I am very excited about my recent invitation by Atolye, Dubai’s Creative Hub, to join an online presentation by Dr. Joana Casaca Lemos. She is a designer, researcher and educator, who specialises in interdisciplinary work. Her current engagements include her involvement in an independent run consultancy that supports organisations with research and writing a book titled: ‘When Research is Mesearch.’ She has worked with organisations such as Daimler, Sustainable Oceans Alliance, Business Council for Sustainability, Forum for the Future, among others. Joana is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts UK and holds a PhD from Central Saint Martins College of Art in London.
The aim of Joana’s presentation was to provide a space for creative professionals to reflect and assess their personal growth with reference to their practice. She proposed to question the value of work experiences, which are transformative? The other deliberations were concerned with looking at what makes us feel uncomfortable and, therefore, challenged our understanding of the world.
Joana started by sharing her journey and reflective practice to introduce a framework drawn from her experience as a design researcher. Subsequently, all participants were guided through a collaborative activity, which enabled them to reflect on their practice and articulate their own ‘me-search’.
Joana’s intellectual provocation was very inspiring, as follows:
“As curious creatives we often draw inspiration from the world around us – but what might happen if we look into the world within?“
Leen Sadder, the organiser, explained the broader concept, which underpins the new series of presentations and stated in her invitation that:
“Insight Out is a brand new guest series hosted by ATÖLYE Dubai, featuring creative seekers, whose inward explorations have positively impacted the work they put out into the world. Once a month, we welcome you into the inner world of a designer, artist or maker to learn about the practices and experiences that have shaped their creative output.”
Despite questioning Joana’s spiritual perspective, which may have distorted and skewed her ability to critically analyse her research findings, I found this video conference very inspiring and thought provoking. Her travel experiences have a substantial impact on her thinking and this key element is also echoed in my own creative practice and exploration.
Thank you Atolye for your invitation and another remarkable cultural and professional experience.
In addition to all of my current duties, I have spent the last three months working hard to organise an amazing and challenging venture called artpandemic.co.uk
Due to the many limitations of the current crisis, our summer show has been moved online. Despite these compromising conditions, which you might think, would prevent me from organising a major celebration of learning and achievement, I have put together something very special and much bigger than the usual final assessment exhibition.
As a leader of Art & Design at my institution, I have invited Hi-Tec and Digital to join with me for a unique online international exhibition. Additionally, I have approached a range of former students, staff and artists from all-over-the-world to celebrate creativity and resistance to the damaging impact of the current pandemic. I am also delighted that Richard Wilson – one of the most renowned British sculptors agreed to exhibit a range of his artefacts with us, including his famous architectural interventions.
The Virtual Summer Exhibition 2020 took place on Friday, June 19th at 6 pm UK time. A scheduled link was distributed to those invited and activated on the night. The celebrations were possible thanks to Zoom – a multi-screen videoconferencing and interaction platform.
During the Private View, I was joined by artists from 18 countries, who were supporting my innovative response to the crisis, by producing their own work to enrich the exhibition.
I was asked to make a statement for a press release in Devon Live:
“It’s really exciting in these difficult times to be able to construct an exciting and revolutionary platform for students to present their work. The prospect of disappointing everyone by not having a summer exhibition and denying our learners an opportunity to show their talent was unacceptable. The idea of organising this ambitious online venture came about from my involvement in the prestigious Dubai Ideathon 2020. I was selected out of over 300 applicants to play an active role together with 100 fellow international artists and designers. I realised then the potential in connecting hundreds of people simultaneously could be achieved, and immediately knew, this would be the perfect solution for our students”.
The notion of an online art magazine seemed the natural way to go to prolong and elevate the artwork long after the event and give the work longevity. I have worked with three Foundation Art students on the design and format of the brand new Art Foundry Magazine. The first edition includes interviews and work produced by Richard Wilson, alumni, current students and a selection of collaborating artists. This publication will be updated on a quarterly basis.
This was my last tutorial before the final submission at the beginning of July. We had a long conversation about my project and its refined and evolved meaning. Jonathan approved the changes, which I have made in consequence of our previous discussions. All my work was converted into video files and supported by a computer generated spoken narrative explaining each piece. This element of juxtaposition of image and related stories is integral to my investigation. It gives important additional insights and explanations, while contextualising my work and thinking.
We progressed to discuss the impact of the current pandemic on my research, visual investigation and the overall achievement. I explained how I would like to continue with the development of my project and ideas, and we discussed the plan for extending my visualisation during the forthcoming trip to Madagascar. In case of prolonged sky closure, I intend to identify another, appropriate to my creative intentions, location such as Serbia.
The second part of the tutorial was dedicated to reviewing the blog and its curation. Jonathan confirmed the final design of my online exhibition space and asked several questions regarding my proposal and its rationale. Subsequently, I was advise how to improve the initial part of my unit 2 assessment plan. I was advised to elaborate on a list of headings to explain their content and significance to progress. I also learned that some of the links in this document did not work and needed to be corrected.
I fully embraced all advice given for my consideration and actioned every suggestion immediately after the tutorial. I am very grateful to Jonathan for taking a lot of time to help me refine and improve my submission, which is now much more thorough and comprehensive, therefore increasing my chances for the top score.
In the context of the current pandemic, our final show will take place online. Additionally, several fantastic opportunities have been recently created to display and promote our work through a variety of exhibitions and using different digital platforms.
At the moment, the main focus is on collaboration with Aristotle in order to present my project using Cables. Following a lengthy process of negotiation, refinement and improvements, the design of exhibition is rapidly taking shape. I have documented the thread of our discussions: https://www.fineartdigital.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=12
The idea for the show is inspired by the clarity and aesthetics offered by platforms such as Behance and Instagram. I really wanted to display all of my artefacts on a plain and long white wall, without any unnecessary distractions. However, due to the limitations of the software I was forced to opt for the grid idea, organising all of my paintings and video work in three rows, 7 pieces in each and 21 in total. Each item included is supported by a computer generated voice in order to contextualise and explain the outcome of my visual investigation and exploration. This method also allows me to detach myself form the entirety of my experiences and, subsequently, view my work as a distant observer. Supposedly, it is all in the past… yet my memories are becoming more and more vivid.
As a coping mechanism, I keep repeating to myself the same sentence, over and over again:
‘Do not be sad that it is all over, but smile that it had ever happened…’
The new research adventure in Madagascar is just around the corner!
I have been invited to participate in a fascinating international interactive screening of the film “The World Before Your Feet” and conference event. It was organised by ATÖLYE, Dubai’s Creative Hub, in partnership with Palmwood, American Film Showcase and the US Consulate in Dubai.
There are 8,000 miles of roads and paths in New York City and for the past six years Matt Green has been walking them all—every street, park, cemetery, beach, and bridge.
Executive produced by Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg and directed by Jeremy Workman, “The World Before Your Feet” is a tribute to an endlessly fascinating city and the freedom to be found, wherever you live, in simply taking a walk.
The team of filmmaker experts were presents:
I am very excited to take part in this amazing venture, which was attended by filmmaker Jeremy Workman, executive producer Jesse Eisenberg and the wanderer himself Matt Green. All live conversations were moderated by Emirati filmmaker Amal Al Agroobi.
I have thoroughly enjoyed an exciting, life-changing and broad-ranging research journey during this course. All my creative experiences and activities have been thoroughly recorded in my blog and, to date, I have published well over 200 posts. In order to give a structure to this ongoing document, I have organised all entries using the following key categories: critical analysis, reflection and experimentation. The others covered methods of visualisation, gathering of primary sources, viewing of exhibitions, reflection on tutorials and self-assessment of progress.
As a result of my world travels, I had a wealth of resources and unique observations of the dynamics of life across humanity. However, I was oblivious to a universal truth, which reveals a common link across nations, cultures and races. My initial research was concerned with the clarification of my creative intentions and learning to understand the potential and value of my learning process.
During reviewing my primary sources and research findings, I noticed reoccurring characteristics across the different data. Therefore, my focus begun to be placed on investigating and questioning the concept on waiting for change in a hope for improvement. I recorded numerous people entrapped in poverty, who were suspended in vacuum of detachment, frozen in a bizarre inactivity without any chances for progress, development and achievement.
Waiting was a form of a coping mechanism, a form of dealing with tepee truth of their world as it really was.
Experimentation with interrogating an amalgamation of painting with a running narrative followed. This possibility was further extended by looking at denial and considering the dimension of time, which was required in order to make things happen and earn the necessary monetary funds.
I tried to remove from my images all symbols of luxury and wealth, which are taken for granted and, simultaneously, remain unobtainable. Gradually, I refined my research question and focused on the space in between certainty and uncertainty. I experimented with video pieces inspired by Bruce Nauman. I started to to alternate a violent act of blasting my paintings off with a powerful jet of water and the repainting process, always uncertain of unpredictability embedded in this method and never satisfied with early of superficial success and accidental effect. I forced myself to persevere and become consistent in my approach.
I took this idea further to a more extreme and aggressive stage by introducing machine interventions. I produced a range of video pieces with impact and potential for further development.
My research findings confirmed that there is little certainty in life and the only constructive way forward is to persevere.
My work has begun to become sophisticated and evolved during a long period of exploration of media, materials and processes, always trying to discuss alternatives and extend the intellectual properties of my current debate and discussion.
My experiences, at this stage, were continuously updated by ongoing visits in search for new primary sources, references and inspirations. At this stage, I was very intrigued by a newly discovered characteristics of uncertainty in the context of waiting.
Hypnotic repetition gives people to lose themselves in an opiate-trans like entrapment in daily routines and automated activities.
This brain numbing approach allows for hope to flourish and despair to depart.
I have also looked at repetition in a variety of contexts and locations to triangulate date, increase authenticity and reliability of my research findings and observations.
I immersed myself in working with a range of characteristics across different cultures, who were subjected to surviving, while being lost and oblivious to reality.
The outcome of this experimentation started to be more exciting than the original piece. It also communicated my concept and creative intentions through the repetitive spinning of a machine without thought, further analysis and reflected the behaviour of the entrapped people through mimicking automated and unconscious actions.
I painted a piece titled Burmese Captain, who was in charge of a ferry and totally disengaged with his passengers. The next significant painting depicted a Pool Player, who was forced to perform to perfection with no end in sight of relieve and portrayed a Snake seller determined to keep her market stall open.
There were also other works, including Wheel of Fortune trolley and Burmese Monks collecting donations. Finally, a large-scale painting depicting a foot masseur. Perhaps this recent attempt to extend my discussion by observing the mundane ritual of repetition in a Thai massage parlour made the most significant contribution to my thinking and visualisation.
Subsequently, I developed a meaningful plan for a range of options for my final exhibition. The essence of my ideas was to reveal the nature of this universal condition using hypnotic and repetitive tactics.
However, who could have anticipated the current situation. The reassurance of repetition is denied and the old dreams, ambitions and desires are totally contradicted. Previously, the status quo was a daily torture and nightmare, but has subsequently turned into their hope and aspiration. Their poverty has become more intense and not starving to death has become the focus of the day. The former definition and understanding of entrapment in hypnotic repetition has been reversed and replaced by survival at its most basic level.
The initial observations of my project were to investigate uncertainty. My research has ultimately closed the full circle and is exposing how life has suddenly become ephemeral and fragile to the extreme. Nothing can be taken for granted and the pandemic has reinforced how unpredictable life is.
Additionally, the element of questioning in my research statement has been given a new significance. We are all trapped in the dark hold, sailing through the rough seas of the crisis with only hope as a comfort. Similarly, the artifact by Balka, which confronted us with a dark space not knowing the environment and not being able to see our way through. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Does optimism become despair.
My ambition is to explore the unknown human reactions to this crisis. I am excited for my work to be shared across to allow for a broader understanding of the world and resourcefulness to keep their spirits high and without self-pity.
Their paradox is, perhaps, most revealing that the people with the least have the most.
My project is on course to continue to develop and expand beyond the scope and time boundaries of this course. I have already planned for a trip to Madagascar and Ethiopia to gather more experiences to respond to and enhance my current understanding and interpretation of the leading research question. I will attempt to develop a further perspective on related issues and observations. My approach and explorations will remain open-ended and without presumption of excitement and uncertainty of tomorrow.
The world has suddenly become a much more complicated place. I am privileged to witness history in the making and would like to respond to the new dramatic developments covering all contexts of life, which is being confronted with so much death, pain and sadness.
My ultimate goal is to prepare a larger number of paintings to reveal the consequence of the evolving emotional narrative in preparation for a one man exhibition.
Jonathan presented my 5 minute video to the group yesterday. I received a broad range of opinions, questions and suggestions. I was inspired by a constructive dialogue and several intriguing interpretations of my work. I would like to respond to the main comments as follows:
Matt – is the Venetian mask making its way into paintings too or are the sequences of youwearing the mask in this video taken from a piece in itself – where did it come from? I’m curious.
Yes, it will be a part of a future painting. My intention was to create a sensation of an outsider, alien like character, who observes and comments on the nature of the human condition from ‘out there’.
Alexis – you have mentioned that the voice in the narration is as though an alien, it is another and not you. What do you see is the relationship between the voice of the narrator, the text and yourself?
The alien like voice creates a clash between my observations and those of an outsider, who is trying to formulate an objective and detached analysis of the situation and predicaments.
Danielle – I’m interested to know whether/how hypnotic repetition is embedded into your painting process?
Using a washing machine as a creative tool is repetitive in its own right. Watching the spinning of the drum has hypnotic qualities. The slow and very precise process of portrait painting is also monotonous and mind-numbing. It is passive and based on observing the process of destruction without any possibilities for intervention and influence.
Aristotle – Do you see your artistic identity as an alter-ego?
Not at alter ego. The intention is to initiate a dialogue by introducing another perspective, an angle, which is unbiased.
Matt – This is something, which I remain interested in – I asked similar questions during our group tutorial at low residency in terms of the point at which a painting becomes fixed, concluded, or left, and the cycle is broken – is this point at which it becomes a story?
My work is based on an evolving and sequential dialogue, a commentary on the human condition in the context of predicaments of daily survival and turbulence of existence. It is not an object of craft, which forces a question about the work being completed. It is not a piece of embroidery – you do it and than, it is done.
Kelda – is (your project) about discovery? With the travels. With your artwork? You have been experimenting with process like using the washing of your artwork…
My research is focused on an attempt to develop a deeper understanding in order to establish and analyse the discrepancy between what is on the surface and what is really going on underneath the facade. The process is metaphorically important. The underpinning thinking is of primary significance, as always.
Alexis – The washing of the canvases is clearly an important element in your process, howdoes it function in the concept of hypnotic repetition and does it have a personal significance?
The spinning motion of a drum of a washing machine has hypnotic qualities. Its metaphorical function is to confirm and reinforce my observations about the repetitive nature of peoples’ lives and the entire structure of their existence. There is no escape from this entrapment. The destination of every attempt to break free from this cycle is failure. It becomes consumed by it and integral to the entire existence.
Danielle – (hypnotic repetition is embedded into life in its entirety) through habits?
I am not talking about rituals and acquired habits. My project explores the essence of being and its overwhelming impact on the most basic form of existence – dealing with life without thinking about it – getting on with perseverance.
Ben – I find it interesting that the washing, really does not wash away anything. Merely smears and alters the original image into something new.
It is very much a part of an uncontrollable, uncertain and unpredictable creative process.
Jonathan – the washing process is obviously connected to washing and cleansing but in this case it is also very destructive, as it removes large amounts of the painted surface, how much of this is about your giving up control or giving over control to the washing machine in this case, is it in any way an empathetic action with the stories of come of those you have met?
Yes, it is in a way, because there is a bizarre similarity, a parallel between the nature of my process and the lives of the people I paint.
Kelda – It is also retelling the story (of the painting, or the people whose stories you are seeking out), the ‘truth’ is distorted with every telling.
Absolutely, it is twisted and distorted, just like their lives and existence – nothing is certain.
Leah – Regarding “new normality”. I have a question about this. What is the difference between the new normality and the old normality? What on earth can completely change our inherent state? If it is only changes slowly over time. So can it be said that “change” is what we call “normality”?
The key point is that everyone has a different normality and a unique perspective on life and existence. My work reinforces this concept and celebrates this thinking.
Matt – There is a great richness and depth to your storytelling in conversation. Pav – maybe the layers of paint form a mask that invites inspection without the spoken word?
Yes, possibly, but the narrative is very important and forms another layer to the understanding of my perspective and research findings.
AxAsh – just sharing my personal opinion，I feel there might be some violence element in your work Pav. I meant,did you attempt to make it or it is just a random result？An interesting saying is that art making is another form of crime. Some film directors have the same explanation. This can be a way to heal their trauma？How do you think?
The character is not violent, may appear to be sinister. This is, however, a part of a bias and interpretation from the observer and depends on his own insecurities. It is designed to draw attention to the situation.
Friederike – [It is also retelling the story (of the painting, or the people whose stories you are seeking out), the ‘truth’ is distorted with every telling] Yes, exactly and therefore is very well in tune with concept of the mask, which can hide identity but also retells a story like in theatre.
Repetition stops you from thinking and analysing your own life, ambitions, dreams and aspirations. You hypnotically and simple ‘get on with it’!
In response to my discussion with Jonathan, I have prepared all the necessary text and narratives for 14 paintings and 7 videos. I have also added Ravens and Crows piece to the collection. I have made this decision for two reasons:
I wanted to balance and even out the design of the frontal page of my exhibition.
The Ravens and Crows painting is developed as a response to myself, my inner feelings, fears and longings. I felt that my display would be more complete and provide the ultimate visual appraisal of people, who I have met during my research journey. This concept will be also juxtapositioned against my self-analysis.
The new design proposal and the text are below:
Painting 1: Three Haitian Girls in Red.
This painting portrays three young girls in a village in Haiti. They are immaculately dressed in red in preparation for a Voodoo ceremony.
My main focus here is to create a sense of being “suspended in a vacuum”, while waiting for change. This develops a form of tension and drama. The colour is dynamic and full of expressive turbulence. The faces of the girls are somehow twisted and deformed. The logo element of underlay and the text add a sense of unreality by making the composition ambiguous and opened to interpretation. The flowers, symbolic of celebration, can be used as a reward for acting as a change agent, giving hope and enabling positive prospects in life.
Painting 2: Haitian Girl with Butterflies
This is a portrait of a young, beautiful and idyllic-looking Haitian girl playing with butterflies. I met her during my travels through Haiti, where most people survive on less than 1$ per day.
She is totally oblivious of her origin.
She does not understand, why she is consistently ostracised and bullied. Her skin is white, and her eyes are baby blue. She definitively stands out!
She has never heard of Poland. Her home is on a little island called Petit Goave.
She is a descendent of Polish legionnaires, who were sent to Haiti by Napoleon to suppress an uprising of slaves. However, having realised the extent of exploration and abuse, the Poles changed sides and fought in support of the oppressed indigenous people. Subsequently, most of them were punished and slaughtered. A few lucky ones managed to disperse to the islands.
Painting 3: Disabled Palenque
This is a portrait of a young Haitian girl called Palenque. She is heavily disabled. Her arms are distorted and twisted. She is in constant pain.
Today, she is celebrating her 16th birthday. Her eyes are full of joy and spark of life, and she smiles beautifully.
She is totally overwhelmed by an unexpected present from a stranger – a mobile phone.
Painting 4: Fragile Little Dreams
I was on a totally overcrowded coach in Haiti. All seats were broken, ripped and absolutely filthy. I left early in the morning and with passing time, the refreshing sunrise breeze was replaced by a stinking stench of old sweat and … alcohol fumes. I was travelling from La Caye to an unpronounceable and mysterious road junction (as noted by a woman in my hotel) hoping to catch a connecting minibus to Jacmel. The day was extremely hot and humid. The bus was stuck in a traffic jam in scorching heat for over an hour. I kept looking through a dirty window to try to relax in this very claustrophobic and uncomfortable situation. My attention was drawn to a minibus on my right. There was a young girl staring at me through the window. She was expressionless, almost deadpan. The hot sun created an orange glare on the surface of the glass. Her face was somehow integrated with layers of reflections of the surrounding area – mainly bustling traffic.
She was sat there, waiting with patience, stone-faced and humble. I smiled and took a quick and discrete photo of the bus and her. My fellow travellers got really disturbed by this, annoyed and angry. They did not understand my intentions. They disapproved of a tourist photographing their hardship. I realised that by displaying an expensive mobile phone to take this supposedly meaningless photograph humiliated the locals. It created an unnecessary division between them and I. It also reinforced our differences and the diametrically opposite sides of life and the world. However, all this had made no impression on the girl whatsoever. She remained untouched and unmoved, with exactly the same expression on her face. I began to plan ideas for a painting. The same evening, I started to draw and make notes in my little pad. I really wanted to protect my memories from being forgotten, before I return to my studio and translate my observations into a painterly interpretation.
Painting 5: Dreaming about The Island Girl
Dear Island Girl,
I am sailing through the Sea of Celebes
Will you go beyond the horizon?
Where the oceans meet the sea.
Where the waters are immaculate.
And the adrenaline is high.
“Her messy hair a visible attribute of her stubborn spirit. As she shakes it free, she smiles knowing wild is her favourite colour.
She didn’t just walk on the wild side,
she lived there, dancing in the streets
and setting fire to its sky.” J. Iron Word
Painting 6: Waiting for a Cocktail Called Pornstar
This painting portrays Tamar, a very poor girl from Tbilisi, Georgia. Her special dream is to try an expensive cocktail called Pornstar. Her desires, ambitions and aspirations are formed by brutal and vulgar contrasts between the opulence and status of the privileged and the suffering of the starving underclasses. This powerful contrast is charged with a broad range of associated high-level emotions and feeling, such as jealousy, anger and a total lack of understanding of the reasons behind one’s faith.
Painting 7: Punhana
Punhane, in Azeri, means ‘secret’. I have got to know her quite well. She was diligent, perceptive and intuitive. She made a very positive impression on me. Her outgoing personality was enhanced by a very natural look, reserved and introvert personality and beautiful young face with long hair and no makeup.
Revealing her deepest secret could cost her life.
She is Armenian. Since the war, both countries are filled with hatred towards each other.
Video 1: Lockdown with The Wheel of Fortune Seller
Tumbling around with my thoughts – lockdown in a dark and claustrophobic chamber of an expanding pandemic – waiting for the end!
This video draws a parallel to the current global crisis. Isolation and fear are overwhelming. Everything appears to be suspended in waiting for the return to my former hypnotic repetition of daily routines and distractions!
My project continues to change with a degree of unexpected persistency and without unnecessary overreliance on resources. This video piece reinforces that what really matters is the act of creation; whatever the circumstances.
My role as an artist is to comment on and respond to an ever-changing, dynamic and turbulent environment.
Therefore, my principal function is to observe the world with great sensitivity and translate my research findings into art, which communicates my thinking and reflections.
My work, in turn, acts as a beacon, pointing out at new possibilities of how to understand, digest and embrace the world!
I need to accept that my initial project ideas have been altered, distorted and, perhaps, contradicted in the light of the current, brutal and rapidly progressing events.
Video 2: Masquerade
This video piece covers a summary of the visual outcome of my research, practical experimentation and analysis. It was developed in consequence of my investigation into hypnotic repetition over the last few years.
In contradiction to logic, opportunities arise in life to break the mundane phenomenon of entrapment and never-changing routine.
Perhaps, with increased sensitivity of observation, we would be able to free ourselves from this ballast and seek other endeavours and experiences to continue to make progress, develop and flourish.
This crazy pirouette continues forever. One broken cycle leads to another entrapment. New becomes old almost instantly. One fulfilment unexpectantly turns into a disaster and we remain unsatisfied, while travelling on a piece of rock through space – paradoxically, entrapped in a hope that the final destination is anything but death!
However, with great and vulgar arrogance, we continue to refuse to accept that nothing lasts forever and everything will turn into dust.
Dust and darkness (sic!)
Video 3: Bye, Bye, Wheel of Fortune Seller
This is my recent attempt to respond to the current situation. My project has redefined itself several times during a very long and turbulent journey through nine countries. My observations and reflections have substantially changed their focus.
My initial interests were firmly placed on the uncertainties of tomorrow. The context for my investigation was mainly related to a range of economic disadvantages of people in the countries, which I visited. I was both: fascinated and terrified to learn how they deal with their daily lives. How inventive and creative they must become to survive.
Subsequently, I realised that everyone is waiting for a new pivotal occurrence. Something important to happen and bring about a significant and positive change. One way of dealing with this lengthy, stagnant and monotonous process is to get subjected by the conditioning of a hypnotic repetition.
My visual exploration of workers, who were suspended in the vacuum of that process, followed. I become intrigued by creating painterly responses based on analysis of workers in Asia.
Video 4: Bye, Bue, Burmese Monks
This video piece provides a documentary evidence of the process of washing of a painting titled: Three Burmese Monks. It is a metaphorical interpretation of the meaning of cleansing and removal of dirt and stains from the memory. The canvas is cut out from the stretcher and taken through a hot wash cycle. The outcome is unpredictable and the remains are disintegrated, sparse and fragile.
Video 5: Three Monks
The Three Burmese Monks were captured, while taking a break from their money collecting duties. They entertained themselves by playing with a large group of pigeons. My primary source for this piece originates from Yangon in Myanmar. I was undertaking some visual research by recording activities in a remote market area of the city.
There were large numbers of child monks present. Most of their days are spend extorting large amounts of cash from the hard working, fearful and deeply religious market community. They are immaculately dressed in pink robes and sarongs. Simultaneously, they walk bare foot to project an image of poverty and humbleness.
However, the truth is different. They have got daily targets to fill their metals trays with a mixture of coins and bank notes to satisfy the needs and expectations of their superiors.
Video 6: The Bathing of Perl Twink
Pearl Twink lives in Lagos, Nigeria. She is transsexual. She fears for her life and her sexuality is her biggest secret. She is a fashion icon. The piece tries to question the presumption within our prejudice and allows us to understand the contradictory point of view – the opposite perspective. Therefore, forcing us to confront and reflect on our own behaviour in the context of making judgements without thinking and appropriate analysis. We simply devalue the status of a person from a different culture. Labelling and categorising removes individuality and creates a climate for a lack of our responsibility towards them.
Heaven can only be with you in it.
Wherever you belong…
You are not the girl with long hair, oval eyes, luscious lips and perfect teeth.
You do not look like the girl on the magazine cover or runway,
Hell, you might even be straighter than an arrow.
But you are the most beautiful.
The way you love hard, laugh with abandon, push your glasses back to your face, wipe the sweat off your forehead, the way that crown dances on your head.
Sure, you are a queen,
Of hearts, of love, freedom, beauty, wisdom.
Your huge heart is large enough to hug all the children of the world.
you refuse to be undermined and wield your sword in the fight for truth.
‘WCW’ by Maryam Atoyebi
Video 7: Dialogue with Pearl Twink
This portrait is hypnotically hovering behind the text – emerging from the writing and vanishing again. The model is looking down with pride and confidence. She is emerging through the messages and remains deadpan – a distant observer.
The video instigates a sense of a dialogue between provocations and her responses to them. Despite the attention, she remains undisturbed.
The piece tries to question the presumption within our prejudice and allows us to understand the contradictory point of view – the opposite perspective. Therefore, forcing us to confront and reflect on our own behaviour in the context of making judgements without thinking and appropriate analysis. We simply devalue the status of a person from a different culture. Labelling and categorising removes individuality and creates a climate for a lack of our responsibility towards them.
The patterns and colours echo the culture of her native Nigeria. They are vibrant and dynamic, reflecting the power of pure Chroma highlighted by the tropical sun.
Painting 8: Flower Girl from Batumi
Beautiful girl with pink flowers
Like a secret garden
Soothing sadness and regret
Through the misty silver tears
I reach out my hands to them
Still whispering one sentence
Why did you go away?
Nothing pleases me today
When the dreams were over
Who will heal my heart?
And wipe the tears from my eyes
Smile at me
Maybe among the old memories
Regret will be lost
(Based on text by Janusz Popławski)
Painting 9: One-Legged Pool Player
The One-Legged Player is totally on the task. Her appearance looks frivolous and theatrical to distract from her determination and the fact that she cannot afford to miss any shots. Her outwards image portrays glamour and fame, but the reality is diametrically different.
The One-Legged Player is frozen in a stretched position, suspended in the vacuum of repetition. Every shot is executed in an identical stylised pose in a hope to attract attention and increase the stakes, hence maximise profits.
I am hesitant to come to conclusions that there is something repulsive about it. The first impressions of wonder and curiosity are replaced with laughter and astonishment. The performance continues regardless.
Painting 10: Thai Masseur
This is a portrait of a single mum of three. She originates from a poor village in the North. Her new life is in Pattaya. Before the pandemic, her days were very monotonous and repetitive. She used to work 17-hour long days as a masseur. Now, in lockdown, her shop is closed. She dreams about returning to her previous life and the former status quo.
Painting 11: Three Monks Begging
This new piece portrays three Burmese monks taking a break from their money collecting duties, while entertaining themselves with a large group of pigeons.
In the area, there were large numbers of child monks present. Most of their days are spend extorting large amounts of cash from the hard working, fearful and deeply religious market community.
They are immaculately dressed in pink robes and sarongs. Simultaneously, they walk bare foot to project an image of poverty and humbleness.
However, the truth is different. They have got daily targets to fill their metals trays with a mixture of coins and bank notes to satisfy the needs and expectations of their superiors.
Painting 12: Burmese Captain
This work portrays a Burmese captain in charge of a long boat. His job is to transport people and cargo from Ranong in Thailand to Kawthoung at the furthest southern point of Myanmar. His main clientele are poor illegal workers from Burma trying to earn a few baht in Thailand.
Following a long conversation with him, I become one of his passengers. To maximise income, he accepts as many people as possible. He even travels on the very front of the boat to save valuable space. This place is very uncomfortable and rocky. He is also fully exposed there to the power of the tropical sun. He tries to get some relief from the burning heat by hiding under a colourful umbrella.
The image is very clashing in colour – very kitsch. This is further enhanced by his crude and cramped body position. His ankle reveals a massive tumour.
There is a gigantic growth on his leg, perhaps caused by prolonged exposure to the sun and continued contact with polluted water in the port.
My creative intention was to portray him in his usual setting, while crossing the same water many times every day.
The focus is on him. The beautiful surroundings no longer matter. He cannot see the landscape. He is trapped in his daily routine.
The colour of his shirt blends in with the orange stripes of paint on the boat. The umbrella is feminine and looks absolutely ridiculous.
Painting 13: Coach to Myiek
This piece portrays a coach driver. He is preparing to leave Kawthoung for a 20-hour long journey to Myiek. The road is terrible and unpredictable. His old coach must be in a top condition before the passengers are allowed to board.
The driver looks very tired and substantially overweight. He spends his life driving his coach between those two distant cities in Myanmar.
Painting 14: Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces
During my exercise yesterday, I managed to take this disturbing photograph. On the one hand, it reminded me of my primary source for Three Burmese Monks piece. On the other, the black crows drew references to a novel by a Polish writer Stefan Zeromski.
Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces – is a relatively short book by a literature Nobel Price winner. It consists of three parts and has references to the atrocities of the partitions of Poland between Germany, Russia and Austria. These birds have also other common connotations. It is usually believed that that the crow is a symbol of bad luck and death. I am not superstitious, but this seen has terrified me.
Subsequently, I have developed an idea of using the crows as an overprinted pattern on my next piece. The idea is to compose a twin image to Three Burmese Monks and use our current pandemic predicament to create a painting about myself, while responding to the broader contexts of the crisis. I am waiting while working in isolation in front of my window.
Optimistically attempting to contradict Zeromski while waiting in a hope that ravens and crows will not peck us to pieces!
I have just been interview by Jasmine Meekings. She is one of the editors of the Art Foundry Magazine. This quarterly publication comments on a broad range of developments and complexities in the contemporary creative world. It contains several exciting interviews with artists from all-over-the-world and interprets their work and achievements.
The transcript of the interview is below:
What is your contribution to the Virtual Summer Exhibition 2020 and what has motivated you to create this body of work?
Normally, we hold an end-of-the-year exhibition at the Gallery at South Devon College. Due to the pandemic, we were forced to move to the online learning environment. To make this event even more meaningful and exciting, I have reached out to a wide range of artists from all-over-the-world and a selection of former students. This has helped to elevate the prestige of this event and enable it to be viewed by many more people across different international boundaries, locations and time zones.
All staff have also been invited to exhibit their work to create a sense of cohesive artistic community. I will be taking part in the Virtual Summer Show and present my recent paintings and video work. These pieces were developed in response to my long-term research project based on exploring human responses to hypnotic repetition. I have gathered a broad range of primary sources from my travels. The most significant work was produced in consequence of my experiences in Haiti, Azerbaijan, Thailand and Myanmar.
2. What has your response been to COVID-19 as an artist? Has it affected your practice or how you operate?
The current lockdown has given me a chance to reflect on both my practice and the research findings. Subsequently, my present observations contradict the former status quo. The repetitive and mundane existence of people, who genuinely struggle with their survival has become something they yearn for. The nightmare of the past is now a desired dream for the future.
Paradoxically, the crisis has had a very positive and broadening impact on my visual exploration, journey of thought and understanding of the human tragedy and challenges.
3. What would you say is the role of an artist during this pandemic? Furthermore, what would your message be to other artists during this time?
The role of an artist is to develop a response to the broader contexts and visualise a subjective interpretation of the world. The pandemic encourages everyone to become creative and substitute access to unlimited resources with ideas, invention and a deep reflection.
Therefore, ‘the artist’ should be seen as a commentator and a sensitive observer of the dynamics within the turbulent and ever-changing contemporary society.
We are all very privileged to be able to watch history being made and recorded for posterity.
This exhibition will be an authentic document of a unique set of circumstances, hopefully not to be repeated anytime soon.
I have continued to work with Aristotle in order to develop a more refined plan for the layout of my exhibition. Initially, my idea was to arrange all paintings and videos in a linear arrangement. I wanted to start with a series of work from Haiti, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The centre was dedicated to displaying a series of 7 videos. Finally, the work inspired by my research in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia were placed on the right.
I have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting in order to establish a sequence of images. My focus was on the cohesiveness of the process of visual communication, underlying narrative and messages, which are questioned by each artefact. Subsequently, I have managed to create a long wall design proposal with a degree of flow and echoing of ideas between the works. There was a sense of a dialogue and interaction between all parts of my research project. The holistic presentation would include a series of 20 pieces.
However, this concept proved to be problematic in technical terms. Therefore, a decision was made to explore possibilities of using a rectangular format. Paintings in the top and bottom rows and videos in the centre. This provides a more clear overview of the entire exhibition and allows to make an overall visual assessment.
The other development is to support every piece with a sound file containing an explanation of each piece. I will use a similar approach to the one, I experimented with in preparation for my Symposium. I will record a computer read text to make the speech clear and understandable.