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Hoyland, Caro, Nola


Hoyland, Caro, Nola


written by Julia Ahtijainen

january 2016

Visual art piece is like a novel, it provokes by telling a story. And all novels, of every age, are concerned with the enigma of the self. And I would say that the visual stories are even more selfish and self-motivated. If talking modernism, then there is a trio, three selfish gentlemen who skillfully play with our visual sense by revealing, they are John Hoyland, Anthony Caro and Kenneth Noland.

John Hoyland, one of the leading abstract painters in Britain, has once said, that paintings are there to be experienced, they are events. They are also to be meditated on and to be enjoyed by the senses, to be felt through the eye. And by this feeling one can experience the forgetting of being. Hoyland’s honesty drags you into his visual world, and six decades of dedicated visualization and fearless self-expression shows his mastery of the abstract art.
In the late 1950s and 1960s being lead by the experience of American Abstract Expressionism John Hoyland became friends Kenneth Noland and Anthony Caro. I keep on feeling that the world is small, and the friendship of these three cross-continental artists is a great example. It was a friendship that lasted and inspired, fed and influenced all three of them. That friendship gave the courage to step onto the next level of self-expressionism. To be a daring creative simply means you’re not afraid of your unique gift and you’ll do anything to channel it into something greater than yourself, and that is perhaps what can be said to summarize of Hoyland’s contribution into the world of abstract imagery.
Both Hoyland and Noland shared an interest in the possibilities offered by the new medium of acrylic paint: acrylic was crucial to Noland’s exploration of paint’s materiality and the possibilities of color, and for Hoyland it was becoming indispensable in enabling him to exploit distinctions between opacity and translucency, in his use of colors and forms and their dispositions.

Kenneth Noland is probably one of the best-known American Color Field painters, although in the 1950s he was thought of as an abstract expressionist and in the early 1960s he was thought of as a minimalist painter. I would say that Kenneth Noland is funky and playful, and at the same gracefully minimal. His works are definitions of modernism.

" To be a daring creative simply means you’re not afraid of your unique gift and you’ll do anything to channel it into something greater than yourself, and that is perhaps what can be said to summarize of Hoyland’s contribution into the world of abstract imagery "

One of my favorite pieces by Noland, Extent (1959), differs in it’s extent, from a shape and color selection, to the concentration point. It’s edgy yet warm, and friendly. It’s welcoming. Hoyland, Noland and Caro are similar, and yet so different, each one of them is a complete artist in itself. With their own narrative mode, they are never making a scene, they’re just being themselves.
The friendship of Caro and Noland had first begun in 1959 when Caro found his ideas sharpened by his encounters with the American artist, who was a leading figure among the post-painterly abstraction painters. Already well established as an important color-field painter and figure in the Washington Colour School, Noland left an indelible impression on his British peer with his commitment to the exploration of color’s psychic and phenomenological effects through serialized forms. The encounter had its influence on Caro’s practice, turning him away from the figurative style toward the kinds of geometric forms he had seen in Noland’s work.

Anthony Caro’s abstract sculptures challenge the irrational forces of the viewer’s soul. Caro violates the solitude of the viewer with his forms and transforms. His modernist works are usually characterized by assemblages of metal using 'found' industrial objects. And require advanced depth of feeling and meaning behind kind of a liquid architectural balance.
Caro’s sculptures are about contingencies and specifics: they evoke very particular emotions, thoughts and feelings depending upon the act of looking.

Helen Keller once said, that true friends never apart, maybe in distance but never in heart. From the mid-1960s onwards, the three artists continued to have a lively awareness of each other's work and maintained their friendship, meeting on both sides of the Atlantic, and keeping on perfecting their craft.
Hoyland, Caro and Noland all emerged in the wake of the first generation of the New York School and sought to continue the legacies of their abstract forebears. There is a great deal of reflection, study, experience, and passion behind it, but their tone is never serious, it is provocative.





written by Annika Hatje

january 2016

When walking through the streets of the modern global- city, one is surrounded by its wealth of impressions: Faces, facades of buildings, posters and screens, lining wide streets, packed with cars and traffic lights, and the flora, finely arranged.

For most actions, we don’t even need to think for ourselves – we are guided through foreign cities, our language is translated and even pronounced by our phone’s electronicvoice, a voice that we carry with us 24/7. And that’s fine. That certain comfort is well accepted all over and works in most global cities. the system has been adjusted and only varies in its range of facilities: Some cities employ busses, like Sydney, older ones prefer trams, like Milan, and some possess an ingenious subway net- work, like London. And meanwhile, we as products of the consumer society that continues to grow and to elaborate, we as vulnerable, fairly naïve human beings, go with theinsane speed of the global city, unable to notice how blind and insensitive we have become towards little changes, like our own well- being. therefore we’ve got treats, and nightlife, energi- zing food and drinks, medicine and creams. From day to day we wake up, breath, heal, fall ill, breath and heal – the cycle never stops, we call ourselves cosmopolites. That’s where Freudenthal / Verhagen do start from. With creating a multi-layered, almost dark and mysterious photograph, discomforting our visual impression, we’re forced to look beyond appearance to understand our incomprehension. We start questioning in general, if what we see is only a filter of the given truth.

An impressive step towards such developing mind-set dominates the artist’s video work. its surreal and unsettling screenings conti- nuously emphasize the fact that everything you see, cannot be trus- ted – with using the technique of layering, scenes are overlapped by others, comforting an impression or totally destroying it – i do here refer to their video work “Dear Mr./ Mrs”.

" Can we call such work pop art? Which genre does that piece of work belong to, as its range of colors does not match the typical palette "

Can we call such work pop art? Which genre does that piece of work belong to, as its range of colors does not match the typical palette. the meaning though, accusing nowadays blindness towards truth and insouciance, leads to such conclusion. 

Even Andy Warhol used these particular surfaces to create meaning in his work. Some might argue that his works, for instance the shoe series, only mirror the emotionless mass consumption in its single-layered “depth”. But we are comforted by what we see, so that the actual multi-layering is easily overlooked as it only gets visible, when having the knowledge about the artist’s oeuvre and his thoughts as well as being able to involve one’s own emotions. We almost forgot to feel actual interest, disgust or curiosity as our whole environment does comfort our eyes and minds. We ignore wars, climate change, even claim that such things doen’t even exist, only to live on in our own little bubble of single-layered, beauty. How moving the collages of Freudenthal / Verhagen become, when considering that we actually start thinking and wandering, when viewing their work. How overwhelming the feeling, when actually feeling real discomfort or even utter understanding. to claim that stepping out of such protected and externally controlledworldview would be devastating, wouldn’t be the right approach and truly not the intent of the artists. Without stepping out of our comfort zone, evident in the earthy, more or less dark grey color palette, they only give us a certain hint, a little whole (‘WHOLE’, an epic volume containing 25 years of their work), to be able to look behind and beyond given truths, so we start questioning and get back to our natural human behavior: we start being curios again! 

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America Martin

America Martin

When I dream,
I dream of colors,
big bold colors

written by Andreas Hübner

january 2016

“Artists are storytellers,” America Martin’s concept of art is that simple – and that brilliant. To her, each canvas is free-destined; her job is to pull a story out of the canvas and lay it on top. Colors are the medium to put the story into line and form. Skies of blue and grey, oceans of yellow ocher and lavender, dashes of yellows, pinks and turquoises make up her palette. The paintings of the Colombian-American fine artist are large-scale, often times 112 by 112 inches, her sculptures exceed her own body measures by far. She wants to move things bigger than herself, she wants to challenge herself, and she does so because she is a dreamer. She wants to defy and create a story in the process.

To grasp the story, Martin is well-prepared. Rubber gloves and baby powder are set aside. Cardboard, razor blades, and knee pads, acrylic and oil constitute her tool kit. Green tea, burritos, and Jack Purcell shoes are her helpers in long dreamy nights. Then, Martin looks at the canvas, and listens to the story. Parts of which are her own roots, her finger prints: “They are always there informing and coloring every choice you make. My Colombian roots definitely have an impact on what I find beautiful aesthetically and what I’m drawn to.” 

Martin fell in love with art when she was nine. One day, she bought a large-scale book of the works of Vincent van Gogh at a garage sale. Twenty-five cents were enough to change her entire life. At once, everything moved from black and white into color. Martin had found her language. Soon afterwards, she was to begin an eight year apprenticeship with Vernon Wilson. Van Gogh’s Crows over Wheat Fields had inspired her to become a fine artist, painter, and sculptor.

" To grasp the story, Martin is well-prepared. Rubber gloves and baby powder are set aside. Cardboard, razor blades, and knee pads, acrylic and oil constitute her tool kit. Green tea, burritos, and Jack Purcell shoes are her helpers in long dreamy nights "

Residing in Silver Lake, CA, where she and her husband turned a former drapery and manufacturing business into a sun-drenched workspace and gallery, Martin has come a long way. At the age of sixteen, she sold her first drawing. The buyer was the notorious Danny DeVito. DeVito had come across her works through a friend. His purchase encouraged Martin to pursue her dream. Suddenly she realized that she might have a chance of making it in the world of fine arts. A year-long stint at the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, further stimulated her dream and increased her interests in sculptural works. Still, Martin had to do it the old-fashioned way, knocking on Gallery’s doors, presenting work. In 2002, Joanne Artmann of Laguna Beach Gallery staged Martin’s first solo show. Countless other solo and group exhibitions in the United States were soon to follow. Galleries in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Austin and Atlanta are currently representing her works.

Now, at age 35, Martin has somewhat set on an artistic agenda. Most of her works are about line and human form. Lines are her means to generate stories; lines ignite the plot and, as she puts it, choose the story. Form illustrates a sense of enthusiasm and hope, and human form is a reference to what Martin sees. Women are omnipresent, mostly in manners that remind us of Picasso, Matisse and Braque. But, even more so, her paintings are about the characters she stumbles upon during her neighborhood and nation-wide field trips. To develop ideas, Martin transforms herself into an anthropological photographer, takes her camera on a stroll and encapsulates the things and people that surround her. In a way, Martin goes into a conversation with the people and objects she is photographing and, as she points out, she carries that conversation on to the canvas.

While a voyage to New Orleans has recently led her to a series focused on music and Jazz musicians, Martin has portrayed a variety of characters in the past, among them boxers, Native Americans and abstracted nudes. Often, these characters display a sort of misogyny, most manifest in their eyes. Indeed, people’s eyes are dominant in her works. The eyes seem to see everything; they reflect shadows, weights, texture and emotion. To Martin, these emotions provide for her inspiration for they express joy, vigor, dignity and boldness. For art enthusiasts, they are a beginning of a dream, a dream of colors, big bold colors. 

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Kohei Nawa

Kohei Nawa


october 2015

Kohei Nawa ́s art explores issues of science and digital culture while challenging viewers ́ sensory experiences. He is interested in industrial mass-production and often works with synthetic compounds, using them to mediate between ideas of the real and the virtual, perception and illusion. In September, Nawa exhibited at Pace London and explored the idea of force, which he conceived as a set of invisible operations dictating the behaviour of materials. On the first floor Nawa was presented with drawings, sculptures and site- specific installations from four of Nawa’s Direction, Ether, Catalyst and Moment series.

Force in this sense refers to the gravity that exerts an influence on all things that exist in a space, the force that allows vegetati- on to grow up from the ground, and the force that enables slime mould to creep along a wall,” Nawa writes.

Gravity is the driving forces in his Ether series, which captures high-viscosity fluid into a solid state at the moment it is dripping downward. Appearing as a three-dimensional sculpture, the iterative forms of the droplets appear as an endless column and visualize the force of gravity while also creating a feeling of weightlessness.

>> Kohei nawa was born in 1975 in Osaka, Japan works and lives nowadays in Kyoto, Japan. After a semester abroad at the Royal College of Art, london, he received his PhD in Fine Art Sculpture from the Kyoto City university of Arts in 2003 <<

In his Direction paintings, Nawa pours black paint onto a vertically set canvas. He offsets the grain of the canvas on the stretcher by fifteen degrees, and then allows the paint to slowly drip down the face of the canvas, allowing the force of gravity to produce the lines of the painting. The repetition of this action creates a set of parallel stripes that cover the canvas. the relation between the points and the lines not only yields visual stimulation but also enhances the dynamic impression of the space as a whole entity. The speed of movement, direction and gravity resonate hereby inspiring sensibility.

His newest body of work, the Moment series similarly uses a two-dimensional plane to capture the forces of physics. Using a pendulum device, Nawa unleashes acrylic ink onto a paper surface, creating a swirling set of concentric circles and overarching lines. The orderly nature of the lines seems to contradict the haphazard nature of their making, yet Nawa’s work forces viewers to consider the effects of air pressure, distance, and the motion of the pendulum as agents in making the work. The exhibition included a site-specific wall work that was part of his Catalyst series. Like the Ether work, Kohei Nawa employs a fluid material in his Catalyst sculptures to highlight the transition between liquid and material states. In this case he used hot glue. Building on the legacy of post-im- pressionism and process art, the Catalyst works are net-like sculpture drawn directly on the wall.

the different dots and strands of glue accumulate into an almost biological form that seems to crawl across the wall. In his trademark series Beads, Nawa utilises stuf- fed animals collected from auction websites that he covers with glass beads, polyurethane foam or prism sheets. These materials fragment the exoskeleton of the sculptures into PixCell—a portmanteau of pixel and cell that refers to the constitutional elements of biology and digital forms. These bead-like forms absorb texture of the object and its colour, abstracting the core animal form into image cells, staging a confluence of the real and the virtual while questioning the status of both terms.


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James Turrell

James Turrell


written by Andreas Hübner

october 2015

Strolling around the draughty countryside of East of England, guarantees for a horizon awash of colors these days. While autumn is gradually taking over, exhibiting its standard palette of dreadful browns, reds, and yellows, a rather luminous show comes to an end at one of England’s finest stately homes: LightScape by James Turrell. Once called the veteran wizard of the illusionary, Turrell has turned the grand classical house of Houghton Hall and its country garden into a surface that emphasizes the very substance of light.


Turrell has thus revived a project that started about 15 years ago, when one of his Skyspace works was installed at Houghton. Ever since, he has experimented with the physical form of light, explored the aesthetic deconstruction of materiality and established light as a creator of space and reality. To Turrell, light is not a mere medium of depiction, reference, or use; to Turrell, light is “some THING,” that occupies space, has presence and feel, and hence is the ultimate object of art. In this sense, Turrell announces himself to be a “light artist.” 
Staged by David Cholmondeley, proprietor of the estate, the show presents a number of installations which connect the visual and emotional effects of Turrell’s luminosity with the Palladian darkness of Houghton Hall. Built for Britain’s first Prime Minister Robert Walpole in the 1720s, Houghton Hall is now enlightened by Enzu Green, Raethro Red, and Raemar Magenta. The installations, accompanied by sixteen others around the grounds and chambers of Houghton, reflect Turrell’s enchanting, contemplative, and almost transcendental approach. While light of all colors and facets is ubiquitous in every single installation, no luminous source is to be found: no L.E.D. fixtures, no projectors, nothing. Turrell’s illusion is perfect, almost entrancing and mystifying.

Of course, Turrell’s Quaker upbringing is long said to have influenced his work. Nat Trotman, the Guggenheim’s associate curator, once noted that “many of his pieces relate to Quaker meetings where people gather in silent prayer and meditate together until the spirit moves them to speak.“ Indeed, there is a “sort of quiet contemplation” that characterizes many of his pieces, but Turrell’s education in mathematics, geology, astronomy and perceptual psychology seems to have channeled his conceptions of light, art, and space even more so. However, in some ways, Turrell is still the aerial cartographer who in his early twenties crossed the deserts of the Western United States to supply remote mine sites with all kinds of necessities – and to explore the complex interplay of sky, light and atmosphere.

Over the years, Turrell has intensified his encounters with the medium of light to probe the sensory limitations of human perception that define contextual and cultural norms. His works have been widely acclaimed since his first showing at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1967. Ever after, an illustrious selection of major museums has featured solo exhibitions of Turrell’s works: the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1976), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1980), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1984), and the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany (2009–10).

" large-scale artwork that relates, through the medium of light, to the universe of the surrounding sky, land and culture "

Now a graybeard at 72, Turrell is experiencing a number of retrospective shows, foremost at that the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2013), and the National Gallery of Australia, Syndey (2014–15). Both place and discuss his oeuvre in the wider context of the post-postmodern art world. Once a leader of the Light and Space Movement in the mid-1960s, Turrell has carefully refined the minimalistic and geometric concept of that group and its fellow members, such as Robert Irwin and Doug Wheeler.
Yet, from 1972 on, Turrell has put most of his creative power, and most of his financial resources one may add, into the Roden Crater Project. Located in the San Francisco Volcanic Field, north of Flagstaff, Arizona, Turrell seeks to transform an extinct volcano cinder cone into what Michael Govan describes as a “large-scale artwork that relates, through the medium of light, to the universe of the surrounding sky, land and culture.” Consequently, Turrell has spent much of the last 40 years physically altering and changing the shape of the crater, in result, transforming not only the visual perception of the object itself, but also the relation between percipient and object. Here, at an elevation of approximately 5,400 feet, Turrell’s interest in interaction with nature and in understanding the place of humanity within the movements of planets, stars and galaxies becomes most obvious.

The Roden Crater is not, by all means, a modest project and only time will tell if it can succeed. A glimpse of how Turrell hopes to progress on this utmost venture is currently to be seen when facing the West Façade of Houghton Hall: Greens, blues, and whites interact with each other to create a harmonic lightscape that celebrate the essence of life and nature itself. Turrell, quite puristicly, himself says, “My work has no object, no image and no focus. With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at? You are looking at you looking” – and you are seeing yourself see, internally creating colors, deceiving reality.

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Michal Rovner

Michal Rovner

Michal Rovner

july 2015

Michal Rovner is a renowned painter, video artist, photographer, and writer who exhibits her varied and evocative body of work. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel Michal Rovner studied cinema, television, and philosophy. While her college period Rovner founded Tel Aviv’s Camera Obscura School for studies in photography, video, cinema, and computer-based art with Arie Hammer in 1978.
Rovner offers the viewer a seamless blend of video, digital art, photography, painting, and writing, in order to express the intensity of her experiences while apply- ing appropriate symbolism to reflect the broader human condition.  1987, Rovner then moved to New York City, and started to write reviews about arts and culture for american and israeli magazines. In the 1990s, Rovner returned to Israel and began taking photographs along the Israeli border with Lebanon, capturing the struggles of the region during this time. These images were presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. A few years later, Michal Rovner offered a video installation that covered 17 windows along Park Avenue, leading to an exhibition at the New Yorker Whitney Museum. What makes her work so special is that Rovner often rephotographs, digitizes, colorizes, or transfers her works to different media in an effort to manipulate and continually redefine these works. Rovner is still active in the art community, and counts to be the world‘s most successful Israeli artist. Michal Rovner lives and works in New York and Tel Aviv.

Michal Rovner ́s evolved and articulated work explore the medium of using new LCD technology, specifically customized for her works. These large-scale, multiscreen works combine her signature human figures with the landscape elements which she has been exploring for the last two years. The brooding soulful expression of the human and natural worlds is intertwined through the use of increasingly bold abstraction. LE MILE presents Rovner ́s work Panorama which evokes Rovner’s themes of human interaction, dislocation and the persistence of history, while creating a new level of immediacy by further removing the narrative to its barest and most urgent elements.


Since first showcasing her video work at her Whitney Museum of American Art retrospective in 2002, Rovner has pioneered the use of the moving image as a non- narrative, non-cinematic medium for the creation of painterly images and installations which, like painting and sculpture, conjure the timeless realities in a way the narrative arts cannot. Michal Rovner‘s discovery that the moving image need not be tied to a sense of beginning, middle and end, and instead may exist in a constant state of the present has opened up the possibilities of video for the 21st century.
Since her landmark exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2003, Rovner has expanded her innovations in many directions. Backward, into the historical realm defined by the ancient stones she used as both medium and context; and forward into technological systems that allow for novel expression of her imagery. Adding painting qualities and gestural “brushstrokes” to video recordings of real-life situations, the new work respond to Rovner’s sense of disjointed reality.

I’m looking at a newspaper, I’m watching television. I want to know, I need to know what is going on in the world. I see details of a reality that is worrisome. Every war is shown, every major act of violence is shown, but you only get a detail. Everything is shown, but you never really see it.”

Highlights of the exhibition include Array, a work where Rovner’s fascination with archaeology confronts cyclical histories. Images of a black and white field mirror the texture of a drawing, a sketched diagram or an enlarged newspaper print. The human figures, organized in rows, repeat their movements, moving without advancing, in barren fields ploughed with dark lines.

Kalaniyot (Anemone) reveals the painterly qualities of this new body of work with its gestural lines that verge on obscuring the figures moving about in the background. Rovner creates an allusive tension as its deep red hues conjure images of a field of flowers and the aftermath of an upheaval.

The eight-panel work Trails resembles large sheets of paper with a panoramic drawing of a weave of paths. The human figures that navigate across the screen in different and seemingly infinite directions are woven into, and in some cases pulled down, by a black current that sweeps across the work. Abandoning any sense of narrative, Rovner is displacing her figures in fragmented sites. Time, as well, seems disrupted, like an event without a be- ginning or an end. These abstract, painterly video works explore reflections of a reality that is tough, enigmatic and troubling.

"Abandoning any sense of narrative, Rovner is displacing her figures in fragmented sites "

Michal Rovner ́s work has been exhibited in over 60 solo exhibitions including a mid-career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art, the Israeli Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the Jeu de Paume, and the Louvre.

In 2006, Rovner began a series of monumental structures titled “Makom” (Place) using stones from dismantled or destroyed Israeli and Palestini- an houses from Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Haifa, the Galilee, and the border of Israel and Syria. She worked with Israeli and Palestinian masons to construct new spaces encompassing history, memory and time. In 2013, Rovner created the installation Traces of Life at the Auschwitz- Birkenau State Museum devoted to the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Shoah. Rovner’s video installations have been exhibited at the Tate Gallery, the Stedelijk Museum, LVMH Headquarters, and YadVashem.


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Ernst Coppejans

Ernst Coppejans

Senegal and its Wrestling Culture

january 2015


Wrestling is the number one sport in Senegal. Champions are worshiped and treated like movie stars. Many Senegalese boys train fanatically to make their dream, becoming a famous lutteur ( wrestler ) come true. During a month I portrayed the boys from the small village Yene who gather on the beach, every day at the end of the afternoon, to train together. 

In Senegal, professional wrestling reigns supreme. Seeing as it's the national sport, those who successfully practice lutte sénégalaise, orlaamb, are considered heroes in their home country, treated like movie stars or royalty. Though unlike the WWE stars in America who transformed wrestling into an entertainment spectacle throughout the '90s, the burgeoning wrestling champions in Senegal are reaching new heights of popularity while attempting to maintain ties to their traditional folk roots. Amsterdam-based photographer Ernst Coppejans recently spent several weeks shadowing the men and boys who are working to become the next big laamb champions.

" Many Senegalese boys train fanatically to make their dream, becoming a famous lutteur come true "

His portraits capture the hulking subjects on a beach in the small village of Yene where they train. Contorted and posed, mid-grapple or lounging by the sea, Coppejans' images demonstrate a different kind of masculinity. The series, titled "Lutteur," began while Coppejans was traveling in West Africa, seeking to meet and photograph members of the gay community there. The resulting project, "Dans le Milieu," explores West Africa's laws that prohibit same sex relationships. While in Senegal, however, Coppejans became particularly fascinated with the wrestlers he saw on the beaches. After a bit of research, he decided to join the Senegalese hopefuls for a month, attending their tournaments and observing their practices.

"Champions are worshiped," Coppejans explained to The Huffington Post. "Many Senegalese boys train fanatically to make their dream, becoming a famous lutteur come true." The allure of fame and fortune from sport clearly crosses national borders. Talented lutteurs will wear talismans (gris-gris) and douse themselves in blessed liquid to better their chances of triumph, while connecting to the older folk rituals based on faith and luck. But while the majority of competitors make around $2,000 per season, the small percentage of elite winners can earn up to $100,000 per combat.

“There is a mirage, a sort of dream, that the youth of the country are living,” Malick Thiandoum, a sports broadcaster for Senegalese Radio and Television, stated to The New York Times. “But we are in the process of telling them, ‘Be careful, because there is a gap between what you believe and reality.'"

Coppejans captures portraits of the wrestlers, clad in loincloth and shorts, before they've been fully enveloped by this reality. "What I love about this series is that it is all about hopes and dreams," he added. "Not many make it as a professional wrestler, but they sure are gonna try. It's a way out of poverty and a way to a better life."


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Jenny Morgan

Jenny Morgan

We are all setting suns

written by Mikal Shkreli
interview by Mairanny Batista & Mikal Shkreli

september 2014

Stare through the tinted glass and you will realize it´s a window into the big, bold and exposed world of Jenny Morgan.
Put your face on the window and once you enter, cup your hands around your eyes. A tunnel-like contruction, with brick walls on either side, starts to take shape. The light at the end of the tunnel is a brilliant self-portrait that serves as the physical and metaphorical focal point for Jenny Morgan ́s show. It's up to the viewer to decide how deep into the show they would like to go. Some will take a walk in and be entranced for hours, whereas others will turn away at the first sight of full-frontal nudity.

Born in 1982 in Salt Lake City, Jenny Morgan found her way to Denver for her undergraduate studies of Art and Design. While her Bachelor studies at Rocky Mountain College, she became first assistant of gallery owner Ivar Zeile. This relationship blossomed into a professional one as Morgan ́s career unfolded in 2006. Two years later Morgan graduated with a MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. The artist has worked out of the city ever since, with portrait commissions for New York Times and many exhibitions around the globe. Most of her time, Morgan has been interested in scientific writings of Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung. In her youth, she became obsessed with writing down her dreams in a dream journal and analysing them afterwards. Now, she more and more gets into theoretical scripts by authors such as Amit Goswami. Especially, the Kenneth Earl Wilber shows great influence in Morgan ́s work. Wilber mainly has written about mysticism, philosophy, and developmental psychology.

"I didn't see how my interests in metaphysics and psychology was connected to my work really until a few years ago, when the two roads crossed," Jenny Morgan said. "I understood why I was painting people and why I was thinking of them psychologically. I'm interested in knowing who they are on these multiple levels. Painting these people and thinking about them is just another form of analysis."

" I can’t really visually see things, and as a visual artist and as a kid I always wanted to be something external that I can see, to validate the internal feelings I was having towards it "

Morgan ́s portraits may be the only contemporary art pieces who so clearly draw inspiration from the paintings of Lucian Freud and his grandfather, the founding father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. The blurred features, sanded outlines, and unique coloration push Morgan ́s art toward a revelatory abstraction and by this her pieces are deeply psychological. The surfaces are activated, sanded away and peeled back to reveal fleshy wounds. Her contemporary portraits use color and surfaces to highlight just how dramatic and fabulous a painting can be. To Morgan, a portrait isn ́t just a photograph, but a manifestation of one ́s spirit. She pushes her transcendent figurative paintings to a higher scale, the authentic degree of which intensify the psychological affection of her art. Jenny Morgan ́s genre of realism is fully her personal creation. Technically complex but experimental, plausible yet mysterious, she obscures the physical to illuminate the spiritual. Morgan ́s work both acknowledges and offers tools for recognizing the invisible lives reflected within and especially around us. Her paintings are both corporeal and ethereal and have both intrigued and haunted the viewer with tensely psychological portraits captured with masterful hand. Jenny Morgan clearly informs the spectator she is interested in depicting the figure and in going beyond the precision of realism in art.

Morgan ́s portrayals mostly seem to capture the same expression - a moment of hesitation, surprise or even insensitivity. They make the viewer ponder vulnerability and tangibility, as almost all of her characters have blurred eyes, hands, in general primarily genitals. The German visual artist Gerhard Richter has produced abstract as well as photorealistic paintings and mostly blurred his works to make the observer believe it ́s a photograph not a painting. And it looks like as if Morgan ́s photorealistic paintings were an progression of Richter ́s creation. Often the hands are transparent, sometimes patterned or even discolored. The largest oil painting of Morgan titled Kings and Queens from 2013 includes a 13-by-7-foot tour de force five giant, frontal, ghostly nude personages standing side by side. Their explicit bareness tempered with raw fragility and meditative strength. Demonstrating the psycho-social disunion that often can be seen in Morgan ́s works, they appear to occupy their own realm, contemplating themselves and their bodies, and seeking balance between the ID and the super-ego. Morgan’s subjects break the old tradition of the female gaze, but instead of confronting their audience, they seem to plead with them. They examine much deeper than the visceral way we respond to flesh. We can see some small peculiarities as for example washed-out faces or alien-like hands. These peculiarities are easy to gloss over at first glance, yet demand obsessive inquiry once you notice them.

Jenny Morgan continues to loosen the bonds and borders of traditional realism in painting, the evolution within her work has grown increasingly more vibrant and daring, resulting in a visual charge that carries excellent gravity. Her dedication to art, her ideals of art and her act as an contemporary artist have proven to be boundless. Morgan ́s art convolutes the personal with the general, carrying an emotional impact that resonates amongst those who are open to it.

Jenny Morgan: I’m still figuring out how to use that language, and how to reach a broader audience - what comes out is organic anyways - the trouble with sharing work that is inevitably spiritual.

" I find myself wanting to be everyone’s therapist, because you take in little methods of experience, and rework mental thought, and you see that translate into your life, and all you want is to share that with someone, just to have them experience that same movement in their life "

Mikal Shkreli: The work is powerful, what I’m sensing is an evolution, a growth in your work, I’m seeing themes characters and growth.

JM: I’m so sensitive to other people, hard time being around new people. Spirit animals, was visited by an owl, which means “i can see into the spirit world” I can’t really visually see things, and as a visual artist and as a kid I always wanted to be something external that I can see, to validate the internal feelings I was having towards it. It was the biggest struggle in my youth, and now I ́ve kind of gotten over that - let’s do a third eye opening” so, he did the ceremony, and I could feel him pulling at my third eye. The owl’s on top of my head, and when I closed my eyes, the owl slowly sank into my body and opened his wings into my arms, and opened his eyes behind my eyes - was the most authentic visualization, with an interplay with my body that I’ve ever experienced, and it was real, there was no separation between what was internally happening and what was externally happening with my body. So my third eye was blasted open, when I came back to the city and - i didn’t know if I could take in so much stuff, because I’m such an energy filter anyways. I haven’t learned how to separate myself from that yet. I’m in the process of building walls and the golden energy belt, it doesn’t necessarily feel real yet, still feels like it’s all in my head. But what feels real is how after everyone I encounter, and I have to get out of my body. That’s why it’s easier just to be in my studio all day and paint, and cleanse it out.
It’s another way to connect and cleanse without physically being with people. I’ve really realized from the past two years, working with these people, they’re all people from my life, and they come in, and I know I need to paint them at a certain time, so I ask them to pose for me, and while I’m working on them, I realized that I’m working on them in a different level, whatever I do to the portrait is magic realism in a way, i’m affecting them by affecting my portrait. It’s very ‘dorian grey’ it’s feeling more real, and I’ve had some stories come through to validate that shifting, through experiences, so I am trying to center myself in that, figuring that stuff out. And I know it’s coming out in the work, since November, the last show, the winter was really dark and depressing - I think for everyone - it pushed a lot of issues out. For me I was in the studio and all I wanted to paint was orange and yellow and gold, and this light was coming out of me, and I didn’t even know it was there, because I was so depressed, I kind of didn’t know where it was coming from, but it was coming out on the canvas, and having sunlight in my studio, even though it was horrible outside. So you can feel that warmth coming through, which has been helpful. And i was trained as a realist painter, super technical, and so, since my graduate studies, I’ve been working on ‘de-skilling’ myself, and beginning to get away from those formulas, and finding more abstract thought, but I have to teach myself how to think abstractly, which is basically what a spiritual practice is, because you have to conceptualize these ideas that aren’t in the physical world, and somehow make them reality, so seeing that connection between accepting spiritual concepts as reality, and accepting abstract mark-making as a reality, and understanding it as real when it’s on the canvas, because it’s just another language that I’m learning, and so the more I understand these spiritual concepts, the more I can make abstract work, which has been a big realization too, to make the connection.

MS: Have you found also that by unlearning the learning the concepts through art and spiritual experience, is that also affecting your daily life? 

JM: Yea, I mean, I find myself wanting to be everyone’s therapist, because you take in little methods of experience, and rework mental thought, and you see that translate into your life, and all you want is to share that with someone, just to have them experience that same movement in their life. I find myself talking about it a lot, but you can only share so much until you are pushing some of these boundaries, so I’m also learning how to communicate the positive things that I’m feeling, and to encourage people to experience that same thing without being this really annoying spiritual, new- agey person that’s like “Go to yoga and do this”, I love yoga, and yoga is this other new-age taboo thing in our culture where if you’re in it you understand it, but if you’re outside of it, it’s this trendy thing that’s happening, until you realize that once you change the energy flow in your body, your thoughts start to change. I’m also in the middle of a thirty day yoga thing, which I do every spring, to cleanse. and I’m finding all this anger coming up, even though I’m not an angry person, so I’m going through that.

MS: Would there be the potential of any possibility of painting animal spirits or energies of nature?

" And I was choosing people I felt emotional towards, but I’d be painting this masculine figure and I would have, an emptiness to it, it wasn’t getting me what I want "

JM: Well I know that my interest lies in the human being, and the closest I’ve gotten to other levels of spirits is with Siri and her cat, she’s one of my favorite models, for me she’s the archetype of the sexual goddess, she’s so self composed with her sexuality and eroticism, and I envy and try to take on when I’m painting her. When I photograph her, she’s very organic, she’s also a model, and whatever happens we go with the flow, and occasionally she’ll pick up her cat, and all of a sudden it’s her and her cat. I had no intention of painting her cat, but it’s there, and the interaction is really beautiful, it’s new and abstract. but I don’t know if I would ever want to full direct animal symbology in, or direct symbols, or direct sacred geometry. and I want the soul and the portrait of the person to dictate the energy that comes out, instead of placing it on top of them, or in that way, beyond color.

MS: Comparing your work from the last exhibit “How to find a Ghost” to the work I see now >>I’m noticing more confidence in the use of colors and vibrant techniques, a heightened depth and exponentially growing energy<< . Is that something you can feel yourself in your work, your development?

JM: Yea, I can feel, by looking back on it now, and having reviewers coming in to see my newer work, it is clear that my work is a little more potent, and I’m more comfortable with it, and especially in comparison to my last show, it was my first bigger show and platform, in Chelsea, and a gallery, the level of pressure to do things a certain way. No one was saying it, but I was feeling it. I’m beginning to shed that, a little bit, and ground into me, a little bit more, and having more faith in what’s coming up, and not if people will love it.

MS: Duality, regarding skulls.

JM: I think duality is a key phrase for it. The initial spark of the idea came from seeing other painter’s work, and I decided to take a skull and place it on a mirror, and took like a hundred images of this duality, and it was the same object but reflected in completely different angels, and something about that was really beautiful, and I’ve been meaning to buy an actual human skull, this is just a ceramic one, but even with this one, we place life on top of it, and it’s interesting to paint because it’s the only inanimate objects that has life-force, like in a way that a human does. And it took me a while to understand why I was so attracted to them, and of course there’s a common theme in our history, and they’re very common in our culture, but to actually sit and paint them feels like a portrait without an identity to it, it still feels alive.

MS: Like your paintings, alive. Your work felt like it was drawing me into a world, into the feminine beauty, and it’s very initiatory, and you feel drawn, it’s beautiful and it’s almost scary.

JM: Well good.

MS: It draws the eye, people are drawn to the feminine.

JM: And it’s taken the last few years that it is the feminine that I’m interested in. I was painting straight males for a while, because I felt like I should, to even out my portrait body of work. And I was choosing people I felt emotional towards, but I’d be painting this masculine figure and I would have, an emptiness to it, it wasn’t getting me what I want, but then I painted my friend David, a gay male, who embraces his feminine side, to where he feels almost split in two, and I could pull that out of him. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s just because that’s what I am relating to in them, that’s the reflection of me, that I can relate to them on a psycho-sexual level, too. 

JENNY MORGAN, New York City, Studio, 2014.
photographed by Mairanny Batista

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Edward Granger

Edward Granger

I Still think I am a Kid

written by Alexandra Stevens
interviewed by Mikal Shkreli

october 2014

The life of a crayon is almost always cut short. Inside its paper sheath, a crayon is the same smooth paraffin down to the very last sliver, but they never seem to last past the halfway point. In a box of 30, half of them will break, and a few more will be lost, rolling under a desk to be swept up and disposed with paperclips and dust bunnies. Then for the remaining colors comes a point when a crayon is just too small to hold comfortably, like a piece of chalk, or a burning joint. You give it up and throw it away, useable remains rendered garbage. So what happens if you pick up those burnt out ends, if you attempt to breathe life back into the roaches? One piece alone might not have an impact, but reunite it with it’s forgotten friends and siblings, and suddenly you’ve brought forth an entirely new form.

I still think I’m a kid,” said Edward Granger with a laugh. The New York based visual artist just turned 25 this year; his demeanor often suggests he’s much younger, while his art speaks with the vibrancy and understanding of an old soul. Granger speaks slowly, deliberately, then all at once, often in repetition. He’s charming and relaxed, with a lilt of a southern accent. Best known for his colorful multimedia, bold murals, and excellent bone structure, Granger’s world is one of candy-colored confections and loud geometry. Recycled art supplies, most famously crayons and colored pencils, find a home on his canvases, forming swirling masses of organic pattern, heavily textured and multi-dimensional.

“In the South we have a word, sauvage, and it means wild one, one with no inhibitions,” he explains. Growing up in New Orleans, Granger’s French and Creole background manifests itself in his wild, pulsing visions.

“I like to combine that with the Fauvist movement, color over supremacy of form, and put a childlike essence into it. I think it’s really important to revert to that childhood imagination, because children think wild, they think bold, they think big. Children are always dreaming - they have no inhibitions, because nothing is stopping them. As you grow, you have more stipulations, because of fear, or judgement.”

“Do you remember anything at that age?” he asks of being a young child. “I vaguely remember things. I feel like at that age you see things and you just want to touch them - and you have to allow kids to do that. Touch the stove because it’s hot, and they’ll learn. Touch the stove because they think it’s beautiful, and they have no idea. Children are fearless like that.”

" So I’m taking my sauvage, my lack of inhibitions, my large fields of color, and my childlike play, and putting them together, "

Granger graduated from The University of Louisiana in 2011, with a bachelor’s in architecture and a minor in fine art. Once in the field, he quickly realized that architecture was just too structured, too logical for his liking. Looking for a little bit more freedom of expression, Granger turned to painting. He began working with found objects, partly to save money, and slowly developed a clear artistic method. Granger describes his creative process as putting form into chaos, reigning in the random and sporadic and bringing it to an understandable level of organization.

“If it’s too chaotic, adults are like ehh,” Granger intones. “So I’m taking my sauvage, my lack of inhibitions, my large fields of color, and my childlike play, and putting them together, then overlaying it all with my school of thought from architecture. Putting structure into something that is ultimately formless. That’s where I’m merging that gap, that’s where I’m meshing it all together. Bringing structure into things that are organic, that are fluid in nature.”

Granger’s work is all about layers and process, and his creative style usually entails a piece becoming virtually unrecognizable between layers. He documents his work throughout, insisting that each piece is ultimately undone - there is no definable point at which something is “finished.” The base layer is often created digitally, serving as a starting point for smears, drips, crayon nubs, and strips of cardboard. He focuses on putting all the sense into play, going past the visual with an emphasis on textures and smells. Granger describes the senses as leading how we chose to live our physical existence; he’s drawn to crayons for their nostalgic importance, their cultural connotations, and their distinct scent.

“I use materials that are produced in a quick manner, that are then extinguished just as quickly,” he said. Crayola LLC alone produces an average of 12 million crayons a day. “It’s waste, waste, waste. As a society, we are continuing to waste things. So I decided that instead of going out and purchasing something only to waste it, why don’t I just use materials that are already in abundance? I transform them, I obscure them, I create things from trash. A lot of the colors that happen, happen by chance.”

A worn-down nub of waxy Crayola is trash on it’s own; paired with a hundred of it’s brothers and sisters, something starts to take shape.

" Doing that actually makes me more patient in life, patient with people. It’s a meditative processE "

“The broken colored pencils?” Granger says, gesturing vaguely. “Doing that actually makes me more patient in life, patient with people. It’s a meditative process.” Granger’s website features cropped shots of his hands, floating over a half-finished canvas, holding pieces of paper, plastic, and pencil. Layers of color overlap on the completed side, like scales on a fish, but the tiny piece between his fingers looks daunting next to the empty space on the unfinished side. His colored pencil pieces are the result of thousands of pieces, meticulously laid out side by side, a time-consuming and repetitive process. “In the beginning, I don’t think,” he explains, slowly, as if going through the motions in his head. “I don’t want to think. There’s no plan, no scale, no measured out shit. I use my intuitive notions, my subconscious, to create something.” Granger scrounges for dejected paint chips at Home Depot, adopting other people’s leftover bursts of color. His creations are then giving poignant and cheeky titles, like I Tried to Find You But Got Lost in Your Free Spirit, or When You Lose the Fear, the Flower Will Grow in Thought and Mind.

“I came up with that quote a few years ago, when I was just out of school and in my New Orleans studio creating,” he says of the latter phrase.

“I’m essentially thinking of color, and all these bold movements, as the flower. When I lost my fear, everything came together.” Granger describes his world as “becoming trippy,” comparing it with the sudden perspective shift of a psychedelic trip. One moment you’re just sitting on your friends’ couch; the next thing you know, the music is reverberating through your skin, the light is pulsing, the pattern on the carpet is rippling and dancing.

“Sometimes when you do drugs, it suddenly sparks - everything’s colorful, everything’s loud, everything’s beautiful. For me, the minute I lost that fear is when everything became colorful for me.”

" Just as we humans live our lives, everything is about growth and decay; with plants, with resources - it grows, and then it dies "

Recently, Granger was commissioned by the International Contemporary Furniture fair to create a chair in collaboration with design company Bend. Bend’s “Lucy” chair, created out of post-consumer metal, served as as Granger’s canvas. His chosen medium, of course, would be recycled art material - creating a multicolored mosaic from unwanted yarn. The vibrant seat, covered in hand-woven thread patterns, has since been traveling as part of sustainable art installations and events put on by Bend, meant to highlight the impact of production on the environment.

“Just as we humans live our lives, everything is about growth and decay; with plants, with resources - it grows, and then it dies,” said Granger. He shows me a picture of the chair, unfinished, that looks very different than the completed work that appears online. “It’s just the cycle of life, and it’s what I utilize in my work. I put things on, then remove them. Put things, on remove them. All these layers consistently start to show up, and they just bleed through, bleed through, bleed through.” He describes his process like an unintentional song, or an accidental nursery rhyme. “Then you get a final image of I don’t know how many layers, ten, twelve layers of things that I’ve pulled off, put on, pulled off, put on.”

Granger’s circular inclinations are apparent throughout - visually in his art, behaviorally in his manner, through the cadence of his speech.

“When I started to really come into myself and understand my art, I realized that everything, from the conversations that I have to the way I walk to the way I touch, is a form of art,” he explained, impassioned. “I’ve become a living piece of my art - it’s not just on a canvas. I’ve become a stepping stone towards art, and momentum. I didn’t understand how people because so successful until I realized that they’re so passionate about what they do, that they become their art.”

Granger’s New Orleans upbringing infused his life with color, the city’s Latin-French fusion overflowing with vibrancy in its culture, its design, its food.

“There, the buildings would all be painted a different color,” he says, looking out at the window at the monotone New York City streets. “This here is grey. It’s all bricks, and grey.” He blows a raspberry.

“When I came from New Orleans, I was all about color, about color theory. I realized that a lot of artists just revert to black and white, thinking it’s elegant. People are scared of color, so how can I show them that color isn’t scary? Forms are not scary. Keeping a childlike innocence is not scary. So many people lose that, and then you see them lose themselves.”

Since coming to New York over two years ago to pursue his artistic dreams, Granger has truly made himself an example in the power of colors, laughing in the face of monotony.

“I feel at home here in New York more than I ever did in Louisiana. I feel more inspired here, my voice is heard by more people here, I have so much going on here. The chaos produces tranquility,” he says without a drop of sarcasm, though he laughs.

“Being in New York definitely changed my style. Back then, in Louisiana], it was a lot more organic. I’m a lot more structured here, I’m more responsible, I’m more stimulated intellectually. I’ve become very disciplined in my work. I have a repetitive motion, I have a certain style. I have colors that I gravitate to. Even though I say it happens by chance through what I find, in a material sense, I can sort of dictate how they then come together. I really do feel like I’ve found that dialogue between the object and the artist.”

He pauses for a long time when asked for a favorite color. It’s not a very good interview question, usually, and rarely asked by people over the age of twelve. It’s a unmarred symbol of juvenilia, a marked reminder of the exact loss of innocence Granger previously described. He takes the question seriously.

" Have you ever seen the sunset, when it goes from blue to pink? Those two colors are so ethereal, and they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum "

“Hm... my favorite color,” he ponders. “I definitely resonate through blue and pink,” he says finally. “Have you ever seen the sunset, when it goes from blue to pink? Those two colors are so ethereal, and they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum.”

Brooklyn Art Space in Gowanus is hosting an open studio on October 18th and 19th, giving people the opportunity to visit Granger in his creative realm. Works will be on display, both complete and in progress, and the artist himself will be around to chat about his work. “New works out of the E. Granger studio,” he recently posted as a caption on Instagram. “Can anyone guess the material?” he teases. The image is of an unfinished piece, pastel stripes laid out in overlapping ribbons over a white background. Many guess candy, or fruit stripe gum. Another person suggests tulle and crayon, several others say post-its. Somebody else says dead unicorn parts. He posts another image almost a week later, the same colorfully striped bits laid out in an entirely different pattern, leftover pieces of material scattered around the canvas like confetti. What looks to me like sour belts in the first image now looks like paper or plastic, and the ambiguity is intriguing.

“I see you, I see your face, but how can I show you something else? Something you don’t always see, something that you only see in a dream, something I only see what I do acid - can I show you that? It’s merging what’s out there,” he waves his hands in the open space before him, gesturing towards the there, “with what’s in here,” he points to himself. “That aura that lays between - what is that? Something is going on there, and I want to know what it is.”

EDWARD GRANGER, New York City, Atelier, 2014.
photographed by Alban E. Smajli

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Ghada Amer

Ghada Amer



An Interview with GHADA AMER
The Brain of the World -
A look into the creative mind of Ghada Amer

written by Mikal Shkreli
interview by Alban E. Smajli & Mikal Shkreli

march 2014

A few light knocks on the door standing at the end of the hall evoke a muffled "hello" and curious expectations.  A bright smile greets us, then welcomes us to the studio, quietly tucked away on the west side of northern Manhattan.  Ghada Amer, an internationally known and recognized artist who has been featured in various museums around the world, lets us into her creative space to spend some time getting to know her, the soul behind the provoking and sometimes controversial artwork that she shares with the world.  Also in the studio, longtime friend and sometimes creative counterpart, Reza Farkhondeh greets us as well while he paints soft pallets of florals onto a large canvas, outlining the shape, layering the colors for definition and depth.  I recognize his name and his style of work from the collaborative art that I found on Ghada's website.  "We have been working together on and off since school times," Ghada explains.  Pleased to meet him, we are gently ushered through the hallway and into the larger studio room in the back, surrounded with windows in the top corner of the building, the setting sun lights up the white walls and illuminates the hanging brushes of all kinds, shapes and styles.

Ghada offers us tea and walks over to the kitchen to prepare some.  We gander around the space, observing several large pieces of untouched canvas leaning against a plastic-covered wall, supported by upside-down paint buckets, ready to be meddled with.  Three tables are spaced in the center of the room, dining-room style and parallel, providing separate stations for focus on specific projects, ones specifically that require the hand embroidery work that Ghada is most known for.  Before the stacked canvas frames in the corner of the room stands the table with a work in progress mounted on top of it, straddled between two rolls that support the section of focus.  Loose threads hang low in various colors.  This appears to be what Ghada has just been working on before we arrived.  The piece is hard to make out, but stenciled letters spell out a famous quote of Eleanor Roosevelt which is repeated, stitched in with thread, and remains as a backdrop for a larger image that is being formed above them, of which is not yet readable.  The focus is on the letters, but in the final piece, the larger image can be read, but so far to us, the whole picture's beauty is still a mystery.  And even so, the detailed work and aesthetic in what we can see is just as captivating.  

Ghada returns to the room and sits at the table with the unfinished embroidered art to pose for some pictures of her in action.  "This is how it's done, the process," she reveals.  "It looks like this takes a lot of time!"  I observe. "Yes" she admits. She threads the needle diligently and gracefully through the canvas, outlining the letters.  As she weaves, I notice stencils on the walls, of letters, shapes, and even a fly swatter that can be used as a stencil as well. Or maybe not.  Besides them are a series of organized plastic cabinets filled with smaller paint brushes, colored pencils and spools of thread.  

The high-pitched screams of boiling water summon Ghada out of her seat and back into the kitchen. We prepare a fitting space for the filmed interview. Ghada returns with the tea and sits on the stool, of which she decorated with glued thread of many colors, and adjusts her posture before the center white canvas that leans against the wall. I inhale the aroma of the tea in my hand, burning my tongue a bit on an eager first sip, and we start our interview.  

Being educated in Paris and Nice, Ghada was born in Cairo, Egypt, and has spent much of her time in the United States. She is mostly known for her multi-layered embroidery work which display themes of sexuality, eroticism and feminine art. One particularly well-known collection is titled, "You My Love", displaying acrylic and embroidery on canvas of female bodies, poised in sexual ways, alluring, mysterious and profound as well.  I asked Ghada if there are any other collections of art that she has done that might be shadowed by this series.  "My garden work" she explains, "people don't know it because it is in remote places and because it's not in a gallery, not in a museum, art centers, stuff like this, so people haven't seen it."  The garden work consists of a series of installations within abandoned gardens in different locations around the world, some in Italy, others in Indiana.  One specific installation is the word 'LOVE', dug deeply into the ground as it it were a grave, "it was experimental" she adds, "I wish people (will) know more about these works." Ghada's work is loaded with meaning and they are all visually captivating.  Refreshing to the eye in their unique perspective of presenting concepts and images, ideals and perspective. I ask Ghada about her drawings and prints, of which I found on her website, which display Disney characters in provocatively sexual ways through the use of layered imagery. I ask about her intent and specifically inquire about her message, when it comes to these pieces.  

"Well, I don't have a message in general anyway, in my artwork. I don't like this term, a 'message', because a message is something that you can speak. And I don't like this word in general, 'feminine' arts, that say 'this is how you should feel, this is what I feel´ … I have a problem with the wording of the question, but it's important to say that I don't particularly like to have a direct message, and this is what differentiates my work with other feminists work that have a very clear message. 

But in this particular Disney work with the sexuality, it's because we think that children have no sexuality, like suddenly you become sexual at 18 … so for me this is a big problem in our society … how to raise children in terms of sexual education and how we don't put sexuality in any of the children in terms of their desires, how they form, so this is what I'm trying to … some children are sexual more earlier than others, and in kids you can see them, and it's very shocking, and what is this sexuality? It's so taboo, because people think you are a pervert. It's not about being a pervert, but about being conscious that this is something that exists and needs to be addressed."  

GHADA AMER, New York City, Studio, 2014.

Mikal Shreli: Ok so, artistic expression, expressing oneself, or even sexually expressing oneself, they both can relate to freedom, freedom to be ourselves, freedom to be who we really are, our desires; is that something that's important to you?

Ghada Amer: You know,  what is important, it's something I wish and is important to me particularly to be free with my sexuality, (laugh) it's the only way I can deal with the problems of how I grew up, my culture, my taboos. I grew up in a conservative culture, and how I wanted to know more about sexuality, and it was taboo, even to think about it, and then I discovered even in the West it's taboo … it's my own way to find freedom, I don't know if you call it freedom…knowledge! Because freedom, you can never find.  I don't even know what it means, freedom. But knowledge, I prefer … sometimes, even if you understand, you cannot just achieve this freedom, even if you want, it is so, a stitch in you.

MS:  We can try but we won't get there.

" Exactly. It's all the education, it was imprinted, and we have to correct it, but sometimes it's very difficult to correct it"

GA:  Exactly. It's all the education, it was imprinted, and we have to correct it, but sometimes it's very difficult to correct it.

MS:  But then, art can be a way to educate, to share knowledge in some ways.

GA:  Yes, I believe, but education, it's a very personal path, so just everybody has to find their own knowledge. I don't want to be like 'oh this is how you should think'. People find how they want to think, and what they want to think. 

MS:  So can art do that as well, and we are interpreting it for ourselves so everyone has their own interpretation so it can lead to education for oneself.  

GA:  Exactly because we are asking questions, to work this knowledge.

MS: This kind of goes with the lack of message.

GA:  That's exactly why I have a big problem with the word 'message' because message is a very unilateral kind of education, 'you have to think that way', 'this is the world'. No, I don't want this.  

MS:  Very interesting, because your art can reach more people in deeper ways, more profound ways.

GA:  Yes, yes, beyond cultural education as well, like people that, I don't know the culture, Japanese, Chinese, South American as well, it's all about the human being, not about 'cultural' knowledge. I finish the last sip of my tea and place the ornate cup onto the empty table beside me. "But did you see the new work? You should look at the new work!" Ghada exclaims. We get up from our seats and make way towards the desktop computer behind me, of which I had failed to notice earlier. She opens a PDF file with images of the exhibition titled, 'Rainbow Girls', that is featured in the Cheim & Read gallery. "I wanted to do this because when we think about feminism, we think, 'oh it's over and we have resolved many problems'. I wanted to take some quotes that are short, and that do not criticize men, because the woman, if she has been oppressed, of course partly it is because of men, but partly because she let herself be oppressed. She should stand up fight, instead of fighting the man and society, she should get her freedom back ... so I wanted to give power to women but without critisizing whose fault or whatever fault, we just have to go back and fight and be powerful because we are powerful." 

One of the quotes that is repeated as the backdrop for a piece of the exhibit is "Nobody gives you power, you just take it."  Ghada explains that she wanted to use these quotes, "like prayers that you repeat repeat and repeat … a mantra that you repeat and it becomes. I did it on the portraits and on the landscapes. This is the principle actually." I comment on the power of words themselves, even if they are a backdrop in the work, and Ghada responds, "and you don't particularly want to read them, these new works are totally different; you can read them if you want, and then you loose the image, but you can go back and forth, the perception." Considering the shifting nature of her work, I ask Ghada if her exhibit is steering away from her previous work or choosing to expand on what she has already done. "You know, it's evolving. It's more me, very refreshing to do this body of work, to play with words. I always worked with words anyways, from the gardens to the sculptures, but this is the first time that I worked with words and figuration." We assemble ourselves back into our original positions, me by the table and Ghada before the white canvas atop the decorated stool.  

MS:  You also use Arabic in this exhibit for the first time. Now you have the power of words in a different language, a different alphabet. Are you trying to reach a different audience?

" That's exactly why I have a big problem with the word 'message' because message is a very unilateral kind of education, 'you have to think that way', 'this is the world'. No, I don't want this "

GA:  Yes. I speak four languages, French and Arabic are my two best languages, but in this particular series, I actually translated the French quote from French into English. I didn't translate any quote from English to Arabic. I chose the quotes that are from my culture, how the people speak because in my country and the Arab world they are very active and interested in art and I want to say something to them. This is why I chose to speak in Arabic. And English because I know that they can understand it and everybody else can understand. The Arabic ones, unfortunately here they can't understand it, but it's okay, it doesn't matter to me, at least I can reach them, it's very important that I can reach them. If I say this (the Arabic quotes) in English it always feels like it comes from the 'others or 'other culture', than if you say it in your own language, especially in my culture, where language is so important and art and calligraphy, that I don't like particularly because I always thought I would never make calligraphy, but this time calligraphy was very important to me. 

MS:  Would you like to share one of the Arabic quotes that you do have?

The first Arabic quote that Ghada shares with us comes from the controversial move made by Amina Sboui, in which she painted the Arabic quote, "my body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honor" across her nude chest, and posted the photos on the internet. It ultimately lead to her arrest in Tunisia. Ghada explains her inspiration and the importance to be extremely receptive and alert to her surroundings. And in particular, the quotes were chosen because they are meaningful and short. The second quote Ghada shares is, "the woman revolts in the north, revolts in the south, revolts in the west, revolts in the east, and revolts against the body politics, and be the brain of the world."

MS:  It's like a poem.  

GA:  Yes, exactly.  

I comment on Ghada's sweater, woven thread that reminds me of her artwork and ask if she made it herself, "my mom did!  She inspires me!"  Laughter roars in the studio and the topic of family is brought into the room. "No, it's not easy for me," Ghada explains about her mother, "It bothers her, and it's good, that's exactly what I want.  And it bothers a lot of people in Egypt."  Ghada discusses a situation with another close relative whom did not approve of her work at all,  "I told him, 'You don't have to look!  Why did you look? I am not forcing you!  You are forcing me to think like you, but I am not forcing you!’’  Ghada's work was shown in Egypt in 1994 in a private gallery and although it was a big risk, Ghada shares her surprise that some notable people in Egypt have supported her since then.  Although these strong reactions aren't unique to the Egyptian audience, "even from Americans, I get some very strong reactions; I was very surprised … they are scared of the children … they are afraid it will pervert them.  But you know, I have two nephews and nieces and they are normal and they grew up with all of this art around them and they are totally okay."  Ghada's eyes light up with a sense of pride and truth, and we agree that all cultures have the same taboo, that women have traditionally been represented behind the man.     

" It bothers her, and it's good, that's exactly what I want.  And it bothers a lot of people in Egypt "

We finish our interview and Ghada returns the empty tea cups to the kitchen. We pack our bags and put on our coats and notice Ghada and Reza doing the same; their working hours at the studio are over, and we are all going home. "I like to do my work with Reza because he is a man and I am a woman and sometimes we switch roles; he does the landscape with flowers, and they think that he does the erotic and I do the flowers and landscape." We all laugh and Ghada continues, "and sometimes I ask him, 'can you give me some of your flowers' and he takes some of my women, and then we draw them and we break the boundaries … there is this idea that men have to be only 'macho' and there are men that are really feminist and this is how we work together because for men as well, it's not fun to have this role as the dominator, who always brings the money and all of this."  Ghada pauses and admits, "if I was a man it would be very stressful."  More laugher emerges "… so as well, the work we do together is very interesting politically and in this art as well, not only the quality of art, but the energy, and we think, 'we're going to fool you'; I can be a man if I want, he can be a woman, in terms of the art." We descend the stairs and find the outside world to be cold, wet, and the four of us run through the dark streets towards the nearest subway. Hopping onto the C train downtown, Mairanny gets off first, and a few stops later I have to exit the train as well, leaving Ghada and Reza together with smiles on their faces, waving at me through the gritty subway window as it carries them onto their next destination. I think about the beginning of our interview, realizing that Ghada is a strong force in the art world, loudly standing in silence as a homage of strength for women, men, individuality, expressive sexuality, and the strive to attain freedom. Without imposing any of her views, Ghada's work carries heavy knowledge in significance and meaning, yet purposely and tactfully lacks a message; the reaction, the response, is the magic of its essence.  But where does this essence come from?  What is steering Ghada?  As I await for my crosstown bus, I remember my last question with her.  

MS:  Do you have somewhere you want your art to go, a direction, let's say, are you trying to steer it to a certain place?

GA:  The art steers me.  I don't … It takes me.  

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Alban E. Smajli + Lisa Moneret

Alban E. Smajli + Lisa Moneret



Projekt #58c4d7
The Cuban Communism and its light blue

written by Mikal Shkreli

january 2014

We descended onto the island, with some expectations and preconceptions of what we were about to experience. 
However, what we didn’t realize was the reality of the stories we heard, existing in the multifaceted, aesthetic stimuli that enlivened our senses, that lead us to the same truth; we are now in Cuba. Like a safe place in the fast-changing world, Cuba exists as an island where manmade time stands still and nature takes over the measurements.
A rather large island, Cuba is a living memory of a world where humans developed towns and villages in accordance with nature; in the pastel colors and in the ease of shapes in the architecture that reflect the wind’s travels as it carries the scent of the ocean. I found our presence to be humble, honest, sincere, and real. As the birds fly overhead and the ocean waves lap onto the shore, the steady hum of diesel fueled cars and distant music echo in harmony together under the ever present sun, which watches over this land. The ground feels more like the real earth, and the energy is steady yet moving, as the hummingbirds flutter nearby, carrying their hurried energy beyond blooming flowers and past carengines. We walk on the ground, with unsettled dirt from the driving cars on the street.

Of course, the scent of smoked meats and grilled onions pass through the air as well, and again, this harmony of human existence, with its rightful melodic accompaniment in the song of nature, is joyfully played, without effort, without stress, but with the natural highs and lows that we all repeat on earth as the sun soars from one end of our vision’s sight towards the next. The view might be iconic, as the type of cars with small subtleties in detail such as the round rear view mirrors distract us from the larger picture. However this is life, and beyond the stillness in time for the women pushing strollers, the men in jackets walking by governmental buildings, and the men selling fruit on the street, Cuba is home. We take a taxi towards the water, speckled with tiny boats that float by the dock without anyone in them, being governed by an old castle of stone that prominently waves the national flag. Walking back towards the larger roads, we pass small streets with houses dressed with balconies, lined with women drying towels, sheets, clothes, as the sweat accentuates their furrowed foreheads and falls down the crevices of their plump faces. In the present moment, the feeling of eternity remains in the ever present ‘now’,

Alban E, Smajli + Lisa Moneret, Cuba, 2014.


" Almost a miracle, the sun seems to race from the sky and fall into the ocean, bringing with it, adornments that change color, change scent, change their energy that fills up the air we breath when we continue to explore Havana "

and somehow in contrast, every passing hour has a complete dif- ferent feel than the one prior. Almost a miracle, the sun seems to race from the sky and fall into the ocean, bringing with it, adornments that change color, change scent, change their energy that fills up the air we breath when we continue to explore Havana. The houses too change their appearance, and their solid structures that stood strong in the sun, are now majestically placed to reflect the light of the moon on their colors, which now only seem to be in hues of blue, in this magic hour of dusk. At night, the heat stops rising from the ground, and the scent of the white mariposa, the butterfly jasmine, along with the cool, ocean air, sweeps through the streets that have become even more quiet. The air brings with it scents of stone, of metal, of a history that took a long time to build, and that happened to stand still like tombstones in a forgotten graveyard. We find a tree with oranges and can smell their sweetness from the outer skin. A baby cries nearby and we are reminded, that in this particular world that took time to build, had stopped its growth in reference to most of the world’s change, but what does take the lead, is nature.


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Mary Ellen Mark

Mary Ellen Mark

Eternal iconic photography that speaks the voice of truth in frame

written by Mikal Shkreli
interview by Alban E. Smajli & Mikal Shkreli

july 2014

On a sunny day in SoHo, I meet up with Alban E. Smajli outside the studio of well-known photographer, Mary Ellen Mark. Waiting for the buzzer to let us upstairs, I review my notes on some background research on the artist. Mary Ellen was born in Philadelphia and after receiving her Masters Degree in photojournalism, she traveled to Europe under a Fulbright Scholarship. Making her way to New York a few years later, Mary Ellen has created a notable name for herself in photography, art, and the world of social culture, her work featured in exhibits worldwide. The door buzzes and we enter the elevator. The door slides open directly to the studio, and we step out, looking around the high ceilings and at the endless items across bookshelves, desks, countertops. We walk past copy and printing machines of various kinds and find one of Mary Ellen’s assistants behind a computer, informing us that Mary Ellen will be with us in just a few moments. Escorted to a few chairs around a humble table, Alban E. and I prepare our questions and Mary Ellen emerges from a region unknown, deeper within the studio.

With two braids parted down the center of her head and extending down her back, Mary Ellen approached us with a smile and wide eyes that peered through her small framed glasses. Her dress, resembling ethnic-wear from Central America, worked cohesively with her hair and the cactuses that adorned the space. And between the cacti and other desert friendly plants, skeletal figures stood with poise, watching our meeting.
Mary Ellen’s work has been revered and known for their subject matter, displaying aspects of society not commonly represented in the spotlight of mainstream culture. She photographed Vietnam War demonstrations, celebrities, transvestites, women’s liberation movements, and everyday people in the New York City streets, with and without their awareness of being photographed. When asking about her choices in subject matter for her work, I ask Mary Ellen, “how do you decide?” To which she responds,


Mary Ellen Mark: Just on the frame (...) basically, you decide how you want to make a frame (...) so it looks right. When you’re in a studio, it’s one thing, but when you’re on location, you want to change the background and make sure it works perfectly as a frame.

Mikal Shkreli: Is there something particular about a person or a person’s image that would draw you to bring more of an intimate scope with photography?

MEM: Well, I mean, sometimes you photograph someone you don’t even know, on an assignment, and there are some people that are just interesting to watch. So you choose them because of that.

The choices that Mary Ellen makes for her images are very particular, explaining that “each situation is totally different.” She continues, admitting that “you don’t want to kind of repeat yourself (...) but each situation calls for something very different.” I glance around and notice numerous frames of her work high up on the walls, noticing her range in work.

MS: Do you have any preference between street photography or portraits?
MEM: Well, basically, my feeling, the hardest photography to do is street photography. Those are the people’s work I’ve really admired from the beginning. That’s why I became a photographer.

MS: Do you try to create a story when you see somebody?
MEM: I try to make a frame of it that says something.

I take a moment to glance around the studio some more, noticing wooden carved figures of roosters, Micky Mouse, Jesus, and more skeletal images and figures, even color skeleton streamers hanging from the lights, resembling the Day of the Dead, providing a deeper feel into Mary Ellen’s native essence, her style, her interests, her mysterious appeal that translates into her photography, causing the eyes to linger for an extra amount of time, piecing together the puzzle, figuring out what is being shared. I ask Mary Ellen about the dynamics in shooting.

MEM: If you’re doing a portrait, you have to take a certain amount of control - you have to be in control. They have to feel that you know what you’re doing, then they have a respect for you. It’s a balance, there is a very delicate balance.

MS: Do you feel a certain sense of responsibility to bring people to life in a photograph, by exposing them or sharing them to the world in a particular way?

MEM: Yea, to be honest. Pictures can lie very easily, so you have to be honest, have respect, or not have respect, whatever, with what you want to say with your camera - not to lie to people.

MS: So what are you trying to say with your camera?
MEM: Each situation is totally different. You’re trying to make an image that’s memorable, maybe iconic. If you’re lucky, you know, iconic.

Innovative enigmatic, resourceful, and ready to readjust to change and circumstance and situations and work with them in order to produce the most fruitful result of art, Mary Ellen is a true artist; open with her approach and unique in her view on life and how to capture it, in essence.

MS: What do you hold as the power in photography, your photography?

" I guess I’m always afraid that I’m going to see something amazing and miss it in fILM. As long as I can still shoot film and get film - but there’s a transition "

MEM: I think the power in photography - it’s very difficult, now everyone is a photographer, so the bar has been lowered. There’s not as much respect and there’s a lot of really bad scenes being shot that aren’t good. And people don’t know the difference, so, what do I respect, I respect people who’s work I think is great, and whose work hasn’t been lowered by the bar. Everyone’s a photographer now, so people think it’s easy and anyone can do it. In a way it is easy, it’s very easy to take an average picture, that’s a piece of cake. To take great pictures is really hard.

MS: What is the distinguishing level?

MEM: You just look at it. Helen Levitt, Irving Penn, they take great pictures. You just know it when you look at it. It’s talking to you, it’s saying something to you.

We take a momentary break from the interview while one of Mary Ellen’s assistants asks her a few questions. I observe the large bookshelf behind me, full of books, organized with labels, mostly on photography. Mary Ellen has seventeen published books of photographs, with numerous contributions to publications such as Vanity Fair, Life, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and more. Before the rows of books are cartoon figures of Popeye, George Bush, Queen Elizabeth and a few other fun notable figures.

Alban E. Smajli: Do you still shoot analog?

MEM: Yes. I have a digital camera, I mean, I do, but you know, I mean, I think it’s a different medium, you know, and I love film, my whole life I’ve always done film. I have a really great digital camera, but I haven’t used it yet. But I think it’s different from film and it is different. I guess I’m always afraid that I’m going to see something amazing and miss it in film. As long as I can still shoot film and get film - but there’s a transition. I’m not the only one, there are other people shooting film.

Continuing on the subject of analog versus digital photography, Mary Ellen explains that “it’s a different mindset, it looks different, especially for black and white. I shoot mainly in black and white. I think for color, digital can be very beautiful sometimes, but for black and white, I like silver prints. But people put a lot of pressure on you to shoot digital.” Mary Ellen then refers to the annual Easter Parade that took place a day prior, “everybody was taking pictures. Everybody! I mean, I’m talking

from five years up to like, old men with their cameras. And people are being shoved and pushed, and it’s just really - there’s no more borders.

In the evolution of photography, experienced by our social culture, from analog to digital, to handheld phone-tography, the bar has been ‘lowered’ to a playing field without borders, where anyone can snap a photo. But what distinguishes a great photo is something that speaks, something eternal. Mary Ellen still captures the honesty of what is, the actuality of a subject from a perspective lens. Not through manipulation of image and representation, but through a focused aspect of perception through lens, Mary Ellen Mark grips at the core of photography, allowing art to be formed in a still image within a frame, iconic. 


MARY ELLEN MARK, New York City, Studio, 2014.
photographed by Alban E. Smajli

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Herbert Nauderer

Herbert Nauderer

A collection of 800 drawings

written by Mikal Shkreli

march 2014

Artistically expressive, Herbert Nauderer's collection of hand drawings focus on the exaggeration of one element that pulls the images into a realm of surreal and comic fantasy. In this world of imagery Herbert creates, visual language speaks loudly in new and unknown forms, somewhat reflective, other times emotionally evoking, and often comical. Born in Fuerstenfeldbruck, Germany in 1958, Herbert studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He steadily practices art through drawing, painting and graphic work and is one of the most influential drawers in German contemporary art. This particular collection is said to be a visual translation of his interpretation of the sounds of the drums; as a percussionist in a band, the experience is fuel for the collection, using emotion and personal expression from one medium onto the next. 

" Each even space addresses emotion entirely dIfFerent than the one prior, creating a rhythm in his visual work, pulling the viewer on a plethora of emotional communication "

All drawings are all on the same format of 21 x 15cm, and presented uniformly without borders or frames. Each even space addresses emotion entirely different than the one prior, creating a rhythm in his visual work, pulling the viewer on a plethora of emotional communication. When addressing the work as a whole, at a distance, we can view if in a grand way of the larger picture of their constitution, as a musically dynamic song sung by the creatures of our heart that wears many faces. Herbert comments, "drawings often bypass prevailing trends. The kind of status report they represent is just what I like. It ́s something timeless and is a law unto itself." 
Featured is a small portion of 800 drawings that has been evolving for over 10 years titled `Rembrandt Ballet'. The title was chosen because Herbert saw the drawings as adaptations to Rembrandt's figure studies.

HERBERT NAUDERER, München, 2014.
video  Bodo Kessler, courtesy: NUSSER&BAUMGART

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Alban E. Smajli

Alban E. Smajli

alban e. smajli 
I told you I am Tall

written by Mikal Shkreli

march 2014

An intimate look into a simple life, a place captured between stillness and motion, moments in a day through the eyes of children. The images are playful, direct, and powerful, reminiscent of spending actual time outdoors, running with children, playing in the world, regardless of the environment. The two cousins Erona and Selma run through the streets of an old town, posing, playing, simply living. The series was completed in the black and white photography in 2012 in the northern part of Kosovo in the town of Vushtrri. Taking place in the hometown of photographer Alban E. Smajli, the story is titled "I told you I am tall" and was created to express the easy way of life children enjoy in their childhood.

" These photos are taking in exactly the same place and neighborhood we used to live in the 90s "

The black and white effect allows the illusions for the photos to be timeless and relatable, like the memories of our innocent pasts. Smajli recalls how these photos remind him of how he and his family "used to live in Kosovo in our childhood before my parents decided to leave the country because of the military unrests." He continues, "I was not wondering why we are not going to kindergarten or to school. I just remember playing all day and night long with my brother. It was a lovely time. And seeing these two girls spending every moment together in joy and carefree, makes me reflect my life in young ages. It ́s a nice retrospective reflecting. These photos are taking in exactly the same place and neighborhood we used to live in the 90s." As if existing in only a dream world, the photos emit fantasy and perspective, reflecting a particular self observation through the eyes of the beautiful world of our imaginations. 

SELMA, Vushtrri, August, 2014 - video