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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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

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

Pictures at an African Exhibition – Please help to complete the album!

Darryl Yokley ‘s Sound Reformation includes regular band members Zaccai Curtis on piano, Luques Curtis on bass, Wayne Smith Jr. on the drums, and special guest Nasheet Waits on the drums.  This project has increased its momentum over the course of a year with the band first recording as small group followed with the wind ensemble. One of my original pieces will accompany each piece of music featured on the album.

Now in the final phase, we are hoping to raise funds for the mixing, mastering, packaging and distribution, as well as promotional and marketing cost.  With certain levels of contributions you will be able to receive some amazing perks such as early copies of the album, signed copies of the album, prints of the artwork, and more!   This project is 100% completely independent and while our desired target mark is $6,000, if we do not reach this cost we will still put all contributions towards the completion of this project.  If we are fortunate enough to receive more than our desired cost we will use these funds to promote the album to the best of our ability to make it a success, and if we receive further funding from this campaign it would go towards the budget for recording the second part of this music and arts collaboration.

With art initiatives and funding streams across the US constantly taking budget cuts and some being removed from the schools, Darryl is hoping this project will come to fruition and serve as an example for others to see what’s possible if they use their creative powers.  Darryl has drawn inspiration from African art and music, jazz music, classical music, as well as the artwork of myself and other visual artists.

I hope you will find this project deserving of your support. Even if you’re unable to donate at this time your help in spreading the word to friends and family about the project would be very much appreciated and hopefully garner more support to bring it to life.

For further information or to support please watch the video or click on the following link.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pictures-at-an-african-exhibition-album-funding-music-art#/

 

Pictures At An African Art Exhibition -Philadelphia Museum of Art

Pictures At An African Exhibition
Pictures At An African Exhibition

I hope you’re all enjoying the start of 2017. I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and hugely prosperous year ahead.

One of the projects I will be contributing to this year is ‘Pictures At An African Art Exhibition’ the second album by Darryl Yokley’s Sound Reformation.

The new album is due for release later this year and puts an Afrocentric spin on Moussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.’’ In addition to Moussorgsky’s work, Darryl’s inspiration comes from an interest in art from the African diaspora and visits to several institutes, including the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Darryl has been working tirelessly on this work. I’m really looking forward to its completion and I hope to share further news on its release shortly.

In the meantime, the band will be performing music from the upcoming album and some of my original work will be exhibited as part of the show at Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday January 13th from 5:45. For further information please visit the following links.

http://www.darrylyokley.com/news

http://www.philamuseum.org/

 

Opening of The Elizabeth James Gallery London

This month I’m very proud to announce Croydon born friend and fellow artist Elizabeth James opened her own contemporary art gallery in the heart of South Norwood SE25. The opening comes after winning a competition by Croydon Council as part of the plan to regenerate the borough.

The new gallery launched on Wednesday 7th December 2016 7-9pm, bringing an eclectic mix of art, design, gifts, homeware and workshops. The opening night included a raffle to help raise funds for all those affected by the recent tram crash in Croydon.

All money raised will be donated to Croydon Council ‘s official Crowdfunding page. Alongside Elizabeth’s own work, the gallery will host exhibitions showcasing the best of Croydon’s young talent. The gallery will also be inviting local primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges to participate in educational visits and workshops. There will also be Live Art on Saturday with guest artists creating art in the gallery window so the community can see their talent and work in process.

Elizabeth James Gallery
Elizabeth James Gallery

 

Elizabeth James is a contemporary UK Lifestyle Brand established in 2013. with products created using only British manufacturers in the UK.

For further information on Elizabeth and the gallery opening hours please visit  http://www.elizabethjamesart.com/  Congratulations Elizabeth!

 

Artist Kerry Zacharia’s Solo Exhibition at Starfish & Coffee London

City Roof by Artist Kerry Zacharia
City Roof by Artist Kerry Zacharia

I’m back in London and I’m very pleased announce my friend and fellow artist Kerry Zacharia will be having a solo exhibition at Starfish & Coffee from the 3rd to 30th of June as featured ‘Artist of the Month’. Starfish & Coffee is owned by actor Aykut Hilmi and supports local artists and musicians. It is situated on Aldermans Hill opposite Broomfield Park in Palmers Green. An open evening is arranged for 10th of June when Kerry talk about her art and inspiration.

The show entitled ‘London in Different Dimensions’ will showcase her London themed paintings and include a cross section of her large format paintings spanning four collections: Inner City London; London Landscapes; London Skyscapes and Love London, which have been created between 2013 and 2015. Local people may well recognise some of the park scenes from the area. Kerry’s work responds to the urban scene in an expressive graphic style that is highly individual, addressing the viewer in a very decisive and engaging way.

Kerry is a North London born artist with Greek-Cypriot origins. She displayed creative talents at a young age, but for one reason or another her career took on a different path. However, her passion for art long remained and Kerry now has an established following and exhibits primarily in London. Kerry is an artist that draws upon inspiration from the environments that she experiences and from within. Her creative vision is translated with lines, fine brush strokes, patterns and a selective range of colour within the outlines she has drawn. Kerry chooses to paint with ink on paper as she likes its fluidity and transparency but it is unforgiving, which further adds to the challenge of working in this media. Kerry is self-taught, with a style not influenced by a formal art education and  largely received as different. Kerry is looking to reach out to her local community to gain their support and following throughout her art journey.

Venue details: Starfish & Coffee, 92 Aldermans Hill, Palmers Green, London N13 4PP. www.starfishlovescoffee.com Nearest station: Palmers Green (Overground)

Artist details: Kerry Zacharia www.artistkerryzacharia.com kz64artist@googlemail.com