Artist Profile 14 – Emily Thomas 

Informed by our urban environment, sculptor Emily Thomas is a young emerging artist reimagining our sense of place.

Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER
Interview JUSTIN ROSS

Our pick for the Artist Profile this time is Emily Thomas who recently graduated from the prestigious Chelsea College of Arts in London and in just over a year since then has been touring the world, incorporating influences from many different cultures into her colorful, geometric sculptures. Her research-based practice takes architecture, history, and our urban environment as a starting point—basically the built objects that make up our sense of place—and through a process of abstraction and metamorphosis, turns these ideas into new gestures, colors, and geometries, that still retain a signature sense of space and place.

Having recently completed artistic residencies at both GlogauAIR in Kreuzberg, Berlin and Soulangh Cultural Park in Tainan, Taiwan, Emily Thomas will set off to Barcelona in early 2020, winning an award for a residency at La Escocesa from La Memoria Artistica Chema Alvargonzalez.

In 4SEE Artist Profile, we were able to meet up with Emily Thomas to see where she previously worked and was inspired during her residency at GlogauAIR, Berlin.

Interview from October 2019

4SEE Artist Profile, Emily Thomas, photographed by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Artist Profile – Emily Thomas
Photography by Bert Spangemacher

Name Emily Thomas
Age 23
Nationality British
Medium Multidisciplinary (Sculpture, Painting, Photography, Collage, Installation)
Based in Somerset, UK
Recent/upcoming exhibition (projects)
Shapeshifter (9 July – 31 August) Soulangh Cultural Park, Taiwan
Birthday Exhibition (27 June – 3 August) La peau de l’ours, Brussels
London is Open (31 August) Global 12 Festival, London
Find more at www.ethomasart.com / instagram / Facebook

Did you always know that you were going to be an artist?

Not exactly, although I was exposed to creativity from a young age. After I was born, my mum became a child minder so she could spend more time at home. She is a very creative lady herself, and although she was never exposed to the ‘artworld’ as such, she spent most of her professional career as a primary school teacher where her natural artistic talents came out in art lessons and displays at school. We spent a lot of time painting and drawing together and with other children at home. We covered the kitchen walls with the artwork that we made. This included drawings, paintings and prints done with vegetables and polystyrene shapes!

I was always fascinated with colour, and building things out of wooden blocks and lego. There are actually a few visual similarities to be seen in things I made as a child and my sculptures now! My parents built and designed a lot of their house themselves. I grew up with this, and I think it definitely inspired a certain way of thinking. It showed me how to be resourceful and to solve problems through building and inventing. Although I wasn’t exposed to any art exhibitions from a young age, I was immersed by a different kind of creative practice through my parents. I think this was a genuine way to develop creative skills and interests, and this is something that I really value.

Both my parents are also classical musicians, and my father works mainly as an instrumental brass teacher. When I was nine years old, he set up a sort of music exchange with a close friend of his who was a woodwind player. The deal was that my dad taught his friend’s son the trumpet, and my dad’s friend taught me the clarinet. I began learning classical music very seriously, and was awarded a bursary to study the clarinet at a specialist music school at the age of fourteen.

At this point, I thought I would probably become a musician. However, the school I attended was very high pressured and rigorously structured, and it sadly sucked the fun out of music for me.
Meanwhile, I adored my art lessons and visited my first art exhibition with school in 2012: David Hockney’s A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts London. This was an amazing experience for me as I had only ever been in a city a handful of times, and never before had I stepped into an art gallery. Hockney’s exhibition definitely nurtured my love of colour and inspired me to take this further in my practice.

At the age of seventeen, I found myself skiving lessons and skipping music practice to go and paint. It was at this point that I knew I wanted to be an artist. I switched my focus from preparing for music college auditions to building my portfolio for art school.

Do you find the art world (creative world) cutthroat and competitive, or is it also supportive and community-minded, or something in between?

I think you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot of common comforts and everyday social norms to be an emerging artist, but this allows you to be more genuine and less materialistic as you naturally discover what is important to you and in life. For me, it is the people that I surround myself with that make my own ‘art bubble’ so wonderful. Meeting and working with like-minded artists and practitioners with similar questions and curiosities removes the competitive side of the artworld from my immediate experience and everyday life. In this sense, the artworld can be what you make of it. I love that feeling of who/what/when/where/why in relation to my future, it’s exciting.

Artwork by Emily Thomas // Construction in collaboration with 林林書杰 Lin Shu-Jie // Photography by Rich Matheson // Exhibition supported by the Cultural Affairs Bureau, Tainan City Government // They Nailed the Colours to the Mast (2019) // Solo Exhibition Shapeshifters at Soulangh Cultural Park, Taiwan // Plywood, oil paint // 202 x 135 x 135cm
Artwork by Emily Thomas //
Construction in collaboration with 林林書杰 Lin Shu-Jie //
Photography by Rich Matheson //
Exhibition supported by the Cultural Affairs Bureau, Tainan City Government //
They Nailed the Colours to the Mast (2019) //
Solo Exhibition Shapeshifters at Soulangh Cultural Park, Taiwan //
Plywood, oil paint //
202 x 135 x 135cm
Artwork and Photography by Emily Thomas
Artwork and Photography by Emily Thomas //
Exhibition coordinated by 林林書杰 Lin Shu-Jie //
Exhibition supported by the Cultural Affairs Bureau, Tainan City Government //
Shapeshifters (2019) //
Solo Exhibition: Soulangh Cultural Park, Taiwan

What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?

Earlier this year I participated in a three month artist residency program at Soulangh Cultural Park, Taiwan. With support from the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Tainan City Government, I was able to produce an outdoor solo exhibition for the first time. One of the most insightful moments of this experience was when young families gathered to watch me working with wood and power tools outside of my studio. It struck me that you don’t often see women working in construction, particularly outside of Europe, and I felt both honoured and empowered to be setting this example.

I also made valuable friendships with my neighbours. I visited many places with them whereby I felt fully immersed within Taiwanese culture. I met many local people and had enriching
conversations about their life experiences, as well as their knowledge and experiences of different architecture in Taiwan. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with 林 書 杰 Lin Shu-Jie, a very talented technician and maker who taught me many new and valuable skills.

Categorised somewhere between architecture, object, painting and sculpture, my final series of work presented a timeline of architectural history within Taiwan. I combined the variety of architectural styles I discovered there in order to demonstrate the cultural fusion within the country and it’s rich political history. The exhibition aimed to uncover how architecture has previously served and will continue to serve as a literal and metaphorical ‘Shapeshifter’ of place identity through time.

Whilst I consider this residency and exhibition to be my biggest professional accomplishment so far, it was also one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences I have ever had.

Does art always need to be relevant? Is there a place for aesthetic indulgence, or do politics come into play in your motivation?

I think that art can be anything. It is more the definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art that is a constant point of controversy, as it is of course subjective. Even if you tried to make art that is irrelevant to our society, it would automatically become relevant through it’s opposition. So in response to this question, no I do not think that art needs to be relevant, although it is very difficult to achieve complete detachment from everything through art, as it is such a personal form of expression.

I am personally more interested in artwork that is conceptually intriguing and tells a story through its aesthetics, however I do think that there is also a place for pure aesthetic indulgence.

Growing up in a small village with a population of just 300 people, I became fascinated by the city when I moved to London in 2014. During my studies at the University of the Arts London I gained an interest in the current housing crisis and gentrification. This triggered many questions which I am still exploring in my work now.

My work is inspired by architecture as an indicator of historical, social and cultural characteristics of a place. I identify these aspects by analysing the thematic, repetitive features of buildings, as well as their structural forms and materiality. The process of walking as research in order to take photographs of buildings and discover new places is the underlying foundation of my work’s creation. I carefully select photographs to communicate my ideas, taking both conceptual and aesthetic concerns into consideration. Collage informs and aids these decisions, as I am able to visualise the possible outcomes of my photographs as three-dimensional abstract forms.

4SEE Artist Profile, Emily Thomas, photographed by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Artist Profile – Emily Thomas
Photography by Bert Spangemacher

What topics have got you inspired at the moment?

In January 2019 I began a three month artist residency at GlogauAIR, Berlin. It was here that I discovered the present housing tensions within the city. Walking as research around the local districts of Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Friedrichshain drew my attention to societal differences, indicated by contrasting building facades and gentrification. This led to my further studies of social housing and the history of Berlin’s urban infrastructure, whereby I discovered Bruno Taut’s Hufeisensiedlung, Neukölln (1925-1930). My final exhibition at GlogauAIR demonstrated my preliminary research of this housing estate.
I am currently developing my studies of the Hufeisensiedlung and five other Berlin Modernism housing estates built between 1919 and 1934. These include Gartenstadt Falkenberg (Treptow), Schillerpark-Siedlung (Wedding), Wohnstadt Carl Legien (Prenzlauer Berg), Weiße Stadt (Reinickendorf) and Großsiedlung Siemensstadt (Charlottenburg and Spandau). The aims of these building projects, including the Hufeisensiedlung, were to solve Berlin’s housing shortage after the industrial revolution. In 2008 they were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I would like to investigate what made these architectural projects so successful and whether similar ideologies and infrastructures could be used to improve contemporary urban development and society now that Berlin is once again a growing city. This idea was originally inspired by the designer and writer Ben Buschfeld.

Artwork and Photography by Emily Thomas // Project supported by European Cultural Foundation and Compagnia di San Paolo // Hufeisen (2019) // Glogauair Open Studios, Berlin // Emulsion paint on MDF // 200 x 400 x 70cm
Artwork and Photography by Emily Thomas //
Project supported by European Cultural Foundation and Compagnia di San Paolo //
Hufeisen (2019) //
Glogauair Open Studios, Berlin //
Emulsion paint on MDF //
200 x 400 x 70cm
Artwork and Photography by Emily Thomas
Artwork by Emily Thomas //
Photography by Juliette Szhw //
Project supported by European Cultural Foundation and Compagnia di San Paolo //
Hufeisen (2019) //
Glogauair Open Studios, Berlin //
Emulsion paint on MDF //
200 x 400 x 70cm

What is it like to be currently living and working between Somerset (UK) and Berlin?

I have spent most of this year living at artist residencies in different countries, where I have been developing my own projects. I am currently moving between the Somerset countryside (UK) and Berlin and hope that I will eventually be based in Berlin on a more permanent basis. Somerset is very quiet and I am mostly surrounded by fields. There is a really cosy local pub and small quirky characteristics such as a library telephone box and a friendly community shop. I enjoy seeing my family everyday and walking the dogs, and I am able to focus on my work without many distractions. I usually spend my time in Somerset catching up on admin, writing applications and collecting my thoughts. I lived in the countryside for 18 years growing up and it became a normalised way of life. I believe that I will come back to it in my practice and research for sure, it just doesn’t excite me to the same extent as the city right now.

Berlin is very different to Somerset and I enjoy this contrast. I am still discovering the city and it is always full of surprises.

What is next for you, an immediately upcoming project or chance to see your work?

I am very happy to announce that I will be heading to Barcelona for three months in January to begin an exciting new project and develop new research at La Escocesa. The exhibition dates for this project will be released on my website when they have been confirmed.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time, where would you like to see your (art)work and at what scale?

Part of my love of being an artist is that I don’t know what is going to happen. I have many ideas and many dreams, but nothing is ever set in concrete. I am happy for my future career path to twist and turn – it keeps me on my toes. In that sense I don’t see myself anywhere in particular in ten years time. I have thought about the possibility of doing a masters degree, and I also like the idea of running my own artists residency program. One of my dreams from a very young age was to build my own house. I love the idea of creating a semi-transportable home just outside of the city. I sometimes get very excited about this and begin to imagine having on-site studios for artists, a co-working woodshop, a jazz club etc. Maybe I’m getting a bit carried away, but who knows what the future holds!

For me, it is not about where my artwork ends up or on what scale. I enjoy travelling and hope that I am able to visit as many countries as possible. Carrying out exhibitions abroad whilst being immersed within different cultures and collaborating with other artists and practitioners has been both inspiring and rewarding. I hope that I am able to continue doing this as much as possible in the future, and I am excited about the opportunities and collaborations that could emerge.

4SEE Artist Profile, Emily Thomas, photographed by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Artist Profile – Emily Thomas
Photography by Bert Spangemacher
Eyewear by SALT.

 

The New Vanguard – Artist Profile 13
Filip Berte

Architect turned artist Filip Berte investigates the concept of the border and belonging in his multilayered body of work

Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER
Interview JUSTIN ROSS

Filip Berte is a Belgian interdisciplinary artist with a background in both art and architecture who uses his art to delve into deeply political and extremely relevant topics such as migration, the European question, borders, and belonging. His most recent and ongoing project is called ‘Un-Home / Moving Stones’ explores the concept of transitory spaces—places where migrants must pass through and be sanctioned by external processes. Visiting places of this sort, such as refugee camps or immigration centers, Berte poetically captures the immobility and unseen forces that shape these people’s lives. Molded by years of erosion, the rocks and caves that figure in many of his installations and photographs are both object and subject. Sometimes, we are looking at these rock in a particular spot; immobile, passive and inert, resigned to the fate they are dealt. Other times, we see the world from their perspective, capturing the sense of place from this peculiar perch low to the ground and both photographically and metaphorically frozen in time.

Berte shares with 4SEE his insights from his career as an artist, motivated by a desire to pose questions that he was unable to address in his architectural studies and early work. He describes his gradual transition to a practicing artist, molded by his experiences in Sarajevo where he was confronted with the realities of a post-war-torn society desperate to rebuild but mired in historical and political divisions. He carried these memories and experiences with him back to Belgium where he lives and works today.

Name Filip Berte
Age 43
Nationality Belgian
Medium Multidisciplinary (Drawing, painting, installation, photography, film, performance)
Based in Ghent
Recent/upcoming exhibition (projects) 28/07/2019 – Pre-Triennial Bruges (BE), 18/10/2019 ‘Endless Drawings / Disrupted Continuities’ – Europalia Romania 2019, CC Strombeek (Brussels) in cooperation with Salonul de Proiecte (Bucharest)
Find more at www.filipberte.com / instagram

Interview from July 2019

4SEE Artist Profile - Filip Berte Photography by Bert Spangemacher Eyewear by Coblens
4SEE Artist Profile – Filip Berte, Eyewear by Coblens

Did you always know that you were going to be an artist?

Somehow I always knew I was (going to be) an artist, but then maybe more in a hidden sense, underneath the skin of the professional architect. Because—first of all—I had passionately (partly also rationally) chosen to study architecture. Painting and drawing literally became a secondary plan, in the form of a part-time education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent.

But soon after my graduation in 1999 and during the following two years of mandatory internship at different architects’ offices, I started doubting my decision to work as an architect. My mind was troubled by images and thoughts related to the post-war Balkans. This was due to my graduation project of ‘the reconstruction of the National and University Library of Bosnia-Herzegovina’ in Sarajevo. I had the feeling that I had failed as an architect to give ‘the right answers’ to this project. There were too many facets to this building—left in ruins after it had been purposely been set on fire by Serbian military aggressors—that were too complicated or too sensitive to handle in a political or historical sense. All the questions I couldn’t get answered for myself over the years actually raised a kind of identity crisis in me; who am I, as a western-European architect who had only seen the war on television, to now give the answers to reconstruct such a densely politically and historically layered building? Who am I to find the proper form and function in rebuilding this destroyed symbol of multicultural life from before the war?

Visiting Sarajevo at that time, not even five years after the end of the war, was a serious reality check to me, bringing the questions of architecture back to the bones. Not only was the city physically in ruins, but also psychologically and socially it was an encounter with a post-traumatic society. It was a clash!

Three months before the end of my internship, I decided to cut it short and move to Belgrade. Before that I only had been back to Sarajevo, as well as to Belgrade and Kosovo, for shorter visits. Now, living in Belgrade would possibly give me the remaining answers to my questions. Questions about how to deal in the future (as an architect), with societal questions and greater issues of post-war divisions in nationalism, demonisation or victimisation of nationalities, ethnic, cultural or religious minorities, refugees, borders, Europe, etc… These issues were all very tangible during my time of living in Belgrade and I slowly started working on some paintings, based on the frontpage of the most important Serbian newspaper ‘Politika’.

For the first time, art (in the form of painting) was giving me the feeling of empowerment to transfer messages, or better put—questions—that could nestle deeper underneath the surface and had the possibility to expose it to a broader audience. Today, I still consider these paintings—that I actually never showed to anyone—as a modest but authentic expression of my slow transition from an architect into an artist.

My decision to go back to Belgium after one year of living in Belgrade, was, at the same time, a decision to quit working purely as an architect in the future. I therefore purposely decided not to finish with the remaining last three months of the internship to get the full degree of architect practitioner. However, I am still very pleased with my decisions from that time and am still convinced that through my art projects I am performing the medium of architecture even more profoundly (or essentially) as when I was undertaking architecture in a common, regular way.

4SEE Artist Profile - Filip Berte Photography by Bert Spangemacher Eyewear by Coblens
4SEE Artist Profile – Filip Berte, Eyewear by Coblens

Do you find the art world (creative world) cutthroat and competitive, or is it also supportive and community-minded, or something in between?

In general, I think there will always be that cliché image of an art-worId bubble, only because the system is copying and regenerating itself over and over again. Because it likes itself so much. Narcissistic narcotics.

The question is more; do I want to take part in or be part of that system, operating as a pure extension of the competitive neoliberal economy? Do I share the values of the people operating within this system? I would say no, to all of the above questions.

I personally believe in, and luckily have experienced other ways of operating with other artists and art-practitioners. Thinking more in a sense of an organic organism; a community of art-practitioners, sharing values, fighting for honest payments for the broad array of ‘jobs’ that we do, sharing knowledge and resources… Likewise trying to offer an alternative way of thinking and performing our daily lives as an artist, as a reaction to the dominant competitive logics of the art-world.

Eutopia / Tbilisi / Hotel Abkhazeti / Façade © Filip Berte (2012)
Eutopia / Tbilisi / Hotel Abkhazeti / Façade © Filip Berte (2012)

What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?

As an example I could mention ‘House of Eutopia’, my first personal long-term (7-years) art project within which Europe was considered to be my enlarged building ground and construction site. With ‘House of Eutopia’ I developed my artistic practice in the form of a slow extended process of ‘building questions’ and making them visible to an audience. This project took the form of one big installation that could be moved around and be temporarily set up at different locations throughout Europe. For me, this moving aspect was a very important aspect, as I could bring my questions, relating to societal, historical, political issues, to broader fields of interest and meet up with a bigger audience. Likewise, it also escaped the limitation of only one fixed place where the building and construction of a house should be whereby it would also be limited to only one context.

Eutopia / Batumi Transitus / Hyper-Façade © Filip Berte (2014)
Eutopia / Batumi Transitus / Hyper-Façade © Filip Berte (2014)

Does art always need to be relevant? Is there a place for aesthetic indulgence, or do politics come into play in your motivation?

Speaking from my perspective, I would say that I find it—and I speak for the work that I make—quite important that art is relevant. I find it difficult not to react to the political or societal context around me. Like I have already said before, I officially started my life as an artist, just because I needed to find another way, another language than architecture, to question the way we are living and spatially and politically organise our lives and societies. Through my work as an artist, I can work on and express topics that are critical and problematic in societies today (always in transition). Since then, the work I have been developing over the years has an ever-growing, engaged reflex. It is my main drive as an artist, that—through art—I can touch on and question topics in a very personal way, but with the ambition that I could open up or sometimes even change people’s monolithic stance towards other people and to politically sensitive or polarising thoughts, statements or issues. Not that I hide one dogmatic, clear message in my work. On the contrary, the work I make offers nothing more than a question. I see it as a small gesture to open up and to offer space to breath, so much needed in harsh and suffocating (political) times. I don’t make political art, but I make art with a political reflex; art that reflects humanity in a much wider and universal sense through topics of inclusion and exclusion, border realities and marginality.

Of course, there is absolutely a place for an aesthetic indulgence, though not solely for the sake of aesthetics. But the aesthetics of a work are the first connection to the work for any possible external viewer. The aesthetics therefore somehow are the key to bring someone so far that they will take the time to unveil a deeper underlying content. In other words, the aesthetics are the first superficial layer that can be scratched off, in order to unveil and discover the underlying layers, making the work as complex and layered as needed.

Un-Home / Moving Stones - Untitled © Filip Berte (2019)
Un-Home / Moving Stones – Untitled © Filip Berte (2019)

If not politics, then what are the key sources of inspiration for you? (What topics have got you inspired at the moment?)

Besides the socio-political realities that always reverberate in one or another way into my work, I am also very inspired by nature, geology and philosophy. For example, the (philosophical) archetype of the cave takes an important metaphorical place inside of the narratives within my ongoing project ‘Un-Home / Moving Stones’, focusing on the theme of image-building around asylum-seekers, refugees, newcomers and migrants.

The cave for me is a place of reference reflecting liminality and resonating the socio-political position of asylum-seekers and refugees in our societies. They are living in limbo, in between two realities, inside of the socio-political cracks, caves and cavities, excluded or hidden from the eyes of others in society. The cave as a negative space in the mountains or carved out inside the crust of the earth, is a natural shelter, offering protection. The cave is a space formed through geological processes of dissolution and disintegration spread over thousands to millions of years.

I am intrigued by these enormous time-consuming and opposing geological processes of integration and disintegration, formation and destruction. In it, as well as in nature in general, lies an enormous force to somehow confront us with and let us better understand the (time-) scale and position of our lives in this world.

What is next for you, an immediately upcoming project or chance to see your work?

In August I will travel for three weeks through Romania to work on a very exciting project in the context of the international Biennial Arts Festival Europalia, focusing on Romania this time. I was invited by the Brussels’ arts centre CC Strombeek to develop a new work, focusing on the themes of ‘displacement and togetherness’. This new work will be shown in a group exhibition in CC Strombeek, together with the works of other Belgian and Romanian artists.

I am still in the process of developing the work, and it is really quite a tempting and complex undertaking. The title of my new work will be ‘Endless Drawings / Disrupted Continuities’, whereby I would like to bring to life five ‘biographies of displacement’; i.e. track and trace parallel lines between the lives of e.g. the Romanian people who are touched by the widespread Romanian diaspora, economic newcomers (from China, Sri-Lanka, Vietnam, Nepal) and asylum-seekers and refugees living in Romania.

Eventually, I would like to gradually build up one spatial image that consists of five ‘drawing columns’ trapped in a slow, continuous, vertical pendulum motion of folding and unfolding. Each of the ‘drawing columns’ will be made up of a collection of drawings that I will make during my Romanian trajectory, each of which will be drawn on the spot, while visiting people’s private places of (temporary) residence. The act of drawing is a direct but very honest and human approach to people, and will help me to start a natural dialogue whereby I can also touch more sensitive topics related to the disrupted lives they all share in common.

4SEE Artist Profile - Filip Berte Photography by Bert Spangemacher Eyewear by Coblens
4SEE Artist Profile – Filip Berte, Eyewear by Coblens

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time, where would you like to see your (art)work and at what scale?

Somehow this is a strange question to me, because I would not like to think about where I would see myself in 10 years time. I don’t want to think about that too much. Also in terms of scale of my work, I am more tempted to say I would like my work to be less and less visible as an external ‘work of art’ that could be exhibited, but maybe just more and more as something more ephemerally, dissolving into society itself.

Maybe that would then also signify that society has become truly open and inclusive…

The New Vanguard – Artist Profile 12
Joanna Szproch 

Interview JUSTIN ROSS
Photography JOANNA SZPROCH

Joanna Szproch is a Polish photography artist with intuition to express ‘colour’. She works within the female character and tries to reach a balance between the innocent and the vulgar. While in the hunt for that magic moment she lets herself guide by the individuality of her subjects, following empathetically their urge to express their sensuality. The uninhibited environment to self-exploration is the central component of her work. This will encourage the viewer to indulge in doing the same.

Name Joanna Szproch
Age 40
Nationality Polish
Medium Photography
Based in Berlin
Recent/upcoming exhibition @smilefomedaddy
Find more at www.joannaszproch.com / @johana_pl

4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch in Coblens
4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch in Coblens

Did you always know that you were going to be an artist?

Yes, I did. I can say that I was born that way. I also grew up in an artistic environment. My parents are both classical musicians and I was introduced to the traditional arts by my father from very early on. But I was always so curious kid, always felt different. Because I see/feel things differently I felt like I was unable to fit in anywhere. That dissonance between classical and unconventional shaped my interests. I feel that I do not belong to either the traditional nor queer, I’m somewhere in between and willing to feel that gap. Using traditional language of photography I’m trying to show my noncomforming habitat, something which I believe is still underrepresented.

Do you find the artworld cutthroat and competitive, or is it also supportive and community- minded, something in between?

In the art world there is so much speculation and only a few from the very top can really benefit from it. Art has supposedly noble goals, but at the same time its playground is full of hypocrisy. It is also for so privileged, elitist people who pretend that they want to make the world a better place but most of them actually care only about the fame and profits.
To be honest, I have a difficult time to observe the art world and to relate to it. On the one hand, being an artist feels to me like an inevitable passion beyond an ambition or a hobby. But I am very discontent with the reality of the art world and I am not sure if I am aiming to fully engage with it. I would rather like to find a niche of people with whom we could create a real symbiotic relationship.
At a certain age you do not have that naive enthusiasm anymore to work just for the exposure and it feels so frustrating that the competition and lack of loyalty between artists causes that others, better situated will always do it for free. For those who are less privileged it will never be a race to win. The question is if it has to be a race? Therefore we should really start calling it out to address the problem and try to find more democratic solutions divided to smaller alternative art communities.

4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch "Smile for me Daddy"
4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch “Smile for me Daddy”

What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?

“unto thine own self be true” – My biggest accomplishment is that I never betrayed myself with being authentic and honest, in both my personal and artistic life. Although in personal relationships I can compromise, in my art I need to be radical.
I realized that ambition is a vicious drive that is never fulfilled and after every achievement comes emptiness. The hardest work to be done is not to be afraid of the unknown and go with the flow. I’d rather enjoy the process and progress not perfection and be aware that having goals can kill the present.
But of course it’s also good to close something to start something new, to recalibrate.
My biggest accomplishment so far will be to publish my first photo book to close my longest ongoing project @smilefomedaddy, which was recently presented at several solo and group exhibitions.
I started it in 2010 and it is a strongly stimulating story on both visual and semantic levels about the search for one’s own female identity within a classical, symbiotic relationship between an auteur and her muse. It is a visual chronicle of both women’s inner transformation. Indulging ourselves in the synchronic fantasies we embraced our authentic and unconstrained power to discover something captivating, innocent yet erotic.

4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch "lenskaaaaaa"
4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch “lenskaaaaaa”

Does art always need to be relevant? Is there a place for aesthetic indulgence, or do politics come into play in your motivation? If not politics, then what are the key sources of inspiration for you?

I think the relevance of art is very ambiguous (transcendent) and subjective. What I love in art is its multilayered metaphor which may have several interpretations. What is the most interesting for me is that kind of mystical moment of interference between the body of art and the receiver, who is captivated by it and can indulge herself in contemplation which gives a kind of catharsis. It can be on many levels, aesthetic and spiritual. Art can trigger something beyond words where the surface and the meaning are both mutually relevant.
For me the main inspiration is my own perception and what I experience thanks to it because these are the most authentic and reliable resources for me. But nowadays everything becomes political, including identity so it is hard to neglect it. Although I try to stay beyond ideological statements, I believe that without representation you can’t make a change. I want to encourage people through my art to be more self-aware and open minded rather than attached to any particular conviction.

What topics have got you inspired at the moment?

I am a very curious person so there is always a flood of interests which are inspiring me. It is really hard to define specifically how, what I investigate now, will turn out to be at the final result, to where it will bring me because the best evaluator is time. I need first to get some perspective to give it a proper shape (context).
I was always interested in relationships between me and people I know so beside the @smilefomedaddy which I basically consider as finished, recently I got the idea that I couldn’t be just a voyeur in my muse- auteur constellation and I have to be a participant. Now I think I am more confident to be vulnerable and put myself in the body of my work to actually function in a relationship to a larger scale.
So recently I have been investigating myself within my relationships; with my loved one, my teenage daughter and the sentimental attachment to the landscape and collected objects with an intent to show the significance of an ordinary.

4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch "me and my bf 2nd alternative"
4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch “me and my bf 2nd alternative”

What is it like to live/work in Berlin city?

Berlin is a very specific place. It has a very interesting history with a long, decadent bohemian tradition, the time of wall and after the fall, its alternative movements and social politics supporting multiculturalism. And its nonconforming atmosphere made this a perfect ground to artists from all over the world. But that is also utopian, detached from the reality of an ordinary man. I also can observe a disconnection between nonconformist expats and the local, German community. I can still feel that there is a lot to do to break that glass ceiling. The effort has to come from both sides.
Still, Berlin’s freedom of expression encouraged me to be confident with being myself privately and publicly and it had a huge impact on my work.

What is next for you, an immediately upcoming project or chance to see your work?

The next thing that I plan will be a collaboration between a curator Agata Ciastoń and choreographer Mateusz Czyczerski from Wroclaw (Poland) based on our mutual interests and artistic practices. We would like to run workshops combined with the presentation of our work. The assumption is to reflect on corporeality and self-expression through art and on socially imposed norms (male, female); on shame as a defensive element (fear of evaluation, mismatch with norms). The aim is to inspire the search for new means of expression, to reject the scheme, to stimulate courage. It is scheduled for upcoming fall and will be placed in both cities, Berlin and Wroclaw.

To make my book eventually happen I am also planning a crowdfunding campaign so please stay tuned and follow my instagram @johana_pl. Every bit of support will be very appreciated!

4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch "Smile for me Daddy"
4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch “Smile for me Daddy”

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time, where would you like to see your artwork and at what scale?

I know that to accomplish something it is good to imagine the future, but I am afraid that looking too forward makes me less present. I just turned 40 which for women is a big number. I expect a big shift in the next few years. Looking back, 10 years ago I would have never thought that I would be in Berlin now and how it would have changed me and my daughter’s life. That’s why I just wanna feel open for the new.
Although I am still a city animal, I hope in 10 years I will practice to be more wholesome and connected to nature, which I believe we all are a part of and resonate with. Apart from globalism, I wish we, as a society, will get back a bit more to the roots and will cultivate locality and support our small communities.
I also wish to be more mobile in the future. My daughter will become an adult soon, so I’ll have more independence. Professionally, I would really like to develop more collaborations with local artistic communities across Europe and in the further future perhaps also on the other continents.

4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch "me and my bf"
4SEE Artist Profile 12 Joanna Szproch “me and my bf”

The New Vanguard – Artist Profile 11
Guillaume Kashima

Interview JUSTIN ROSS
Photography CHARLOTTE KRAUSS

Guillaume Kashima is a French illustrator, designer, and although he may hesitate to say so himself, most certainly an artist as well. With wide-ranging inspirations from hip-hop and street art to pop culture, his work is a witty take on pop art for the digital age. I worked with Guillaume when he had an exhibition at SomoS Art House in Berlin as part of Pictoplasma Festival for Illustrators in 2016 and I was lucky enough to get one of his prints at that time. His particular point of view and unique style of illustration has caught quite a lot of attention recently, leading to commissioned works for big clients like Vodafone and Google. The best place to go check out his work is at the Ace & Tate store on Fasanenstrasse in Berlin where you will see an edgy, almost alien-like character peeking out from the wall at the back. Or you can find a whole range of prints, animations, objects, and other projects online on his website as well.

Guillaume Kashima interview
Glasses by YUN

Name Guillaume Kashima
Age 40
Nationality French
Medium Drawing, Illustrator, Ceramic
Based in Berlin
Recent Work Mural for Ace&Tate Store
find more at guillaumekashima.com / www.instagram.com/cassiusclayclay/

Did you always know that you were going to be an artist (or an illustrator)?

No. I didn’t know what it meant to be an artist when I was young. I was raised by a single mom so there was no time for gallery visits or museums. She always encouraged my creativity though. I was already drawing and sewing a lot. I would say I was aware of beauty. I also knew that someone was behind this beauty. I discovered it (when I was maybe 12 years old) on TV when Jean Paul Gaultier was interviewed about his collections. I understood the link between a person and his work. I was shy and a bit awkward as a kid but people liked my drawings and I could share bits of who I was through them. That’s how I reached out to people and probably what got me into graphic design later.

Do you find the art world (creative world) cutthroat and competitive, or is it also supportive and community-minded, or something in between?

I used to feel bad among my peers because I was projecting my insecurities and frustrations. I was feeling judged and insignificant … until not so long ago actually, when I found my voice. It was really random. Out of the blue. Looking at the situation from this perspective, I understood that most of the people are just running in their own lane. There’s no competition. I can still feel envious if I’m out of jobs and someone just got a big contract but it’s out of fear for myself, not the people around.

Guillaume Kashima interview
Guillaume Kashima

What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?

Making emojis and animated stickers for various platforms. I love the idea that people are using my work to communicate and make jokes. It’s awesome.

Does art always need to be relevant? Is there a place for aesthetic indulgence, or do politics come into play in your motivation?

I used to turn to art to help me make sense of the world we’re in. As a teenager to understand how to be gay. Not so long ago, circa 2016, when people protested against gay marriage in France, Black Lives Matter and later, the Trump election, I was hooked on the news and paranoia got me. I always found a voice around to comfort me but it never came from «the art world». That year there was the 9th Berlin Biennale and I said «bye». I was never really fond of contemporary art but the cynicism level was too high. Thinking of it, I don’t think that contemporary art is a place to comment on politics anyway. You need to answer fast and only music or stand up comedy can do that. Beyonce released Formation in December ’16. Kendrick released Damn in April ’17 … and I didn’t see any exhibitions making comments anything like that during that period.

Personally, I bring politics in my commercial works. When I create images for others, I take extra care about representations. I try to make room for everybody … sounds dumb but most of the images around us represent cis white people. We need other voices and faces. I don’t think that it’s intentional tho. Most of the people in charge of creating those images are like that and if you’re not bringing the conversation to the table, they don’t think about it.

I suppose I come across preachy right now but what do you do when you’re offered a platform?

What is it like to live/work in Berlin?

Berlin is the perfect home base. You can still live comfortably with little money. If you want to learn a new craft or technique, there’s always someone to reach out to. Downside for me is that it doesn’t inspire me at all. City seem stuck. There’s no way you can feel that we’re approaching 2020 in here. There’s little diversity. This «one way of doing it right» vibe is sometimes oppressing… but there are interesting alternatives routes too. And I can’t believe that it doesn’t have a good museum, like the Tate or Pompidou. I mean… WTF ?

What is next for you, an immediately upcoming project or chance to see your work?

These days I’m learning ceramic with my studio mates. It’s exciting to learn something new. We have a lot of fun. We’ve got a page called «Cassius Clay Clay» where we sell tryouts and weird stuff. Have a look. Buy something. (www.instagram.com/cassiusclayclay/)

Guillaume Kashima interview
Sunglasses by RTco

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time, where would you like to see your (art)work and at what scale?

It’s a scary question because as Heidi says «one day you’re in, next day, you’re out», coupled with the fact that I have little ambition, it can only lead to disaster … but if I could make a wish for myself, I’d say that I’d be just happy to perfect my craft and make a living out of it. Honestly, I was always really lucky to be given work and meet people who appreciate it. I don’t need more than that.



Actually, if a guy wants to come along there’s room on the passenger seat.

Classics serie 2O16-18
« Classics » is a series of motives drawn in small editions (max. 5 copies). Each of them are slightly different, from vase decorations, expressions, to … the gender of the characters.
Bianca Felix artists filmmaker Berlin Bert Spangemacher

Original Thinking

Interview Justin Ross
Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER

In our age of information inspiration is at our fingertips. But where does true originality come from? We selected some of the most forward-thinking, creative, and authentic innovators in art, design, fashion, and culture to tell us about their perspective on the defining qualities of originality. Innovative, essential, exciting, or eccentric, these are people who are relying on their roots and paving their own way in a world full of strong competition.

BIANCA KENNEDY & FELIX KRAUS, ARTISTS & FILMMAKERS in Berlin
Future Ideas Film | Exposing Big Ideas In Short Films

“I let feelings (rather than ideas) for new projects come to me and try to give them new life with the use of virtual / augmented reality, writing, and analog practices.”

Bianca Felix artists filmmaker Berlin Bert Spangemacher
swancollective.com
biancakennedy.com

What is your latest film The Lives Beneath about?
It’s the third film of our futuristic ‘LIFE 3.0 – cycle.’ The Lives Beneath depicts a world in the year 4000. Everything in nature gets merged into one single mind. Plants, animals and human beings form a worldwide super-network of consciousness. We examine the downfall of a society that refuses to live with nature in harmony. But on the other side is a self-conscious planet, which suffers from the burden of having to think for all eternity.

Where do you look for inspiration?
Bianca: While I love researching in books for my projects, I don’t think that inspiration will just slip into you. Most of the time being an artist is a real job and it’s important to keep working—even and especially if it gets hard or feels like a waste of time. Most of the time when proceeding, new ideas will come and enrich the piece.

Felix: I’m deeply interested in quantum mechanics and their implications on what we perceive as reality. As a convinced panpsychist (universal mind hypothesis), I believe that everything that exists is pure mentation. The realm of consciousness only encoding what we think to be matter, time, and space. I read a lot of books about those topics. Together with the practice of lucid dreaming, I let feelings (rather than ideas) for new projects come to me and try to give them new life with the use of virtual/augmented reality, writing, and analog practices.

Felix artists filmmaker Berlin Bert Spangemacher
swancollective.com
biancakennedy.com

Do you think of original being “essential” or “innovative”?
Bianca: I realized that my pieces always tend to stick out a little, if you compare them to others. A little more color, more playful, or more details. Maybe because I don’t restrict myself by having to fulfill a certain attitude or style, I can act more freely on my ideas, also accepting quirky or childish thoughts, while combining them with dark humor or disturbing images.

Felix: The pursuit of originality is something that drives me from early on. Of course it’s somewhat pretentious to label your own work original. But at least in my artistic practice, I’ve always tried to find something that nobody has done before. Virtual and augmented reality are therefore a perfect playground for me, since in a new medium it’s way easier to walk on un trodden paths.

What advice do you have for people to stand out from the crowd?
Bianca: Stop trying to be cool. Coolness is boring and a protective cover, that doesn’t add to a thoughtful conversation, event, or relationship. In the long run it’s so much more interesting to not try so hard and have some fun. Who cares what the crowd thinks?

Felix: I would like artists to become a little more humble. It’s a profession that is crucial to society, but some tend to expect too much love and acceptance from everybody else. Everybody’s struggling to find their own way through life and nobody’s better than someone else. In these days I think you stand out not by screaming the loudest, but by listening quietly.

Tell us about your favorite eyewear and why?
Felix: Although I’m the biggest believer in Virtual Reality and it’s future potential, the real game changer might become AR glasses like Hololens or Magic Leap. While still in its infancy, the visions are real. The augmentation of our environment will someday be so normal like TV or internet. I just try to stay ahead of the game and steer into a positive future together with all of the possibilities.

Bianca Felix artists filmmaker Berlin Bert Spangemacher
swancollective.com
biancakennedy.com

More at: www.biancakennedy.com / www.swancollective.com

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