A building and lots of people walking around

Photo London is one of the leading photographic fairs

Photo London’s ninth edition aims to integrate photography into the contemporary art world. But can it? Isabella Fergusson finds out

The cobbles of Somerset House aren’t quite bearing the catwalks of heels, neon suits and russet trousers one sees at Frieze or Art Basel. More cameras than Gucci bags slung across shoulders, more prams pushed, more WatchHouse coffee than Ruinart champagne. It seems more democratic – but to its strength or its downfall?

100 exhibitors, 44 cities worldwide: the numbers are good for London’s top photography fair, and returning galleries are strong. But, ever since photography entered the commercial world in the ‘70s, it has been seen as something of a niche by many. Its Director, Kamiar Maleki insists, however, that 2024 has seen yet more progress in cranking the door open to a contemporary art-collector-base.

man looking at picture in an art fair

This year’s Photo London is curated by Dani Matthews and entitled Shifting Horizons; photograph by Isabella Sanai

What’s happening this year that’s made it successful? ‘We’re branching out,’ he says, ‘we’re including more film, more mediums, and the car’ – he points to a navy electric car, a Lunaz, parked in the Somerset House courtyard – ‘which has been invested in by big names such as David Beckham – these have helped gain traction’. Is this because photography is not attractive enough by itself? ‘We have to entice the High Net Worths through other mediums’, he responds diplomatically. Perhaps a hint that photography alone still lacks respect; but perhaps, too, a testament to Maleki’s success in luring people into giving it the attention it deserves.

a woman in front of a daguerrotype image

Rebecca Hicks, Director of Purdy Hicks, in the reflection of a daguerrotype by Japanese photographer Takashi Arai; photographed by Joe Oswald

Photography’s technical gymnastics are exhibited with undeniable flair: see Takashi Arai’s impressive daguerrotypes, Susan Derge’s cameraless photography, laid directly over Dartmoor puddles of frogspawn, and Roope Rainisto’s AI-based works, thrumming with viewers, to a remarkable manipulation of printing mediums across the fair. The number of mediocre works was to be expected, but the number which stood out as sensational from the many Michael Jackson-type portraits was higher than one might imagine.

an exhibition room

Photo London brings together the world’s leading galleries in a major international photography Fair at Somerset House; photograph by Isabella Sanai

Sales? Well, as Rebecca Hicks, Director of Purdy Hicks, comments, the general consensus is that sales ‘remain quiet so far’. Maleki slides past the question with an ‘ask me on Tuesday!’ Fru Tholstrup, London-based art advisor and curator, though, beams with anomalous success of her showcase of Mariano Vivanco’s work from his latest book, ‘Peru’, hopping through folklore and mythology expressing striking figures between humans and animals, which one tends to associate with drawings rather than photography. Mariano remains confident in photography’s ability to leak into fine art, with a winking ‘Respect Photography, or Die!’. And he’s sold with fine art figures, too.

man standing outside a building in a suit

Kamiar Maleki, Director of Photo London; photograph by Joe Oswald

Some dealers insist they are at Photo London for the artistic exposure as much as sales. Gerber & Stauffer Fine Arts has an exhibition featuring Iranian-born Rahi Rezvani, introduced to the commercial world for the first time. Successful in luxury, performing arts and entertainment industries, he has never before sold a single print of his works.

man in front of image in of the sea

French photographer Valérie Belin has been named as the Master of Photography 2024; photograph by Isabella Sanai

But why start now? ‘People think success in photography is selling lots of photographs. I disagree. It’s about choosing carefully and selling well.’ He refuses to sell hundreds of his prints he has laid out, from a portrait of Quentin Tarantino to fiery images of dance, to a triptych covered in a natural substance he associates with sperm. Technologically, these seem extremely impressive, perhaps as or even more than those on the wall. When asked how he took them, he smiles knowingly, holding back. Brimming with confidence, he isn’t particularly interested in selling lots, but few, well-chosen ones.

That’s the way to elevate photography to the fine art world, he and Thomas Stauffer, Director of Gerber & Stauffer Fine Arts agree. Reduce the print number – even to one (in the case of his photograph ‘Willem Dafoe’) – signed with guarantee of no reproduction, and photography can have the value and respect of art. Although, in general, the knowledge that further prints can be made will always linger with all types of photography except polaroid. Even when reducing the number of editions, photography still remains on the precarious edge for established contemporary collectors.

man with red hair and blue background

Willem Dafoe, photographed by Rahi Rezvani, 2012

It’s entirely the other way around for Ana Matos, Director of Salgadeiras Arte Contemporânea. The very fact that, unlike painting, photography editions expands to an average of 5 to 7 means that it gains a democratic value, attracting a new wave of emerging millennial collectors. Such can be seen in the floor for the Nikon Emerging Photographers Award, part of Photo London. The average age decreases, buzz increases and – while sales are still reportedly quiet – the recognition and discussions are engaging a new crowd in collecting. Perhaps it’s not so much about gaining older contemporary art collectors, but shifting the next generation of collectors to photography.

man in front of an image of mountains

Photo London has two major exhibitions as part of the Public Programme, over 120 new and returning international exhibitors; photograph by Joe Oswald

And perhaps, by virtue of its less revered status, Photo London does focus more for new art and expression than collector-base. As photographer Maryam Eisler comments, ‘Photo London is a place of discovery and new talent.’ One can meet the photographs at eye-level, rather than kneel before them, and the fair is focused on the artform itself, and forming a snapshot of its growing identity and credibility. One feels closer to it all, somehow. And – as Eisler also points out – this is aided by its ‘excellent satellite programme of talks and critical thinking.’

reflection of a woman taking a picture in front of a picture

Photo London 2024 features over 400 photographers from around the globe; photograph by Joe Oswald

Photography remains on the sideline of established contemporary art; sales seem quiet. But, stripped of the catwalk-tendency of many art fairs, which can distract from the art itself, the model of a fair where art is accessible and thought about, rather than prized solely for sales, may be commercially more challenging, but is extremely refreshing. And, though established collectors may not dive into buying, photography might just present a more democratic art world – with a long way to go.

Photo London runs at Somerset House from 16-19 May 2024

See More: photolondon.org

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Reading time: 5 min
photograph that looks like painting with swirly silver object and squares
photograph that looks like painting with swirly silver object and squares

Lost at the Beach. Image courtesy of the artist

New York-based architect-turned-artist Erin O’Keefe plays tricks with our perceptions with her photographs that look like graphic paintings. The Deutsche Bank Lounge Artist for Frieze New York 2022 speaks to LUX about the transition from being an architecture professor to an artist, how the disciplines are interconnected, and her inspirations from the original Bauhaus art school in Weimar Germany. Interview by Darius Sanai

LUX: Was your dream when you were younger to be an architect or an artist?
Erin O’Keefe: I always wanted to be an artist. Although I guess what that actually means is an open question. Architecture provided a way of supporting myself that felt super interesting, and teaching meant I could explore theoretical issues that have turned out to be relevant to my art practice.

LUX: Were you always fascinated by the crossover between architecture and art?
EOK: Thinking about how architecture is represented in painting and photography has always been a source of fascination. I particularly love the wrongness of space in early Renaissance paintings – it actually feels pretty liberating. And I’m interested in the fact that most of what I know about architecture has come through images rather than visiting the actual buildings – that seems perverse, but it’s true. So you need to become a good translator to make a bridge between a picture of the thing and the thing itself, but I think it’s actually impossible to get the two things to align.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Are we right in seeing influences of the Bauhaus – the physical school itself and its teachers – in your career and your works?
EOK: Yes, absolutely – it’s a kind of touchstone for me, and the development of my practice. The sense of interconnectedness among the disciplines, and the primacy of making, were both things that feel relevant. I did the Albers colour exercises with my architecture students, which was really the beginning of thinking about the spatial impact of colour in my work.

photograph that looks like painting with pink black and silver elements

Fever. Image courtesy of the artist

LUX: How do you set out to create your works: what is the process of conception and execution? Are you looking for a particular effect on the perception of the viewer?
EOK: I am always looking for a condition of uncertainty in the images. Something that operates in multiple ways and is a bit destabilising for the viewer. I’m interested in the friction between the ordinary tactile objects and the unreality of the image.

My studio process is quite open-ended, lots of trial and error. Small shifts or alignments in the still life can transform the reading of the image, and that moment feels like magic to me.

Colour and light play a huge part in how the objects are perceived, and what they are capable of spatially. The objects themselves are made with the awareness of how they will operate in the photograph – although it’s always a very rough guess, and most of the time I discover possibilities that I couldn’t have anticipated.

blue and orange shapes in photograph

One Day Soon. Image courtesy of the artist

LUX: Please tell us a little about some of the works at Frieze NY.
EOK: The consistent focus of my work is the gap between the real condition and its representation in the photograph. For the work at Frieze, I became interested in perspective correction – meaning I can paint shapes on the ground and back wall of my still-life set-up that appear very differently in the image – a trompe-l’oeil situation in reverse. I’m also using paint in these photographs as a kind of camouflage to confuse or amplify a spatial condition.

LUX: What kind of a visual artist do you describe yourself as?
EOK: At this point, a photographer, as a way of underlining what these images are. People often mistake them for paintings, but the fact that they are photographs that utilise the language of painting feels like an important distinction.

Read more: Uplifting New Paintings by Sassan Behnam- Bakhtiar 

LUX: Do you still teach and if not, will you ever teach again?
EOK: I really loved teaching, but I’m glad to have the time and attention to devote to my practice. I do miss the studio interaction – architectural education is pretty unique. I have no plans to teach in the future, but who knows?

Find out more: erinokeefe.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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artist in the studio
man standing in front of colourful artworks

Idris Khan in his studio with new works incorporating musical scores. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Idris Khan is one of the world’s hottest abstract artists, drawing on his Muslim heritage to create works that gain a different meaning every time you look at them. Darius Sanai meets him in his London studio to discuss colour, the Koran and his suburban childhood, while Maryam Eisler photographs him

I first met Idris Khan on a plane. We were flying back from a private view of an exhibition in Baku, where both he and his wife Annie Morris have had their works shown in the Zaha Hadid-designed Heydar Aliyev Center.

Idris was scrawling through some photographs he had taken on his iPad. They showed aspects of Hadid’s then new design in an abstract, mystical, almost humorous way. I said I wanted to publish them in one of the magazines I edited for Condé Nast; after a little persuasion, he agreed.

At that stage, I had no idea that Idris, one of Britain’s most prominent painters and sculptors, had originally trained in fine art photography. It explained the richness of the images I saw on his iPad that he had taken just for his personal pleasure.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

It is, in fact, hard to classify Idris, hard to pin him down. As he points out in the interview below, even his ethnicity is not quite what it seems: he possesses a completely Islamic name, but is half Welsh and was born and educated in the UK. Tall, slim and fair-skinned, he could pass as any Englishman in the lanky Jarvis Cocker mould; but he was actually brought up as a devout Muslim by his father, a surgeon from Pakistan who had settled in Birmingham.

His art is also deceptive. He has created his own, distinctive and trademark shade of blue, known informally as ‘Idris Khan blue’, through blending ultramarine and Prussian blue; yet he is a sculptor and maker of 3D objects as much as a painter.

Every time I meet him, he is gentle, thoughtful, disarmingly self-deprecating, and not in a staged way. But there is an intensity and steeliness there, and originality of thought amidst the lightness of touch, that has allowed him to become the celebrated artist he is.

abstract blue artwork

One of the artist’s works with stamped texts

We meet at his studio in an artistic area in east London. It is a striking, warehouse-type building on a single floor; his wife, the acclaimed sculptor Annie Morris, occupies a near identical studio next door. Walking into Idris’s studio, you find yourself in front of a long, wide art table with paints and objects neatly lined up. There is a multitude of materials, but it is the tidiest studio I have seen.

At the back, behind the glass partition, is his office; behind his desk are stamps of lettering he creates for some of his works. They are artworks in themselves. A passageway off to the left leads to an open-plan kitchen area which opens out into Morris’s studio. She is there, working on a spectacularly coloured array of sculptures and stained glass; she chats to us for a while before returning to her own works.

Khan has been commissioned to be the Lounge Artist for Deutsche Bank at Frieze London 2021, where the artist will be creating an immersive blue environment. Meanwhile, I look on while Maryam Eisler photographs him in a variety of locations in the studio for our cover, and then he and I settle down on suitably socially distanced chairs to chat.

artist with stamp

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

LUX: Was there anything in your background to suggest you would become an artist?
Idris Khan: I had a very normal suburban upbringing: my father was a surgeon and mother was a nurse and I was a really sporty kid. It was probably through education that I sort of fell upon becoming an artist.

Read more: The eco-art organisation making a stand at Frieze London

LUX: So, when you were single digits, were you doing artistic things?
Idris Khan: No. I can remember loving to draw, but the creativity came late, probably when I was around 17 or 18. I went to do a foundation year and it was photography that gave me the keys or the tools to go on and express myself in an artistic way.

collection of metal stamps

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

LUX: There was no plan to become an artist?
Idris Khan:
No, I wanted to be an athlete. It was strange. I loved running – that was my top sport. But it just didn’t work out and it was just like, “What’s the next thing, the next best thing you’re good at?” It’s funny, isn’t it? That weird pressure when early on you want an artistic career, especially when two professional people – my parents – were saying, “Well, you know, graphic design is what you need to go into.” And I was thinking, “Hmm, I don’t want to be a graphic designer… my portfolio is full of photographs and beautiful things.” And from no understanding of that kind of career, I had to fight for it. I went to Derby University to study for my photography BA and had great teachers there and that helped me. They paved the way for me to come down to London to do my master’s at the Royal College of Art.

LUX: Did you always expect to be an abstract, conceptual photographer?
Idris Khan: Very much so. I never really saw myself as someone who was going to be a landscape photographer or go out into the world and take those kinds of pictures. I was already a studio-based photographer and for some reason I always liked photographing very still things. It’s interesting – when you’re a student, you’re sort of looking for things that you want to pursue in some way and so, I found myself going back into empty sports interiors. It’s kind of weird, the access a camera gives you to go into these places. So, I would photograph the walls of squash courts. I loved the marks that were made in the squash court wall. Somehow, when you frame those marks they start to look like paintings. They no longer look like a squash-court wall; the marks in the wall and the floor just started to have this energy, and there’s a certain element of stillness. It’s amazing that a photographer can get access to empty spaces like that. I’d say, “Oh, can I come and sit in your squash court for half an hour?” Normally they’d say no, but a camera gives you this licence.

artist laying down musical score

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

LUX: And how would you describe yourself? An abstract artist? Or is that irrelevant?
Idris Khan: It is relevant. I think I always try and push that level of abstraction, whatever medium I’m working with. So, if I’m working with a photograph, I like the deception that you don’t know whether it’s a photograph or not, it just looks like my hand or marks made on a piece of photographic paper. I think it was about three or four years outside of college that I met Annie and she was the first person to say, “Well, why don’t you make a sculpture?” I did a bit of film and things like that, but she said, “You know what, there’s a great idea. You deal with layering photographs. Why can’t you deal with that same idea, but in different materials?” So, I made my first sculpture for which I sandblasted musical notes onto steel and used that same process of repetition and layering and time and the eradication of time, and then that sort of led itself into what I’m doing now with the big blue paintings and language eradicating language. Same idea, just pushed into different mediums.

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf on the Legacy of Valmont’s Didier Guillon

LUX: Musical notes and stamps of verses – why are they of interest, particularly?
Idris Khan: I think Islam probably gave me the sort of trigger to deal with repetition and language and the eradication of language. And the reason was that my father wanted us to become Muslims; we were praying five times a day, mosque every Friday afternoon… that’s what he wanted for us. And of course, it became an act of rebellion: first my brother, then my middle brother, then me. I said, “Well, now we’re not going to do this anymore.” But I can’t help that, somehow, that part of my life is inherent in what I do. So, talking of repetition for example, I find Islam very repetitive – returning to the prayer mat every day, repeating the same verses all the time. I remember very clearly my father saying, “Repeat after me, repeat, repeat after me…” – and that’s the way I was processing language. I didn’t know what I was saying. I think what I do is a reflection of that, to be honest. Looking back to my twenties, the work I was making and the way I was using language, I was kind of confused with the culture when I was growing up. Being the only white kid in the mosque, it was kind of a role reversal in terms of race. I was the white boy everyone was looking at and I felt uncomfortable. Am I using that way of linking something to my heritage or trying to eradicate it? That’s the kind of thread I could try and bring together.

artist using a stamp

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

LUX: And what’s your relationship with your heritage now?
Idris Khan: I don’t know. I really like the fact that I have it to tap into occasionally. I don’t think there’s many kids from that sort of background who actually do become artists. And I’d love to give back to that culture a little bit. I’m doing a proposal at the moment [for a spectacular public sculpture in Saudi Arabia] and I don’t think you could go there with a British name and delve into the Koran. But my name gives me access to be able to do that; there is that little bit of faith, perhaps, somewhere deep rooted, that I can engage with and have an idea and a concept that I can push.

LUX: So you feel that your name is more Islamic than you?
Idris Khan: Yeah, definitely.

LUX: Is that a drawback or is it just a thing?
Idris Khan: I think it’s just a thing. It’s funny when people see me and they haven’t seen a photograph of me or anything like that, they’re always very surprised by what I look like. Maybe I should just look a bit more exotic. I’m not sure, but I definitely think that’s the case.

LUX: Do you feel obliged to make art that your gallery can sell?
Idris Khan: It changes. I think when you were young, you obviously want to start working with a gallery straight away. I felt that I was very nurtured by Victoria Miro in London. I was a 24-year-old coming out of college, quite young for an artist to start working with a commercial gallery straight away. And what was in my mind at that time was if I was making something for sale. So, every show from then on adds more pressure to have a successful exhibition, meaning: does the work sell out? And I have found that over the past 15 years or so that the pressure to sell is much higher than it was. Because of the art fairs and the machine that is the art world, there’s a lot more pressure. I suppose that can spill into the artist’s mentality, but I don’t particularly care too much about that sort of thing. I like making bodies of work. Yes, we’ve got to keep the studio going and things like that, but I don’t like to say, “Okay, if I’m not going to have a sell-out show, then I’m a failure.” I don’t feel that pressure. Everybody likes to say, “Oh yeah, I sold out”. It never used to be like that. And so, what does that mean? Does that mean a successful show? I don’t know!

LUX: How do you control the pressure to sell?
Idris Khan: I like putting limits on the number of paintings; for example, six blue paintings at a particular size. And if you can put limitations on yourself, that’s important too, because otherwise you could just keep going. I could probably have made layered music pieces in black and white from 2006 for years, but I said no.

colourful artworks

Khan with his stamp works. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

LUX: And what about museum shows?
Idris Khan: They’re different. I see them as giving me greater freedom to show a breadth of work rather than the usual commercial shows. It’s about what happened in those two years – you’re showing the work you’ve done during that time. What I love about what’s happening in Milwaukee in early 2023 [where the first US retrospective of his work will be held at the Milwaukee Art Museum] is that it’s a survey show of 20 years of my work. And it’s such an exciting thing to do, to bring your work together at different moments and look back and see the journey it has taken and how it has changed. You’re hopefully reaching a much bigger audience than comes for commercial gallery shows and a different part of the audience, too. I hope that part of my career develops more.

Read more: Inside Maja Hoffmann’s Provençal Art Hotel

LUX: What else would you still like to do?
Idris Khan: I’m working on a proposal at the moment [for a public artwork in Saudi Arabia], which is rather big. I’ve been thinking about it for three years. If I get that, it’ll be a wonderful thing to do. I just did a nice little piece of public art in London [65,000 Photographs at One Blackfriars in 2019]. There’s a real excitement when you make something like that, so I’d love to do more.

LUX: How often do you and Annie see each other during the day in the studios?
Idris Khan: You know, Annie is so busy it’s like, “Why would you be coming in here?” It’s only when I ask her to come over for an opinion or I go there, and she has an opinion. And it’s just not about art making. Sometimes it’s about selling a work and everything that comes with being an artist.

two artists in studio

Annie Morris with Idris Khan in her studio.

LUX: How did you meet?
Idris Khan: In 2007, she was exhibiting at a gallery in west London. I had a mutual friend called Rebecca in New York. In fact, the first time I met Annie, Rebecca said, “You have to meet Annie Morris.” And then she told me that she was coming to London and said, “You’ve got to come to Annie’s exhibition”. I went but I was a bit lazy, thinking, “God, west London, it’s too far…”. But I went and then she had a show in New York in the same month that I was having one and I flew in to see it and, you know, there’s no lie here, we’ve been pretty much together 24 hours a day since then. She moved in after a month. Got engaged after five.

LUX: Are you very similar as people or just matching?
Idris Khan: Is Annie louder? Perhaps! I suppose maybe similar but different energies. What’s great is we both respect each other’s work massively. I mean, now I’m moving more into colour. That’s probably because I can’t get away from all the colour next door. I was very much monotone, you know, with my black and white works, and then there has been this sort of explosion. She will probably get into more monotone, hopefully! There’s unbelievable respect and influence in both directions.

LUX: Annie is Jewish, you were brought up a devout Muslim. Is there relevance in that?
Idris Khan: I think if Annie was a lot more practicing, then maybe. I mean, there’s definitely choices of faith: holidays, things like that. And the kids weirdly see themselves as Jewish, or want to be more Jewish. They want to have a connection to a religion, which is kind of interesting. I don’t know whether that’s because of the schools they’re going to or whatever, but they quite like to say, “My mother is Jewish, so I am too. My father’s Muslim, but because it’s my mother, that’s what we are.” I’ve got absolutely no problem with that. They like to learn about both faiths as well. I think it’s one of those questions which doesn’t necessarily come up, but it could one day. Maybe the show in Israel [at the Alon Segev Gallery, Tel-Aviv, in April 2022] will be kind of an interesting place to look at that. Could I start using the Torah? Can I use Hebrew to make a painting? Could I combine Arabic and Hebrew together in a painting? What would that look like? That show will be a good excuse to be able to do something like that.

Collaborations with Frieze and Deutsche Bank

Idris Khan took over the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Lounge at Frieze London this October. “I’m making the Lounge into this kind of blue world with blue carpet and blue paintings. You’re going to be walking down the corridor from the fair, with one of my works made into wallpaper which becomes very immersive, into the lounge. I’m also going to be showing a huge array of the stamps that I have made my paintings with over the past 10 years. I’ve made quite a lot of these stamps – probably over a hundred thousand – but it is the first time I’ve actually exhibited them as an installation. What I really love about them is that they become relics of the paintings. I mean, not many artists can say, ‘Well, here are my brushes’. They’re interesting things as they’re still objects in their own right. Even having been along a kind of journey as paintings, they exist as there are these passages of writings in blocks. I’ll be showing shelves and shelves of these.”

He has also created artworks for the first exhibition, also to be launched in October this year, in a new programme of art to be shown at Deutsche Bank’s new offices in the former Time Warner building on Columbus Circle in New York. “I’ve made four large grid paintings using watercolour and sheet music. Each is a set of nine different variations on a colour tone from blues, reds and greys based on colours of the seasons. I like working with a grid of colour – it’s like looking at the colours of the seasons in one instant. And Annie will be showing a large sculpture there as well. We’re looking forward to seeing it all installed. Hopefully it will be a real explosion of colour as you walk into the space.”

Find out more: victoriamiro.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue, for which Idris Khan designed our logo.

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Reading time: 16 min
designer's studio
designer's studio

Maureen Bryan & Don McCollin in their studio. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

43 years ago, Don McCollin and Maureen Bryan met and formed a bond which would later result them to become an iconic duo in experimental design of furniture and objects. LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler, speaks to the pair about the philosophy behind their works.

Maryam Eisler: How did you two meet and start working together?
Don McCollin: We met at Middlesex Poly college, 43 years ago in 1979. We didn’t know each other at first and then after we left in 1982, we kept in contact. We started by printing T-shirts and doing little projects like that. The first thing was a collection of Caribbean flags on t-shirts at the Notting Hill Carnival. We also printed textiles together. Eventually, we made a clock, which ended up being John Lewis’ best-selling clock! The idea was to make things. Make and sell. It’s also always been about materials. Our first commission was to do all the furniture for the restaurant at the Geffrye museum (now, the Museum of Home) in the East End.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Maryam Eisler: If you had to boil down the ethos of your business today to one or two words, how would you best describe it?
Maureen Bryan: One or two words is going to be difficult. In a few words, both of us want to make pieces that cause a reaction in the viewer, a sort of pleasure zone. We want to move people and make them go ‘ah’. It doesn’t have to be intellectual, but it has to be from the heart. It is also about keeping the artistic integrity in what we make. We still want to put that individuality into each and every design. The pressure is on us to increase production but we’ve stuck to our guns in not wanting it to run out of control.

glass folding screen

The Aurora Folding Screen in shades of blue with a brass frame. Limited Edition of 8

Don McCollin: Yes, I always give the analogy that if I couldn’t do this, I would have loved to be a musician because music has that kind of power, to move people. I try to do what I do and have that exact reaction in people. There is always the idea of every single piece being slightly different even if the intention is not there. It’s about those accidental moments.

coloured glass on shelves

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: Tell us about the importance of light and translucence in your work.
Maureen Bryan: My very first inspiration was a dream of a glass with ice cubes in it, and the light play. We initially made several key pieces using old lenses, old pieces of glass. We looked at the transparency of say Murano glass where you get that special depth of colour. We like playing with the depth of colour because it allows you to see more in a piece. We also started experimenting with domes on top of mirrors and realised that you get layers of reflection as well as layers of refracted light.

Read more: Alain Ducasse & Dom Pérignon’s Ephemeral Dining Experience

Don McCollin: It’s not always about what is there in front of you; it also has to do with your depth of concentration at the time of observation. Depending on where you concentrate when you look at a piece, that will then inform the perceived reflection.

glove resting on glass

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: Do you ever consider your work in a more philosophical, poetic manner: thinking about multiple realities, imagination versus reality, the conscious versus the sub-conscious, shadow and light?
Maureen Bryan: I think we do subliminally, without necessarily articulating it. Perhaps we should try to articulate our philosophies more, but we’ve worked together for so long that we instinctively know what we’re individually talking and thinking about. In design, It’s not just how something looks on the surface; there’s always a multitude of layers and depth.

glass embossed table

The Cendrillon table, clear resin with a gilded pattern. Limited Edition of 20.

Maryam Eisler: I see beauty in your work. Is that a taboo word or are you okay with the concept of beauty?
Don McCollin: I am. I very much like to produce things that people end up liking, objects that have a certain romantic beauty about them. And, I’m highly unapologetic about it all. There might be some link to my textile background. I trained initially in textiles, in brightly coloured beautiful things. And I allowed beauty to just be there. So it’s not necessarily a bad word.

Maureen Bryan: Beauty is a funny word to use because it is so avoided by society. I think we have avoided articulating it too much because we feel it may in fact over-intellectualise a concept. You don’t want to have to explain it necessarily.

man reflected in glass

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: What other characteristics do you take into consideration when designing?
Don McCollin: Another dimension which we sometimes incorporate into our designs is humour. When we first started making the beans, I always used to put a penny in there because I thought: if they’re not going to be of any worth, at least they will always be worth a penny!

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: In terms of the production techniques which you use, it’s not just about the physical hand at play, you also have technology and robotics which together with the human hand create these unique pieces. Can you tell us more about that?
Maureen Bryan: Yes, we have a robot! It was born out of the problem of polishing for 8 hours a day. We soon realised that people were in fact at risk of getting repetitive strain injuries, so we thought about how we could best to alleviate that. Hence the use of the robot. The machine we use was made in Germany and we had it commissioned especially for us. We are not using machinery to create, but rather to lighten the load and purely save people’s bodies.

sanding machine

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: It’s so refreshing to see that you still start a piece by hand, in quite an old school kind of way, that you first draw it and turn the drawing into a hand-made maquette, contrary to many other designers who solely use computer programs to materialise their design vision.
Maureen Bryan: That’s always how we start because we can relate to it better. It’s also a handy way of sending it onto the manufacturer. We don’t think through the computer but rather by holding a pencil in hand.

Read more: Pioneering Artist Michael Craig Martin on Colour & Style

Maryam Eisler: How important is the space in which you work?
Don McCollin: We get a lot of inspiration just by being in the workshop and playing with things and little ideas.

Maureen Bryan: In a world where there is a lot of ugliness, we have a strong ethos in the workplace, a sanctuary where people are kind to each other. We have a really nice team and we make our work environment as pleasant as possible with a good, positive vibe. I would like to think that this is a place where we can escape from [the world]. It helps your head a lot actually, and the team does make it work. I also think this is the best team we’ve ever had. They’ve all been with us for years.

designer in the studio

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: Why do you think British designers do better outside the UK than they do within the country?
Maureen Bryan: I really don’t know what the explanation to that is. Maybe people are not so educated in design here in the UK. You see people here are very keen to build an architectural statement but then they furnish it in a bog-standard kind of way. I think it’s education, but also wealth in the UK is associated with tradition. Our biggest market is actually America!

Maryam Eisler: What is your dream for the future ?
Maureen Bryan: What we both want to do is to have more space to create more pieces and to have more time to design in a more hands on kind of way, with less time spent on management.

Find out more: mccollinbryan.com

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Reading time: 7 min
graphic painting of glasses
graphic painting of glasses

© The artist, courtesy of the artist and Gagosian. Photo Mike Bruce.

man and woman in front of artworkIn the mid 1960s, Michael Craig Martin emerged as a key figure in early British conceptual art, later becoming the teacher of many of the YBAs such as Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas. Today, he is one of the world’s most prominent artists, known for his brightly coloured paintings and sculptures of everyday objects. Millie Walton speaks with him about colour, style and listening to his own advice

1. By focusing on everyday objects, are you searching for a kind of universality?

Everyday objects do seem to me to offer a path to understanding the universal. By making drawings of as many objects as I can, one by one, I have tried to implicitly account for everything. I have discounted all the hierarchies by which we normally categorise things: size, use, materials, social importance, aesthetic quality, monetary value, moral worth, etc. I draw everything the same way, each with equal care and attention – a democracy of images.

2. Do you recreate the objects from memory or are they drawn from life?

I never draw from memory, only from the observation of an individual object.

3. Are the objects you use as subjects artworks in themselves?

With a few exceptions, such as Duchamp’s urinal or Magritte’s pipe, the objects I draw are not artworks. My drawings of them are.

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4. You’ve said before that incorporating colour into your work was a breakthrough moment. How so?

I discovered that I could unsettle the familiarity of the drawing of an object by introducing non-naturalistic, wayward, intense colour. The drawing is logical, general, bland, familiar; the colour instinctive, specific, vivid, unexpected. This confrontation gave my work a new visual impact and emotional intensity.

5. In aiming for what you’ve termed ‘no style’, you have created a style that is now widely recognised as yours. Has this changed your attitude towards what style means?

Yes. I used to look on style as a kind of self-conscious ‘arty’ signature. Now, I see that it can be the manifestation of the essential characteristics of one’s visual language.

6. Did teaching art at Goldsmiths College affect your own practice?

Yes, because, at best, I saw my teaching as virtually an extension of my practice. One thing I discovered was to always listen to the advice I was giving my students, as it was often the advice I wished to hear myself, but couldn’t do so directly.

digital artwork

Michael Craig Martin, Oxford Street Installation. © The artist, courtesy of the artist and Gagosian. Photo Mike Bruce.

7. How do you decide what to create next?

My work is a continuum. I work on many things at the same time. One thing leads to another. Work comes from work.

8. Is it important for you to be surrounded by your own artworks?

It’s not important, but I am happy, these days, to have some works hanging in my own apartment. In general, I quickly lose interest in a work I’ve just completed because I’m working on something else. I don’t like having much finished work in the studio, but I often do. Unexpectedly coming across something you did years ago, and have forgotten, can be very rewarding.

9. Are you interested in exploring more digital tools within your practice?

I have done quite a lot of digital work over the years, the first in 2000, I think. I develop all my work on a computer and what I do is well suited to digital productions. There are things one can do digitally involving change and movement that other mediums don’t allow.

red bulb sculpture

Michael Craig Martin, Bulb (red), 2011 © The artist, courtesy of the artist and Gagosian. Photo Mike Bruce.

10. Do you create commissioned work?

I always consider commissions. Some I accept, some I don’t. It’s interesting to consider something you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.

11. What led you to transform your drawings into transparent sculptures?

Two-dimensional images normally need a material ‘ground’ (paper, canvas, screen and so on) to exist at all. Making my drawings out of steel means they can be self-supporting and therefore dispense with the need for a ‘ground’, thus appearing transparent.

12. Are your works intended to provoke a particular reaction in the viewer?

I try to make work that catches the eye and the imagination of as many viewers as possible. I never seek a particular reaction, but try to provide the provocation for individual, personal speculation.

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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Luxury dining room area with contemporary stylish furnishings
Luxury dining room area with contemporary stylish furnishings

The Penthouse kitchen and dining room designed by Roksanda. Photography by Michael Sinclair. Styling by Olivia Gregory

Fashion designer Roksanda Ilinčić has curated the interiors of a penthouse apartment inside Gasholders London, a new residential development in Kings Cross. We get the grand tour

The trend for designer home-wear has reached its pinnacle. The new penthouse apartment curated by fashion designer Roksanda Ilinčić shows not only her designs, but how they integrate with art and iconic pieces of design history. The apartment is about how we can live with art and how all arts engage with each other; fashion crossing into ceramics, furniture and architecture. It is a unique space, which encompasses her artistic vision through unifying and contrasting colours, textures and luxury materials.

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Roksanda’s own home-wear collection, naturally, takes centre stage. In the apartment’s whimsically named ‘Sun Room’,  a ‘Roksanda X Linck Ceramics’ vase stands next to a stylish velvet chaise in red and orange with a coral curtain backdrop. The vase’s monochromatic shades are striking against the vibrancy of its surroundings.

Still life image of a contemporary flower vase against a bright pink blind

A Roksanda X Linck Ceramics vase in the penthouse’s ‘Sun Room.’ Photography by Michael Sinclair. Styling by Olivia Gregory

Here and throughout the apartment, we see the designer using colour and form in an unexpected way, just as she does with her clothing and accessories. The sculptural shapes and distinctive cuts associated with her clothing lines are translated into her choice of furniture; in the sharp angular Pierre Jeanneret chairs (1950s), the sleek, almost weightless Guillerme and Chambron oak desk (1960) and the organic, rounded form of the ‘skin lamp’ by Eny Lee Parker.

Read more: Kuwait’s ASCC launches visual arts programme in Venice

Stylish contemporary living space

The living room with curated furniture by Roksanda. Photography by Michael Sinclair. Styling by Olivia Gregory

Coat and bag hanging on contemporary style zigzag coat hanger

Roksanda’s creations are dotted around the apartment. Photography by Michael Sinclair. Styling by Olivia Gregory

The link between fashion and art is further emphasised by the designer’s own pieces, which are dotted around the apartment. A deep red jacket hangs in the hallway, a dress is draped across a bedroom chair with a pair of matching slippers, giving the impression that the designer is living in the space. This, of course, is the desired effect. The pieces are positioned so as to reveal just how liveable the space is, allowing viewers to picture themselves in the scene.

Rosie Ellison-Balaam

The Penthouse sits over three floors, with a double-height sunken courtyard garden and staircase providing access to a private roof garden with views of Coal Drops Yard. The apartment is available to buy fully-furnished for £7,750,000. Find out more: gasholderslondon.co.uk

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Installation view of a contemporary art exhibition with round canvases
Installation view of a contemporary art exhibition

Installation view of ‘Echoes of Light’ by Andy Moses at JD Malat Gallery, Mayfair, London

Last week, Mayfair’s JD Malat Gallery celebrated its one-year anniversary with a summer party and private view of a psychedelic solo exhibition by Andy Moses

Art dealer Jean-David Malat‘s eponymous gallery has had a busy first year with back-to-back exhibitions and an ever-growing list of artists, of which Andy Moses is the newest addition. Last week, saw the official opening of the Los Angeles-based artist’s first ever solo show in London entitled ‘Echoes Of Light’ as well as the celebrations of the gallery’s first birthday.

Two men in suits stand in front of psychedelic painting

Jean-David Malat and Andy Moses pictured in front of the artist’s work

Guests raised a glass against the backdrop of Moses’ signature psychedelic, swirling colourscapes, which are evocative of other worlds, distant dimensions. Each work explodes with movement, seemingly rippling before your eyes, and often denying a stable sense of perspective.

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Meanwhile, the gallery’s downstairs space displays works by the likes of Henrik Uldalen, Zümrütoğlu and Chinese artist Li Tianbing all of whom apply paint to canvas with refreshing originality.

Round canvas psychedelic artwork

‘Geodesy 1212’ (2019), Andy Moses

‘Echos of Light’ runs until 20 July 2019. For more information on the gallery’s upcoming exhibitions visit: jdmalat.com

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Reading time: 1 min
Gallery installation shot showing work by Sarah Morris
Gallery installation shot showing work by Sarah Morris

Sarah Morris installation shot, ‘Machines do not make us into Machines’, White Cube Bermondsey © Sarah Morris. Photo © White Cube (Ollie Hammick)

Standing in front of one of Sarah Morris‘ expansive architectural grids is a challenging, giddying experience. Confronted with a maze of colour and geometric shapes, you’re struck with a sense of panic: What are you looking at? How do you see it all at once, or make sense of it as a whole? This anxiety, or perhaps desire, is at the core of the American artist’s work as she plays with the viewer’s sense of visual recognition. Incorporating a wide range of references from the structure of urban transport systems to the iconography of maps, GPS technology, as well as the movement of people within urban environments, Morris’ work is best understood as an expanding and evolving network of visual, social and political connections.

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Her exhibition at the White Cube (and her first in the UK in six years), Machines do not make us into Machines presents a new series of ‘Sound Graph’ paintings, which use the artist’s sound files as a starting point for their composition. Recorded fragments of conversations are abstracted into hard-edged geometric shapes that appear in vibrant, fluctuating patterns that seem to move before the gaze.

Sound graph abstract painting by artist Sarah Morris

Sarah Morris, ‘The Building looks like a ship’ [Sound Graph], 2019 © Sarah Morris. Photo © Tom Powel Imaging. Courtesy White Cube

Image of a white dome with a golden spire and pink smoke in the sky behind

Sarah Morris ‘Abu Dhabi’ [still] 2017. HD Digital. Duration: 67 minutes, 54 seconds © Sarah Morris. Courtesy White Cube

The exhibition also includes a selection of her films. Most notably, Abu Dhabi (2017) – a layered and fragmented exploration of the city’s psycho-geography. Her first ever sculpture What can be explained can also be predicted (2019), is comprised of modular, glass tubes of various heights and colours, arranged on a gridded marble plinth in the appearance of a miniature city. There’s a lot to contemplate, so much in fact, that it is deserving of more than one visit.

‘Machines do not make us into Machines’ runs until 30 June 2019 at White Cube, Bermondsey, London. For more information visit: whitecube.com

Follow Sarah Morris on Instagram: instagram.com/sarahmorris

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Reading time: 1 min

Model poses on street in mid dance in pink frilly dress with designer in background

Anna Wallace-Thompson speaks to curator and artist Maryam Eisler about the characters in her latest book, Voices: East London, which celebrates the unique hub of creativity and individuality

Maryam on designer Meihui Liu (top image with Alice Pins modelling one of her creations on Princelet Street, and below Alice Pins in another creation by the designer with shoes by Natacha Marro):

“I’ve never met anyone with so much positive energy, possibility and potential for doing. Meihui is, first and foremost, a designer, and her art comes in the form of beautiful, timeless gowns made out of found and patchwork vintage fabrics. She’s also the greatest connector I have ever known. I think you can see the influence of the East End on Meihui’s way of thinking, and in the way in which she uses fabrics. We photographed her on Princelet Street, behind Brick Lane. Here, the buildings appeal with their romantic, weathered textures of bygone times: peeling walls in shades of rosewood and teal, houses dating back to the Huguenots and the Irish silk weavers of the early 18th century. The area has such a deep connection to fabric and textiles, just like Meihui’s own personal creations.”

Model Alice Pins posing in front of street graffiti wearing Meihui Liu

In Paris there is Montmartre, in New York, SoHo – and in London, there is the East End. One of the last bastions of individuality and creativity in an ever-sanitised cityscape, London’s East End remains a bolthole for artists, fashion designers, musicians and creatives. Its scrappy nature, says editor and photographer Maryam Eisler, is, “one of the key factors to enabling creativity, precisely through this tension between glitz and ‘gritz’. It’s that crack that has given birth to different kinds of thinking.” She adds, “There is a sub culture in the East End that’s been lost elsewhere – and the minute you sanitise society you lose its verve and flavour, as is the case in London’s West End.”

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Eisler has lovingly captured the spirit of the East End’s creative residents in her book, Voices: East London. “The whole point of doing this book was to try and find out what it was about the East End that differentiated it from the rest of London – in fact, I very nearly called it A Tale of Two Cities,” explains Eisler. “Historically-speaking, the East End has induced and empowered creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. It has fostered imagination, innovation and a more colourful way of thinking on so many levels, all a result, in my opinion, of its rich multicultural layering.”

It was towards the end of the two years of interviews she conducted for the book that Eisler met one of the most interesting people of all – 77-year-old New York native and cookbook writer turned outsider artist, Sue Kreitzman. Her apartment is a riotous explosion of colour, the most primal and genuine reflection of her inner self and something of an East End legend, as is her own personal dressing style. Through Kreitzman, Eisler then met young artists Anne Sophie Cochevelou and Florent Bidois, both of whom create wearable art from found objects mostly sourced in thrift stores and markets. Eisler also met “creative genius, chief connector, delicious ‘lace’ dumpling maker and pop-up queen” Meihui Liu.

Read more: Exclusive behind-the-scenes images from “Voices: East London” by Maryam Eisler

“These people live, breathe, eat and dream their art,” says Eisler. “When we talk about wearable art, they are their own best mouth pieces. All four of them have the ability to make something out of nothing.” It is this, Eisler believes, that exemplifies the East End spirit. “It’s such a pioneering spirit, and very much an industrious spirit, to have this hands-on approach to life, leaving your own mark on the things you make, as well as on society as a whole – adding colour to the life of the community you live in, making it a better place to be. It’s all about making something special out of very little.”

Designer Anne Sophie Cochevelou pictured in flower market holding a bunch of colourful flowers

Maryam on designer Anne Sophie Cochevelou (above at Columbia Road flower market): 

“Anne Sophie is all about opulence, layering and being off the wall. She’s a complete hoarder, of beads and pompoms and sequins and remnants of fabrics and plumes and boas. It’s incredible how many different looks she keeps coming up with; it’s better than any fairy tale. She talks about [the flower market’s] ‘texture’, and how it inspires her. When dressed and out in public, people are intrigued, wanting to take pictures of her, often asking to touch her clothes. She turns into some kind of idol.”

Designer Florent Bidois pictured in conversation with a street vendoer

Maryam on designer Florent Bidois (above): 

“Both Anne Sophie and Florent are incredibly energetic souls. Florent takes trash bags and makes couture dresses from them, which he calls ‘trash couture’. They are beautifully stitched by hand and turned into delicate creations using flowers, buttons and sequins. They look a million dollars.”

“I shot Florent on Broadway Market, which he loves for its dynamism and friendliness. He loves the water as he’s from Brittany, so he likes taking strolls by the canal. He had his first fashion show in 2006 but it was after he met Sue Kreitzman in 2015 that he says, ‘something clicked in my head’. He has praised her for allowing him to be ‘bold and beautiful. I see myself as a blank canvas. I create my own vision of beauty, a duty I take seriously as an artist.'”

Designer Sue Kreitzman pictured in her East London home

Maryam on Sue Kreitzman (pictured above in her East London home):

“Sue is actually American by origin, but is now an adopted East Ender, having been here for more than 20 years. She’s a true designer: her whole theory on life is ‘don’t wear beige, it will kill you.’ Her home is a fairy tale hodgepodge, a world of infinite possibilities – there’s not one square inch of space that isn’t painted or covered in art and objects. She lives in a world of beauty, imagination, colour and energy, a sanctuary where she finds solace and soulfulness. She is the epitome of a real ‘maker’ – she creates kimonos, jewellery, art, all from found or used objects, sought out in flea markets all over the East End. She is also a feminist, with strong opinions and a can-do attitude.”

Maryam on Sue’s relationship with Florent and Anne Sophie:

“[Sue] has inspired many young people and taken them under her wing to show them a path of possibility. When we talk about wearable art, all three – Sue, Florent and Anne Sophie – represent the epitome of their own art and thinking. They live by their own individual books and Sue has taken both Anne Sophie and Florent under her wing and, in effect, encouraged them to channel their creativity, possibly even showed them how it can be turned into a viable existence. She has proved to them that it can go beyond just wearing art themselves, and speaking about it and believing it: you can make a living out of it.”

This piece was originally published in The Beauty Issue. Discover Maryam Eisler’s portfolio of work: maryameisler.com

 

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Reading time: 5 min
exhibition of the month
Singapore Hermes exhibition

Mountain, 2017. Ink on mulberry Hanji paper

Hermes exhibition singapore

Close up of Mountain,-2017

Korean artist, Minjung Kim is the first of two artists this year to be invited to the Aloft art space at the Hermès boutique, Singapore. Exploring the gallery’s 2017 theme of reflection, Kim’s contemporary ink paintings depict vast, hazy mountainscapes that roll endlessly into the distance. The artworks are painted onto mulberry hanji paper (the traditional Korean medium) and created in line with Taoist tradition, which demands the artist seeks a state similar to meditation so that she is able to apply thin, detailed lines with a steady hand. Yet, Kim’s paintings, though delicate, are dreamy rather than precise, flowing and undulating almost like water. The fading mountains could just as easily be waves of a colourful sea disappearing into the horizon; look at them for long enough and you will almost begin to sway. It’s an intensely relaxing and hypnotic viewing experience. The artist’s state of mind at the point of creation runs through and from the ink, just as the ink bleeds into the paper.

‘Oneness’ runs until 30th July 2017 at Aloft, Hermès, Singapore

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Reading time: 1 min