Studio

British Art Duo Gilbert and George Are Drinking Champagne in the Studio and Signing Posters for Their Next Gallery Show


The English art collaborators Gilbert and George, known for their graphic photo works and for wearing dapper suits, have been on a more than 50-year “visionary and moral journey,” as they describe their creative practice. That journey has most recently led them back to their own doorstep, London, where they’ve been steadfastly working through the lockdowns.

For their latest body of work, going on view in the exhibition “New Normal Pictures” at Lehmann Maupin in New York on September 9, the pair combines seemingly prosaic scenes of London life with jolts of day-glo color.

We spoke with the duo about where they’ve been finding inspiration lately and how they’ve managed to stay busy during this period of upheaval (hint: it involves champagne).

 

What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why?

Our brains, our souls, and our sex.

Is there a picture you can send of your work in progress? 

WORK IN PROGRESS, 2020. The artists, Manuel Irsara the architect, Yu Yigang, and the team at the future Gilbert and George Centre. Photo: Tom Oldham.

What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?

Signing thousands of posters and catalogues in preparation for our Lehmann Maupin New York exhibition of “New Normal Pictures.”

What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?

The Cosmic Void is our ideal studio. Music is against our religion.

What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?

We admire works of art that have something to say for themselves with great visual/human power. We despise willfully obscure art that looks down its nose at the lovely viewers.

What snack food could your studio not function without?

No snacks—only champagne.

Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?

As always, Darwin, Alan Turing, and Charles Dickens.

Gilbert and George, BATTLE ROAD (2020). © Gilbert & George. Courtesy the artists and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?

We are never stuck. Rather, we are always bursting with more pictures than we will ever be able to create.

What is the last exhibition you saw (virtual or otherwise) that made an impression on you?

A display of art at the studio of that great, yet-to-emerge artist Oliver Hemsley.

If you had to put together a mood board, what would be on it right now?

Expectations, hope, desire, and determinations.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

This Father-and-Son Design Studio in Geneva Makes Spirited Creations Out of Unexpected Materials—See Them Here


Every month, hundreds of galleries add newly available works by thousands of artists to the Midnight Publishing Group Gallery Network—and every week, we shine a spotlight on one artist you should know. Check out what we have in store, and inquire for more with one simple click.

About the Artists: In 2017, father and son Pierre and Cedric Koukjia founded a joint design studio, SINCE, in the heart of Geneva. There, all of the design objects carry their own distinctive aesthetic, but share a common root in material experimentation.

Beirut-born Pierre is a conceptual artist with a remarkable career. He left his home city at the dawn of the Lebanese Civil War, living around the world (in Paris, Bangkok, Singapore, and Madrid) before settling in Geneva. His son, Cedric Koukjian, is trained as an industrial engineer; his works bridge craftsmanship with a flair for the avant-garde. 

Inside the Geneva studio of SINCE.

Inside the Geneva studio of SINCE.

Why We Like It: At SINCE, Pierre and Cedric make works that defy traditional categorizations, ranging from sculptures (from teeny-tiny to colossal in scale), furniture, and lighting. Some works are functional, others are not. The shared goal of father and son is to be as experimental as possible. They take an anything-under-the-sun approach to materials working in hammered steel, titanium, industrial foam, brass, neon, and glass, among many other materials. Both artists like to create visual tricks with their materials, too. For instance, Cedric is known for creating chain-like links one would assume to be metal from marble and other stone materials.

Inside the Geneva studio of SINCE—an in progress <i>Bubble Bucket</i> by Pierre Koukjian.

Inside the Geneva studio of SINCE—an in-progress Bubble Bucket by Pierre Koukjian.

What the Artists Say: “We are a duo of postmodern industrial creators working with talented European craftsmanship. At the core of our creativity is a constant research for new shapes and materials.”

 

Cedric Koukjian
“AmberLink” escritoire (2021)
SINCE Geneva
Inquire for More Information

 

Liaison table, a hand hammered stainless steel and crystalline resin escritoire. A utilitarian sculpture signed by Cedric Koukjian.

Cedric Koukjian, “AmberLink” escritoire (2021). Courtesy of SINCE Geneva.

 

Pierre Koukjian
RPG (2020)
Inquire for More Information

Pierre Koukjian, RPG (2020). Courtesy of SINCE Geneva.

Pierre Koukjian, RPG (2020). Courtesy of SINCE Geneva.

 

Cedric Koukjian
Liaison Pygmalion
Inquire for More Information

Cedric Koukjian, Liaison Pygmalion. Courtesy of SINCE Geneva.

Cedric Koukjian, Liaison Pygmalion. Courtesy of SINCE Geneva.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

Artist Mandy El-Sayegh on Making Her Studio Into a Bedroom, and the Kind of Art She Doesn’t Care for


The Malaysian-born artist Mandy El-Sayegh’s large-scale, layered canvases, which are constructed from “found fragments” and call attention to a world in flux, have caught the attention of the art world in recent years.

Her first solo exhibition in Seoul at Lehmann Maupin, titled “Protective Inscriptions” (through July 17), features “an immersive installation, combining painting and soundscape to activate a formless language of flesh and vibration,” according to the gallery. It also includes the everyday items that have become common in her work: old copies of the Financial Times, iconography from familiar advertisements, doodles, and pages of Arabic calligraphy taken from her father’s home in London.

Altogether, the works prod the artist’s fractured experience of identity, and suggests “the intricacies of growth and decay as they happen in real time,” El-Sayegh said.

“I’m interested in this idea of lost time and the impossibility of finding a moment of origin,” she said. “My work builds fragmented histories into absurdist bodies and forms.”

We spoke with El-Sayegh about life in her studio, being a night owl, and why great art demands “a sense of honest vulnerability.”

Mandy El-Sayegh, "Net-Grid" (2020). Photo courtesy Lehmann Maupin.

Mandy El-Sayegh, “Net-Grid” (2020). Photo courtesy Lehmann Maupin.

What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why?

Impossible to answer, as I hoard everything and need every little scrap around me and in my periphery.

What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?

Steam cleaning the lino floor after days of using it to prime surfaces.

You have a show on in Seoul. What can people expect to see? 

Interesting biomorphic textures and forms.

An installation image from El-Sayegh's show, "Recombinance," with Lee Bull. Photo courtesy Lehmann Maupin.

An installation image from El-Sayegh’s show, “Recombinance,” with Lee Bull. Photo courtesy Lehmann Maupin.

What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? 

I am a night owl, so I emulate a bedroom situation with all my creature comforts: bass-heavy music for at least 8 hours, lots of warm LED lamps. Though there are times that call for silence.

What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?

A sense of honest vulnerability in testing an idea that teeters on the edge of failure, where there is something at stake. Conversely, I tend not to like anything too virtuoso and sure of itself.

What snack could your studio not function without? 

Something salty after the night shift: nocellara olives, lebne, zaatar, unpasteurized OJ, and milk thistle to detox the vodka.

Installation view of El-Sayegh's "What’s it called? Nothing, I just collect stuff, I’m a yard man" (2020) at the Busan Biennale in 2020. Photo courtesy Lehmann Maupin.

Installation view of El-Sayegh’s “What’s it called? Nothing, I just collect stuff, I’m a yard man” (2020) at the Busan Biennale in 2020. Photo courtesy Lehmann Maupin.

Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?

A lot of the curators and thinkers I follow don’t have a big social media presence. The few that do are: Novara media, Natalie Wynn, Daniel Tutt.

When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?

Run, shower, leave, tidy, start another thing.

Installation view of "Mandy El-Sayegh & Lee Bul: Recombinance" (2021). Photo courtesy Lehmann Maupin.

Installation view of “Mandy El-Sayegh & Lee Bul: Recombinance” (2021). Photo courtesy Lehmann Maupin.

What is the last exhibition you saw (virtual or otherwise) that made an impression on you?

I honestly cannot recall.

If you had to put together a mood board, what would be on it right now?

DNA sequencing, xerox fanzines from the ’70s, blunt force trauma wounds.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

How Artist Ellen Altfest Built a Fully Functioning Studio Outdoors—and Manages to Resist Cell-Phone Distractions While Painting There


Ellen Altfest paints her subjects—gourds, armpits, male anatomy—in such painstakingly fine detail that it can take months, or even years, to realize a single composition.

In recent years, Altfest, who is based in New York, has increasingly turned her eye toward the natural world, painting scenes of moss, trees, and other features of her outdoor environment, always in natural light. A selection of these new watercolor works are on view now in an online solo show at White Cube titled “Nature.”

We spoke with the artist about how she learned to paint outdoors and where she’s finding creative inspiration now.

 

What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why?

1. My skylights. I make all my oil paintings from direct observation in natural light.

2. My 6/0 sable brushes are indispensable when making fine detail in both oil and watercolor.

3. A man-shaped tailor’s dummy that I use to pin still life objects to so they don’t move when I paint them.

4. The platform my husband built for me that keeps me level when painting outside.

5. My extensive leaf collection.

6. A tall wooden painting stool that I inherited from [the late New York City-based painter] Sylvia Sleigh, which is the perfect height and shape for painting.

Ellen Altfest’s studio. © Vincent Dillio.

What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?

I am enjoying spring and returning to my painting site, which is next to a stream. I have been making a painting of a tree with moss, which I began in spring 2019 and have worked on since, on days that are not too cold or wet. I’m at my favorite part of the painting, when many of the small pieces of bark are in the right place and mostly painted. After taking a break for the winter, I get to go back with a fresh eye and pull it all together, which should only take two or three more months, I hope. I will finish the trees in the distance at the end of October, which I can only see clearly when the leaves have fallen again.

What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?

When I’m indoors, I like to make a little nest around myself of natural objects and books. I need visual information and texture to feel creative. I like parsing an abundance of subject matter, like what I see when I’m outside. Painting in the elements is in turn stressful and stimulating, but I like the sense of urgency that natural conditions provide.

I love listening to music when I work, but I can’t trust myself with the phone. It interferes with my ability to focus. Podcasts are an especially slippery slope, because they seem to offer a way to buffer the stresses of making a painting. The Daily is my gateway drug—I innocently want to check in with it at the start of the day, but pretty soon I become curious about something else I subscribe to, and then hours have passed and I find myself in the grips of Casefile, or some other dark and dispiriting true crime program that seems to wriggle its way into my subconscious mind and reemerge when I’m sleeping. So it’s best for me to abstain.

Altfest’s outdoor setup. © Vincent Dillio.

What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you most despise?

I think great art has a combination of qualities that all need to be present. In painting, there is a formal inventiveness, singular execution, an intensity and complexity of ideas and impulses, and evidence of a personal sensibility. I like when I can feel that something is at stake. When I see a work that is fully what it’s supposed to be, that I connect with, I feel energized and humbled.

I can’t really think of anything I despise. But I have a short memory, so when I see something that’s not to my liking, I will probably forget it.

What snack food could your studio not function without? 

Matcha tea! I order it from the Sazen Tea Company in Japan. Matcha is made of ground leaves, the best of which are a bright green, like springtime. I whisk the tea into water, mix it with almond milk and raw honey, and heat it.

Altfest in the studio. © Vincent Dillio.

Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?

@artsmagazinedotcom: A successor to the legacy publication Arts Magazine, it makes insightful, nuanced, and funny art reviews in video. These three-to-five-minute productions appropriate an eclectic mix of source materials, high and low, old and new, creating a space somewhere between video art and art criticism. Full disclosure: the editor-in-chief is my husband.

@oumanijacobstudio: Ceramics that use glaze in such beautiful ways that they are as much paintings as useable objects. With just 432 followers, his work feels like a discovery.

@davidrisley: I first admired the gumption of David Risley for going back to art-making after owning a gallery, and then I was won over by his guileless watercolors. Now I’ve begun to follow his absurd insights into the art world and pretty hilarious visual essays made while recovering from a broken back.

@special_plants_world: Not about art, but plants that I find mysterious and surprising. I used to be a loyal succulent and cactus lover (even painting them), but the patterns on the variegated varieties are so good that I may have new favorites.

Ellen Altfest. © Vincent Dillio.

When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?

Seeing other art and travel are what I turn to when I need inspiration. Some people get ideas in the shower, but I find that kind of mental hum in museums. Years ago, I went to a Mantegna show in Paris that was mind-blowing to me, and I stood in front of each work and made myself fully present to absorb what I was seeing. Then, in the hallway outside of the the exhibition, I had the idea to paint part of a leg on the ground. I still don’t exactly know where this came from.

What is the last exhibition you saw (virtual or otherwise) that made an impression on you?

I saw this amazing Lee Krasner show at Kasmin gallery last month. I had read about her work in the book Ninth Street Women, but hadn’t seen her collage paintings before. The works from her 1955 show are so bold and raw, in color and composition. The fearlessness needed to rip up and reconfigure her own paintings (and some of her husband’s) was inspiring. I’m hoping for collage to work its way into my paintings, in its own way.

If you had to put together a mood board, what would be on it right now?

Compositions made of combinations of leaves as they have been arranged by water and wind on the forest floor.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:



Sean Scully Opened His Studio to the Public to Showcase the Gripping Paintings He Made During Lockdown—See Them Here


After more than a year working in isolation, Sean Scully decided to go in the opposite direction. He swung open the doors of his studio to invite art lovers in. The Irish-American artist’s latest exhibition, “12 Black Windows,” takes place in two parts—at Lisson Gallery’s space on 24th Street and Scully’s own Chelsea workspace. (Visits can be scheduled here). 

Inside the studio, one encounters The 12 (2020), a 12-panel grouping of new paintings in his ongoing “Landline” series. They range from joyous to somber in their tones and seem to echo the range of emotions felt over the past year, from tragedy to jubilation and relief.

Though these works still engage the alternating bands of color that have defined “Landline” series since Scully began it over 20 years ago, they are rooted in the experiences of the global pandemic, quarantine, Black Lives Matter protests, and mass uncertainty that Scully experienced firsthand in New York. In the studio, the works occupy their own room and act almost like sentries at a fortified structure or pillars in a temple, conferring a sense of gravity in opposition to the unpredictability of the outside world. 

The world in which we live, the existential threat from COVID, and the environmental problems we face have influenced me greatly in my art,” the artist said in a statement.

In the gallery, the exhibition continues with Dark Windows (2020), a suite of five works created at the height of the pandemic. Here, Scully introduces a new element, the seemingly sinister black square—an allusion to Malevich’s 1915 Black Box. The shape—which evokes censors, stunned silence, and even “Blackout Tuesday” Instagram posts—represents a departure for Scully, whose work normally calls to mind open landscapes and horizon lines.

“There is no doubt that they are a response to the pandemic and to what mankind has been doing to nature,” Scully said. “What really strikes me as tragic is that what is a relief for nature is a torment for us. And what is a pleasure for us is a torment for nature. That seems to be the conundrum that we’ve got ourselves into.”

See the installation of “12 Black Windows” and get an inside look at the show below.

 

Sean Scully: 12 Black Windows” is on view at Lisson Gallery through June 18, 2021.

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook: