Monday, 13 March 2017

An Interview with British artist Milla Eastwood in her Studio in Brixton, London

Brixton-based painter Milla Eastwood and I first met at the preview of her critically-acclaimed solo exhibition Drunk on Colour at The Dot Project in Chelsea. Combining traditional and contemporary techniques, I thought her a perfect fit for Digiqualia. Although I have always favoured gestural, abstract paintings, I was yet to experience her energy and dynamic colour palette. She composes her expressive work in her expansive Brixton studio, and sometimes even ventures to botanical gardens and natural landscapes.

With her natural sense of community, Milla regularly visits other artists' studios and consciously keeps up to date with exhibitions at London galleries such as Fold Gallery, Rod Barton, Limoncello and Studio Voltaire. And her favourite shows last year? The Royal Academy School Show 2016, Kes Richardson at Fold Gallery, Donna Huanca at Zabludowcz Collection, Magnus Plessen at White Cube. 

Each individual mark on Milla's canvases is layered and complex, with every line and form playing an important role within the overall composition. Be it the blocks of colour, slashes or shapes, they are all indicative of the evocative experience of the viewer. In fact, her cutting-edge paintings don’t just exist within the confines of the canvas, but overflow into the room creating a realm of shared space with her audience. Watch the film we made about Milla Eastwood on Vimeo

Milla is interested in the artwork of Jonathan Lasker, Phoebe Unwin, Mandy Lyn Ford, Eddie Martinez and Tal R, but it's the work of fellow emerging artists such as Rafal Topolewski, Laurence Owen, Stevie Dix and Thom Trojanowski Hobson that really captures her imagination. For me, I find her work particularly captivating, because she embodies the accessible, collaborative atmosphere shared amongst emerging artists in London. Milla's solo exhibition 'Cable Salad' opens at The Dot Project on Thursday 23rd March from 6-9pm. 

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist? 
No, I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember.

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I start intuitively by setting down a group of forms. The forms are my initial response to the surface and to the space. When I approach the paintings my aim is to embody the forms within the work, so that they are contained within the space and act as a whole. The process is about responding and creating a visual language that connects to the eye, through line and form. However, It’s not the easiest way of working because the paintings cannot be envisaged. They are reactive to the conditions of their own making.

What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?
I definitely haven’t made it yet

Which emerging artists in London do you admire? 
Rafal Topolewski, Laurence Owens, Thom Trojanowski Hobson and Stevie Dix.

If you could work within a past art movement, which would it be?
I wouldn’t like to work in any past art movements; it’s what’s going on now that gets me excited.

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
"If you truly love nature, you’ll find beauty everywhere" - wise old Van Gogh.

Do you have a favourite photograph or painting, which inspires you?
Mandy Lyn Ford's studio shots inspire me. There’s so much making involved in her work @bettyscreams_

What is your greatest indulgence in life?
 I’d like to say travel but it’s probably just all things colourful.

How does the culture of South London impact your work? 
Although the culture itself doesn’t impact my work so much, I live and work in Brixton and the area has a wonderful spirit. It’s the energy that gets me going.

What’s the significance of your colour palette?
My choice of colour isn’t representative. There is a process of decision-making and aptness involved when choosing colours. Usually I limit myself to just four or five colours as it helps my focus when reacting to the forms whilst painting.

 Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?
Actually, there’s a bunch of present artists that I would like to meet such as Shara Hughes, Tamina Amadyar, Arlene Shechet. I would also like to go and visit Isabelle Tuchband’s house and studio in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Do you interact with technology in your work?
 I take photos with my phone of the different stages of my painting. Rotating the image and covering bits up is all part of the process. It’s also a good way for me to edit and evaluate my work when I’m not in the studio. Saying this, it's also vital that I immerse myself in the natural world as well as the cyber.

What do you wish every child were taught?
 I think Drumduan School founded by Tilda Swinton in Scotland has an amazing ethos for teaching.
 “We live in an age where much of our establishment is now under question and rightly so. Long held traditions, religions and major institutions are being scrutinised, yet are enough of us asking the fundamental questions? What is the true purpose of our education system? Why do we sit at desks for much of the day at school for over ten years? Are we teaching our pupils the life skills they need?”

Have you ever questioned your career entirely?
 I’ve never questioned being an artist, but there are a million things that I want to do.

What is your favourite art gallery in South London and why? 
My favourite London galleries are Rod Barton, South London Gallery, Newport Street Gallery and The Dot Project. Studio Voltaire in South London always has exciting new work; I find that I’m drawn to the less conventional spaces. South London’s art organisations and artist run spaces have loads going on; I’ve been to some interesting group shows of emerging artists at Maverick Projects and Safe house 1 in Peckham. 

Do you work within a community or independently?
I work within a community of artists. I like walking down the corridor and hearing heavy metal coming from one studio and classical music from another. From my experience it’s always been really important for my practice to engage with other artists. One day I would like to build my own creative community. 

Why do you make and receive studio visits? 
It’s interesting walking into the mind of an artist, I love studio visits because they allow people to explore the nature of the artist. The best thing about studios visits is discovering the thought process of the artist.

What visual references do you draw upon in your work? 
Everything I engage with is a visual reference. The initial spark for a recent painting, Boketto was a tiny rectangle of masking tape that somebody had doodled on and stuck onto one of the walls near my Brixton studio.

 What is your daily routine when working?
 I’m not a morning person so it’s a slow start, usually spent flicking through Instagram or trolling through immersive psychedelic sites, reading art magazines, or catching up on a few Arteviste articles. But, when I start painting, it’s intense and wholehearted.

What advice would you give to young artists starting out?
 Do what you do and surround yourself with other artists

 Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

An Interview with Artist and Glass-blower Andrew Erdos at his Studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn

The Brooklyn-based artist Andrew Erdos and I were introduced by the founders of The Chimney gallery when a visit to their Bushwick space led to a spontaneous studio visit. With a link to the Italian tradition of glass-blowing, I though him a perfect candidate for a Digiqualia interview. Before I saw any of his sculptures, videos, photography or mixed-media installations, I was blown away by the magical space within which Erdos works. 

Examples of his landscape photography were pasted to the windows, making you feel as if you were in a desert, and his famous mountain of glass stood triumphant in the middle of the room alongside rougher experiments with glass lining the walls. With a modest desk in the corner framed by a huge silver and pink fluffy heart to round it all off, Andrew's sprawling studio - the location of our supper club during Frieze New York in May - was a sensory experience like nothing else.

 Best-known for his mastery of glass techniques, Erdos was the youngest recipient of the Rakow Commission of the Corning Museum of Glass and his work has been exhibited worldwide from New York to St Petersburg and Beijing. Across his oeuvre, Erdos investigates the relationship between humans and our environment, as he reflects upon science, technology, culture, religion and of course nature. It’s this exploration of nature and its significance within the urban environment that I found so appealing, as I explored his unique space. Follow @andrew_erdos to see more of his work and behind-the-scenes of his glass-blowing. 

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist?

The one true epiphany I have ever had was when I was sixteen listening to Zion Train on Bob Marley's Uprising album.

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

 There are always several pieces and different bodies of work being produced simultaneously. I have been creating a video installation of prehistoric landscapes in the desert since 2011. Every time I travel to the American South West and Navajo Nation the piece grows. As of now I have collected over 90,000 high resolution images. I am also producing new glass pieces that will later get assembled into more complicated sculptures. Some times the elements sit for months, before I have the right pieces to combine them with.

What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?

Hopefully something I won’t think of for several years? Right now I am most excited about a series of site-specific, monumental glass mountains. Some of which are permanent and others are designed to gradually wear away over decades or hundred of years. Silica is the most abundant mineral on the surface of the earth. I like the idea of transforming this to an industrial material and then gradually letting the earth reclaim it to complete the cycle.
There is a specific rock formation in the Najavo Nation I have been very fascinated with called “Shiprock” or “Winged Rock”. It is a volcanic neck, larger than the Empire State Building. A volcanic neck is a rock formation created when magma hardens within a vent of a volcano. The story of creation of this particular rock formation varies, but usually is explained as the fossilized wings and tail of a giant prehistoric bird. Sometimes described as a monster, other times it is described as a creature transporting people from one world to another. On a simplified material and metaphorical level, this is what I am trying to create.

If you could work within a past art movement, which would it be?

Although I do not consider the movement over, I would love to works alongside artists such as Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer in the first wave of land art. Or to create in an indigenous community, where scientific, economic and academic rationalization of art does not exist. A place where there is no boundary between religion, nature, art and magic. In Prehistoric Paintings: Lascaux or the Birth of Art, Georges Bataille refers to a form of transcendental experience explored by artists in their creation process: “to create a sensible reality whereby the ordinary world is modified in response to the desire for the extraordinary, for the marvellous.”

Can you discuss the significance of landscapes in your work?

Landscape is both a literal and metaphorical measurements of time. One of the aspects of glass that I find the most relevant is its ability to capture and display time. In the glassblowing process, the difference between a piece cracking or melting can be a few seconds. When glass is in its molten state it is almost like a living organism. It produces heat, it moves, it radiates light, as it cools down it cracks and dies. The glass can then get re-melted and re-incarnated into its next form. There is a quote from Jean Baudrillard, in America, that verbally articulates everything I am trying to say with my ongoing works in the desert.

"Upturned relief patterns, sculpted out by the wind, water, and ice, dragging you down into the whirlpool of time, into the remorseless eternity of a slow-motion catastrophe. The very idea of the millions and hundreds of millions years that were needed peacefully to ravage the surface of the earth here is a perverse one, since it brings with it an awareness of signs originating long before man appeared, in a sort of pact of wear and erosion struck between the elements. Among this gigantic heap of signs - purely geological in essence - man will have had no significance."
                                                 Jean Baudrillard, America, 1986                              

How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
“Beauty is and always will be blue skies and open highway.” -Dave Hickey, The Invisible Dragon.

Do you have a favourite photograph or painting, which inspires you?

I can't say that I have a favourite. There is a very wide range of works that I find inspirational, from Oceanic Art and traditional Native American Art, to James Turrell, Dan Flavin, Pipilotti Rist, Nam Jun Paik, Sterling Ruby, Pierre Huyge, Nathalie Djurbergand Paul McCarthy.

What is your greatest indulgence in life?

Being able to produce art. It is the greatest consumer of emotional and physical energy, time and resources.

How does the culture of Bushwick, Brooklyn impact your work?
I'm surrounded by talented people. The quantity and quality of work being produced in the neighbourhood is both intimidating and inspiring.

Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?

Bob Marley. He is someone that has been able to express very complicated ideas and relationships in a simple way that are understood by people all over the world.

Do you interact with the digital world/technology in your work?

Absolutely. It is ironic because a large portion of my interactions with the natural world / desert landscapes are done with digital tools. The blessing of using digital photography to document events is that the experience can be reproduced infinitely and shared globally. However, you are not able to personally absorb the situation when being burdened with the act of capturing it.

What do you wish every child were taught?

Compassion, empathy, to care for the less fortunate and to question everything.

Have you ever had a moment of questioning your career entirely?

No. There have certainly been moments of questioning specific pieces, or processes and intense stress. But I have never questioned it as a career.

What is your favourite art gallery in New York and why?

Barbara Gladstone. What she has been able to produce over the last few decades is amazing. All of the pieces she guided over a 25 year creative relationship with Matthew Barney. Anish Kapoor, Cyprien Gaillard, Banks Violette, Huang Yong Ping, there are so many talented people in that program.I also really like Tanya Bonakdar. She has been instrumental to Olafur Elliason and he has been very influential to my work.  My favourite of the youngest generation of galleries is The Chimney NYC in Bushwick. Their emphasis is on installation and monumental works by fresh emerging and mid-career artists.

Do you work within a community or independently?

My art practice is independent, however I really appreciate my community of artists and curators and constantly benefit from their advice. There are also several aspects of my studio practice which can not be achieved alone. Glass-blowing requires a team of people, so there are always people involved at some point.

If you do, why do you make and receive studio visits?

 Studio visits are one of my favourite parts, it is the time to discuss what you are thinking, and trying to explain. Often times people are able to verbally articulate ideas that I have been trying to physically manifest in the sculptures.

Can you please describe your studio space in Bushwick, Brooklyn?

It is a sacred space for me. It is a place of contemplation and creation. More concretely, it is a little less that 2000sqf serving a wide range of uses from editing and installing videos, to growing crystals on glass sculptures.

What is your daily routine when working?

The routine is to start as early as possible and work as late as I have the energy to. There is usually lots of coffee and loud music.

What advice would you give to a young artist in New York?

It is going to be extremely difficult, accept that from the beginning. Be grateful every moment you are in the studio. Look at as much art as you possibly can. And, the expression “If you can be anything other than an artist, you should be anything other than an artist”.

Do you love what you do?
Yes I do.

Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A Review of Julio Le Parc: Form into Action at the Perez Art Museum, Miami

November 18th 2016 - March 19th 2017

 Celebrated for his boundless energy, the 88-year old Argentinian artist Julio Le Parc is currently exhibiting at both Galerie Perrotin, New York and the Perez Art Museum, Miami. Internationally-known for his perceptually illusory paintings, sculptures, and immersive installations, the artist’s innovative artwork continues to capture the imagination of a cutting-edge, contemporary audience. And in anticipation of this being Le Parc’s inaugural American solo museum show, guest curator Estrallita B Brodsky amassed more than 100 works of art from the period after the artist moved to Paris in 1958 to escape the anonymity of Argentina. Le Parc has always sought to make art more democratic as he continues to engage and empower the viewer, and this historic retrospective Form into Action succeeds in sensitively tracing the progress of his artistic journey across a lifetime of experimentation. 

From the moment you read the numerous health warnings at the exhibition’s entrance, there is no doubt that Julio Le Parc’s retrospective will be an immersive experience. In fact, in a recent New York Times interview, the Argentine described how, “I have never really been viewed as an artist…I create different experiences and I do research, about form and space and light.” For an artist who won the Grand Prize in Painting at the Venice Biennale, both Le Parc’s chosen mediums and materials vary immensely. Indeed, his career had steadier beginnings with acrylic-on-canvas or gouache-on-paper colour paintings such as Colour Project n° 5 (1959) and The Long March, Step n° 3 (1974). Likewise, the Alchemies series juxtaposed brightly-coloured marks over a stark background reflecting elements of pointilism, and cementing his reputation as an avant-garde painter. However, it’s always been Le Parc's contortions of light using motors and metal in his kinetic installations, which really fascinate me.

Reminiscent of Pipilotti Rist’s Pixel Forest at The New Museum in New York, works like Continuous Light Cylinder (1962/2013) capture the audience’s imagination with their hypnotic effects. As a blend of stainless steel, painting wood, motor, metal disk and light, I found this piece to be his most beautiful work for its meditative properties. For both Rist and Le Parc, the key to experiencing their work is participation, but I found that by both disorientating and altering his audience’s perspective, Le Parc actually has a calming effect on the viewer. At first glance pieces like Continuous Light with Forms in Contortion (1966-2012) seemed overly mechanical, impenetrable, but then you look closely and realise that it’s just the manipulation of light that gives the effect of complexity and really Le Parc is simply moving sheets of metal so that light bounces from the surface creating interesting shadows and contrasts. 

As with every 21st-century blockbuster exhibition, there is always a title work that invites a different sort of audience participation - that favoured by the Instagram generation. For example, Red Sphere 2001-12 is made from plexiglas and nylon and comes from Le Parc’s most recent body of work favouring monumental suspended arrangements. Unlike Alexander Calder, it’s not simply a hanging sculpture, but gives the illusion of being both a suspended solid sphere and a shifting light mobile at once. Crucially, its bright colour palette, monumental scale and neutral setting present the perfect opportunity for a successful Instagram post. And although, I found the visual effect of light appearing through curtains - and resembling running water - in Le Parc’s earlier work Visualised Vertical Light 1978/2016 far more evocative, I was guilty of the same charge. 

As we’ve known for a long time in Europe - following his critically-acclaimed solo exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery in London and Palais de Tokyo in Paris - Le Parc has continually sought to break down the boundaries between the art and viewer. And now the Perez Museum has successfully inspired the devotion of an American audience. In truth, very few retrospectives can simultaneously offer such diverse experiences as exploring a labyrinth across three rooms as well as viewing colour paintings, monumental sculpture and of course immersive light installations, but this is the place for a sensory experience like no other. Favouring collaborative experimentation with a wide range of mediums, Le Parc has the unique ability to surpasses his audience’s imagination and is that not the true value of  art? I would urge you to see Julio Le Parc: Form into Action at Perez Art Museum, Miami and decide for yourself.  

All photographs courtesy of Perez Art Museum © Julio Le Parc / Atelier Le Parc
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of 

Monday, 21 November 2016

A Review of Nan Goldin: The Ballad of Sexual Dependency at the Museum of Modern Art, New York

Defined as the voice of a generation, the American photographer Nan Goldin is known for capturing the most intimate experiences of her friends and lovers across Boston and downtown New York. At the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a slideshow of her iconic collection of images The Ballad of Sexual Dependency compiles nearly 700 photographs. Much of it is shot with only available light between 1979 and 1986 amidst the hard-drug subculture of the Bowery neighbourhood. Although the exhibition begins with an assemblage of posters, flyers and photographs from the museum’s archive, it’s the gentle rhythm of The Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties in the screening room that makes you feel like you’ve walked into Goldin’s downtown apartment. Given the slideshow’s soundtrack, it’s unsurprising that Goldin’s early influences include Andy Warhol’s films shot just a decade before as his studio The Factory moved further and further downtown.

Named after Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, the series of 35mm photographs in The Ballad of Sexual Dependency depict love, drug-use, gender, sexuality and domesticity. When the collection of images was first shown, Goldin hand-picked slides as friends spontaneously chose the soundtrack and her subjects looked on spellbound. In 2016, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency has already been viewed by thousands of strangers, but feels no less intimate. As a girl who has spent much of her youth running around New York in the company of a diverse array of artists, musicians and photographers, taking my place in the audience felt like the end of pilgrimage or perhaps just an important stop along the way. Undoubtedly, this sentiment was also intensified by my recent audience with her erotic The Boy at the Art Angel takeover of HM Prison Reading in England. 

As an opener, the title photograph Nan one month after being battered 1984 serves as a powerful reminder that her photographs explore the good, bad and the ugly. Not only does Goldin capture the romance of the last bohemia in downtown New York, but also the harsh realities of addiction, domestic abuse and the AIDS epidemic. She described The Ballad as, “my form of control over my life. It allows me to obsessively record every detail. It enables me to remember.” As we millennials move into the realm of hyphenated job titles and over-sharing our emotions and space, there’s no doubt that revealing our vulnerability is becoming an asset. As tear-stained, tired and often lacerated faces stare down from Goldin’s projected images, their honesty makes them feel like friends and it feels like Goldin was far ahead of her time in depicting their struggles for the world to see.

Across the image, my favourite photograph was Nan Goldin and Brian in Bed 1981 in which she watches her shirtless lover smoke a cigarette in the morning light, and I longed for it to arrive on the screen. Although, I knew what to wait for give that Goldin had vaguely organized the collection of photographs into loose themes such as intravenous drug use, couples on their way to parties, sexual encounters and portraits of the children born from those affairs. These images were all set against the backdrop of iconic songs like Screaming Jay Hawkins’s You Put Spell On Me, which, makes you feel as if you’re there dancing with her subjects. What is so unique about Goldin’s work is that her vibrant, colourful photographs are taken by a participant, not an observer. You feel what she feels. This gritty, “grunge” style has since been reflected in indie publications like Dazed & Confused and I-D.  

The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is equal measure beauty and despair, and as the slideshow draws to a close there’s no doubt that death and loss have become prevalent themes. By the 1990’s, most of her subjects like Greer Lankton and Cookie Mueller were dead. Although Goldin admits to romanticising the image of drug culture in the early days, now she mournfully describes it as “evil.” She captured a time when her bohemian contemporaries longed for deeper feel and rarity and for those they were willing to risk everything. As she documented the highs and lows of her friends’ and lovers’ lives, Goldin was never afraid of showing the dark effects of their hedonism.

Personally, having documented my last decade in daily journal entries, reading Goldin’s declaration, “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is the diary I let people read," makes this exhibition feel like a necessity for every young woman negotiating the perils of life in the city. Take a couple of hours to experience it before February 12th 2017, it might be the most important history lesson you ever take.

Nan Goldin: The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is at MoMa, New York until 12th February 2017