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In search of childhood: the ‘double self portraits’ of Chino Otsuka

Chino Otsuka was born in Japan in 1972 but left to study in the UK when she was just ten years old. Her enigmatic photographs are to be located somewhere at the intersection of these two worlds. The photographs in her series Imagine Finding Me, seen here, are what she calls “double self portraits.”

They are inspired by the idea of the artist talking with her younger self. These half-light photos are digitally retouched to seamlessly combine images of herself as a child with those of her as an adult. In this way, she is like a voyager back in time, re-visiting her former self as though in a dream. The resulting images are beautiful and dreamlike.

1976 and 2005, Kamakura, Japan, 2005. Chino Otsuka (Japanese, born 1972). ©Chino Otsuka. Wilson Centre for Photography.



Ishiuchi Miyako and postwar Japan

The work of Japanese photographer Ishiuchi Miyako lies at a crossroads between the personal and the political, the fictional and the documentary. She has been interested in the subject of postwar Japan, particularly the impact of American occupation and Americanization on her native country, for the past four decades.

Miyako was born in 1947 in Kiryu. She grew up in Yokosuka, where the United States had set up a naval base just a few years before she was born. As a young person, she disliked the prevalence of American culture in the city. In the 1970s, nearly two decades are she first lived there with her family, the artist returned to her hometown armed with a camera, taking photos as a kind of catharis. The Yokosuka Story series of photographs that resulted speak of solitude, desolation, and pain.

In another series, entitled Apartment, Miyako went in search of tumbledown apartment buildings, like the one her family inhabited when she was growing up. For this evocative series, she documented cramped living conditions and derelict buildings in Tokyo.

Ishiuchi Miyako studied textiles at Tama Art University in Tokyo in the 1960s, before later adopting photography as her primary mode of artistic expression. A retrospective of her work was held at the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles earlier this year.

Photo: Ishiuchi Miyako (Japanese, born 1947). Yokosuka Story #58, 1976-1977. © Ishiuchi Miyako.

Painting the inner life of nature: the beguiling work of Hilma af Klint

The elusive Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), the subject of a new exhibition at London’s Serpentine Galleries, is finally bursting into the limelight. The artist, today considered a pioneer of abstract art, was an obscure figure in the art world until very recently.

But this was partly of the artist’s own doing – she herself stipulated that her abstract work should be kept out of the public eye for two decades after she died, out of fear that she would be misunderstood. Indeed, it was not until the mid-1980s that her works were seen publicly.

Moreover, whether through geographical distance or deliberate intent – she had little to do with other artists working at around the same time, and who had similar preoccupations to her. Even though she worked at the same time as well-known abstract artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, she worked in isolation from the European avant-garde.

To continue reading this article, please download the latest issue of The Kurios here.

Photo: From The Ten Largest , 1907, by Hilma af Klint and courtesy of Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk and the Serpentine Gallery.

An anthropologist from the future: Kapwani Kiwanga breaks with the ordinary

Canadian-born Kapwani Kiwanga was the Commissioned Artist for this year’s Armory Show in New York. Her on-site installation, The Secretary’s Suite, is an interactive installation that investigates the complexities of gift economies. The artist’s visit to the United Nations’ art collection last year inspired the piece.

The Secretary’s Suite is composed of a single-channel video and a viewing environment inspired by the 1961 office of the United Nations Secretary General. Through the installation, Kiwanga played with concepts of fact and fiction to explore the practice of gift giving found in popular culture, religious ritual, and global relations.

Kiwanga was born 1978 in Hamilton, Ontario and is now based in Paris. Trained as an anthropologist and social scientist, her unconventional artistic practice is characterised by the idea of herself as a ‘researcher’ in her own projects. Her varied practice takes the form of videos, sound and performance.

Research areas that have informed her practice include Afrofuturism, the anti-colonial struggle, collective memory, belief systems, vernacular and popular culture. The artist’s work is characterised by a documentary mode of representation, which she combines with various material sources, and testimonies.

In one of her best-known works, the Afrogalactica trilogy project (2011 – ongoing), she assumes the role of an anthropologist from the future who explores across vast fields of knowledge relating to Afrofuturism, hybrid genders and African astronomy. The Kurios spoke to the artist about her most recent work and her artistic practice in general.

What inspired The Secretary’s Suite?

Usually in my work I do something that is linked to the space I’m invited to work in. I’m interested in doing “field work” on the ground. Also my work isn’t really medium-specific.

When I visited the UN I was really taken by the display of gifts, of artistic gestures made on the part of a country to the UN. That started a kind of snowball effect into larger questions of what it is to give and receive and link us together in ways which are of course sometimes completely altruistic but often are ways in which we almost engage obligation through someone else to create social ties.

Some of your work like the Afrogalactica trilogy is on-going. Is The Secretary’s Suite likely to continue?

 I seem to work in projects so there are things that I like to build upon in chapters, and I researched a lot for this project so there’s the strong possibility that it could continue.

It has been said that belief informs your work. How so?

Belief is something that motivates my work a lot but belief in a larger sense – political, ideological, spiritual and religious as well. This anthropological foundation also is often present – often in methodology, in terms of reading articles and books.

What was your journey to becoming an artist?

I knew that I wasn’t going to be an anthropologist quite quickly before I finished my studies but I was still really interested in the subject.

I moved to the UK and was doing work in television – working in documentaries – because I was interested in it being a more accessible terrain than academia for example, but that felt a bit too constraining for me because there’s a format for television of course, time-wise but also because you have a lot of people involved in the final edits.

So that wasn’t really something that I was comfortable with in terms of the work that I had done and I started looking into different places in which I could express and transmit my ideas, and contemporary art seemed to be the place.

I came to France and I did a postgraduate programme here then I followed on with another postgraduate programme, and it became clear that this is how I like to work.

A lot of your work seems concerned with African themes? Is that because of your African heritage?

Africa and the diaspora come up a lot in my work, simply because I think that it’s an area geographically, historically that is very, very rich and has these resources of things to explore, which I haven’t seen in discussions enough.

African heritage plays into it, but I think it’s more one’s upbringing. I grew up in Canada where it’s a very multicultural society. I was lucky enough to have very close friends who are from Africa but also different parts of Asia so I think it’s also this multicultural mix that influences my work and this idea that there are multiple perspectives – not just one way of doing things.

Photo:  Kapwani Kiwanga photographed for the Armory Show, 2016. Photo courtesy of Brunswick Arts. 










Art from elsewhere: Issue 5 out now

In Issue Five of The Kurios, we take you on another journey through art from elsewhere. From contemporary surrealist collage by Belgian artist Sammy Slabbinck to the hallucinatory photographs of Tierra del Fuego tribes by a German pioneer, here are our highlights from this issue:

–We’re in Buenos Aires to see uncensored photos of Mexican icon Frida Kahlo before she was famous, in a captivating show at the newly-opened FoLa.

–Contemporary African art and design is under the spotlight at the Guggenheim Bilbao, as a complex continent emerges from the shadows – we give you the highlights of the show.

–The bewitching photographs of Martin Gusinde are testament to one of Latin America’s lost civilizations, the Selknam, who lived for thousands of years in isolation at the southernmost tip of the world. The Kurios goes to the end of the world to check them out.

–We profile the glistening landscapes and skilled portraits of Australia’s Tom Roberts, which reveal a trail-blazing creativity that helped to define a national consciousness.

–Read our eyewitness account of a daring new exhibition at London’s Tate, which explores the role of artists in the British Empire.

–Check out the work of Belgian artist Sammy Slabbinck who uses vintage photographs to create surreal contemporary collage that is both whimsical and witty.

–Acquaint yourself with the beautifully challenging works of Iranian-born Farhad Ahrarnia interrogate the West’s centuries-long fascination with the East.

The Kurios’ first limited edition, printed magazine is also going to be launched in the next few months…watch this space!

The Arab world writ large: Walid Raad

New York’s MoMA is showing the first comprehensive American survey of the Lebanese-born artist Walid Raad (b. 1967). It features his work in photography, video, sculpture, and performance from the last 25 years.

Raad’s work is informed by his upbringing in Lebanon during the civil war of 1975–91. His work is also preoccupied by the socioeconomic and military policies that have shaped the Middle East in recent years.

Two of Raad’s long-term projects are the main emphasis of the show: The Atlas Group (1989–2004) and Scratching on things I could disavow (2007–ongoing). The Atlas Group is a 15-year project exploring the contemporary history of Lebanon. In it, Raad produced a series of fictionalized photographs, videotapes, notebooks, and lectures that related to real events and research into audio, film, and photographic archives in Lebanon and elsewhere.

In his ongoing work, Scratching on things I could disavow, Raad expands his focus to the wider Middle East. The work examines the recent emergence in the Arab world of new infrastructure for the visual arts, including art fairs, biennials, museums, and galleries. It looks at these alongside the geopolitical, economic, and military conflicts that have defined the region in recent years.

Walid Raad is on at MoMA, New York, until January 31, 2016.

Photo: Walid Raad. Hostage: The Bachar tapes (English version). 2001. Video (color, sound), 16:17 min. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Jerome Foundation in honor of its founder, Jerome Hill, 2003. © 2015 Walid Raad.


The originality & elegance of a little-known style icon

Countess Jacqueline de Ribes (b.1929) is not a household name like other style icons such as Audrey Hepburn or Jackie Kennedy. But to those who knew her, the French aristocrat’s style was like no other. A new show at New York’s Met celebrates her originality and elegance, featuring haute couture and ready-to-wear pieces primarily from de Ribes’s personal archive, dating from the late 1950s to the present. Uniquely, the exhibition also features de Ribes’ fancy-dress balls, which she often made herself by cutting up her haute couture gowns to make something fresh, and subtle.

The countess developed an interest in fashion as a child who enjoyed fancy-dress. As an adult, she had no shortage of haute couture designers who wanted to dress her – she would become a muse to many. But de Ribes was not destined to play a passive role. She used what she had learned from her exposure to the haute couturier’s drapers, fitters and cutters to establish her own design business.

From 1982 until the mid-1990s, de Ribes directed the business until she was forced to close it due to health problems. In its heyday, the company attracted a number of famous female clients including Joan Collins, Barbara Walters, Cher, Danielle Steel and several members of the Rothschild family. De Ribes has also produced and directed plays and television programmes, and has supported many humanitarian causes around the world. She was made a Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur in 2010.

Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style is on at the Met, New York, until 21st February 2016.