Amelia’s Magazine | Middlesex University: Ba Hons Photography Graduate Show 2011 Review

Pearl Rustean young mother Madonna
Young Mother as Madonna by Pearl Rustean.

I whisked through the Middlesex University graduate shows at the Free Range Art and Design Show on Friday, and stopping only when something really caught my eye. First up two photography graduates:

Bernat Millet
I was immediately drawn to Bernat Millet‘s work – Portraying the Saharawis ‘The last thing you lose is hope’ which documents with great sensitivity the plight of the Saharawis of the Western Sahara, buy information pills who for more than 35 years have lived on Algerian soil where they have become more or less permanent refugees, without the right to develop their own culture or even feed themselves properly. The results of close contact with landmines are just one of the more visible effects of their daily hardships and yet they remain stoic and determined to return to their homeland.

Bernat Millet Saharawis sahara
Bernat Millet Saharawis sahara family

Above are just a few of Bernat Millet‘s beautiful big prints, many more of which appeared in his degree show. These are professional standard portraits from someone who is clearly already at the top of his game – the gorgeous pastel colours in direct contrast to the shattered lives he reveals. I don’t think that Bernat Millet will struggle to find work, whichever direction he choses to pursue. I also love these unexpectedly tender portraits of Mumbai sleepers which I found on his website.

Bernat Millet mumbai_sleepers
Bernat Millet Mumbai sleeper

Pearl Rustean
I also liked the portraits of young mothers as Madonnas by Pearl Rustean, who herself is a young mother. Tired of negative portrayals she has reinterpreted the aesthetics of early renaissance paintings to create these very touching portraits in order to describe the close relationships of young mothers and their offspring today. As she writes ‘Young mothers are not just stereotypes. Many are successful and driven individuals who have chosen motherhood early in life and are proud of this choice and determined to do the best by themselves and their children. I hope these portraits are suggestive of the strength necessary in making this choice.‘ I can’t think of a better way to show this.

Pearl Rustean Madonna and child
Pearl Rustean Madonna young mother

The Middlesex University graduate shows continue until Monday 6th June 2011.

Categories ,Bernat Millet, ,Documentary Photography, ,Free Range, ,Free Range Art and Design Show, ,Graduate Shows, ,Madonnas, ,middlesex university, ,Motherhood, ,Mumbai sleepers, ,Pearl Rustean, ,photography, ,Portraying the Saharawis, ,Refugees, ,Saharawis, ,Western Sahara, ,Young Mothers

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Antonia Parker: Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion featured artist.

Antonia Parker
The lovely Antonia Parker has contributed artwork to several of my books now. This time she was inspired by the multitude of lanterns that adorn her house to create a beautiful colouring page for Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion. She tells us about her current work practice and fitting creativity around motherhood, a challenge I can well relate to.

Antonia Parker Amelia's Colouring Book Douple Page Spread
Antonia Parker
What is your double page inspired by?
I have all these gorgeous lanterns at home that I adorn the house with for parties and Christmas and I thought it’d be nice to sit down and paint them. They’re so bright and colourful and ‘zang-y’! I thought about putting them outside and fireflies having a flutter about, so I’ve got all these insects having a sneaky after-party!

Antonia Parker
House Of Holland A_W 2014 by Antonia Parker
How did you put the artwork together?
I used gouache, collage and colouring pencils for my full-colour illustration and had a great time using different widths of nib for my colouring-in page. I planned out the picture in pencil first to make sure I was using the space how I wanted. I love drawing in detail in pen, so using different nib-widths was fun. It’s not often I get the opportunity to make a black and white illustration. With the colouring-in page, I used gouache and colouring-in pencils.

You are a multi-disciplinary artist – what are you favourite mediums to use and why?
I like to make things. It might be organic forms painted in gouache, wonky drawings in my travel sketchbook, glossy fashion illustrations, lumpy ceramics, cutting up and collaging together old polaroids or creating props for my day job. Artwork-wise I’m in a time of transition. I used to mainly work in acrylic paint on acetate, and that is mostly what people ask me for, but it is such a structured way of working that I felt like I was just churning them out. So I have moved more recently into gouache and pottery, and less people and more organic forms, because I wasn’t sure I was stretching myself enough. Sometimes they’re great, and I think ‘why did I limit myself to people for so long?‘ and other times I see how far I have to go. I never studied ceramics or gouache at art college, which is possibly why they are so fascinating now – making pottery is such a different process, and uses my brain in a different way! I love it! I still have so much to learn, and it is a bit challenging not knowing how the work will look at the end of the firing process – but it’s an excellent excuse to keep making and produce better batches every time. My degree was graphic design, specialising in illustration, but I’m not a naturally neat person – so I think pottery suits me much better – getting messy and crossing my fingers about what comes out after a firing. It’s relaxing in a way that I don’t often find drawing is anymore – although I suppose that is the flip-side of trying to make a career out of a passion.

Antonia Parker NW board up close
Antonia Parker NW Boards in Progress
Since becoming a mum, how has your approach to art and creativity altered?
I also had a baby a few months ago, so I’m settling into a new stage of life. Whilst she’s small, so far I’ve found I need to be slow for all of us. When she was 10 weeks old, amongst a few other things, my husband and I found out that we were losing our jobs at the end of the year, and it threw off what had been quite a lovely start to parenthood. I needed to put myself apart from it and be in tune with my baby, which has meant taking more time out than I had originally intended. In January I’ll restart classes at my local adult education centre so I have access to a kiln again. My concentration span is much lower at the moment. It was a challenge to make this piece, and made me realise that at this moment in time, I just want/need to go at my baby’s pace. With this project I had to really make something I wanted to make, (getting to paint in my favourite shades of gouache and delicious line-drawing) as I felt guilty making her sit watching me and her toys and just getting on. She was grumpy, and I just had to stop sometimes and be with her. It’s a frustrating pace to work at…. I can manage balancing house jobs and picking up the threads of things I was doing in the times I get, but sitting down and working is very challenging! I have so much admiration for mothers who are actually focussing on and achieving things besides their babies; I do not feel like one of them at the moment! It is sort of easier now she can crawl and occupy herself for a few moments, but then you have to run and check they’re playing with something safe. There is a reason that childcare exists! Currently I take my sketchbook around with me, and draw the odd thing when I get the opportunity.

The Mucky Hound Dog Walkers Betty by Antonia Parker web
Antonia Parker The Mucky Hound Logo Vinyl on Vehicle
What have been some of your most recent projects, can you tell us more about them?
Most recently I created desert and cacti scenery for New Wine conference, six 1.2 x 2.4m paintings. These were a huge undertaking as my baby was 3 months old, but with the help of Lily, James and Becky, we made them happen! When I’m painting like that, I try to take quite a relaxed ‘we’ll just see how they turn out!‘ approach, but you have to know what’s happening so your team can help you! I did a lot of drawing, mixing paint and painting by numbers so that it could carry on when I was feeding or getting her off to sleep. My logo for The Mucky Hound (one of my first forays into animal drawing) has been translated into vinyl and is driving around Tunbridge Wells as they pick up local dogs for walks. In my own work, I have also been making cacti in gouache and clay. When working with clay, I like to make small sculptures and slabs to illustrate using underglaze. I’m inspired by the things that excite me – so with this piece beautiful, colourful lanterns, things which are interesting to draw e.g. cacti variety of shapes and detail to draw, pottery: just a different way of working from how I have before and loving growing my understanding of it.

Antonia Parker
Antonia Parker
You’ve been involved in a few of my books now, what is it about them that keeps you coming back?
They tend to be interesting briefs: after I graduated, I made mostly fashion illustrations, and having always been interested in the environment, how could I not get involved in promoting sustainable fashion? Your last book ‘That Which We Do Not Understand‘ was inspired by your miscarriages – I had lost two babies myself and finally understood the grief. If we’re all silent about our losses, we’re part of the loneliness you might feel afterwards. I was pregnant at the time and was able to create something that hopefully, cautiously-optimistically spoke to others.

Where do you live and what else excites you besides art?
I live in Tunbridge Wells with my husband and daughter and I’m lucky to know some fantastic local artists and makers. I love gardening (currently I am waiting for the rain to stop so I can plant my spring bulbs!) I am also very interested in rights issues, like genital mutilation and female sexuality, and now of course all of the work/family balance things that I’ve always followed are becoming more of a reality for me! I try not to bore on about my baby’s reusable nappies, but I love them! I have quite a nurturing day job focussed on children and their communities, but I find that I am also interested in women and their lives as mothers-to be and parents, and then of course fathers and how they find their way to fatherhood without the biological changes women go through, and also, how they support mothers. Can you tell that I’m spending my Maternity Leave doing a lot of thinking?!

Antonia Parker Anyone for Pimms

There are just a few hours left to secure your copy of Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, featuring the work of Antonia Parker and over 40 other international artists. Visit my Kickstarter page here.

Categories ,#ameliasccc, ,Adult Colouring, ,Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, ,Antonia Parker, ,ceramics, ,Coloring, ,Colouring Book, ,Fashion Illustration, ,interview, ,kent, ,Kickstarter, ,Motherhood, ,New Wine, ,Parenting, ,Pottery, ,That Which We Do Not Understand, ,The Mucky Hound, ,Tunbridge Wells

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Erika Rier: Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion featured artist.

Portland based Erika Rier is a multi disciplinary artist with a unique vision. I am so glad she entered my colouring book open brief, with an amazing and unusual narrative artwork based on the struggle of womankind. Here she talks about her inspiration, how language and place informs her art, and the joy of homeschooling her daughter.

How did you find the colouring book open brief and why did you decide to enter your work?
I’ve been following Amelia’s Magazine for ages and had been wanting to contribute to an open brief for some time but the timing was always off. I’d even got a sketch together for the That Which We Do Not Understand brief but was in the middle of a time sensitive project that prevented me from getting my submission done. When I saw the colouring book brief I was so excited. I swear I get at least 2 messages a week from people asking that I do a colouring book. I haven’t had time to draw a whole colouring book but I could definitely manage the two pages for this brief!

What inspired your piece and how does it tie in with ongoing themes in your work?
As soon as I read the brief I knew that I wanted to draw some sort of stand-off between the two pages. I wanted the drawings to work together as a whole but to also work on their own as well. In my self-directed work, I have been exploring themes of violence, war, and struggle. The idea of a standoff definitely played into the themes I’m currently obsessed with. I also draw a lot of strange creatures, women who are half bear or have butterfly wings as well as centaurs and satyrs. I decided one side would be winged creatures facing off against land creatures. While I was working the piece it came to me that the two main figures were obviously at some point best friends, but things had gone south and now they’re battling it out on these two cliffs.

How has your crafty upbringing affected your current approach to illustration?
I come from a family filled with textile enthusiasts so from a young age developed a passion for sewing, embroidery, and knitting. For a long time I created a line of handmade clothing which I sold in NYC and stores around the country. I love the texture, colors, and patterns in textiles and those are what influence my illustration and drawing the most. I love bringing the flat, repeating patterns of textiles into my drawings, creating landscapes made up of repeating patterns.

I think the biggest thing I’ve gotten from my history of labor intensive craft work that I bring to drawing is patience. Threading a loom or hand stitching a quilt are massive, patience-sucking undertakings that have helped me develop the ability to stick through a very detailed drawing and to spend most of my days sitting at a desk creating work.

What does your series Of Monsters & Women explore?
Of Monsters & Women is an open ended, loose series I’ve been working on for most of the year. I’m not even sure when it started, me drawing monsters and battles but now it seems to be the entirety of my self-directed work. In the most basic way these pieces explore struggle. They depict scenes of hybrid creatures and women in battle, often over trivial things. The series is exploring the internal turmoil I experience in my daily life as a woman, mother, and human. I’m also very interested in pushing against the trend in pop culture art of women being depicted as very passive and empty in pretty portraits. Life is full of battles and struggles but art depicting women seems to be all vapid stares, sexy poses, serenity, and/or maternal softness. I want to create art that shows the part of being a woman that is a battle between one’s self and one’s culture.

Why are you learning Norwegian?
When I was very little, my grandmother whom I lived with, had a friend who visited regularly from Norway. She somehow sparked a strong desire to go to Norway in me. I’m not really sure what it is that I find so fascinating, pictures of it remind of where I grew up on the very Northern tip of the state of coastal Maine. I started learning the language so I could visit there but ultimately, after moving around America so much, I feel as though I’d like to live abroad especially in a country where English is not the primary language. I’ve also been learning Spanish because I like the idea of Peru as well. Norwegian though, has totally captured my imagination, I’ve never been so excited about learning a foreign language since I started learning it. The words are at once so familiar and so crazy sounding that I can’t help just saying random sentences just to hear them spoken.

Can you tell us anything about the children’s book you are working on?
Yes! This book has been a long time coming for me. It started with a funny name my daughter called herself when she was very little, the Crispiest Turtle. That name just stuck with me, I wrote it down and doodled some characters of it. She also told me a very enchanting story including a seagull and some very unfortunate whales and octopus. I’ve had a difficult time deciding exactly how to write the story but have finally finished a rough draft which pleases me.

You create dream artwork and family portraits to order, what have been the most memorable commissions? (I want one, such a great idea!)
I love creating custom artwork for people, I learn so much about them and their families. One of the first family portraits I did is still one of my favorites. The woman sent me pictures of her family and pets and then a stream of consciousness list of things that were meaningful to her family such as goats, poetry, elephants, mangoes, Hindu goddesses, unicorns, feathers…. The list was quite long but I managed to fit in everything, except for the goats. Another one was a woman who asked if I could read her favorite book and do a drawing of some of the creatures from the book. I just received a new commission to illustrate a story a woman has written for her boyfriend. When it is finished, she’ll have a single copy made and bound to give him for his birthday.

Why have you moved so much and what is your favourite bit of America?
I was born in Northern Maine and since then have lived in Vermont, Connecticut, New York City, Arizona, Washington state, and currently reside in Portland, OR. I move for many reasons, it started just to get away from my tumultuous family. Since then it has developed into a desire to experience new places. Lots of people love travelling but I kind of despise travelling. I feel like it gives you such a superficial, romantic view of a place. I love living in a new place and learning all of it’s intimate details. There are also practical reasons. We recently left Washington state and a big part of that was wanting to live someplace with a better public transportation system. I never learned to drive and Portland, OR is much easier to get around without a car.

How do you fit everything in around family life and how does being a mother inform your work?
It is really hard to fit in everything so there are things I let slide, like cleaning the apartment or having a social life. Right now my family and my art are the most important things in my life so I focus mostly on those and let the other things slide. Attachment parenting has been the thing that I feel like makes my current life possible. My daughter is 12 now and homeschooled. She is a patient, focused, and self-directed young woman and I really feel like attachment parenting is to thank for that. The first 5 years of her life were hard, all I really did was parent, I did draw and sew still but not like I can now. That time I put into attachment parenting has paid off tenfold and helps me to pursue art while raising my daughter the way I’d like to raise her.

Being a mother affects my work so much it’s hard to even tease it out of the whole. Being a mother has changed how I look at the world and how I look at myself. The struggle to bring up a child who can survive in this crazy society but has not lost her magic is the biggest battle I wage everyday. Trying to figure out when to protect my child, when to let her wage her own battles, when to expose her to the ugly parts of life, these are all things that make up my real life battles every day and seep subconsciously into my drawings.

Many thanks for such an informative and interesting interview Erika! I love that my open briefs attract artists from all over the world as well as artists closer to home. Look out for plenty more international talent in Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion.

Categories ,Adult Coloring Book, ,Adult Colouring Book, ,Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, ,Attachment Parenting, ,Coloring, ,Coloring Book, ,Colouring Book, ,Crispiest Turtle, ,Erika Rier, ,Homeschooling, ,interview, ,Motherhood, ,Of Monsters & Women, ,OR, ,portland, ,That Which We Do Not Understand

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Amelia’s Magazine | Red Lines: an interview with Danish musician Hannah Schneider

Hannah Schneider by Essi Kimpimaki.

Danish born Hannah Schneider comes from an illustrious musical heritage: her grandfather was famed violinist Alexander Schneider, a member of the celebrated Budapest String Quartet and her mother was a violinist with the Royal Danish Theatre. Coming from such a background it is unsurprising that Hannah is a ‘melody fanatic’ with an ear for a good tune and an innovative arrangement. Red Lines is her third album, a glorious miss mash of electronica and classical influences. Here she answers some revealing questions…

What are you up to today?
Right now I’m enjoying the last rays of sun outside on a café in Copenhagen, so right now I’m doing very well! I’m working a lot these days, getting ready for my album release, so a little break is very much appreciated.

How does Red Lines differ from your previous two albums?
My new album Red Lines is very “open” towards people compared to my last album. On Me vs. I (2012) I looked very much inwards, and worked with themes that were very personal. On my new album Red Lines I guess I’m looking out on the world and opening up a little more. This album is very much built by the different songs, more than an overall sound – I felt a great freedom in giving each song what it needed. Also I have gone from a “one-woman-army” who produced it all myself, to working with the two Danish producers Andreas “Maskinen” Sommer and Lasse Baunkilde, and of course that has changed the process a lot. I guess you can also actually hear a little more of a masculine sound mixed with my dreamy and feminine vocals. I like that mix. The songs have very different themes, and I have been inspired by everything around me – from a gripping Chinese contemporary art exhibit at the Hayward Gallery in London, to a lonesome walk in a storm in the Danish countryside. Since my last album, I had a baby girl, and I think that influences my writing a lot – not in the sense that the songs have all become lullabies or talks about diaper change, but more in the sense of the strength and empowerment it has made me feel to be a mother.

The album features quite a lot of synths and electronica, who are your influences in this area?
I’m quite the synthesiser geek – I love old synths, I often hunt small Casios down on flea markets, and spend a lot of time experimenting with synths and pedals. I also write most of my songs on keys/synths, and have production ideas just as fast as melody ideas. On this album we were inspired by the sound of the movie Drive – this 80′s cinematic, synths driven sound- but also very much by one of my great heroes Kate Bush.

There are a lot of classical musicians in your family, how do you think this has shaped your approach to music making?
I think very much in orchestral arrangements, I always have lots of strings, and my brother (cello) and sister (violin) always find their way into the productions. I think it is very much in my blood, thinking in classical melodic structures, and I still listen a lot to classical music.

Hannah Schneider by Carly Watts for Amelia's Magazine
Hannah Schneider by Carly Watts.

You have been described as a ‘melody fanatic’, is this where you start with your songwriting or if not, where do you start?
I love that description – makes me sound like a crazy-person – I think it refers to my great love for melodies that catches you- I try to work with that in my music. I have an extremely broad taste, and love very different kinds of artists, but the common denominator I think, is strong melodies. A tiny bit of melody hummed by someone can be so haunting, sad, interesting and lovely, and I’m fascinated by the structure of melody.

What’s the music scene like over in Denmark?
A lot of great artists right now, and a lot of strong female acts, setting the tone. I think that what we lack in size, we are starting to gain in originality – it seems there’s a “nordic sound” evolving these days..

Out of all the tracks on the album, which is your favourite?
I think the first track on the album, Butterfly Lovers, sums up the album very well- I wrote it with one of my favorite collaborators Kim Richey, in London last year. It was just a great process of writing – we had been to a Chinese Modern Art exhibit at Hayward Gallery on the Southbank, and there was this very scary and gripping lady who did a performance on this old Chinese myth about two lovers who cannot have each other, and the vibe of this story totally set us in motion.. I also really love the song Dreaming Kind – my tribute to the sensitive kinds of people (very much like myself) and the song Everything, that’s basically a happy song about realizing that the facts aren’t as grave as they seem..

If you could bring back one musician from the dead to collaborate with, who would it be and why?
I think I would have a whole festival of dead people!! But to name one, it would probably be Nick Drake – I think he’s absolutely gripping, and he died so young that he didn’t get to do a lot of records – I would love to pick his brain and see what we would come up with!

What’s the maddest thing a fan has ever done for you?
Travelled all the way to the US to see a show !

hannah_schneider-cover artwork
What are your forthcoming plans for the UK with this new album?
I just played a show in London, and I really enjoyed it – hopefully I’ll be back soon to play some shows – we’re working on a couple of opportunities right now. It is my first release in the UK, so in a sense I start all over- it will be fun to build up an audience from the ground- I love performing and working on my live set.

Red Lines by Hannah Schneider is out on the 27th of October on Lojinx in the UK.

Categories ,Alexander Schneider, ,Andreas “Maskinen” Sommer, ,Budapest String Quartet, ,Butterfly Lovers, ,Carly Watts, ,Chinese Modern Art, ,copenhagen, ,Danish, ,Dreaming Kind, ,Drive, ,Essi Kimpimaki, ,Everything, ,Hannah Schneider, ,Hayward Gallery, ,Kate Bush, ,Kim Richey, ,Lasse Baunkilde, ,Lojinx, ,Me vs. I, ,Motherhood, ,Nick Drake, ,Nordic, ,Red Lines, ,Robyn, ,Royal Danish Theatre, ,Synth

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Amelia’s Magazine | Mirage: Cloud Seeding with Alexa Wilding

alexa wilding by Simon McLaren
Alexa Wilding by Simon McLaren.

New York based singer songwriter Alexa Wilding introduces her beautiful collaboration with Cloud Seeding, an ode to a lost pregnancy. I was extremely touched when Alexa reached out to me when the same thing happened to me. Like me she has used the experience to make art that heals, in her case music.

Mirage was a lifeline for me, as I worked on it, very slowly, while pregnant with my twins. I was unsure what being a mother would mean for my music, and it gave me a sense of artistic security to know that I would have a song to release after the boys were born.

Alexa Wilding
Kevin Serra (of Cloud Seeding) had contacted me out of the blue, and I was delighted to collaborate, even though I had never written with anyone before. The skeletal arrangements he sent me reminded me of Hal Hartey‘s soundtracks. They filled me with a deep and gnawing nostalgia, especially Mirage, which at the time was only guitars and organs. It felt like a road song, and I had always wanted to write one, even though they’re usually sung by men.

The melody and line “By the time we got to Texas, it was gone, gone, gone,” came to me immediately. I remember so clearly sitting in my red chair by the window, with my notebook propped against my belly, writing that line over and over again for weeks. You daydream a lot when you’re pregnant, or at least I did. It’s a passing from one chapter into the next, and with Mirage I said goodbye to a time in my life that I would surely never experience again, the freewheeling times of a musician on the road, and the question, “will I return home?

Alexa Wilding mirage_videostill
But songwriting works in funny ways. Songs are like prisms, they can hold a few stories, they can surprise you. My boys were born and we recorded Mirage months after with my longtime team in Brooklyn. While Mirage is indeed about traveling and disillusionment, as I sang, “it all fell to pieces, because…” I realized it was also a eulogy to a pregnancy I had lost a year earlier. So my road song turned out to be a very feminine tale of lust and loss. I wonder if I would have been brave enough to write it had I not had someone else’s musical shoulder to lean on?

For the video we turned to Paola Suhonen, of the Finnish fashion and art label, Ivana Helsinki, with whom I have made all my music videos. It seemed fitting to give the song to Paola since she documented all of my maidenhood so to speak! And in the spirit of Cloud Seeding‘s collaborative trust, we told Paola to interpret the song for herself. Per usual, her poetic imagery matched much of my daydreaming.

And that’s the story! Kevin and I are continuing to collaborate. He makes me brave and I can’t wait to have him play on my new album, too. I know my new songs are different because of Mirage. They pick up where we left off.

Mirage by Cloud Seeding with Alexa Wilding is out now.

Categories ,Alexa Wilding, ,brooklyn, ,Cloud Seeding, ,Hal Hartey, ,Kevin Serra, ,Mirage, ,Miscarriage, ,Motherhood, ,new york, ,Pregnancy, ,Simon Mclaren, ,texas

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