Guest Blog: Galeria Moderna and The London Invitational Art Contest winners interviews part 2

Guest Blog: Galeria Moderna and The London Invitational Art Contest winners interviews part 2

Posted by Cass Art on 5th Nov 2020

Galeria Moderna are the online gallery and organisers of a new and exciting brand of city-based art contests. Each contest will see twelve winning artists selected by a panel of esteemed judges; each judge a gallery owner/manager from the host city, also including special guest judges. The selected works from the winning artists will form the 'Invitational Art Exhibition'.

Working in association with Castle Fine Art the UK’s leading Commercial art retailer and Cass Art the UK’s leading art supplier, Galeria Moderna endeavour to provide our winning artists the best possible exposer, with a combination of our physical and online exhibitions, along with prizes from our patrons of the arts.

To learn more about our winning artists and our future contests, please click on our logo above and visit our website.

Below we catch up with six of the twelve-winning artists for London Art 2020

Terry Beard – Winner of the Cass Art Award

Terrys work is informed and inspired by elements within the natural and built environment, particularly the landscape which surrounds her studio in the Fens. Terrys work explores ways of conveying a sense of depth and form using abstract marks and gestures such as blocks of colour and lines. Terry primarily uses screen printing as a means of building up compositions. Terry explains she does not use this medium in the traditional way, registering each colour and making editions. Terry uses a small squeegee, in the way you might use a brush, and pulls layers of colour through a screen with no stencil, or occasionally some ripped or cut newsprint as a rough temporary stencil.

Congratulations Terry How do you approach your colour selection and colour mixing?

Colour has always been of prime importance to me. This may be in part due to my childhood spent in Uganda where I was surrounded by colour and sunshine. The colours I use depend on the sources of inspiration behind the work, whether it be an urban landscape or a more rural environment, and sometimes I make work which is just about colour itself and colour relationships- and the proportion of one colour to another. I make sketches and plan out ideas, working out colours and compositions before I start to work, but these are just starting points and give me an idea of which colours I am going to use to start with. Intuitive decisions are made about colour and composition once I have started to put down the first layers of colour.

I use a transparent screen-printing medium with added concentrated dye, I just mix it in small amounts in a jam jar, testing as I go along, until its right. Then I build up layers and colours are mixed on the canvas in this way.

You have a rather unique method and approach to your work; how does this influence your process?

The work is a fusion of idea and process, these are inseparable, one influencing the other. Over time, I have gradually developed my current working methods, using primarily screen-printing to make marks and build up compositions.

In the past I used other media such as acrylics in conjunction with printing, but now find I prefer the quality of the marks I can make with screen printing, and I am able to achieve the effects I want. This is due to experience and time spent experimenting with the techniques I am using. It may well be that I gradually incorporate other media and techniques into my work as it develops.

Julie Cuthbert

Julie studied at the Colchester School of Art while still practicing as a lawyer. Finally, while working towards a masters’ degree in sculptural practice in 2012, she decided to give up the law and focus completely on sculpture.

Julie explains she has 2 studios at home – “a ‘clean’ studio for painting and planning and a ‘dirty’ studio where the business of sculpting takes place.”  For the larger works Julie works with Payne Gunfield, a technician and welder, at a large workshop on a farm.

Julie’s current practice is mostly project-based. She tells us, “I like to start with a concept, spending time researching, gathering information, scavenging for materials, and immersing myself in the subject. I am a ‘skip rat’ and follower of farm sales.”  Julie is currently working towards a group exhibition in October on the theme of Landmarks. “Given my practice, I am naturally using tools in these sculptures that have been used to make marks in the land! I am a great fan of Robert MacFarlane and was interested to read in his book ‘Wild Places’ that there is very little land left in the British Isles that has not been transformed by humans from the first use of primitive tools to the giant machines of today.”

Julie congratulations on your winning entry can you tell us the influence behind the piece?

I read an article about Boris Johnson styling himself as a latter-day Odysseus and I had coincidently recently started reading the first translation of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’ by a woman, Emily Wilson. Steeped in themes on the human condition, today the story seems more prescient than ever:  the tension between the values of the community versus those of the individual, the importance of family, the emotional costs of separation, the trials of those trying to return home and the losses in absentia.

I needed to create myself a project as a framework to work within. Taking inspiration from The Odyssey, I started creating a series of sculptures referencing aspects of Odysseus’s journey.  This sculpture is called ‘Tied to the Mast’, a phrase which has entered the English lexicon.

Welding in steel and limited to the old tools, ironmongery and farm machinery that I have had to hand during the isolation of ‘lockdown’, I have unexpectedly felt close to the friends and family who ‘donated’ them and from whom I have been separated.

We understand you had an interesting commission during lockdown, can you tell us a bit about that?

I was asked to make a sculpture for a particular site in a garden in France. I have known the family for many years and the four sons since they were small. They are like a modern-day von Trapp family, each with a performing skill. So I decided to create a kinetic sculpture of circus-like characters referencing each of them.

Much of my sculpture is kinetic but moves with the elements. This is the first time I have made an automata.  It is large – 18’ wide and 9’ high.  The sculpture has an operating handle and system of gears at one end for turning a central shaft. When turned, various types of cam along the shaft revolve, resulting in a variety of movement above.

It is the most complicated piece I have ever made. Payne insisted I first make a working scale model.  It took 2 weeks. I then took this to the workshop with a technical drawing showing the sizes and we set to work, ordering the metal and searching through the scrap bins for material.  I loved Michael Landy’s ‘Saints Alive’ exhibition at the National Gallery, but that made me very conscious of potential mechanical breakdown with audience interaction, so I have tried to keep the mechanics as simple as possible.

Although we had to pause the work during the first months of lockdown, it is now almost complete.  I am hoping we can transport it to France and travel there to assemble it before Brexit! Access to the site is restricted, so I am looking at recent research into the Easter Island statues and how they might have been moved by one person! We will have to think a little out of the box and use pivots and rollers… I am looking forward to the challenge. 

Karen Christensen -  Winner of The John Doubleday Award

Karen creates her own universe of discovery and magic, love and pain, humour, and hope. She works with a range of materials and found items which may otherwise have been discarded and place them into their final form.

Karen’s work spans across several mediums, including painting, sculpture, boxed artworks, and mixed media compositions. Karen tells us “with my work, I tell stories based on my experiences and view of the world around and within me and for viewers to interpret, piece together and make sense of (or not)”

Your work is wonderfully unique can you talk us through any of the influences that have had an impact on your own work?

Thank you. Firstly, I am influenced by everything and everyone around me as I go about my daily business. Art wise, like many others, I was always fascinated by the masters. A number of female artists stand out for me, and their background stories, eg Niki de Saint Falle, Frida Kahlo, Marina Abramowich, Artemisia Gentileschi to name but a few. Recently, I have become increasingly aware of, and influenced by Outsider Art, the freedom and rawness and soul that it offers. Most of the time, I have no or little inkling where an idea comes from, through my art I try to make sense of my life and my surroundings; where/how we all fit in.

I do think life is absurd and often that sentiment steers the process. Also, the ability to laugh and not take ourselves too seriously is fundamental to me and hopefully permeates my work.

You work in many mediums Karen which do you feel offers you the most scope to explore the diverse worlds you create?

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to ‘just’ work in one medium. When using various ones at different times, sometimes combined in one piece and other times separately, I find it adds to the story I’m trying to tell, and depending on what the story is about, I will choose/add  the medium accordingly.   However, I do find I get the most satisfaction from working three-dimensionally, building an image upwards and outwards, thus creating a piece that is physically tangible and with a different kind of depth than you get from a  two-dimensional piece.

Liam Dunne - Winner of The Kitty Fishers Art Award

Liam’s work is mainly figurative, focusing mostly on the texture of skin, and the texture of paint itself, allowing him to build up thick impasto oil paint to the extent his work is almost sculptural.

Yet his recent work has tried to show the other side through using reflections and almost going to full abstraction. Liam tells us his paintings show multiple layers of a person. He explains It is important he knows or get to know the person to understand how to portray them. However, he does not consider them portraits as such, though some of them can be. It is important for him to show the story of somebody through their skin, through their outward persona, and what they do not show to the outside world. Yet his paintings always project some of his own personality too, Liam tells us “as organic as I react to the paint, while the subjects are often isolated figures which reflects my current feelings in the political climate and dangers we face moving forward due to populist movements and climate change.”

The portrait for London art 2020 is of your Grandfather, do you think that painting such a close personal subject has a big influence on the outcome of a portrait?

I think it helps me to push the painting further. I think the two sides of that painting are both of my styles pushed to the extreme and knowing someone so personally allows me to really delve deeper and try and reflect that person’s personality.

Although the sculpted part is realistic I tried to show his character more organically and created a texture that represented him rather than just painting solely what was there, while the abstraction was about showing his character again but with minimal representative qualities, almost a two-dimensional deconstruction of him juxtaposed against the life-like  three-dimensional realism. I felt like this could show the effects of the passage of time on him.

We love the use of your brushwork to create texture in your paintings, can you talk us through how you achieve this sculptured finish?

Well a lot of the different textures actually come from using such a wide range of tools. I start with a sketch and then an extremely thick layer of white paint applied with a palette knife and then leave it to dry for a certain period of time until it becomes stiff enough that you can scrape texture into it with a brush (such as the feet) or, in the case of the portrait of my grandad, using my thumb to imbue the skin with the texture of wrinkles. At this stage you can still sculpt it and once I am happy I will leave it to dry for 1-3 months before returning, at which stage it will have formed a skin, though underneath will still not have dried which creates the strange effect of actually painting on flesh.

I am quite experimental with this style- for the eyebrows of my grandad I used a scalpel to make indentations after I had applied the colour and let the white underneath come through. It is only on the transparent colour layers that I focus solely on using brushes.

What are the essential tools that you always have in your studio and do you have any particular brands you return to?

My favourite brand of paint and mediums is Winsor and Newton, for the thick underlayer I use Winton Titanium White as it dries to the perfect texture for me, while the colours in the artists range are good for the thinner layer over the top as I need high pigment.

I use quite a range of different brushes and palette knives but the one thing I always buy are the Pro Arte Miniature Brushes which are meant for watercolour but they are soft enough to allow me to get inside the texture while also being perfect for the small details. I actually sharpen the other end of these and use that to scrape into the top layer of paint. But I also have a whole range of tools and things I think are interesting and I am always adding new things to my process- squeegees of all sizes, gold leaf, sand and anything else I find.

Nur Tucker

Nur Tucker is an underwater photographer and very recently has been named the ‘Most Promising British Underwater Photographer of the year 2020 by UPY’.  As a nature photographer, Nur travels around the world to photograph either massive whales or the smallest creatures that you can see only with clever optical equipment. Nur loves the way the light dances around. She says that the image in the frame is never the same from one second to the next due to reflections and refractions underwater. Skittishness and the unpredictability of the underwater animals, creates an “underwater dance” and photographing these moments are she says – “magical”.

For her, it is essential to click the shutter at the peak of the action or the right moment.

Unfortunately, Nur was unwell and not allowed to dive for a year during 2019. Being a dive fanatic, she was forced to spend some time in a pool trying to have fun and be creative at the same time using models as inspiration. Nur made the most of this time and produced highly creative photos. “Alice through the looking glass” also won another competition at the Royal Photographic Society’s Creative Eye Group and made it to the cover of the magazine.  Nur has been doing more work in this style since last year.

Your images are quite stunning where do you find the inspiration for your concepts?

I love entering competitions. For me, this is the way to keep my-self on my toes all the time and keep up with the advances in photography. In order to win, one must create something very different than others. I strive to produce something different all the time. I never look at the previous year’s winners and try to imitate them. This is not a path to win. Before each dive, despite the fact that nature is unpredictable, I would still have a plan in my head about what I would be doing.

I am interested in different techniques and also different genres in photography. I try to use a technique that some people have used photographing bugs for example and apply this to underwater photography. Sometimes for a particular shot, I prepare for months mentally – this includes its choreography and technical details such as special effects, lighting, new lenses. Photography in pool sometimes even requires me to brush up my skills in Physics. ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ took almost a year to accomplish.

Can you explain a little bit about the process used to create these two stunning photos?

They were both taken in an open pool in broad daylight. For “Alice through the looking Glass, the outfit was essential”, so it took me several weeks to complete the costume including the apron, tights and the shorts under the dress, socks, school shoes, and the ribbon. Then I had to prepare a background for which I used first a thick fabric to cover the mosaic of the pool and on top of it I used some floaty fabric for the drape effect and reflections.

I carefully placed a golden gilded frame upside down in water – floating. Then “Alice” entered the water. Both of us had to withstand cold as after some time in water, body temperature falls quickly and both the model and I had to stay there for a long while. The rest was correct positioning of everything and lighting. Details are important here. All of the body, limbs, hair, dress and the golden frame had to be in the shot and look proportional. I had to create an impression that Alice was going through the mirror and finding the right, moment for the reflections of the water was important. I used an underwater camera housing, on camera strobes and off camera video light and slave flash for this shot. This photo isn’t created with photoshop.

‘A midsummer night dream’ was shot with my daughter Selin as my model. For this shot I provided a dark background to cover the mosaic of the pool, then I covered the pool’s surface with a glitter mesh. Then Selin had to jump on to the mesh hundreds of times until I was happy with the shot. All I had to do was to convert the shot to black and white for maximum effect. Again, it was shot in broad daylight using an underwater camera housing, on camera strobes and off camera video light and slave light. Again, coming up with the choreography took months. This shot would look fab printed on chromolux.

Stephanie Else

Stephanie is a Brighton based artist who creates vibrantly beautiful glass artworks using a variety of kiln forming techniques. Inspired by the everchanging elements of nature, she combines surface texture, pattern, and colour to produce beautifully tactile pieces which are designed to shift with the light throughout the day. As a self-taught artist, Stephanie’s journey with glass has been exciting and often challenging. 

Captivated by the enigma of the glass itself, she strives to exploit the natural translucent and jewel like qualities it possesses, whilst her bold abstract designs often contradict the fragility of the glass as a medium.

The way you use colour is so vibrant and interesting, could you talk about your use of colour?

I love playing with colour and the way it stirs the emotions.  My designs are predominantly abstract, so I have the luxury of experimenting with colour combinations that often would not naturally work together.  Glass is a fantastic medium for this as the colours are so vivid and rich in their own right. By using different thicknesses and layering the glass I can create beautiful tonal shifts. I also enjoy blending colours which flow together in the kiln. From a distance it can look like a single block of colour has been used, but close up or in different light you will notice several shades melded together.

Light and texture play an important role in how my pieces are perceived. Traditionally glass is required to be backlit to show the true potential of the colours, however with these particular wall panels I have developed a way of combating this by mirroring the back of the glass.  This enables the light to bounce back on itself making the colours literally glow from the wall.

Can you tell us about the kiln forming techniques you use when creating your pieces?

The main techniques I use are known as fusing and casting. Unlike glass blowers, I work mainly with glass in its solid state. The glass comes as pre-coloured sheets which are specifically manufactured for kiln forming.  After cutting the glass I lay out my designs by stacking and layering the different colours together. This can often be tricky as the glass can change colour dramatically during the firing process. I then add crushed glass and powders, lustres and precious metals to create interesting effects. Once assembled the piece is then transferred into the kiln to be fired - this is where the magic happens!

The panels can have multiple firings depending on the finish that I am aiming to achieve. Each piece is heated to around 815°C which melts the glass and allows it to flow together.  It is then cooled very slowly over a 24-hour period, with each successive firing being at a lower temperature than the previous. This enables me to create texture as well as adding lustres and metallic elements to the piece.

Kiln firing is a slow and unpredictable process.  Working with glass requires a lot of patience, and the end results are often not quite as planned. One of the most exciting things for me as a Glass Artist is opening the kiln at the end of a firing as I am never exactly sure of what the finished piece will look like.

Feeling inspired?

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