Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vilela Valentin - Desire and Need

Vilela Valentin: The Plane Eater, 2016

The human psyche is a complexity of meaning and counter meaning. It is the system that we live with, both knowingly and unknowingly. It is part of our dreams and our realities, our figments and our concrete knowing. It is the self that sways in the breeze of our conscious and unconscious modes, our very personal and individualised conscious and subconscious self.

The subconscious has fascinated artists ever since it was named, and long before that. Our subconscious is our natural self, the self that cares little for social niceties, for rules and regulations, for standards, and for what others might think of us. Our subconscious deals with desires and needs, it deals with our drives and our ambitions, and that is an intoxicating draw for many artists including the painter, illustrator and designer Vilela Valentin.
Vilela Valentin: Brain Machine, 2016
Vilela Valentin: I let You Suck My Lollipop, 2016

Vilela was born in Rio de Janeiro, but now makes his home in Portugal. He regularly exhibits across Europe and has had his work published in a variety of magazines and journals. He is a popular and well liked artist, with a big fan base.

Interestingly, Vilela has a heavy background in human psychology. He has a degree in psychology, as well as a masters in clinical psychology. This places him at a point where, as an artist, he can equally balance both human creativity and human psychology.

Vilela Valentin: Catching the Bird, 2016
Vilela Valentin: Have Wet Dreams, 2016

His work is a powerful portrayal of the human subconscious. He often deals with the deep rooted needs, desires, and affections that are so much a part of who we are, but that we so often find so painful to show, or perhaps more tellingly, admit to having.

We are creatures of the earth, and being creatures of the earth, we have earthy needs and desires. We are sexual creatures, we are emotional creatures, our bodies tingle with desire and drive, and yet we so often muffle those desires and drives, allowing our conscious selves to flagellate ourselves for what is nothing more than our human nature. 

Vilela Valentin: The Cock Painter, 2016
Vilela Valentin: I Can Keep Control

We castigate ourselves for our needs and our desires, so that they end up deep within ourselves, deep within our subconscious. And when those needs and desires do bubble to the conscious surface, we are made to feel shame and loathing, as if our subconscious is either in error, or worse, not a part of us.

But we disown it at our peril. We are our subconscious self as much as we are our conscious self. We have to embrace our desires, our imagination, our needs, and we need artists to project that understanding of  our full self, and to tell us that it is ok.

Vilela Valentin: Rainbow Sprinkles Cake, 2016
Vilela Valentin: Diavolo, 2016

Vilela makes no compromise. His work is beautifully produced, and beautifully posed, and directly connected to desire and need. His compositions show and tell. They show us who we are and who we are allowed to be, and more importantly, who we have always been. Vilela's work also tells us about connection with need, connection with desire, and they are powerful drives in us all, and no one, no matter how much they protest, is immune from that.

Vilela is an important artist because he understands what it is to be human, a full human, and he is honest and clear about what that entails. That honesty is precious and it is important that his work is seen for what it is, a celebration of humanity, a celebration of humanity in its fullness, in its needs, and in its desires.

Vilela Valentin: Two Kingdoms, 2016
Vilela Valentin: I Love When You Lie To Me, 2016

More of Vilela's work can be found at his comprehensive website: http://vilelavalentin.weebly.com/
he can also be found on social media at: twitter, facebook, instagram

Please be aware that all of the images illustrating this article were provided by the artist. Please do not reproduce without permission from the artist. Thanks!

Monday, January 09, 2017

Akiko Suzuki: The Spaces Within Life

Everything in the world is in transit, in fact everything in our universe is in transit. There is always movement from one space to another. Nothing stays within one space, nothing lasts for an infinity within the physical world, including ourselves. It is one of the perceived tragedies that is life, but it is also one of the meanings of life. Life in transit is life. 

We are physical creatures of finite experience. We play the role of a fixed entity with a handful of senses, and yet we are at the same time, so much more. We understand and can participate in the larger realms of experience. We can push ourselves to explore the spaces between things, whether they be the silences between things, the stillness between things, the nothingness between things.

Photo Credit: Jaya Su Su

Artists in particular, have a penchant for experiencing other realms, other moments and spaces. They explore what it is to see events from perspectives outside of our immediate senses, of our immediate daily lives, and that is an invaluable gift. In fact, so invaluable a gift is it that it has become a big factor in how we maintain and develop our very humanity. 

The contemplative artist Akiko Suzuki plays within the inner zones, the inbetween zones, the outside zones. She is an artist that deals with the space between physical objects, between feelings and emotions, between ideas and ideals. As she says herself:

"My art is of invisible things, things that cannot be expressed in words; phenomena prior to the clarity of thinking; the sensation of the skin, the weight of the breath, the vision too much for the eyes to behold."

Akiko's work is sensitive, contemplative. She gives us life from unusual angles, life from convex perspectives. She shows us the intimacy of moments, of life beyond the horizon of our everyday understanding. Her work can show us the ordinary writ as extraordinary, of finding the beauty in a moving shadow, a still face, a resting hand.

This is an artist that looks beyond, through, and around our world, our human world. She can sit on the other side and view life as it truly is, rather than as we imagine it to be. It is a life that goes beyond the constraints of the finite, of the transitory, it is at one and the same time everything and nothing, life as space, as entity, as enigma.

To appreciate the work of Akiko is to appreciate that distinct essence of more than. Whether it be more than the singular perspective that she shows us, whether it be more than the singular experience that we perceive as life, she gives us more than. Through her work she gives us an understanding that there is always more, an infinity of more. 

It is our experience of life that gives us meaning, understanding and trajectory. For us to get the full flavour of that life we have to be able to contemplate the spaces, the moments that artists like Akiko explore and then project forward for us to receive. Those all too human moments, of the response of our skin to stimulation, the breath we hold and exhale, the murmur we hear from another, the soft shadow that we see pass over our hand. All these are priceless, never repeated, and transitory. Welcome to the beautifully contemplative world of the artist Akiko Suzuki.

More of Akiko's work can be found on social media sites: facebook, instagram

Please be aware that all of the imagery used for this feature were kindly supplied by Akiko, she therefore owns the copyright of the imagery. Thanks!

Monday, January 02, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Writing On The (Toilet) Wall by Mon Graffito

Vulgarity, what does it mean? Wikipedia denotes vulgar as common, coarse, unrefined. So who makes those decisions? Who is it that decides what is vulgar, what can be vulgar, and what can be excluded as vulgar? Vulgarity is so often a personal perception, though it can also be a communal, even national one. 

As far as creativity is concerned, vulgarity is an unfocused area, one that often shifts and meanders depending on the artist and their perspective. Some artists use common perceptions of vulgarity in order to emphasise a point, others to underline an assumption, others still, use vulgarity to set a scene, and yet others embrace vulgarity as a necessity, an integral part of the human condition. That is the space that Mon Graffito takes up in his latest book The Writing On The (Toilet) Wall.

We are all flesh and blood, we are all physical in our make up, our character, our essence. To pretend otherwise is delusional at best, dysfunctional at worst. Our needs, our urges, our drives are not evil, tainted, or inappropriate. When it comes to sex, those needs, urges, and drives are integral to our character, to our physicality. 

We are sexual creatures by nature, it is an integral part of the glory of who we are. Why then should it be seen as something less than, something hidden, something not talked about in polite society? Should we not revel in our sexuality, as much as we revel in our thoughts and in our actions? Mon Graffito takes the discomfort that many feel towards the public exclamation of sex and sexuality, and writes it on the wall, on the toilet wall to be specific. 

There is a long history of messages, assignations, meetings arranged on the toilet wall. Public toilets have been 'haunts for depravity' since there were such things as public toilets. Gay sexuality in particular used the public toilet system as connection points for intimacy, places for the sanctity of sex, cathedrals of need, urge, and drive.

Mon Graffito has taken that history of sanctity and used it as the essence for this book. As he terms it himself, it is a book of: "...sleazy graffiti, drawings and immoral poems and some colourful pages, from cave paintings to Mon Graffito." This is a writer that revels in the physicality of life, and in particular, the physicality of sex. The book is strewn with illustrations of the enjoyment of sex, whether singly, as couples, or groups. All are relevant, important and vital. They are a glorification of what it is to be alive, and what it is to feel that life pulsing through and out of you.

Mon Graffito's poetry cascades across the book. There are encounters, reminiscences, thoughts. There is humour, sadness, analogies and moments, all part of the cavalcade of life whether Mon's or the readers. All of us understand that our lives are full of moments, scenes, vignettes. Some are tender, some are fumbling, some are full on train wrecks, but they all go to make up who we are, and who we are to others.

Reading through this book, you soon begin to realise that the vulgarity that you perceived is actually an illusion. The spit, sperm, piss that are an integral part of the illustrations and poetry of the book, are also an integral part of who we are. They are all bodily fluids, part of the essence of being alive, being vital, being human, they are not grotesque travesties, they are warm, connective, collaborative. 

The Writing On The (Toilet) Wall is not a book to be dismissed lightly. It is an important reminder that we are rooted in the earth. Yes, we may well have lofty ambitions of touching the heavens, that is admirable, but we should never forget that we will always have, and must always have, one foot firmly rooted in the mud of the physical. We are guts and bones, the expansive and the pumping. We are the needs, urges, and drives of the physical body, we are the spit, sperm, piss, and shit of life. If we forget that, or refuse to integrate that into our lives, then we lose the ability to be human. 

Vulgarity is common, course, unrefined, and long may it continue to be so.

The author has made it clear to me that he is more than welcome for comments to be emailed to him, whether they be comments of celebration or outrage, all are good to him.

The Writing On The (Toilet) Wall can be purchased via Amazon

You can connect with the author via Facebook

Monday, December 19, 2016

Emanuela Cau - A Life Less Hidden

Artists always bring experience with them, it flows through their work, it flows through their interpretation, it colours their perspective. We are all a conglomeration of our experiences, factors of need and understanding, most never join the dots, connect the experiences in order to chase something new, something tangible, but some do, and more often than not, those some are artists.

The Italian art photographer Emanuela Cau has been an actor, a director, an editor, a storyteller, a creator. She has brought a whole raft of creative experience with her to her present position, and it shows.

Emanuela's work is full of stills which give the distinct impression that they are from a much larger story, which of course they are. There are flavours of what could be, and flavours of what have been, but also flavours of the moment that is, a frozen access to the unique world of Emanuela, whether from her story as actor, director, editor, or from her story as girl and woman, or indeed the story of a human growing up in, and beginning to understand her environment.

Emanuela says that she is aware of the child within her, the one that still sits deep within her experience, and deep within her psyche. This is the child that all of us have, but that few can ever see, or can ever grasp hold of. Emanuela gently holds the hand of her inner child, her psychic infant, encouraging it to play and imagine, to fantasise and charm.

This is an artist that understands her makeup, her inner mechanisms of heart and soul. She understands that there is still wonder, still storytelling, still imagination deep within her, Those elements of wonder and imagination, flow out and through her inner child, becoming the outward work of her art photography.

Emanuela uses the best muse, the best sitter, and the best model that she can find, which is herself. She is her work, her manner, her character, they all pervade her compositions, giving each piece a haunting honesty and vulnerability of intent. This is the story of an artist, the story told in capsules of remembering, capsules of drama, capsules of intense storytelling.

This artists work is full of symbols, allegories, tragedies and hope, it is her creative diary of self. It is Emanuela's daydream of intent, the world that clearly is part revealed, but also part hidden. It is the world of twilight, where segments of our imagination have more room to breathe, more room to be themselves. 

A life less hidden is a life more lived, and perhaps that is part of what Emanuela is trying to show us. That there is more to life than our everyday experience, our trip to work, our conversations about the norm. There is another slice of the world, one less imagined by many, but no less real for that fact.

More of Emanuela's work can be found at the following sites:


Please be aware that all imagery used for this feature were kindly supplied by the artist, any reuse of this imagery must be permitted by the artist. Thanks!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Manel Ortega and Muse

What is a muse? In Greek mythology a muse was/is an inspirational goddess of science and art, a source of fundamental knowledge, an age-old connection with the beating heart of the cosmos. Today, a muse hasn't really strayed far from the original, they might have lost their anchor in the sciences, but muses are still going strong in the arts.

Contemporary muses are more often than not mortal, though I am sure some artists still call upon the ancient Greek muses from time to time. A mortal muse can be the connection between the artist and their work, the artist and their audience, or the artist and muse direct. There is no firm, set relationship, the connection depends upon the artist and the muse, it can be strong and long-lasting, or it can be fragile and short-lived, that it is often intimate and complex, goes without saying.

The relationship between the art photographer Manel Ortega and his muses is always inspirational, always productive, always a step forward in creative self-discovery, and creative self-reflection. Manel, who was born and raised in Granada in Spain, and then worked extensively in his own independent photographic studio in Barcelona, now lives in Brighton in the UK.

A photographer who works across a range of subjects, producing work and projects for a series of different outlets, many of them prestigious and worthy, this is a photographer that never loses contact with his foundation. That foundation is the connection he has between himself as artist and lens, and that of his sitter/model, the muse.

When I invited Manel to be a feature artist, he purposely set about producing an exclusive photoset feature for this site. In particular, he was keen to highlight a set of photos that would project the connection that is most important to him in his work, that of himself as artist, and that of the sitter as muse.

In that respect, Manel has arranged this exclusive photoset around one individual, that of Phil Shaw. Phil is photographed in a variety of poses, in a variety of costumes, and in a variety of conditions. he is shot in black and white and colour, portrait and figure, full front and angled.

Manel says of Phil: "A muse is a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist, this is Phil for me." And it works really well. Manel obviously has a connection with Phil, there is a direct sensitivity to the individual from the artist, which is palpable. But there is also a trust seen between muse and artist, Phil portrays confidence in the artist and lens. It is a relationship that is in a feed loop, artist and muse energising each other, and that is such a great thing to see, and an even greater thing to experience.

As Manel says about the photoset with Phil: "It was very inspirational to work with him to create those portraits for you, a very interesting experience." And that's what it's all about, inspiration and experience. That is why the muse is as important today as it was in ancient Greece. The arts need their muses, and artists need those muses for connection with creativity. 

It isn't a matter of artist and dumb, static model, a muse is something else entirely. An artist needs to see and interact with subject, needs to understand that a relationship between the portrait and the artist is possible, even desirable. For an artist to only see the portrait model as a one dimensional tool, a mannequin of expediency is to miss an opportunity to go beyond the norm, to miss an opportunity to project real humanity, rather than creative affectation.

It is whether an artist understands the importance of this relationship, whether they understand that the person sitting for them is actually another breathing living human, and not just an inanimate thing. To see muse and artist as connectors, forging a creative relationship for the project at hand, shows how art can be much more than a solitary exercise. Manel and Phil give a literalness to the age old relationship between artist and muse, and shows that it is just as alive today as it has ever been.

I would like to thank both Manel and Phil for being part of this exclusive project. I would also like to say that all imagery used for this feature belongs to the artist. Therefore, Manel Ortega has copyright of all photography shown.

More of Manels work can be found on his website: www.manelortega.co.uk. Work can also be found at his instagram page.