Addressing Modern Feminism: Interview With Andre Veloux
British artist Andre Veloux resides in Princeton, NJ with his wife and daughter. He recently showed at Scope Art Miami 2017 and is represented by the Krause Gallery, New York City, with a solo show booked for June 2018. His feminist work is defined artistically within the parameters of modern feminism, which is standing up for women and their rights and empowerment. It is standing against the patriarchal society and its male entitlement, which causes discrimination, oppression, and violence against women. His work, which is created entirely from Lego, is in private collections worldwide and has been shown in many group shows.
The focus of work is a feminist, gender equality, and women's rights project, which explores the way women are viewed and society's expectations of them.
A series of portraits of feminist icons shows strong, powerful, and self-motivated women, some of whom have reached iconic status for their work and influence and in themselves are agents of change in society. Female icons are at the very forefront of the women’s rights movement because of what these women have achieved and the circumstances in which they achieved them. Women leaders in all fields, be it political, scientific, business, artistic or humanitarian, are under intense and constant scrutiny.
A second series includes playful portraits illustrating the mask of femininity. Created from blending features of different faces to create a single visual, these comment on the constant demands on women to continually rebuild and renew how they present themselves. The fact that these artworks are created using building blocks that you can take apart and rebuild in different ways, plays on the ceaseless demands on women to rebuild the image they present to the world in order to gain acceptance.
Included in the project are further sets of works, Freedom Without Judgement, Briefs and Panties, and Anti-Portraits. The first of which depict women's clothing and appearance, defending the right to present one's self freely without fearing harassment or intervention from others. In the second case, a series of diptychs containing a man's briefs and a woman's panties illustrate the different form, function, and expectation of men and women through the underwear they wear. The anti-portrait works, which show a woman's back, comment on the sexualisation of the female form, as well as demonstrate vulnerability and the lack of consent in being seen or perhaps imagined in this scenario.
A series of small works, each of which is untitled but go under the umbrella of a series entitled Enthusiastic Consent, are direct in their meaning and interpretation: no means no, and only an enthusiastic yes means yes.
The purpose of all these works is to raise the question about how society treats women today. The portraits speak for themselves; the other works are a counter balance to rape culture. This is artwork, but the message is the same: women can be and dress how they like. Sexism and being sexist is such an accepted and normal part of patriarchal society. If that is the emotion the works generate, then it is a validation of the work, because it never takes away from the purpose, which is to defend women's rights.
All of the works are made with commercially available Lego bricks. Lego, in all its various forms, is at the same time limiting as well as limitless in its possibilities. The color palette is limited yet consistent, and the basic “pixel” size is also fixed. Yet at the same time, it is a hard, durable, tactile and lightweight material; it can be reused, replaced and altered at will, and provides a myriad of different possibilities, due to the different available shaped bricks, tiles and plates, with the exciting opportunity to create the 3-dimensional and textural aspects of the art.
Briefly tell us about your journey as an artist.
When I first began experimenting with Lego I worked on simple mosaics, I quickly moved to more photo realistic ideas. Over several years I developed techniques and ways of working with both low resolution and a bright colour palette. I was then able to focus on my message, which was women's rights and the treatment of women in today's society. After showing in group shows, I was picked up for representation by the Krause Gallery in New York. We worked together on group shows and then a solo show. More group shows followed, and in December I showed at Scope Miami with Fort Works Art.
When did you first begin exploring feminism and gender equality in your work?
For the first couple of years when I was experimenting, I worked on any ideas that I could make work with the limited palette and very low resolution that working with Lego means. As I learnt how to manipulate these two aspects I was able to turn my attention to promoting the feminism message. I began with the feminist icon portraits, but not wanting to be limited to only portrait style works I then explored other ideas, specifically because at that time my daughter was grappling with such issues as school dress codes. This led directly to the Freedom Without Judgement series and then to the other themes of my feminist work.
What do you hope to convey to the viewer through your art?
The feminist portrait pieces speak for themselves, they inspire because of who these women are and what they have achieved in the face of discrimination and misogyny; they have come out on top and inspire other women to do the same.
The other works are a counter balance to rape culture and the treatment of women today. It is art but the message is the same, women can be and dress how they like. Sexism and being sexist is such an accepted and normal part of patriarchal society. This may be the emotion the works generate in the viewer, in that case, it is a validation of the work, because it never takes away from the purpose which is to defend women's rights.
Tell us about your choice of materials. What inspired you to create with Lego pieces?
I was looking for a medium with attributes that would produce an artwork that has a physicality to it. Lego is tactile, durable and rebuildable. I also wanted to be able to create something that would use the best of my digital art and computer skills. The bright colour palette began as a challenge but has become a signature feel to my work.
Share your thoughts on art and activism. What should artists be doing more of to promote positive changes in our society?
It's up to every individual to decide what they want to do. I can only say where I stand on art and activism. For me they are absolutely linked, it begins with the art, but it continues into being visible and vocal about these issues. I want to challenge accepted thinking, and I hope that other artists do not feel afraid to speak up in today's society.
Describe a typical day in the studio.
There are two distinct aspects to my work, the design phase, and the building phase. I generally work on building in the morning. My energy is high and although it may not look like it, it is actually physically tiring. It is a constant motion pressing down the bricks as well as moving around finding the right bricks.
The rest of the day, if I feel like designing, I will sit down at the computer and work on ideas. Frequently Lego supplies are either being sourced or they are arriving and they need to be checked and sorted. There are emails to respond to, instagram and all those social media things.
What are you currently working on and what should we be on the lookout for this year?
I'm working on a series of new works for a solo show at the Krause Gallery in June. I'm particularly excited about some larger pieces for my Enthusiastic Consent series which I have not tried before.
I also have a new public location for my Mask of Femininity: Feminist Portraits installation, I am preparing the works for that, as well as planning a workshop and working on my talk as part of the accompanying events. Advocacy is very important to me, and public events have become a very important part of my work.