The Mona Lisa Effect: Curated by Francesca Gavin

The internet, NFT’s, and memes: what do all of these things have to do with digital art and its consumption? The Mona Lisa Effect seeks to answers these questions, through a live-streamed auction championing artists of the new digital era.

Taking its inspiration from Darian Leader’s book Stealing the Mona Lisa (2002), where he argued that the theft of Leonardo’s painting was the cause for its universal popularity. The absence of the piece became the enigma, which built up the anticipation for when it returned.  

James Kerr/Scorpion Dagger Pointers (2021). Courtesy of the artist and CNL.

The artists featured in the exhibition embody the task of displaying a reinvigoration in the consumption of art in the digital space. Sarah Judy, James ‘Scorpion Dagger’ Kerr, Damien Roach, and Thomas Webb all explore the binary of absence and presence – balancing between the two ideas, and in some way, finding a point where they meet in the middle.

This exhibition is led by curator and co-founder of Manifesta11: Francesca Gavin, known for her editor position at LIMBO, contributions at the Financial Times How to Spend It, and widely for her book Watch This Space which delves into how digital screens have a direct impact on society, culture, and the self.

Damien Roach, ‘Nothing (Sink Hole)’, from the series Four Types of Nothing (2021). Courtesy of the artist and CNL. (Still)

The live exhibition is set to take place on 30th May 2021 at 2pm (GMT) and will be hosted on Croy Nielsen and Emanuel Layr’s gallery site cnl.casa

Header image credits: Thomas Webb, Art Kids Online (2021). Courtesy of the artist and CNL.

Browns Book Street – Mayfair Flagship

Introducing the future of luxury physical retail: Browns Book Street opens the doors to their Mayfair flagship store. A carefully curated sanctuary that collates a world of fashion, food, jewellery – this space is an expression of expansive culture. Browns is a staple in experiential retail, with new concepts, designs, and internal architecture, their foundational belief being built upon cultivating personal connections with their community.

“I am thrilled to see us open our flagship, Browns Brook Street, as we kick off 2021. […] Our new magical home will inspire customers as well as usher in a fundamental shift in the way people shop as layered into this connected, tech-enabled experience is a thoughtful and human side – which is so crucial in the current landscape where personal and personalisation is pivotal. […] The space is truly sensorial; sight, sound, smell, taste and touch – offering a unique experience through each visit. The customer is truly at the core of what we do, and we hope that our new home will be one that you never want to leave”. – Holli Rogers, CEO of Browns.

The Focus at Browns (2021)

The space is built to make the shopping experience all encompassing – not just a place for buying clothes but an immersive retail journey. The building is complete with four dynamic floors that include a moveable Ground level which acts as a window to the store, a stairway with a Dimorestudio designed light installation, a gender fluid shoe room, and a restaurant centred around zero waste amongst a plethora of other innovative fixtures.

Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci, founders of Dimorestudio described Browns as having “intentional design choices which restore original features are paired with unexpected modernity”, which in turn helps to create rooms that successfully juxtapose the old with the new, creating a completely different genre.

“We don’t want to replicate what other brands do. What we do is instinctively Browns. With five decades of customer service both offline and online we are in a unique position to connect with our clients in a bespoke and tailored way through curated and one-of-a-kind shopping experiences all with service at the forefront.” – Lee Whittle, Browns Customer Experience Director.

Native at Browns, The Courtyard (2021)

To delve into the world of Browns, visit brownsfashion.com

Header image credits: The Facade at Browns (2021)

Eva Alt celebrates mature ballet artistry

Considered by many to be the first art, dance came before language: early humans communicated and expressed themselves through gesture and bodily movement. After all, dancers know that how you are in your body relates to how you are in your mind and how you move through the world. 

And in today’s increasingly saturated world of communications, it is rare to find someone who understands this and can merge a passion for communication, community and dance poetically. 

Eva Alt, Ballet1

Cue Eva Alt. Perhaps known to many on Instagram, as Glossier’s doe-eyed former Head of Social Media, Alt has, over the past few years, not only become known for building Glossier’s digital presence, but also managed to enchant New York’s fashion and beauty scene with her charme, wit and with her passion for dance. 

“It always seemed to me, as a person who is a “feeler”, that through dance and watching dance, I was able to inuit things that you can’t necessarily express with words. There’s power in that,” she stated during a Zoom call from her apartment in New York City. “So there is something very honest about communicating through gestures and, you know, you can’t lie!”

Eva Alt, Ballet1

A former professional ballerina, Alt’s trajectory into the world of ballet started when she was a little girl, realizing she wanted to get into dance seriously around the age of 11 or 12. After a brief summer stint at The School of American Ballet in New York, at 15 she auditioned for the Boston Ballet and was accepted. This then led to years of strenuous training in the Balanchine method by a former principal of The New York City Ballet. 

However, the world of ballet can be especially tough for young adolescent girls growing up and getting to know their bodies. 

Eva Alt, Ballet1

“In dance, at fifteen not only are you going through puberty but that’s also the moment when you start partnering. And all of a sudden your body is changing and it’s also being handled by the male dancers and that’s a very odd experience,” she recalls. 

And while many stereotypes regarding how a dancer’s body should look have now been broken, looking back, she wishes she had the knowledge she has now of her body. A lot of ballet is about the perception of line, and growing more self-aware of her form with time, has helped Alt embrace her body instead of working against it. 

“One of the things that continually amazes me about the human body, and through dance I am so in tune with my body and myself, is that we are changing all the time. We are constantly making new cells and regenerating. My body feels very different one day to the next! Yet, somehow, the body stores memories,” she quips. 

Alt stayed with the company until she decided to take a break and try out different things. This break then led her to fashion and after interning at a few publications and assisting a few stylists, she was then hired by Emily Weiss to work on Social Media at Glossier, and was there for six years, until she left this year to pursue her own personal projects. 

Yet, dance was always lurking around the corner and never really abandoned her in time of need. However, it was only after she joined Moves, her friends’ jazz class that she felt ready to get back to dancing full time and became what she believes is a truly rare being: a happy dancer.

“When I was returning to dance and getting in shape, in a lot of ways I felt like I was waking up again. My body wanted to remember the feeling of these movements, and in a lot of ways, it did.”

Eva Alt, Ballet1

It was then she decided she would create her very own ballet class open to all levels: Ballet1. The class proved to be so popular because of its diverse and inclusive spirit it attracted dancers from every borough of New York, and it also helped Alt discover her ultimate purpose: creating a safe and happy space for a diverse community of individuals passionate about dance who may not necessarily be professionals.

A class at Ballet1 pre Covid-19

“My purpose in ballet is that of creating more space for people. And something that is really important to me is performance, specifically for mature ballet dancers, or mature dancers. In a former company, there are lots of amazing dancers who dance for many years and then retire. I feel like there are things like broader life experiences, motherhood, you know, going to school, a job, whatever it is, that add something really valuable to people’s artistry and I feel like there is really no context for that idea to exist. I want to create that. I want to create a platform for mature ballet artistry. So that’s something that is going to be pretty central to the project,” she concludes.

Eva Alt, Ballet1

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The Photographers Capturing Ireland Through a Queer Lens

Ireland has undergone tumultuous social change in the past three decades. The queer creatives who have come of age during this period are seeking to change the narrative when it comes to documenting LGBTQI lives.

The nineties were punctuated by a slew of queer pop culture moments that are still referenced today for their bolshy, unashamed arrival into the mainstream. KD Lang and Cindy Crawford indulged in a homoerotic barber shop sitting on the cover of Vanity Fair; talk show queen Ellen came out live on TV, and even the soaps, that most pedestrian of pop culture institutions, featured the first gay character and lesbian kiss on Brookside in 1994.

These iconic moments gave the impression that queerness was slowly but surely creeping from the fringes into a suburban sort of conventionality, but real life for LGBTQI people was far from that. In Ireland, still a social conservative country in the hedonistic nineties, homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1993. The Catholic church had an iron grip on many institutions (and indeed, still does) including the public school system and many hospitals.

Conservative and liberal ideology would continue to clash for the next few decades, culminating in the 2015 referendum that brought in same-sex marriage, and the 2018 one that legalised abortion. It was against this backdrop of seismic social change that a generation of queer kids were brought up, sort of as changelings of the Old and New Ireland. Now in their twenties, Gen Z and young Millennial creatives have a particular viewpoint of how they want to document and express the experiences of LGBTQI people.

Donal Talbot, 25, is a model-turned-photographer whose work has featured in publications including i-D and The Face. Most recently his portraits were chosen by Benjamin Wolberg for his latest book, new queer photography, which showcases work from breakout and established queer photographers from around the world.

Home project, photo by Eoin Greally

“My work tends to challenge how we, as a culture, see things like intimacy and queerness, and how those things correlate. There’s a softness and stillness that I try to capture in my portraits that aims to rewrite a narrative about how queer people communicate and interact with each other,” Donal says.

“I find a lot of inspiration from meeting people in gay bars and queer spaces but I’m interested in seeing what happens past that; the still moments of capturing someone after the lights go down in the club, or the day after a party in someone’s house.”

The photographer studied at Ireland’s foremost art school, the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, and it was in his final year that he found his medium.

“For my final project I knew I wanted to do work around queer narratives, but I didn’t have an idea of how to do that. I was in drag going to a boxing ring, then I started to take pictures and realised that was what I like. The project came together in the last two months and it was a portrait series of around ten different LGBT and queer people I had met. I photographed and interviewed them and that springboarded me into the art I make today.”

Eoin Greally is a 23-year-old from rural Ireland who has already carved out an impressive career in fashion and portraiture photography. While back in the family home during lockdown, the young photographer began working piecemeal on a project that has evolved into a cathartic reflection of his own journey as a young queer person. His rural upbringing, once something that he feared, has given him a unique perspective on how he has evolved both creatively and personally.

“At first I didn’t know it was going to be a project, they were images I was simply collecting. It’s a lot of portraiture, and also trying to capture the essence of my home. There’s that idea when people ask, are you going home, or are you going ‘home home’?” he explains.

“Now I’m piecing together the images I have realised there is a huge queer perspective but it’s not the typical gay male perspective from a gay mecca like New York. It’s all about a place I was afraid of growing up. I was in rural Ireland and I was afraid of being queer.”

“I was lucky, I always had support from my family about being queer but it still came with its discomfort. A lot of the focus is on my dad – he’s my favourite person to photograph, but also because he was the only person I was afraid of disappointing by being queer. I never received that sentiment from him, it was totally coming from what I thought I had to be afraid of. This project definitely has helped getting rid of some of that discomfort. It was something I largely put there myself, and now I’ve been able to take it away but it needed time. It’s been a healing project.”

While lockdown has given rise to a lot of creative output, it has also stalled many planned projects and events. 22-year-old photographer and sociology student Niamh Barry was on the cusp of launching her exhibition, ‘Queer Hearts of Dublin’ last October until yet another lockdown was announced. The exhibition is a range of portraits of queer people Niamh met mostly through a casting call on Instagram, with the aim of documenting as diverse a group as possible; “It was about reconnecting to my queer community but also so that people knew it wasn’t just a white male perspective (of queerness). The image is different to what people think. I wanted to collaborate with people who wanted to tell their story but it was also intersectional- it was a new narrative but yet one that’s always been there,” she says.

“I reached out people on Instagram and that’s how I met one of my subjects, Mimi. Her story was really interesting. She is a black queer woman and hearing her experience was amazing. She’s two years younger than me but so confident; I was almost surprised by her confidence in those moments because at the same time she was telling how hard it was to grow up where she lives, which is a small country town, very inward looking.”

“She told what it’s like growing up as a black woman in Ireland and what it’s like to not really have representation, especially also being queer. That experience made me realise that this type of story is not being told in Ireland.”

The resulting portraits are intimate and raw, quietly communicating what it means to be queer and young and living in Ireland at this moment in time. It’s a sentiment that Eoin echoes when considering his next chapter in his work.

Home project, photo by Eoin Greally

“I have realised my privilege within the queer community – I am a white, queer, cis gay male. I don’t by any means think that’s a bad thing but being a photographer gives me an opportunity to uplift other sides of the queer community that didn’t always get the limelight.

“What’s important to me now is focussing on the groups in the queer community that don’t always get the opportunity to speak. It’s still a work in progress, but that’s what I want to dedicate my time to now.”

Header image credits: Ming and their significant other Aisling, photographed by Niamh Barry

International Women’s Day: Female Voices of Latin América

In celebration of International Women’s Month, the digital art exhibition site: Vortic is set to host the first iteration of Female Voices of Latin América. This will showcase the work of over 150 living female artists from across the region, with 19 countries being represented across the board. The exhibition will be shown at over 60 galleries and institutions and will be launched on 8th March, the official date of International Women’s Day.

For so long, Latin-American artists have gone underrepresented in the art world nationally, with only a few names being highlighted. This exhibition aims to bring these artists to the forefront across generations, with artwork that spans from 1968 to the present day. Works from established artists like Liliana Porter and Adriana Varejão will be honoured alongside newer generation talent such as Sofía Clausse, Patricia Domínguez, and Nohemí Pérez.

“Madres adolescents”, 1988-1990 by Adriana Lestido. Silver gelatin print on fibre paper. Courtesy of the Artist and Rolf Art Gallery.

Galleries that will be participating include Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, Museo Tamayo and Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo amongst a plethora of others established institutions. The initiative is all encompassing and will allow for collaboration and an exchange of ideas between galleries, whilst also exposing viewers to a range of diverse and talented Latin American artists.

“Sobre Isaacs”, 1989 by Karen Lamassonne. Acrylic on paper (116 x 85cm). Courtesy of the artist and Instituto de Visión.

“We have grown tired of not seeing female artists from Latin America receive the recognition they deserve in their own lifetime. As a platform, Voices of Latin America plays a well-deserved tribute to those with a remarkable artistic trajectory as well as promoting the current and next generation of artists. This presentation has been made possible by working hand in hand with the galleries, museums and non-profits in and out of Latin America that have contributed to develop the expanding arts scene. The future of our industry will rely on exchange, mutual support and collaboration. Through meaningful and memorable initiatives like this one, we aim to contribute to the art landscape in an impactful way”. – Elena Saraceni, Curatorial Director, Voices of Latin América and Special Projects
Consultant at Vortic

These shows will be hosted on the Vortic website, where they maintain efforts to support galleries and institutions by using cutting-edge technology to provide an immersive digital and physical experience of viewing art. The exhibition will be available to view from March 8th to May 2nd, 2021. Visit vortic.art

Header image credits: “Beatriz y Chelle en cuarentena” by Bernadette Despujols. Oil on canvas (39.4 x 29.9 inch). Courtesy of the artist.

Billie Eilish “The World’s a Little Blurry”

“WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?”

A question posed in an award-winning album by singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, producer and Billie’s brother Finneas O’Connell. In celebration of the album and the artistic process, fans were invited to view the global live premiere for the release of “Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry,” a new Apple Original Film from award-winning director R.J. Cutler. 

The film premiered on the 25th February 2021, and featured a stripped back version of the song “ilomilo” by Eilish and her brother Finneas, exclusive video footage of Billie speaking to her fans, an interview with Cutler, all of which is hosted by DJ Zane Lowe. The World’s A Little Blurry shows a nuanced and intimate side of Billie’s life experiences, her struggles as a musician, the importance of family, and ultimately the growing pains of being a teenager in the limelight. The run time is extended just over 2 hours, and the production is from Apple Original Films, in association with Interscope Films, The Darkroom, This Machine and Lighthouse Management & Media. T.

“It’s quite a remarkable family story because it’s simple and it’s clear, and yet it seems almost miraculous. How is it possible that Billie and Finneas do this work together? How is it possible that their two prodigies that come from the same parents? There are so many aspects to it, but most of all they’re folks who are unconditionally committed to supporting their kids being truly who they are. And truth and empathy and the fundamental themes, I think of this film, I think of Billie’s work. I think of this moment – I think it’s probably why it’s her moment” – Director, R.J. Cutler

To find out more, and to watch the film visit AppleTv.com/BillieEilish

TTSWTRS Presents The Earth Series

Location: Planet Earth. Existing on a galactic plane, at 0o latitude and being made up of a collection of a crust, mantle, and core, which holds large bodies of water and life. This is where well-known Ukrainian brand TTSWRTS takes their inspiration from for their new SS21 collection: The Earth Series. Their aim? To discover the concept of the future of clothing.

The Earth Series takes inspiration from a hypothetical future that involves space travel and the possibility of inhabiting new plants. A world where visual culture – fashion and clothing, becomes the main mode of communication. Arguably, we have already begun using fashion as a way to transmit ideas about our identity, but TTSWTRS takes this a step further. The centrepiece of the designs is the concept of a ‘second skin’, which is embroidered with inscriptions and images that involve a series of mantras, sayings, and symbols. The pieces are made to highlight the human body and its duality; it decentres the body whilst also maintaining the essence of one’s identity.

The line includes unique pieces developed in collaboration with other creatives: the Naked Landscape coat was created together with photographer Kseniia Kargina and the Earth, Mars, and Venus hoodie was made alongside American designer and illustrator Jeremey Harnell. The materials and fabrics used range from silk, micro modal, net, and denim, with a predominantly white, beige, and black palette. Each piece of clothing captures the essence of the earth in its entirety.  

But where does this series fit in in the discourse of fashion right now? Founder and designer Anna Osmiekhina commented: “I would describe fashion now in 3 words – Mirror. Protection. Addiction. For me, fashion is the most honest form of contemporary art that helps me accept myself. What a wonderful time we live in when everyone can manifest themselves in any way they want.” 

TTSWTRS being founded in 2013 has maintained a high level of success, through the brand’s unique focus on utilising beige imitating naked skin, basic colours, and tattoos. The Earth Series is another instalment of the brand’s push to focus on wider ideas and conversations, and incorporating this into clothing.

Anna goes on to share her hopes for where she hopes to see TTSWTRS transcend to and where she hopes the fashion world will be in the future: “I would love to see how every detail of the current era has changed: the perception of fashion, communication, the emergence of new communication types, and people’s manifestations. The Art reflecting on current times. Its Speed. And of course the value of resources. The value of Water, Air, and Earth. I would like to participate in this direction to reflect the time and help others to be more open and sincere, to be more loved. To help in self-acceptance. And if suddenly garments are not useful in the near future, I would like to design natural phenomena.”

To view the full collection, visit ttswtrs.com

Alexander McQueen and Jonathan Glazer: First Light

Alexander McQueen presents “First Light”, a film in conjunction with English filmmaker Jonathan Glazer and Alexander McQueen’s creative director Sarah Burton. The film combines the gritty scenes from the River Thames overpass with the stripped-back clothing and accessories from the campaign. With the tagline “Back to London, coming home” and under Glazer’s directing, the film draws on the peculiar and the striking. 

Debuting Alexander McQueen’s 21’ Spring/Summer collection, each scene shows the meeting point between the sophisticated and the rugged through a culmination of panned and still shots. The musical score is intense with bass and synths that reverberate throughout. Each shot is a hodgepodge, a collision of clothing hailing from different time periods that are brought together to create something new and refined. 

The womenswear collection includes pieces like a deconstructed dress with a strapless corset and an exploded skirt in layers of blush and tea rose tulle. This corset dress is featured in the film and worn by model Celina Ralph, who is caught in a cinematic shot, falling back slowly into a bed of mud. The menswear features a black biker jacket with zip detailing, a vest in white cotton jersey and biker trousers with zip detailing, reminiscent of the biker fashion of the 60’s. 

“Shape, silhouette and volume, the beauty of the bare bones of clothing stripped back to its essence – a world charged with emotion and human connection.” – Sarah Burton. 

To discover the collection, visit AlexanderMcQueen.com 

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Art Basel Miami Beach 2020 – Pippy Houldsworth Gallery Presentation

A celebration of thought provoking and eclectic work – this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach Exhibition introduces the work of artists across different generations. Presented by Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, this all-female exhibition brings together works that explore different subject matters and as captioned on the site “initiates a dialogue between feminist icons and the younger generation, reflecting the programme as a whole”. 

Although the presentation is usually held in person, the show will include ‘viewing rooms’, where the public can wonder around in virtual rooms that showcase digitalised versions of each artist’s work. The line-up includes the likes of Mary Kelly, a staple figure in feminist art, Ming Smith’s street photography which focused its lens on African American’s in the 1970’s, and work from Jacqueline de Jong who was an editor for the experimental platform The Situationist Times. 

The talent does not stop there, with the inclusion of prolific work from the younger generation. Highlights from painters Jadé Fadojutimi and Stefanie Heinze, the vibrant portraiture of Wangari Mathenge, Zoë Buckman’s repurposed textiles and the hypnotic oil on linen pieces by Angela Heisch. These works were created specifically for the fair and offer a deep dive into each artist’s psyche – how they postulate change, their ideas on identity, and how their individual work connects to larger ideas. 

In an exclusive interview, Zoë Buckman and Wangari Mathenge sat down with Twin Magazine and revealed some of their thoughts surrounding their work, the exhibition itself, and the ways they have continued to create during this turbulent time. 

Zoë Buckman, Lilith, 2020, boxing gloves, vintage textiles and chain
Photo: Thomas Müller

Zoë Buckman:she would use that cloth to make a sling, it stings, 2020’ and ‘Eyes Closing Now, 2020’

How does it feel to be a part of an all-female art exhibition? 

I was so excited when I saw that. Also those artists, the ones Pippy has selected, I am just delighted to be in such esteemed company. I know and really admire Ming Smith, we’re kind of a part of the same community here in the art world in New York, and I have obviously been a long admirer of hers. But also for me, Mary Kelly is a big one too because I actually studied her work at school, and I have her books and she has been a massive inspiration to me as I have attempted to juggle being an artist but also a mother. I’m getting to know the other artists on Pippy’s programme and it’s exciting. 

I have noticed that you use boxing gloves quite often in your work – why did you choose this medium for this piece and this exhibition? 

I’m really interested in the space in between polarised states. And I think that conversation or that tension between the stereotypically masculine and the stereotypically feminine, has always been a really interesting terrain for me to make art from. I do box [and] for a particular time in my life it was very formative for me because it gave me a space to work through both feelings of frustration and anger about what was going on politically in the world at the time. This was in 2016 in the run-up to the general election here in the States. I just began to really feel that there was this mounting war on women against our rights, and our body, and our body autonomy. It was also when there was a lot being circulated about rape, and scoring different experiences of rape against each other. It was a time where I was finding my feet as an artist in the art world, which is a very male dominated arena. In a way the boxing gym gave me a space to work through certain personal traumas, but it also gave me practice at learning how to hold my own and take up space, and even take space away from others. 

Visually boxing and iconography, like boxing gloves are very interesting to me because a lot of my work does look at masculinity, aggression and violence. So using boxing gloves but reworking them with these domestic feminine textiles, and often placing so that one is balancing on the other and bringing a kind of fragility to something that is stereotypically quite masculine and resilient.

The phrase “it stings” has also been used in your work prior. What does this statement mean in your work? 

A lot of the texts that I use in my work, both the titles, for what I write and embroider, that is taken from this ongoing poem that I’m writing. The poem is called “show me your bruises then” and it weaves together snippets of conversations or memories, or things that women have said to me, or even things that men have said to me. A lot of the text is from my own experiences with relationships with men. But that particular line it used to be “it stings, I sob”, that was taken from a play my mother wrote about her experience [of] coming on her period for the first time. 

In the Jewish tradition, the matriarch of the family will slap the young woman across the face the first time she gets her period. And so that was obviously this deeply problematic ritual for women, at least for my Mum she didn’t know what was happening to her body, and she didn’t know she was going to get slapped in the face by her grandmother. It’s this way of using a violent act to mark a significant time in a woman’s life. She found that, and therefore I find that really interesting and problematic. 

I also merged that with another piece of text which said “Mama would use that cloth to cook and clean, and she would use that cloth to make a sling”. She was talking about her grandmother in the kitchen using these tea towels in all these different ways. When a kid broke his arm, she would use that cloth to make a sling, but she would also use that cloth to tend to her own black eye. This line “it stings” for me, I’m sort of looking at the feminist experience. You can apply that “it stings, I sob” to coming on you period the first time, to losing your virginity, to experiencing violence, to experiencing heartbreak: it just seems so universal to me.  

As an artist and creator, do you believe your art has an obligation to tackle wider socio-political subjects? 

I try to veer away from any feelings of obligation because I feel they can limit the creative process. But I was brought up with this example of art being something that is used to examine or attempt to change the status quo. I personally will always use my art to do that. I think it’s something that I just intuitively want to do, and do. But I don’t feel like I am obligated. 

How does your art speak to your own experience as a woman and to the ‘female experience’ as a whole?

The series that I create they always start from a personal experience. Whether that’s divorce, grieving the loss of my mother, or sexual violence, or abortion or whatever is the impotence for me to embark on a series. It also comes from something within me that I find difficult or problematic or complicated. And then I go through a process of expanding that out and talking to other women, and bringing other women’s experiences and stories in the work. I hope it will always be something that is collective. For example, I’m not interested in making work that is solely about something that I have gone through. I’m more interested in saying “I have an experience with this” and I know there are plenty of women out there that have that; I want to share that space with them.

One of the subject matters highlighted in this exhibition is “metamorphosis”. Did you go through a process of change or metamorphosis that brought you to creating these two pieces?

I think that I’ve been on a real journey of transformation. The last few years for me have been almost a fast track of different experiences: from a divorce, to losing my mother to a terminal illness, to a very painful breakup from a relationship where there was violence and assault. A lot of that has brought a real complex darkness to my work as I have been exploring those things in my work. But more recently I feel that I am arriving at a place of joy and celebration. I think from my own spiritual practice, and through my relationships with other women, my best friends – my gyaldem, it has really put me in touch with this kind of inner force of creativity, and resilience, and joy. A lot of this work is looking at how we as women overcome the fuckeries that life throws at us. Through prayers, and devotion, and dancing, and raving and being together and through accessing our own ‘inner wild space’, and our own ‘inner wild women’; I think that is really the antidote to subjugation, and oppression, and trauma.  

In the current tumultuous time we are living in right now, (Covid-19, the US election, police brutality), where does your work as an artist fit into these conversations? 

I think that where the work explores as an antidote to oppression, and trauma and difficulty, choosing and seeking out joy, and connection to spirit and that inner wilderness that I was referencing; I think that sort of fits in with what is going on right now. Everybody is going through something, everybody is grieving something right now or everybody is anxious about something right now, or feeling trapped or limited or held back. Those are things I have had experience with, and some practice with. And so I think offering as a tool for those difficult experiences, this connection to something that is within us that can’t be limited, can’t be held back or trapped. I think that is a good way of reaching people during this time and what they’re going through. 

Ming Smith, Symmetry on the Ivory Coast, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 1972, archival silver gelatin print

Wangari Mathenge: The Ascendants IX (Just Like My Parents’ House, I’ve Become A Visitor), 2020’

I noticed that you use oil paints in the majority of your work. Why did you choose this medium specifically? 

It started just out of curiosity. I actually started painting with watercolours and acrylic. I just used to look at artworks a lot, like when you go to museums [and] there was this quality, a sort of richness that I noticed. I noticed the difference between oils and acrylics. Acrylics have come a long way and they mimic oils right now, back in the day acrylics were kind of dry and they didn’t really have the mixing mediums that they have right now; I think you can mimic an oil painting with acrylics now. When I was doing it, you could tell the difference. And so it was really curiosity. The first time I ever tried to work with oils, it was a complete disaster. It was a very difficult material to understand. And then it just became a quest to understand the language of oils. And then after a while, I just became good at it I guess. Initially it was just curiosity, and now the reason I still paint with oil is – I think just being comfortable with it. 

As an artist that has a diasporic experience, being between more than one culture, how does your artwork speak to your experiences? 

For me I think it changes. Initially what ‘diaspora’ meant to me when I started painting and thinking about it is very different to what it means to me today. Initially I think it was more of a statement, and now it’s more of an exploration of ‘what is diaspora?’. I think that would happen in any time you’re trying to work out something, whether you’re writing or whether you’re painting it tends to become this exploration, this understanding. With my works what you’ll notice is the motifs and objects, and all of these sort of informs that inquisition which is “what is diaspora?”, because it means [something] different to any individual. 

Most recently, I started reading this book ‘Potential History’ by Ariella Azoulay. It’s really interesting because it questions this whole notion of culture, objects, history, art history: what is it? I think for me, especially now with my work, I’m beginning to really look at what my place is in the world, my place in Chicago, the United States. How I have always kind of thought of myself as being a part from Kenya, and sort of being a part from here [United States], with a basis of being diasporic. But really what is that? I realised that there really is no understanding of what that culture looks like. And so [I’m] basically trying to explore that in my work. 

Do you see your work as a direct representation of you as an individual and your identity?

Yeah. I think it has to be. It’s an interesting question, because I have never thought about it not being that I guess. So it must be. 

How has the current world, this ‘new normal’ we are living in affected your work as a creative? Has it enhanced or hindered your work?

The thing is that I have been in school, right? Especially since Covid happened, the only thing that changed is that I was going to class and mingling with my peers and I had a studio on campus, and then we were relegated to distanced learning. Initially I had to change what I need, because I didn’t have access to the kind of space that I had in school. 

In a way it also makes you a little bit more introspective, because when I was in school I had my colleagues, and I had my professors walking in and kind of making the paintings with me because they come in [and] make comments, and you adjust accordingly. While now because you don’t really have eyeballs on your work all the time it forces you to go I think a little more inwards and pull things out. I think for me the change has been a self-direction. I say it’s forced self-direction because part of being in school is that you’re looking for that direction, and you’re looking to be challenged in that way. But because of Covid that hasn’t quite happened in the last 5-6 months. 

What do you hope this exhibition will do for you and your work as an artist moving forward?

I think I would love to have more people have conversations. And I guess the exhibition has more people seeing my work, right? Like you had said you hadn’t seen the work before and so having more people see the work and then engaging in the conversation is always helpful, because I’m not making this work just for me. So I would hope that all those conversations then helps the work grow and become something else as you move along. 

What do you hope people will take away from your artistry? Is there a particular message that you want to portray? 

No. Definitely for me I know what it is that I’m trying to get out of it. I would prefer to leave it a little bit open ended, rather than say that “Okay, this is what I am trying to convey”. I would rather leave it open ended because I think that’s how we live in any case. When we are confronted with visual things and even with writing, there isn’t that capability to always have the author or the artist translate what is going on. I would like for people to come to the work and take with it whatever they want to. And if it can do that, if it can relate to them in some way without me saying anything, then I guess that’s what I’m looking for.    

To view the full exhibition, visit artbasel.com 

All images courtesy of Pippy Houldsworth Gallery.

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Introducing ‘HOME’: A Black-Owned Creative Space by Ronan McKenzie

Introducing a creative, multifunctional space made to hone in on artists of colour: this is ‘HOME’. Founded by creative director, photographer, and curator Ronan McKenzie, this accessible art space is built to house exhibitions and events from a diverse range of artists.

This black owned space is one of few, working from the inside out to fully understand and support other BAME artists. The space works as a ‘home away from home’ for creatives through uplifting the voices and work of artists that are often relegated to lower positions of influence and authority or simply cast aside in the art world. The team at HOME also prioritises accessibility and sustainability, through disability access needs built into the space and fabric eco-friendly alternatives to paper backdrops. By giving these artists access to equipment, expertise, and a safe place to create, HOME is moulding a new infrastructure entirely, one built on equity and empathy. 

The space features an array of equipment including an affordable daylight photo studio, an open workspace and a curated library where exhibitions will take place year round. Events that will be held in the space range from film nights, artists talks and portfolio reviews to supper clubs, life drawings, and music events. 

“Art spaces remain hierarchal and out of reach for most – especially BAME audiences, making entering artistic spheres extremely difficult and maintaining a place in them even harder. Drawing on my own experiences of showing work at institutions, and working across fashion and arts, I am all too aware of the difficulties of navigating creative industries as a black female, and amongst the current offering in London, there needs to be a HOME.” – Ronan McKenzie, Founder and Creative Director of HOME. 

HOME’s debut exhibition is titled: ‘WATA; Further Explorations’ a show by Joy Yamusangie and Ronan McKenzie. This exhibition launched digitally on November 28th and will run till February 9th

For more information on HOME, visit homebrym.space

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Colville’s Authentic Vision

Collaboration as the core of creative vision: Colville founders Lucinda Chambers and Molly Molloy discuss the cultivation of an authentic vision with Marte Mei and Viviane Sassen for Twin. 

There is never just a single solitary eye in fashion. No isolated roving thoughts, or an action not inspired by another. Colville might be named after a street in London, but its name feels drawn from the family of collaboration, cross-pollination, creative inspiration. 

Founded by Lucinda Chambers and Molly Molloy, there are so many creatives, resources, ideas at play it feels like more than two: it is a river of thoughts, streams pulling in and rolling through.

In anticipation of their most recent collaboration with Marte Mei and Viviane Sassen, we spoke to the four respective collaborators about the freedoms of sharing visions and the interconnectivity of the creaive landscape.

If 2020 has taught us anything, do you think it is the vital importance of collaboration and creative cross-pollination?

Lucinda Chambers

I think I have always felt the joy of collaborations, not just during this time. I truly think no man is an island and it is one of the greatest pleasures to have a criss-crossing of minds, hearing others’ point of view and expressing ourselves creatively.  Also, as I get older, I let go more, not needing to hold on to my ideas or my way of doing things. I enjoy the freedom of collaborative work, and I feel very fortunate to have identified amazing collaborators to take the journey, and some have found me!

Molly Molloy

Absolutely, I think the incredible moments that happened for me during the first lockdown were the ideas and collaborations that came out of it. We worked with people all over the world to knit squares for blankets that we will eventually auction next year for a women’s refuge here in Milan. It was moving to involve so many people and to read the letters they sent along with the squares. I also took part in a group talk with BoF and many other designers, everyone coming together in a think tank to exchange ideas and make changes. These and many other projects we started during this year have reinforced our vision of collaboration. This was something we all talked about at the beginning of Colville: we all have collaborative natures and it just makes the creative process fresh and inspiring.

Marte Mei

I think 2020 has showed us how fragile our systems are. The interconnectivity of our global economy but also as a species within the ecosystem. Hopefully it has also showed people how much we depend on a healthy ecosystem around us, and how much we depend on that as a species to survive. 

Viviane Sassen

I believe the vital importance of collaboration and creative cross-pollination is something of all times.

How can fashion cultivate authentic visions in a creative climate in flux?

Lucinda Chambers

Now more than ever creativity flourishes. You must be authentic these days – people’s money is precious. They want to know where it is going and what the journey was. There are so many good stories out there and I think things are being scrutinised in a way that’s never happened before, and that’s a good thing. So, the more authentic you are, the better tale you have to tell.

Molly Molloy

To quote Louise Bourgeois “Tell your own story and you will be interesting”. I think what stands out are designers being authentic and working from their hearts and creating what they believe in.

Marte Mei

Fashion to me has always been about making something that triggers a new vision, sets a new tone or creates new examples. In the context of this project, it was all about freedom about coming together as a woman-only team. We also worked very local and with low carbon emissions and a very small team. The shoot took place in Amsterdam, the clothes were sent do us by mail, and nobody had to travel for the job apart from biking to the studio. I hope that becomes the new norm of creating within the industry. 

Viviane Sassen

By embracing true and original creative minds and give them a platform. Like Marte got through her collaboration with Colville!

How has this image series come about, and do you think it expresses a convergence of unique viewpoints that come together as a greater whole?

Lucinda Chambers

Molly contacted Marte Mei. We have worked with her from the very beginning of Colville. One of the beautiful things about Colville is the friendships we have all made along the way, for years now, way before we dreamt of having our own company. We have gathered around us a band of really dear and important friends who are creatives. Collaboration and giving everyone a voice is something that is very important to us, always has been. It’s about relationships, friendships and respect. In that sense we feel that Colville is a real collective. A meeting of the minds. 

Molly Molloy

Marte has worked with Colville from the very beginning, I worked with her creatively in the past and Lucinda and I love her vision, use of colour and sensitivity to what surrounds her. What’s amazing about letting go of control is what it brings back to you and how it surprises you. We didn’t give Marte or Viviane any constraints, they created something together that was for us completely unique and took the clothes somewhere else. It was an incredible privilege to work with two such inspiring women.

Marte Mei

To me, the process felt like a chain reaction of appreciation and admiration. Both the textile design collaboration, the set design, the image making, all felt like an overlapping patchwork of creation without clear borders. I found that really special in the way that Lucinda and Molly approached me for the textile design. They asked if I wanted to create a special follow up of an artwork I’d made in the past. I find it fascinating that they acknowledge potential within that sculpture from paper and wood, to become a piece of clothing. To see their brand as a space without borders, entering the field of art and going beyond their set team of designers by having me as an outsider creator woven into their collection. 

Viviane Sassen

It was a super organic collaboration; I have known Marte for years and we’ve worked together so many times – she’s one of my muses so to speak. The whole process of working on this project together was very intuitive and smooth and a lot of fun. It is also a matter of mutual trust and understanding, that makes for a good collaboration, and Marte and I absolutely recognize that in each other. 

What does fashion and photography come to learn from another?

Lucinda Chambers

I think they are totally intertwined. As is art and fashion, theatre and fashion, music and fashion. Fashion can be expressed so beautifully through photography. Fashion and in particular clothes are the tools we use for storytelling. The narrative and dialogue that fashion and photography has can create something wonderful, standalone images or a drawn out tale. Clothes facilitate that. And they can also be the inspiration, the beginning of the photograph.

Molly Molloy

They are ever evolving together, it’s so exciting when you see the two combine in original and unique ways, it’s such an incredible feeling when you see a shoot that’s inspiring, it will stay with you for years if not ever. It’s like moving image and sound, the two go hand in hand and can really evoke emotion. 

Marte Mei

I think that it was a revolutionary experience for me as a former model, to take on a different role within the dynamic of the team I really look up to. Having designed the textile, and the set design, but also modelling within the project. On a personal level I still think there is a lot to learn in being comfortable within that role of being both the creator as the subject of creation. For instance, when we were working with the clay on my body, I wanted to just trust the image of Irena within applying it to me, so when she asked for my opinion to guide her, it was hard for me to switch between having a creative vision to the outcome of project but also being subjected to her creative expression in the project and onto my body. 

Viviane Sassen

I’ve always perceived my fashion photography as a great way to express myself; to play, to experiment, and to collaborate with other creative people. I also work as an artist and that is a much more solitary process, so I love working as a fashion photographer too, as it enables me to work together in a group, have a mutual goal, and create images together with others who are often super inspiring. In that sense, I feel I’ve learned so much from collaborations with stylists, designers, models, hair & make-up artists!

What does fashion and photography come to learn from another?

Lucinda Chambers

I always learn from Molly and everyone really, we have an incredible team, Danny, Alice and Luisa.  I think I’ve learnt from Molly to try things out even if they are out of my comfort zone, out of my field  of vision, to give things a go and see where it leads or takes you. Also not always getting my own way and that’s fine. I’ve learnt to let go. And to like vegetables more.

Molly Molloy

I’m learning every minute of the day being a founder with Lucinda we are both on a huge learning curve having our own business and bringing people in to Colville that constantly keep it evolving and exciting. 

Viviane Sassen

I really love watching Marte work, the refined gestures she makes and the thing(s) she creates, both while modelling and while working on her own art; it all comes from the same source, the creative energy which is within her. I recognize her inner drive to create beauty, and I admire her sense of colour, texture, and shape. It’s a true joy to watch her work evolve and refine over time!

What was the last thing that made you feel inspired?

Lucinda Chambers

Well, everything really, but probably the leaves on the pavement tonight coming home, I wanted to collect them all, the colours, shocking reds and yellows, blowing around. Beautiful.

Molly Molloy

Heavy Metal by Osamu Matsuo, I hadn’t seen it for a while and forgot how beautiful it is!

Marte Mei

Nature is a limitless source of inspiration to me, being inside due to corona and wintertime limits the possibility of going outdoors, so for me this is a time for reading and thinking. 

Viviane Sassen

A few documentaries I recently watched about climate change, and how some new technologies and (futuristic) solutions will be able to help humankind towards a better, more sustainable future.

Explore the collaboration here

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Jermaine Francis, ‘Something that was so Familiar becomes Distant.’

Covid-19 altered our reality in many ways. For renowned photographer Jermaine Francis, this was felt in the dislocation of everyday London environments.

On his daily walks during the first UK lockdown in March, Jermaine documented the ever shifting landscape of the city. The people had gone, but London was far from silent.

Francis’ portraits reflect the cultural, political and economic movement that were unfolding on the streets. The anxiety, anger, hope and care which have shaped 2020 in equal measure, when social distancing signs were printed on pavements, boarded up shops became commonplace, yet even in isolation, people found power in each other.

It is these photographs which form a beautiful new book, ‘Something that was so Familiar becomes Distant’. 171 pages of visual imagery that offers an evocative living memory of this transformative year.

The first run consists of a limited edition series of 150 copies, and the book is available to pre-order from 7th December.

Jermaine Francis, ‘Something that was so Familiar becomes Distant.’
Jermaine Francis, ‘Something that was so Familiar becomes Distant.’

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Designing for the future, Less is More

Celebrating transparency and craftsmanship within the industry, the International Woolmark Prize 2021 nominees inspire hope for the future of fashion at time when innovation is needed more than ever.

This year’s theme, ‘Less is More’, focuses on slow, conscious and responsible design. Buzzwords these may be, but this year’s crop of design talent are showing how to put ambitious principles into action. The nominations brings together a group of bright young designers who have built innovative new models from the ground up.

Twin talks to Bethany Williams, Casablanca, Kenneth Ize, Lecavalier, Matty Bovan, Thebe Magugu about putting sustainability first and creating a green hype cycle.

Matty Bovan, United Kingdom

We have always tried to be sustainable, and to question where we source materials and artisan makers. We make everything in the United Kingdom and try and source as much as we can from the UK and even more locally, Yorkshire where we are based. We use deadstock fabrics, deadstock yarns, and end of line pieces alongside stock service fabrics. This is very important to myself, and my business, in a world where we have such huge amounts of materials and garments made every day – it’s important to rework and make something special.

I am very interested in upcycling, whether this be vintage pieces, or end of line, damaged fabrics; it excites me to be able to transform something under an artisan process. We rework all leftover fabric we have each season, alongside any excess yarns we have, nothing is ever disposed of and always reused in some way. Constantly experimenting with craft and process is very important to me and helps aid me in transforming materials that others may disregard. We use screenprinting in-house, embroidery and hand-dying to rework. 

We are in a great place in fashion, with people asking more questions about who is making what we buy, who is putting love into these pieces. Traceability has always been very important to me, and I have always found it key to understand who we work with and where they are in the world. I try to work with artisans with hand skills. I try to make and treat a lot of textiles in-house. I like the touch of the hand on everything that comes under Matty Bovan. 

mattybovan.com

Thebe Magugu, South Africa

If the current state of the world is enough to go on, I think it’s critical for anyone working in creative output of any kind to consider their sustainability practices. We are effectively destroying the world and sustainability is all our pledges to try to counter that destruction as much as possible. 

I am very proud of the fact that most of our resources and production are made locally in South Africa. I am excited about the continuation of problem-solving through fashion, and the growing consciousness our industry is having towards its role in solving those problems. This is very particular to the younger generation especially.

thebemagugu.com

Lecavalier (Marei-Eve Lecavalier), Canada

As a young generation of creators, we were put in front of a reality that fashion production and consumption was creating a lot of waste. My creativity comes also from a place where I want to make special pieces by reusing discard materials, there is so much material available out there and it is our duty to find new ways to be creative with it. I’m really proud that I have created a unique technique to weave discard leather. There is still so much for us to explore in terms of new weaving technics but also to explore of different fabrics. I’m looking forward to an era where the craftsmanship and savoir-faire will become more present. Fashion has always been about the garment, it’s not only a product and it’s not only hype.

lecavalier.studio

Casablanca (Charaf Tajer), France

I think it’s important we all play a role in sustainable practices. The fact that we go from the idea to the creation of the garment is very special for me. My most proudest is that I am continuing the techniques of French classic fashion traditions. The whole process of creating the print and the fabrics. In terms of my own designs, I am optimistic about bringing more joy and gratitude through the clothing to people’s lives. I am optimistic that there is going to be more diversity and more acceptance towards people from different backgrounds. I think we have experienced a small part of the ongoing evolution that will create a better a future.

casablancaparis.com

Bethany Williams, United Kingdom

Growing up my mum has always been very socially and environmentally conscious, and very caring, so this has been something that has been of interest to me from a young age. I want to create beautiful things but I always want to create something with a purpose, something that can support and protect the maker and the supply chain it is a part of. Each item we produce is made from recycled, deadstock, or organic materials and made in the UK and Italy. I feel it’s really important to have produce locally or close to home so that you know exactly where your garments are made and who exactly is making them.

I think our most recent collection titled ‘All Our Children’ is what I’m most proud of. Not just because of the outcome of the final collection of garments but also the groups of creatives and like-minded people that worked on the project alongside me. I really like the network of amazing people we are building through each collection and how positive and supportive the network is that we are surrounded by and look to grow and add to this network each season.

I’m always really excited to develop my skills and look forward to introducing new techniques each season, alongside the research into and introduction of new social manufacturing partners. I hope to expand my knowledge of social manufacturing, supply chain, and craft, and strive to share this at every opportunity to help drive change within industry. I feel the presence of change starting to happen within the fashion industry, and I’m optimistic that this will continue and build momentum towards a more environmentally and socially conscious system, however there is a long way to go yet.

bethany-williams.com

Kenneth Ize, Nigeria

My love for the traditional Nigerian design textile culture of Aso Oke. Historically Aso Oke weaving created fabrics that were used to create everyday clothing that lasts for centuries and can be passed down from generation to generation. However, we started seeing less and less use of the textile except in occasion wear. With my brand I hope to bring the use of this textile to the forefront. 

I’m also very passionate about the weaving villages we empower, and I hope to do all I can to continue to push opportunities for them to grow and develop

In a collaboration with Nigerian Product design firm nmbello Studio, we were able to redesign the loom. The old loom had never been redesigned or updated, the weavers had complained about the discomfort they felt while using it. By redesigning the loom we were able to birth new life into the industry as a new generation of weavers have come forward with an eagerness to learn and push Aso Oke weaving into a modern era.

I am most optimistic about the economic empowerment that is the bedrock of my atelier. We are currently building a factory to house many of our local artisans, creating more opportunities for local textile designers and establishing a more structured industry within Western Africa.

kennethize.net

Find out more about the International Woolmark Prize here.

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Marni Presents: Holiday Glassware Collection

Introducing a limited edition collection of sophisticated coloured glassware by Marni. The holiday edition includes kaleidoscope patterns that are offered in vases, glasses and carafes. Inspired by nature, each piece of glassware is made to be one of a kind: unique in shape and beautiful in design.   

The selection is formed by two Columbian artisans who work in harmony, using local traditions to forge the eccentric pieces. Recycled glass is used in the process with the hodgepodge of fragments representing the unpredictable, raw, and creative essence of Marni. This collaboration yields a variety of tones and unexpected shapes, with warm and homely functionality. 

Each vase is carefully crafted, taking up to two hours of steady workmanship to create one. The chords that are used to mould the goblets and tumbler glasses, brings about alluring dances of colour in the mixed glass. The line of carafes and glasses are smoothed over, also producing refined colour combinations. 

The pieces take on the meticulous and intricate workings of the craftsmen; the singularity of the construction process can be seen in each design. The glassware physically embodies a material metamorphosis: from glass shards to artistic centrepieces. 

This line will be available in select boutiques around the world at the end of November. 

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Somerset House presents: Untitled by Akinola Davies Jr

In their latest installation of their ongoing online Pause programme —  a mid-week moment designed to carve out time to enjoy an artist’s work in full —  Somerset House Studios has partnered with artist & filmmaker Akinola Davies Jr. on a film that documents his interactions with his mother during lockdown. In an exploration of themes of mortality , intergenerational relationship and the black female body, Davies Jr. uses his lens to tell a story of black motherhood. 

 “There is redemption in exploring the power of vulnerability. The passage of time and a confrontation of mortality and the eternal.    This work leans on the sacrifice of motherhood.   The process of ageing.   The relationship of the human body with the physical space as expansive lives inhabit the daily ritual of being.  It is a requiem of living memories.  Homage to technology as an archive of embalming our history, bringing life to our past.   It is the honouring of our mothers so our days on earth can be long.   Ultimately I don’t know what the work is about, but I also know exactly what it is about. It is a work that lives in the quiet space, beyond words. It is ultimately what I place value on. The most value,” he explained. Watch the full film here.

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ANIME SALVE by Jess Kohl – A Detailed Visual Account of Neapolitan Queer Culture

British photographer and director Jess Kohl is scheduled to inaugurate her first Italian solo exhibition next month under the title Anime Salve. Set to debut in Napoli, Italy the presentation is a visual documentary recollected during the last two years, intimately exploring themes of gender non-conformity in a city like Scampia where spirituality, gender and sexuality have long co-existed.

Initially her body of work began with a magnification of the concept of the Italian slang ‘femminielli’ which is a word used to describe effeminate men — often used in modern Neapolitan culture. The exhibition then takes its viewers on a journey throughout the lives of five people, most living in Scampia, as they’re framed in intimate portraits and candid shots. A woman named Alessia is documented living with her elderly mother Amalia and Kohl captures current moments of an ever-changing narrative that moves with the city that surrounds them. 

Each subject was documented over a period of years,  which gives an accurate scope of their personal evolution and an authentic representation of marginalised communities throughout change. Named after the famous album of Italian songwriter Fabrizio De André, the exhibition (which translates to “solitary spirits”), also includes monochromatic images documenting the architectural and developments of the Scampian landscape, an exploration of the intersection between queerness and Catholicism, and a visual map between traditions of the femminielli and modern day trans lives. It then closes with a thought-provoking ending composed of 8 portraits that bridges a sentimental connection between the lives of trans women in Napoli and trans women in Koovagam, India through cultural similarities and liberal attitudes towards gender.

Also accompanying the exhibition is a catalogue by ShowDesk, giving a more detailed scope on the documentary which includes an essay by Paolo Valerio, honorary professor of clinical  psychology at the Federico II Naples University. Anime Salve will officially open its doors on September 11th 2020 at the Palazzo delle Arti Napoli. 

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A chat with Ming Smith – the photographer whose work is soft, intimate & bathed in community through its documentation of the black American experience.

Cover image: America Seen Through Stars and Stripes, New York City, NewYork Painted, 1976, by Ming Smith

Ming Smith, not necessarily a name widely known in photography, was the first Black woman to have her photographic work accepted into the Museum of Modern Art, in 1975.

The only female member of the Kamoinge Collective, and a dedicated image maker to capturing the humanity for the Black Experience, Ming Smith’s imagery and life trajectory is due a mighty relook. Currently staging an online exhibition of a selection of Smith’s work, from her image of Grace Jones as a Ballerina, to the playwright August Wilson, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery has moved the exhibition online through Vortic

We caught up with the photographer from her apartment in New York. 

How did you first get into photography?

I borrowed my mother’s camera on my first day of school in kindergarten and I took photographs of some of my school mates. The class was predominantly white, and we were about 10% of the class. I had a lot of friends and classmates that I took photographs of. 

Did you feel looking back that there was a central focus for your photographs?

It was just a natural thing. My father was a photographer. He was a hobbyist but he was really artistic: he drew, painted, did films and things like that. However he worked 12 hours a day as a pharmacist, so he didn’t do photography a lot, however I think it then became for me a natural thing to do. 

You trained to be a doctor initially, and then you decided to focus on a career in photography. 

My grandfather would always say that he wanted me to be a doctor. I liked that because he taught bible school, and my grandmother was helping all the neighbours, so I felt that being a doctor was a way of helping people. I know that might sound pretty naive but that was what I wanted to do. I did volunteer work at the children’s hospital when I was young. I saw a lot of pain around me, so I wanted to help.  Being a doctor was a way of trying to help. Then I read something about artists, and they were talking about the system and how your work could help humanity, and you work could be outside of the system, instead focusing and turning ideas into something that would be healing. 

Child Porter, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 1972 by Ming Smith

There is such a sense of intimacy and connectivity about your images. How do you capture that? What do you look for in your subject matter? 

Well there are stereotypes of the Black community, but there is so much love in the community, from people who were making and doing the best spiritually or going to church. There was just this stereotype of Black people, you know, and I never saw those types of images with the love and the empathy and the humanity with the people that were around me in my community.

You have become renowned for your portraiture for Black cultural figures and icons What did you hope to profess or present in these images of these icons?

I hope that other young people or students will find inspiration in what they are teaching: the struggles and what they went through to get to where we are now. For example, August Wilson, I went to Pittsburgh and photographed his hometown and economically depressed neighbourhoods and shot some of the places he talked about in his plays. He documented the comic and the tragic aspects of the African American experience in the 20th Century. The characters in Pittsburgh were the same characters that I knew in Ohio where I grew up, or Detroit, where I was born. 

Lou Drapper’s Pick, 1973 by Ming Smith

What would you say the main challenges you have faced in your career?

I would say being taken seriously. I am a better photographer than a talker. I am quiet, and I like that with photography you can be by yourself, you don’t have to talk. Being shy, photography was a way of me being in it but out of it at the same time. If you are a quiet person it’s harder to take you seriously.

I went to a gallery seeking representation, and the gallerist didn’t hardly even look at my photographs; it was very disappointing. Just like “ok, thank you”. Just total dismissal.

Did you have a lot of other female counterparts and friends that were experiencing the same in the art industry or the creative industry?

I am sure there was, and I’m sure there is, but I have really continued to be a loner and doing photography was almost like a friend or a companion and was how I spent my time. Being a photographer was a way of expressing yourself and going through your own challenges, and needs, and so I spent my time not really talking to anyone else. 

Ethiopian Crew, 1973 by Ming Smith

What was New York like when you arrived? What were you focussing your photography on?

When I got to New York I was photographing but I came for money, and one of the first jobs I had was as a model. It was like 100 dollars an hour: an Ohio pharmacist back then was making 100 dollars a week. 

Someone told me ‘you should be a model’, and so I tried it for a bit. When I first met Grace Jones, she was an aspiring model also. 

You were part of the Kamoinge Workshop: did you feel like things changed then, that you were a part of a group of like-minded individuals?

Going to the meetings, I was first introduced to photography as an art form. Prior to this I had not committed myself to being an artist.  I didn’t think of myself as a photographer as I was still studying pre-med curriculum. So when I came to Kamoinge, I had first heard about the collective on an assignment, where a photographer was talking about whether photography was an art form. I was invited into Kamoinge by Lou Draper, who also printed for Eugene Smith. He used to tell me stories about Lorraine Hansberry, who I loved. that was when I first learned about the goal of Kamoinge: to own and interpret our own images. Roy Decarava was one of the founders of Kamoinge, which came out of the Black Arts Movement, where they started plays, and there were writers, musicians, painters, artists. That is where I learnt about lighting. I remember one member saying that his neighbourhood grew up in Harlem, and that all the young men that he grew up with were all dead. That opened my eyes to the politics. 

Oolong’s Nightmare,Save The Children (for Marvin Gaye), New York City, New York 1979 by Ming Smith

Tell us about your experience of fashion photography.

In New York I never knew about fashion photographers and advertising: it was a completely new world. I had a chance to go into both of those worlds, as I was modelling. I met people like James Moore who was a beauty photographer, or Arthur Elgort or Deborah Turberville, who I loved. She photographed my lips for a Bloomingdales bag! She did fine art photography besides that; I really liked her. I lived in the Village, so I knew Lisette Model, and I would go eat at this little dinner, the Waverley – the cheapest diner! You could buy a meal for five dollars there, and that was where Lisette Model would eat too! She would tell me stories about Diane Arbus, and she would call her Dion. For the longest time, I didn’t realise she was talking about Diane Arbus as she called her Dion!

You documented some of the greatest spokespeople of the African American experience. 

August Wilson really told our stories through his plays: the comic and the tragic of the African American experience. That is what connected me to him, to go to Pittsburgh and photograph him. Eugene Smith did a famous series on Pittsburgh, but the African American experience wasn’t documented. This is another aspect of my work. We also have Katherine Dunham. She was an anthropologist, choreographer, writer. She was an activist as well: she wouldn’t perform in places unless they de-segregated the audiences. There is always a struggle, that is extremely distressing of the black American community. They simplified the experiences of the black community in the 20th Century. Katherine went to Haiti and Africa and notarised the dance technique. When she won the Kennedy award, she talked about how hip hop came out of her technique, meaning the isolations and different notations of moves and contractions and release. Now we have dance, twerk, afro-latin, west African, Haitian, rumba, Caribbean, west African beats. We have had all these different classes come out of the diaspora. That is what Katherine Dunham did. 

Flying High, Coney Island, 1976, by Ming Smith

How do you get inspired?

I follow mainly instincts and my heart about things. I hope to say these things in my work: that is the intention. 

Would you say your photography is driven by intuition?

Definitely. Intuition, which is also very spiritual. It is like there is a spirit that speaks within me, and I go with that. I trust that more than I trust my brain. 

What changes do you see in the photography industry now? 

There is a lot more inclusion, and participation. There are different avenues for photographers – there are now young black American fashion photographers, and I think a lot of the hip hop generation are participating in that inclusion, you can go into documentaries, they work with the NYT. I think this is not only in America, but globally. 

Beauty, Coney Island, 1976 by Ming Smith

Do you think there are still many racial obstacles that need to be overcome in the art industry?

I think of course, but I am in the middle of it, and sometimes it is harder to see, but of course I think there has been many steps in the right direction. Dr Deborah Willis, she started doing books on black images, she started this in publishing and the School – she has made a life of that. I remember she came to Kamoinge to do a book. It wasn’t easy for her to receive support so I think that we have a voice now greater than before and it is growing. People are conscious of it, and they are trying to make it right, or more honest: the documentation of us, including us. Not just the stereotypes. More human.

Do you see more women photographers being showcased?

Most definitely, but I also think that there is more of an option. Before, it was a question of what could you even do with photography! Photographers and artists now, there are different avenues and you can earn a living from it! I see this more and more. Before, what could you do with it, how could you earn a living? Now, photographers both men and women are like ‘oh I could do photography, portraiture.’ 

There wasn’t any kind of show, exhibitions, talks, creating a book… there wasn’t those options. You did it out of pure love in the beginning. You did photography as an art form.

Self Portrait Nursing (Total), 1986 by Ming Smith

Do you still photograph regularly?

Yes I do! The main obstacle with that is everything is digital now. I am doing a book at the moment for Aperture, and so taking it from film to digitising it, to having to re-edit everything over again… it’s a lot! I need a lot of help with the translating of it. 

What do you hope viewers take away from your works?

I think just the personal struggles, the empathy or the humanity or the altruism or just being supportive. Maybe the humanity, and that being exposed to the people I have photographed, they will know what to do. It was like when I heard my first August Wilson play, or the drum, and I went and took my first dance class and the teacher told me he was a Katherine Dunham dancer. People will get what they get from my photography: hopefully an experience that will inspire them in some kind of way. 

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Ahluwalia’s Jalebi – photo book & virtual exhibit

Just in time for London Digital Fashion Week last weekend, designer Priya Ahluwalia launched her photobook titled Jalebi in collaboration with photographer Laurence Ellis. The hardcover book is the designer’s second release, following the success of her first book Sweet Lassi not too long ago. Throughout the pages Ahluwalia & Ellis explore themes within the designer’s work as they give a visual account of what it means to be a young mixed heritage person living in modern Britain.  She explores her roots growing up regularly visiting Southall, Britain’s first Punjabi community with the help of Ellis who captures the beauty of diversity and the level of enrichment immigration brings to our lives and communities. The theme of family also stands out as one that is also a major factor in the make up of the Ahluwalia brand. Old family photographs tell stories of past lives lived by her family.

Each image in the book is featured with extracts from an interview carried out by Ahluwalia with her Nana regarding the family experience between India and Britain. The personal touch of the book mimics the finishing techniques of the designer’s work as how each one her pieces acts as a fundamental part of a bigger story. The book launch has also been supported by Chameleon Visual who have rendered a 3D , VR exhibit , allowing the contents of the book to be presented in a way that might not have been achievable otherwise , considering the circumstance. To view the exhibition and purchase Jalebi visit alhuwaliastudio.com 

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Important Resources for the Black Lives Matter Movement

In the wake of the recent movement that has been born from the heinous murder of African American George Floyd, it is is evident that as active members of the fashion industry, we have the responsibility to play our part and make our contributions in the support of black voices and the Black Lives Matter movement. The industry itself is one that widely looks to the influence of black culture and black creatives both throughout history and present day for inspiration throughout many aspects of our work from campaigns, to shows, to music, which is why it is imperative for us all to answer the call when the community is in need of support of any kind. In doing our part we have to learn to create an industry where black voices and black talents are able to blossom and speak freely without the worries of being stereotyped or blacklisted.

It is a process that will take time as it means levelling the playing field and holding ourselves and those who came before us accountable for the systemic oppression that have existed throughout the industry for years. However, regardless of how much time it may take it’s important for us to take action first within our own industry and in supporting the community at large. In doing so, Twin has composed a list of how you we all can contribute to the cause.

Petition

  • Justice For George Floyd is a petition to sign in support of George Floyd , who was murdered in Minneapolis by police officers, signing this petition helps to gain the attention of the city’s Mayor for the arrest of the police offers.
  • Raise the Degree is a petition to sign to raise the degree for the charges of officer Derek M Chauvin —  the police officer seen kneeling on George Floyd neck — to first degree murder.
  • Ahmaud Arbery – a petition to sign in support of Ahmaud Arbery , another black man that was murdered by white supremacists in Georgia USA, only a few weeks ago, that will help in the arrests and charge for those involved.
  • Breonna Taylor was an unarmed American woman murdered by a police officer while sleeping in her home in Louisville, Kentucky USA, a few weeks ago, this petition is in aid of firing and arresting the police officers involved.

Donate

Support the family of George Floyd by donating to cover funeral costs , counselling and the creation of a memorial .

As many are out in the streets protesting , many are being arrested, here’s a list of funds that will help in the bail of protests who have been jailed. 

Donate directly to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Donate with no money 

By watching this video, and the other videos that follow after it without skipping the ads, it supports the fundraisers for the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the funds for the bail of protesters who are arrested.  

For more information on how to help, visit Black Lives Matter Card.

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A refreshing energy of inclusion: Marguerite – the female-focussed network for women to build likeminded connections in the arts – talks to Twin about their 5th year as a very modern arts organization.

Cover image by Dunja Opalka

Marguerite was founded in Joanna Payne’s living room after a few glasses of the bubbly stuff. Hey, who hasn’t concocted their million dollar idea on the sofa, or a brilliantly innovative concept with mates in the pub. For Joanna however – Marguerite came to be a living, breathing, invigorating association for women in the arts to come together, and share their thoughts/views/frustrations/hopes with other women that might feel the same. 

After the adage of the ‘members club’ gratefully comes to wear off – the notions of exclusivity wearing thin in a world that has never felt more isolated and alone – Joanna is shifting the dynamics and the dusty insinuations members clubs have come to imply, and has built a community across the globe that looks to if not inspire at least articulate a  universe where women can feel the confidence to advance their own interests, passions and careers.

Here we talk to Joanna about starting her own business, the importance of sharing experiences, and the art of slowing down.

David Seymour, Venice. Peggy Guggenheim in her palace on the Grand Canal, 1950

What made you want to start Marguerite?


After seven years of working in the art world, for organisations including Whitechapel Gallery and Frieze Art Fair, I wanted to do something about the fact that women often found it harder to realise their potential than men. By that, I mean that I so often found that my female colleagues and friends found it much harder to do things like ask for a pay rise than their male counterparts. Whilst there are many reasons for the pay gap in the UK, one of them is women’s confidence in comparison to men’s. If men are happy to ask for a pay rise whereas a woman isn’t, guess who’s more likely to get it?

I was very lucky in that I landed my dream job at the age of 23, working in the VIP department at Frieze Art Fair, where I was meeting collectors, artists, gallerists, museum curators.. even Jay Z and Beyonce! I found that having such a strong network in the industry really helped me in my career and I was made to feel pretty confident as a result. I wanted to share that network with my friends and peers in the hope that it would do the same for them – so in February 2015, set Marguerite up as very casual drinks in my living room. It didn’t have a name back then and the initial idea was for a different woman to host a similar sort of thing in their own home every other month. The idea was simple: to bring women in the arts together to meet, share ideas and in turn, build their careers in the industry.

Has the original purpose changed at all over the years?

The concept of Marguerite changed pretty quickly after that first event in my home. After a friend had to pull out of hosting the second event, I decided that it would be better to instead ask artists, curators, photographers and designers whether they would in fact play host to our events. This was very much drawing on my experience from Frieze and later Photo London, where I was organising special events in artist studios and collectors’ homes for some of the best known collectors, museum directors and curators in the world. From that experience, I was taught the importance of having ‘content’ at events in the form of a talk, panel discussion, workshop or some other form of entertainment. I really wanted to step away from your awful average networking event where a bunch of people are just chucked into the same room with a name badge and a glass of wine and expected to find things in common.

Our core values are still very much the same: to advance the careers of women in the arts by providing a ready-made professional network and spaces in which to hear from some of the most influential people working in the creative industries today. The caliber of our hosts has always been pretty high (two of our first events were hosted by the world renowned fashion photographer, Rankin and winners of the Turner Prize 2015, architecture collective, Assemble) but we’ve built on that hugely and have welcomed some incredible speakers including the likes of fashion designers such as: Dame Zandra Rhodes, Roksanda and Alice Temperley MBE; photographers: Miles Aldridge, Nick Knight & Juno Calypso; artists: Idris Khan OBE, Gavin Turk and Michael Craig-Martin; and museum directors: Maria Balshaw (Tate), Dr Tristram Hunt (V&A) and Tim Marlow (then the Royal Academy of Arts, now The Design Museum). 

Despite the hosts and the quality of our events (hosted everywhere from London and Somerset to Venice to New York) growing ever more magnificent, we’ve worked hard to ensure that the original energy of friends meeting over a couple of glasses of prosecco in my living room remains.

Idris Khan & Annie Morris for Marguerite by Dunja Opalko

You have turned 5 years old which is amazing: how has our definition of members clubs changed in that time?

Thank you! Whilst the concept of ‘private members’ clubs’ seemed very glam when we first started out, we now actually steer away from the term as we don’t want the network to seem too exclusive or off-limits to anyone who works in the arts. Anyone in the industry can buy a ticket to our events if they’re interested in one particular topic or want to ‘try before they buy’ a full membership. 

Unlike many private members’ clubs which operate in the way they do so that they can be strict about who they do and don’t let in, the reason we offer membership is to encourage the same group of people can come together six or more times a year. The frequency means you’re much more likely to actually make friends at our events than if you just attended a standalone talk. Marguerite’s aim is to foster friendships as opposed to make people feel left out because they’re not included.

Linder Sterling & Charlie Porter for Marguerite by Luke Fullalove

Why did you choose to build a female only members club?

I think that incredible things happen when women come together. I wanted to provide a space in which women would be made to feel more confident which would hopefully go on to have an impact in their careers and most importantly, their lives. Judging by our talks in comparison to many others I’ve been to, I’m always struck by how many questions from the audience there are at the end. I think women feel a lot more confident in the company of other women which means they get more out of the situation. Furthermore, if there’s one thing the #MeToo movement taught us, it’s that there’s a lot to be learnt from women sharing their experiences with one another. 

I should say that Marguerite is female and non binary-focussed. If a man wanted to come to one of our regular events, he would be very welcome and we host some events that are open to all. We hosted one of these with Lean In just before lockdown began on how people feel in the workplace post #MeToo – a discussion that would have been a pointless echo chamber if it was just had by a group of women!

Marguerite members at their Polly Morgan studio visit by Luke Fullalove

You have aligned your online presence to support the creative industries: tell us a little bit about this

The week before the official lockdown began, we began to see many members of our community (especially freelancers) lose their jobs. We therefore instantly shifted our attention to launch a forum where freelancers could meet potential employers. It was way more successful than we could ever had imagined and we paired our first freelancer with a paid job in under 24 hours. The following week we also launched a forum to support small businesses – where independent brands could present their products and anyone who was in the position to shop could find them! In the absence of our usual events, we wanted to pivot quickly to best suit the new needs of our community. 

We’ve also been hosting online talks and workshops on our Instagram Live focussing on the things people are most worried about right now including money, managing anxiety and parenting kids and teenagers when you’re trying to hold down your other full time job! We’re now running ‘Marguerite Creates’ every Saturday and Sunday morning where creatives are showing us how to do things like: draw our house plants; collage; make simple home improvements; and take better photographs on our phones! We wanted to provide quick, fun activities to allow people to try something new to alleviate the lockdown boredom – and maybe even get that “Oh my god! I did it!” feeling I think we all need a bit of right now!

Unlike our usual events, these new online features are all quite ‘rough and ready’. We felt it was important to act quickly to give people what they needed rather than spending lots of time (and money!) producing something really sleek that may become redundant by the time it was ready. People’s requirements and moods are changing every day at the moment and we’re very mindful of being relevant. It’s actually also been a brilliant time to test out new things and throw us out of our comfort zone! 

Marguerite Presents Snappy Salons on Women in the Arts part of the February 2017 Uniqlo Tate Lates at Tate Modern Image by Dunja Opalko

What has C19 taught you?

Professionally, the joy of slowing down. We’ve hosted 40 events a year for the past few years which is a lot and can mean up to three events taking place in one week. I think once this is all over, we’ll consider hosting fewer events but maximising the quality.

What will the most important lessons be for the creative industry post C19 do you think?

Much like many industries, I think coronavirus will force the creative industries to slow down. The hectic merry-go-round of private views, art fairs, fashion weeks and events was tiring for everyone involved and I think ultimately, unsustainable. Furthermore, the shipping and travel required for the larger international events of course had huge environmental implications. It’s been interesting to see how quickly art fairs and galleries have shifted to host their events online – I hope a lot of this will remain in place once this is all over. 

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