London Lockdown Interviews pART 4 – Oliver Malin




London Lockdown Interviews: Samuel Johnson once explained to a friend at some point on September 20, 1777, in a London bookshop that “you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Obviously, when he dropped this statement, there was no pandemic on & Jeff Bezos hadn’t been birthed or drummed up the concept of Amazon and thus giving bookshop’s the kiss of death by offering a pandemic sized unmatchable low-pricing lead business model, destroying all competition via convenience. 

I wonder what Dr Johnson would have noted down as a working definition of “Bezos”

This installment of the lockdown statements of existence has upgraded to a Prime membership (£79 can get you to heaven on the same day apparently). Initially, I thought I might be compensated for every word that I could muster from the depths of my iPhone notes and commit to the screen via keyboard however was reminded that as of 2020, digital journalism & the expression of opinion generally is not valued enough to actually be paid for by consumers (maybe because you can’t eat it?), so if you are reading this and guilt has suddenly crept up your spine like Dominic Cummings side shuffling like a crab into a Sage Meeting, then find a way to support journalism before everything left to read, isn’t worth eyeballing anyway.

First up we have Frances Segelman (Lady Petchey)  Her practice centres around creating sculptures of well known public figures out of clay and then casting them in bronze. The end result contains manifestations of which we all aspire to be. 

Then, taking by the hand down interview lane, is India James, a torchbearer for the continued preservation of the artistic soul of Soho (how much per square foot Shaftesbury Estate?). This custodianship occurs through nurturing & regenerating the soul via the display offerings at Soho Revue. Don’t expect this young lady to force the reincarnation of Sebastian Horsley just off Dean Street, however stranger things are happening, so fingers crossed.

Next to be frisked via probing questions is Pauline Amos. Maybe frisked is the wrong way to set up an interview with an artist famed for once allowing gallery attendees to paint her naked body, so I guess anything goes. Read her answers before you google further but credit, where credits are due, she names some excellent artists on her Spotify tips such as Lewis Capaldi, which is ideal for getting a partner naked and making them cry with existentialist tears, (the best kind). 

In order to avoid being accused of gender bias, Our next starship trooper is Zavier Ellis, whose facial hair has grown as impressively as his multidisciplinary activity since the initial halcyon days of Shoreditch & where his gallery, Charlie Smith is nestled. He also deserves an honourable mention for the Siouxsie and the Banshees shout out. 

Last but, but not least we have an educational guide into the MA mindset at the Royal College of Art with Painter, Sam Jackson who springs out next in the jack in the box of wax lyrical in such a poetical way, it should really put me out of a job, “Pain is the touchstone of all spiritual progress. Time is so precious, and the concept of mortality and time is not thought of”, so he’s worth the increased word length, (sorry Tik-Tokers) & wins today music recommendations challenge by a country mile. 

This is where I wile out and crawl back into my vampire’s coffin until next time, but stay safe, baked and caked in excellent stimulants for the body and mind. My most humble gratitude goes out to MC Llamas for the continual help in the act of artist wrangling, a delicate skill akin to Ice Skating whilst carrying a full afternoon tea on a tray without spillage, merci beaucoup x.

Lockdown Interviews

Frances Segelman with Joanna Lumley at The Tower of London  Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst

Frances Segelman (Lady Petchey) 

Now that we are living with COVID19 as the new norm, how have you responded creatively?

It’s bizarre for me because all the years I ‘ve been here in Wapping, I’ve struggled to get into my studio. I’ve always got into it and I’ve always done massive amounts of work, but I can’t ever say I’ve completely enjoyed it until this happened. Now I love it. It’s bizarre. I’m doing more work now and I’m so excited about going into my studio every day. I’m working on a figure of two men called The Agony & Ecstasy of Lockdown 2020 which either looks like they’re fighting or having a sexual encounter. 

Have you found a company that can still deliver clay during the lockdown? And are the foundries still operating?

Clay no. The company I get my clay from is closed. I found on Amazon, a lump of clay but haven’t got into it to see what it’s like, but I’m sure I’ll be able to use it. My foundry is still open. They have my finished piece of Princess Anne. A film crew filming the documentary that is coming out on 15th July on her life went on Tuesday last week to film the bronze pour.

They also came here on Friday to collect my latest piece. I left the studio door open, and they collected it.

Do you have a daily routine?

Yes, I get up in the morning, speak to my husband Jack on various things, go for a walk to Tower Bridge and back. I make sure I’ve had quite a good walk. When I come back, I have lunch, come down to my studio to work for a few hours. In the evening after dinner, I do an hour’s gym workout. It’s a routine and I actually love it. 

With lockdown freeing up time, are you going to partake in or learn a new skill?

No, I haven’t started any new things other than doing heads. I have space now. All my heads are out. I still have my Debbie Moore piece here. (founder Pineapple Dance Studios) Simon has organised Andy to set up a camera in my studio. I’m going to finish Debbie and do a live talk with her over the internet. I hate the computer, but I’ve started doing Zoom talks going through the house showing my sculptures for different charities.

How is your mental health holding up, and what has kept you in good spirits?

My mental health is very good because of my routine. I’m very disciplined. But I’m terrified underneath and very worried about Jack. I have too much time to worry about people. I’m used to keeping myself very busy, but now I have too much time in my head to think about all the problems. I’m doing lots of creative visualisations.

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

I would advise them to get up in the morning and have a set working time Monday to -Friday. Be very disciplined. Go for a walk first. It’s essential; it gives you positive energy. Then get to work and go to bed early. Stop drinking.

What music have you been listening to, and seen anything good on the telly lately?

No – I don’t listen to music, and the TV is a load of rubbish. The only thing I watch over and over again is Poirot or Midsummer Murders, or a good film. I don’t watch anything else. I did love Belgravia, though. Mostly I don’t have the patience.

Lockdown Interviews India James

India James London Lockdown Interviews

India James

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively?

Sadly I had to close the gallery and postpone the upcoming exhibitions. In my time in isolation, I’ve been painting myself. Something I haven’t normally got the time to do as work gets in the way. On top of that, I’ve decided to do a reopening exhibition when this lockdown ends, of only art that artists have created during isolation. So I’ve managed to create work for myself and keep myself busy and distracted from what’s going on outside.

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

I’ve been meditating a lot more and focus on positive affirmations. Having such a lovely daughter keeps me really grounded and allows me to experience a sense of wonder and discovery through her eyes every day. I am spending a lot of my time painting which is a joy and feels like a real treat!

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive?  

As I said before I’ve been painting again, I find it really helpful mentally to be creative! I believe it’s a very therapeutic thing to create in any way. Personally, I’ve been working on my oil skills, normally I can be a bit quick with my paintings and this is a way of extending them since I have a lot of free time! 

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off?

A lot of Tracy Chapman oddly, and also a lot of Disney for my daughter. So it has been a real mix in the house.

London Lockdown Zavier Ellis 'Revolt Repeat'

Zavier Ellis ‘Revolt Repeat’  London Lockdown Interviews

Zavier Ellis 

How has the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively?  

I have had a two-person scheduled for June in Frankfurt postponed so although I’m still working on paintings that would have been included in that, I have refocused on small works on paper. Partly this is important preparatory and experimental work, but I’m also treating them as final pieces in themselves. I do have a collection acquiring these and with initiatives such as #ArtistSupportPledge responding to a diminishing market, I think there will be more demand for smaller, more affordable work. Despite having deadlines postponed/cancelled, I’m seeing it as a good time to get ahead.  

 How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive?  

I honestly think artists are wired to cope with this. Isolation, introspection, lateral thinking, research, creativity – it’s all part of our daily lives and I see this as an opportunity. I’m enjoying a more introverted existence. Monday to Friday I have three working days and two days looking after my two little daughters. I’m doing a long run before each working day and I’m about to introduce online yoga with my girls during the other days. I’m also returning to the fundamental works of literature that have touched my life previously. I’m starting with the great existentialist books that I devoured in my youth – Camus’ ‘The Outsider’ and Sartre’s ‘Nausea’ are first in line. And books, not kindle!  

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new?  

It’s not free time for me. Ultimately I have less time, but I’m using it well. I have three days to run a gallery and make work, but with organisation it’s fine, and let’s face it, there aren’t many exhibitions to organise right now! If I had free time, I’d use it to read more and make more.  

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?  

Catch up and get ahead. Research, experiment, make. Do the things you have thought about doing but not done. Be prepared to work from home and tailor your practice accordingly. A lot can be done with an A4 sheet of paper and a few materials! Apply to open call shows – John Moores have extended their deadline until April 5. Look for other open calls. Get on board with artist support pledge. Make it happen!  

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness 0really kicked off?  

I tend to get obsessed with specific albums that become the soundtrack for a specific body of work. My last series was made to The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees. This time it Bob Dylan that’s haunting me and in particular ‘Bringing It All Back Home’.  

 ‘Revolt Repeat X’, 2020 Oil, acrylic, marker, biro on paper A4 

Sam Jackson Sea of Love;

Sam Jackson Sea of Love;

Sam Jackson 

How have the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively?  

The situation is what it is; we can either respond negative or positive the situation stays the same, so I tend to keep working as best hopefully I can- making smaller works, works on paper, digital works – works on a phone on a laptop- I can work anywhere and will use the political, social, environmental to engage these works into a different emotional space.  

Time will be beneficial in making more work for shows and be present in the process of painting. I respond knowing that through this, I feel looked after and this translates into being creative, responsive and alive.  

How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive?  

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems – So I try to get into the solution rather than the problem. Mediation, running, prayer and connecting and helping others all help in my emotional serenity. I seek to rely on something that is infinite rather than my finite self. The less I spend thinking about myself, the better. I continuously remind myself that it is a day at time.  

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new?  

I teach on the MA course, so we conduct lectures and presentations online. I also am pathway leader for Fine Art foundation at AUB so always lots to learn from the students- I will also learn that my life and time are purely transcendental and that I will try to read, paint, look and listen whilst also learning from my son that we have to be present and to not project into the future. On a practice level, there is spray paint technique I will look at, calligraphy and the writing of William James and paint, paint, paint.  

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners?

That through all change, fear, anxiety, worry, insecurity we realise that we are not on our own and that through this however hard we will learn something about ourselves and as a wider world. Pain is the touchstone of all spiritual progress. Time is so precious, and the concept of mortality and time is not thought of. Love and care for others and delve deeper into imaginations to make work. I have always followed the maxim that it is possible to paint/make work anywhere and out of that new developments can take place.  

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off?  

Diiv, Suburban Bass, Psychic Ills (Mind Daze), Nirvana, Asap Rocky, Shame, Idles (Never fight a Man with a Perm), Tame Impala, Girls, Film School, Fat White Family.  

Lockdown Interviews Pauline Amos

London Lockdown Interviews Pauline Amos

Pauline Amos 

How has the unforeseen circumstances affected your practice & how have you chosen to respond creatively?

 I am at my home in Devon. Where I have my studio. Working hasn’t changed. I haven’t been to London and mingled with my ‘art crowd’ friends. I’m missing that—the interaction with artists. Online activity and phone calls are helping.  

I’ve finished a new canvas. It’s 220cm by 180cm. I’m looking at it; It could be called Virulent Madness (it isn’t going to have that title!). It’s angry, dramatic and visceral. It’s very red, very pink. Frustration.  

 How is your mental health at the moment & what are you doing to stay positive?

Some kind of exercise early in the morning. Yoga, meditation, reading and focus on work. I’m alright. Artists are very used to isolation and alienation. I’ve lived like that for a long time.  

With all this potential free time, what are you going to do/ learn anything new?

I am always learning, curious and developing. One has to be curious about life and artworks: music and visuals. I’ve been writing a lot more. This time has created space. Time. Reflecting on life, self and work. I was looking at older paintings, from The 1990s and very surprised by them. Who was I then? A different lifetime 

What advice would you give to your fellow creative practitioners? 

Keep working. Whatever it is. Isolation for artists is a great gift—free time and space to dig deep On yourself and the work. Find out what it is, your real true self and authentic mark. Start with a charcoal mark on paper. One authentic mark and the rest will follow. It’s getting to the none contrived authentic self – and that’s a lot of work …  

What have you been listening to on Spotify since this madness really kicked off?

When I’m In the studio and working, I play Beethoven, Mozart or Shostakovich. Research and investigation work, more playing around work, anything goes, but it has to be Loud music; Blur, The Stones, Lewis Capaldi, and yes, I admit it, Madonna her Ray of Light album. Dance around the studio (with a bottle of beer!) and when energy is up and vibrant around midnight – I start painting. It’s great when it works well.

 So, it’s a terrible time, a global disaster. I can’t go out. I’d like to volunteer, but my previous health issues would not allow it. One has to work and produce and maintain positive and bright energy. Keep working – what else can I do?  

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