Monday, February 20, 2017

FLORIAN HETZ


By his own admission the artist Florian Hetz central theme is objectification. Objectification is often seen as being defined as one of two things, it can be the transference of an entity into an object, or it can be the transference of an abstraction into an object. 

It can of course be be many other things as well, many other transferences, it often depends what word you place in front of objectification, but for the purposes of this article and of the work of Florian Hetz, we will go with the first two mentioned.



Florian hones in on avenues of the body, the body becomes both landscape and need. His photographs show both broad general vistas as well as a focused intensity. There is in each piece a balance between a sense of calm and a need, between a steadiness and an abandon.

Florians work shows us the beauty that is inherent in the human body. Not the generalised beauty of correct proportion, not that of the symmetry of perfection. No, this is about the beauty of the human body as small acreage, of seeing the human body as micro poetry, contained vignettes of being.



Florians work, through its objectification of self, helps us to understand and therefore see the beauty of a strained muscle, of a relaxed hand, of an open mouth, a downcast eye. 

These are compositions that both explore and celebrate the human vessel, the complex vehicle that we all know so well, but rarely take the time to really understand, or more importantly, to revel in. 



To see a tense or a relaxed shoulder as a composition in its own right, is to revel not only in the abstract beauty of that composition, to understand the detail and confinement of its objectification by the artist, but to also understand that through a defined close up Florian is also creating the material for a storyline for the viewer, a personalised interpretation guided only by the imagination of that viewer.

By removing the personality of the model, by removing any judgement as to the proportion and bearing of the individual, the artist frees up any expectations and any conclusions on the part of the viewer.



Some see objectification as a negative, perhaps the idea of the human condition, the human spirit being somehow sectioned off, corralled into bite sized pieces, doesn't sit well. But this would be a misunderstanding of the purpose of objectification in general, and of Florian's understanding of it specifically.

There is a staggering beauty here, whether it is the slow journey of a drip of perspiration down an extended throat, whether it is the eruption of a rouged bruise against a pale white background, whether it is an undulating smoke trail passing across deep toned skin. 



All are moments, never repeated moments, all part of the great adventure of humanity, both singular and general. These are achingly special moments captured by Florian as compositions that you can connect to, intimately understand, and expansively celebrate and cherish.



More of Florain's work can be found at: http://digitalaidsss.tumblr.com/

All of the imagery used in this article was provided with the permission of the artist. Please ask Florian before  using any of this imagery. Thanks!


Monday, February 13, 2017

STIOFAN O'CEALLAIGH/BALACLAVA.Q INTERVIEW



With the big drive for the securing of funding for the Balaclava.Q project to the end of this decade, it seemed appropriate to revisit and republish the interview I did back in October 2016 with the artist who is the driving force behind the phenomenon that is Balaclava.Q, Stiofan O'Ceallaigh.

In this interview, Stiofan clearly set out the aims, reasoning, and future of Balaclava.Q. It is a great interview with an individual that has focus and passion, drive and ambition, but all corralled into the need to help others. That is his gift and that is his mission.

As already stated, Balaclava.Q is in the midst of a funding drive in order to secure the future of the platform for the next few years. It would be wonderful if you could find yourself to giving a helping hand. Donations to the GoFundMe Balaclava.Q drive start at £5. Money can be given to the following link: GoFundMe. Thank you!

Where did the idea for Balaclava.Q come from?

My passion is people, my religion is people that is who I am, how I see life. For 14 years I worked with people, mostly artists. I created platforms for artists, in many different guises, different shapes and forms, different types of projects.
After that 14 years I made the decision to go back to my roots, to go back to being a working artist, something I had always been, but never really had the time for.

Being a working artist again meant that I became increasingly aware of what was going on within the art world, and there was definitely something happening, and it was happening on social media, regarding artists and their work. I noticed that more and more artists were sending out the message that their work was being systematically removed from various social media sites for no apparent reason.

I really felt the need to do something, to help in some practical way. There were a lot of artists out there creating really great work, but it was not being seen because it was in constant battle with social media censors.

I had heard about artists having duplicate profiles on social media sites, having three or four profiles on others. Running along those lines I thought a great way of not allowing the powers that be to keep a track of you, or the algorithm to be more exact, would be to wear a mask, that’s where the balaclava came in.

So the balaclava isn’t about hiding?

No, definitely not, and it is certainly not about shame. Shame was something I really didn’t want this project to be about. I really didn’t want people to think that Balaclava.Q was all about wearing a mask because you are ashamed of who you are. No, it’s not.

It is about emancipation, it is about freedom, it is about connectivity, it is about relationships. It is about opportunities, giving artists opportunities.

It is about an approach to art that is activism, emancipation, anonymity, transgression, identity, identification, subversive, subliminal, futuristic, dystopian, bringing all this and more together and allowing artists the space to reshape it through Balaclava.Q. That is just wonderful to watch, and wonderful to be a part of, and of course, there is no censorship, which as previously stated, so many artists suffer under. This is a free and liberating space for art and artists, and that is fundamental to what Balaclava.Q is about, freedom and the art of anonymity. It is about taking down the borders, and enjoying ultimate diversity, in whatever form that takes.

So what is the definition of Queer?

I went from being gay to queer. To me it is a spiritual and political stance in that you consider yourself to be ‘other’. The ‘Q’ on the end of Balaclava.Q obviously represents the word queer. Queer is the new punk, Queer is a punk aesthetic, it comes from punk.

Twenty or thirty years ago, considering yourself as ‘other’ would have been difficult, isolating even. But now, with the internet, finding others like yourself, finding connections, it’s unbelievably fast and easy to find your community.

To me, Queer is about trying to push things, creating new ideas for new realities, new perspectives, taking a view of the world where anything can be anything. It is only when you start labelling those ‘anything’s’ that it becomes its own construct, and then it gets walled in.

So – to me - Queer is a non-binary, non-label ‘other’. What you do with your sexual bits is of no concern to the project, or to me, it’s more about how you identify and what you want to say.

You talk a lot about diversity regarding Balaclava.Q. How important is that to you?

I am really, really passionate about diversity, and passionate that Balaclava.Q reflects the full diversity of who we are. As long as the face is obscured, the work can be about anything, and can include anyone, there are no exclusions and there never will be, I would encourage anyone to submit work to the site, and I would really love to hear from them. The stance taken is entirely up to the artist, so it can be political, sexual, fetishistic, dramatic, whatever you want it to be, it can be. The only real proviso is that you obscure the face, everything else is up to you the artist. I am keen to have a female, trans or non-binary perspective on the project and would welcome submissions from those communities. If you are out there, reading this then get in touch.

So where are you at the moment with Balaclava.Q?

Balaclava.Q is constantly evolving, and it is the artists that are submitting work to Balaclava.Q who are evolving the project. It’s already starting to reshape itself as it moves along. That’s really exciting for me, and what is even more exciting is that many artists are now creating new works specifically for the online gallery. So we are going to start having exclusives for Balaclava.Q, which is really cool.

Some artists have started to look at the idea of the face itself as a mask, how you can use emotions and expressions to hide how you are really feeling. Some artists are really getting conceptual and metaphysical about it as well. So all these different artists, different genders, all these different sexualities may well reshape the tagline of the project.

So things are getting really busy for you.

Really, really busy, lots of stuff coming in all the time. I am also getting a lot of positive feedback from people saying how great the website is looking, how cool the project is. What is really exciting is that artists are starting to take ownership of their galleries within Balaclava.Q, but also artists are spreading the news that the site is a really important project and platform, that the artists featured are exciting, I find that really inspirational.

I want this project to be constantly redefined by the artists that take part. I realise now, from my own journey through this project that the parameters of what is queer is constantly in flux. What is queer today will not be queer tomorrow.  It’s more than present, it’s omnipresent, and is constantly changing shape, and that is what I want this project to do, and that is what I feel is happening.

And finally?

When I started this project it was all about encouraging artists to feel empowered, to say what they wanted to say, and then to find other artists to resonate with, connect with, create opportunities with. That is what Balaclava.Q is doing and will continue to do.

What is really exciting is that it feels like the whole art community is now also beginning to see the power of connections, relationships, collaborations. That is where we are going as a community, I can feel it, and that is definitely where Balaclava.Q already is.

To find out more about the Balaclava.Q project, or to make a submission as an artist, visit:

To find out more about the artist Stiofan O’Ceallaigh, visit:


Monday, February 06, 2017

PURIFICACION NAVARRO: CONSUMERISM S(MASHUP)

Purificacion Navarro: Ponyboy

Sometimes the best way to describe creativity is to see it as a cauldron. A cauldron of bubbling and popping potentiality, a crashing and binding together of what can be, what might be, and what should never be. Creativity is a whipcord of a statement, continually restless, continually melding, separating, and rebinding materials and ideas to form new horizons for the artist, new vistas for the viewer. It never ends, perhaps it never started, it is always entertaining, diverting, thought-provoking, and above all, creatively moving forward, always forward.

The weird and wonderful world of the artist Purificacion Navarro, has taken the ideal of the creative cauldron and set the contents bubbling away. This is an artist that smashes together ideas, ideals, concepts and notions, most of which would never have found each other without her guiding hand.

Purificacion Navarro: Detroit

Purificacion Navarro: Raver

To even begin to understand Purificacion and her work, you really need to know where this artist has set up her creative space. To quote the artist herself, her work entails such entities and concepts as: mutant dolls, vampires a go-go, zombies glam, toxic clowns, freak show, dirty chic, trash, underground, transformation and creation, art expressions, and many, many more.

Purificacion is an artist that brings together the weird bric-a-brac of contemporary life: magnetic letters, plastic nature, badges and cheap jewellery, dolls, keyrings, fat ponies and stick thin women, A statement of the bewildering schizophrenic miasma of merchandise, plastic moments from Disney to McDonalds and beyond.

Purificacion Navarro: Toro

Purificacion Navarro: Zelestia

These are fetish pieces for the twenty first century, cult items of the intensely needed, and the quickly discarded. It is wrong to think of Purificacion's work as having no real significance beyond the amusing, this is important stuff, and an important reflection of the world we find ourselves in the midst of. This artists work is a reflection of the junk pile of pointless consumerism. Buy a nutritionally flat meal from a fast food outlet and get yourself a  neutralised plastic toy that has a five minute attention moment before it is discarded along with the meal.

Having said that, there is also humour here, and humour in droves. There is the laugh-out-loud crashing of cutesy homeliness and restless irritation with the status quo. There is the surreal smashing together of a plastic dolls head into the body of a crab, there is Sesame Street and drug culture, My Little Pony and anarchy. It is plastic supernature, the morphing of the suffocating falsehood that is 'Facebook Friendly' with the wild abandon of the restless nature of Anarchy. 

Purificacion Navarro: Ponyboy

Purificacion Navarro: Robodog

We are in the midst of a world that seems to be endlessly battling between the fluffy pink bubblegum of sleep and the impenetrable black of restless anarchy. We are in the world of the bread and circuses of the Roman Empire. Keep the populace awash in a sea of cute plastic and leave the running of the planet to the purveyors of that plastic sea. Why question your role in this life when there are plastic cartoon sea creatures to collect? Question it, and you are an enemy of all that is good and decent, in other words, an artist.

Purificacion's artwork can never be shrugged at, not easily dismissed. It can be seen as a straight on mashup of life as it is lived, or it can be seen as something much deeper, much darker. Whatever you get from Purificacion's work, is what you get.

Purificacion Navarro: Acido

Purificacion Navarro: Tarumba

Lastly, the artwork of Purificacion puts me in mind of an old Tubes track What Do You Want From Life? The track ends with the lyrics: 

Well, you can't have that, but if you're an American citizen you are entitled to:
a heated kidney shaped pool, 
a microwave oven--don't watch the food cook, 
a Dyna-Gym--I'll personally demonstrate it in the privacy of your own home, 
a king-size Titanic unsinkable Molly Brown waterbed with polybendum, 
a foolproof plan and an airtight alibi, 
real simulated Indian jewelry, 
a Gucci shoetree,
a year's supply of antibiotics, 
a personally autographed picture of Randy Mantooth 
and Bob Dylan's new unlisted phone number,
a beautifully restored 3rd Reich swizzle stick,
Rosemary's baby,
a dream date in kneepads with Paul Williams, 
a new Matador, a new mastodon, 
a Maverick, a Mustang, a Montego, 
a Merc Montclair, a Mark IV, a meteor, 
a Mercedes, an MG, or a Malibu, 
a Mort Moriarty, a Maserati, a Mac truck,
a Mazda, a new Monza, or a moped, 
a Winnebago--Hell, a herd of Winnebago's we're giving 'em away,
or how about a McCulloch chainsaw, 
a Las Vegas wedding, 
a Mexican divorce, 
a solid gold Kama Sutra coffee pot, 
or a baby's arm holding an apple?

...and that says it all!

More of Purificacion's work can be found and bought at her Etsy page: Postdolls Art Universe

She can also be found at social media sites: Facebook, Ello

As always, the imagery is the property of the artist, and she should be contacted before you decide to reproduce any of these images.

Purificacion Navarro: Matrioxkas

Thursday, February 02, 2017

ART AIDS AMERICA: CHICAGO

Andres Serrano: Blood and Semen III, 1990 (chromogenic colour print, edition 1 of 4). Courtesy of the artist. Photo: courtesy of the artist

Art AIDS America: Chicago
Rock Hushka and Jonathan David Katz 
Exhibition Dates: December 1, 2016 - April 2, 2017

Albert J Winn: Akedah, 1995 (gelatin silver print). Courtesy: Scott R Portnoff. Photo: courtesy of the estate of Albert J Winn

Bill Jacobson: Interim Portrait #373 (1992) (chromogenic colour print). Photo: courtesy of the artist

This groundbreaking exhibition underscores the deep and unforgettable presence of HIV in American art. It introduces and explores the whole spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful, surveying works from the early 1980s to the present.

LADZ (John Arsenault and Adrian Gilliland): Eden #31, 2012 (chromogenic colour print). Courtesy of the artists. Photo: courtesy of the artists.

Tino Rodriguez: Eternal Lovers, 2010 (oil on wood). Photo: courtesy of the artist

Arts Aids America was originally organized by Tacoma Art Museum in partnership with The Bronx Museum of the Arts, where it was on display until September 25, 2016.  The exhibition is co-curated by Jonathan David Katz, director, Visual Studies Doctoral Program at the University at Buffalo (The State University of New York) and Rock Hushka, chief curator and curator of contemporary and Northwest art at Tacoma Art Museum.  

Marlene McCarty: Love, AIDS, Riot, 1989-90 (heat transfer on canvas). Collection of Bruno JaKob. Copyright Marlene McCarty. Photo: courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co

Roger Brown: Peach Light (1983) Copyright: The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Brown family. Courtesy of: Kavi Gupta. Photo: James Connolly


Admission to the exhibition and all programming held at the Gallery– artist & expert talks, panel discussions, performances, gallery tours, and HIV testing — are free and open to the public.

Joey Terrill: Still Life With Forget-Me-Knots and One Week's Dose Of Truvada, 2012 (mixed media on canvas). Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Foundation purchase. Photo: courtesy of Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

Monday, January 30, 2017

CLAUDE-MAURICE GAGNON: AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL IDENTITY

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: Untitled Series: Weird Heads, No 4, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

Identity of self is everything to us. We are our ego, we are our reflection, we are both self and projected identity. Artists have always used the notion of self as a creative ploy. To understand others you really need to understand yourself. You are never alone, never entirely unique, you share with others the joy and tragedy that is being human. Therefore, an artist discovers the human dimension, by discovering themselves. 

Through autobiographical identity, the artist Claude-Maurice reflects and explores the question of identity and self. This is an artist that discovered early on in childhood, that identity is fixed by society. He remembers being attracted to boys, of wearing his mothers clothes and reflecting on his identity in front of the mirror. He imagined play and seduction taking place between him and that of a fictitious man.

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: Trouble in the Family Series, No 1: Mother and Son Tragedy, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: Trouble in the Family Series, No 5: Father, and Daughter, and Brothers, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

His mother of course eventually discovered him, and punished him for his drift in identity from the 'norm' expected of a boy. It is from this moment that he realised that there was more than one identity. There was 'normal' and there was 'abnormal'. Take the 'abnormal' path and it would lead to a marginal life, a life shunned by the 'normal' majority. 

So, like many young people who find it difficult to fit into the accepted straightjacket of identity within society, Claude-Maurice internalised. He secured an internal private identity, his own 'norm', one that he shared with himself, his drawings, and his private diary.

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: Untitled Series: Weird Men, No 1, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: Untitled Series: Weird Men, No 1, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

As an adult Claude-Maurice studied anthropology and the history of art, and through this path he has learned that an understanding of 'reality', the reality as perceived by the 'normal' majority is just that, a perception, no more real than anything else. 

By understanding how that perception works, as an artist Claude-Maurice can produce work that can question the fundaments of that perception and therefore of the society that projects that perception 'norm'.

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: Trouble in the Family Series, No 2: Bad News, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: Trouble in the Family Series, No 3: Nobody Speaks the Same Language, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

By questioning the social structures of family, gender, sexuality, sexism, heterosexism, the marginality of outsiders, and in particular those suffering from mental 'disorders', Claude-Maurice gets nearer and nearer to the dysfunction that 'normal' society fails to acknowledge, a society that suffers from a severe case of blinkered mono-reality.

In the imagery of his artwork Claude-Maurice represents true diversity of identity through portraits, self portraits, family portraits. All give a genuine feeling of troubled confusion, of fear and strangeness. 

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: In the Bushes for the Same Desire, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: Untitled Series, No 2: Weird Men, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

Faces loom out of the mist, they sit within the soup of lost or losing identity. There is tragedy here, and there is hurt. The tragedy of a society that doesn't care to recognise all identities, only some, and the life-long hurt of living a partial life, seen through the bigoted prism of others.

These are powerful pieces, and Claude-Maurice does a great service in projecting views of his life, his identity. A life and identity shared by so many in this world of 'one size fits all',

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: Self Series, No 1, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: Untitled Series, No 4: Weird Men, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

More of Claude-Maurice's work can be found on Facebook

Please be aware that all imagery was supplied by the artist, and therefore all imagery is copyrighted to Claude-Maurice Gagnon.

Claude-Maurice Gagnon: Trouble in the Family Series, No 4: Sister and Brothers Playing in the Rain, 2017 (watercolour drawing and digital work)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Filip D Jensen: Intimate Tensions of the Mind

Filip D Jensen: Gore, 2016

Our world is framed by our experience, framed by our humanity. We are the product of our physicality as a native creature of this planet, but we are also the product of our mental capacity, our understanding of connection between ourselves and the world around us, and more importantly, our connection with our self.

We are a unique phenomenon on this planet, we are a creature that is aware way beyond ourselves, We are expansive, imaginative, inquisitive, capable of complex tapestries of the mind, weaving worlds within worlds. Our minds are one of the great vessels of this planet, one of its greatest achievements. 

Filip D Jensen: Honey, 2016

Filip D Jensen: Pornography, 2015

However, this mind, this otherworldly vessel is also one that can feed back into itself. It is a tool that can be used to process and produce unlimited amounts of sadness, pain, depression, longing. What can be expanded by the mind, can also be shrunk by the mind. Perspectives can be forever expanding horizons, or small contained boxes.

The mind is a vessel that has been a subject for artists since we have been able to think abstractly, which we have done since before we stood upright. There are many ways to interpret self, to interpret the non-physical, and the Swedish artist Filip D. Jensen has a fascinating way of projecting portraits of our human mental state.

Filip D Jensen: No Control, 2016

Filip D Jensen: Outside, 2016

Filip produces portraits that appear to focus on our physical selves. He produces compositions that contain individuals, couples, some interact, some stand alone, mute, many are deformed in one way or another, and all have little or no facial features. These are projections of self, inner self, they are extensions of our mind, of our capacity to live beyond ourselves, and in that respect, they are projections of tension, raw abstraction, and often painful deformity.

Deformity is in many ways an abstraction in its own right. It is a mask. When we see physical deformity, we see something not 'normal', something that sadly distorts or distracts us from seeing the individual as they truly are. We often fail to see beyond the deformity, and therefore the individual becomes a shade, a vagueness. 

Filip D Jensen: Lazarus, 2016

Filip D Jensen: Overcome, 2015

Although Filip's work uses deformity as part of the ideal of abstraction of the mind, that deformity also shows some of the complexity of limitations of that same mind. in a clever and profound way Filip measures and documents some of the difficulties of our life journey, through the complexity of emotions and feelings that are such an integral part of who we are, and what makes us human. 

Filip deals with subject titles such as: No Control, Outside, Pornography, Sour Times. These are subjects that are integral to who we are, integral to the flavour of humanity. We need them to be human, but we also need not to be dominated by them.

Filip D Jensen: Seated Figure With Monocle, 2015

Filip D Jensen: Deranged, 2016

We live our lives as a balancing act between expansion and regression of the mind. How we deal with both sides of that equation is one of the great continuing questions of self. That we need both in order to maintain a balance seems obvious, how we achieve that balance is up to the individual. 

Filip is an artist that expresses much with both candour and honesty. We are rarely an open book, but Filip does indeed open the book of the human condition. It is a rare site, but a welcome one, and one that we need to take notice of, and one that we need to understand and connect with, Filip helps us to do that.

More of Filip's work can e found at this comprehensive site: https://www.saatchiart.com/FDJensen

Please be aware that all imagery for this feature article was provided by the artist and is therefore copyrighted to him. Thank you!

Filip D Jensen: Sour Times, 2016