LAY OF THE LAND

April 10, 2015

Artist Kiki Sjoberg.  Interview by Benjamen Judd.

Art, and in particular photography, is an interpretation of reality. Or more appropriately, reality as we see it.

Susan Sontag once wrote, “photographs are a way of imprisoning reality, understood as recalcitrant, inaccessible; of making it stand still…One can’t posses reality, one can posses (and be possessed by) images”.

In Kiki Sjoberg’s latest exhibition (running as part of Head On Festival) , ‘Lay of the Land’, reality becomes something that is both personal and alien. Inspired by the work of British painter William Turner, Kiki presents a series of emergent landscapes that sit somewhere between dark and light.

Much like Turner’s paintings captured the beauty of the sea through the violence of brushstroke, Kiki’s work draws out the beauty of the Australian landscape by highlighting the vast and sinister emptiness that open space possesses.

We sat down with Kiki to chat about what inspired her latest collection of work.

INTERVIEW WITH KIKI SJOBERG

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You’ve said that you have had a passion for photography from a young age – what first drew you to this medium?

My father was a very keen photographer, and because of this I grew up being photographed often.

I have five sisters and he documented our childhood with his beautiful photographs. In my parents home there’s a huge bookshelf filled with boxes that are organised into years and events, it is such a beautiful keep safe to have in the family.

I got my first camera when I was about ten years old. When I turned 18 and graduated from high school all I wanted was an analogue camera. My dad brought me a second hand Nickon fm2, which I still have today! I can honestly say that my father has been a huge influence for in foray into the world of photography.

Looking back at your portfolio it’s not hard to miss how incredibly diverse it is – everything from intimate portraiture, fashion to now a more abstract approach to landscape. Is there a subject that you are particularly fond of capturing?

I have always felt drawn to the more abstract visual. Capturing life the way I see it. I feel that photographing landscapes allows me to do that more.

I love to capture beautiful places but from my perspective.

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In your latest exhibition, you drew inspiration from English painter William Turner. What drew you to reinterpreting his work?

I remember my first year in art school and every Friday afternoon was art history – the first time I saw a Turner painting I was touched.

At home I tried to paint landscapes the way he did but with no success. Since photography comes more naturally to me, it allows me to use his paintings as inspiration for my work, especially in regards to this current body of work.

How did you choose your locations?

Some of he places I have visited before, like the Snowy Mountains. Others, like Tasmania, were places I was instantly drawn to while scouting for locations.

I was looking for places that both represent the unique Australian landscape but that also had that wild beauty I hoped to capture.

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From my own experience back in art school, when people discuss Turner, they tend to do so in terms of light and how he captured that in his painting. But, I admit to being more interested in the way he portrayed darkness, such as his 1842 work ‘Snow Storm’ or even his earlier work ‘Wreckers Off the Coast of Northumberland’. The same quality is something that, I feel, you captured in your own photographs. Was this deliberate? And what was the process behind selecting the tone of the images?

I’m pleased to hear that. I am also drawn to his darker paintings, although I enjoy his lighter works too. While travelling, I realized early on that this body of work was going to be about the beauty of drama and darkness, but still capturing that liquid light.

During the process of working on the images in post-production I found myself experimenting with depth and tone. My background in art, especially oil painting certainly helped me achieve that painted feeling to the photographs, using my camera and post-production as my brushes.

Lastly-what do you think constitutes a good photograph?

For me, a good photograph makes you feel something. Whether it’s joy, sadness or anger. It’s a feeling that draws you to return and look again and again.

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‘LAY OF THE LAND’ A solo exhibition by Kiki Sjoberg.

Inspired by the poetic and luminous landscape paintings of William Turner. Kiki traveled to the Snowy Mountains, the Blue Mountains, Tasmania, Kangaroo Valley and the Hawkesbury River region. Each image tells a story and captures the essence of a land that offers such beauty and diversity.

‘Lay of the Land’ opens at the Studio on Tuesday 19th May, 6.30-9pm.

Exhibition: 20th May-1st June.

Proudly sponsored by Two Birds Brewing.

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YOU

April 8, 2015

Artist Byron Spencer. Interview by Benjamen Judd.

One of the fascinating side-effects of living in a digital age with a social media generation is the experience of watching someone grow-up. This is most often in a literal sense, as we witness the very physicality of a person change before our eyes.

But it can also be in a more nuanced, philosophical sense, such as the case with Sydney-based photographer Byron Spencer and his exhibition running as part of Head On Festival – ‘You’ at Leonard Mattis Studio.

Better known for his documentation of Sydney’s music scene and street-style images for the Sun Herald, Spencer’s ‘You’ is an exercise in maturation.

Paired back and raw, ‘You’ takes a look at the narrative that occurs between model, camera and photographer. By focusing on those details that fascinated him – be it their lips, the outline of a shoulder or the contrast of flesh – Byron exposes himself through his images as much as he exposes his subject.

We sat down with Byron to chat about his latest exhibition.

INTERVIEW WITH BYRON SPENCER

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In your bio it states that you’re mostly self-taught when it comes to photography. Can you tell me what inspired you to take up this medium?

I have always been inspired by taking photos.

My background is in theatre and classical music so I think there is a lot of the essence from that training comes to life when I take a photo.

I also tend to live a lot in my imagination so I think photography was a real escape for me to physically create a lot of those fantasies!

What other photographers inspire you?

I love listening to interviews and documentaries when I am in the retouch stage.

Years ago I was influenced by classic artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Helmet Newton.

My transition into hyper-colour surrealness saw me inspired by lots of other photographers. I love the theatre of David La Chapelle, and appreciate his journey and career; I also loved Tracey Moffat in high school. There was so much animation and colour yet was still so emotive.

I love and find inspiration in paintings too!

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You are probably better known for your pop-art style editorials and capturing the Sydney party scene – What lead you to the more intimate and sombre tones we see in ‘You’?

This project is still developing a lot as I write this. I won’t be surprised if colour pops back into these works.

When I first started experimenting with more stylized photography, (I was previously shooting street style for the sun herald and various parties around Sydney) I was shooting very simple, classic nudes.

It was a project I had always wanted to do and I guess in a way a bit cliche. But going through all the experimentation I have tried in my work there is something quite nice about stylistically pulling it back and returning to where I started. A lot of the works are black and white but a lot of the subjects are super colourful human beings!

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Can you talk us through the process of your images in ‘You’? What kind of relationship did you develop with your subject?

For ‘You’, I am shooting people that have inspired me and intrigued me on some level. I am fascinated with how the internet has made so many people consciously (or even sub consciously) place themselves on a platform for others to view.

I guess in turn, it has deepened my intrigue with these people more as ‘characters’. I have tried to ‘amplify’ and celebrate an element of them that has fascinated me, whether it be a girls lips, or a dancers hands. It’s my view of them.

But I am super intrigued about keeping it feeling raw and true to their personality, so I make sure it also feels unique to them. I am intrigued by self-view versus an outsider’s perspective – “how we see ourselves? How do others see us?” Y’know!

Lastly, and probably the most difficult question – what do you think constitutes a good photograph?

Hmmm. A story. An emotion. It needs to make you feel something in some way. But that is so broad because everyone’s tastes are broad?! What is a good photograph?

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‘YOU’ A solo exhibition by Byron Spencer

An intimate moment with one subject, and a celebration of collaboration with a creative team to capture a unique portrait.

‘You’ opens at the studio on Wednesday 6th May, 6.30-9pm.

Exhibition: 7th-18th May.

Proudly sponsored by Two Birds Brewing and Stolen Rum.

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INBETWEEN

January 19, 2015

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‘In Between’ is the debut EP from Parisian artist Ambroise Willaume. He records under the pseudonym Sage. The video was shot by fashion photographer Ismael Moumin.

HAIR BRUSHING

January 18, 2015

FullSizeRender 4Regular brushing plays an important part in the condition of your hair. Brushing cleans the hair and stimulates the scalp, increasing the blood flow to the roots.

Sebum – A natural conditioning oil, comes from a gland at the base of every hair. Brushing spreads this natural oil along the length of your hair, giving it strength, volume and a healthy shine.

Image: Actress Gena Rowlands on ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ (1964)

HAIR LOCKS

January 7, 2015

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I recently got my hands on a copy of the new Alexander McQueen biography, by Judith Watt. Reading through I was not only reminded of his fashion genius, but also how heavily hair was a feature throughout his collections. One of my personal favourites being his 1992 MA Graduate Collection ‘Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims”, where garments featured encapsulated human hair.

In McQueen’s words:

“The inspiration behind the hair came from Victorian times when prostitutes would sell theirs for kits of hair locks, which were bought by people to give to their lovers. I used it as my signature label with locks of hair in Perspex. In the early collections, it was my own hair.”

THE ART OF HAIRDRESSING

November 29, 2014

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‘Like any artist, our tools become an extension of the hands. A pathway for pure creativity to flow’ – Leonard Mattis

Photographed by Kylie Coutts

JEWELS

November 4, 2014

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New Black Atlass video ‘Jewels’.  Directed by Yoann Lemoine feat. Anja Rubik.

LUCAS GROGAN X SKARFE

November 2, 2014

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You are invited to join Melbourne based artist Lucas Grogan and Skarfe (Brad McGlashan) this Thursday 6th November to celebrate the Sydney launch of their recent collaboration.

At Leonard Mattis Studio.  6-9pm.  RSVP – info@skarfe.com

Photography by Byron Spencer

BONE PALACE SURREAL

October 6, 2014

Artist Lexi Land.  By Benjamen Judd.

In it’s beginning, theatre was more than entertainment. Influenced by the ecstatic practices of the Orphic Mysteries (whose adherents worshipped the God of Madness and Wine, Dionysus), theatre was a way of expressing the deep truths of the human condition. It was dark, often terrifying, but it could also be joyful and an expression of otherworldly beauty. It was a way of touching the face of the divine.

In her latest show, Bone Palace Surreal, Sydney-based artist Lexi Land revisits the traditional purpose of theatre – the embodiment of dreams, myth and, yes, nightmares. Using her body as both surface and subject, Lexi reenacts some of our most primordial myths surrounding birth, sex, death and ultimately rebirth. It’s a fascinating peek into the back corners of the imagination where fear and ecstasy mingle in peculiar unison.

I had the opportunity to chat with Lexi beforehand and learn a little bit more about what propelled the creation of Bone Palace Surreal and some of the ideas behind the images.

INTERVIEW WITH LEXI LAND

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Your latest exhibition, Bone Palace Surreal, touches on the idea of performance and theatre within art. Can you tell me more about what inspired this collection?

I’ve always been interested in performance. It’s a way to illuminate my existence. Bone Palace Surreal had many threads of inspiration – one being Herman Hesse’s ‘Steppenwolf’. I wanted to create my own demented theatre – a place beyond reality where I could explore expression.

Like a fisherman goes to the ocean to catch fish and uses a baited rod, his catch eventually feeding him… the theatre becomes my ocean using my physicality to catch whatever it is I’m looking to hook, feed and have nourish me.

The process is layered, I’m not looking to create a picture to hang on a wall but to explore in depth a surreal state of being – bringing the mysterious to life and fleshing out it’s bones – it’s a mode of discovery and it’s always unfolding.

A continuous thread in your work is your own body – its presence permeates your images and tends to be more canvas than the canvas or paper itself. Is there a reason behind this?

Firstly because it’s incredibly convenient – I’m always around to be used. And secondly that’s precisely what I want to say… I am here, I exist, this is my structure – which leads to deeper questions like – what is here, what exists etc… my main source of inspiration is existence – to be alive and breathing – questioning keeps me entertained and  ultimately that’s all life is – pretty damn entertaining!

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Untitled (preview) | Mixed Media-Performance Still | Museum Quality Archival Paper  | 45cm x 45cm

To me, Bone Palace Surreal seems the least personal in the chronology of your work. Was this a deliberate turning away from introspection?

I’m surprised you think that… well not surprised, nothing is that surprising but I don’t agree. It is definitely personal and introspective…it’s a theatre built within me. I am the theatre, the figure that appears is also me…naked I am born, the red signifies birth, sex, death; it’s a stage to free my psyche, my spirit and the flesh that binds me…maybe that’s why you felt it wasn’t as personal or introspective because I am freeing my persona and slipping mad and drunk into the mysterious realm of the ambiguous surreal?

I think maybe the reason that I saw this as the least personal is because you seem to be so lost in the performance itself – which is what any good actor does. Would you say then that this series is really a dramatic act where you play yourself playing yourself but in a grander scheme of life’s stage?

Your interpretation is interesting but for me it’s not so much a deliberate ‘act’ where I’m playing a role…Bone Palace Surreal is a question. It’s a real-surreal, strange land, a place to reveal my bare-bones in the maddened night. It’s my unconscious, my conscious – a dream and it’s dangerously alive and unknown.

My previous works are of my image in a void, separate from anything and isolated, making the work all about the figure – now, for the first time in this series, I am somewhere, I’m suddenly in an environment – doing something… but it is still introspective and personal because symbolically the environment I’m in is just as void and only an extension of me.

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How did you develop the concept behind the Bone Palace Surreal?

It began as a taste… a sudden vision, bones, erotic, flesh, dark, moody, pussy, opera, strange land, raw, twisted, I use words, write short stories and poems about the initial taste – then came performance which as mentioned is more like ritual – I painted bones on my body, sculptured masks, to breath life into the figure, I kept writing, sketching, dreaming. Once the performances were filmed and I had some strange footage – I captured the figures and began the constructing – drawing and collage.

Originally, theatre was a spiritual experience. Was there a particular myth, or mythic, tradition that you worked with when developing this series?

Instinct.

Were there any artists, or performances, that you looked to for inspiration during the piece?

I never intentionally ‘look’ or research for inspiration but often find once the concept has been conceived I coincidentally happen on things during the process that inspire and relate in perfect alignment to what I’m creating.

The name itself was inspired by a book of poetry by Charles Bukowski ‘Bone Palace Ballet’ this title ignited a vision in me about 15 years ago when a friend gave me the book.  As mentioned earlier Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, the drawings of Hans Bellmer are a continuous inspiration, Francis Bacon’s paintings – the figure on a platform/stage and Antonin Artaud.

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All artist portraits taken by Sydney based photographer Kiki Sjoberg.

‘BONE PALACE SURREAL’  A solo exhibition by Lexi Land

On a liquid-lit path, void of time, shadows lay open beyond my mind and threads of consciousness unravel to reveal, the dark beauty of strange land at the ‘Bone Palace Surreal’.  A theatre of sorts, where things aren’t what they seem ‘for mad men only’ – born where poets dream entering through the mysterious light to ignite and unfold, in the depths of night a figure appears – jewelled in bone alive and breathing, standing alone her ribs build a cage, for her heart to break open and on her red womb of a stage is where her flesh is awoken – Lexi Land

The ‘Bone Palace Surreal’ opens at the studio on Wednesday 29th October, 6.30pm-9.30pm.

Proudly sponsored by Two Birds Brewing and Naked Wines Australia.

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