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03.03.10

Heavenly Art


In a new exhibition at the Chelsea Future Space, five of London’s most talented have come together to make something well… heavenly.

Heaven is a Place, A Place Where Nothing Ever Happens is the newest exhibit organized by Chelsea director Donald Smith which incorporates many different mediums, paint, media and photography alike. The five artists showcased are: Elizabeth Graham, Lucy Joyce, Lewis McGuffie, Grace Schofeild, and Harry Scoging-Beer.

Lewis McGuffie’s piece, For What We dream Of, sets up movie tag-lines which all say something about dreams or dreaming, and as the print gets smaller towards the top, that old sci-fi movie feeling is perceived. The meaning is endless, whether it’s the industry selling itself in just one word or that there’s just that one thing that’s just too far away to see or to dream-like to recognize in real life.

Harry Scoging-Beers oil painting entitled Happymeal gives the impression that you are looking through a hole in a wall of squares out to a distant structure. Like military building design, you can see out, but get no physical return.

The exhibit is an interesting blend of mediums and is something that must be seen to be understood. You won’t be disappointed by these few selected artists’ works.

Heaven Is A Place, A Place Where Nothing Ever Happens is at the Chelsea Future Space in Hepworth Court on Gatliff Road from February 19th- May 3rd, 2010.

Chelsea Space is also hosting a special exhibition for their 5th anniversary so stay tuned for more information.

Text/Photography: Elizabeth Pasquale

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02.03.10

Opening Ceremony Store


New York City: OPENING CEREMONY is an experimental retail, gallery and showroom space in downtown Manhattan. It is a space for young, innovative designers to showcase their work alongside established designers from a wide range of different countries. One of their ongoing collaborations has been with actress and style icon CHLOE SEVIGNY, the latest of which is launching her favourite menswear pieces.

Currently they are featuring HUSSEIN CHALAYAN, PROENZA SCHOULER, MARIOS SCHWAB, RACHEL COMEY and several unique installations including ones with LEVI’S, COMMES DES GARCONS and RODARTE to name but a few.

OPENING CEREMONY was kind enough to take a couple of minutes to speak to SKETCHBOOK about the store concept.

So does the store change every week?

Yes, we change it every Monday. We change the display…shift a lot of things around.

How long does that take you?

It takes a whole hour or two. I work continuously through out the week to change the display. A lot of the clothes change and jewellery always changes.

When do you get new stuff at the store?

We get new things in everyday especially now during Fashion Week and the start of Spring. We get new collections shipped in every week.

When does it get really busy at opening ceremony?

Holidays…but actually we are always busy.

Who are the buyers?

There are a team of buyers. They travel the world to pick great pieces.

Does OPENING CEREMONY especially support New York designers?

It’s a mix of designers. The story behind the store is that we try to pick a different country each year but now its become a bland of all the different countries….Japan, Brazil, England, Germany. It’s this great mix of fresh and young designers.

What do you think makes OPENING CEREMONY different from other boutiques?

I think the downtown vibe helps, it’s young, fresh. A lot of great people come in for collaborations. It’s an experimental space.

Opening Ceremony New York

35 Howard Street
New York, New York 10013


Text WAFA ALBOAIDAT

Photography LUMA BASHMI

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01.03.10

What’s This? The mesmirising magical world of TIM BURTON


New York City: Editor in chief WAFA ALOBAIDAT and myself trekked out in our reliable converse on day two (big mistake; also known as Blizzard Day) onto our first trans-Atlantic cultural escapade, 11 West & 53rd Street, where we find ourselves at The MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MoMA).

And we definitely weren’t alone - it seemed the blizzard had swept in every Manhattanian, tourist and their moms to explore the wonders of contemporary art and one of their most popular exhibitions on at the moment: artist, illustrator, photographer, writer and perhaps more popularly known as film-maker, TIM BURTON.

Having grown up watching Edward Scissorhands carve up suburban haircuts and garden hedges with his bare (scissor) hands into eccentric concoctions (albeit it being through a certain older sister’s corrupt influence), I felt a little too giddy for words and somewhat more fearless than my six-year old self.

Jumping at the instance of getting ever so close to the third floor, the entrance did not disappoint: we were welcomed by a CV-looking chronology in Burton’s signature typography listing some of his earlier unrealized projects as well as those that do not need mention.

And in case we weren’t so sure where to enter, a black & white circular arrow pointed to a 3-D mouth cave of a monster from an unrealized project, Trick or Treat (1980) (though on first look, I would have easily mistaken it for Percy the cat, Lydia’s pet cat on Beetlejuice).

Entering ‘Percy’s’ mouth (as I shall refer to it incorrectly from now on), I walk through the first part of the exhibition, a dark corridor painted in red & white stripes with several screens showing short-film animations of Burton’s earlier work as a Disney animator in 1979. Though not in chronological flow of his first-ever sketches, these short animated movies - rough, sketchy, raw, and very much far-removed from Disney’s traditional fantasy animations at the time (think Winnie the Pooh & Aristocrats) - represent a decent introduction to his non-conventional creative approach and first official work by Burton displayed to the public.

Stepping into the main gallery room may seem a little overwhelming at first sight: the room is filled with rarely and some never-before-seen sketches upon sketches of Burton’s art work during his childhood in Burbank, California.

Burton’s first works as an illustrator date back to the late 60’s, where the beginning of his inceptions of a slightly too slim scarecrow with an over-sized bobble head –think Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas meets the Wizard of Oz scarecrow - have the striking resemblance to some of Dr. Seuss’ work, though much darker, edgier and dare I say, trippy. But most significantly, this depicts his talent and length of (twisted, to say the least) imagination at a tender age, being raised in a small suburban town.

Untitled (The World of Stainboy). 2000.

Untitled (Ramone). 1980-1990.

As the exhibition continues down a hallway painted green and grey, a range of illustrations, animations, models, sketchbooks and figurines of various characters that were unrealized or unknown are showcased chronologically.

Three Creatures, 2009

A majority of these illustrations of monsters, freaks and slightly deformed humans (which present an elusive interpretation to the stick figure), depict the time of Burton’s teenage years in high school and college studying illustration, with a reference to his teen years being a time of loneliness and alienation - a sort of indirect analysis and assumption to his seemingly disturbing depictions and creations of characters.

Untitled (The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories). 1982–1984.

Untitled (Black Cauldron). 1983.

Despite the two-dimensional drawings of his college days lacking the basic elements of technical skill that would be later developed and seen through his animated films, it’s safe to say that I’ve entered a treasure chest of surrealist cultural artifacts of our current pop world. There is also no clear thought process or word of influence on how he came about with these creations - and on this, it seems to be a fail from the curator’s side in elaborating on where or how Burton’s influences and inspirations have come from, rather than just assuming it all be from a twisted and eccentric imagination. For those unfamiliar with Burton’s work, it does also come off as a bit over-indulgent.

Untitled (Creature Series). 1992.

Blue Girl with Wine. c. 1997.

One of Burton’s unrealized projects in particular, a fake newsletter for the dead under the name of ‘The Afterlife’, seems to confirm the entrance to a twisted mind, bringing a smirk and nod of amusement from a couple of fathers who seemed to be fine bringing along their 5-year-olds to a somewhat creepy affair.

As I make my way through the various groups of families, artsy fartsy kids and the various film buffs, I eventually hit the holy grail, a section dedicated to his time as a commercial film-maker, from the occasional beginnings of the realization of Beetlejuice (1988) and Batman (1989) to the elaborate set drawings and notes on Edward Scissorhands (1990) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), as well as more recent flicks such as Corpse Bride (2005) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Corpse Bride (2005). Director: Tim Burton

Here we see various puppets, including a full model of Jack (The Skeleton King) and his girlfriend, and the various sketches of their faces with different stitches to show the length of effort and skill put into portraying the various characteristic facial expressions.

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas storyboard. 1993.

But it’s the life scale model of Edward Scissorhands with the sharp cut-throat silver knives and scissors as hands (as if the name doesn’t give the hands enough justice) that really sets you back. Even the distressed leather on his outfit is the obvious craftsmanship of one no less than a skilled theatrical costume designer.

Untitled (Edward Scissorhands). 1990.

Overall, although the exhibit lacks the detail and depth of  a full-on ‘retrospective’ of an artist’s work, given that the exhibition has been running since November 2009, this seems like a timely, not to be missed exhibit, not to mention appropriate PR buzz for celebrating all things Burton including his latest trippy endeavor, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, hitting screens 5 March 2010.

Illustration LUCIA EMANUELA CURZI



Tim Burton’s on view at the MoMA until April 26 2010.

Museum of Modern Art

11 West 53 Street

New York, NY 10019


Text LUMA BASHMI

Illustrations TIM BURTON

Photography LUMA BASHMI / MICHAEL LOCASIANO

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25.02.10

A day @ The MoMA


New York City: Our first day in the city, sunny, bright, refreshing, sunnies perched high– nothing could wipe the smiles off our faces.

Yet, getting into our first yellow cab of the trip with our faithful Egyptian driver Yahya (us Arabs really are everywhere), all we hear of is this ‘blizzard is a-comin’. A’comin? Really?? Last time I heard that, it was in a Steinbeck book in my high school English Lit course (then again, my dictionary doesn’t go back too long).

So bound by memories of the sun, editor in chief WAFA ALOBAIDAT and myself trek out in our reliable converse on day two (big mistake; also known as Blizzard Day) onto our first trans-Atlantic cultural stop, 11 West & 53rd Street, where we find ourselves at The MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MoMA).

Watch out for our upcoming review of the TIM BURTON exhibition at the MoMA.

Text/Photography LUMA BASHMI

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03.02.10

DISORIENTATION II: THE RISE AND FALL OF ARAB CITIES


ABU DHABI: In our constant efforts to document the ever-increasing arts movement that has been enveloping the Middle East in the past few years, we most recently covered the Abu Dhabi Arts 2009 with the launch of Manarat Al Saadiyat, the new exhibition centre developed by TDIC on Saadiyat Island.

Our Abu Dhabi correspondent NADIA EL DASHER visits their first exhibit, Disorientation II, which focuses on the theme of unity and division as they co-exist in the Arab World.

Manarat Al Saadiyat’s first exhibition carries a lot of socio-political weight that is apparent in each exhibiting artists’ work.  The exhibition’s title alone is enough to pull you onto the ambiguous roads of Saadiyat Island and (after many wrong turns) to the only visible sign of life on the newly developed island.

The building appears to be empty save for an excess of security guards and two curators.  My disorientation began with HALA ELKOUSSY‘s installation “On Red Nails, Palm Trees and Other Icons”, which consisted of a classroom warped back to 1980s Cairo. Every inch of the walls covered in chipped gold and black frames with photos of broke-down taxis, architectural marvels, military men, and television screens displaying the cotton industry and essentially embodying Egypt as an ever-changing country and nation.

HALA ELKOUSSY, On red nails, palm trees and other icons - Al Archief (Take 2), 2009, mixed media installation. Photo by Plamen Galabov. Courtesy of Sharjah Biennial.

MONA HATOUM takes us north to “Present Tense”, a map of Palestinian controlled regions in Jerusalem. But this is no ordinary map; made entirely of bars of soap stacked to form a square. The soap is creamy and opaque, and the borders made of red beads embedded inside. The borders will one day disintegrate as will the soap, leaving the beads free to roam.

MONA HATOUM, Present Tense, 1996. Soap and glass beads.

“Portal To A Black Hole” can be mistaken for a dilapidated Anglican Cathedral crossed with an organ. Seeing as that is too difficult to imagine, we can also describe the sculpture as what a gothic church would look like if it went through a black hole. Simply put, DIANA AL HADID’s installation evoked a sense of pleasurable fear with the knowledge that nothing is eternal. The metal dome is rotten and covered in green mold, showing that even inanimate objects can decay. The collapsing inner spiral staircase is made of piano keys so melodies are played with every step instead of loud creaks.

DIANA AL-HADID, Portal to a Black Hole, 2007, sculpture. Courtesy Galerie Michael Janssen.

WAFA HOURANI puts a comical twist on the Palestinian camp near the Ramallah checkpoint. “Qalandia 2047” looks at the camp 100 years after its inhabitants were evicted in 1947. The contrast between the luxurious military camp and the decrepit huts is palpable; fancy cars, bars and swimming pools versus a rundown basketball court and bonfires. The artist’s bitterness towards the Palestinians subjection is reflected through the negative films of children’s faces looking out onto the barrier they constantly hope to cross.

The intervention speeches given in SAMAH HIJAWI’s “Where Are The Arabs?” play on the repetitive nature of the Arabic language. The speakers discuss their idea of Arab identity to a public audience who are uninterested, some simply leave the space and others eat lunch while watching the performance nonchalantly. The recurrent theme is of Arab unity and the lack thereof, but the speakers’ words fall onto deaf ears as their repetition generates more boredom than excitement. The piece explores human’s constant search for what is new and interesting, and the increasing deficit in attention spans.

The politically charged exhibition left me questioning my inaction towards my hometown of Cairo. I did in fact see the rise and fall of Arab cities, and it surpassed the history books’ tales of prosperity in the region and stirred my sense of patriotism.

YTO BARRADA, Gran Royal Turismo, 2003, installation.


MARWAN RECHMAOUI, Beirut Caoutchouc, 2004-2006, installation. Courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation.

DISORIENTATION II, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE until 20 February 2010.

Text NADIA ELDASHER

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29.01.10

With Words Like Smoke


“With words like smoke” is an exhibition at CHELSEA space that is meant to be seen and not talked about. Curated by ISOBEL HARBISON, this collection of eleven pieces represent the best of things that are just beyond articulation.  The phrase “with words like smoke” comes from Samuel Beckett’s ‘Texts for Nothing’ and embodies the idea that a description of some art work is only meant to slip through our fingers as we see it, to take you just to the edge of comprehensibility and then stop short.

Pieces on display came from artists CARL ANDRE, ANNA BARHAM, AOIFE COLLINS, KIT CRAIG, MARCELLINE DELBECQ, FERGUS MARTIN, GYAN PANCHAL, AMALIA PICA, LOIS ROWE, CALLY SPOONER, and RAYMOND TAUDIN CHABOT. Notably, Carl Andre’s Desire taken from ‘Eleven Poems’ featured five sets of three words, all related to body parts (Toe, Breast, Neck), some written backwards and others forwards. Kit Craig’s O, OU, OUT takes the letters painted over one another on three canvases in a wood sculpture and carries on the theme of taking you so close to a literal thing or word but again, stopping short, and denying you any truly understandable meaning.

The giclee print of Fergus Martin, Table is a large print hung on the wall, simply taking the purpose out of the actual table. Clearly worn, the table suddenly becomes lost individually and becomes part of this abstract piece of art. Most notable in the image is the piercing contrast created between the worn-out table and the shiny smooth silver nails piercing through both sides it, which may (or may not) be interpreted as an interesting biblical reference.

And Amalia Pica’s Some of that Colour is the result of dyed triangles hung above a large sheet of paper, allowing the excess to run off of the flags and drip onto the ground, creating a magnificent blend of colour.

The exhibition seems to be well received and has been visited by Director and Producer DAVID GOTHARD, The British Art Show curator LISA LE FEUVRE, Art Monthly’s MATT HALE and Actor DUDLEY SUTTON.

Walking into the space, even the way things are arranged in the small exhibition room alludes to the idea that nothing is direct.  Kit Craig’s structure piece seems purposely placed to obstruct your view of others. The works on the wall are not clearly seen until standing directly in front of them and the televisions playing Chabot’s video string of newspaper photos are facing away from eachother. Nothing in this show is as lucid or as concrete as many would like it, but then again it’s not supposed to be. It’s about the sensationalism of sight, sound, touch and the feelings that are projected from each piece, leaving you to wonder what the rest of the message is.

To leave you with a quote, also from the same chapter of Beckett’s book, “I don’t try to understand, I’ll never try to understand any more… I won’t be afraid of the big words any more, they are not big.” Perhaps you too will be satisfied with knowing just enough, but not everything.

With Words Like Smoke at CHELSEA space at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, January 20th to February 20th 2010.

Text ELIZABETH PASQUALE

Photography NATHAN PASK

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23.12.09

Welcome to the Little Shop of Horrors…


…where eccentricities and esoteric objects are the norm. A shop so densely filled with Victorian taxidermy, animals floating in jars of liquid, shrunken skulls and violated stuffed animals that even the shopkeepers still stumble upon unseen items.

The Little Shop of Horrors is run by VIKTOR WYND and SUZETTE FIELD as the latest installation of THE LAST TUESDAY SOCIETY, a ‘pataphysical’ organization founded by WILLIAM JAMES at Harvard in the 1870s, which now devotes itself to exploring the esoteric, artistic and literary facet of London.

More than just a shop, this is a display of Wynd’s personal collection inspired by his genuine interest in animals, skeletons and the thrill he gets from chasing, finding and purchasing rare and one-of-a-kind objects.

As much as the store can freak people out with jars of two-headed mini skeletons, human fetuses and just the general mass amount of dead it is also full of inappropriately placed objects that let the humour of Wynd shine through…a book titled  Sex Instructions for Irish Farmers will be among a collection of fake, bloodied fingers and the book Wind Breaks, Coming to Terms With Flatulence and Whose Bottom is This?, in addition to chocolate and silver casts of Wynd’s anus demonstrate an undeniable bum theme.

Enter The Last Tuesday Society if you dare…get lost in a space of carefully picked rarities and set out to discover hundreds upon hundreds of objects that you would never come across otherwise.

A jar of unborn puppies

A freakish mermaid at first glance is actually a buffoon’s head on a fish’s body

This skull belonged to Aleister Crowley, British occultist and writer

Several tribes used to shrink their heads of their enemies as a symbol of victory. To get a skull in the state that this one is in involves a lot of steps including boiling, the scraping of flesh, cutting and sewing are necessary

This skull is one of twelve left of its kind. It has been cut into different pieces and dissected as a medical model to help humans understand the inner workings of our brain

11 MARE STREET LONDON E8 4RP

OPENING HOURS - FRIDAY TO SUNDAY - 12 TILL 6

Text GRASHINA GABELMANN
Photography NATHAN PASK

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18.12.09

Dual Purpose at the Assembly


"Dual purpose" can be somewhat of a dirty word in the design industry. Frequently conjuring up images of nonsensical late night shopping channel adverts and baffling design hybrids, take, for instance, Thirst Aid’s Beer Hat. A globally recognised drinking cap, symbolic of sports fans, fraternity high-jinks and stag weekends, the functionality of this dual purpose object perfectly embodies man’s respect for lager on sunny days. So great is the devotion that he may honour it by consuming the sacred fluid from a tin strapped to either side of his head, where it becomes tepid and flat. Functionality, yes, but only if you like your beer to taste like stale dishwater and your scalp to sweat beneath a layer of uncompromising moulded plastic. 

Jon Harrison’s collection of dual purpose objects bucks this trend of ceasing to accurately address practical design issues within the aforementioned genre. One quarter of the newly-formed Assembly studio, he recently graduated from the RCA, London, with a fascinatingly direct portfolio and a startlingly human appreciation of the everyday problems that designers create for us. Where some objects seek to join two unrelated functions and others connect related purposes but in the process become ineffective for either, what Harrison describes as “double products” mostly succeed in allowing the user to complete a task in a simpler way.

A personal favourite is the paint tin opener and brush, a modified paint brush that has a flat strip of metal inserted into the body. Designed so as not to interrupt the contours of the traditional wooden handle, the strip renders the need for a flat head screwdriver redundant and neither functions are impaired. Similarly, the Post-It note pencil holder relieves users of the frustration of searching for a pencil to scribble a message by providing a hole drilled through the block of notelets in which a pencil is placed.

This clarity is also present in Mugs, Jugs and Sugar Bowls; a collection of just that. Each a uniform shape, complete with handle and lid if necessary, the user can carry four of any vessel at once hence solving the problem of serving several cups of coffee to a busy studio without using a tray or approximating individuals’ tastes in milk and sugar. I can’t help but think that the embarrassment of every intern who forgets how the editor takes his or her tea could be saved with a set like this.

Although not obviously stylised or carrying a brand mark, Harrison’s simple observations and modifications add a truer, more basic value to objects, distancing them from the current demand for items that exist for status and not much else. His hands-on system of working is also beautifully literal; ideas are quickly lifted from the sketchbook, prototyped and amended in Assembly’s crude workspace. The studio as a whole promises to prove a worthwhile “one to watch,” already having a successful redesign of London-based A Practice For Everyday Life’s headquarters under their belts. As predictions for 2010’s next big thing come pouring in, my confidence lies in the age-old mantra, “form follows function,” and my bets are hedged on Assembly leading the revolt, one dual purpose object at a time.

http://www.assemblystudio.co.uk/

Text FABIAN L JAMES

Photography NATHAN WILLOCK: http://www.nathanwillock.com/

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18.12.09

Design Real at the Serpentine Gallery


This month, London’s Serpentine Gallery plays host to Design Real, an exhibition of mass produced objects that, as decided by the curator, KONSTANTIN GRCIC, are not only effectively fulfilling their purpose but “the purpose itself has to be good”. With eco-friendliness and social positivity both central concerns of the twenty-first century product designer, Design Real aims not only to involve the visitor with the aesthetics of the work on show but to have them question the worthwhile existence of the pieces in a practical, subtly life-changing sense.

Personally, I find that the current model for major design exhibitions fundamentally presents visitors with an oxymoron. Paintings are created to be visually appreciated; films, both visually and aurally enveloping. Products, on the other hand, are created to be used - held, creased, battered, stained, dropped, turned off and on - until they finally expire at the end of a purposeful life. Like many before it, Design Real ignores this aspect of the items on show, leaving answers to questions of how a product might feel or function suspended in the viewer’s mind’s eye.

A satisfyingly clean space, each object is labelled with a simple term stating what it is; Melissa’s platinum moulded plastic wedges, a collaborative effort with Zaha Hadid, become simply “shoes”. Any other information can be found by referring to the supplied guide or the hub of Amazon Kindles, pre-loaded with the exhibition catalog. A forward-thinking way of leaving the main areas free from visual clutter, the digital alternatives to hardcopies seem to fit well with the curatorial direction but, as I watched a group of older couples carefully examining the electronic device, I couldn’t help but wonder if the lack of ink on paper narrowed the exhibition’s full impact to only the iPod generation.

The obviously “designed” items mingle with components such as a car tail light that the average man on the street wouldn’t even consider for gallery recognition. Some become emphatically beautiful when abstracted through the decontextualisation caused by the abundance of white space with the ceramic hob and the aluminium container becoming minimal and provocative. Exhibiting Abiomed’s artificial heart as a lone placeholder reading “unavailable for loan” is a poignant if unintended moment that says more about the product, its function and its necessity than is uttered by the Aeron chair perched on a plinth diagonally opposite it. A splash of vibrant, artificial yellow drew my eye to the carefully juxtaposed recycling bin and paper pulp chair; an obvious statement about the once hidden value of waste that we are all now so aware of.

One of the most intriguing features of Design Real waits in camouflage in the core atrium, blending with the matt coating of the gallery walls bar its two prominent operating buttons. Without instruction, the mystery of the listening point passes many by but, when solved, it can shed new light upon the work in question. Upon pressing a red button, visitors are asked to discuss a particular exhibit by the curator, the green button allowing you to listen to a random selection of answers that have been gathered over the duration of the exhibition to date. An assortment of reminiscent anecdotes, discursive conversations and juvenile additions to existing products ranges from the insightful to the ludicrous and provides the injection of real-world pragmatism that these floating objects need.

Grumbles about a loss of the essence of the discipline aside, the Serpentine offers a carefully chosen selection of meticulously designed objects, striking a healthy balance between the commercially prominent and the taken-for-granted. Design Real has the potential to excite and challenge but only when paired with visitors’ determination to look beyond the surface of both the artifacts and the exhibition itself. A bold venture, the gallery’s commitment to design and Grcic’s step away from product design towards curatorship show promise and I look forward to working to discover hidden delights in their next shared exploit.

26 November 2009 – 7 February 2010

Serpentine Gallery
Kensington Gardens
London W2 3XA

www.design-real.com

www.serpentinegallery.org

www.konstantin-grcic.com

Text FABIAN L JAMES

Photography RAPHAEL HEFTI

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15.12.09

Interview with Photographer Alexander James


Alexander James has recently relocated from Australia to the UK and has been shooting for over twenty years as a commercial advertising and fine art photographer with past clients including Samsung, Versace, Shangri-la, and Ermenegildo Zegna to name a few.

He has had his work featured in Qvest Magazine, Creative Review, Designscene, Design Week and Schon Magazine.

What is interesting about Alexander’s photography is it is always presented ‘as shot’ without cropping and post production. In his work he has featured a lot of beautiful landscape pictures and also photography which captures certain random themes. A particular Sketchbook favourite is his photography of taxi signs at night in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai, which were all shot hand held on medium format and the images illustrate Alexander’s fascination with the urban energy of taxis at night.

Can you remember the first time you picked up a camera and have you always been interested in photography?

I can go one better than that - here I am aged four and a half, with yes you guessed it a pink camera. All through my teenage years I was messing with camera’s wondering why I could not take a decent shot until i became a dive photographer in the Caribbean - film is so unforgiving when you haven’t got a clue……

You recently relocated from Australia to the UK. Where was it you grew up? And what drew you to move to the UK?

I am a Londoner originally, but I moved away over ten years ago - spending time living in New York, Tokyo, Paris and Sydney, Australia. I got back to London just over a year ago - and I can honestly say I am thrilled to be back. There is such an earnest willing to collaborate in London which is hard to find anywhere else in the world right now.

Where do you find inspiration in everyday life?

One of my biggest sources of inspiration is to simply stop what you are doing, take a deep breath and look around. It is amazing what you can find as a complete surprise even in the most familiar of spaces. I am always trying to spend my time interpreting what most people simply walk right on by without ever noticing.

I particularly loved the pictures from your portfolio ‘Taxi’,what is it about taxi’s in Tokyo and Shanghai which interest you? And would you like to get images of taxi signs from other areas of the world?

I have shot this series in virtually every city I have ever been to, but Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo just do it for me. There is such an explosion of light interaction between the neons of the city and the reflective surface of the taxi, all focussed around their own illuminated piece.

You explore some pretty interesting environments in your pictures, such as a lot of landscape pictures and shots from the underground. How do you like to display everyday in your own unique way of photography?

Most of my landscape work is un-choreographed and I rarely take more than one shot of each subject, which on transparency film can be quite scary - but I find it is the best way to get an immediate response to a scene - then quietly moving on to the next.

You have completed work with various clients and different forms of editorial work. What type of photography interests you most?

Right now I am re-starting my fashion interests, we have some very fixed ideas of what we want to shoot right now and there are some amazing concepts and this can only be undertaken with a profound technical imagination. I am just itching to get onto it, I am so lucky to have such an amazing team.

A lot of your work you say you present ‘as shot’ without any post production. This is a particularly interesting aspect to your work as a lot of photography nowadays tends to rely on the editing of pictures. Do you feel this creates a more personal aspect to your photographs and do you not believe in editing photographs once they are taken?

All of my commercial work is exposed to all manner of post work from CGI to your usual photoshop editing. With my personal work I believe in presenting only what I captured originally. With that in mind all of my personal works without exception are always presented ‘as shot’ without cropping or post production of any kind. I see the process as cathartic rather than a critical one, and this dedication to ‘in-camera’ purity establishes a predominant focal point for my practice. It can play havoc with things but it can also provide a very fluid feel to my work which acts like a chameleon allowing me to interpret a scene in any style that I happen to find there.

What has been the greatest highlight of your career so far?

Tomorrow, no sense sitting around talking about your laurels - I believe my next shoot will always better the last - its been that way for over 20 years now and I am stunned at what we are capable of producing these days - it’s just getting better and better….

What projects are you currently working on?

We are pushing ahead with the Water Parkour series, we have a couple of highly stylized fashion shoots on right now and we are shooting a beautiful series for a charitable christian group - remaking scenes from the old testament. The most amazing part of my life’s work is that I never know what’s around the corner - fantastic.

What do you hope to achieve in 2010 and where would you love to see your work featured next?

I really want my work to be seen by some of the institutional curators, I have never sought any institutional critical review before but I have been thinking about it a lot recently so I must act on that. Perhaps the reason I haven’t before is that they might not get it, that’s ok I guess. But I should face up to that possibility and get on with it.

Text: Russell Arkinstall

Photography: Alexander James

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