Light Over London

How about that sunshine yesterday? Let’s hope that’s a sign that those April showers have come to an end and now that it’s May, the promised flowers will be poking up their heads. (Speaking of which, any of you get your hands on coveted tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show?)

So, what do I have to share with you today…?

How about these fantastic shots from Shando? How talented is he? Parliament or St. Paul’s are probably part of the daily commute for a lot of you. These shots cast a whole different light on London. Ever see them looking this pretty?

St Pauls 50mm

Casting Shadows

Share your London shots in the Flickr pool. I’d love to see them.

In celebration of reaching 500 Facebook likes for LLO last weekend, I will be giving away an 8×10 print (or a couple) from my Etsy shop….when it reaches 550! Nearly there then. So share the link, tweet the link and free prints up for grabs soon.

London Art Spot: Charlene Lam

Longing. Belonging. Belongings.

These words describe the essence of Charlene Lam’s art. They stem from a multicultural background She’s a German-born Chinese-American who has grown up in NYC and San Francisco where she performed as part of a hip-hop troupe though she also has 10 years of classical ballet training. She’s lived in Germany, Sweden and now London. To top it off, her husband is an Italian-born Peruvian.

Needless to say, she loves to travel and if you read on through this week’s London Art Spot, she explains how those words above tie her wanderlust and artwork together. She also talks about her obsession with wandering the banks of the Thames to collect washed-up materials to use in her work (a sort of reinterpretation of belongings) and she shares a lovely story about a woman called Lee Chin Won Ying.

LLO: Which aspects of London life influence your creativity?
CL: I love my East London neighborhood of Shoreditch. It’s super trendy and full of drunk people on the weekends, but the feel is entirely different than that of West London. I like my cities to be a little gritty and full of surprises, and this area certainly qualifies, with its mix of old and new, high and low. Plus, the street art is excellent, and I see something new every time I go out.

LLO: On your website, you wrote: “I love exploring the potential of different materials, especially repurposed ones, and letting the materials tell me what they long to be.” What’s the most unusal material you’ve worked with and what did it turn out to be?
CL: I’ve been obsessed with the clay tobacco pipes that wash up on the banks of the Thames, particularly the fragments of pipe stems that date from the late 16th to the early 20th centuries. If I’m by the Thames and it’s low-tide, I’m down on the banks collecting bits of clay — no matter how impractical my footwear.

I’m still playing with the possibilities of the pipe stems, bundling them together with thread, combining them with different materials. I’d love to make them into jewellery. I read a report that suggested pipe stem fragments were reused as wig-curlers, and I’m curious if I can use them that way in my curl-resistant Asian hair.

I find it amusing that I’m playing with a previous era’s rubbish. Why am I so enamoured by a bouquet of discarded pipe stems when a cluster of cigarette butts would only disgust me? I’m aware that I’m romanticising a past that I don’t understand, but I’m endlessly fascinated: some of this city’s garbage is older than my country!

LLO: Is there a certain material or object you’ve got your eyes on that you’d love to work with but haven’t tried yet?
CL: So many materials! I’m coveting all kinds of offcuts from various businesses, because I love the challenge of making something out of nothing and hate seeing things go to waste. But to name a certain technique, I would love to work with clear resin. The ability to physically capture an object — and perhaps a moment — so that it’s at once preserved and yet untouchable is very appealing to me.

LLO: Why should we immediately pop over to visit your blog, “Someday London” and where did the title come from?
CL: “Someday London” is London through the eyes of a creative expat: my triumphs and humiliations, my likes and dislikes, the extraordinary and the everyday.

There’s so much to see and explore in London, and I love sharing my finds with other people. For instance, I’ve started highlighting the work of the amazing craftspeople and designers I come across, because the quality and breadth is stunning.

The blog is called Someday London because big cities are full of longing: “Someday … I’ll afford a place of my own.” “Someday … I’ll get out of here.” One of mine was “Someday … I’ll live in another country” and now I’m doing it!

LLO: In what ways does your NYC background still influence your work in London?
CL: New York City will always have my heart. I’m very inspired by the potential of materials and people, and there’s no place that pulses with possibility the way that NYC does.

I’ve been in London for a bit over a year, and I’m very much aware of not quite belonging. I’m too chatty and overenthusiastic by British standards; I don’t drink much so pub culture eludes me; I still get confused sometimes crossing the street.

My work is often influenced by my personal struggles with identity and finding a place to belong. I’m in London for now, but I’m not from here. I don’t think I belong here, but I’m happy to be here all the same.  I don’t know if I belong anywhere, but so far New York City is the closest thing to home.

LLO: Where are your favourite places in London to pick up found objects to use in your artwork?
CL: The more neglected and overlooked, the better! Hardware stores. The banks of the Thames. Charity shops. Pound stores. Skips. Buildings sites. My eyes are always scanning the streets for possibilities.

LLO: Tell us about Lee Chin Won Ying and the project her story has inspired.
CL: Lee Chin Won Ying was my great aunt, or “yee pau”. She emigrated from China to Hong Kong and then to New York City, where she worked as a seamstress. After she died, I found amongst her papers her study sheet for the U.S. citizenship test. In typewritten English and handwritten Chinese, it dryly tells the story of her hard life.

Women of my generation struggle with having too many choices; she had very few. She worked as a seamstress because she had to, while I can make things for the joy of it. Even after she started living in relative comfort, she hoarded things like plastic bags, food, and scraps of fabric — not uncommon for Chinese immigrants of her generation who lived through periods of real poverty. It’s an interesting juxtaposition with our “more is less” culture, where we buy, own and throw away so much, yet live in a similar state of insecurity.

I am recreating phrases from that study guide — like “I am a sewing worker” — in embroidery. I didn’t speak her dialect of Chinese, so we had trouble communicating when she was alive. Retelling her story through stitch is my way of honouring her life and, in a way, of having a conversation with her.

LLO: Which project are you most proud of so far and why?
CL: I’m particularly proud of “Petals (Longing for Light)”. We were living in northern Sweden. I was struggling with the lack of light and the scarcity of affordable art materials. It was made in response to a call for submissions, but I remember not thinking about it too much, just working with the basic materials I had, and channeling my angst into these beautiful forms. I learned a lesson that I return to time and time again: My best work comes from Love and Longing.

LLO: Favourite London-based artists?
CL: Currently: Rob Ryan, the folks from Print Club London, the illustrators of Peepshow collective, the designers of Farm collective, Evelin Kasikov and her CMYK cross-stitch.

LLO: What are you working on now?
CL: I’ve been playing around with alternatives to purchased gift wrap, using rescued and repurposed materials. I’ve always loved the glamour and fun of gift wrapping, but hated the waste.

I’ve also just curated a selection of work from seven designer-makers for the Craft Central Micro Boutique at Vitra’s Christmas Gift Market. The market was in their gorgeous showroom in Clerkenwell, and I wanted to showcase these products designed and made in studios around London alongside the designs of masters like George Nelson.  10% of sales went to benefit the housing and homeless charity Shelter.

Thanks Charlene!

Check out more of Charlene’s work here: www.charlenelam.com

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

London Art Spot: Roberto McCormick

His native country’s slogan is “Colombia es Pasion” and that’s what comes out in Roberto McCormick’s photography. Light plays a strong role in each shoot giving an air of erotica and mystique to some of his models and a sassy, sexy attitude to others. Angles are wide in his latest work, looking from the ground up, giving the allusion of long legs that go on for eternity and a focus on the shoes.

Born in Colombia’s capital city, Bogota, Roberto studied industrial design before making the decision to take up his camera full time in 2008 instead. His work has been published in fashion advertisement campaigns and papers around Colombia. He recently moved to London for love.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Roberto gives us an eyeful of his erotic photography, talks about how his background in industrial design still influences his work and tells us exactly he means when he mentions his new theme of “wide proportions”.

LLO: How long have you lived in London? Is it your art that has kept you here?
RMc: Its going to be a year in November. I came here because of my wife, so that’s my main reason, but I have to say, I have developed my art 100 times more than in any other part. So I think I have two really good reasons to live in this amazing city.

LLO: Which aspects of London life inspire you creatively?
RMc: Freedom, people from all over the world, mix of everything, you feel like you can create anything. It’s like a necessity to create or the river will take you to some other part. You have to move; you have to think big.

LLO: Your formal training is in Industrial Design in your home country, Colombia. Do you find that this background (both the study and the country where you grew up) has a strong influence on your photography now?
RMc: Every single thought and experience that you have in your life will drive your path some other way, like growing with time. So I have to say yes. Maybe I can say it gave me great a advantage, the advantage of composition, color, framing, structure to design images.

LLO: Do you remember the moment that made you decide you wanted to pursue photography as a career rather than industrial design?
RMc: Yes, I think it’s very clear in my mind – first practical exercise in photography class about properties of light. I was already feeling proud, feeling like a god, I didn’t care what kind of criticism I will get about it, for me my work was a masterpiece.  The picture, it’s just a glass burning on fire, long exposure, and a mirror, very different from what I do, but every time I got my images, I have the same feeling; I cannot wait to show them to the world.

LLO: One trait that makes some of your photography quite unique is your use of angle and light. Can you tell us a bit about your approach?
RMc: Everything about photography is about light. You have to draw with light. When I was in class we were taught about the classic and contemporary schemes of lighting, so I know how to do it, and have experiment a lot with it. I just found it BORING, so why not burn the model? Why not let the light with an over exposure eat the model, or maybe the shadow will eat it?

About the angles, I cannot say it was from nothing that it appears. I think and I hope it was kind of an evolution of my work. What I can say is that it started with a shooting where my wife was the model; that shooting triggered it. Was my first  “Wide Proportions” a very unique technique? Its not just wide angle lenses, or weird lighting, or a touch of surrealistic feel. For me its “Wide Proportions” meaning huge legs, amazing shoes, sexy, hot, irreverent, erotic, mystic – a sexy fashionable dream.

LLO: Is there a location in London outside of the formal studio environment you’d love to shoot for a day?
RMc: Don’t you think a sexy ballet dancer / model in front of Saint Paul’s Cathedral would be a great pic?

LLO: How do you find your models? Is there a particular model you’d love to work with?
RMc: Models and photographer, and social networks… it’s kind of funny to post a casting call saying  “lingerie shoot FHM style”. You will get 100 girls in a day. Put some clothes in the call and it can be 10 times less.

Humm, I like to target models in ballet and fashion/nude. Since I have arrived in London, I have always admired a Czech model – fit, angled face, attitude – just love it.  I will shoot her at the end of the month, so let’s hope it will be a great shoot.

LLO: Do you have a muse?
RMc: Woman and dreams. My wife, but shh don’t tell anybody 😉

LLO: Which photo are you most proud of at the moment and why? Share a jpeg?
RMc: I would like to say 2 – Wide Proportions Origin and a sexy, glamorous ballet shoot. Both have what I’m looking for, about angles, great lighting, sexy, huge legs, burn lighting and hard shadows.

LLO: Which other London-based artists do you most admire?
RMc: Fashion photographers Hugh O’Malley, Clair Pepper and Julia Kennedy. They have a great fashion approach.

Thanks Roberto!

For more of Roberto’s work, have a look at his site: http://www.robertomccormick.com

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Fashion photographers Hugh O’Malley, Clair Pepper and Julia Kennedy, they have a great fashion approach.

London Art Spot: David A Smith

I met David briefly at the Trafalgar Hotel last month where his work was on show as part of a jottaContemporary exhibition called Into the Wilde which featured pieces that drew inspiration from Oscar Wilde’s work. He was hanging about like any normal graduate, drinking a beer with friends, happy to chat about his work. It’s surreal, perverse, playful, sometimes disturbing and full of energy.

And it’s been given quite a lot of attention lately, particularly due to his position as a finalist for the Catlin Prize this year. With an MA from Chelsea College of Art on his already impressive CV, David’s sculptures have been featured in Art Review, Spoonfed.co.uk, The Independent, Elle, The Guardian and BBC, among others. Perhaps it’s the bizarre materials he chooses or the narrative popping out of each piece or how quickly his mind churns out intriguing new ideas. Whatever it is, props to David for his long list of gallery exhibitions, commissions, awards and relentless ambition.

For this week’s London Art Spot, David talks us about experimenting with shark teeth and treacle, digs into his experience to reveal a bit of advice to recent art graduates and shares a story about his grandfather’s cane.

Thief

LLO: This being a London blog, which aspects of London life most influence your creativity?
DS:
It’s an obvious answer but the Galleries and exhibitions that, if you were so inclined, could keep you busy with show openings and visits all week long. Although I do love, that even in this city, you’re never too far from a bit of greenery, a park or something similar to wander into. I need a little bit of nature close by as it helps me work and London has plenty of these wonderful areas a stone’s throw from the busy streets.

Together

LLO: What’s the most unusual material you’ve used so far to create a piece of art? Is there a story behind it?
DS:
I would say Shark teeth have been the most unusual material although I did do a project with a fellow student at Chelsea where we created a pool on the floor out of black treacle. We projected an image against it of two studious looking men and made it look as though they were sinking in the pool. It took 16 cans of treacle!

I have also just completed a piece which used a resin foetus skull. I re-worked the skull so that the jaw could hold a machete in its mouth then the whole piece was covered with a rich purple flock.

Together

LLO: Anything particular objects you have in mind to experiment with in the near future?
DS:
I have just acquired a resin bust form of a black bear. It’s going to be another light piece and a lot of work but I’ve been excited about starting on it since I drew the plan out in my sketchbook. I also have a resin cat skeleton that I’ve had in my studio for a while and I think now is the time to progress with this piece too.

LLO: It’s been said your work shows a “macabre sense of humour”. Would you agree? If so, give us a good example of a piece that best represents this part of your personality.
DS:
I would agree there is something slightly humorous about some of the works I make. Shuck was piece that had a dark streak to it yet kept some humour around it. It was a skeletal dog form I had finished with black gloss paint. I positioned the piece in the corner of a room, and inside its rib cage leading out of its mouth I had threaded electroluminescent wire that piled up on the floor beneath. It really grabbed the viewers’ attention when they entered the space, despite its small stature. It was an irradiated guard dog for my exhibition space, happily ingesting this radioactive looking wire in spite of it leading to its current appearance as nothing more than blackened bones. It became somewhat disturbing but also endearing as a creature that really shouldn’t be there, and wasn’t alive, but still had something life like and charged about its presence.

Shuck

LLO: Share a piece of work with the most interesting story behind it and tell us about it.
DS:
It’s perhaps not really an interesting story but it means a lot to me. After my Grandfather died I got hold of one of his walking sticks. I wanted to do something with it as it was such a beautiful wooden form but I also wanted to preserve the memory I had of him, protect it in some way. After much decision making I used the piece, and placed human teeth made from resin all around the handle of the cane. It made the Cane obsolete to any other potential user as the teeth defended the cane from the grasp of another. It’s a very personal piece and I don’t think I’ll ever let it go.

Cane

LLO: Animals (including skulls of dead animals) and neon lights both play a huge role in your work. Where does your fascination with these two elements stem from?
DS:
I grew up always being encouraged to look at and understand nature. There is always something new to learn and that’s the interesting part. Growing up in a more rural setting you get a firm grasp of the fragility of creatures in their natural habitat, and that death is something very close by. I use skulls because they show the fragile form of a creature. There seems to be a something divine about these forms, be it the way antlers have developed on roe deer skull or the way the teeth in a tiger skull are designed specifically for its hunting prowess. Light is something I came to late in my MA so I feel I’ve got a lot of experimenting to do. I like using light as it makes you work harder when creating sculpture; there’s a lot more to consider in relation to reflection and shadow. Importantly, the effects I can get from it are precisely what I am looking for particularly when I use Electroluminescent Wire.

LLO: Each piece seems to hint at a story. How important is narrative to you and do you think about this before you begin or does it unfold as you work?
DS:
Narrative is quite important in my work but my practice has begun to steer further away from a deep reliance on it and more towards referencing specific areas of animals as omens and their apparitions as bearers of news. I have a way of working that begins with one idea and soon gathers pace including other areas of my research quite quickly. It’s always nice to see what ideas and thoughts you can have when you start working but some ideas tend to be quite tenacious and once I begin with them I get a little obsessive about seeing them through to a specific conclusion I have in my mind.

Warlord

LLO: Having recently graduated with your MA, you’ve been exhibiting constantly, getting a good amount of press attention and positive feedback. Do you have any solid practical advice for other artists about to face the real world?
DS:
I have been more than pleasantly surprised at all the interest my work has generated; it’s been fantastic. The best piece of advice I can give is keep in touch with your fellow graduates if you can, and if you got on with them! Moving out of your college studio space is one thing but when you leave you also lose you peer group and these people are the ones that have been around you and know your work well. Keep these friendships and opportunities for mutual feedback strong. It’s always good to know what others are up to. It can keep you going, help keep things positive. Also if you sell any work from your degree show to collectors, then keep them in the loop about what you do next, what work you make next.

Revenant

LLO: Which other London-based artists do you admire?
DS:
There are quite a few, so, in no particular order: Alex Virji, Sîan Hislop, Blue Curry, Jeremy Willett, Sam Zealey, Aidan Doherty, Matt Clark, Amy Moffatt, Luke Drozd, David Cochrane, Abigail Box, Adam Dix, Lindsey Bull, James Capper, Tianzhuo Chen, Tim Ellis, this list could go on and on…

LLO: What are you working on now and where can we next see your work?
DS:
I currently have two commissions that I am working on at the moment that will keep my summer fairly busy but unfortunately both pieces are going into private collections so won’t be seen too widely. The next shows being mooted are in September after that I have a solo show in November, at the Yarrow Gallery, which has been pencilled in for a while now. I have also been approached by a gallery in Los Angeles but that’s a future possibility at the moment and still needs some discussion. I always try and keep something in my diary to work towards, it helps keep me motivated and dedicated to improving.

Wraith

Thanks David!

For more about David and his work, see his website: www.davidasmithart.co.uk

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Nightfall on the Thames

Well, what is a London blog without photos of Big Ben in all of its forms? I was walking along South Bank after a stop by the Leake Street graffiti tunnel (It went downhill, I tell you… It’s no longer a tunnel of thought-provoking street art, but a mess of tags – albeit still filled with pretty colours and the intoxicatingly enchanting smell of spraypaint…). So this lovely view from South Bank was welcome in the cold walk over to Embankment before the ride home…