Two artists who are men standing in front of a mirror with a blue background

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Share:
Reading time: 8 min
02-New-LUX-Cover-SS-24 (1)
02-New-LUX-Cover-SS-24 (1)

George Condo shot this selfie and painted this logo and these coverlines for our cover. We see it as an ‘anti-cover’ – a reaction to the slick imagery created by magazines and now universally imitated by social media

George Condo has been redefining art for more than four decades. As he unveils a body of work titled “The Mad and the Lonely”, the artist speaks with Maryam Eisler about the human condition and society’s outcasts. Condo created this issue’s cover and logo for LUX, and showcases these paintings for the first time below

Maryam Eisler: Charles Bukowski once said, “Only the crazy and the lonely can afford to be themselves”. Would you agree?
George Condo: I would agree with Bukowski. However, I would say the mad and the lonely are perhaps more victims of their own internal circumstances, as opposed to having the choice to make that distinction.

back of a man painting in his studio, with an image of various faces

George Condo at work in his studio

ME: Would you consider madness and loneliness as necessary precursors to the act of creation?
GC: I don’t think so. I imagine the mad and the lonely as a state of mind that comes over the artist in moments of joy and happiness as well. Suddenly, without warning, the subconscious kicks in and drives him, or at least myself, into dark corners within me to bring out reflections, or rather observations of those disparate souls in life who have no choice but to be outcast or peripheral to the everyday working-class person, and are unable to function within the constraints of such boundaries. At which point, they become either homeless or simply rejected from society.

a man who is an artist looking directly at the viewer, drawn with pencil

George Condo, Illustration by Jonathan Newhouse

ME: Henry Miller once said, “The artist is always alone”. Are you mad and lonely? If so, is it by choice or by necessity?
GC: I am not mad and lonely. However, the portraits I paint are depictions of those who are. I like to take selfies, like the one on the LUX cover, because they make me laugh. Miller’s books always make me laugh as well. They are practically selfies in and of themselves.

Artwork created for LUX, 2024, by George Condo

ME: Have we become sad, lonely and angry as a society? Have we forgotten empathy? How would you propose saving us?
GC: I cannot save the world from its own extinction. We are the new dinosaurs living through the ice age, the cyber age, the world of disinformation and scam; a world at war within itself, like fires that keep popping up in various cultures – cultures that have been driven to believe in war against each other, a rather brutal form of extinction.

 

a painting of someone between a person and an animal

‘Acceptance’, 1989, by George Condo

 

ME: Sciences help us understand the natural world; social sciences help us measure human behaviour. Is culture alone capable of understanding the individual’s emotions?
GC: The emotional aspects of a child are the purest. Once the child becomes hardwired into various systems of belief, whether by political pressures or religious pressures passed to them by their elders, is when the trouble begins. The actual science of medicine and the science of research are subject to government regulations that perhaps aid the big pharmaceutical companies to continue to produce drugs. Many of the drugs they have produced previously have led to the need of the new drugs. For all we know, there has been a cure for dementia or cancer that has been held back from us for years. For all we know, it’s like trying to get to the truth about aliens. I don’t have an answer to that. I find that art is the truth; it is the only manmade representation of what one truly has to say and can believe in.

ME: How would you qualify the individual’s experience when they are confronted with a great artwork?
GC: I think the first feeling is one of great joy in seeing the remarkable impact of either colour or form or the way things are depicted and the spirit of an artist’s true beliefs.

 

A face coming out of a purple and blue background

‘Appearance’, 2023, by George Condo

 

ME: It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who once said that we consume culture to enlarge our hearts and minds. Would you agree that the very best of the arts induce humility and empathy?
GC: I would say Emerson was able to express some of the most beautiful essays ever written and I agree with everything he has said. His quotes from Aristotle are particularly amusing.

ME: Do you agree that art has the power to render sorrow into beauty, loneliness into a shared experience and despair into hope?
GC: I do agree with that. I believe it’s possible in art to turn that which is negative into positive, and that some of the most beautiful art is of the melancholic. One might find in the music of John Dowland in the early 17th century such beautiful and melancholic songwriting and ensemble music, such as ‘Lachrimae’, or ‘Seaven Teares’ as well as ‘A Pilgrimes Solace’, that it becomes transformative. This mood pervades throughout the arts, in painting as well, from this period. One might think of Caravaggio’s ‘Death of the Virgin’, which is currently at the Louvre.

 

a red nun, in a painting

‘The Red Nun’, 2017, by George Condo

 

ME: Dakis Joannou said, “If it doesn’t have psyche, it cannot be art”. How would you describe the psyche when it comes to your own art production?
GC: The psyche is an Ancient Greek expression and it still stands true. If the art does not have a mind of its own, irrespective of the viewers, it’s no good.

ME: Are you excited by your upcoming collaboration with Dakis Joannou’s Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art on the island of Hydra?
GC: I’m very excited, I’ve known Dakis for quite some time now. He is a very wise man with an extremely acute sense of aesthetics and imagination – even to have realised the Slaughterhouse as a place to show art tells you just how brilliant he is.

 

a blue face with brownish red wide eyes, pointy eyebrows and a long nose

‘Dark Facing Light’, 2023, by George Condo

 

ME: Does Hydra itself play a big part in this excitement? If so, why?
GC: Yes. This is a mythical island and it has all the elements of the ancient and modern times combined within one place.

ME: What are you hoping to achieve with this initiative?
GC: My hope is to somehow combine minimalism and figuration in one exhibition and to have a kind of dialectic experience take place: the cold and the warm coming together and liberating the constraints of both forms of art from being anything less than human.

a sculpture of a head

‘The Renegade’, 2009, by George Condo

ME: Would you say that this is a big departure stylistically and thematically from what you have produced in the past?
GC: This will be the first time I have worked in such a way as to focus the attention on the outcasts of society and glorify or rather dignify them in the context of a high-art experience.

ME: Where have you found your main sources of inspiration? Have these sources shifted in recent years or for the work you are about to present in Hydra?
GC: My art is always in flux with my imagination. I don’t necessarily draw or paint in a representational manner; it’s more an internal dialogue in my mind that is thrust onto the surface of a canvas to express my inner thoughts and feelings.

Caravaggio painting with red and heads and someone dying

‘The Death of the Virgin’, 1606, by Caravaggio (Fine Art/Alamy Stock Photo)

ME: What are you fascinated by these days? What do you abhor?
GC: Well, I am always fascinated by food, I must admit. I love to cook and try out new recipes or recreate things I’ve eaten that I really love. I even had such a great Greek lamb sandwich in Athens that I recreated the food-truck experience for Dakis here in New York and he loved it! I abhor war and suffering. I wish the wars would all end.

ME: What are your plans after Hydra?
GC: I will just come back home. My daughter is expecting a baby girl and I’m hoping to spend time babysitting!

George Condo’s exhibition “The Mad and The Lonely” is at the Deste Foundation Project Space Slaughterhouse, Hydra, Greece, 18 June-31 October 2024;

deste.gr

george-condo.com

Share:
Reading time: 7 min
woman laying on colourful floor
woman laying on colourful floor

A Dream you Dream Alone, by Maryam Eisler, 2021

An elegant, aloof figure lies, sprawled, blanketed in stripes, formed of shadows from a gazebo above. Here’s a glimpse into Chief Contributing Editor of LUX, Maryam Eisler’s continual exposition of the Sublime Feminine. In the murky hinterland between body and landscape – in what she calls ‘dreamlands made real’ – Maryam captures chimerical states and synaptic, elusive moments. By Isabella Fergusson

Maryam’s black and white photography toys with shadow and light in ways in which the body seems to hover between corporeal and architectural form. Figures hide. Bodies are touched by their landscape’s shadows, by wooden planks, by leaves, by music scores. They turn away, evasive; hands and arms are little seen: bodies are distilled to Barbara Hepworth-esque forms – to the curve of a lower back, the stomach, the spine. There is a sense of holding back, of retaining mystery, of stretching beyond the body to landscape. In Peaks and Troughs, curves of bodies are hit by light with such exquisite abstraction as to resemble vast mountains, or perhaps a close-up of a cluster of smooth pebbles.

Peaks and Troughs, by Maryam Eisler, 2019

‘I often search for inspiration in literature, poetry and in the arts’, Maryam says. And, if Hepworth looked to music, and Rothko wanted to raise painting to ‘music and poetry’, Maryam, in a modern take, lays bare the parallels between photography and music. Music scores leak into the photography itself, both literally, and in the way that a mathematical precision of composition provides access to dreamlike, hazy worlds. In A Cry for Freedom, a nude figure seems almost tattooed by the shadows of musical notes, nodding towards a subliminal synaesthesia.

naked body with musical notes projected onto back

A Cry for Freedom, by Maryam Eisler, 2023

Such philosophy spills into colour. Constructed forms – trees, crosses, doors – stick out against bright blue skies. Balconies are distilled to rectangles, pentagons, triangles, punctuated by rich pinks and blues. A palm tree shoots playfully out of a wall, structured by Crayola coloured, stripy joints. Perspective is maintained and fundamental, and yet simultaneously flat and geometric. They combine playful, Hockney bravado with a serious, almost cubist, interest in perspective.

a grid of various very colourful pictures

Linear Emotions – Palm Springs, by Maryam Eisler, 2023

Intimate Landscapes prods the metaphysical questions at the core of the Sublime. In light and lines, shadows and shapes, Maryam’s self-reflectively titled series, ‘Linear Emotions’, confront their own process. How does one conjure up inner dreamlands through geometry? Where does the body end and the landscape begin?

A woman in pink spinning against a bright blue sky with some trees

The Astonishing Light of Your Own Being, by Maryam Eisler, 2024

‘Feeling is my true north’, says Maryam. And one can feel that here – her grace and control, her search for what is, in her words, ‘true or fantastic. Nostalgia for bygone times. Passion. Romance. Heartache’. Dancing between delicate quiet and bold colour, Maryam ‘offers a glimpse into these dreams and into this multi-faceted exploration of the Sublime Feminine’.

man watching woman dive into pool

Poolside Watching, by Maryam Eisler, 2023

 

Maryam Eisler’s exhibition, ‘Intimate Landscapes’, will be showing at Mucciaccia Gallery Project, Rome, via Laurina 31, from 10th February – 16th March 2024

 

See More: https://www.maryameisler.com

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
Man in a mask standing next to frames of a crushed car
Pink and purple book on a colourful table

The hardback copy of ‘Confined Artists – Free Spririts: Portraints and Interviews from Lockdown 2020’. Photo by Maryam Eisler

During the lockdown of 2020, Maryam Eisler brought together 164 of the world’s most influential artists, interviewing and photographing them over video calls to create a unique series of portraits and accompanying insights. As we anticipate the physical launch of Confined Artists – Free Spirits: Portraits & Interviews from Lockdown 2020, Trudy Ross speaks to Maryam about looking back on her unique creative journey from a post-pandemic perspective

It was April 2020, and Maryam Eisler was feeling restless. With her usual schedule of travelling round the world, exploring and creating curtailed, she sat at home pondering a life without movement. Thus, in a rare circumstance of  stasis, a one-of-a-kind project was born.

The result? 164 conversations, 164 unique portraits, and their assemblage as a wider piece of art. An exploration into the minds and hearts of artists across the globe during one of the most significant historical events in many of our lifetimes. As she says herself, it is: “a collective stamp of a moment in time. It is a memory, a capsule of a moment in history.” She managed to capture an important frame in the history of the modern art world.

Man in a mask standing next to frames of a crushed car

Ron Arad seeing his work Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me? for the first time at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2020. Photo by Ron Arad and Associates Limited

The project’s first form was a digital exhibition on the LUX website shortly after its completion, which garnered so much traction that it actually crashed the LUX website when it went live. Now there is a new launch happening this week, a physical one, for a hardback book entitled: Confined Artists – Free Spirits: Portraits and Interviews from Lockdown 2020. Shaped like a tall rectangle to imitate a smartphone, each slick copy brings Maryam’s virtual interviews and Facetime-facilitated photography beyond the screen and into the physical world.

Over three years later, with the pandemic behind us – indeed, almost forgotten about by many in society – I spoke to Maryam about her time spent on this original project and the inspiration behind it.

“Artists are always very symbolic of their time,” she says. “Their ways of thinking and philosophies are often very much a reflection of the historical time that they live in, and this manifests in their artworks. I was intrigued to see how that particular community was dealing with the COVID issue from a psychological perspective, an emotional perspective, and also from a logistical perspective of production.”

Artist Ron Arad, one of the interviewees, spoke to LUX about the practicalities of production these strange times; “I did a lot during lockdown, including buying cars online, an old red Mercedes, and then flattening it online by giving instructions over Zoom to a team in Holland. I saw that piece for the first time on the walls of the Royal Academy […] It is very strange to know a piece intimately and work on it intensely, but to have never touched it.”

Originally, Maryam set her sights on thirty artists in total, but after receiving a resounding yes from everyone she reached out to – very rare in the world of overstretched artists in demand – she decided to keep going. And going. And going.

Screenshot of a woman in multiple mirrors

Es Devlin. Photo by Maryam Eisler

It became a routine for her, she tells me: “I had my desk set up in the kitchen, I had my roster, my Rolodex, and I would spend one day interviewing and one day organising.” Each conversation enriched her mind and gave her new perspectives on unprecedented times.

Beyond this, it was a creative exercise; she had a creative vision for each portrait, and aimed to allow each artist’s personality and areas of focus to shine through. When I ask her about some of her favourites, she says: “Off the cuff, I can remember Es Devlin; she put herself in front of a refractory mirror so you could see her face several times, which is very in line with her aesthetic and ethos. Charlotte Colbert uses eyes a lot on her work – indeed, eyes were a symbol that recurred throughout the project – so she had this massive eye that she put in front of another, so she had this distorted hawking out eye, an inanimate object, versus her regular blue eyes. With Edmund de Waal I remember clearly saying hold the camera a little bit more that way just a little bit more, so I could see the geometric designs and patterns in the studio ceiling. We had of course a lot of artists in front of their works which was one more straightforward but still telling approach. Melanie Dunea is one of my favourite portraits; she is holding a magnifying glass in front of one eye so, again, she has one eye protruding.”

Edmund de Waal by Maryam Eisler

“When you go through it you can see some artists’ attitudes in their portraits reflected in their words. Some are incredibly peaceful, and you can see the sense of serenity and peace in their face. In others you can see fear, and potentially anger. There was a real degree of playfulness from others. Philip Colbert, with his lobster alter ego and his mask, for instance.”

The project not only allowed interested readers to gain insight into the lives of artists in extraordinary times – it also touched the artists themselves profoundly. Shirin Neshat comments that: “Maryam came knocking at artists’ doors with lightness, sense of humour and ease when everyone felt utterly isolated and lost. Her zoom’s conversations felt comforting and a reminder of artists’ need for a community especially in times of crisis.”

Shirin Neshat by Maryam Eisler

Further still, the project touches on the fraught political landscape of the moment. Maryam highlighted the importance of chronology when putting the book together: “ as you read through, there is not only an art-historical progression, there is a political progression. Towards the end of the project in June is when the Black Lives Matter movement was beginning. The last profile of the book is about breathing – not in connection with the virus, but in connection with George Floyd.”

Mickalene Thomas takes the final, impactful slot in this book of over 150 famous artists, speaking to Maryam on 30th June, 2020. She calls upon the world to “say her damn name”, cementing in print the names of tens of black women who lost their lives at the hands of police enforcement – just a fraction of the total black lives lost this way.

Thomas’ words leave an imprint in the mind of the reader, and the project itself leaves an imprint on the timeline of the modern art world.

Find out more: www.maryameisler.com

Share:
Reading time: 5 min
A black and white picture of a house and a woman lying on a balcony
A black and white picture of a house and a woman lying on a balcony

The architectural intricacies of the Parnham House estate, with an almost hidden Stephanie Bolam. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Human, natural and built landscapes, ancient and modern, come together in an ethereal photography series by Maryam Eisler in dialogue with poet thomas Paul

When LUX Chief Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler has an idea, beautiful and strange things happen, often in unison. Such was the case at Parnham House, a country estate in Dorset, southwest England, one chilly day this year, when Eisler descended on the ornamental grounds with her co-conspirator, author and producer Cavan Mahony, model Stephanie Bolam and poet thomas Paul.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Eisler has made her name as a photographic artist through her developing takes on the “Sublime Feminine”, the female form seen through the female camera gaze. Bolam offered a new interpretation: she is covered in body art (or, as she calls it, “body armour”), from head to toe, and has never allowed herself to be photographed naked before.

As she says, “I am a walking piece of art. I had to learn to become more powerful and resilient to handle people’s reactions. I chose the responsibility to do this.”

A woman covered in tattoos leaning on a bath with a mirror behind her

Stephanie Bolam, complemented by a Parnham House interior. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

While Eisler and co-creative Mahony created the shots, Paul composed verse. “There were a lot of challenges,” says Eisler, “but Stephanie was a great trooper and faced these head on. The most challenging, of course, was me asking her to take a deep dive into the murky cold waters of the pond at Parnham, which is green and slimy, and not exactly the most welcoming environment. But she did it and the result, in my view, is one of the most beautiful images of the day: painterly, ethereal, Ophelia-like.”

Read more: Artist Ricky Burrows: From the streets to the studio

The creatives played with the forms of space and place and drew focus to the detailed architecture of the Elizabethan house, its grounds and its storied history. “Everything at Parnham House is very intricate and ornate, and that has a dialogue with the patterns on Stephanie’s body,” says Eisler. “This worked so well because Stephanie is someone extremely contemporary, on the now, with the art she is adorned with, and here she is in dialogue with an evocative place of the past – one of the most beautiful houses of the West Country, in fact.”

Or, as the first lines from thomas Paul’s poem, composed on the spot, run:
“Elegance in form, beauties face
To overwhelm, blinding fears and scorn
In images of dreams, in fairytales
I hear your screams, your conversations within”

The exhibition “Ignis Avis Lineae”, by Maryam Eisler and thomas Paul, launched in October 2023 at Cricket Court in Somerset, home of fashion designer Alice Temperley. See maryameisler.com for details

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
A man with paint on his jeans lying on a purple couch
A man with paint on his jeans lying on a purple couch

Ricky Burrows in a moment of pause © Maryam Eisler

Ricky Burrows, the Brooklyn-based artist originally discovered by Rashid Johnson, speaks to LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler about how he made it from the streets to the studio, now opening a solo show at Harper’s, New York.

Maryam Eisler: How did Mr Ricky Burrows end up in this impressive building, the Brooklyn Army Terminal?

Ricky Burrows: Well, my parents are originally from Brooklyn and I was born here. I moved to Connecticut and I came back to Brooklyn after I got out of detention; I was separated from my Mom because she was on drugs. I started painting seriously in 2014, and I met one of the building owners, Mr Gunn; he came to an open studio. He liked my work and told me he had a studio for me, and that I could paint there and that I wouldn’t have to pay rent. When he said ‘no rent’, I said ‘send me the location’. To this day I don’t pay rent. From the start, he absolutely believed in me. He’s one of my earliest first supporters, for sure.

red and white blocks on the ground by a bridge and industrial building

Scenes from the Brooklyn Army Terminal © Maryam Eisler

ME: Talk to me about this incredible building, and your studio space.

RB: This place (the Brooklyn Army Terminal) keeps me sharp. Everybody’s working here 24/7, and I’m a sponge. As soon as you walk into the parking lot, there are a thousand trucks going past you. As soon as you get into the elevators, five or six people from all different walks of life doing different things are saying hello to you, high fiving you … You’ve got the FBI and the FIT here, movie directors, students, sanitation, dialysis…It’s like a small city… a city within a city, and no one ever sleeps.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

ME: When did you start painting?

RB: Around maybe the age of sixteen.

ME: Was it something you had to do? Something you could not escape from … or, was it an actual escape from reality – your reality?

RB: I would say both. My inspiration came from my neighbourhood and the street. So, painting was actually weird. But I couldn’t help myself. I had to do it. I was drawn to it. I wanted to paint, but I was also influenced by my friends who had nothing to do. So, it was a bit of both. It was like ‘let me avoid it as much as I can, but let me also stick to it as closely as I possibly can …’ if that makes sense?

A man sitting on the floor surrounded by artworks

Burrows sitting on the floor with his works © Maryam Eisler

ME: Yes, it does. You mentioned drugs at some point in your life – which you’re clearly over now. What was the reason? Was pain at the source or was it just what street kids d0?

RB: For me, it was about not wanting to think about the stuff I was dealing with in my life or stuff I was going home to later at night. So the more loaded I was, the better it was for me … it helped me deal with whatever was coming my way when going ‘home’.

A man standing next to a yellow painting

‘Goldfish don’t bounce’ referring to Jimi Hendrix’s song © Maryam Eisler

ME: Which leads me to Jimi Hendrix. Talk to me about ‘When Goldfish don’t bounce’.

RB: Well fish don’t bounce. And, I’m the goldfish.

Paintings of colourful distorted faces

Early career works by Ricky Burrows © Maryam Eisler

ME: You are. But you bounce. You bounced out of the bowl, it appears.

RB: Yes, I did. But I didn’t manage to go too far. That’s the scary part about it. Along my art career, I’m always that close to crashing out. I really don’t know how to talk to people outside of myself. So I’m only just learning how to be more social and to trust the public, because I’ve dealt with a lot of sh*t. It’s been hard. And I’ve only just started to see the light at 30.

Yellow Zebra crossing on a chair

The exterior of the Brooklyn Army Terminal © Maryam Eisler

ME: You win the biggest battle when you start believing in yourself. Are you there?

RB: THAT is the biggest battle right now. The fight with myself, you know. But I would say that maybe I’m doing a good job because it got me this far.

A man wearing a white t shirt and black and green cap

Looking out the studio window © Maryam Eisler

ME: Well, if you’re having a show at Harper’s, in Chelsea, New York in November, I would say you’re definitely over the 50% mark, wouldn’t you agree? More win than lose?

RB: Yes, but what am I supposed to do at night? When there is no art to make or no Harper’s shows? No girls to see? That’s the kind of stuff I try to escape. Because I don’t like being alone.

plastic dolls and books on a desk

Inspirational objects around the studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: Comfort in and with yourself. You need to find that peace, wouldn’t you agree?

RB: I’m trying to. But it’s taking me a long time to get there.

A room with art and paint all of over the floor and chair

In an around the studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: Patience is a virtue! I wanted to talk to you about street. You mention your street life and your street friends; I also see a lot of street style and influence in and around your studio – Supreme, Palace, AWAKE, Nike collaborations with Virgil … powerful brands where art, lifestyle, design and commerce have come together successfully. Are you personally interested in engaging in these types of commercial collaborations down the line?

RB: Yes definitely, yes. That is definitely of interest. As far as I’m concerned, I try to make as much art as possible so that my mind isn’t just limited to creating paintings, you know? I like to extend myself beyond the canvas.

blue and white Nike Air Jordans

Where art meets street, Nike collaboration with ‘Off White’ by Virgil Abloh, part of Ricky’s own personal collection © Maryam Eisler

ME: So it’s not just the esoteric and conceptual side of art which interests you? You actually see the application of the concept to a more utilitarian and more commercial environment ?

RB: Very utilitarian, 100 percent yes.

ME: Is your idea to take your art out to the crowds (with an S) as opposed to just ‘A’ crowd ? Do you want your art to be democratic and for the people, mixing highbrow and lowbrow?

RB: I want my art to be highbrow, but I also want it to be accessible to those on the street, where I came from and to people who are not even of the ‘art world’. Because a lot of people that I have met or who have helped me, couldn’t even tell you who Francis Bacon was to save their lives, you know! I really appreciate them just wanting to be here with me, for me, or just calling me to send me money for no reason other than just believing in me … ‘I know you need some paint, so go buy some paint. I know you need canvas? Here you go, go buy it ‘.

"RB" painted in black on a white canvas

Ricky Burrows’ ‘signature’ © Maryam Eisler

ME: So, all that I see in your studio has just been given to you?

RB: Yes, all of it. So, I feel like I owe the public more than I owe the art world.

A man sitting on a drawing wearing red shoes, yellow socks, a green cap and white t-shirt with jeans

Ricky Burrows sitting on his work in the studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: Some of the greatest artists in America, the likes of Warhol and Basquiat, mixed high brow and low brow. Are you just continuing in that same direction?

RB: I would say that I’m actually really (even more) from the streets, you know… If I lose the studio today, I’m going straight back to the street…I ain’t going to nobody, calling no aunty that can come pick me up in her fancy car. No, no, no, no, no. So lowbrow, lowbrow, lowbrow, lowbrow…

ME: You’re having your first solo show at Harper’s this November. What did you say you were going to do with the money from Harper’s show?

RB: Well with the money from Harper’s show – because I know I’m going to sell out – I’m going to develop and start my own apparel company. I’m of course still learning how to manage my finances so I don’t crash out or run out of money. It’s all so new to me.

A picture of a woman coloured in at the top and left blank on the bottom

Works in progress © Maryam Eisler

ME: Please share with me the story behind your ‘big break‘ moment. From the street to Harper…how did that happen?

RB: I met Harper through Rashid Johnson.

ME: And how did you meet Rashid?

RB: Off the internet. At, like, 5 o’clock in the morning, March 6, 2023. I was here. I didn’t have as much stuff; it was a lot cleaner because I was broke. I had just broken up with this girl… she said either get a job or I’m leaving you. That instagram page which you follow me on (@presidentrickyburrows), well, I just made that, two or three days later. I was like, let me give it a shot, so I reached out to him (Rashid). Two hours later, he had his assistant Alex send me a list of paintings that he said he wanted. People tell me all the time ‘I’ll get this, I’ll get that’ so I kind of blew it off and went to sleep. But when I woke up, I had a message from his Alex: ‘I’ll meet you at your studio at 11 o’clock.’ I was like ‘Whatever man, whatever !’ I reread the message like ten times. I also checked the name ten times. That’s when I realised that this is a real page, Rashid’s page. Then his Alex called me and I was like, oh sh*t, this is really happening.

They actually came to see me and two days later, he brought Harper here. Harper lost his mind when he saw my work. He showed some of my work at Nada; it sold out. And, he’s been my best friend ever since.

A man leaning over a bridge overlooking train tracks in a tunnel

A moment of reflection at the entrance of the Brooklyn Army Terminal where Ricky holds his studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: What is the inspiration behind your upcoming show with Harper?

RB: It’s a unified story. I say ‘unified’ because it includes all the people around me… friends, the streets and the Bible; I think the show will just be a nice introduction to my life.

pain brushes in a jar on a chair

Inspiration around the studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: The Bible?

RB: Yes, because I grew up with the Church. We’re Baptist.

Read more: An Interview with William Kentridge

ME: Do you work a lot with local churches?

RB: No, I work a lot with and in my mind. I haven’t been to the Church since I was fifteen. I don’t have a religion.

A man wearing a white t shirt sitting on an art work on the floor in a studio

Burrows’ work-in-progress of Jesus coming off the cross © Maryam Eisler

ME: So is it the concept and the philosophy of religion that interests you?

RB: Yes, the concept. It’s really about the human stories. I think I only realised this maybe three months ago.

ME: Would you say you are the ‘Chosen One’ ?

RB: Yes, maybe I am!

The Brooklyn Army Terminal‘s (designed by Cass Gilbert) construction was originally approved in 1918, during World War I, and was completed after the conclusion of the war. The terminal was subsequently leased out and used for various purposes, including as a dock, a military prison, and a storage space for drugs and alcohol during the Prohibition. During World War II, the terminal was the United States’ largest military supply base. The site occupies more than 95 acres, on Brooklyn’s western shore.

Ricky Burrows’ show, Saved, will be on display at Harper’s from November 16-December 23

@presidentrickyburrows
@harpersbooks

All photography by Maryam Eisler

Share:
Reading time: 10 min
A man in a bullring holding a pink and yellow flag with women on either side of him holding red flags
The front of a hotel with a woman coming out of it and a sign that says Nord Pinus

Il Etait Une Fois, Le Nord-Pinus by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler – the photographer behind many of LUX’s artist covers, including our most recent KAWS cover- continues her fascination with the Sublime Feminine in her latest series of works, If Only These Walls Could Talk

In 1973, Helmut Newton travelled to Arles and photographed Charlotte Rampling for her iconic Vogue shoot. 48 years later Maryam Eisler returns to this precise location, Suite 10 at the Hôtel Nord-Pinus to continue her exploration of the ‘Sublime Feminine’, the focus on sensuality​, and the female gaze ​within the context of this culturally historic space.

A woman eating with her ditty feet on the table

Huitres, Coquillages et Crustacés by Maryam Eisler

For this series, black and white photography takes precedence, allowing Eisler to distil figures to create ‘body architecture’ through abstract and emotive shapes. Embracing the beauty of women and their forms, in her photographs, the message of strength yet uncompromising femininity is clear.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

A woman sitting on a sofa wearing a black blazer flipping her back

La Lionne by Maryam Eisler

​Maryam additionally looks to Suite 10 ​and it’s context as a place famously known ​for its association with successful bullfighters, such as Luis Miguel Dominguín, who waved at their fans from the balcony. Not only does this series pay tribute to the sport itself but also the artists, poets and writers who have also appreciated bullfighting in their works too.

Read more: A Belle Epoque revival in Paris

​In Maryam’s artworks, the bull is replaced by the strength and beauty of a female protagonist, ​at once the captor and the captivated, holding the power through their red capes.

A man in a bullring holding a pink and yellow flag with women on either side of him holding red flags

Autant En Emporte Le Vent by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler’s exhibition of ‘If Only These Walls Could Talk’ will be showing at Alon Zakaim Fine Art from Wednesday 2nd – Thursday 24th November 2022

The accompanying publication ‘If Only These Walls Could Talk,’, which includes a foreword by Brandei Estes, Sotheby’s Director, Head of Photographs, EMEA, will be available to coincide with the exhibition

Share:
Reading time: 1 min
Woman in a white and black top holding a pink case of champagne standing next to a man in a blue shirt and black blazer
A group photo of women and two men on either side of the group

Louis Roederer CEO Frédéric Rouzaud, Prize judges and LUX contributing editors Maria Sukkar and Maryam Eisler, Prize winner Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah, judges Carrie Scott and Brandei Estes, and LUX proprietor Darius Sanai

Philanthropists, art collectors and sustainability leaders gathered in London for the awarding of the inaugural Louis Roederer Photography Prize for Sustainability, masterminded by LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai under the aegis of Louis Roederer CEO Frédéric Rouzaud

Two women and a man smiling for a photograph

Sir Guy Weston, Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah and Ina Sarikhani Sandmann

A blonde woman wearing a green coat reading a catalogue

Clara Hastrup

Two women looking at a camera smiling

Maria Sukkar and Maryam Eisler

A woman and two men laughing

Simon Leadsford, Richard Billett and Olivia Capaldi

A man holding a champagne glass wearing a green t shirt and black jacket

Olu Ogunnaike

A woman holding a copy of LUX

Cheryl Newman

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Woman in a white and black top holding a pink case of champagne standing next to a man in a blue shirt and black blazer

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah and Frédéric Rouzaud

A woman wearing a blue scarf and coat standing next to a woman in a green coat and another woman wearing a black suit

Lady Alison Myners, Maryam Eisler and Samantha Welsh

A man wearing a black jumper, white shirt and blue blazer

Justin Travlos

A woman wearing a peach coloured coat and black bag looking at a picture on a wall

Emilie Pugh

Woman in a white and black top holding a pink case of champagne standing next to two men in shirts and blazers

Darius Sarai, Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah and Frédéric Rouzaud

A woman in a white dress giving a talk

Alexandra Tilling

A woman in a multicoloured top standing next to a woman in a grey dress

Maryam Eisler and Angela McCarthy

pictures on a white wall

The shortlisted works of the Louis Roederer Photography Prize for Sustainability

Vinly on a window that says The Louis Roederer Photography Prize for Sustainability

The awards ceremony for the Prize was held at Nobu Hotel London Portman Square

A woman with blonde cornrows wearing black holding a champagne glass

Péjú Oshin

A woman in a black jumpsuit showing another woman an artwork

Hoda Shahzadeh and Candice Tucker

A man in a white shirt

Ola Shobowale

A man and woman holding pink cases of champagne

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah and Jasper Goodall

Find out more: louis-roederer.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

Share:
Reading time: 9 min
multi coloured sparkles on circle canvases
A paint brush and scalpel on a table covered in glitter

Studio detail with glitter tondo. Photo by Maryam Eisler

LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler, visits Peter Dayton to photograph and interview the East Hampton-based artist at his studio. Here, Dayton speaks about the intention and ideas behind his artworks as well his relationship with Peter Marino and Chanel

Maryam Eisler: What lies behind the eye candy, the glitz and the glitter?

Peter Dayton: I feel like I’ve reached a kind of pinnacle where it’s just about incredible celebration. And, it’s interesting to me because I don’t always want to make work that looks really good. And somehow this glitter thing, which really shouldn’t have worked, is in fact working. By taking everything out of the picture including figuration, I feel like I’ve really got something that has a lot of meaning.

A man standing by a large canvas of blue squares

Right Blue Wave, 2022. Left Magic Carpet Ride, 2022. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: What’s even more interesting is that you are not staying shy of beauty, something we don’t see much of in the art world these days.

PD: We’re in a new art world. And, you know, to me, beauty is the law. I do it intrinsically. It just happens. I’ve always been a little left of centre because of that, and it just isn’t on the surface. It’s deep. Peter Marino saw immediately that I had a gift for this ‘beauty thing’ and he just took me under his wing. That’s how and why my association with Chanel has been so great.

rocket shaped sculptured in different colours

The Rockets, 2016-2018. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: Has the act of ‘glittering away’ all day every day scared you in any way?

PD: It’s a little scary. Yes, because I’ve been spending the past 12 months just doing glitter and, you know, there are bills to pay. But I do feel like there may be a super happy ending to all this. Or, better yet, a happy beginning!

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

ME: I was taken by your choice of words and thought association; you said ‘It’s time for celebration!’ This is a positive outlook, also rare these days.

PD: Well, the negative is so real right now, but let’s face it, this isn’t like the bubonic plague. You know, I don’t want to intentionally make people happy, but I do want to give them a chance to choose happiness. So, I make these paintings. The time feels right for it.

glitter on round and square canvases

Studio wall detail, Too Many Planets, 2022. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: I’m also interested in the idea of space and place. I know you’ve been coming out to the East End [of Long Island] since 1975 and started living and working here full time in 1988. Have things evolved a lot since then?

PD: Yes, there’s been a lot of evolution out here. On a personal level I got married and started a family. And East Hampton as a town has certainly evolved – it used to be dead in the winter. As an artist it was total evolution. I’d been studying art since I was 12 and then ditched art to play punk rock. I basically reinvented myself as an artist out here after living in Paris for couple of years making music.

A man in a grey t-shirt and yellow shorts

Portrait of the artist. Photo by Maryam Eisler

I also happen to love de Kooning, and I love Pollock; I love the idea of all that is anchored here- even before I was aware of all this, when my mother moved here all those years ago and when I started coming here from Boston where I was studying at The Museum School. I always thought, ‘my Lord, this place is beautiful.’ And then I understood the special light that’s out here. I think De Kooning called it ‘double light’. It relates to when the sun reflects off the water, back up into the sky! I don’t harp on it, but, you know, it is very important.

multicoloured lines

Noland, 2014

ME: In your work, I see surfboards. I see flowers. Where do they coincide?

PD: Good question! The flowers started because I had been doing music professionally for ten years, and then I burnt out completely. I went to Paris for six months to find myself and I stayed for three years. And it was fabulous. And I did find myself. ‘Myself’ was somebody who wanted to grow old in his studio, making pretty pictures – but pretty serious pictures too.

Too Many Planets, detail 2022. Photo by Maryam Eisler

The ‘flower’ phase started because I thought to myself, I missed the eighties. It happened by chance. There was a construction site behind my mother’s house. I saw a big dumpster. I went to the dumpster and I looked in. There were hundreds of House and Gardens from the 50s, and I thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be so weird if I made flower collages out of old magazines and seed catalogues’? In a way it was this kind of totally ‘immature-ish’ thing you know, the kind of craft that grandma would do at the kitchen table. So I made one. And that’s when I first showed that work with Paul Morris in 1994 in Chelsea when the area was just starting. There was a really big splash about the work and it went really well. That’s also when and where I met Bob Colacello and where Peter Marino came in. Bob was so supportive right away. The show was more successful than I could have imagined.

A picture of black, white and grey flowers

Camellias for Chanel, 2005. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: Historically, with the collages, there was a process of appropriation of others’ images which when rearranged, became your own. With these new glitter paintings, however, it’s your own hand at play.

PD: The cut-up method borrows. Taking pictures from a source that you shouldn’t be taking them from and turning it into something – in my case, into something that was weirdly beautiful.

A red and yellow painting with 'Barnett Newman' written in the centre

Surfboards by Barnett Newman, #4 New Generation

ME: And if it’s good enough for Chanel, it should be good enough for most! Tell me about your relationship with Chanel over the years.

PD: It’s been great. Peter [Marino] was collecting my work early on and doing things with private clients and for himself, too. He’s been supportive all the way. It must have been at least 12 years ago that he contacted me and said, ‘I want you to do the interior of the elevator for the 57th Street Chanel store’. And I’m saying,’ sure, I’ll do that’. So I made a map card of all these small Camelia collages. I showed that to him and that’s how he designed it. And then I did one in Beverly Hills. And I think that one is still going. I also did one for the Peter Marino Foundation recently, which is amazing as it’s permanent.

blue and pink sparkles and wooden beams

Studio detail, Northwest Coast Surfboards, and glitter paintings. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: It seems like you are highly influenced by the lifestyle of this area, in particular anything that has to do with surfing. You then associate your ‘surfboards’ with known art world figures. Please tell us more about this.

PD: I feel like all the artists from the early 50s all the way to pop art were acting with a lot of swagger and they were just doing these minimal paintings that were so challenging. And I have always equated them with surfers, those who go out there by themselves and ride these giant waves. So, I just put the two together. What they did was like a sport. And very physical. And there’s also the American cultural idea of surfing. I’m not a ‘surfer’ but I am a water person. I boogie board and belly board and all that stuff. There’s also that idea of great freedom in the water.

A man wearing a grey t-shirt and yellow shorts standing in front of a large pink canvas

Portrait with glitter paintings. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: And it all started with Barnett Newman?

PD: Yes, when I saw his painting in the Met, ‘Concord’. There are two pieces of actual tape, which I think he left in the painting. But if he didn’t, he taped it off and pulled it off. I forget. And I said, ‘Oh, my God, that’s the stringer on a surfboard’. Because every surfboard in the centre has a piece of wood running through it for stability so it doesn’t snap in half easily; and I just found that fascinating. So, I went ahead and made one exact copy of the painting, kind of green, and put his name on it. And I remember Robert Rosenblum was alive then. And he said, ‘Boy, these are really odd, Peter. I kind of see what you’re doing, but I’ve never seen this before’. And I thought to myself, ‘Well it must be cool!’

a red, green and white sign that says "Barnett Newman"

Surfboards by Barnett Newman, custom made decal, 2008

ME: Who are your other icons?

PD: Gene Davis. Which is the striped one, he did multi-coloured geometric stripes on canvas. I’ve also done Ken Nolan and Frank Stella. In all cases, I’ve done a facsimile of their works and superimposed their names into the actual surf decal. Dewey Weber is placed in the same script as Barnett Newman. So when a surfer sees that detail, he goes, ‘Oh my God, Dewey, Who’s Barnett Newman?’ Because I also equate the artists in their large studios in Soho all by themselves, smoking cigarettes, staring at these giant paintings with guys in California, making surfboards in their garages; they’re all kind of doing the same thing. Even though one is super high culture and the other is not, they’re kind of the same thing.

multicoloured stripes on a painting

Surfboards by Gene Davis, 2007, collection Carl Bernstein

ME: But that’s what Warhol did- marry high and low culture so seamlessly.

PD: They come together. They always do.

Read more: An Interview With KAWS

ME: You were once part of this band called ‘La Peste’ out of Boston. Music is a different form of expression, but it’s still part of your own language, your identity…two complementary worlds, would you agree?

PD: Yes, I still have the guitar to prove it! And there’s great new interest in my band, maybe even a double album coming out next year on a label in Brooklyn. It’s really exciting. It’s been 45 years …

A guitar hanging on the wall by a small piece of art

Studio Wall. guitar with glitter. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: Talk to me about your relationship with Peter Marino. He’s been a patron of your work.

PD: Peter’s a genius and it’s a privilege making work for his projects. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about absolutely everything that has to do with art, architecture, music – a total renaissance man. I’ve never met anyone who knows that much and can articulate it in front of you at any given moment. He’s a patron to a number of artists and his support has been so important to me. Working with him is great because he gives me great freedom to do what I want to do and that’s all an artist could ask for.

glitter on a table

Studio work table with glitter and brush. Photo by Maryam Eisler

ME: A final comment from me: I could practice yoga in front of your paintings and just wonder with my eyes. Such serenity!

PD: Thank you. I think the glitter is here to stay, for the world to enjoy. Even though the refraction of light is so busy, there’s a certain calmness to it all. That’s probably what you feel. So I invite you to sit back, relax and lose yourself in it all day!

Find out more: peteredayton.com

Share:
Reading time: 10 min
A man wearing a grey and black jeans and shirt standing in front of a painting
A man wearing a grey and black jeans and shirt standing in front of a painting

Eric Fischl and his painting Sign of the Times. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

Internationally acclaimed American painter, Eric Fischl is not only creating some of the most iconic and of-the-moment works of art, but he is also developing and nurturing a cultural community in Sag Harbor. Here, Fischl speaks to LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler, about the importance of community and its effect on his own oeuvre

Maryam Eisler: The support that you have given your immediate cultural community (Sag Harbor) is notable. How and why did you and April (Gornik) decide to take such active roles in the town’s cultural initiatives? Was it a Covid decision or did the idea burgeon before?
Eric Fischl: It started prior to Covid. My wife April and I were working with a group of people to buy the cinema back in 2014. We went through some very difficult negotiations, and then there was a fire that destroyed the cinema, which made it even more urgent to buy the building because it had lost its landmark status. We had to raise 8 million dollars. The big money, believe it or not, came from successful visual artists, musicians, filmmakers … signalling to me that this was a place where the artists had a say: “We want to have an impact in determining the quality of life and culture in this town.” Then The Church (visual arts centre) became available, and so we purchased that as well. Again, it was about trying to develop a centre of creativity for the community.

ME: Are you now able to see, feel and measure the impact of these initiatives on your immediate community?
EF: Yes. At The Church, we’ve been very conscientious of doing exhibitions which have both an international representation but a very local one too. We’ve certainly found that the local artists are not only grateful to be included in the larger conversation, but they are also stepping up their game to prove it. As far as the town is concerned, attendance at The Church is increasing, and people feel comfortable being there. In the summer, we have a kids camp, and the energy fits the profile of what a community centre should be all about. We’re very excited about that. We’re also in the process of fighting (and probably losing) a battle with big money developers who want to take over and determine the next life of Sag Harbor, without actually having any feel for the place.

paintings in a warehouse

Threading The Needle exhibition at The Church. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: What are your thoughts regarding the artists’ relationship with this town?
EF: This is the first time where I thought there’s a real chance where the artists can actually gentrify their own place; there’s a shared feeling that ‘this is the kind of life and the kind of community we want to be a part of and want to nourish’. Developers use artists to attract investors, prices are pushed out of range, and the artists have to then move out. In this case, my hope is, at the very least, to establish artist residency programs that retain artistic presence, whilst enabling creatives to take part of the town’s everyday life, bringing in fresh blood, energy and ideas.

ME: In your own practice, you seem to dig deep into the American psyche, sometimes with an added layer of nostalgia, but I now sense an additional connection with the current political climate.
EF: Well it’s funny because on the one hand, the paintings have become very narrow in their focus, and local. Right now, various scenes are derived from this Halloween parade that takes place here called the ‘Ragamuffin Parade’ which I’ve photographed for many years. I’ve put together these weird scenes of costumed people, and in some, you feel the advent of Covid; some protagonists are in costume, some in medical masks, ironically. One scene looks like they’re coming back from war, on crutches and canes, or they’re just tired or something…

a painting of children in pirate costumes with crutches walking on a road

The Parade Returns, 2022 by Eric Fischl

ME: You have said in the past that the point of painting is to try and find the hidden truth so are you trying to do exactly that, at this difficult moment in time and history?
EF: These difficulties have just been compounding, and for us, here in America, the madness of the Trump administration and the way that it divided the country into such irresolvable anger, is something that hasn’t left the scene, even since he was voted out of office – so, we Americans are dealing with a constant pressure.

ME: Is there a permanent sense of malaise?
EF: Yes. How do you and can you get back from where we are now? To which you add a pandemic, further isolating and terrifying us all. That fear and isolation combined with the political anger has just presented an extremely tough time for us all.

A white church

The Church, Sag Harbor. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: How do you reconcile your mission regarding your community work with your own art practice?
EF: I have to say that in our vision of implementing The Church, I didn’t quite realise how much positivity and hope people attach to the notion of community, its nurturing side, its playful side, its creative side. I’m personally not entirely capable of doing that within my own work; my work deals with more existential conditions, of missed connections and unsatisfied desires.

paintings hung up on a wall

Studio wall. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: And you’re still working through this? It seems to be a continuous process.
EF: Yes. I don’t know whether the goal in life is to work through it so that you are freed from it, or whether you just go deeper and deeper into it, because there’s a profound truth to the nature of life that lies within the process. How do you come to terms with it? I think I should write a piece for our local newspaper. At first, I was thinking about art as an expression of love, a desire to connect, a willingness to explore areas of our being that we don’t necessarily get to openly share… to try and work through stuff that way. That in itself is an act of love. Then you have a belief in your community, a belief in your society, a belief in being human. But it’s a complicated thing, because some people can actually handle a direct exchange of love. I can’t. I think most artists can’t. We have to triangulate.

splattered multi-coloured paint on a canvas

The studio floor. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: You’ve often said that you speak to a painting and that it speaks back to you. Do you paint with an end game in mind or is it an ever- evolving dialogue, until you know it’s ready for the world?
EF: You keep talking to the painting till it begins to talk back to you, and if it doesn’t talk back to you, then you haven’t found the point of the painting, and so you should just destroy it. But when it does talk back, you have to start listening to it, and it then tells you how to finish it.

A painting of a girl in a pink dress and a dog upright in a studio

Painting in front is titled Old Dog, behind is Ragamuffin Parade, both by Eric Fischl. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: Talk to me about the old dog and the girl in this painting.
EF: Well, I was riding my bicycle and I saw this old dog in the water. It seemed happy. I was transfixed by it. The painting is about a moment between the old dog and a young girl. You can’t quite tell what her age is as you see her from behind, dressed in a sort of fancy-ish outfit, not exactly a summertime thing, a just-got-out-for-a-walk kind of thing. They’re just talking to each other, and the space has become dynamic between them, so maybe on some simple level, the painting is about age and youth, who knows…

ME: I love the idea that photography plays a role in your painting, a starting point at least. I also find your embrace of technology in general fascinating when it comes to your art practice. Can you tell me more about that?
EF: Yes well, I certainly don’t consider myself a photographer. It’s just a tool. The reason photography works for me is because everything is in motion, everybody is slightly turning, slightly blinking, slightly opening their mouths, slightly shifting a shoulder… whatever it is, a photograph lives life instantaneously. And if you’re creating narratives, you need animation, a moment where something is begging to happen, and photography allows you to capture exactly that. It’s become a huge tool that I’m dependent on.

paintbrushes with blue paint on them

It’s a blue which is typical of his work. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

As for technology, it’s not that I go out and embrace technology; it sort of shows up and then there’s curiosity about it, and if I manage to connect it to my body of work in some way, I do. It took a while to get the feel of the hard surface of the iPad and drawing on it, but there came a point where it became a fun sketch tool. The same goes with the VR paintings I make with Tilt Brush. There’s this strangeness that is both curious and entertaining with this new technology that forces me to figure out a new language of painting “effects” that is not too dissimilar to my other work – just a little more exaggerated and strange.

A man looking at his pain tubes leaning over a table

Deep in thought…Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: I’m interested in space and place. Do you have a sense of dialogue with or responsibility towards the artistic legacy of this area? Do you feel that you are continuing a practice that is indigenous to this particular geography?
EF: Yes, I grew up on Long Island so there’s a familiarity. I’m definitely out here to experience the art, not to play around or eat ice cream! It turns out that there is quite a history of American art which is connected directly to this landscape- the abstract expressionists for example. A lot of it is directly connected to the quality of light, unique to this place. It has to do with the flatness and thinness of the land and having bodies of water on all sides, creating this kind of refraction, a full-spectrum light, different from most other places. But I don’t paint from life, so other than enjoying the light and being wowed by it, that is not why I’m here. That would be the safe answer. Let’s not forget that we are also only two hours away from the city. This is also where the money is, where our friends are … these would be the more honest reasons to cite for why I and most other artists are out here.

green grass in a field with trees

Sculptures greeting you as you approach Eric Fischl’s house/studio. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: A much lesser poetic explanation than I would have hoped for, perhaps!
EF: Exactly. Everyone wants it to be because of some kind of inspiring thing, but you know, this is also the first time I’ve referenced this particular location in my work. In the past, I was painting as if I lived elsewhere. A lot of people in fact thought that I lived in California.

ME: As you approach your property, the first thing you see, is this sculptural grouping of human figures amidst the tall grass, as if spying on you, magical and awe – inspiring.
EF: Well, thank you for feeling that way. I make sculptures from time to time; they’re not a particular focus of mine. I enjoy doing them when I need a break from painting or other things. The reason I connect to the sculptural form is because it comes from a different part of my body and brain, and that’s of interest to me. There are memories and knowledge that your hands have stored that you cannot access from your eyes. It’s the touch itself that triggers feelings; memory that creates experience.

An orange statue below a set of stairs

Entrance of the studio with Eric Fischl’s sculpture. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

ME: So, is your own hand at play when it comes to sculptures, in the same way as it is with your paintings? It seems that your own physicality has presence in all your art forms- a rare practice these days.
EF: Yes. When I start any new work, I don’t know what I’m looking for so how can I possibly get other people to do it for me? There is also a great amount of pleasure and satisfaction in the act of making art, even when it is frustrating. The difference between painting and sculpture for me is that you mainly commit to whatever you’re sculpting way sooner in the process than you do with painting, because with sculpture you know that you’re making an armature, and so it gets hard to take that down or move it around. With a painting, on the other hand, you can paint over it, paint it out, or start all over again; so, you can spend more time in the discovery phase.

a man in a blue shirt sitting in front of a painting of a girl in a pink dress looking at a dog

Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

The other aspect of my practice has been about trying to reassert the body back into painting and sculpture. If you take Rodin for example, he was someone that absolutely believed in the ability of the body to express itself, no matter how painful or how dramatic or how erotic and lustful an experience, and that this body was able to express all these feelings and states of mind. That began to go away with modernism. The next sculptor of great impact was Giacometti. His position was different from Rodin’s. With him, the body was no longer able to express itself, but be expressed upon. For him, the body was more or less frozen with the anxiety that is eating away at it. So, we went from being able to express pain, joy, eroticism and anxiety to not being able to express anything at all, rather opting to internalise it all whilst allowing it to destroy us.

A painting studio with paints and canvases

Studio interior. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

And then the body disappears for a while and when it reappears, it comes back as reproduction, body casting, silk screens, one step removed from the animation of the actual body itself. It becomes something that takes on a literal quality because when you’re casting somebody, you’re dealing with the specificity and limitations of individuals; height, weight and shape. The imaginative and distorting part of emotional expression disappears. Artists today prefer the representation of our bodies to be dolls and mannequins – both surrogate forms. As for me, I’m trying to find ways of keeping the physicality of the body in the forefront of our experience of our lives. In doing so, it becomes about truth, about who we are. We’re all in this container, trying to figure out the interface between our interior world and the exterior world, through this thing called skin.

As an artist, I strive to get comfortable with my need to answer these existential questions with my inability to resolve them. I see my role as an artist to witness and to record, creatively and imaginatively, the experience of life’s journey.

Eric Fischl’s exhibition ‘Towards the End of an Astonishing Beauty: An Elegy to Sag Harbor, and Thus America’ opens at Skarstedt, New York, on September 14 2022

Share:
Reading time: 13 min
group of people at a party
children reading a book

Temperley children and friends reading Clara and the Magic Circles in Diana’s log cabin. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

Cavan Mahony, author of Clara and The Magic Circles children’s book, collaborates with photographer and LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler to bring to life the picturesque Temperley family cider farm in bucolic Somerset, set on ancient grounds

“Legend has it that King Arthur is buried right here!” I turn around to see an enchanting Rapunzel-like lady pointing out Burrow Hill to two children. The children gasp with delight, “King Arthur?! There must be TREASURE buried there, and swords with rubies and golden shields!!“

trees and a grey sky

Burrow Hill, legendary site of King Arthur’s grave. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

Burrow Hill, located on the Pass Vale Farm of the Somerset Cider Brandy Company, stands out in a mythical way, with one proud, lone sycamore tree just at the top. Adding to the local legend of the location of King Arthur’s tomb, the nearest town has the telling name of Kingsbury Episcopi.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The children run on ahead crossing the street into the official entrance of the cider farm. The sun catches the little girl’s hair as it bounces about her shoulders. Wearing a tulle ballet skirt and pink t-shirt covered in sparkles, she looks ready for a starring role. The boy, who I imagine is her brother, is running along-side her laughing. His hair is long and floppy and he is already half covered in mud from some previous adventure that morning.

A woman standing on the grass surrounded by dogs and ducks

Diana surrounded by her ducks, her dog Sally and her friend August. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

Upon entering the cider farm, I am awestruck by the rows and rows of apple trees in bloom stretching across 180 acres of the apple orchard. I continue to walk through this cathedral of white blossoms until I reach the meadow where the Temperley’s, owners of the cider farm, have set up picnic blankets and cushions. There are other families sprinkled about under the apple trees, children running along-side wandering ducks and chickens. A horse or two flick their tails contentedly chewing on grass.

Three bottles of cider with a yellow and blue and label with red writing

Cider Bus, the Temperley’s Apple Cider. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

Cider has been made on the land of the Somerset Cider Brandy Company for over 300 years and for the last 55 years under the ownership of Julian and Diana Temperley. Julian was the first to commercialise cider brandy in the UK, reviving an ancient craft that had disappeared hundreds of years ago. Julian and Diana raised four children on the farm, with their daughter Matilda, now head of operations as Managing Director of Burrow Hill and Somerset Cider Brandy Company.

A woman in black dungarees and a blue shirt standing on a greed bus decorated with flags

Matilda and the Temperley cider bus. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

Children are excitedly shouting to each other, “The cider bus is serving tacos today!” Fox and Phoenix Temperley, sons of Mary and Alice, are already sprinting through the orchard, up the hill to reach the cider bus. Parked in the central courtyard of the farm is the eggshell blue Temperley cider bus.

A black horse with a white nose and two white back feet standing on the grass

Tiny, Alice’s horse amidst the cider farm orchard. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

Every year the family piles into the bus to set up camp at Glastonbury. For the rest of the time, Matilda organises fabulous weekend events at the farm inviting musicians and performers to entertain guests while serving cider and different foods by local providers.

A girl with blonde hair looking at a yellow, green and blue, cider sign

Lola, Mary Temperley’s daughter on the cider farm. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

I lay out a picnic blanket and a basket full of local treats. Next to me, Mary Temperley, mother of four children and founder of skin care and home décor brand, Love from make, is in serious discussion with her sister Alice, mother of Fox and founder of iconic fashion label, Temperley. I can feel the ancient history of this extraordinary place and the magic of deep family ties mixed in with individual creative expression.

A blonde woman in a leopard print coat holding a stick

Diana at her log cabin. St Julian always near. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

Off to the left of our picnic area is an old wooden gate. Swing open the gate and walk along well-worn mud tracks grooved from trucks and farm vehicles and you will happen upon Diana’s log cabin. The log cabin is situated on a lake with a massive weeping willow tree, built by Diana to serve as an artist studio and another option for the family to congregate with friends and to enjoy the farm.

A man in a green shirt with his arm around a woman wearing a hat standing by a distiller in a cellar

Mary Temperly and husband Jake checking the best barrels for the Somerset cider spirits. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

The Temperleys plant new hedges and orchards every year, keeping copses for wildlife and planting wildflowers and lavender for bees and butterflies as part of an impressive sustainability program. Apples, pears, quince, cherry and various plums are all grown on the farm for the production of cider and their range of spirits.

A woman at a tea part

Alice and Clara and the Magic Circles at tea on the cider farm. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

Half of the cider is distilled in their copper stills named, Josephine, Fifi and Isabelle. The distilled clear spirit, or “water of life”, is placed in oak casks to mature into apple cider brandy over 3 to 20 years. With extraordinary long-term vision, the Temperleys are now also growing their own oak trees so they may be used for barrels in 130 years time.

A man in a grey jacket and black shirt standing next to a barrel

Julian on the farm distillery with the copper stills. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

On this day under the apple blossoms and on many happy subsequent visits, there is a sensation of having stepped into the pages of a fairytale, where time stops and anything is possible. I half expect to catch a glimpse of Tinker Bell and see The Lost Boys running out into the orchard brandishing swords

group of people at a party

From left to right, Matilda holding her daughter Isabelle, Mary and her daughter Lola, Diana, Alice and Tiny the horse enjoy tea. Image courtesy of Maryam Eisler

Having entered this other-worldly place surrounding Burrow Hill, I lie back on our picnic blanket staring up at clouds of apple blossom and think: What if…, what if, some day, I could write a children’s book…

Read more:Beam Suntory’s Kim Marotta On Sustainable Spirits

May the creative inspiration that the Somerset Cider Brandy farm and the Temperley family have given me, inspire all those who visit this magical place and may they wonder as I did, if the final resting place of King Arthur lies beneath the lonely Sycamore Tree on Burrow HIll.

By Cavan Mahony, Author of Clara and the Magic Circles. Out now.

Photographer, Maryam Eisler, captures the magic of the Temperley farm and the family in a series of photos taken one fine Spring day.

Share:
Reading time: 6 min
a red painting in a gallery that says More Joy in blue writing
A man squatting in front of a painting that says Mom

The artist doing a yoga pose in front of one his own recent paintings © Maryam Eisler

Joel Mesler is one of the hottest names on the East Coast art scene right now. LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor, Maryam Eisler, visits the gallerist-turned-artist in the Hamptons to speak with him about the under-layers of his eye candy paintings deeply rooted in childhood trauma, his switch from dealer to artist and his Jewish heritage

Maryam Eisler: You’ve moved from L.A. to the Lower East Side to The Hamptons. You’ve been dealing in art and now you’re producing art. Have both sides of the equation been enjoyable?
Joel Mesler: I am definitely most present and more content now… for sure when I am producing art. I have no regrets and it’s this path that led me here, so it’s all good.

ME: How has sobriety informed your work?
JM: Well, I think that is very much part of that process of change. I have realised that pre -sobriety, I lived in the ego. It was all about me. But I think there’s a process in the act of getting sober, of surrendering, like falling to your knees a little bit and saying ‘Okay, clearly I’m not the captain of this ship’. It was important to realise that I don’t have all the answers, that I don’t know exactly what I’m doing and that I am going to ask for help. But my story is not unique, you know.

Mini posters stuck on a wall

Joel Mesler’s wall of inspiration © Maryam Eisler

I think that that process shifted my mindset to such an extreme that it completely changed my life, like a spiritual awakening. Pre- getting sober, there was always this sense of dread or living on the edge and thinking ‘When will the relief come?’ because there’s this kind of constant anxiety, even pain. But as soon as that epiphany happened, it was almost like ‘Oh my God, I now know’. The difference is living in the present, one day at a time. Now I want even more time. I want to live forever.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

ME: You want more time?
JM: Yes. Time is running out. I need to produce. Everything shifted from that moment onwards. From my artwork to family, to just walking down the street and saying hello to random strangers.

A man reading an orange book

Joel reading his book ‘Jews without money’ by Michael Gold © Maryam Eisler

ME: Speaking of time and cycles, it’s interesting that there’s been a cyclical return to certain important people in your life. So, for instance, you were one of the first commercial supporters of Rashid Johnson’s work and now you’re both here and you’re best friends. You were also at some point David Kordansky’s landlord in Los Angeles and he now represents your work!
JM: You know, I speak to those two guys every day now. It all comes together, the arc of our relationships …

ME: I clearly remember a few years back, during Miami Basel, when you lived a real moment of transition from dealer to artist. As the founder of Rental gallery, you decided to represent yourself and all I could think of at the time was how clever you were! Did you make the switch out of necessity or smarts?
JM: Well, you know, I think a lot of times that the difference between necessity and perception can be so far off. I think that that may also be a great lesson of sobriety. I did it out of necessity, like I always did things. I recall telling Heather Hubbs, the fair Director ‘Well, you know, I’m really trying hard to be an artist now and I feel like if I was an art dealer and did the booth again this year, it might send the wrong signal. So, I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t do it’. To which she then said, ‘I think you should make your work part of it’.

black socks

These are the only socks that Joel wears. His wife Sarah buys him socks that have his name on them and also say artist and dad © Maryam Eisler

And so, I did and sent my deposit in. As a dealer, I always thought that to have a successful fair, you should have a booth of works you’re really passionate about, and at the time, all I could think about was my own work. And Heather said, ‘Cool! Nobody’s done it before. But, you know, if anybody can pull this off, it’s you ! ‘

ME: Did many people question your decision at the time?
JM: Of course. So many people said ‘why is he doing this? And how?’ I didn’t do it as a trickster thing. It was out of necessity and also because nobody else would show my work.

a red painting in a gallery that says More Joy in blue writing

A work in progress at Joel Mesler’s studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: And, most importantly, believing in your own work? A most courageous public act, in my opinion…
JM: An entire body of work actually came out of that. I only brought in a few paintings and my wife’s ceramics. I sold all the paintings and the ceramics on the first day and was thinking ‘What am I going to do?’ So, I started painting people’s portraits and charged them $50 just to pay for my materials. From that moment, I started an entire new body of work, and now I do portraits and I love doing them, it’s like a performative act.

an artwork of a man with a big nose

Joel in the basement of his studio holding up drawings that might one day be made into a very large book that will take multiple people to turn each page © Maryam Eisler

ME:  The New York Times called your work ‘a post- traumatic allegory styled as alphabetical letters.’ I started reading about your childhood in L.A., your relationship with your parents, your father’s drug abuse, your parents’ divorce, and it made me understand your paintings, just a little better. It seems that first ‘eye candy’ attraction is just the surface but then behind the pool parties, the gloss and the glory, there’s a lot more. You have said it before ‘there’s the happiness, the celebration but then there’s also the loneliness’. Talk to me about that dichotomy.
JM: When I was making work while I was drinking, I used to want to kind of push myself onto the audience. I called it my Jewish expressionist phase and I was like, ‘Oh, my trauma’. And I’m going to show you what my father did to me. The thing is, they were very honest, raw and interesting, but there was no real reason why anybody would want to hang them on their walls because they were actually really scary. As I got older, sober and a little more self-reflective, I realised that within my story, there were many dichotomies. For instance, the pool party: when I was young, my mom would throw pool parties for my brother and I, but also for her friends, and I had no idea what was really going on. All I saw were noodles and floats. But really, it was an excuse for my mother to get the parents together and gossip and drink. And there was this kind of underbelly of something else.

A green, yellow, red and blue painting that says Spiritual Awakening in a gallery

Joel Mesler’s work in progress © Maryam Eisler

There was a darkness there that I sensed intuitively, but I couldn’t define it with words. I didn’t have the language for it. As I grew older, I was able to kind of understand it better and apply and create my own language for it. As I was making work, I still wanted to tap into some of the joy that I experienced as a child too. I also like this idea of service: if I make a painting and I want somebody to hang it on the wall, I’m not going to judge why they’re hanging them on the wall or whether they think it’s beautiful or not. It may mean one thing to them and certainly something else to me.

A man on a chair being def an apple by another man behind him

Joel Mesler and Harper Levine having lunch together © Maryam Eisler

ME: This reminds me of The Eggs Benedict splashed onto the beautiful leafy and lush Beverly Hills Hotel wallpaper. At first, I thought ‘How aesthetically pleasing’, but little did I know about your family feuds related to that exact incident.
JM: Yes, well, that’s the thing. For so long that carried such heaviness, trauma and sadness. I joke about it because if I didn’t, I’d probably still be crying about it. But there is also this sense of emotional, psychological and financial profit from the trauma I was subjected to from my parents. So, I then decided to use those motifs and to reappropriate them for myself and then use them in order to create my own language. I think, it’s not only helped me in my own path, but also in me becoming a better father and gain a better understanding of how to raise my own children. Just being a better person in the world.

ME: Hasn’t this been the case for many creatives throughout history? No creative gain without pain?
JM: For sure and I like the fact that there are many layers to my work. I enjoy knowing that there may be several interpretations of the works- just like the Torah! …many layers of truth and reality.

A man lying on a sofa wearing a blanket with peoples faces on it surrounded by pictures of rabbis

Joel on his napping couch with his Rabbi collection © Maryam Eisler

ME: Your grandfather was a Jewish immigrant who did very well for himself. Can you tell us about how you weave that ethnicity and your Jewish heritage, into your work and your day to day?
JM: I think it’s a very interesting story and Rashid [Johnson] and I speak about this quite often. I think that there’s a really interesting parallel in our lives. I think this idea of the immigrant coming to America and making it through hard work, then the second generation blowing it, and then this third-generation kind of needing to rediscover that identity is really interesting. I’ve been thinking about this a lot: why it matters and how can I psychologically and financially profit from my own trauma? My mother often said, had my father not destroyed our family, I would have probably been a terrible person, but maybe the trauma put me on a very different path that in the end was actually good for me.

A man holding a book with drawings in it

Joel shows a book he is working on. Mesler paints on pre-existing books © Maryam Eisler

ME: You’re here in the heart of East Hampton glitz, and yet you have managed to carve yourself a sanctuary, an oasis of peace ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’. How does space and place influence your work?
JM: It’s amazing because, I had a gallery and that space is now my studio. I just work Monday through Friday. I don’t know how I do it. I just really keep my head down.

Read more: Philanthropy: Nathalie Guiot, The Culture Booster

People really respect the space and the frosted glass helps keep people away! I love being out here. We came out here from the city, and stayed with Rashid at first. I had nowhere else to go. Simple as that.

A rubbish pile in a corner of a room with a book with blue pictures in it

Another book in the corner of Joel Mesler’s studio © Maryam Eisler

ME: There’s also a real creative community of artists and museums out here. It’s equally amazing to witness the proliferation of the bigger brand galleries post- pandemic. Did a lot of people move here during COVID from the city?
JM: Yes, a real creative community formed. It’s also been amazing to have Harper [Levine] out here, even though he initially thought I was foolish to move out here and here we are now, neighbours and friends. said, ‘You know, there are no doctors here. There’s no education here. There are ticks here. There’s Lyme disease…’ But at the end of the day, here we all are!

All photographs were taken by Maryam Eisler

Joel Mesler will be showing at Frieze Seoul with LGDR from September 2- September 5 2022. He will be holding a solo show at the Long Museum in Shanghai, opening in February 2023

 

Share:
Reading time: 10 min
A group of people wearing dress up clothes
A group of people wearing dress up clothes

A new film – part fiction, part documentary – explores London’s wildly creative and multifaceted East End with a colourful cast of characters. Directed by Oscar-winner Tim Yip, Love Infinity stars the renowned artistic duo Gilbert and George and ‘living sculpture’ Daniel Lismore, among many flamboyant others. Here, Maryam Eisler talks us through some riotous and poignant highlights

Worlds Collide
I love seeing Tim Yip (above, front row, right, sitting on the floor) and my fellow Love Infinity creative producer Mei-Hui Liu (far left, with the white collar) surrounded by such wonderful diversity of expression. Different worlds connected in the warmth of the moment, created by the film.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

A woman in black standing in front of a postered wall

It’s Utopian, Darling
While demonstrating the breathtaking creativity of the featured artists such as Chrissy Darling (left), this image speaks also to Tim’s sensibilities as a director. Love Infinity is not a narrative film. It’s an aesthetic voyage through London by an outsider, attuned to the communicative potential of costume, with the sculpture Lili (centre) as a probe. Lili becomes Tim’s alter ego in this Utopian world of endless possibilities.

A man in a hat and jacket saying hello to a plastic blonde woman in a pink dress

Welcome to Lobster Land
This is what Love Infinity is all about. Direct, unencumbered contact between the artist-film- maker Tim Yip (left), and the artists Pandemonia (centre) and Philip Colbert (right). We were in Philip’s Shoreditch studio, here. It was a sticky June morning in 2019, a year into what would become a two-year shoot and a four-year journey – and counting! Pandemonia (centre) must have been terribly hot in all that latex. In this scene, Philip is welcoming Pandemonia to Lobster Land, a digital town he created for his lobster alter ego.

A man wearing a beaded head scarf and armour

Living Art
Daniel Lismore and Lili (a mannequin) are the stars of Love Infinity. Christened ‘living art’ by the artists Gilbert & George, Daniel is a culture unto himself. While not exactly ‘living’, Lili is certainly art. Since their first appearance at an exhibition of Tim Yip’s work in Beijing in 2009, the ever-present Lilis have become the artist’s signature.

Read more: Six NFTs To Watch

Vivienne Westwood in a grey blazer standing in a shop speaking to a man

On-Screen Poetry
After telling Tim her strategy for saving the world from global warming, Vivienne Westwood (above, centre) shared her love of ancient China. In the film, she quotes Confucius, and tells Tim she writes poetry in the Taoist tradition, which she recites to Lili in one of the film’s most memorable scenes. Such a beautiful meeting of worlds and minds.

people sitting around a table with a prototype on it

East Enders
Gilbert & George (far left, alongside other cast members Stella, Lili and Tim) are perhaps the most famous living artist duo, quintessentially British, and fêted at museums round the world. Yet when they were young artists in the 1960s, they were total outsiders. In this film they embody a certain East End quality, in that this part of London tends to produce and attract writers, thinkers, and particularly artists who, from the fringes of culture, come to define the centre.

Maryam Eisler is the film’s co- creative producer, alongside Mei-Hui Liu; and Benjamin Teare, who is the creative editor and first assistant director. ‘Love Infinity’ is available to view on Mubi

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

Share:
Reading time: 6 min
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.

Share:
Reading time: 16 min
man standing in jeans and a cowboy hat
a man with his arms folded

Portrait of Henry Lohmeyer by Maryam Eisler

American photographer Henry Lohmeyer is not only renowned for his powerful photography but also his use of words to accompany each work of art. Here, Lohmeyer speaks to Maryam Eisler about the impact his art and poetry have had on his audience and himself

Maryam Eisler: Whose work speaks your language and has impacted you most?
Henry Lohmeyer: I can’t say certainly. Your sensibilities change as you are exposed to life. To begin with, I wasn’t really struck by photographers as much as I was by painters and sculptors. Bresson, absolutely; I think all roads lead to him—so fascinated that he saw himself a drawer first. The other artist who has really hit me hard is Arbus. How she was able to squeeze out of that tight space she fit into, as probably most women artists were at the time, and are still… her work is masterful in that she saw beauty and humanity in almost anyone. She was able to show both physical and emotional scars in the most powerful of ways. And through these scars, we are made to see our own differences, commonalities and identities.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Maryam Eisler: When did your first camera click take place?
Henry Lohmeyer: We had a cabin growing up, on a little fishing river, and my mother would give me a camera to play with (as well as crayons to draw with). It was a plastic camera but it took 120 film, and as you know on 120 film you were only allowed 10 or 12 photos. I was given that for the week and you learn to shoot very sparingly. That’s when I remember taking a photo with thought. I also learned to see the charm in those ones that were missed and somehow turned out beautiful.

A man wearing a hat crying into a handkerchief

Lohmeyer says: “May we just talk about hurt and love? The hurt you feel when you know you can’t help. The kind of love when you beg to understand.”

Maryam Eisler: As I discovered you on Instagram, I realised that not only your photos are poetry but so are your words, a powerful marriage of the visual and the intellect. Have you always approached your art in this manner?
Henry Lohmeyer: When I got sober twelve years ago, I needed a way to express myself. I went to art school and I often fancied myself becoming a painter, a sculptor, a print maker. It just wasn’t feasible at the time to do that, but what I had was my IPhone. I would just take photographs of anything and everything. In all honesty, they were terrible shots but I really appreciated them, as much if not even more than any photograph I take today, because they served as foundation for my work today. It was a means for me to express myself, process stuff, figure out where I was headed without including another person into this whirlpool of emotions. It was something I could do every day and there was no cost. A year into it, I started incorporating a sentence or a word and I found this to be a great way, as a diary does, to journal, to share my experiences. I love it when people respond to what I write or photograph, but on a more personal note, it’s a source of accountability. Even at my age, I’m still trying to figure so much out, as we all are. I like the childlike quality of that process. My fear, however, is that I may box in the photo when I write what it’s about, rather than opening it up to interpretation.

Read more: The LUX Art Diary: Exhibitions to See in March

Maryam Eisler: Through your words and your images, you unveil yourself to your viewers and connect with them- your feelings, your scars. Do you enjoy this connection with ‘the other’?
Henry Lohmeyer: I like to believe that what I’m feeling is a shared experience. I think we all want to be normalised, not to say that we don’t want to feel unique but … We don’t want to feel like a pariah. We want to be received, accepted. It is nice when someone connects with what I’m saying. It makes me feel good, it helps me too. I receive way more than I could give on that regard. With that said, it’s an exercise in vulnerability and opening myself up, connecting. That’s something that photography and my words have given me: a connection that I was so quick to discount, deny or run away from so many times in the past. I do it because it keeps me healthy. I’ve been able to ride the ship many times because of my words to myself and of myself.

A child wearing a fury hood and scarf

For the women who care for each of us

Maryam Eisler: You speak of scars. Do you think that an artist needs them in order to produce?
Henry Lohmeyer: I do not believe that. But I do know that if you are scarred, art can help. Expressing no matter what your medium can be an asset. I don’t know if this is true and it’s probably my narrative but I feel like I can tell when work is derived from a really sore spot and I don’t think it necessarily makes it any better, but I do admire those that can rely on it and turn it into something that others respond to. There’s a saying in recovery that “you’re only as sick as your secrets” and I do think that it’s important to live out loud.

a barn

Lohmeyer says: “Like love, hope is a rather subversive ideal.”

Maryam Eisler: For an introvert, you are incredibly expressive!
Henry Lohmeyer: It’s a need. I also know that I create my best work, living on that edge. I’m not Evel Knievel but I am living in that idea of pushing myself. Vulnerability is a moving target. I can remember the first time I wrote alongside my images and still today, like many, I feel fear before sharing.

Maryam Eisler: But doubt is necessary for an artist- is it not?
Henry Lohmeyer: Yes, doubt is a constant for me. My writing never stops, but visually I haven’t opened myself up as much as I would like to. I’ve been in a place where I close down the things I see. I see a photograph in the making and it’ll be like falling out of a boat into water- that easy!

Read more: Shahrzad Ghaffari: “Where Curiosity Stops, the Creative Process Ends”

Maryam Eisler: I suppose it’s like writer’s block… you get visual block. I guess, in your case, you need that balance between both sides of the equation.
Henry Lohmeyer: More times than not, one picks up the other. There’s sometimes a photo, where what I saw really captured me. You know how it is, you’re not just capturing visually what it is but also how it made you feel and that’s the hard part. How many times, have you seen that old mary-go-round horse… tattered, broken, chipped… but then you see the beauty in it.

trees in the snow

Lohmeyer says: “If I were a boy king, more command than competence, with all the valour in my heart and any army at my disposal, to what length would I go to conquer love? To what depth would I go to honour both her heart and mine? What lines would be drawn in the sand to mark each prayer, each hope, each noble act? If I were a boy king, to what end would I be measured, to what time would I embrace and to what distant shore would I sail to join hearts?”

Maryam Eisler: When I think of your work, I think of wide open spaces, I think of solitude, I think of isolation but also time. There’s huge sentimentality in what you portray.
Henry Lohmeyer: Well a continuous theme in my work is that of a hero’s journey, the fall and the rise. I think that the lone figure is very appealing to me. I connect with it very easily. I think that we all feel sometimes alone and I certainly don’t want to relish in that moment, but I do think that there is a lot of beauty in that space. It certainly doesn’t feel beautiful when you’re in it yourself but it’s hard not look at it with some admiration, and to find honour in that moment when you rise out of it. There is that song from Les Miserables where Fantine sings, “there are storms we cannot weather”, and I do think that when someone says it’ll get better, we don’t necessarily feel that, but I do know that when we step out of it and start to rise, there is great reason to celebrate and embrace the moment. That is something that gets lost on many of us. We feel like we deserve the harshness, and yet when we are victorious or when we thrive, we somehow think it’s Grace. That we didn’t earn it. I think that again we don’t need to experience bad to understand good or feel despair to understand hope.

A close up of a black man with a moustache and beard

Lohmeyer says: “I don’t know where he is now. I know we hugged. I know he liked his tea sweeter than mine-that’s very sweet. I know he couldn’t sing. I know that he looked at me the way son looks at a father-baba, he would say, I know we trusted one another and I know I miss him.”

Maryam Eisler: Speak to me about Love.
Henry Lohmeyer: I understand the idea of love and I do love. I’m capable of love … my children, my two grandchildren. I love my brothers and sisters, my nieces and nephews and my friends. I know that I have many shortcomings in this area, and that I am constantly working on it. It’s not the idea that ‘forever’ scares me and I don’t necessarily equate ‘forever’ with love; we can love for a day. In fact, I think love is probably our greatest gift. I hope that in my photography and through my words, I show how I love people. I have not necessarily been very good with the romantic kind of love. I laughingly say I have one great love affair left in me, and I say that tongue and cheek in a way because I’m just going to keep trying to get back on the saddle. I do love the idea of it.

A man wearing a white shirt with his hands together sitting on a chair

Portrait of Henry Lohmeyer by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: You are very well read. We have spoken a lot about your favourite authors and I’m assuming that it’s from that passion for literature where your love of the ‘word’ comes from.
Henry Lohmeyer: I like Hemingway a lot. I like his style. I know he’s controversial regarding his views on women and life, and there is no denying all of that. I do like how he can say things in such a pithy manner. There are many lines I really love. “Why did they make birds so delicate and as fine as those sea swallows when the ocean can be so cruel?”, comes to mind. I love when J.D. Salinger says “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” Jonathan Safran Foer’s writes in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, “Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” This line kills me.

Read more: Darius Sanai’s California Diary

Books to me are magical, because I had a lot of trouble reading them as a child due to my dyslexia and ADD, so they were kind of a burden at first; when I was able to sit down with them eventually, it was kind of magical.

Two doors and stairways

Lohmeyer says: “My father would describe things, places, etc, “It’s the same, but different.” He spoke of love in this manner too. Maybe we seek a mirror, one that holds, not what is peculiar to us, but rather what reflects the best parts of ourselves. The same, but different.”

Maryam Eisler: Camus is an author you hold close to your heart and “Vivre au point des larmes” (‘to live on the verge of tears’) is tattooed on your body.
Henry Lohmeyer: I believe that emphatically; it’s a thing I aspire to, but am not always successful at. It’s scary to be on or over the edge of the boat, but I do believe that is the place to be. It’s fear, it’s hope, it’s glory, it’s exciting but it’s also sad and you’re easily broken there. For me, to be happy and satisfied, I need to be on that edge. That doesn’t mean life- risking. I have no desire to skydive or bungee jump; I’m not a thrill seeker emotionally, and I don’t thrive on the loss of anything, but I do know it’s necessary to be there, on the brink.

man standing in jeans and a cowboy hat

Image of Henry Lohmeyer by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: What’s on the horizon for you now, artistically?
Henry Lohmeyer: I’m excited about what’s coming next. The word “Shadows” come to mind. I’ve done a good bit of witnessing and recording those we’ve chosen to place on the edge- refugees, immigrants, the homeless, and the abused. And, during this time I’ve come to realize that it may not take a catastrophic event or events to cost us our safety and security—our rights as humans. My art, going forward, will take a much softer approach at witnessing and translating. While the images may be more measured, the words will not. As you know, my words mean as much to me, if not more, than my photographs—so, I’m going to incorporate them directly onto the images. Might be many words, might be one. I’m hoping it will be a more expressive reflection of what is seen—it’s a vulnerable space for anyone to allow for an open interpretation of self and an imperative for any artist.

Find out more:

henrylohmeyer.com

@henrylohmeyer

Share:
Reading time: 12 min
A group of people
A group of people

Left to right: Catherine Lampert, Kate Gordon, Idris Khan, Georgina Cohen & Gregor Muir. Bottom: Sigrid Kirk & Maryam Eisler

LUX’s Chief Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler’s latest photographic series entitled Once Upon A Turquoise Past brings together memories of her homeland, Iran, and formative years spent in Europe and New York in the 1980s and 90s. Presented in an exhibition curated by Carrie Scott at Linley Belgravia, the dreamlike photographs reference writings of Persian writers such as Rumi, Hafez and Attar, as well as Charles Baudelaire’s Invitation to the Voyage set against the grand backdrop of Leighton House, the Victorian Kensington home of Orientalist Lord Leighton. LUX invited a number of guests to the opening of the show.
two women and a man standing by some steps

Left to right: David Linley, Maryam Eisler & Isabelle de la Bruyere

A woman and two men taking a selfie

Left to right: Maryam Eisler, Darius Sanai & Idris Khan

A woman in Turquoise feather dress next to a woman in a black leather coat

Left to right: Sarah Lovegrove & Lydia Connell

A painting on a wall by a table

Rise Up and Play by Maryam Eisler

women standing in front of photograph

Maryam Eisler & Meihui Liu

A man in a suit and a woman in a bleu dress standing on steps

Mark-Francis Vandelli & Marie Moatti

three women and a man standing for a photograph

Left to right: David Linley, Carrie Scott, Maryam Eisler & Katy Wickremesinghe

A painting on a wall by a table

Afshin Naghouni & Silvana Maragliulo

three women posing for a photo

Left to right: Emma Samuel, Donna Younis & Clare Schifano

abstract portrait photograph

Collective Memories by Maryam Eisler

three pictures above a table

Top Image: Wanderlust by Maryam Eisler

Bottom Left Image: There’s A Crack In Everything. That’s How The Light Gets In by Maryam Eisler

Bottom Right Image: Shadowplay by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler: Once Upon a Turquoise Past runs until 28 November 2021 at LINLEY Belgravia. For more information, visit: davidlinley.com

Share:
Reading time: 6 min
tropical villa doorway
house with green door by the sea

Inspired by the vibrant colours and laid-back lifestyle of the island of Capri, fashion designer Catherine Prevost’s latest collection was celebrated with an in-store exhibition of artworks by Maryam Eisler, Karolina Woolf and Pandemonia. While the show has now ended and most of us remain confined within the borders of our countries, we can still escape to sunnier shores through powerful imagery. Below, we share a curated selection from Maryam Eisler’s latest photographic series

All images copyright and courtesy of Maryam Eisler.  maryameisler.com @maryameisler

For more information on Catherine Prevost’s Capri-inspired collection, visit: catherineprevost.com

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
fashion portrait
portrait

Sunset, a limited edition photograph by Cathleen Naundorf. Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf studio

colour portrait of Maryam Eisler photographer and contributing LUX editor

Maryam Eisler

Following in the footsteps of Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Peter Beard, Cathleen Naundorf is a world renowned photographer who works with large format analogue cameras to create a unique painterly aesthetic. Photographer and LUX Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler speaks to the Paris-based artist about photographing the Dalai Lama, creative influences and developing her own style

portrait of a woman

Cathleen Naundorf. Courtesy of the artist

Maryam Eisler: Cathleen, you have been working with analogue and large format cameras for some years now. I am interested in your visual aesthetics, especially in what you call your ‘Fresco’ imagery, which sits somewhere between photography and painting, in my opinion.
Cathleen Naundorf: Yes, that is correct indeed. The technique achieves painterly photographs. As a kid, at the age of four, I already had a pencil in my hand; I drew all my life. I was sponsored very early on, and had my first painting atelier at the age of twelve. It was only later that I decided to become a photographer, because I was looking for something that would allow me to both travel and remain close to painting, at the same time. I was young and didn’t want to be isolated in a studio, I wanted to go out and explore the world.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

I was raised in East Germany, and moved out before the wall was taken down; it was very difficult to get out. At the time, I was desperate to travel, and so, I applied for jobs with book editors and printed media. I landed my first job very early on, at the age of 23, for which I had to do a reportage on the Dalai Lama. By luck, I became a travel photographer, and I fell in love with this medium.

corset on a woman

Corset by Cathleen Naundorf. Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf studio

studio photographer

Cathleen on a studio shoot. Courtesy of the artist

To go back to your ‘Fresco’ question and achieving that painterly look, I decided to work with polaroid because you see the result immediately. Many 70s photographers also used polaroids as it was a great way to check up on lighting during the photo sessions. Helmut Newton used the XS – 70 polaroids, for example. I used small format polaroids during my travels, and took polaroid portraits of the people I photographed, in order to retain an immediate memory of them. From 2003, I started working in studios and so I chose the professional 8 x 10 inch and the 4 x 5 inch polaroid sheets. There were two reasons behind my choice of this particular material. Firstly, it allows for the development of unique pieces, and secondly,  it captures the light in a painterly way. In 2006, I started with the ‘Fresco’ technique, a complicated process, but well worth the complication as it produces stunning results!

Read more: ‘Confined Artists Free Spirits’ – Maryam Eisler’s lockdown portrait series

collage storyboard

One of Cathleen’s storyboards for Anastasia, Vogue Thailand. Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf studio

Maryam Eisler: I imagine this technique requires everything to be pre–planned?
Cathleen Naundorf: If you work with large format cameras and settings, you have to prepare the photo production well in advance. I draw everything first, each shot, just like you would if you were producing a movie. My storyboards explain the narrative which I have in mind. Each sitter (client or model) receives the story board several days before the shoot so as to get “in the mood”. My team also gets briefed in advance, and as such, all is well prepared. So, once you’re on set, the atmosphere is relaxed, giving time and space to concentrate on the subject, whilst allowing me to pull the trigger at the right moment … the extra ‘wow’ factor!

Read more: British-Iranian artist darvish Fakhr on the alchemy of art

Maryam Eisler: So storytelling is a significant part of your process?
Cathleen Naundorf: It’s always about storytelling. As mentioned, I started as a reportage photographer. When I worked with big agencies, they would always tell me ‘one picture needs to say it all’. I first put this theory to the test when I photographed the Dalai Lama, once when I was 24 and the second time at the age of 26. I think a photograph should always tell a story – this also applies to fashion photography, at least in my case.

vintage style photograph

Magic Garden, III ,Valentino Garavani, Wideville by Cathleen Naundorf. Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf studio

Maryam Eisler: Would you say that your collaboration with your sitter equally becomes an integral part of the process?
Cathleen Naundorf: I always ask the person if he or she has agreed to be photographed. It’s a question of respect. Some situations are also very intimate, and the sitter needs to feel more comfortable than usual. With culturally diverse ethnic groups, especially, you need to take time, explain, share with them the process and the purpose of your work. It is a question of trust and communication. With models, they may find themselves nude in front of you. As such, you need to develop trust, respect and comfort, in the rapport which you establish with them. As a photographer, you have to have the ability to open the sitter’s soul, and in turn, they need to be made aware of that. That’s when you bring the best out of people.

fashion portrait

Pose enchantée by Cathleen Naundorf. Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf studio

Maryam Eisler: Do you have a secret formula or recipe in your photography? A signature of some sort?
Cathleen Naundorf: Not really. I am very critical of myself and try to improve the quality of my work with every shoot. It’s a daily task, step by step.

Read more: A new retrospective of photography by Terry O’Neill opens in Gstaad

Maryam Eisler: Most artists are doubters. They never know when the painting is finished. It is quite wonderful to have that certitude and to be able to say, ‘This is done! This is it!’
Cathleen Naundorf: Yes. When I shoot, I say to the team, ‘Guys that is it; we have it!’ It’s also fantastic to have the polaroid result in 60 seconds. Once I had to shoot the cover for a US magazine and I was photographing Laetitia Casta. I only shot seven polaroids and sent just ‘the one’ to the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine. They complained and asked to see more options, but I knew that that was the one. The magazines sold out, and there was the proof in the pudding! When you have it, you have it!

fashion photography

The enchanted forest I by Cathleen Naundorf. Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf studio

fashion portrait

The doubt by Cathleen Naundorf. Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf studio

Maryam Eisler: How old were you when you left East Germany? And how much of an influence did your country of origin have on your career?
Cathleen Naundorf: I was 17 when I left East Germany. When I was 6 years old, people around me used to say ‘Oh she is an artist, she is so sensitive’. I knew then that I was different. Being raised under that regime made me very strong over the years. Freedom and human rights took top priority in my life as a result. To be physically and mentally free are essential to me. You need to make choices in life and stand for what you believe in. I had to pack my suitcase in 24 hours and take what I could. That teaches you a lot in life!

Maryam Eisler: The choice of photojournalism could be considered activism in itself.
Cathleen Naundorf: Yes, I wanted to give something back to society. At 18, I became an active member of Amnesty International. I worked on cases in Yugoslavia during the war and also in Turkey. In 1993, I met the Dalai Lama. I was very fortunate. As mentioned before, I did a reportage twice on him. I was the youngest photo reporter and I was also the only woman. It was, and still is hard for a woman to be in photojournalism. In East Germany where I grew up, women and men were really equal. So, when I came to the West, I was disappointed. I felt like I had to battle even more in order to gain respect. Even today, I sometimes feel like I have to battle in order to protect my rights and justify my job.

Read more: SKIN co-founder Lauren Lozano Ziol on creating inspiring homes

Maryam Eisler: How do you marry your two worlds together: activism and fashion? It seems like they would normally be at polar opposites of each other?
Cathleen Naundorf: Honestly, I never saw myself as a fashion photographer. Horst [P.Horst] became my mentor and influenced me in the direction of fashion photography at the beginning of my career, alongside the influences of work by Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. I was eventually taken under Tim Jefferies’ wing (Director of Hamiltons Gallery, Mayfair), and the rest is history! When I moved to Paris in 1998, fashion was a kind of ethnic voodoo, with a touch of glamour, especially during the times of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. It was great and I saw eye to eye with that kind of fashion. But those times are over, there is no Diana Vreeland or Francesca Sozzani anymore. People think I belong to the fashion bunch, but I don’t really. I am considered an artist, even by the fashion industry, and I always want to keep it that way.

black and white fashion photography

In the clouds, II by Cathleen Naundorf. Courtesy of Cathleen Naundorf studio

Maryam Eisler: Talk to me about the influence Horst had on you.
Cathleen Naundorf: When I discovered Horst’s photography, I called him in New York. I realised, that if this is and can be called fashion photography, then I must try and learn it. His work was magnificent. Later we found out, that my family and his family knew each other, because they each had big shops in the town of Weissenfels, in East Germany, on the same street! Can you believe that? He saw my travel pictures and he said ‘ Why don’t you try fashion?’ He influenced me at the beginning, and, of course, later on in my career, I developed my own personal style.

Maryam Eisler: Where do you find your inspiration?
Cathleen Naundorf: Everywhere. I always have pictures in my head! My fantasies drive me. And, I like to realise my dreams. It is these dreams and fantasies that empower me and make me feel alive!

View Cathleen Naundorf’s portfolio: cathleennaundorf.com
Instagram: @cathleennaundorf

Share:
Reading time: 9 min
Open kitchen living space with exposed beams

Man sitting on bench in white room

John Pawson is one of the UK’s most renowned architects, known for his signature white, pared-back aesthetic that celebrates space over clutter. His projects vary from high-end private homes to hotels, shops, restaurants, monasteries and London’s Design Museum. LUX Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler visits and photographs his recently completed home in Oxfordshire consisting of a farmhouse and barns to talk about light, lines, and imperfect perfection.

Maryam Eisler: Talk to me about light John.
John Pawson: Well, Louis Kahn said there’s no architecture without natural light. So if there are ten building blocks for architecture, whether it’s scale or proportion or materials, light has to take priority. Cause you’re fucked otherwise!

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Maryam Eisler: If I say monastic, you say …
John Pawson: We’ve been very lucky to have completed three monastic commissions (referring to the new Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Novy Dvur in Bohemia, interior renovation of the basilica of the Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma in Hungary and work at the Cistercian Abbey of Sept-Fons in France). Religious buildings – and specifically monastic buildings – are very different. And the brief is different. But the fact that someone who’s done a Calvin Klein shop can also do a monastery isn’t a contradiction. We’re there to do buildings and we are not measured for our morals or religious beliefs. And the monks saw something in the domestic and retail architecture which attracted them; they thought I might be the right person to help them with their projects.

Open kitchen living space with exposed beams

Maryam Eisler: So, if I say the Rothko Chapel in Houston or Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light near Osaka in Japan…
John Pawson: I could relate to these projects. A lot.

Maryam Eisler: Talk to me about clutter. Or the lack of it.
John Pawson: I’m not a great one for things, but you know you need tools to do stuff, as an architect, a gardener or a cook; it’s just about making sure that you don’t have more than you need.

Minimalist style sitting room

View through an open glass door onto barn

Maryam Eisler: So you take quite a utilitarian approach to life?
John Pawson: I think that the architecture comes from the way I like to live and it always has done. It’s what I do, and the clients seem to like what I do.

Maryam Eisler: Is your mind as clean as the space and environment you function in?
John Pawson: No, quite the opposite. It’s crammed with stuff, and my brain is all over the place. That’s why I like things ordered. But you can never have exactly what you want. Especially if you live with people.

Read more: Island paradise at the Ritz-Carlton Abama resort, Tenerife

Maryam Eisler: What about order?
John Pawson: I see order as being a good thing. But it has pejorative tones for some people. They see regiment. They see military. They see oppression. I just think it helps.

Maryam Eisler: You appear to have a sense of inner peace and balance, reflective of your work. Am I reading it right?
John Pawson: I’ve been very lucky in my life, and things have gone for the most part smoothly. Work can be quite stressful as I try to produce really special things.

Minimalist kitchen

Maryam Eisler: Talk to me about lines.
John Pawson: Yes, Lines. Lots of them. Straight lines.

Maryam Eisler: Are they always straight?
John Pawson: Human beings and women in particular have curves. Buildings are, for the most part, rectilinear. Things are only curved when they need to be.

Maryam Eisler: Have you ever produced anything circular?
John Pawson: Very rarely. We once did a circular surround hedge to a tennis court for Karl Lagerfeld in Biarritz. And he went slightly mad because he said, ‘Don’t you know I don’t like curves’ and I didn’t ! – You know, one of the rules! The other one is ‘Don’t spill coffee on the plans’ which I did as well; that didn’t go down very well either [laughter]!

Maryam Eisler: Which brings me actually to the topic of ‘favourite’ project. Have you had one?
John Pawson: Yes! A monastic city. That was the most fulfilling project of all. And different. Also, I suppose on an egotistical level, not many architects get to do monasteries on this scale.

Gardens of a country home with a marble bench

Man sitting on bench in garden

Maryam Eisler: What about this particular farm house, where we’re sitting now ?
John Pawson: Having worked on this project for five years, you forget how fresh it can be for other people. The level of detail which isn’t always apparent in the materials and the amount of work that has gone into it …. It must seem very calm, judging by peoples’ reactions. So, I don’t know whether this will become like the monastery or not. I just don’t know.

Ma and woman sitting on bench in gravel courtyard

John Pawson conversing with Carrie Scott, an independent art historian and curator who is currently working with John on his photographic series

Maryam Eisler: The strength of your work, the clean lines in your designs, are reminiscent in my opinion of Judd’s work. Same strength. Same presence. Interesting that the first thing I saw when I came here are three Judd chairs, perfectly aligned in the kitchen. Has he been a source of inspiration?
John Pawson: Yes. From very early days – I think I first saw an exhibition of his in Japan when I lived in Tokyo in the early 70s. After that Hester [van Royen, mother of John’s children Caius and Phoebe] became his dealer in Europe, so I got to meet him. He was not too big on conversation!

And then there was a moment in Basel when Hester said, ‘Oh let’s go for lunch !’ Judd was hungry. So, the three of us went out and I thought ‘Oh great; I finally get to sit down with Donald Judd over lunch. Amazing!’ And just as we were going out of the hall, a client of mine caught me and I couldn’t help but to say ‘come along’. He talked non-stop. So, I never got to listen to Judd!

Man standing in doorway of staircase

Maryam Eisler: Your aesthetic and emotional connection to Judd seems obvious.
John Pawson: Definitely. Extraordinary, in fact! It’s been a natural thing. He was one of the first artists I was exposed to. I was asked by Hester to give a talk in Oxford on Judd’s work. ‘Sure, cool’, I said and had the complete set of the most incredible slides relating to him – his work, Marfa, everything! It was a big hall and a lot of people. I got up very confident. I was, maybe 30 or 35, and of course my mind went completely blank! So, I put up that first slide and I just said ‘window’, because it was a window. And then the next one was ‘door’. And it went on and on.

Maryam Eisler: We’ve talked about light. What about shadow or darkness?
John Pawson: Everything is about the contrast. Without one, you don’t have the other. But it’s all in the subtlety – the colour changes so quickly, doesn’t it?

Read more: In conversation with painter Luc Tuymans

Maryam Eisler: I’m assuming you see a lot of colour even though, to an outside observer, your work may appear to be somewhat monochrome, neutral, in various shades of beige and grey.
John Pawson: There’s a huge amount of colour in my work and they’re all different! I also slightly underestimated the garden side of things here in the country. Because I thought I could just lay it all out simply and everything would be fine. And at this time of year (end of Spring), it’s so green and yellow … just incredible!

Maryam Eisler: It looks like a painting. Which brings me to the subject of art! You are an architect, a creative mind and a photographer. An artist in every sense of the word. I hope you agree ? Yet, I see no art (in its traditional sense) in the house. No painting on walls. No sculptures in rooms.
John Pawson: I’ve always been very very careful with that. I keep it clean and uncluttered. I know people consider architecture to be an art form. But, to me, architects are not artists. There is a very distinct line between art and architecture.

Rustic living room

Open plan dining room in converted barn

Maryam Eisler: What are the main lines of differentiation between art and architecture?
John Pawson: I think that architecture has a functional aspect to it. It has to be used. People need shelter. Whereas ‘art’ doesn’t have to fulfil any practical or functional qualities. However, it is important to say that we would not survive as a human race without art.

Maryam Eisler: And you, personally, can do both. You can be an architect and a photographer, simultaneously.
John Pawson: I’m definitely not an artist [laughter]. And I would be very careful about considering myself a photographer.

Read more: Dutch artist Viviane Sassen’s photographic series ‘Venus and Mercury’

Maryam Eisler: But the world will label you as that, especially as you are becoming more public with your photography! You look, think and see like a photographer!
John Pawson: Well then, I am happy to review the situation. It isn’t false modesty. It’s just that I’ve always enjoyed framing things and taking photographs, and until now, I’ve never sought to take it any further than the daily musings.

Black and white photograph of stairwell

Fire place photographed in black and white with light and shadow on wall

Here and above: Images from John Pawson’s photographic series Home, a portfolio of 8 images available in an edition of 10.

Man reclining against table in sitting roomMaryam Eisler: These daily musings which I follow on your instagram have become in effect a journal or a diary of your life. One can feel your soul through your photographs. I would even go as far as saying that they are self- portraits of some sort. And even though we don’t see you, you’re there and we definitely feel you.
John Pawson: This is just the way I see life, and it’s been a very nice discipline for me. I’m always amazed at how people see things and how they each photograph the same subject so differently. I’m not saying that they’re worse or better, but they’re so different and yet they use the same machine and have two eyes! I’ve always taken photographs but I had never shown them publicly before Instagram.

Maryam Eisler: Now that you’ve come out of the closet with your photography, do you impose more rules onto yourself? Or do you keep the practice spontaneous in the way that you have always done before?
John Pawson: I’d say I am spontaneous because I never think too much before framing a shot. They’re for me, first and foremost. It’s a bit the same with architecture. I design things for me, or as I would like them to be.

Wood panelled kitchen

Maryam Eisler: You give birth to buildings and you give birth to photographs, and then they get adopted, basically, by the collector, or by the clients.
John Pawson: Sure.

Maryam Eisler: And then they do what they wish with it.
John Pawson: Absolutely.

Maryam Eisler: Does that bother you?
John Pawson: No.

Maryam Eisler: They have a life of their own and that’s OK?
John Pawson: Even though I spend months designing a building, the day you hand it over, it’s no longer yours.

Maryam Eisler: Do you believe in some form of sublime intervention in the act of creation? A hand that enables some – maybe not everyone – to produce and to be creative?
John Pawson: I don’t think so. I’ve always thought that anyone can do it. Although I didn’t think I could. I thought designing was something other people could do. So I learnt; I went to school and learnt to design, literally. Which was illuminating in itself.

Interior detailing of minimalist house

Maryam Eisler: Are there any limitations in the act of creation?
John Pawson: One of the things that’s held me back is that people find it very difficult to see what I might do for them. Because the work seems so simple. But it’s a hard grind. It’s making umpteen models. And the problem is that most people just can’t see it. And I can understand that. People came here and saw this place and simply couldn’t understand how I could possibly do anything with it.

I remember giving a talk at RIBA years ago and I turned up, and the whole place was buzzing and heaving, and there were lots of incredibly attractive people, and they all looked very intelligent. And for a moment I wondered why they were there. And then of course I realised they were there for my talk. I still couldn’t think ‘why are they not doing it themselves, and why am I doing it?’ And I realised that it just takes a certain drive; every day you push and you keep your head down and then at the end, there’s something special.

Maryam Eisler: Whereas with photography, there’s much more instant satisfaction. No? You snap, you see…
John Pawson: Oh it’s heaven. Pure satisfaction.

Maryam Eisler: You are your own language in photography. Is the black and white a conscious choice?
John Pawson: Yes I think. Well, my photographs have a black and whiteness about them. But I think it just provides more focus, a stronger message. It takes away the noise.

Read more: Louis Roederer’s CEO Frédéric Rouzaud on art and hospitality

Maryam Eisler: In the chaotic world that we live in and share, do you think your photography helps you gain some control of your life, possibly even focus and introspection?
John Pawson: Definitely. It’s a sort of ordering of things, and the discipline is important. And it makes me even calmer because I’ve captured something. We’re always seeing things as we drive. But I very rarely stop the car. Lost moments. It’s important to capture these instances.

Window from a house onto a river

Wild English garden with wallMaryam Eisler: Are you concerned by the passage of time, by the ephemeral?
John Pawson: Of course I’m concerned about the state of things in the world. But I just find it difficult to get involved or to get concerned too deeply about something I can’t personally do something about. Maybe I should do more.

Maryam Eisler: Maybe you do. And maybe you’re not aware of it. Maybe you are adding that much required inner peace to people’s lives. Either through the serenity of your architectural spaces or your peaceful, well measured photography…
John Pawson: We do have a drawer of thank you letters. People’s lives are saved. It feels good to hear about the stories. And there are many stories.

Maryam Eisler: How would you like your legacy to be pondered upon?
John Pawson: Definitely not something I consider at all.

Maryam Eisler: So, for you, it’s about being here, in the moment?
John Pawson: Yeah, I’m here in the moment and legacy is impalpable. I didn’t chart this life, and I never set out to be an architect, but it’s come my way.

Maryam Eisler: A favourite photographer?
John Pawson: Crikey. I do tend to like the classics and people who did things first, but I used to hang out with Robert Mapplethorpe. Some of his works were really good. Not so much the portrait he made of me …

Maryam Eisler: Tell me about that moment when he shot you…
John Pawson: Early 80s is when it happened. Sadly, I was not asked to take my clothes off for him [laughter]… It was just a very relaxed shot of me sitting on the floor, cross-legged. I remember the moment well.

I was around the studio when he was taking photographs. A huge amount of energy went into his photography. He knew what he was doing. He was also very good with people.

Maryam Eisler: I suppose that the primary source of inspiration when you photograph is derived from your own spaces… as well as the reflection of shadow and light within these spaces ?
John Pawson: Yes.

Maryam Eisler: I see the odd tree or landscape every now again. Would you ever snap a figure?
John Pawson: I took Catherine [John’s wife] doing press ups on the beach once! Taking people is a whole other ball game isn’t it? When you’re travelling, I used to see a lot of potential interesting photographs of people and things happening around me. I would take them, but the stress levels were too much, because strangers get uncomfortable. So I decided to stick to what I know.

Man reflected in glass

Maryam Eisler: Would you say you’re a perfectionist?
John Pawson: Absolutely. An imperfect person.

Maryam Eisler: So, you’re an imperfect perfectionist ?
John Pawson: Well I’m obviously aware. A lot of it comes from being very imperfect. At the end, the goal is to produce something really really special, and I don’t personally have the means to do it on my own, so I’m always marshalling other people. It’s a big team. Building is an imprecise trade. So nothing is actually perfect anyway, which is fine because only God can be perfect, as the monks say. And that’s where the curve comes, I think; it’s only God who does curves well.

Maryam Eisler: So perhaps you’re the God of architecture?
John Pawson: That I know not. No delusions there!

John Pawson’s latest book ‘John Pawson: Anatomy of Minimum’ is published by Phaidon: phaidon.com

View his full portfolio of work: johnpawson.com

 

Share:
Reading time: 14 min
A man painting onto an orange wall
A man holding a paint palette

The artist Secundino Hernández in Venice, holding one of his preparatory studies for a larger palette painting

LUX Contributing Editor and photographer Maryam Eisler is entranced by Spanish artist Secundino Hernández. Here, she visits and photographs him on his residency in Venice to discuss inspiration and physicality in painting and the organised chaos of the creative process

Maryam Eisler: It is intriguing to hear about your visceral/carnal take on Venice; its tones and its ‘fleshiness’, as you call it.
Secundino Hernández: It was a coincidence. I only noticed it when I came here. I never had these memories about Venice before; I never thought about the colour of the buildings looking like flesh. It suddenly became evident as I looked out the window of my studio. I walk the city streets inspired, and I now combine the flesh tones by mixing them in the studio.

Maryam Eisler: What about the parallels with the work of L.S. Lowry?
Secundino Hernández: Yes, the palette! It’s amazing how Lowry developed his whole career with only five colours! The challenge is not to imitate, but to be inspired by his process. I have done this before with watercolours, based on Cezanne’s 14 colours.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Maryam Eisler: It’s interesting that you’re taking a figurative approach to painting in Venice. It seems to me that you are very much about this yin and yang, constantly meandering between lightness and heaviness; between monochromes and colour, the abstract and the figurative.
Secundino Hernández: Yeah. Someone asked me once, after I was done with these black and white works: “What is next?” and I said, “Back to the body.” It was shocking but it was true. After the freedom of the abstract paintings, I needed to go back to the exercise of representation. The mentality changes with the technique. It’s a new, open field for me. This is the most exciting part of painting. It’s not that I feel obliged to do this or that, but I push myself to try something new all the time. That’s what makes it rewarding.

Painting of a female nude

Maryam Eisler: You have taken an almost academic and art-historical approach to figuration; you even use a human model, although your figurative work is quite abstract.
Secundino Hernández: I want to explore how to paint figuration, after painting abstraction for a long time. It’s what I feel comfortable with. That’s why I paint with a model present and be academic in that way, but I always try to go a step further.

Maryam Eisler: So, you layer your work? You take all your past experiences, including the abstract, and layer it with the figurative. And then there’s magic…
Secundino Hernández: Yeah. I don’t move to figuration just for the sake of it. It’s about this inner exercise in order to see where the abstract works lead to. It’s like a mirror game. I want to test my abstraction, and for that, I need to have a reference, and that reference at this moment is the figure. This is the starting point for something new. The main thing is to open possibilities and new potential. I always thought it was easier to explain figurative work more than abstraction because abstraction is based on concepts, but I am realising that figures and bodies can also be very conceptual. We have seen the figure represented in paintings for centuries, so how do I paint a figure as if it’s being painted for the first time?

Artist painting a model in the studio

Hernández works with a live model to inform his figurative yet abstract works

Maryam Eisler: Going back to the language of the figurative and carnal, you often talk about ‘skin’ and ‘bones’, even with your abstract paintings. You scratch the surface of the painting like the surface of the skin and you dig deep into its bones.
Secundino Hernández: The pure linen is the bone because everything starts from this structure. I also like the idea of going backwards. It’s more like a sculpture, where you are sculpting and taking away from the form. Normally with a painting, you add to it. I like the idea of working with almost no paint at all, or even just with the primer.

Watercolour painting of a female nude

Maryam Eisler: You talk about ‘scars’ and you’re interested in dereliction. I see it so evidently as we walk through Venice. Anything that peels, anything that’s scratched, anything that has weathered texture to its surface. Is there an element of temporality and or timelessness in your work?
Secundino Hernández: Yes, that is very much present at the beginning of the palette works. They are nice to admire, but for me, they’re about the memory of what happens in the studio – every day, the process, the passage of time. I used a clean brush and I started to mix colours and they started to grow and grow and grow. I like this idea of growth and subtraction because the works are like pendulums. Some are about adding, and others are about taking away. Everything happens in between and in the physicality of the paintings.

Read more: Louis Roederer’s CEO Frédéric Rouzaud on art and hospitality

Maryam Eisler: Speaking of physicality, your act of painting is very physical, almost performative. You also ripple between large and small-scale works…
Secundino Hernández: It’s demanding. I like it now, but maybe in ten years’ time I will not have this energy level. It’s about not repeating the same process, the same scale. So, going back to the body, I thought it was nicer to paint on a small scale because it is more practical and, in a way, easier to develop the idea faster.

Maryam Eisler: In both your abstract and figurative work, in the way that you use the power-jet, the steamer, in the way that you peel and scratch the surface of the canvas, it seems to me that there is an element of chance and creative fate.
Secundino Hernández: It’s all about fate, you know. I believe that it’s got to be that way, otherwise I would never do any of it.

A man painting onto an orange wall

Hernández is inspired by derelict surfaces and the ‘fleshiness’ of the colours in Venice, such as this peeling wall and rows of buildings

Maryam Eisler: Does the sublime play a role in your practice? Spirituality, or just trust in the universal powers of being?
Secundino Hernández: It’s about reflection. When you work every day as I have for so many years, there needs to be something meditative and spiritual in the process.

Maryam Eisler: Primal?
Secundino Hernández: Yes. I’m a very primal person [laughs].

Abstract white artwork

‘Untitled’ (2018), by Secundino Hernández, rabbit skin glue, chalk, calcium carbonate, titanium white on linen, 276 x 249 cm

Maryam Eisler: You also go from monochrome palettes to a plethora of colours. Is there something emotive going on when you do this ?
Secundino Hernández: Actually, it’s about practicality. When I go to the studio, I start mixing colours and I work on these palette works which have no limits. If I get a bit overwhelmed or stuck, I go back to the palettes. The palette works are always there because their physicality enables the creation of other paintings. Without them, the others don’t exist.

Maryam Eisler: Coexistence and codependence? From peace to chaos?
Secundino Hernández: Yes, but it’s organised chaos. I’m not that chaotic, as you see in this studio. I’m very tidy. The surface of the canvas, on the other hand, looks chaotic because I tried this and I continued with that; everything is very well planned, most of the time. I even do small sketches to plan it all out in advance. Especially for the large canvases – because if you start painting a 5-metre canvas like a crazy monkey, it’s going to be a crap painting.

A man standing above Grand Canal venice

A man standing on a bridge holding a notebook

Hernández on a bridge near his temporary studio in the city. Above, on the roof of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, overlooking the Grand Canal.

Maryam Eisler: You’re often compared to American Expressionists, such as Pollock.
Secundino Hernández: I think it’s fine, but I feel more comfortable with ‘slow motion’ Expressionism.

Maryam Eisler: Let’s talk about your studio and the lonely business of being an artist.
Secundino Hernández: It’s always a lonely business. Because right or wrong, you are the one and only final judge. And you have to trust yourself.

Read more: Spring Studios Founder Francesco Costa on creative networking

Maryam Eisler: How much work do you destroy?
Secundino Hernández: I try to be successful with everything. But if I do destroy work, I don’t think about it anymore. I learn from the failure and move on. Now, with age, something strange is happening. I sometimes struggle with my paintings and what I can’t control is the frustration. With age, your passion is meant to lessen. It’s not the case with me… it’s getting stronger every day, and I judge myself all the time. I always said there are no mistakes in painting. But how do you know when something is good or bad, right or wrong? It’s difficult. It’s about the relationship between your actions and what you present to the world. I guess I’m only human!

Maryam Eisler: Would it be fair to say that painting is about reality – your reality?
Secundino Hernández: Yeah. That’s the miracle of painting. With some dust and a little bit of egg, you paint something that never existed before. It’s amazing. This is the miracle of painting I think. Also, painting for me is a way of naively understanding the world. Here, with the act of painting, I see Venice with different eyes. I see its surface, its different skin colours and its many people.

Abstract coloured painting

‘Untitled’ (2018), by Secundino Hernández, acrylic, alkyd and oil on linen, 261 x 196 cm

Maryam Eisler: What does it mean to be a painter in the 21st century?
Secundino Hernández: I don’t really know what it means. But I want my paintings to age in a timeless way. I want them to still feel fresh and talk to you in 40 years. This is the whole point. I may be asking for too much. But that’s what I am trying now and always will. Now, more than ever, I’m getting very ambitious. This morning, I was reading an article about Rembrandt and it said that the difference between Rembrandt and his contemporaries was that he not only was a great painter, technically speaking, but that he provided the figure with a certain life and soul. And that’s why his paintings look alive, even today. This is the point. And I was wondering if Rembrandt was even conscious of this. Maybe he was simply enjoying painting or maybe he was suffering and struggling as well, but it’s nice that at least someone writes in this way about your work, 300 or so years later.

Maryam Eisler: And the role of social media in the life of a 21st-century artist? Unlike most artists, you’re not present on social platforms?
Secundino Hernández: I’m not on Facebook and I’m not on Instagram. I have no time for that. Once I went on Instagram and I saw that there were 2,000 posts with my name, then I calculated, if you spend one minute per post, that’s 2,000 minutes of my time, which means two days of my life nonstop doing this sh*t. I just couldn’t do it. I prefer to sit and do nothing.

Maryam Eisler: Is it actually important for people, especially artists, to do nothing?
Secundino Hernández: It’s very important for everyone to be bored. I’m even making big efforts to check my mobile messages once or twice a day only. It’s difficult. It’s like cocaine. I feel like my brain needs it.

Secundino Hernández is represented by Victoria Miro Gallery. His latest exhibition runs at Victoria Miro Venice until 19 October. For more information visit: victoria-miro.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

Share:
Reading time: 10 min
Woman walking towards table wearing a smart dress and holding a parasol
Three women posing in a field English countryside

Models (left to right) Agathe Angel Chapman de Lussy, Blaise and Alice Pins wearing designs by Meihui Liu of Victim Fashion Street. Hats by Noel Stewart and Piers Atkinson. Shoes by Natacha Marro. Styled by Ann Shore in Oxfordshire

Photographer and LUX Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler’s latest series reimagines a romantic version of the ‘Sublime Feminine’ set amidst the idyllic Oxfordshire countryside, in collaboration with Meihui Liu, founder of up-cycled, ethical and sustainable design label Victim Fashion Street

Photography and words by Maryam Eisler

‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’  – Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

Tell me of one who has visited the countryside on an English summer’s day, and not felt the magic of almost-temporal emotions evoked by the sheer beauty of its nature, reflected by sounds carried upon the wind.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

The sound of cricket bats hitting balls in the distance. Of horses’ hoofs trotting along bridle paths covered by foliage, casting a hundred shadows, dancing to a thousand songs sung by maidens returning from the fields, their good day’s work done. The land tended to, a bottle of warm cider washing down homemade bread and cheese, a pickle to perk-up the repast.

Model poses sitting on a bench in a wide hat and long dress

Hat by Noel Stewart. Shoes by Natacha Marro

Young model poses in high fashion outfit

Hat by Noel Stewart

Three women sitting around a table with pizza

Shoes by Natacha Marro

Afternoon tea, anyone?

Fast forward to the present, planting beauteous maidens anew in those same fields of our imaginations. Seeing young Englishwomen dressed up in their lace and floral finery, languid and remote to match the balmy weather.

Young model poses in elaborate fashion and hat

Hat by Noel Stewart

Model poses wearing a large hat seated in long grass field

Young female model crouched in the long grass wearing a headpiece

Headpiece by Piers Atkinson

Read more: Richard Mille Chantilly Arts & Elegance 2019 in photos

Soon the harvest season cometh, beware the beguiling sunsets, and the warmth breeding a tempestuous sky. Past romance, nostalgia’s return. Stop the clock, time is precious …we never know the value of the moment until it’s reflected in memory. Locked and stored, ready for the flashing stroke of another summer.

Strawberries and cream, anyone?

The shy Jay’s shrill cry when taking flight hidden in the thick foliage of an old English oak. The calming, soothing call of the wood pigeon, its eyes fixed upon intruders into its little paradise. The blackbird that dares not squawk, for ill-temper becomes it well, but not in the face of such maidens’ beauty.

Model wearing a long dress walking through a field

Clothing and accessories by Meihui Liu of Victim Fashion Street

Model half hidden in long grass wearing black clothing

Hat by Noel Stewart

All is quiet, all is calm; ‘tis an English summer’s idyll. Only the click of the camera records the moment, the photographer’s ephemeral moment made for the regard of all. The handmaidens’ tales made as presents to those not favoured by the sight of English summer’s bright. Their summer fare, passed along as wear across subterranean ethernets for all to see, smell and hear. Their pictures are portraits for all times. Serving beauty, serving style, serving innocence, patchwork vintage n’all.

‘But Thy Eternal summer Shall Not Fade’ – Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

Woman wearing a tiara with flowers

Female model poses draped over a wooden chair in thigh-high boots

Boots by Natacha Marro

Woman walking through field with a parasol and wearing long dress

‘Hand-made in England’ was photographed by Maryam Eisler at Story Deli in Oxfordshire, featuring models Alice Pins, Agathe Angel Chapman de Lussy and Blaise and sustainable, ethical up-cycled fashion and design by Victim Fashion Street and Meihui Liu. Hats by Noel Stewart and Piers Atkinson. Shoes by Natacha Marro. Styling by Ann Shore. Makeup by Melissa Victoria Lee and Keely Mangham

To view Maryam Eisler’s full portfolio visit: maryameisler.com

 

 

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
A naked woman crouched in a green bare landscape with flowers on her spine
A woman crouched over in a pink skirt on a volcanic landscape

An image from Maryam Eisler’s new series ‘O is for Origin’

When Maryam Eisler, LUX Contributing Editor and author of The Sublime Feminine, visited Iceland the results were spectacular

At first glance, Iceland looks like what the Earth must have been at its very beginning, with the bleakness and sombre colours of the volcanic rock that seems to have pushed its way up to the surface only yesterday. This extraordinary terrain makes Iceland a genuine land of fire and ice, with active volcanoes and glaciers living side by side under the phosphorescent lights of the aurora borealis. The landscape creates a powerful visual poetry like no other place I’ve visited. It is no wonder that this land is rich in folklore, in which mythical creatures roam the land and sea. I even met one in my sleep, the hafmeyjan, or mermaid, who enraptures sailors with her siren songs and disappears into the waters’ depths with the men in her arms.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

A naked woman crouched in a green bare landscape with flowers on her spine

Icelandic culture is dominated by women, as the progressive nature of its society and politics today shows. And if there was ever a way to highlight the central role of woman in creation, it is in the shifting shapes of this landscape, where female curves match perfectly the green, moss-covered outcrops that stretch far towards the distant murky horizon.

Read more: Photographer Maryam Eisler on East London and the power of art

In such a place, where people and landscape join in a jagged, unreal harmony, the photographer simply has to respond to the variety and scale of what nature presents them. If nothing else, our duty becomes the preservation of this quixotic land for the generations yet to behold its wonders.

View Maryam Eisler’s full portfolio of work: maryameisler.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 19 Issue.

Share:
Reading time: 1 min
Artist Philip Colbert pictured in his London studio
Artists Philip and Charlotte Colbert wearing matching suits

Philip and Charlotte Colbert in their fried-egg suits designed by Philip

In a warehouse in east London, Philip and Charlotte Colbert are creating a world of Pop art and sculpture that is putting them on the global map. Darius Sanai speaks to the dynamic enfants terribles of the London art scene while Maryam Eisler photographs them

At the back of a warehouse in east London, Philip Colbert sticks his head out of a doorway. “Come in,” he says, smiling, while simultaneously holding a conversation with his phone on one ear. “No, it needs to be there tonight. Right,” he says, into the phone. His tone is soft, firm, a gentle Scottish accent is present but inconspicuous, almost shy.

Inside, workers are cutting and daubing in an area full of canvasses and paint, and behind a rail of pop-coloured clothes, four more people are on their phones, sitting at desks. Through a space in the wall is another artist’s studio, this one tidier, less colourful, more precise, hung with sculptures of curved forms and creatures.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

Welcome to the world of Philip and Charlotte (through in the other studio) Colbert, the enfants terribles of the London art scene. Philip has been called all sorts of things, including a worthy successor to Andy Warhol; in his zany coloured suits he is a mainstay of the party (and social media) scene and with his classical education (philosophy, St Andrew’s University) combined with his cheeky-to-outrageous art he is one of the capital’s most desirable dinner party guests.

Colbert has created everything from lobsters sold in his (now closed) Paris namesake store to partnerships with Peanuts and Rolex; he has bucket loads of celebrity followers (Cara, Sienna, Gaga) and he’s big in China.

Artist touching a pink ceramic sculpture

Charlotte with some of her flocked ceramics

But as his latest works show, he is also a proper artist. His ‘Hunt’ paintings, shown recently by the Saatchi Galleries in both London and LA, around each city’s Frieze art fair, are a kind of Raft of the Medusa for contemporary society, riffing on themes around social media’s banal power, swatches from his favoured artists [Dalí, Lichtenstein, Hockney], and providing a poignant commentary on the chaos of contemporary society. They are also vibrant, colourful (as pop art should be) and, frankly, rather beautiful. He thinks of himself as a “neo-pop surrealist”, though a case could be made for him being more pop-impressionist: out of the microcosms of his creations there emerges a whole image of something quite different.

Read more: 6 artists creating new experiential spaces

His wife Charlotte, meanwhile, has created her own artistic world, one which shocks and smiles at the same time. Youthful, photogenic, and with enough wit not to take themselves entirely seriously, the Colberts may just be among the most interesting artists to emerge from Britain in the last decade. And you feel their whole future may just be ahead of them.

Artist Philip Colbert pictured in his London studio

Philip Colbert

LUX: How would you describe yourself ?
Philip Colbert: I’m someone who’s trying to create a world. I started out creating a sort of art brand, with artworks and furniture and was, in a way, trying to expand what the idea of art was beyond painting. But recently I’ve come back to painting in a big way and I think fundamentally my journey is about just trying to make my own sort of artistic world. The lobster alter-ego is really an articulation of my artistic persona.

LUX: Why a lobster?
Philip Colbert: I’ve always been into symbols. The lobster was a symbol of surrealism for a lot of surrealist poets and Dalí as well. I like the idea of bringing it to life and taking it on a journey.

Artist philip colbert surrounded by lobster imagery

Philip Colbert with his iconic lobster alter-ego

LUX: What is art about, for you?
Philip Colbert: The simple essence of art is human freedom, and pushing the creativity that we have. And if you push freedom forward and create more, you push reality and create more freedom for art. There’s something I like about taking the idea of art and trying to inject it with new energy and a new sense of possibility.

LUX: Should artworks be beautiful?
Philip Colbert: It’s an important part of communicating, to understand visual language. A cornerstone of my art is to try and be very positive and use primary colours and really radiate a sort of energy from my works. Even though they may still have a sort of darker undertone, I still like to give them the essence of a sunflower.

Large scale pop art work by Philip Colbert

‘Untitled II’ (2018) from Philip Colbert’s ‘Hunt Paintings’ series

LUX: Can you talk about ‘The Hunt’ series and how your work has developed?
Philip Colbert: ‘The Hunt’ paintings are important for me. I have been engaging with the idea of contemporary culture and the mass saturation of images and the internet. At the same time I’m still having a conversation with painting. The Old Masters are such a powerful part of art history and I like the idea of making my contemporary Pop culture paintings to be informed by and in conversation with them.

Read more: 6 questions with art collector Kelly Ying

LUX: Symbols from painters – how do you choose them?
Philip Colbert: Well, I was really drawn to elevated images, such as in history painting, with heroic battle depictions by artists such as Rubens. I wanted to underpin the violence of contemporary culture and use the analogy of a more traditional battle scene, to structure it like an Instagram feed. We consume so much today, and we see so much, we’re aware of so many amazingly escapist ideas juxtaposed with a lot of darker elements, like global warming or political instability. A lot of artists have been exploring abstraction or exploring obsession, but I wanted to capture more of this play of light and dark. I thought that the analogy of the battle scene was a good way to explore these tensions.

Artist Philip Colbert at work on a painting in his studio

Philip at work on ‘Screw Hunt II’ (2018)

LUX: Have you felt pushed back by contemporary art establishments?
Philip Colbert: I think of myself as an outsider in a way, because I studied philosophy and really just developed my own practice. I’m not looking for validation from anyone. I feel that in the art world, people are sometimes groomed to want to please, but I’m much more interested in just connecting to people on a real and direct level.

LUX: Are you here to sell art or create art?
Philip Colbert: One hundred per cent to create art. The sales side of it is obviously an essential part of being able to grow because it allows one to do more, but I’m not deliberately engineering my works to be purely reflective of the market, which is not necessarily a bad thing either – Warhol was very good at mirroring what he felt the system wanted. My paintings are complex and intense and highly saturated, so are not the easiest to sell via Instagram, for example.

LUX: Talk about your use of social media.
Philip Colbert: If I think of my paintings as a reflection of my interaction with contemporary culture, social media are a significant element within that. There are some different strands of my work. I’m really developing a lot of these big history paintings, but also I’ve developed ‘Lobster Land’, a virtual reality world, which is the digital world where my lobster character lives. And in Lobster Land there’s a Lobster Bank, Lobster Coin, there’s a museum. I’m building my own reality there, which is one way of engaging with contemporary technology.

Large scale pop art collage featuring digital imagery

‘Hunt Triptych’ (2018) from the ‘Hunt Paintings’ series

LUX: How did you get started in China?
Philip Colbert: It happened very organically. When I had my first exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, curators from China came along and they featured some of my paintings in a group show in China. That was maybe June last year. It was amazing – I saw a crazy energy in China when I was there. So many people came to the show. It has simply evolved from there.

LUX: What are your influences?
Philip Colbert: There’s very much a ‘celebration of appropriation’ in these paintings. I was putting myself at the centre of the piece –you get the idea, it’s like my character is the narrator of the painting but then there’s art history effectively having a sort of ‘battle dialogue’ with this voice. This sort of dialogue is present in an artist’s mind when they’re creating an artwork. There’s the idea of place and time in the relationships to other philosophies and ideas within art, so by putting them into a battle sequence, it represents my own philosophy battling with other ideas and also being able to present a much bigger holistic idea, to create an orchestrated, ‘multi-philosophied’ painting. I’ve referenced loads of things deliberately. Léger was, for me, a very important proto-Pop thinker/painter, and his work was influential on people like Lichtenstein, who often even referred to Léger in the bottom corners of his paintings. My paintings are an evolution of Pop art – I have those references while I’m still playing with abstraction and different varieties of painting styles within a single painting.

LUX: This sounds more like it’s from inside someone’s mind rather than culture?
Philip Colbert: Yeah, I think of the paintings as like mind-maps in a way. I was really interested in ideas of art, so that’s why I like to use preconceived ideas because for me they are language. I could create my own characters but I wanted to use branded ideas that people could understand. So, when people look at the paintings, they will immediately understand ‘That’s Van Gogh’, or ‘that’s a Gucci handbag’. It’s using things that are already loaded with meaning.

Portrait of artists Philip and Charlotte Colbert

Philip and Charlotte Colbert

LUX: Is it strange not coming from a family of artists?
Philip Colbert: No, I don’t think so. Some people’s parents are artists and they follow suit and are inspired by a world they’ve already been presented with. For me, I was always just connected with art and so it was always the language I was immediately connected with. As you know, I went into making clothing first, but I wasn’t making clothing to be a fashion designer, I was making clothing and thinking about artwork. I was more interested in this idea of ‘wearable art’ and trying to use the idea of a brand as a vehicle for art.

Read more: Maryam Eisler in conversation with Kenny Scharf

LUX: What plans do you have for the future?
Philip Colbert: Well, I have an exhibition in Shanghai at the end of June, then I have two shows in Hong Kong, a show in a museum in South Korea, and then another in Moscow in September in a multi-media art museum.

LUX: Do you and Charlotte collaborate?
Philip Colbert: Well, we’re married, so we inevitably interact and have an influence on each other’s work. We have quite a different aesthetic and even though we’re both interested in a lot of the same things, our end picture is very different, which is nice. But I think we both understand each other’s DNA, so we can help each other.

Artist charlotte colbert in her studio

Charlotte Colbert with ‘Self Portrait in Lucian Freud’s studio’ (2018) from her ‘Screen Portrait’ series

Charlotte Colbert

LUX: Tell us about your photography.
Charlotte Colbert: I have done a couple of series. I started in 2013 with ‘A Day at Home’. It correlated the madness of the writer and the madness of the housewife in this domestic space that was both a prison and open to the landscapes of the imagination. It sort of chronicled the porousness of the world around the woman in a decrepit house in East London. We kept shooting as the place was being demolished, so we were getting layers of that story-telling within the building itself. Then I worked on ‘Ordinary Madness’ [2016], which was about our relationship to the digital age. The idea was that we expected aliens to come from outer space and somehow conquer us. But, little by little, we are becoming the cyborg, and technology is being absorbed into our bodies and changing the fabric of our being until we’ve become a new sort of human.

LUX: The video sculptures, ‘Screen Portraits’, are they bronzes?
Charlotte Colbert: No, they’re made of Corten steel. The first one was done for the Korea Institute. I came across this beautiful but heart-breaking story of a South Korean woman, Lee Soon-Kyu, who was 79 when I met her. She was pregnant when the Korean War started in 1950, but was separated from her husband who ended up in the north. She was able to meet him many years later, and went to North Korea with her son, who was then 65, to see him for the last time. It seemed fitting to do her portrait at this moment in her life, after she’d been in this Cold War kind of narrative for decades. She had to stay very still with just one light on her face. The filming of the sculpture was an extraordinary moment.

A woman hiding behind a sculpture

LUX: The one with a nuclear explosion, tell us about that.
Charlotte Colbert: That’s a piece called Disassociation. It’s a self-portrait. The eyes and the face are very much at peace and the head contains the nuclear explosion. I made it when I was seven months pregnant, at a time when you feel disconnected from the world around you. But I feel that in some ways it’s like an extreme version of everyone’s relationship to the world.

LUX: Neighbouring studios with Philip – how does that work?
Charlotte Colbert: Funnily enough, we’ve done loads of stuff together and I think in some way, we do look at each other’s works and comment on them, but our worlds definitely haven’t fused. I feel like both of us have pushed the identities really as defined against each other.

LUX: The studio, it seems very serene.
Charlotte Colbert: It’s amazing but there’s a lot of interesting characters around, and the building’s quite fun and it’s got all these layers of history. I think at one point it was a kennels, so there were dogs, now there’s more little mice. It’s a really amazing location – we’re so lucky.

Find out more: philipcolbert.com and charlottecolbert.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 19 Issue.

Share:
Reading time: 12 min
Eccentrically dressed artists pose in Bicester Village luxury retail destination
Eccentrically dressed artists pose in Bicester Village luxury retail destination

From left to right: fashion designers Mei-Hui Liu and Anne Sophie Cochevelou, stylist Daniel Lismore and Sue Kreitzman pictured at Bicester Village

Today marks the beginning of luxury shopping destination Bicester Village’s springtime campaign featuring artists and designers from East London

If you happened to be at Marylebone Station this morning in London, you might have noticed a gathering of vibrantly dressed individuals waiting on the platform for the next train to Oxford. This was the starting point for artist and designer Sue Kreitzman‘s ‘Colour Walk’, which led a group of East London‘s creatives deep into the heart of Oxfordshire’s countryside and along the paths of Bicester Village.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

The practise of ‘colour walking’ is to encourage like-minded artistic people to dress up in as many colours as possible, and meet to walk and discuss ideas; usually beginning in Old Spitalfields Market, today’s walk kicked off a new artistic campaign at Bicester Village. Inspired by artist and LUX contributing editor Maryam Eisler‘s book Voices East London , ‘Spring Fever’ aims at supporting the work and practises of artists and designers from London’s East End. Amongst those involved is artist turned fashion designer Meihui Liu, whose pop-up art-inspired concept store will feature limited-edition artworks by the likes of ‘post-it poet’ Andy Leek (the man behind the ‘Notes to Strangers’ series), French fashion designer Anne Sophie Cochevelou and celebrity stylist Daniel Lismore.

Read more: President of LEMA Angelo Meroni on business with a soul

Meanwhile Bicester Village itself has undergone a transformation, with a VIP building resembling the club lounge of a particularly luxurious hotel. Shoppers can relax in marble-swathed private rooms while being served cocktails and snacks by butlers; fruit bowls overflow and the experience is enhanced even further by the hands-free shopping service that is also offered, meaning you can wave your Amex Black in Prada and Dior and have the butler carry your bags back to the lounge, where you can sip a glass of champagne before reluctantly setting out for home. LUX loves.

For more information on the upcoming events and experiences visit: bicestervillage.com

Share:
Reading time: 1 min
Book launch at Hatchard's London with Christmas decorations and guests chatting
Book cover of Equine Journeys by Hossein Amirsadeghi

“Equine Journeys: The British Horse World” by Hossein Amirsadeghi, published by TransGlobe Publishing

Last week saw the launch of author and photographer Hossein Amirsadeghi’s latest book Equine Journeys: The British Horse World at Hatchard’s bookshop in London. LUX recalls the evening’s celebrations

On the top floor of historic Piccadilly bookshop Hatchard’s, artists, photographers and friends gathered to celebrate the launch of Equine Journeys: The British Horse World, the latest photography book by Hossein Amirsadeghi, best known for his international bestseller The Arabian Horse.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

Equine Journeys is the result of a year long road-trip around Great Britain and features photographs of renowned equine figures such as Sir Mark Prescott, Mary King MBE and John Whitaker MBE as well as a collection of essays and interviews. “It’s as much a celebration of Britishness as it is of horses,” the photographer told LUX. The book also includes five photographs by LUX contributing editor and artist Maryam Eisler

For more information and to order the book online visit: tgpublishingltd.com/products/equine-journeys

Book launch at Hatchard's London with Christmas decorations and guests chatting

Guests gather to celebrate the launch of “Equine Journeys”

a horse racing on grass gallops

A race horse on the gallops at historic yard Seven Barrows

Horse trainer Nicky Henderson picture with a horse kissing his nose

Horse trainer Nicky Henderson. Image by Hossein Amirsadeghi

Dartmoor mare and foal pictured grazing in the wild

Dartmoor ponies. Image by Image by Hossein Amirsadeghi

Share:
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.”

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

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

 

Share:
Reading time: 5 min

Curator, artist and LUX contributing editor Maryam Eisler shares exclusive behind-the-scenes photographs and stories from her latest book, Voices: East London, which celebrates the creativity of the capital’s East End

Above: “Alice Pins strutting her stuff on historic Princelet Street, an original hub of its Hughenot settlers. She wears a pair of hand moulded gold leather footwear creations by French shoe designer Natacha Marro and a ‘Victim Fashion Street’ vintage patchwork dress by local veteran designer Meihui Liu.”
“Designer Florent Bidois shows off his hand-stitched trash couture,  next to the rubbish skips...this is where glitz and grit come together in Hackney heaven!”
Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine
“A local Hackney resident enjoys a cappuccino and a croissant whilst admiring Florent’s headgear, oozing with colour and life, inspired by actress Carmen Miranda. This was shot on a Saturday afternoon when Broadway Market comes to life with street food, live music and local colour.”
“Woman power boasts the streets of the Columbia Flower Market, one sunny Sunday morning, whilst street art meets creative genius Anne Sophie Cochevelou, walking, talking and, in this case, dreaming her wearable art.”
“A mesmerizing market magician, selling his wears and tears to the Grande Dame of the Old Spitalfields Market, American outsider artist and designer Sue Kreitzman. Will she be convinced? That is the question!”
“Dancing and romancing the back streets of the Old Spitalfield Market with a creation by designer Meihui Liu’s Victim Fashion Street label, combining vintage fabric and lace. Pure pink deliciousness!”
“Row Row Row your boat , gently down the stream……Sue (Kreitzman) seems satisfied!  She may have just ‘merrily’ found that special hand crafted African wooden sculpture she’s been hunting for, at the iconic Old Spitalfields market… in place for over 120 years!”
“Designer Anne Sophie (Cochevelou) takes a moment of pause and reflection, transported by the scent of a freshly purchased bouquet of yellow tulips, amidst the Sunday morning hustle, bustle and Cockney banter of the Columbia Road Flower market.”

The photographic journey presented here is an extension of Voices East London by Maryam Eisler, co-published by TransGlobe Publishing Ltd and Thames and Hudson. To view Maryam’s portfolio visit: tristanhoaregallery.co.uk/artists/maryam-eisler/

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
Portrait of artist Viktor Wynd outside of his museum in east London,
Pearly Queen Doreen Golding portrait in front of orange door by artist Maryam Eisler

A prominent member of the charitable Pearly Kings and Queens Society, Doreen Golding as featured in ‘Voices East London’ by Maryam Eisler

Maryam Eisler is a busy woman; co-chair of the Tate’s MENAAC Acquisitions Committee,  member of the Tate International Council, trustee of the Whitechapel Gallery and Advisory Council member of Photo London are to name just a few of her roles in the art world, but first and foremost, she is an artist. Digital Editor Millie Walton speaks with Maryam Eisler about her most recent project Voices East London, the power of art versus politics and the democracy of social media.
colour portrait of Maryam Eisler photographer and contributing LUX editor

Maryam Eisler

LUX: You’ve worked in the art world for a long time in various guises and interacted with lots of artists – when did you start taking your own photos?
Maryam Eisler: I’ve actually been taking photographs seriously for about 20 years now; I did courses and all sorts of photographic ventures, but I never dared to go out publicly. Two years ago, I had just completed a residency in Santa Fe, New Mexico where I explored the arid landscape and the female form, inspired by nature and by the personality of Georgia O’Keefe, in particular- her life and her oeuvre; a friend saw the photographs I’d taken there and she asked me which artist they were by, to which I answered ‘It’s not an artist, it’s me!’ She collects photography herself from the 50s and the 60s and was drawn to the black and white, the classical style – in any case, she asked me to email her a few of them and the rest is history! A few days later, I received a call from the gallerist Tristan Hoare who wanted to meet with me. She had shown him the work without telling me! And that is how this adventure began. Since then, I’ve had a solo show in London, ‘Searching for Eve in the American West’, and more exposure at the Dallas Art Fair and at Unseen in Amsterdam.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

LUX: Sounds very busy – how did you find the time to make your most recent book, Voices East London?
Maryam Eisler: Well whilst all of this was going on, I was playing with the idea of producing a book of my own because I had contributed editorially in the past to several publications to do with artists, studios and creativity (most recently London Burning: Portraits from a Creative City) but I had never done a project where I was in charge of both photography and editorial. My previous projects had pulled me towards the East End on numerous occasions, and everyone I had met there, I felt, was slightly off the wall in terms of imagination, innovation and creativity; so, I embarked on a 22 month journey to the East! What was interesting to me from a photography point of view was that it took me into a kind of parallel world; with my fine art photography, I like to immerse myself in nature, such as the American West or Provence, where I loose myself in thought and in time; but a book project, is a very different cup of tea. This particular book has on offer 80 different creative personalities, many of whom are very well known in their respective fields, the kings and queens of the East End culturally speaking, so we are talking egos, time constraints, fast pace – it’s more of a documentary style approach to photography, and yet in the back of my mind, I always have this aesthetic angle and it’s obviously very important for me to convey my perspective and stay true to my style; it has been fascinating to engage with both types of photographic approaches, at the same time.

pop artist Philip Colbert photographed with his artworks in East London by photographer Maryam Eisler

Artist and fashion designer, Philip Colbert, as featured in ‘Voices East London’ by Maryam Eisler

The photographs are in colour too, which is different for me since I usually shoot in black and white, but the idea was to convey the vivacity and unique colours of that part of London. I live in the west end which tends to be much more sanitised and commercial, and going to the East End every week was like going on holiday! I’d get to meet these wonderful, energetic people, and encounter new minds in the arts, music, fashion. As you know, the East End today is also the hub of technology so it was super important to show the new face of the area. The project was an exploration into the past, delving into layers of history and culture, but also trying to think about what the area has become today and what it stands for, not to mention the challenges that it is faced with in its future.

LUX: Why did you choose to make the book now, given the political climate, and the changes that will come with Brexit?
Maryam Eisler: I’m always concerned about the future of creativity and the role which London plays in this arena – what incredible role it has played in the past, but also and most importantly what global role it will play in the future, if any. That’s the big question mark. I think one of the great successes of the East End, has been its historic ability to empower creative output, and this has much to do with a friction, in my opinion, between glitz and grits, as well as with the cultural layering and diversity of the area, from the French Huguenots to the Irish silk weavers, as well as the Jewish communities and today, a predominantly, Muslim Bangladeshi community. Spending time with Gilbert & George, I once asked them whether they ever go away on holiday and they said, ‘Maryam my dear, why on earth would we go anywhere? We have the world at our doorstep.’ I think that’s a very unique attribute of the East End.

Read next: René Magritte’s photographs and home videos on display in Hong Kong

There’s a sense today, despite gentrification (I hate that word), the cultural cleansing and the commercialisation of the area, that you still have an essence of the past. Whether it’s London or New York, there’s the classic example of artists moving into areas making it all happening and kind of edgy and cool, and then the developers move in, building high risers, destroying artistic communities, with the locals not being able to afford the price of rent, so they get pushed out; but there’s also this industrious spirit in the East End of London, this skill that its inhabitants possess for being chameleons and adapting to and adopting new situations and environments, and although some have definitely been priced out, others do manage to find ways to reinvent themselves. The people there also have an amazing ability of making something out of nothing, in a very artisanal kind of way; it’s a kind of craftsmanship of their own lives, and the sense of community and support there is still very strong.

portrait of stylist jude nwimo in his home neighbourhood of east london by artist maryam eisler

Stylist Jude Nwimo as featured in ‘Voices East London’ by Maryam Eisler

LUX: Do you think that art has a social responsibility, as opposed to art for art’s sake?
Maryam Eisler: I really believe in the soft power of art. In the crazy world that we live in, that is becoming even crazier by the day, politically speaking and otherwise, I think more and more that artistic platforms are the last remaining bastions where critical thinking and exchange can take place in an open manner. Beyond their work, artists have also become the philosophers of today, the thinkers; they are the voices through whom we are enabled to think about the world we live in, and if a work of art makes you think, if it impacts you emotionally and intellectually, then it’s done its job, good or bad. Art has the power to move individuals, to make them think but also and most importantly to make them rethink and reevaluate the issues at hand.

LUX: How do you think social media and digital technologies have impacted on the art world?
Maryam Eisler: What’s incredible about social media in my opinion, is that it has broken, the classic system of accessing and understanding art, offering a direct dialogue between artist and viewer. And that is very powerful. Artists have become their own marketers. And why not! Often what the artists say and think of their work may differ drastically from the thoughts of curators, so removing old communication barrier systems and layers has given space for a new form of engagement. Social media offers a more democratic approach to the issue at hand, with increased possibility and connectivity.

Portrait of Lyall Hakaraia, fashion designer in East London

Fashion Designer and owner of the VFD club, Lyall Hakaraia as featured in ‘Voices East London’ by Maryam Eisler

LUX: In the past art collecting has certainly been regarded as quite elitist…
Maryam Eisler: Yes, I hate the word collector actually. I am an art lover, not a collector. I like to engage with the producer of an artwork; I like to have conversations with them, to get to know their inspirations and passions, which is exactly what I would offer to the people who are interested in my own photography. I enjoy the dialogue and exchange and for me, that’s an important part of the process. Social media opens that possibility for conversation and dialogue more than ever before.

Read next: Walking in the footsteps of fashion royalty at The May Fair Hotel

LUX: Much of your work is centred around the female form – how do you see yourself engaging with feminist discourses?
Maryam Eisler: The crux of my work revolves around the Divine Feminine, in which I celebrate the feminine identity, form, beauty and intellect. I’m interested in the contrast of form and geometry vs context; I am also interested to explore where and how ‘Woman’ with a capital W fits into the world and nature in particular, hence and indirectly a questioning of my own self-identity, I suppose.

As to the current feminist discourses that are going on, I believe in equilibrium and measured approaches, and I’m afraid that I do not agree with what is going on, as I believe that we have entered a zone of revolutionary extremism and zero tolerance which gives no room to ‘ innocence until proven guilty’ ; that is always a dangerous place to be, and this can only lead to more of the same and without doubt to a backlash of greater proportion. Men and women should live in mindful, conscious harmony. Each side should celebrate the other, with respect and dialogue. Anyone can be accused, these days (on either side of the gender spectrum), but it does not mean that they are guilty, until proven so, legally and with proper evidence!

Portrait of drag artist Johnny Woo walking through the streets of East London by photographer Maryam Eisler

Drag artist, Jonny Woo as featured in ‘Voices East London’ by Maryam Eisler

LUX: What’s next for you?
Maryam Eisler: I have my first solo US exhibition coming up in May 2018 at Harpers Books in East Hampton, Long Island. Needless to say that I am very excited about this opportunity. The title of the exhibition is in fact “The Sublime Feminine”, consisting of a cross section of my work shot in New Mexico and in Provence, but it will also include new work shot in the Catskills last summer on beautiful Holz farm which belongs to the acclaimed photographer, George Holz.

I have always been obsessed with the work of Edward Weston, and I had the wonderful opportunity of shooting at his original home on Wildcat Hill in Carmel California last May, in the company of his grandson Kim and wife Gina as well as his great grandson Zach, all of whom follow in the footsteps of the man himself – all are fantastic photographers. I myself was inspired by time, space, place and history. Edward is still very present there. His darkroom is intact. His handwritten chemical recipes are stuck to the walls, and his desk and even the lamp which features in some of his photographs are all there …not to mention artefacts he returned from his trip to Mexico following his then love, acclaimed artist and revolutionary, Tina Modotti. It was like spending time in a living museum. And I think the work I produced there has more of a conceptual nature, honing in on the body and shapes. It’s to do with shadow and light, lines and forms. I will be showing these works at Tristan Hoare in January 2019 London, and given that I was inspired by photographic history and past, the wonderful US-based Martin Axon (who was the printer to Robert Mapplethorpe among other greats) will be printing this particular series in Platinum on special hand woven, hand torn Arches paper….so, I am very excited by these upcoming projects!

maryameisler.com

Share:
Reading time: 10 min