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Monthly Archives: December 2016

What Is Mixed Media Art

All stirring and wise and fearless words to live by from artists featured in Seth Apter’s book, The Mixed Media Artist. The guide showcases 40 artists and the tips, tricks, dreams, and points of focus they use to inspire themselves and keep their creativity active and energized.

Just skimming it in preparation to discuss the resource with you, I got distracted because there was so much to ignite my creative side:

  1. Take out a pen and paper and ask yourself what three things you are inspired by. Write them down. Can you think of three? Can you think of 30? What first three come to mind and are they what you would call your “most inspiring” inspirations? The answers might surprise you.
  2. Desk clutter is not clutter at all. These are our touchstones–objects we see every time we sit down to work and that means they have power. Keep items that inspire you nearby as well as the essentials for your art-making. Anything from a camera or iPad to a collection of favorite pencils to a glass of wine or tea (depending on the time of day) can be what you need to have at hand to create the way you want to!
  3. Do you have a routine that you embrace or a routine that feels more like a rut? If you are looking for a trick to get back into the studio, think about how you can vary your routine (if you work solo, maybe ask a friend to join you) or remove the roadblocks that don’t let you keep one (turn the phone off or on silent when it is time to create).
  4. What is your dream art project? To work on a large scale without space constraints? To travel the world and capture the landscapes you see in art? Something public? Or is every piece dreamy to you?

Someone gave me the nicest compliment today when they said,”You made my day.” Mixed media art has that same effect on me as I explore the lush and strange and exciting inner-landscape of my mind and creative spirit. That is what I wish for all of you as well, so if you are interested in answering the question of “what is mixed media art” for yourself

Pikachu Garden And a Ruthless Critique of Consumerism

Remember way back in the summer of 2016? Barack Obama was president, and the world was obsessed with Pokemon Go. In many ways, it was a simpler time. As New York digs itself out from the blizzard of 2017,Castor Gallery invites visitors to escape the winter blues with Michael Pybus’s Pikachu Orchid Garden, a summery art installation full of cuddly stuffed versions of the undisputed star of the Pokémon franchise.

The bloom may be off the Pokémon Go these days—although I still occasionally spot museums advertising the presence of Pokéstops on site—but relaxing in a plushy, albeit commercialized Pikachu oasis sounds like it could be just the sort of soothing experience art lovers are in need of. And Pybus isn’t just jumping on the bandwagon: He’s worked with the character for over a decade.

The work, titled In 3D the basil never wilts, is part of Pybus’s exhibition inspired by global brands. Everything in the garden was purchased at IKEA, which has bragged about using CGI to create three quarters of its catalogue’s imagery. (The show’s title is derived from a quote from the company.)

As it becomes nearly impossible to tell the difference between real and computer generated imagery, the global reach of brands such as IKEA and Pokémon extends further and further. The exhibition statement describes Pikachu as “an icon of consumerist thirst, engineered to never be fully quenched”—appropriate given the game’s “Gotta catch ’em all” tag line.

Why Cyprus Is Europe’s Most Exciting

There is movement afoot in the art world, triggered by the rising scale of the art market coupled with the downturn in Western economies, from the cultural capitals to places on the margins where physical space is more affordable and mental space more expansive.

Dropping out is not the risk it used to be: While the conditions in major cities have become prohibitive to creative production and the stakes higher, art producers and dealers have become nomadic, even shedding gallery spaces, to chase increasingly interesting marginal markets around the globe.

In turn, art production is becoming less object-oriented and artists hop from residency to residency, making it easier to participate from the periphery.

Located at the southern terminus of the European Union, Cyprus is both isolated and yet highly contested for its strategic proximity to three continents as well as offshore oil and gas resources. The heart of the capital, Nicosia, is split down the middle by barbed wire—a formerly lively market street and the international airport left bereft in the UN buffer zone—the scar of a political stalemate between Turkey and Greece. The threat of conflict is escalating even now as hard-line Turkish president Recep Erdoğan ramps up nationalist rhetoric. The cancellation of Manifesta 6, planned for Nicosia in 2006, attests to the complex nature of the Cypriot reality.

So living on the edge is nothing new to Cypriot artists, and a young contingent has returned from studies abroad to collaborate in getting one another’s work out there by opening collective project spaces.

The art market has always been illusive in Cyprus, and the few influential commercial galleries that were active—like Archimede Staffolini, directed by Pavlina Paraskevaidou, and Omikron, backed by collector Nicos Pattichis—did not survive the economic crisis, the latter closing in 2012.

Staffolini showed now successful artists such as Haris Epaminonda and Polys Peslikas early on; Omikron’s 2010 group show “Notes to Self,” curated by Elena Parpa, introduced a new generation of Cypriot artists who grew up in the digital age.

A year after Omikron closed, former director Maria Stathi, previously at London’s Anthony Reynolds, opened the nonprofit space Art Seen in Nicosia, which produces limited-edition prints and multiples to support its exhibition program.

The production of affordable art supports the exhibition program and is part of an attempt to reach out to a nontraditional audience. “It is super challenging to work in Cyprus,” she says. “There are not that many people who understand what we are doing and why we are doing it.” Aside from a dearth of contemporary art spaces, there was no fine-arts degree program until very recently.

Similarly, Point Centre for Contemporary Art, established by Andre Zivanari as a not-for-profit space in 2012—following on a program supporting Cypriot artists for the Künstlerhaus Bethanien residency—commissions original work from artists for solo exhibitions. The recent show, “Completely Something Else,” curated by Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, brought together a mix of foreign and Cypriot artists, including Epaminonda, Phanos Kyriacou, and Christodoulos Panayiotou, to convey how relationships between physical objects, repeated and juxtaposed, generate new and universal meanings in different contexts, often as shadows of other places and times. Artists Victor Costales, Julia Rometti, and Maria Loboda stayed for more than a month to explore what they perceived as the island’s “charged landscape,” highlighting how space is constructed through experience, memory, and history.

Phanos Kyriacou’s upcoming exhibition there, “Exhaustion,” will comprise an installation of 36 drawings and a small sculpture in an attempt to evoke the tension between representation and reality through the repetitive depiction of an object, its planes accumulating finally to suggest its form but not its substance.

In fact, Kyriacou’s now-defunct project space Midget Factory (2003-12) anticipated the current proliferation of artist-run spaces, many of which alternate as sort of open studios: located in the red-light district of Nicosia’s old town, it was “open” 24/7 through the use of movement-detection lights and attained a cult following by the time of its demise, when the building was finally demolished. Other precedents were Stoa Aeschylou, directed by Demetris Neokleous and Panikos Tembriotis, andApotheke, run by Demetris Taliotis in a post-industrial space in the city center until 2012. A multidisciplinary node for innovative happenings, it nurtured a network for many of the young artists practicing now, including Kyriacou, Maria Toumazou, and the director’s brother, Constantinos Taliotis.

From Art to Selfies

One of the first photographs I ever took was of Pete Townshend of the Who at what is now known as the band’s seminal concert at Leeds University in 1970.

I had been a drummer in a band that practised in my mate’s garage, fortunately a small venue as we were terrible. I thought that the next best thing to being in a band was to photograph my heroes – and none were bigger than the Who. I duly took the film into the local chemist and, a week later, I went to collect my works of art.

I opened the first sleeve and nothing, the next nothing, the next nothing and so on. I got to the end and, bingo, there he was, Townshend complete with Dr Martens boots in mid flight, framing Keith Moon perfectly.

This is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life – I was in heaven. The trouble was I didn’t know how this particular frame had come out. I had moved all the dials in different directions during the gig and one combination collided to work.

Nevertheless, this fledgling experiment with the genre was enough to trigger a lifelong love of photography, something I get to explore in my three-part BBC series, Britain in Focus, where I travel across the country to tell the story of the evolution of the medium. I get to go back to see how the pioneers cracked the genre and to ask some giants of the game what they were trying to do.

The series begins in the summer of 1835, when landed gentleman and polymath Henry Fox Talbot was seen purposefully walking in and around his country house at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire. He was carrying with him a small wooden box that his carpenter had made for him, trying to decide where to place the object. Fitted out with a lens from one of his own microscopes, Fox Talbot was trying to take Britain’s first ever photograph – something he succeeded in doing.

From here, the series moves on to, among others, Roger Fenton, a founder member of the Photographic Society of London, dedicated to raising technical standards but also to making photography into a fine art.

The most celebrated photograph that Fenton took was during the Crimean war –In the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Yet there is no fighting shown here, no dead bodies, just a landscape with cannon balls. But the power of the photograph is undeniable, you can sense the horror.

In 1860, Fenton returned to Yorkshire. Over 11 years, taking nearly 2,000 photographs, Fenton had wanted to elevate his medium of expression to the point where it could be accepted as an art form. But his life’s work was coming under threat because, by the 1860s, photography was not so much concerned with art but with commerce.

Evidence for a boom in commercial photography could be found on every high street – like in Lewes, East Sussex, where Edward Reeves opened for business in 1855. For Reeves, and others, the new wet-plate process had made photography a sound economic proposition. And as prices dropped, for the very first time in history, people of even modest incomes could afford to own a portrait of themselves. On reflection, and what impresses me most, is how far photography had travelled in the 60 years since that first experiment by Fox Talbot.

The focus on capturing oneself in photographs has taken on a fresh impetus in modern times. In episode three of the series, I meet 16-year-old Molly Boniface from Huddersfield who is one of 500 million Instagram users worldwide. With her smartphone, Molly takes snapshots and instantly shares them online.

This clearly isn’t just a hobby for Molly. She’s creating a commentary about her own life – almost in real time. Molly expresses herself through photography every day and the medium has never been more alive than in the hands of someone like her. And it’s the self-portrait that dominates her pictures. It’s become the most prevalent genre in the 21st century: now, the most important subject for the average photographer is themselves.

My own particular “moment” in my personal journey came when working as a sports photographer on the Observer in 1985. It was the European Cup Final, between Liverpool and Juventus in the Heysel stadium in Brussels. I wasn’t expecting anything like the horror that was about to unfold, and which I would capture on camera.