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Joseph Ari Aloi AKA JK5 – a book review

May 8, 2014







A week ago I marched down (or “trained” as I didn’t really go on foot and took the train, badum tisshhhhh) to London to meet up with Joseph Ari Aloi, the artist I interviewed a couple of weeks ago, and attend his book signing at the opening of Seven Doors Tattoo, on Fashion Street. I wanted to get some nice photos of the event but it was so crowded I didn’t even take my camera out. I have committed everything to my memory though, and I am so glad I didn’t miss this event.

Meeting Joseph has been an interesting experience in itself – you see, he is a very creative and complex person and his creative energy is extremely contagious. I don’t think anyone can remain indifferent to his character and intense personality, I know I haven’t. After I read the book it all made even more sense and I saw, by reading all the essays by other people, that I’m not the only one. Joseph is the kind of person with such a good and intense vibe that you can’t help but feel it. This time I didn’t get the chance to have a tattoo done by Joseph but it’s on my list of things I want to do in the future (maybe the next time I’m in NYC?). More importantly, I have gained a friend and those can be hard to come by.

The pages on his notebooks are a reflection of what goes on in his mind, always imaginative, always searching. The visual and verbal puns are extremely funny and clever – the ever present Star Wars references and the Hello Kitty ones especially made me chuckle. There are so many layers to Joseph’s work that you can stare at these pages for hours, go back and still find something new, some new meaning, a tiny hidden character or symbol. His spirituality, ideas, pain and happiness are all there, in an honest and overwhelming visual torrent, that is impossible to absorb in its entirety. His visual language is full of references, pop culture, logos, spirituality, toys, Star Wars, sex, symbols and rune-like pictograms. Some can be hard to decipher or understand the meaning of but that doesn’t take away from how visually stimulating it all is.

The book is a beautiful edition by Rizzoli, 240 pages of pure visual delight, a monograph of Joseph’s life and work over the last 12 years with a few pages of the previous years. You can find it on Amazon and selected bookstores everywhere – get it, you won’t regret it. I know I haven’t.

If you would like to know some more of Joseph’s work head on to: Tumblr blog and website.


David Bowie is…

July 31, 2013

One of the best exhibitions I’ve seen so far this year, if not the best, was David Bowie is at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The pre-sale tickets have been sold out for months now and I kind of had given up on the idea of seeing the exhibition at all. As I spent a weekend in London and my friends also wanted to see it we decided we would get out of bed early and be there for the opening of the Museum on Sunday morning. It worked like a charm. We still had to queue for half an hour to get some tickets but it would appear that 500 tickets are released every day for the day so if you’re there early, you can still get tickets.

Photography is not allowed in the exhibition so we’ll have to make do with some photos I took at the shop and around there with my phone. And why is this exhibition worth seeing? Well, lets just say that it is a feast for the senses. You are handed a head set when you get in and it will be activated with different sound bites as you go through the exhibition – sometimes it is music (it really made me feel like dancing while I was going through the exhibition), other times it is interviews ans commentary by several people. It was a lot to take in because there was a lot of people there I didn’t get to see everything in the detail I would have liked to (you had to queue to look at the peep holes on the wall, for example) and ain’t nobody got time for that.

This was extremely stimulating and almost too much to take in in such a short period of time. There are lots of things to see- outfits (the jumpsuits, oh my god the jumpsuits), memorabilia, posters, records, photos, videos… Everything! I already liked jumpsuits but seeing this exhibition really made me a convert.

It was amazing to see the personas David Bowie developed over the years, tapping into the current trends and culture. He takes in the influences from the world around him and brings it back out ‘bowiefied’ and adding completely different aspects to it. The world is then influenced by his work and it is so unique that it becomes an entirely new thing. Bowie took inspiration but didn’t copy anyone, he transformed things and made them his. The funniest reference I memorized was about Clockwork Orange- how it inspired some of the costumes, described as “Ultra Violence in Liberty fabrics“.

There was so much to see and so many layers of aesthetics and meaning it is difficult to convey in words. It’s going to be in London until the 11th of August and then it’ll travel the world. All I can say is GO SEE IT!




Rebecca Kunzi, ‘If I had a heart’

July 3, 2013

Rebecca is one of my work colleagues (and friend) with a secret identity – Financial services by day, creative artist by night. She recently made me aware of an exhibition of her own work at SIX Gallery in Bournemouth, how exciting! So I thought I should show her some love on the blog.

Here’s an insight into the work, taken from her website:

“The subterranean environment beneath our feet – and the Things buried there – act as a point of entry for me in this site-specific work. My research of Bournemouth’s underground inhabitants has led me to uncover Mary Shelley’s burial in St. Peter’s Church, Bournemouth. After Shelley’s death, a grim remembrance was discovered in her desk-box – the cremated remains of her husband’s heart. In this drawing installation I extrapolate marks from the wall and floor to investigate this unseen level of Bournemouth.”

I had a quick chat with Rebecca, as there is plenty more interesting things to say about this exhibition:

I was talking with another friend of mine as he was asking me to explain what I meant by the statement and I was explaining that in order to begin a project I need some kind of anchor. The anchor that I use is always the moon, because all literature about the moon ends up being stories about fear and misunderstanding because it’s a sort of other world, an above plane that we are unable to touch. It’s interesting that subterranean level, underground level literature about the moon are very similar, both have the same themes. I use the moon as my above anchor and I needed a below anchor which is why I researched Bournemouth and found out that Mary Shelley had been buried there. More interesting than that was that when she died it was discovered that she had this desk box and in it she had her dead children’s hair, a poem written by her husband and the cremated remains of her dead husband’s heart. This is because when he died in Italy the law was that to be buried in the British cemetery you had to be cremated first. When that was taking place the guy who was cremating him noticed that his heart was not burning very well so he took it and gave it back to Mary Shelley, who brought it home. So I’m hoping that it gives me a point in Bournemouth to look for more underground existing things happening on that level, and then I’m hoping with the drawing installation that I do I want to collapse the 2 plains so that they form on the same level in order to discover something new about Bournemouth. 

How would you normally describe your work?

My practice is drawing, I think it would fall more under the category of drawing rather than painting, even though I use wet media. It’s mixed media, so the drawing installation it is likely to be graphite, pen, pencil, then maybe some wire installation, I haven’t fully decided yet. My actual practice is drawing, if you were to observe it it’s considered abstract and it’s drawn from a philosophical understanding of bringing something new out. I would say that drawing to me is an experience of push and pull, so you pull something from it and push for other things to appear. I don’t really consider that I’m making drawing, I just facilitate it to be made.

Because we care a lot about clothes here, what was your favourite item of clothing when you were a child?

There’s a picture of me looking very pleased with myself with just a black top but I had these really large, in the sense that they were really baggy, red tartan trousers, that had this huge black belt, that looks like the Santa belt that you see on the costume. I don’t know why, everyone else hated them and thought I looked ridiculous but I really liked them, they must have been insanely comfortable, I don’t know. 

Although I won’t be able to go and see it, I can at least share it with blogland, in case anyone is in the vicinity. If you are, don’t forget to pop around, you won’t regret it! The exhibition opened for private viewing yesterday, the 2nd of July.


A little bit of soul

April 22, 2013

Maelcum Soul is an obscure character that I found out about in John Waters’ book Shock Value (I’ve written about it here). She was one of the original Dreamlanders (the group of people that participated in the making of John Waters’ films) and a great influence on him. ‘The descriptions on his book made me want to look her up as she sounded like a true original.

Maelcum Soul was her real name, and I was in total awe of her, until she dropped dead of old age in her twenty-seventh year, in 1968. Maelcum was the most astonishing bohemian I’ve ever known, and she influenced my twisted vision of how women should look more than any film, book, or painting. She was Baltimore’s top artist’s model and hostess/barmaid in the best bar in town – Martick’s. Maelcum’s everyday life was a self-promoted confrontation with the world. She’d walk down the street, and a riot would break out. She had maroon hair, wore chalk-white face powder, ten pairs of fake eyelashes, and more eye makeup than any girl has ever worn anywhere in the United States. Her trademarks were the eight-point star she drew on her cheek and the gobs of glue she used to fasten her spit curls to her face. Her clothes were the most theatrical imaginable, and she looked like this every day, every hour. She was a woman female impersonator. Only twice did I see her without her “look” and that was deep in the private bowels of her home. I was shocked to see how normal she looked underneath this incredible disguise.

– Waters, John, Shock Value 

Wouldn’t you want to see what she looked like after all this?  This was a lady that did vintage before vintage was mainstream and dared to go out to the pharmacist in green face make up. Crazy? Maybe a little, who knows? One thing is certain, this was creativity, this was art.

I researched it online and couldn’t find many photos but the few I did (and the ones on the short video on the bottom of this post) give an  idea of her style and beauty. She was taken from this world at a young age and in a tragic way. I thought I’d put a little outfit together inspired by her – it’s my little tip of the (floppy) hat to another creative soul.

“Follow No-one, Look Amazing”

Outfit details: Dress – H&M (via Ebay), Floppy hat – H&M (I brought it from Portugal, not very practical when you’re flying!), Flower belt – H&M (from the sale items I got last Thursday), Bracelets – River Island (got them the first time I went to Nottingham after I moved to England), Shoes – Irregular Choice (via Ebay)

I’m linking this up to Patti’s Visible Monday as there is nothing that makes anyone more visible than their creativity and personality (a big floppy hat also helps).


Meet and Greet – Sara Maia

April 10, 2013

Sara Maia is a Portuguese artist who has amazing work I think my blogging friends will enjoy. I met Sara Maia through friends and was immediately fascinated by her work. It’s so interesting and to me it conveys a lot of feminine strength. Much like the artist herself, who is an intelligent and strong woman! I thought I’d ask her a few questions for our enjoyment, so here they are.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was very small my first dream was to be a ballerina or astronaut. In fact, it would’ve been much more original to be an austronaut ballerina performing on other planets.
The books and tv series about Space fascinated me but I started with something more grounded – was 5 and asked to be taken to the ballet. I was taken to the local gym  and I was very disappointed because it was nothing like I imagined, there was only overweight ladies dressed in tracksuits. I thought that picture killed my dream a bit, I was expecting a super dance school or the Bolshoi theater. I tried to explain my idea better, I even said where I wanted to enroll but as I did not have any alternative, I installed an area  in my room to dance. The one who wasn’t amused with the idea was my brother, who shared a room with me. I actually wore ballet outfits every day to try and put some pressure on my family… I was always of fixed ideas 😀 …
I knew I had to go to any creative field, so later experimented with everything I could …

What was your favourite item of clothing when you were a child?

Interestingly my favorite dress was chosen by my grandfather, who ordered it from an English catalog. It very classic plaid, blue and red with a lace collar – too feminine, too classic for my tastes now. Perhaps because it came from abroad and chosen specially for me by my grandfather has made it more special.

What do you regret wearing but thought was extremely stylish at the time?

Ha ha ha my biggest disaster was something called shoulder pads. I remember I sew them in all my clothes –  sweaters, jackets etc and we looked like Rugby players, totally ridiculous and inelegant but very popular at my school.

What compels you to create in general?

I do not remember not drawing, for me is as normal as anything else. As I was a super shy girl, drawing became an advantage because the other school kids always asked me to draw things for them and I took advantage of it at the time.
Art for me is essentially the possibility of communication and realization of ideas, the reason is the sheer pleasure of performing, and the adrenaline rush to get to the end result.
So, say it starts as an absolutely selfish pleasure but as art presumes communication, you’re supposed to be an artist and not autistic. It’s anybody’s guess how the beholder will react but it starts with the pleasure and the need for making something.


What are your main inspirations?

Life, without a doubt! And all that is contained therein, ie the engine – it can be a movie, a newspaper story, a political situation, words from a song, etc. I doesn’t matter much – in fact, what interests me is to transform .
For me it’s my space of total freedom, people usually say that my work is violent although I use an ironic sense of humor … (I have been told  in openings that I should do yoga or meditation: – D) I do not filter much, maybe this can even lead to something unexpected …
What interests me essentially is the Human Being and hence my work is figurative, but not in the classic sense. I think there are recurring themes, such as the animal side versus rational, the constructed social hierarchies, etc..
Before I read a lot and it always generated enough ideas but I confess that now one of the sources that usually gives me a lot of ideas, not in a direct way, is to watch video clips. Nowadays there videos of amazing quality with very plastic solutions.

Who is or are your favourite artists?

This question is difficult to answer and often because I they have an endless list of artists for different reasons…
On my first trip to Paris I went to the Jean Dubuffet museum and raved, I think it was the first time I thought it might be fun to have this life.  I also like painters who can be considered a bit dark Ba, like Bacon, Caravagio or Goya, I obviously like fine art and it would be strange if it were not so. Some more recent – Lucien Freud, Paula Rêgo, Balthus, or other Ron Mueck, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman, Marlene Dumas, as these that address more directly some part of being human.

The artistic field is so open and diverse and has increasingly less borders. Every day I discover new and good artists, like James Turrell, Felix Gonzales Torres, love some more daring projects associated with the movement Land Art, and I follow some fantastic street art artists in which stands out  Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto or (Vills).

I could also say that there was an artist who was very important to my training, Eduardo Nery. His work is completely amazing and distinctive, with him I had the best conversations about art and he’s taught me a lot.

What has been your favourite project so far?

My favorite project is always what I’m working on at the moment or the next. What I like most is the fact that each exhibition is a new site, I have to work with new people, so no boredom … it pleases me very much!

Do you have any exhibitions planned  for the near future?

My next exhibition will be in early April, I am participating in the festival Belém Art Fest, where I’ll be showing a piece. I will also work with a Gallery Block 103 in May in Lisbon, just a few weeks ago I finished a collective project with the Gulbenkian Foundation and ISEG, and I have three more projects out of Portugal later this year and early next.

What’s your favourite hangout in Lisbon?

What I like most is when you go out at night and don’t make any arrangements with anyone and always meet friends. I enjoy doing the circuit Bica and Bairro Alto, and you hop to Cais Sodré, the usual round …

If money was no object, what would be your favourite place to be?

I’d go around the World several times without a doubt. The best thing I can think of is getting to a place and not knowing anyone or anything, having to find my way and get to know new people. I do not know if it is a syndrome of someone who grew up in a familiar city like Lisbon, I’ve been to Africa but would like to know better the entire America, India, Australia … well I think I’ll end up saying everything, but there is indeed a place that I always go back to in the Azores that is Sta Maria Island ..

When you travel, what do you always take with you?

My camera!

Thank you Sara for your time and thoughtful answers! If you want to see some more of Sara’s work click here.