The Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch, London was the venue for Talented Art Fair 2019. This iconic building is a magnet for visitors to the area, from the vintage market stalls at the weekend to the regular turnover of art exhibitions, degree shows and craft fairs. On Friday 1st March, everything fell into place beautifully and set the scene for a hundred artists to share their work at a lively private view. One of the great features of this fair is that there are a large number of people passing through. Lots of visitors to the Shoreditch area took advantage of the free entry to browse through the displays of artworks all through the weekend.
One of the reasons for participating in an art fair is to meet all sorts of people who come to look at artwork. One can get some good insights into what certain audiences are interested in and I say this with some deliberation. The kinds of conversations I had with audiences and artists at shows at the time of my MA were very different. In those instances you have viewers who have high levels of visual and cultural literacy and are looking for artworks which challenge conventional conceptual themes or approaches. The work takes greater risks and can be very experimental. At an art fair, the artists typically have one goal in mind - to sell their work. Their audience have a more personal reaction to work and their context is more about how the work would appear as an investment for their home or as a gift for others.
For me, the art fair was an opportunity to engage with people rather than purely for sales. My artwork became a conversation point about art and music. In some cases I was able to inform those interested in the subject matter about the recent surge in popularity of the "New Generation of British Jazz", particularly pointing out my paintings and photos of Sheila Maurice Grey and Blue Lab Beats .
I wanted to find out what a range of different people thought about my jazz portraits. I had really good conversations with some of the visitors and a chance to network with other artists. A number of my fellow ArtCan artists were showing as well, including Irene Raspolini, Lauren Mele and Brian Parker. ArtCan was holding a workshop nearby so Mirella Bandini, KV Duong and ArtCan Trustee and Londonist Art critic, Tabish Khan dropped in to offer support and have a look at our exhibition spaces. Irene wowed visitors with her use of augmented reality, where her paintings literally came to life when viewed through a smartphone app; Lauren wanted to showcase her most recent paintings, a series of nudes painted with great slabs of brushwork that showed economy as well as expression of fleshy forms. I also enjoyed catching up with Martin Turner, whose hyperreallist pencil drawings drew gasps of admiration for his precision and patient accuracy with pencil; I met Darius Rowland for the first time and was taken by the variety of subject matter in his display. His aircraft paintings are informed by his day job as an airline pilot, but he had a lot to say about his approach to oil painting and the speed he liked to work at when completing works as diverse as landscapes or close-up images of eyes.
The Talented Art Fair team are headed up by Oliver Norris and Leah Michelle who put a lot of time and effort into organising this impressive event. Along with JA Neto of The Culthouse UK., they manage the ambitions and expectations of the artist calmly and with good humour. They do this because they really enjoy staging big artistic events and have a genuine interest in the work that they promote. Any artists wishing to exhibit in a supportive environment for the first time in London would do well to apply to the New Artist Fair, which takes place in September at the same venue.
It was a pleasure to meet super bass player, the talented Matt Ridley who had played with some of the Jazz musicians in the paintings.
Last Wednesday was the private view for the "Elevate" exhibition at the offices of Duff and Phelps at the Shard. I really enjoyed meeting up with my fellow ArtCan artists to celebrate this milestone in ArtCan's exhibitions program. The Shard is an iconic London landmark, and for us to have the opportunity to have a group show there was a great thrill. The work is varied in both media and size and will hopefully improve the environment in the Duff and Phelps offices, giving the staff there some visual stimulation and start some conversations around the work. The work was curated and organised by Kate Enters, founder and driving force behind ArtCan, along with a team of talented ArtCan artists, Dafni Bampanioti, Alice Gorton and Sal Jones.
The Talented Art Fair will be taking place on the weekend of the 1st-3rd March 2019. 100 artist will be showing their work at the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch, London
At the opening night of Fusion IV at the Candid Arts Trust back in April last year, I had a long chat with Oliver Norris of Lemon Art, the organisation that has staged the Talented Art Fair for the last two years. I was telling him of my plans to organise a solo art show as my next exhibition opportunity. He suggested that I might consider the benefits of an event such as Talented Art Fair instead. He said that an Art Fair like Talented could be used as a more effective way to showcase my artwork than a solo show. He pointed out that the numbers of visitors would be far greater and that each artist is better placed to represent their work in the context of a large scale event. On top of that, the Truman Brewery venue is located in an area lots of people come to hang out, check out the street art and browse in the different types of pop-up shops and independent outlets.
I had a look at the website for the Talented Art Fair to find out more. In one of the blog posts, Oliver and partner, Leah Michelle, had written:
"It has become possible for artists to curate their own brand and business by engaging, meeting and selling directly to their own buyers. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and art market platforms such as artfinder.com provide artists instant access to potential buyers online and artist-led art fairs such as New Artist Fair and Talented Art Fair then bring these two like-minded groups together in a friendly environment. These artist entrepreneurs, who we describe as ‘Artrepreneurs’, have the tools at their fingertips to create and mould their own brands and exhibiting at our fairs has proven to benefit them financially as well as by expanding their contact lists." www.talentedartfair.com/blog/the-artrepreneur-changing-londons-art-market
I thought about this for a while and decided to apply. Whilst there are many other artists that are showing at the Truman Brewery at the same time, events like Talented Art Fair attract a lot of visitors, both serious and casual. Luckily for me, my application was accepted and I have a space at the Truman Brewery in March.
This deadline has given me the motivation to try something new out as part of my preparation for the show. For the first time, I'll be showcasing a large scale work made from combining a number of stencils that I have previously used as individual images. The new artistic challenges posed by resolving such an artwork have led to ideas that I am going to develop further as this year passes. I also have an opportunity to show some of the photographic origins of the artwork and I'm thinking of how I might do this in an innovative way. I'm looking forward to seeing how these will go down with the visitors at the show- 5 weeks to go!
I'm a member of a dynamic and talented art collective, Artcan. Artcan was founded by artist and curator, Kate Enters and her goal is to create a community of artists that can support one another through shared exhibitions and events and provide platforms both virtual and real for the artist members to share their work.
"From Artcan, With Love" was an exhibition of postcard-sized works that the artists in the collective were asked to contribute to. Each artwork was on sale for £40 and these were displayed at the Fitzrovia Gallery in London on 6th June. Many of the works were purchased on the PV night, raising funds for Artcan and giving the artists an opportunity to meet up and chat about their practice.
Like many of the artists, I produced a number of works. The works that went unsold are now on show at the Artcan website's online gallery. Working in such a small scale isn't something that I have done before, but I've been considering a few different ideas that aren't connected top my jazz portraits. In particular, I'm dreaming up some text based works that are sprayed onto the kinds of backgrounds that I've used elsewhere in my paintings.
I haven't got any shows coming up any time soon, but that's because I've been busy testing out some new stencil portraits, some of which haven't translated so well from the photos to the stencils. Behind every image, there are lots of failed experiments that are binned or recycled, where either the layers don't combine like planned or the painting lacks any real energy. I might put some of the WiPs on instagram as I go and see what reactions I get next.
Fusion IV took place at the Candid Arts Trust in Torrens Street, Islington in April 2018. Curated by JA Neto of The Culthouse UK, it featured a range of work and performances by a variety of UK based and International artists. The exhibition was displayed on two levels and there was a cracking opening night party on Thursday 24th April. I had a chance to show three large canvases of Soweto Kinch, Femi Temowo and Jacob Collier as well as a paper-based painting of Karl Rasheed Abel. As always, it was helpful to get reactions and feedback from visitors to the exhibition which was most encouraging.
FLUX Exhibition took place at UAL Chelsea College of Art and Design from 11th -15th April. Curated by Lisa Gray, the show gathered the work of 100 artists that presented their work in a variety of media. "Out of 700 applicants, we selected the best 100" commented Gray, whose intention with the show was to expose a range of artists at different stages of their careers. I was was pleased to see some familiar faces from the New Artist Fair who were at Flux for their second London art show, Lina Ogaily and Giacomo Bevanati.
Femi Temowo, from whose photo I cut one of my earliest Jazz musician portrait kindly dropped by to have a look at the large scale canvas of him that I made especially for FLUX. We had a chance to talk about the way the artwork was made and he took an interest in the process behind the work. That gave us a chance to have a conversation about how musical and artistic process overlap and parallels between making music and making artwork.
The standard of the work was high, with something for everyone that attended the exhibition. The Private View on the Wednesday night was buzzing, with many visitors appreciating not only the artwork, but also the appearances from drag artists such as Liquorice Black and Marnie Scarlett and some live wall-based work by Charlie Buster.
Just wanted to post a link on this blog, from an article in the Observer by Kate Hutchinson, chronicling the rise of the new generation of British Jazz. She writes:
"In the UK, a new and thrilling jazz movement has evolved. As with Lamar, Thundercat and Washington, it is born out of fresh experimentalism, is reaching far younger, more diverse audiences and doesn’t care for snootiness. Unlike in previous waves, these musicians are in their 20s and early 30s, come from diverse backgrounds and, as with grime, have created their own community outside of major labels and concert halls. Their music, meanwhile, pulls liberally from other genres, whether hip-hop, neo-soul, UK club sounds such as broken beat, or from the African and Caribbean diaspora. And it’s not just at gigs that you can hear it but, much like in the acid jazz days, nightclubs too." (read more here)
As someone who is photographing some of these artists and using them as subject matter for my Jazz portraits, it is exciting for me to see recognition of these talented performers in the more mainstream press. What I find most interesting about this wave of Jazz musicians is the sense of community, both online and locally, that knits this group together. It isn't only restricted to the musicians themselves- Jazz Re:Freshed have played a big role in continually promoting young bands and performers, most recently at SXSW in Texas. Tomorrow's Warriors, the pioneering music education organisation, nurtured and supported many of the players that are making headlines at the moment.
(all photos: copyright Tone)
When my Song Kick App alerted me to to the forthcoming Jacob Collier gig at the Oslo in Hackney, I thought that there would be no chance for me to secure a ticket. This talented multi instrumentalist has been blowing audiences away with his recent one-man shows, but the Oslo was a chance to for him to play with additional musicians, George McCurdy on drums, Robin Mullarkey on bass and guitar and Pedro Martins on guitar. The show was indeed sold out and a packed crowd were clearly fans of the young prodigy- there was a respectful silence during the songs, coupled with an excellent sound system that allowed Collier and the band to fully exploit the dynamics of the selected pieces. Apart from his own compositions, there were also some stunning covers that were interpreted with the layered harmonies that have become a hallmark of Collier's recorded work and that he is able to replicate live. The Beatles' "Blackbird" was extended to include some lovely call-and-response interaction with this loyal audience who joined in with the vocal "challenges that Collier set them.
I first came across Jacob Collier on youtube and was astonished by his rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing". Jason Rebello collaborated with him on his "Anything But Look" album and Collier featured in several of the live shows that I went to at that time (including the album launch at the Vibe Bar, where I took the pictures that were transformed into one of my earlier stencil based artworks); the Ronnie Scotts gigs were particularly memorable, and it was clear then that Jacob Collier was going to be a very special musician indeed.
Under the stewardship of Quincy Jones, Collier is going from strength to strength with more live shows to come in April and May in Australia in Singapore to come. There are no signs of any more UK appearances at the moment, which makes the experience of seeing him live in an intimate setting all the more special.
Guru's "Jazzmatazz" Re-imagined
Blue Lab Beats headlined two sold out shows at the Jazz Cafe in Camden with their re-presentation of the late Guru's "Jazzmatazz" collaborative albums. In this interview in Blues and Soul magazine, from May 2009, Guru said:
"When I first came up with the Jazzmatazz concept - I was noticing how a lot of cats were digging in the crates and sampling jazz breaks to make hip hop records", he explains, "But, while I thought that was cool, I wanted to take it to the next level and actually create a new genre, by getting the actual dudes we were sampling into the studio to jam over hip hop beats with some of the top vocalists of the time. You know, the whole thing was experimental, but I knew it was an idea that would spawn some historic music. So, though everyone at first was like, "Where does it fit in?", I was like, "It doesn't NEED to fit in! It fits in with ITSELF!". And that's how it became a leader, in terms of influencing other things. Because, as it evolved, I was able to add elements of R&B, soul, funk, reggae, rap - all on to the original base of hip hop and jazz".
Blue Lab Beats, a duo formed by NK-OK and MR DM have been building up quite the reputation for themselves, first as writers and producers and now performers in their own right. They were joined at the weekend by a range of musicians, singers and rappers to re-interpret Guru's vision of a music genre that was a ground-breaking fusion of jazz and hip-hop. It is less surprising to hear such a melange of music that typically emerges from urban melting pots in contemporary music, but Blue Lab Beats do it effortlessly and with a respectful reference to the history of both Jazz and Hip-Hop. An acknowledgement that these were musical forms that were intended at times as agents of social and political change is evident in the samples used in certain tracks. The packed crowd certainly enjoyed the grooves and beats generated by the duo, which was then energized further as the special guests played their part in the show.
They were introduced on stage by Kwame Kwaten, who told me prior to the show that Blue Lab Beats had worked hard to re-present "Jazzmatazz" in a celebratory light but adding their own flavour. Perhaps Guru would have been proud to see his legacy- London's new Jazz warriors are showing that they don't need to fit in- they fit in with themselves and are now making real waves.
Blue Lab Beats were joined by Jaz Karis, vocals; Kinkai, vocals; Seun Alayande, vocals; Tymusic Chijioke vocals; Eshu Akinnibi Sax; Dylan Jones, trumpet.
Check out this film by Jon E Price, documenting Blue Lab Beats and the resurgence of Jazz on the London music scene:
On Friday Night I went to take photographs of Trumpet player, Sheila Maurice Grey and her one-off Quartet assembled for the Friday Tonic sessions at the central Bar in the Royal Festival Hall, as part of the Southbank musical program. The band featured Keyboard player Sarah Tandy, who was recently named as one of the 40 musicians to watch in the Guardian, bassist Kai Rio and drummer Patrick Boyle.
Sheila leads the afro-jazz group Kokoroko and also plays with Nerija.