Uncensored: 5 Years Installation by Yasemin Yilmaz

19 Sep

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Uncensored: 5 years is the newest photographic installation by Hanover-Berlin-Barcelona based artist Yasemin Yilmaz, and is currently in the group exhibition Ich warte auf mich  Osterwald – Garbsen Germany. Yasemin is constantly exploring the different perceptions and experiences of time and place in her work. In the centre of the installation, a screen flashes 28 000 unedited photographs at 2000 times the normal speed. These images are a chronological record of the last five years of the artist’s life condensed into a 1hr 40min video. The image of Yasemin’s walking feet is repeated in the video reel and symbolises her constant movement between countries for art symposiums and exhibitions from 2009 – 2013. The hundreds of photographs of signposts taken on the move, are glued to the walls surrounding the screen and act as a geographic anchor for her travels. Handwritten on a small canvas opposite the installation is the rhetorical question – How long is now? Can we capture a moment in time when it is simultaneously fast and slow, static and in motion, seen and unseen?

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The installation is a dialogue between analogue and digital photography. Yasemin commented that in the past, analogue photography was a slow process that involved careful documentation of significant moments in time. The photographer was aware of the limited number of photographs, around 24 per film, and took time to consider composition, lighting and capturing the subject. After a few days or weeks the pictures were developed, and only a few of the best that were not over-exposed, blurry or ill-composed, would be carefully pasted into a photo album for posterity. Now there is the possibility to rapidly take endless digital photographs with a camera, phone, tablet or laptop, and immediately delete or edit shots using software. Even a bad photograph can be cropped, sharpened and adjusted with filters. These photographs become either an instant public record of a person’s daily life that is posted and shared with a community of friends, family and strangers online or they are saved on an external hard drive never to be seen again.

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Yasemin intentionally restrained from editing the photographs for content or quality. The personal moments are mixed with the professional and there are upside down and blurry images juxtaposed against more picturesque and high resolution shots. She believes that in this way the project is a more authentic record of her last five years. The installation acknowledges, and to some degree accepts, the way that social networking has changed our connection to our photographs – our memories and lives are no longer a private album of solitary and sentimental moments, but an open stream of images posted online, shared, tagged and commented on by others.

 

Uncensored: 5 years offers the audience two experiences of time: the slow pause for reflection on the past and consideration of the future with the static images on the walls, and the speed and fleeting nature of the now, in the video loop. Despite the quantity of photographs, it is clear from the installation that it is almost impossible to create a complete record of a life time. Even in the production of the video, images were erased or the time signature changed by mistake.

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In the context of the exhibition Ich warte auf mich (I wait for myself), Yasemin considered the process of collating the images for the installation as a moment in which she was able to wait for a complete image of her last five years to emerge. In this time she came to the realisation that we need signposts in our lives, moments when we are forced to stop and reflect, and catch hold of who we are, and where we are, in the rapid pace of the everyday.

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Ich warte auf mich is open from the 15/09/2013 – 06/10/2013 in Garbsen-Osterwald Germany and includes small paintings by Kim Goldsmith (Australia – Germany) within Yasemin Yilmaz’ installation.

The 8th International Artist Camp, Kariklevi Hotel, Cappadocia ,Turkey, 19th – 29th of June, 2011

12 Aug

View of Cappadocia mountains

This June I was invited to participate in the 8th International Artist Camp at Kariklevi Hotel which is situated amidst the picturesque setting of Cappadocia, one of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations. The camp is organised annually by Hotel Manager Mr Abdullah Sen. Mr Sen is an avid art admirer and eight years ago decided that his hotel would be a perfect venue to host an international collection of artists, so that they could paint outdoors and gain inspiration from the ancient cave houses and mountain ranges. I must admit that I was astounded by the beauty of the region, the crumbly calcium carbonate rocks appeared like petrified sand dunes and changed colour according to the time of day.

Kariklevi Hotel, Cappadocia Turkey

There were roughly twenty artists invited to the camp and for the first time in my experience I noted that they were predominantly women. Half were Turkish and the other half from all over the globe including Ecuador, Mexico, Croatia, Hungary, Germany and Italy. As with most of these types of events, the intention was that the artists would live and work together for ten days, and during this time exchange their stories, share their artistic processes and discuss the nuances of their cultures. However, I felt that at this particular event this element of cross-cultural interaction was lacking.

The camp organisers were generous, providing luxurious rooms decorated with old Kilims, antique wooden furniture and artwork from the previous camps. Daytime meals were taken at the hotel, and each evening we were driven to a new location, my favourite spot (although the food was not particularly great) was inside one of the old caves that used to be a pigeon-house but was converted into a restaurant. Abdullah even took us out to his private shack set within the fields, and cooked us fish and kepaps, while we drank our Raki and watched the sun sink behind the sorbet pink stones. These were wonderful moments of hospitality.

The issues I had with the camp were related more to the lack of adequate communication between the International guests and the host organisers. This is often part of the excitement and chaos of art camps, each artist is trying to express themselves maybe with a limited grasp of English. Yet, usually the host organisation has staff in place that can effectively speak English or a common language to explain the rules of the event and to clarify any questions. There was only one English interpreter at this camp, and although she had good intentions, I still felt that a lot of our needs were not addressed. Most of the artists would have been happier if we had someone explain at the beginning that there were only two canvas per artist available, the reasons why and also where we could purchase more materials if we wanted to. If this was addressed at the beginning of the camp I am sure the attendants and the organisers would have got along better. For some reason this issue was unresolved through the entirety of the camp, and because things went unsaid or were inaccurately translated, many artists left feeling disappointed.

I always enjoy listening artist talks during workshops because I can learn about their regular arts practice, which may differ to the work they experiment with during the camp.  Unfortunately, this was not integrated into the schedule for the Cappadocia art camp and so I left knowing very little about the artists involved. Usually this would be a chance to break the ice between participants and find common ground to discuss when making their work. In future, I hope that the camp will see this as a vital component of the schedule.

As usual, the ten-day camp only allowed time for three or four days of painting which was interrupted with visits by school groups, or trips to explore the Fairy Chimneys. I actually accepted this part of the camp, I enjoyed having a few days to explore my surroundings and respond gradually to the environment. I know this process is not for everyone, and I could see many artists were frustrated with the interruptions. I think that if you are invited to an art camp, then it should be seen not as a solid amount of time to work on a series, but rather, an opportunity to deviate from your regular process, and stir up new ideas for work. I painted two large paintings (much bigger than my usual work) but also went on regular walks and took photographs, wrote in my journal, and sketched my observations. I know that these recorded impressions of my experiences will emerge in my work over the coming months.

Fairy chimneys, naturally occurring rock formations converted into houses, Cappadocia

Kim Goldsmith, Peephole Cappadocia, acrylic painting

The two paintings I produced were Peephole and Cloud and were meant to be displayed as a diptych since each represents the opposite of the other. Through the Peephole the landscape is calm and idyllic in contrast to coarse foreground of craggy rocks. In Cloud, the chaos and energy of the rock is transferred to the form of the cloud, that seems heavy and disturbed, and which, casts an uncertain shadow across the serene landscape. Each work expresses a sense of ongoing alternation between two internal states of being; calm and stable or unstable and in trauma.

I would say that this camp has very kind hosts, with good intentions, and offers an idyllic setting to gain inspiration for new work. However, if you are an artist looking for a workshop with engaging debates about art, and opportunities to show your work in a professional setting, then I would look for an alternative camp. The exhibition opening seemed to be a promotional event for the hotel, with government officials and hotel owners in attendance rather than any serious connoisseurs of art. This was anti-climatic, because the camp ended without a chance for the artists to properly celebrate the work or share it with the public in an open floor talk, nor did they have an after party in which to bid farewell to their friends. Despite these minor complaints, I have to say that overall, I enjoyed my time immensely at Kariklevi hotel: all of the artists were interesting and easy company, and the landscape was spectacular. I chose to see my time there as a holiday with a bit of painting, and so left very satisfied.

In a further post, I hope to focus on some of the works produced by participating artists.

Kim Goldsmith, Cloud Cappadocia, acrylic painting

The 3rd ICMEA (International Ceramics Magazine Editor’s Association) Symposium: The Fuping Pottery Art Village, Shaanxi Province, China 8 – 12th of November 2010

10 Jun

Last year in November I was invited to attend the 3rd ICMEA symposium in China, because my ceramic sculpture Shelf Life was selected for permanent display in the ICMEA gallery at The Fuping Pottery Arts Village, Shaanxi Province. My article about the symposium has just been published in the Ceramics Ireland Magazine, Issue 27, pp. 10 -13. You can purchase a copy or subscribe to the magazine by visiting www.ceramicsireland.org

For those of you who prefer online reading, I have added the article to the following blog post.

The Fuping Pottery Art Village, Shaanxi Province, China.

The Fuping Pottery Art Village in Shaanxi Province, China, hosted the third International Ceramics Magazine Editors Association Symposium 8– 12th of November 2010. The triennial event was attended by ceramic artists, magazine editors and academics, and coordinated by the Fuping Pottery Art Village Director I-Chi Hsu and members of ICMEA, including the former Head Chair Janet Mansfield. The symposium provided an opportunity to present research papers and exhibit new ceramic art. In the opening ceremony speeches, the host I-Chi Hsu shared his vision of the symposium: a platform to build the reputation of Fuping as a world centre for ceramics and to stimulate interest in the history and contemporary production of ceramic art in China and abroad. Approximately one hundred participants attended exhibition openings, folk art shows and performances, fireworks and many excursions to significant cultural ceramics sites during the symposium.

On the first day, a large group of visiting Eastern European artists exhibited work that was made during a residency at the Fuping Pottery Workshop to celebrate the opening of the new dome shaped FLICAM Ceramic Museum. The Third ICMEA International Emerging Artists Competition Exhibition opened later in the day and showcased sixty -nine ceramic artworks that explored functional, sculptural and conceptual approaches to the medium. All of the selected pieces are now part of the permanent collection of the Fuping ICMEA gallery, including my ceramic sculpture Shelf Life. Shelf Life playfully explores questions of object identity and is a one out of six compositions made from porcelain and glaze. I was proud to see that all five Australian artists chosen for the show had made the effort to travel to China, including two recent RMIT graduates, Andrei Davidoff and Kellie Barnes. Andrei presented Denkyu Forest, an arrangement in which trees are substituted for porcelain, fluorescent light tubes and wires, whilst Kellie’s delicately cast glazed porcelain objects resembled components of architectural structures. The competition winners were announced in the evening: Gold prize (US2000) Sinead Glynn, Silver Prize (US1500) Gabriele Gisi, and Bronze Prize (US1000) Martin Grade. The night wrapped up with a spectacular display of Chinese fireworks.

Kim Goldsmith, Shelf Life (1/6), Southern Ice Porcelain and glaze, 60x40x20cm, 2007. Permanent collection of the Fuping Pottery Village ICMEA gallery, China.

During the three-day conference, twenty-one papers were presented covering a range of topics. After many discussions fuelled by the topic of the day or Sedrine beer (helping to “release our true emotions” according to the label) it was evident that recent activity within the International ceramics community has moved beyond the tedious art vs. craft debates, or the obsession with the Hamada – Leach ceramic philosophy. Instead, the speakers focused on the global-local position of ceramics and the necessity of critical discourse. Magazine editors debated the importance of critical peer reviewed articles and digital versions of journals to connect with young artists and academics. Strategies for the expansion and survival of ceramics magazines included revising target markets to engage a broader public readership by collaborating with recognised authors (such as Salman Rushdie or journalists from the New Yorker) and paying writers for their submissions. The adoption of digital technologies (Rhino, AutoCAD and clay printers) and offering ceramics residencies to artists from other disciplines were suggested by the European Ceramic Work Centre as alternative means to revitalise the general image and appeal of ceramics. The same fears that the “pure art” of hand-crafted ceramics will be destroyed by the hybrid, digital, global and interdisciplinary tastes of the art world continue to linger. Yet, whatever these new permutations may be, most of the artists at the conference seemed keen to embrace and support fresh technologies and modes of promotion if they sustain the future of ceramics practice.

Andrei Davidoff, Denkyu Forest, porcelain and florescent lights, dimensions vary. Permanent collection The Fuping Pottery Art Village ICMEA gallery.

After the topical debates of day two were over, we visited the X’ian terracotta warriors at the original pit where a local farmer found over six thousand statues in the 1970’s. At the gift shop the actual farmer sat at a table signing exhibition catalogues for ten Yuan. That was rather unexpected, but I imagine that it was a profitable occupation since his farmland had been taken over as a tourist attraction. Ceramic conservators had painstakingly restored each broken figure, a feat almost more impressive than their original construction. The conservators remain at the site and can be witnessed remodelling the figures, or watching Youku, the Chinese equivalent of You tube, on their laptops! Outside of the pit, there were many small stalls where the locals sold images of Mao Zedong, Warrior figurines, or “bear skin” rugs that were in fact made from dog fur.

On the fourth day we ventured three hours by bus from Fuping to the mountain top pottery village Chen Lu. Along the way, we saw many low lying unfinished brick houses. Corn cobs were strung up on each house, and kernels spread on the ground to dry, ready to be pummelled into flour used to make special noodles. The village was a string of small potteries that made their wares for export or local sale atop the peak of a series of mountains tiered with green rice paddies. Visibility was minimal because of the combination of the smoke emanating from the wood stoked kilns and the thick smog and dust in the atmosphere due to heavy urban and industrial development in the region. The small studios contained rows of slip-cast porcelain jugs, tea sets, ornate wine cups and vases decorated with celadon or black glazes, carved patterns, and elaborate tiger and dragon sprigging. Most of the town was built from discarded terracotta: roof tiles were used for pavement,

Kellie Barnes, Untitled, porcelain and glaze, dimensions vary. Permanent collection of The Fuping Pottery Art Village, China.

pots stacked to make walls and glazed teapots marked the studio entrances.

The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen was established in the early 1980s and since this time, more studios in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing have emerged. Artists, designers and manufacturers can apply for a residency and pay a fee that covers accommodation, food and studio space. The workshop is surrounded by small studios that specifically focus on one or two aspects of ceramic practice, such as mould making or glazing. Resident artists treat these workshops as an extension of their studio, and may employ local craftspeople to replicate their own designs in small editions, learn a specific skill such as overglaze decoration or engraving, or fire batches of their work.  In the courtyard below the studios, there is a regular craft market where students from the local ceramic college have an opportunity to sell their wares to visitors.  The workshop has an education centre for children and adults to learn basic ceramic skills, and where the conference artists returned to present lectures and images of their work in the evening.

During the day, we drove to the Big Piece Ceramic Factory in the mountains outside of the town centre. The factory produces giant vases and bowls that are exported and purchased as decoration for homes and hotel lobbies. The vases were hand built and moulded in sections and then decorated by hand with traditional Chinese patterns and characters. Some of the pieces were three times the size of an adult. The last visit was to the Sambao Mountain Ceramic Studio where we met Jackson Lee, the American educated Chinese ceramicist who is the director of this studio. The studio is secluded and restful, nestled in mountain forests that overlook a small stream and low vegetable patches, offering Chinese or International ceramicists a tranquil space away from the city to create new work. Here we talked to the resident artists and enjoyed yet another delicious round table meal in the restaurant, which is a popular attraction for locals. After our stay in Jingdhezen the group split in two, some stopped over in Shanghai before their flight home, whilst the rest took a bus to Longquan for the Celadon Festival to visit the museum, ancient kilns, work factories and master studios.

Large ceramics factory, Jingdhezen

The third ICMEA Symposium was an intensely engaging and educational experience. We witnessed the role of Chinese ceramics as both an artefact of ancient history and a material applied to the modern and industrial development of new cities. It is clear that in China the biggest potential market for ceramic designs is within the built environment. However, as the country expands, so too does the interest in innovative ceramic art. ICMEA gave the group a rare opportunity to access studios and potteries local to China, and a chance to share our own perspectives, ideas and passion for clay with other International artists, editors and academics.

Chen Lu Ancient Pottery Village, China.

About the author

Kim Goldsmith completed a Master of Visual Arts, specialising in Ceramics, at the Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, Australia in 2007. Since this time she has travelled to Egypt, Germany, Morocco, and China to present conference papers, and exhibit ceramics and paintings for International Symposiums. Currently, she is employed as an Art and Design Teaching Fellow, Bachelor of Architecture Program in the Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies at The University of Nottingham, Ningbo Campus, China. Her research and arts practice is focused on theories of object identity, material culture, craft theory, and the psychological/emotional experiences of architectural space.

http://www.kimgoldsmith.com

kim.goldsmith@nottingham.edu.cn

Ningbo Art Life

20 Feb

To my shame, Art Bytes has shown little activity in the last five months. My excuse is that I have been busy settling into my new life as a teaching fellow at the University of Nottingham, Ningbo China Campus.

Today, I decided that I would visit Ningbo Art Museum to find some inspiration for my return to blogging.  The first exhibition hall felt like a giant travel advertisement for Ningbo. There were several rooms filled with photographs of workers, maps, and before and after shots of building sites that illustrated the last five years of Ningbo’s rapid development. There is nothing wrong with being proud of the cities expansion and progression into a modern and commercial hub, but is an art museum really the appropriate venue for this type of promotional activity?

The second exhibition hall included landscape paintings in styles similar to French Impressionism, yet certainly not in the same league. Most of the works were awkward in brushwork and choice of colours. One painting of a racetrack, left me straining to imagine how the jokey could win a race on the back of what looked like a rocking horse. In another painting of a seascape at sunset, the boats seemed not to be sailing gently across the ocean but rather, sinking slowly and forlornly into a pit of quicksand. I rushed through the rest of the streaky yellow and blue messes and hoped that the third gallery would satiate my taste for a juicy piece of contemporary art.

Around the corner was a long room hung with Wuzhu coins (the old form of Chinese currency) framed in glass, dated from BCE and beyond. What is the connection between currency, Ningbo tourism campaigns and paintings of farmers tilling the soil? If the landscape paintings were of traditional life in China prior to industrialization, I could read them as a tribute to the past. However, they were representations of European wheat fields, not rice terraces. Is my confusion a case of cultural difference, or the result of random curatorial decision making? I must admit, I cannot read Mandarin,  but I am doubtful the descriptions of the exhibits would increase my enthusiasm or understanding of the premise of these disjunctive collections.

In the taxi home I looked out at the new apartments encased in bamboo scaffolds with crane appendages stretched to the sky. I wondered where, hidden amongst all of this chaos, is the Ningbo art scene being constructed?

Artist Byte: Eniko Marton and Abstract Emotion

9 Sep

 

Eniko Marton

Eniko Marton is undertaking a PhD in Painting at the University of Pecs, Hungary. A selection of her work was recently exhibited in the group show Parallel Worlds.  It included artwork from the Arts Faculty Doctorate candidates. Eniko commented that the students “work parallel on our different chosen theme, sometimes isolated, sometimes in a connection” so the aim of the exhibition was to investigate what different kinds of work are generated in parallel under the same system.

The follow article is the result of an interview I had with the artist Eniko Marton in July 2010. I would like to thank the artist for use of her photographs from her website.

Eniko Marton, "To supplement...", oil on canvas, 120 x 100cm,l 2010

When I look at Eniko’s paintings I think of architectural structures and the spaces between and within buildings and manmade environments. This is suggested to me by the use of angular and precise lines, and muted tones. I asked Eniko whether the source of inspiration for the geometric forms in her work was a reference to the history of painterly abstraction, or if there was a more personal consideration. Eniko is attempting to find a meeting point between the elements of her paintings, ordering a system of colour fields and forms that aim to clearly and directly communicate within the picture plane, and with the viewer. There is a gradual reductive process in which she is searching for clarity and order on a visual and personal level.

Eniko Marton, "Way", acrylic on canvas, 120x100cm, 2010.

Her work is not, however, just a formal investigation of colour and form: “I use a lot of personal inspiration, from relationships between people and transform my experiences in systems, and after that I build it on the canvas, like a model, where I try to make harmony between the elements”. Thus her work becomes a type of structural model of human relationships, at their most elemental.

I met Eniko when I participated in the 18th  European Artist’s Symposium: Art and Intercultural Dialogue, in Essen-Werden Germany, April 2010. Eniko found the group of artists at Essen to be dynamic and full of energy. This energy extended into her work, and she returned to the vibrant use of reds and oranges. By observing Eniko’s process, I began to question in what way colour and geometric or linear forms convey emotion. Is there more freedom for expression in abstraction, than other more naturalistic styles?

Eniko Marton, "Orange-Red-Blue, Triangles", acrylic on canvas, 2010.

Prior to painting, the artist photographs “structures and colour relations” existing in her immediate environment, then uses details and impressions from these images to generate new ideas. Over the last two years, the personal experiences of the artist and consequent changes in thought have shifted the focus of her work away from soft forms, and toward more refined and “concrete” arrangements. In the 2009 series, the colours are arranged in soft or circular blurred shapes that are overlayed. In the 2010 series, flat planes of colour emerge that precisely demarcate the space in V shapes or triangles. Her new work seems to play with contrasting colours and lines in order to divide the space of the canvas. The change from soft to hard was the result of careful conceptual investigation, and a reaction to personal changes in her thinking that required her to “focus” the more concrete elements of her work.

Eniko Marton, "Untitled", acrylic on canvas, 130x150cm, 2009.

 The artist’s approach is an analytical consideration of the relationship between colour, form and the lines in-between. The elements of her work are “signs” pertaining to the artist’s “meaning and feeling” but they are also specifically chosen  “for their open character”. The openness of her simplified palette and shapes allows for the audience to create what she describes as a “picture-room in his/her imagination”. The empty “light” areas of the paintings, become free spaces for the viewer to attach their own personal associations and complete the meaning of the work. Thus, it could be said that whilst the visual devices of Eniko’s work recall geometric abstraction (clean lines and crisp forms), the intention of the work is more closely aligned to painters from Lyrical Abstraction or the works of Wassily Kandinsky, who use the simplest colours, lines and forms to achieve meaning and personal expression. Eniko is an architect of emotional space, delineating the canvas in such a way as to map her own emotions, whilst painting a space for the viewer to enter and immerse themselves.

Artist Bytes: Interview with Leon Nicholas Kalas

8 Jun

Leon Kalas Bab Fez Gallery Morocco 2009

Leon Nicholas Kalas is an Athens born artist based in Brooklyn, New York, USA. His oil paintings are predominantly figurative and he adopts a variety of styles and approaches from abstract to realist. He is a self-taught artist who developed his talents through self-discipline, passion and a keen interest in humanity, all of these skills honed over a lifetime and refined in his later years at formal art institutions in New York. Some of his paintings respond to the struggles of African-Americans, others are based on his experiences of travel to Morocco and many are celebrity portraits, including those of Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier. Leon’s dedication to the human form reveals a consistent interest in the individual identities that shape a nation; each unique portrait is emblematic of the diverse and complex nature of American society.

Leon Kalas, Self Portrait, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Leon claims that his artworks are “not focused primarily on political/social issues”, yet it is hard not to see much of his oeuvre as a rebuke of the history of racial prejudice towards African-Americans.  Despite his intentions, the nature of his subject matter has caused controversy in the past and fired debate about the appropriateness of political imagery in public spaces. In 2007, Leon was employed as a curator for the Fillmore Real Estate Offices on Atlantic Avenue and Hoyt St in Brooklyn. He was responsible for coordinating rotating exhibitions of paintings of local Brooklyn artists that would furnish the offices. The partnership worked well until it was Leon’s turn to exhibit his collection of twelve paintings titled Social Injustice in America. The exhibition included images of black slavery and oppression, and one painting donned the text “black slaves for sale here”. The department was not amused, claiming that the imagery was too provocative for a business space. The Brooklyn Paper quoted Leon’s response: “Art is not geraniums and petunias…Art can be ugly.” And with that, Leon removed his exhibition from the offices, and resigned from his position as curator. The right to freedom – for expression, for culture, for race – is evidently a theme that permeates the artist’s life and his artwork. His art is not so much about provoking outrage, but generating awareness of important issues and at the same time celebrating the lives of people who have contributed something meaningful to American culture.

Leon Kalas, Descending from your throne you become a slave, oil on canvas.

In the following interview I ask Leon about his approach to art and of his experiences travelling to Morocco for an artist workshop.

Kim Goldsmith: The exhibition Social Injustice in America and some of your earlier paintings including Grieving for Injustice, focus on the history of African-Americans and the inequalities they have experienced. Why are you fascinated with their history and what inspired this series of paintings? I ask because you are in fact a Greek national, brought up in Brooklyn. Have you ever explored your personal experiences as a Greek American through your work?

Leon Kalas, Grieving for injustice, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Leon Kalas: This body of work Social Injustice in America derived from my own direct experience in the deep south, when I first came to America in 1960 as a young man thinking that I was coming to “The Land of the Free”. But when I visited South Carolina I witnessed signs “No colours served here” and “Rest rooms for whites only” and saw people going on the back of the bus to sit, simply because of the colour of their skin. So the statement “ Land of the free” was, and still is, a very hypocritical statement. Years later, when I grew up and truly realized what this statement meant, as a visual artist I simply wanted to express my anger and make a point that there is social injustice in this country. Besides, let us not forget that the Greeks were enslaved to the Turks for 500 years, so perhaps, because of my own history, I may know something about oppression, discrimination, and slavery.

Leon Kalas, Obama, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Kim: It seems that you have curated many exhibitions in Brooklyn over the last few years, is this correct? What prompted your interest to curate and promote the work of Brooklyn artists?

Leon: I used to own an art gallery in a small town called Havre de Grace in the State Maryland. There I curated many exhibitions helping the local artists. When I returned to New York, a corporation approached me, Consolidated Edison, who were looking for a curator to put up art exhibits of Brooklyn artists in their corporate gallery. I accepted the position and I continue to curate exhibits on a monthly basis.

Leon Kalas, The Embrace of Unity, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Kim: Despite your extensive Fine Arts training at the New York Academy of Art, The Art Students League, New York, and the Fashion Institute of Technology, you comment on your website that “Painting to me is a life force, not a career”. So, you have always desired to be an artist, and consider creative work to be a vocation. Have you always made a living from art, or did you work in some other profession in the past?

Leon: Creativity was always part of my life. I always painted ever since I can remember. But to make a living, I was a Trade Finance Officer for Bank of America International, and Chase Bank for 30 years combined, after graduating from Pace University in Economics. When I was forced to retire at the age of 62, I became a full-time artist, went to three art schools to refine what I had already learned throughout my life through experience and practice.

Leon Kalas, Homage to Rodin, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Kim: We first met in Rabat Morocco for the Second Spring Edition of the Visual Arts: Art, Storks and Nature in 2009. Was that your first workshop experience? Your oil paintings are composed of many rich layers of colour that can take weeks to paint. We had a time restriction of a few days to make the artwork for exhibition in Morocco, and so it was impossible for you to use oil paints. How did you cope with the time and material restrictions of the workshop? Did you learn something new or unexpected from this change in your process?

Leon: The art camp in Rabat was my very first experience and I was not prepared for that. I had no brushes or pigments or media in which to work with. I had assumed that this was going to be given to me at the camp. However, because my work consists of many layers and takes a long time to finish, I brought with me three finished paintings for the exhibition in Rabat and left them there. But while I was there, just as to be part of the working process with others, someone gave me some pigments and I painted a portrait. I did not have any media in which to mix my paint with so I used olive oil. It was terrible, and I am sure until today, a year later, the painting must be still wet. What I learned out of this experience is to be well prepared in my next art camp. I left that painting in Rabat with someone who wanted it from the Art Camp.

Leon painting with Moroccan orphans Rabat beach, Morocco 2009.

Kim: I also arrived in Morocco without any art materials, and brought with me a few ceramic eggs I had made in my studio. I intended to make a sculpture with them, but all I could find was pink toilet paper in my hotel room. I used this to make a nest for the eggs, and in some ways I found the process liberating and spontaneous. Art camps are a good opportunity for experimentation, because you can make mistakes without big consequences.

I noticed that you have one of your paintings in a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and that this is not the first time. Some of your older paintings such as the Evolution I and II series refer to the collection of tribal masks held at the museum. How does it feel to have your work on show in such a well-respected gallery, but also amongst the artefacts that have inspired and informed some of your artwork?

Leon: Being exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art In New York, was an experience of a lifetime and I was so very lucky that I was chosen. It was like having my fifteen minutes of fame. When I went to the opening with my friends, I had a very strange feeling seeing my work hanging on their walls next to the great Masters. I will never forget that moment.

Leon Kalas, Evolution, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Kim: The last paintings I saw of yours were portraits of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and various images of the Sahara Desert and the Moroccan flag. Are you continuing with these works, or something new? Do you have any upcoming exhibitions that you are involved with?

Leon: I presently have an exhibition of twenty portraits of the men and women of the Bowery Mission, a non-profit organization in Manhattan, at Madison Avenue and 31 Street. Inspired by my visit to Morocco, and after experiencing the warm, friendly and very hospitable people, plus the democratic rule of the country by their King, I have painted a series of portraits of: His Majesty, Mohammed VI King of Morocco, The Crown prince, and the Royal Family.  I hope one day I will be invited by the Ministry of Culture in Rabat to have them exhibited in Morocco. I have sent them a proposal and I am waiting for their response. In the meantime, I am looking for a gallery here in New York in which to have a preview of these portraits. Hopefully soon.  If you go to my website: www.leonkalas.com you will be able to see a couple of these portraits.

Leon Kalas, Joyeux Anniversaire, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Leon Kalas, Sahara, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Artist Bytes: The Art of Patricia Goodrich

26 May

Patricia Goodrich

It is my great pleasure to publish the first Artist Bytes Profile on my friend and fellow artist, Patricia Goodrich from the USA.  We first met in May 2009 during the 2nd Spring Festival for the Visual Arts: Art, Storks and Nature in Rabat-Sale Morocco and became reacquainted in March 2010 during the 8th International Women’s Festival: Art and Development in Asillah, Morocco. She is a published poet and multidisciplinary artist, who makes sculptures, paintings and mixed media installations. From the 14-24th August the Inirii Museum in Alba Iulia, Romania will present a solo exhibition of her work titled Art Beyond Borders that is sponsored by the Romanian Inter-Art Foundation . The Virtual Artist’s Collective published a book of her poetry titled Red Mud in 2009, and will release another book On the line of the Orient Express around fall this year.

Patricia is a perfect example of the itinerant artist. In the last few years her  art has taken her on expeditions throughout the USA, Europe, and Africa. I imagine her artworks to be pinpoints on a map of the world,  that enable us to follow the trails of Patricia’s expansive artistic career.  The  artist often uses materials found on location and she has an intuitive understanding of the way that landscape shapes and defines our experience of place. Whether it be the  traced  lines of paint and pigment on canvas; the carved organic forms made from wood, salt, stone or steel; recorded voices of international artists on cassette tapes for her Voices Underground Audio Project; or the words and rhythms of her poetry, all of her creative works follow the contours of the landscape and capture a moment in which the artist engaged with, and attempted to become a part of, her immediate environment.

If any one person can demonstrate the benefit of intercultural exchange and involvement in artist’s workshops and conferences, it would be Patricia. Through constant exposure to the perspectives of diverse International artists, cultures and countries, she has shaped a unique perception of the world through her art and established herself a home within a global artistic community.

The following piece of writing  provides an insight into one of the artist’s festival experiences.

View of Asillah Morocco

Shifting Sands: Morocco’s Creative Women Festival
Written by Patricia Goodrich

Two months have passed since the Festival of Creative Women: Art & Development in Asillah, Morocco, and here in the USA I feel its influence almost daily.  Last night I opened an email from Fatima, a painter whose vibrant colors reached from her clothing right into her art works, a woman with whom I shared a circle of conversation and fresh brewed tea along the sea near the walls of the old city medina.

Patricia and Fatima

This was a conference/exhibition where time was available to become acquainted, to laugh, and to communicate in the universal language of art stitched together with French, Arabic, Berber, English, and a good measure of gestures.  Sufi music, couture fashion, meeting the Princess Charifa Lalla Oum Keltoum, walks through the winding medina streets and along the sea, the warm hospitality of our hosts— all were there.  And still with me here, as I search out possibilities for the craftswomen to exhibit their works here, a desert and ocean away.

Patricia with Mina Boutoutla, President of the Artisans Cooperative in the North Atlas mountains and Asass Khan.

Sufi Musicians

The work I chose to exhibit, two abstract paintings from my Rivers Without Boundaries series, another titled The Fire Within, and  Almost Perfect, an egg-shaped jadeite sculpture, were influenced in part by my misconception that figurative work should be avoided in Morocco, a largely Islamic country. Yet when I arrived at the festival, I found the women were creating portraits, landscape, abstract works, often incorporating cultural symbols and colors into canvases, graphics, and even into traditionally woven fabrics, rugs and blankets.  Yet, my own selections did reflect the festival: art pushing beyond boundaries, created from an inner spirit and passion, celebrating the imperfection of what it is to be human.

Patricia Goodrich, Rivers Without Boundaries (one of a series), acrylic on canvas, 2010. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Patricia Goodrich, Almost Perfect, polished jadeite stone, 2010. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The festival, founded eight years ago by Wafaa el Houdaybi and supported by the Association of Contemporary Artists with the patronage of the Princess, benefits not only the women painters, sculptors, and crafts artists, it inspires and informs non-Moroccan artists like me through the connections we make and by erasing preconceptions of what it is to be a Muslim woman creating art.  The Festival also promotes connection and economic development among the Moroccan artists.  For instance, two of the crafts artists represented a cooperative of women weavers from the Atlas Mountains and another woman and her husband brought their hand-woven fabrics used for finest quality traditional garments. Joining the company of the Moroccan artists were also dynamic artists Kim Goldsmith from Australia and Natasha Novak from Slovenia.  We were four continents drawn together!

Natasha Novak, Kim Goldsmith, Wafaa El Houdaybi and Patricia Goodrich

Married couple Hamzaoui Aycha and Ole Bzou presenting their silk woven fabrics.

Yet, men were not excluded.  In fact, their participation was integral to the conference and its influence on me. Knowledgeable, progressive men from Egypt, the Emirates, and Morocco spoke about the origin and influence of Berber language and the bridge between traditional and modern architecture.  Art critics reviewed the exhibitions. More, they interacted with conference participants over long conversations, shared meals, and much drinking of mint tea.

Patricia with exhibition guests at King Mohammed's palace in Asillah

This Festival reminded me we are grains of sand shifting in a common desert, waves in the same ocean. How grateful I am to share this world of arts and artists and appreciators of it all.

Morrocan artists and craftspeople with Patricia in the gallery, Asillah