Tuesday, 22 December 2015

An interview with the visual artist and curator Diana Chire in her Hackney studio.

by  Flora Alexandra  I  digiQualia.com

The London-based visual artist and curator Diana Chire and I first met at her guerilla exhibition Take! Eat! which was launched in opposition to the Frieze Art Fair. Set within St Marylebone Parish Church, her provocative show of female artists addressed challenging themes like gender, sexuality and social inequalities. Blending film, painting, sculpture and video, it was received with critical-acclaim by journalists, gallerists and collectors. 

In the spirit of Arteviste.com she showcased a diverse array of both emerging and established female artists like Mia Faithfull and Scarlett Carlos Clarke. When I first glimpsed Diana wafting up the aisles of the church in her kaleidoscopic fur and neon trainers, I knew we’d be somewhat aligned in our creative vision. With a wild heart and a strong head on her shoulders, I was captivated by her energy and felt compelled to find out what was in store for this young British artist and curator.

As both an activist and artist, Diana is dedicated to making gender disparity an important conversation in the art world in London and beyond. When we met later in her minimalist Hackney studio, she unpacked a birthday cake and the contents of a dressing up box and we spent the afternoon taking playful photographs amongst her projectors and televisions.

Reflecting upon the lack of solely female exhibitions in London this past year, we discussed our shared frustration that the blockbuster exhibitions were so male dominated. Thankfully only a few days later she showed her film and spoke earnestly at the Protest, Performance and Body exhibition for women artists at the Chelsea Space, slightly elevating that disparate number. Glamorous as ever, her next exhibition is set to open at the infamous Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles next year – keep your eyes on this one.

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion?

I quit my job this year to be a full-time artist, which was a big step.

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

I co-curated an all female art show called TAKE! EAT! with my good friend MC Llamas. It was a two-day guerrilla exhibition with sixteen female artists opposite Frieze Art Fair. We did it because as an unrepresented artist it’s not easy to get your work seen by the industry people. I fear that female artists are judged by their previous work whereas male artists are judged by their potential. So we decided to organise our own show that we could control and the response was great so I hope to do another one soon.

If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?

I would love to visit Lord Byron and the Shelley’s during their Dolce Vita move to Italy. I’ve read so much about their infamous parties and the trouble they caused there.

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?


Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?

I love any film by David Lynch, because it’s like stepping into another realm.
Both his visual style and his use of sound and light are beautiful as well as the way he refigures gender and sexuality - especially female sexuality - in his films, which is rare for a male director.

What is your greatest indulgence in life?

God, probably my hair.

What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?

Edward Scissorhands.

Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?

Yes, I 100% do.

What do you wish every child were taught?

I wish they were taught that intelligence is diverse, because at school you can be steered away from more creative subjects on the grounds - and benign advice - that there aren’t jobs in those areas. I think that in education creativity is as important as literacy and we should treat them with the same respect.

Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?

Yes, from time to time. When a piece you have worked really hard on for so long doesn’t work out it can be frustrating. But you just cut your loses and move forward.

What is your favourite museum or art gallery and why?

I recently visited The Rubell Family Collection during Art Basel, Miami and their current exhibition No Man’s Land showed over 100 female artists. My favourite piece Eureka was by the artist Janine Antoni.

Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?

I recently watched a documentary film about the late Pina Bausch, a legendary choreographer. I would definitely want to collaborate with a dance or ballet collective in the future.

What is your daily routine when working?

I wake up at around 9am to drink coffee and check emails. Then I head into the studio where I’ll have planned a few ideas I want to experiment with and film. Lunch means lots of burgers and more coffee. Then I edit what I’ve filmed before either heading out with friends or going home to sleep.

What has been your most inspiring travel experience?

Earlier this year I went to Art Basel, Switzerland and was fortunate to meet the legendary Berliner Johann Konig who opened his first gallery when he was only 21. Johann’ most notorious show was when the artist Jeppe Hein installed a wrecking ball in his gallery knocking the walls apart. As with our past show during Frieze week, he hasn’t always shown in traditional gallery spaces and recently occupied an old church. It was inspiring speaking with him.

What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?

Not to be discouraged by what other people may say about your work, because you must keep moving forward and do what you need to do.

Why do you love what you do?

The friends I have made.

Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com 

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Jean-Etienne Liotard retrospective at the Royal Academy, London

by  Flora Alexandra  I  digiQualia.com

24 October 2015 to 31 January 2016.

There is no doubt that the Sackler Wing of the Royal Academy, London has enjoyed a year of distinguished exhibitions. With the retrospectives of the esteemed American artists Joseph Cornell and Richard Diebenkorn, the coveted space has reached new heights. As the leaves began to fall, I feared it was all over, but soon found myself deafened by whispers about the little known artist Jean-Etienne Liotard’s retrospective. Described by the Guardian as, “a joyous time machine back to the enlightenment,” the truly exquisite exhibition captures an age of revolution in time and thought.

Liotard was a Swiss-French painter, art dealer and connoisseur. Of his portraits, I was most intrigued by the very image, which haunted the underground’s walls throughout weeks of anticipation. The painting from the posters was his sumptuous work Woman on a Sofa Reading 1748-52, which depicts a young Turkish woman wearing a floral costume, adorned with luxurious fur and pearls. Reading a discussion of virtue written in French, she is a picture of elegance. Reflecting the exoticism, which so intoxicated 18th century France, turqueries may have been widespread, but Liotard’s commitment to ethnographic accuracy was unique.

An artist of the Enlightenment period, his portraits reflect the spirit of curiousity and experimentation, which had swept through Europe at the time. When it came to choosing his subjects, Liotard immersed himself in the layers of European wealth and patronage, which supported him. This loyalty is captured in his decadent portrait of William Posonby, Viscount Duncannon, 1738 who had invited Liotard to join his glamorous travels between Rome and Constantinople. The famed intermediary between aristocratic sitters and painters is depicted wearing the Turkish costume he would wear to the Dilettanti Society’s meetings in London. Known for his ability to capture the nuances of his subject’s sartorial flare, Liotard was able to imitate the furs and extravagant embroidery, which his contemporaries were enslaved by.

Painting portraits for the French, Hapsburg and British Royal families, Liotard was well acquainted with the higher echelons of society. His delicate portrait of Princess Elizabeth Caroline, 1754 captures the fragility of a sickly child who memorised her parts in plays, because she was too weak to read. His ability to capture the temperament of his subjects with the subtlest facial expressions makes them all the more captivating. As my consort, the artist Piers Jackson declared, “Liotard’s characters are so real that you feel you could undo the bows around their necks.”

Before leaving, I returned to Liotard’s portrait of Madame Paul Girardot de Vermenoux, 1763, which perfectly blends genre painting and portraiture. The subject was famed for her beauty, but widowed young and so inherited a vast fortune, which allowed her to move freely in the expensive circles of Paris and Geneva. She is depicted as an allegory of the vestal Virgin in theatrical costume that pays homage to her doctor Tronchin who takes the role of the Greek God of medicine. Elaborate as ever, this portrait puts the Wallace Collection to shame.

Against the decadence of the works and drawings the subtle grey palette of the walls had a calming effect and complemented the space, but I fear that there weren’t quite enough works to fill it. Although, Liotard’s painterly skill and the sense of intimacy he creates between the viewer and subject certainly quench any thirst for both highly observant and opulent portraiture.  

By Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, London-based art journalist and founder of Arteviste.com.