Amy Fletcher

We have always had a complex relationship with technology: the dictionary defines the term as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, but technology in its most abstract form could simply be defined as an apparatus or thing that aids us – a functional tool or a way of being. In that sense, we could argue that we have been intertwined with technology since the dawn of man. Artist and filmmaker Amy Fletcher explores these intricate ideas as part of her ongoing practice at Chelsea College of Art and Design.

In her most recent work Let’s Play, Fletcher creates a playful, whimsical space that seems to invite the viewer to interact with the screen even though there’s no viable form of participation. Amy notes that her work “has a childish sensibility to it […] most recently I have been examining the subject of technology within my practice; looking at its constantly evolving presence within society and our innate desire for the next slickest gadget and gizmo.”

As in popular culture, art itself is increasingly enmeshed by and within technology. Using the film medium, a high-tech camera and stop-frame animation, the artist appears in her own work through the form of disembodied limbs: poppy music accompanies a set of magical hands that conjure and play with a set of objects set against a flat backdrop.

As an audience, we know that it is not “real” and that the objects on screen are not really changing from 2D to 3D from one frame to another. Rather than trying to hide its fabricated nature, however, the video actually tries to emphasise this quality through the loud camera clicks that accompany each shot.

There’s something clever in the film’s careful positioning and flickering frames that captures the eye: like a deft magician, Amy uses the stop-frame animation genre to create an illusion the viewer is willing to invest in – despite, and perhaps because, of its honest and effective duplicity.

Take a look at Amy Fletcher’s online behance portfolio to see more of her past, current and ongoing work.

INTERVIEW: GHAZALEH GOLPIRA, FILMMAKER

My good friend Benjamin Franklin once said: “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins”. To me, this perfectly sums up the personality of Ghazaleh Golpira. It is crystal clear when she talks about her work that she is driven by an immense passion for filmmaking, but this does not mean that her decision to make a career in cinema was not a down-to-earth one. 100% aware of the fact that, as she puts it, “you can’t start right at the top and you need rejections to succeed”, Ghazaleh has a genuine maturity of thought that strongly appears in her work and in the themes she tackles. Today, Ghazaleh is adding the final touches to the first short film that she entirely wrote, directed and produced herself. Ángel Viajera is an eight-minute film set in Spain that portrays the relationship between a young schoolgirl and a negligent adult going through an emotional crisis. Find out more about it in the following interview!

Can you tell me more about your academic background and professional path?

I graduated in French and Spanish but I always made sure during my time at university that I incorporated courses focusing on cinema and filmmaking. After university, I did internships with independent production companies for five or six months, which allowed me to try different arenas of work within the cinema industry. I also built up my skills, my portfolio, and just my general knowledge of the industry. Now, I am considering an MA in film schools for film studies.

Was your decision to make a career in cinema a difficult one? Was it natural for you or were you drawn back by the competitiveness of the milieu?

It was natural in the sense that I chose it purely out of passion. I realized that at the end of the day, nothing makes me more enthusiastic than the perspective of creating films. And I think it is important to see it as a passion more than a career. It can become so corrupt if you do it for no other reason than the money. But I do realize that you can’t start right at the top, you need rejections to succeed and it requires a lot of discipline. Filmmaking is a collaborative process and I think it’s important that you see every position. People are not going to invest in your talent if they don’t see you as capable of doing different things. You have to persist and persist, but in the end it all comes down to “I do this because it is my passion”.

What is it exactly that you want to show in your films?

I realized over the years that I love writing about social realism and things that we can identify with. When it comes to me, I like watching films because I take a lot of meaning from them.  I identify with films that take on society, that have to do with family, politics, ageing or relationships. I really think that getting as close to reality as possible is essential in filmmaking.

Can you tell me more about Ángel Viajera?

It is an eight-minute film about a young girl who has a turbulent relationship with her mother. As she is walking in a park, the daughter encounters a man in his mid-thirties who is going through an emotional crisis. Gradually the man recognizes the wisdom of the young girl and he opens up to her. At the same time, he becomes the father figure that she never had. I wanted to show that wisdom doesn’t depend necessarily on age but on life experience, and that connecting with someone can bring chemistry and identification.

How long did it take to produce? How many people were involved? What were the challenges?

I had the idea back at the end of April and I wrote the script, knowing that I was going to get a break from work during which I could make the film. It was tricky! We had to do it in a week-end because the cast were working or studying. So we originally planned to shoot the film over the course of one weekend but due to some technical issues, we overran a few days. Luckily we shot it in six days or so. The main challenges were the lighting and the temperature (34°C in Valencia,). I was also concerned with the fact that the young girl is only 9 years old, so I didn’t want to overwork her. I’d like to praise her for her hard work, I am really proud of her and of all the actors! All of them are Spanish, I met the main actor, José, when I went on an exchange to Valencia, and the little girl is his niece. Even though they are not related in the film, I think that it is important that they are family because it means that they were comfortable acting together. It was a very intimate project, for example I had friends collaborating to help me out with technical and equipment challenges. It was more of an experimental project to see how far I could go with minimal equipment in a foreign country. I wanted to focus more on the creative process than the commercial process.

Why did you choose to set it in Spain?

I think it is because the story is quite an intimate, sweet, nurtured, warm one. It’s a nestled story, a cute, romantic one and I thought that the openness of the culture and of the people in Spain was perfectly adapted. And the weather of course!  London is too much of an urban, metropolitan, crowded place, it’s too big, too grand to capture the intimacy of their relationship. And also, very importantly, Spain is the natural habitat of my actors and I wanted them to feel comfortable.

Finally, a difficult question: if you were to describe your work in one word, what would it be?

That’s tricky! I would probably go for existential impetus. I focus on the idea that life has its ups and downs. It reminds me of the film Gravity, which is all about existentialism: when the characters are about to die, they find the strength to try to survive. They can’t give up because there are people waiting for them and needing them. I think existentialist ideas are always going to be beyond my mind and existentialism is very central to my work.

HOLLY FULTON DESIGNER

Eccentric songstress, Noosha Fox is my muse for this season” says Holly Fulton about her Spring/Summer collection 2014. And as the models walk down the catwalk  to “Only You Can”, it is pretty obvious that she was successful in recreating the summer vibe from the 70s that she was looking for. If her show was to be described in a few words, it would probably be energy and fun, two words that also seem to match her personality. Her quick but smiling appearance at the end, in a gorgeous kimono dress, finally convinces – me, at least – that Holly Fulton has a bright fashion future ahead of her.

Born in Edinburgh, she studied at first at the Edinburgh College of Art before entering the Royal College of Art in London. Despite her young age, she is considered one of the most promising designers in Britain, and has already won the 2009 Swarovski Emerging Talent for Accessories, the Young Designer of the Year Award at the Scottish Fashion Awards and the Elle Style Award for new designer in 2010. Today, after creating six shows with the same enthusiasm, Fulton has successfully imposed her very unique style among the London fashion scene. Her incomparable designs have even led some to describe her as the “Scottish Roberto Cavalli”!

Watching her Spring/ Summer 2014 collection, you will be caught by reminiscing thoughts of 70s disco nights overloaded with color and dubious prints. But Fulton, unlike my twenty year-old Dad, avoids fashion faux-pas, and successfully combines the modernity and vibrancy of New York silhouettes with vintage styles. That choker necklace that our Mum hasn’t worn in public in thirty years? Looks great when stylized with great taste and a well cut bustier dress! She has managed to impose geometrical prints as her trademark and the tribal feel that she has given to her work for this season falls in with what she has done in the past. Her unusual use of accessories, from XXL jewellery to unexpected fan-bags, never fails to surprise and is certainly worth the look.

Find out more about Holly Fulton on her official website or on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter!

Louise Orwin

Louise Orwin is a performance artist whose work deals with anxiety, humiliation, and expectations of femininity. She is currently based in London, after earning her MA in Performance in 2011, and her latest project, Pretty Ugly, is causing quite a stir.

Orwin found herself fascinated by a recent trend, young preteen and teenage girls creating videos for YouTube asking the mostly-anonymous commenters if they are pretty or ugly. Despite these videos almost always leading to a tidal wave of anonymous abuse, the trend rapidly gained popularity. Curious about why young girls would subject themselves to such harsh bullying and what it was like to experience the backlash of a “Pretty or Ugly?” video, Orwin decided to find out firsthand.

Using her performing chops, Orwin took on three teenaged personae for the project, called Becky, Baby, and Amanda, and made different videos for each one. Now, in a performance piece that will be running from 23 October to 9 November at the Camden People’s Theater, the videos she created will be combined with YouTube comments they received, and material from interviews Orwin conducted with the teen girls affected by this trend. Orwin hopes this project will not simply result in an entertaining performance, but also serve as a part of her continuing research into how social media is effecting our lives. Here is the blog she made specifically to document the progress of the Pretty Ugly project.

Orwin is also working on a series of photographs exploring women’s relationships with food and dieting, and her past projects include interactive performances and spaces that focus on creating a one to one connection between the artist and the viewer. If you would like to see more information on her work, check out her personal website.

Niko the Ikon, 89plus Marathon.

89plus marathon was a weekned of talks, poetry readings and performance celebrating new young talent, DIS Magazine’s ‘diamond generation’. The much anticipated winners of 2 new grants from the competition DIScrit 89plus were announced- the impeccably dressed and moustached Niko the Ikon and his partner in crime Tierney Finster. They appear to be long-term collaborators and best friends forever. Niko warns us not to be distracted by his moves as the screen their sultry interpretation of pop hit ‘Can we talk?’ by Tevin Camplell, released in 1993 which they explain was filmed on the same camera that recorded Niko’s birth. The new space-agey and sparkling Serpentine Sackler Gallery seems the perfect setting for discussion which centered mostly around new media and art in the internet age, all with reference to 1989 as a the crux.

Niko and Tierney were more than charismatic in explaining that their ‘greatest creation together was ourselves, our favourite media is social and favourite characters are online, mostly ourselves’. But their work has a depth and sincerity that makes it enchanting, Tierney adds ‘we are examining others when we publicize ourselves’ and ‘our videos are about love’. As sweet as they are cool and sophisticated, Niko and Tierney seem like the hot new art talent this year.

Check out their video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhoaadQFdrM.

That’s Juvey?

Between utilising a Bugsy Malone hook and featuring the lazy cuisine of cold beans on toast in his videos, That’s Juvey? is an artist willing to use humour to get his serious message across.

Indeed, one of the most intriguing things about the young Ellesmere Port-born rapper is the snarling understanding of the industry that runs through his tracks. That is to say that for someone so young, That’s Juvey? (real name Kyle Owen) recognises that the music industry is a contrived and dangerous place: one he dissects and raps about with precise slices of spitting sarcasm. Speaking to him, he declared that he had “incorporated the idea of being the underdog in a competitive scouse scene into my music.”

He is part of a burgeoning scene of rappers who use the internet and YouTube channels to air their beats and bars. Channels such as UKUS and his own channel Little Raskal TV (based in Little Sutton and Ellesmere Port) co-ran with Blu Beatz are important mediums and representative of a changing industry.

On one such channel, the increasingly influential Lab TV, he successfully analyses the temptation to slip into a commercial coma “Downing beer, wearing chinos, rapping ‘bout my massive ego” before intricately outlining what might be considered his manifesto: “I am just me” – and this “me” is someone whose environment bleeds into his creative output.

This is music built on a foundation of Mersey-wit and grey boredom “They say we’re free but where we’re living makes it hard to succeed” and the two, wit and boredom; intertwine smartly in a series of shrewd tracks that fuse retro samples and modern concerns into an exciting sound, rooted in a rich heritage of influences. He commented “I value intricate patterns, complex rhyme schemes and originality as essentially important components of a good piece and thus artists such as Ghetts, Fliptrix, Jam Baxter, Big L, Big Pun, Rhyme Asylum were definitely people I looked up to.”

Interestingly, another influence on his sound came from stations on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – a particularly current way of discovering music, and another sign of the contemporaneity of his lyricism. Morrissey got his inspiration from Oscar Wilde, That’s Juvey? finds it in video games.

Twitter, the horse scandal, Britain’s Got Talent and hipsters are referenced in rhymes that twist and turn in quick seconds and though the temptation is to dump every young British rapper into an invented lump of hooded thugs, there is a deft intelligence in That’s Juvey?’s lyrics reminiscent of an ‘Original Pirate Material’ Mike Skinner.

If Skinner was The Streets then That’s Juvey? might well be considered The Street Corner, a place where humour and heartbreak collides on cold evenings in crumbling British towns.

We should gather round and listen.

Leah Mason

There are great guitarists who have a shot at singing, and great singers who pass with a guitar. Unpretentious blues rock singer/songwriter Leah Mason is exceptional at both – how rare. Initially taking up the guitar self-taught, Leah took on the six strings like a child conquering the jungle gym in a sonic playground. Whilst all the other children squabbled for the limelight, Leah walked nonchalantly strumming past them all: an unaffected, organic talent.

Not dissimilar to powerhouse Joss Stone, Leah takes the plump and glossy quality of soul music and gives it an edge – and yet despite the punch she is so likeably laid back. Inspired by Janis Joplin, Patti Smith and Bonnie Raitt, Leah said “I don’t want to get caught up in comparisons to other girls with guitars who are out at the minute. I’m into Alison Mosshart, Janis Joplin, Courtney Love; essentially women who aren’t scared to show they don’t give a f***.”

Leah’s effortlessly potent flavour is brought to light in her track ‘Waiting On a Good Day’. The power rock energy brings a helping of guts laced with 80s The Clash-esque punk nostalgia. In a touch of roughed-up femininity her vocal range soars casually over the horizon; for an artist so nonchalant Leah has some pipes on her.

Similarly, in ‘Never Can Tell’ Leah’s voice cascades skybound as if falling up a waterfall. Combine this with shimmying maracas and polished chord progressions and the result hits you from inside: an afferent summertime high.

A strong recommendation, especially for those with a weakness for acoustic covers, is Leah’s live acoustic performance of ‘Toes’ on Mahogany Sessions at Lounge on the Farm. Whether you’re a savvy music follower or someone who enjoys it for pure pleasure, dare you not to gasp at the mega vocal range and dextrous guitar skill. Building through layers of quick finger picking, a fiery chorus and a rocky break, this breathes a welcome breath of summer festival season – catch it on Youtube.

For blues fans, ‘Is There A Man’ is another powerful track seeped in longing and vulnerability. The ballard-esque chorus implores, fervent and velvety, before rolling into an accomplished guitar solo that reminds us we’re looking at real ‘no frills’ talent. On a livelier tip, ‘San Antoine’ is a bip-bopping taste of country/folk rock that screams ‘shake a tail feather’.

Leah Mason is one of those artists you boast to your friends about discovering now, before everyone else catches wind. The horizon is bright. Although still an independent artist, in mid-2013 Leah toured with Nashville-born singer/songwriter Brendon Benson – incidentally also one of the founding members of the Raconteurs. Their forthcoming material together is something for any keen music follower’s radar. As she begins to really burst onto the stage, it’s clear that Leah is an artist who has taken careful time to hone-in her sound – a sound that shows off her talent as one of Britain’s best female vocalists and guitarists at the moment.

Find Leah Mason on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.

Louise Bourgeois Takes Over Edinburgh

She was the first female artist to get her own retrospective in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, her career covers seven decades, and her psychologically poignant works span a huge variety of media and subjects. French art matriarch Louise Bourgeois has taken over Edinburgh’s art galleries with two simultaneous exhibits at the National Gallery of Modern art and the Fruitmarket Gallery.

The exhibit at Modern One, A Woman Without Secrets, takes Bourgeois’s later mixed media sculptural works as its centerpiece. Cast bronze, fabric, mirrors, and more form dramatic psychological tableaux that reveal the artist’s inner anxieties and neuroses. This dynamic and varied show is accompanied by a smaller, more focused, but equally worthwhile accompanying exhibition in the Fruitmarket Gallery. I Give Everything Away focuses on drawing suites Bourgeois completed late in her life. Taking up the entire ground floor is a haunting set of the 220 Insomnia Drawings, created during an eight month struggle the artist had with insomnia. The upper gallery features two highly emotional and expressionistic sets of drawings, When Did This Happen? and the titular I Give Everything Away, which are large scale and tremendously evocative. Both exhibitions work together to present a comprehensive view of the vast range of techniques and subjects Bourgeois worked with.

Despite her passing in 2010, Louise Bourgeois’s work still feels fresh, and has inspired younger generations of artists to delve into the world of their lived experience, anxieties, and longings for the subject matter of their work. Any artist, or fan of Bourgeois’s work, should make a point of visiting this perfect storm of exhibitions, at two great galleries that are within walking distance of each other. A Woman Without Secrets runs at Modern One now to May 18th, and I Give Everything Away will be up at the Fruitmarket Gallery until the 23rd of February.

Bhavna

In recent years, fashion fanatics have been turning away from high street, mass produced fast fashion in search of something more unique and, most importantly, ethically produced. For years, Fair Trade design houses like People Tree have been at the forefront of this socially conscious project of making high quality clothing in a high quality working environment. Now, more companies thinking along this mindset have begun to emerge, and Bhavna is one that I highly recommend to any ethically-minded fashion aficionado.

Bhavna Rishi founded the eponymously named company Bhavna, showcasing her first collection of scarves at London Fashion Week in 2010. Each scarf is designed in England and handcrafted in India, meaning that each has received lavish care and attention in its production and is unlike any other. As part of the production process, Bhavna educates individuals and communities in their rich textile heritage, teaching skills such as embroidery, smocking, dyeing and printing to ensure that these inimitable methods are not lost. In addition, the company steadfastly supports three charities: The Sacred Childhood Foundation, The Women Vikas Institute and Find Your Feet.

The scarves and kaftans themselves are exquisitely designed, distinctively colourful and translate from beach to city, and across spring, summer and autumn effortlessly. When I first encountered Bhavna’s work, I was immediately reminded of the flowing, statement kaftans seen on the likes of Serena Van Der Woodsen in Gossip Girl, reeking of sophistication and vibrancy. I have not been partial to much kaftan-wearing in the past, but with clothing of such material and ethical quality on offer, Bhavna may have just converted me!

Find out more on Facebook, Twitter and shop at http://bhavna.com/b/

THE HICS

I belong to that category of people who get absolutely irascible when someone puts on music when they need to focus; little did I know that this major personality aspect would be changed forever when I stumbled upon The Hics’ SoundCloud. And so, it is gently lulled by the soothing voice of Roxana Dayette that I am currently writing a review about this very promising sextet that is bursting with talent and that is just starting to be recognized among the British underground scene.

Sam Paul Evans (vocals), Jacob Welsh (drums), Geordon Reid-Campbell (guitar), Matt Knox (bass), David Turay (saxophone) and Roxana Dayette (vocals), aged 17 to 24, almost all met at Pimlico School in London, where the band was formed and named after hickory (the wood drumsticks are made of). The Hics was at first a two-piece band and as it gradually grew into a six-piece, it was successful in imposing a rare and unique style that is not easy to define. Instrumentation-wise, their work is light and aerial, with gentle beats that subtly enhance the suavity of their slow melodies. To a sophisticated bass backdrop, Turay’s saxophone does the trick and sets the jazzy tone that is the trademark for the band. The Hics define their style as “electronic swing” but clearly their music is shaped by a variety of influences and rather goes into different styles, ranging from indie to jazz, with a touch of soul and even mild dubstep.

But what probably makes The Hics so distinctive is their vocals: Sam’s deep, masculine voice mingles with Roxana’s slightly melancholic but very sensual voice, which provides some gorgeous harmonies that fit in perfectly in the musical pieces. Lyrics follow on in the same vein as well, with a strong emphasis on fading and dissolution in Tangle, or a lament about a non-reciprocal love in Cold Air. One word to describe their work? It would probably be smooth.

The Hics therefore fit exactly in contemporary musical trends and their work is becoming increasingly popular. They released their first album last August, which you can download on Itunes and featured on the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto 5. For more info, you can visit their official website, or follow them on Twitter or SoundCloud.

Liron Kliger

The craft of making beautiful, quality jewellery seems to be associated only with the luxurious brands with long history behind them that offer their customers breathtaking but rather classical and non-adventurous designs. For the experimental, colourful and a little bit crazy, there is the other side of the spectrum – an array of cheap, plastic accessories offered by popular chain stores. Liron Kliger, a London-based jewellery desgins breaks these unwritten rules with her bold and standing out designs.

Born in Israel, Liron attended West London College where she completed her foundation course before graduating from the London College of Fashion’s Jewellery Fashion Design. Thanks to her travels around the world and living in cosmopolitan cities such as Tel Aviv, Milan and Paris, the designer gained a lot of self-confidence, making her more fearless about the designs she wants to create. And this is exactly the perfect way to describe her jewellery – fearless.

Made for confident women with strong personality and an attitude, Liron’s designs are wild and full of extremes. Created using raw materials, the designer’s jewellery bursts with colours and patterns which gives it a cosmopolitan feel.  Liron’s bangles stacked one on another reminiscent travels and inspirations you bring with you from the different parts of the world but are definitely not one dimensional. Depending on way you decide to style them, they can be more hippy and earthy, raw and tribal or bold and modern, it is all up to you.

Look into your more adventurous side and let Liron’s designs inspire you not only when it comes to your personal style but also attitude – be fearless, not scared of change and standing out!  For more inspiration check Liron’s Facebook Page.

Jing Hu

I first came across Jing Hu’s work at the University of the Arts London’s Freshers Fair last year, when we shared various works with each other as fellow fine art students. I was immediately blown away by the illustrative style of her paintings, possessing at once a very distinctive Chinese quality yet also the influence of western antiquity.

Her colour palettes ranges from vibrant reds to monochromatic greys, but the vast majority of her work have subdued, introspective undertones. The stylised, sometimes hybrid characters stare solemnly back at the observer, haunting in their androgynous, anime beauty and poised in frozen inertia. They sit or lounge or stand in luxurious, traditional settings or strangely fantastical landscapes. Doe-like eyes seem to accuse the viewer of something – you’re not sure exactly what, but they seem to be trying to communicate a story to you.

With a stroke of her brush, Jing Hu weaves an unspoken narrative between the threads of her seductive characters as she “explores ideas around flux, migration, urban-life with aesthetic codes as markers of identity and aspirations.” Essentially, her work elevates the banality of modern life to the realm of urban mythology.

To follow Jing Hu’s journey and view more of her works in her eclectic portfolio (which also includes mixed media art), visit her website.