion which coincidently was based at Lime Grove. Starting work there was a real trip and memory lane moment for me, having myself been a student in the same building years earlier.
Portia Shaw, Director of POP PR offered tickets for myself and the students to attend the London Fashion Week off schedule shows at Fashion Scout. I told the students, right we are all going to draw from the catwalk, they looked at me horrified saying “how are we going to draw that fast”!
I said “just watch me and learn”, to be honest I had never done it myself, but I was sure I could give it a go which I did, and became hooked. Over the last nine years I have built up a reputation of drawing and painting in the front row and back stage for every season.
Over the last three years I was invited as Artist in Residence to paint for Fashion Scout with my easel along-side the press photographers. I literally set up my studio squashed in amongst a hundred cameras clicking away.
It's a unique style of speed drawing. I for one am a huge fan, and have watched over your shoulder many times as you capture the essence of a collection and the models.
Can you give me some insight into how it is achieved, how do you zone into that momentary creative time, what are the feeling, and what is the adrenaline you experience during the event, the quick method which is essential during the live action of fashion shows.
For me it’s pure heaven and that rush as you say of adrenaline is addictive. Waiting for the shows to start, listening to the buzz of the audience as they jostle for their seats all wanting the front row that’s when I get really excited. I fuss over my materials checking I have everything ready to attack my paper or canvas the moment the lights go down and the music goes up as the show starts.
It’s at this point I blank out, literally, I am not aware of anything or anybody around me, just on looking at the collection, the models, the shoes, the hair and makeup. I am lost in a whirl of texture, silhouette, fabric, colour and movement.
Time has no meaning, it lingers, I stop, take my time but all the while I have to see everything and encapsulate it. I strive in my paintings to recall what we see long after its gone.
Since I first started drawing from the catwalk my work has evolved greatly from simple line to spontaneous paintings. It’s taken me many years to train my eye and hand/eye coordination in recording and seeing in an instant. I have to trust my instinct and training. The pieces I produce are not illustrations as such, but my impression of what I see. They are a sort of hybrid inspired from the collection.
My current practice of drawing and recording visually are singularly embedded in the restraints of time both physically and mentally. The execution of my work relies on the limit, temporals of time. Without the restriction of time my work can’t exist as it does.
This method is essentially about capturing the haptic flow which is in essence about the biology of our sensory receptors. Control and disorder are vital opposites within my work and the keeping the energy, giving imperfection an appreciation, allowing shifting and moving and leakage of the paint. Metaphorically breaking down the walls.
Your work has taken you globally, and for some time you lived in LA during the early 1980s.
Can you give us an insight into your work during this time, as it is so different to where we are now. Also, the roll of an illustrator has changed so much. What would you say those changes have been both negative and positive.
I moved to Los Angeles on finishing Art School in 1978 because I wanted to experience the Californian life style and live in a David Hockney painting. From the moment I arrived I was in love. I brought myself a 1966 champagne coloured, two door Cadillac, fins and all! I moved to Santa Barbara up the coast from LA, and worked for a ceramic design company painting flowers onto their vases. We had to sign every piece we painted.
My nick name was Zetta and I am still known by that name by a whole load of people in the states, and signed off ZETTA followed by a small painted palm tree on the back of the pots. I did commissions painting portraits of people’s beach front properties. Sounds weird but they loved having this crazy English lady sit outside their homes painting away, it was fun and paid my rent.
The 80s back in London were heady times, illustration was prolific and consistently used in editorial, advertising and publishing. I was represented by Ian Fleming & Associates in Dean Street when Soho, was mostly a red-light district with amazing late-night cellar bars.
I was lucky enough to have produced book jackets for high-profile authors, Fay Weldon, Margaret Atwood and John Mortimer. My biggest regret was that due to my extensive work load I had to turn down illustrating the cover for Anne Frank’s Diary.
By contrast, over the years my work has changed considerably, but I am told you can still recognise my line. My work is a bit brutal and raw. I can’t seem to make a pretty or conventionally beautiful drawing I seem to seek out the alternative.
This comes from always considering myself as an outsider, never wanting to conform. I always thought myself different, which is why I have sought out inspiration in sub-cultures and people who express themselves alternatively. I find comfort in the unconventional.
In this age of youth culture and the focus on the next generation of illustrators and artists, one has to reflect on the artists who were working in 70s & 80s a pre-digital age. We were artists that were at the height of an era that used the drawn image as a means of communication. We were working on the cusp of change before the digital age took hold, almost wiping out the profession. Digital imagery has dominated the commercial landscape over the last 30 years relegating the hand drawn image into almost oblivion. However the pendulum has swung and a new wave of appreciation for the drawn image is having a long-waited resurgence.
The industry itself has not really changed much, but as pointed out above communication has, there were no mobile phones, computers or internet. I had one of the first answer phones so I did not miss commissions if I was out seeing clients with my folio. Us illustrators stomped the streets of London dragging our work from one client to the next. We were always seen by the Art Directors, offered a coffee if not lunch. You are lucky today if you ever get to see a client, as everything is done online, so I suppose it’s all become very faceless.
The digital takeover has revolutionised society and the working life of an illustrator in every aspect. It’s so easy now to get your work seen via social media which is brilliant. The community of fashion artists is relatively small but we are a close-knit community and we are all constantly supporting each other, this never happened in the past as you worked in total isolation only ever really seeing your agent or the client.
It must have been an incredible part of your journey witnessing your career. What have been those particular highlights. And also some of the difficult periods with the industry.
Yes, it’s been a long journey but one I love and I have never regretted my choices. I love teaching and drawing and getting paid for it, what a luxury. I have only recently started to archive my work and seeing the timelines I have travelled through. My archive is large and it spans several decades. I have kept a lot of my work, its squirrelled away, haha though I’m not sure why!
Highlights and difficult periods: there are so many highlights where do I start.
Possibly the first was being invited out to South Africa to work with Sheelagh Wright from UCA on a collaborative project with Karen Millen, HOPEHIV and Project Gateway in Pietermaritzburg 2006/7/8. The aim of this school is to provide a future in fashion for a young generation affected by both HIV and poverty. It was one of the most important and humbling experiences of my life.
Working for Vivienne Westwood drawing backstage. I am also featured in the film, Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist if only for a nano-second, scribbling away.
I love getting the opportunity to paint the maverick and bold Pam Hogg collections, I’ve pretty much drawn all her work since 2013.
Another highlight two years ago was artist in residence at the Villa Lena Foundation in Tuscany. I drove out in my old battered camper van and had the most wonderful of experiences working with other international artists from every discipline including the brilliant Tal Walker, concert pianist.
I have to also add that over lockdown I have been a guest lecturer at the Royal College of Art and I am involved with a group of incredible students producing a ZINE in collaboration with The Design Museum. I am thrilled to be working with these students and with the college it’s been a life-long dream.
The difficult periods are hard to say but I suppose adjusting in the early 90s when illustration simply dried up overnight due to the onset of the computer and in particular Photoshop. Funnily enough years later Apple helped my resurgence as a fashion illustrator by sponsoring me and giving me their new iPad Pro to test out on the catwalk, for a while it was my only tool. I was obsessed with how easy it was to draw with and took it to Paris fashion week and again to Tbilisi fashion week in Georgia. Instead of having to carry a load of paint and paper I simply had to pack my slim line iPad!
A huge frustration over the years has been recognition by the ‘Art World’ as there is a lot of snobbery attached to the humble illustrator. Fashion Illustration lies between the two disciplines bridging the gap between high art and commercial art. There is still debate and friction with our profession but one I believe is slowly changing.
Having separations as a creative is essential for the commercial artist.
We all have produced commercial art that is creative. But it is crucial to allow the pure creative to have its time, where it is not under the dependence of commercial control. What has your personal journey been over your career on this balance, that can be difficult for some artists.
Every illustrator gets frustrated with the constraints of a commercial brief and the seemingly endless changes of the artwork, demanded from the Art Director. Sometimes the work is so over directed that it loses its spirit and the original vision of the artist. Which is why it’s so important for creatives to produce their own work free from commercial control, to keep them both sane and to keep their vision honest and current. When experiencing a dry period such as the lockdown It’s crucial that artists focus on developing their own work, and this enforced period of isolation has been an incredibly rich creative experience for all artists. I am also pursuing a digital special effect animation studio in LA and experimenting in moving image, I want to see my drawings walk! Haha.
When you are working on your personal work, are you more isolated and do you still have the ability to work with the same ease, as a lot of your work is the total opposite when you are in very busy environments full of energy.
It’s actually difficult for me when I am doing commissions in my studio, as you know, I thrive off people and atmosphere so my studio can lack the vibe that I love so much. I try to capture and recreate the live situation by timing myself and I always stand to draw, sitting makes my work look lazy with no urgency or life. I also attend lots of themed life drawing classes all over London travelling to Dalston and Borough Market from my home in Battersea, this keeps my eye and hand tuned in. During the lockdown, I have done lots of online classes there are quite a few about but it’s not the same as a live situation.
It’s unavoidable to be in silence when working on the fashion catwalk. But when you are working in your studio, do you have silence or do you listen to music.
Can you let us know what your studio environment is like, along with the music you play.
As I mostly work away from my studio where I am subject to other music and noise, and during catwalk shows the sound levels are extreme so I tend to blank out sound, having said that I adore classical music something that stirs the soul and makes me feel so in the moment and focused. I love it when I am painting live from the catwalk and the designer plays some dramatic classical or contemporary music, I get swept away with the drama of it all. If I am not listening to music I love radio 4, of course! It’s the plays and stories that I get lost in whilst I am painting. You can’t really talk and you can’t watch TV when drawing and painting, but stories or music just adds to the vibe of painting without the visual distraction.
Who have been some of your biggest influences over your career. And do you still have a person or genre that you go back to for inspiration.
I really can’t say anything or person in particular because there are so many. If I have to name a few people it will be my tutors at art college Glynn Boyd Harte, he encouraged me to draw and draw with confidence. David De Silva for showing me the importance of light and shadow. The fashion illustrators whom I most admire are Jo Brocklehurst who I just adore for her incredible drawings of the punk scene in London, she was the most inspiring artist of her time. Antonio Lopez and Tony Viramontes both master draughtsman who worked extensively during the 80s and sadly both died of AIDS related illness. Also, Rene Gruau and Carl Erickson two of the giants of our profession who worked for the haute couture world during the 40s and 50s.
Can you let us know 10 items that could represent your ‘Pallet’ as a creative and as a person. This can be anything, any one, sound, colour, shape or experience.
During such turbulent times the art industry and community can often be that active voice and vision that reaches out. What are your thoughts on this, and the importance and diversity of the creative community.
I say, without hesitation the creative community are the freethinkers and the boundary pushers of society. They are the people that support what I believe to be the way forward in the world. Socialism, Diversity and Sustainability are all issues that the artist/creatives gravitate towards.
Recently I have been so heartened to see such inspirational material on Instagram in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and a few years ago, during the #MeToo movement. Art talks to everyone as it has no language barrier.
As visual communicator’s we all have a responsibility to promote social responsibility and in particular sustainability, exactly how we do it is the question.
Artist, designer, musician and anthropologist, Johny Dar has released a remix of "Be Free by DJ Paolo Tossio" to bring some lightness to the current lockdown.
If you need to be uplifted, or inspired, turn your speakers up and check out the YouTube video here
Music & Art Direction - Johny Dar
Creative Direction - Johny Dar & Mindstronaut
Music Video - Mindstronaut
Remix Production - Paolo Tossio
Video Production - Art'nStudio
Characterisation and Dance - Ami Stidolph
Online party - Morning Gloryville
Original Be Free single by Johny Dar and Dan Vinci
Arts Editor: Christopher George .
James Earley’s paintings are as close to photographs as you can get. One of the world’s leading Hyperrealism artists. His works challenge the society and capitalist culture we live in, where so much suffering and persecution towards the human race is rampant on our doorsteps.
Acclaimed for his talent in portraying the gritty reality of the human condition, that is so often overlooked in the art market, Earley’s works are compelling and emotive, yet portray a humanistic view with compassion whilst dealing with topics of poverty, war and injustice.
Raw emotions are layered in visual terms, with this one man activist on a mission to shine a very bright light on the damage being directed towards the human race.
We gained access to Earey’s mind for a frank and honest interview about the man, his beliefs and why it is so important to keep activism moving against the damaging changes we are witnessing.
You have an extreme gift for visual representation of the truth. Your paintings are so close to photography it’s pretty astounding. How would you explain this talent?
I found childhood was a real challenge. I was not good at being a child. Complexity, anxiety, and depression were woven into my core fabric, and it was only art that allowed me to break free from these demons, a freedom that would last just as long as I was drawing or painting.
I often and still do doubt myself, and I guess it is this self doubt that guided me towards realism art. I would often see abstract art and I would marvel at and admire the courage that someone would have in creating those works and then showing them to the public, knowing full well that they would be open to all sorts of criticism, such as “my child could do better than that”.
I was amazed at the courage that artists had by putting themselves in the firing line. I would produce art that was measurable; realism is measurable into how closely it looked like the real image, the real person.
It was this self doubt that sent me into realism, I wouldn’t change anything. I am happy I took that path. My confidence has broken through in my art, and I find realism is the perfect and most powerful gun for the bullets of my message to hit so many different people.
You have always been an artist, but for many years you turned your back on art. Was this a society pressure to generalise yourself in this world. And tell me about the background noise of art resonating within you while you abandoned it.
My childhood was difficult. I was odd, strange and different. I preferred my own company, I still do. I had a lot of publicity as a child because of my artistic ability, and a spotlight on me regarding it that I hated.
Art was for me an escape yet it was now forcing me back into the world that I was escaping from. I felt like an animal on display in a zoo. I wanted to hide. So I tried to hide under normality, and studied to get a normal job and I went into Law.
Every night I would go to bed knowing that I had wasted a day. I truly believe that everyone is given a talent, a gift, but most people do not have the courage to try and find it. I had the gift in front of me, I did not have to find it yet I turned my back on that gift.
After twenty years of knowing that I was lying every second of the day I had a breakdown. I completely collapsed and a week later I decided with my family to sell our house and move to the south of France to be an artist. So one week after my breakdown we were living in the south of France. I had not picked up a paint brush for twenty years and I had never been to France before that.
That's an incredible journey, and one that is so very unique, but also one that is so common with many people experiencing a ‘Nervous breakdown, Spiritual awakening, Midlife crisis, Middle passage’. There are many terms that can go to phrase this crucially important part of human growth. And each is unique to the individual person that experiences it.
Where would you place yourself in this field?
I do not know what to call it. All I know is that I woke up one day a different person. Leading up to this I was extremely busy. The week after I got back from Auschwitz I was curating an exhibition at a gallery in London for the very first time as I had started a business representing artists.
I was running the London Marathon that weekend, and the day before that I was abseiling down the Spinnaker tower in Portsmouth for charity. I was doing all this whilst doing my normal job, which at the time was involved in a business take-over. Most people feel that I was doing too much, but for me that was not the case.
The problem was I was doing what I was not meant to be doing. I was working in a profession that I did not fit into, and I had to constantly reshape myself to fit into it. I just feel that with so much going on, and with a trip to Auschwitz which displayed in a unique and frighteningly direct way the fragility of life, I suddenly had my eyes forced open. I saw a crossroads and a path to take me where I could be myself and stop the continuous struggle going on in my mind.
This was an awakening I suppose, but initially I went through a huge sense of trauma trying to justify the last few years of my life.
Your works generate a lot around social issues. Do you college visuals together from different sources, or are you working from your mind and the influence of news items. If you can tell us your work process.
I am a very emotional person. My emotions are extreme. I can be very very angry and I often cry when I paint. I often feel when I am outside the studio like I am in a dodgem car hitting and smashing into so many issues and emotions. I would see a homeless man begging, I would hear of the racism in the world, the bombings in Iraq, Jordan and Syria. I would feel a ball of anger in me getting bigger and bigger like a balloon. I would need to express this anger in a sanitary way such as talking, but because I am not particularly good at that I would have to pour this emotion onto a canvas.
I would imagine a scene and draw it. I would know straight away what the message I wanted to portray was, and I would refer to photos as well as my imagination to help build up the painting.
What were your early works inspired by as a youngster- did they refer to social issues?
I think that the first portrait I painted was a homeless person. As a child I was gifted with what every child is gifted with and that is honesty, purity, and empathy, and I could not understand why someone was poor and could not afford to eat and have shelter, yet other people seemed to be drowning in their wealth.
Obviously as you get older the master teacher that is capitalism tells you that this is perfectly normal and correct. I had to paint things that were strange and odd to me. Because I was a child this concept of inequality was strange.
In your referencing and research, what artists have over the years influenced you and why.
When I visited galleries as a child the work that I was drawn to were works that told a story, often the characters in this story would be living on the very edge of a cliff and could fall and die at any moment. It was this raw emotion, this anger that seems to make the painting breathe and scream, and this resonated with me.
I would be drawn to the works of Caravaggio who would paint images that would grab hold of you and shake you. He was sticking two fingers up at the art world, that felt paintings should be aesthetically pleasing. I really admire him for that.
Apart from artists, what other influences would you say feed into your works and give meaning to your process?
I really admire those that speak from their heart, those that do not care about class or colour and would keep pushing forward even as it got more and more uncomfortable. I really admire Martin Luther King Junior and all those in the US civil rights movement. I admire music artists such as Joe Strummer of The Clash who I believe wrote some of the most powerful lyrics about the class structure here in the UK.
I would strongly recommend listening to “Know Your Rights” and “Something about England” by ‘The Clash’ which are modern masterpieces. I also admire Mat Johnson of ‘The The’ who spoke of imperialism and inequality.
You’re not influenced by the flatness of fame, power and wealth which is honourable during this time of celebrity megalomania. But is there a part of you that would also like to take on such processes of portraying fame and know identity in say a more traditional portraiture style.
The word “Fame” does not mean anything to me. I am not really impressed more by someone just because they have more followers on social media. I am intrigued by everyone. I feel that everyone has a story and if I am affected by that story in an emotional way then I would love to paint that person. I would paint the Queen, although I would not bow down to her, and I would equally like to paint any of her staff, as long as when I take a deep look into their eyes I could see an emotion that I could cling to. Like clinging to a buoy in the sea as the waves crash around it.
You have a poetic tragedy about yourself that is both beautiful and harrowing. What would your response be to that?
I have three children. Having these three children was the hardest thing that me and my wife Julia went through. We did not know it at the time but my wife had a condition that meant she would go into labour prematurely, normally at about 24 weeks. Our first daughter Matilda was born at 24 weeks but despite efforts of doctors and nurses in trying to resuscitate her, she died just after being born. We buried her in a tiny coffin and my world was black and dark after that.
Not knowing we had a problem, not knowing why this happened we were excited but a little scared when my wife became pregnant again. Unfortunately she went into labour at 23 weeks. Our daughter Jemima was born, her tiny heart was beating and so she was rushed into intensive care and put onto a ventilator. She was in hospital for 7 months. We were constantly told she would not make it. Her heart, lungs and kidneys all failed at some point but she kept fighting. We lived on the edge for seven months. At night every time the phone would ring we feared the worse. Eventually Jemima came out of hospital and is now a healthy 16 year old girl.
Once my wife was diagnosed we had two more children all healthy. I truly believe from this experience that this was meant to happen. I believe Matilda is our angel and looks down on us. She was meant to be an angel and If she had not been born so early and sadly died we would not have had Jemima just a few months later.
I can not describe the pain and emotion of this period, I could write a book about it but going through this tragedy and then seeing something amazing come out of it grows a seed of optimism that explodes out of the ground into a rock solid tree.
How is your workspace, if you can talk us through that environment. And how is your work schedule, how do you keep active with it. Are you constantly producing works?
My workspace is a bit like me; untidy, hectic but direct. I normally have three paintings on the go at any one time. When you work with oil paints as I do, the problem is the drying time. So I would normally work on the underpainting of one painting, and whilst this is drying which can take about two weeks, I can then work on other paintings.
There are hundreds of brushes lying around together with plates covered with dry paint which grow on them like stalagmites.
What is a break for you away from art and social issues?
I am blessed to have three healthy children and they inspire me with their enthusiasm for life. I don't really have a break from my art. I am always thinking about my painting and I normally spend 10 hours a day in the studio 6 days a week. I really can not stop.
I feel that this is my reason to be alive, I also feel that I could die at any moment, so I have to get my message across, I really have to.
What gives you hope?
The youth of today give me hope. The young who followed Jeremy Corbyn here in the UK, and the young in America who supported heroically Bernie Sanders in the democratic candidate race before both leaders were eventually beaten, smothered and strangled by the rich and powerful who welcomed the status quo and saw any movement who wanted to address these inequalities as a threat to their bank balance.
Yes I totally agree with you on Corbyn and Sanders. I was devastated by the level of corruption from the press and corporation, but more so what I feel is the stupidity of the general public for actually believing the manufactured press. That finished my political activism, I really felt there wasn’t any point in engaging in a political system that is pretty much sewn up, and merely a staged performance. What advice would you give to those who have lost a belief in the political system and any potential for positive change?
The odds are all stacked against us. A few powerful people call the shots, but this is no reason to accept it. In fact it should inspire you to fight this injustice.
Martin Luther King Junior did not just accept it. He built a huge movement from nothing without using violence. He demanded people to have a deep conversation with their heart, he built a huge following that changed the world. Okay there is still a huge level of racism in the US. but when a country is stolen from its natives as the US was and built on a system of slavery, you can see the odds were stacked against the civil rights movement probably more than they are stacked against us today.
Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi who also used the power of words and non violence to change the world. I live by the principal that if I know something is wrong and I see something is wrong there is no Fucking way I am going to look away.
Mental health issues are a huge problem, especially in the male population. What thoughts do you have on mental health and how we can independently work towards a more peaceful existence?
Mental health is the biggest problem facing humanity today. In the recent past I have known children of close friends of mine commit suicide, and I have spoken to hundreds of homeless who are tortured by mental health, and often see a cold wet pavement as an escape. I see children look on social media and try to compare their life with the rich and famous and then label themselves as “failures”.
I firmly believe that as we live in an environment whereby someone is valued based on their bank balance, and that this pursuit of wealth is relentless and ruthless, then mental health issues will only get worse.
I believe that empathy fades away in this march for material things. I guess the only way mental health will improve in an economy that rewards this pursuit with huge inequality, is if there is money in helping people with mental health issues. But of course as there is no real financial gain in helping someone with these problems, then the wheel turns in the same direction.
Tell us what music if any you listen to in the studio. And what music was playing the past 2 hours you were working.
I love listening to music. I really try to understand the lyrics. I listen to The The, The Jam, The Verve and The Clash in my studio. Lyrics can be the spark that ignites a painting for me. I recently heard the lyrics of a song by The The called “Armageddon days are Here (again)” which stated ”If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today he would be gunned down cold by the CIA”. I intend to create a painting about this.
What items do you have coming up in the next few months.
My plans are a little up in the air at the moment. I should have had my first solo show in Chicago in March and in New York in May of this year, and I am hoping that these will be postponed until November.
My main project was to create seven portraits for the charity.
“The Innocence Project” which is a US charity whose mission is to exonerate individuals who it claims have been wrongly convicted through the use of DNA testing, and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. I will be spending time with people who have been on death row in some circumstances, getting to know them and eventually painting their portraits.
These portraits I hope would be on display in a gallery in London and one in New York with all sale proceeds going to the charity.
When I sell any painting now I donate some of the proceeds to the Innocence Project as well as the homeless charity “New Hope” who are based in Watford.
Charities. the innocence project
Arts Editor: Christopher George
Working in the language of landscape and topography, American artist Brian Reinker creates colourful abstractions depicting real and imagined places with the discipline of an architect. We caught up with him at his South London studio prior to his forthcoming solo show.
What is your background?
I am originally from Ohio in the US Midwest and from a child was interested in art, design and architecture. I remember drawing on the walls and my mother not being very pleased about that!
I studied Fine Arts and Art History at University and also did a degree in Architecture and Design. I came to London in 1986 to study at the Architectural Association and I never left! I worked as a design director on building projects all over Europe but always wanted to be able to concentrate full time on art again, which is what I am now doing from my studio in Waterloo.
How would you describe your work? Talk us through your creative process,
My focus is on urban environments and landscapes, using ink and pencil drawing, paint on canvas and more recently, paper and other media on aluminium panels. I am inspired by maps, buildings and personal travel experiences. I usually sketch out a work in pencil and then start by gathering materials and making. The process of the physical making of something is important to me.
Who and what are your biggest influences?
The support of my partner is my biggest influence, he encourages me to explore new avenues and we discuss ideas and options together. I do not think that there is a single artist, but the modernist, mid century and more architecturally or graphic artists are inspiring.
What makes you get up and create art?
Having worked in the corporate world, I still have that strong urge to get up and get going. I tend to review the past few days work and then get excited about getting back to the studio and make any changes or try different options until I am satisfied.
What are you currently working on?
My first London solo show – Paper-Scissors-Rock, which opens at Hoxton 253 Gallery on 21 November! For the past year, I have been concentrating on working with paper, foil, vinyl and other materials mounted on aluminium panels. I tend to work in series or sets of ideas that I explore a theme with. I have been exploring building facades and most recently abstracted horizon landscapes and vertical views through air and forests. I’m looking forward to showing all these new works at the show!
Brian Reinker: Paper-Scissors-Rock is at Hoxton 253, from 21-23 November. 253 Hoxton Street, London N1 5LG
BY SARA DARLING
Representing art from around the world, ‘Imago Mundi’ began as a collection of artworks commissioned and collected during the world travels of Luciano Benetton- one of the creators of the global fashion brand United Colors of Benetton.
Carefully developed and curated into an exhibition, 'Don't ask me where I’m from’ has brought together fifteen artists from second generation immigrants who represent 23 countries from all over the world, as part of a group exhibition which opens at Imago Mundi’s 'Gallerie delle Prigioni', in Treviso, Italy.
Given a platform to reflect on their community and society, the unique show aims to highlight life today, and consists of a growing body of people, raised in an environment other than their parents. The chosen artists have a diverse sense of identity and their works explore cross-cultural artistic realities and highlight how they are able to navigate between different cultures.
Hailing from all over the globe and making a life for themselves in places they were not born, these chosen artists are celebrated for their “difference” and include Shinpei Takeda of Japanese origin but lives between Tijuana (Mexico) and Berlin. El Seed is French with Tunisian parents and practices "calligraphy" (a mix of Islamic calligraphy and street art). Jeanno Gussi is Afghan but lives in Berlin, which helps to demonstrate the fusion of cultures in our daily lives, wherever they are.
Making a statement on nationality, roots and immigration, the exhibition is timely and hopes to forge a deeper understanding between cultures and communities, and a respect for diversity and difference.
The exhibition will be on show from 27 November at Imago Mundi’s Gallerie delle Prigioni, Treviso, Italy, before travelling to the Aga Khan Museum in March 2020.
Arts Editor: Christopher George
Vincent Kamp is an artist known for his striking portraits of gangsters, bearded gamblers and tattooed barbers… (and Sam Smith!).
His love of edgy characters and moody atmospheres is obvious in his work. Fascinated by the underground world of urban subculture, Kamp delves beneath the surface of social class, creating intense portraits of people in a fused background of cinematic lighting, brooding tension and impending drama. He (unsurprisingly) cites film, especially the gangster genre, as one of his main influences as a painter.
Last year, he created a series of paintings based on a story he wrote called The Long Game, so it may not come as a big surprise that he has finally turned his hand at film-making for his latest project. ‘Queen of Diamonds’ is a stylish short film scripted by Kamp himself and co-directed with Naeem Mahmood, the award-winning director of ‘Bright Young Turks’.
Kamp explains: ‘I made this film to show how I visualise the story before I tell it with paint. My paintings have always been inspired by cinematographers and I felt it was time to take that creative influence to the next level”.
Featuring a top cast that include Giorgia May Foote (Coronation Street), Tamer Hussan (Layer Cake), Leo Gregory (Once Upon a Time in London) and Samuel Anderson (The History Boys), Queen of Diamonds is a short thriller about an audacious plot to rob an international diamond trader.
But the film is only the starting point for Kamp’s next exhibition opening on 12 September at Clarendon Fine Art in London’s Mayfair where Queen of Diamonds will be screened alongside a new series of paintings based on the film.
Until then you can watch the trailer for Queen of Diamonds here: Queen of Diamonds Trailer
Queen of Diamonds will be at Clarendon Fine Art, Mayfair, 46 Dover Street, London W1S 4FF from 12 to 28 September 2019
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