Tag Drawing

DJ Food’s Cosmic Travels at Pure Evil gallery

We leave ordinary life outside as we enter Pure Evil gallery for the DJ Food exhibition on this fine Thursday evening in an increasingly cold and miserable London. DJ Food’s The Search Engine has finally been released on Ninja Tune and this exhibition is showcasing sound, visuals and fine art connected to the close-to one hour of revelation of sonic pleasure. On the ground floor, the crowd is lounging around, sipping beer, networking and loosing themselves in the intricate, mind-numbing and enticing art of Henry Flint, comic book illustrator of 2000AD as well as freestyling artist. A mixed flavor of unstoppable creative flows come together at this show at Pure Evil gallery, which can be explained by the owner’s, Charles ‘Pure Evil’ Uzzell-Edwards, love for all things creative. In addition to Henry Flint’s mind tripping artworks, DJ Food’s psychedelic audiovisual installation and the collaboration between the two, Will Cooper-Mitchell’s hot photographs of DJ Food in a replica astronaut suit are on display. All this is featured in a limited comic-sized 48-page CD booklet for sale at the gallery.

DJ Food, who has been a fan and a collector of Henry Flint’s art/illustrations for years, writes on his blog that Henry Flint’s work was the main source of inspiration for this exhibition.  We can read how their collaboration begun on NinaTune.net: “The images were exactly what he [DJ Food] had been looking for as the starting point for the artwork on a series of EPs he was making, later to form an album on Ninja Tune. Henry sent a stack of images for Kev [DJ Food] to pick from and gave him permission to color them for the artwork, which were issued as foldout poster covers on three 12″ EPs.”

I know what is hiding in the basement and make my way down into the audiovisual world of DJ Food aka Strictly Kev. The powerful installation is pulsating in our vision and in our ears, inviting us to jump on that space train with loose teasing rhythms in curious sonic collages. Do I need to mention that the ambiance is hypnotic? The visuals contain details of molecular worlds of unknown life forms and entrancing mandalas are flying over our faces like an extra layer of skin. It strikes me that we are wrapped up in an angular momentum here; the force vibrates between the layers, smoothly merged together in time and the extended body of this mass affects us in some way as we sip our Peroni, but I am not sure how. DJ Food’s sonic art is not disturbing as Gordon Mumma’s The Dresden Interleaf 13 February 1945 from 1965, the notorious noise piece performed on the twentieth anniversary of the firestorm bombing of Dresden, because rather than reacting politically to a world in disorder, Strictly Kev is reacting poetically to the cosmos and the aim of his music is to take us out of the material realm and further. If this music, this sonic art, had been played to Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, who was head of the Royal Air Force during the bombings of Dresden in 1945, he would have resigned and enrolled for NACA (early NASA).

“I began to see sounds, to feel sounds, like waves against my skin […] Have you ever touch a sound? Ever seen thunder?” From In Orbit Every Monday on The Search Engine

As described by Robert Lamb, one of Discovery News’ contributors, DJ Food has been “dropping cosmic noise, robotic bleeps and alien hip-hop on Solid Steel Radio Show listeners for 17 years”.  Coldcut and PC of the Cinematic Orchestra were originally included under the banner ‘DJ Food’, which is now synonymous to Ninja Tune artist Strictly Kev. “DJ Food?” The name puts a smile on people’s faces, but honestly, I want to eat his recent Ninja Tune release The Search Engine. He is still an ambassador of sonically enhanced poetry and track 5 Sentinel (Shadow Guard) rests on the meanest bass line since Squarepusher’s Tetra-Sync. If there is one element that is missing in the show in order to reflect the essence of DJ Food, it is the lyrical. A spoken word performance would be an interesting addition to the next exhibition.

 

DJ Food asked Henry Flint to draw “A cosmonaut, hanging in space, strapped into an unfeasibly large backpack, the kind you could only wear in zero gravity”

A wide range of art works by Henry Flint is on display and he certainly knows how to use that ink. His art has a life of its own. As an artist, his subject matters evolve around a universe with magnificent potential, mystery and demons lurking in the corners of impossible buildings and perplexing situations; monstrous misfits and unseen patterns pour out of the subconscious mind of an artist who could have been an architect was it not that he had too good ideas.  There is dazzling movement, detail, diversity and complexity; all of which comes beautifully together within a sheet of paper. I am almost upset that I haven’t come across his work earlier, but I now have the accompanying publication BROADCAST – The TV Doodles of Henry Flint. This is a compilation of works Flint made while allowing his conscious mind to be distracted by the TV, hence leaving the subconscious in charge.

Many years passed since DJ Food delivered a full length to the world and as I look back on the release of Kaleidoscope in 2000, I remember many nights with The Crow on repeat. In my industrial hometown in Sweden, Västerås, we were listening to the album with awe while plowing the Internet for useful Cubase VST plugins and VJ softwares, painting on the walls and writing poetry in between. DJ Food has always inspired hyper creativity and it is only to be expected that he manages to put this night together at the Pure Evil gallery, with the help of Pure Evil and his beautiful assistant Molly. 

The icing on the cake is when Pure Evil comes downstairs and opens up the door to his old school music studio. He urges us to come over and jam on drum machines and on “I think they call them drum kits. It is what they used in the old days to make a beat.”

 

Born a War Painter


Mother’s Day drawing at the age of 3, Edry’s earliest recollection of overpainting

”It is pretty amazing, looking back at life, how I have always had the privilege of being supported. Sometimes I don’t believe in myself, but when there are so many people who do believe in you, it strengthens you to continue on the artist’s journey.” – Noam Edry

In 2008 I got to know a Canadian abstract painter in his mid twenties whose parents dedicated the entire basement to his artistic endeavors. The first time I entered his studio I felt as if I had stepped into a dream world. There were hundreds upon hundreds of huge high quality canvases stacked along the walls like CDs at HMV. They were all beautiful and experimental abstract paintings, strongly influenced by Gerhard Richter. Wandering around in Wonderland, I stumbled on a mountain chain of used oil paint tubes. Luckily enough, I was wearing the epic studio guest-slippers, which were already covered in a Pollock pattern, including the soles. I suspect that those canvases have multiplied themselves without leaving the house, because it doesn’t matter how well you are taken care of by your family and other supporters; in order to succeed as an artist, you need to have Edry’s almost frightening impetus and a determination to keep on going no matter what anyone says.

Edry’s childhood is a wonderful story to be told: At the age of three she was discovered by the local kibbutz artist, who worked as a handy man in her kindergarten. When the man was called in to work, he always found her in the middle of a new drawing and started calling her ‘the painter’. Eventually the very young artist was invited by the experienced artist to have private lessons.

“I remember going to his studio and being totally fascinated by the smells and the colors, thinking ‘Wow, this is what a real artist does, I want to be a real artist!’ He tried teaching me to paint with aquarelle, in a specific technique which I found very rigid. I didn’t understand why I had to paint in his way. I found it very hard, but I also enjoyed the privilege that he was giving me.”

Most kids enjoy making cards for birthdays and special occasions and they are always really sweet with glued on deformed hearts and misspelled declarations of love. I can’t recall ever having seen a child covering a Mother’s Day card in a crayon colored square grid, but I didn’t go to daycare with Edry. For Mothers Day, when she was three, the daycare provided the kids with a square sheet of paper mounted on a wooden frame. Edry started drawing circles and thought it looked really nice, but decided to add a grid and at this point there was no return. The three year old had to keep going, exploring and pushing the limits until the point where the whole white square sheet of paper was full of crayon colors. Smiling at the memory, Edry said “I think that is my earliest recollection of ruining a painting; of over-painting“.

By recommendation of the painter, Edry’s parents bought Windsor and Newton watercolors and the specified brushes for their four year old daughter. One year later it was time for the family to move to London and in their new house, a little painting cove was built inside one of the wardrobes. Whenever the five year old decided to paint with her high quality materials, she would open the door of the wardrobe, sit down and paint. On occasion the little artist would be critical of her creation and throw it in the bin, but it was always rescued by her father.

The most fundamental requirement to achieve success in any field must be to have a limitless interest, a sincere passion for the subject, unless the ultimate goal is financial gain. One of Edry’s pre-school teachers was studying psychology and one day she conducted an experiment on the children. She gave them all a lump of clay and recorded the amount of time they were playing with it. Later on, Edry’s mother was told that everyone abandoned the lump of clay within 2-5 minutes, except for her daughter, who spent half an hour battling with this lump, sculpting it and molding it with her tiny little hands.

“My parents always recognized this gift that I have and they always made sure I had the room to do it. When we lived in London in our second house, we had this wonderful dining room with wooden paneling all over, including the ceiling and a beautiful fire place. They sacrificed the whole room and made it into my studio. I painted enormous paintings inside“.

 

 

Edry’s political engagement became evident one day at the orthodox Jewish school she attended in London. It was a strictly religious school, but it was her only option as a Jewish woman in London and despite not being religious, she was fascinated by the opportunity to get an insight into her culture and identity. Early on Edry was discovered by the art teacher Hinda Golding, who gave her leave from various classes to paint massive scenery billboards for the school play. The artist struggled to find her own identity within the school uniform and uniformity of thought, and decided to shave her head at the age of 14. It was a feminist gesture provoked by the conservative policies of the school, in which the male Morning Prayer went ‘Blessed be He for not making me a woman’, and the women’s version went ‘Blessed be the Lord for making me as he made me, according to his will.’

The girls had to pray every week at a general assembly, segregated from the boys. They stood quiet and still, because they were not allowed to join the men. One day Edry had enough and told the girls ‘Ok, we are going to sing today. Take it after me, I will start and you will follow.’ As the leader of the service announced the name of the prayer she had chosen, she started singing and everyone joined in. Once the girls started singing, the rabbi didn’t know what to do. They were not allowed to hear a woman’s voice, so they had to join in.

“From having this monotonous drilling on with mumblings of speech, it became a full sing along prayer. Everyone was shocked afterwards, wondering what had just happened. I was called as the representative of the girls to speak to the Head of Jewish Studies. He asked me ‘So, what do you want?’ I found myself sitting there negotiating the terms for the entire female congregation. I couldn’t say that I wanted women to be equal members of the prayer, because it was still a conservative school, but what we did achieve was to have an all-female prayer as well, where we could sing aloud and do what we wanted to do.” 

 

 

At the age of 17 it was time to say goodbye to London and go back to Israel. From painting almost non-stop and selling works, Edry had to lock up her passion and learn how to serve the country. In order to say goodbye to London, she spent an entire month sketching a different favorite location every day. Her father would often accompany her for safety reasons and sometimes her siblings joined in as well. The series was called ‘My kind of London’. One day when Edry was sketching her own house, a person walking by took a liking to the drawing and asked her to come and sketch his house. The trend spread and the commissions started pouring in, but it was time for the family to leave the UK.

Back in Israel everything changed. After a fortnight of basic military training followed by a few weeks of specific training for her unit, Edry became depressed and didn’t understand why. “I had never been depressed before, I just felt completely lost. The meaning of life escaped me entirely. When I finally made the connection, I smuggled some art materials into my army post. It was completely forbidden. I had nothing to paint, other than four walls. I don’t remember if there was even a window. I sat there and sketched my left hand”. However interesting it is to sketch hands, the day comes when you get sick of it. Eventually, Edry gathered the courage to venture outside to sketch the surroundings of the military base, which was situated on the edge of a cliff. The military base, the netting, the atmosphere, the military camouflage and the fishermen were among her subject matters. When it leaked out that Edry was breaking the rules, the commander was very encouraging and gave her permission to use his office as a studio when he was away. Colleagues from the UN were given drawings as a gesture of good will and they still follow Edry’s career.

 

Noam Edry, Study of my Hand 2000 I and II, pencil on paper, 30 x 42 cm

 

With regards to her present preoccupations, a series of commissions from Israeli art museums, Edry says “The most important thing to me is to not conform, but to stay true to who I am. What is the point of art if it doesn’t engender social change? How long can an artist be preoccupied only with the inner crevasses of the soul and not be a socially productive human being? I strive now to blur the boundaries of what is art and what is social. I wish it will have some kind of effect beyond the art institution“.

::::ContemporaryTalks.com 20 January 2012

 

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[More on Noam Edry]

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Interview Series 2011

Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Part 3 – “I Am the Terrorist”

Feature on Childhood

Born a War Painter

Reviews

Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2012

Goldsmiths MFA 2011

Powerful drawings of worldly wisdom

In Berlin artist Christian Moeller’s own words: “I create a picturesque room, by making the invisible visible. My works that appear very dramatic are always also directed to the shady sides and the mental abyss of the human existence, with all their facets: What lies in the secrecy and poses questions to me. They address subjects like destruction, pain, violence, horror and chaos. My worldly wisdom is the agitated one in which you cannot breathe.”

CT took a closer look at some of Christian Moeller’s ball pen drawings. They are all untitled and dimensions are 14,8 x 21 cm and 12 x 29,7 cm. Moeller’s visual language is dominated by vast amounts of confidently directed energy, in painting as well as in drawing. The balanced compositions dictates the eye, entices the mind and upsets the body; like a firm grip around the neck slowly choking you. That which is not spoken of – don’t worry be happy – and perhaps that which cannot be explained, is communicated and experienced via Christian Moeller’s work.

 

 

above a spiky lady, in heart patterned PJs and a massive syringe wrapped around her shoulder, is holding a box above somebody’s head. the person is either looked after or abandoned by an angel. black matter is distorting the head of the syringe lady. a bird is frozen in the air with its wings spread out and the angel’s wings are spread out as well. the pattern is repeated in the movement around the box. is the syringe lady an eros(a) delegating emotional burdens? this could be a comment on the concept of love – or a comment on the contradictions in human behavior…

 

above a giant toaster is rushing through town, spitting out burnt slices of bread. the plug is inserted in the impossible wall and two mechanical arms enter the picture. one mechanical arm is either supplying an open coffin with flowers or depriving it of the same. a black rock-shaped object seems to have flown out of the coffin and ended on the side-walk. abstract horror reality… uncanny… here, the lack of rationality in combination with the dominating mechanics paints an image of a hollow society in which the inhabitants are ruled by systems and accidents.

 

Christian Moeller, Untitled, 14,8 x 21 cm, ball pen on paper

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above pretty straight forward…

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Christian Moeller, Untitled, 14,8 x 21 cm, ball pen on paper

 

above coming together in this drawing is a gigantic girl in a heart patterned dress with syringes in her hair (and a flower), a tiny little man and the devil himself. the girl is firmly pointing in two directions and her enormous proportions suggest that she is either a goddess (of addiction and love) or incredibly full of herself. hyyyybris?

 

Christian Moeller, Berlin art, contemporary drawing

 

above an ordinary suburban spot revealed of its undercurrent energy forces… (ever wondered why you feel funny in certain locations?) subjective or objective; the dark forces of anxiety, horror and pain distorts and interferes with the space and with the viewer. this is physically penetrating and mentally disturbing, yet too strong and powerful to resist.

 

Christian Moeller, Berlin

above spiky lady has grown bigger, darker and… no, she has transformed into a monster with two tired/pleading eyes staring at the viewer. it is raining and two people are staring at the creature. the man is holding a heart balloon, possibly rallying for peace and love along with the lady behind him who is standing in a field of flowers. the monster’s right arm seems to be disintegrating in the rain. poor little monster, its body resembles a tree trunk covered in aim targets and the balloon man, who looks a bit like a nutty professor, is expecting victory.

Christian’s website:: www.christianmoeller.eu

Noam Edry – “I Am the Terrorist”

Detail: Painting ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Oil Stain’

Noam Edry’s Graduation Show ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’ had no ready-made opinions or moral lessons for the viewers to pick up on. Edry’s show was an objective and just mirror of the world as it is; entirely contradictive and bizarre with bombs falling as necks and thighs are being rubbed by educated professionals. She managed to take me somewhere; an experience strongly enforced by the performance where Edry made us, the audience, stand in a ring in the exhibition space and imagine a hole in the middle for one minute. We were focusing on that hole when all of a sudden a woman ran into the room screaming in panic, dressed in a skin colored body suit as if she was naked. The woman ran through our circle, over the hole, and dove into a sculpture on the floor; a hole. She was absolutely screaming in horror; terrifying! As if she had stepped out of the video installation ‘Groovy Little War Mix’ which was screened just next to us.

What do you think Art is capable of communicating?

Do you know why it is an unfashionable life? Because it is so lo-tech. In Israel we don’t have fashion as readily available as you do here; it is so hard to get your hands on anything like that for many reasons. It’s not such a wealthy place to come from; it’s surrounded by enemy states; so it’s unfashionable. Here it is the opposite; Israel is very fashionable in the UK. It seems to be as big as China, because everyone has something to say about Israel. It is a way of not talking about the poverty in Britain, the homeless people here. It is a way of not talking about many internal problems, like the Irish situation. It is easier to make someone else the front line. So, when I called it unfashionable it was also controversial or with a pinch of salt. Everything in the show could be interpreted in many ways. Everyone thought it was a man that had made the show, with all the phallic symbols; the penises.

So in this way art is able to both reveal the viewer’s prejudices and suggest alternative perspectives and ideas.

Painting ‘The Pussycats’

Women got enraged when they saw The Pussycats (painting), thinking that a man had made it. When they met me it all changed, because it was suddenly a feminist statement on the Machoism of society, the Machoism of the media world and the art world; it is a man’s world. You have to be a woman with balls to make it.

Then there was the question ‘Are you Palestinian?’ and the funny thing was that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at Goldsmithscame on the private view and got really annoyed. I asked them ‘What is annoying you? What are you enraged about? Is it the work?’ They couldn’t understand, they couldn’t say what, because the work showed nothing that was ‘anti’ in the way they had expected it to. They were upset that I was feeling demonized as an Israeli. ‘How dare you feel demonized as an Israeli?’ ‘I do. You are the people who demonize me in your campaigns.’ So again, after that they just didn’t come. They came with the intention to crash the show or to make a protest, but they came and saw they had nothing to crash.

It was all pretty much crashed already, wasn’t it?

Yes. Exactly, it had all undermined itself and you couldn’t tell where the artist was positioned politically. So again and again ‘Are you Palestinian? Are you Israeli?’ All these questions surprised me every time and I got them until the last day. People came to the exhibition when it was closed as well. I couldn’t close the show because people kept coming. They heard about it from all walks of life; there were activists, sociologists, politicians; it ended up being publicized on Facebook by people I didn’t even know. The Israeli advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs even promoted it, even though the Israeli Embassy could not officially associate with my show, because my message was unclear. It had all these amazing effects on people.

There is a video from ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’-series on Youtube, where you approach old ladies on the street and ask them to pose for you as the Queen. It is just an excerpt and in the end one of the ladies agrees to this and invites you to come to her house. Did she pose for you?  

In September 2010 I formed the BSKG British Society of Knitting Grannies. It was formed as the result of my encounter with an old lady. As my alter-ego in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I was looking for grannies on the street because I needed one to pose for me as the Queen. More accurately: I wanted to cast their ears and hands because I was making a life size effigy of the Queen. I was so used to being turned down that I was almost caught off guard when one of them agreed. This one lady said that she would love to be my model and invited me to her house; so we went there. I was still filming (in my character wanting to meet the Queen), without her really knowing it. I ended up spending an hour listening to her tell me her life story. She has got a broken hip and she has to climb all these stairs to get home; completely neglected because she lives in a rundown house. The old lady asks me why I want to meet with the Queen and I end up telling her my own life story; about leaving Israel and coming back to London where I grew up and wanting to fit in. She keeps asking “Why? And why do you need to know if the Queen loves you? And why do you need a granny; don’t you have a granny of your own?” This is a 20 minute long clip and at the end of it she tells me that she is actually Jewish; which is bizarre, since I picked her because she reminded me of the Queen. All of the grannies I approached that day turned out to be either Jewish or Irish or South African; none of them was actually English. This really shows that nobody is authentic; there is no such thing as ‘The Real Thing’. ‘The Real Thing’ isreality!

Then in one single sentence, the old lady also tells me that she has a nephew or cousin whose son was blown up in a tank in Israel and recently a 20 year old man from the other side of her family just came back in a coffin from Afghanistan.

It just sums it all up for me, because I was beginning to be too much affected by all these images in the British papers of coffins coming back from Afghanistan, with a beautiful Union Jack wrapped around them. It affected me so profoundly; I am used to mourning Israeli soldiers dying and now I am mourning the British soldiers in the exact same way.

Maybe it doesn’t matter which country I come from, maybe all that matters is that they are dying? Maybe all that matters is that I am human? Those were my thoughts when I started working on my MFA Graduation Show. I wanted to bring an army of 50 grannies and involve them in a project where they would knit a giant Union Jack throughout the show, coming and going in shifts. This is when I formed the BSKG British Society of Knitting Grannies. However, it was difficult, because many of them couldn’t leave the house. They weren’t so easy to work with, given that I had a short period of time and somehow it wasn’t close enough to what I needed to express. I still had to tell the story of Israel.

I returned to my painting and again I was bombarded with questions at school; ‘Don’t paint!’ ‘Why are you painting?’ ‘What are you painting?’

Did this harsh critique only come from the other students?

No, no, no. I actually told one of my teachers ‘I have an idea for a painting. I want to paint the British Monarchy fleeing from an angry mob; running from something.’ I wanted to have giant ravens hovering above them, which is the symbolism for when the monarchy will fall. The teacher just laughed and said it was a stupid idea. Two weeks later when I regained my strength, I thought ‘That’s a reason to make it; I am probably on to something now. I should do it.’ My Head of Department, Gerard Hemsworth, came around afterwards and encouraged me to proceed with the painting. Hemsworth also encouraged me to combine the paintings with my other expressions.

I went to Israel and came back after Christmas and just said ‘The hell with it now, I am painting.’ It became more and more about the Israeli landscapes and the unfinished Arabic houses; the mixture of the two, which is so unique to where I come from.

Peek from MFA Graduation Show at Goldsmiths July 2011 ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’

Simon Bedwell kept saying ‘Your work is so strong; always extreme with sharp-edged politics. You mustn’t cut any branch off the tree’, which really helped me to brush off all the negativity I had around me. It was also like a license to do what I wanted to do. From mid-January I could picture this mad exhibition with a myriad of images and this brown blob, my DATE (please read Interview Part 2 for explanation), in the middle. This giant brown cocoon of a blob was to be placed on the studio floor, with its slit for the eyes and a veil over it to make it look more like a real dried up date. It somehow looks a bit like a burka, it is difficult to identify. The ambiguity of this work is very important because it opens it up for everyone to relate and create their own interpretation. Invited artists and tutors, such as Matthew Cornford from Cornford & Cross and Abigail Reynolds, came into my studio and encouraged me to include the DATE with my other works in the final show.

I have understood from our previous conversation that your painting sort of escalated into quicker work and in the end you were attacking the walls. When did you create your videos ‘Groovy Little War Mix’ and ‘The Fundamentalist’?

I got the space only a week before the Graduation Show. At that point I knew I was going to make all the videos, which also had to have this eclectic thing about them; I used snippets from YouTube videos that had constantly brewed in my mind. I wanted to show them to people, because nobody in my surroundings believed that they existed.

My colleagues would say ‘You are lying, there are no Israeli casualties.’ When I told them of friends of mine who had died and people I had seen being buried after a terrorist attack, funerals I had attended, a friend of mine that was on a bus that exploded; nobody believed me.

And I wanted to show them; Here! It is right here on YouTube! So that happened in the space, it was like working with newspaper cuttings only it was video. I made them that same night, thinking a TV needs to be here and then there was a bucket full of cement and a dead car battery near the dust bin, so I placed the TV on that. I found a wheelbarrow in a skip, which looked like the wheelbarrows on Arab construction sites in Israel. I knew I had to have it in the show and it ended up serving as the other TV-stand. The entire show was ruled by practical purposes, never esthetical and the function became the esthetic. The middle had to remain empty, because I wanted to gather all the visitors once a day for a minute of silence. I can’t bring the hole to you; I can only make you imagine it. It will be far worse in your imagination than anything I could possibly show you. You can imagine because, like me, you see it on TV and you are bombarded with images in the press. You can almost imagine being there.

Then I said, ‘Right, I can now say my message.’ Because when I had that stage for my seminar in front of the students, somebody convinced me not to do it. But now it needs to be said. I went to the Tracey Emin show at the Hayward Gallery and I just thought the best work there was the video where she is interviewed about her abortion. I watched that video twice or three times and found it to be the most artistic work in the show. Just talking about it and taking us to where it happened to her. First I recorded myself with a video camera, but it was only me and it just wasn’t enough. I needed to tell the story to a real person and I needed them to ask me questions. It was a 60 min interview and there were bits when I really choked, like when I spoke about my two brothers in the army. They are there and they are endangered every day, but they have to do it; just like I had to be in the army.

Is it mandatory for both girls and boys to serve the Israeli Army?

Yes. For me, that’s a reality. When I tell people here that I have been to the army they raise an eye-brow and they look at me like ‘Oh, my God. How could you?’ I come from a country with constant threat of war; yes, we need to have an army.

The threat of war is not just from neighboring countries; it’s from within. It is a rocket launcher placed by Hamas on rooftops of civilian homes. London’s population is almost twice the size of the entire state of Israel. If you compare that and you think ‘Right, there is a missile launcher on the rooftop of New Cross; it is trying to fire towards East London.’ Would you do something about it?

I am sure you would. But for people, Israel first of all sounds huge because of all the noise people make about the Middle-East. It sounds huge and invincible; so powerful. But it’s just a tiny country with 7,4 million people, with a 10 km width. You could cross it in a few hours by foot. Nobody knows.

Diptych ‘Yosef’s House, Yusuf’s House’

For 3-4 days, all I had at the show was the diptych Yosef’s House, Yusuf’s House. It was spread out on two separate walls. But then there was nothing else and the room became Minimalist. There was the DATE and the wheelbarrow and a few other paintings that people kept telling me to take down. I was suddenly scared, I became Minimalist again. I don’t know why, but there is an encouragement in Goldsmiths to minimalize your work.

You could really tell by the other exhibitions.

So then I took my canvases off the stretchers because for the whole year that I was painting them it was obvious that they would not be shown as classic paintings, but rather as rushed paintings; nailed onto the wall. I wanted to have rusty metal and the aesthetics had to be inspired by the demolished houses, building sites, bunkers; the stuff I had experienced in Israel, both in the army and afterwards. I wanted to go to scrap yards and get them, but it turned out I didn’t need to. I found them on my way to school and as I was going about my life. I had to incorporate all this in the installation.

As I told you earlier, I gave my father a call, because at this stage I had lost myself entirely. The pressure from outside from some of my fellow artists telling me to take down the work was just too much. After this encouraging phone call I literarily stapled the paintings onto the wall. I started painting straight on the wall. ‘What do they call you here?’ I thought to myself. ‘A Zionist, right’. It resulted in a graffitied wall full of all the accusations I had come across at Goldsmiths; now they were no longer pointed at me.

Originally it had said ‘The bad guys will win’, but I didn’t want them to win and who are the bad guys? I am the bad guy here in London. The Zionists are the bad guys, but I was raised to feel that the bad guys are the terrorists. Here I am the terrorist. But the bad guys are really the apathy I experience here. British apathy is violent.

Graffiti á la Edry

It is the apathy of looking and not just not doing, reacting or intervening; it is letting all these slogans and supposedly peaceful protests, that are not so peaceful, go ahead. It is like joining that crowd of liberalists that are not liberal at all. I think they remind me more of the right wing than anything left. I come from a country where the left is very radical. The left is almost too radical because it doesn’t understand how Israel is perceived from the outside. It doesn’t understand that no matter what these radical messages and thoughts are misconstrued here. In Israel, for us it is given that Israel must exist. It is our only home. At the same time, we believe in the right of the Arab people to exist. Even co-exist with us, as Israelis or have their own state if they don’t wish to be Israeli. There are different Arabs, there are different wishes and here it is not understood like that.

I remember being 14, kind of left radical and I was reading all that propaganda stuff. I boycotted Israeli products for about a week, until I started thinking ‘What the hell does this actually mean? Israeli people are people too; they must have the agricultural right to export their products. There is a difference between a farmer and a terrorist. I can’t choose a side.’ I was vegan and felt a bit sorry for the delicious dates. It is just never that easy, is it?

Yeah, it’s like that. We can’t choose a side. I have never been a political artist; my work has been mainly about gender politics if political at all. It has been about being a woman, but never about the conflict. It wasn’t possible in Israel. Several Arabic artists in my class, who I was quite friendly with, were very dedicated to making political work, because they are the underdogs in Israel. Here I feel like the underdog, so I can feel more comfortable making it, but in Israel there was no room for me to make political work. I always thought it was short lived and it just never interested me.

So, how the hell did I end up making an ultra-political work? The key is to see my video ‘The Fundamentalist’. My teachers know me as the most political artist on the course and they even nicknamed me the ‘Zionist Terrorist’, you know lovingly, as I had been causing so much trouble, in an encouraging way. They like that. Then they watched the video where I say ‘Before I came to Goldsmiths I had never been interested in making political work, it seemed so uncool’. It kind of undermines everything I’ve done, or maybe strengthens it, because it shows how an ordinary person can be pushed into becoming radicalized and extreme. I am not just talking about me; I am talking about politics now. This is what institutions can do to you.

Some of the teachers came after the exam and said ‘Wow, we are not allowed to speak to you now. But we have so many questions. Can we take this?’ and they all wanted to take something with them from the show.

My volunteers gave them a t-shirt. Apparently Gerard Hemsworth, my Head of Department, went home and his daughter asked him ‘Dad, where did you get this mega cool t-shirt from? I want one.’ They were all deeply touched and some of them came back to my exhibition and brought other teachers that hadn’t been to the exam. They even made a point of staying for the 8pm performance, for some of them it was the second time. They told me they couldn’t stop thinking about it. That same day of my exam, which was seven days before the private view, I spoke to my tutor David Mabb on the phone and he said ‘I’ve heard all about what you did in your exam, it has been talked about.’ They thought I was all about ‘funny haha’ and tongue-in-cheek, being enraged; while there I was just saying ‘I was a kid in the army, I was never political. You made me political, by constantly silencing me.’

Just like you allowed your show to be an organic tree by allowing the branches to co-exist and spread; it reflected on the outside world.

I must say that another teacher who really inspired me was Susan Taylor. Susan is a performance and sound artist; a very special woman who was not just a teacher but also a friend. I hadn’t even seen Goldsmiths before I came to study there. I sent my application from Israel about a month after the deadline, thinking I would probably not be considered. About two weeks later I received an offer from them. I felt like it was meant to be. It was Susan who wrote to me and suggested that I could come for a tour of the campus. I never did, I just came the next September to study there.

Susan turned out to be an extraordinary woman; always always encouraging me to be who I am, to be different as I am; telling me thatall people are different. ‘Just be you’ she said. Susan also encouraged me as a woman, because she understood the struggle as a woman to make work in a very male dominated field. I think that the art world is a male dominated field, like all fields are, despite the Feminist Revolution. Even though she has now retired, she saw me this year a few months before my show and I told her what was going on and she said ‘This isn’t like you’. I was being vague because I kept getting told: ‘You’re being too specific. You need to be universal. We don’t want to hear about the Middle-East or about Israel. We want to understand; otherwise we feel alienated’. Susan said ‘Why not be specific? You always have something to say’. Curators that came over the course of the year did not discuss my art, but rather tried to guess my political persuasion. I was tired of it. Susan said ‘No, you are a very strong artist with a strong message. You have to speak up. Where is Noam, where is your voice?’ She also convinced me to duplicate that painting, because I wanted to do it. One of my teachers had said ‘I don’t want you to do it, because politically I disagree with you.’ And I said ‘I never told you where I stand politically; why do you suppose that we are on two different sides of the spectrum? Have you asked what I think?’ All I got was ‘I have had this impression from your work and if you duplicate the painting you will be insinuating that both sides suffer the same.’ And I said ‘A death is a death, suffering is suffering. And why does it matter who is suffering? I can be as upset that an Arab Palestinian child has been killed; I can be just as upset if it is an Arab. Why do you suppose I would be more upset if it is an Israeli?’ Susan is the one who convinced me to do everything I am doing. She came to my show. They all came and both Susan Taylor and Simon Bedwell stayed for the Minute’s Silence. I was very touched.

It has been such an extraordinary struggle.

Yes and it still is a struggle.

I got thinking about Tracey Emin. There was a Study Day at the Southbank Centre on the 13th of June and the discussion panel consisted of six people, but there was so much talk about Tracey as a private person. Her Tent is not about her own sexual experiences; she is communicating something universal – we all have a history of people we have slept with and next to. When we enter the Tent all those memories come back to us. Just like you, she is communicating all that crap we want to ignore and forget with works like her neon sign “People like you need to fuck people like me”, although I find that you are expressing far more complicated issues.

In my seminar, in the first performance of SAVE THE DATE, the work was hardly discussed. It was just about my political persuasion and I was also accused of being a Right Wing Artist – hilarious! Here I am rallying for Freedom of Speech and I am telling you that youare the bigoted ones, if anything. You look at me but you don’t see anything but Israel in my face. I never label people by wings, so why do you have to do it to me?

That’s where “Rehabilitating the Left” fits in. A lot of people in my exhibition said ‘Wow, I really like this. ‘Rehabilitating the Left’, yeah. The Israeli left really does need rehabilitating.’ And I happened to be there and I said, ‘Do you see any Israelis lying on the table?’

Peek from MFA Graduation Show at Goldsmiths July 2011 ‘Conversation Pieces: Scenes of Unfashionable Life’

You don’t want to see what the Israeli left is, it is so radical. It is so different to the left in Britain, it deals with different issues; it is a different approach.  You can’t compare them, but why compare them? This constant labeling; I just find it funny. I find it very limiting.

Are you staying in London?

Yes yes. Now I am convinced I have to, because after the way in which this exhibition was received it has to be the start of a new mode of working for me. I want to make more and more of these ambitious shows. By ambitious I don’t mean bigger or more extravagant, I mean more thought-provoking and personal and with more interaction with other people. I am looking for new and exciting projects. At the same time I keep in touch on a very close level with Israel because I believe in that art scene which has some really fresh and punchy voices. I am preparing for two solo shows now. It is going to be an intensive period for me. I have also been approached by dealers and collectors, which is very encouraging.  I am so well connected now with friends and receiving many offers from curators, that it is a matter of figuring out what is worthwhile.

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[More on Noam Edry]

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Interview Series 2011

Part 1 – A constant battle for the freedom of speech in a web of taboos and envy

Part 2 – From sharp-edged politics to an S&M club and back again

Part 3 – “I Am the Terrorist”

Feature on Childhood

Born a War Painter

Reviews

Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel, 2012

Goldsmiths MFA 2011

Briefly:: Jake or Dinos Chapman

10th August 2011

After a slightly anxious sleep in riot crazed London, I stumbled down to Hoxton Square to see the Chapman Brothers’ show ‘Jake or Dinos Chapman’ at the White Cube Gallery. My first thought was that Dinos’ and Jake’s vision was based on a clear and intelligent rendering of today’s London.

There they were; the Riot Kids dressed in black with hoodies and an obstinate posture, gathered in front of a muddy and eerie painting depicting an illustration from a twisted children’s book. When you enter the exhibition the Kids in Black are positioned in the far end of the ground-floor gallery and while approaching them, you walk past odd sculptural structures, with tribal African artifacts and numerous discolored q-tips, and big paintings suggesting the dark side of Disney. The grouped kids’ deranged faces hits you like kick in the stomach, even though you have already seen the images before coming there; they are transforming into animals. Where there should have been a school emblem, the Swastika shines with creepy splendor accompanied by the words “They Teach Us Nothing”.

While examining their faces, wondering “What happened to you? Who did this to you?” the discomfort of the viewer reaches a crescendo; they are too many and they know too much of the world already for anyone to cradle them back into the safe zone. In George Orwell’s book “1984” there was no chance to convince the screaming adrenaline monsters in the parade during Hate Week to chill out and do something more creative and productive. With a complete sense of impotence and helplessness, it is time to enter the upstairs Gallery.

 

“Our Father, Who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
Amen”

 

On the second floor, the impeccably soft-skinned Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ are covered in their own blood, with faces without skin and disfiguring elements á la Cronenberg. I recalled the porcelain plate beautifully painted with a bedtime prayer which hung on the wall above my bed in a pink room full of dolls and stuffed animals and I remembered the day when I looked at it with disappointment and decided to transfer it to a box in the basement. The plate was replaced with a sexy pop-star poster. The heroes fall steadily.

“So, where do we go from here?” is the question echoing throughout the White Cube Gallery. The comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell must be applauding The Chapman Brothers from the clouds. In a mindless political climate it takes an artist to speak the ugly truth and in short this exhibition is a contemplated reflection of a messed up world at present.

Sleepwalking Lee Hadwin – An artist who never cared for art

10th September 2011 at ICA London

“I wake up; open my eyes and I just know that I have done something.
My thought process changes a bit and I feel a migraine coming on.”

Lee Hadwin, the World’s Sleep Artist, baffles the world with his night time adventures full of creative output. With wide-open eyes, Lee gets out of bed and sleep walks his way to the nearest pencil or pen and starts drawing at an incredible speed without out a blink. ”It makes him laugh” was the PA’s reply to what Donald Trump thought of his new Lee Hadwin original. Unless there is a piece of paper available, the sleeping artist will draw on floors, walls and furniture. It makes us laugh, because while thousands of artists struggle against artist’s blocks and fight for their life to reach an audience; Lee is not even interested in art.

The last couple of weeks have been hectic with a global media coverage ranging from BBC to Alarabiya News for the Middle East, Americas “Right This Minute” TV show and Latin America and US News NTN24. Curators, collectors and journalists all over the world are amazed by the mystery of the World’s Sleep Artist.

 

Do you meet a lot of skepticism?

I used to, but not so much now, because I have been to the Edinburgh Sleep Clinic quite a few times and gone through proper examinations. When I first got involved with the press ten years ago, the hardest thing I had to do was to prove that I couldn’t draw when I was awake. When I did the documentary for BBC I also had to go through my old school reports to prove that I have never had an interest in art. In 2008 I was filmed sleeping in my bedroom when I got up and started drawing a fairy. I am just staring, not even blinking. In January 2011 I did a documentary for Japan and they were filming me moving my hands in my sleep. They were also saying that I held the pen differently in my hand when I was awake. At this point even hotels have video footage of me getting up at night and the few people out there who still doubt are welcome to do so.

You were saying that you tend to be more creative when you go to bed really drunk. How is this related to sleep walking?

Yes, alcohol brings it all out. When I went to the Edinburgh Sleep Clinic five years ago with ITV we were told that both alcohol drinking and sleep deprivation brings sleep walking on, which is why you have to stay awake for 40 hours without sleep at Edinburgh Sleep Clinic.

Do you go out drinking to bring on an episode of creative sleep walking?

No, I drink because I like drinking. I might do some tonight. Many people think I do portraits every night, but I might just scribble a little bit one night and then go three weeks without drawing. It is very sporadic.

Ideally I should interview you when you are asleep, because that is when I’d be interviewing the artist, but I understand from the YouTube videos that I have seen of you that it is impossible get any response from you as you are sleep walking and drawing. Is that correct?

Haha, yes, that is true.

“Awakening” by Lee Hadwin, © Lee Hadwin

 

Have you ever left paints and brushes out for your night-time adventures?

I keep pencils, pens, brushes and acrylic paints in the drawer next to my bed. Even though I have paint brushes available I always choose to paint with my fingers, but that might change in the future because I only started drawing in color in 2009. These days I only bur acrylic paints, because it is too messy with oils.

Most of your works are signed; do you ever sign them in your sleep?

No, I sign them afterwards.

How do you feel when you wake up?

I wake up; open my eyes and I just know that I have done something. My thought process changes a bit and I feel a migraine coming on. I know that I have done something, but not what I have done. Then I have a migraine for 5-6 hours, because of the exhaustion.

This sounds very tiring, do you sleep walk a lot?

No, I might do a drawing once or twice in a week and sometimes five weeks can go by without any drawing.

 

“Fall of Being” by Lee Hadwin, © Lee Hadwin

The drawing ‘Fall of Being’ depicts a fairy between two falling leaves whose wings and arms are dissolving in the wind, and ‘The Game’ is a drawing of fairies in various positions under the full moon, with elements of what appears to be a tail and legs of a leopard. Also, one of the fairies is falling helplessly from the sky or struggling towards abstract forces. Do you have any level of interest in fairies whilst awake?

The only thing I have a connection to is the 11:11 drawings, because I also see 11:11 when I am awake, although the American flag might have been related to my upcoming trip to the US.

What are your present concerns regarding ’11:11’? I have seen 11:11 on and off for many years as well, sometimes very frequently, in all sorts of situations. 

I had just done the ITV documentary in December 2008 when it started happening. I could switch my mobile on now and it would say 11:11 even though it was 13:20. I went to Barcelona with my partner and it was platform 11, seat 11, time 11:11; really full on. There are millions of people around the world that see 11:11 and there are different theories. Generally it is believed to have a connection to the spiritual world and some people say that it is a way for spirits or angels to contact people on earth, to draw your attention.

If this is a way of contacting you, what happens after you have seen 11:11? What happens when they have you attention?

I don’t know. I get a nice feeling, but it is nothing more than that.

Do you think that you are lead by spirits when you do art in your sleep?

When I was on BBC the doctor was saying that we are all more conscious when we are asleep, meaning that we are using our subconscious more. The doctor also said that it is impossible to create stuff when you are asleep, but I disagree with that, because musicians like Paul McCartney create music in their sleep. I do believe that as human beings we have lost our sixth sense a lot. When we are asleep, we might be more receptive. What confuse the doctors the most is that I can’t draw when I am awake.

 

“Together” by Lee Hadwin, © Lee Hadwin

 

Some of your drawings are slightly eerie.  The drawing ‘un-titled’ consists of the three numbers 5, 1 and 8. Have you tried to figure out what it means? ‘Together’ is similar in the sense that it only consists of numbers. It is something a bit scary about it, like something out of a thriller film.

It is the numbers that get me, I think about what they mean. I have done this all my life, so to me there is nothing eerie about it.

Your piece ‘Awakening’ includes words like ‘ARSE’, ‘Fuck’, ‘Love’ and ‘Please’ as well as numbers and signs. It appears to have taken a good couple of hours to create. For how long do your drawing sessions usually last?

I did that when I was 15-16 and it took 25 minutes. Sometimes my hand moves so fast that what make take an artist 3 hours to create, takes me 15 minutes. There is video footage of my hand moving at that speed.

 


 

Would you be interested in trying to do clay sculptures or do you feel indifferent towards different artistic expressions?

I have never tried it before, but it might be interesting. A gentleman asked me the same question yesterday and I thought ‘Don’t get me started on creating pottery in my sleep!’ I might do it though, but I’d be going to bed with clay all over me.

It doesn’t have to be messy, you can use oil based clays like PlasticineWhat was your dream profession as a child? I know that you never had any artistic ambitions.

I wanted to become a TV-presenter. I would still love to read the news, but I am not any good at it.

Do you support yourself solely on your art, and if, are you worried that the sleeping artist inside of you will vanish?

Back in North Wales I cared for people with brain injuries and when I moved to London I started working for migration. I never dreamt of an artistic career, but since I have been offered a huge, beautiful space in East London for two months, I am now planning an exhibition with over 200 works.  It is going to be a show to remember, because the space calls for it. I don’t worry about whether the sleep art will stop one day or not; life is too short and there are more important things to worry about in life!

How do you choose the titles?

I only started titling my drawings five years ago. I look at stuff, try to think what it means and find words with the help of a dictionary. A lot of the circle ones I do make me think about the universe and space so I give them names like ‘Vortex’ and ‘The Abyss’.

Would you like to tell the readers about the charity ‘missing people’, which you are supporting?

When I was 14 or 15 years old I ran away to London for four days and it caused my parents a lot of grief. I came in contact with Missing People through a breakfast show on GMTV (ITV Breakfast Limited). In the green room back stage I met Richard Branson and a woman who had lost her sister; she was obviously out of her head with worry. She gave me a ‘Missing People’ card and I contacted them later on. They invited me to their Head Office, where I agreed to give them a percentage on all originals.

Have you ever thought of doing a project where you sleep in an art gallery; a big room with white walls and a bed in the middle and plenty of materials positioned around the room? It would make for an interesting exhibition! 

I would love to do a live installation for a couple of weeks and broadcast it live on the Internet, but the problem is that I can’t guarantee any sleep drawing.