Amelia’s Magazine | Angels of Anarchy at Manchester Art Gallery

Angel3Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman and Marian Goodman Gallery, pills New York

When I hear the word Surrealism, for sale instantly the likes of Salvador Dali, approved André Breton, André Masson and Max Ernst come to my mind. Well I can now add Frida Khalo, Leonora Carrington, Eileen Agar and many more female Surrealist artists to that male dominated list, thanks to Manchester’s Art Gallery! Their current exhibition, Angels of Anarchy, sets out to not only celebrate the works of female artists but to educate and inform those who know little (people like me) or nothing at all about the important role females played in the Surrealist movement. How about that?

Angel Courtesy Private collection, Dilbeek, Belgium © DACS 2009

The exhibition covers five main categories within Surrealism – Portrait/Self-Portrait, Landscape, Interior, Still Life and Fantasy; the medium used ranges from sculpture to photography to film and the more traditional oil on canvas. Thanks to Salma Hayek’s performance in the eponymous film, Frida Khalo -who features in both Portrait/Self Portrait and Interior – is probably the name most will recognise but you will not be disappointed with the other lesser-known artists on display.


Courtesy ADAGP Paris, Musée National d’Art Modern – Centre Georges Pompidou. Courtesy Photo CNAC / MNAM, Dis. RMN / courtesy  Jacques Faujour

The most interesting piece comes in the form of film by photographer/filmmaker Lola Alvarez Bravo -who incidentally went to school with Frida and was one of her closest friends. The 30 seconds (approx) of rare footage is left untitled but is captivating from start to end, not least thanks to the presence of Frida herself; the artist is more stunning on film that I had imagined. There is no audio in this eerie film and it’s quite foretelling that Frida is welcoming death into her home in the shape of an innocent looking girl; this was shot when Frida was in ill health and I thought this was one of many nice surprises within the exhibition. Bravo documented much of Frida’s life and she went on documenting even after her death; there is a poignant shot of Frida’s room after her death (Frida’s Room 1954), where her wheelchair, paintbrushes, a self-portrait and a picture of her husband are strategically placed in order to sum up her life. This particular scene left a lump in your throat!

Fini_Le-Bout-du-MondeCourtesy Manchester Gallery

Another big name featured in the exhibition is Eileen Agar – whose Angel of Anarchy (1936-1940) mixed media head dress is featured alongside its opposite number Angels of Mercy (1936-1940) – only two surviving pieces of four, are portraits of Joseph Bard (her husband) and to see them both is quite magical. Angel of Anarchy is wrapped in rich African bark cloth decorated in Chinese silk, beads and osprey and ostrich feathers and has a decadent aura about it. Angel of Mercy is quite the opposite but none less impressive to its corresponding part, using only her skills to sculpt the piece and her hand to paint it.

Agar_Angel-of-AnarchyCourtesy Manchester Gallery

Whist big names like Kahlo, Agar, Oppenheim and Cahun are used to encourage people to visit the exhibition the lesser known artists really do shine and in some cases surpass their well known counterparts. Kay Sage’s beautiful black and white, landscape photography will lead you into the word of the extra-ordinary within the ordinary – her vision of seeing something interesting within what seems to be an ordinary landscape impressed me a great deal! Leonora Carrington’s self portrait (1937-1938) will immediately grab your attention as it did mine; I faced this one particular piece for a good10 minutes and I must admit I was truly transfixed and consumed in my trail of thought! This, in my opinion, is by far was the best self portrait (oil on canvas) in the entire show. I felt deep sympathy for Carrington and I was left wondering and wanting to know more about this wonderful talent.


Courtesy Banco de Mexico Deigo Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico DF / DACS 2009

The exhibition is over teeming with beautiful oils on canvas and sculptures that include a rarely seen Lee Miller torso cast that has only even been exhibited once before. Surrealist literature is present in the form of Leonora Carrington’s En Bas ( Down Below 1945) a memoir of her emotional journey after Max Ernst is arrested by the Nazis which leads her to being institutionalized in a mental hospital in Spain. There are video instillations by Francesca Woodman documenting herself exploring the female form and a beautiful interpretation of ‘There was a Miller on a River’ (1971), by Eva Svankmajerova. This old folk song tells the story of a young soldier returning home after 20 years. His parents do not recognise him, rob and murder him; once they realise it was their son they take their own lives. Such a brutal act is given a beautiful lease of life in Svankmajerova’s gorgeous illustrations.

Oppenheim_SquirrelCourtesy Manchester Gallery

Another nice surprise is the room ‘Teenangels’ in which the Manchester Art gallery has teamed up with art students from Levenshulme High School who have came up with their own Surrealist inspired artwork. I would have happily been left to think they were part of the Angels of Anarchy exhibition had I not seen the sign! Seeing interaction between a prestigious art gallery like Manchester’s and GCSE art students topped the exhibition off perfectly.

All in all this was a good exhibition which ran from the 26th of December 2009 to the 10th of January 2010. Penny Slinger describes her work as ‘a protest against females being seen as mere objects at a male’s disposal’. This exhibition sets out to break the notion that Surrealism is a male dominated movement and it does so successfully. Without the likes of Frida Kahlo, Claude Cahun, Edith Rimmington, Meret Oppenheim and the rest of the female Surrealist featured in the exhibition I doubt very much that women in art would be where they are today. They helped the female cause for decades to come and paved the way for equality in Art. They proved that chicks can do what guys do… and dare I say in some cases even better? If you were one of the lucky few who visited the show then you surely came away enlightened, informed and inspired by those surrealist amazons…just like I did.

Visit for more information.

Categories ,André Breton, ,André Masson, ,art, ,art review, ,Claude Cahun, ,Edith Rimmington, ,Eva Svankmajerova, ,film, ,Francesca Woodman, ,Frida Khalo, ,illustration, ,Kay Sage, ,Lee Miller, ,Leonora Carrington, ,Lola Alvarez Bravo, ,manchester, ,Manchester art gallery, ,Max Ernst, ,Meret Oppenheim, ,museum, ,museums, ,painting, ,Penny Slinger, ,photography, ,Salvador Dali, ,scultpture, ,surrealism, ,surrealist

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with illustrator Petra Börner

EMMA Jane Austen Petra borner
I have long admired the work of Swedish born illustrator Petra Börner, who brilliantly mixes Scandinavian and Arts and Crafts influences to create a style all her own. Her book cover for Emma by Jane Austen (artwork above) is nominated for the 2012 V&A illustration awards so I thought I’d find out what makes her tick. Be very inspired…

Petra Borner -studio
Petra Borner -studio
You have a very distinctive style – what are your greatest influences?
I still draw inspiration from objects and books I’ve collected since I was a teenager, books on school posters and photographic references on anatomy and plants and DIY books form the 70’s.
I like studying LP covers, especially ‘classical’ ones and browsing antique shops and I like drawing in public and from life.
I’ve been taught to be hands-on and ‘do’ from my family and I’ve learnt creative skills from my mother.
I like work by Max Ernst, Niki De Saint Phalle, Carl Johan De Geer and Katja of Sweden.
Petra Borner -studio
How long did it take you to come up with your look – was it a gradual process or were you always attracted to working in this way? 
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t really into drawing and making things.
It’s taken me a roundabout way to get to a place where drawing is central and a means to living though.
I suppose it’s good to pack many things in your bag along the way.
A friend of mine sent me a drawing I did when I was 18 and it looks just like my current work – that was quite shocking!
Petra Borner -studio
You trained as a fashion designer and had your own label until 2004 – why did you decide that your heart was in illustration and was it a hard decision to make? Any regrets?
It wasn’t a very hard choice to make at all.
I’ve always wanted to be an artist and my experience from the fashion helped build my drive.
I had quite a few tough and interesting years creating my label with partner Tove Johansson, but it felt right to finally focus on my goal.
In fashion I felt like a cowboy, a strange fish in a big pond!
Petra Borner -studio
Petra Borner -field print for Cacherel SS 2007
Petra Borner – field print for Cacharel SS 2007

In terms of moving across industries, did you have to develop a new set of contacts for illustration or was there a lot of crossover?
I’d illustrated a little for magazines parallel to my work in fashion, so I had a few contacts.
But generally, I had to start a fresh and it took a while to generate an interest.
With a fashion angle I broadened my chances and managed to bridge fashion and illustration into an interesting mix of commissions.
Petra Borner -studio
You’ve been based in London since 1994 – what brought you here and what keeps you here?
I came here to study Fashion whilst improving my English during a one- year foundation course.
It turned out to be an intense and exciting year leading onto a degree in Fashion at Central St Martins and my London roots grew deeper.
I lived in NY for a while which was great fun, but I seldom contemplate moving anywhere else now.
Having family ties here and in Sweden at times makes for an ambivalent longing for ‘home’.
London always keeps me on my toes.
Petra Borner -studio
Petra Borner -partridge bowl for Seto Seikei
Petra Borner – partridge bowl for Seto Seikei.

When you are working on illustration in a decorative capacity (on 3D objects etc.) what has been your favorite project to date? And why?
It’s amazing to be able to work on projects with open briefs, but with technical support to maximize the result.
I often wish I had more knowledge and skills of many crafts to increase the level of intricacy and open possibilities within a project, but sometimes it’s good not to know all the limitations before you start.
Collaborating with Studiothomson, Clements Ribeiro, Bally, Aquascutum, Seto Seikei and Jonathan Adler has also been interesting.
Petra Borner -studio
Petra Borner -gift box for systemet
Petra Borner – gift box for Systemet.

If we were to take a peek inside your inspiration library what would we find?
Books, paper scraps, comic books, postcards and photocopies on arts and crafts, design, pottery, folklore, nature, portraits, travelling and maps,  anatomy, animals, foods and eating, antiques, DIY books, interior design and architecture, rubbings and sculpture.
THE_LOVER petra borner
You have illustrated lots of book covers – which was the best book you had to read for a job?
I love ‘The Lover’ by Marguerite Duras.
How do you balance looking after a toddler with work? You are incredibly busy!
She’s managing me.
Petra Borner -summer papercut for Harper Collins
Petra Borner – summer papercut for Harper Collins.

Your logo adopts your father’s signature – do you come from a creative family and if so what do they do?
On my mums side of the family there is an army of hands on, inspiring creativity, a well of skills within all sorts of arts and crafts.
My father’s side holds many in a row of painters, a photographer and a composer.
Most of the paintings are portraits, still life’s and scenes from the sea, as we come from an island.
Most of my family members prosper academically and save their creativity for relaxation.
Petra Borner -studio
Petra Borner -greetings card for Habitat
Petra Borner – greetings card for Habitat.

Can you tell us about your new product range in collaboration with Studiothomson, aimed at encouraging writing and correspondence?
I’ve always been a keen letter writer and as a teenager I’d spend hours decorating envelops before posting them.
I like the time and thought that goes into handwritten letters and though it it’s ‘out-of-date’ as soon as it’s posted, it ‘s magical to receive them.
We are currently developing the prototypes for a range of bold products, which will make staying in touch with your friends a treat.
We are launching the collection early autumn 2012.
Petra Borner -studio
What kind of imagery can we expect in your new range of hand tufted fair trade rugs for the Design Museum?
This is an early collaboration and my designs are in the making.
The project is directed by Chris Haughton for Design Museum and involves a group of artists including Sanna Annukka, Donna Wilson, Jon Klassen and Neasden Control Centre, so the rugs should be a striking collection!
The limited edition rugs will be handmade in Nepal according to Fair Trade regulations and will be on display at the Design Museum this autumn.
Petra Borner -studio
You are also writing your own book about collectables – tell us more! What do you collect?
This is exciting!
Having been a keen flea-marketeer and collector since I was five, I am now in contrast ruthless about what I keep.
What I’ve kept has a real value (to me!) and I am assembling these objects into a journey of sorts.
Petra Borner -studio
Finally and not least you are nominated for the V&A illustration awards, and the winners will be announced tonight – what inspired the Emma artwork?
The first ideas for the cover of ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen, was sketched in the V&A.
I aimed to create a bold and lush interpretation of the novel in contrast to it often soft and feminine covers.
I decided to let her hand symbolize elements of the story.

Petra Borner -studio
Petra Börner sells her book cover artwork and much more on big cartel – so you can own your very own piece! See what else she’s up to on her website. I hope you win tonight Petra!

Read my review of the 2011 V&A Illustration Awards here.

Categories ,Aquascutum, ,Arts and Crafts, ,Bally, ,Cacharel, ,Carl Johan De Geer, ,Chris Haughton, ,Clements Ribeiro, ,Design Museum, ,Donna Wilson, ,Fair Trade, ,fashion, ,Habitat, ,Harper Collins, ,Jon Klassen, ,Jonathan Adler, ,Katja of Sweden, ,Made by Node, ,Marguerite Duras, ,Max Ernst, ,Neasden Control Centre, ,Niki De Saint Phalle, ,Petra Borner, ,rugs, ,Sanna Annukka, ,Scandinavian, ,Seto Seikei, ,Studiothomson, ,Systemet, ,Tove Johansson, ,V&A Illustration Awards

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with musician and artist Elizabeth Walling, aka Gazelle Twin

Gazelle Twin by Sarah Arnett
Gazelle Twin by Sarah Arnett.

I’ve been keeping a firm eye (and ear) on Gazelle Twin since I discovered her enigmatic first single at the tail end of last year. Changelings was accompanied by a mesmerising video that exemplifies Gazelle Twin‘s approach to music making: creating an overall sensory experience in which the listener/viewer is immersed. That video was followed by the equally transfixing I Am Shell I Am Bone and now her debut album The Entire City is on its way. Not surprisingly she is generating a lot of interest, approved this despite having performed only one live show so far as Gazelle Twin…. I decided to find out a bit more from the lady herself. Meet the genius that is Elizabeth Walling.


According to wikipedia the Loplop was a birdlike creature created by artist Max Ernst. Why and how have you been inspired by this creature?
Loplop was a starting point in the ongoing development for the ideas behind my costumes which I use for live performance and in my imagery. I have always admired the painting The Robing Of The Bride by Ernst. It has a sexual-animal-human oddness that drew me in. I saw the real thing fairly recently in Guggenheim’s house in Venice. It was much smaller than I realised, but still magnificently weird. It really beckons you over from the other side of the room.

Gazelle Twin by Amy Brazier
Gazelle Twin by Amy Brazier.
Were you trained in music, or is it something that has been building over the years? What other jobs have you done in the meantime if so?
I studied briefly at college and then University but I still consider myself to be self-taught. As a kid I would learn everything by ear, including pieces for piano, flute etc. I still do it that way now. Learning to read and write music obviously helped me develop a lot further, but I rarely return to the theory books and manuscript paper these days, except if I’m arranging something for classical musicians. I’m expecting to do a lot of that for the next album.

I Am Shell I Am Bone

What are your main lyrical themes and inspirations?
Hard to know where to start. I’ve been inspired by the paranormal, under water life, science fiction films, dreams I had as a child, space exploration etc. All these influences and experiences are deeply personal, so it all remains very cryptic to others, I think.
How long have you been living in Brighton? What drew you there and what keeps you there?
I came here primarily to study music and never left. It’s a hard place to leave, and I love it here but after 10 years I think I might start to seek new horizons. It’s important to see new places I think.

Gazelle Twin by Lea Rimoux
Gazelle Twin by Lea Rimoux.
What is going on in the Men Like Gods video? Where was it shot and who are the dancers? I presume the scenes of burning pyres being dragged through streets are from the Lewes bonfire night, but are some of them choreographed specifically by yourself?
The Men Like Gods video contains footage from a very ancient Pagan festival in remote Sardinia. Some of the footage is my own from earlier this year, some was sourced through Sardinia‘s vast digital library and contains footage from roughly 30 years ago. The festival relates to the changing of the seasons and the life-giving land and cattle. Each village has it’s own particular ritual and unique costumes, so it is very diverse and strange. I went to experience one village’s ritual in March where I filmed the Mamuthones (the men who dance in black masks, bells and sheepskins). There is not much explanation as to why this ritual has such a bizarre aesthetic, but it is a very deep rooted tradition, at least two thousand years old. They take it very seriously there, it’s certainly not the tourist attraction that Lewes’ Bonfire night has become, but then I am sure it started out with much the same circumstances.

Gazelle Twin by gaarte
Gazelle Twin by Gaarte.
Do you collaborate with fashion designers to create your stage costumes, and if so who? How does that process work?
I design and usually make all the costumes. The process is very basic; I do a fair bit of research or just get an idea in my head and then I go to flea markets, charity shops and usually Poundland to source materials to work with. I’m unsigned so I don’t have an advance or anything to play with or to commission people, so I have to be imaginative and very frugal. Where I lack sewing skills or equipment I call upon my very talented friend, Gita Mistry. She recently helped me realise a brand new costume, a very striking blue, abstract Gazelle headdress, veil and robe which I might wear at my album launch in September.

You’ve been compared to the likes of Bjork but I think you also strongly channel more modern experimental electro musicians such as The Knife – who are more about hiding their personal egos behind creativity than extravagantly promoting themselves. Is it safe to say that you have been influenced by this kind of music? What have been your inspirations?
Classical, early music and film soundtracks are the bedrock of all my influences. When I was studying and composing in my late teens and early twenties I only ever really listened to that, maybe with a bit of Portishead and Jazz thrown in from time to time. Pop music is all relatively new to me, but true artists like The Knife, Fever Ray, Planningtorock and Bjork have all intrigued me musically as well as with their boldness of visual images and play on identity. I really admire artists who resist exposing themselves too much or try to divert people’s attention towards the music. I don’t think it’s enough to sport a weird costume or smear face paint on –  the music has to be really strong first and foremost, but the costume should also be relevant to the identity in order to avoid being a slightly vacuous stunt.

Gazelle Twin by Claire Kearns
Gazelle Twin by Claire Kearns.
How will The Entire City be available in an interactive web only version? Can you explain a bit more about how this works?
 The album will be available as a digital download in the conventional sense and there will be limited vinyl and CD editions coming out later this year. For the digital release in July there is a special web-based counterpart, which will be available on the website very soon. I wanted to create an interactive, tactile way for people to experience the album in digital form, so I got in touch with Champagne Valentine and they came up with a wonderful application for me. The interactive version of The Entire City will be free to access and contains all album tracks which each have their own interactive visuals. It also features remixed video clips from all my music videos, as well as other, as yet unreleased footage. I’m hoping to make something interactive for every album/project in future, it’s a really satisfying process and I hope makes up for some of the loss of pleasure in buying a physical record.

Gazelle Twin by Lea Rimoux
Gazelle Twin by Lea Rimoux.
Why are live performances so rare? Will your fans be able to see more of you now that your album is due to launch? If so where will they be able to find you?
Live shows have been rare because I wanted to take my time with developing the project and make sure it all worked and felt right before I launched the whole thing and took it on tour. I also had to save the money in order to do it properly, so it’s taken a few years to get here. I want to keep shows rare and special; they involve a lot of visuals, choreography and extra musical elements and each one is unique. I much prefer to do a few really special shows than too many run-of-the-mill versions. It makes it more worthwhile as a performer too (and I have experienced many a dodgy gig in the past without this ethos, let me tell you!). I’m really excited to get back to performing this year. My album launch will be on 1st September at Electrowerkz (aka Islington MetalWorks) in Angel, in London. I have curated the event myself and I am making sure it is going to be really unique experience for all involved. I can’t give too much away at the moment, but all will be revealed on my website eventually.

Gazelle Twin by Nicola Ellen
Gazelle Twin by Nicola Ellen.

What do you do to relax? Where might we find you by night time in Brighton?
I tend to spend the majority of my time in the studio at home, I rarely venture out much these days! I play a few video games and watch films to relax – This year I have really sacrificed my social life in order to make this record and really get the project off the ground single-handedly.

Gazelle Twin by Gaarte
Gazelle Twin by Gaarte.

New single Men Like Gods will be released on Monday 11th July alongside the digital release of The Entire City. Here’s a trailer for the amazing video.

Men Like Gods

The opening album track The Entire City can be streamed here

Gazelle Twin will play as part of the Soundwaves Festival on July 14th-17th in Brighton as part of The Infinite Possibilities of Voice at Brighton Town Hall between 5.45pm – 10.30pm on Saturday 16th July. Gazelle Twin will be performing Colossus in the Atrium, a new improvisatory piece exploring the dialogue between human and machine. Voice and electronics will be coupled with darkly theatric sensibilities to create an atmospheric, electrifying and wholly unique experience, in collaboration with artist and musician Ed Briggs. I advise you secure tickets fast! This will not be a performance to miss.

Categories ,Album Launch, ,Amy Brazier, ,Atrium, ,bjork, ,brighton, ,Brighton Town Hall, ,Champagne Valentine, ,Changelings, ,Claire Kearns, ,Colossus, ,Costume, ,Ed Briggs, ,electrowerkz, ,Elizabeth Walling, ,Fever Ray, ,Gaarte, ,Gazelle Twin, ,Gita Mistry, ,Guggenheim, ,I am Shell I am Bone, ,Islington MetalWorks, ,jazz, ,Lea Rimoux, ,Lewes, ,Loplop, ,Mamuthones, ,Max Ernst, ,Men Like Gods, ,Nicola Ellen, ,Pagan, ,Planningtorock, ,Portishead, ,review, ,Sarah Arnett, ,Sardinia, ,single, ,Soundwaves Festival, ,The Entire City, ,The Infinite Possibilities of Voice, ,The Knife, ,The Robing Of The Bride, ,video

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