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
Peter Mammes is a South African artist currently based in London. His first solo UK show opens on 5 September at Hoxton 253 and we caught up with him at his studio in Whitechapel, East London.
Arts Editor: Christopher George
Hi Peter. Can you tell us about yourself and your background?
I grew up as part of an isolated Afrikaans-speaking community during the collapse of the apartheid regime and the transition to a democratic, multi-cultural government. As a child I witnessed the change of the country’s collective social and economic norms and these experiences have been a major factor in my development as an artist.
What’s your latest exhibition about?
The show is called PRESUMED ALIVE – It’s a play on “Presumed Dead”, a term often used in times of war or unusual circumstances that demand legal closure. My new work deals with the colonial history of the British Empire and features imagery of wounded soldiers, Victorian-era medical equipment, bandaged limbs and mummified animals. I then mix it all with cheerful patterns and vibrant colours which I source from my own experiences of living in South Africa and Russia, as well as from recent travels to Namibia, Egypt and India.
Where did you get your inspiration from for this show?
I spent quite some time researching for material at the National Army Museum Archives and the Wellcome Collection in London. I focused my attention on the First World War, the Boer Wars and Victorian medicine. The bandages and splints give a sense of unease and a correcting of sorts. It’s like I’m trying to mend things through my work, lick the wounds, offer a glimmer of hope and an escape from isolation.
At first glance, the subject matter may sound a bit macabre but your work looks beautiful, almost unnervingly so! How do you manage that?
It’s all down to the patterns and the colour I add to my work. I like to draw attention to the beauty of the things society tries to hide and to the things we think of as unusual in order to question our current sense of normality. I grapple with the way in which what we consider benign and banal today might be in the future, or have been in the past, considered pathological and bizarre.
Tell us more about the patterns.
I’ve always been interested in patterns. Thoughts occur as patterns; our lives are made up of events that occur as repetitions; history is repeated in patterned compositions. I am fascinated by the way nature forms patterns, even those that are grotesque. There are patterns, harmony and symmetry in deformities, which imbue them with grace and beauty. I’m also very interested in symbolism so I like to play with the idea of juxtaposing different symbols to depict a rich patterned plane of line work and colour.
Presumed Alive is presented by Hoxton 253 Art Project Space
253 Hoxton Street, London N1 5LG
6-15 September (12-8pm)
Private View: Thursday 5 September. 6-9pm
Arts Editor: Christopher George
Written whilst on the road in spots including Paris, Mexico, Los Angeles, the UK and New York, ALA.NI created ’ACCA’ by layering up hundreds of vocal tracks, some of which imitate the sounds of instruments, building a hypnotic world that blurs the lines between vibrating vocal cords, bowed strings, and blown reeds. Written - as with ‘You & I’ - a cappella, with ‘ACCA’ ALA.NI pushes a vocals-only technique to its furthest possibilities. ‘ACCA’ is made up entirely of human voices - beatboxing serving as percussion, with ALA.NI lowering her own vocals to create the illusion of bass, whilst percussive elements were created using everything from beer bottles and tennis balls to ALA.NI’s own body and the studio walls. “It was all pretty lo-fi on my end,” says ALA.NI, who often captured songs on the fly using a laptop whilst in transit. “I didn’t record to a click, I didn’t use a tuner; I’d just press record and lay down whatever came out.”
ALA.NI new self-written, produced & arranged album 'ACCA' due for release early 2020, with guest artist Iggy Pop and Lakeith Stanfield.
Interview: Christopher George
David Lock brings together a ‘monstrous’ but beautiful dialogue in the relationship of our human species. Often with an ambiguous narrative on the power play within couplings; David Lock has become a highly sought after artist, not only for his modern take on portraiture and figurative painting, but also for his interpretation on the classics of painting.
SoEdited gained exclusive time to interview Lock before a season of exhibitions he has embarked on.
SE: You use collage in your portrait works, creating a mix match of characters that almost have a schizophrenic personality- could you tell us why?
D: For me the collage is a way of keeping things in flux. My work is about masculinity and I’m interested in how we as men demonstrate masculinity. It changes from moment to moment, and in that way I just want to keep different moments in play.
SE: How do you work with collage and then bring this into your own painting format. And why is the collage system so interesting to you?
D: It allows me to pose questions, so it’s open-ended in that way. I usually directly cut up magazines or I take images from the internet, I like the use of digital as its the world we now live in.
In taking mass-media images and then mixing them into paintings, it changes the context and becomes about masculinity in relation to the history of painting. Of course there’s also a history with collage- for example Dada. But with painting you’re entering into a dialogue steeped in tradition, and that constant need to keep it urgent and engaging.
SE: Sexuality is a strong part of your work. What is the mystique in sexuality that fascinates you when produce your paintings.
D: It’s a tricky one. Sexuality fascinates me, it’s a powerful drive. I want to ask questions about the differences when it comes to desire. I don’t just want to recreate standard tropes of homoerotic desire, so i’m trying to find new ways to explore the homoerotic imaginary, and that’s not necessarily an easy thing to do.
SE: We seem to have 2 spectrums of power in your works; money and youth. Can you talk to me from your perspective.
D: My images are taken from mainstream magazines, so there’s a power structure inherent as a capital force. However I never think about capital/money in terms of my paintings content; of course that might be a by-product of the figures I choose to assemble.
For a while with the Misfit paintings I just made portraits, but then I felt I should give them a context. I am interested in undermining and playing with the ‘ideal’ in terms of masculinities, and so the environments they are in can then become the desirable element. By breaking that up through collaging and frustrating its reading, I then reimagine it as a kind of ‘monstrous coupling’.
There’s a resistance and you’re undermining that power structure. It’s the same with my more direct paintings. I’m interested in questioning society’s ideals of masculinities, that’s why I work from the mass-media images rather than from life models. The images I choose to make a painting from, they have to already be functioning as a desirable object in a magazine or whatever other portal of desire I use as a resource tool.
SE: This sexual power spectrum is as old as currency itself, and never looses its grip on us humans. Why do you think this is such a powerful situation across all sexualities?
D: From our perspective, we live in a western capitalist democracy. It’s about power and nothing sells like sex and desire. It’s based around lacking and constantly needing to be fulfilled.
SE: With currency and sex being such a stable part of society, why do you think in the 21st century we still have such a difficult situation in accepting sex?
D: I think our ideas of sexuality are still very rigid, and based on heteronormativity. I think the problem stems from conformity and control. Progressive society breaks down barriers, but if those hard fought for liberal values of full equality are not demanded and reinforced, our civil liberties will become eroded again. You can already see that happening in the USA, and already we have a lack of tolerance emerging in the UK. We now live in a culture where a divisive rhetoric is winning. Only recently, people thought the USA and the UK were reliable western democracies but now we are looking like a hopeless mess. When you see the censorship and homophobia increasing in Russia, whose to say that could not happen here. We are witnessing an increase in LGBT hate crime right now. Where will this end?
SE: As a dancer with the Candoco Dance Company from 2001, how was this experience on a personal level, and how did this then feed into your paintings?
D: It was great, I loved working with them. I’d danced since the 80’s as I was a breakdancer, so dance was always something close to my heart. It was great to be part of an ensemble, pushing each other in various creative ways, from our wonderful Artistic Director Celeste Dandeker OBE, through to the other dancers and the great choreographers we worked with.
It was an honour to be a part of Candoco, and when I joined they had already established themselves as the leading dance company of disabled and non disabled dancers. We all really strove and pushed each other to produce the best work.
After leaving Candoco I wanted to get that sense of movement into my paintings. I want the figures and their surroundings to be fluid and dynamic.
SE: When you’re at your studio do you like to be isolated and work in silence. Or is the studio a social area where you listen to music. What sounds do you like to have in the studio to inspire your mood, or to just give you some background noise. Is your studio and work place a relaxed environment, or is it a place where you need to concentrate and be focused.
D: It just depends what mood i’m in. I go into the studio and evaluate what i’ve done the day before with fresh eyes, it’s a focused atmosphere.
Often it’s silence, just me and the painting. Other times it’s music and occasionally the radio. I’ll put Spotify on my phone or shuffle my iPod until I hear something come on I want to play more, Kate Bush say, or The Weekend. I get so absorbed in painting though that an album goes by in two minutes, I hardly notice it’s ended.
I share my studio with my partner Stephen. He has a nice space at the back. He’s studying for an OU degree, so I also have to negotiate the space with him.
SE: You’ve been in London for many years now. Is there somewhere else you would like to potentially spend more time? From your paintings we have an idea of blue sky, tropical plants, hot weather. Do you crave for what you create in your paintings?
D: No, not at all, I quite like grey London, at least whilst holding out praying for Brexit not to happen. The tropical trees and blue skies were really just a couple of paintings I made when I was researching and fascinated by William Burroughs and Joe Orton in Tangiers. From that I made the paintings ‘Misfits (Garden)’ and ‘El Muniria’ which was in last years ‘John Moores Painting Prize’. I was thrilled about that, as it’s the UK’s most prestigious painting award. Then the Walker Art Gallery purchased the painting for their permanent collection!
SE: Leicester. Grim, grey, depressing, un-accepting and certainly not cosmopolitan… Sorry if you find my observation offensive, but I am also from the area so find it completely acceptable to beat the place up! But what is your relationship to Leicester. And what did Leicester bring into your work?
D: Haha, yes it’s funny those places form you as a person, that sense of not belonging, of being bored and wanting to escape. However growing up in the 80’s I found kindred spirits who also loved bands like The Pixies, My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins. We’d go to clubs like the Fan Club and later Streetlife, Leicesters gay club. The Alternative scene, then afterwards trying to avoid getting beaten up by the townies in the taxi rank on the way home. It definitely wasn’t cosmopolitan! However, I made lasting lifelong friends growing up there, so it doesn’t matter where you are, you eventually find your tribe. That sense of not fitting in, that can be a positive thing, it definitely informed my work, it’s good to be awkward and let things go awry.
SE: What music have you been listening to today, and why?
D: I was listening to the amazing make-up artist Pat McGrath on Desert Island Discs. She was just fab. One of her choices was ‘La Vie En Rose’ by Grace Jones, so after that I put ‘Island Life’ on. I love that album and I used to listen to it a lot.
I’ve also been listening to ‘Chris’, the new album by Christina and the Queens. I loved her first album, but with this new one, I really like how she’s playing with gender, and identifying as a man in a performative way, bringing that to a pop context, it’s brilliant.
For Exhibition Updates:
Arts Editor: Christopher George
With a hint of Art Nouveau’s Aubrey Beardsley black lines and detailed patterns, Benjamin Murphy uses electrical tape to create and glamourise the female form. Creating a snapshot of a moment, a fleeting glimpse of inner thoughts via the gesture of a figurative movement.
Murphy is a stable part of the London art scene, yet not affiliated to any particular scene, and has forged out his own niche in the past 10 years.
SoEdited caught up with Benjamin to chat about his developing style.
Some of your early works document social situations. What was behind these ideas?
I try to depict people in unposed scenarios, as if we are seeing them during their private moments of inaction and introspection. For this reason I try to keep the actual action to an absolute minimum so as to leave the figures to be shown in contemplation rather than in the process of doing something. I want the work to feel very slow and quiet, but with the suggestion that more is going on in the characters mind - that’s where the action sits. These kind of scenarios can naturally look quite melancholic, and people can read into that whatever they like. I prefer to give the viewer as much scope to interpret my work as possible, and I think that any interpretation of an artwork is the correct one.
Some high-profile portraits have been part of your work. How is it to work with a subject, rather than just your imagination?
The actress Olivia Coleman commissioned me to draw her and her husband a few years ago, and they were both the loveliest people to work with, so that was an absolute pleasure. I went round their house photographing lots of patterns and objects to include in the background, so there were lots of sentimental items represented. They were very happy with the piece.
On the whole though, the portraits I’ve been commissioned to do have usually been much stranger subjects, which I think suits my work quite nicely.
I was asked a few years ago to draw Fred & Rose West, which meant that whatever I did, the work was going to invoke strong reactions. A few serendipitous and coincidental things happened, linking myself to them at the time I was making it, which was interesting.
The male portrait and figure has very recently become part of you concentration in portraits. Why now?
I decided that I had been working very much within my comfort-zone, and so as soon as I identified that, it was time for a course-correction.
From your perspective. What is the difference between the male and the female as a muse?
The male figure is a lot easier to draw in general, as any slight diversions in line just appear as musculature. It’s harder to capture things like tenderness with the male form, but it’s important to challenge oneself with things like this, and to think about why these challenges may exist in the first place.
If we at SoEdited were to give you a commission, what would it be?
People keep asking me to do a self-portrait, which I always avoid. Perhaps it’s time.
When working in your studio, are you more comfortable being isolated or is it a social atmosphere?
My studio needs to be a very solitary place. Often I’ll spend days on one pattern, which can be unimaginably repetitive and my brain needs to pretty much switch off from it so as to be able to repeat the same action over and over again for hours at a time. The slightest distraction makes this progress very hard.
Aside from that my studio is less like the Baconesque studio most people imagine all artists to inhabit, and a lot more like a study or an office. There are lots of plants and books, and obviously lots of art works on the walls.
We have seen you grow into a very handsome man. What would you consider the attributes of being a handsome man?
To quote Marilyn Manson - “I am not an artist I’m a fucking work of art.”
What was the last thing that offended you?
Offence is a very loaded term these days, and it’s been given more power than it deserves. People are so worried about offending or being offended that they completely shy away from debate, and opposing groups never interact. I believe that all topics should be on the table for discussion, even abhorrent ones, as the most successful way to tackle intolerance and bigotry is to undermine them in serious debate.
There are a lot of things politically that have been pissing me off recently, but for reasons stated above, I’m reticent to use the term offended.
Have you been upset in the last 6 months. If so why...
I’m an eternal optimist, so not really no. I’ve seen a lot of sad things like everyone does, but I try to accept them and learn from them where possible. I’ve seen people die and relationships break down, but I am very much of the belief that we are not defined by things that happen to us, but by how we respond to such things.
You have an ability to be quite blunt. What is this bluntness?
Haha this is something I try to combat daily. I’m often quite indelicate! My friend Nick described my demeanour the other day as ”northern stoicism”, which is probably pretty apt - and absolves me from any responsibility, as it’s inbuilt and genetic.
What five songs define you?
The last five artists I’ve listened to on Spotify are:
Motörhead, Iggy Pop, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Slayer, Alice In Chains.
IS there a film that you wish you could have lived?
Benjamin Murphy - ANTIHERO
Private view 03/07/19 18:00-2200
Show runs every day until the 11th.
Exhibition graciously supported by Paja&Bureau, Creat, and drinks for the private view supplied by Suomenlinnan Panimo
Art Editor: Christopher George
Romina Ressia first solo exhibition at the prestigious contemporary gallery HOFA in Central London.
Portraits portrayed in the classic style with references from artist such as
Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Velazquez. Ressia adopts the simplistic narrative of Flemish realism, no background confusion or ostentatious displays of wealth.
The striking presence of mundane modern objects, however sit comfortably in a juxtaposition between the classic naturalism and beauty of youth, and the mass reproduction of modern pop culture objects.
Romina Ressia achieves the quality of photography and fine art in a perfect union, paying homage to the classic style of portrait painting and contemporary art photography.
From Wednesday 5 June until Wednesday 19 June, 2019.