Sunday, 15 January 2017

Checking In From The Anatomy Rooms With Jim Ewen!

One of my aims for 2017 is to shine a light on the newly established Anatomy Rooms studios. If you haven't heard of it don't feel bad as its not you're fault. I can remember speaking to studio founder Jim Ewen about 3 or maybe 4 years ago about setting up a new studio space for artists and we had various chats about it but finding a space, funding and gauging the demand for space were all present issues. Fast forward to October 2016 and The Anatomy Rooms are open to the public as part of the Doors Open Day. But the studios had been in operation for about 12 months before this so what was happening during that time?

Firstly the time between our first chats and Jim actually getting keys to the Anatomy Room site was full of planning, negotiations which seemed to last years, proposals, funding applications, building warrants, you name it. The Anatomy Rooms is actually part of Aberdeen University's campus based behind the Council Headquarters at Marischal College. For many years it was an active space where medical students practising medicine would come into contact with cadavers, learning all there is to know about the internal workings of the human body, hence the name. With various changes in campus the classes were shifted to a new site and the anatomy rooms as they stood were left closed for a number of years. That is until Jim found them. 

Fast forward through a successful funding application to the council and receiving a Creative Spaces Award, setting up 'All In Ideas' as a charitable org to manage the project, the completion of negotiations with Aberdeen University, a plethora of paper work, risk assessments, building repairs and finally the keys are in Jim's hand. Obviously there's been a hundred more steps and missteps but that's the basics. During this time Jim and a select group set to work setting up a board of trustees to help establish a solid core for the space, meeting and discussing how to move forward, what the space should be used for, who would be using the spaces and what this would mean in the wider creative sector of Aberdeen.

Having been part of the 26 Collective Studios with Jim previously I know first hand how important direction can be for a creative space and also the kind of limitations a space can put on you, something we constantly had to over come at 26. Thankfully The Anatomy Rooms space poses far less problems other than it being such a huge site. With 5 shared studio rooms, 4 private studio rooms, a project room and events space the challenge was getting enough people in to cover the costs of renting the space. And with a few call outs the rooms quickly began to fill up! Artist's from across the board took up residence from recent graduates, textile makers, fine painters, contemporary artists to research students from Aberdeen Uni and a subsidary of Shmu FM. So a year was spent getting people into rooms and giving them time to find their feet and get established. 

The space has played host to some small music industry related events and been used for a public discussion session at the Look Again festival as well. The Doors Open Day gave the general public a chance to see whats been going on first hand and it was pretty exciting to see the vast range of spaces and artists in them, with work on the walls and corridors along with the usual stuff you'd expect to find in a working arts space. In the evening I got to spin some records for the first time in ages and transformed the main room into a mini arty party hub with a few friends helping out. I filmed during the day and night to try and capture a bit of the atmosphere and should have some video evidence of how cool the spaces are ready for viewing next week. 

So whats next? A new membership programme has been launched, inviting creatives to sign up for a newly build workshop space where they will have access to equipment, a workshop and some expertise from a veteran maker in the form of Jim. More partnered events will be taking place including some film industry work shops from the newest studio residents Crow House,a new local film making start up who aim to help foster emerging film making talent in the North East. December saw the launch of a new gallery space with debut show by studio resident Lauren Milton kicking things off nicely with more studio resident shows planned and an open call for future shows. Jim himself hasn't really stopped since setting the ball rolling but has been slowly chipping away at his own practice, producing really incredible collage and painted works on wood along with his distinctive pencil mountainscapes continuing the themes and ideas he started with back in the 26 days. We joked about how for all the time he's spent in the new studio space hes probably only put a month or so into working on his own ideas.  With all the time and effort he's put into making The Anatomy Rooms a reality I'd say he deserves a well earned break.    

Alas, there's more work to be done still. Plans are a foot to take on more space and All In Ideas will be branching out to partner up with some other city orgs to work on some exciting new projects. That's about all I can say on that for now but having seen what's been achieved so far I have high hopes for 2017 being a year that blows the doors off for culture in the city, for the general public but also for people like Jim and a few others who have been working for a long time to make Aberdeen the creative and arty hub it should be. I'll be delving deeper into the goings on of the studio's and will hopefully have some interesting profiles of the makers and shakers currently in the studio along with info about up coming events and parties so watch this space and be sure to follow The Anatomy Rooms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also keep a bit more up to date with my going's on via the facebook page where ill be trying to share more info about up coming events across the city in a more immediate fashion. 

Big love to Jim and everyone who's made The Anatomy Rooms such a great space so far and here's to some exciting projects to come. You can check out some snaps of Jim and his current studio / office below, Studio #1 indeed! 

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Beauty in Ugly People!

Every so often an artist comes along who takes a certain style or idea and makes it their own. It can be seen across all spectrums from painting to graphic design and illustration. The last few years has seen a real growth in the world of illustration with the endless possibilities of digital tools leading to a slight saturation of the market with styles becoming a little boring and same same. Slowly things began to hark back to a more hand drawn approach but with the use of tablet technology, a perfect meeting point for analogue and digital! 

Out of this melting pot came great artists like Mcbess, Jack Teagle and Ben Newman to name a few. Each of these guys have created a style and aesthetic that is instantly recognisable, even against the thousands of imitations they've spawned. And Aberdeen's own Ugly People is another name to add to the list. Ugly People aka Lee has been creating his own unique characters for a few years now, beavering away behind closed doors until the opportunity to work on the Hell Yeah group show came up in 2013. This was my first introduction to Lee and his work despite almost crossing paths a number of times in the past on other mural projects. Since discovering his work I've watched from my phone screen as his instagram feed filled up with sketches and projects like the live drawing event at North Hop and most recently for the Painted Doors project (see video at the bottom).

Combining the every day with the weird gives Lee's work a feeling of the familiar, a sense of the every day but through a slightly warped filter. A giant condom rides his skateboard arms aloft, a ghoul chain smokes from his favourite arm chair, a bottle of beer drinks a human dry and a weary mountain makes his way home, keys in one hand, knife in the other! Sticking primarily with black and white, each character has a simplicity with little background to distract the viewer and some have a great sense of movement despite being a still image. The viewer can create their own story of how each character came to be, where they may be going but they also work as a still moment in time, to be appreciated for its wonderful weirdness. 

Lee has been on a real mission of late to draw as much as possible and has been producing short runs of prints and a special zine which collects some of his most recent work. You can pick up all the goods via his online shop here, I'm running out of space myself but my walls will be better off with a few Ugly People characters, especially with 3000 followers in instagram all wanting to cop his goods! You can keep up to date with Ugly People via his instagram and make sure to get something before they sell out and he retires to the weird world hes created for himself.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The First Adventure....

Decided to kick off 2017 with a quick trip to London to see friends and check out some art. One thing I love about visiting London is that so much of the art I'm interested in is just on the streets. No tickets, no gallery, you just have to be willing to put the miles in on foot and to be honest its one of the best ways to really get to know a place. I'm lucky in that my friend lives a 5 minute walk from the bottom of Brick Lane, the perfect jumping off point for checking out what's new.

As always a quick trawl through Hookedblog will give you a fair idea of what to look out for like the little alley that leads to the most recent Fanakpan wall, Hookeblog is also great for connecting work to artists. I've lost count of the number of artists they've turned me onto. A few highlights from this trip have been finding a 45RPM sticker hidden away on a sign post. I've been collecting his various zines and t shirts for the past year and his work is some of the best out there, even in sticker form. A lot of famous spots have pieces by HNRX who is new to me but has been getting up all over Shoreditch. We checked out a few classics like the WRDSMTH phone box in Covent Garden and the Star Wars Invader piece across from Jealous London as well. Jealous currently have their 0% Off show featuring a huge range of work from Ben Eine, D*Face, Masagon and David McCracken which was great to see!

You don't have to go far before you'll stumble on new paste ups by DONK and A.CE who get up! I love the fact you could take their paste ups and stick em in a frame and they look just as good as they do on the streets. We spotted a few vans by Sweet Toof x Paul Insect and CEPT, the van being my favourite canvas for street interventions as they roll around the city bringing their colourful exteriors to a wider audience. Some of my favourite pieces from this trip were created by tattoo master Deno. I'd previously seen some of his street work on instagram but only in Madrid so it was great to catch his super styled graff in the flesh. He's one artist I'd love to get some work by, hopefully get booked into Seven Doors Tattoo soon! 

I was lucky enough to spend the night in the newly built Citizen M hotel in Shoreditch which is full of KAWS figures. We had a great view over Shoreditch from the 8th floor and spotted a load of murals that are usually hidden behind high fences and gates. A late night wander on a Thursday evening brought many visual delights as well as we just got lost down the back streets and kept our eyes open. It was nice to walk out the front door the next day and see the huge Fanakpan piece 'Distraction, Destruction and Power Tools' which I'd also spotted on Hookedblog a few weeks earlier. Mr Cenz has been super busy with a load of new murals around the area too, I recognised his distinctive style from the 'Release The Pressure' piece in Aberdeen. It's great that new work is going up all the time but I also like that some things are kinda sacred like the Conor Harrington murals, be a shame to see them go. On the same token it was cool to visit some ROA murals which are crumbling to dust as the ruined exteriors upon which they were painted get battered by the elements.

There's without doubt a lot to see and do in London. Its a special city and holds a great charm for any street art or graffiti enthusiast but you definitely have to filter out a lot of cak too. I often find the things that make a good street art piece can have the opposite effect when crudely replicated which is happening more and more. Thankfully the quality wins out every time. It's been great to bust out of the instagram box and see some stuff in real life. I'm also excited to see what NUART bring to the table when they hit the streets of Aberdeen this spring, least I wont have to sit on a train for 7 hours to see it!