An Interview with Jessica Nash by Sian Matthews

An artist working predominantly with photography in east London, Jess works with themes such as touch, skin, sex and cancer and uses these themes to explore her own relationships, fears and curiosities on an incredibly personal level. On the surface her photographs are very clean, beautiful to look at and are reminiscent of the surreal and eccentric images used to sell perfume or jewellery in editorial magazines. However, once you peel away that serene exterior it is clear that her images are a way for the artist to explore and understand the sometimes hard-hitting issues she faces in her personal life. Like many artists Jess uses her work as a way to document and catalogue her struggles as well as a form of healing and understanding. I met up with Jess to discuss the topics and motives behind her work and to get to know her a little more as an individual, away from the sometimes gloomy subject matter of her work.

IMG_0473

Infectum Pellis, Jess Nash

Infectum Pellis is an ongoing project in which the artist is further examining her relationship with skin and touch. These photographs show the skin as tense and restrictive, reflecting the way haphephobia, the fear of being touched causes the artist to feel in her own skin. Jessica’s practice is heavily influenced by her relationship with skin, sex and cancer.

 

It has been couple of weeks now since I met up with Jess in Loughton to get a coffee and I had planned to start our interview with some silly, light-hearted questions just to break the ice and to  have a little fun, the ice was broken however when I found myself waiting for her after she found a hoard of old Polaroid cameras in a charity shop and her excitement got the better of her (who doesn’t get excited over old cameras in charity shops though, right?).

Once we were sat down, coffee in hand, we started to chat about how Jess currently works for Polaroid and generally had a catch up. I should mention here that I have known Jess for a couple of years now, having met after being invited to exhibit alongside her and a few other artists at ‘The Body Exhibition’ in Peckham. An exhibition exploring the relationships between artist and body which Jess had organised in conjunction with her degree.

The body exhibition

 

Once that was over with, we started the interview with some quick fire questions!

 

Q. Do you have a favourite artwork or an artwork you feel drawn to?

A. I don’t think I have just one favourite piece, there are a few that come to mind. But the book ‘Pond’ By Clair Louise Bennett, although not an ‘artwork’ really stands out and is important to me.

 

 

Q. Is there a song, a piece of music or a band that inspires you?

A. Again there’s a few, I love listening to Ludovico Einaudi in the studio and when I’m working, its something easy to listen to and have on in the background that isn’t too distracting. I also enjoy listening to James Blake for similar reasons and i also feel inspired when listening and dancing to old Motown.

Picked for the blog –

 

Q. Can you name 3 artists who have inspired or informed your work?

A. Mia Dubek, Alix Marie and Marina Abramovich. I’m not necessarily inspired by them anymore but they have informed my work in the past. Particularly with Marina Abramovitch, I once loved her work and she inspired me a lot but now I’m not sure I like her at all, she seems to have an arrogance about her now that I don’t like, I know that’s quite an unpopular opinion and very controversial because everyone seems to love her but I am just not into it anymore. (It is controversial but… I completely agree!)

 

Also see: https://miadudek.co.uk/Publications

 

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve, and why?

A.I have a lot. But definitely people who breathe too loudly, or people who breathe on you on the tube. I really hate it when you can feel someone’s breath on you.

 

Q.If you could choose, what super power would you have and why?

A. Errrm, it’s not really a superpower but something I would love is to have the ability to have eaten without actually having to stop to eat. I find stopping what I’m doing to eat very time consuming and I wish I could eat without having to eat. If that makes sense?

 

Q. Do you have a favourite museum or gallery? Or an exhibition you have visited recently that really stood out to you?

A. I think one of my favourite galleries is the König Galerie in Berlin because of its architecture. It has super high ceilings and the light is amazing.

 

Galerie-Berlin

 

Q. What do you dislike about the art world as a whole?

A. There are too many people trying to break into the industry and technology makes it too easy and too difficult. Its so over saturated because its so easy to put yourself out there via social media, like Instagram, that its also difficult to get noticed, whether its for your artwork or for a creative job.

 

Q. Other than art and photography, what interests do you have?

A. Since finishing Uni I have been pushing myself to try new things as a way to stay creative, its hard to stay in that mind set when you don’t really have a space to work in that’s dedicated to art, like a studio or other people to work with and bounce ideas off of. I have recently taken up crochet, needle punch and other yarn-based crafts. I recently started going skateboarding too because its out of my comfort zone and I am trying to push myself. Other than that I also enjoy doing a lot of stereotypical ‘hobbies’ that people say they do, except I actually do them, like reading, cooking, yoga and gardening.

 

Q. What is your earliest creative memory?

A. The first photo I remember taking was of my family on the beach, I was about 4 I think. I cropped my dad’s head off by accident.

 

Q. If you could visit anywhere on earth, where would you go?

A. Anywhere with a lot of stars! There is a place in Ireland where you can see the most stars anywhere on the planet because of the way its positioned. I’d love to take a trip there. I also really like Cornwall. I wouldn’t go far, just somewhere beautiful.

 

Moving onto the more serious questions I wanted to talk about Jess the artist, I wanted to find out about her thought processes and the motives, themes and inspirations behind the work she creates. So I started off broadly..

 

Q. To start, what exactly is it that you do? In terms of what mediums do you use, what do you aim to explore and what do you want to portray to the audience?

A. I take photos as a kind of therapy, I find that it’s a way to talk about something and communicate with the world without being static. I often think of myself as being very monotone in the way I talk about things and the way that I explain things, photography is an easier way to be expressive and show more feeling.

I also chose to use film because it’s much more tactile than digital, you end up with a physical object to hold and a process to follow – it mimics the idea of being about touch.

 

Old Wives Tales

Old Wives Tales is a diptych of self portraits. The photographs show a perhaps uncomfortably literal version of the artists memories. From a young age, the artist would bathe with her twin brother and whilst she would make ‘potions’ with whatever shampoos she could find, her brother played with rubber sea creatures. Their mother once told them a story of how the rubber octopus might use his suckers and tentacles to wrap around their feet and pull them down the plug hole. The second photograph shows of a hoop earring being pulled, looking back at when she was told that to wear them would meant that she would one day ‘rip’ her ear out.

 

Q. What themes do you use in your work and why?

A. I used to work with skin as an object – how you use it to communicate with the world. My twin brother was diagnosed with melanoma, skin cancer, it really started to affect me and unavoidably my work began to be influenced by both his struggle and mine. I also use my work to explore the tense and restrictive way my haphephobia, the fear of being touched, causes me to feel. At the same time I also started to investigate how skin can be used to convey more of a sexual message, separate from my other work.

 

one of two

one of two

Through my series One of Two I was able to show the relationship between my twin brother and I. Shot in our home studio, The series uses natural light to show the organic nature of our relationship and how although we are growing together, we are also growing apart. Using a white background allowed me to show him as one. This project was a way for me to acknowledge how independent we have become from each other.

 

Q. And what made you think to make art about this subject matter?

A. It came completely naturally, when something so significant is happening with your home and personal life you can’t help but let it spill over into other things, in some ways making work about everything that was going on was cathartic, it was a way to release it all into something, it was freeing. While I was making this work I also had a separate project that was sort of documenting a relationship and a person who was absolutely nothing to do with my home life. I feel like I had to have this project running alongside my other work as a distraction.

 

Q. Where do your ideas and inspirations come from? What kind of research to do you?

A. I read a lot, both literature and poetry. Weirdly I don’t look at other photos or photographic artists, I get a lot of inspiration from watching videos, films, specifically home videos. I also like to just talk to people. You get a lot of information just by talking. And people watching. I guess my research style is very non traditional, I like to collect things and getting lost in Instagram.

 

Q. Are there any inherent qualities that your work has that you dislike?

A. I don’t like that it has a trendy aesthetic and a trendy colour pallet, it means that people don’t ask the right questions and a lot of the time they take it at face value. I also feel like it needs to have more writing to accompany it at shows because people don’t get it. But that defeats the object really.

 

Q. What is the most memorable response you have had to your artwork? (coincidentally, Jess asking to exhibit my work after seeing it at Free Range the year before is mine!)

A. My work was shown in the largest photography exhibition in China, they asked for my work to be sent as a digital file with printing instructions which I did. They ended up printing it on the wrong paper, the wrong size and then hung them in the wrong order. It was crap and I was really disappointed. What I thought was a great opportunity was ruined.

One of my brother’s friends has recently got his own place and wants to buy one of my photographs and not just because we’re friends, he genuinely wants to buy my work and it’s a massive compliment!

I’ve also got my work onto the front cover of the Royal Photography Society magazine which is a huge achievement and I am very excited about.

 

Royal Photographic Society

 

Q. What is your dream project? Art or otherwise?

A. I really want to try printing onto latex and making garments. With latex though, it’s extremely hard to work with and expensive which is holding me back. I don’t have a space to work in at the moment or anywhere to store stuff.

 

Q. What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

A. ‘You are responsible for what you’re doing’, there is no use getting stressed about your art work because it is only what you make it. Sometimes it is good to be reminded of that. And also ‘you’ve got time to do what you want to do’

 

Q. Professionally, what is your goal?

A. Right now my goal is to have my own studio space – to find people who I can collaborate with – I just want to be making. I also don’t want my job to be my artistic practice, I want there to be a break between the two.

I would love the opportunity to exhibit my work in the RA Summer exhibition and I want to go back to Uni and study for a MA at Bournemouth.

 

Q. And lastly, what’s next for you? What can we expect to see from you in the next year or so?

A. I want to start a new Polaroid project, maybe something to do with collage. I like the medium, I like that its instant. I’d like to start putting myself forward for more opportunities and exhibit my work more, possibly across Europe?

 

I just wanted to finish by saying a big thanks you Jess for her time and if you want to explore Jess’s work further you can do so by visiting her website or via social media, links below!

jessicanash.co.uk

Instagram – jess.a.nash

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet ‘Art Interviews Evelyn Jean – by Charlotte Elliston

Sweet ‘Art has worked with and exhibited hundreds of amazing artists over the years. You’ll see their work on our social media and website, and if you are able to make it to some of our exhibitions, you’ll see their work in real life and maybe get to meet them.

We know that lots of our followers, readers, and friends aren’t able to come and see all of our exhibitions in person. You might have loads of questions about some of our artists, and their work. So we have decided to bring some of our wonderful artists to you – through the medium of blog! Over the next year or so, we will be talking to a varied selection of visual artists about their work and career and will be publishing the results right here.

First up, I went to meet Evelyn Jean in the Hawksmoor bar in Knightsbridge. Evelyn has been exhibiting in Sweet ‘Art shows for 5 years. His work first came to our attention when he entered our open submission for our Seams exhibition, and it has continued to intrigue  and excite us ever since.

rpt_soft

Artist Evelyn Jean

Evelyn Jean had an early creative influence in the form of his mother, who was a painter. However, like many of us when we are young, he wanted to be a “rock ‘n roll star” and his early career developed into a musical one. He was front man in a band which gathered a cult following, but found that the compromise needed when creating with a group of people left him unsatisfied artistically; having seen work by the performance artist Marina Abramovic, Evelyn was keen to introduce elements of performance art into his music, feeling that much of what he wanted to communicate with an audience was ‘unspoken’ and could (or should) not be easily communicated via the lyrics of a song.

From the world of music, Evelyn Jean first began his visual art career making films. You can view a selection of these on his website, and also informed me that these were part of a recent exhibition called L’Age D’Or at the Kunstkapel in Amsterdam. Watching the films at home, I can see his rejection of the verbal, as many of his films (which all feature himself as the main protagonists) are in the form of the early cinema’s silent films. The actor communicates emotion and plot via his facial expression and movement within the frame, whilst the soundtrack sets the mood and tone. I particularly enjoyed his film First Date which starts off as a light, humorous piece about a man falling in love with a mannequin – almost rom-com in tone (and yes, I AM a fan of 80’s classic Mannequin), then degenerates into a dark take on the Pygmalion myth, and finally ends as something more akin to Bride of Chucky. The fact that it draws on these filmic tropes to explore objectification and sexual violence towards women makes it an interesting piece for us Sweet ‘Arts. Evelyn says that he feels his films often come from a darker place than his paintings, dealing more directly with fear and trauma and expressing these as an actor as well as an artist.

first date

Still from First Date (2013)

DP-14201-005

Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Léon Gérôme (Image courtesy of The MET)

From his filmmaking, Evelyn then began to move towards painting. He has had no formal training in painting, he “just went to Cass Art, bought some canvas and paint and said let’s go!”. He says he found having no training difficult – isolated from the artworld and having no contacts, he almost gave up. (We are rather glad he didn’t). He says that drawing is only a very small part of his practice – unlike many artists, he doesn’t sit and sketch, and prefers to write. I find this interesting as text and words do seem key to his work, both in his films (where it is used either as subtitles at the bottom of the screen, or flashcards to introduce a scene) and paintings. In paintings such as Abandoned Parisian Rescue 79, the text ‘Please forgive me I can no longer live with my nerves’ is emblazoned across the top third of the canvas, whilst two (?) figures sit in the back seat of a car, possibly chased by a man with a torch. Are they running away from a sinister figure, or criminals being chased by the law? Does the text express their feelings, or ours? The painting comes from a series titled What is the Script and Evelyn Jean’s relationship to film, narrative and language can be seen throughout this series by his use of storytelling, framing and other filmic devices.

pls forgive me

Abandoned Parisian Rescue 79 (2017)

The play with language and text can also be seen in the unusual (and sometimes long) titles of this work. Evelyn says that the titles sometimes come before the painting and spark the idea to begin a new piece of work. The words can be drawn from the lyrics of a song, or even something like a sports interview, which seem relevant to another aspect of life. He says that he wants the titles of the work to help explain something of the painting, or the feelings behind it.

Lots of the titles of his earlier works are in French, which he studied for 5 years as part of a French Studies course at the Institut Francais and from this has a love of French new-wave cinema. He says that lack of confidence in the early stages of his career led to the use of the French language to title his work – he could say what he wanted to say but still remain hidden. The first work he submitted to us at Sweet ‘Art was the piece Je sais maintenant que le vie est pourrie. As none of us involved in the selections speaks French, the initial meaning was certainly hidden to us. I recall we then used Google translate to find out it means I now know that life sucks and felt the ‘Oh I get it’ moment of being included in the work.

sucks

Je sais maintenant que le vie est pourrie (2014)

Much of Evelyn’s work explores themes of marginalisation. He says that he doesn’t like the way the artworld is headed and rejects the over-commodification of fine art. He sums up his thoughts on the art market as “white walls, white faces, white wine”, feels that gallery space has become completely unaffordable in London for artists looking to self-organise, and aims for his work to subtly critique this. He feels that, as a Londoner, his work should reflect the city and its diversity. He makes a conscious decision to paint all ethnicities he sees in his work, as there is lots of artwork (even contemporary art) displayed in London where everyone in the painting is white.

Evelyn defines himself as from a working-class background and would love to see art going in the direction where the people he grew up with would be interested in art. He feels that one of the issues art has is that it is either seen as street-art or art for rich people. His recently completed piece This is the Dizziness of Freedom shows the disconnect Evelyn sees in society today. The two sides of the painting show a factory and glass office towers overshadowing a terraced street, with a sports stadium at the end. The painting explores ideas of the fear of difference and change, the two opposing sides of the street representing the affluent middle classes (the businessman and the hipster) separated and looking across at the more ‘run-down’ houses where the black family and the pensioner live. He describes the stadium as representing the structures people build as a means of escapism from everyday lives and jobs they hate, but also acknowledges that people tie themselves down to avoid the fear of having too much choice.

dizziness

This is the Dizziness of Freedom (2018/19)

Sport is a surprising element which crops up as a recurring theme in Evelyn’s work. I say surprising, but am also sure that this stems from my own assumptions and prejudices, as why should artists not also have an interest in sport. He is a keen basketball fan, although doesn’t like sports culture. His piece They tell me that it’s real, then ask me how I feel? features a hairdresser or stylist trying different heads onto a body for size, while a basketball falls through a hoop. Evelyn says that the piece is about being unable to face reality, and wanted to emphasise the fragility of the heads by reflecting the size and shape of them with the falling basketball.

real

They tell me that it’s real, then ask me how I feel? (2017/18)

With his work, Evelyn Jean hopes that the viewer is able to see aspects of their own life reflected back at them. He says that he aims to paint with emotion rather than technical brilliance, and hopes that this is that is communicated to the viewer. He says “If you see someone spending time with it, it leads a life of its own”

game facec

Evelyn Jean’s work was also part of Sweet ‘Art’s Game Face exhibition in 2017

When I ask him what is coming next, he says he has ideas for some new work in the form of installations, although is limited by space in his studio (always a problem in London!). He also has plans to create some new film pieces and has just started work on a large painting titled The Death of the Novelist, inspired by the repeated questioning from the critics as to whether the ‘death’ of painting, art or the novel is due.

He will also be exhibiting work as part of the exhibition Art Can Presents: Encounters at the D Contemporary Gallery in Mayfair in May, where you will be able to see his piece This is the Dizziness of Freedom for yourselves.

Follow Evelyn on Twitter, Insta or his website http://www.evelynjean.com.

All images are copyright Evelyn Jean unless otherwise stated.

The problem with Frieze Week ’18 by Sian Matthews

 

That title is a little misleading because I did actually have a really great time at Frieze London. It has been over a month now since the fair and I have had plenty of time to contemplate it all, although there is one thing that has been playing on my mind that I would like to discuss. But let’s start on a good note! This year was my first time attending the art fair itself, although I have explored the sculpture park in previous years, and thanks to Sweet ‘Art I had a press pass!

This year Frieze week had a huge focus on women in the arts. Frieze itself commissioned some large-scale artworks, installations and performances such as Tatiana Trouvé’s ‘The Shaman’ (pictured below) a 1.2 tonne bronze tree and water pump. It was one of the first things I saw as I went into the fair and it definitely commanded the attention it was receiving.

20181004_123631

At the other end of the fair there was a curated section of stands showcasing the work of 9 female artists who had used their work as a form of political activism in the 80s and 90s called ‘Social Work’ I quite enjoyed Social Work as it was diverse on all levels, including race, age, backgrounds and even mediums and subject matter. The section included artists such as Nancy Spero, Helen Chadwick, Berni Searle and Ipek Duben; artists who use the female experience and themes of sexuality, gender, alienation and identity to challenge both aesthetic and political conventions. It worked really well and was an insightful look into the practice of some very influential artists. I was also lucky enough to wander past just as Sonia Boyce was giving an interview about her work! (I won’t lie, I felt a little starstruck!) It was fascinating to listen in and hear what she had to say about the motives and messages behind her work and what she thought of Social Work itself.

The stand I connected with most in Social Work was the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery who were showcasing the work of Mary Kelly. ‘Interim Part 1: Corpus’ is the culmination of 3 years of documentation by Kelly of conversations she had with women of her generation and displays their words in first-person text panels alongside screen printed images of fashion ads and medical photography of ‘hysterical women’. It feels personal and almost candid in its delivery, you get the feeling you’re reading something like a diary entry, something you shouldn’t be reading, and I appreciated the fact I was being told something so intimate.

The one thing that really disappointed me about Social Work is that it was hyped up quite a lot beforehand, but then felt like it was squished into a corner at the actual event. I would have preferred it to have had a more prominent spot in the fair.

Another nice touch to the fair this year was a fund-raising event hosted by Tracey Emin in the form of a postcard auction, with the proceeds going to women’s charities. Although unfortunately I didn’t manage to catch any of it!

Elsewhere in the city, galleries such as White Cube, Victoria Miro, the Parasol Unit and even the RA celebrated women by opening exhibitions and installations of works by artists such as Yayoi Kusama (who I love but sadly missed out on tickets for!), Cornelia Parker brought her PsychoBarn installation to the courtyard of the RA, Heidi Bucher and her beautifully haunting latex skinnings, and Doris Salcedo (pictured below) at White Cube. Women really did take over London for Frieze week!

 

On the Friday night I attended The Other Art Fair which also had a whole section dedicated to female artists. They had their own building across the road from Victoria House which was designed to be a statement called ‘not 30%’ to draw attention to the fact women typically get only 30% representation in art fairs. I thought it was a great idea (although I wasn’t sure about segregating them in another building away from the main event), and there was a diverse selection of work, from painting and sculpture to taxidermy and even tattooing. I so badly wanted to get a tattoo by artist Emily Malice but I missed her by a couple of hours as Friday night was the only time she wasn’t there! (maybe next time!)

Whilst we were there we also met two recent graduates who had turned their stall into a fun and inviting participatory project.  As Illustrators, they were drawing visitors to the art fair as any animal of their choosing for a small donation, so obviously we had to take part! See us below as a cat, a leopard and a jellyfish!

 

Overall I think The Other Art Fair may have been more enjoyable on a social level. More interactive, more inviting, it was more appealing to a wider spectrum of people. Dare I say more inclusive?

All of this sounds great doesn’t it? Women finally getting the recognition they so badly deserve. So going back to my clickbait title, where is the problem?

What has been playing on my mind is the idea that all of this new attention from large institutions, galleries and companies is just a form of box ticking, it felt like they were just ticking women off their inclusion list. I am not really sure of the exact thing that made me feel like this, maybe it’s the fact that both art fairs felt the need to over-publicise their inclusion of women and make a song and dance about it as if for attention; to be seen to be doing the right thing instead of recognising the issues faced by female artists, educating themselves and making the necessary changes. Obviously, I’m not saying we shouldn’t shout about the needs and rights of women in this industry, its massively important to talk about it! There was just something about Frieze week that made me feel like the motives behind it were off.  As you all must know by now, 2018 marks 100 years since the first women in the UK won the right to vote. This means that women’s rights are very much the theme of the year. It means that right now equality and women’s rights seem to be a bit of a fashion statement unfortunately and these companies need to be seen to be doing the right thing or they face huge backlash.

While I think its amazing what happened at this year’s Frieze week, and I certainly do not want to belittle the success of the artists featured. I can’t shake the feeling that we should all be a little wary of the motives and the intentions behind this sudden push for women. I am worried that next year this will all go away and no real progress will have been made. I hope I am wrong.

I have taken a photo of an article written in the free art news paper given out at the Frieze art fair itself which I feel sums up my feelings well and highlighted certain points for you. I feel it quite clearly explains why the focus of this years Frieze week only felt skin deep.

20181113_143230.jpg

Let me know what you think, am I just being pessimistic? Did you visit Frieze or any of the other events going on that week and what was your experience? I’d really like to know.

A Women’s day Experience by Sian Matthews

I had a bad experience for International women’s day and it helps prove how far we still need to go.

A friend and I decided to spend IWD at a few galleries in London which were holding exhibitions and tours about women artists, the female gaze and the influential women who helped shape certain institutions. I hadn’t seen my friend for a while, I was looking forward to celebrating women and art with her.

The day started strong with a coffee and a catch up before moving on to the newly opened Richard Saltoun gallery in Mayfair. The first exhibition held at this new gallery space, ‘Women Look at Women’ explored themes such as feminine identity, censorship, gender stereotypes, sex and relationships through the work of thirteen international artists. The exhibition included beautiful but honest black and white photography by artists like Renate Bertlmann, Francesca Woodman and Annegret Soltau, as well as sculptural works by Helen Chadwick.

It was great to experience an exhibition, curated by a woman, working with female artists, feminine themes and the female gaze. You know, other then when Sweet ‘Art does it. For the most part I was impressed by it. The exhibition felt refreshing; it was clean and well thought out, and most importantly for the viewer, it was insightful and thought provoking. Of course, any exhibition has space for improvement, to learn and ensure you do things better the next time. ‘Women Look at Women’ could have been more inclusive. It could have included a wider, more diverse group of works, but it did what it was meant to do well enough for me.

After such a great start you will understand my disappointment and, honestly, outrage at our next visit.  This year for International Women’s Day, the Royal Academy intended to celebrate with ‘Feminine Futures’, a series of events and tours from the 1st – 10th of March.

We got to the RA at noon for the IWD tour, which was billed as an event that will “explore the lives of some of the important women in the history of the RA”. What we were greeted with however was anything but!

Before I explain why I was so disappointed, I should point out that this tour was one of six or seven delivered over ten days. The tour is presented by a different guide each day and therefore is different every time. For all I know the rest of the tours were spot on.

To start, the male guide took us into a small corridor next to a staircase which was decorated with photographs of the current eighty academicians. He pointed out Tracey Emin and Cornelia Parker and briefly spoke about them (they were the only female artists mentioned for the whole tour). He then spent the next 5 minutes talking about several of the men on the wall.  He made no effort to mention any other female academicians, he didn’t even mention Sonya Boyce, the first woman of colour to be made a Royal Academician, as recently as 2016.

Moving on he spoke about two paintings depicting some of the life drawing classes at the RA many years ago. These paintings showed female models being drawn by male artists and were themselves by men, although I cannot remember who. While standing in front of these paintings we were told that at this point in the RA’s history, women were banned from attending life drawing classes because it was thought that it objectified them. The guide also informed us that all female life models were from local brothels as it was inappropriate for women other than prostitutes to model nude. But according to him, all of that was ok… because they were paid a little more than their male counterparts.

Throughout the rest of the tour the guide spoke about not only the building it currently occupies, Burlington house, but also when it occupied the top floors of Somerset House and the National Gallery. He spoke about the architects, the owners of buildings and artists who have worked within the RA: all men, including Constable and even Churchill. It would have been far more interesting to tell us the little-known fact that’s among the 34 founding members of the RA there were two women! Mary Moser and Angelica Kaufmann.

A few times other members of the group asked about the role of women at the RA, which was met with the guide asking if any of us were artists and what our practice consists of. Both myself and my friend answered, explaining that we are installation artists with an interest in the work of the YBA’s. So we were already familiar with Tracey Emin who’s work he promptly explained to us as if we had no idea who she was. ‘My bed’ he said was a “product of her realisation of the mess around her” not exactly what I would call an in depth, insightful or accurate description.

'My Bed' by Tracey Emin

Right at the end of the tour, after someone asked about them, he briefly mentioned the suffragettes, how they had “slashed a couple of paintings in protest” basically referring to them as trouble makers who had ruined a precious painting. There is a lot of information to be found about this incident at the 1914 RA Summer Exhibition on their own website, surely a tour guide at the RA should be able to talk freely and in a respectful manner about this event?

Reading back through this it probably sounds like I am making this up. But I can promise I am not. You expect to come away from a tour of influential women at the RA feeling proud of what these women achieved in an industry that wasn’t always accepting, I expected to hear about how the women before me helped to pave the way for myself to be an artist and work in the arts today and instead I was told about how women had been mistreated by the RA until after WWII. I left feeling deflated, like we had gone backwards for an hour and honestly, I was angry.

Another point I feel I should add here is that on the 8th of March, International Women’s Day, the same day I was trying to celebrate with a friend. An exhibition opened at Tate Modern, all about famous “ladies man” Picasso.

After all of this I had just one question on my mind. How did such a small gallery in Mayfair, and countless other small organisations manage to get their shows and messages so right when the big institutions with all their money and resources get it so wrong? Do they not care? Do they not listen? It seems ridiculous to me and it highlights just how far we all still must go in not only getting, but understanding and respecting equality.

Ama-zine!; A Zine Guide to London. by Gwendolyn Faker

We’ve been building a zine library and working on our very own Sweet Art Zine. As we approach our zine release we thought we’d share our favourite hot spots! If you’re a collector or a maker or even if you’re entirely new to the medium there’s a zine out there just for you. Now let’s see if we can’t help you find it.

Wikipedia says; “A zine (/ˈzn/ zeen; short for magazine or fanzine) is most commonly a small-circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images, usually reproduced via photocopier. Usually zines are the product of a single person, or a very small group…”

Now as much as we love wikipedia we prefer to get our knowledge direct from women with real life experience and first hand knowledge. We got in touch with Grrrl Zine Fair founder Lu Williams to talk about zines, zine culture, and what the Grrrl Zine Fair is all about.

LuWilliamsinterviewfull

We visited the last Grrrl Zine Fair event where we were able to meet the makers and pick up a few TREASURES to add to our growing zine library. We did a little walk through to share with you, because it sucks to miss out!

 

Now, if you just can’t wait until the next zine fair we’ve got you covered. We’re going to take you across London to all the spots we know, are you ready?!

We’ll start in East London for the first leg of this zine odyssey.

IMG_6988

The Anarchist Book Shop; can be found with a little work at 84b Whitechapel High Street in the East End of London. Founded in 1886 is the largest anarchist publishing house in the country and oldest of its kind in the English speaking world.‘The book publishing arm (Freedom Press) has a history stretching back almost 150 years and has brought pamphlets by luminaries of the time to London audiences and beyond. In the modern era it has published every year since 1984,’ 

 

…except for between 2012 and 2013 following an arson attempt on the building.

It’s secreted down a narrow alley so it’s a little hard to find, obscured by a KFC sign next door. What you’re looking for is a narrow alley a few meters West of the White Chapel Gallery… it’s under the KFC sign. Now once you’re inside the effort you’ve put into finding it will be well worth it. It’s full (literally from floor to ceiling in some places) with flyers, manuals, books, pamphlets, zines, patches, stickers, badges, and much more. Everything you could ever need to start a revolution can be found between these walls. They have an extensive selection of titles on a huge variety of subjects(our favorite being ‘What About the Rapists?’). *You can check out a small selection of what’s in stock from their online shop, but we recommend visiting for the full experience.

Whitechapel Gallery as we mentioned, is literally next door to The Anarchist Bookshop. The gallery is pretty notable; with displays, commissions and archive galleries that are free and open all year round, six days a week. The Gallery also hosts ticketed shows and past exhibitions have included work by Sarah Lucas, Keith Sonnier, Hannah Höch, and a recent takeover by the Geurrilla Girls.

The gallery shop is mostly books with zines here and there. Because it’s a gallery shop what’s on offer changes pretty frequently depending on what’s being shown. In the past we’ve found more than a dozen zines on the shelves.

From there it was on to Brick Lane Books, it’s on Brick Lane(duh!). A few blocks away there’s Beach on Cheshire street. Visiting the area in the week it’s pretty quiet, visiting on a Sunday when the market is in full swing is a whole other story…

IMG_7003

 

You can continue heading east into Hackney where you can get a real bang for your buck (pound?). If you visit Broadway Market you’ll find Donlon Books, Broadway Bookshop, and Artwords; three small but well stocked shops, all of which have some pretty rad zines. If you make this a destination on any given Saturday and as the name suggests you’ll find another market in full swing.

 

IMG_1302 2

The final stop in East London is pretty conveniently located as Banner Repeater happens to be on platform 1 at Hackney Downs train station. It’s an Artist-led contemporary art space: a reading room, and experimental project space, founded by Ami Clarke in 2010. Their reading room holds a permanently sited public archive of Artists’ Publishing which you can browse, and a shop that’s always changing but always filled with independently published books and zines.

Heading into the West ; you can visit the ICA, aka The Institute of Contemporary Art. Founded in 1946, the ICA ‘promotes and encourages an understanding of radical art and culture‘. Usually running a varied programme of exhibitions, films, talks and events. The book shop is usually pretty well stocked with a selection of independently published magazines. What you’ll find on offer here is a little glossier than your regular zine fare, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a good old fashioned xerox’d zine on the shelves.

IMG_7040Near Tottenham Court tube you can also stop into Claire de Rouen. Focusing on art, fashion, and photography, the shop in another nearly secret spot (look for the all black door next to the betting shop). Selling beautiful print products in all forms, zines included. Once you’ve managed to find the entrance and make your way up a flight of stairs you’ll find a bright and cozy little shop. With soft light, fresh flowers, and music drifting from a record player at the back this place is hashtag aesthetic.

If you want to indulge your nerdier side(who doesn’t?) hit GOSH! and Orbital comics. Two of the best comic shops in London. Both stock a wide range of new and vintage/collectible comic books and a selection of independently published work. Whether you’re looking for that Archie VS. The Punisher cross over comic, a first issue Spiderman, or trying to get your hands on a copy of SNOTGIRL both of these spots will have you covered, they’ve even got offerings for the manga connoisseur.

Down South there’s The Feminist Library. Started in 1975 as a small collection of contemporary material it is now considered to be the most significant library of feminist material in England contains 7500 books of which 5000 are non-fiction, 500 poetry publications and 1500 periodical titles; many self-published, spanning more than 85 metres of shelving. The Feminist Library Book Shop is open on Saturday (12-5pm). They sell new and used books, periodicals and zines. They also serve coffee and cake and host readings and events.

There’s also 56a which got it’s start when the building was squatted. More of a political centre than a bookshop 56a calls itself an ‘infoshop’. It’s staffed by volunteers and they stock countercultural press. With works that explore everything from (trans)feminism, anti-colonialism, anti-globalisation, environmentalism, squatting, anti-fascism, No Borders, queer politics/organising, anarchism, situationism, autonomism, anti-civilisation, anti-capitalism, radical pedagogy, DIY, bikes, self-care, cooperatives, permaculture, consensus organising, to armed struggle, this place is a pretty radical (literally). They also have a zine library, open ‘til 8pm on Thursdays.

This barely scratches the surface of where you can find zines in London, those are just a few of our favorites.

Did we miss something? Would you like us to check out your zine or zine event?

x Gwendolyn Faker