Art Circus Spotlight
‘Digesting the Devoured’ by Lauren Kelly

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How did you get the idea for the piece?

I knew that I wanted to make a sculpture that would essentially be a soft force that would supersede a hard structure. I wanted to make something beyond my own body, something unmanageable, to the point of being ridiculous. A ravenous, voluptuous form with an insatiable desire.

Much of my work investigates the power of the fetish, the anthropomorphic and hints at organic and bodily properties. I find that where the work plays with opposites lies the tension and often juxtapose softer materials against harder surfaces, always considering the points of contact where two surfaces touch. Where welded steel structures add a functional rawness and nakedness that heightens the softer cosmetic palette of pinks, ivories, and flesh tones. A kind of dressed and undressed. Continue reading “Art Circus Spotlight
‘Digesting the Devoured’ by Lauren Kelly”

Art Circus Spotlight
‘Remembering the Mountains’ by Ester Svensson

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‘Remembering the Mountains’, as the name implies, is about remembering a landscape. Remembering, longing for something which may no longer exist. Much of my work takes personal experiences as a starting point, and so do these pieces. My parents are Swedish, but i grew up in Pakistan. I went to boarding school in Murree, at the foothills of the Himalayas, surrounded by mountains. In the summers, we often went walking in Northern Pakistan, getting much closer to them – the Himalayan, Karakorum, and Hindu Kush ranges. I left Pakistan when i was 19, and since then i don’t see many mountains. But when i think of my childhood, they are always there. Much has changed since then, of course. The mountains i have in my memory have changed – glaciers melting, new roads, less forest, more houses. Other things have also changed – greater political and societal unrest, drones and terrorism, water shortages and floods, to name a few.

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First, i made the mountains in clay, and then made a mould from them. Then we put the moulds in a kiln, and the RCA glass technician Anthony Harris filled them up with molten glass. Since they are big and solid, we had to wait for one and a half weeks until we could take them out of the kiln, and crack open the moulds. I usually work in ceramics, but i made these in cast glass; clay was too solid and physical. Glass seemed more transient, translucent, intangible – like memories.

See more work by Ester Svensson

Art Circus Spotlight
‘Arab Autumn 2011’ by Agnieszka Kolek

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The idea for the series of three photographs “Arab Autumn 2011” has been growing in me since my involvement in the work of One Law for All and Passion for Freedom London Art Festival. I was following the events in the Middle East and what struck me the most was the sheer enthusiasm on the side of Western media and commentators. It all looked so simple. The headlines claiming that internet through Twitter and Facebook are bringing freedom and democracy to all the countries involved in political unrest. I was thrilled too, yet I could not believe the headlines. The news stories started to look more like mere fantasies than actual events. Maryam Namazie, the activist leading the work of One Law for All (an organization campaigning against the Sharia courts operating in Great Britain) was receiving numerous e-mails from Egypt and Tunisia in particular telling the other side of the story. The persecution of secularists and atheists, the pressure to introduce Sharia law for all citizens whether they are believers or not.

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I started to think how does it feel to lose your own freedom, how does it feel when you are forced to slowly submit yourself to that power? The images started to play in my mind. The final result come to me in Madrid. Only after seeing the result I have noticed that the body posture changes dramatically with every step of submission. “She is not the same, she’s broken”.

See more work by Agnieszka Kolek

The Art Circus Looks At – The Portrait

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Having a portrait painted was once a luxury afforded to the elite. The wealthier and more powerful the subject, the larger the painting and the rarer the colours used. Dressed in fancy attire and shown amongst their wealth, their property or their land, this was the way the subject would be remembered through history – dictated by themselves with very little evidence to contradict.

With the introduction of photography and the belief that it would replace drawing and painting, some portrait painters switched to photography whilst others became obsessed with capturing the sitter. Rather than having a paying sitter, the artist would use family, friends, muses, lovers and quite often, the artist themselves. To stand out, many artists established a niche behind their practice whether the style and medium of the work or type of sitters from whom they took their inspiration. Continue reading “The Art Circus Looks At – The Portrait”

Art Circus Spotlight
‘Interior’, ‘Black Grid’ and ‘Praxis’ by Ed Smith

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My prime interest is in spatial configurations of pure form and colour. To heighten this, I employ a rigorous hard-edge geometry, eliminating any obvious signs of brushwork, while favouring an extended family of hues that includes cerulean blue, prism violet, eau-de-nil, pinks, teal and, above all, black and white.

There are two distinct types of work – the static or “inclusive” and the “dynamic”.

The painting “Interior” is one of the former, an enclosed space in which the forms are self-referential, locking into each other in ways that raise the question of exactly what is interior and what is exterior, and whether it is in fact no more than just an arrangement of form and colour where the title is, in fact, misleading. By contrast my “black” paintings, a short series of four (an example being “Praxis”, shown below right), are “dynamic” in that the forms are not bound by the picture frame, but by using strong diagonals and large partial forms, have the capability of continuing virtually to infinity in some black void.

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“Black Grid” (shown above left) lies somewhere between the two – an hommage to Mondrian, perhaps, but using my palette and the black background, the white grid also has the potential to extend beyond the frame, while the blocks of purple, teal and white are locked into their position between the verticals and horizontals, static, immovable, unable to shift even a fraction without destroying the balance of the composition.

I work entirely in acrylic on canvas, most paintings to date being no larger than 76 x 102cm to keep a sense of unity, but with a view to increasing the scale – and the palette – in the near future.

Ed Smith’s paintings are exhibited at Bistro 51, which is shared between 51 Buckingham Gate and adjacent Crowne Plaza St James, until the end of January. A viewing can be organized if visitors ask at the concierge desk.

Art Circus Spotlight
‘Simon’ and ‘Nina’ by Annie Hall

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My aim is to make work which is ambitious. These large scale portraits (typically 1.14 x 1.63 metres) needed to be contemporary but not lose any of the sophistication of the skill involved in making them. The scale needed to be larger than work made previously and this paved the way for a number of changes in the way I thought about the work. I began thinking about each drawing as an object in its own right, moving swiftly away from the more conventionalised approach used previously. A new approach allowed me to focus on investigating the relationship between myself and the subject through a rendering of all the qualities that make up a subject’s personality. Previously the portraits resembled an overly stylised version of the person rather than having the strength of gaze which is at once captivating and sober. Technically, the surfaces of my drawings now hold much more visual information and investigate the nuances of each facial feature. Charcoal is quite an unpredictable medium but I enjoy its texture and the challenges of working it into and around the paper.

There is a tense look to some of these drawings which is not just an indication of the subject’s mood at that moment but also a result of the mutual relationship between artist and subject and this tension is magnified by its ‘larger-than-life’ size. Chuck Close has been a source of much inspiration in terms of the scale of the work being produced. His work is a lot larger than these but I am dealing with many similar issues such as how the viewer becomes involved in the heightened intensity of a large direct gaze. Equally fascinating to me is the idea of ‘mirror reflex’ and ideas to do with looking and being looked at. When Simon saw his portrait he stood in front of it for a long time apparently caught off guard at seeing his own mirror image, i.e. seeing himself as others see him. The disparity between the scale of the features in the portrait and the sense of scale the viewer normally has further heightens the intensity of this act of looking. My selection process is generic. For me, it’s not necessarily about gravitating towards people with features which are obviously striking or pleasing to the eye. I suppose the criteria are simple: a face that I know I can render well enough for the viewer to glimpse something of that person’s life or disposition. This is what I aim to capture and so how I choose my subjects is often down to who is around me when I’m making that decision. That being said, I want to see how the result would differ when drawing a complete stranger. I think there must be some discernible difference because I do not have any real connection with that person.

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A main consideration for these larger pieces is the method of displaying them. Initially, I considered using MDF board to mount the drawings, making them even more substantial as objects. After testing this out with a smaller drawing I decided against it because the result was clumsy and the board took away from the intriguing quality of the edges of the paper. I decided to use magnets as this would avoid damaging the paper. Using disc magnets along the front top and bottom edges was too visible and the magnets became too much of a feature, not to mention the expense involved. After extensive research, I decided to use magnetic tape and steel strips running along the top and bottom edges, creating a bold and flush framing mechanism.

I think these portraits manage to retain a heightened sense of realism whilst not attaining a state of completely photographic realism. The last four years have yielded work that I am happy with and I have met some very supportive and honest people in that time. I feel like there is much more to this journey and I am excited to see what work I have yet to create.

See more portraits by Annie Hall

Art Circus Spotlight
‘One Trick Pony?’ by Sally Kindberg

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It is fair to say that my paintings contain elements of wrongness. I have always been drawn to dysfunctionality; the way objects, situations or people come across. In a painting e.g. one just accepts and allow for what is happening there, to be, even if it’s a horse with no legs, two legs or what not. I am not particularly on friendly terms with horses after almost being thrown off one of those Portuguese sports cars…a Lusitano, this one with only one horsepower (which is not true, one horse is roughly 14.9hp, which is odd when you think about it, isn’t it?).

It is fascinating to eliminate certain bits of anything but we still try to make sense of it. In the painting with two backsides mirroring each other, you start to think about this animal as a one trick pony. I mean, honestly, what can it do? What are the possibilities? Not really going anywhere. There is something mechanical about it, like those old fashion toys you turn up and their legs keep walking even if they are lying down. Or as in the other painting with a horse on two legs, no front legs, peacefully eating away. He needs to keep eating in order to stay up and there is some kind of truth in that, one must eat to be in this world.

See more paintings by Sally Kindberg

Art Circus Spotlight
‘I Had To Come Up With A Story’ and ‘Let’s Get it Over With’ by Sal Jones

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The subjects are taken from, female leading characters from recent European crime dramas and thrillers, women frequently portrayed as in a state of inner conflict. These are women who are strong, dominant and seemingly aloof, routinely cast as unable to form lasting relationships and for whom a private life and a work life are at odds (an issue rarely touched on in male character leads). They are fascinating, flawed, avowedly anti-feminine subjects; subjects who refuse objectification. I hope to capture a moment, a gesture, an expression that conveys some of their pragmatism and turmoil and also their strength and beauty.

Using the tradition of portraiture the paintings have been adapted from fiction, superficially the image is taken from a photographic source, but the image is allowed to develop through the process of applying the paint; gestural brush marks and the heightened use of colour add an emotional and expressive dynamic to the work.

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The subjects for these two paintings are the female leads from Spanish and Swedish thrillers (respectively). The titles are lifted directly from dialogue (subtitles). The title is an important aspect of the work, in part, to acknowledge the fiction that inspired the pieces and also to hint at a possible drama waiting to be uncovered.

I like the flexibility of oil paint enabling you to build up a surface, adjusting the consistency to work in washes, glazes and thicker impasto. I work through a painting, from initial drawing with thin washes of paint, to applying thicker mixes of colour. Some of the mark making is intentionally quite abstract but at the same time designed to capture form and expression. I use colour in a way that I hope serves to enhance the vibrancy and heighten the mood of the piece.

See more paintings by Sal Jones

Art Circus Spotlight
‘Nothing Tastes As Good As Skinny Feels’ and ‘Kate Blowing Bubbles’ by Phaedra Peer

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From an early age I have had an interest (border lining obsession, as do so many things I turn my attention to) with depicting females. I love to paint the female form and even more so, the female face. I contort it with massive doe eyes filled with sorrow and make up dripping down the surface. My studio, overspilling into my home, is filled with face after female face.  After one of my art tutors questioned me on my sexuality (straight), it provoked an internal look as to why and where this fixation stems from. The answer I have provided myself is that the satisfaction is not in portraying exclusively females but rather the vulnerability that is so much more apparent in women. It brings to mind a favourite quote of mine; ‘art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’. My work is constantly referred to as ‘dark’, ‘unsettling’ even ‘disturbing’. I don’t shy away from that as it’s what I am most interested in illustrating and very much a reflection on myself. In that sense the artistic process is very cathartic.

‘Nothing Tastes As Good As Skinny Feels’ is a quote Kate Moss once said in an interview that was met with much controversy.  Having grown up with a mother who excels in the field of healthy eating and nutrition, I personally believe this to be true. Knowing that the mass opinion would disagree however made it a fun subject to construct an image around. Art should act as a catalyst for debate and I don’t believe sensitive subjects should be shied away from.  This image contrasts the visual beauty of models and the emptiness that fills (so to speak) so many of them.

One of my favourite subjects to paint is Kate Moss. Aside from the aesthetic satisfaction I remember reading an article on which she spoke of having to pose as young teenager half naked with Mark Wahlberg. She said she cried for hours after and found the whole experience quite unbearable. When I look at pictures from early on in her career I really feel you can pinpoint that deadness in the eyes, the dissatisfaction of her modelling obligations but hidden beneath an immaculate exterior. This juxtaposition is very satisfying for me as an artist to expose.

See more paintings by Phaedra Peer

Art Circus Spotlight
‘The Rehearsal’ by Brogan Ramm

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“I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object: I then experience a micro version of death… Ultimately, what I am seeking in the photograph taken of me… is death.”
– Roland Barthes

I like to bring to the forefront, that which exists in the shadows: focusing on the forgotten or ignored details that surround us in all aspects of our lives. Having experimented with different methodologies and media, my work often has varied finished styles. However, there is an eerie, hollowness present throughout.

Photography, as Barthes (quoted above) suggests, allows us an insight into that which we often find most uncomfortable: Death. When working with such a weighted topic, you obviously have to be aware of the impending clichés, but by keeping my outcomes subtle and the descriptions of my practice vague the viewer remains engaged in the work for a longer period of time – truly questioning, and taking in, the entirety of the piece. This subtlety is evident in my most recent work, The Rehearsal. By moving Barthes suggestion to the forefront of my photographic practice, this ‘rehearsal’ becomes a conscious element in these images – with the sitter listening to the noise of time passing – a three-minute rigid stillness that feels more like a lifetime.

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The noise I am referring to above is the main piece of equipment I have been using of late – a flatbed scanner. By constructing pinhole camera obscura’s atop flatbed scanners I have created images, using modern equipment, which capture the essence of early photographic practice. The subject’s intense stillness for the duration of the exposure, coupled with the life sized scaling of the images (when exhibited), creates a haunting aura – an eerie, hollowness – that, as I have mentioned before, is present throughout the majority of my work.

What attracted me to the scanner pinhole camera? In this instance, much like the early photograph, these images are created over an extended period of time. However, unlike the long exposure prominent in early photographic practice The Rehearsal is a compilation of aligned moments, instead of overlaid ones. The subject’s authenticity is compromised through their slight movements, in a manner that is much less obvious than these early photographic images – though the same eerie quality remains.

In short, these images are rehearsals; they are death masks for the living.

See more photographs by Brogan Ramm