Archie Smith

Beethoven started playing the piano aged four, Mozart at three. Even Chris Martin, frontman of legendary pop/rock band Coldplay, dipped his toe in the acoustic pool pre-puberty. So when Archie Smith tells me he was hitting the piano before he could speak, I know we are onto a winner.

Aged 20, from a rurality outside of Bath, Archie had somewhat of a classical beginning to his musical education. At school, he sung in choirs and in musical theatre most of the way through. Pop and rock soon followed, and he started his first band, ‘The Aviators’, aged 12. A slew of other groups, in different incarnations, came and went throughout school, until a year ago when Archie decided to go solo.

As is the case with most of the artists showcased as part of the ‘Born in Britain’ programme, Archie does all of his creative work alongside his studies. In just the past months, he has performed with the likes of Gabrielle Aplin (also on the Born in Britain site here), Lewis Watson, Luke Concannon, Josh Record, and many other talented, young musicians. He was also a part of the late BBC Introducing programme in Wiltshire, and has subsequently moved to BBC Introducing South. It’s amazing then, to weight these accomplishments along with all of the other commitments he has, but it’s done through hard graft and a natural flair.

His first CD, entitled ‘Out of the Ashes’, was recorded and released in 2012. After the physical editions sold out, Archie turned to his next project, which was to be the ‘I Will Love You’ EP. A magical and touching ballad (which I feel the music industry is hard pressed to come by nowadays) explores themes of love and loss. Taken as a piece on it’s own, it’s extremely easy listening, and receptive to the ideas of the writer. Accompanied by a short film, that Archie tells me really came about by a chance encounter whilst busking, the result is a deeply moving piece of musical cinema. Elrose Media have successfully conveyed the core meaning of the song through a plot that ebbs to an overwhelming conclusion.

What is clear is the artistry is at the core of Archie’s sound. Never one to rush his work, the writing process is always organic, and his inspiration comes from the heart of artistic endeavour. In true New-Romantic fashion, galleries and theatres hold much to be enjoyed, especially dance, for as Archie says ‘there isn’t much that is more captivating than watching people move to music’. Musically speaking, Coldplay is a tangible influence: mellow chords and robust lyrics melt together to create something of an echo. The protegee isn’t hollow though, bolstered by other contemporary classical notes to the tune of Eric Whitacre, The Beatles, Cat Stevens, and Andy Williams. The list is endless: but the sights are high.

In relying on classical tones, his contemporary sound is given a starting point from which age old concerns meld with those that are perhaps more modern. From his first CD ‘The First Days of Love’ is a standout track. Subtle and creative, it’s a gentle tune with a heartfelt message that most of us can associate with. Stripping back the angst of young adulthood, Archie gives us a refreshing taste of honest upset and, in turn, elation. A young Chris Martin? Perhaps – but Archie Smith will no doubt soon be a household name of it’s own.

www.archiesmithuk.com

Nina Fini

Whilst the debate rages on as to what position street art and graphics hold in the history of the fine arts, many young artists are putting pen to paper to create exceptional and moving images of this ilk. A fine example of which is young artist Nina Fini: her startling grasp of anatomy, light, and how the written word merges with the visual makes for truly outstanding artwork.

Nina is now living and working in Bristol, working on honing her talents in mixed media. She advises me to ‘never underestimate what you can do with a biro’, to which her work clearly testifies. Largely working in acrylic, graphite, and ink, Nina’s portraits tread the line between the word, written and spoken, lyricism, and line.

Her inspiration is as intangible as her final product, incorporating the realm of the spiritual: illusions, the universe, the supernatural, with the human form. Most recently, her focus has been on ‘the fundamental changes that are happening all around us on a conscious level’. Such a philosophical heart to her craft imbibes Nina’s work with a moral value that is so often lacking in contemporary art.

Although she works primarily on paper and canvas, her style is obviously transmutable. She has recently been working on album covers, for the likes of Will and the People, and other music-based projects. This kind of interdisciplinary media work is natural, given the basis of her work, but creation is key to her future plans, whether it be in tattooing, illustrating, painting, or other commissions.

A truly excellent artist, and a marvelous person, Nina Fini is one to watch out for. Her website, ninafini.com shows her wider portfolio, she is now taking commissions and may be contacted at nina.fini@hotmail.co.uk.

Harriet Dahan-Bouchard

To be in with the Old Masters, a student of portraiture must boldly go to where it all began. At the Florentine Charles H. Cecil Studios, there an art is taught so fine that fewer than one hundred artists in the UK are trained in this classical manner, and Harriet Dahan-Bouchard is one such practitioner.

Born in London to two artists, Harriet soon moved to Downside School, Somerset, where she spent most of her adolescent life. At the age of eight, her father bought her a book on Ingres, the book that would be the catalyst in finding her vocation; on receipt of this seminal work, Harriet asked her father, the surrealist painter Philip Bouchard, ‘is there money in it?’ Positively assured, her mind was set, and life was full of rigorous artistic training from henceforth.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting for a sanguine with Harriet. The process took approximately ten hours over four sittings, and the result is, I believe, a fabulous likeness. The patience and focus with which the artist commands the room is not at all unnerving, her passion is sincere and dedicated, and her talent indisputable. This process brought to my attention the wonderful rarity of a talent and technique like Harriet’s.

From that early age of eight, the artist honed her skills, which came to fruition whilst studying in Florence. The program is a strict three years, divided into drawing (nudes and portraits), painting, and painting in oil. Students here are taught a traditional method of creation, dating back to the 16th century, called sight sizing. In this method, the sitter is placed directly next to the canvas and the artist moves from looking at the sitter meters away to the canvas, in constant motion and watchfulness. Proportion remains accurate and the result is visual exactitude.

Harriet currently works as a portrait artist from Somerset, and takes commissions for oils and sanguine. She is also exhibiting some of her work at theBathbranch of Urban Outfitters until November, in which the clash of classical and modern is at once both intriguing and completely natural given that Harriet, as the artist, breaches both of these worlds.

She is also soon to be featured on the new art community website called ‘MeMyArt’, a buying and selling site that also offers an insight into the creative process’ of countless young artists. The feature will be on her approach to art, which for any budding young painters is necessary read.

This is an artist worth watching. Harriet is at the forefront of a generation of artists and writers dedicated to traditional technique and original inspiration, and her emergence onto the art market signifies the begins of an extremely exciting artistic renaissance.

Harriet is currently available for commission and can be contacted at harrietdahanbouchard@gmail.com.