Textural Threads | Rich Mix

From an early age it is understood that in the Middle East and North Africa the predominant system of authority is a masculine one. With the Arabic word ‘Rabb’ meaning both ‘God’ and the ‘head of the family’, the stereotype of the passive, voiceless Arab woman under the thumb of her father or husband is formed from cultural and religious traditions within the typical Arab family structure and that general understanding of gender hierarchy is in turn mimicked and repeated in wider society.  This view of Arab women as a homogenous, anonymous grouping has however, lead to an increase in resistance,  a creative desire amongst Arab female artists to react to passé notions of Arab womanhood and show alternative perspectives.  Dismantling notions of a fixed cultural and social identity, exhibitions like Textural Threads at Rich Mix Cultural Foundation, part of the 2016 Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) festival create spaces of discourse for women to express their own contemporary subjectives.

Despite this, Textural Threads is not simply an exhibition of artists linked merely by gender; curator Najlaa Al-Ageli brings together five artists whose work forms a dialogue between their Arab heritages in relation to Western and European culture.  Each of the artists considers the effects of the meeting of these two cultures.  Whether it is through historical colonialism of North Africa by European countries or contemporary experiences of exile from the Middle East to Europe as a consequence of current wars in the region, cultural duality is the connecting theme.

Lost by Libyan art student Tawka Barnosa is a black and white photograph of a bronze statue designed by Angiolo Vannetti during the Italian colonisation of Libya.  The sculpture depicts Italy as a nude female figure reaching out and giving life to a gazelle which represents Tripoli.  The artist as written in calligraphy the word ‘lost’ in Arabic over the image to signify the recent destruction of the monument during the recent political upheaval and attempts by religious extremists to remove figurative art prohibited by Islam and deny Libya’s colonial past.  By employing calligraphy; an art form accepted by Islamic tradition, Barnosa simultaneously celebrates Arab culture and mourns the erasing of Libya’s unique heritage and cultural history.  In his preface to Word into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East, Dr Anwar Gargash explains that “Arabic has transcended borders to become the international symbol of its people.  As such, it is a potent tool for artists looking to transmit their messages about the issues, themes ad trends that pervade the modern Arab world today.”


Colonialism and the paradox of Eastern and Western culture is a also the theme featured heavily in the work of Hania Zaazoua. The title Young Ladies of Icosium for example, is a reference to Picasso’s Women of Algiers, highlighting an ancient history of the artist’s native city which predates French colonial rule.  The striking series of digital, photomontage like prints on silk are framed in embroidery hoops and although the pieces are not actual embroideries they are significant to Algeria’s colonial past.  In the nineteenth century, French woman Eugénie Luce opened a school in Algiers which focused on teaching traditional Maghrebi handicrafts such as embroidery and weaving.   In Orientalist Aesthetics: Art, Colonialism, and French North Africa, 1880-1930, Roger Benjamin describes this venture as ‘proto-feminist’ and notes Luce’s intention to “lift up the Muslim woman, to draw her from her inaction, to give her a nobler and more useful role in the family.”  Zaazoua elevates the applied and decorative arts which have historically been thought of as feminine and inferior by referring to the medium in her own work. In the style of Fornasetti, she repeats and reworks a black and white image of the same female figure rising up through brightly coloured cartographic motifs and fragments of Islamic geometric art.  She creates a timeless Algerian heroine, empowered and resilient in spite of and as a result of history and circumstance.


Both Barnosa and Zaazoua seem to be ambivalent in their commentary of colonial history. Neither artist presents an exclusively negative or positive view; instead they consider they comment on the modern experience of being on both sides of two cultures.  Similarly, Dima Nashawi’s work visualises the coming together of cultures, but in this context, from the perspective of displacement.  Despite finding safety and freedom in London as part of the recent Syrian diaspora, Nashawi’s drawings illustrate a longing to return to her homeland.  Her intricately detailed and beautifully fluid lines are used to whimsically reimagine real stories. Damascus in my Head is a highly stylised self-portrait where the figure is unable to concentrate on reading her book.   Preoccupied with thoughts of her home, her long hair wraps and coils around Damascene apartment buildings and stray strands of hair emanate like smoke from the city.  One cannot help but think of Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani whose verses whilst living in Europe often spoke of an idealised city he wished to go back to.

“What are you doing to me Damascus?

How have you changed my culture?”


With the desire to counteract mainstream media coverage of the Arab world which normally focuses on the story of men in the region and the popularised aggressive and conflicted struggle between East and West, Textural Threads undoes the binaries of gender and race, presenting a constant transition of Arab women adapting and creating a fluid cultural identity that is their own.

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Suspended Accounts | The Mosaic Rooms

Identity has often been a topic for discussion amongst artists of Palestinian origin since the establishment of Israel and the long and complex political history that has followed in its aftermath. The likes of late poet Mahmoud Darwish whose exile inevitably lead to writings on identity within the context of his displacement and contemporary musician Shadia Mansour who although British born, tells the stories of generations of immigrant Palestinians through her lyrics, are just two examples of Palestinian creators of culture who contemplate notions of identity in their work and the exhibition Suspended Accounts is a visual demonstration of the continuous desire to return to the theme of identity and connect to a Palestinian heritage and homeland.

 “…a retrospective understanding of the use of archive within contemporary art…as a tool for creating history.” – Viviana Checchia

Walking into the exhibition one is initially faced with the bold and brightly coloured paintings by Bashar Khalaf. Three selected oil on canvas works from the series A Shadow of the Shadow hang alongside smaller paintings by established Palestinian artist Sliman Mansour.  One of Mansour’s images is of city rooftops in aerial perspective.  Khalaf shows the same architecture in his reproduction, but his canvas his halved by a white wall in the foreground, the Israeli West Bank barrier, perhaps.  In the new version, security cameras face downward to monitor the city and the viewer is forced to imagine oneself in the scene, to experience the change of content and remember the city as it was before; a poignant reminder of the identity of Palestine’s past and a warning of its fragile future.


By presenting Mansour’s work alongside his own, the artist brings the former’s work and legacy back to life, reminding us of Mansour’s visual realisation of the concept of ‘Sumud’, a sense that one must stay rooted and connected to Palestine as a crucial part of preserving one’s identity.

The iconic Palestinian artist, Sliman Mansour also features in the work of Noor Abuarafeh, in her video installation Observational Desire on a Memory that Remains.  After discovering a realistically painted image of a group of Palestinian artists, taken from a photograph at an exhibition in 1985, Abuarafeh goes on a journey of ‘Imagination’ to discover and translate undocumented archives, as well as imagined works to present an almost unknown Palestinian art history.


Abuarafeh initially wanted to recreate the old image with the artists as they are now but found that they were either unavailable or had passed away. In the video the viewer is asked “When the dreamer dies, what happens to the dream?”  The narrator who addresses the viewer died ten years prior to the 2014 showing of Suspended Accounts, but through this video Abuarafeh gives a new voice to this little known artist.  She brings Sager Alqatel back to life, using his identity to tell his story, despite the fact that very few archives about him exist.  Alqatel recalls a time when a journalist of the period described the artist’s appearance in a review, but failed to discuss his artwork.  Similarly, when Abuarafeh studied at the Israeli, Bezalel Academy, she found that her art was being read and filtered solely through her Palestinian identity, so she began creating other identities to attribute her work to.  By dismantling perceived notions of identity, viewers are challenged to question and look beyond known histories.

Artist Iman Al Sayed also uses archives to connect to Palestine. Unable to physically be in the country, she uses her father’s archives and accounts as a way of doing so remotely. The artist’s background in Museology and a Sophie Calle inspired need “To recreate, retell, repeat, recollect, record, research, reincarnate and re-exist” has lead to Re-repeat; a collection of sketches, notes and photographs displayed as though they were a pin board of personal archives collated over time.  Accompanied by a voice recording of the artist nostalgically retelling her father’s stories as though they were her own, she transforms them into her own memories and therefore her own identity.  In Becoming Arab in London: Performativity and the Undoing of Identity, Ramy M.K.Aly considers the practices amongst second generation immigrants from the Middle-East to utilise performance and the corporeal to signify and identify with a heritage they only experience indirectly.

al sayed

Suspended Accounts tell “us about chapters in the history of Palestine that we are not aware of.”  Scattered across the globe and often displaced, these young artists have uncovered, researched and exposed the archives, history and heritage of Palestine, a culture which is often overshadowed by news and media coverage which focuses on the violent and political disputes of the region.  By immersing themselves in the past to retell forgotten stories and preserve memories, the artists reconnect with their own Palestinian origins and identity to create a narrative history that is their own.



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Wild Things | W3 Gallery


West London’s unassuming W3 Gallery will be showcasing the work of illustrator Misha Zaccour in February. The artist and curator are also inviting families with young children to their drop in art education workshops, giving little artists a chance to illustrate their own anthropomorphic creatures and have them displayed as an part of the exhibition.

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Lining Up | The London Illustration Fair

Graphic Designer and Illustrator Misha Zaccour invited spilt to join her at The London Illustration Fair to check out the talent and overdose on creativity.


Fifteen illustrators have been selected by the organisation’s panel of judges to showcase and sell their work at the Hoxton Arches until Sunday 7th December 2014. The fair is one of many events and art exhibitions leading up to Christmas, providing affordable limited edition prints for the avid collector and unique presents such as greeting cards, t-shirts, tote bags and mugs.

One of the stand out illustrators at the fair has to be Dan Hillier whose surreal, anthropomorphic Victorian characters sit against eerie backdrops of ships and skulls. The intricate detail of black lines against white fibrous paper, especially when framed in gold is startling, or when paired with restrained touches of colour such as the work Nothing Matters has the effect of a beautifully designed tattoo.


Alice Tams’ stall will also grab your attention. She kindly took the time to tell spilt about her project Birds in Hats where she travels the globe and painstakingly researches nature to produce intricate pencil drawings of birds, each with their own individual personality. Her passion and humour is infectious, describing one of her pieces Zebra Finch in a Straw Boater as “very Shoreditch.”


Another likeable illustrator was Jonny Glover whose exquisitely conceived and framed illustrations look like old-fashioned hand finished book plates. His stall was crammed with ink pots, a sketch book and examples of his animation all telling the story of his draughtsmanship. His work features a nice mixture of narrative and subtle humour with works like Trees with haircuts inevitably putting a grin on your face.


A smörgåsbord of engraving, screen prints, linocuts and drawings, the fair has something for everyone, whether it be Lucille Clerc’s patiently tinted blueprint-like illustrations or Matieu Zanellato’s punches of colour which hark back to communist propaganda posters. The fair has a friendly and positive vibe with food stalls, DJ’s and artists such as Hannah Coates doing live drawings. If you get a chance to go, you will gain an insight into the minds and work processes of illustrators with their obsessive attention to detail and a flair for design and colour. Walking around and looking at the art will give you the comforting feeling you had as a kid doodling in the margins of your school book.

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Re-creating Recreation | Philippa Found

Director of Rollo Contemporary Art Gallery in London and Curator of The Body in Women’s Art Now series; Philippa Found (joined by featured artist; Helen Carmel Benigson) took some time out to answer a few questions for spilt about her new exhibition ReCreation which is on until 2nd March 2012.

s|A: Why should people come and see the exhibition?

PF: I think that in the UK there is a lack of education about women’s art and feminism in museums.  One of the main inspirations behind doing the show to begin with, was when I was a student studying History of Art.  I specialised in the body in art from 1960-2000 where feminism and women’s art was undoubtedly the biggest contribution to that movement.  Then when I started working in the gallery and taking note of our public and national collection, I couldn’t see that history of art being represented.  I mean, I love the Tate Modern and yet when you go around that museum you get a very masculine history of art.  They’ve got the wall chart of all the different movements and feminism is there but where actually is it in the gallery?  It’s actually gotten better in the last few years but when I was thinking about putting the theories together which was around 2006/2007, when I started formulating my ideas I really felt that the UK was far behind the US in the attention that we gave women artists and I feel that women artists have such a unique relationship to the body in art and not much critical attention has been given to it in the UK compared to the brilliant shows like New Feminisms in the US and WHACK!  So I wanted to bridge that gap and say actually, can we just please look at what women artists are doing?  So that’s why I think people should come and see it; to actually learn about the brilliant and unique contribution that women artists have to the history of art.

s|A: Why did you think technology and the body was a particularly interesting theme for this exhibition?

PF: Well what I was doing when I started trying to think about the shows, I knew I wanted to split it into three parts and in each show I wanted to address a different theme so really I just kept my eyes open to what was going on and it was a kind of natural thing that just came to me.  I started with show one, that looked at the return to political performance based art.  Two was a lot more about the representation of the body but unashamedly, feminine sexual representation of the body for a female subjectivity which I felt was unique to the setting.  When it came to the third show, I really wanted to push it into the future.  The first looked back and referenced 1970’s art and how we’ve moved on from then.  With the second show I referenced the Bad Girls movement and how it’s moved on to embody female subjectivity and going to the third and final instalment, I really wanted to push it into the future and think what is really happening now and I think this use of new technology, the internet and web 2.0 is really current that in the future, like in ten-twenty years we’ll have critical theory written about it.  But now its cutting edge and I thought it was the perfect way to finish the show, to leave on something that is really just getting going now.

s|A: To go back to what you said about the art in the show being unashamedly feminine and to reference Helene Cixous about there being a female sensibility and feminine aesthetic, do you think that women artist can visualise the body in the same way women authors can write the body?

PF: I…yes!  Personally, yes, but that is a very personal opinion and other people might differ.  When it comes to writing, all my favourite authors are female and all my favourite artists are female and I am a woman.  So I think there’s something going on there.  I think that when you look at the exhibition programmes in the collection, in our national collection and you look at the directors, the exhibition spaces with a predominantly male exhibition programme and collection are normally managed or directed by men and the one exhibition space that has a predominantly female programme is the Whitechapel and Iwona (Blazwick) who is the director there… I definitely think there is a male/female subjectivity.  Art is so subjective that women are more likely to be interested in women’s issues than men, personally and that’s a kind of basic way of explaining it but I genuinely think there is something in that.  Which is also why I think we’ve had such an imbalanced representation.  As a majority, it’s been the men who are directors, the decision makers and collectors and slowly, slowly you will see women infiltrate that domain.

s|A: As quite a young, female Gallery Director, have you come across many challenges or obstacles in an art world still dominated by men?

PF: I’ve been doing this for six years now, but I definitely feel a difference from when I first started.

s|A: You are more established now?

PF: Yes and because this series of exhibitions has luckily been so well received and we’ve had brilliant critical reviews of the show, in turn I have been taken more seriously!

s|A: Do you think that female artists still get the same kind of slack?

PF: I think it’s difficult because obviously in my gallery 95% of the artists I work with are women.  Someone like Helen (Carmel Benigson) has such a phenomenal amount of attention on her work at the moment she probably hasn’t felt the kind suffering, but if you spoke to someone like Tracey Emin she would always say if “I were a male artist, my work would sell for ten times the amount at auction” and she really feels it and she’s someone who has broken through over the past twenty years.  She’s really seen a change in that world.

s|A: She made things change.

PF: Yes, she really did.  I love her! (laughs)

s|A: I’m not sure if you’re allowed to say, but do you have a favourite work in the exhibition?

HCB: You can actually!

s|A: Or at least one work that you think sums up the exhibition that can be viewed on its own.

PF: I don’t think they could see one by itself, because I think each of them are bringing different aspects of the show together.  My personal favourite piece is Valentines Day Rap; it’s brilliant.  It’s so subversive and so unique and was something I received in an email, before I represented Helen, from Princess Belsize Dollar for Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago, saying that she would be doing these raps should you require one for a loved one as a surprise and I thought that work really embodied the idea of a new generation of artists using new technologies as a mode of exploration and performance and I think that really embodies all of the issues in the show.  It’s a work that maybe if you go around the exhibition may be overlooked because it’s not on a giant screen but I think it’s a really critical piece, so my little tip is to go and read through it.

s|A: Do you have any recommendations for artists spilt readers should look out for in 2012?

PF: Helen.  Without a doubt, Helen.  That’s not in a biased way; the amount of attention she’s gotten is phenomenal.  From critics, curators cultural icons like vogue and collectors.  I think Helen’s work is very subversive because it appeals to such a wide demographic…so the fashion industry, like Vogue love it because it’s so vibrant feminine, poppy aesthetic and yet it’s so deeply rooted in feminist theory that the critics also love it and because Helen’s work crosses over a lot of media from video, print and performance I think she’s really cutting this new terrain and having this alter-ego out there that performs and makes work of art.  A lot of people have this real intrigue about the line between Helen and Princess and how that relates and the kind of issues involved.  I think she’s a very complex artist moving in a new terrain but appeals to young non-art lovers, all the way through to art critics.

s|A: I was just discussing that with feminist artist Caroline Halliday whilst watching Miri Segal’s BRB.  We were saying that the works will appeal to all people, even those who are not necessarily art aficionados or your archetypal gallery goer.  We agreed that almost everyone would be able to understand it.

PF: Yes, although the works here are predominantly video based, these artists are also creating works on their websites.  For example, Helen’s website is like a work of art and so one can access it in a completely different way.  You don’t have to be in a gallery to actually encounter these works of art and I think that makes a difference to the way the audience actually perceives them.

s|A: If you were given the opportunity to work with any artist dead or alive who would it be?

PF: Well I would have gone for Tracey Emin, but she was included in the first show.  That’s a really difficult question because…I am just running through my entire inventory of everyone I’ve studied to give everyone a fair overview…either Pipilotti Rist or Carolee Schneeman in the 1960’s because of the ground breaking performances that she was doing and I think it would have been amazing to be a part of that, when no one realised what impact it was going to have on the whole history of art.

(Found later went on to remark that Francesca woodman would be the artist she would love to work with, as she dedicated her dissertation to her work as a student)

s|A: And finally, could you spill any details of projects or exhibitions our readers can look forward to in the future?

PF: Yes!  One that I think you’ll like, is an exhibition called Blurring the Line.  Which again is all women artists.  It’s looking at the subversive uses in the line in art.  So we’ve got Ana Mendieta coming up in that show, Jessica Lagunas, Sarah Lederman, Chloe Piene who is a brilliant artist…actually I’d like to work with Chloe Piene as well, because I technically haven’t worked with her yet!  The line literally crosses video art to drawing, to embroidery, thinking of Ghada Amer’s work and Jessica Lagunas’ work is a one where she is applying make-up (mimics the application of lipstick) and is blurring the line with the body and the lip line and it encompasses a really wide spectrum, so that is one to look out for.

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Making New Waves | Kentaro Yamada and Ronin Cho

Originating in the Far East but living and working in London, artists Ronin Cho and Kentaro Yamada sit in The Woodmill’s studio discussing tea, shiny things and the relationship between technology and craftsmanship in art.

s|A: Can you give spilt three adjectives that best the character of your work?

KY: Three words?   I think it’s experiential and it is trying to be simple.  Experiential, simple and poetic.

RC: Three adjectives?

KY: Sex, drugs, rock n’ roll.

RC: It could be yeah, but for my work right?  The thing is, I’ve never really thought about adjectives.  Simple direct and electrified.

s|A: Are there any lables that suit your work?

KY: As in like a kind of genre or category?

RC: Sculpture or that kind of thing?

KY: I don’t think so.  Art!

RC: Yeah, well I would just say sculptural objects with a kinetic, kind of aspect.

s|A: Or is there a lable that people try to give you that you would not consider to be appropriate for your work at all?

KY: Yeah.  I think that in the past, I was kind of haunted by this kind of ‘new media’, ‘interactive media’ lable.  But I’ve started to escape from it, so it’s kind of okay.  I think one of the things I was thinking, just today, was how wide our skills are in terms of how you know, we do wood work.  We know how to cut wood, right?!  But we also know to program a microprocessor.

RC: I mean as long as people can see my work as sculptural objects and also if they can notice it as having motion, or being interactive or that kind of thing, it’s fine.

KY: But it’s not fine if they don’t!

RC: Because that’s kind of the main part of the work.

KY: Can I ask you a question? (to Ronin Cho)

s|A: Yes!

KY: In terms of moving parts and interaction; do you think it helps viewers enter into the work or…?

RC: Yes, because with some of the works, interaction is the main part, like the core theme of the work.  Yes, I think that it’s necessary to show it to viewers.

KY: So it’s kind of like an entry point for viewers to engage in a work?

RC: It could be an entry point, but it could be just everything.

s|A: Would you say that is similar or dissimilar to yours?

KY: I would that it’s not similar.  I kind of started to think that interaction is actually doing the opposite.  If it is not carefully done, it can also reduce the intellectual interaction in a way, because it’s like “ah that’s how he does it, cool.”  Whereas if it’s like not moving it’s like “what the hell is this?” then one’s thinking about it longer right?  So that’s sort of what I felt.  I mean, it can work in a really simple way…there are those sorts of interactions.

RC: Yeah I sort of agree with that, because in a way, when interaction is so difficult it can distract people from understanding the work.  That’s why I am trying to make everything very simple.

KY: Yeah, I mean there’s a good thing about interaction too, because obviously that kind of work, it can make anyone, from kids to older people laugh or can communicate on some very simple level.  I guess the question is, is that what you want?  I guess there’s a time and place for it.

RC: Interaction could be an entrance to the work.  For example We Know This But We Just Don’t Know How To Show It.  When you come close to it, you trigger the work and you interact with the hand, you can feel some how that there is a relationship, between you and the door, you and the door and the hand.

s|A: Do you think the way you go about making your works and the medium you use are key factors in determining how people will interpret and understand your work?

KY: I think that all art is a bit like that.

RC: The thing is; I don’t want to freak people out by showing mechanical parts and computers, because normally when people go to exhibitions or galleries, they expect to see those things.  In the beginning I try to hide all the mechanical parts in my work.  Also there’s a reason why I use wood in my work, as a kind of human material and I thought that this could kind of reduce the impact of the mechanical parts and the computers, and technical things.  Also I like to distress the work, because normally those kinds of things are very shiny and well finished.  But I am kind of against that.

KY: Yes, my answer would be that if it wasn’t like that then I would consider it not to be art.

s|A: So do you think that something like painting has become almost redundant?

KY: No, I don’t really think so.  I think painting has a different kind of aesthetic experience.  But the materials you use, in terms of communicating ideas and experiences you want to create are definitely… you kind of choose materials for a reason.

s|A: What was your first work of art?  What was the first work you created, that made you realise you were an artist?

KY: I’d say, apart from when I was little, I always used to paint and stuff.  I don’t know, I saw some of it the other day and it was actually quite good, I really liked it!  When I was in art school, the piece Schlong was kind of like a big jump, because it was obviously something like what crazy people do, you know?  And I guess I sort of tried to do something that I was kind of scared of and then people really liked it and so that was the first thing in a way.

RC: My approach is quite different to Ken’s approach, because I’ve been working in the area of design for so long and I always have a brief or objective or an aim and a client.  I think not working for clients, is art.  My first work was English dickhead and when I made that I thought yeah this is art!

s|A: So why this piece in particular and not any piece before?  Is it only because the other pieces were for clients?

RC: If you intend the work to be an art work, then you have to manage and direct it and you have to aim it at an audience.  It’s all kind of different, maybe I am acting like too much of a designer.  Art work also has to be managed and directed.

s|A: What were your motivations for starting to make art?  What were your motivations for making art instead of design?

RC: My initial motivation was frustration!  I have been working in the design field and I felt that it doesn’t last long enough and it’s only saying shallow things, it doesn’t really do anything cultural.

KY: What do you say to people who are graphic designers and architects, who are kind of doing, almost avant-garde art work?

RC: I mean, there is a kind of difference in the message and then there is process as well.

KY: I guess I think, why art and not experimental designer?  Or are you an experimental designer?

RC: Because it is from my experience.  I can see lots of people making graphic design things and this is artistic, not art.  A poster could be art but that’s only in a particular context.

KY: Yeah I guess, maybe it’s about now.  It’s also about time and it’s the vision of art.  Obviously, you didn’t have to think like this when you are studying Bauhaus, but they didn’t have clients either, they had like government or something.

RC: It’s more about myself.  And the reason why I am making art is that I hope my thoughts can be transferred to other people.  Making and showing my art work, is my medium to transfer my message.

KY: Why did I become an artist?  I think that it was just an accident at first.  I thought, maybe I want to study design and then I thought no actually, I want to do art.  So I did art.  But why I keep doing it, I just think it’s something that matters.  I like to share and communicate ideas too.  It’s probably not going to change the world or anything like that, but there’s at least that possibility.  It makes it worth doing, you know?  The possibility that it could communicate to people, that’s probably why I do it.

s|A: What inspires you?

RC: I think inspiration is a myth, in a way.  I do get inspired when I see a really great show or when I see a really great film and other cultural activities.  I am a really normal person.  I think that everyday life is inspiration.  It’s very simple.  Sometimes when you use the internet and you find something and you think “ah, this is something and I should make work out of.”

KY: Inspiration is such a strange thing, is it motivation or is it something that sparks an idea?  They are very different things.  What is inspiration?  I don’t know…

RC: It could be both.  Something can give you an aesthetic inspiration.

KY: Obviously.  Sometimes if you meet like a really nice girl and you want to show off your art or something.  That could be your inspiration right?


s|A: But that’s also motivation.

KY: But I wouldn’t say that is artistic inspiration, so it could be anything really, like great food, conversation.  I think for me, it’s mostly having great conversation with great people, or having great dinner.

RC: I think in my case, when I am sitting at home and doing nothing.  That inspires me.

KY: Really?  It’s definitely traveling, for me.  It’s not always about the actual thing going on there, but the fact that I am having a different perspective and experience gives me some kind of kick I guess.

s|A: Which artists have had a major influence on your work?

RC: I am quite influenced by Tim Lewis.  Most of them are sculptors, like Erwin Wurm for example.  I think Tim Lewis is definitely my biggest influence.

KY: It is a difficult question.  I do not really get inspired by artists; I could say who I respect.  You could probably say that there is some relationship to Fluxus artists, which is because of the kind of content I am dealing with.  Or people like Yoko Ono, because of the cultural background and the content she is dealing with. If you ask me “who do you think is the greatest artist?” I would probably say Marcel Duchamp.  It’s not that he really influences my work, but in a way he influenced everything.

s|A: To what extend your cultural background does influence your artistic process?

KY: I spent half of my life in the east, and half of it in the west.  My mother was teaching tea ceremony and my father worked as a pottery teacher.  Those kinds of things obviously affected me.  Daily life it affects me very much.  I learned what they learned.  I think it’s the mix of both cultures.

RC: Korean people are really excited about new technology, shiny and fancy things.  So they do not really look back on old history and culture.  It is in our tendency to always be more advanced.  That’s why when I was in Korea; I was always very fascinated by design and design culture.  Then in 2006 I started studying Graphic design at Central St. Martins in London.  There were so many people who still used screen printing and letter press and all those traditional techniques.  In the beginning I did not understand why they were doing this, because you can do so many things with a digital printer for example.  But then I started to look closer at those techniques and of course you see, or at least you feel, a difference between the digital and the more physical things.  So I started do more physical things with wood for example.

s|A: Kentaro, what is typically Korean about Ronin’s work?

KY: Koreans are more direct, straight, a bit louder than Japanese and somehow his work is a little bit like that as well.  Maybe it is more statement driven than my work.  I mean Korean and Japanese History is very different.  Korea has been invaded several times by China or Japan.  You kind of have to say what you want otherwise you get killed.  Meanwhile in Japan it’s more about “Yeah, let’s have some tea.”


s|A: Ronin, what is typically Japanese about Kentaro’s art?

RC: He never really explains clearly.  That is maybe the biggest difference between me and him.  I think maybe it really comes from his background.  It is more about rituals, which are more important than the result.  In Korea the process of doing things is very important as well, but maybe the result is even more important.

KY:  Ronin, do you think this is a recent phenomenon?

RC: They are both important in Korea, process and result. Yes, but maybe it is a contemporary phenomenon.

KY: That is maybe the reason why Korean artists are doing better than the Japanese.  In terms of making a statement within western art, because you cannot really be ambiguous in western art. That is one of the reasons why I want to collaborate with people and discuss my work, to have those aspects in my art as well.

s|A: Being close friends, do you influence each other’s work?

RC: I am learning a lot from Kentaro.  He is kind of a role model for me, like an ideal.  He thinks about things, I never really think of.  Sometimes I think that my art is quite selfish.  Kentaro’s work is more open, that affects me.

s|A: Both of you also use very similar materials, such as light bulbs, for example.

RC: That is a coincidence.

KY: The material in this case is not so important.  It’s not that we both work in wood.  We do and we don’t.  We both have a strong technological background.  Our approach is quite similar in a way.  We both say that we do not want to be designers, even if we work as designer’s part time; this is a quite useful background to have.  Then there is this approach of craftsmanship.  We cover a lot of ground in terms of things that we are able to make.  I can make everything from prints to computer programs and wooden sculptures.  I try to concentrate more about what these media actually can do for my work.

s|A: What would you say is the difference between your work and the work of European artists using similar materials?

KY: For me it is definitely the content, the way Yoko Ono approaches her work for example.  Ronin talks about technology and shiny things, I can relate to that as well.  In Japan, as much as Korea it is important.  I grew up playing Nintendo.  I had all that kind of technology as a kid in the eighty’s. That is maybe also a reason why I moved away from it.  It was easy for me to move away from this attitude.

s|A: Ronin, Tell us a little but about Homage to Old Rug Makers.

RC: For the carpet I use light bulbs. And the light bulb represents for me the whole culture of electricity.  We cannot live without it.  And at the same time we are not aware of how fragile it is.  It’s like breathing air; we are not always aware of breathing.  So electricity nowadays has become very important, like breathing.  You can step on the carpet, as a base for daily life something very natural to have, you never really realise that you have it.  So the carpet is something everybody has at home and something very common.  You step on it, without realizing it.  My carpet is very fragile, if you step on it, it will break.

s|A: Kentaro, can you tell us something about Everything Comes In Waves?

KY: It is a continuation of my past works.  I am interested in making experimental work, where the light becomes a sculpture in experimental matter.  Basically I am trying to create this pattern of breathing.  I had this experience, when I looked after my mother who died.  I saw a relationship between breathing patterns and light patterns.  Light goes away and dies; art in comparison of life.  Like Woody Allen, who always talks about life and death and people ask him why he does that.  He answers that it’s the only thing he can think about, that really matters.  This light sculpture is also very beautiful and sublime and on the other side, death is not a beautiful thing at all.  It’s a topic people do not talk about much in this society.

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WAR | When the Personal Becomes Political

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