Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Francesca Albini mixed media artist (and videographer)

It is a bit awkward to talk about EFO artist Francesca Albini, because I am she, or she is me. She feels more comfortable to promote her fellow artists through videos and blogging, than to promote herself and her work. "Art is the way I relate to my environment, a way for me to preserve memories and share emotions. I suffer when I have to explain or justify my work. What kind of art do I do? Whatever works with the meaning I want to convey. I wear a pyramid of hats on my head..." she says...

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

East Finchely Open Artists House Weekend 2017

Instagram Photo by East Finchley Open (@eastfinchleyopen) | WEBSTAGRAM: LESS THAN 2 WEEKS TO GO... Don't miss our open weekends 1/2 and 7/8 July. For full details see our website....... #art #photography #painting #pottery #drawing #jewellery #sculpture #collage #textiles #eastfinchleyopen #eastfinchley #n2 #muswellhill #crouchend #london #locallife #highgate #collective #community #artistcollective #openstudio #openhouse #creative

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A walk in the woods with Asia

Artist photographer Asia Mscichowska gets most of her inspiration from nature.
A dreamy early spring walk in Highgate Wood, looking for great shots.

About her work Asia says, 'In my photography I desire to express my gratitude to this world, my love for simple things. I want to reconnect people with the beauty of everything that surrounds us and also the beauty within us. By experimenting with light, textures and colours I like to create images that awake the imagination or just simply comfort the soul.'

Asia is Chair of East Finchley Open Artist.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Clara Hancock paints a scarf

Clara Hancock studied philosophy and aesthetics in her native Colombia and history of art at L'École du Louvre in Paris. She lives in London, where she works in sculpture, ceramics, glass fusion, textiles and painting on silk. 

About her art Clara says, 'The inspiration of my work comes from my experiences of daily live, a visit to a museum or gallery, looking at a garden, listening to music  or a poem all generate ideas. Even a walk and looking at a group of trees or holes in the ground or on a pavement there are lines that may develop into work. I am a compulsive traveller and the variety of cultures and scenes have also influenced my work'.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Interview with Adam E Justice-Mills, co-founder of the EFO

While the EFO artists are getting ready to open their houses next month, and the atmosphere is buzzing, I interviewed Adam Justice-Mills, one of the founding members, to find out how it all started.

F: How did the EFO start?

A: One of the reasons why I'm very interested in memory, is that I can't remember things in detail, so I'll give you my best shot. How it started. I think it was an idea that a gentleman, called Dave Aronsohn, had, to bring something a little bit like the Brighton Open Houses to London.  At the time we were doing this, it wasn't very common to have artists open up their lives to the public. The marketing and sales of art, and the communication between artists and the community was quite arm’s length.

F: What year was that? 

A: One of the things we don't really know, I think it was 2004. We probably spent about a year trying to work out what year we started.  Various people had different views, but I think it was 2004. It was when my kids were in primary school, and I got to know some of the parents, and David was one of them. His idea was to piggyback on a music event that the other parents were doing to raise money for a charity in a local church. An excellent musician, a piano player, was going to play, and in the foyer of the church there was going to be an art exhibition. So, about 3 weeks before the event, I bumped into Christine, I think, or Daniel, who asked me if I fancied to get involved in the exhibition. I said it sounded like fun. I wasn't doing a lot of art particularly at the time, I'd taken up drawing from memory about a year before, I was enjoying doing it, and I thought, ‘This is a chance to see if others like what I do,’ so I framed a couple of pieces and joined in that event.

F: How many artists were exhibiting?

A: I think it was about 8 of us at that point. We were all parents from the school. We were chatting, drinking a glass of wine and looking at the work. Then David said, ‘I think we should think about doing something else after this.’ And the thing I do, when I get approached like that, I ask myself, ‘Am I interested in that and what can I do?’ And I was interested, and what I would do was to help make it happen. I'm an organised sort of guy, so helping make it happen is something I can do. We then met up with the people exhibiting, I can’t remember exactly who was there, but Christine was there, Ettie, Daniel, David, Peter Hale, I think, possibly Monica. What we decided was to open our houses in three months. Which was a bit ridiculous, really. But we did it, and we opened in July. So, after that meeting, we decided to put little adverts in newsagents, saying, basically, ‘We are a bunch of artists, join us on this date, we are thinking of having an exhibition etc. etc.’

F: Did you have a name at the time?

A: No, not really, just a bunch of artists, but I'm please we didn't call ourselves A bunch of Artists. We advertised to come along on this evening and we'll see what interest there is. And, we thought, perhaps another half dozen will turn up. It was in Philip Valentin's house, and just more and more people came, thirty or more people turned up, so then we had 36 people. Not everybody was going to open their houses but they were interested. We felt we needed to organise this properly, and therefore decide who is in charge, and everybody voted David to be in charge, so he became the first Chair of what we were doing. And we did have a discussion on what we should call ourselves, and we still do have discussions about what we should call ourselves. His idea was to call it the East Finchley something, and we talked about artists etc, but we felt it would be easier for it to be non-selective, and that it would be something that would help promote art in and to the community, and we came up with the idea of East Finchley Open. I designed the logo on that basis.

F: Which is still the same logo?

A: Yes, it's still the same icon, amazingly, although simplified. Christine's husband, I think, did the gathering of all the stuff, so that we could make a printed brochure. I think we did have a printed brochure on that first event, which, somehow, we managed to get in people's letterboxes in almost no time at all. I think I made a website for that first event, too.

F: Were you the first group of artists in North London to have open houses?

A: As far as I know, yes, I don't remember hearing about any others. I think the Whitechapel area had an Open before us, they had been going for a while, but in North London, no. The year after, Crouch End opened, and the E 17 Trail started the year after that. Within three or four years, there were quite a few going around in London. We see ourselves as very much North London. We thought about becoming London-wide but it would be a lot of effort. 

F: How has the EFO changed from its beginnings?

A: As in the Matrix, something changes and something stays the same. It's bigger, a lot more members now, we have nearly 60 people on our books. It's broader in its reach, we have events that are not just in East Finchley. We are going to have something in the Barbican, even, next year, Crouch End and Highgate, and all that. On the other hand, in a way, we stayed the same, we still open, we still don't select. We have different parts to what we do. We have the marketing of our work, but we also have quite a good internal network, helping people to do their own work and learn from each other. We have a lot of members who are keen for us to be working with the community, so we give back, we do stuff for nothing, we also donate for charity, and we work with schools in the area on their art ambitions. We sponsored prices in the past for kids. So, a greater range of things, but still under the umbrella idea of what we are about. 

F: How many of the original artists are still in the group?

A: Not too many, but about a dozen or more of those who joined in the first year are still with us. We lost people on the way, partly because they move away, partly, because, sadly, they passed on, but it’s something that people seem to want to be a part of for quite some time. We look at the re-joining we do every year, it's about 10-15 % turnover for people not to re-join. It seems to be something that people get something out of. I don't just mean sales. We fund ourselves through the sales, so it’s important that we do have sales, but it's not the whole of what we do.

F: What has the EFO meant for you personally? 

A: It's given me a lot of friends, people who otherwise I would probably not have met, which is very stimulating as an individual, but also as an artist I learnt a few tricks and techniques, and ideas about why to do art. The opportunities to show are giving me feedback on my work, which has been invaluable, really. I wouldn't do the sort of work I am doing now, if I hand' had direct feedback on what I was doing before. Also, it's kind of plant food for roots, it's helped me put down roots in the area, because if I am walking along the High Road, I can’t' do that any day ever without bumping into somebody that I know now, which is unusual, Most of the people I bump into are people I met through the EFO. That's really a rich thing to be part of.

F: Where would you like to see the EFO going in the future?

A: I feel a little bit detached from that question in a way. I was Chair for three years and when I was Chair I had things which I thought we should try and aim at. Some of them came off, some didn't. I just think, in a way, I'm being carried now, and I like that. One of the things I like about the group, is that it's all organised by the members. We don’t pay anybody to organise stuff for us, so the effort put in to get things happen is considerable. But from one year to the next, somebody might not be able to do that, and we are happy to carry them for a while, to support them, even if they can't give back, because people invest time in this, and I feel like I’m being carried now, which is fine. I don't mind that. I'm glad that it works. How would I like to see it change? At a level, I don't really want it to change, not because I don't think we should change, I just think it's quite good now.
Things I wouldn’t like to see, I wouldn't like it to become something where we only ever think about sales and profit and stuff, because I don't think that that is what we are about. I think it would be good to support similar sort of things in other parts of North London, for example, Hampstead Gardens has set up a group of artists, really following the approaches we took with the EFO. I think we are promoting the idea that this is a good thing to do, for all sorts of reasons. Muswell Hill are doing something similar.
I think this idea of documenting what we do and interviewing the artists is a good one, I really do, I suppose, I think, going back to the first question, how did we start, we don’t know exactly, because we didn’t think of documenting it, and who does, I suppose, at the early stages, when you are not sure if it's going to take off? I like the idea of sharing and we can share online, it's great. I would also like the idea of having a place where we can be. We meet in various pubs and rooms, but I'd like to have a geographical place where we can be, but that's such a big thing to try to aim at.

F: Anything else you would like to add?

A: Although we talked a lot about the work and the effort to put things on, it's also so much fun! It's a really enjoyable thing to have like-minded people to tap into. We thought there were no artists in the village when we first set this up, but we were astonished to see how many there actually are!

To see more of Adam's work:

Friday, 19 May 2017

The Art of Travelling or Travelling as an Artist

When I travel, I plan my trip, but I don't plan for my trip. In other words, I book flights and accommodation, but I travel light, mentally and physically. I don't know how the place I'm visiting is going to talk to me, I don't know if I will feel like sketching, painting, or taking pictures. I don't know what imagery, exhibitions, conversations are going to inspire me, I just follow my instinct. That way, I feel, I don't carry the weight of my past with me, and I'm free to explore, to connect, to listen. Of course, if I've been to a place before, there are things that I like to explore again. When I go to Genoa, for instance, I seem to feel attracted by its textures every time. Every city has graffiti, ripped posters, torn layers, worn textures. But Genoa seems to have more of that, more stratifications, where public space is taken over by layers of people, messages, events, stories. The Genoese plaster every single inch of available space, lampposts and mailboxes in particular, with thousands of stickers and leaflets.

There is also a street artist, Melina Riccio, who uses the whole of Genoa as a canvas for her rhymed poetry, drawings, hearts and "shrines". Below are a couple of examples of her work. Not everybody likes Melina, she's too eccentric and ubiquitous for some. Some of the locals don't deem her work as real art, and see her irreverent markings on important monuments as vandalism. Like her or hate her, though, she is part of the story narrated by Genoa's walls, an ever changing story that I love to explore.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Exhibition News

Howard Hodgkin, Absent Friends, National Portrait Gallery, 23 March-18 June 2017


When we think of portraits, we tend to think in terms of figurative work, we imagine a portrait to show the features, the likeness of the subject. Not Howard Hodgkin. During his 65-year-long career, Hodgkin explored the idea of portrait in a completely different way, reaching the apogee of his progression in the virtually abstract Absent Friends, the painting after which the exhibition takes its title. Interestingly, this is also the first picture shown, and the only work hanging in the first room. Absent Friends does not refer to individuals, it’s a recollection of ideas and emotions connected to friends who are not present, and captured by expressive, but totally non-figurative, brushstrokes.

Hodgkin’s fascination with portrait started early on in his life. Memoirs (1949), made at the age of 17, depicts the artist listening to a friend who is lying on a couch, as in a psychoanalytic session. Although still highly figurative, this painting has in nuce most of the themes that will develop later: the autobiographical aspect of any portrait, the choice of family and friends as ‘sitters’, their interaction with the environment, the role of memory.

The progression of the artist’s relationship with portrait, on the whole, is very linear and chronological. Walking from room to room in sequence, we can see the gradual but constant shift in priorities. The human figure becomes less prominent, more like a hint, a few pink pieces of a puzzle in which the human subjects and their environment are of equal importance, in total absence of hierarchy. The environment, in the earlier works, is depicted using a style that resembles the subject’s vision. For instance, in the case of Mr and Mrs Robyn Denny, the blue and white background is a quotation of Denny’s geometric compositions, and Mr & Mrs Patrick Caulfield could easily be a painting by Caulfield himself. All of these double portraits are also very interesting, the subjects are often couples from the art world, and we can see, perceive rather, their interaction.

Hodgkin’s concern with portrait is also with the identity of the artwork as self-contained, independent of the subject. In the artist’s words, ‘The paramount difficulty is to make the picture into as finite and solid an object as possible in physical terms and to include nothing irrelevant or confusing.’
The shift continues from the subjects’ perspective of themselves and their environment, to the emotions inspired by them, to an increased presence of the artist himself, in terms of recollection, feelings, interpretation, even self-portrait. From the mid-Sixties, Hodgkin starts ‘framing’ his work with colourful brushstrokes, ‘…so that [the emotion] will remain protected and intact’. Although to protect and contain was the artist’s intention in adding the frames, the expansion of the brushstrokes onto the real wooden frames can also be an expansion of the painting into the viewer’s surroundings, drawing us in, compenetrating our space. We too blend in, in this recollection, in the accumulation of experiences gathered, or provoked, by the subject portrayed.

Portrait of the Artist Listening to Music (2011-2016) is the artist’s final work, commissioned by the NPG, and shown here to the public for the first time.

Howard Hodgkin, one of Britain’s greatest artists, passed away peacefully, age 84, only two weeks before the opening of the exhibition.