London Art Spot: Penelope Koliopoulou

I first spotted Greek photographer Penelope Koliopoulou’s work in Completely London magazine. I looked twice when I found out she was the only person in her images.

Penny’s portfolio is lead by an obsession with taking self-portraits combined with a fascination with the way relationships function and couples interact. She uses her most convenient resource – herself – to represent both parts of many different couples. Most of her images depict the most mundane moments in the daily existence of a couple – watching TV, lounging in bed, chatting, eating. She hopes that we recognise our own relationships in her work. Do you see yourself in any of these scenes below? 

Read on to hear more about Penelope’s vision for this project, how she creates her images and the diary of an imaginary boyfriend she’s just started putting together – another project I’m sure will prove to be very interesting.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here?
PK:
I am from Athens, Greece and I’ve been leaving in London for 2 years now. I came here for my MA in Fashion and Film (LCF).

LLO: Tell us about your self portrait series. When and why did you begin this project?
PK:
At the university where I studied Fine Arts, I always did self portraits. This was my small obsession. I was experimenting a lot, trying either to disguise and play different roles, or picture myself and explore notions of identity, gender, intimacy, everyday life and through this to discover myself and find out who I am. In my final project, I wanted to picture couples in intimate moments and represent true moments of a relationship. The fact that I was going to “do” both parts of the couples came naturally. Moreover, my intention was to make a comment on how easily masculinity and femininity can be created – for example, how I can pass as a man only by turning my back to the camera. To show that both sexes carry masculine and feminine elements. Lastly, using the same person to do both parts of a couple could work as a metaphor for how a couple unites and we become one or see the reflection of ourselves in our partner.

LLO: How do you create the images?
PK:
First of all, I imagine a couple – their look, lifestyle, clothes – and then I think of a scene from their everyday life. According to these, I find a place that most suits the profile of my couple and choose clothes that I mostly take from my wardrobe or friends. I dress as one part of the couple and take a picture, then I dress as the other half, creating different ways of interacting between the two. In the end, I use Photoshop to put the two pictures together and create my couple.

LLO: From the Athens suburb where you were born to the madness of London, do you think the mundane moments couples experience differ?
PK:
It doesn’t have to do with where they live, it has to do with the couple. It may sound cheesy, but I believe in a couple’s chemistry. Either they live in London or in Greece. You see couples that are not really ‘compatible’ but they remain together for other reasons (insecurity, because it became a habit, or for practical reasons, such as children) and some others that are a perfect match. Relationships are hard. They need a lot of time, devotion, honesty and selflessness no matter class, sexuality, race, region.

LLO: What do you hope to communicate through your work?
PK:
I like to tell stories. I hope I tell stories that make people identify with my protagonists. What I wish is when someone sees one of my couples to think “I’ve been there. It was hard (or nice).”, to create feelings, to bring back memories and make them think about their relationships.

LLO: What has been your favourite scene to recreate so far?
PK:
Ha, my favourite scene was the couple having a private after party in the morning. Technically it could be a better picture, but as it was my very first so I excuse myself and also I believe I’ve managed to create the right atmosphere which is more important to me.

LLO: Tell us about another artist you know in London who is doing something worth talking about.
PK:
Zero-tau, a collective of mix media performance.

LLO: What are you working on now?
PK:
At the moment I am not taking any pictures for a personal project, but I’m working on some new ideas, like a diary of my relationship with an imaginative/fantastic boyfriend and also some more couples but from a different approach.

LLO: Best place in London for food and/or drinks?
PK:
My place, with good friends.

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
PK:
Kaos party.

Thanks Penny!

You can also find Penny here.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Robert Montgomery’s Old Street Billboards

“All I want to do in life is to be able to pay the rent and make the billboards,” artist Robert Montgomery said in an interview with The Independent last Friday. “That’s my complete and utter ambition.”

There’s three billboard along Old Street right now as part of an exhibition showing off his poetry in a simple caps-on white on black find. These ones are legal, though occasionally he illegally plasters his poetry paste-ups over advertisements. But he’s a fully trained artist with Venice Biennale on his CV and hardly be cast in the category of “street artist”, though his work normally is found on the streets.  So I took a stroll over the weekend and took a few photos to share with you:

In the same interview, he says, “One of those texts is very much a testimony to the positive things I think Occupy are doing. It starts, “There are wooden houses on land in far-away places that don’t cost much money, and strings of lights that make paths to them gently, and do not turn off the stars. And 100 black flags of anarchists held up at night 100 miles apart.”

It’s the idea that rows of tents in front of St Pauls are guarding our future – or trying to. I find that whole thing very moving. I found Giles Fraser resigning from the Church of England in support of the Occupy movement, incredibly moving.  The church taking sympathy with what they’re doing is really significant. It shows that the concerns of middle England are not too far away from the concerns of Occupy. I worked a lot with the Stop The War coalition over the years and I did several pieces with them and some of the marches. It was lots of middle class, middle-aged people from the home counties marching.”

Any thoughts?

Lots more on his website.

London Art Spot: Christina Workman

You can spot a Christina Ruth bra by its fabulous signature bow. They’re made from satin and silk, printed and sewn by hand in her London studio, with matching knickers, by business owner and lingerie designer Christina Workman. Taking some inspiration from London’s beautiful gardens, her latest line is a floral collection called Wall-flowers. She also adores polka-dots. You can find her work in Kingley Court’s Sugarlesque, second floor. Just don’t mention the word “undies”.

For this week’s London Art Spot – the first since January – Christina talks to us about her life-long obsession with lingerie, what her university studies taught her that helped her start her own business and what she says to curious little children who want to play with the nipple tassels.

LLO: Which aspects of London life inspire your designs and creativity and which other London-based designers do you admire? 
CW: I always take photos in the Regents Park rose garden when starting a print; the colours are always so beautiful. There are so many amazing art galleries and museums in London that I get inspiration from, but the Serpentine gallery and the V&A are particularly great and never disappoint.

LLO: Give us a quick introduction/overview of your company, Christina Ruth
CW: Christina Ruth is a luxury lingerie label, selling unique hand printed and handmade designs.

Mid-print.

LLO: Educate us. What is the step-by-step process of how a Christina Ruth bra becomes a Christina Ruth bra?
CW: Firstly I design the print to put on the fabric, which normally consists of a research phase followed by lots of drawing and finally lots of hair pulling as I try to make it a repeatable image. I then have to separate the drawing into layers based on how many colours I want the finished print to have. At this stage I go to my print studio (London Screen Service in Bermondsey) and put each layer on a different screen. I’m then ready to start printing the fabric – a full colour print works best on silk. After printing all the layers I then steam the fabric to fix the dye, then wash and dry. Next, I need to design the pattern of the actual bra – let’s just say this is tricky! Not only does it have to look nice but the sizing needs to be spot on.  Finally I cut my fabric and hand sew the bra, in my home studio.

Finished print.

LLO: Self-taught or formally-trained? Tell us more.
CW: I studied Textiles at Goldsmiths where I fell in love with printing. This was a Fine Art based course so we were not taught fashion design; that part of my work is completely self taught and comes from a lifelong obsession with lingerie. Goldsmiths is also where I learned to work from a self motivated brief (we were never ‘set’ work) which is important when launching your own label.

LLO: What makes Christina Ruth lingerie special? Do you have a trademark?
CW: Creating colourful printed lingerie on fine delicate fabrics really makes Christina Ruth special. Every piece is made by hand and therefore unique; this is not something you can get on the high street. At the same time I want people to be able to afford my lingerie, so try to give a reasonable price range for the amount of time/work that goes into the making. Every piece is finished with my signature big bow.

LLO: Please help me solve an on-going debate… what are your thoughts on the following terms and which do you prefer?
CW: Lingerie, knickers, pants…in that order!!
Underwear: Practical, unisex.
Knickers: Fun, normally of the un-skimpy variety, my favorite.
Undies: No comment!
Unders: I haven’t heard this word used before.
Panties: American – has to be used if you want to expand outside of the UK.

LLO:  Are you willing to do custom orders (ie – sizes or prints or colours, etc)?
CW: Yes I’m more than happy to do custom sizes; that’s one of the benefits of hand making everything. However, prints and colours have to come from me, I need to feel passionate about what I’m making and I can’t do that using someone else’s ideas.

LLO: What are your size ranges?
CW: Knickers: XS – XL, Bras: S – M (this will be expanding soon).

LLO: Back in October, you tweeted about a 70+ year old man who asked about crotch-less designs for his wife. Good for them. Any other amusing stories to share?
CW: No! Except for the multitude of little children who pick up the nipple tassels and ask their parents what there for – cue lots of embarrassed faces. Telling them they’re ‘a pretty brooch for adults’ seems to do the trick!

LLO: What are you working on now?
CW: I’m right in the middle of developing some pretty lace camisoles to go in my Wall-flower collection as well expanding my bra size range. I’m also in the drawing stages of a new print.

LLO: Where can we find your lingerie?
CW: You can buy online at www.christinaruth.com which links to my Etsy shop. I also sell on www.estylingerie.com and ASOS marketplace. If you want to see the real thing, you can find Christina Ruth in Sugarlesque lingerie boutique: 2nd floor Kingley Court, Carnaby Street. Or come and find me every Sunday until Christmas at Greenwich Market.

Thanks Christina!

You can also find Christina on Facebook

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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