Paola Delfin – Raices (Roots) @ Montana Gallery Barcelona

Barcelona is a cultural hub of Western Europe. A city renowned for creativity in every form; architecture, cuisine, art, design and music. So with a city of such artistic distinction, it’s hardly surprising that it is also home to one of the most respected names in hardware –  Montana Colours – and its associated gallery space by the Arc de Triomf near Parc de la Ciutadella.

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Within graffiti, street, urban and mural art communities the paint offered by Montana colours is synonymous with the scene. With such associations comes great respect and admiration from members of that community, and a certain level of gravitas from exhibiting within the four walls of its gallery. That is to say that an artist selected to hang work within the gallery is one of undoubted talent, with output high in quality and individuality.

During my visit, Mexican artist Paola Delfin’s work occupied the gallery with roughly 10 -15 pieces hung in the diminutive but well utilised space, flooded with natural light from floor to ceiling glass doors at the street end.

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Delfin’s art is defined by her exploration of organic forms, the beauty of these and feminine sensibility brought together in dreamlike compositions. These are evident in her paintings and illustrations, especially in this exhibition through her ink and acrylic paint on paper and canvas. Raices or Roots also included an in-situ piece from Delfin adorning the crisp white wall by the gallery entrance. A pity that the beer fridge blocked the view slightly, but you can appreciate the scale and connection that this larger piece makes with the theme from the photograph below. However, despite it’s impressive dimensions and workmanship, the other smaller pieces in the exhibition had more impact for me personally.

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Speaking about her art, Delfin says, “my passion is to create, be available to tell a story with my hands and make it visible to everyone though images that involve you [the viewer] in that story. That feeling is what makes me love being an artist.”

On the title of the exhibition Roots she goes onto elaborate a little more explaining that “there are taproots that travel through lakes, valleys, meadows, mountains, forests, clouds, and tides, and there are other branched and tuberous roots that accumulate and store substances, regardless of their type or size. All of them always go beyond the confines of freedom and adhere to the depths of their spirit.”

We begin to understand fully her fascination with this concept and how detailed her exploration of roots is as she pulls us into her world telling us her story through her art. 

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The beauty of organic forms, the trees and branches of trees wrap around the female subjects. In many cases her female subjects and the natural elements of the painting are seen as one, or become impossibly intertwined.

Highly impressive was the diptych ink drawing on display, titled Sembrando 1 & 2, or Ssowing. The title Sowing perhaps referring to the growth of the people from the ground that supports and develops them, with a child appearing in the background as the fruit of seeds having previously been sown.

This intricate composition, one of a series of delicate ink drawings, was very powerful. Her subjects sit submerged in a surrealist forest-like setting, a recurring scene, and form part of the flowers, shrubs and trees that surround them. The contours of the body are comprised of lines of ink that suggest the skin to be closer to the texture of bark than skin – making the strong link between human life and the roots that guide, support and feed us.

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On the right hand side, a heart is suspended in mid air, both feeding and being fed by branches, reinforcing her idea that our roots and connection to the earth are of vital importance. A source of food, water, work, memories, but ultimately life itself. An interconnected system of strong foundations that keep us grounded and healthy as we develop and grow. 

The painted works, acrylic on canvas, titled Seeds 1, Seeds 2 and Roots keep strong on this connection between human life and the earth. This idea of our link to the earth being crucial brings up another possible connotation. At a time when political unrest in the region of Catalonia is so well publicised and almost tangible in Barcelona life, how much do our roots both geographical and familial,  influence our political beliefs. Perhaps not an intentional commentary by the artist on this occasion, but given the location of this exhibition, an interesting question to ponder. As I considered this question, Podemos (left wing Spanish political party, akin to Syriza in Greece) gathered and whipped a large crowd into a frenzy of chants not 100m away, quite aptly timed.  

The final piece worthy of note within the exhibition was titled debajo de la tierra, or underground. Noticeably different from the rest of the exhibition in that it introduced a brighter colour palette and thicker, chunky brushstroke. This gave the subjects defined blocky contours, and protruding bone structures, to an extent that they are almost uncomfortable to look at, perhaps looking malnourished or unwell in appearance. They reminded me of a less bulbous version of some of Peter Howson’s portraiture work.

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The ground is a deep red, and the sky and foggy backdrop a misty blue. The choice of these colours I believe to be no mistake. Perhaps the deep red has been carefully selected to represent oxygenated blood within the body, the blue of the sky and mist representing the de-oxygenated blood allowing for a slightly different perspective on roots, acting as veins transporting vital blood. Oxygenated blood of course being pumped by the heart, or ground in this instance, to the trees, or humans, to ensure survival.

The exhibition as a whole is tightly themed, each piece with a clear link back to the main thrust, but exploring a different aspect of the metaphor at each turn in a number of different ways. Her intricate illustrations hark back to her early career in illustration, while her acrylic paintings allow her to explore the different ways of exploring her subject often with a surrealist twist, offering a slightly uncomfortable alternative view of the world in her mind’s eye. Despite being more inclined to seek out exhibitions with intricate illustrations like Paola’s, I think I actually enjoyed her paintings more, testament to their power and impact.

The idea of roots is an interesting one, with many different strands coming to mind. From our spiritual home, to sustenance offered by the ground, and our belief systems and to our ability to move freely, as a UK citizen this is particularly poignant.

Although the artist may not necessarily have intended for some of these, the timing and geographical location of this exhibition makes it all the more interesting and thought provoking.

Steven
UKB

Kulturcast episode 3 – Morvern Cunningham, LeithLate

Now I’ve had a bit of time off I’ve managed to get Kulturcast podcast episode number three recorded which features a conversation with Morvern Cunningham.

Morvern runs Edinburgh-based art festival LeithLate and we caught up at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith to chat about the organisation LeithLate and the festival of the same name.

The festival runs between the 23rd and 26th of June 2016, over 4 consecutive days making it the biggest LeithLate yet, but more on that in the podcast.

We spoke about how LeithLate came to be, what is on this year’s agenda and what’s to come in future, including a really interesting early doors partnership of LeithLate and Deptford X festivals.

Morvern was very busy so I really appreciate her taking and hour or so to chat to me about what she and LeithLate are doing. It was a really interesting conversation, and I hope you’ll find it just as enlightening!

Check out some of the previous public artworks organised by Leith Late and Morvern below.

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So, on we go with Kulturcast episode 3 with Morvern Cunningham.

Steven
UKB

UKB Guest Mix #38 – Kov Rah [UKB038]

An hour of slick micro house from Kov Rah, Paris based DJ and producer.

After striking up conversation over one of the older UKB Guest Mixes we decided to sort out his own guest appearance – this hour long techno-y microhouse mix.

Like many who enter into production, his musical background and motivation doesn’t trace its origins to a specific instrument(s), but to a place.

The place, not Paris, but London.

It was nights out at the much missed Cable and Fabric as well as 2 or 3 raves during his time there that triggered a huge desire to, as he puts it, “press a few buttons”.

Press a few buttons he now does, and with some considerable talent too.

Kov Rah swiftly followed up his London time with stints in two of my favourite European cities, Berlin and Marseille.

These days he finds himself back in Paris, a city that has definite pedigree in terms of dance music, but lacks the “culture” of those other places, in his mind.

“Historically, Paris does not have a big culture of clubbing. But it’s undeniable that there have been plenty of initiatives in the recent years.”

“A lot of clubs regularly have big names and summer is full of pretty cool places like Ferme du Bonheur, Cracki and Pavillon du Dr Pierre. But for now it’s still just a trend and has yet to become a real culture, and not a business.”

Cue this one up and let Kov Rah guide you through an hour of his selections for UKB038.

Steven
UKB

Dazzle Ship – Edinburgh Art Festival 2016

I suppose one of the appeals of ‘urban art’ is that it can crop up anywhere, really. By far the most unique example I’ve come across (in more ways than one) has to be Ciara Philips’ “dazzle ship” as part of this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival.

As astonishing as the design is, the story behind the ship is just as amazing.

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The MV Fingal, now docked at the Prince of Wales dock in the historic port of Leith, sticks out with its striking design and bold lines and colours. Amazing then, that this type of design was used in the first and second world wars as a form of camouflage.

The design from Glasgow-based Turner Prize nominee Philips was inspired by the team of women who worked under British marine artist Norman Wilkinson, inventor of the “dazzle” technique.

It’s a little known fact that most of these designs were devised by women, and included in this piece is a message in Morse code embedded within the pattern in retro reflective paint reading “Every Woman a Signal Tower”.

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Characterised by brilliant, glaring geometric patterns these designs were widely used in both world wars.

Instead of aiming to make the ship invisible to the enemy, it set out to confuse their attempts to sink it by making it difficult to accurately gauge the distance, direction and speed of travel.

A brilliantly outlandish stroke of genius. I wonder what happened during the meeting where that idea was brought up…

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Ciara’s ship design won’t be blending in down Leith way.

Instead it stands bright against the bland port surroundings, and is a welcome addition to the area, having briefly departed to Queensferry for the Battle of Jutland commemorations this weekend.

A really spectacular sight to see in person.

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Check it out now, and read more about the project on the 14-18 NOW website which includes a number of other designs across the UK.

Steven
UKB

Rival Consoles – Hidden Door 2016

We’re right in the thick of Edinburgh’s purely volunteer run arts and music festival just now. Rival Consoles‘ arrival in town on Saturday marked the first in a week long series of personal musical highlights set out by the Hidden Door organisers.

I had my eye on this one since being given a tip to check out his latest EP “Howl”. Further online investigation raised an interesting comparison with the likes of Nils Frahm and Jon Hopkins. A date was set. Tickets duly acquired.

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Ryan Lee West, better known as Rival Consoles, is now three EPs deep into his synth led atmospheric electronica. With Odyssey, Sonne and now Howl to draw upon in his impressive armoury, his one hour live set was a rugged work of classy genre spanning electronica.

Like his reputation and released work, this one hour performance was built upon music suited not only to your headphones but also for the big space of the Long Room. His background as a guitarist, rather than dance music producer, perhaps giving the balance needed to deliver music with a foot in both camps.

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Taking to the stage with little fanfare, he made quick progress in setting the tone for a slightly more ambient first half with Odyssey.

Straight to business, West dodged to and from the pieces of kit laid before him guiding his set to a noticeable half-time split. Accompanied by tripped out dot-art visuals, and a crowd ready to dance, captivated whoops and yells of delight accompanied drops and breakdowns.

A more dancefloor orientated second half, yet no less listenable, was brought to a thrilling climax with “Looming”. This Burial-esque atmospheric stomper bringing the whole room forward, some arms aloft, delighting in the refreshing atmospheric and synthy finish.

Quick discussion with the stage manager followed, soon after another brash, bouncing track filled the room before he disappeared for good. Leaving the stage with a nod, thumbs up, and a swig of a pint.

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As unassumingly as he took to the stage, he left it. Hidden Door day two done by 11pm – and a room full of people in the mood to dance.

They say you should always leave the crowd wanting more. I don’t think there was any doubt that was the case.

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Steven
UKB

D*Face, Misfits and Misprints at StolenSpace

I’m a little late with my review of D*Face‘s last exhibition, Misfits and Misprints, at his home turf of StolenSpace. It’s now made way for the London Police, sadly. But all is not lost.

You can relive the glory of his offerings now via this blog post!

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This exhibition was a bit of a rarity in more ways than one.

It proudly displayed a series of one off paper pieces from D*Face’s archive. Included were misprints, proofs and editions that hadn’t been seen in public before.

Screen printing is really important to him. In fact, he makes the bold claim on his artist statement that it changed his life.

From early Warhol prints to the screen printed decks of Surrey skateboards. Envelopes stuffed full of Shepard Fairey OBEY stickers, to the successful completion of his first home printed run of stickers.

Screen printing hasn’t just been in his blood. It kinda is his blood.

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“I have always been fascinated by the process, which in its simplest form is a very basic method of mass print production, practically the lowest rung on the ladder of printing (just after potato printing).”

“Achievable to anyone willing to invest in the small amount of money and time needed to learn the dark art.”

“At the same time it’s revered as the top of the printing food chain and carries with it a trade and skill that is forever being honed by master printers.”

 

“It can be deeply frustrating to people trying to achieve print perfection, but liberating to those who embrace the beauty of misprints and repetition.”

I loved the pieces in this exhibition.

The Coca-Cola bottle and typography, rebranded with the word “Riot”, and his Lichtenstein-esque cartoon characters are perfect examples of his ever-present theme of subversion.

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With every piece there’s always something else that bubbles just beneath the surface. Suggestions of something a little more sinister, in the underbelly, is his forte.

No better examples than his characters of the multi layered prints, with print upon print upon print creating, at first look an incomprehensible mish-mash. However, on closer inspection each layer becomes clearer.

It takes a bit more work to appreciate, but there’s reward lying in wait for your efforts.

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There were also multi-layer pieces put together physically – as in different layers of paper displayed in front and behind each other, as opposed to layers of paint – giving additional depth and a different take on the screenprint.

Overall another great exhibition in these four walls. It’s a gallery that sets the bar high with a constant level of quality, It always tempts me down to the Whitechapel Road end of Brick Lane.

If it’s on at StolenSpace, chances are it’s worth making the time.

With that in mind – make it along to see the London Police exhibition now happening, because if it’s half as good as this, it’ll be unmissable.

Steven
UKB