Hoping you’re all well and the year is being good to you so far. I’m happy to announce that I’m participating in Unfold, the forthcoming exhibition at London’s Espacio Gallery. I’ll be exhibiting some of my recent figurative work which I hope you’ll like. The exhibition is a fascinating journey into the creative mind of several artists. It reveals the creative processes that are essential to the development of their art. They allow the viewer a glimpse into sources of inspiration, and invite the onlooker to watch their ideas unfold, evolve and eventually develop into finished works.
The exhibition, curated by Carlos de Lins, showcases a variety of interpretations and mediums reflecting their different styles. The private viewing is on Thursday 1st February. The show runs from January 30th to February 11th 2018.
Featured artists are:
Tanaz Assefi, Elena Brand, Andrea Coltman, Evaldas Gulbinas, Ekaterini Koliakou, Charvi Jain, Benjamin Nyari, Renee Rilexie, Pierre Verluca, Claire Weinstock, Sara Wickenden, Lewis Albert Williams
For further info please visit the gallery website.
This week I had the pleasure to meet conceptual abstract artist Mahlia Amatina at the Menier Gallery near London Bridge. Until this weekend, you’re invited to visit Around the World in 80 Washing Lines, an interactive autism-friendly art exhibition depicting unique washing lines across the globe. The exhibition will tour both galleries and launderettes in the South of England, inviting visitors to discover the story behind each garment and washing line. The exhibition will also feature free, educational workshops for primary school children.
Around the World in 80 Washing Lines explores the connections and similarities of each washing line using a combination of photographs, textiles and a multi-sensory catalogue of effects including touch, smell and sound. Artist Malia Amatina explains the reason behind the project; “The project started as a means to highlight similarities between us as human beings, in a world where we often focus on differences. The universal washing line is a perfect means to do this: we all have laundry to do; irrespective of who, what or where we are in the world.”
Visitors can interact with each installation of clothes and get a glimpse of the person behind the garment by reading a short blog with real quotations. The exhibition reaches out to a wide and diverse audience, including those suffering with autism, alongside those to whom art is not fully accessible. As an autistic artist, Mahlia is keen to create an exhibition that is appealing and available to those across the spectrum. The campaign has already gained fantastic acknowledgment thus far having been recognised for its charitable efforts by the prestigious Arts Council, receiving funding earlier this year. The project has also recently been backed by The National Autistic Society.
For further information about the Around the World in 80 Washing Lines exhibition or Mahlia Amatina’s artwork please get in touch with Mahlia Amatina on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07725 366966, or Jessica Alley at Little Red Rooster on email@example.com or on 07506756914.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Hoping you all have an enjoyable and memorable weekend. Please see attached the first video promoting ‘Pictures at an African Art Exhibition’ – my enjoyable collaboration with the very talented Darryl Yokley and his band Sound Reformation. This is their second album which will be released later this year. The video features work related to, inspired by and created for the album and associated events. Stay tuned for further information. Have a good day!