About Suzanne Zhang

Hi, I am Suzanne, a media and cultural studies student at the University of the Arts London. I am a contributing writer for Rooms Magazine and I regularly write about art and culture with a focus on cinema and visual art. I am an art lover, a travel addict, an existential cat, a colour hater, a flower lover and a story teller- until there are no more words left. 

Klaus Pichler

‘Who hasn’t had the desire to be someone else for a while?’ asks Austrian photographer Klaus Pichler. His recent photo project ‘Just the Two of Us’ captures Austrians hidden behind the costume of their choice, on a very intimate level as the setting is their own home interior.

The Austrian born and bred photographer has been working on this project for more than two years, as he quickly realised that people were quite reluctant at the idea of letting a stranger into their home. It would seem that everyone has the desire to be someone else for a while, but only in a certain space, which, ultimately, says a lot about this project and people on a sociological dimension. There is something so intimate about revealing your own space, your own habits, that one could argue it can only be done if you cover your identity, so as to not be associated with it. Pichler’s series is an interesting rendition of how people step out of their own skin to create an alter ego/personae.

What then, is the motivation behind stepping out of one’s own skin? Pichler says that over the course of the shooting, he was able to see a pattern emerge; for a lot of people, dressing up is a way for them to cope with society’s pressures. Some had a boring or stressful job, or had issues in their everyday life. Either way, the act of dressing up allowed these people to inhabit a different world for while and feel more empowered. Pichler believes that costumes give people the excuse for a “temporary withdrawal from civil life.”

http://www.kpic.at

 

Sebastian Bieniek

The Berlin-based artist and photographer (and film director!), Sebastian Bieniek has recently released a ‘work in progress’ photo series titled ‘Doublefaced’, depicting the intimate day-to-day actions of a two-faced girl. The photographs show a normal girl – you see her in a bath, smoking a cigarette, in a car park… And then you realise that she has two faces; one half of her features drawn on with thick black lines. It is subtly frightening and slightly eerie, almost Picasso-esque (I like to imagine that this is what a modern real life Picasso would be).

A lot of people have criticised the photo series, saying it is a poorly executed project. I, on the other hand, believe that the power of these images rely on the fact that it is ‘self-applied’ makeup as opposed to ‘beauty makeup’, and the smudgeness of the lines only reflect the limits of our imagination. When does a face cease to be a face? What is the connection between our confusion and our imagination? Can a fragment of reality be just as valid as a reality in itself? From my point of view, these are questions that the series try to raise through the use of double dualities and merging realites. When does the ‘I’/’eye’ cease to exist by itself’?

Bieniek himself has said that he doesn’t know where the project is heading, or what is really consists of. It started when his son was really ill and sad, whereupon he drew a happy smile on the side of his face. From there, it has evolved into a project gaining  more than 73,000 followers around the world, with Bieniek uploading regular photographs on his Tumblr and Facebook page.

 

 

 

You can follow Sebastian Bieniek on his Tumblr or on his Facebook

 

 

 

Bipolar Sunshine

Manchester born Bipolar Sunshine is having a good year. He has been steadily gaining recognition for the past few months, ever since he released his debut EP Aesthetics back in June 2013. His new EP ‘Drowning Butterflies’ came out in November and he has already toured with Bastille, Haim, and performed at Lovebox, Reading and Leeds Festival. It’s safe to say he is one artist to watch over the next year.

Bipolar Sunshine, aka Adio Marchant has grown since the break-up of his former band, Kid British. As proven by his second EP, his sound is more mature, having lost the indie-ska undertones, leaving Marchant with a grown voice à la King Krule, singing over some indie-rock-gospel-soul and pop tunes…all the while with some reggae flavour. Talk about eclectic. The song ‘Love More, Worry Less’ is definitively the standout track of the album ‘Drowning Butterflies’, which is a tune that soothes you, electrifies you and leaves you wanting for more. Almost like a spoken word performance, the song is executed with beauty, finesse, sobriety and elegance. The video accompanying it is creative on all points, with slow motion shots of yellow-saturated vast landscapes, making the dreamy and hopeful atmosphere especially acute.

I have to admit that I don’t often go to gigs, and when I do, it is usually because someone is dragging me there to see their favourite band; so when my friend invited me to see MØ (whom I had never heard of) perform at XOYO in London, I was quite skeptical, although excited – there is something deeply satisfying about someone wanting to show you something.

(Karen Marie Ørsted), a Danish singer whose tracks are synth-heavy electro-pop pieces of heaven, made a dynamic and energetic entrance that was hard to disregard, especially given the loud ovation she received from her fans. I have to admit I was extremely baffled at the maturity and texture of MØ’s tracks, which work on a staggeringly deep effect within you. Reminiscent of Grimes and Portishead, her songs have a kind of sonic texture that blend in perfectly with the sultry Lana del Rey-like vocals, only more seductive and vibrant.

The songs that stood out the most for me were ‘Pilgrim’, where the melody and pace was slower and reminiscient of mid-80s pop disco, as well as ‘Glass’ and ‘Waste of Time’, where MØ successfully shows us that the Scandinavians do, in fact, do it better than us in terms of new synth electro-pop. The videoclips for the aforementioned songs are artfully produced and made especially acute by the unflinching sharpness of MØ’s vocals.

On another note, someone has to give the Danish girl a few extra points for her stirring performance at the gig, where she went from jumping to dancing to walking into the crowd, all while delivering her tracks with her bandmates. I, for one, also give her extra points because she was cute, polite and genuinely seemed to enjoy what she was doing.

https://www.facebook.com/MOMOMOYOUTH

https://soundcloud.com/momomoyouth

BANKS

Melancholic R&B singer, BANKS has been on everyone’s radar lately, including Noisey and VICE magazine’s music channel. The L.A singer recently released her new EP ‘London’, which is now ready for purchase and features production from Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.

A number of BANKS’ songs are about are about expressing a lot using the fewest amount of elements necessary. This is further enhanced by the music video for her excellent single ‘Waiting Game’, featuring gloomy black and white images. The grainy atmosphere matches BANKS’s smoky yet high-pitched voice perfectly, on a modern take of R&B, anchoring her in the same genre and plasticity as AlunaGeorge, Twigs and SZA. Longing glances, snow and an extremely sensuous voice are the recipe to this Christmas’ doomed night.

Continuing on her wave of successBANKS’ new album ‘London’ has also been named ‘Best of 2013’ by iTunes. The dark and glamorous singer toured with The Weeknd earlier this year on his ‘Kiss Land’ North American tour, even covering ‘What you need’ in a much more sensuous and warm way. Most of BANKS’ qualities lie here, in the fact that she manages to be warm and vibrant over gritty sounds, elevating the song to a new light where sensuality and melancholy shine through. My favourite song of the EP is undoubtedly ‘Bedroom Walls’, a sultry yet vibrant track with cascading chimes that hit all the right spots. The tune is haunting, even though BANKS’ vocals are soft.

Listen to ‘Bedroom Wall’ here

Vittorio Ciccarelli

Vittorio Ciccarelli is an Italian artist, born in Naples in 1980, who currently lives and works in Aversa. His projects range from unusual to spectacular, always involving multiple layers. Ciccarelli enjoys playing with everyday objects such as paper, books, bubble wrap and pill wraps, decontextualizing them and offering them a new vision.

His first project ‘Bookmark’ is intended to be slightly ironic, combining two different eras: old and new. In that sense bubble wrap is juxtaposed over a picture of an old Renaissance painting. There is a playful twist on the hidden identity of the woman in the tableau, almost as if she were to attend a bal masqué, with a modern pill package over her eyes instead of the traditional feathered mask. The underlying theme of identity is explored throughout the series as she keeps hiding herself under a butter knife, bubble wrap or even a patterned window that only allow for colours and shapes to emerge out of a blurry vision.

Ciccarelli’s second project, ‘Amabili Resti’, is slightly more deep, visualizing the ‘sense of beautiful things, lost or forgotten, and later found’. Only fragments of portraits are shown, such as a torn picture or a square which represents an eye. Again, themes of lost identity and beauty resurface through Ciccarelli’s projects, reflecting on what needs to be seen  and what needs to remain hidden from the public eye; an accurate portrayal of beauty back in the time.

Vittorio Ciccarelli

99 animals by Cai Guo-Qiang

One of the most anticipated exhibitions of late is Cai Guo-Qiang’s ‘Falling back to Earth’, presented at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane, Australia.  Cai Guo-Qiang is a global artist whose dramatic installations have made him one of the most innovative figures in contemporary art, as evidently shown by the central piece of the exhibition, ‘Heritage 2013’.

‘Heritage 2013’ features 99 replicas of animals from around the world, all gathered together to drink from a limpid lake, surrounded by a beach of white sand. The installation draws on themes such as nature and its sometimes contrasting surrounding, especially when put in the modern world.  This wild mirage-like installation came to Cai Guo-Qiang after his visit to Brown Lake (Bummeria) on North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah), where the calm and tranquil environment seemed far from the conflicts of the outside world. Further expanding his ideal of Queensland as a ‘last paradise’, Cai has created a gigantic tableau of animal replicas, standing side by side amidst their differences. However, the work has a second layer of power in its almost utopian beauty: the lyrical vision is that of superficiality and simple, minimalistic modern construction. The installation room is vast and there is almost a tension between the frozen moment of the animals peacefully in the act of drinking  and the incessant, frequent drip of water continually disrupting the lake’s surface and the silence of the room. Almost a vision of Eden, the audience is frozen in time when immersed with these spectacular and beautiful still animals, thus creating a deeply meditative atmosphere.

Over the past 25 years, Cai Guo-Qiang has held exhibitions at some of the world’s most prestigious art institutions, including the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum. He curated the first China Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005 and has also shown projects and exhibitions in Qater, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro and Venice, but ‘Falling back to Earth’ will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in Australia.

http://www.caiguoqiang.com/

Transfer by Kevin Corrado

Kevin Corrado is a fine art photographer from Connecticut. For his latest project ‘Transfer’, he dips his hand in paint and places it in front of a landscape, creating interesting and beautiful visual lines. The project began as a playful idea of the ocean being a giant sea of blue paint rather than water. By subverting our pre-conceived ideas on nature, such as the blue sea, Corrado is making a playful comment on the intense connection between landscapes and colours. Corrado takes simple landscapes and simple ideas that were instilled in us during our elementary days -the sea is blue, yet the water isn’t even blue, it’s transparent…) and makes them complex, layered and textured. By doing so, he also explores his role as an artist and the choices he must make. He argues, for example, that ‘a painter is given the task to paint a tree, but that painter must choose to use green paint’. Corrado must, therefore, choose a colour, which is ironic since it is not something that a photographer (his medium of choice) would normally do.

The unique quality of Corrado’s work lies in its intricate mixture between surrealism and lyricism, embracing nature yet distorting it to make it eerie, beautiful. Corrado’s background is initially one of graphic design, so a lot of his work seems to hold on to qualities of design. He himself states that during his studies, one question that always came up was ‘why’?.  Now that he has completed his design studies, he finds that his work constantly forces him to remain completely conscious over every decision he makes when creating art.

Kevin Corrado

Dennis Hlynsky’s bird paths

I’ve always looked at birds and marveled at how free they are, and how they can fly wherever they can in the world at any given second. Then I look at myself and think, I can do the same… So when I encountered Dennis Hlynsky’s work ‘small brains on mass’, I was incredibly excited, mesmerized and completely fascinated. Dennis Hlynsky, a US-based artist, designer and professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, has an insatiable desire to re-embed technology into the arts. For his recent project, he filmed various birds as they fly, tracing their deeply complex and intricate pathways in the sky like aero-dance choreographies.

He edits his videos so that each creature leaves a trail behind itself, showing where it has been and where it is going. His video clips show the beautiful and intricate labyrinth flight paths of birds. Hlynsky started filming birds with a small video recorder in 2005, recording ions of footage. The process involved stacking frames in sequences, then adding the darkest pixels together. Large flocks of birds become dense black trails, reminding us of paint brush strokes, making us wonder how much we have really learnt and appropriated from nature and animals.

Hlynsky was among the first students at the Rhodes Island School of Design video program, and has been committed to the digital since 1983. His interest in the celebration of technology as a form of art led him to design fireworks celebration for Providence for five year.

watch the video here

Maiko Takeda

London-based artist Maiko Takeda’s work focuses on fashion jewelry, where she explores themes such as logic, geometry and space form eerie, enchanting pieces. Takeda grew up in Tokyo, where her fascination with timeless products emerged. Growing in a post-boom Japan, her inspirations are diverse and she learnt to cultivate her senses outside of fashion and pop culture, finding values in the smallest and most random of things. After moving to London, she studies a BA(hons) in Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

One of her recent projects ‘Atmospheric Reentry’ was completed within the Royal College of Art London, where she is currently studying a Masters in Millinery. The head pieces are gorgeous installations made of clear film, perspex and silver, whereby she arranges them in sharp, colourful accessories. In Takeda’s work, simple things such as headbands and shapes become complex structure that marry the human body perfectly in an open, minimalistic form. The experience of wonder and bewilderment is rendered especially acute with the juxtaposition of various elements such as precision,  and rigid shapes that turn soft and malleable. Takeda’s work heavily focuses on environmental influences such as shadows, wind and gravity, inviting the audience to re-think its expectations when it comes to jewelry design.

The head pieces from ‘Atmospheric Reentry’ are light yet sharp, reminiscent of a protection helmet. Although seemingly malleable by the elements, their embedment within the human body gives them a new life. Her project is a rare piece of art that combines aesthetics and form.

http://www.maikotakeda.com/

 

Time travel photography by Chino Otsuka

‘If,
again
I have a chance to meet,
there is so much I want to ask
and so much I want to tell’

So begins the introduction to Chino Otsuka’s most recent photography project ‘Imagine Finding Me’. Chino Otsuka is a Japanese visual artist based in London, whose work is very subtle, very soft and very nostalgic in a way that only the Japanese can be. Softness becomes loud with intent with Otsuka’s work as  her last project explores the themes of time travel, nostalgia and memories through heartwarming photographs. Otsuka took several old photos from her childhood and teenage years, and digitally manipulated her present self in them, creating a series of double self-portraits.

This series of portraits become vehicles of the self and of time, where Otsuka’s journey is wonderfully re-arranged. At first glance, the photographs could be of two sisters, or a mother and a daughter, roles which the present Otsuka ends up playing by ways of rearrangement. Almost like pictures from a trip, the series takes us to Paris, London, and even Tiananmen in China, but the real movement is, of course, through time, for Otsuka considers  the relationship between past and present to be a fluid one. The digital manipulation then acts like a time machine, whereupon the photographer goes back in times, like a tourist in her own history.

www.chino.co.uk

 

FORLANE 6 STUDIO

The surface below the sea hosts enchanting worlds. Acting as a space for the unknown and the mysterious, the depths of the sea offers endless possibilities when it comes to exploration and the association with the unconscious part of our psyche.

Seemingly hostile to human presence, the underwater worlds are actually strongly influenced by human activity, hosting large quantities of forgotten artificial materials and objects. Forlane 6 is a duo project of two artists, Hortense Le Calvez and Mathieu Goussin,that intends to question and imagine how organic shapes cohabit when transformed and positioned in the context of a foreign space inaccessible to human life.

Objects are metamorphosed into artificial natures before being installed under the current of air or water, after which their buoyancy can be explored and re-imagined. Eerie and weirdly soothing and satisfying, the almost science fiction mise en scène is rendered effective through the contrast between fantastic worlds and familiar materials.

Forlane 6 Studio freezes aerial movements through photography and videos, blurring the edge between reality and fantasy. Referring to the post-human age and the frozen time frame of the deep sea, the Forlane 6 project gives an autonomous voice to the inanimate.

The man-made installations’ discourse mimics living creatures in a setting free from it, thus rendering the dichotomy between autonomous life and still life effective and challenging.

Mathieu and Hortense currently live and work on their forty years old sailing boat, Forlane 6, currently based in the Aegean Sea.

You can visit Forlane 6 website here: http://forlane6studio.com