Friday, 19 May 2017

A Review of Frieze New York on Randall's Island, New York

Frieze New York is an annual event, which attracts a broad spectrum of collectors, artists and gallerists to make the pilgrimage over the East River and discover an impressive selection of both modern and contemporary art. Across just four days, its hugely diverse audience are exposed to a plethora of cutting-edge works exhibited by more than 200 international galleries as well as a developed program of art talks, lectures and curator-led tours. 

Stationed on Randall's Island, Frieze New York is only in its sixth year, but the British fair has already achieved the coveted status of an unmissable event in the art world calendar. Forced to work alongside fierce competition such as the Armory Show and TEFAF New York, this year's program did not disappoint. Even rain and high winds on the second day failed to dampen spirits as sales remained strong, and our Instagram feeds continued to attract a huge response. 

As a dedicated follower of art fairs, I have come to expect a certain experience. Normally a large proportion of the stands will hang flat works on white walls, and others will either pull together a range of different mediums or present some form of cryptic installation, which you aren't sure if you can interact with. A dynamic alternative is the "happening" or performance pieces like Dora Budor's live impersonations of Leonardo DiCaprio at the fair. Undoubtedly, performance art as a medium is growing in popularity across art fairs and exhibitions as our appetite for immersive cultural experiences continues to strengthen. 

This year, Frieze New York felt less predictable than its competitors with creative presentations such as the Cheim & Read stand, which reacted to the recent Women’s March on Washington with a space featuring artists' works inspired by the colour pink from Ghada Amer to Louise Bourgeois and Andy Warhol. Another point of interest was Canada Gallery's immersive interior in which the contents of Marc Hundley's entire Brooklyn apartment were rebuilt at Frieze New York to display their interesting selection of works in situ. To me, both stands felt like a direct response to the uncertain social and political climate of our time.

Working in the art world these past few years, I've observed a gradual shift in how collectors, gallerists and artists choose to display contemporary art. In order to create a deeper connection with their audience, artists are not only striving to engage politically, but also questioning how their work should be presented to their audience. A perfect example is the provocative Llyn Foulkes relief Untitled "Dinghy,"  which was exhibited by Sprüth Magers and questions the prejudices of Donald Trump. The controversial piece was rendered all the more powerful by its monumental scale and solitary position on the stand's outer wall. 

As with stands such as Kiki Kogelnik at Simone Subal Gallery, Hauser & Wirth consciously exhibited the work of an individual female artist, Lorna Simpson. Although she is primarily known as a photographer, Simpson decided to fill the space with paintings like Black and Ice (2017) on canvas as well as sculptural works made from glass and brass. As she explored gender, race and identity within her blue colour palette, it also felt as if Simpson's experimentation beyond her core medium mimicked both the simultaneous unrest and innovation of the socio-economic environment in which she and her contemporaries are making their work.

Gagosian lined its walls with a solo presentation by John Currin, which created an immersive environment in which the audience could view the artist's figurative drawings without distraction. Experiencing decades of never-before seen drawings of, "a lot of naked ladies," was an intense and evocative experience, which brings you closer to the artist. Interestingly, this work is.less sexualised than expected and looks at the works of the Old Masters - especially 16/17th century imagery - through a contemporary lens. As with Alize Nisenbaum at Glasgow-based gallery Mary Mary, it was compelling to re-discover artists who are unafraid to also look back to the past. Her solo presentation used protest imagery from Mexican Modernist prints 1900-1950 to explore painting as a form of ethics.

Marian Goodman featured an immersive installation Bridges in the Doldrums (2016) by the Albanian artist Anri Sala, which was comprised of an assortment of drums placed across the futuristic space. There was a sense of delayed gratification as visitors hesitated as to move further into the space to get a closer look at the hypnotically self-playing instruments. As the progression towards more interactive stands has perhaps moved slower than anticipated on the international art fair circuit, it was refreshing to find a gallery endeavouring to challenge our senses. In the Focus section, Dawn Kasper also presented a participatory installation of musical sculpture. 

In both the Spotlight and Frame sections, there was a strong line-up of smaller galleries making their Frieze New York debut with impressive stands. Bridget Donahue's first appearance was a fortunate one, resulting in the award of the Frieze Frame Prize. Advised by Fabian Schoneich and Jacob Proctor, the Frame section continues to support international galleries, which have been running for less than eight years. The salon-style booth was inspired by the artist Susan Cianciolo's recent visit to a Milanese eatery and featured a condensed retrospective of her collages from the last 20 years. See more at the Whitney Biennale this month. 

On Stellar Rays - a neighbour to Donahue's gallery on the Lower East Side - they also presented a solo exhibition of the female artist Rochelle Feinstein, whose work both engages and reflects the realities of our current times. Her work Ear to the Ground incorporates a collection of phrases painted in her own handwriting across the installed white curtain. The amassment of words had been gathered from current language, passing conversations, marketing copy and expressions.

I must admit that I had been a little overwhelmed by the prospect of covering this year's Frieze New York. Initially, I had arrived with the intention of just re-visiting a few of the most visually-appealing, dynamic stands whilst also endeavouring to discover some exciting emerging talent, but I actually left feeling both energised and challenged by this year's presentation. In fact, Frieze New York undoubtedly felt more balanced, relevant, and politically-engaged than in previous years.

By focusing more on the artists, and the issues they sought to represent, one might even suggest that Frieze New York also made a deeper connection with those questions at the core of the art community. Alongside the blue-chip galleries, the majority of smaller galleries placed within both the Spotlight and Frame sections also offered unique presentations that were more accessible, refreshing and thoughtfully-curated.

 There was a sense of genuine concern with wider political issues, as well as more localised art ones. Whether or not that has been the case in past, this year it really came across strongly. 

Co-written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy and Lane Brenner 
Images Courtesy of Mark Blower and Frieze 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

An Interview with David Uzochukwu in Brussels, Belgium

 David Uzochukwu is a self-taught, 18-year-old photographer based between Paris and Brussels. In recent years, he has progressed from self-portraiture to major collaborations shooting FKA Twigs for Nike as well as a series for Adobe Photoshop. Whilst shooting for publications such as Hunger Magazine, Dazed Digital, Wonderland Magazine and Vogue, David has always managed to preserve his creative integrity and strong narrative vision, especially across the fine art photography you’ll find in his portfolio. Every image has a dreaminess, but also a directness achieved by playing with colour and texture in post-production. Using the internet, he was not only able to teach himself how to use the equipment, but to connect with other artists, and now all his friends are photographers.

The Austrian-born Luxembourger with Nigerian roots grew up in Brussels and since childhood David has been documenting everything around him, taking advantage of  the diversity of his surrounding landscapes. His evocative self-portrait series on racism also shows the young innovator's ability to approach challenging subject matter. David has already exhibited in group shows from Tokyo, to Athens as well as Lagos and New York with highlights including Lagos Photo Festival, Milk Studios and the Yale School of Art. He is inspired by artists that “construct their own universe,” such as Gregory Crewdson and Wangechi Mutu. Follow him @daviduzochukwu to follow his progress, there are starry skies ahead.

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be a photographer?

Not a conscious one - once I’d picked up a camera for fun, I just had to keep making pictures for my own well-being. 

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

I sketch out an idea, then pull my materials together and go out on location to shoot for one or two hours. I’ll select an image (on my way home), and do my post production over the course of a few days. Concepts grow into something else while shooting, things come together differently in post production, sometimes I put the file in some folder and can’t finish it for the next two years. It's a super organic process.

Why have you chosen to focus on the human form as your primary subject?

The more I discovered how complex and beautiful humans can be, the more I wanted to photograph them - but mostly removed from daily life. I don’t like clutter.

Are you able to move freely between art and fashion? If so, how? 

I only really care about work that has a certain aspect of wonder. I don’t want to make a distinction between a fashion image and personal work, but approach everything the same way, trying to find something that feels familiar. That’s what I’m in it for!

What project or photograph thus far would you like to be remembered for?

The thought to be remembered for work I’ve already made is honestly terrifying. 

Do you feel that your young age (18) as an advantage or disadvantage?

I think I’m lucky to have found something I’m passionate about. It's already so interesting to me to see how different my work as a thirteen year old is from the work I made as a sixteen year old to what I do now. 

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?

A resonation with the purest part of you.

Do you have a favourite photograph or series, which inspires you?

There are quite a few photographers that I deeply admire. First one I thought of - Lexi Mire's self portraits have always made me feel like I have a soul.

Which photographer of the past or present would you most like to collaborate with?

Tim Walker. 

Does your multi-national heritage impact your work? 

I'm very conscious of what it means to be different, and enjoy making work that reflects and owns that. 

How/do you maintain creative freedom within your commercial projects?

When taking on a project, I need to know why I take it on. What you put out, you attract, I refuse (or keep very quiet about) projects where I don’t feel the match. Hey, as soon as there’s money it’s politics, compromises to be made. I don’t yet know what my advice on this is. Don’t let them pay you.

What is your greatest indulgence in life? 

As in pleasure? Finishing a piece / impromptu dance sessions / moments in which my emotional landscape is aligned with the weather.

Has social media had a positive impact on your career?  

There would be no career to speak of without it. It definitely also comes with its own risks, but it’s incredible what kind of opportunities can arise from being able to share your work, from being able to find people that are on the same wavelength.

What do you wish every child were taught?

To not be afraid of being vulnerable. I’m always fascinated by the strength that lies within honesty and openness.

What is your favourite art gallery or space in Brussels and why?

I haven't found a specific art space that really resonates with me here! I just go wherever something good is on.

Do you work within a community or independently?

Usually by myself. I regularly get together with a handful of other photographers though, to learn from one another, eat together, dance in the rain - that’s where I make a lot of my personal work.

Do you make and receive studio visits? What impact do they have?

I don’t have a studio. I make my work on my rooftop and in public parks, or on the road. I've never been to someone's personal studio, I imagine that to be a bit like walking into someone else’s mind.

What elements of contemporary culture do you reference in your work?

I try to keep my work a bit timeless. I mean they are very pop, sometimes surreal with a colorful coating, occasionally I include fashion, and I as the creator am irrevocably shaped by contemporary culture, but for me it’s an escape from day to day life. 

What is your daily routine (or what rituals do you have) when working?

My schedule is super irregular. I’ll get up early to shoot, retouch all day long, or organize future projects. Sometimes I’ll spend time preparing a project with my agency, then mess up my sleep schedule entirely in the course of a few adrenaline filled days of shooting. 

What advice would you give a photographer following in your steps?

Make a lot of work, make it for you. When you have a good connection with someone else - cherish it. And finally.

Do you love what you do?

 Nothing is in balance and I am not at ease when I'm not creating. I wholeheartedly do.

Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

An Interview with British artist Milla Eastwood in her Studio in Brixton, London

Brixton-based painter Milla Eastwood and I first met at the preview of her critically-acclaimed solo exhibition Drunk on Colour at The Dot Project in Chelsea. Combining traditional and contemporary techniques, I thought her a perfect fit for Digiqualia. Although I have always favoured gestural, abstract paintings, I was yet to experience her energy and dynamic colour palette. She composes her expressive work in her expansive Brixton studio, and sometimes even ventures to botanical gardens and natural landscapes.

With her natural sense of community, Milla regularly visits other artists' studios and consciously keeps up to date with exhibitions at London galleries such as Fold Gallery, Rod Barton, Limoncello and Studio Voltaire. And her favourite shows last year? The Royal Academy School Show 2016, Kes Richardson at Fold Gallery, Donna Huanca at Zabludowcz Collection, Magnus Plessen at White Cube. 

Each individual mark on Milla's canvases is layered and complex, with every line and form playing an important role within the overall composition. Be it the blocks of colour, slashes or shapes, they are all indicative of the evocative experience of the viewer. In fact, her cutting-edge paintings don’t just exist within the confines of the canvas, but overflow into the room creating a realm of shared space with her audience. Watch the film we made about Milla Eastwood on Vimeo

Milla is interested in the artwork of Jonathan Lasker, Phoebe Unwin, Mandy Lyn Ford, Eddie Martinez and Tal R, but it's the work of fellow emerging artists such as Rafal Topolewski, Laurence Owen, Stevie Dix and Thom Trojanowski Hobson that really captures her imagination. For me, I find her work particularly captivating, because she embodies the accessible, collaborative atmosphere shared amongst emerging artists in London. Milla's solo exhibition 'Cable Salad' opens at The Dot Project on Thursday 23rd March from 6-9pm. 

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist? 
No, I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember.

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I start intuitively by setting down a group of forms. The forms are my initial response to the surface and to the space. When I approach the paintings my aim is to embody the forms within the work, so that they are contained within the space and act as a whole. The process is about responding and creating a visual language that connects to the eye, through line and form. However, It’s not the easiest way of working because the paintings cannot be envisaged. They are reactive to the conditions of their own making.

What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?
I definitely haven’t made it yet

Which emerging artists in London do you admire? 
Rafal Topolewski, Laurence Owens, Thom Trojanowski Hobson and Stevie Dix.

If you could work within a past art movement, which would it be?
I wouldn’t like to work in any past art movements; it’s what’s going on now that gets me excited.

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
"If you truly love nature, you’ll find beauty everywhere" - wise old Van Gogh.

Do you have a favourite photograph or painting, which inspires you?
Mandy Lyn Ford's studio shots inspire me. There’s so much making involved in her work @bettyscreams_

What is your greatest indulgence in life?
 I’d like to say travel but it’s probably just all things colourful.

How does the culture of South London impact your work? 
Although the culture itself doesn’t impact my work so much, I live and work in Brixton and the area has a wonderful spirit. It’s the energy that gets me going.

What’s the significance of your colour palette?
My choice of colour isn’t representative. There is a process of decision-making and aptness involved when choosing colours. Usually I limit myself to just four or five colours as it helps my focus when reacting to the forms whilst painting.

 Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?
Actually, there’s a bunch of present artists that I would like to meet such as Shara Hughes, Tamina Amadyar, Arlene Shechet. I would also like to go and visit Isabelle Tuchband’s house and studio in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Do you interact with technology in your work?
 I take photos with my phone of the different stages of my painting. Rotating the image and covering bits up is all part of the process. It’s also a good way for me to edit and evaluate my work when I’m not in the studio. Saying this, it's also vital that I immerse myself in the natural world as well as the cyber.

What do you wish every child were taught?
 I think Drumduan School founded by Tilda Swinton in Scotland has an amazing ethos for teaching.
 “We live in an age where much of our establishment is now under question and rightly so. Long held traditions, religions and major institutions are being scrutinised, yet are enough of us asking the fundamental questions? What is the true purpose of our education system? Why do we sit at desks for much of the day at school for over ten years? Are we teaching our pupils the life skills they need?”

Have you ever questioned your career entirely?
 I’ve never questioned being an artist, but there are a million things that I want to do.

What is your favourite art gallery in South London and why? 
My favourite London galleries are Rod Barton, South London Gallery, Newport Street Gallery and The Dot Project. Studio Voltaire in South London always has exciting new work; I find that I’m drawn to the less conventional spaces. South London’s art organisations and artist run spaces have loads going on; I’ve been to some interesting group shows of emerging artists at Maverick Projects and Safe house 1 in Peckham. 

Do you work within a community or independently?
I work within a community of artists. I like walking down the corridor and hearing heavy metal coming from one studio and classical music from another. From my experience it’s always been really important for my practice to engage with other artists. One day I would like to build my own creative community. 

Why do you make and receive studio visits? 
It’s interesting walking into the mind of an artist, I love studio visits because they allow people to explore the nature of the artist. The best thing about studios visits is discovering the thought process of the artist.

What visual references do you draw upon in your work? 
Everything I engage with is a visual reference. The initial spark for a recent painting, Boketto was a tiny rectangle of masking tape that somebody had doodled on and stuck onto one of the walls near my Brixton studio.

 What is your daily routine when working?
 I’m not a morning person so it’s a slow start, usually spent flicking through Instagram or trolling through immersive psychedelic sites, reading art magazines, or catching up on a few Arteviste articles. But, when I start painting, it’s intense and wholehearted.

What advice would you give to young artists starting out?
 Do what you do and surround yourself with other artists

 Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

An Interview with Artist and Glass-blower Andrew Erdos at his Studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn

The Brooklyn-based artist Andrew Erdos and I were introduced by the founders of The Chimney gallery when a visit to their Bushwick space led to a spontaneous studio visit. With a link to the Italian tradition of glass-blowing, I though him a perfect candidate for a Digiqualia interview. Before I saw any of his sculptures, videos, photography or mixed-media installations, I was blown away by the magical space within which Erdos works. 

Examples of his landscape photography were pasted to the windows, making you feel as if you were in a desert, and his famous mountain of glass stood triumphant in the middle of the room alongside rougher experiments with glass lining the walls. With a modest desk in the corner framed by a huge silver and pink fluffy heart to round it all off, Andrew's sprawling studio - the location of our supper club during Frieze New York in May - was a sensory experience like nothing else.

 Best-known for his mastery of glass techniques, Erdos was the youngest recipient of the Rakow Commission of the Corning Museum of Glass and his work has been exhibited worldwide from New York to St Petersburg and Beijing. Across his oeuvre, Erdos investigates the relationship between humans and our environment, as he reflects upon science, technology, culture, religion and of course nature. It’s this exploration of nature and its significance within the urban environment that I found so appealing, as I explored his unique space. Follow @andrew_erdos to see more of his work and behind-the-scenes of his glass-blowing. 

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist?

The one true epiphany I have ever had was when I was sixteen listening to Zion Train on Bob Marley's Uprising album.

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

 There are always several pieces and different bodies of work being produced simultaneously. I have been creating a video installation of prehistoric landscapes in the desert since 2011. Every time I travel to the American South West and Navajo Nation the piece grows. As of now I have collected over 90,000 high resolution images. I am also producing new glass pieces that will later get assembled into more complicated sculptures. Some times the elements sit for months, before I have the right pieces to combine them with.

What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?

Hopefully something I won’t think of for several years? Right now I am most excited about a series of site-specific, monumental glass mountains. Some of which are permanent and others are designed to gradually wear away over decades or hundred of years. Silica is the most abundant mineral on the surface of the earth. I like the idea of transforming this to an industrial material and then gradually letting the earth reclaim it to complete the cycle.
There is a specific rock formation in the Najavo Nation I have been very fascinated with called “Shiprock” or “Winged Rock”. It is a volcanic neck, larger than the Empire State Building. A volcanic neck is a rock formation created when magma hardens within a vent of a volcano. The story of creation of this particular rock formation varies, but usually is explained as the fossilized wings and tail of a giant prehistoric bird. Sometimes described as a monster, other times it is described as a creature transporting people from one world to another. On a simplified material and metaphorical level, this is what I am trying to create.

If you could work within a past art movement, which would it be?

Although I do not consider the movement over, I would love to works alongside artists such as Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer in the first wave of land art. Or to create in an indigenous community, where scientific, economic and academic rationalization of art does not exist. A place where there is no boundary between religion, nature, art and magic. In Prehistoric Paintings: Lascaux or the Birth of Art, Georges Bataille refers to a form of transcendental experience explored by artists in their creation process: “to create a sensible reality whereby the ordinary world is modified in response to the desire for the extraordinary, for the marvellous.”

Can you discuss the significance of landscapes in your work?

Landscape is both a literal and metaphorical measurements of time. One of the aspects of glass that I find the most relevant is its ability to capture and display time. In the glassblowing process, the difference between a piece cracking or melting can be a few seconds. When glass is in its molten state it is almost like a living organism. It produces heat, it moves, it radiates light, as it cools down it cracks and dies. The glass can then get re-melted and re-incarnated into its next form. There is a quote from Jean Baudrillard, in America, that verbally articulates everything I am trying to say with my ongoing works in the desert.

"Upturned relief patterns, sculpted out by the wind, water, and ice, dragging you down into the whirlpool of time, into the remorseless eternity of a slow-motion catastrophe. The very idea of the millions and hundreds of millions years that were needed peacefully to ravage the surface of the earth here is a perverse one, since it brings with it an awareness of signs originating long before man appeared, in a sort of pact of wear and erosion struck between the elements. Among this gigantic heap of signs - purely geological in essence - man will have had no significance."
                                                 Jean Baudrillard, America, 1986                              

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
“Beauty is and always will be blue skies and open highway.” -Dave Hickey, The Invisible Dragon.

Do you have a favourite photograph or painting, which inspires you?

I can't say that I have a favourite. There is a very wide range of works that I find inspirational, from Oceanic Art and traditional Native American Art, to James Turrell, Dan Flavin, Pipilotti Rist, Nam Jun Paik, Sterling Ruby, Pierre Huyge, Nathalie Djurbergand Paul McCarthy.

What is your greatest indulgence in life?

Being able to produce art. It is the greatest consumer of emotional and physical energy, time and resources.

How does the culture of Bushwick, Brooklyn impact your work?
I'm surrounded by talented people. The quantity and quality of work being produced in the neighbourhood is both intimidating and inspiring.

Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?

Bob Marley. He is someone that has been able to express very complicated ideas and relationships in a simple way that are understood by people all over the world.

Do you interact with the digital world/technology in your work?

Absolutely. It is ironic because a large portion of my interactions with the natural world / desert landscapes are done with digital tools. The blessing of using digital photography to document events is that the experience can be reproduced infinitely and shared globally. However, you are not able to personally absorb the situation when being burdened with the act of capturing it.

What do you wish every child were taught?

Compassion, empathy, to care for the less fortunate and to question everything.

Have you ever had a moment of questioning your career entirely?

No. There have certainly been moments of questioning specific pieces, or processes and intense stress. But I have never questioned it as a career.

What is your favourite art gallery in New York and why?

Barbara Gladstone. What she has been able to produce over the last few decades is amazing. All of the pieces she guided over a 25 year creative relationship with Matthew Barney. Anish Kapoor, Cyprien Gaillard, Banks Violette, Huang Yong Ping, there are so many talented people in that program.I also really like Tanya Bonakdar. She has been instrumental to Olafur Elliason and he has been very influential to my work.  My favourite of the youngest generation of galleries is The Chimney NYC in Bushwick. Their emphasis is on installation and monumental works by fresh emerging and mid-career artists.

Do you work within a community or independently?

My art practice is independent, however I really appreciate my community of artists and curators and constantly benefit from their advice. There are also several aspects of my studio practice which can not be achieved alone. Glass-blowing requires a team of people, so there are always people involved at some point.

If you do, why do you make and receive studio visits?

 Studio visits are one of my favourite parts, it is the time to discuss what you are thinking, and trying to explain. Often times people are able to verbally articulate ideas that I have been trying to physically manifest in the sculptures.

Can you please describe your studio space in Bushwick, Brooklyn?

It is a sacred space for me. It is a place of contemplation and creation. More concretely, it is a little less that 2000sqf serving a wide range of uses from editing and installing videos, to growing crystals on glass sculptures.

What is your daily routine when working?

The routine is to start as early as possible and work as late as I have the energy to. There is usually lots of coffee and loud music.

What advice would you give to a young artist in New York?

It is going to be extremely difficult, accept that from the beginning. Be grateful every moment you are in the studio. Look at as much art as you possibly can. And, the expression “If you can be anything other than an artist, you should be anything other than an artist”.

Do you love what you do?
Yes I do.

Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste