I may not know what art is, but I know what art isn’t. The ongoing Art Below annual summer group exhibition in collaboration with London’s Muse Gallery and Studio, taking place at the Muse, is a festival for lovers of good art works. A total of 50 artists, established and unknown, are exhibiting their work - 25 artists from the 4th - 14th June followed by another 25 artists from 18th - 30th June. Why would 50 people want to partake in a gig like this I hear you holler? It’s providing a tad of everything for everybody. Besides to foster the spirit of public participation and engagement in arts, some of the works are also on display on billboard posters across the London Underground network throughout June and July. Is this a winning formula or what? Answer on twitter, please.
Artists taking part includes: Welsh painter, poet and television personality Molly Parkin, 83, Ewa Wilczynski, Hayden Kays, Lora Hristova, Francis Akpata, and Nasser Azam. Paul Lemmon, Ben Moore, Dora Williams, Ani Lang, Leo Jahaan, and Christopher Flower, expressionist figurative painter from Southeastern North Carolina, USA. And there’s more: Stephanie Brown, Louise Barrett and Marty Thornton, to name but 16 - London is becoming an art capital now. The show has galvanised what can be refer to as a frenzy because The London's Muse Gallery is based in the capital's cultural heartland Portobello Road, known world-wide as the home of Europe’s biggest street festival, the London Nothing-Hill Carnival. The Carnival Bands will take to the roads on Sunday 30th and Monday 31st August.
The Art Below was started in 2006 as a public art organisation by brothers Ben and Simon Moore with a vision to “enrich the everyday life of the traveling public by giving fresh insight into the very latest in contemporary art whilst at the same time providing a platform for emerging and established talent”. To date, Art Below have displayed the works of over 3000 international artists, both emerging and established artists in several underground stations in London and overseas. The Muse pieces on show: a mix of painting, printmaking, photography and sculpture and landscape, (a drifting jumble) arguably, I can say ranges from the absolute shocking to the damn-right sublime and some in between. To wrap up: Art Below Summer Show 2015 is the Glastonbury of Art festival and part the masterpiece of London’s big summer happening. Don’t miss it. 4 stars!
As part of my review for this piece I contacted two artists of this must see exhibition. First; Francis Akpata, is only on his second exhibition, but counting. Born in Nigeria, however, came to the UK in 1991. Akpata briefly (one year) studied Fine Art and Literature at the University of Benin, Edo State, and Western Nigeria. While he says he is mostly self-taught, looking at his works of art you will be forgiven for thinking that Akpata was some eons ago a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) or pupil of Édouard Manet (1832-1883). Francis said: “I hold the view that art should be an expression of one’s thoughts and feelings through images. I merge images and colours to express my thoughts”. Who could argue with that? However, Francis is exhibiting only one piece at the Muse gallery - titled In Repose, which precedes another one he exhibited last year called In Recline.
How would you describe your art style?
My style is either expressionist or abstract. The expressionist works are figurative while the abstract pieces describe feeling, ideas or pose a question. I paint primarily in oil for abstract work and then combine pastel, water colour and ink for figurative paintings.
Digital and computer art is upon us big time, which means that anyone with any proficiency in software design programs can produce a drawing at the drop of a hat. Does this worry you? And life drawing is now seen by many as an old-fashioned and unnecessary waste of time. Do you agree?
I think computers and digital media are tools that will also help separate artist from craftsmen. As I mentioned the artist uses his imagination and the tools, which could be paintbrush or a computer could be used by the artist. So it does not worry me, I intend to use digital media to make installation videos in future.
How do you evaluate art? Every attempt to define "good" art is doomed to frustration. Allowing the free market to decide, may sound intelligent, except that auction prices identify Damien Hirst as the best ever UK artist, which sounds a bit suspect to me, if you ask me?
I evaluate art as good when it is able to engage our imagination and understanding. Some artists like Damien Hirst are also able to market their works effectively, this is no different from Michelangelo who was able to get the attention of religious and political leaders in the 15th century which led to him painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Ever since the controversial works of Marcel Duchamp, avant-garde artists, have been pushing the boundaries of your profession to breaking point resulting in the ongoing debate about 'What constitutes art?' Is this not a trivial squabble between scorched academics? And would you agree that categories such as Contemporary Art, Fine Art; Visual Art; Decorative Art; Applied Art; Crafts; Art Glossary; Junk Art; Graffiti Art - these categories should be eliminated?
I believe the categories should be eliminated and that we should thank Marcel Duchamp for allowing us to separate craft for art. A craftsman learns a particular skill and uses that methodically without using his imagination. An artist uses different mediums, styles and genres to express ideas.
Francis poster is up at Green Park tube station till the end of June.
Thenceforward, welcome London-born Ewa Wilczynski who has been exhibiting since 2009 and this is her seventh outing. A graduate of Central Saint Martins, London, and the Académie des Beaux Arts in Paris and has exhibited internationally and throughout the UK. The title of Ewa’s show is THROES. Shocking!
Why Throes as a title?
The title of the show THROES takes inspiration from death throes: that moment in-between life and death. My work deals with those elusive and ethereal moments - 'In between' in human nature.
How many paintings are you showing in this exhibition and why?
The exhibition showed all the pieces I had made in the few years since graduating from St. Martins and living in Berlin and Paris. It was a chance to consolidate a whole body of work during these really influential and inspirational periods of my life as a young artist. So I had about 6 large scale pieces which took anywhere from 3-7 months to paint each one and several smaller works too.
Now, your CV, well what can I ask? A graduate of Central Saint Martins and the Académie des Beaux Arts in Paris. An artist, actress and muse. Exhibited internationally and throughout the UK including campaigns across London Underground. Digital billboard campaigns across London. Exhibited at London’s Mall Galleries and your debut solo show at the Royal Academy of Art?
During my time at university I was always working, whether it be exhibiting in other countries: Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Toronto, having billboard campaigns of my work on the London Underground and digital billboards over ground using ad space like art space as an exhibition with Art Below, or working in film and fashion. Fine art has always been at the centre of everything I do, so even when working in these other fields I approached each project like I would a painting composition. I took the starring role as 'The Oracle' for Dennis Da Silva's short film Apophonista?! which was screened at Cannes film festival, and most recently collaborated with Joel Byron on our film A Thin Place.
How would you describe your art style and what drives Ewa Wilczynski?
I think what I do is quite different as I seem to have one foot in the past and another in the present. It's quite rare to see work like mine at the moment, and most people respond not only to the overpowering scale, but the overwhelming emotion they evoke. I paint using Old Masters' techniques, and am quite traditional in my appreciation for the craft and also my attraction to classical nude figures. I make my own glazes and paint layers and layers and layers of translucent colours over one another. This can take up to 7 months sometimes, but gives the most luminous effect where the colours reflect and change, and it also gives the paintings a sense of depth. But then the other side of me re-contextualises these techniques in the present day and I manipulate the form/composition in my own present day perspective , including inspiration from my interests in human nature, and as well as my own personal emotions at that time of painting.
You are in my humble opinion a high-profile artist. This is a huge accomplishment. Do you have that feeling of 'I have arrived - Let’s celebrate?'.
Oh thank you that's kind of you. I have a very strong work ethic, and always push myself to be the best I can be. So I get up 4am and work, work and work. So even when I had my debut solo show at the Royal Academy - especially being so early in my career to achieve such an honour - I was just in complete work mode and didn't have a chance to feel 'I have arrived'. Even now, I'm onto my next projects and challenging myself so have not really thought about things like that. However, the thing I am most proud about is seeing people's response to my painting, because that is what it's all about.
What next for Ewa Wilczynski?
I will be auctioning my work with Avenir Magazine and Sotheby's at the Groucho club in the autumn and currently painting towards my next solo show! For updates follow me on Instagram and twitter @ewawilczynski or my Facebook fan page Ewa Wilczynski
The Muse at 269 Gallery & Studio, 269 Portobello Rd London W11 1LR
Opening Hours: Thursday-Sunday, 12.00-6.00pm
Watch out for the forthcoming exhibition titled: Art Below Regents Park 2015 from 05/10/2015 to 01/11/2015