Featured Artist : In Conversation with Paul Fletcher

I believe creativity is in each of us. Moreover, as we self-explore, we discover mediums of art that capture our interests whilst nurturing our inner most talents. It’s great when others are able to see this and admire the results. One person who illustrates the ability to  develop an artistic skill is Paul Fletcher. I had the pleasure of befriending Paul during our work with the Royal Institute of British Architects and been friends ever since. He’s always been creative but now I’ve witnessed his transformation into a very talented but humble photographer. It’s been a privilege to have him answer a few questions regarding his wonderful work and what’s next on the horizon.

Paul Fletcher

I see you as an artist but I recall your hesitancy in describing yourself as one. Why was that and how would you describe yourself now?

I remain unable to refer to myself as an artist, I struggled for sometime to even consider myself as a photographer. This because I know that simply owning a camera does not make someone a photographer. Equally as I’m entirely self taught it also seemed somewhat of an exaggeration to call myself ‘photographer’.

However, having now commissions to work as a photographer and even having a few pieces hang in a gallery it would be false modesty to not accept that I am a photographer. I still cannot consider myself an artist however.

How did you get into photography?

In winter 2014 I bought my first camera, a secondhand analogue rangefinder. I bought this because my son, who was studying A-level photography and was due to stay with me for Christmas. I thought it would be a great idea to learn how to shoot over that holiday with my son, a good bonding activity. Unfortunately my son did not come to stay. However I did start a stumbling journey to teach myself how to use a camera and more so begin the journey of learning how to make a photograph. During 2015 I shot infrequently and inconsistently, probably no more than 20 rolls of film in the whole year. Early in 2016 I traded my film camera for a digital camera (primarily so I could shoot more often and see the results more immediately).

Paul Fletcher Photography

All artists find their chosen medium therapeutic but how has photography helped you?

This is very real for me. Coincidently at about the same time as buying my first camera I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, type 2 bipolar disorder. During 2015 I experienced a period of deep and prolonged depression (6 months). During this period I shot very infrequently. In an up period early 2016 I traded the film camera for a digital one. I shot much more frequently for several months. But what I shot was clumsy and not very good, I now consider what I was doing then as forced and was very much about taking. I was trying too hard to be a photographer. In the summer of that year I again fell into a very deep period of depression, I became trapped alone at home losing my interest in photography and even living at the darkest times. This caused concern for my friends and one suggested to get me out of the house and engaging with others I should reawaken my interest to photography and join some groups.

After some persuasion I did this and by late July I was shooting again, with groups who would meet a few times a month. In late August 2016 I entered a ‘Street Photography’ competition, intending to learn. Much too my surprise I won a couple of the categories and was even acknowledged for one of the best shots of the competition. However my period of depression continued, I was learning that it was not circumstantial but a disorder in my head over which I had very little control. Friends insisted that I keep shooting as 2016 closed and 2017 began I was shooting almost everyday. I was also finding such practice therapeutic. Unknowingly I was shooting from my heart, not my head. This allowed a new form of expression and creativity to begin to emerge. Even more significantly it offered me a new way to interact with people. In August 2016 I was capturing people in candid ways, almost in stealth. By January 2017 I was making as many permissive captures as candid ones. Through these real world interactions and what I was beginning to post on social media people started to show interest in my photography.

In February 2017 when the depressed period lifted the interested seemed to grow somewhat exponentially. I was hanging a few pieces in a gallery exhibition and I was getting paid commissions for fashion and portraiture shoots. However this initial ‘success’ was derailed by yet another period of depression in late July. At this point I reverted to my default of walking about London, making photographs of what I found and using the camera to give me some form of respite from the chronic illness I battle. This period was different though. It was less intense and as it happened briefer, about three months. That I believe is likely because of a combination of factors; finding medication that I can tolerate, my acceptance and growing understanding of the illness and what I now know to be very true – that photography is good for me, possibly essential to my wellbeing. Today I am comfortable referring to my photography as ‘my work’ and I endeavour that everything I do is more ‘make’ than ‘take’. It is not an exaggeration to say that photography has saved my life.

The Reader – Paul Fletcher Photography

As you develop your photography, are there any areas or particular themes you’d like to explore?

My interest remains with people, especially people in the urban environment. Candid capture and permissive making of photographs. I consider how I’m developing as something I call ‘Urban Anthropology’ as that is what I’m doing – studying humans in the city as they live their day to day lives. I am particularly interested developing stories about those who are increasingly forgotten by society; the elderly, the homeless and those with mental illness (a very personal thing for me). My commercial work has moved away from fashion as I soon found it to be disrespectful and demeaning of models, especially girls and exploitative of photographers and other creatives. My interest in portraiture is growing and this is the area in which I am looking to develop commissioned work. I am also occasionally exploring a form of photography that could be considered ‘fine art’ and may look to hang work in a gallery in the future. But I remain adamant that I am definitely not an artist!

We’ll have to disagree on that! Are there any photographers you are particularly influenced by and why?

There are two types of photographer that fit this, those whose work inspires me and those who I am fortunate to have got to know personally. Of the ones that inspire I would particularly Sally Mann, Mary Ellen Mark, Helmut Newton, Joel Meyerowitz and John Gay.

Colour or black and white photography- which do you prefer?

For my personal work it would seem that it is black and white. I self taught with black and white film, although when I switched to digital I did shoot colour predominantly for a period, today I have returned to black and white. In fact the digital camera I use now only captures luminance and no hue! I also have a film camera again, which is almost always loaded with black and white film.

I’ve known you for a while now, particularly in your former capacity as an architect. I know you have always worked passionately to improve society’s appreciation of civic space. Is this something your photography also captures or contribute towards?

No. I’m more interested in people that the constructs that contain them, whether that be civic space or buildings. You are correct that I strived to create the best spaces for people whilst an architect, however when I realised some years ago that all spaces and buildings, as the product of the property industry, are nothing more than commodity traded for financial return. People simply do not matter, regardless of the rhetoric. At this point my trajectory out of that industry had begun. Formally surrendering my professional status as an architect in 2016 was made as protest against architects being merely ‘building stylists’ with next to no influence over the role of the built environment to enhance society. I could not pretend any longer.

Paul Fletcher Photography

What projects are you currently working on?

Hmmm, nothing specific. I am exploring where ‘Urban Anthropology’ might lead and recently have found myself making landscape photographs, who knows where it might lead? All I know is that I must remain to be led by heart and not head.

-End-

I wish Paul continued success and look forward to seeing more of his excellent work. For further information on Paul, please visit his official website.

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EFG London Jazz Festival

Saying hi and hoping you’re having a healthy, happy and positive week so far.

I’m looking forward to being in London this week for the EFG London Jazz Festival. Again, the line-up includes a number of great artists including Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Pat Metheny and Robert Glasper.

Celebrating its 10th year, the Festival’s signature opening-night gala showcases a stellar cast of voices performing incredible tunes in this celebration of singing and song. The list of past guests stretches from Boy George, Jacob Collier and Paloma Faith to Gregory Porter, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling.

Guy Barker’s 42-piece orchestra will provide the setting for a star-studded clutch of vocalists, including Seal, Liane Carroll, Mica Paris, Miles Mosley, Tony Momrelle, Vanessa Haynes, Angélique Kidjo and Mads Mathias in a spectacular celebration of the singer and the song, playing Guy’s arrangements that continue to thrill and surprise.

A great time to be in London, despite the cold weather! For further info please visit the official London Jazz Festival website.

Featured Artist: In Conversation with Duane Eubanks

One thing I love about New York is the number of talented artists it hosts, particularly jazz musicians of pure quality and depth. One of these is Philadelphia’s Duane Eubanks, an extraordinarily talented jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, producer and recent recipient of the Philadelphia Education Fund EDDY Award.

Duane Eubanks

Knowing he has also performed with mutual friends, I’ve been following his career and have the pleasure of owning his albums “Things of that Particular Nature (2015-Sunnyside) and “DE3-Live at Maxwell’s (2016-Sunnyside). I recently had the pleasure and honour to speak to him about his career to date and what’s next on the horizon.

One of the questions artists are asked is how they chose their medium but we already know it’s in your blood; Your mother is pianist Vera Eubanks and your brothers are celebrated trombonist Robin Eubanks and guitarist Kevin Eubanks. I guess my first question is why did you choose the trumpet over any other instrument? 

I have a twin brother, Shane…  He and I began playing music at the same time. Our brother, Kevin, played trumpet before he played guitar. Robin has always played Trombone. My twin is taller than me by 6 inches, our brothers had old instruments at home so, when it was time to choose instruments, Shane got the longer instrument (the trombone) and I got the shorter instrument – trumpet.  I think each instrument has a certain personality that relates to prospective musicians that play them. I feel a special connection to the trumpet. My height was a plus in this situation.

You decided to read business at the University of Maryland. Did you always see yourself becoming a musician and was that choice purely for academic merits? 

I studied Business in college because I was fairly good at maths and was impressed by my dad’s corporate dealings and the level of stability with which he lived his life.  I was very confused about being a musician when I entered college. I wasn’t even playing when I entered college. I had my years of teenage rebellion and I stopped playing for 6 years (14-20).  I missed the very formative years so I had to work really hard to get my playing on a certain level.  My brother, Shane, convinced me to join the school band and I became obsessed with the instrument and thus a change of heart in terms of my lifelong ambitions.

Describe your experience studying jazz at Temple University with Dr Billy Taylor and subsequently working with Mulgrew Miller’s Wingspan? 

My time at Temple was specifically an attempt to prepare myself for my move to New York.  I wanted to be on a certain musical level before I made the move. Temple University awarded me the time to learn and practice. It also awarded me the opportunities to meet and perform, through master classes, with Dr. Billy Taylor and Wynton Marsalis.

I had the absolute honour to perform with the great Mulgrew Miller. I was a member of his band, Wingspan, for ten years. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for Mulgrew taking me under his wing. I grew immensely from this experience and learned in abundance about the realities involved in being a musician, bandleader, and I got to witness, first hand, a genius at work and how he carried himself as a human being. It was a blessing that has shaped me as a musician and I will NEVER forget the experience or him.

You are a recipient of the Philadelphia Education Fund EDDY Award. Can you explain the initiative/award further and the importance music education plays in furthering the careers of young musicians? 

The Philadelphia Education Fund stands very firmly for all aspects dealing with high quality education. They are advocates for quality teachers, quality learning environments and the overall quality of students’ learning experience.

I received an EDDY award as an advocate for education. It was an honour to be chosen along with my brothers, Robin and Kevin, to receive this education award. Education is the key to our nation’s future. I have accepted the responsibility to share the information that I have gained through my years of experience to ensure the proper information is passed in order to sustain the high level of the music that I love. The generations before me did the same so I could learn. Prospective musicians have a right and a responsibility to learn and those with the experience have a responsibility to share/teach. I, personally, put the responsibility on both student and teacher.

That’s very admirable and congratulations on receiving the award. I’ve heard American jazz artist talk about the popularity of the genre declining but surely this isn’t the case? Moreover, jazz continues to be very popular globally. What’s your view? 

I think the popularity of jazz will always be an issue being discussed. Many have no idea that jazz WAS the popular music in the early part of the century. It has lost its place in popular music but is still very relevant to a number of people. If it wasn’t , there wouldn’t be so many musicians trying to learn the art form.  In Europe, where I think cultural values and advances are praised, supported, and upheld, communities have far more access to things of artistic expression (music, art, literature, etc.) I don’t see that kind of dedication to the uplifting of the minds of the American people. Jazz music gives the listener the opportunity to open their minds, think freely, and absorb a different approach to a general situation. The emphasis on the importance of the arts has been gravely overlooked. I think it’s hindering the advancement, exposure, and the quality of the arts and society as a whole.

To date, not only have you worked in jazz but across many genres, at many venues and with a number of notable artists. What has been the highlight of your career to date and why? 

I am extremely proud of the fact that I have worked in many different genres of music in many different settings. I think it is very important for musicians to keep an open mind when it comes to crossing genres when performing. It allows you to grow as an artist and opens yourself to prospective fans of your craft. I have to say that working with the legendary Elvin Jones would have to be at the top of the list. I constantly thank my man, Bassist, Gerald Cannon for making it possible for me to be a part of Elvin’s band. I still wear the shirts we had to wear.  I got to witness, first hand, the spiritual element of the music. I guess it was easy for him from playing so many years with John Coltrane, but it was an awesome experience to watch him play his heart and soul every night on every tune.  It made me aware of the fact that music is spirit and the lack of it in today’s artists.

Who is at the top of your list to work with next if you’re given the opportunity? 

Work with next? I have ALWAYS been on a mission to learn as much as possible from my predecessors. I have a list of guys in mind…. George Cables, Victor Lewis, Billy Hart, Harold Mabern, to name a few. I have worked with Dave Holland’s Big Band. I would love to experience that again and would embrace the opportunity to do a smaller group with him. I would also like to do a something different like 3 trumpets with incredible talents that walk with humility (no ego – I can’t do egos, especially trumpet egos) perhaps Josh Evans and Roy Hargrove… that would be fun.

I forgot to add, working with my brothers Robin and Kevin. I think that is something not only I would look forward to but many in the industry as well. Also Roy Haynes!! The thing about music is that there are plenty of ways to learn, people to learn from and plenty of music to make.

Following the successful release of ‘DE3: Live at Maxwells’ and ‘Things of that Particular Nature’ when should we expect another album? 

I am very proud of my latest releases. They were well received and a lot of fun to produce. They were much needed learning experiences.  You can expect something in 2018. I am performing a weekend at Smalls December 15 & 16. These dates may become commercially released performances.

Are you happy to share anything else currently in the pipeline?

Someone very wise and very close to me advised me not to share everything that I was up to.  While you are working out your plans, someone has already implemented them.  I am working on music for a number of recording ideas. One specific recording project I am really excited about. Everyone will know when things get put into motion. I now realize the importance of being creative when promoting myself. That being said, we did a mini documentary with the intention to draw some attention to my willingness to teach. This mini documentary has been accepted by a few independent film festivals. In general, keep your ears open for future recording projects. They are coming!

I look forward to witnessing more from Duane and wish him the very best with his career. For further information please visit his website. www.DuaneEubanks.com

Gaining Inspiration from the Talents of Street Artists

This week I’m taking advantage of the good weather in London and visiting a number of galleries in Shoreditch. Yesterday was an enjoyable day, with two shows at the Stolen Space Gallery as the highlight. The first entitled ‘Indelible Elegance’ is the new solo show from graffiti pop artist Vinnie Nylon and runs until Sept 24th. Having been on the scene for 32 years Vinnie Nylon has gained the respect of street artists old and new. In this new solo show, we bring together Vinnie’s past, present and future to show the heritage in his career as both a graffiti writer and contemporary painter that has gained the respect of UK urban artists; most notably internationally acclaimed artist Banksy once donated an artwork to fund his first London show in 2012.

I was particularly attracted to the wonderful work of German artist duo Hera and Akut, known as Herakut. ‘Sad But Happy’ is a series of work illustrating a very distinctive and dark style. Depicting children and animals with large emotive eyes, they draw the viewer in to their mysteriously eerie world, making them contemplate the statements scribbled across the canvas and their relationship with the characters in the works.

Work by Herakut

Their dark use of colour contrasts with the bright and fast use of movement and brushwork. Their style welcomes a kind of imperfect perfection, the brushstrokes seeming erratic and fluid but also so beautifully placed. Their joint creative art process is about storytelling, the creation of imaginary worlds and inspiring their figures with individual characters. Hera sets the characters’ form and proportions, whilst Akut paints the photorealistic elements. This show runs until October 1st.

For further information on these artist please visit the Stolen Space Gallery.

Exhibitions to visit this weekend

Unfortunately it seems the summer is coming to an end but there are plenty of art exhibitions and events to entertain and inspire us as the nights get longer. There are a few interesting shows in both London and New York this week I know of so, if you’re fortunate to be in either or both locations over the coming weeks check them out! The two that come to mind are the following:

The Republic of Brexitopia at London’s Espacio Gallery

The Republic of Brexitopia is an imaginary country of the near future. Using a mix of participative, performative and provocative strategies the 27 participating artists address not just Brexitopia’s political and economic trajectory, but also the relationship between its citizens, the lure of exceptionalism, and the narrow line between optimism and delusion, utopia and dystopia.

The tone of the artworks varies from the passionate to cool observation, from the committed to wry humour. Some responses are based on personal experience of the artists – a shaken sense of belonging and the feeling of being turned into “the other”. Other responses test the boundaries of patriotism, truth and historical remembrance. The participative nature of many of the works invites the visitor to reflect on the idea of human agency. They suggest that we don’t have to resign ourselves to the inevitability of this or that future, but that we can choose to be active agents in shaping the future we desire. The show opens Thursday 7th For further information please the Espacio gallery

Barbara Chase-Riboud Malcolm X: Complete at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery New York

This exhibition is celebrating the artist’s now complete series of monumental bronze and fiber sculptures that the artist has created over the last half-century in honour of the slain human rights leader. The exhibition, her second large-scale solo show at New York’s Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, will be accompanied by a fully illustrated colour catalogue featuring a recent interview with the artist by Carlos Basualdo, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The show opens on September 9th

For further information please visit the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery.

Art Will Find A Way- The Latest Exhibition from the Ajags Gallery

Last week I was in  London’s Shoreditch district admiring the various works of art on public display. Until this weekend, the Espacio Gallery plays host to the Ajags Gallery’s new exhibition entitled ‘Art Will Find A Way.’ The exhibition is a group show, comprising of the distinct and individual works of four artists – Mayowa Ajagunna (of the Ajags Gallery), Saman Gedara, Mary Osinibi and Princess Idowu – all connected by a shared interest in the wildly imaginative nature of artistic expressions (but diverse in their creativity) that includes painting, photography, sculpture, installation and mixed media.

‘Art Will Find A Way‘ is a concept that presents the idea of open-mindedness, optimism, positivity and being able to resolve or deal with whatever situation you find yourself in. The art is inspirational, thought provoking and invites you to enjoy the directness of the work.  Without doubt there are paintings some may need sensitivity in handling but this selection of work only encourages you to look at the subject matters from a wider perspective, as an active participant and not just a passive observer. With this in mind, I was particularly keen to ask the gallery’s founder Mayowa Ajagunna about his work and the show.

Q- How did you get into painting?

I didn’t get into painting. Painting was already a part of me and all I did was to show that side of me to the world.

Q-Your works appear to carry a personal, intense and intimate connection with the viewer. What motivates you to paint?

Legacy – the idea of leaving something timeless behind appeals to me a lot. Communication – its a medium I use communicate, so that I can be very well understood. Expression – as cliche as this might sound, painting when you’re angry, down, sad, stressed or worried actually elevates a problem from ones mind.

Mayowa Ajagunna

Q- How did the theme of “Art will find a way’ come about?

“Art Will Find A Way” is a quote I learnt from a friend I studied Art A levels with in college almost 15 years ago. Today I still very much believe in it because to me it reflects on everyday life struggles and having a strong mindset, discipline, focus and determination to see yourself through difficult situations.

Q-Can you tell us more about the Ajag Gallery?

Correction “Ajags Gallery” like the name says ‘Ajags Gallery’ is for all of ‘Ajags’ Artworks lol. Just like a Salvador Dali Gallery or a Picasso Gallery.

I’m not your typical high street gallery that seeks to rob artists for a 50% commission on artworks. I am an independent artist that exhibits solo. For the first time I am having a group show with other artist and its called “Art Will Find A Way.”

Q-When and where will we see the next Ajags Gallery?

Next year summer most likely, this is the first of its kind that we intend to do every year. Where exactly, well somewhere around Brick Lane, so long as it remains the contemporary art hub of London. Nigeria, Africa is also a strong possibility.

I wish Mayowa and his colleagues the very best with the show. I encourage you to see this if you are in London over the next week. For further information please visit the http://www.ajagsgallery.com