This week I had the pleasure to meet artist Jon Daniel at the launch of his latest exhibition entitled ’Black Space.’ The show is small collection of iconographic poster artworks celebrating black screen heroines and heroes from the world of Sci-Fi.
Science Fiction is a very interesting genre, particularly when a majority of big budget movie blockbusters throughout the years have depicted a rather morbid and apocalyptic future, where people of the African diaspora are near extinction or only represented by one supporting character. I guess the same can be said of many genres including historical epics such as Cleopatra or the recent Gods of Egypt. It was refreshing see a show celebrating iconic figures such as Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura and Morpheus from the Matrix Trilogy. My only disappointment was the limited number of works displayed.
I have noticed and welcome the growing popularity of Afrofuturism and Jon Daniel, the man behind the Afro Supa Hero collection, contributes to this comprehensively. Classically trained as a graphic designer, Jon has worked largely as an art director for a number of London’s leading advertising agencies. He has also co-founded two creative companies -Headland, a creative partnership and ebb&flow®, a boutique branding company creating work for a range of corporate, cultural and public sector clients. The artist has created a reputation in the cultural arena. This is includes curating “Post-Colonial: Stamps from the African Diaspora” and “JA50” exhibitions with global stamp emporium, Stanley Gibbons. His exhibition ‘Afro Supa Hero’, based on his personal collection of black action figures and comic books exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in 2014.
Black Space runs from today to October 31st at Upstairs At the Ritzy, Brixton, London SW2. Check it out if you’re in the vicinity. For more info on the artist visit https://twitter.com/jondaniel66
A fellow artist and friend kindly forwarded this TED video featuring conceptual artist Sanford Biggers. I thought to share it. The artist uses painting, sculpture, video and performance to spark challenging conversations about the history and trauma of black America. He details two compelling works and shares the motivation behind his art. “Only through more thoughtful dialogue about history and race can we evolve as individuals and society,” Biggers says.
A few years ago I had the pleasure to blog about the very talented Fae Simon, whose track ‘New Londinium’ featured on my video Let’s Jam. We caught up recently to discuss her music, her career to date and future projects we can all look forward to knowing more about.
Q- Since your debut album ‘Melodrama’ you’ve been extremely busy touring and collaborating with various artist. What’s the theme and general inspiration for your second album?
FS- My inspiration for Outrospective was my observations of all the people I encountered while on tour with Yarah Bravo & Jehst. I saw first hand the true power of music in action; as it didn’t matter wherever we went and performed the love of music unified us all. It is also a critique of my environment, as I believe it is the responsibility of all good creatives to do so, and to try and affect change though our art.
For example, ‘Running’ is dedicated to Mark Duggan and the residents of Tottenham, following his death and the subsequent riots. I was actually stuck in the studio for 5 days unable to get home, as they’d blocked off the whole of Tottenham High Road, so it allowed me to reflect on the situation and write the song for the album.
Q- Has this album been easier to produce?
FS- No, not at all. Besides personal issues I had during the creation of the album, I had some unforeseeable and predictable obstacles to hurdle to complete it.
It was more stressful trying to get the administration of the initial collaborations finalised than actually writing and creating the music. I had to re-record some tracks with the band but they were the most fun to do and nothing can touch the sound and feeling of live music, so it worked out as it was supposed to.
Q- You’re a multi-disciplined artist. Apart from promoting the new album, what else does the immediate future hold for you?
FS- my new single ‘The One That Got Away’ is due for release in April, produced by CloudFistConceptz, with remixes by DJ Raw Sugar, Shaun Ashby & Beyond Tone. The video is due for release in 2wks, directed by Chiba Visuals.
I am making my acting debut on March 19th at the University of West London for national storytelling week, in a production called ‘Soweto Voices’. It’s raising awareness of Apartheid and celebrating South African culture.
The cast are all 25 and under, so I’m the only artist/tutor who also gets to perform, so I’m extremely excited, having studied drama from GCSE to degree, and this being my first professional drama production.
I am also raising my fine art profile this year. I have been commissioned for murals and exhibited in London, New York and Berlin, so I know I have a market, I just need to build my portfolio this year. I have been offered an exhibition in Copenhagen with a certain amazing fine artist called David Emmanuel, so I should be ready to take on the art world by then.
. Q- Yes, the Scandinavian connection is still in the making! lol You’ve spent time in Germany, amongst other places recently. In light of the very public discussion over a lack of diversity in the arts, do you have any particular views or experiences that support a call for a greater degree of representation?
FS – I think all people who are of an ethnic background who live and work in the West feel underrepresented.
Of course that is something that needs to be addressed, as only last week, for the first time in a long time, there was a black family in anadvert (I believe it’s the new Samsung ad) and other black people noticed enough for them to comment.
It’s a sad state of affairs when that is a noticeably surprising occurrence on television in the 21st century, so how can we be too surprised when no black actors or directors are nominated for Oscars?
I think it was last year or the year before there was public outrage when Viola Davis was called “not classically beautiful”, as opposed to Kerry Washington. Both beautiful black protagonists in major US dramas, but I guess Viola’s features were considered too classically African to be classically beautiful?
As someone who studied dance and drama to degree level, I was very much used to being the token representative for my whole race in a lot of circumstances; or the class or project would reflect the country on a microcosmic ethnic level. It amused me, as stereotypically black people are artistically creative, yet I would always be 1 of 1 or 1 of 3 – from the age of 8-21.
Since I was a child representation has meagrely improved, or is still prejudiced to the point of subliminal, (i.e. Zayn Malik’s Pillowtalk video) so we can only continue to take a stand, make some noise and continually voice the injustice or our silence will be misconstrued as acceptance.
Once again, it’s a delight to befriend another hugely ambitious, motivational and multi talented artist. My latest featured artist goes by the name of Tiffany (Unscripted) from New York state. Tiffany is definitely setting an example in what it means to be artistic. She agreed to share some of her aspirations and highlight drivers that contribute to her inspirational creativity.
You’re a writer, filmmaker, photographer, designer and poet to name some of your interests and skills. If forced to describe yourself under one of these disciplines what would you choose?
Oh, no! I couldn’t choose. My love and passion is equal for each. [laughing] In retrospect, I can say each skill has evolved from another. I started writing poetry in my teens. I would spend hours under a massive tree in Thornden Park, composing several poems. When I reached my twenties I started writing short stories and nonfiction. My creative outlet expanded to include media and design. I started doing photography and film out of necessity. I needed a photographer for a few projects. They were either too expensive or unreliable. I purchased my first camera, a Canon Rebel XT from a pawn shop, to shoot my first concert. It was Tech N9ne Hostile Takeover Tour 2012, at Celebrity Theater. From that project, my love grew for capturing moments. My first film project was an impromptu recording of my friend’s music video on my Samsung galaxy SIII. Currently, my focus is photography. My goal is to enhance my skills, to include high-fashion and editorial. I’m really excited because it’s for an online magazine I’m launching January 1, 2016. It’s called Occhi Magazine. I’m creating a fashion lookbook for it.
Where do you find your inspiration?
People, places, and things. Tomorrow is never promised. So, I live in the moment. This has expanded my view of the world. My analysis of the what, why, and how has broadened. I can look at anything and see art. This translates into creating something. It can be either graphic design or a haiku. Many of us fail to see the beauty in the world. It’s no fault of our own. We are constantly besieged with news of death, destruction, and sorrow. My outlet has always been art. Whenever I experience stress I create something; writing, designing, filming, or photographing helps me to relax.
Are there any particular artist you’re most proud to have worked with?
Yes, my friends. [laughing] I value their friendship, as well as their experience. We often share creative ideas. For instance, one of my friends has created a Star Wars, inspired music video. It turned out exceptionally well! It was shot in Yuma, Arizona. I’m located in Upstate, NY and couldn’t make the filming. I kept telling him how I wished I could have been there to capture the experience in a documentary!
Are they any particular artists you would like to work with?
This is where I’m supposed to name someone famous or highly-celebrated. But I’ve always been a champion for the underdog. My interest is mainly other independents, who strive to create exceptional work. It can be someone relatively unknown; someone who is still learning a new skill. Creativity is fueled by passion. Passion can be infectious, enlightening, and a catalyst for your own desire to create a beautiful piece.
Can you tell me more about your magazine and media company?
It all began with Mia Bella Occhi™. Mia Bella Occhi™ is an affordable online fashion boutique offering curated finds of unique sunglasses, clear lens eyewear, and fashion accessories, such as hats, scarves, and jewelry. It’s for fashionistas and fashionistos, who value a mixture of trendy, sophistication, style, and comfort. I wanted “everyday” people to know style is not what you wear. It is who you are. The magazine spawned from this idea. I thought I should create a visual display of what people can wear. I don’t use professional models. Instead, I ask people who never modeled to showcase the fashions. I want the boutique and magazine to be organic and accessible to everyone, no matter their economic status. This is the main reason why I added Frugal But Fashionable and Reclaim Recycle Restyle. Frugal But Fashionable proves you can still look great using thrifty buys. Reclaim Recycle Restyle showcases designers who craft handmade fashions, such as jewelry, clothing, and other upcycled creations. The designers and their creations will be featured in the magazine and lookbook.
Creatives tend to think outside the box but is it easy to fuse your disciplines into an entity that is recognised or appreciated by the general public? Do people easily see relationships between visual arts, fashion and other creative professions?
Yes. Art is subjective. Personally, I do not create for the public. I create things I’m passionate about. I recently held an online art exhibition on my Instagram page. It was titled ‘Completely Unexpected.” Abstract art was created using a mathematical algorithm, and then blended with computer-generated, paint brushstrokes. It was well received. Most exciting was the nods received from art museums. That was absolutely thrilling! I’m planning my next exhibition for spring 2016. Stay tuned! I will use my new Nikon D7200 camera for this piece. I can’t wait to shoot with it!
What are the highs and lows of running an independent boutique, magazine and film production company?
I don’t see highs and lows. I see peaks and valleys – much healthier perspective, indeed! [laughing] All challenges are good. That’s how one learns. People see the effort you put into your work. I prefer being recognized for my work. For me, it’s more meaningful. People see the drive and passion. Being recognized for only your accomplishments is like saying you only rate when you receive a reward. I believe a person should be rewarded for effort alone. Perhaps, this is why I find it challenging to sell my art. I do it solely for passion, not recognition. Funny. I recently read a debate over what makes a photographer an amateur or profession. Many argued being paid for the photo session makes you a professional. I beg to differ. I shot high-profile, music concerts as press and media. I wasn’t paid for the work. I did it because it was my passion to do so, and I wanted to prove it’s not the equipment, it’s the user that defines professionalism. That was the first concert previously mentioned.
The world is an open door of opportunities for someone with the right mind-set. As a creative professional in a very competitive environment what encouraging words would you share with young, inspired and multi skilled people reading this article?
Two words: Do you. As long as you remember art is subjective, you can create anything you imagine. People will either like or dislike your creations. Expect it. Just don’t let it prevent you for creating the most wonderful piece, yet, to be discovered – YOU!
Once again, I’m delighted to be a participant in the Peace Projects traveling exhibition. Proceeds from the Call for Artists and the Traveling Exhibit will fund initial costs for the Peace Centre in Africa, help bring skills training to the Peace Centre in the Philippines, and provide critical aid to Syrian refugees.
The show has three segments; a mosaic of art featuring all Peace Project artists, a further 120 artworks displayed as 12″ x 12″ panels and a themed show entitled “Gaza Rises’ featuring the work of ten artists from Gaza.
The exhibit will be unveiled at the 5th Affair of the Arts event at 9300 Culver Blvd. in Downtown Culver City on September 19th & 20th. The show will then tour including a stop at the Landmark Arts Building, New York City on October 15.
I’m happy to be supporting the Peace Project as it continues to be behind worthwhile causes. The Peace Project has help educate dozens of children in Sierra Leone, distributed 10,000 pairs of crutches to amputees & war victims in Sierra Leone and designed a Peace Museum for Sierra Leone in conjunction with the United Nations.
The Peace Project is currently working to bring skills training to the Peace Centre in the Philippines and designing a Peace Centre that will be built in Sierra Leone adjacent to the Slaughter House, one of the most infamous sites of violence during the recent civil war. Sierra Leone’s Peace Centre will be operated in collaboration with trusted partners from Community Association for Psychosocial Services.
Over the last week or so I’ve met a number of self taught artists who are building reputations as commercially successful painters. Then I came across this article, featured online in the New York Times. Please follow the link for what is an interesting read.
In the almost 70 years since the term was first coined, “outsider art” — a somewhat dismissive designation for the work of self-taught artists — has been steadily finding its way inside the mainstream art world. These days, it is no longer unusual to see pieces by artists with no formal training displayed in even the most prestigious venues; just the past two years have seen such works included in exhibitions mounted by the Venice Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, among others.
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, 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.