Messages on Walls: Be God.

Found this on a wall in the market just off Brick Lane. 

Be God

Just a laugh? A statement on the tangled relationship between the fragility of humanity and the demands of organised religion? A message to people with delusions of grandeur? Boredom and a bit of extra packing tape?

I suppose the beauty of these little London moments is that it’s up to us to decide…

Peace Pagoda in the Park

I finally took a walk over to the other side of the muddy Thames to get a closer look at the Buddhist Peace Pagoda. It stands alongside by the river in Battersea Park and it was actually quite peaceful – a lovely sunny, beginning-of Spring day, people stretched out in the cool grass, on benches reading books, dogs chasing sticks through the park in the distance. Worth a visit on a nice day, maybe with a picnic lunch. 

Here’s a few photos:

Peace Pagoda 1

Peace Pagoda 3

Peace Pagoda 4

Peace Pagoda 5

For more info: http://www.batterseapark.org/html/pagoda.html

London Art Spot: Cordelia Donohoe

 

Meet Cordelia: Filmmaker, photographer, feminist. A woman with a most interesting background who has lived with the titles of hippy runaway, punk rocker and rude girl before a stint as a camerawoman on BBC News and some time spent making films and documentaries in between.  

Her work as a portrait photographer – particularly a project focussing on London’s many escorts and prostitutes – has influenced her latest artistic study of an “inner distortion that a woman goes through in order to commodify herself.”  

She’s taken a bit of time out to answer some questions for this week’s London Art Spot. Read on to hear about Cordelia’s experience of being photographed nude for the sake of her art, the way she uses photography to help her deal with her mother’s failing health and how her latest exhibition “Peeping Tom” explores the topic of voyeurism. She’s also shared her short film, “The Occupants”.     

Distortions Through a Pimp's Lens 1

 

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
CD:
 I’ve lived in London all my life and since I was a small child I have been affected by the diverse influences – cultural, social, etc –  that I have seen around me. My parents were antique dealers and they started out in Portobello Market. As a child and teenager I spent every single weekend there. It was a place of hippies, punks, indie bands, carnival as well as antiques, wealth and consoisseurship. It was an extraordinary and exciting place and I remember walking down the road at say 12 or 13 years and just staring at everyone and everything, taking it all in. That is what London is for me  – a melting pot of everything. One’s senses and preconceptions are assailed every day. There are always new ideas to be had. Sometimes it gets too much and you have to hide away to develop those ideas. I have lived in almost every part of London and now since I concentrate on making art, I’m poorer than when I worked in broadcasting and I live in Tottenham right on the River Lee. I’m between rural beauty and intense poverty with a city regeneration programme going on. It is a time of big changes and it is exciting. There is a sense of community here unlike other affluent or inner city areas. I would much rather be living here than in some established suburban area. I feel as if I’m part of something. And the river and reservoirs are just so beautiful.  

Distortions Through a Pimp's Lens 2

 

LLO: Tell us about your project put together especially for the See You Next Tuesday festival.
CD:
 The photographs on show at the New Players Theatre are part of a larger project I did about escorts in London, of which there are thousands. London has been described as saturated in prostitution by the Poppy Project, who undertake research in that industry. Escorting is basically prostitution with a ‘nice’ name and like lap or pole dancing has almost become normalised. As a portrait photographer, girls started coming to me for lingerie type shots to advertise themselves on the internet. I felt very weird about it and used these shoots and my interactions with the girls to question several things. In the process of constructing glamour photographs, you make a woman a “sight” and a commodity. This took me on a journey of looking at the history of the female nude and the pin-up photograph and from that I made a body of work using some of those portrait sessions with text asking questions about what the viewer is seeing. In the V-Day exhibition, I used photographs which came from me going myself to a pimp with a photo studio. She took nude photographs of me which I distorted and reworked to express something of the inner distortion that a woman goes through in order to commodify herself. There are also some other photographs in the show which came from my befriending one particular girl who retreated into some sort of fantasy world about being an angel or a fairy; I think in order to cope psychologically with what I believe can be a very traumatic experience. To be an other-worldly creature is to be able to transform things, to have a certain magical power. To be a prostitute is to somehow be transformed into a person outside the normal body of society, to be an outcast of sorts. I thought there was an interesting connection and dialogue between those ideas.   

Distortions Through a Pimp's Lens 3

 

 LLO: Your biography on the website starts like this:
“Born in 1965
Hippy runaway in the early 70s
Punk rocker in the mid 70s
Rude girl by the early 80s”
How does this background shape your film and photography today?
  
CD: Gosh, that is a big question. I think being some sort of rebel has made me ask questions and doubt official answers. I have always wanted to go deeper and look at the underside of things. But I am always amazed that actually there are no answers, it’s the process that is everything. Every project I undertake has no real end point; it is always the beginning of a long process of thought and questioning that then mutates into new questions. I do not really consider myself to be a photographer in the classic sense, I would rather call myself an artist who uses photography. I do strange things to conventional photographs, sometimes using found photographs, or I bring in disparate objects to make sculpture with them. All this goes beyond producing that ‘perfect shot’.     

In My Father's House, Girl in the Wallpaper 

LLO: Your current show, Peeping Tom, at Vegas Gallery in Bethnal Green is “exploring the notion of voyeurism and what art has to do with prying.” How does your art explore these ideas? 
CD:
 I am looking at the notion of looking from a woman’s point of view. I do not use photographs in the conventional sense. I want to get beyond what we might understand as prurient voyeurism to look at subjectivity and identity.   

The photograph I used for that show came from a shot of an escort in my father’s house. My father was very ill and I was looking after him. I was thinking deeply about my relationship to him and my status as a daughter and a woman when I took that photograph. In the picture I merged her into the wallpaper and wrote all over her. I was thinking of the quote from the bible. “My father’s house has many rooms, and I will take you to be with me, so that you can be where I am”. Here, I’m turning the father-son thing upside-down in looking at how a prostitute is actually the same as me or as any woman. She can never be a ‘prostitute’ to me, but only a reflection of my own womanliness.    

LLO: What piece of photography are you most proud of and why?
CD:
 I don’t really feel proud of photographs in that sense because as soon as you achieve one thing it’s onto the next challenge. But the photograph I most love is a recent photograph of my mother that came out as a double exposure by mistake, when I used an old-fashioned plate camera.  I put the plate in twice. When the image slowly formed on the paper in the chemical bath in the darkroom, I felt such massive emotion. My mother has Alzheimer’s and she is slowly forgetting everything. To me that photograph says something very poignant about that. Something about the dream of life, about letting go, about finding peace.     

 
LLO: Which short film are you most proud of and why?
CD:
Im most proud of the short film The Occupants, which is a portrait of the people I lived with in a squat in the 90s. I was quite judgmental of some of those eccentric types, but making the film made me appreciate and like them and find us all very funny.   

    

LLO: There’s a lot of talk these days about film and other digital work eventually replacing photography. Other people argue that photography will always have a place. Where do you stand in that conversation, being someone who is involved in both mediums?
CD:
I don’t think the moving image will replace the still image. They are different beings. The moving image involves time and sound, which are other dimensions. Old fashioned emulsion film has a wonderful feel to it and a nostalgia that will always have a place in my heart, but perhaps this is because I was born in the film age. I don’t know if younger more digital generations will have this attachment to it.  If you are talking about still photographs, well photographs are not truth; they are a reflection whether on emulsion or in digital signals of something that may have once existed and they often rely on context or need other information for their power. Chemical photographs have always been manipulated and changed, just think of the fashion in fake séance photographs in the 19th Century, or the Loch Ness Monster sightings. What has really changed is the ease of using and manipulating digital photographs. Anyone with a computer can do it, and the general public trust less and less the truth status of the photograph. I think it is a good thing, I like the democratization of the image, particularly via the internet and we should always take images with a pinch of salt. As for the look of them, digital images can have a more bright and contrasty aesthetic. But technology means that you can make digital look like film. Printing technology is so advanced, most people can’t tell the difference nor do they really care.   

Nadja - First Portrait Session

 

LLO: A lot of your work centres around certain projects, theories, stories, fictions, etc. It seems very driven by exploration of specific ideas. Can you talk about where your inspiration comes from?
CD:
I think at heart it comes from my burning questions about who we are and why we live the lives we live, what is important to us and what we love. We make up stories to make this time we have on the earth understandable, workable and bearable. Sometimes those stories work and sometimes they don’t. I’m talking about gender identity, society, religion, love and work – the biggies. Film and photography have a place in these constructs, we’ve been brought up with them, and that is why I use them to question these things.  

Both my parents were outsiders; we were a very small nuclear family. I did not grow up with certainty about who we were, with a large network of family or relations to bolster that so I guess my sense of family history and identity was limited and has caused me to be so inquisitive   

Nadja as Fairy

 

LLO: Where is your favourite place in London to take your camera?
CD:
At my parents house, I love taking photographs of my mother. Perhaps it’s because I’m trying to keep hold of her. I don’t know. Of course they won’t do this, but photographs of her affect me so deeply and I know that I will cherish them for the rest of my life.  I don’t think I would use them for an art project as I don’t have enough distance on them and perhaps never will.      

Thanks Cordelia!  

For more of Cordelia’s work, check out her website: http://www.lifelikepictures.co.uk/  

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.     

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

59 Brick Lane

I finally got down to Brick Lane to see the new widely discussed, and controversial 90ft “minaret”  or “structure” or “minaret-shaped tower” that now sits at 59 Brick Lane.

This building used to be the site of a French Protestant church, funny enough, which then transformed into a Methodist Chapel and later into a synagogue before it became the Jamme Masjid Mosque that it is today with the men’s entrance on Brick Lane and the women’s entrance around the corner on Fournier Street. Sermons are delivered in Sylheti Bengali as the majority of worshipers are Bangladeshi immigrants. 

Erected mid-December, the controversy falls around the fact that it was built with public money and the whole complicated debate of the place of religion vs secularism in communities. Original plans for Tower Hamlets Council regeneration scheme included a set of hijab-shaped gates as part of a “cultural trail” around Brick Lane.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

London Art Spot: Mythili Thevendrampillai

Mythili’s Tamil background and the religion in which she was raised form a strong foundation for her impressive body of work. Many of her paintings merge the gods and goddesses of Hinduism with modern day celebrities to create an open-minded vision of the role that traditional beliefs play in our lives today. With a solo show on now and her work being displayed alongside Tracey Emin and Chris Ofili from May 3 in the Elephant Parade, she is certainly one to watch.

Mythili has put down her paints and brushes for a few minutes this week to talk to us about the meaning behind her work, how living in London gives her creative freedom and what to expect from her current show.

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
MT:
 I feel unrestricted in London and can go where I want, make what I like and say what I feel. There is access to a wide variety of creative stimulus and social interaction with a large multicultural community.

As an artist having this personal and public freedom means that there is little pressure to censor anything that is produced.

LLO: How would you describe your style and technique?
MT:
I studied print-making, so techniques learnt in this process cross over when I paint. I still use a variety of objects to create stencils. Cooking ingredients are also used as stencils; kidney beans, chick peas and lentils create a pixel effect and the images can have a graphic look to them. A blue print skeleton is created through collage and drawing then silk screened onto the canvas. Layers are built onto the image with acrylic, oil and spray paint. 

LLO: Much of your work blends Eastern and Western culture which is interesting considering the generations of Londoners born to parents who come from Eastern cultures. What messages do you hope to communicate through your art?
MT:
The images that I have been working with recently are an attempt to bridge traditional tales and ideas with a contemporary understanding.  I want stories from different cultures to be accessible to anyone who is interested in them. I am keen for images to create curiosity so that people investigate cultural concepts on a deeper level.

LLO: What can we expect from a visit to your solo show “Desi Gods and Goddesses of the 21st Century” on now in Westbourne Park?
MT:
The paintings are about the ideas of God being a combination of different forces. I went to a Catholic convent and have family members who are Evangelical christian. As I was bought up as a hindu there were  contradictions in my understanding of God. It interests me why someone would or wouldn’t believe in God and how this entity can bear the brunt of glory and condemnation. I like looking at characters real and of mythology that people consider positive and negative. The paintings are a process of creating visual ideas of these forces.

My understanding of the gods and goddesses are that they are energies that have the potential to manifest in all of us. Different gods and goddesses have a variety of characteristics and qualities that can be expressed. I have incorporated well known and people I know within the images of the gods and goddesses to symbolize the notion of divinity living in us and us living in divinity. 

LLO: Your work is set to feature alongside Tracey Emin and Chris Ofili this summer as part of London’s Elephant Parade. Can you give us an idea of what we can look forward to when the elephants hit the streets?
MT:
The elephant parade will be a outdoor UK exhibition presenting 250 elephant sculptures uniquely painted and then auctioned of to raise money for the conservation of endangered elephants. It’s a wonderful project that I’m thrilled to be a part of. Lots of information can be found at www.elephantparade .org

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of and why?
MT:
It’s a painting in the show: Kali. It’s a self portrait. The original blueprint that I sketched was fairly timid with a playful facial expression and garlands of flowers around my neck. Kali is often depicted in pictures and statues in this passive representation, my mother supports this by her belief that “Kali has a sweet face”.  Kali is a force with conviction that eliminates the undesirable in a fairly extreme and aggressive way. My mouth is stitched up and razor blades replace roses. Shutting up and getting rid of things is the preferred option though the tendency can be to rant relentlessly and accumulate. I’m proud of this painting because a part of me thought it egotistical to make myself Kali and then I remembered that the incentive of the collection was to encourage people to accept their divinity.

LLO: Tell us a bit about your experience bringing creativity to the girls in Uttar Pradesh, India.
MT:
The girls at Udayan care were amazing, happy and incredibly motivated artists. We produced large scale mandalas that contained various geometrical shapes combined with text. The girls loved introducing vibrant colour to the designs that decorated statements about their strengths and ambitions.

LLO: Favourite London exhibition space/gallery?
MT:
I’m very fond of the Hayward. Although I went to the Wapping Project a few nights ago and loved the gallery space there. It has a haunting atmosphere and makes you feel quite sensual.

LLO:  Do you have any other shows later this year?
MT:
I am showing work in Bangalore and Delhi later this year.

Thanks Mythili!

Note: All of the above paintings are 30 x 40 inches, acrylic, oil and spraypaint on canvas.

For more of Mythili’s work, check out her website: www.mythiliart.co.uk/

See her solo show, Desi Gods and Goddesses of the 21st Century, now:
Venue: London Print Studios
Address: 426 Harrow Road, W10 4RE
Dates: Now – 13 March (Tuesday – Saturday)
Time: 10:30am – 6pm
Admission: Free 

 For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.