Carlos Delgado’s ‘Faces of the System’

Carlos Delgado exhibition at Gallery Lohme image for Blacklisted

Carlos Delgado’s
‘Faces of the System’

The Toronto based visual artist talks about capturing expression in abstract portraiture as a representation of various masks we wear throughout life.

Published: November 3, 2017
Words: Carlos Delgado & J.Scott Stratton
Gallery Exhibition: Lohme Gallery
Artist Link: Carlos Delgado

There has always been a special place in my heart for artists, whether performative, visual or musical, that have reached a certain level of success entirely on their own.

The DIY approach is something that is more indicative of the North American culture that I can relate to. While I find the more generous amount of governmental and culture subsidies that are available to artists in Europe – particularly in the Scandinavian region – to be a picturesque model of “how things should be” within the art industry, my heart still leans towards the artists that have had to hustle.

By this, I don’t mean the hustle that comes with navigation the artist funding bureaucracy, or cutting through the Gallery nepotism to get your name known – that exists in every facet of the industry, no matter where you are in the world. What I mean by hustling, is doing things that would never even cross your mind as an established artist.

Paying to enter art competitions as a visual artist. Touring shitty dive bars and getting paid in beer as a musician. Setting up your paintings on various online shops to sell. Getting paid to choreograph a dance at a retirement home. I have met artists that have done all of those things, and I respect them for it. That’s the DIY artist hustle.

Now a well-established artist that is represented by Lohme Gallery in Malmo, Gallery 133 in Toronto and Gallery Chaos in Serbia, when you look at the history of Toronto based artist Carlos Delgado, you can see that he is no stranger to the artist hustle. If you Google his name and dig a little deeper, you will find that over the years he has worked his way through entering his work into several competitions, submitted for awards, and placed his work on numerous online galleries – all to get to the place where he is now.

Now I’m not saying that selling work on online galleries or entering into art competitions is somehow lesser than the more traditional route of attaining gallery representation – quite the contrary. What I will say it that I find it far less common in countries where artist subsidies are less plentiful that here in Denmark. It’s a different type of hustle and one that is more DIY.

As Delgado set up to display his newest collection of work, Faces of the System, in Lohme Gallery through November, I spoke with him about his work and what inspires him to create.

Carlos Delgado exhibition at Gallery Lohme image for Blacklisted

Now you were born in Colombia, but you relocated to Toronto. Were you establishing yourself as an artist before you moved to Canada?

I had always made art, but there was a point in my life where I had to stop for eight years. About a year or two before I came to Canada I got back into my art and went to the capital of Colombia to focus more on it. There I met my wife, who was living in Canada (originally from Serbia), and we decided to start a life in Canada together. Since I have come here, my art has always been my main focus and the knowing that coming here; I came to give all of myself and do art.

How did you begin developing your style as an artist?

Even though I was already in Canada and was part of art collectives and was learning how the art platforms move around town, I realized that before anything I needed to find my style based on creativity and just being free to create something of mine. I’m self-taught, so I wasn’t focusing too much on techniques, but I knew that I had a talent in being creative so I just pushed myself to create and get out my own expression.

The large majority of your work focuses on portraiture in an abstract sense. Tell me a little bit about your fascination with the human figure and expression.

My fascination with the human form is based on exploration how each one of us creates our own walls to disconnect from each other – often times expressed through the body and the face. The most vulnerable moment when one can see the soul of the person is in the expressions that people make with their face and body. At the same time, there are a lot of masks we wear to create separation from each other and instead focus on the systems around us, getting a job, being part of the daily life.

I tried to look for love, sadness, compassion and other feelings and pull out emotions from the faces. I love when I create work that people as they look at it they also have their own interpretation and their feelings are reflected back to them, whatever that feeling may be.

Expanding on that, you’ve said that your work, “Focuses on capturing the subtleties of emotions and experiences as expressed through the face and the body.” Yet stylistically, your work is more abstract than realist. How then, do you define this specific “expression” in your work?

Even though the faces are abstract, they still define some aspects of the face that can determine the expression, for example, just focus on one eye, or one nose, or the way the color is used or a simple line or dot somewhere in the eye or the way the colors are layered. I think this invites the viewer to explore the face and find the expression. Sometimes I use things like eyes looking down, the position of the face, play with shadows, etc. – to bring these expressions out.

With that said, take me through the process of how you create one of your portraits?

I am very fascinated with creating just black lines very fast with liquid acrylic and finding connections between the lines. From here I start to add water and discover the shadows until the face forms itself. The process is very organic; it can be man or women, it shapes itself. After the black lines, I add color sometimes to the face, sometimes to the background first and let the color guide the mood, expression, glance, defining points, etc.

Carlos Delgado exhibition at Gallery Lohme image for Blacklisted
Carlos Delgado exhibition at Gallery Lohme image for Blacklisted

Do you work muses or models in the traditional sense?

Not for the faces. Although, I am starting to work with models on a different series which expresses more of the body.

In juxtaposition to your oil paintings, you also work in street art – replacing the paintbrush for the spray can. Tell me about how you transition from using two very different mediums?

I find the spray paint to be a very fluid and soft process. I have done more street art before, but I like to play with structure, and this is why I prefer oil and acrylics over spray paint. Spray paint is a delicate process, but I don’t find the same intimacy as being in the studio with my paints.

When I was researching for this article, I discovered that you also engage in a lot of writing and personal commentary about your scene, community, and experiences. Do you find writing part of your artistic practice?

No, I have someone who helps me with that. I am good at speaking my thoughts and talking to people face to face. I have someone who translates my thoughts in proper English grammar into my blogs, but talking about my process and my experiences is a big part of my artistic expression. I like to share with people the process because I think it is an excellent part of connecting with people. I always have people coming to my studio to talk and share.

Alright, so down to the current business. Tell me a little bit about this exhibition, Faces of the System, at Gallery Lohme?

Whenever I have my art somewhere, it is an extension of my series. However, I was also very inspired when I was in Europe and Malmo in September and be part of a new culture, so I created some specific pieces for that show that came from that inspiration. One essential thing for me is to create universal art that can connect to people no matter where they are.

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Former Commodity #4 - Tobias Kirstein

Former Commodity #4 – Tobias Kirstein

Musician and artist Alexander Holm curates another exhibition in his ‘Former Commodity’ series with guest artist Tobias Kirstein, and we exchanged some words with Kirstein about the process.

Published: October 28, 2017
Words: Tobias Kirstein & J.Scott Stratton

Tell me about how you met Alexander and got involved in the Former Commodity series?

I can’t remember. But he has done shows at mayhem. And I have attended the earlier versions of Former Commodity.

Did Alexander require you to tie your conceptual to his larger concept behind Former Commodity?

Alexander gave me a historic view of the earlier versions to provide me with a sense of the mechanics and logic. The perspective that dead things, objects, are activated – that he expressed in an earlier interview in this very magazine – is very much in line with how I think.

This exhibition ‘Two-way Mirror’ which, I guess, consist of ready-made and modified objects, a peculiar pair of glasses, that a trusted optician created for me.

Did you both work out a concept for the album and the exhibition together, or were you following the direction of Alexander?

We haven’t collaborated as such. Alexander defined a context for me – the space and the project. The rest was for me to decide. Sound and exhibition are different perspectives or reflective blocks to build something with

Tell me about the concept that you have developed for this fourth and final incarnation of Former Commodity? Take me through the process of how you produced the work?

I got these objects that mystified me. The quality and identity of objects change so drastically by combining them with knowledge, specific values or perspectives. This gives objects their own life, own secrets.

I am interested in these kinds of beautiful experiences that you can’t share, but we continually try to get access to via various means. Death, the experience of dying and giving yourself over to this great and golden unknown, is one of them or could be. But this exhibition is not about loss or even personal loss.

The idea of ‘you,’ the inner self, the psyche, nature, individuality or whatever you can call this historical phenomenon is another. It is rather a humble way to present or grasp this field of knowledge that is not shared and the knowledge that wants to colonize (i.e., coaching/mindfulness, etc.), understand (psychology/psychiatry, Scientology, etc.), share (‘the culture of express yourself’) the former. Which I guess is a way of talking about the mystery without trying to make it evaporate and disappear.

This exhibition tries to give access to a complex of sensations and philosophical, mystical conundrums.

I have been reading ‘The Inner Experience’ by George Bataille for a long while, where he, as a very peculiar philosopher, tries to give access to, or comprehend, something that is private, i.e., not shareable without destroying or making it into a dogma, school, or an economy. It’s a wonderful book that both in its’ method and subject area supported this notion of mine.

When I look at some of the earlier artworks I have done, I find traits of these themes all along. If we take Imperia, a sound work I made with Jacob Kirkegaard based on recordings we made at the nuclear powerplant Barsebäck, it has a quote from William S. Burroughs on the inlay sheet: ‘Anyone holding a frying pan owns death.’ By this, we meant to break down the economic and political death star, the death monopoly, that Barsebäck became in the 70’s. A collection of political/semi-religious scare tactics that most certainly worked on me as a kid. Imperia is, in a way, a method to disassemble this construction. We meant to say: Nobody owns death.

Last year I made the exhibition Tulpa with Ursula Nistrup and Miriam Nielsen. We tried, via sound, photography, and sculpture, to give access to a new landscape where no known living beings had been. It was based on the timid notion: ‘how can we talk about the bashful without making it blush.’ How can we invent methods to do exactly this.

With the exhibition ‘Sværmen’/ The Swarm’ created in collaboration with curator Jacob Lillemose, I tried to create a situation where a new non-verbal language could arise consisting of live flies, sound, hand signs and fiction. Claus Haxholm and I have tried to make a sort of mystical activism, which I maybe even shouldn’t talk about.

It’s a sort of reverse method of everything I have just described but might have the same agenda. We have tried to invent a term called aggressive listening – where you can fight back, create change, territorialize your surroundings via your listening. So there’s an inner, not visible, movement going on there. We are working on a book on this bizarre and challenging subject.

In my understanding, these exhibitions – although they are made in collaboration with other good people – have some recurring traits. I am sure my collaborators have an entirely different understanding of what we did together. Maybe it was me who did not know what was going on.

How was the experience of creating a series of works based on a concept that needed to be both in sound and visual?

That is what I usually do. Well, objects are a relatively new addition. Earlier works have been either pure sound/text installations or very physically challenging performances – like digging 4 tons of chalk or filling a room with earth and then emptying it again the day after.

My art is not experimental. It is instead: doing something to make things happen. This can happen in so many ways – open-ended or very finite. But overall everything I do is very strict and straightforward.

What can people expect to see and experience during this exhibition?

Not much to see. Ordinary objects. But the objects all have either a history or a certain allure connected to the material they are made of or color they have. I made a vinyl record that will transform the room where it’s played – if played at all. The sound of this will not be performed at the exhibition; it’s meant to be played elsewhere. But it bears an aspect of the exhibition in its title Furnace. Intense heat. I have a dream of making an exhibition consisting only of giant sheets of metal. But somehow we couldn’t make that work in the tiny green room. I will maybe do that later if the possibility arises.

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The Art of Everyday Life

The Art of
Everyday Life

It’s not easy making your daily routines into art, but Copenhagen artist HuskMitNavn (Remember My Name) has transferred what could be lost in the daily commotion into an appreciation of the small, sincere details.

An article by Helena Sokol & HuskMitNavn

Published on October 24, 2017

You see him everywhere: behind corners, jumping from house to house or popping up in remote places you wouldn’t have expected. His painted two-dimensional characters reflect you, and the things you do. Did you forget your keys? Or got flustered when you ran into your next-door neighbour that you kissed at the last garden party? HuskMitNavn knows how to incorporate complex emotions into simple lines and thus wake our inherent sensibility.

We remember how funny we are ourselves. How comical existence is, and how lucky we are to share it with others – that you might have farted on your first date, but what does it matter, when you are moving in with each other next week? We’re not always these cool cats, sipping expensive lattes with other cool cats, or hurrying with perfectly messy hair to our next appointment. Caught in the right light, beautiful faults start to appear.

The human existence is also accepting sadness, loneliness and failure. At times, our skills or strength do not reach far enough. Though these moments are hopefully further apart, I think it is candidly expressed in his work. In our modern world, it’s pressure from all sides, whether from school, friends, family or work.

Particularly in those times, it’s nice to find HuskMitNavn’s art, I think. However, from the 27th of October, you will be able to find even more works than usual when the anonymous artist presents two solo shows at V1 Gallery in Kødbyen, WORK IT and FRAMEWORKS.

Rarely have I spoken to an artist that seemed so genuinely calm in his artistic endeavour. It seems to me that he just lets himself sink into a collective feeling of humanity and take it from there. If he gets bored with one material, he’ll pick up another. The transition between the different methods are minimal – he uses logic and intuition in perfect symphony to create playful, light works of art.

Huskmitnavn work for Galleri V1 exhibition
Huskmitnavn work for Galleri V1 exhibition

Born in Tåstrup in 1975, HuskMitNavn’s recollection of childhood and early adolescence sounds refreshingly normal.

My dad used to bring me paper and second -hand cartoons and we went to a museum occasionally. It was before smartphones and personal computers, so I spend most of my childhood playing in the garden or drawing in my room. I started to draw in kindergarten like most other kids. I just drew a bit more than the rest, but I was never really a super talent or anything. Later on, graffiti was a big influence on me.

I’ve got quite a few of my drawings from when I was a kid. Mostly of spacemen, knights and pirates. My style of drawing has not changed a lot since then.

Can you recall a specific time of your life when you realized that you could live off drawing?

One day I made the jump. I painted a mural in an office and got enough money to live of for a couple of months. From that point on I decided that I was a full-time artist.

How did your family support you in your creative endeavours?

They let me choose my own path. Which is a lot of trust to give a young man who only paints graffiti and eats pizza. But something good came out of it.

I started to paint graffiti in 1993 at the age of 17. I did not draw between the age of 13-17 I was too busy being a confused teenager. After I started to paint graffiti I also began to draw on paper and canvas.

I had been interested in it since it came to Denmark in 1984 and one day I just went to a supermarket bought 2 spray cans and painted a wall at an old factory. I was super bad at it for many years, but it was fun to do so I kept going.

Huskmitnavn work for Galleri V1 exhibition

“I decided that I was a full-time artist.”

Did you have a crew or a group that formed you in some way?

I’m in a couple of graffiti crews that I joined in the 90ies and still hang out with. They are my friends from then, but most of them don’t paint graffiti anymore.

You educated yourself as an art teacher but never used it. Besides getting the economic freedom and the time to work on your own projects, would you say you’ve gotten something out of it?

The education did not teach me much, which kind of taught me that I was on my own and I had to figure everything out myself.

Is there anything you want people to see in your work?

It’s fun when people can recognize themselves in my work. Everyday life reflects who we are. I try to keep my eyes open and use my surroundings as inspiration. Although I don’t have a place I keep returning to, a trip to the supermarket is always a good place to look at people. I draw people I pass on the street or just characters I make up as I am sketching.

Do you think that your art is very typical for Copenhagen and its people?

It’s probably easy to see that I live in a Scandinavian country by looking at my art. But a lot of the characters I draw do stuff that people do all over the planet. Checking their smartphones, eating junk food, worrying about the future…

In terms of style, it’s a mix of diverse ways of drawing. There is a bit of Disney, Keith Haring, Graffiti, Daniels Clowes and myself in the mixing bowl.

How did you find the transition from “pure” graffiti to “pure” art?

The difference between graffiti and traditional art is that graffiti is made for other graffiti writers and art is made all types of people. When I make art, I think about those people.

If the drawing has got a ton of details it takes a lot of time to draw it on a big wall. But anything is possible if you have got the time to make it and you don’t mind painting in the rain once in a while.

Some of the walls are commissioned, some I ask permission to paint and some I don’t really ask for permission to paint.

Huskmitnavn work for Galleri V1 exhibition

When and how did you start the 3D paper art?

I began to experiment with folded paper 3 or 4 years ago just because I was bored with the flatness of the paper. It’s fast and you don’t need a lot of fancy materials to make a 3D drawing. I like that.

The drawings or the photos of them are not for sale. You can’t frame the drawings and I don’t want to think about if I’m making them with proper materials. It prevents me fro

I made a big 3D drawing book called ‘Papirarbejde’ that you can buy. For my moving paper works, I made some small ‘paper videos’ on Instagram – kitchen table style.

Has getting a family changed your motives and your way of working?

I have had kids most of my career. You are forced to be very organised when you have kids. The kids give you a life outside of the art world which is healthy.
My life is my inspiration, so I have been drawing a lot of kids and parents the past 10 years.

Tell me a bit about your new exhibitions.

The exhibitions are about work. I have painted people at work in different situations. I find work-life interesting because it eats the rest of your life. You check your work e-mail before going to bed, you run a marathon to put it on your CV, your work becomes your identity.

In the basement project space, I have another show called ‘Framework’ which is kind of the 3D drawings just on canvas.

Some artists love the limelight, being at exhibitions and talking to people, but you mainly communicate on social media – why is that?

It’s nice to have a big audience without having to stand on a stage right in front of them. I can just lie on my sofa instead. I’m anonymous because it’s a nice way to work. I don’t have to use my face to make a living as an artist and I like to lead an ordinary life.

Huskmitnavn work for Galleri V1 exhibition
Huskmitnavn preparing for exhibition at Galleri V!
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Volkano’s Symbolistic Transformations

The Meat Crown Ritual No. 5

Volkano’s Symbolic Transformations

Getting close to the elusive Hamburg-based artist to talk innocence and escapism

An article by Helena Sokol & Volkano
Published: October 15, 2017

Neverland never seemed too far from our reach. Promises of forever and future friendship was kept on the tip of the tongue. As our bodies blossoms and our minds expand, everything changes – for the better and worse. German artist Volkano captures the melancholy of growing up.

For many people, childhood is a magical place to get lost in memories. Everything was easy and uncomplicated, summers lasted forever, and you took in every impression as if it was vital for your existence. For others, it was complicated and difficult to carve a place out in the world where you fit. Limbs were longer than they were supposed to, friends were hard to get by and nobody understood you – sometimes it was even worse. No matter the position on the spectrum, I think everybody has memories that are soft-edged with age, with some degree of bliss and comfort, whether it was an intimate moment getting lost in a book, or connecting with a parent.

While some people stay youthful on the inside, others long for maturity and leaving jejunity – but no matter what, childhood and adolescence lays the foundation for the rest of your life in some way or other.

Volkano (1981) was born in Herford, Germany and lived there until he was 12, where he moved to Turkey, where his family originally hails from. He is blessed with a family of liberal Democrats, where politics and religion never dominated the house, and relations were good throughout.

“I remember everything of my childhood.”

The softness of every shape, the sweet scent in the wind, the endless time, everything that we lose when we become adults. From these emotions, I find my imagery of children being forced to get adult by running through strange rituals.

“This was like Peter Pan finding Neverland…”

The Ritual of Growing 2nd Degree No. 2

He has always been drawing ever since he was a kid and found endless joy by doing it. This interest lead him to study graphic design in Hamburg, where he still lives. Despite the passion in the field, it wasn’t before he heard the word “contemporary art”, that it dawned on him.

Suddenly I realized that I could make my living by painting all day, whatever I want, without going to work. This was like Peter Pan finding Neverland. So, I started to learn on my own how to paint in oil, refine my technique and define my storytelling by finding out the quintessence of what moves my emotions.

This thought – never working – is something that I think every adult has a desire to, but logic and life tell you to put aside. It will never work; we have mortgage and bills to pay, and food doesn’t buy itself; and what about all the time you would have even if you had money, wouldn’t you feel useless or bored? While children swear never to work as a principle, adults dare not even think about what would happen if they didn’t feel fulfilled through their work. What happens in the meanwhile, between youth and adulthood?

Institutionalization happens. Educational structures are there to make sure you have the knowledge to successfully incorporate you into the world in all its functions.

It starts with the primary school where they teach you how to function in society in the most effective way.

You learn how to read the clock, that there is a time and time goes by, which means you have to hurry. You have to grow up fast and there is no more time to enjoy childhood. This process runs through childhood and adolescence. Your mind makes a change and this change is what I try to capture. I display it as an initiation ritual to another grade, the grade of adulthood.

The Lost Word Ritual No. 4

There’s no doubt that school is one of the most influential things in childhood, especially in terms of building an identity. Suddenly you need to form opinions on people, politics, religion and the world. You join cliques and subcultures that can lead the way to both fantastic and troubling futures. Various kinds of love appear, emotions ravage. Interest forms, ideas flourish. Existing in a world outside the family bubble, among other children and people, sets off a complexification of life.

In Volkano’s earliest work, we see it in the clear contrast between a young child and raw meat. Becoming adult is feeling the harshness of reality, the weight of losing something otherwise inherent in your nature. Whether it is standing in a bowl of blood, playing with intestines or blindly drinking the juice of meat, these visualizations bring forth a feeling of something being forced upon you – sometimes unconsciously.

It is mainly in his drawings that adults play a role, guiding the child through an initiation – a rite of passage to become one of them. They introduce new and seemingly unnecessary concepts into children’s lives, and it is a heavy burden to bear.

Everything is done with an eye on the clock and children get involved too early. The raw meat is a metaphor for the raw adulthood the child is facing. Everything gets ugly when you grow up; milk turns to blood and chocolate to meat. It is also a symbol for the lust of the flesh, which captures you at a certain age and never lets you free.

There is an uncanny sense of passive accept in the portraits of the children, something that makes you wonder if it is even ethically or morally allowed to let children grow up if they aren’t given a choice.

I try to paint children with no expressions at all. To me, that is a very odd pose where I get the feeling that the ritual is working. Sometimes they have their eyes closed; they’re in the process of change.

In other works, there is an even clearer agenda to show innocence lost. Young boy soldiers follow a golden goat; a group of boys are aiming a gun at another boy in a rabbit suit; a girl scout holds a large candy stick as a rifle. Some are showing off Colgate smiles, while others seem more vicious as if they have already transitioned. The bright, symbol-laden drawings remind me of family photos, slightly out of focus or set up as traditional portraits – a homage to what once was, but is no more.

Comparing the motives of the drawings with those of the paintings, it is clear that they serve to be a disparate train of thought, multifaceted and experimental.

The paperwork is definitely a separate layer of my work, as it has different possibilities to awake emotions. I never do sketches or colour studies, everything runs intuitively.

I painted the candy weapons as a visualization of „making the war lucrative or edible to the child“. In our society, the roles are tightly divided. They develop toy guns for boys to accustom them to their role of soldiers in unnecessary wars. And girls have to play with newborn baby dolls preparing them to become birth machines. Everything is packed up in wonderful pastel colours.

The bugs were a central motive of contrasting transience and youth, as bugs often make me think of a composting corpse. I worked through various motives trying to find the most suitable item for my storytelling of the loss of freedom, a bound rabbit is awaking strange oppressive emotions on me. The flying bird is a common symbol of endless freedom because of its ability to fly.

In the opposite, for me, a dead bird is the most powerful and poetic way of displaying the dying freedom. It caught me instantly.

Like the children, many of these animals have somehow been inhibited – whether bound of blinded – and play the roles of sacrifices in the works. Part of you must surrender if you want to become adult. Many of these offerings are done unconsciously, through parents or institutions, and the change is not noticeable before it’s too late. This pain of losing the lightness of being, an uncomplicated existence, is apparent in the stillness of the portraits. Sometimes it is the eyes, other times the unnatural pose of the child.

As a natural continuation of this visual journey of adulthood’s growing immobility, Volkano found another strong symbol: belts and straps.

This is the path our society has taken since industrialization. We turned into machines to be able to operate the machines we invented.

Children will never have the freedom to unfold their minds in this kind of society. I paint the belts tight to give the feeling of the strict society. Children are surrounded, and can’t escape.

The Dead Bird Ritual No. 5

Around 2014-15 marked a transition for Volkano in terms of both technique and motive coherency. The Dead Bird Rituals took shape and were increasingly realistic in their look. Bolder shadows and striking highlights, as prescribed by chiaroscuro, combined with an almost photo-realistic depiction of faces looking straight at the viewer, creates a tension not seen before.

I’ve been doing that for the different kind of transmission a realistic painting has, without thinking that a painting gets better when adding more details. I think the sharpness works well in translating the emotion I’m after.
The paintings are the major part of my work because I can go big and I love to paint on canvas. Other than that, I feel that I have simply more freedom by working on a large canvas. And my motives are working much better when big.

I feel almost guilty when looking at some of them as if I have stolen something from these kids. But they also have an almost peaceful look about them. The girls are older now, mid-adolescence, and it seems that acceptance has become easier. In this new series, the children become very real, distinct people. Perhaps this is also a part of becoming adult – with each year, your body, skin and hair change, and you gain more and more distinctiveness. It makes you wonder who is behind these portraits.

The models in my paintings are the children of friends. First, we have a photo shoot in my studio and then I use the photos as references for my paintings. I make my choices intuitively.

Children can transport emotions on their mimics that no word can explain. If I get that emotion, I use the photo.

The newest series of work, called The Mystic Eastern Rite, presented at North Art Fair in Aalborg by Galerie Wolfsen, takes another step into the world of ritualistic transitions that has lingered in earlier works. Bones, feathers and dead animals have long been used as methods to enter another state. Circles are for protection, or for concentration.

If you study the many cults and their mysteries all around the globe you find out that there is one subject that connects all, metamorphosis. You must die a symbolic death to resurrect as a new being. In many cultures, bones are a common metaphor for this. And like the sun, the moon or a cocoon I paint, they are all metaphors for a mental change of the child.

These striking poses embrace the melancholy of leaving your old self behind, but in my eyes, they also possess the tranquillity that comes with having a purpose or a goal, knowing that you must sacrifice something to get there.

By the first look at the veiled children in this series, my first thought was that of child brides and the youth that is stolen by such a ceremony. In that case, it would truly be innocence lost. However, by further inspection and inquiring, Volkano assures me that it is not anything like it. The near-monochrome works channels the Eastern deserts and the veils they use for rites. Dead birds crown the girls and tighten as adulthood sets in.

The veiling is a long tradition in the East. But in this ritual the children are veiled in order to be enlightened afterwards. The priest covers the child with a cloth and bounds a dead bird on its head and the secret ceremony starts. At the end, the child gets unveiled and steps into a new phase, the adulthood. The process of the mental metamorphosis is being manifested here.

Volkano as an artist has predominantly let his work speak for him, and do not have a very public life. As I have seen him develop his style and followed his work, I found myself wondering whether he had a family, and I was happy to find out that he and his wife had just had a girl, Ella. The first thing that came to my mind was the thought that having a child himself may have influenced the way his newer paintings looked.

I’m married to my childhood love who I met at the age of 19 and in September 2017, she gave birth to a wonderful baby girl. My wife, who’s an art director, has always been having a protecting hand on me and promoted my path in art, backed me and gave me all freedom I need.

I’m currently working on my next solo show at Galerie Wolfsen and my new body of work is getting more poetic, more light in colour range and more feminine. I think this is a direct influence of my daughter.

I, for one, will look forward to observing the development in soul and style that Volkano will be bringing in 2018. I am personally hoping for more sculptures, of which I have only seen two out of the three he has created. These three-dimensional works bring a heavier vibe, almost cartoonish dark, and are more surreal in their expression. The juxtaposition of materials like oil, wood, metal and plastic with his motives invigorates and deepens the symbols used.

However, for now, Volkano confides that he is developing a solo show for Galerie Wolfsen in February 2018, which will be a homage to Swan Lake.

more works by Volkano

artist & exhibition information

Instagram
@volkanoart

Galerie
Wolfsen

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London Frieze review by Helena Sokol

London's Frieze art fair - The Highs & the lows

London Frieze review by Helena Sokol

London’s Frieze art fair – The Highs & the Lows

I went to Frieze so you don’t have to – though if you have the chance, you should definitely go. London’s biggest art fair for contemporary art (by living artists) opened for the select few (I wasn’t one of them) Wednesday the 4th of October, and I went there Friday to see what all the fuss was about. Post-fair, my thoughts centered around feminist art, the Frieze Focus, and the weird absence of anything even slightly provocative.

An article by Helena Sokol
Published on October 11, 2017

It all started in 2003 with approximately 5500 sqm of space, 124 galleries and 20 million dollars in sales. In 2017, already on the first day, galleries saw sales of over 8.8 million, and if audience numbers continue their trajectory from last year, Frieze is expecting to have more than 60.000, to visit this temporarily materialized stronghold of art.

Lately, art fairs like these and their smaller cousins are increasingly a risky, but necessary investment for every type of gallery. With no guarantee of profit and an extensive overhead, it is especially hard for younger galleries. You need to talk, drink and eat your way through spectators, collectors, academics, and artists if you want to succeed on the market, adding to the ever-increasing bill.

Smaller galleries can easily spend $100-150.000 on fairs, while bigger spend up to a whopping $500.000 or more. That’s also why there are two other art fairs at the same time as Frieze – Affordable Art Fair, and Moniker Art Fair, the latter known for their focus on street art. Bundling these events increases the chances of collectors and visitors to see all three, especially if they are not only wanting to get another Basquiat but also looking for upcoming artists. While the big galleries attract all kinds of collectors, the possibility of sales bleeds over to smaller names.

I usually tell the people who want to go to art fairs, or even museums, to try to go quite quickly through them at first. Personally, I walk quite briskly at first, looking and scouting, and if anything catches my eye, I will stop and look. With something like 170 galleries to go through, I’m afraid my brain would overheat if I had to dissect all the information and works in one day. You can then return for a second round, discovering works you might have missed the first time. However, I do not recommend trying to consume Frieze in two hours, as I did. I was almost in physical pain. Luckily, the Frieze sculpture park outside the tent, free of charge, offers comfort with its larger-than-life cartoon characters, performances, mirrors and traditional bronze works.

The first thing that meets the eye when you enter the fair is The Kiss of Judas, and for a moment I thought that Jeff Koons had bought the original work and proceeded to slap on a shiny blue ball onto the yellow robe of Judas. It seems like something he would do – destroying a 700-year-old painting by Giotto.

London Frieze review by Helena Sokol

Glitterball Judas, Jeff Koons (2015-16)

Gazing Ball (Little Boy), Jeff Koons (2013)

I immediately got lost and had to start over because if I were to get through in two hours, some system had to be in place. I was trying to look for something that really would put some thoughts in motion, be it an unusual use of booth space, a work that made me gag, or something in between.

The first gallery to have this was Massimo de Carlo, with five massive variations of the American flag, or at least the colors that resemble it. Polish-born Piotr Uklański used tie-dye, a traditionally hippie method of coloring, to set the scene for a fight between nationalism and naivety. However, as the cherry on top, the gallery appropriately placed a seemingly inconspicuous cubist sculpture by Andrea Ursuta in front of it.

Maybe it’s my anxious nature, but the sculpture had eyes and a nose which resembled the characteristic KKK outfits a little too much – and it was on a little chair! It would have almost been cute if it wasn’t for America’s current chillingly spiraling into white supremacy.

I felt like I was on a roll when I then stumbled into Jack Shainman Gallery, where one of my favorite artists had a mixed media sculpture shown. Nick Cave (not the musician) is mostly known for his “soundsuits,” colorful assemblages of feathers, human hair, everyday objects and decoration like pearls and sequins, integrated with suits in strange and wonderful shapes. However, this was one of his newer sculptures and captured another side to the artist – the objectification of the black male. The stereotypical representation of a black man, found in a flea market, was surrounded by branches and ceramic objects, creating a narrative through imaginary memorabilia – the audience was forced to confront the ridicule and shame and turn to education to condone themselves.

However, my high of seeing art disseminating political themes didn’t last long. I wandered up and down the rows, avoiding furry ladies in high heels and busy black-clad Frieze employees, wondering if the gallery owners and assistants were part of some giant ingenious joke, where they simply sat around texting each other. Maybe it’s just one big performance, staged to show how little anyone really cares about your opinion.

London Frieze review by Helena Sokol

Reclining Nude I, Kevin Francis Gray (2016)

And how much money would you need to have managed to sit in the Deutsche Bank Lounge? Does the personal BMW service offered at the fair drive you there?

There is a special place in hell for people who take selfies with art. There has been a terrifying increase in art being destroyed by people in their search for the right angle. And don’t touch the art, particularly things that glow or glitter – I know it’s hard, but have an extra think before you lean in to get that pic for Facebook. Unfortunately, I think that galleries are feeling the pressure of exhibiting Instagram-worthy art, creating an endless spiral of temptation and need.

Wandering thoughts aside, I felt like there were way too few political works of art. With these galleries having so much power, money, and influence, you would think they would pick up on the current global socio-economical turmoil and act on it. But no.

Frankly, I think it is their responsibility. While big companies constantly strive to find new and better way to fulfill their corporate social responsibilities, the art world’s mastodons are stuck in the ice age. Instead, they show the same famous names in the same conventional curatorial ways. Some places I visited, didn’t write the artist’s name, and you couldn’t find a price tag no matter how hard you tried.

This kind of secrecy is unique to the art world. So is the notorious lack of service. If an employee in any other retail or service industry continually ignored you, there’s a chance you wouldn’t come back. It is alienating and embarrassing, and I know it has been complained about it since the dawn of times.

Maybe I’m just tired – and at the tender age of 25, hopefully with 40 years ahead of me in the creative industry, it feels like watching a collision in slow motion. With a growing understanding that we as millennials generally have the attention span of a squirrel on Redbull, I don’t have time to see the end. Fortunately, in 40 years, all these middle-aged gallerists may be gone, so new (hopefully) innovative minds have taken over.

Despite my previous expression of disappointment, there were still a few works at the main fair that caught my eye.

Jason Fox had read my mind at this stage with his work, I Don’t Even Know What Okay is Anymore. The many-limbed vampire alien was strange enough for me to walk into the otherwise unimpressive booth.

Kyungah Ham’s mind-fucking embroidery piece Series In Camouflage/Money Never Sleeps was soothing to my soul, particularly when I looked at the accompanying material description, which stated: “North Korean hand embroidery, silk threads on cotton, middle man, anxiety, censorship, wooden frame.” Her imagery and sense of humor were seductive and needed.

London Frieze review by Helena Sokol

Installation view, Massimo de Carlo, Piotr Uklański & Andrea Ursuta

I was exhilarated to see Erkka Nissinen & Nathaniel Mellors’ Finnish absurdism at The Box, with works from their series The Aalto Natives. They have built up a narrative around flimsy characters like eggs and cardboard boxes with googly eyes and too much responsibility. I saw them for the first time at the Venice Biennale this year representing Finland, and I have never laughed so hard at an art exhibition.

Other works include Olafur Eliasson’s Instagram-worthy, color-changing glass balls, Berta Fischer’s acrylic glass sculptures, Michael Borremans’ small, but dark painting Angel Dust and Jonathan Meese’s DR. Z.U.K.U.NF.T FÜHRT, WIE SAU, COOL, COOLISM…. (ZEDADDY). There were a few more mention-worthy, but I wanted to make sure to get around the most surprising and mention-worthy part of Frieze.

I want to touch upon the theme of the fair’s special exhibition called Sex Work: Feminist Art & Radical Politics, which by the title alone seems highly sensationalist, while at the same time underwhelming and self-explanatory.

Frieze went to great length to explain how these women for 50 years have struggled to get their sexually explicit work exhibited, and how this is an important celebration of how galleries are now brave enough to support and exhibit the artists. Furthermore, we are no longer too prude to look at penetrating penises, dildos, and balloons that touch like nipples.

I would have been very happy with this development if it weren’t for the lack of political context for the artists – except for A.I.R Gallery’s timeline, which showed their collaborations with important people within the movements in the 70’s.

It felt like there was an atmosphere of theme, instead of real research. Next year it’ll be something else, and what impact will it have made? For me, it was the first time to see feminist icon artists, like Renate Bertelman and Betty Tompkins, and I was impressed of course. But does the inclusion of feminist artists really make it feminist?

But on a positive note was Focus, Frieze’s section for younger upcoming galleries, with no more than ten years on their backs. Why they chose such an uninspiring name for the best part of the fair, I don’t know. This part of the fair was bursting with full-booth installations, experimental curating and actual international galleries, not just from New York, London or Hong Kong.

One of the galleries that I immediately became aware of was Stevenson, hailing from South Africa. Their stand was simple, but tight, mostly dominated by Nicholas Hlobo’s ritualistic and slightly creepy work. His wall pieces incorporated ribbon, leather, and sewing, creating a wonderfully organic and intimate world, oozing softness and a slightly rigid sense of gender roles.

London Frieze review by Helena Sokol

Installation view, Stevenson Gallery

I briefly passed by Instituto De Visión, from Bogota, who was representing Mexico-born Pia Camil. She was chosen for the Frieze Projects, for which she had done a series of “habitable paintings” in her characteristic style. These wearable fabrics were shared with whoever wanted them, for use as blankets, capes, ponchos. It was interactive and engaging – something I hadn’t seen yet in the main fair.

The Breeder in Athens had the weirdest piece of work I had seen in a long time. Usually, I don’t like video in the first place, but Theo Triantafydillis melted both my brain and my heart. Computer game graphics, trashy, totally dadaistic and a bright neon palette joined together to show us a world that doesn’t care about your aesthetics or rules – that, and the only sound of the video is the meow of cats.

For me, he is really pushing the potential of digital art, placing it in a context of physical space as an installation that takes up the room instead of staying two-dimensional – and after a little research, I found out he also does ceramics and paints. Swoon.

Frieze was what I expected of a fair of that size. Impressive and disappointing at the same time – some brutal critics say you get the same year after year, but I don’t think that per say. There are repetitions in names and works, and I certainly enjoyed the upcoming galleries part better, but I believe that everybody should try to go to at least one art fair every year, just to broaden one’s horizon and to learn how to act around art, artists and galleries.

And to buy art, of course.

detail of Carla Chan exhibition 'Ashes of Snow' at Den Frie
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Polly Bozworth illustration for Blacklisted
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Bo Christian Larrson in Gallery Eighteen - Photo by Jan Søndergaard
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Erma Fiend feature image

The twisted animations of Erma Fiend

Talking with the New York based animator whose animated-GIF’s are intentionally walking the line between artistry and entertainment.

Published: October 2, 2017
Words: Erma Fiend & J.Scott Stratton
Reference: www.ermafiend.com/

Just like most things in the world, animation has become one of those things that is synonymous with computers. Even some of the more well known Claymation feature films and animated series’ are actually done with 3D modeling and rendering.

Now I’m not one to wax reminiscent about the good old Ray Harryhausen days where the majority of all animation was painstaking done by hand – subtly adjusting figures an photographing tens-of-thousands of images. It would be ridiculous to abandon the tools that drastically streamline that process.

But I do find myself being drawn to animators who stylistically express the influence of classic stop-motion in their work – even if the large majority of it is finalized in After Effects.

This is was grabbed me about the work of artist Erma Fiend. Scrolling through her instagram feed is like taking a tour through the worlds of David W. Allen, David Lynch and Monty Python all roll into one deliciously, obscure brain melt.

Beyond the pure entertainment level of her work, lies a craftsmanship that is something can’t be achieved by simply watching an online tutorial on Maya or Photoshop. There is a intricate planning to her simple animation – specifically because of that one detail. Their simple…at least in their consumption.

The majority of Fiend’s work is made purely as repeating animated gifs. Which means that the entire structure of the frame-by-frame images is far more complicated that it might first appear. Everything needs to be meticulously planned out. Each element within her animations must not only move from point A to point B, but must also animate to point C, which is a mirror image of point A – thus completing the circular animation.

There is a lot more to the process in which Fiend’s works, of which I am doing no justice, so I sat down with her talk about her what inspires her and keeps her animating.

Your feed has provided me with endless hours of entertainment, so I don’t even know where to start. But I guess, tell me how you got into working with animation?

I’ve been doodling and making little things for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always loved mixed media animation.  I started working as a production assistant for a children’s television show in my early 20’s, and I spent many years on the producing side of things.  I’ve always worked on my own animated shorts on the side, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started making gifs on a regular basis.  Now I can’t stop!

The animations and gifs that you make, do you create them specifically for the web, or are they all part of a larger collection of work?

I love getting a chance to show high-res stuff on a big screen, but I definitely make things with the web in mind.  I love that internet viewing gives people intimate access to explore and watch gifs on repeat.  There’s something special about discovering looping nuggets of motion that don’t have a start or end, or a place or context for viewing.  They’re just portals into different worlds that you can stumble upon at your own pace.

“I want my work to span funny, eerie, upsetting, and delightful simultaneously.”

Do you consider yourself falling into the category of classical “artist,” in the sense that this is your full-time creative pursuit?

I have a background in production and technical jobs that aren’t always creative but right now animation is my full-time focus.  Anyone who has the drive to create evocative experiences just for the sake of making their idea come to fruition is an artist in my book.

Tell me about your process for how you create one of your animations?

I usually start with a vague idea for an action or scene, and then I plan out all the different shots that I’d need to put it together.  Sometimes it’s straightforward frame-by-frame stop motion with a few added effects that I draw on digitally, but usually, I have a few different stop-motion sequences that I cut up in Photoshop and Frankenstein onto a timeline to play out simultaneously.  There’s a lot of trial and error, and sometimes I go back and add multiple layers of effects until it’s interesting enough to watch on repeat.

When people have written about your work, you’re often referred to in the context of “horror,” although personally, I find your work more Lynchian. Would you consider yourself a Horror Queen or has that been projected on you?

I like to create surreal worlds with their own logic and aesthetic, but I don’t aim to fit the horror genre necessarily.  I want my work to span funny, eerie, upsetting, and delightful simultaneously.  I consider myself a horror queen in real life, though.

Because what you do is so closely related to film work, is that also a discipline that you explore?

I recently directed a short film written by a friend of mine, and I’m hoping to start making some short form looping video for Instagram.  In the long-term, I’m writing a horror movie about people who work at a tech company that designs AI sex dolls.  I want to work up to that with some smaller scale videos first.  I’m excited to start combining some of my gif effects with audio and live action video.

Beyond the grossly entertaining treats that you post on Instagram, where can people find out more about your work?

I just built my website ErmaFiend.com, which I hope to expand soon by selling lenticular prints of my gifs (it’s a cool technique, they look like holograms but for frame animation).  You can also check out my work on artist page

Fiend’s work is definitely finding a home in the hearts of many on the interwebs, with her work being picked up by Vice, Bullett Media, and a host of other global publication – in that regard, I suppose we’re the awkward ones showing up late to the party.

Regardless of the internet hype around Fiend’s work, it was nice to learn that her skill as an animator is leading her down more adventurous and scalable projects. While her animated-GIF’s are fantastic, there is a lot of work that goes into a small piece of digital art that most people normally consume in seconds without even bothering to acknowledge the artist or their hours of toil.

But until the day that I see her name in the final credits of a larger project, I’m happy enough to simply open my Instagram feed, find another bizarre animation from this talented motion designer, and know a little bit more about the person who made it.


NOTE: Unfortunately, even though animated GIF’s are common everywhere, if you’re looking at this site on mobile they will appear as films. This is because apparently our website was designed in 2005 and we have zero money to pay fancy web guys to fix it. But you can see all of Fiends’ work here:

www.ermafiend.com/
Instagram
Giphly

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Bo Christian Larrson in Gallery Eighteen - Photo by Jan Søndergaard

Bo Christian Larsson ‘Light Traps’

Bo Christian Larrson in Gallery Eighteen - Photo by Jan Søndergaard

Bo Christian Larsson’s
‘Light Traps’

Working from intuition, borrowing from nature, and drawing inspiration from Shakespeare, ‘Light Traps’ is another ambitious collection of work from the Swedish artist.

Published: September 25, 2017
Words: Bo Christian Larsson & J.Scott Stratton
Photos: Jan Søndergaard
Reference: Eighteen

As an artist, it can be quite easy to fall into the trap of defining yourself by your mediums. One could argue that the fastest way to garner a type of recognition, is defining a medium and a style that is notable, and in some way, unique to an audience.

Platforms like Instagram, a now essential audience building tool for artists, are inundated with various types of visual artists that have defined themselves to their audiences with a specific painting, sculptural or installation styles – in fact we engage in conversations with many such artists here on Blacklisted.

Now it’s not to say that there is anything wrong with that particular pathway or artistic practice, but I must draw attention to the artists that walk the road less travelled and choose to define themselves through their concepts – allowing their mediums and styles to remain fluid and flexible to their conceptual explorations.

This is how I would describe the artistic processes of Bo Christian Larsson. When you look back through his oeuvre of work, there are recognizable themes and what might be described as a “style”, but it becomes quite clear that he does not restrict himself to the constraints of medium. It would almost be more accurate to say there are some recognizable influences in his work – the use of bone, antler, wood, hair and found object – but he does not always define himself by these mediums. There is more of an intuitive nature to his process of conceptual exploration, where the concept determines the medium.

For his latest exhibition, currently now on exhibition at Eighteen Gallery in Copenhagen, his work explores these mediums, but as a means to an end. In ‘Light Traps’, it appears that Larsson is exploring the threshold states between derivative and the pre-defined, the primal and the fabricated. The works are structured in a way to have a visual human function and pseudo-recognizable structure, but based upon raw materials from nature.

My own personal interpretation of his work as I walked through the interwoven wires and placement of the 24 light sculptures, was one that explored the bastardization of nature through human intervention. Of course, I know better that to project my own interpretations of work upon a collection of work, so I reached out to Larsson to get a more thorough explanation of the concept, research and processes that he used in order to create these works.

There seems to be a juxtaposition between the primordial and the modern, the rough and the refined, at the core of your work. Can you tell me a little bit about this?

I have always been interested in the border area between things, the no-mans land, the blur between art and life. I like to read between the lines and position my work where there is no need for an exact definition of what has been made by me and what has been found, or made by others. The world and its history is a combination of fantasy and fact, so is my work. I guess I want to avoid being stuck in this or that.

You describe your work as “harnessing the potential energy of the untamed without causing harm or destruction”….can you elaborate on this?

It is one aspect of my thought process, like a poetic way of saying that creativity is always the result of harnessing or transforming energies. It is always good to try and harm or destroy as little as possible in my eyes, that being said, it is all relative.

These works for this exhibition ‘Light Traps’, use a lot of fur, bone and animal elements? Is that not a form of destruction?

All those objects has been found. The moose for example, lose their antlers around January each year before they grow new ones for the next mating season. I don’t see any destruction in that. Sure it has a symbolic roughness to it, but where I live and work this is everyday life.

“All the world’s a stage – despite that, I had to learn a thing or two about electricity.”

Bo Christian Larrson in Gallery Eighteen - Photo by Jan Søndergaard

Nature is a cruel judge, and when you bring these loaded materials into a white gallery space in an urban environment it creates an energy that I find attractive. Some people find it destructive and some a natural part of the lifecycle.

I somehow also like that these animal parts I use in my work, which are considered ”leftovers” in the meat industry become so loaded in the heart of a butchers district where this gallery is located.

In regards to this exhibition, can you tell me a little about the concept?

I wanted to limit myself in the creative process for this show. I started to think of the literary work ”La Disparition”, by George Perec, which is a lipogrammatic novel where the author avoids using the letter e throughout the book. I had a similar wish of limitation and thought that a technical hang up could be just that. Therefore I started to create lamp sculptures which for sure puts a limit to what you can achieve with cables, electricity and lights. Funny enough I found a total freedom within these limits and it was more like a beautiful dance than a struggle to create these works. And once again I could lean towards my believe in harvesting energy from the in-between world. Is it a lamp or a sculpture or booth? Is it even important? Each work has their own story and I see them much like different tracks on a record.

What was the research that you drew from for this particular collection of work?

The foothill of my inspiration comes from the Shakespeare monologue: All the World´s a stage, despite that I had to learn a thing or two about electricity.

So, take me through your process or methodology when setting down to create the work for ‘Light Traps’?

I work very much on instinct and I weave with a lot of different projects at the same time. so the process for this show has been going on for a few years, but at the same time I have been creating lots of other things. I sometimes don’t even remember how certain things came into being, and thats when I start to feel really good about my work. A free flow following the stream of consciousness. The most important thing about making art is the making part.

It’s been a long process in creating this work. Have you felt that the work or concept evolved during that time?

I think it is very important to constantly evolve, to be able to create art, to be able to live.
This process cannot be separated from the rest of the work I do, so its impossible to imagine that it didn’t. However, I would like to think that I am radically different for each show.

Now that this collection of work is finished, what concepts or researches are to diving into now?

I am currently writing on a book/manuscript and making a 9 hour long marathon video work that takes place in the woods outside my studio. For the rest I want to dive real deep into the meaning and history of camouflage, something that I love as a concept. But first, I want to pick mushrooms and harvest the potatoes and beets in my garden.

’Light Traps will be on exhibition at Eighteen in Copenhagen from September 15 to November 18, 2017

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A selected work from Pete Lamberto's Slowroom Contemporary pop-up gallery
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Eleni Sakelaris lino prints detail
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Sophie Dupont

Sophie Dupont's 'This will also change'

Sophie Dupont 'This will also change' exhibition preparation for Overgaden

Sophie Dupont’s
‘This will also change’

Visiting the studio of performance and visual artist Sophie Dupont to get a before and after look at her newest work, ‘This will also change’. Now currently on exhibition at Overgaden.

Published: August 29, 2017
Words: Sophie Dupont & J.Scott Stratton
Studio Photography: J.Scott Stratton
Exhibition Photography: Anders Sune Berg

One of the things that I feel you can often recognize in an artist trained in the processes of Performing Arts, is a focus on making the audience aware of their own gaze. As there is no commodity in performing or performance art, as there is in visual arts, the intent must be to effect the perception of the viewer. In other words, the intent is not to create an object that a viewer can admire, but to create an experience that alters the state of the viewers being, i.e. wrapping them up in a narrative or making them aware of their presence as a watcher.

As a woman who was trained as a classical dancer, you can see some of those disciplines showing through in the work of Danish artist Sophie Dupont. Her work is often incredibly physically demanding, even though it is not always classically choreographic in nature. Working with elements of weight, balance, and mass, Dupont fabricates various objects for both herself and the audience to interact with, all in the name of various concept intent on altering the state-of-being of her audience. The sculptures are not stand alone pieces with concept and intent poured into them. Her works are both sculpture and tool that she uses to alter the audience’s perception of their own ‘self’ within a space, as well as physical documentation of her own enacted processes of exploring her own being.

For her newest collection of work, Dupont works with the conceptual framework of ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’. The questions regarding how we perceive, “what is vertical?”, “What is horizontal?”, and “How do they affect our perception of the world?” are classical principles of composition that you can find in everything from artworks and architecture to design and product development. In other words, considering these questions is a fundamental starting point for many creative processes.

Sophie Dupont 'This will also change' exhibition preparation for Overgaden
Sophie Dupont 'This will also change' exhibition preparation for Overgaden

“I see the horizontal aspect of life as the space of how we act and react in life, in this world, around other people.”

Sophie Dupont 'This will also change' exhibition preparation for Overgaden

In her current exhibition, ‘This will also change’, Dupont explores the concepts of vertical and horizontal as a metaphor for our outward and inward lives. By thoughtfully composing a space which the audience is forced to be constantly aware of their own presence within the space and within themselves.

I visited Dupont in her studio, while she was developing the objects and sculptures that will fill the space in her solo exhibition at Overgaden Institut for Samtidskunst, and she took me through a tour of the works and how she will use them to alter the gallery space. I took this as an opportunity to ask her a few questions about her a couple of questions about her work and her processes.

You began your training in performing arts, can you tell me how those practices and disciplines find your way into you’re more sculptural visual work?

I guess it’s a way of being. I often see things in images. When we talk I picture how it looks. The shapes, the colors. If you tell about an emotion, an idea or anything, I instantly paint or sculpt in my head. It’s not something I decide to do but it’s how I work -so to speak. Also, I often sense and feel it in my body – it can be just a random sentence I for some reason feel somewhere as a bodily manifestation. And this is how I construct my works – I always let them grow from this starting point. I don’t know if this is because of my many years of training as a dancer or I was like this since I was born – but for sure my many year’s training emphasized this quality of quality and awareness.

You mention that your work often explores a state of ‘being’—specifically with the audience. Can you elaborate on that?

I always felt if I were to tell the one story – what would I tell – if I told you about the ocean I would miss out telling about the sky, the earth, the forest etc – I always strive to tell the essence. It was always a problem how to capture this. Most of the time during the academy I felt so frustrated because I felt I couldn’t capture the essence. I came to the conclusion that maybe none of the things were important but the life itself – the pure being and this is what I’m now trying in all my works to explore, to research, to question. The pureness of the different aspects we are as human beings. Before job, sex, economy etc. And by doing this creates a space for just being with what we are;- being with balance, with weight, with the mind.

Sophie Dupont 'This will also change' exhibition preparation for Overgaden

Within the framework of ‘exploring the horizontal and vertical’, how will you use those concepts within the space of Overgaden?

I see the horizontal aspect of life as the space of how we act and react in life, in this world, around other people. How we communicate ourselves to the outer world. How we are constantly in this flow of ever changing states of minds – as is the title of the carousel: This Will Also Change.

Whereas the vertical is the space for inner awareness, where we go inwards and communicate and reflect on ourself, how we are human beings in this world. And for this, I have chosen my works that all have to do with the breathing – and breath awareness like the one I started in 2011 Marking Breath.

•••

In ‘This will also change’ Dupont again shows her prowess at manipulating the concepts of space and audience. Her sculptures are placed within the rooms of Overgaden with a masterful understanding on how to force the viewer to interact with her work, and when to observe–making them constantly aware of both their inner and outer-selves.

As one enters the space, one is met with a decision to enter into a large space with a carousel-like sculpture in its center. When speaking with Dupont, she confided that she was interested in whether viewer would break through the gallery stigma and begin to interact with the moveable and spinning sculpture. It was not a requirement, but simply a hope for an interesting observation of audience and object interaction.

Should one choose to navigate away from that room, the audience is then forced to maneuver through a web of wireframe shapes that disorient the eye as to their true depth and placement–again showing Dupont’s acuity for manipulating an audience into being both aware of the space, and aware of themselves within the space.

As one enters the farther reaches of the gallery, they are met with an austere space with large open spaces between the various sculptural and process based artworks, as if the intent was to give the viewer room to open and breath after weaving their way through Dupont’s wire frame maze. The collection of work therein working more as a documentation of Dupont’s own personal explorations of ‘being’, so which the audience must simple observe, other which can be interacted with.

All in all, there is much to explore in Dupont’s newest collection. Each piece adding to her evolving exploration of internal and external “being”, but also going beyond the notion of being a momentary stage prop for a performative work. Each piece, while part of this larger whole, stands alone as a testament to an exploration of a specific concept of being–whether it be the “horizontal”, the “vertical”, sound, breathing or our own perception of space.

Dupont’s work will be on exhibition on the 1st floor of Overgaden Institut for Samtidskunst until October 22, 2017.

Exhibition Info: Overgaden
Artist Info: Sophie Dupont

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AM DeBrincat 'Plum Sleep' detail from the Hello Sunshine collection

AM DeBrincat and her 'Hello Sunshine" exhibition

AM DeBrincat 'Plum Sleep' detail from the Hello Sunshine collection

AM DeBrincat and the ‘Hello Sunshine” exhibition

After touching down on Danish soil, I spoke with the NY based artist about her newest collection of work she’ll be exhibiting in Malmø.

Words: AM DeBrincat & J.Scott Stratton
Published: August 23, 2017
Artist Link: AM DeBrincat Web

I first (internet)met the New York based artist AM DeBrincat last year. I interviewed her for a piece on her work ‘Hybrid Identities’–which you can read here–and since then, we have been collaborating and corresponding on various projects via email. It was all cordial and creative business between a couple like minded thinkers, but nothing more.

But one of the the things I love about Americans, is that when you take us out of our country (a place that generally makes us a little grumpy) and put us somewhere slightly better (say Copenhagen), we gain this ability to talk to anyone about anything as if you’ve had a lifelong friendship.

This is exactly what happened when I met AM and her husband for the first time on the streets of Copenhagen–as they were taking in the hours before her first international exhibition in Lohme Gallery in Malmø. There was no awkwardness silences, no small talk, it was straight in there with conversations about art, traveling, politics, Krampus and Austrian petrified bull penis (google it)….basically the types of conversations that you would have when reconnecting with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile.

Now, I must note, that I do not attribute this moment specifically to all of us being American’s abroad, but more to the fact that AM is also a wonderfully cheery person whose sunny disposition matches the bright vivid dispositions of her artwork. She has an infectious good nature, that it would difficult to be sour around.

Her work has a darker side in its conceptual background–as it explores our global society’s obsession with self-image and gradual entropy of our attention spans–but the execution of her work is an explosion of color.

AM has created an entirely new series of work for her upcoming solo exhibition entitled ‘Hello Sunshine’, which will be on exhibit from August 25 – September 23, 2017. And since I had the opportunity to meet with the New York native after a year of email correspondence, I took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the new collection and the evolution of her career in general.

AM DeBrincat 'Triple Flavor' from the Hello Sunshine collection
AM DeBrincat 'Marmalade' detail from the Hello Sunshine collection

So tell me, is this new collection of work ‘Hello Sunshine’ an extension of your painting technique and concept, your Hybrid Identities, or did you explore other processes, concepts or techniques as well?

The paintings I’m showing in Hello Sunshine are all mixed media paintings that explore the possibilities of figurative painting in the digital age. Each painting combines digital photography, a printmaking technique called Xerox transfer printing, and oil and acrylic painting. I want each painting to be a visual puzzle of digital and analog media – the coldness of digital photography meets the warmth and sensuality of painting. So they are each a hybrid of digital and analog media…

We didn’t get into this last time we spoke, but tell me about the process in which you create your work—from digital to analog?

I like to follow the same basic process to build each painting. Each painting usually has three mediums in the finished painting: oil paint, acrylic paint, and Xerox transfer printing. But my entire process from start to finish involves more mediums than that.
Each piece starts on the computer – I have a huge archive of digital images, many of them my own photos and many that I’ve collected from online sources like social media and image searches. I start by playing in Photoshop, combining up to 40 images into a single digital collage which is the basic “sketch” for the painting. This digital collage becomes my road map for the painting.

AM DeBrincat 'Plum Sleep' from the Hello Sunshine collection
AM DeBrincat 'Saturday Afternoon' from the Hello Sunshine collection

I print out the digital collage in sections, and then use an old-school, archival, DIY printmaking technique called Xerox transfer printing to transfer pieces of the digital image onto the surface of the canvas. At this point, the image on my canvas is in black and white. Then I use acrylic paint to add color to sections of the image – a technique similar to how people used to hand-tint old photos a century ago.

The last step is painting the face. I leave the faces blank canvas until the very end, and then I paint the faces with oil paint.

So back to the upcoming exhibition. What is the concept of ‘Hello Sunshine’ about?

The paintings in this show are inspired by the delicious feeling of sitting in the sun enjoying a relaxing afternoon. I wanted to explore a joyful, relaxing theme and offer all of us a moment of escape from the social, political, and environmental problems that so many of us are thinking about constantly right now. So this show is offering a moment of escape, an opportunity to feel the sun on our faces and enjoy a moment of tranquility. When I was creating these works, I kept thinking back to the simple delights of childhood, and as a kid how easy it was to feel completely blissful enjoying an ice cream in the sun or seeing a beautiful flower or leaf. In a way, ‘Hello Sunshine’ is a bit wistful for simple, innocent joys – everything becomes more complicated as we grow up and those simple, joyful moments become more elusive.

Did you create this collection of work specifically for this exhibition, or had you begun the process prior?

All the work in Hello Sunshine was created specifically for this exhibition at Lohme Art Gallery.

AM DeBrincat 'Pageant' detail from the Hello Sunshine collection
AM DeBrincat 'Magical Thinking' from the Hello Sunshine collection

This is your first solo exhibition in Europe, tell me what that has been like?

It’s been great! The gallery and the people are wonderful, and it’s such a fantastic gallery, and I’m honored they’ve invited me for a solo show.

From here, what does the future hold for you in regards to your work?

I want to continue down this path I’m on – exploring the place where our online and offline lives meet and merge. I want to continue playing with fitting digital and analog media into a single painting. That visual and conceptual puzzle of digital + analog continues to feel so relevant to our lives today, and I want to continue exploring it.

Each piece of work feels like a puzzle when I’m making it – there are digital (photography) and analog (painting) elements, and I need to fit them all together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into one image. But it’s not a seamless image – you can clearly see the seams and where it doesn’t all quite fit together exactly right.

I think this idea of a multitude of images in one image is a little bit of a metaphor for how we absorb information in the digital age. We are so inundated with so much data and so many images constantly on in our screen culture and on our phones, but the images are of everything all at once (news, social media, advertising, cat videos, anything and everything you can think of all at the same time) and the images don’t fit neatly together. We piece them together in our minds like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to try and make sense of the world and this huge amount of data we are constantly viewing, but it’s never a seamless composition. In a way, I’m mimicking this process and doing this in a tiny way in a microcosm in each painting.


Gallery Info: Art Gallery Lohme
Exhibition Details: August 25 — September 23
Opening: August 25 • 17:00

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A selected work from Pete Lamberto's Slowroom Contemporary pop-up gallery

Pete Lamberto's Slowroom Contemporary

A selected work from Pete Lamberto's Slowroom Contemporary pop-up gallery

Pete Lamberto’s Slowroom Contemporary

Looking into the motivations behind a brave new pop-up gallery and an artist proving that curation is as much about love and support for a community as it is about taste.

Words: Pete Lamberto & J.Scott Stratton
Published: August 17, 2017
Reference: Slowroom Contemporary

I’m going to go out on limb and state that art and creativity exist solely for purpose of moving us to feel some emotion—because art without a gaze is nothing and creativity without execution is just empty thought. It is an inevitable truth in life that art will always breed more art—creativity will breed more creativity—yet we sometimes ignore these facts. We like to think that art is created in a vacuum and that the artist simply drew inspiration from his or her unique outlook on life, rather than being sometimes directly influenced by another artist.

Originality is the art of concealing your sources.

This popular maxim that has been, in some form or another, attributed to famous creative and genius minds for the last century. Everyone from Einstein to Warhol has said some iteration of this statement, which goes to show how we see art and creativity in relation to originality. In other words, in order to be a good artist, you have to be good at hiding where you get your inspiration.

Now personally, I am not a believer in this statement. I think that its maxims like this that stop people from becoming artists. And it’s this resistance to this type of thinking that drew me to reach out to artist Pete Lamberto about his latest project.

To elaborate, by complete accident I stumbled into a small pop-up exhibition in Copenhagen new little-hidden-gem of culture—PostBox. Hidden on the top of the old Post building in the central city, a small community of shipping containers host a number of little shops, restaurants, bars, and PostBox; the small gallery where I found the Slowroom Contemporary exhibition of photographic work curated by Lamberto.

After picking up the description of the work, I found that Lamberto was driven to move from artist to curator by his emotional connection to ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Now I will admit, that Gonzalez-Torres’ piece is an amazing political and personal work of art, but that is not was resonated with me. It was that Lamberto was openly “revealing his source”.

Now, in this case, the connection is not as one-to-one–as Lamberto is a photographer and Gonzalez-Torres was an installation artist, and in this case Lamberto is only curating the work fro Slowroom Contemporary–but I still found it refreshing to visit an exhibition where the intent and motivation behind was clearly stated as coming from an emotional connection to another artist’s body of work. It was simply stating what we all know, which is that art moves us, and that art will always breed more art.

As an artist yourself, what moved you to put on the skin of “curator” to give birth to Slowroom Contemporary rather that simply showcase your own works?

Lamberto: The dream of nourishing the value and artistry of contemporary artists of my generation, and ultimately curate exhibitions, surfaced many years after heavily focusing on my own artistic development. I’ve always felt I had a sixth sense for finding art and putting them together. A short time ago, I launched a similar project, purely online, under a different name. I did solely to test the waters, first of all to see whether I was capable of convincing artists to join my project, then curate and execute with actual artworks at my display. This went quite well. I had the honor to have amazing artists like Johnson Tsang and Dimitri Papaioannou onboard that project. Also, I briefly was in contact with Ren Hang, so when I heard of his passing, it saddened me deeply – we truly lost a rebel heart.

But back to your question about the change of ‘skin’ from artist to curator. I suppose the pleasure and liberation that my own work brings me (which it truly does) only reaches so far. In recent years, I have found that what really triggers great pleasure, is to find artists from inside- and across borders, helping them surface and, as with this project, placing them alongside established artists into curated exhibitions, to really bring everyone’s artistic value to front. So having this temporary space in the middle of Copenhagen to pull this off, really is great.

You’ve written that your emotional connection to Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ piece ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ was the flash point for beginning the Slowroom Contemporary project. Can you tell me more about your relationship to this piece?

When speaking of flash points, I remember specifically this piece because it truly moved me by miles; the layers of depth within ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ surely was one of the contemporary pieces that fueled my love and fascination with contemporary art. The reason why I began the project description with this piece, was simply to illuminate a reference point of where my love for art began. I became familiar with the installation in the late 90’s, but as with many pieces, especially installations, I did not fully understand it as first glance. But when digging just a tad deeper, my perception of the installation changed completely. And the brilliance of this piece, is that it so many years later, still moves me, and is still incredibly relevant.

And lastly, as part of the LGBTQ community myself, it really struck a chord with me. I know people with HIV who still feel the stigma that surrounds it in their everyday life – this said in light of coming so far on the scientific front. It surprises me time and time again, when I meet and hear about the amount of people still having the perception of the HIV as being a death sentence.

A selected work from Pete Lamberto's Slowroom Contemporary pop-up gallery

Yes, that particular work is deeply emotional and political, specifically to the history of gay rights and the public view of the HIV and AIDS. But, how has that political and emotional subject matter influenced your choice of artists for Slowroom?

I don’t feel the subject matter of ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ has specifically had a major influence in my choice of artists for the Slowroom Contemporary project, but surely I wanted to have a collection of artworks that could ‘move’ the viewer, regardless of which direction; some will be experiencing a brushstroke of curiosity, some will find humor, while others undeniably will be provoked. But having the viewer feel something when stepping into the exhibition space, has of course been a mission when choosing the artists and their work for this project.

It’s taken almost a year of research, visiting gloomy basements studios and a whole lot of back- and forth to create the final roster of artists I have involved now – and I’m incredibly proud of my current artist-roster. I feel they all bring so much to the table, each and everyone of them.

“I have found that what gives me great pleasure, is to find artists, help them surface, and placing them alongside established artists to really bring everyone’s artistic value up front.”

You mentioned your relation to art and storytelling as one based on emotional value. What this a factor in your curatorial process?

This was surely a crucial factor in my decision of which artists I wanted to be involved. As mentioned earlier, my relationship with contemporary is based on emotion rather than anything else, to be completely honest. I wanted pieces within the ‘Rotations’ that could tell several stories when placed in various contexts and placed alongside other pieces. It was important to me, that each artwork had a highly emotional value just by itself, but on the other hand could be altered.

Another aim of mine was not to force too many layers of intellectualized concepts onto the combination of artworks and exhibitions. I wanted to keep it fairly simple and accessible to the viewers, and not making them leave with too many questions, but leave with impressions and stories.

As an artist yourself, what moved you to put on the skin of “curator” to give birth to Slowroom Contemporary rather that simply showcase your own works?

Lamberto: The dream of nourishing the value and artistry of contemporary artists of my generation, and ultimately curate exhibitions, surfaced many years after heavily focusing on my own artistic development. I’ve always felt I had a sixth sense for finding art and putting them together. A short time ago, I launched a similar project, purely online, under a different name. I did solely to test the waters, first of all to see whether I was capable of convincing artists to join my project, then curate and execute with actual artworks at my display. This went quite well. I had the honor to have amazing artists like Johnson Tsang and Dimitri Papaioannou onboard that project. Also, I briefly was in contact with Ren Hang, so when I heard of his passing, it saddened me deeply – we truly lost a rebel heart.

But back to your question about the change of ‘skin’ from artist to curator. I suppose the pleasure and liberation that my own work brings me (which it truly does) only reaches so far. In recent years, I have found that what gives me great pleasure, is to find artists, help them surface, and placing them alongside established artists to really bring everyone’s artistic value up front. So having this temporary space in the middle of Copenhagen to pull this off, really is great.

A selected work from Pete Lamberto's Slowroom Contemporary pop-up gallery

You’ve written that your emotional connection to Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ piece ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ was the flash point for beginning the Slowroom Contemporary project. Can you tell me more about your relationship to this piece?

When speaking of flash points, I remember specifically this piece because it truly moved me by miles; the layers of depth within ‘Untitled (Perfect Lovers)’ surely was one of the contemporary pieces that fueled my love and fascination with contemporary art. The reason why I began the project description with this piece, was simply to illuminate a reference point of where my love for art began. I became familiar with the installation in the late 90’s, but as with many pieces, especially installations, I did not fully understand it as first glance. But when digging just a tad deeper, my perception of the installation changed completely. And the brilliance of this piece, is that it so many years later, still moves me, and is still incredibly relevant.

And lastly, as part of the LGBTQ community myself, it really struck a chord with me. I know people with HIV who still feel the stigma that surrounds it in their everyday life – this said in light of coming so far on the scientific front. It surprises me time and time again, when I meet and hear about the amount of people still having the perception of the HIV as being a death sentence.

Tell me more about your process of “Rotations”?

Well, it’s all about storytelling and about how many stories I possibly could pull out of each of the pieces. The individual value of each piece is obviously still very much in the center, but as I’m fascinated with storytelling, I wanted to explore the emotional core of the artworks, by having them rotate among themselves into several exhibitions. To give an example, one of my artists, Florian Hetz, takes these beautifully composed and simplistic photographs that to some extent are ultra claustrophobic, as he almost reduces his subjects to objects, and doesn’t leave much room, if any, for the person he portrays.

To put his subtle work next to the loud expressions of Lolita Pelegrime’s colorful painting and alongside Vinicus Cardoso’s video performance ‘OMNIA’ with the iconic Vera Valdez, creates a very interesting dynamic in the room. It’s within these dynamics that the stories, I find, are created. This is really what it’s all about; the bridges the artworks can build between each other.

Can outline the specifics of how you have orchestrated the exhibitions over the course of its duration?

A curated amount of the artworks will be rotating into four exhibitions in total. Each of the ‘Rotations’ will have different themes attached to them. The current exhibition is entitled SLOW, where the collected work all has a slow-moving aesthetics to be found in them, individually as well as collected. I’m quite satisfied with how they build bridges to one another and sometimes obstruct. The next exhibition will be a purely queer theme, where the chosen artists all are part of, or to some extent represents a queer theme in their work. Six of the artworks in the current ‘Rotation’ will be included in the next round, where over 10 new pieces will be added.

In general, I have a very tight style of curation and a very mellow aesthetics by nature, which will, of course, shine a bit through in the overall exhibitions. I suppose the current ‘Rotation’ is the one that my aesthetics has colored the most, in terms of my own style and aesthetics. I’m quite happy with how it turned out, so hopefully, I will be just as satisfied with the next three exhibitions.

Beyond the Slowroom Contemporary pop-up, what is in-store next for you?

What’s next? That is a good question, but difficult to answer. What my ultimate aim is, is to someday own my very own gallery. But as for plans in near future, I’m slowly planning other pop up events, though in a tad larger scale and, possibly, expanding my artist-roster. But when the last ‘Rotation’ is over, I first of all need some proper sleep and hopefully be able to go on a little getaway with a certain special someone.

Pete Lamberto's posing for his Slowroom Contemporary pop-up gallery
A selected work from Pete Lamberto's Slowroom Contemporary pop-up gallery
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