Posts tagged realism
Interview with Moniker Art Fair highlight artist Ken Nwadiogbu

Founded in 2010 in London, Moniker Art Fair is a hyper-curated five day contemporary art fair, exhibiting an international roster of the finest artists and galleries at the cutting edge of urban art and culture. This October, Moniker brings its acclaimed event format to Chelsea, which has for 9 years attracted contemporary art collectors in their thousands to East London. Moving from Shoreditch to Chelsea marks a year of radical change, as Moniker continues to push the narrative of urban art, and its role on the London art scene, Moniker’s reinvention in Chelsea will pioneer its future-forward outlook.

Over the past decade, the fair has embraced risks and it seeks to prove how powerfully the immersive and experiential fair format can stimulate audiences and win over the next generation of contemporary collectors. As much a festival as an art fair, Moniker has evolved since its East London foundation and the scene’s inevitable global transience means it can embrace its transient roots as it relocates.

The five day arts festival will include a daily talks and film program hosted by The Art Conference, Live Dj’s, art workshops, immersive experiences and a selection of food and beverages.


OPENING TIMES

___

VIP + COLLECTORS OPENING: Wednesday 2 October | 3pm - 10pm

PUBLIC PREVIEW: Thursday 3 October | 3pm - 10pm

Hosted by Creative Debuts

PUBLIC FAIR DAYS

Friday 4 October | 1pm - 9pm

Saturday 5 October | 11am - 8pm

Sunday 6 October | 11am - 6pm

Create! Magazine was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview one of the highlight artists who will be exhibiting at the fair, Ken Nwadiogbu. Ken is a Nigerian visual artist whose practice is primarily centered around hyper-realistic drawings and is inspired by gender equality, African cultures, and black power.

You actually studied civil and environmental engineering in school so how did you pivot to focusing on art?

Interesting question. If you’re from Africa, you’ll understand that nothing says “value” more than a university degree. Not just any degree, but either from Engineering, Law, Accounting or Medicine. So from a young age, the society starts, subconsciously, breeding this hunger; regardless of it being your passion or not. This was my case. Everyone wanted me to be an Engineer, and it became a subconscious part of me, even tho I loved drawing.

I entered into Civil and Environmental Engineering in the University of Lagos. Was doing pretty well till I stumbled on someone drawing the Dean of the University at that time. Everything changed from there. The feeling of Art started coming back, the hunger begun to grow, I begun researching and asking questions- “how did he draw that?” Study brought hunger.. hunger brought addiction... addiction brought love. And that’s how I feel deep in love with art in the first year of my university.

Was it something that you were always interested in or pursuing on the side?

I never thought I’d be a visual artist 7 years ago. All I thought was, I was gonna be an Engineer. The moment I started art, my mindset changed and this slowly drifted my attention from my studies into my art. Couldn’t quit Engineering, cause to everyone, the excuse was “a taboo”, so I had to get that certificate, prove I had that value, then pursue art exactly how I wanted to pursue it. “Art is not lucrative”, they’d say. “Art is for the poor”, “Art is for the dumb”... so many wrong perception... but I’d not blame them, I’ll blame the society for the lack of knowledge and exposure, and the government for the lack of support to the Nigerian art scene.

Your work is described as being part of the Contemporealism movement. What do you see as the core principles of this style of art?

I started off doing Hyperrealism as my mentors range from the likes of Carole Feuerman to Chuck Klose. But you see, one would describe hyperrealism as a genre of painting and sculpture, resembling a high resolution photograph... Just that.

For me, I’ve always wanted more, so what I try to do with my work is not just creating high resolution photographs but incorporating with it- the 3-Dimensional illusion and figurative elements born from conceptual ideas and contextual narratives. In some sense all I’m trying to do is deploy elements of contemporary art or illusions of form and space, usually, to create emphasis in the narrative I portray. With this style, I get to display Hyperrealism in a ‘unique Contemporary way’.

Tell us about where you find inspiration for your art and how you use art to express ideas on social and political issues.

It started with me being extremely disappointed with a lot going on in my country. Then I figured, every country has same issues, just with different names and profiles. This pushed me to create art to attack this abnormality- To listen, To speak, and To change a wrong socio-political ideology. I believe that with my visuals, the narratives I portray, and my actions, I can, in some way, change the world to see value as I see it- a conscious act to build worth from within.

What is the art scene in Nigeria like and what did you do to push beyond it at a young age to begin showing internationally?

The art scene in Nigeria is a growing one. The likes of ArtX, Omenka, Artyrama, Rele, and Retro Gallery are changing the narrative by showing upcoming amazing visual artists. But that’s just few out of the numerous galleries around the country. The scene is changing, and I believe it’s only a matter of time. For me, I’ve always seen myself exhibiting internationally... I’ve always seen myself in the likes of Christie’s and Sotheby’s, making global moves like Kehinde Wiley and Kerry James Marshall, birthing strong narratives like Ai Wei Wei, and still being as contemporary as Damien Hirst. I’ve always seen myself as more, so I went for it and it has taken me thus far.

Can you share a bit of what you will be exhibiting at Moniker art fair coming up in October?

A plethora of works that show black presence and value. Works made as of January to August, 2019 in Nigeria- a time when the country went down in value- both politically, financially, and economically... and holds the record of housing one of the highest cases of fraud in the world. A very strong time for me, as a Nigerian and as a Visual Artist.

The Value of Nothing III (2019) (1).jpg
Studio Sunday: Michelle Lee Rigell

It is the last week of our show ‘Pilot’ with PxP Contemporary so this Studio Sunday highlights one of our invited artists, Michelle Lee Rigell. She is a contemporary realist painter who is based in St. Louis and we have featured two works from her ‘1,000 Crane Project’ in the exhibition. Read on to learn more about her creative practice, studio space, and exhibitions for the rest of the year!

Bio

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Michelle Lee Rigell is a St. Louis-based contemporary realism artist who works in acrylics. Since 2015, Rigell has shown her work in several locations in the Greater St. Louis area including SOHA Gallery, Art Saint Louis and fundraising art events such as Wall Ball for Artscope and Art of PAWS for St. Louis Effort for AIDS. Rigell also volunteers as an instructor and is the assistant director of Arts As Healing Foundation, a nonprofit organization that brings the therapeutic benefits of art to cancer patients and those with chronic illnesses.

Statement

I tend to gravitate toward subjects that evoke nostalgia and whimsy. I am currently working on a project called the "1000 Crane Project" because of my childhood love for origami. When I wasn't drawing or painting, I was constantly folding origami. My goal is to capture the beauty and precision of origami while incorporating the flawed nature of wrinkled papers and used wrappers and labels of some of my favorite childhood American products.

Cranes are also a symbol of good fortune and longevity in Korean culture. They have been an apt subject matter in my life because rediscovering my passion for painting began as a way to cope with my miscarriages and difficulties with infertility. I am a firm believer that art can provide healing, and I want to be able to help others heal by providing a sense of sentimentality and humor through my art process and experiences.  

MichelleRigell_LuckyJar.jpeg

How did you first become interested in art and can you explain a bit of how it led you to the work you create today?

I’ve loved art for as long as I can remember. As a child I wanted to be an animator and graphics designer like my uncle, the other artist in our family, but in high school, I focused on getting into medical school. I was convinced by the adults in my life that this was a more practical career path, but ultimately I chose not to pursue a career in medicine after graduating from college.

After moving to St. Louis for my husband’s medical training, my mother-in-law encouraged me to take art classes. When I signed up, it never crossed my mind to pursue a career in art because I didn’t have any formal education in art and I had lost a lot of confidence in myself. Around the same time, I had a miscarriage and my second not too long after, so it was a period filled with a lot of hurt. Fortunately through the classes, I met my mentor and began volunteering for the Arts As Healing Foundation, reigniting my passion for art and opening new possibilities for me. I went on a long and roundabout journey back to an art career, but now I am sharing my love for art to others who need it and love it with more appreciation and passion than when I was younger.

We love that your work is so fun and whimsical with hints of nostalgia. Can you tell us about what inspires you and the story behind your series of origami cranes specifically?

A few years ago for Christmas, my mentor gifted me a glass jar with the Chinese character for happiness and good fortune on it. Along with art, I also loved origami growing up, so I decided to fill it up with cranes, which then led to an even better idea of painting them.

Before my “1000 Crane Project”, I was already painting nostalgic subjects like record players, musicians, vintage signs using earthy, dark tones; I grew up listening to a lot of Oldies music. But as I gained more confidence in myself and my work, I wanted to experiment with bolder compositions and colors. I had found the perfect subject that was not only iconic and symbolic but had been a big part of my childhood as well. Instead of using crisp, new sheets of paper, I thought it would be more interesting and challenging to make cranes with wrinkled, brightly colored candy wrappers that are sometimes more plastic and wax than paper. It would give me more opportunities to play with lights and darks to create all the tears and odd folds. And who doesn’t love candy? As long as I can bring a smile to the viewers’ faces, I know I’ve done a good job.

MichelleRigell_MiniProject.jpeg

What is your process like? Do you do a lot of sketching or make work more intuitively?

I fold all the cranes I paint first. Occasionally I’ll go on a folding spree and fold whatever piece of paper or candy wrapper that catches my eye, so that later if I need inspiration or a new idea I can go through ones I’ve already folded. Sometimes I have to do a little cutting and taping supplemented with thumbnail sketches especially with the candy wrappers, so I can get the right labels and patterns to show through. I prefer to paint from my still-life set up, but I also take photos to refer back to because the cranes are tiny.

Describe your current studio or creative space. What is most important about it or one thing that you definitely need in your work area?

Currently my studio is in our guest bedroom. I’ve tried almost every other room in our house before settling into where I am now. The guest bedroom has the best lighting as it faces north with lots of windows. I try to take advantage of the natural lighting as much as I can, so my colors don’t shift. For me, lots of sunshine leads to lots of motivation and productivity. I would eventually like a space where I can make larger paintings and move more freely, but I also like being comfortable and having everything I need at home.

MichelleRigell_studio.jpeg

What is your favorite thing about being an artist?

One of my favorite things about being an artist is being able to express myself but also being able to have a safe place for me to tune everything out. The other is that I never stop learning as an artist. I’m continuously finding ways to improve my technique and to challenge myself to elevate my artwork.

Do you have any big collaborations, projects, exhibitions, etc going on during the rest of the year that you'd like to share?

I recently finished a piece that will be up for silent auction on August 3rd at this great fundraiser, Art of PAWS by St. Louis Effort for AIDS. The proceeds help patients care for their furry companions so they can focus financially on their healthcare. I will also be in a four-man exhibition at the Angad Arts Hotel in downtown St. Louis from August 2nd to October 26th.

MichelleRigell_Profile2.jpeg
Kendra Haste

Kendra Haste is a renowned contemporary animal sculptor working with the medium of galvanized wire.

Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1998, Haste has established a significant reputation in her field with work included in collections world-wide. She is a member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, the Society of Wildlife Artists (UK) and a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists (USA).

Public sculptures in the United Kingdom include an elephant at Waterloo Station, London. Thirteen works at the Tower of London, commissioned by Historic Royal Palaces in 2010 and a rhinoceros at Cannon Hall Museum, Barnsley. Her work is also in the collection of the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming.

'What interests me most about studying animals is identifying the spirit and character of the individual creatures. I try to create a sense of the living, breathing subject in a static 3-D form, attempting to convey the emotional essence without indulging in the sentimental or anthropomorphic.’

Artist Statement

Animals have held an obsessive fascination for me throughout my life. Their diverse form, nature and behavior provide a rich and inexhaustible depth of subject. Animals have been for many years and continue to be the sole focus of my work as a sculptor.

The apparent ordinariness of wire and wire mesh belie their expressive potential and provide ideal material for my sculptures. Drawing is integral to my work as an artist and is perfectly matched by the linear qualities of wire. No other material I have ever used has been able to suggest the sense of movement and life, of contour and volume, the contrasts of weight and lightness, of solidity and transparency - values that I find in my natural subjects. It is the perfect medium, inviting continuing exploration and challenge.

I have been privileged to study many of my subjects in the wild; amazing expeditions, whether tracking tigers in India, or following wildebeest migrations through Tanzania. Direct and intimate study of animals is essential. I spend much time in zoos drawing the phenomena of anatomy and musculature, however, such analysis does not overwhelm my work for it is the spirit and energy of the subject that I fundamentally seek to convey. My sculptures are depictions of individual animals I have encountered, those I have spent time observing or who have left a deep impression on me. These are unique portraits, rather than stereotypical, generalized interpretations of a species.

I was brought up in London, a childhood with few animals and little experience of wild places or even the countryside. Mine was very much an urban experience, separate from the natural world. My attraction to wild animals was born of the desire to connect with and discover something in their nature which has long ago been lost within ourselves. These pre-occupations became obsessive and led me to study, in particular, the larger mammals and of course primates with whom we share so much - flesh, blood and muscle as well as traits of behavior. But it is other quite unique aspects; the sense of another being, an individual spirit, inherent in each animal that is the true subject for my work.

Images courtesy of the artist. See more of her work on her website.

Mary Iverson

Mary Iverson’s spectacular paintings offer a contemporary spin on the grand landscape paintings depicting America’s national parks and monuments. She carefully dissects seemingly serene places of incredible natural beauty, like the Grand Canyon and Mount Ranier, through countless lines cutting across the compositions. These lines transform each environment, as they alter your perspective. Creating even more visual conflict, an array of shipping containers disrupts each landscape. It is as if an apocalyptic disaster has occurred and we are witnessing its aftermath, its effect on the natural environment.

“Her paintings explore the balance between the natural world and industrial activities, inspiring conversations about the causes and consequences of climate change.”

In her painting Campers, unconcerned bathers are about to be crushed by a shipping container avalanche. When people are present in her work, it becomes ridiculous to the point of comical that her subjects do not seem alarmed by the presence of these invasive shipping containers, creating a parody of our disinterest in the effects taking place in nature due to our influence. It appears that destruction and disaster have occurred in Iverson’s paintings, and at the hands of human material. Her work points out the dangers of human influence on the environments we so willingly modify and consume for economic means. 

Mary Iverson currently lives in Mount Vernon, Washington, where she teaches visual art at Skagit Valley College.  

www.maryiverson.com