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.
I found out last week that I've been selected by curator, Lisa Gray, to show at the Flux Art Exhibition at Chelsea College of Art from the 11th to the 15th of April. 700 applicants had applied and 100 proposals were accepted, so I was pleased that my second group show experience is going to be happening in London and among a high caliber of artists. This has given me a few goals to focus on and I'll be using this opportunity to produce my first works on canvas, which will be a new challenge for me with my chosen media as I'll be using one off stencils to create the work. These will need to be executed really carefully as I'm not certain how the processes that I've been using on paper will translate to canvas.
My latest stencil test is from a photo I took of Femi Temowo some time ago that I'd wanted to work on for a while. All my stencils are hand cut and it is usually the stencils that take the most time in the process of making this type of imagery. This painting is composed of 6 layers. I'll be messing around with the colour combinations to see which captures the mood of the music I'm listening to. Femi's latest album, "Music is the Feeling" has a range of Nigerian/ Yoruba-influenced pieces that are performed with the Engines Orchestra, so I'll look to interpret some of these songs while I'm making the work in the studio.
I was at Rich Mix in Shoreditch on Thursday night to take some pictures of Soweto Kinch. He was playing a few tracks form his recent album, "Nonagram", but also performing some of his trademark freestyle raps, joined at the end of the evening by rappers Jonzi D and Kingpin. "Conversations With The Unseen" was the first Soweto Kinch Album that I bought and it introduced me not only to his playing and rapping, but also to the musicianship of Troy Miller on drums and Femi Temowo on guitar. I subsequently bought Temowo's album, "Quiet Storm" and Miller's album "40 Days". These 3 albums had great impact on me as jazz albums, but also were innovative in their blending of jazz and hip hop beats. As you can see on other pages on the site, both Temowo and Miller feature in my photos and artwork, so having the opportunity to photograph Kinch playing live was an opportunity I couldn't miss and allowed me to get further with producing a body of work that was a visual response to my musical inspirations over the last decade or so.
The soundscape created by the Kinch's trio at the Rich Mix was augmented by his use of loop pedals which helped to re-create some of the textures on "Nonagram", but had a different impact live. I wanted to capture the intensity and focus of the performance by zooming in close up to the musicians with a telephoto lens and trying to record their concentration as they played- a challenge in any low lit conditions where the subject is moving unexpectedly. This was contrasted with the raps and improvisations that managed to involve the lively crowd in the proceedings too. The climax of the show was the freestyling between the three performers, Kinch, Jonzi D and Kingpin, where audience contributions for key words were incorporated into the rhymes.
I've been through the photos and I think I've found some decent images to turn into stencils...watch this space.
So, the New Artist Fair is over. I made some sales, met some interesting people and got some great feedback. I'm on to the next artistic adventure. in the meantime here are some memories. The tune is an old jam we recorded in the studio a long time ago and turned into a sampled groove.