Unsigned – a new zine curated by BBH dedicated to showcasing diverse undiscovered talents

04.12.2019 | Art , Blog , Fashion | BY:

Unsigned came to fruition by dint of strong will, creative vision and a desire to celebrate emerging talent in all its forms. 

Surrounded by creatives struggling to find sufficient avenues to showcase their work, Tom Burns felt inspired to provide an event that allowed just this. Working alongside Art Director Stephanie Flynn, Film producer Nnena Nwakodo and Strategist Sofia Bodger at the global advertising agency BBH – they saw an opportunity to do just this at the agency. Through its creative department UP @ BBH – the cultural heart of BBH, a curated programme of art, music, film, technology, talks and events – this team launched the first Unsigned in 2018. 

Twin spoke with the Unsigned team and a selection of artists included in the most recent issue of it’s zine to learn more about its journey towards democratising the creative industry. 

The idea itself was initially pitched as a talent fair to be hosted at BBH; The idea would be to invite a variety of artists into the agency to pitch up a space and showcase their work, with their books and prints on show for people to view. When the idea was given the go ahead, and the team established, they went on to develop the concept and see how it could be best placed within the industry.

 Unsigned grew out of their close and insightful collaboration. The team explains; 

“Our observation was that the advertising industry was losing relevance. In 1990, 31% of UK adults thought that the adverts were as good as the programme, in 2018 it dropped to a meagre 14% (TGI, 2018). One reason for this is that we too often resort to established talent over emerging talent. More so than ever before. Tighter deadlines and smaller budgets mean it’s easy to become complacent. To take the safe route. Brands are nervous and need to sell, which leads to producers and creatives alike defaulting to that ‘safe pair of hands’ talent rather than taking a risk.”

Unsigned was created as a tool to challenge perspectives within the agency, opening its eyes to the plethora of individuals working within the creative and cultural realms who may often be overlooked for commissioned work due to a lack of experience; Unsigned was an opportunity for us to observe the pool of fantastic, diverse makers surrounding us. 

Attending degree shows, using social media, call outs, word-of-mouth, and recommendations to source talent, the team explored every avenue in order to find and showcase raw, cutting edge and diverse content; 

“Over the months, the artists would be invited into the agency to meet and chat through their work. They’d often bring in a portfolio, or perhaps an iPad and go through their projects. It’s been an incredibly exciting experience meeting all these artists and has massively enhanced the team’s art buying knowledge. It’s also been an invaluable way to remain educated on current trends within the art world, and take note on some of the key narratives that lead their work.”

Speaking with photographers and visual storytellers Anett Pósalaki, Jonathan Wykes, Daniel Jackont and Domino Leaha from this year’s issue provides insight into the events success as offering visibility to emerging talent within the creative industry. 

Born in Hungary, Anett Pósalaki’s images are not replicas of a reality, not even composed alternative dimensions. Instead, they are lucky segments of life, where everything has found its perfect place. Pósalaki explains;

“these little details become a manifesto of quietness, leaving a sense of what life should be. My work is to show all the tranquility around me, around everyone. “

For Pósalaki, the zine gave her the opportunity to showcase her work to a new audience, offering up potential collaborations with designers and magazines. Similarly both Daniel Jackont and Domino Leah highlight the access that Unsigned provided for them as foreigners to London’s creative scene. 

Living and working in Tel Aviv, Burns came across the photographic work of Jackont through instagram; 

“Earlier this year, Tom discovered my work and invited me to join the Unsigned exhibition. The event’s concept gave me an opportunity to make acquaintance with new approaches and mix different styles of photography and visual arts. Presenting my work alongside brilliant artists and creators from all around the globe. Thanks to the exhibition, I was noticed and have been contacted with regards to inquiries and UK representation.”

Originating from a small village in Italy, Domino Leaha’s images are often intimate snapshots into the lives of her subjects; 

“I like to capture their vulnerability, without touching them. I think of them as delicate objects. They are precious to me. I want to see their scars I want to push their boundaries and see how far they will let go. I am interested in those boundaries that lie between strangers. There is an immense mystery in that space, it is a place where anything is possible. “

Describing herself as shy, Domino explains the importance of Unsigned to help elevate and promote her work; 

“I don’t like to share or advertise my work a lot so for me it was really a challenge to be able to do this and I felt great. Also the opportunity to be seen and that people can actually asked to work for them or share your work is amazing. “

Image by Jonathan Wykes

British photographer Jonathan Wykes draws inspiration from popular culture – with an interest in fashion and hair styling – fusing these elements together to present a fantasised version of his subjects. For Wykes, Unsigned was the first public showcasing of his works; 

“It introduced me to a community of other unrepresented artists out there, having the opportunity to be featured in an exhibition of upcoming talent has definitely been an exciting experience for me. The exposure from the show has been beneficial and I’m extremely grateful to Tom Burns and the rest of the team for recognising all of our work and for bringing us all together.”

Since 2018 the Unsigned zine has grown from featuring 31 artists across Film, Photography and Illustration to now include an additional total of 49. This year’s exhibition to celebrate its second issue attracted over 600 visitors, featuring 33 large scale prints and over 350 prints as well as 9 individual screenings for the directors, which included an installation by exciting up and coming filmmaker Starkie Reay. 2019 also featured a live performance from soul sister duo, The KTNA. The team itself expanded in its second year to accommodate its fine execution, with Beth Mechem, Thandi Mibre, Lauren Gillies and Angus Lees completing the Unsigned team. 

This BBH initiative will continue to bring underrepresented emerging talent to the fore, providing a platform for this work within the agency and the wider industry. Stay tuned for Unsigned’s 2020 plans, which Burns explains are to make it: … “bigger, better and even more collaborative. We want to push the creative potential, and make sure we are vigilant of being as inclusive to all different diversities along the way.”

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Dark Air: A Solo Show by Gray Wielebinski

02.08.2019 | Art , Blog , Culture | BY:

Born in Dallas Texas, artist Gray Wielebinski uses their practice to explore the ways in which gender and sexuality intersect with other structures of power and identity, often referencing their body and journey as an individual who is currently undergoing the transition from female to male. 

Working between London and Los Angeles in print, video, performance, sound, sculpture, and installation, Gray moved to London in 2017 to complete a masters in Fine Art Media at The Slade.  Since then, Gray has exhibited internationally and is currently an artist in residence at The City & Guilds of London, alongside Taku Obata and Alistair Gordon. 

Using a variety of strategies to explore identity, specifically their ambivalent relationships to masculinity, Gray’s more recent research and practice uses sports for both aesthetics and metaphor as an entry point to examine themes such as national identity (specifically the US and Americana), desire, myth making, surveillance, hierarchies, race, and gender. In Dark Air, the artist’s first solo exhibition at SEAGER gallery curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell from DATEAGLE ART, we observe Gray’s ongoing exploration of sporting ceremonies as seen in the artist’s personalised football scarf stand. Located at the entrance of the gallery space, the piece highlights the ritualistic yet commercial nature of the sport, while also reiterating the entwined nature and relationship found between myth and sport. 

Dark Air, a solo show by Gray Wielebinski curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell at SEAGER Gallery © DATEAGLE ART

Instead of displaying a body of work, the exhibition uses the body as the work – acknowledging it as something which can be moulded and adjusted continuously. Using a diverse array of textiles to create a patchwork of materials that include recycled leather and jeans, Gray creates a site-specific sculpture, a monstrous creature that is representative of both the sphinx and Scorpion. Stuffed and stitched, the physical act of creating the hybradised beast presents the audience with a work that exists in a paradoxical realm. All at once it is violent and volatile yet gentle and vulnerable – playing with traditional binary stereotypes of male and female. With only a few days left to see Dark Air, Gray spoke with Twin about the show and their grotesque Frankenstinian beast. Gray also speaks openly about their own dysphoria and dissociation with their body as well as the importance of being conscious in order to re-inhabit and bridge the gap between their mind and body to create as harmonious a relationship as possible. 

You started to create art as a way of helping you relate to your own body – is this where the tactile element of your practice and its link to your own body manifests from? 

In a lot of ways, in regards to my gender identity as well as my art practice itself, I was existing very much in my own head and in an ideological way rather than a physical one, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I think became a problem for me as I was coming to terms very starkly with my own dysphoria and dissociation with my own body. This show in particular deals with a rejection of “before” and “after” narratives in a broader sense around myth making and storytelling, but that are so tied to mainstream/cis narratives around transness that can really seep into my consciousness, but is ultimately a dangerous way of thinking when it comes to my own understanding of myself and my life. I don’t particularly identify with the concept of “being in the wrong body” so while my dysphoria is real and distressing in its own way, there’s also a recognition of and gratefulness for the body I have and what its capable of and finding ways to inhabit it more consciously as I discover the ways, big and small, I might have subconsciously unlearned out of self-preservation. The “before” and “after” narrative tells us we aren’t complete yet or we can’t be happy or know ourselves until an outward marker of change or identity has been breached for others, but that obfuscates the work and learning and daily experiences we encounter on the road towards knowing oneself. Everyone in their own way has these experiences with learning or unlearning themselves, recognizing and accepting their bodies and their possibilities or limitations, and making their own meanings and interpretations on their own terms. With this in mind, I moved towards a more physical or tactile practice which has been a way of trying to reinhabit my body in a more conscious and present way on a daily basis (sewing in particular is quite a meditative act). Without sounding too much like Frankenstein, there is a power and a catharsis for me in creating these new ways of embodiment that take up physical space and I can hold in my hands or that literally dwarf me in a room, and I can also use this physical practice as a means of furthering my ideological pursuits and explorations of my identity and the world around me, and in so doing I hope to get closer to bridging my mind and my body in ways that are within my control. 

Dark Air, a solo show by Gray Wielebinski curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell at SEAGER Gallery © DATEAGLE ART

You are influenced by science fiction and the way it allows us to create other worlds and possibilities Can you name some of your influences? 

Whether it was books or films or TV, I consumed a lot of media and stories as a kid and still continue to do so, so the list of inspirations is long and muddled together in some ways, but science fiction has always held a special place. Science fiction has long been a means, particularly for marginalized people, to hold up a mirror to see and critique that which is made to feel “natural,” which can then be a very useful tool for survival, communication, community and ultimately questioning and fighting the powers that be by understanding where they came from and how dominant narratives are upheld. 

In Kindred, Octavia Butler interrogates the impacts of slavery and white supremacy through a time travel narrative. The Matrix has widely been revisited through the lens of the trans experience and transitioning, particularly as the directors, Lana and Lily Wachowski, came out as trans in recent years. The Twilight Zone is masterful at weaving both the minor and major elements of creating uncanny atmospheres that can go from nudging you slightly off kilter to knock you out for the count. For ‘Dark Air’ specifically I was also thinking about Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris which subverts a more typical trope of space exploration as a colonization narrative, and in fact is ultimately about the astronauts’ inability to cope, physically and emotionally, with an overpowering ocean planet. It’s about our complete inability to understand or fathom the extraterrestrial (and maybe even our own subconscious). Science fiction, at its best, lets us imagine and wonder and be awestruck with possibilities, while still keeping a foot firmly on the ground and, in fact, may help us see reality even clearer. 

Dark Air, a solo show by Gray Wielebinski curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell at SEAGER Gallery © DATEAGLE ART

With Dark air you hope to overthrow the notion of the “hero’s journey” and our perceived set paths, goals, and obstacles – is this a comment on the overwhelming conditioning that has been determined through society and the West’s patriarchal system?

I’m fascinated by the idea of the hero’s journey as a storytelling archetype, and I think more so than completely subverting or throwing it out the window, it’s about an even deeper dive into it and not shying away from the minutiae and the mundanity that arguably differentiates a story from a life. The conditioning you’re referencing I think is important especially in relation to our contemporary moment within capitalism and this tension between expectations and conditioning to want certain things for our lives, to take certain paths or understanding success in specific ways, while at the same time being led to believe it’s our decision and that our happiness or opportunities lie squarely within ourselves or within our grasp rather than questioning what is out of our control and what might be possible to question or tweak within ourselves to find our own ideas or barometers of success. Some people are just trying to survive while at the same time we’re being told what we need to be happy or what we are doing wrong or what we need to overcome, and then the goal post keeps moving. It’s a function of capitalism to obfuscate our “true” foes or obstacles and for our path to be fog-covered, so perhaps even subconsciously I proposed of a sphinx that fits in with this atmosphere, or at least how I often feel while trying to navigate it. This all sounds a bit pessimistic but in actuality I hope for it to be empowering in any small way it can, that even in a time where things are made to feel and may very well be out of our immediate hands, there may be ways to internally recalibrate our parameters for success and happiness and fulfilment even on a day to day basis, even if it’s just how we relate to ourselves and each other.

Dark Air, a solo show by Gray Wielebinski curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell at SEAGER Gallery © DATEAGLE ART

 Can you explain the link between your exploration into Mythology and sports and how you connect the two? 

I’m interested in blending ancient storytelling and mythological creatures or narratives with contemporary interpretations and iconographies, and in so doing am hoping to bring into question the biases and power dynamics/hierarchies that are often involved in storytelling and myth making both in the past and the present, and how that has the potential to shape our futures.

I also was thinking of intersections of sports, mythology/religion and even being an artist-the relationships between the grand events and the mundanity of the everyday that both, in their own ways, make up these experiences and our relationships to them. Holidays, championship games, art exhibitions certainly hold their own meanings, they can build community and give us something to look forward to and remember, but these go hand in hand with the everyday and the myriad other emotions and experiences built up around these that make up our meaning as well. Personally I am also thinking about gender and transitioning and the relationship between insular and exterior identities and how to shift narratives from a “before” and “after” to a whole other way of being and experiencing and becoming oneself on a daily basis. Rather than being a sort of trick or gimmicky reveal, my use of this iconography and the set-up of the exhibition itself is coming from a place of optimism and empowerment, of wanting to give both myself and the audience the choice to create meaning for ourselves and to question how and when we might be told otherwise. 

What else will you be working on this year?

Right now, I’m working towards making new works for a group show at Lychee One in London and a three person show in Odense, Denmark both in September. I am also working on a newly commissioned video and performance piece in collaboration with HRH that I’m really looking forward to. After that I’m going to take some time to reflect on what I’ve made this year and how I want to move forward. 

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Helen Beard’s True Colours

03.07.2018 | Art | BY:

Damien Hirst’s most recent exhibition True Colours at his private museum, Newport Street Gallery, shines a light on three female artists Boo Saville, Sadie Laska and Helen Beard as it examines each of their unique explorations into the possibility of colour, form and subject. Twin Factory had the opportunity to speak with Helen Beard on her inclusion in the show.  

Hirst initially commissioned Beard to make a selection of large works last summer, she explains; “It wasn’t until he asked me to make some more works recently that I realised he wanted to show them at Newport Street Gallery.” Hirst’s generous offering of his Peckham and Gloucester studio’s allowed Beard to make her largest pieces to date; 

“I have really enjoyed working at a bigger scale, it adds something to the work, gives it a power. I do really like working at a smaller scale too though. ‘’Each, Peach, Pear, Plum’ (2017)’ is one of the smallest works in the show but it is one of my favourites. I will need a bigger studio if I continue to make big works though, I am running out of space!”

Helen Beard ‘Blue Valentine’, 2016 | courtesy of Newport Street Gallery

Situated partly between representation and abstraction, Beard makes it clear she doesn’t like to chose between either when it comes to discussing her work; “I like both. I started with abstraction because it was less direct, less revealing.” Centred around themes that examine gender, sexual psychology and eroticism. Her vivid rainbow palette of primary colours have in fact been taken from explicit found imagery. The bright, bold colours of Beard’s works lure you in, like a moth to a flame, until it becomes apparent, rather abruptly, that the abstract patterns are in fact cropped and edited pornographic images. As well as the internet, Beard often uses magazines and photographs as part of her process when sourcing material for her practice; 

I draw and work out the composition in small studies and then I also work out the colours at small scale, it saves the paint becoming too thick and the colour losing its vibrancy, but I am not always true to the study if I mix a better colour with the oils I am happy to change them and I often change the drawing with the paint too.”

Beard chooses to work with sexual imagery as a way of subverting the male gaze, something she has focused on since becoming an artist and studying Graphics at Bournemouth and Poole college of design (1990-1992); 

I have always painted sex, it has always fascinated me how closed people are when it comes to talking about it. I think it is important for women to express themselves. Sex is such a fundamental in our psyche after all, and art always comes back to those big ideas like sex and death.

As we see in True Colours, Beard’s practice is multidisciplinary, as she works across a selection of mediums that include painting, collage and tapestry. She explains that this is a conscious choice; “It is so exciting to work with various materials all the time, I collect a lot of stuff in my studio, like most artists do and then wait for an idea of how to use it.” 

Installation View, ‘True Colours’, Helen Beard | courtesy of Newport Street Gallery

Her use of needlework is striking and unique, as seen in the mid-sized tapestry ‘Can we Conceive of Humanity if it did not Know the Flowers?’ (2014) with its pretty pink stitches that brilliantly contrast with the subversive subject matter. Beard explains that she began to use needlework because of her grandmothers lessons in the technique rather than for its strong associations with the feminine and domesticity; 

I don’t think it was a conscious thing to use needlepoint because of it being a female pastime, but I was very conscious that I didn’t want to make the traditional images associated with embroidery or needlepoint, the chocolate box, kittens in a basket, type stuff. So I just used the imagery I was painting.

Since it’s opening, True Colour’s has been praised for its strong aesthetic and positive representation of female painters, with impressive reviews that includes fours stars from Time Out. As an artist who openly wants to celebrate sex from her point of view and strongly advocates that there is no shame in doing so, Beard is pleased with the positive reaction shown by the general public; “its been so well received and so well covered in the press, I am actually quite surprised by how much people love it.” 

 

True Colour’s is on show at Newport Street Gallery until Sunday September 9th 

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Natural and animalistic: Twin meets jewellery maker Rebecca Onyett

11.03.2018 | Blog | BY:

Rebecca Ellis Onyett’s jewellery (REO Jewels) personifies everything that she stands for: it is unapologetically raw, natural, bold, elegant and visually strong. Like most young creatives looking to explore their craft and talent, having completed her degree at UCA in Silver and Goldsmithing Onyett came to London to carve out a career for herself. She spent the first two working in Harrods and Selfridges for jeweller Shaun Leane, until she felt that the experience and knowledge she had gained from this time was strong enough for her to formulate her own brand. Five years on, Onyett has created a mini empire where her brand recognition is growing steadily, as is her international following.

Speaking with Twin, Onyett explained the ethos behind REO jewels; I think it has always been the same, since the beginning. I’ve always just wanted to make jewellery that’s nature driven and animalistic in a sexy couture way. To be worn by strong women and men who feel free to express themselves by wearing something a bit different. For me it goes back to our ancestors who wore animal bones and skins to express their primitive strength. After all, we all were once animals ourselves.

This drive to make jewellery that places a strong focus on nature and animals comes from her experiences as a child, growing up in the Kentish countryside, constantly surrounded by the natural elements. I have always loved to be around nature and growing up spent a lot of time  both in the woods near my house but also along the Kentish coastline due to my father’s love for nature and always taking me for long woodland walks or beachcombing. From a very young age I always knew I was an artist. I always loved using my hands and after experimenting at Plymouth university in 3D design I found myself engrossed in a jewellery making evening class, which is when I knew I had found my calling. After finishing my degree at UCA in Silver and Goldsmithing I definitely felt a call to move to London and try and make a name for myself there.

While her time in London was critical to the success of REO Jewels, Onyett’s love of the city was starting to wane as she became more and more aware of its rushed quality of life and the realities all Londoner’s face; property development and gentrification. These became a catalyst for her move to the small Kentish seaside town of Margate; 5 years on, with a huge wealth of experience, new friendships and a mark made in the jewellery industry I started to fall out of love with London. I just felt that my quality of life was less than it had been after having to leave my huge studio due to development work and I felt the need for change. I mentioned this to other artist friends and Margate became a recurring theme. I decided to take a trip there as I had never visited before. As soon as I did, I knew I wanted to move there. I think that’s the thing with Margate you either get it or you don’t. And I got it.

Reo Jewels | Jenna Foxton

Having now lived in the seaside town for two years, Rebecca discusses what she loves most about it; the space, the fact that I have a home I can call my own and a new studio that is cheap and big. The skyline, something about Margate skies really does soothe the soul. The pace, everyone in London is in such a hurry that they miss out on life. You don’t even realise it until you leave but I was so caught up in having to make money that I forgot to enjoy the simple things. For Rebecca, REO jewels is both her work and passion, it is all-consuming, which means she tries to have moments separate from the business. With this in mind, she mentions Feral Sistas, a project she has started working on with her best friend. Throughout the summer the duo will travel around the UK to summer festivals in their 29 year old Bedford Rascal campervan hosting creative workshops, which will include jewellery making and life drawing. Onyett explains how the project naturally came to fruition through their shared love of meeting and engaging with new people on a creative and fun yet also productive level.

As for many small businesses, Instagram has been  instrumental in the growth of REO. Onyett’s beautifully curated profile, has been invaluable for the brand. It showcases her most popular products,  arguably her signet rings as well as the bespoke commissions she regularly receives. It is a godsend. I have a lot of sales through it and it’s a free platform to advertise. I’d like to think that not long from now I won’t need a website and I can do all my sales through it.

Sparrow Claw Pearl Earrings, £100

While in time it may not be necessary for Onyett to have a website, she will always depend on Hatton Garden for sourcing her materials. When we discuss the topic of gender equality within the jewellery world, she touches on London’s jewellery district and why she feels it is still so old school and relatively sexist; I suppose it is this way because there are not many women employees, especially in trade jobs. It is predominantly male and even the men my age working there have learnt the trade from being an apprentice. But from my time, university degrees seem to have produced mainly female contemporary jewellers (whether they are full on makers or just designers is a whole other point). So it seems to depend on your background , but saying that if you were female and couldn’t afford to do a course or a degree I think you’d find it hard to get an apprenticeship in Hatton garden.

Raised Bee Signet Mix, £75

For Onyett, having full control over her life is the most important part of working for herself. With this in mind, she credits her father for teaching her about the importance of a strong work ethic and describes him as her biggest inspiration. When asked who on the contemporary scene she would like to see wearing REO Jewels Rebecca’s response again embodies what she stands for; an individual who instinctively avoids the status quo; There isn’t really anyone current who I can think of but if I was making my jewels in a different time I’d say Janis Joplin or Courtney Love. Travelling, especially road tripping across America, and observing the reaction of a customer when they first see her work, are what make her most happy. You can find REO jewels on Broadway Market every Saturday from 9AM-4PM. If at first you cant find Onyett’s stand, listen out for and then follow the loud laugh, and that’s where she will be.

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The politics of the Body: Twin meets Ranny Cooper

27.02.2018 | Art | BY:

Artist Ranny Cooper examines and explores the female form as a way of addressing issues around self identity and discovery. She shifts our usual associations away from sex and provocation and asks us instead to focus on the ways in which the body is bound in objectification and intrusion, yet also in admiration and desire. Cooper uses her own body as her muse as it has been a positive way for her to address the issues she faces with her own body politics. Inspired by Jenny Saville and her portrayal of the body and all of its fluid forms, Cooper enjoys celebrating this idea of the grotesquely beautiful. In her series ‘Unbound’, the minimal, fluid lines and colours of Cooper’s mix media drawings offer a thoughtful and sensitive representation of the female form. Her use of leatherwear highlights the friction between submission and empowerment as she depicts the action, restrictions and effects of harnesses as a means of representing the duality of lust and scrutiny that women’s bodies are subjected to.

Ranny Cooper, Unbound

Originally from Brighton, Cooper has been based in East London’s Hackney for the last five years, where she spent the first three at London College of Fashion studying Fashion Illustration. The product of a rather bohemian and idyllic childhood, Cooper thinks this may be where her openness towards nudity came from and why she doesn’t feel that her sexuality defines her. I don’t know if I am defined by my sexuality, but know that I address it very boldly. I have always been very sexually open with my body. I grew up in an extremely naked household – it is a good way for me to express how I am feeling as a women. A lot of people see my work and think of it in very black and white terms, as simply sexual, open and in your face. But when you understand the meaning behind it, it is actually very personal. So, it is about sexuality but the point is there is also much more behind the surface.

Cooper acknowledges that the personal element to her work is varied depending on the series she is focusing on. While she always uses the body as her canvas and main subject, the motives behind her use of it are diverse.With my body print series I was expressing different emotions that I felt when I was life modelling. When you are exposed to a crowd of people and you are nude it encourages a range of emotions and I would find so many different thoughts running through my head. It really does boil down to each individual pose having a unique emotion that comes with it. Then when it came to my series ‘Unbound’, I was addressing the misconceptions people often have around sexuality, especially when it comes to the use of leather and harnesses. I involved the harness as a means of highlighting the importance of control for women when it comes to their bodies, which can be both a positive and negative in todays society.

Over the last few weeks, Cooper has started working on a new project, ‘Dismemberment’. In this series she fragments the body. The project merges different parts of the anatomy to explore the cross section between where the human form goes from the sight of desire to the sight of grotesque. Cooper explains how she is taking a new direction with her use of the body as a canvas and her growing obsession with how different angles can make the figure look almost distorted. This project is a little less sexual in a way as it focuses on dismembered and deconstructed figures. I have always been interested in the body looking distorted and out of worldly in a way, which transpired into this idea of how the body can go from a site of desire to a site of grotesque. With this project I still use the naked body but by dismembering it I wish to express the chaos we are often faced with when we let our thoughts run away with us, highlighting the confusion and madness that the mind often provokes.

As Cooper readdresses her practice through the altered perception she now places on the body, she discusses how she defines beauty:

I believe that it is completely in the eye of the beholder. I don’t think there is a typical ideal of beauty. For me, beauty comes from weakness and imperfection. Like art, it is totally subjective and I really don’t think it can be defined any more. Obviously you have ideals that the media represents to people of how we should look, which is a big issue. When I started doing such figurative drawings, initially I focused on slender beautiful women but gradually this made me feel more and more uncomfortable so I started using myself as my own reference – that really made me target issues I had with myself and helped me come to terms with them. I don’t think beauty is a definition I think it is a perception.

Ranny Cooper, Unbound

With this idea of beauty as perception rooted in subjectivity, Ranny explains how Hans Bellmer, Louise Bourgeois and Jean Cocteau have been lifelong inspirations for her. Likewise, the minimalist linear drawings by Austrian artist Egon Schiele and Mapplethorpe’s fetishistic yet sensual images have been important artistic sources. More recently, she credits the work of photographer Maisie Cousins, whose zoomed images of the female body taken from the series ‘grass, peonies, bum’ are some of her favourites. While Ranny is keen to explore the possibility of living somewhere like Berlin, given it’s notably liberal attitudes within youth culture, she has decided to dedicate the next two years to nurturing her practice here in London. Ranny Cooper will be showing her new series ‘Dismemberment’ at Cafe 119 throughout April. In the meantime, you can follow her practice and intense obsession with poached eggs via her Instagram @rannycooper. 

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