Thursday, 12 September 2019

BRUM BEAT(INGS): PEAKY BLINDERS FESTIVAL IN DIGBETH THIS WEEKEND

The BBC's super-hit show Peaky Blinders is set in Birmingham and more specifically, the streets of Digbeth, which have traditionally been the seat of the local Irish community.  However, thanks to the Luftwaffe in World War II, not much of the old neighbourhoods actually remain, and the production has to film elsewhere in the country. Despite that, the Digbeth area of town, where the music and arts festival takes place, still has a certain cinematic ambience if you can catch it in the right light. Below is a selection of photographs from around my studio.

( Below ) : The Old Typhoo Building, Bordesley Street


( Below ) : Lower Trinity Street


( Below ) : The Custard Factory, Floodgate Street


( Below ) : Lower Trinity Street


( Below ) : Coventry Road


( Below ) : Coventry Road


( Below ) : Electric Supply Station, Upper Trinity Street


( Below ) : Adderley Street


( Below ) : The Custard Factory, Gibb Street




Tuesday, 27 August 2019

SHOW ME THE MONEY

Being an artist is one of the only careers where being time-rich and cash-poor - if it comes along at a strategic moment - can be advantageous. However, recently I was reviewing my folders, and found this 'visualisation' ( below ) and speculative artwork, from an aborted project earlier this year. Originally, an architect friend had asked me to work with him on a 'pitch' for revamping the wayfinding signage around London's Paddington Station. 




After doing a site visit we could see why the place needed it: Dead-ends, surreal hotel entrances and half a hospital conspired to prevent the traveller from finding the correct platform, let alone actually catch a train. However, I soon calculated that despite my initial enthusiasm, the laughable £1,000 development fee ( IF we won the pitch ), and then the winning fee of £250,000 - if we wanted to go all-out with designs - would barely cover the costs of the materials needed to fully service the project across such an enormous site.

Below: Directional facade designs for miscellaneous office buildings in the Paddington Station & canal basin areas.



Conclusion: This was one of those instances where in all likelihood, those involved would find themselves time-poor AND cash-poor. In other words, to do it justice, I knew I was going to have to invest many hours in it, and I just did not have that kind of luxury. It was better suited to firms who are between projects, or whose resources are big enough to warrant several team members working on a side-project while still collecting a steady wage. 



I withdrew my contribution but, not wanting to part on bad terms, wished my friend best of luck with his future endeavours, politely entreating him to not trouble me again unless any further requests were accompanied by a sizeable envelope stuffed with cash for yours truly. Obviously, I didn't really, but that was the subtext.



The pictures here show some experimenting with directional motifs combined with 'mock' traditional wallpaper designs. The art is still in the sketch phase and far from achieving cohesion, but perhaps there is still something here worth tinkering with if inspiration occurs.





Monday, 10 June 2019

MOXY DOWNTOWN: ON THE UP

Very pleased that the super-funky designer hotel MOXY DOWNTOWN NYC - which features a series of my digital mosaic tiles in the lobby - has been nominated for the Condé Nast Reader's Choice Award. No doubt part of its amazing success is the contribution of interior designer Kim Edwards who infused the hotel with her playful, eclectic, and energetic sense of aesthetics. Well done, Kim!


Below: Datastream Arabesque #8 ( detail with texture )




About the Datastream Arabesques: Each composition is made of fragments of other compositions that were broken up, partially deleted and then recomposed. In other words, it was a digital version of smashing up a load of ceramics in order to create a mosaic from the fragments. The artwork evolved naturally into a series of Futuroid Arabic motifs, which I'm still experimenting with, but haven't released yet.

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ARUP... AND AWAY..!

ART IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD pt. II

Below: DNA SKETCH ( photographed looking down ), done in Tiltbrush by Google.



Last week, the Midlands branch of engineering supergiant ARUP set up a temporary office directly below my studio at the Custard Factory. Derek and Ian, whom I met last year when I visited their Dorridge HQ, were again on hand to guide me and some friends through the basics of their awesome VR rig. Like any kind of art, what was interesting was being able to observe the variety of behaviours of different people, and their instinctive reaction to the creation of art in the virtual realm.





Like my own 'real world' art, I kept it tight and neat... which probably says more about me than I care to admit. It's a shame I can't replicate that behaviour in the rest of my actual life..!


Below: HYPERCOLOUR composition, done in Tiltbrush by Google.



Below: art pal and Custard Factory alumnus Emma Hardicker trying out the VR in ARUP's pop-up space, with assistance from staff member Ian.








Thursday, 9 May 2019

HELLENIC RUINS

Artist's Photographs from September 2018, Paros, Cyclades Islands, Greece



If there's one thing the Greeks are good at, its starting a building and then abandoning it before completion. The example you see here is a particularly striking one, in that it presides over the main coastal road to Paros Kite, the well-known resort populated by kite-surfers during the summer months. The location, size, and assortment of storeys and basements suggests that it was supposed to be a medium-sized tourist hotel, presumably with the intention of capitalising on the influx of surfers from all over the world. I've been going to Paros since the early two-thousands, and it has always been there, ominously occupying a fork in the road like something out of a Stephen King novel. 

To a geometric abstract artist, this kind of structure, with its stark right-angles, exposed staircases and empty voids open to the sky, presents dozens of possibilities for great compositions. It also proves that skilled abstract artists, such as the unknown manual labourers that erected this skeletal structure, exist in all walks of life.


Above: A distinct Rene Magritte atmosphere evoked by the bare structure and blue sky.
Below: A selection of interior shots.







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The experimental piece below was actually inspired by the way in which my iPhone previews the group of photographs in the photo folder.



Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

ART IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD - Feature and Video by Alexi K

Below: Improvised Abstract Compositions / TiltBrush VR program.

At the end of 2018, I was kindly invited by global engineering firm ARUP, to try out their VR apparatus, located at their UK headquarters in Dorridge, outside Birmingham.

After arriving, I was given a brief demonstration, reassured that the equipment was completely intuitive, and then donned the ungainly goggles and handset combo to try it out.



After a few tentative steps walking on the surface of Mars ( it reminded me of Worcestershire, albeit minus the people, trees, oxygen and fly-tippers ), and then a look round a megastructure currently being built somewhere in Asia ( top secret ), I was instructed on how to use the art program Tilt Brush, and asked to see what I would come up with.

I made a few brush strokes in the sky, trying to get my bearings.

My very immediate reaction was a downbeat one: 'This is it. It's GAME OVER for all traditional art. We may as well pack up and go back to regular jobs... if there are any left that haven't been replaced by robots.' The immersive nature of the virtual environment made me also think about people simply not leaving the house to interact with the real world.



Slightly disorientated by my inability to organise the paint brush strokes in front of me, I then asked Derek, the chap who had originally extended the invitation, if it was possible to keep all the brush strokes restricted to the same plane in space, like a page in a sketchbook. It was his response that made me realise I had not understood what I was dealing with:

'You can't keep the strokes in the same plane. The rotation of your arm in your shoulder socket means that the strokes create a kind of dome shape in the air.'

At that moment, I could feel my brain reconfigure itself around this new paradigm: In the future, art can have a spacial quality that never existed before. It will be unhindered by Earthly materials, or the laws of physics.

Once I realised this, I made some gestures based on a few minimalist art pieces that I had been experimenting on in the studio, so in the VR version, I created a hanging 'curtain' of glowing dots in a vague grid formation. I followed that with a few deftly-placed downwards and diagonal paint-strokes in front.


In the video you can see how one handset is used to select options on the other handset. You will also see me forget where the 'dots' option is, as I rotate the selector vainly looking for the correct button. In the end, I locate it, and after creating a couple of satisfactory compositions, I downed tools and stuck my head up in between the various paint strokes, all of which had remained suspended in the air above me.

I was rather pleased with my first go, especially as I have a natural aversion to gadgetry and have never played a video game in my life. But like my first foray into electronic art two decades ago, I adapted immediately and felt comfortable with the new medium.

Several things occurred to me: Firstly, that abstract artists will benefit greatly from these new tools. On the website that accompanies the software, there were plenty of user examples of finely-crafted 3D renderings such as everyday scenes, or renditions of famous artworks ( Van Gogh's self-portrait, for instance ). And, as in the case of real world art, you could see how comfortable it is to fall back on easily-recognizable subject matter. For the abstract artist, there are no such limitations ( other than the usual ones of aesthetic maturity and skill, achieved over time  ). Indeed, in this new world, audiences will not only appreciate what the artist is trying to say, but how he said it, as body movements and choreography could become part of the composition like Tai-Chi or other martial arts. Form, control and presence will be admired as part of the over-all finished piece.
Sound elements and haptic suits may be added to the experience, but I like to think that much of the art of the new era will still be contemplative and not rely on expense, bigness or show-boating.

With a price tag of several thousand pounds for the equipment, it's immediately clear that it'll be a few years before this medium becomes part of an artist's repertoire. At the moment it will really only be available to colleges or businesses, or well-off dilettantes.

Finally, there is the question of owning a virtual piece of art. Is it like buying a license? Will upgrades be sent out at regular intervals? Will it have a definite shelf-life, when the legacy equipment becomes obsolete and the file unreadable? Will its transient nature affect its cost? Who will enjoy it? Will everyone have built-in viewing apparatus with a universal operating system, or will some people have a different proprietary software, and therefore not be able to see certain artworks? Will it be ubiquitous, or exclusive? For the 1%, or the 99%?

 Crucially, will the artist lose, or gain? Only time will tell.

Below: Improvised Abstract Compositions / TiltBrush VR program.





Tuesday, 8 January 2019

MY ART IN MOXY DOWNTOWN HOTEL, NEW YORK

DATASTREAM ARABESQUES: ABSTRACT MOSAICS SHOWCASED

IN STYLISH NEW BOUTIQUE HOTEL, MANHATTAN


Above: Photo courtesy of Moxy Downtown.


In the summer of 2017, I was contacted by Kim Edwards, an art director at New York architects STONEHILL TAYLOR. She was interested in using my Polygraph Nudes artwork in a new hotel called MOXY DOWNTOWN, that was being built in Manhattan. For the next few months we went back and forth, but ultimately word came back from the owners that perhaps the art was tonally not in sync with the vibe of the hotel. We tried various tweaks, but the artwork was from a specific time ( they were produced purely during an experimental phase about six or seven years earlier ), and anything that came after it seemed to lack the same spirit. 

When I went to visit Kim in October of that year, I noticed that her design scrapbook included some of my experimental mosaic patterns lifted from this blog, alongside some jpegs of pixelly old-school 'space invader' characters that she'd sourced from elsewhere. Composed entirely of squares, the two different designs looked good together and this greatly excited me because it was an intriguing indication of the direction Kim was going in. ( Continued... )


Below: The DATASTREAM ARABESQUE artworks were also featured in the Birmingham Design Fest's 'Best of Birmingham' exhibition at Allemuir House, curated by Gensler Birmingham. 



It's an interesting process, going back and forth between drawings, paintings and digital. Ways of thinking that evolved uniquely to my painting method, found their way into my digital art process, and vice-versa, and I so was very pleased that these more contemporaneous works had caught Kim's eye.

Below: A visualisation by art director Kim Edwards. The MOXY brand of hotels is about creating a stylish environment for sophisticated millennials 'at affordable prices'. Kim's mood boards indicated to me that I should expect a Scandinavian / Japanese amalgam of natural stone and wood colours, interspersed with cool artworks from a wide range of artists, myself included.




Originally, the process of creating the mosaic designs involved editing, revising and re-composing until each piece balanced correctly - exactly the same method as my paintings. The only difference is that with digital, you can produce dozens of permutations in the same amount of time that it would take to do one painting. 


Below: DATASTREAM ARABESQUES at MOXY DOWNTOWN by Alexi K, photo courtesy of Kim Edwards.




Entitled DATASTREAM ARABESQUES, the artwork was intended to evoke the flow of  information through the matrix of technology that now envelopes our lives. 


Below: DATASTREAM ARABESQUES at MOXY DOWNTOWN by Alexi K, photo courtesy of Kim Edwards.




What's particularly satisfying is that despite the technology and output methods that characterize digital art, its creation was, for me, a completely authentic process of inspiration and abstraction, which luckily received no notes or requests for tweaks from the owners of the hotel. The designs stayed exactly how I had originally made them, before I had even thought about any possible commercial application. I look forward to staying at MOXY DOWNTOWN later this year and seeing the finished project for myself.


Thanks to Kim Edwards and Stonehill Taylor, and also to MOXY HOTELS.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

I, VOYAGER ( revisited )

It still amuses me to see where my paintings travel to. As you can imagine, I rarely get to go back and examine the back-catalogue. In fact, I don't even look up at paintings that are on the studio wall right now, because I'm too involved with the latest set of questions posed by the current piece. 

When I do get to see work from a previous collection however, I'm intrigued by the compositional decisions made. Viewed with fresh eyeballs, these visitations from the past can often provide me with solutions to current painting problems. In this instance, I remember how useful it was to divide this up into five columns ( instead of my usual three ), and also how those blocks of cadmium red were useful for providing the barely-contained explosive energy of the piece.

Below: ASTYANAX, currently residing in Brixton, London. Acrylic on canvas.
76cm x 101cm.


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