Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category

Books | Linder: Slicing Through the Cheesecake

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Child of the Mantic Stain, 2015
Acrylic on paper



Mouth to Mouth Interview
Dawn Ades, CBE, curator, educationalist, Fellow of the British Academy, former Tate trustee, Professor of History of Art at the Royal Academy, and author of Photomontage (Pantheon, 1976) talks to artist Linder, about her work, and her finely-crafted, fascinating and X-rated monograph, published by Ridinghouse.

Linder, born in Liverpool (1954, aka Linda Sterling) has eight items of early work in the permanent collection at Tate Britain. Exhibited internationally, with solo UK shows at The Hepworth Wakefield, and Tate St Ives, her career spans almost four decades. Once muse to Morrissey, she acknowledges her debt to surrealism, expressionism and punk. Best known for her record sleeves for The Buzzcocks, she creates photomontages, often obscuring the more graphic details of heterosexual and homosexual pornographic images with overlaid flowers, or everyday household commodities. In her latest work (above) she is experimenting with a different medium.

Girls of the World X, 2012
Photomontage



The Myth of the Birth of the Hero II, 2012
Photomontage



Dawn Ades You mentioned that you are including a single work from this new period of experimentation in the book, a kind of endnote (Child of the Mantic Stain, 2015 (above)). And the crucial thing, as you were saying earlier, is that it is no longer a photomontage.

Linder It is definitely not photomontage. I’m not quite sure what it is yet, it feels new and very exciting.

The Berlin dadaists chose to call themselves monteurs rather than artists to distinguish their activity from collage, which was already part of a modernist tradition with cubism.

I made my early photomontages with the same curiosity as a mechanic lifting up the bonnet of a malfunctioning car. I was already familiar with a lot of the artists – Hannah Höch, John Heartfield, El Lissitzky, Raoul Hausmann and Max Ernst, but your book Photomontage encouraged me to look far more deeply at the connections between each artist. [Books] provided me with a new visual vocabulary, as well as a verbal one, introducing words such as ‘photomontage’, ‘clitoris’ and ‘hegemony’, all of which I use still. When I was eighteen, in 1973, I enrolled at Manchester Polytechnic on a Foundation Course in Art and Design. I thought that I would find like-minded souls with whom I could swap notes about Millet, de Beauvoir and the Brontë sisters – they all seemed equally important at the time. It wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. We studied briefly in each department to experience the courses on offer at degree level: textile design, industrial design, fine art, advertising, etc. I chose to study graphic design. I felt that I stood more chance to

When did you begin cutting images up?

It was only in the summer of 1976, that I began to use the scalpel as a creative instrument. As we began to come of age, musically, sartorially and graphically, we started to cut things up – we cut up our hair, our coats and our magazines. We painted the walls of our bedrooms black, wore bin bags as dresses, our underwear as outerwear, dog collars instead of diamanté and dyed our hair with Crazy Colour, [but] I was far happier sitting in my room on a Saturday night studying Lissitzky’s Wolkenbügel than dancing to [Rod Stewart's] Tonight’s the Night in Rafters nightclub in Manchester. I wanted to make stab incisions into the host culture around me.

Making your incisions in the magazine pictures was pretty aggressive, as an initial move.

Over the years, the cuts made by my scalpel have all had a mood of their own, alternately violent, sensual, cold, premeditated or spontaneous, depending upon my mood and the work that I wanted to create.

With many of the photomontages, the addition is clear. The latest household goods, for example, in one of the sequences in Pretty Girls: hoover, stereo, TV. But in others the relationship is more ambiguous, for instance between bodies and food, the cakes, buns, biscuits. Then with the flowers, the roses in particular, sometimes they’re paired with pornographic images, sometimes with ballet dancers.

I use pornographic imagery variously as a decoy, bait, a lure, a fake aesthetic arrest; I have to stop people in their tracks somehow. The cut-out cakes, buns and biscuits floating on the pornographic pictorial plane simultaneously coax and repel. So, the bun and the breast both vie for our attention; the visual engineering gives equal torque to both engines of desire; the prizes on offer for the winner may be sugar, semen or both. The rose, the iris, the orchids and lilies work in different ways.

Roses have been a strong, sustained part of your iconography…

I love the litany of rose names: Super Star, Peace, Tiffany, Red Radiance, Proud Land, Crimson Glory, Pink Peace, Bewitched, Fragrant Cloud, Europeana, New Dawn, Christian Dior. Somebody, somewhere must have decided that the vermillion petals of their new rose should be christened Super Star. Meanwhile the women in Playboy were only ever given one name: Tania, Carole, Suzy, Lena.

Salad, 1977
Photomontage on paper



Does [the 1970s] period have a more personal meaning for you? You also go back and use magazines from the 1950s and 60s, don’t you?

I often use imagery from the early 1970s. I also went through a phase of making photomontages using 1950s glamour magazines, adding one rose to each. They’re restorative; something blossoms there rather than stasis. As a very young child, my step-grandfather would show me glamour photography. I couldn’t read books very well then but I could read the change in the sexual charge in the air.

Those were pornographic images? This was nudes? Glamour photography?

Yes, these were pornographic images and it happened to me from a very young age – from around three years onwards. My step-grandfather engineered a very incestuous relationship with his granddaughter. I look back at similar images in my archive and try to work out who was trying to cast glamour upon whom in that upstairs bedroom in Liverpool.

Pretty Girls, 1977 / 2007 (detail)
Pigment print of original artwork



Against Interpretation, 2012
Duratrans on lightbox
Edition of 3 + 1 AP



You say you just work on a kitchen table, but you must have an archive of material?

I have a large archive of material that’s very well organised by year and subject. There are rows of storage boxes labelled variously with, ‘Lips: Glossy’, ‘Birds: British’, ‘Gay Porn: Contemporary’, ‘Ballet Books: 1940s’, ‘Cake Decorating Books: 1960s’, etc.

You’ve worked with fashion, with pornography, but also with very ‘domestic’ images. How do these function in your work?

The domestic images ventriloquise the everyday, that with which we are most familiar and which we feel most in control of. A cut-out photograph of a coffee percolator which has migrated from the world of interior design to the claustrophobic world of the glamour model – as in Pretty Girls – immediately presents a sphinx-like conundrum. The objects of desire, the shiny new kettle and the nude, parade before us, each one vying to foreground the other. Something peculiar happens when they both inhabit the foreground at the same time.

There must be a certain amount of glee in the subversion, and deconstruction, of the images.

I sometimes laugh out loud at the work that I make.


This text above is composed of edited excerpts from the complete interview which appears in the Ridinghouse book Linder, from which all of the images are also taken.

Text excerpts © Linder and Dawn Ades, courtesy Ridinghouse, London
All images by Linder, © Linder, courtesy Stuart Shave / Modern Art, London

Linder
Linder in conversation with Dawn Ades
Published by Ridinghouse 2015
Hardback, 270 pp
225 colour images
Available now



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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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All Categories | Storms, Smoke & Power Cuts

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Apologies!
Due to a combination of wild storms that blew smoke from the wood fire back down the chimney, setting off  alarms in every room, and covered everything in a fine layer of soot, and the power cut that, in amongst all of this, plunged our friends’ isolated, converted corn mill where we were staying into deep, velvety darkness, The Blog isn’t posting this week.

In the meantime, you might like to take a look at our reminder of the diverse range of international visual arts and events-related subjects we posted in 2014.

Best wishes for 2015



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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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All Categories | Omnipresence 2014 / 2015

Friday, December 26th, 2014

2014 proved to be an exciting year at The Blog.

We published posts relating to exhibitions as diverse as Egon Schiele; The Radical Nude at London’s Courtauld Gallery, and Robert Heinecken: Object Matter at MoMA in New York, to another about VKhUTEMAS – often called the Russian Bauhaus – at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau museum. We admired rare and exotic posters in The Art of Travel, exhibited at Cannes during the annual film festival and auctioned afterwards by Christie’s.

We showed a selection of compelling images from Roxanne Lowit Photographs Yves Saint Laurent, a glitzy new book – with an introduction by no less a figure than Pierre Bergé – and wrote about Vitra’s more modest new publication Everything is Connected, which relies totally on visual language rather than written text to relate the company’s labyrinthine story.

We loved Korean artist Lee Bul’s captivating installations at the UK’s Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, and the Museum für Gestaltung’s 100 Years of Swiss Design exhibition – as well as the accompanying Lars Müller book – showing selections from the Museum’s consolidated collections, now housed at the Schaudepot in Zürich’s burgeoning New Toni development.

We covered the Saul Steinberg 100th Anniversary Exhibition at Pace MacGill in New York, and we assembled our own photographic tribute to The Years of ‘La Dolce Vita’, from the paparazzi images on show at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, in London.

We published extracts from Christie’s International Head of 20th Century Decorative Art & Design Philippe Garner’s scintillating interview with Zeev Aram, on the subject of Japanese furniture designer Shiro Kuramata. And we salivated over Serge Mouille’s 1950s sculptural lighting included in Phillips Design sale in New York.

We hope the journey so far has been as interesting for you as it has for us.

As the globe – at least in communication terms – continues to shrink, the cultural landscape forever widens and diversifies. What was formerly remote has often become more easily accessible. In response, 2015 will see The Blog extending its reach and venturing into geographical and subject areas we may have so far ignored, exploring and gaining entry for our followers to a broader range of thought-provoking, disparate and topical events in the omnipresent visual arts and associated artistic disciplines.



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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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All Categories | The Blog Will Return Next Week

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Untitled #1, Norfolk, UK

Untitled #2, Norfolk, UK

Untitled #3, Norfolk, UK

Photographs by Pedro Silmon, 2014




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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier




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All Categories | The Blog Team is on Holiday

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Kielder Water from below the Kielder Observatory, Northumberland, UK

Kielder Observatory, by Charles Barclay Architects, completed 2008

Photographs by Pedro Silmon, 2014




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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Interview | Philippe Garner on Aram on Kuramata

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Solaris, 1977
Set of drawers. Original production by Ishimaru Co Ltd.
Painted wood
with metal base in anodised aluminium.
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000



Mouth to Mouth Interview
Philippe Garner, Christie’s International Head of 20th Century
Decorative Art & Design interviews owner / manager of
the Aram Store, London, UK – established in 1964 –
Zeev Aram OBE




Born in Israel and having relocated to London in 1957 to study design, Zeev Aram opened an office and retail showroom in London’s King’s Road in 1964. It was the first in the UK to sell the work of iconic modern designers including Achille Castiglioni, Marcel Breuer, and Le Corbusier. Aram also holds the worldwide licence for Eileen Gray. Mostly gathered by him in 1981 on the occasion of the first exhibition dedicated to the Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata in Europe, the 19 pieces in the forthcoming sale at Christie’s in Paris come from Aram’s personal collection, where they have remained for more than 30 years

Philippe Garner | This packing list of the Shiro Kuramata pieces shipped from Tokyo to London in 1981 for your exhibition reminds me of how many years ago it was that you connected with him. How did you meet him?

Zeev Aram | I was introduced by a mutual friend, the architect John Pawson, who had been working in Japan. I met Kuramata when he came to London in 1980. Then I went to see him in Tokyo; we spent four days together. He was a wonderful host. We went to Kyoto and all over the place. And I chose whatever we should show; the exhibition was the result.

Was that his first showing in Europe?

Yes.

And what sort of exposure had he already had in Japan?

Quite good but not enormous. People like Isozaki and Issey Miyake – the guys at the top of fashion, design, and architecture – knew of him because he was really exceptional, the way he designed things, especially interiors, the most fantastic interiors, which was unusual. On my visit to Tokyo, we went to a small, perfect sashimi bar he had created. It could only accommodate a very small number of people. It was so pure, a wonderful space.

Kuramata was received there like a God – in the nicest possible way. It was the same in Kyoto, because they don’t give private rooms so easily to people in these very old inns, with the Geishas serving you. So he was known, but within a certain community.

So it was within a relatively small, informed circle. He wasn’t a commercial success at that stage.

No, the bigger recognition came later. I have an invitation to his exhibition at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in 1996, fifteen years after my show.

So was your exhibition the most extensive exhibition of furniture that he had put on at that stage?

Abroad, certainly. It was anyway the first substantial one.


OBA-Q lamps, 1972
Set of drawers. Original production by Ishimaru Co Ltd.
Painted wood
with metal base in anodised aluminium.
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000

Furniture in irregular forms, side 1, 1970
Set of drawers. Original production by Aoshima Shoten Co Ltd.
Painted birch, Formica and aluminium, mounted on casters
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000


You have kept for over thirty years the majority of the pieces that you showed in 1981. Was it because you found no takers, and would you have staged it anyway, for the furniture’s sake, if you had realised it would not be a commercial success?

Was it a commercial exercise? In a roundabout way, like my initial interest in Eileen Gray. I took my chance, and I said I like it and if I like it, hopefully some people will like it. We re-ordered some pieces from Japan, but I knew that I could not produce these models. I rely on manufacturers and because of the complication of his designs I knew it would be horrendously expensive. Anyway, to give a short answer, my prime interest was in his designs and his products; we sold some, but by no means a significant quantity.

Did you then make the conscious decision that, having tried, enjoyed the experience, realised it wasn’t the right commercial moment, you were just going to put the collection out of sight?

Well, what also happened, unfortunately, is that he died. He died quite young, in 1991. He wrote me the most wonderful letter in 1988 – by then he allowed himself to call me Zeev; before that it was always ‘Dear Mr Aram’ He wrote, ‘In the oriental expression, you dug a well for me. I’m very grateful for your kind collaboration. The exhibition triggered a new book, with an essay by Ettore Sotsass. Interesting. My exhibition was well received.

So you had a good critical response. I love the reference here, ‘On show at Aram Designs is a collection of furniture… in the middle of the great Anglo-Japanese love affair which has been consuming London,’ The Architectural Review, September 1981. Do you have any particular favourites among the collection?

He had a period when he was obsessed with drawers. Then he produced the 49-drawer cabinet and I said, ‘This one is very odd.’ I could see the mathematical progression, because the diagonal is made of squares that change proportion sideways. And he said, ‘That’s the only way I could solve it to make it attractive. Every time we face drawers we decide what to put where, but in this instance the drawer also has a say, because if I want to put in a shirt here, I can’t, but if I want to put the pants, I can put, you know? So the size matters.’ So I say, ‘OK it’s very, very Zen and interesting,’ and we laughed.

But that was a period when he was really obsessed, literally obsessed with containers, drawers, and how we live our life in them. You put things [in them] from your own momentary intimacy, which are sometimes left there for years and it becomes a memory bank, a part of your biography. And we are not doing it consciously. We are just putting things in there and forgetting them.

So he invites the drawers themselves to play a part in the process?

Yes.

Can you recall other interesting comments that he made?

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this – I said, ‘Listen, the Japanese are so well known for joinery joints because of all the houses and beams so beautifully pieced together, almost like a puzzle, and they just put the peg in and the whole thing is held together, so how come the furniture, especially the drawers, [are] made in such an unusual way?’ And he said, ‘What do you mean, unusual?’ And I replied, ‘Well, we don’t do drawers like this, with nails and so on.’ And he asked, ‘Oh, how do you do it? At the exhibition opening, he was accompanied by three gentlemen, and they were the managing directors or the owners of the glassworks, the joinery, and the metalwork companies, respectively. And they came out of respect for him. In the evening when we prepared the layout, each of them had an apron on; they put them on over their beautiful suits, and they were handling the furniture. I said ‘My God, if these were Italians they would be stood a mile away.’ So he said, ‘Do me a favour; please see Mr Aoshima tomorrow.’ And I said ‘OK, “OK, but I’m not a joiner.’ And so we had this quick session the next day, when I went and showed him [Aoshima] how you use dovetails – he didn’t know what a dovetail was – though once I showed him he understood. Or secret dovetails, where you don’t show the ends. When it came to modern furniture they kept absolutely to the design but the details of manufacturing went back almost to model-making.

So what was visible was impeccable?

Perfect.

But I think the story is worth telling, because that’s what distinguishes your pieces from the later production pieces.

Yes, then of course there were the pieces produced by Cappellini, which people I suppose should know. The licensing to Cappellini came later, from 1987, but I don’t think Cappellini is doing it anymore.

Tell me about the 1985 ‘Homage to Hoffman’ chair

It’s very simple, the story is very simple. He considered Thonet to be one of the initiators of modern design and he knew that Joseph Hoffman designed the famous armchair for them. Not the coffee-house chair Model 14, which was the famous model, but this one. So he said, ‘Well, how can I somehow involve the spirit of Hoffman, pay homage to him, and at the same time tell everyone that this was the beginning of the beginning?’ So he took an original Thonet chair, wired it up and he set light to it. He incinerated it. Then he just polished it [the wire], that’s all.. And what remains is the wire, and just a trace of the original.

Where did this happen, where was the event?

In Japan. Also he says that only Issey Miyake and I have this chair. There are only two because he doesn’t want to produce any more.

So presumably, because they’re wrapped in wire in a very spontaneous way, the two chairs will not be identical?

No, they couldn’t be.

So the chair was an artistic happening, a conceptual event.

Let me tell you a story about the wiggle form of the tall drawer cabinet. Apparently Isozaki had two made. And Shiro went to visit him and saw that Isozaki put them symmetrically against the wall, not near the wall but with drawers facing the wall, not facing into the room. And he asked Isozaki why they were facing the wall, did he not want to use the drawers? Isozaki said, ‘Because I want to experience the shape going around it.’ Such a Japanese expression! Just to go around it to experience the shape. Because it was two different shapes, if you go this way or that way.

Had he made a mirror pair?

No, two of the same.

I love Solaris; on those long legs it looks like an alien spaceship that has landed.

Yes, or like an oil-drill platform.

It’s wonderfully illustrative of the over-riding importance to Kuramata of the imaginative, metaphorical, and philosophical dimension of his creations.

Exactly. It was those qualities that made his designs so attractive to me all those years ago; and they have lost nothing of their exceptional character. Shiro Kuramata was a unique figure and I am very, very fortunate to have known and worked with him.


This is an edited version of an interview of 8th January, 2014, published in full in the catalogue Christie’s Design sale, Shiro Kuramata: Collection Zeev Aram, on 20th May, 2014, at their showroom in Paris, France. The pieces can be viewed there until May 20th

All furniture designed by Shiro Kuramata (1934 > 1991)
All images © Christie’s Images Limited 2014



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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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All Categories | The Blog is on Holiday

Friday, September 6th, 2013

This Way, 2012, Pedro Silmon

Our Mapplethorpe Curated by Huppert blog post was published early this week

Watch out for our next post on, or around, September 27th

Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Interview | Christian Lutz, Photographer

Friday, May 31st, 2013

mouth2mouth interview | sam stourdzé, director, musée de l’elysée
christian lutz | photographer

Born in Geneva in 1973, Christian Lutz studied photography at the Ecole supérieure des Arts et de l’Image, ‘The 75′, in Brussels. Winner of numerous awards, his work has been exhibited worldwide and frequently published. Initially following the tradition of documentary photography, he soon adopted a highly individual, cinematographic style that gave his work a certain distance to reality. Lutz is represented by the agencies VU’ in Paris and Strates in Lausanne.

Protokoll, the first series in the project, started in 2003 when you began photographing the apparatus of federal politics. Ten years later, how would you assess your itinerary?
Actually, I am the kind of person who prefers to look forward rather than backward. And I’ve come to realize that my work on the issue of power is not yet quite finished. It was initiated in 2003 by coincidence, without any real initial intention; I didn’t tell myself ‘Well, how about working on the notion of power!’ It was only over time, as my work asserted itself, that I realized why I was doing it and why I wanted to carry on. Power operates everywhere, in the private sphere, in human relations, between nations, among peoples; it is at the heart of countless processes in society. This is an issue that obsesses me and which is in fact an excuse to talk about our world and the interactions between individuals and systems. I thought I would come to terms with it through this trilogy, but I still have some way to go, as the issue of power opens up new fields of exploration.

All three components of the Trilogy – political, economic, and religious powers, are exhibited for the first time at the Musée de l’Elysée. What tensions or reflections do you intend to create by juxtaposing the series?
My assumption is that power is always staged, as if power needed some form of theatricality to exist: protocol, representational codes, uniforms and role play, decorum, the forms of power that I have observed in the three series presented today all express themselves through external signs. But they are so obvious that they allow for breaches and give a glimpse of details, urging you to take a closer look, to reach beyond appearances. In all three series, there is this permanent tension between what is being observed and the grey areas, the hidden, the unspoken.

Several images in the series In Jesus’ Name have been censored. How do you intend to show the void of censorship?
From my point of view, censorship did not create a void, it created a surplus. In other words, I consistently refuse to explain my images or to caption them, in order to avoid imposing a unique interpretation and a manipulation of the imagination. Captions freeze the poetical and suggestive space carried within a photograph; which does not mean that photographs can be made to say anything and everything, especially when we’re talking about a series or a book, as in this case. But an image must breathe, and leave some space to the beholder. Yet, in order to achieve the ban on the book, the lawyer of the plaintiffs wrote out his own interpretation of my images. In doing so, he kills them in a way. So I had two options: either to let go and admit the defeat, or give a new impetus to the series In Jesus’ Name by foiling the situation, exploiting the new power that is being imposed on me, that is, the power of the judiciary.

You discovered the judiciary power though your appearance in court. Could this constitute a fourth component to your project?
Yes, but I would not say that it would be a fourth component. It would rather be an outlet project, stemming from a situation I didn’t chose. This sequel will link together the three previous series and will probably shed a different light on them. It is likely to be a narrative rather than a photographic project. To tell the truth, I still don’t really precisely know; the legal proceedings are pending and I still have some difficulties figuring out what I could do with this. But what is certain is that as an artist, I cannot let things happen without finding an artistic outcome to this restriction on the freedom of speech.

Images from top
From the series In Jesus’ Name, 2012

From the series Protokoll, 2007

From the series Tropical Gift, 2010

All images ©Christian Lutz from the exhibition
Christian Lutz, Trilogy
Musée de l’Elysée
Lausanne, Switzerland
5th June – 1st September, 2013


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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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mouth2mouth | Philip Treacy on Photography

Friday, February 1st, 2013

mouth2mouth | interview
philip treacy | milliner

Over 30 of his hats were worn at HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. Probably the world’s best-known hat designer, Philip Treacy began his career in 1990, in London, having been taken under the wing of the late Isabella Blow. Milliner of choice for many top fashion designers, he created hats for Alexander McQueen’s white haute couture collection at Givenchy, for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, as well as for Valentino, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karen. In 2000 Treacy was invited to present the first ever Paris couture show dedicated to millinery. Named British Accessory Designer of the Year five times at the British Fashion Awards, he created hats for film – Harry Potter – for Grace Jones, Daphne Guinness, Naomi Campbell, Lady Gaga and Madonna. A new book, Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies, the result of a 20-year collaboration between the milliner and his long-time friend, photographer Kevin Davies, is published in February by Phaidon. Former creative director at Tatler turned photographer, Pedro Silmon asked Treacy about his passion for photography and photographers.

In the introduction to your and photographer Kevin Davies’ book you say that every hat you ever made began, in your mind, as a photograph. Who is the photographer?
Always Irving Penn. He was the quintessential hat photographer.

A hat is an idea. A suggestion. A hat isn’t an inanimate object you put on your head – it’s supposed to do something – you’re drawing with material to create an illusion. I identify with photographers because they’re doing the same thing as I am.

Is there a particular genre of photographer you like best?
Iconic Hollywood. Greta Garbo’s photographer, Clarence Sinclair-Bull, George Hurrell. Those I discovered in the books I saw for the first time when I went to art college in Dublin. The photographers who invented glamour and made people look beautiful: Hoynigen-Huhne, Edward Steichen, Horst, Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean.

Which other photographers’ work do you like?
Helmut Newton. He was very persuasive and impressed me so much with his charm that I felt I couldn’t seriously say no when he asked to photograph me, who hates having his photograph taken – topless!
Bruce Weber is amazing. His black and white is really colour. So many tones… He put my hats on male models. Such a simple idea but it worked and just looked fantastic. Avedon asked me to make a hat specifically for an Egoïste cover he was shooting with Stephanie Seymour as the model. He was like a teenager – full of energy – really excitable.

Photographers are engaging and obsessive and I understand that. I like photographers that have a point of view and who put their stamp on a picture as if they’ve painted it. You can always tell a Sarah Moon, a Deborah Turbeville, a Paolo Roversi – they have a signature look and extraordinary personality. People like Nick Knight continue experimenting but his pictures are always identifiably his. I like David LaChapelle, who’s charming and has amazing vision. Although I haven’t worked with him a lot, I find Steven Meisel’s work exceptional and unusual – unlike anyone else’s.
One of the biggest influences on me and someone who has been a great inspiration, is Jean-Paul Goude. He’s so talented he doesn’t need to be an arse-hole. He’s a intriguing and charismatic. A designer’s dream. He has incredible ideas that are so simple they show he’s a genius.

What about newer photographers?
I think Mert & Marcus are great. They asked me to make a lace mask for them for the 90th Anniversary cover of French Vogue (2010). I’ve also been working with the German photographer, Cathleen Naundorf, who produces massive, very stylised polaroids.

Which photographers you haven’t enjoyed working with, and why?
I don’t think I’ve come across any… Photographers are like a race of people. I like working with them all.

Sometimes my hats are sent out by publicists to be photographed and I hate it when the photographer tries to do something edgy that just doesn’t work. The best photographers just photograph the hats – no tricks.

Do you like to go on shoots?
Shoot culture has become very irritating and makes going to a shoot daunting experience. So many people. And every time an image pops up on the computer screen, everyone has something to say. I remember when it was the photographer’s point of view that was important. That’s why I was such a fan of Irving Penn, who once took a portrait of me for American Vogue in his little glass-roofed Paris studio, where there was no lighting, no assistant, just a simple chair and a small table, his little camera, him and his charm. Fascinating!…

Do you collect photographs?
I have two wonderful Penn prints – one black and white, one colour – and five of Garbo by Clarence Sinclair Bull, plus a few others by Bruce Weber, Arthur Elgort and Ellen von Unwerth.

Do you have a preference for black and white or colour photographs?
I prefer black and white – it’s more dramatic. But it depends… Colour is a different language. Black and white is more romantic… But, I don’t see it in black and white. I love all the colours in it. What I also love are the really dark pictures that people like Clarence Sinclair Bull did in the 1920s and 30s. The pictures were about darkness, not about light – a lot of photography now is too bright.

You mention in the book that there were always photographers around the studio at 69 Elizabeth Street in the 1990s. Who were they?
Isabella (Blow) was always bringing people in: Michael Roberts, Alastair Thain – all absolutely obsessed – it was wonderful, manic!

Do other photographers still come in or does Kevin now have exclusive access?
They do, Yes. Kevin doesn’t have exclusive access but with him it’s not in your face. He’s a one man band. Quiet. Not loud. Easy. Often, I don’t notice he’s around. I didn’t really understand the pictures when he first starting doing them. They seemed to be the opposite of what people would imagine – not really about the hats, more about the environment. Now I have some of them framed and up on the wall.

Which photographers’ work is on your mood board right now?
… Everybody’s! Because I’m developing another book, with Rizzoli, that won’t be out for another couple of years.

Images from top
In the Studio, 10th February, 1999

The Royal Wedding, Battersea Studio, 27th April, 2011

In the Studio, 69, Elizabeth Street, 11th November

Images by Kevin Davies from the book
Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies
Phaidon
www.phaidon.com
192 pages, hardback, £39.95/€49.95, February 2013

All photographs © Philip Treacy

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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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mouth2mouth | Mark Thomson

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

mouth2mouth | exclusive interview
mark thomson | book designer extraordinaire

Mark Thomson is based in London and is responsible for the design of the catalogue for the Mel Bochner: If the Colour Changes exhibition, currently showing at the Whitechapel Gallery. Trained in fine art at Chelsea School of Art, for a period in the 90s Mark was art director of Taschen, based in Cologne, Germany, where he produced, among many other books, the definitive tome Starck (1996). Back in the UK, he began working on books directly with artists. More recently he has produced artist monographs, exhibition catalogues and text-based books with publishers Ridinghouse, as well as with the British Council and British Museum. Among other projects, Mark is currently involved in producing a monograph on the British artist and 2003 Turner Prize nominee Anya Gallaccio. Thomson, an authority on typography, occasionally writes on design-related subjects.

In a 2005 issue of Eye magazine, referring to an exhibition of Swiss books at the Design Museum, Thomson said: ‘An inescapable fact about exhibiting books is that the essential ingredient of a book – its engagement with time – is impossible to show. Sculpture you can walk around, a painting can be seen from left and right.’ The real experience of a book, he tells us, has more in common with music or architecture. Significantly, in the same article he talks about the exhibition and its catalogue, designed by Laurent Benner and Jonathan Hares, as being co-dependent and that, in this instance, ‘the catalogue itself is the star.’

When did you study at Chelsea?
1980 to 1985, studying fine art. Anthony Hill was my main tutor there. He’d corresponded with Marcel Duchamp and was a central figure in postwar British and European constructivism. He had an anarchic alter ego called Redo (as in play-doh). These things made him extremely interesting to me. His 1983 mid-career retrospective at the Hayward is still one of the best exhibitions I’ve ever seen: work that was totally uncompromising, industrial, practically colourless and apparently devoid of angst or expression of any kind. I loved it, and still do.

Why the crossover from fine art to design?
After Chelsea I started writing about art, mostly reviewing exhibitions and interviewing artists I was interested in, such as Hans Haacke and Dan Graham. I did a bit of lecturing, usually on these subjects. Meanwhile the work I was making had something to do with structure and language; it was really no step at all from that to design. I started doing flyers for concerts, and gradually realised that design held a deeper mystery for me. It was not clear at all how design worked – the language was far more subtle than the idea of problem-solving that was being put about. Typography in particular became my obsession, as well as the overall language of design. The first exhibition catalogue and print material I did was for New Contemporaries in 1993. For the first time I felt that all my interests came together in a meaningful way.

How did the Taschen job come about?
At about the same time I had been working on a book about chairs for Taschen, and went to Cologne to show them what I had done. While there I worked on another book with them for a day or two, returning a couple of weeks later to do some more. Then it snowballed – we got on well and after a few months I was given the job of art director. I had my studio in London and the studio in Cologne. I went between the two for a few years.

The main task was to introduce a more international design language – although the company sold books all over the world it was still quite German-looking. I gave the typography a new direction: Scala Sans had just been released and it was readable as well as fresh, it was both new and somehow traditional, and it was perfect for the coated papers that art books are mostly printed on. Scala and Quadraat became the baseline typefaces for the company.

You’re currently based in London but do you still do work for overseas clients?
When I stopped working with Taschen I wanted to focus on working with artists and working internationally – over the last few years I’ve worked in something like 20 languages. My clients are all over – we Skype a lot.

Could you explain something about some of the other things you’ve worked on?
The work has fallen into natural categories: monographs, exhibition catalogues, writings and other text-based books. I have made monographs on artists like Simon Patterson and Chris Burden, and catalogues for recent exhibitions by John Stezaker and Josiah McElheny at the Whitechapel, on German Romantic prints and drawings at the British Museum, Nick Danziger and Yuri Gagarin for the British Council (where I also designed the exhibition, with Nick Coombe Architecture).

I work a lot with Ridinghouse, who are doing some great publishing on and around art. Recently we’ve done a series of collected writings of Michael Bracewell, Georg Baselitz and Fred Wilson, as well as a book called Unconcealed – a brilliant, incredibly detailed study of the artist, dealer and museum network around conceptual art in Europe between 1967 and 1977. The most recent catalogue is for Mel Bochner at the Whitechapel Gallery (and in 2013 at Haus der Kunst, Munich, and Fundação de Serralves, Porto, Portugal).

Was it very different working with an artist’s work that is often strongly typographical, as opposed to say figurative or purely abstract? How did it affect your approach?
I am only trying to find a form through which the work can speak. In my view the designer’s role here is to place the work in space, as well as it can be done, and then to get out of the picture. This applies to every aspect of the design – the editorial structure, the structure of the page, the typography and the production. The moment of interaction between eye, paper and ink is the critical one where the work can be found or lost completely. I still believe that having some kind of understanding of the work makes all the difference to the final outcome. Mel Bochner’s father was a signwriter, so his understanding of typography and lettering is very grounded.

The exhibition title, If the Colour Changes, doesn’t appear on the cover of the catalogue: what was the thinking behind this?
Only that the catalogue is almost a monograph. There is much less out there on Mel Bochner than I thought, and the scope of the exhibition is basically the scope of his career, even if a guiding theme of the show is apparently colour. This particular catalogue includes five critical texts as well as a selection of Mel Bochner’s own texts, a very detailed biography and bibliography, and of course all the works from the exhibition. That’s a lot of content.

Images from the catalogue
Mel Bochner: If the Colour Changes

Published in 2012 on the occasion of the exhibition of the same title by Whitechapel Gallery and Ridinghouse in association with Haus der Kunst, Munich, and Fundação de Serralves, Porto; edited by Achim Borchardt-Hume and Doro Globus, with texts by Achim Borchardt-Hume, Briony Fer, João Fernandes, Mark Godfrey and Ulrich Wilmes

Front cover, showing:
Blah, Blah, Blah, 2011 (Detail)
Oil on velvet (ten panels)

Double page spread, showing:
Actual Size (Hand and Face), 1968/2002
Two gelatin silver prints

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