About wearesweetart

Sweet ‘Art is dedicated to the promotion of artists through the delivery of regular site-specific exhibitions. With a specific emphasis on working with artists who are marginalised from the marketplace, Sweet ‘Art aims to provide an accessible and inclusive space for looking at, thinking about and debating art.

Art at a Distance by Sian Matthews

Over the last few weeks, I have seen more and more galleries and museums opening, and in turn lots more people venturing out of their homes after lockdown to visit them. I would love to be one of those people. Some of the exhibitions I have seen opening look amazing! But I am just not ready to get back out there yet. Here is why…

If you have seen or met me at a Sweet ‘Art exhibition or event you may have noticed my skin condition. It’s called Atopic Dermatitis and is an autoimmune disease. To treat this, I take some extraordinarily strong immunosuppressive medication which switches off the parts of my immune system which are over reactive, therefore lessening my symptoms and pain.  Unfortunately, this means that I have a compromised immune system and am at higher risk of contracting an infection or virus and have less to fight with if I do catch something.

On top of this I am also asthmatic and talk weekly with a psychiatrist because of PTSD symptoms stemming from a hospital stay several years ago in which I almost died after contracting a virus.

Because of all this I was put on the shielding list at the start of lockdown and have spent most of the year avoiding literally everyone but my cat. Its been a rough year all round hasn’t it?

So why am I telling you this? Because although I am still not ready and am honestly a little frightened to go back out into the world of galleries as of right now, I have been finding ways to view art outside of my house and I want to share what I have been doing to experience art at a distance.

Firstly, at the start of August I booked tickets for the latest exhibition at Houghton Hall featuring Anish Kapoor. I had previously visited this stately home in Norfolk back in 2018 for the Damien Hirst exhibition and so I felt safe attending knowing that 90% of the artworks are outside in the grounds. For this exhibition, the house itself was closed, with the exception of the main hall which housed several smaller mirrored works.

Houghton hall is a fair distance from home, but I really felt the need to just get out and go somewhere other than the park behind my house and I did enjoy the day!

The exhibition itself was ok, I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of Kapoor, not much of his work excites me but the work which was on display was a great contrast to the grounds of the house and included everything from large scale installations and marble sculptures to smaller works and drawings. The house is also home to an impressive permanent collection of works by artists such as Rachel Whiteread (a personal favourite), Richard Long, and a SkySpace by James Turrell, who had an ambitious exhibition of his light works at Houghton hall back in 2015.

The main attraction for this latest exhibition is the piece “Sky Mirror” which as the name suggests is a huge circular mirror angled towards the sky on the front lawn. We probably picked the worst day to go and see this work because it was grey and overcast the entire day. No beautiful reflections of blue skies and clouds for us!

Moving on, as a chronically ill person I have a lot of hospital appointments to attend and not all of them can be moved online or turned into a simple phone call. Since Lockdown began, I have had 4 in person appointments to attend at both Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospitals. These appointments give me a valid and essential reason to travel into central London and so I have been using them as an excuse to explore the many public artworks on display around our city.

I am also truly fortunate to be a patient at a hospital with an extensive art collection and a rich history which it is proud to show off in the countless displays and cabinets dotted throughout its maze of corridors.

My personal favourite from St Thomas’s is this stained-glass window “The Window of Life” situated on the ground floor of the hospitals South Wing.

Outside the main entrance to St Thomas’s hospital is “Cross the Divide” by Rick Kirby which was commissioned for the hospital by the Guy’s and St Thomas’s charitable foundation in 2000. I’ve walked past this sculpture hundreds of times over the last few years and I haven’t really paid it much attention but one of the side effects from the current pandemic and lockdown is that we have more time to notice things which would normally blend into the background.

After my appointment that day I walked across Westminster bridge and up to Trafalgar square to see the latest installation on the Fourth Plinth. A giant swirl of whipped cream with a cherry, a fly and a drone on top, which transmits a live feed of the square, titled “THE END” is the latest work by Heather Phillipson and is a comment on the use of Trafalgar square as both a place of celebration and of protest. Which was quite apt really because the day I visited it was full of police waiting for one of the Extinction Rebellion protests to pass through on its way to parliament square.

The week after this I found myself back in central at another appointment, this time at Guy’s hospital which for those unfamiliar is right next door to The Shard and London bridge station. I again used this opportunity to walk across London bridge into the city proper to see a few of the artworks currently on display as part of Sculpture in the City.

Admittedly it was much busier than I anticipated with a lot of people at that time returning to their offices, so I didn’s stay around too long and only saw 4-5 out of 21 artworks. Favourites being “Botanic” by Jennifer Steinkamp and “The Source” by Patrick Tuttofuoco.

This edition of Sculpture in the city has been extended to the spring of 2021 so if you’re like me and aren’t ready to get back into galleries just yet, there is still plenty of time to discover the works in this installation.

For now, this is all I have managed to get out and see since the start of lockdown. But I can’t finish this blog without mentioning Sweet ‘Art’s own contribution to viewing art at a distance.

The Art Hunt is now up and available for all your socially distant art needs. It includes over 30 of our favourite artists and is a self-led art trail around Shoreditch in East London. You can search for all the stops by yourself, as a socially distant activity with a friend, all in one go or in small chunks. Totally up to you!

For more information on The Art Hunt and to book tickets (pay what you can) click here! Download your map, stay safe and enjoy!

The Art Prize

Although much of London seems to be opening up now, including many of the large gallery and museum spaces (Tate just reopened this week), many of us are still choosing to (or having to) stay away from potentially crowded areas or indoor public spaces at the moment.

For this reason, I’m grateful for some smaller exhibitions in galleries and spaces where it’s possible to socially distance. The first real-life exhibition I’ve been to since March was The Art Prize, which is being held at the offices of Ashurst law firm in Spitalfields. Thanks to the fact that this is held in the entrance and lobby of a workplace, there are safety measures in place to ensure social distancing and there were only a few people passing through. If you go on a weekend day, there is also much less likelihood of many other people being there at the same time.

The Art Prize

The Art Prize is held annually and is open to emerging artists working in any medium. I was initially unsure how much I would enjoy seeing art in such a corporate space. I’ve seen art in office spaces before and the décor and atmosphere can often strip artworks of their meaning, making them flat and lifeless. This may be more down to the choice of art shown in these spaces, than the spaces themselves as work shown for The Art Prize was lively and felt more as if it was in dialogue with the space, than being suppressed by it.

The Art Prize

One of the first pieces we saw and loved was Grace Su’s large painting in the first area. The painting was in muted tones and at a first glance, not looking with any real concentration, I thought that this was a figurative painting of a woman in a bed and someone sitting at a table -so far, so Lucian Freud. Looking again, I noticed the odd split panes and framing of the images. Looking closer still, my eye was drawn to what was happening at the very top of the piece – a woman, drowning in spaghetti! Was this the figure who was sitting at the table? It was clear that there was all sorts of hidden narrative in this work. Reading the text about Grace, I also discovered that “Her representation of women often acts as a re-appropriation of historical paintings – produced by men. In re-appropriating female images from a perspective of art history, her work resonates with the context of the ‘personal and historical’” which of course makes me love her work even more!

‘Safe Haven’ – Grace Su

I particularly enjoyed the second area in the exhibition. Here, a very colourful and exuberant selection of work transformed a waiting area.  A large work by artist Donal Sturt (you can read an interview with him here) was an eye catching piece, for its use of childlike drawing and lettering. It looks as though a bunch of small children had been let loose on the canvas with paint – the kind of art that would produce the (literal) comment “my 2 year old could have done that” – although Donal’s tool being retro computer program MS Paint adds another dimension to the piece, and again, an interesting piece to see in a modern office space.

Another work which I think interacted particularly well with its unusual setting was Stefan J Schaffield’s piece ‘Sculptural Skin’. This was placed in a nook with a wire mesh backing (I’m guessing this is an interior design feature to let more light into the space). Seen from one side, the piece looked framed by the nook, from the other side, it was imprisoned. Reading later about Stefan’s practice exploring ideas of vulnerability and fragmentation, I think the ‘cage’ element added by the placing of this work really works and adds to his intention.

I really enjoyed so many of the works in this great exhibition, and loved the fact that colour was key in many of the works I saw. In the final room, I loved Pippa El-Khadi Brown’s piece Takeaway? – a huge, expressive painting, where I have no idea what’s going on, but with such attention to detail like the chessboard and pot plant. What’s not to love?

Pippa El-Khadi Brown – ‘Takeaway?’

Another artist whose use of colour is what drew me in, but in a very different way, is Rachel Rodrigues. In her work, the subject was very clear –  ‘The Sitting Room in Summer’ showed a family group posed for a portrait. But, the colour is slightly ‘odd’ – everything seems a bit red. Reading about her work, I find that she sees colour as a psychological tool to offer greater depth of meaning. Looking at more of her work online, these wonderful, lush, odd, jarring colours are a staple element in her painting.

‘The Sitting Room in Summer’ – Rachel Rodrigues

Finally, I want to mention Shannon Alonzo’s work which “embodies the exploration of Caribbean diaspora identity, specifically, the tension created through historical omission and the desire to re-imagine a collective sense of self.” Her piece ‘Development of Nonconformity’ drew me in as it is a contemporary take on historical scientific drawings. A close up geological cross-section reveals tools/weapons and skulls and bones. For me, it asks me to consider who I may be walking over, ignoring violence to, or ignoring the deaths of in my history or geography, and therefore my present existence.

‘Development of Nonconformity’ – please excuse the reflection in my photo – see Shannon’s website for better images!

I really look forward to seeing more from these artists – crossing fingers for lots of positive feedback for all of them on this great exhibition!

The Art Prize is on now until the 25th September at Ashurst London and you can also see content about the artworks and artists online.

Lockdown Art, part 3 – by Sian Matthews

Following on from Charlotte and Corrina, and a couple of months into lockdown I’m here to share the artworks I see every day in my own home. Like many people right now I am missing visiting galleries and museums. As much as I am enjoying seeing everyone share their work via social media and think it is brilliant that galleries are making their collections available online (including our own online show!), there is nothing like experiencing great art in person (and lets not forget the social aspect of gallery visits!).

I am definitely very fortunate to own and be able to display art in my home and the extra time I have found myself with as of late has meant that I have been able to appreciate it more than I would have under “normal” circumstances. A large amount of the art I own also means something to me on a personal level, most of it created by friends or linked to past experiences and memories, it has helped me feel connected to the world beyond my own four walls in these trying times.

Main gallery wall.

First up are two of the four portraits created of myself at our second ‘Intersect portraiture project’ on IWD 2019. These were drawn as the practice round by our artists before guest sitters arrived, to get acquainted with the process and with each other. The other two drawings from this sitting are safely tucked away in storage, not just for space reasons but also because its probably a little narcissistic to have a whole wall full of images of myself above my bed, right?

Next up is a print by artist and illustrator Steven Rhodes which is actually a birthday card from a friend which I framed on account of it looking a little like me and my cat Phoebe.

Two of the artworks I own were made by friends while at University and were destined for the skip after being exhibited at Free Range in 2016 due to a lack of storage opportunities. Obviously I felt awful that my friends were having to bin the work they had poured all their efforts into the last few months and which had earned them their degrees so I saved what I could. This ended up being ‘Red painting on wood’ by Kinga Pilarska and 1 of the hundreds of random Gnome heads created by and scattered around by Robin Gosselin-Monasevic.

Another artwork hanging on my wall and created by a friend is this print by Jess Nash, who you can read more about in my previous blog “An Interview with Jess Nash

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a ‘thing’ for print making, especially etchings, woodblocks, lino, and cyanotype. I always appreciate the processes of making the art work, sometimes more than the final outcome and the piece itself! which is why printing in all it’s forms, watching artists carve and mark blocks, as well as exploring these processes myself in my own work appeals to me. So, you could imagine my excitement when I discovered printmaker and tattoo artist Lacey Law on Instagram. Her work is often much more figurative than I would usually be drawn in by, most of her woodblock prints are tattoo flash in a different medium to the typical drawings on paper but I adore them.

Back in 2018 I was lucky enough to receive an edition print of ‘Comfort’ for my birthday from my partner and it has held pride of place on my wall ever since. I have been watching her carefully on Instagram throughout lockdown, (watching her carve blocks is oddly satisfying) and have been dying to get my hands on one of her smaller prints she has been making on paper scraps, but her work sells out in minuets and I have just not been quick enough…. Yet!

Do you know of the Stoned Fox meme? Chances are you have seen it somewhere even if you don’t know what it is first-hand, this taxidermy fox is a viral hit and has literally travelled the world. His creator Adele Morse is an artist working in London who specialises in sculpture and taxidermy. Since the original fox went viral Adele has made many more anthropomorphic critters including a raccoon, a hedgehog, some rats, many more foxes and a little goat named Billy, who also recently became a viral sensation in Morocco for being the spawn of Satan/witchcraft/a summoned demon of some sort (You couldn’t make it up!).

Last year Adele tried to get her original fox back from some people who had broken him and generally treated him quite badly, the catch was that to get her own artwork back she was going to have to buy him back. To raise the funds for this a friend of Adele’s set up a GoFundMe to bring the fox home! For a small donation you would be sent a print of the fox and the knowledge that you helped an artist regain some control of her own work.

At one of the 2018 TOAF fairs two illustration students turned their stall into a participatory project, inviting visitors to have their animal portrait drawn. I still have my cat portrait framed on the wall.

Because of recent development work in the town, last year a group of artists and designers in Harlow found themselves having to say goodbye to their studios at Gatehouse Arts. The decision was made by Abbie and Harry at SnootieStudios to put on one last goodbye show in their gallery in which they celebrated the work created in the studios as well as works by artists who have had a past connection to the studios and gallery or who just live and work in Harlow. Having grown up in the town and previously working on an exhibition in the gallery with a group of friends back in 2015 I was able to submit and exhibit my own etchings in the exhibition along side many others.

For the Private view Abbie and Harry made their own home brew beer in the bathrooms of the studios and bottled it in vintage (unused) medicine bottles and printed up their own labels, naming their creation ‘good booze’.

I’ve known Abbie and Harry for many years and this eccentric idea and design is so typically them, I had to keep a bottle! It now sits proudly in my kitchen with Audrey, my Venus fly trap… because why not?

And lastly, for this blog anyway, sat on my bookshelf is a memento from the first exhibition I was involved in with Sweet ‘Art. I created these 3D representations of the Femfest posters by casting a real Femfresh bottle in plaster and then painting. Originally created as special press invitations we also had a few on display at the exhibition itself, do any of you remember them?

There are other artworks scattered around the house, including some of my own work so maybe if this lockdown carries on much longer I’ll do a Lockdown Art part 3.5 and show off a few more examples but for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed snooping around my collection!

An Interview with Suzie Pindar, by Charlotte Elliston

Hopefully you’ve been enjoying our lockdown blog so far. This is the second in our series of our artist interviews and ‘studio visits’ via video conferencing software (check out Sian’s interview with Justine Winter for the first).

A few weeks ago I got to meet artist Suzie Pindar, who also creates under the name The Naked Artist, to talk about her artistic practice and current work. As Suzie’s home doubles up as her studio, she had plenty of material to show me and discuss. We begin by talking about some of the pieces I had seen in the online exhibition #43 Artists . I particularly enjoy her collage pieces. As a keen reader of mysteries, I find I am presented with a puzzle where I have to piece together the story from fragments. I am eager in this interview to find out whether the stories I am reading are the ones Suzie is trying to tell.

A piece by Suzie Pindar currently showing in #43 Artists

All 4 pieces in the online exhibition, and much of her work in general uses the written word, and language seems integral to her practice. Her method for creating these collaged pieces is to select an old, used book and highlight the words and passages which have a personal resonance. The books are chosen for their material, aesthetic and intellectual properties; although the words they contain are important, drawing Suzie to select the book, a bibliophile would also recognise the attention she pays to smell, colours and the texture of the paper. Once the highlighting is finished, the pieces are carefully torn from the book (another reason that the correct texture of paper is vital). Suzie then separates them into different bowls, which she picks from to create the collages. She said of the process “My thoughts become trapped in the leaves until they can be made into art” which is a very poetic thought and makes me think of my bookshelf as a cacophony of trapped thoughts, waiting to be heard.

As well as the 2d collages, she creates what she calls ‘art heads’, 3d representations of the human head built from the collaged word strips. These heads are made “as if talking to someone”. They are often created for a specific person, created from words Suzie relates to them; in effect they are a portrait of, and dialogue between both the recipient and the artist herself. Some of these include a dark humour, for example the piece ‘Dead Head’ is so named because the head fell off the neck.

Bookcover, 2018, Suzie Pindar

Suzie has been using text in her work since 2009. One of her early pieces involved cutting words and letters from magazines and using these to completely cover her body. She has also created a collaged bed frame, with echoes of Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’.

Like Tracy Emin, Suzie Pindar’s work is generated from internally. She looks towards herself in order to create work, and she says that her work is not created with an audience or viewer in mind but only “for myself”. She also says that often her making is “triggered by memories”, the feeling that there is an emotional state which needs to be expressed creatively. Her work feels organic, free-flowing, raw and often painful to look at, possibly due to this direct emotional creative process.

Time, 2005, Suzie Pindar

Another key strand in her work is her self-portraiture. She tells me that she sees her body as a canvas in her art; as an extension of the self. She uses her body to express herself when she feels unable to get her feelings down on paper. She sometimes then digitally manipulates the resulting images, using her instinct to create the final desired image. The self-portraits also deal with Suzie’s interest and fear of the aging process. She is interested in the physical changes ageing brings, but is also finding this scary as she has reached her 40’s. This fear is something artists have been examining in their practice forever, but can be seen as even more apposite from a female artist due to the pressures enforced on women by society and the media to remain looking young. This concern for the importance of self-image can also be seen in her dislike of social media, which she feels negatively impacts on mental health due to its reliance on surface and obsession with perfection.

Recovery, 2020, Suzie Pindar

Suzie’s nom-de-plume, The Naked Artist, represents an emotional nakedness and artistic vulnerability. The theme of mental health is recurring in much of her work. A trauma at a young age, along with family illness, leading to a severe depression is what spurred Suzie on to begin creating art. She found that creativity gave her release from her depression. Since then she has had other spells of mental illness and has always found that making and creating was helpful to her healing process. One of her aims is to “do one thing that scares you every day”, as if your life and mental health can be rebuilt after a breakdown, then anything is possible. She says that she wants her work and practice as an artist to offer hope to others that depression can be overcome.

I did, 2017, Suzie Pindar

Suzie has recently had her work published in What is Art, A5 Art, and Average Art magazines, has exhibited in Femmedaemonium exhibition, and currently has work in (Far From The) Turmoil exhibition online.

You can also see some examples of her work online https://www.thenakedartist.co.uk/ and follow her on twitter @suziepindar and Instagram @suziepindar

Lockdown Art, Part 2 – by Corrina Eastwood

So we are still here…..on lockdown. Anyone else forgetting what day it is? Sick of making banana bread? Cant remember what prompted you to make it in the first place? Filled with a gnawing feeling of existential anxiety but still working and walking (once a day) toward an uncertain future? Same.

But as we still cant go out and get our art fix or meet up with each other at openings to feel the important support we get from our arty community, here at Sweet ‘Art we plough on finding other ways to connect! We have created and shared all the online cultural resources we can find you, we have published Issue 2 of our T’Art zine for free for you to check out online! We will soon be hosting our first ever online exhibition The Great Leveller? complete with boozy zoom (keep an eye on our site and platforms for deets on how to join in!) and we are also continuing our dedication to the Sweet Blog.

Its my turn to share with you some of the art I have in my home….and do I ever have A LOT of art at home. This isn’t counting the amount of art that has been abandoned with me by artists post exhibitions. You know who your are!

It was hard to choose what to share of what I have around the house, hung and propped, in amongst souvenirs, books and random shells and stones Ive picked up from places and cant remember where!

…but I had to choose and here are a few bits I love….some in part because of the people who made them, and if there was ever a time to miss special people its now…..

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Starting in my garden office/studio I have this beautiful drawing by my friend Jerome Beresford of Malala Yousafzai. I bought this piece myself from our Have a H’Art fundraiser. 

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…also in my studio I have a gift from my dear friend Oli Spleen, the original art from the cover of his album Flowers for Foot Foot.  

 

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Inside my house now and I have this little piece by So-Ha Au who has exhibited with Sweet ‘Art and creates ambiguous ‘maps’ or ‘spatial landscapes’ as a way of locating and placing.

 

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This is Binary Forms No 76 by the talented Jess Clauser which is part of my landing art wall!

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Also on the art wall this beautiful Molly Parkin limited addition. 

 

 

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Moving up the stairs we have one of the many works I own by Diane Murphy. This one is called Uberfrau ‘From the Beginning’. There is something in medieval imagery of a pelican pecking its own breast and feeding the resultant blood flow to its starving chicks. Diane felt she had created a likeness of me in the Uberfrau! I think so too! What a gift! 

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Not sure who the artist is but I found this framed book page in a charity shop and loved this illustration ‘Alligator attacks a Bear’. 

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Ive been in my house 2 years now and still haven’t quite managed to fill my art wall. Im doing pretty well though! You can spot some of my own art on this wall and works by Lisa Mitchell, Alice Dyba, Robbie O’keeffe and a drawing of a rather beautiful unidentified women top right (lol) by the awesome Laura New!

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On the other side to my art wall and hanging with a monkey friend is a print by Polly Nor… because.. POLLY NOR!! 

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My favourite place, my bed. This one is by me as it goes very well with my purple wall. Its called Con Put His Hand Through the Window. Its an abstracted paining of the resultant cut and scarring from a time that my Dad accidentally put his hand through a window! He did stuff like that.

 

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Still in my bedroom Ive got a lovely little Nike wearing Walrus drawing by Laura New and a framed postcard by Klaus is Koming. The shell is from Mexico if anyones wondering. I can actually remember where that one came from.

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Moving into my new house, one of the things I thought about straight away was finding the perfect place to hang this Alexandra Linfoot embroidered silk piece. The embroidery says ‘Cunt’ so I call the piece ‘Cunt’ but I fear it may have had another name originally. Time to double check I think!

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Back downstairs now! Now I love this piece by the awesome Alice Steffen. I love Alice more than words can say and have know her so many years watching her practice develop and grow. This piece is a bloody bugger to dust though and I have a slight phobia of glitter that is not helped by it! I reckon the glitter and dust suffering is the greatest testament to how much I love her art though. 

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One gift and one theft here! On the right I just love this knitted piece by artist Jane Fairhurst. The little wax doll head is part of an gorgeous installation by Susan Fletcher that we exhibited many years ago in Hoxton arches for Hand Maid. The head was a spare and wasn’t needed and was left behind in the gallery so I stole it! I needed to be in my living room! I did confess to Susan who kindly gave a her blessing for its relocation. Perks of the job??

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This piece was bought by my partner and is by painter Jessie Dodington.  

 

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…and I couldn’t end before sharing this one. By the talented Shannon Lane the queen of casting! 

 

 

An Interview with Justine Winter by Sian Matthews

Continuing our series of featured artists from behind the lockdown wall, a meeting which would have included a gallery visit, coffee and cake in an actual coffee shop (remember those!?) and of course a conversation with artist Justine Winter about her practice and creative motivations has instead turned into a string of emails, sent from the safety of our homes! We are not letting this virus stop us from staying connected and having important discussions about art and the things that matter to us most. Hopefully once this crisis is over we can resume our original plans and update this blog, but for now…..

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Artist – Justine Winter

Primarily working with performance, video and installation, Justine explores themes of femininity to comment on and question the taboos surrounding women’s bodies as well as the importance of women and their voices within a patriarchal society.

My first encounter with Justine’s work was back in 2018 when I attended the private view of Free Range at The Old Truman Brewery. (if you have been reading our blog for some time you may recognise Justine from our previous post The curious, moving and brilliant new work of the 2018 graduates) Exhibited with Hereford College of Arts was Justine’s piece ‘Beauty is Pain’, and installation featuring wilted flowers pinned to the walls and entwined with vine like ropes woven from human hair, kindly donated by friends, family and in donation boxes dotted around her university. Embedded within, a video (linked below) showed the dry shaving and plucking of hairs from a friend’s body. The intent being to question the implied beauty standards for women in our society and to confront the taboo of women being seen having (or removing) body hair.

I remember seeing this piece as I walked into the room, the video playing in the corner with the flowers and vines creeping across the walls either side. It was bold yet graceful in its delivery and I was drawn in straight away. I knew this work had something to say to the world and I found myself wanting to hear it.

Eager to learn more about Justine and her practice I asked her about her time at university, how she came to work with themes of femininity and why she works with the materials she does. I was surprised to learn that she originally moved to Hereford to study BA Textile Design, but later transferred to Fine Art after discovering a need for more freedom and fluidity in her creative process as well as a shift in interests away from the more commercial ideas of textile design. On this move Justine said, At first this course unpicked my previous ideas of what art was, and provided me with a new, fresh way of thinking about ideas and themes within my work.”

And when I asked if she still works with textiles, or any of the techniques that go along with it she said I started the fine art course in a bit of a rut material wise, I had used all different mediums such as clay, drawing from reference, woodwork, video etc on various subjects. But these just didn’t feel as though they expressed what I was passionate about. I started to go back to my roots of using textiles as this felt the most comfortable. I decided on machine knitting where I started to incorporate my hair into the piece, this turned into three large hangings and they felt as though I had finally found my ‘thing’.”

Justine admits that her biggest influences are observing, learning from, and developing ideas around everyday life and experiences. She is also inspired by Carolee Schneemann, an American artist best known for her experimental multimedia works which explore sexuality, the body and gender.

 

Stemming from her interests in the everyday Justine uses ‘live materials’. These are things which she describes as living, dying, and decaying; for example, using pomegranates to represent the female body, and then letting them decay over time. She also includes her own body in performance work, along with hair and nails. On working with these materials Justine said I enjoy using materials that will decay and change over time, which for me causes the work to be alive. I feel as though by adding these elements of myself into the work, it creates a connection to the piece. There is an element of beauty that is added to the work through using materials that can live within it as their lives are being observed and admired.”

More recently during her MA Justine was given the opportunity to complete a residency which would in turn contribute to her course. Originally from the Rhondda Valleys in South Wales Justine chose The Big Pit National Coal Museum as both a link to her heritage and to explore the themes of her work within a predominantly ‘male’ environment.

While at the museum Justine had the chance to hear stories of what it would have been like to live and work there from ex miner and mentor Ceri Thompson. As well as take tours of the pits themselves, explore a boneyard for old machinery and equipment, she learnt about the women who would have spent time and worked at the mine, who’s voices have now sadly been forgotten. These stories, conversations and tours are what influenced her final creative outcomes as well as the works she created at the mine itself.

In total Justine made six works which were in direct reference to the mine itself and the time she spent there. Created both at the mine and back in her studio at university these works reflect upon not only the lives touched by the mine and the history of the place but also I am sure mimic the stories and connect the lives of people from mines up and down the UK. They seem to be a way for Justine to link who she is as a woman and a feminist artist now to her heritage and the broader histories of South Wales. Admittedly, when Justine first told me that she had participated in a residency at the coal mine, and knowing only of the work she had made previously I was a little sceptical of the connections between the two but was fascinated none the less. Now having heard what she has to say about the work produced during this time and the reasons why she chose to make work in such an environment I think it’s truly unique and find myself wanting to experience the work in person and learn more!

At this point in the blog I should probably show the work and explain it to you, but I think it is better to let Justine explain each piece in her own words.

“The piece ‘That’s the Price of Coal, See’, was created in the space at my MA exhibition. I was given a large room with breeze block walls and metal beams. I wanted to show the work produced from a performance to camera in this room because of its industrial aesthetic, and because it resembled a place of work to me.

This work wasn’t created at the pit purely because of the size of it, being around 14ft in length and width, I also wanted the work to be created within that room, as I felt the materials that I was using such as the pomegranate, could live their life cycle in the space.”

“Along with this work, I created five other pieces. The first, ‘Bread of Heaven’, was a film that I recorded at the colliery and shows an original decaying lift shaft with a sheet tied to it. This sheet represents the domestic life of the women behind the miners, it has spilt pomegranate juice over it which is a reference to the suffering that both men and women would have endured.

With the film, was the song Bread of Heaven sung by a male choir. A traditional Welsh song that was sung by the working men.”

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“The second piece, ‘Cradling’, was an image taken following the performance piece ‘That’s the Price of Coal, See’. This image was projected on the wall opposite the work and depicted me cradling a segment of the crushed pomegranate, a nod to the women who were raising the children and protecting the home.”

“For the third piece, I referenced the song Bread of Heaven again and before I started displaying the works in the space, I sat alone at night in the room and sang the hymn into a recorder. The recorder was then set with some headphones onto the wall. This singular, female voice contrasted with the drama of the male choir and created a feeling of empowerment and a tribute to those working women hidden behind the working men.”

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“The fourth piece in this room consisted of a table with a mechanical part from a machine found at the pit, surrounding this were a selection of dried wipes I had used to clean the coal off my body after the performance.”

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The last piece displayed two pieces of fabric splayed using nails to the wall. One piece was the clothing that I wore during the performative piece, now covered in old fruit and coal dust.

The other was a piece of fabric covered in coal, dust and rust I found on some machinery at the top of the colliery, where the old machines were left to decay.”

 

 

Which leads us to now. I was keen to find out what Justine had been up to creatively after finishing university. Like a lot of people, she admitted to struggling to keep up with her practice after finding herself out of education for the first time ever and without a studio or dedicated space for making. So, for now Justine is taking a break from making artwork and is instead focusing on working and saving money for her future.

I asked if there were any projects which she had been dreaming of realising soon or if she had any plans to exhibit her work in the future (After Covid obviously!), and was pleased to learn that at some point Justine would like to take the work she created during her residency at the coal pit and drag it through the mines as a performative piece! Which sounds amazing and I would love to see!

At the start of next year Justine has planned a solo exhibition back in her hometown of her mining work, saying It is so important to me to be able to show the work in the valleys where mining was so huge.”

This exhibition is due to take place in the attic of The Factory in Porth (where Dandelion and Burdock was created!)  between the 15th of February until the 5th of March 2021, with the private view being the 1st of March (St David’s day). Obviously it’s a long way off yet but I’m sure if you follow Justine on Instagram  and keep an eye on her website you can keep up to date with the exhibition plans (if you’re interested in seeing it) as well as everything else Justine gets up to!

And finally (I had to ask because what else is everyone talking about right now?), I asked Justine if she had been doing anything creative while in lockdown. Embroidering feminist slogans onto a t-shirt was exactly the answer I was looking for! As well as finally getting around to painting her attic and transforming it into a studio!

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I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Justine over the last couple of weeks, it has been fascinating learning about feminist art in a coal mine and on a more personal level I have appreciated having someone to chat to during these strange times. I hope the same is true for Justine and I hope our blog provides you with something thoughtful to experience and to break up your day during lockdown.

This will soon pass Sweet ‘Arts and when it does and we’re allowed out of the house, we will update this blog with our meeting and maybe some new art!

But for now, if you want to see more from Justine, I have linked her social media, website, and YouTube below!

 

Instagram – @Justinedianeart

https://justine-dianeart.weebly.com/

YouTube

Lockdown Art, Part 1 – by Charlotte Elliston

It’s been three weeks since serious preventive measures against Covid-19 hit the UK; businesses closed, and many of us became restricted to our homes. We Sweet ‘Arts are lucky in that we all have access to laptops and wifi, so can access the cultural resources that many museums and galleries are making available online. (I did a quick list at the beginning of the lockdown, but I think this has expanded greatly since then). However, we still feel that there is no substitute for experiencing a work of art in real life, rather than from a screen. So we are taking our art viewing a little closer to home, and really enjoying looking at some of the work we already have in our homes and will bring you a short series of blogs about some of the stuff we look at on a daily basis – getting stuck in to really seeing it and thinking about it, rather than just glancing at it on the way out of the door.

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From the film Ferris Bueller’s day off – they are not paying attention to the art!

Like many people who work with visual art, my home is full of the stuff. Pretty much every spare wall has some kind of image on it, and alongside this, there is the art I own, but don’t have space to hang (I live in a 2 room flat) but am saving until I have that ever elusive prize in London, a house of my own. I tend to only buy art  which I have a personal connection with; most of my artwork has been created by people I know, and a few of the pieces are much-loved gifts over the years. Here is just a small selection of what I’ve enjoyed looking at lately (please bear in mind that images are taken in my home, behind glass and not always in good light – follow the links to the artist pages for their professional shots).

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Untitled by Kevin Percival

Untitled? (2018) – Kevin Percival

If this piece did have a title, I’m afraid I have forgotten it – sorry Kev! This artwork comes from photographer Kevin Percival’s Tanera (Ar Duthaich) project. For 14 months, he lived and worked on the Scottish island Tanera Mor, once a port for herring fishing, but then a tiny community where a handful of people resided. The series as a whole is a beautiful and moving exploration of the end of a community and way of life (the island has now been purchased for development into a holiday retreat and there are no current residents on the island). I love the photograph I own due to its humour (the unexpected pair of legs emerging from behind the washing line), and unusual and contemporary take on the idea of the portrait. These elements, along with the clever composition and tangible texture of the grass, keep me looking at this piece again and again. The book with photos from the project is for sale on Kevin’s website and there are further images of his work on this and other projects online too.

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Some more images from the project in Kevin’s book

Fortune Cookie (2019) – Jenny Chan

I am a fiddler. At my desk at work, I’ve acquired a large amount of stuff that was going into the bin that I can fiddle with; 3d printed figures, a wooden farmer with one leg, bits of cotton tape and the like. On my home work desk, I’ve been able to pick some of my beautiful tactile items to enjoy. One of these is Jenny Chan’s fortune cookie, given to me by my friend Amelia who knows lots about contemporary ceramic artists. The artist was born in Hong Kong but now lives in the UK and much of her work explores her identity and Chinese heritage.

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My fortune cookie – excuse the old lady looking hands which are even worse then normal right now.

Nina (2019) – John Lee Bird

Nina Simone also sits on my home desk. The work is a lino cut in a vibrant red ink and seems to be taken from a publicity image of the singer. The piece comes from a series of 72 lino cuts created by John called Idle Love, where he explored his creative influences which continue to inspire him today.

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Nina by John Lee Bird

I love Nina Simone’s music and admire the way that she used her platform to speak (sing) about civil rights, women’s rights and racism. John often works with line and colour to create portraits of contemporary performers, and this recent series is an extension of his work as a painter – I visited his studio in 2014 and you can read the blog about this visit here. In this image, Nina oozes the power and pride she had in her black-womanhood and this is why I love it.

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Original 1955 publicity shot of Nina Simone

Boy (2013) – Joanna Layla

This piece was exhibited as part of Sweet Art’s Summer Show in 2013, which was my first exhibition on-board as co-curator. I loved Joanna’s sensitive minimal line, which captured the expression and absorption of the boy in this image, which was part of her collection of drawings created while travelling in South East Asia. As someone with a complete inability to draw from life myself, I also admire her skill in creating these images from sketches done on the move.

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Boy by Joanna Layla

Joanna has gone on to become a successful and very in-demand illustrator, teaching at London College of Fashion and Central St Martins as well as continuing her own practice. This piece on her website of Mary Katranzou’s designs is one of my favourites from her recent work.

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Mary Katranzou by Joanna Layla

This is just a tiny snippet of some of the art I have at home and, along with Corrina and Siân, we hope to introduce you to some more artists and their work over the coming weeks.

 

International Women’s Day 2020 by Charlotte Elliston

This week in the UK, we are celebrating the start of Women’s History Month, as well as looking forward to International Women’s Day on 8 March.

As an organisation working from an intersectional feminist standpoint, we love to take part in International Women’s Day and have had some (even though we say it ourselves) great events; from Y Not? , where we partnered with sister organisations Lensational and LPM to exhibit artworks internationally, to T’Art where we created our first collaborative zine and smashed the patriarchy in the form of Donald Trump, to our recent Intersect portraiture project at WOW Festival. Not forgetting of course, that Sweet ‘Art itself was founded with Show#1, our very first exhibition which took place for IWD 2013.

This year, we are having to take a back seat. An exhibition, to make it the showstopping all-singing-all-dancing event that our artists and visitors have come to expect, takes an awful lot of work (the vagina cupcakes alone take 2 days work). With limited time (and funds), we want to focus our energy in creating something more permanent – a home for Sweet ‘Art which we can occupy for longer than a week or two. So this is what we are working on behind-the-scenes, looking for ways to make this work.

We know that the work we do is still needed; The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, currently the only museum in the world dedicated to female visual artists, is using the hashtag #5WomenArtists, asking their followers if they can name five women artists – because, unfortunately, many people can’t!

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Looking back to our Intersect project in 2018

And we know lots of people have heard this before, but for those of you at the back, here are some stats about representation of women in the visual arts in the UK.

  • Only 9 out of 34 Turner Prize winners have been women (excluding this year where all 4 of the nominees shared the prize).
  • In 2017 only 28% of artists represented by major commercial galleries in London were women. (and over the past decade, 83% of LissonGallery’s solo shows, 71% of Hauser and Wirth’s solo shows, 88% of Gagosian’s shows, 76% of White Cube’s shows and 59% of Victoria Miro’s shows were by men)
  • At London’s major institutions only 22% of solo shows in 2017 were by female artists, falling by 8% since 2016 and by 3% since 2014–15.
  • In the National Gallery’s collection, paintings by female artists comprise less than 1%.
  • In terms of auction sales, the top female artist in 2018 was Yayoi Kusama, with sales of $102,532,176- far below the top male artist Pablo Picasso’s $602,865,747

So hopefully we can all agree that women continue to need support in reaching equality in the artworld. And that goes for double and treble when you look at things from an intersectional point of view and consider women with disabilities, trans women, women of colour, women from a working class background…

If ‘the arts contribute to collective identity through shared stories of experiences, including ones that challenge viewers to recognise the perspectives of the other’ then we really need to hear the voices of a multitude of women.

Sweet ‘Art are proud to have shown work by around 400 female artists since our formation, 79% of our total exhibited, in over 30 exhibitions. We hope to continue bringing you all exciting and challenging artwork for years to come. Thanks for all your support!

If you’ve ever been to a show, read our zine, had your portrait drawn or even checked out our pictures and artist work online, you might like to consider supporting us with either a one-off donation or via Patreon. For International Women’s Day we are offering our supporters an additional gift; if you are already a patron, or if you sign up to any tier between now and 9 March 2020, we are going to gift you one of our fab ‘reclaim’ totes as a thank you! Go on, you know you want one!

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Nab yourself a fab ‘reclaim’ tote by becoming our patron.

A belated Frieze week review by Sian Matthews

Well over a month after the big event I still have a lot I want to say and discuss, good and bad, about all things Frieze 2019.

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This year’s fair had a focus on the climate crisis and demonstrated this by including artworks such as Patrick Goddard’s ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ which uses hundreds of dead parakeets to ram the message home.

However, I haven’t seen much in the way of the fair itself addressing its carbon footprint, the only steps it seems to have taken this year is to switch to using biofuel.

One of the interactive projects this year was by the organisation Arto LIFEWTR who thought it was a brilliant idea to use PLASTIC bottles to display artworks by emerging artists and hand them out to visitors, along with pins by artist John Booth in exchange for posting about them on social media. I feel like I must have missed something on this because it just seems too tone deaf to be a real thing? I literally saw these bottles discarded everywhere all week.

Including at TOAF and Tate modern.

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I can’t understand why a fair with a focus on the climate crisis included an interactive installation which was centred around plastic bottles, something which as a society we should be using less of. Also, as I am writing this I am sat with a stack of handouts, newspapers, maps, all the paper that gets thrown at you while visiting the fair.

For a fair talking about climate change and carbon footprints there was a huge amount of waste. Something to think about.

Moving on to something more positive, One of the live artworks which I particularly enjoyed was an interactive artwork in which the participant becomes part of the piece after being asked to hold a feather duster perfectly still and to concentrate on not moving the feathers. Of course, this is impossible as the more you try the harder it gets. The feathers pick up the participants heartbeat and breathing so that you physically cannot hold it still. After the frustration subsides and you concentrate more on the movement of the feathers in time with your own heart beat it becomes quite relaxing, almost meditative.

 

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Woven: a curated set of stands at the far end of the fair focused on artists who work with fabrics, sewing, embroidery and other textile mediums was, I thought, one of the most thought provoking parts of the fair, and was pleased to see a less mainstream medium being celebrated. Included were Chitra Ganesh, Monika Correa and Cian Dayrit as well as many others. Working with themes and ideas such as Gender, Power, myth and reality, and historical narratives.

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Included in Woven was artist Angela Su who I completely adored and who’s work investigates perception and imagery of the body through metamorphosis and transformation. The works on display were almost like scientific drawings, delicate and beautiful, yet so real they were a little uncomfortable to look at. Looking closer at these drawings you realise they are incredibly intricate embroidery and honestly, I could have starred at them all day.

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Last year I mentioned that I was concerned that the representation of women at the fair was more of a fashion statement and less about real change. Although I stand by my concern, I was pleased to see that a lot of galleries embraced diversity this year, this was mainly the smaller galleries and stands but it was there, nonetheless. I noticed a lot of attention being given to artists from African nations which was fantastic to see, and I appreciated the introduction to some new an exciting artists.

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I also attended The Other Art Fair for the private view and at the risk of upsetting some people, I don’t have much to say about it. I always enjoy going, catching up with artists and friends but recently I feel like it is getting repetitive. I’m not saying it’s a bad fair, I would just like to see something new.

Finally, I visited the new Hyundai Commission at Tate modern which this year features ‘Fons Americanus’, a 13 meter tall fountain by artist Kara Walker. Inspired by the Victoria memorial outside Buckingham palace but exploring ideas and themes resulting from the transatlantic slave trade. I have long been a fan of Kara Walker and to see her work in the setting of the turbine hall was something quite special. Its open until April so I recommend a visit!

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“Living with” and Transformation: A Studio Visit with Artist Carolina Khouri by Corrina Eastwood

We continue with our studio visits of up and coming and established talented artist now, with a visit to the live/work space of painter Carolina Khouri.

Carolina is based in the Tottenham warehouse district very near to Sweet HQ. It was a pleasure for me to visit Overbury Rd this week, all in a completely sober state! Over the past ten plus years I have hung out at many of the warehouses in the district at parties and arty gatherings. There has been a turn over in my time of friends and art acquaintances that have lived and worked, and then moved on from the interestingly eclectic and ramshackle spaces of the warehouses that line one side of the road.

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I have lived near by for long enough to see walls built, kitchens added, spaces reconfigured and re realised for next generations, and of course the cross over and departure of old friends, new friends and then friends of friends! My warehouse living days were done in Dalston, long before it became too expensive to even rent a flat, let alone a space to work and live too.

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Carolina and I swap notes on the pros and cons of communal living with other creative’s as she welcomes me into the most amazing of living spaces. Half Lebanese half Polish, Carolina has lived in the UK for 15 years, and in the warehouses of Overbury for ten of those years. She recollects the building of the space to create what it is now, and the difficulties of keeping industrial properties warm! The communal living and kitchen space feels very warm to me, as is the welcome. I’m immediately feeling at home, understood and inspired. “I didn’t move to Britain, I moved to London” Carolina comments, and it feels to me she represents that which is so great about our city and the pockets of creative communities that hide out here. To me she feels to have not only found her London but also been very pro active in creating it. We agree to avoid talking about the “B word” (Brexit) too much. But of course even the avoiding of politics leaves us with the unavoidable issue of values. 

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Art and creative living appears to have been the language she has used to find and also manifest what she has needed, and we talk about her use of and fascination with colour in her practice, and of her ongoing process of trying to “learn the language of colour”. She explores with me the individuality of meaning found and expressed through different colours, both personally and culturally and I am then struck by wanting to consider her relationships to others and audience as an impact on her practice further. She goes on to explain that her studio space is on the path through the warehouses shared workspace, into the living space.

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She says she enjoys this and invites feedback on her paintings from her housemates and guests as they pass through. She speaks of the easy way in which this interaction influences her creations yet not explicitly or definitively. This seems to parallel her explanations concerning the way she uses the altering space and light to “live with” her paintings for a long time in between her process of direct making. This “living with” feels to directly link to Carolinas relationship to ideas of transformation in her work, which I can feel embodied in her painting, when we move into her studio to view them.

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From the Landscape of My Mind Series

This “transformation of feelings” that she describes as an aim in her practice and as being an antidote to the very idea that anyone would want to “buy her problems”, is very present in the aesthetic of her current work and her striking, bold and unapologetic use of colour. There is something of the somatic in viewing her large scale paintings and I find myself thinking again of this relationship of self and others as I fall into the rich depth of her resin pieces, while also being brought back by the feedback of the viewer that they create in their reflective surfaces.

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From the Landscape of My Mind Series

Carolina and I spend effortless time together looking at her current and then past creations. We do this while talking about life and art and how one responds to the other. We both speak of our privilege in being able to do what we do. Of the struggles we have faced but the “blessings” that we have been granted.

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From The Landscape of My Mind Series

Carolina speaks of the generous amounts of money sales of her works have raised for auctions for charities close to her heart. This all feels to be ‘held lightly’ by her in relation to her practice but for me feels so relevant and embodied in the pieces that I am very privileged to view.

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Street Archeology Series

 

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Street Archeology Series

I end my visit feeling energised and inspired but in a way that is unusual for me. In an instagramable world of endless lattes and side hustles, Carolina seems to really embody the idea that creativity does not always benefit from existing so demandingly closely to productivity. That we could all benefit more from exploring a greater sense of “living with”, to create depth and richness of both our art and experiences.

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