A silent space

Rhythm of Silence #2 (close up) 44 x 56 cm by Johannes NielsenAn artwork that cries out to be caressed is a potent object. Sculptor Johannes Nielsen appears not only to understand this power, but to harness it, with sculptures that all but shiver with a desire for a human hand. His latest works are sleek and solid, yet with a suggestion of belonging to dreams, and even in their stillness they suggest a vigour that’s deeply alluring.

And yet, in the opinion of Johannes, these works are all about space.

“In my art there is no real story to be revealed or statement to be told,” he says. “It’s more Iike I want to create a silent space for rest and relaxation. In that space I believe we can get in touch with our own inner voice that may communicate something much more of value that I ever can express through my art.”

Born in 1979 in Falkenberg, Sweden, Johannes graduated in Fine Arts from the Lunds Art School in 2003 and worked as an artistic assistant in Dublin before returning to Sweden in 2007. Currently, he lives and works in Beijing.

His motivation to seek calm through his work stems from within. “I have a strong need for clarity and to understand things, often at the beginning I have a question in the back of my mind, then, throughout the creative process I find answers and solutions,” he says. “And I find a way to communicate that without saying anything. Later In the result, I have all of that recorded in to my sculpture. Finally, when I look at my own creation it reminds me of my inner discoveries and the journey during that time.”

Same Body Different Day crop_by Johannes Nielsen

Same Body Different Day #2 (crop) by Johannes Nielsen

His words make sense of the energy his figures and animals exude. The process of creation allows Johannes to empty his own emotions, and so it’s perhaps only natural that his sculptures resonate with the buzz of unspoken emotion. Despite this, the pieces seem open to welcoming more – to soak in human anxiety and replace it with quiet.

Contrary to the perfection of the completed sculptures, mistakes are a crucial part of Johannes’ methodology. “My creative process is often about giving myself permission to fail,” he confesses. “For each finished sculpture there are several failures behind it. I keep trying and trying, modeling and carving in the sculpture: sometimes it crashes, other times it fails. At the end I try to save the best accidents and throw out the bad ones. And often the original idea and the finished result are two completely different pieces of art.”

Echo From the Soil by Johannes Nielsen

Echo From the Soil by Johannes Nielsen

He adds: “I rarely have a previous image or a vision for a new piece of art. Often I only know how large I want the finished sculpture to be, and then I see my creative process as a way to sketch and daydream. It’s then I feel there can be magic moment captured in the result.”

Johannes believes he is growing ever closer to his creative goals. “In general I feel more and more happy for each new pieces of art I create, I feel my recent work hold more and more of my own language and truth.”

Johannes describes his motivation as the urge for “a finished piece of art (to) somehow reveal an timeless experience. One way I do that is by sourcing my inspiration both from classical as well as contemporary art, from eastern as well as western culture. I also like to work in bronze for this reason; it’s a timeless material that only becomes more beautiful as it changes with the passing of time and the touch of people’s hands.”

There. I knew it. Art created to be touched.

Find more of Johannes work at DegreeArt.com.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley(at)iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud.com.

An expression of love

DancinginMocoMoco#3 by Natsuko Hattori

DancinginMocoMoco#3 by Natsuko Hattori

Natsuko Hattori’s soft, curving sculptures are beguilingly sensual creations, yet they express sorrow and feelings of helplessness as well as love.

“In 2011, a year after I moved to New York, the earthquake that devastated the northeast Japan happened,” Natsuko explains. “It was very big thing for me. I lost contact with my family and friends for more than a week. I panicked and spent sleepless nights crying. I felt so powerless.”

Sculptures in blue by Natsuko Hattori

Sculptures in blue by Natsuko Hattori

Through her desperation, Natsuko began to wonder if she could do as an artist to express or alleviate these feelings, not just her own, but those experienced by others too. “In the end, I came to the conclusion that I want my art to make people smile, make them feel warm and tender at the moment they feel sad and down,” she says. “I decided to recreate through art what I feel when I think of the word love. To me, to love is to embrace, or to envelop someone or something with warmth, tenderness and affection. So I came up with the idea of wrapping cotton balls in piecse of cloth and putting them together to create a soft sculpture. This is how MocoMoco was conceived.”

SCULPTURES1 by Natsuko Hattori

Sculptures by Natsuko Hattori

She sees textiles as the perfect medium to t communicate emotions on a relatable level.

“Fabric is my medium of choice because people everywhere can relate more easily to this material, which conveys warmth, natural softness and the intimate human touch,” she says. “My works are all made up of my feelings and experiences. People who have seen my work for many years say that each piece of work represents my life and ideas. For me, the work is like a diary, which confines the feelings of that time. Just through looking at my work, I feel my thoughts from that time again.”

Find Natsuko’s sculptures at www.natsukohattori.net 

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Ceramics in Flux

Binary by Yurim Gough

One of my favourite artists-to-watch, the brilliant Yurim Gough, is having something of a busy year. Having just finished exhibiting in The RWA’s Drawn exhibition in Bristol, she’s also been selected to show works at the Flux Exhibition in London this July.

FLUX exhibition is on at Chelsea College of Arts, London, from July 12-16th July 2017.

Binary by Yurim Gough

Binary by Yurim Gough

“The ceramic pieces which I will be exhibiting at Flux are much larger than any I’ve created before, but follow on in development from the bowls I’ve made previously,” Yurim explains. “I had the idea that by setting the bowls in relief into a much larger vase, I could display more than one of my individual as part of the same piece.”

It’s a unique method, bringing together Yurim’s beautiful, provocative artworks into tangible series. “It means that I can have a theme for each piece.”

Loves by Yurim Gough

Loves by Yurim Gough

Her first work in the series is a vase with a single concave face in the side, “like a bowl set into it.” The next in the series has two faces, and three and so on up to the sixth piece, which has six faces (would have loved the surprise here of seven faces, but that’s just my contrary side). “The pieces with one, three, four and six faces have been completed and will be exhibited,” Yurim says.

Each vase is a study in compare and contrast, with several opposing and complimentary opposites, Yurim tells me, “such the inverted faces and the pointed tops of the vases, like male and female, yin and yang.”

Birth by Yurim Gough

Birth by Yurim Gough

The first piece, pictured directly above, is titled Birth. “It has one face, showing unity, the sperm and the egg.”

The second piece, shown in the first tow images in this post, is Binary, and is shaped into two concave breasts, or buttocks, with the artwork highlighting these feminine body parts so hyper-sensualised by modern ideals of beauty and fashion.

Wind by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Wind by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

The fourth work, Elements, offers Yurim’s take on water, fire, wind and mother earth, while the sixth vase, Loves, reveals six different kinds of love.

“I began adding colour to my work at the end of 2015, and found this enabled me to take a new direction with my art,” says Yurim. “When I began carrying out my life drawings on the ceramics, I saw that the pictures in it prompted me to think about the shapes of the human body and how these reflect on the potential of our lives.”

Water by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

Water by Yurim Gough, part of her Elements artwork

To explore this idea further, Yurim went beyond her life drawings to sample and blend in images sourced from the internet “to bring the stories I imagined to life.”

It’s an exciting project set to stir intrigue and recognition in viewers to the show. See them for yourself at FLUX exhibition from July 12-16th July 2017, at Chelsea College of Arts, London.

Find full details at fluxexhibition.com and yurimgough.com.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judy(at)socketcreative.com.

Re-envisioning the world

Rose Temple by Abeer ElkhatebThrough the eyes of artist Abeer Elkhateb, the world assumes a majestic splendour. With Fantastical turreted cities beneath fabulous skies, the scenes look like glimpses from exotic fairytales, a dramatic contrast to his ultra-realistic bronzes of entwined figures.

This contrast of styles takes me by surprise, but talking to Abeer Elkhateb makes it clear that there’s always been a touch of the rebellious about his art.

“As far as I remember I was about 10 years old. For no reason at school, I was just painting and painting and painting,” he says. “It got me into a lot of trouble at that time and it sent me to jail at a later age.”

When he was 16, Abeer’s uncle Abdallah Alkhateb (a PhD Historian and artist) took me under his wing in a way and opened his massive library to my eyes, which allowed me to be introduced academically to the art and art history.”

Following that, Abeer says, art became a way of life,  “or I can say it is my life.”

Abeer has developed a very particular way of working. “Every five years I take a new path and start building everything around it,” he says. “The last project I worked on was based on reverse-ism. I took some well known physical laws like gravity, perspective, fundamental construction and turned them upside-downs, inside-out.”

Observation and imagination both play vital roles in this process.

I love Albert Einstein’s statement that logic takes you from A to Z, but imagination takes you anywhere,” he says. “In many case I’ve wondered about the borders between reality and imagination, wondering if my imagination created the world I’m in or if the observed world by me created my imagination. Do thoughts really become reality?”

Abeer mentions painting places he’d thought were dreamt up in his imagination, but then later coming across those locations in the real world.  “I also have ongoing dreams – when they come they just continue where they stopped the previous time, as if a different dimension of me lives in a different world. I use those dreams as one of the sources of my artwork.”

As a result, many of his enchanting scenes are re-envisions of real places, such as St Michael’s Mount in France, Port Isaac in Cornwall and various parts of Germany.

Transforming a nebulous idea into a work of art is part of the excitement.

“I love it when a new idea is about to come up,” he says. “First thing is drawing or outlining the idea and if I need to perform and film the performed concept, I do.”

Once this is done, he can concentrate on painting or sculpting, according to the form of expression that feels right. “Basically I let the idea grows organically. Many of my recent works are in 2D and 3D alike.”

Lovers No.4 by Abeer Elkhateb

Lovers No.4 by Abeer Elkhateb

Abeer has  been experimenting with materials since the seventies, “from scrap material  found in the streets, metal, wood, clay, wax, plaster and bronze on the sculpted production and oil colour, watercolour, ceramics, textile, etchings and mosaics. I think what I want to say is material and skills are always working side by side and when they don’t, I feel that I’m being challenged and that is exciting because it pushes me into the unknown territory. At that stage I feel there is something to explore. So, I don’t really prefer particular materials – it’s the concept that informs me.”

Abeer can’t imagine his life without art. “I came to England from the war zone in Baghdad,” he says of his struggles to survive as a man and an artist. “I’ve failed in so many things in my life as well as succeeding in many others; I’ve had my ups and downs, been crushed and stood up again,” he says. “But even at the craziest times, paper and pen were always somewhere beside me, either in my pockets or in my bag. Paper and pen act as a reminder to myself that I am an artist. Recording experiences helps me see how every day, every experience, every breath is important. That is love itself.”

Lovers and Child by Abeer Elkhateb

Lovers and Child by Abeer Elkhateb

Abeer Elkhateb’s Imagined Worlds is on at Skylark Galleries 2, Unit 1.09, First Floor Riverside, Oxo Tower Wharf, London until 19th February 2017. Find out more here abeerelkhateb.wordpress.com and www.skylarkgalleries.com.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Chaotic rhythms with Nick Tommey

Meditations in Metal XXVI detail cr Nick Tommey

Meditations in Metal XXVI detail © Nick Tommey

Resembling the skeleton of a fallen leaf cast in molten metal, this artwork is just one of an immense body of work by sculptor Nick Tommey. I love the way it shifts from sky blue to burnt orange – offering the sense of rivulets of hot and cold air running together. Nick first began to develop his particular artistic style during a period working as a welder in San Francisco, after becoming intrigued by the visual patterns created by ‘energy exchanges’.

“I’m drawn to natural, chaotic patterns and rhythms – anything that shows evidence of an energy exchange – erosion patterns, growth patterns…” he says. “It’s the evidence of an energy exchange that I’m most interested in. The warping of the metal, the coloured oxidation of the stainless steel, coupled with my own energy input by the manipulation of the material, is at the core of my work.”

India cr Nick Tommey

India © Nick Tommey

Nick initially wanted to become a photographer, “but before you can do a degree in photography, you have to do a one-year foundation course which covers a wide range of disciplines, one of which was sculpture,” he explains of the path that led him here. “It seemed the most natural way of working for me, and I have been working and thinking three-dimensionally ever since.

India detail1 cr Nick Tommey

India detail © Nick Tommey

After finishing his art foundation course in Cheltenham, Nick moved to Sheffield. “I was drawn to the city because of its cheap and plentiful studio space – as the city was in depression and there were a lot of closed down metal workshops,” he comments. “As I was working more and more in metals, it seemed a natural choice.”

Nick lived there for three years before moving to San Francisco, where he found employment as a metal worker, and where, due to high rent prices, “my sculpture had to be put on a back burner. I continued to make work, but very slowly as I could only ‘weld for fun’ during lunch breaks and so on.”

Meditations in Metal XXX cr Nick Tommey

Meditations in Metal XXX © Nick Tommey

Nick worked for various metal shops, “often doing lots and lots of TIG welding. It was my interaction with the materials and observing how they responded to my interaction that provided the starting point of my particular style of work.”

Through his sculptures, he says, Nick is “attempting to set up my own chaotic structures through the almost mindless repetition of the welding. Unintended rhythms appear in my work the same way they do in natural patterns and rhythms like sand dunes, fingerprints, and so on.”

Nick remained in San Francisco for eleven years before returning to England in 2008. “I am now able to make sculpture the majority of the time.”

Making the work itself is only part of the pleasure for Nick. “One of the things I get the biggest kick out of is thinking about what happens to a piece after it has sold, where will it end up, who will own it, who will it communicate with,” he says. “It’s a way of living beyond yourself. Even after you die, you can still be communicating with people. I’m playing around with some bronze castings at the moment, and it’s great thinking that the bronze pieces that I am making now could last for thousands of years!”

The majority of Nick’s larger pieces go to Melissa Morgan Fine Art in Palm Dessert, California. Smaller pieces can be seen at Paragon Gallery in Cheltenham. You can view all of Nick’s work on his website www.nicktommey.co.uk.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Movement in stillness with sculptor Sophie Howard

So Long © Sophie HowardSome sculptors have the power to halt you in your tracks. Like animals poised to pounce, the stillness of their creations suggests coiled strength, waiting to be released. That’s how it is for me with Sophie Howard’s work, where her explorations of human and animal, especially horse, forms, seem paused only for the briefest of moments while your gaze rest upon them.

And yet, Sophie’s early experience of sculpture was more about the mind than physicality, at least from her own point-of-view.

Nu back detail © Sophie Howard

“On my art foundation course I remember sitting and staring despondently at the first sculpture I made, thinking it was so, so bad,” she admits. “To move on from that most negative state I made myself list the shortcomings and imagine how it would be if it was really good. Then I saw a series of objects stretching into the far distance, right out of sight. I think that was it. It’s like they say about History: ‘Just one damn thing after another.’”

Sophie was just ten when she first managed to take what she saw and turn it into art. “I was painting a tree in my bedroom on a piece of paper with poster paints from glass jars,” she says. “The tree was the old imaginary type – like an upturned broom. I looked out of the window, and saw the extraordinary natural structures of the trees in my garden at once. So I made my trees like that. There was an encouraging response from my mother when I showed her, as she crashed about making lunch. Later I kept going back to look at this painted tree thinking there was something good there, and I was on to something, but not sure what or why. I remember the light in the room.”

Standing © Sophie Howard

Light and the ‘seen’ continue to drive Sophie’s work today, but she also seeks out ways to expose the unseen, as she puts it “nuggets of experience, connections. Last night I saw a singer, whose body sang and told the story of her song as much as the sound and words that came from her. We listeners were reached by her and connected up. That is what I want to make right now. The work I do is in finding the language. Sometimes it works, and connects us up – the subject, the viewer and me.”

Sophie finds herself increasingly interested in working with ceramics. “The way a sculptural style can be described is partly about the materials and what they let us do. I’m getting more keenly into ceramics, so that certainly will make my style more identified with the richly endowed clan of the clay. I’ve heard my style described as classic, though it was a surprise to me. If that means that I use form, line, texture, imagery and scale to communicate, I am happy about it. ‘In the style of Sophie Howard’ would be nice.”

Looking at Sophie’s body of work, it’s clear that the potential for movement is an enduring force. “If dance and horse sculptures are my poems or songs, then sculptures of the torso are the single words,” she comments. Horses and the way people connect with them seems to epitomise something deep in us. Natural magic would be a way to say it. I dance tango, so I witness and experience fine physical things with my body, and see and feel the dynamism, subtlety and power of other dancers. Making sculpture, which is static, of something that moves but has such rich form and meaning is what engages me.”

Sophie is currently embarking on a new venture called Hours. “I’m building a new home and creative space,” she says, then amends: “Well, I’m one of the people commissioning builders and others to build it, not doing it myself.”

Hours is scheduled to open early in 2015. “It will be a place to show art and design, including work that has a positive ethical element. The space will also be available for people to meet, entertain, practice yoga, show a film or inhabit for other purposes. It will be a fine and flexible space with big windows, oak floor, underfloor heating and its own washroom and kitchen. It overlooks Lewins Mead, in central Bristol. We will live upstairs.”

That sounds pretty magical to me.

from the Lasses series cr © Sophie Howard

“For my own work, I’m bringing together some different strands,” Sophie says. “Horses are involved, and a collaboration  with a very special poet and performer. I am not sure what the outcomes will be, but for me it is about ideas that have come from mythology and archaeology, combined with positive psychological power, and how to manifest those things in sculpture. I am discovering that there are surprising and rich ideas about what goes on between people and horses.”

As she comments, these ideas are not really new, but rediscovered, she says, explaining that she’s interested in “the nature of the raw relationship between a person and an animal, rather than the functional model of a horse as beast of burden, performer, farm worker…. I have begun a series of sculptures that will include a wider range of possibilities than my horse pieces to date – and some have no horses in at all. So far the first arrivals are some pretty fierce lasses with a range of wild hair dos, and some very proud looking fat ponies. It’s surprised me how the figures have leapt to life.”

Find Sophie at sophiehoward.co.uk. The photographs of the sculptures shown in this post were all taken by Jen Lo.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.