Interview

IMAGE/Evie Cahir
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Interview: Evie Cahir

Melbourne based artist Evie Cahir’s watercolour illustrations depict the little moments in life. Each fragment of is carefully detailed and archived, then left to stand alone in a frame of negative space, which just begs you pay attention to what’s at its focus. That focus is what’s most interesting about Cahir’s work, because she zeroes in on the everyday things you wouldn’t ordinarily consider beautiful and makes them poignant. Her work can be seen in zines, editorial spreads and on her (exceedingly popular) blog.

[caption id="attachment_60543" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]ec6 IMAGE/Evie Chair[/caption]

You’re on facebook, instagram, tumblr (where I first saw your work), you have a big cartel, you have a big online presence across a number of social media outlets. How important do you feel social media is to your work and sharing it, and do you have a preference between those outlets for sharing different things?
The internet and all the social-media outlets that follow are vital when it comes to sharing my work. Without it I would still be leaving little zines in toilets or pubs, slipping them between train seats and posting them to pen-pals, which is all I ever did before creating a Tumblr or sharing my work online. My online-outlet preference depends on what I am doing —
Tumblr for an online documentation of all the work I create and Instagram to post select work to with the aim of generating a strong aesthetic/online persona and to ‘network’, organize art-swaps and obviously to track other artists work.

How has having a fairly large following (100+ notes on almost everything you post to tumblr) affected you and/or your work?
I used to spend quite a lot of thought trying to analyze why certain work instantly hits it off with Tumblr and rakes in 72,378 notes and other work that I value more clocks in just 31 notes over the weekend. There is no answer to this, I have learned that the internet works in mysterious ways.
It has affected my output as posting work becomes a personal challenge — to post more regularly and with higher quality work. Gotta give the people what they want!

When posting works are you conscious of how they will be received/reacted to by your audience?
I am definitely conscious of reception, I regularly second-guess myself when it comes to sharing work — Not because I am wary of sharing provocative work, just of generating work that is not unique in its message, subject matter or theme. Along with the initial reaction, I am conscious of constantly creating fresh work while ensuring that it complements the rest of my work aesthetically.
Basically, I have a very discerning inner-monologue that critiques work in a way I expect the audience to, e.g. “Evie drew an avocado and headless torso again, how ‘ground breaking'”

[caption id="attachment_60545" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]ec8 IMAGE/Evie Cahir[/caption]

Do you ever look back over your online archive to see how your work has changed, and if so how do you feel about the earlier stuff?
Looking back over work that is over a month old is painful, I have a back-log of almost four years on Tumblr of work to avoid looking at! Going through older work is like re-drawing it and being reminded of your short-comings (poor painting skills and pencil-prowess) On the few occasions I have looked through the archives (on Tumblr, giant folders in my wardrobe and little sketchbooks hidden around my room) I found that I could easily discern what drawing-stages and life-changes were happening as I looked through it all, majority of which (87%) was not good!

[caption id="attachment_60546" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]ec9 IMAGE/Evie Cahir[/caption]

Your works isolate moments and objects that may otherwise be overlooked and frame them in space, could you explain a little bit your thoughts behind this practice?
Simply put, this practice of creating work that revolves around capturing over-looked details, objects and moments is an extension of personal thoughts and experiences. For me, drawing and painting little scenes stems from the need to document and record a feeling I have felt.
I try not to consider why I draw the things, I think it’s more interesting to let others do the work.

You said your work is about “personal thoughts and experiences”, from a technical stand point, does that mean you work from life for inspiration or do you use photo references as well?
Predominantly photographic reference when it comes to creating a final work, though for initial sketches I will work from life. These preliminary drawings act as a record of scenarios and settings to draw inspiration from, as I fill small moleskin’s with details such as: train platforms, lists of items to reference in future work, the hair of a certain commuter, an old man’s dog or books being read on the tram.

With the personal element to your work, do you find it a struggle to do editorial pieces or commissions seeing as they wouldn’t have come from your own experience?Definitely, creating editorial illustrations for clients is usually a challenge I relish, in that I get to draw objects or scenarios I would not regularly draw. Though when it comes to contracts and on-going themed editorial work (For example, a yearlong contract to create monthly comics about one-night stands) it has been a struggle to create work that fulfils the brief but also is work that I am not embarrassed to put my name to or have printed. The compromise in creating editorial work is real.

[caption id="attachment_60544" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]ec7 IMAGE/Evie Cahir[/caption]

In a similar vein, do you look to other artists, or blogs etc., for inspiration? If so who?
Definitely, I wonder if I spend too long looking at other peoples work!
Whenever I’m not drawing I’m looking through the work of:
Lauren Spencer King. Stanislava Pinchuk (Miso) Greg Eason. Aidan Koch. Moebius. Dane Lovett. Henri Matisse. Claes Oldenburg. Sam Alden. Jonathan Zwada. Vija Celmens. Michael Borremans. Brian Ferry. Elsworth Kelly. Ill Studio. Hannah Hoch, this list goes on…

That’s quite a long list of inspiration (definitely a good one though!), how do you take references or inspiration from those works and use them to influence your own?

The referencing of influential figures is most apparent in techniques picked up and a sense of aesthetics and layout applied.
For example, the most recent references cropping up in my work is the use of washes of watercolor to slowly build up a certain texture and off-centered composition of isolated objects/items.

What would you say the “trending themes” you’ve seen or picked up on are at the minute?

Trending themes I have noticed floating around on the sites, Tumblrs, Instagrams I visit regularly include but are not limited to: the glamorizing of depression/sadness via comics, drinks in glass jars, food photography taken from birds-eye-view, Photoshopping yourself into a Drizzy photo-montage, food, high-contrast/saturated light in photographs, food, ‘still life’ themed photographs, Minimal Bauhaus-inspired graphic design layout for book covers, Tapestry, taking photographs of your own hand holding something small, photographs of backs of heads. The list goes on…

[caption id="attachment_60542" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]ec5 IMAGE/Evie Cahir[/caption]

It seems as if your work has become a little bit of a journal, do you ever feel uncomfortable sharing your work publicly? Especially if you know that other people will be looking through your archives?
Not particularly, I feel like the shame associated with going through past work is just a personal hang-up, though I know of other artists that feel similarly about their own archives. I have only ever felt uncomfortable or self-conscious about sharing work when I’ve been asked if I am referencing personal experiences in my work, especially my comics/narrative work
(“Did you draw yourself crying that last one you posted, Evie?…” etc.).

Within your concern of creating “fresh work” are you ever conscious of not falling into trends, or starting to look like other work that’s popular?
Of course. I struggle with overcoming the fear of creating stale work almost every time I draw.
Whilst it’s healthy to be aware of trending themes, subject matter or style amongst others it’s even more imperative that I work to improve my own technique. I try to reconcile this perpetual drawing-fear by telling myself that if my drawing method is below average or rusty then creating fresh work is the least of my problems!

If you perceive your drawing method as being below average, or rusty, then creating fresh work is the least of your problems: what are the greatest challenges you face?

Drawing challenges are always shifting from one issue to another, last week it was feeling uninspired and expecting others to inspire me and today it is the consumption of too many coffees for me to concentrate.

The most challenging and reoccurring issue when it comes to drawing would be not being able to ‘develop my own style’, ‘visual language’ and overall aesthetic. This over-analysis of my own work usually stems from too much time on the internet, as I compare myself to competent and confident illustrators (please refer to list of inspirational artists)
I find this Identity Crisis can be alleviated by getting back to basics and refining drawing skills and spending less time on the internet!

Where do you think your work is going next? Or where would you like to see it going next, in terms of content, aesthetics, platform or just the next show you’re doing?

I would love to see attainable future plans and long-term goals converge — these plans revolve around self-published books, residencies, collaborations with drawing-heroes, setting up a studio space, steady editorial work and solo exhibitions.

Man Root ipad image
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Interview: LP Lee

Oxford plays host to any number of would-be authors/English students, but LP Lee is the real deal. Her short story, ‘Reflections’, appeared in the Oxbridge anthology ‘The Obsidian Poplar and Other Stories’, and is on its way to becoming a film, alongside two of her other tales ‘The Feast’ and ‘The House of Locks’. Lee’s short stories are at times terse, at times grotesque, but always captivating, often devising nightmarish realms whose likeness to reality add to their power.

 

Lee divides her writing process into two parts. “The first is letting the mind wander, because it’s when you’re not really focusing that unusual connections get made and inspiration comes. I think especially with the encroachment of social media into our every waking moment, combined with a puritanical guilt about always being ‘productive’, the idea of disconnecting and letting yourself daydream can seem decadent to a lot of people. The second is where I reach for the coffee-maker. I sit down and concentrate for a long stretch of time without much of a break, just focusing on getting the story down as quickly as possible. Then I edit, leave it to sit for a while, return to it and edit again.”

 

Although perfect for the sharp and often dark narratives, short stories weren’t first choice, she admits. “I have several half-finished novels looking miserable and unkempt in my virtual desk drawers” – short stories were a way of practicing discipline in writing. Now that some of the works are being written up for the screen, how closely does she feel the adaptation should stick to the original script? “Although we’ll have to wait and see how big the changes will be, I do appreciate that everyone has their own talents, and I’m happy to give filmmakers space for their own creativity… I don’t want to ever be too precious in how a story is interpreted by others.”

 

Lee’s voice is so powerful in part because of the way it straddles Eastern and Western influences, acknowledging both without creating a hierarchy. ‘Reflections’, for example, takes place in Korea and deals with the impacts of cosmetic surgery there, but is naturally refracted through the medium of English. “There is real grassroots tension between East and West that arise from factors like nationalism and xenophobia…Being half-Korean, half-English, I’m aware that my voice could be attacked as illegitimate for not being ethnically ‘pure’ enough. So for example I always run my Korea stories by my Korean friends and family first, to double-check that they feel ‘authentic’.” Another powerful component of some of her tales is the grotesque. Stories like ‘The Man-Root’ force readers to confront the viscerally painful which, in Lee’s words, “communicate[s] ideas more memorably. A Korean Oxford student said that my endings are her favourite parts, because she always anticipates a shiver. I’m happy to make a reader shiver, because I think it’s this shiver which drives a message home.”

 

When asked which genre she writes in, Lee says that as an author, she isn’t so convinced about the importance of the idea, and that it is far more useful for publishers and editors. Fittingly, her work has influences from a spectrum of authors, photographers and visual artists. Recollecting a Daidō Moriyama photography exhibition, she remarks “the way that you could view his work all together in the gallery space created a powerful atmosphere, and a sense that there was a mystery just outside of the lens’ view, in the peripheral vision. I left that exhibition wondering whether a collection of short stories could create that kind of atmosphere.” In terms of authors she admires, Borges, Carter, and Dostoyevsky are all there, and she cites Hemingway’s advice: “All you have to do is write one true sentence.”

 

In a fitting manner for an author whose visions of the future can be distressingly dark, she concludes discussing writers of the future. Rather than saturation of the market, Lee states that social climate which says fame is the only claim to success is a greater issue. “Many writers sense that they must justify putting time and energy into the craft, and that ‘productivity’ should be quantified by fame and fortune. But writing is a wonderful craft in and of itself, and the more people it brings pleasure to, the better!” Her thinking on the internet is equally tempered, acknowledging that whilst many new opportunities have appeared, “the idea that it’s more democratic for writers is also to some extent a myth. For example, big companies are monopolising online book sales and setting non-negotiable frameworks.” Even the next generation of readers might be altered, she worries, “creating a generation that is impatient and easily distracted, which may be less inclined towards novel-reading.”

 

Garage Sale Picture of an English Officer/Chad Wys
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Interview: Chad Wys

Chad Wys is one of my favourite contemporary artists. I tried to start this article with something that sounded more professional than that, but I thought I should just be honest. His work is conceptually focused without being aesthetically compromised, it’s approachable without being dumbed down, and it’s fun without ever lacking gravitas. He describes himself as an artist, writer, designer, and image thief.

More and more artists today are putting their work online, do you think an online presence is essential to being a successful (commercially or otherwise) at present?
I doubt it’s essential.  The art world still seems to be dominated by the politics of collecting and selling and the influence of subjectivity from a select few, which still seems to originate in particular real-world, geographic hubs like New York, London, LA, et al.  But I think being technologically-present, -aware, and -fluent will always be useful, especially for communicators such as artists (and especially for emerging artists).

It’s obvious that the Internet is not a fad and that it’s only the most powerful communications tech the world has ever known.  An artist who doesn’t wish to exploit that premise is, for whatever reason, proactively invested in preserving traditions of the past.  That’s their prerogative and I certainly won’t judge them harshly for it; there are good reasons to base one’s practice and the reception of one’s work in the material world.  However, I think the Internet is so pervasive and so utterly powerful that it has become the norm.  To not have a portfolio website and to be a visual artist is to be a kind of “off-grid rebel,” or you’re someone who hasn’t caught-up, or you’re someone who’s made a particular set of choices that exclude the massive elephant in the communications room, or you’re so well-liked by the correct art world elite that you don’t need to do much of anything to assert yourself.
The advantage to being an Internet-present artist is fairly clear: access to a virtually unlimited audience; while the disadvantage is also fairly evident: there’s practically infinite noise in which to get lost, and the noise is chaotic and difficult to overcome on one’s own terms.  Adaptation is a prerequisite to using the Internet and especially social media.  I can understand why some would not be willing to adapt to tech systems of this sort because that can easily be construed, and I think often wrongly so, as compromise.  You’ll have to ask someone who avoids the Web why they do so, but you’ll have to dig up their phone number or unearth their street address first (maybe that’s the advantage!).

[caption id="attachment_60238" align="aligncenter" width="832"]Chad Wys - Composition 476 - paint on laser print - 2014 - 10 x 7,75 Composition 476/Chad Wys[/caption]

What do you mean by the “noise” of the internet? And what’s involved in adapting to online communication?
Well, adaptation can be as simple as learning to use 140 characters effectively on Twitter, or learning to edit one’s oeuvre down to a manageable size on one’s personal Website.  One has to adapt to the tools one chooses to use, or one has to seek-out or invent new tools to fulfill one’s goals.  Processing “life” and art through a screen requires a good deal of adaptation, as does presenting one’s “life” and one’s art through various screens.  I choose to look at that sort of adaptation as an opportunity, not a compromise.
As for the “noise” of the Net: simply, there are a lot of us.  My attentions are strained through my various information “feeds,” whether on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or what have you.  There is a lot of information, potentially limitless amounts, and it’s impossible for each of us to process everything.  I think we can easily become desensitized to images, text, art, et al (not only online, but everywhere).  It becomes necessary to process information differently and more rapidly and each of us grapples with that in our own way.  It’s easy to gloss over an artwork to which one might otherwise deeply respond; it’s easy for one’s work to get lost in the shuffle of information, to be ignored, or to be shallowly received and unfairly dismissed.  There are different solutions for overcoming the “noise” for different goals.  I think the solution to being widely seen and perhaps even understood as an artist is to be present, persistent, consistent, and to create “good” work.  But the better “remedy” for the social noise is to not expect to overcome it, and to not desire to overcome it; it ceases being an obstacle at that point.

In the statement on your website you say that “notion of object” is a major strand in your work, how would you say that “objectification” has been changed by the free availability of (quite often sourceless) images on the web?
That’s an important and sizeable question and it strikes to the core of my practice.  My work generally grapples with art (history) and decoration/ornamentation and how we process our experiences of these things, so along those lines the game totally changed at the dawn of “the age of mechanical reproduction” (to lift a line from 20th century German modernist Walter Benjamin).  Art’s “aura,”  Benjamin argued, is dislodged, displaced, or diminished as reproduction is mastered and streamlined through advanced machinery.  For example, viewers stopped observing the painting and started observing photographs of the painting, and in so doing lost a bit of the influence/experience/meaning of the original (for it’s no longer necessary to observe the enormous canvas and the vivid color palette of, let’s say, a Klimt painting since it has been reduced to a two-inch black and white illustration for rapid consumption).
Computers, and the ease of the anonymous digital imaging and text that you speak of, are simply (but complexly) a continuation of the industrialization of aesthetic and intellectual experiences that has coincided with the industrial revolution.  I’m sympathetic but resistant to Benjamin’s notion that within each artwork there is an idealized “aura” waiting to be accessed by a special kind of recipient; that’s quite modernist and dated in its determinism.  But I think the spirit of Benjamin’s cultural theory–which is that reception matters and is malleable through re-presentation–continues to be extremely prescient, and this is why I grapple with image- and object-based reproductions as my source materials: information is easily displaced and manipulated in the age of the Internet, so we have to be, as ever, vigilant and informed receivers.  The marks I make on the particular materials I appropriate are my attempt to draw attention to the digital/mechanical outsourcing of experience… so by creating a new, modified experience through color and form, in my small way I’m trying to draw out the objectification, in some instances quite literally, of visual-intellectual experience.  The Internet is a huge, glorious, and horrible part of this dynamic.

[caption id="attachment_60242" align="aligncenter" width="798"]Chad Wys - The Girl With Stars In Her Eyes - paint on found bust - 2014 - 15 x 8 x 5 The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes/Chad Wys[/caption]

You also say that you “enjoy taking contemporary ideas into the past”, could it be said you are doing the reverse as well? As in your readymades you take older, quite often 19th century, pieces of art, rework them and then put them into a thoroughly modern context – the internet.
Yes, I think that’s true; certainly aesthetically speaking.  But much of what I do, much of the material I source, is distinctly contemporary (or modern) insofar as the digital image I appropriate, or the factory-crafted copy of the Greek statue with which I’m interfering, or the mass-produced photomechanical print of a 19th century portrait that I’m re-purposing are of a time and of a context often separate and distinct from whatever originals these copies are referencing/mimicking/reproducing.
Broadly speaking, my work concerns the interplay between the aesthetic resonance of whatever image or object I’m sourcing, and that which the image or object literally is–which is often an inadequate transmission of the original, often several times removed by technology and through time.  When people get angry at me for “defacing a Raphael painting,” that’s the dishonesty of their experience of the reproduction bubbling up, out, and over; they wind up defending the very process–the process of mass-reproduction–that so “endangers” the experience of the original that they ostensibly wish to protect.  I’m quite interested in that sort of visual deliberation, or the deliberation of objectification.  I want viewers to consider what it is I’m appropriating and why.  When people get angry at me for “stealing” and/or “vandalizing” another artist’s “hard work,” they unwittingly underscore the complex web of problems at play in our visual world, since, really, I’m doing nothing of the sort; quite the contrary in most cases, I’m pointing out that the original was “vandalized” the moment it was reproduced (and that’s not a criticism of reproducibility more than it’s a criticism of our lack of consideration of reproducibility).

 

[caption id="attachment_60234" align="aligncenter" width="830"]Nocturne 109/Chad Wys Nocturne 109/Chad Wys[/caption]

How much are the marks you make on works influenced by aesthetics versus making a specific point etc.?
I once heard that Franz Kline, the great abstract expressionist, used light projectors to plot out his bold, black paint strokes onto canvas.  I’m not really interested in whether or not this’s true, but in my experience it could be.  It’s difficult to instantaneously and instinctively execute a perfectly balanced minimal composition.  It’s difficult to proportion a simple scene expertly and all of Kline’s compositions are expertly balanced.  His paintings look and “feel” perfectly proportioned, despite (or because) the fact that they’re often just black strokes on a white ground.  The reason why the light projector and the careful planning of the strokes could be seen by some as upsetting and detrimental is because abstract expressionist theory is so mythically built on the process of impulse… like an open nerve violently shooting paint onto the canvas.  If Kline plotted out every brush stroke, some might view that as a nullification of the attractive image of an abstract expressionist at work: an artist putting every ounce of his or her raw brilliance onto the canvas in a rapid, divine, artistic orgasm.
The reason I tell this story is because the aesthetics of the mark and the purpose of the mark don’t seem very distinctive to me; well, they do, but not insofar as qualities should change depending on method or intent.  Kline’s work represents the same things to me whether or not he carefully composed his compositions.  My marks are the same intervention whether or not I have a point to convey or I’m going for a certain brand of color theory.  How the viewer responds to the materials and the ideas I’ve put in front of them is all that really matters at the end of the day.  Sure, I’ve got some ideas I want to get across, and aesthetics will always be my main tool for doing just that, but it’s out of my hands by the time it gets to you.

You can see more of Chad’s work on his website, tumblr, facebook, twitter and pretty much every other social media platform

Strokes_1_May-Xiong
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Interview with the artist: May Xiong

If there’s a moustachioed man, covered in mackerel vertically streaked with a smudge of mauve and he’s looking straight at you, you have to ask yourself “why?”. That’s exactly what I did when I first saw May Xiong’s conceptual series of portraits entitled ‘Strokes’, but I found myself drawing a blank.

Seattle-based photographer May Xiong’ work draws you in with its bizarre beauty and then leaves you hanging with just enough wonder that you keep asking “but why?”. Her conceptual portraits are accumulating ever increasing buzz across social media, with spotlights on some of the more popular art Tumblrs and interviews abound on blogs.

[caption id="attachment_59197" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Childhood-Memories/May Xiong Childhood-Memories/May Xiong[/caption]

When and why did you decide to start putting your work online?

I started putting my work online since I first started my photography back in 2005. But it wasn’t until 2-3 years ago during the middle of college when I realized that perhaps it was something I should take more seriously. It was more of a way to get critiques and feedback on my work and grow from it.

You often just use your initials when labelling your work (MX Photography) what was behind that choice?

I’ve gone back and forth on using my full name and then just the initials when labelling my work over the past few years. I’ve always enjoyed minimalistic aesthetics when it comes up to design and so choosing “MX” was simple and easy for me to decide on. 

[caption id="attachment_59193" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Strokes_2/May Xiong Strokes_2/May Xiong[/caption]

You’ve recently started being featured on some of the bigger curation blogs, I think I scrolled past some of your work on cross connect, what importance do you place on that kind online community of publicity?

I believe any exposure you get as a growing artist is very important, whether it be online or not. But I have to say that the online art community has grown so much in the past years and having the accessibility of showcasing your work through social networks, has become so much easier and faster. I feel that whether we’re a business, an artist, a news anchor, a journalist – everything is uploaded online and from that we are able to allow ourselves to share what we know, what we do and or create.

After that kind of feature, especially on Tumblr, your work starts to be reblogged and, more problematically perhaps, reposted. What are your thoughts on the culture of the credit-less image and transient ownership of work that’s started to be cultivated online? 

Every artist deserves their credit for what they do. Tumblr, I’ve noticed over the past 4 years has changed drastically. People are posting or reblogging things they find interesting or pretty, which is fine, but when it comes up to their actual own posts and sharing photographs from other photographers/artists without proper credit, it starts to become a problem. Being an artist, I put so much effort, time and dedication into taking my photographs and to have my name be stripped from the images, feels like it’s tearing a part of me away from all my hard work/creative vision, for which I’m sure others feel the same. So it is very upsetting to see artists constantly go through this wave of not being credited properly. 

Quite a lot of your conceptual photography has digital overlays, do you go into shooting a piece imagining the final composition or do you develop as you go along?

The creation behind my conceptual pieces are balanced by both a constructed and an improvised vision, so the final composition is sometimes different. But I believe that being able to allow myself to explore my creativity, has definitely made me create pieces that have made my work become more noticeable, such as my photograph titled, “All Around Us”. 

[caption id="attachment_59196" align="alignnone" width="1024"]All-Around-Us_May-Xiong All Around Us/May Xiong[/caption]

You said that allowing yourself to be more creative has made your work more noticeable. How conscious are you when working of how a piece will be received or how it will stand out from the swathes of photography on the internet?

When creating my work, I don’t think I’m too conscious at all about how my work will be received/stand out from other photography on the internet. I simply create what I envision and try to bring it to life. To construct these images in a light that I feel will carry a narrative, subtle details and how perfect a moment can be and make one see everything at the same time through my own style. My goal isn’t to try and stand out, but to simply create photographs out of being passionate and having the thrive to continuously share how I see the world through my artistic vision. 

Is the narrative you’re trying to create exist in the single photographs or the larger sets you create, and how do you feel your ability to alter how your images are displayed (especially online) alters that?

The narrative that I create in my photographs exist in both the single photos and my larger sets (series). These photographs are meant to be paired together but also have a strong narrative pull to it that makes each one photograph stand well alone, at the same time. Sometimes when posting one photograph at a time instead of posting them all at once as a batch, people may get different views of the series as a whole – at least that’s what I can try and make out of it. So in some ways, my ability with that tends to shift here and there by my audience’s views of my work. 

[caption id="attachment_59195" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Untitled_May-Xiong Untitled/May Xiong[/caption]

Speaking of narratives, do you ever look back over your own archive of work to see how your work has changed? And if so, how do you feel about that change and your earlier work?

There has been many times when I’ve gone back and looked at my own archive of work and have noticed the drastic change. If anything, the drastic change has been such a wonderful experience. Being able to go through photo shoots, learning through my success and failures has helped me grow and shape myself as a photographer and how I view things artistically. With the change, it makes it easy to say that my work now shows more concentration, depth and direction as to where my old work didn’t have the solid foundation of those things.

Where do you think that concentration and depth is going to take you next?

I feel that that concentration and depth is only going to make my work stronger as time goes on, whichever route I take with my photography. Allowing myself to grow within myself as an artist and a photographer, perhaps my viewers will be able to see that in my work and future work. 

You can find more of May Xiong’s work on her website, Facebook, or Behance.

Solitude/Hae Jung Lee
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Interview with the artist: Hae Jung Lee

 

Capturing the personal moments that may otherwise be forgotten and overlooked is the focus of Toronto-based illustrator Hae Jung Lee’s portrait based work. Lee produces exquisitely rendered fragments of faces, which are framed by and often interact with surreal elements such as mushrooms, bunting, and sewing needles. These surreal elements are Lee’s way of capturing the subject’s thoughts and feelings in as much detail as their eyelashes, so that her highly constructed offer the audience a realistic view of their exterior as well as an allegorical look at their interior. Lee’s work is an archive of the most intimate kind, as she works almost exclusively with images of herself, depicting her own “fragments of memories, moments within time, or internal struggles”. Each of her works is a snapshot of a past, and sometimes present, self.

[caption id="attachment_58734" align="aligncenter" width="750"]Letting Go/Hae Jung Lee Letting Go/Hae Jung Lee[/caption]

From what I can see you’re currently on Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook as well as having your own website (unless I’ve missed any). How does the internet feature in your process and life as an artist?

I hold a significant value in the interaction between my work and the viewer within my artistic practice so internet helps me tremendously by connecting my work with so many people all around the world. 

 

Some artists I’ve spoken to have mentioned how the online culture of reposting work has negatively affected them as it means their work goes creditless. Have you had any negative experiences with uploading your work to social media?

 I’ve had minor issues where personal works of mine had been mislabelled or important informations have been overlooked, but I guess I could be oblivious to works that are totally uncredited because I would not be able to find out myself. It is definitely an issue that is always lingering at the back of my mind.

 

Do you look anywhere outside of your own internal structure for inspiration, for example any other blogs?

 I don’t think I’ve ever looked for inspiration externally in regards to my art. When I have nothing to draw, that means that I’m either numb and incapable of feeling at that moment or something bigger is brewing inside that is not quite ready to burst apart yet. It never lasts very long though. I don’t force anything when it comes to my art (or anything I do in life as a matter of fact), because that would mean I’m doing it for all the wrong reasons. 

 

[caption id="attachment_58736" align="aligncenter" width="750"]Sugar Rush/Hae Jung Lee Sugar Rush/Hae Jung Lee[/caption]

You mention quite often in your artist’s statements that you have an “obsession with documentation”, do you think the current culture of blogging and tweeting to document your life is connected or parallel to that obsession in any way?

 My obsession with documentation is a way for me to internalize my thoughts and feelings and better understand myself as an individual. I’ve always had too much unorganized thoughts in my head so it was a way for me to capture those fleeing thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper before it disappeared. It is very much comparable to writing a personal diary. I think the use of social media today is quite different to my own intentions with regards to my obsession. Social media, to me, seems to be a way for people to externalize, expose or to purge out a personal thought or information outwards to the public.

How do you organise those “unorganized thoughts”, enough to structure them into such well composed images?

I would say that each piece I make is mere organized chaos. I find great relief in drawing with a lot of breathing space and well defined lines because it directly contrasts with a chaotic mind. I remember writing on a notepad not too long ago, actually, thinking how I would love to one day create a piece with a single line on a blank piece of paper that contained all my deepest, darkest problems and happiness that defined my life. I laughed at myself afterwards.

 

As your work is a way of internalizing and processing, do you ever feel uncomfortable sharing your most intimate internalized thoughts to an external audience?

 I don’t feel uncomfortable at all sharing my work to the external audience. I would, however, feel very uncomfortable and a bit disturbed if somebody saw my work and knew the exact meaning embedded within it. 

 

[caption id="attachment_58732" align="aligncenter" width="750"]Copy Paste/Hae Jung Lee Copy Paste/Hae Jung Lee[/caption]

Your alteration of the form of the portrait is what I find most captivating about your work. Could you say a little on your use of one face (your face) throughout your work and your process of reworking the image of that face to represent the idea you’re attempting to internalize?

 The literal use of self-portraiture is quite straightforward and self-explanatory for me in relations to my artist statement. I’ve recently been imagining my face as a sort of a landscape of my mind. It’s hard for me to explain it in exact words as to what that means so I will give an example. When a tear drops off of an eye, a living organism is able to feed off of it and grow around it. It’s a small ecosystem that circulates matters in my mind. By interpreting it that way, my suffering has a purpose and I am, in turn, able to cope better with it, if that makes any sense at all.  

That’s a really wonderful way of looking at your art, using it as a way to shape your life philosophy. Are there any other ways in which you feel art helps mould or has moulded your life? 

 Sometimes I’m not sure if I am shaping my art or my art is shaping me. My art needs my experiences in order to be created but I need my art to see who I am as an individual. Personally, art has opened my eyes to view the world critically with my own perceptions and opinions rather than with collective, conformed ideas acceptable by standards of society. 

 

Within your use of portraiture, you also seem to have created a consistent aesthetic voice. What was the process of finding that voice, and do you ever worry you’ll be trapped by it?

 I feel like consistency is what I am always looking for because I’m often bombarded with broken and inconsistent thoughts in my mind. Having said that, people always evolve and change based on life experiences.  The consistency I have now is what makes sense to me at this moment based on what I’ve experienced so far. I always try to keep an open mind to things and challenge myself on different levels so I would be deeply concerned if I had the same mindset I have now 5-10 years from now. 

 

So, how do you see your work developing in the future? Or is it completely dependent your personal experiences?

 Yes, My works are very much dependent on my personal experiences. I’m often very impulsive and indecisive so even if I had a plan of any kind, I don’t even trust myself on it. 

You can check out more of of Hae Jung Lee’s work on Tumblr, Facebook, or on her website.

 

memories/Anatol Knotek
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Interview with the artist: Anatol Knotek

Anatol Knotek is an Austrian artist and visual poet whose work takes the simple truths and ideas we often overlook when taking them for granted and makes them visible. For those of you not familiar with the concept of visual poetry, it’s a form which began as a part of the Avant-Garde movement but is becoming more and more popular in its own right. Visual Poetry uses type to create an image with an unmistakeable message, something now in vogue because of the popularity of typography.  For Knotek being a visual poet means he tries to “ focus on phrases, words or single letters, try to question the common belief and try to make something visual appealing.” He has become a master of this form, producing clean, minimal pieces where excess noise is silenced so his message can ring loud and true. The real power in Knotek’s work comes from the tensions it embraces between being type and image, between being highly intelligent and infinitely accessible, and between being simultaneously serious and humorous. 

After starting his career in fine art, Knotek had his first taste of visual poetry through creating portraits constructed from layered handwritten text. He now runs and curates the popular blog visual-poetry, which displays Knotek’s own work as well as that of other visual poets and artists. 

As well as posting work online, and having gallery shows across Europe, and the rest of the world, Knotek has recently made a number of handmade visual poetry books, inspired by his fascination with the “aura of the original, the unique”.

[caption id="attachment_58680" align="aligncenter" width="750"]wrong/Anatol Knotek wrong/Anatol Knotek[/caption]

Do you think posting your work online has changed how you think about it when it’s being produced; do you ever question how something will be received online as you’re creating?

Yes, I do think about that. I began to think about presenting and photographing my work much more, when I started to have a homepage. But visual poetry especially is very much about presentation and context. It’s quite different how you perceive words online or in a book, surrounded by other words, or presented as a single word, just slightly manipulated. The computer provides a huge variety of such possible contexts and I think it’s really necessary to think about that, while making your art.

Could you expand on your last comment, “the computer provides a huge variety of such possible contexts and I think it’s really necessary to think about that, while making your art”? What kind of contexts do you envisage, and how does it alter your planning process?

The context is sometimes the platform where it is displayed – I think that also each blogging platform has it’s advantages and doesn’t fit all kinds of literature or art equally.

Then there is the situation in which the user sees it. The images and texts often flow by in a timeline, the reader becomes a »user« who consumes rather passively, parallel to something else… on the other hand, the »user« can become active and can engage much more than in other mediums as well. It’s interesting, that the context in which a text or image is seen totally depends on the user – each blogger has the chance to re-contextualize, to write something about, or can simply arrange your art among others as he or she likes best. I wouldn’t call them all »curators«, but it goes in that direction.

People often just use art as their desktop background – I’m sure it’s completely differently seen there, as for example a poster on the wall…

Moreover there is the possibility of animation, interaction and hyperlinking. Text can become alive on the screen – characters can literally become characters.

You also have to keep in mind, that art on the internet is often reused, sometimes plagiarised or remixed. I don’t see that as a bad thing at all, I think, that’s what art is all about –  it’s consumed, reused, transformed…

[caption id="attachment_58673" align="aligncenter" width="750"]censored/Antaol Knotek censored/Antaol Knotek[/caption]

Your Tumblr (visual-poetry) is a mix of your own work and work from various other sources, why did you decide to structure it that way?

Before I had my blog, I collected a lot of images from all over the internet in a folder on my computer, which I called »e-deas«. I used it besides my books and catalogues just for my own inspiration. But I was really lazy and often didn’t mention the source, or sometimes didn’t even write down the name of the artist. It became chaotic and actually rather useless after some time. This was when I had the initial idea for my visual-poetry blog. It started as a kind of self discipline, but I also wanted to give other people the possible chance to have a glance at the huge field of text-art, where I myself find so much inspiration in. 

…and in the end I really benefit from it myself immensely!

You say that visual-poetry was, in part, your way of sharing work and inspiring other people. Have you had much feedback to this effect from your audience? If so, do you feel like that dialogue is an important part of your online communications?

It took a long time before I received some feedback, but I think that’s just natural. For me it’s mainly motivating and a confirmation that I do share something, which is also interesting for others. The dialogue from my side starts with a simple post – most of the time it’s just the artwork, the title and the name of the artist including a link. The rest of the »communication« is sometimes not directed to me at all, it could be a comment related to the work, personal thoughts, [or]  first impressions. For me Tumblr is kind of the »visual Twitter« it’s mainly about images – sometimes people don’t answer with text at all, instead with a »like« a simple reblog, another poem or an animated gif…

[caption id="attachment_58679" align="aligncenter" width="750"]tears/Anatol Knotek tears/Anatol Knotek[/caption]

How important do you think curation is in terms of art on social media and the internet in a more general sense? Are there any particular blogs/sites you look to for inspiration?

I’m always thankful when I come across a blog that is curated with some passion for art – a simple google image search could never replace that. 

…but it is like in the real world – when you go to a gallery or museum with a show that’s curated with love and understanding, you get the possibility to see new contexts.

I follow some other blogs and some artists’ twitter or other social media sites, but I don’t have a special source. Mostly I use google as a starting point. It’s often so, that when I start engaging with the work of an artist or poet, that the next interesting name literally just pops up by itself.

[caption id="attachment_58672" align="aligncenter" width="750"]anachronism/Anatol Knotek anachronism/Anatol Knotek[/caption]

Some of your work is currently in the form of books, ‘Anachronism’ being my favourite, which you’ve made available online. Do you feel being able to sell work via the internet, without a middle man or gallery, has changed how easy it is to be a working/commercially successful artist?

My main motivation for self-publishing is, that I can truly stick to my own ideas, so that I don’t have to make compromises in an artistic sense. 

The second thing is, that I wanted to make my books all by myself – completely handmade, with my own cheap printer, a simple cutter and some glue or thread. Maybe it’s because all I make is often from the perspective of a painter, and then you don’t really have the option to let it be made by someone else (when your name isn’t Koons or Hirst etc.). I have always been fascinated by the aura of the original, the unique – actually it’s all fantasy, but as a spectator you can usually let your mind travel much more in front of an original work of art.

[caption id="attachment_58671" align="alignnone" width="750"]a bra/Anatol Knotek a bra/Anatol Knotek[/caption]

As you say you’re fascinated by the idea of “the original, the unique”, does the ease of replication of images of from the internet play any part in making that fascination more acute or pushing you towards the completely handmade?

I think so. It became more special to really make something that’s substantial and doesn’t need to be updated regularly. It’s strange, but I think it’s that contrast that makes books attractive again. Maybe I’m wrong, but I have the impression, that writing by hand or with the typewriter is in vogue again too.

In German there is this wonderful expression »begreifen« which means to »understand« but also »to touch«. I think there is a human yearning for something we can hold in our own hands – we live in an increasingly sterile and flat world where something that remains at least some years is more and more lacking. Everything around us moves faster, information is omnipresent and therefore loses meaning and is less precious. But although I’m critical here, I’m also fascinated by the time we are living in. I love to integrate modern technology and the new way of communicating in my art and especially in how I spread it. 

In this context we just have to be aware what we gain on the one hand, and loose on the other…

You can see more of Knotek’s work on his Tumblr, visual-poetry (as well as on his website, Pinterest, and Twitter)

memories/Anatol Knotek

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