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Documenting terror

Serbian fashion photographer Jovana Mladenovic is exhibiting her new series Monumental Fear at the LIBRARY in London, as part of the first-ever Balkan art exhibition to be held in the city. Her haunting series explores and documents Second World War monuments in former Yugoslavia. The artist’s aim is to bring to life a period of history forgotten by many of the younger generation.

Interruption, presented by Contemporary Balkan Art, showcases 40 works by Balkan artists including paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints and graphics. It is showing at LIBRARY on St Martin’s Lane until mid-May.

Mladenovic is in conversation at the club on April 25th. The subject of the talk is the artist’s new series and how brutalism and architecture formed a national identity in former Yugoslavia.

Photo: Jovana Mladenovic, Kosmaj Monument (2016).




Reaching the heights: Martin Chambi’s pioneering photos of Andean people

The Peruvian photographer Martin Chambi is not a household name like his famous compatriot, Mario Testino, but his pioneering photographs of indigenous people were ahead of their time.

Martin Chambi transcended his impoverished start in life to become one of the Andean country’s most prized photographers.

Martin Chambi was born in 1891 into a Quechua-speaking peasant family in one of Peru’s poorest regions, Puno. The region, located to the southeast of the country, borders Lake Titicaca.

When his father went to work in a goldmine in Carabaya province, Chambi went with him and it was in this unlikely place that he first experienced photography. He got to know the mine’s resident photographer, who taught him the basics of photography. This early brush with photography planted the seed that would develop into a lifelong passion.

In 1908, Chambi headed to the more cosmopolitan city of Arequipa, where photography was more advanced and sophisticated. He became an apprentice in the studio of another photographer. Nearly a decade later, after a long period of training, he set up his own studio. He started then to publish his own postcards of landscapes, something he pioneered in Peru.

But it was Chambi’s move to Cusco, the ancient city of the Incas located high up in the Andes, that really made his legacy. Chambi relocated his studio to the former Inca capital in 1923 and began photographing not only society figures but also Cusco’s indigenous people.

He also travelled in the region, photographing the ruins of the Incas, locals and Andean landscapes. His pioneering work is now recognized as one of the first major indigenous Latin American contributions to photography. Yet the historic and ethnographic nature of his photographs should not be emphasized at the expense of its artistic worth.

Martin Chambi’s photographs featured in an exhibition at the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI) earlier this year, called Chambi.

Photo: Celia Chambi playing with children. Cerca 1960. Impresión digital sobre papel. 28 x 28 cm. Archivo Fotográfico Martín Chambi, Cuzco.


The everyday through new eyes: Andrés Durán’s Edited Monument series

Chilean photographer Andrés Durán’s recent work has centred on reinterpreting everyday sights in Santiago, his native city. In the series, Cartel House (2001), he documenting hidden locations in the city’s residential outskirts via appropriated billboards. Meanwhile in Viewpoint (2011), he captured inverse perspectives on advertising.

In his latest body of work, Edited Monument (2014), he digitally transforms Santiago’s public sculptures, resulting in images that trick our perceptions. Neglected military figures, politicians and national heroes are seen from a new perspective, with their pedestal inverted and placed over the top of the effigy. In this way, he draws our attention to historically and politically important statues that have long been forgotten about – expect perhaps for the occasional photo by a passing tourist.

Durán was born in 1974 and is currently a professor in the digital image department at Universidad ARCIS in Santiago.

Photo: Prócer de pie, 2014, (S#1, P#2) © Andrés Durán. Courtesy of the artist and Metales Pesados. Santiago.



Alienation and solitude as beautiful: Safwan Dahoul’s Dream series

Syrian-born Safwan Dahoul explores the physical and psychological effects of alienation and solitude in his figurative paintings. Born in 1961 in Hama, Dahoul’s ongoing Dream series is partially autobiographical.

His work is thought to recreate a subconscious impetus towards drawing inwards that takes place during times of crisis, whether it be in mourning or political conflict. His contorted female protagonist, who is a recurring figure in the series, is freed from any known location. These ambiguous paintings are currently on show at Ayyam Gallery, Dubai, until May 21st, 2016.

Dahoul was initially trained by leading modernists at the University of Damascus before travelling to Belgium, where he earned a doctorate. He later became a prominent member of the Damascus art scene.

Photo: From the Dream series. Safwan Dahoul. 180 x 200 cm. Acrylic on canvas 2015. © Safwan Dahoul. Photo courtesy of Ayyam Gallery, Dubai.

To hell and back: the Brazilian artist making dramatic works

Brazilian-born Tiago Carneiro da Cunha has made a body foray into painting in his latest body of work, Trânsito dos Infernos (Transit through Hell). The artist, who has gained a reputation in the past for his sculptures and video work, has made a body of oil paintings that are the result of four years’ research.

These intense, sensual works evoke dramatic landscapes and characters using a simple, unmixed palette. Though innately recognizable, these scenes are also exotic, fantastical – and in their strangeness, disconcerting.

The artist was born in São Paulo in 1973 and now lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. He started out drawing comics that was published in underground magazines in Sao Paolo, before working as a freelance illustrator for the Folha de S. Paolo newspaper. He later went on to study art at the Parsons School in New York and Goldsmiths College in London.

Tiago Carneiro da Cunha’s paintings are currently on show at Galeria Fortes Vilaca in Sao Paolo. The exhibition Trânsito dos Infernos brings together 20 oil paintings.

Photo: Noite de Terror, 2015, by Tiago Carneiro da Cunha. Photographer: Eduardo Ortega. Courtesy Galeria Fortes Vilaca.


Playing with identity in the work of Sawada Tomoko

Sawada Tomoko plays with notions of identity through the traditional medium of self-portraiture. Her OMIAI♡ project sees the artist herself dress up in costumes, wigs and other ingenious disguises – including weight gain – to transform into various characters. The project, which verges on performance, consists of thirty self portraits, aimed at representing a different kind of woman in a playful and coyly subversive way.

The images mimic the traditional form of photography that would be taken during the Japanese custom of omiai, an integral part of an arranged marriage. The images are presented in vintage frames selected by the artist, again mimicking an old tradition – of displays of photographs in the windows of local photo studios in Japan.

Tomoko was born in 1977 and raised in Kobe, Japan. She studied at the Seian University of Art and Design.

Her photographs featured earlier this year in the exhibition The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography, which took place at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, and featured the work of five contemporary photographers born in Germany who emerged in the last two decades of the 20th Century.

Photo: OMIAI, 2001. Tomoko Sawada (Japanese, born 1977). Copyright: © Tomoko Sawada. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds.





Not just a fantasy: Hellen van Meene’s uncanny portraits

Dutch-born Hellen van Meene is best known for her portraits of young girls, which pulsate with psychological tension. These elegant images show girls in various stages of adolescence, though the realism in these photographs is threaded with a fantastical element.

The resulting uncanniness is redolent of fairy tales, but also of images from art history, recalling the works of artists like Vermeer, Velasquez and Millais. Characterized by their use of light and their exquisite elegance, they combine classical references with gothic horror, alluded to in these images of solitary, faceless, sometimes headless, girls.

The artist, who works from the outskirts of Amsterdam, is well versed in the traditions of classical painting. She was born in Alkmaar, The Netherlands, in 1972, and now lives and works in Heiloo, The Netherlands.

Untitled, Chromogenic print, 2015, 16 x 16 inches, edition of 10. © Hellen van Meene, Courtesy of the Artist, Yancey Richardson Gallery.