This month I’ve been fairly quiet admittedly, spending time enjoying the weather, catching up with friends and preparing work for my next show. This week I spent time in central London visiting a number of galleries for some inspiration. At the top of the list was the National Portrait Gallery’s Portrait Award show. This is a must for anyone who needs to see the brilliance that resides in some people. The work is excellent.
Selected from a record-breaking 2,748 entries by artists from 92 countries around the world, the BP Portrait Award 2015 represents the very best in contemporary portrait painting.From parents to poseurs, figurative nudes to famous faces and expressive sketches to piercing photo-realism, the variety and vitality in the exhibition continues to make it an unmissable highlight of the annual art calendar. Now in its thirty-sixth year at the National Portrait Gallery, and twenty-sixth year of sponsorship by BP, the first prize of £30,000 makes the Award the most prestigious international portrait painting competition of its kind and has launched the careers of many renowned artists.
The show runs from 18th June to the 20th September. For further info please visit http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/bp-portrait-award/exhibition.php
In this exclusive video for the UK Guardian newspaper, philosopher Alain de Botton gives his top five reasons why art is such a vital force for humanity. Are we wrong to like pretty pictures? Why is some art painful to look at? Can art heal your feelings of urban alienation? Relax, watch and find out. This article was originally featured in September 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/video/2014/sep/10/what-is-art-for-alain-de-botton-guide-video
A few years ago I was privileged to work with the UK Stroke Association in a fundraising capacity, highlighting the causes and measures to reduce the risk of stroke. Anyone can have a stroke, although there are some things that make you more at risk than others. It’s important to know what the risk factors are and do what you can to reduce your risk. For further information in the UK please visit https://www.stroke.org.uk or if in the US http://www.strokeassociation.org
During this time I was honoured to meet the truly inspirational artist Mark Ware. Mark is a Fulbright Scholar and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. During 1996 Mark had a severe stroke, an event that suddenly and abruptly altered every aspect of his life. Since then, his artwork has become increasingly concerned with how his subjective experience has been altered by the changes in mind and body due to stroke.
Mark is now collaborating with neuroscientist Professor Hugo Critchley and his team at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, Brighton on The Wavelength project. The Wavelength Project will investigate and artistically interpret how we respond to natural versus artificial light and sound. The science activities will inform the development and creation of a series of artistic outcomes, including original music compositions, multimedia performances, sound and light installations, creative workshops and creative field research activities. I was intrigued to know more about the project and Mark’s career to date so I was most please when he agreed to be interviewed
What inspired you to become an artist?
Art encourages us to observe and express how we interact with the amazing world we live in. For me art soon became a form of ‘life note-taking’, forcing me to connect with, and appreciate, the here and now.
What’s your favourite medium and why?
My art is multimedia and includes various combinations of sculpture, photography, video, sound, digital imagery, writing, performance and light. I view my work as a la carte art where I am able to call upon whatever disciplines are required on any particular project. This allows me flexibility in terms of scale, complexity and context for the work.
Has your appreciation of art and its importance changed since having your stroke?
Yes. My stroke was severe and badly affected my cognitive and physical abilities. Although I didn’t welcome my stroke, from an artistic point of view it was fascinating because it gave me wonderful insights into the perceptual process. As a result, all of my post-stroke art is touched by my disability in some way. Art is so important to me now because it allows me to explore and express my altered subjective experiences caused by changes in mind and body due to my brain injury.
Do you feel society undervalues art as a therapeutic medium particularly with regards to neurological health and wellbeing?
Yes! Art is about what it is to be human and has the power to reach out and affect people on both conscious and subconscious levels. When I look back at myself immediately following my stroke in 1996, I remember two things: The determination to survive a life-threatening event and the desire to create art. Given my circumstances at the time, it is significant (to me) that the need to create art was as important as the need for life. Art is within us all and when produced with honesty, it can have a profound affect on the people who experience it.
What is the wavelength project?
The wavelength project is an extremely ambitious activity and will aim to seek answers to profound questions such as why is art important, and why do we create it?
Why are we drawn to the natural environment, marvelling at brilliantly coloured sunsets, for example? What impact do art and nature have upon health and wellbeing?
The project is an art/science collaboration between me and neuroscientist Professor Hugo Critchley and colleagues at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, University of Sussex. With contributions from Professor Critchley and the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, I will investigate how we respond to art and nature, focusing on differences between natural versus man made sounds and light.
What are its objectives and how do you see the project growing or gaining influence?
The project’s scientific investigations will inform the development and creation of a series of artistic outcomes, including original music compositions, multimedia performances, sound and light installations, creative workshops and field research activities.
Most people believe that the natural environment is good for us in terms of wellbeing and health. The wavelength project is seeking to provide scientific evidence to assess this belief, with artistic outcomes influenced by the results. In the long term, we aim to deliver results that may be of benefit to many people, including those who have experienced brain injury or suffer from disorders of consciousness.
If, as most of us believe, exposure to the natural environment is found to be beneficial to our conscious experience, this will support initiatives to protect, enhance and restore wildlife and our natural resources, on land and at sea. A vitally important outcome of the wavelength project will be to raise awareness of this need. In recognition of this important direction, Kent Wildlife Trust has also partnered with the project. The Trust will advise the wavelength project team on all issues concerning the natural environment and will collaborate on a variety of creative activities.
The artistic content of the wavelength project is supported by Arts Council England.
I’ve been happy to be spending time in the company of visual artists and musicians who continue to inspire and encourage me with my endeavours. It’s ironic I came across this article, courtesy of Skinny Artist, I wanted to share, particularly if you are an artist yourself. Continued best wishes and never give up on what get’s you out of bed and keeps you alive! Remember to have a professional approach and a professional attitude!
Spring seems to be with us as the weather seems to be improving. I hope this is long term and I wish you and yours a happy and rewarding Spring season!
This week I had the pleasure of attending Tiwani Contemporary’s latest exhibition entitled Mythopoeia, a group exhibition gathering four international artists: Mequitta Ahuja (USA), Kapwani Kiwanga (Canada), Alida Rodrigues (Angola/UK) and Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum (Botswana/South Africa). The exhibition title, drawn from the Greek ‘muthopoios’ and meaning ‘composer of fiction’, points to the age-old role of storytelling and mythologising in rationalising the unknown. Working across a variety of media, participating artists share an interest in crafting their own, new mythologies: personal cosmologies and fictional worlds with endless potential for interpreting and reinventing our reality. The show runs from 10 April to 9 May 2015. For further info please visit http://www.tiwani.co.uk/Home/Exhibitions
As we start March ( yes in the third month already!) I’m preparing to spend more time in the studio, working on planned events later this year. Exciting times! Wishing you all a great day. Make it count!!
The relationship between art and architecture remains strong. For me, they are the same. Moreover, the value and credit of creative professionals, particularly from the African diaspora is often underplayed, undervalued and misrepresented. The term ‘Western Architecture’ conjures up images ranging from Greek Temples to Post Modern high rises for many. However, African architecture tends to be viewed through a very narrow prism; a stereotypical hut is usually what comes to mind. Moreover, African architecture is rarely observed with reference to antiquity or to exemplary contemporary architecture. Unfortunately some African architecture is seen by some as predominantly non-African influenced and executed by external cultures . For example, Ancient Egyptian architecture despite history and this region’s origins as part of a larger Ethiopian nation of pyramid builders comes to mind. It’s fascinating to see the surprise look on some people’s faces on being informed of other pyramids in Africa. We can explore and debate the way in which history is written as we know there can be bias in its recording. Moving forward, it is very important for me to highlight the efforts of Architect Livingstone Mukasa, currently documenting innovative, functional and sustainable designs emerging across the African continent. Livingstone kindly answered a few questions I posed to him regarding the Afritecture initiative:
Why did you start Afritecture.org ?
Afritecture as an idea is quite old. I have always been toying around with the concept of showcasing examples of successful architectural projects that had a strong African vernacular. The website itself was launched in 2009. The term Afritecture, implying Africa in architecture – rather than African architecture, came to mind almost immediately when I decided a web resource would be the best way to house these projects.
How long have you been collating resources of design and master planning projects from the continent?
The cataloging began while an undergraduate in architecture school. I was thinking of ways to impart on my projects certain stylistic elements from my background. I found much of the celebrated work we had to study bland and not representative of the world from which I came from, or the ways many people I knew lived and built their environments. This was 20 years ago and I am still at it.
Africa’s social, political and economic development continues to have a rather distorted image in the media. How far do you feel you can support a more positive and progressive picture of what Africa is really like?
Architecture is the most visible art form. Everywhere you go, you experience it. And over the centuries Africa has contributed immensely to the architectural world, even as recently as the modernist era. It is this recent influence that remains largely unknown, or under reported.
From the late 1800s, thousands of African sculptures began arriving in European museums in the aftermath of exploratory expeditions and colonial plunder. The aesthetics of these traditional sculptures soon became a powerful and well-documented influence among avant-garde artists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. At the time, these artists didn’t understand the meaning and functional nature of these sculptures, but they instantly recognised the spiritual aspect of the composition and quickly adapted these qualities to their own efforts to move beyond the naturalism that had defined Western art since the Renaissance. So art that was previously labeled and regarded as primitive anchored the modern art movement.
This influence soon transcended into architecture. Trailblazing European architects like Le Corbusier, one of the founders of modern architecture, and De Stijl pioneer Theo Van Doesburg used well-organised geometric and cubical forms from African art and West African spacial organisation in much of their notable works giving rise to the International Style – then considered unconventional, unprecedented and innovative.
Yes, [western] media has its preferences when it comes to reporting not only on the continent but also on communities of African descent wherever they may be. But anyone curious about something knows not to seek information from a single source. So it is incumbent on all of us with stories to tell to develop and maintain multiple sources of information that can, collectively, change the prevailing narrative.
For further information please visit Afritecture.org