With Friday comes the fifth of this time travel interview series, this time with the then up and coming Caleb Hahne.

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PINK HEAD/CALEB HAHNE

Caleb Hahne is a recent grad (he’s the kind of 21 year old that makes me feel like I’ve done nothing with the same number of years) from the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design whose work revolves around the utilisation of technology and traditional techniques to confront the allure of a blooming cyber media. Or, in more practical terms, he creates mixed media collages that borrow from classical antiquity, internet culture as well as art theory.

“Mocking life while imitating figures in a relatable, distant, and monumental state is what haunts me, and I love it.”

Caleb merges images of Greco-Roman statues digitally and then transfers that image using good old fashioned pencil and paper, before interrupting the line with intrusions of other media. These new composite images, through quality of line and composition, have a certain fluidity, as if the new conglomerate were moving as one in multiple directions even if you know the case not to be true or possible. The technical aspect of this style harks back to the master draughtsmen of the renaissance whilst drawing from the modernists in the sense that even if these aren’t readymade objects they’re readymade images within the audience – it is impossible to shake the fact that you are aware that these are drawings of images of statues which are unmistakably the work of someone else and which have been etched onto your cultural consciousness through years of societal programming.

“The internet seems infinite, and it acts as a purgatory for cyber-souls”

Caleb draws inspiration from his relationship with technology as a child of the internet age (Caleb was born in 1993), the graffiti art he saw as a child, as well as more theoretical sources such as the ideas found in texts such as ‘7 Dada Manifestos and Lampisteries’, ‘The Broken Frame’, and ‘The Poetics of Space’. He uses his art a way of drawing out the questions he has from life, and the aforementioned texts, but leaves much of the interpretation of any potential answer in the eye of the beholder.

“I’m currently interested in light as a metaphor of life, and how my stone figures mock life as they sit in a state of infinite death.”

As well as putting work online on his website and across social media, Caleb was recently invited to be part of a group show at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco, alongside: Marco Mazzoni, Shawn Huckins, Meryl Pataky and many more.

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BENEATH THE MOON/CALEB HAHNE

You use a mixture of traditional and technological techniques, what was behind that decision?

I studied illustration in college and I found that the first half of my education was rigorous in the traditional practice of art and transitioned to the digital. I had some sort of existential crisis because I couldn’t keep up with the change that was happening so quickly. At the time I was reading a book called 7 Dada Manifestos and Lampistries by Tristan Tzara and in it he talks about how the biggest Dadas of them all are those in the French Academy and that was the form of education I was trained in. So as I thought about the this form of training and the practice of appropriation of the Dadas, I combined digital collage with traditional drawing and began illustrating the questions I had.

With the practical aspect of mixing the traditional and technological, what’s the process behind your collages like?

It takes quite a bit of time. I usually have an idea in my head of what I want. It’s an arrangement of a series of images that blend together until I feel it’s right. I won’t start a drawing until I’ve made about four or five collages. I’ve got hundreds of demons floating around my hard drive that have never been seen. I’ll work on the collages for days and sometimes weeks before I feel that it should be drawn.

You also seem to take cues from a lot of classical images, how do you feel that parallels or intersects with the current ease of disseminating work – especially online?

Well classical artwork has always stood out to me so I feel that I’ve been inspired to explore what they were doing ever sense I started making art. I also feel that classical work is most easy noted so I wanted to put old and new into a filter to see what would blend together. Appropriation has been a constant theme in my work so I figured I would begin collaging the sculptures together, then I realized during the hunt for the images to collage, that the internet seemed to be the most valuable resource. I found more images in less time and could use the same material over an over.

In your artist’s statement you say you’re interested in “confronting the allure of a blooming cybermedia”, could you explain that confrontation a little and why you think it’s an important pursuit?

Most people i’ve met say that they make art about what surrounds them; technology surrounds me. I was born in ’93 so I’ve had the chance to experience the world change in so many ways. I don’t know what kind of work I would be making if it weren’t for the vast wealth of technological resources that are readily available. As I mentioned previously, I like mixing old with new, remixing it into images that are reflections of death. The internet seems infinite, and it acts as a purgatory for cyber-souls

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WHITE PIECE/CALEB HAHNE

As an ‘up and coming’ artist how necessary do you feel it is to be represented online and across social media?

I think it is extremely valuable and necessary to have an online presence. It’s so easy to post work onto many social platforms. Instagram has been a surprisingly enormous contributing factor to getting my name out. And if it weren’t for some sort of platform, I wonder if you would’ve ever seen my work?

In addition to posting work online, does the internet feature anywhere else in your creative process?

Not lately. I’m currently interested in light as a metaphor of life, and how my stone figures mock life as they sit in a state of infinite death. A lot of the work I have made is surrounded in a void of white space. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what the space is a representation of. The drawings are immortalized in an echoless space that can be related to that my pervious comment about the internet. The void represents an enormous unfathomable space that limitless. At the same time, I think about the Buddhist  concept, Sunyata which translates to “emptiness” or “openness”, it’s a state of mind and/or a meditative experience. I’m playing with two ideas: a empty space which represents nothingness, or an emptiness that represents the nothing that is something.

You’ve mentioned both Buddhism and the Christian concept of Purgatory, how strong of a role does religion and/or theology play in your work?

I get asked about the role religion plays in my work pretty often and in some cases offend people because the altering of their original image seems “sacrilegious”. I’m not entirely interested in confronting those ideas as I am interested in using those theologies as a framework to help illustrate the exploration of my practice.

Why do “reflections of death” hold such an interest for you?

Death surrounds us. Questioning and confronting one’s mortality is difficult.

If the internet is “immortal” do you ever feel any pressure to create something that will stand the test of time?

This is an interesting question. As I start exploring my work more and more, I feel less attached to its life. The process is important, I’m not sure the outcome/completion of the piece means anything to me.

In a similar vein, how do you feel about being able to look back over archives of your work online?

Ah it’s awful haha. When I see I piece of mine on google or anywhere else that I’m not so happy with, I have to look away.

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IMAGE/CALEB HAHNE

I think I remember you mentioning recently that you were going to be a part of a big collective show including another one of my favourite artists, Marco Mazzoni, could you talk a little bit about getting to display work with guys like that? And maybe a little bit about the kind of work that you’ll be putting up there and in the future?

I’ve looked up to Marco Mazzoni since I was in high school, and when I got invited to be a part of that show I was humbled. Having the opportunity to show with any big names has reminded me that I got to that point by working very hard and to not stop because of the opportunity. My own little mantra is to keep my head down and keep working.

Interview number four is with all around awesome lady Evie Cahir.

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IMAGE/EVIE CAHIR

Melbourne based artist Evie Cahir’s watercolour illustrations depict the little moments in life. Each fragment is carefully detailed and archived, then left to stand alone in a frame of negative space, which just begs you pay attention to what’s at its focus. That focus is what’s most interesting about Evie’s work, because she zeroes in on the everyday and makes it poignant.

“I try not to consider why I draw the things, I think its more interesting to let others do the work.”

Her works have included everything from burgers to houseplants, cartoon bunnies to hareem pants. Mapping Melbourne, a recent series of work which was turned into a zine, took inspiration form the sights Evie had passed on public transport. In fixing the transient scenes, Evie presents her life from a perspective that wouldn’t necessarily otherwise see. Her style reflects that alteration of point of view, with slight shifts in perspective that remind you that, whilst her work is primarily realistic, you are seeing the world through Evie’s eyes.

“I have learned that the internet works in mysterious ways”

And the world through Evie’s eyes has proven to be a very popular sight, with a highly frequented blog and a shop where originals and zines seem to fly off the virtual shelves. It’s understandable why her blog is so popular and hard to imagine a work that fits the medium any better; it’s personal, it tells a story, it offers an original outlook, it’s relatable, and best of all it’s so good to look at.

“The compromise in creating editorial work is real.”

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IMAGE/EVIE CAHIR

As well as pursuing her own whims and collating them into zines and comics, Evie has created editorial work for the likes of Vice and Neon magazine.

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IMAGE/EVIE CAHIR

You’re on facebook, instagram, tumblr (where I first saw your work), you have a big cartel, you have a big online presence across a number of social media outlets. How important do you feel social media is to your work and sharing it, and do you have a preference between those outlets for sharing different things?

The internet and all the social-media outlets that follow are vital when it comes to sharing my work. Without it I would still be leaving little zines in toilets or pubs, slipping them between train seats and posting them to pen-pals, which is all I ever did before creating a Tumblr or sharing my work online. My online-outlet preference depends on what I am doing —

Tumblr for an online documentation of all the work I create and Instagram to post select work to with the aim of generating a strong aesthetic/online persona and to ‘network’, organize art-swaps and obviously to track other artists work.

How has having a fairly large following (100+ notes on almost everything you post to tumblr) affected you and/or your work?

I used to spend quite a lot of thought trying to analyze why certain work instantly hits it off with Tumblr and rakes in 72,378 notes and other work that I value more clocks in just 31 notes over the weekend. There is no answer to this, I have learned that the internet works in mysterious ways.

It has affected my output as posting work becomes a personal challenge — to post more regularly and with higher quality work. Gotta give the people what they want!

When posting works are you conscious of how they will be received/reacted to by your audience?

I am definitely conscious of reception, I regularly second-guess myself when it comes to sharing work — Not because I am wary of sharing provocative work, just of generating work that is not unique in its message, subject matter or theme. Along with the initial reaction, I am conscious of constantly creating fresh work while ensuring that it complements the rest of my work aesthetically.

Basically, I have a very discerning inner-monologue that critiques work in a way I expect the audience to, e.g. “Evie drew an avocado and headless torso again, how ‘ground breaking’”

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IMAGE/EVIE CAHIR

Do you ever look back over your online archive to see how your work has changed, and if so how do you feel about the earlier stuff?

Looking back over work that is over a month old is painful, I have a back-log of almost four years on Tumblr of work to avoid looking at! Going through older work is like re-drawing it and being reminded of your short-comings (poor painting skills and pencil-prowess) On the few occasions I have looked through the archives (on Tumblr, giant folders in my wardrobe and little sketchbooks hidden around my room) I found that I could easily discern what drawing-stages and life-changes were happening as I looked through it all, majority of which (87%) was not good!

Your works isolate moments and objects that may otherwise be overlooked and frame them in space, could you explain a little bit your thoughts behind this practice?

Simply put, this practice of creating work that revolves around capturing over-looked details, objects and moments is an extension of personal thoughts and experiences. For me, drawing and painting little scenes stems from the need to document and record a feeling I have felt.

I try not to consider why I draw the things, I think it’s more interesting to let others do the work.

You said your work is about “personal thoughts and experiences”, from a technical stand point, does that mean you work from life for inspiration or do you use photo references as well?

Predominantly photographic reference when it comes to creating a final work, though for initial sketches I will work from life. These preliminary drawings act as a record of scenarios and settings to draw inspiration from, as I fill small moleskin’s with details such as: train platforms, lists of items to reference in future work, the hair of a certain commuter, an old man’s dog or books being read on the tram.

With the personal element to your work, do you find it a struggle to do editorial pieces or commissions seeing as they wouldn’t have come from your own experience?Definitely, creating editorial illustrations for clients is usually a challenge I relish, in that I get to draw objects or scenarios I would not regularly draw. Though when it comes to contracts and on-going themed editorial work (For example, a yearlong contract to create monthly comics about one-night stands) it has been a struggle to create work that fulfils the brief but also is work that I am not embarrassed to put my name to or have printed. The compromise in creating editorial work is real.

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IMAGE/EVIE CAHIR

In a similar vein, do you look to other artists, or blogs etc., for inspiration? If so who?

Definitely, I wonder if I spend too long looking at other peoples work!

Whenever I’m not drawing I’m looking through the work of:

Lauren Spencer King. Stanislava Pinchuk (Miso) Greg Eason. Aidan Koch. Moebius. Dane Lovett. Henri Matisse. Claes Oldenburg. Sam Alden. Jonathan Zwada. Vija Celmens. Michael Borremans. Brian Ferry. Elsworth Kelly. Ill Studio. Hannah Hoch, this list goes on…

That’s quite a long list of inspiration (definitely a good one though!), how do you take references or inspiration from those works and use them to influence your own?

The referencing of influential figures is most apparent in techniques picked up and a sense of aesthetics and layout applied.

For example, the most recent references cropping up in my work is the use of washes of watercolor to slowly build up a certain texture and off-centered composition of isolated objects/items.

What would you say the “trending themes” you’ve seen or picked up on are at the minute?

Trending themes I have noticed floating around on the sites, Tumblrs, Instagrams I visit regularly include but are not limited to: the glamorizing of depression/sadness via comics, drinks in glass jars, food photography taken from birds-eye-view, Photoshopping yourself into a Drizzy photo-montage, food, high-contrast/saturated light in photographs, food, ‘still life’ themed photographs, Minimal Bauhaus-inspired graphic design layout for book covers, Tapestry, taking photographs of your own hand holding something small, photographs of backs of heads. The list goes on…

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IMAGE/EVIE CAHIR

It seems as if your work has become a little bit of a journal, do you ever feel uncomfortable sharing your work publicly? Especially if you know that other people will be looking through your archives?

Not particularly, I feel like the shame associated with going through past work is just a personal hang-up, though I know of other artists that feel similarly about their own archives. I have only ever felt uncomfortable or self-conscious about sharing work when I’ve been asked if I am referencing personal experiences in my work, especially my comics/narrative work

(“Did you draw yourself crying that last one you posted, Evie?…” etc.).

Within your concern of creating “fresh work” are you ever conscious of not falling into trends, or starting to look like other work that’s popular?

Of course. I struggle with overcoming the fear of creating stale work almost every time I draw.

Whilst it’s healthy to be aware of trending themes, subject matter or style amongst others it’s even more imperative that I work to improve my own technique. I try to reconcile this perpetual drawing-fear by telling myself that if my drawing method is below average or rusty then creating fresh work is the least of my problems!

If you perceive your drawing method as being below average, or rusty, then creating fresh work is the least of your problems: what are the greatest challenges you face?

Drawing challenges are always shifting from one issue to another, last week it was feeling uninspired and expecting others to inspire me and today it is the consumption of too many coffees for me to concentrate.

The most challenging and reoccurring issue when it comes to drawing would be not being able to ‘develop my own style’, ‘visual language’ and overall aesthetic. This over-analysis of my own work usually stems from too much time on the internet, as I compare myself to competent and confident illustrators (please refer to list of inspirational artists)

I find this Identity Crisis can be alleviated by getting back to basics and refining drawing skills and spending less time on the internet!

Where do you think your work is going next? Or where would you like to see it going next, in terms of content, aesthetics, platform or just the next show you’re doing?

I would love to see attainable future plans and long-term goals converge — these plans revolve around self-published books, residencies, collaborations with drawing-heroes, setting up a studio space, steady editorial work and solo exhibitions.

The third of my throwback interviews is with the ever thought provoking Anatol Knotek.

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censored/Anatol Knotek

Anatol Knotek is an Austrian artist and visual poet whose work takes the simple truths and ideas we often overlook when taking them for granted and makes them visible. For those of you not familiar with the concept of visual poetry, it’s a form which began as a part of the Avant-Garde movement but is becoming more and more popular in its own right. Visual Poetry uses type to create an image with an unmistakeable message, something now in vogue because of the popularity of typography.  For Knotek being a visual poet means he tries to “ focus on phrases, words or single letters, try to question the common belief and try to make something visual appealing.” He has become a master of this form, producing clean, minimal pieces where excess noise is silenced so his message can ring loud and true. The real power in Knotek’s work comes from the tensions it embraces between being type and image, between being highly intelligent and infinitely accessible, and between being simultaneously serious and humorous.

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drunk/Anatol Knotek

After starting his career in fine art, Knotek had his first taste of visual poetry through creating portraits constructed from layered handwritten text. He now runs and curates the popular blog visual-poetry, which displays Knotek’s own work as well as that of other visual poets and artists.

As well as posting work online, and having gallery shows across Europe, and the rest of the world, Knotek has recently made a number of handmade visual poetry books, inspired by his fascination with the “aura of the original, the unique”.

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wrong/Anatol Knotek

Do you think posting your work online has changed how you think about it when it’s being produced; do you ever question how something will be received online as you’re creating?

Yes, I do think about that. I began to think about presenting and photographing my work much more, when I started to have a homepage. But visual poetry especially is very much about presentation and context. It’s quite different how you perceive words online or in a book, surrounded by other words, or presented as a single word, just slightly manipulated. The computer provides a huge variety of such possible contexts and I think it’s really necessary to think about that, while making your art.

Could you expand on your last comment, “the computer provides a huge variety of such possible contexts and I think it’s really necessary to think about that, while making your art”? What kind of contexts do you envisage, and how does it alter your planning process?

The context is sometimes the platform where it is displayed – I think that also each blogging platform has it’s advantages and doesn’t fit all kinds of literature or art equally.

Then there is the situation in which the user sees it. The images and texts often flow by in a timeline, the reader becomes a »user« who consumes rather passively, parallel to something else… on the other hand, the »user« can become active and can engage much more than in other mediums as well. It’s interesting, that the context in which a text or image is seen totally depends on the user – each blogger has the chance to re-contextualize, to write something about, or can simply arrange your art among others as he or she likes best. I wouldn’t call them all »curators«, but it goes in that direction.

People often just use art as their desktop background – I’m sure it’s completely differently seen there, as for example a poster on the wall…

Moreover there is the possibility of animation, interaction and hyperlinking. Text can become alive on the screen – characters can literally become characters.

You also have to keep in mind, that art on the internet is often reused, sometimes plagiarised or remixed. I don’t see that as a bad thing at all, I think, that’s what art is all about –  it’s consumed, reused, transformed…

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censored/Antaol Knotek

Your Tumblr (visual-poetry) is a mix of your own work and work from various other sources, why did you decide to structure it that way?

Before I had my blog, I collected a lot of images from all over the internet in a folder on my computer, which I called »e-deas«. I used it besides my books and catalogues just for my own inspiration. But I was really lazy and often didn’t mention the source, or sometimes didn’t even write down the name of the artist. It became chaotic and actually rather useless after some time. This was when I had the initial idea for my visual-poetry blog. It started as a kind of self discipline, but I also wanted to give other people the possible chance to have a glance at the huge field of text-art, where I myself find so much inspiration in.

…and in the end I really benefit from it myself immensely!

You say that visual-poetry was, in part, your way of sharing work and inspiring other people. Have you had much feedback to this effect from your audience? If so, do you feel like that dialogue is an important part of your online communications?

It took a long time before I received some feedback, but I think that’s just natural. For me it’s mainly motivating and a confirmation that I do share something, which is also interesting for others. The dialogue from my side starts with a simple post – most of the time it’s just the artwork, the title and the name of the artist including a link. The rest of the »communication« is sometimes not directed to me at all, it could be a comment related to the work, personal thoughts, [or]  first impressions. For me Tumblr is kind of the »visual Twitter« it’s mainly about images – sometimes people don’t answer with text at all, instead with a »like« a simple reblog, another poem or an animated gif…

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tears/Anatol Knotek

How important do you think curation is in terms of art on social media and the internet in a more general sense? Are there any particular blogs/sites you look to for inspiration?

I’m always thankful when I come across a blog that is curated with some passion for art – a simple google image search could never replace that.

…but it is like in the real world – when you go to a gallery or museum with a show that’s curated with love and understanding, you get the possibility to see new contexts.

I follow some other blogs and some artists’ twitter or other social media sites, but I don’t have a special source. Mostly I use google as a starting point. It’s often so, that when I start engaging with the work of an artist or poet, that the next interesting name literally just pops up by itself.

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anachronism/Anatol Knotek

Some of your work is currently in the form of books, ‘Anachronism’ being my favourite, which you’ve made available online. Do you feel being able to sell work via the internet, without a middle man or gallery, has changed how easy it is to be a working/commercially successful artist?

My main motivation for self-publishing is, that I can truly stick to my own ideas, so that I don’t have to make compromises in an artistic sense.

The second thing is, that I wanted to make my books all by myself – completely handmade, with my own cheap printer, a simple cutter and some glue or thread. Maybe it’s because all I make is often from the perspective of a painter, and then you don’t really have the option to let it be made by someone else (when your name isn’t Koons or Hirst etc.). I have always been fascinated by the aura of the original, the unique – actually it’s all fantasy, but as a spectator you can usually let your mind travel much more in front of an original work of art.

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a bra/Anatol Knotek

As you say you’re fascinated by the idea of “the original, the unique”, does the ease of replication of images of from the internet play any part in making that fascination more acute or pushing you towards the completely handmade?

I think so. It became more special to really make something that’s substantial and doesn’t need to be updated regularly. It’s strange, but I think it’s that contrast that makes books attractive again. Maybe I’m wrong, but I have the impression, that writing by hand or with the typewriter is in vogue again too.

In German there is this wonderful expression »begreifen« which means to »understand« but also »to touch«. I think there is a human yearning for something we can hold in our own hands – we live in an increasingly sterile and flat world where something that remains at least some years is more and more lacking. Everything around us moves faster, information is omnipresent and therefore loses meaning and is less precious. But although I’m critical here, I’m also fascinated by the time we are living in. I love to integrate modern technology and the new way of communicating in my art and especially in how I spread it.

In this context we just have to be aware what we gain on the one hand, and loose on the other…

You can see more of Knotek’s work on his Tumblr, visual-poetry (as well as on his website, Instagram, and Twitter)

This is the second in my series of throwback interviews, this time with the incredibly talented May Xiong.

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STROKES 2/MAY XIONG

If there’s a moustachioed man, covered in mackerel vertically streaked with a smudge of mauve and he’s looking straight at you, you have to ask yourself “why?”. That’s exactly what I did when I first saw May Xiong’s conceptual series of portraits entitled ‘Strokes’, but I found myself drawing a blank.

Seattle-based photographer May Xiong’ work draws you in with its bizarre beauty and then leaves you hanging with just enough wonder that you keep asking “but why?”. Her conceptual portraits are accumulating ever increasing buzz across social media, with spotlights on some of the more popular art Tumblrs and interviews abound on blogs.

“My goal isn’t to try and stand out, but to simply create photographs out of being passionate and having the thrive to continuously share how I see the world through my artistic vision.”

Xiong started in 2005 when she was 15, after being given a digital camera for her birthday, and she quickly found that photography could be an outlet to explore and capture narratives. Those narratives are today mainly disseminated online, quite often under the title MX photography.

“Everything is uploaded online and from that we are able to allow ourselves to share what we know, what we do and or create.”

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TROUBLED KID PT.2/MAY XIONG

The stories May’s photographs tell are often fantastical, and rely on viewer interpretation. But, because of their soft, almost hypnotic aesthetic the viewer is never made to feel uncomfortably lost. Rather, you are given a sense, under the direct gaze of the subject, that her images are part of a tale you already know, and simply need to remember – the same deja vu you get when a real life experience resonates with something encountered only previously in a dream. That’s where the strength in May’s photography lies, the sense of the familiar that pervades in even the most defamiliarised images.

“My conceptual work explores oddity, beauty, and attention to detail in portraiture. The arrangement of the subject and the environment often plays a big part in balancing the two. A mixture of portraiture and fine art, these constructed pieces are shaped by the idea of skewing one’s perspective, leaving the viewer to define the emotion behind each photograph.”

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CHILDHOOD-MEMORIES/MAY XIONG

When and why did you decide to start putting your work online?

I started putting my work online since I first started my photography back in 2005. But it wasn’t until 2-3 years ago during the middle of college when I realized that perhaps it was something I should take more seriously. It was more of a way to get critiques and feedback on my work and grow from it.

You often just use your initials when labelling your work (MX Photography) what was behind that choice?

I’ve gone back and forth on using my full name and then just the initials when labelling my work over the past few years. I’ve always enjoyed minimalistic aesthetics when it comes up to design and so choosing “MX” was simple and easy for me to decide on.

You’ve recently started being featured on some of the bigger curation blogs, I think I scrolled past some of your work on cross connect, what importance do you place on that kind online community of publicity?

I believe any exposure you get as a growing artist is very important, whether it be online or not. But I have to say that the online art community has grown so much in the past years and having the accessibility of showcasing your work through social networks, has become so much easier and faster. I feel that whether we’re a business, an artist, a news anchor, a journalist – everything is uploaded online and from that we are able to allow ourselves to share what we know, what we do and or create.

After that kind of feature, especially on Tumblr, your work starts to be reblogged and, more problematically perhaps, reposted. What are your thoughts on the culture of the credit-less image and transient ownership of work that’s started to be cultivated online?

Every artist deserves their credit for what they do. Tumblr, I’ve noticed over the past 4 years has changed drastically. People are posting or reblogging things they find interesting or pretty, which is fine, but when it comes up to their actual own posts and sharing photographs from other photographers/artists without proper credit, it starts to become a problem. Being an artist, I put so much effort, time and dedication into taking my photographs and to have my name be stripped from the images, feels like it’s tearing a part of me away from all my hard work/creative vision, for which I’m sure others feel the same. So it is very upsetting to see artists constantly go through this wave of not being credited properly.

Quite a lot of your conceptual photography has digital overlays, do you go into shooting a piece imagining the final composition or do you develop as you go along?

The creation behind my conceptual pieces are balanced by both a constructed and an improvised vision, so the final composition is sometimes different. But I believe that being able to allow myself to explore my creativity, has definitely made me create pieces that have made my work become more noticeable, such as my photograph titled, “All Around Us”.

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ALL AROUND US/MAY XIONG

You said that allowing yourself to be more creative has made your work more noticeable. How conscious are you when working of how a piece will be received or how it will stand out from the swathes of photography on the internet?

When creating my work, I don’t think I’m too conscious at all about how my work will be received/stand out from other photography on the internet. I simply create what I envision and try to bring it to life. To construct these images in a light that I feel will carry a narrative, subtle details and how perfect a moment can be and make one see everything at the same time through my own style. My goal isn’t to try and stand out, but to simply create photographs out of being passionate and having the thrive to continuously share how I see the world through my artistic vision.

Is the narrative you’re trying to create exist in the single photographs or the larger sets you create, and how do you feel your ability to alter how your images are displayed (especially online) alters that?

The narrative that I create in my photographs exist in both the single photos and my larger sets (series). These photographs are meant to be paired together but also have a strong narrative pull to it that makes each one photograph stand well alone, at the same time. Sometimes when posting one photograph at a time instead of posting them all at once as a batch, people may get different views of the series as a whole – at least that’s what I can try and make out of it. So in some ways, my ability with that tends to shift here and there by my audience’s views of my work.

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UNTITLED/MAY XIONG

Speaking of narratives, do you ever look back over your own archive of work to see how your work has changed? And if so, how do you feel about that change and your earlier work?

There has been many times when I’ve gone back and looked at my own archive of work and have noticed the drastic change. If anything, the drastic change has been such a wonderful experience. Being able to go through photo shoots, learning through my success and failures has helped me grow and shape myself as a photographer and how I view things artistically. With the change, it makes it easy to say that my work now shows more concentration, depth and direction as to where my old work didn’t have the solid foundation of those things.

Where do you think that concentration and depth is going to take you next?

I feel that that concentration and depth is only going to make my work stronger as time goes on, whichever route I take with my photography. Allowing myself to grow within myself as an artist and a photographer, perhaps my viewers will be able to see that in my work and future work.

You can find more of May Xiong’s work on her website, Facebook, or Behance.

This time last year, and the two years before, I was going back to university. It seems weird not to be going back now. As a nod to that nostalgia, I thought I’d post up a series of interviews I did for The Oxford Student with some of my favourite artists in 2014.

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VERY FIRST ACCIDENT/ZEREN BADAR

“Oh no! I’ve just cracked an egg on the old master that was casually on my kitchen counter, that so wasn’t a frying pan!”

This is how I like to imagine the internal monologue of self-professed “penniless photographer” Zeren Badar as he created his ‘Very First Accident’ in the ‘Accident Series’. However, the consciously constructed nature of its composition may suggest other wise.

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STARS/ZEREN BADAR

Tongue wryly in cheek, “penniless photographer” Zeren Badar ‘accidentally’ layers found objects (cereal, fridge magnets, rubber bands) on top of cheap reprints of older, often classic, paintings to create temporary Duchampian readymades. The juxtaposition of these seemingly incompatible materials produces fun works that question how we value the art work we see, how we see the genre of still life and how the creative capacity of our breakfast could be embraced if only we were to slip by a DaVinci.

“It is like 99 cents store meets with Mona Lisa.”

The accidents themselves aren’t what we as viewers interact with, rather we are given photographic evidence of the action. Zeren toys with the saturation, contrast and shadows in these photographs to make them feel hyper-real.

“I destroy my ready-mades at the end unlike Duchamp because my final artwork is a photograph. It is very conceptual work. I’m the owner of the final work naturally.”

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ONE HAPPY BLUE PILL/ZEREN BADAR

Zeren’s use of cheap commonplace objects as the dominant aspects of his images elevates the everyday to being gallery worthy without every feeling like he’s devaluing the print he’s defaced.  The playful aspect to his work is both rebellious, fighting the good fight Duchamp & Co. began, and rejuvenating, in the sense that it seems to hark back to the creative confidence of a child making art.

“But even if I had incredible budget of Jeff Koons, I would keep the childlike look of my artworks. I think that is my niche.

Actually! Even daydreaming about these feels so good….”

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HOMAGE TO GUSTAVE KLIMNT/ZEREN BADAR

I first saw your work on Tumblr, how important would you say social media, and the internet in a more general sense, are to artists working today?

I believe it is very important as an artist to use social media to promote my work. I’m one of many artists who don’t have a gallery contract. Internet or social media is my only tool to show my work to a wider range audience. My work got so much attention after being on tumblr radar. I’m so grateful to tumblr team.

In these days every artist must be using social media very often. They have to be careful not to overdo it. In my case I post one image a day (or less), which disciplines me. I have to create something for my Instagram and tumblr each day. Otherwise I would be postponing and get involved with other things.  I strongly believe every artist should take advantage of social media, but they should use gracefully.

You mentioned the importance of being on Tumblr radar, what are your thoughts on online curation and selecting the best works from a saturated market?

There are so many websites and digital magazines out there. Online curation is extremely popular now. I cannot say I find most of them successful. Their job is not easy either. I’m sure they get absurd amount of submissions on a daily basis. The art scene is very plural. Picking sophisticated artworks is not easy. I think the curator should have great taste on art to begin with. They have to know art history and follow the current art market.

Some of online curators only pick major household names to be on the safe side, which is very boring and uninteresting for me. They should give opportunity to emerging artists. Anyway! Museums are full of those household names. Haven’t we seen Cindy Sherman enough? Why not discover new upcoming artists? It is risky but it is much more interesting.

You’re currently a part of Saatchi online, what do you think being featured on a site with such a recognized name in the non-virtual art world offers? Do you think that websites like Saatchi online are where the art market is heading towards in the future?

For long time, I was not sure to put my work on Saatchi Online or any online gallery. I changed my mind because Saatchi Online was very popular. They had big collector base. I’m also collaborating with another online gallery which is called Kids Of Dada. But this doesn’t mean I’m trying to sell my entire artwork online. They are couple of photographs are on sale via these websites. They are limited editions.

I still believe traditional galleries are very important. A traditional gallery can support and increase value of my photographs tremendously.

I think an artist should work with online galleries and traditional galleries at the same time. When I sign with a gallery, that’s something that needs to be decided between me and gallery owner. Decision has to be mutual.

Visibility in this art world is very important. The more internet coverage I get the more audience I reach.

Being visible and selling online is the future of art market. It doesn’t mean my art is less valuable. It means my art is getting attention globally.

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LADY GAGA/ZEREN BADAR

Have you ever felt there is a danger that your work will be taken and reused without your permission as it is so easily copied and pasted from the web? Have you had any experience of anything of that kind?

So far I have never had a bad experience. Hopefully! I won’t. I heard so many horror stories about this subject. Couple of websites and magazines used my images without my permission to write review about my art. Reviews were always very positive. It didn’t bother me. If someone copies and prints my work, they will be getting in touch with my lawyer. That requires a lawsuit.

I put very low dpi images online, so none can print high quality. I sell limited editions and sign every photograph of mine. Those photographs have almost no value without my signature. I sell my photographs to collectors and art dealers. They are very high quality prints and signed. Otherwise they would have value of posters.

Your work uses a lot of repurposed/reworked readymade images, I’m thinking particularly of your Accident Series, how does that feature into that idea of image ownership?

When you look at the history of modern art, most artworks are references to classic artworks. I use very low dpi images which I download them on internet. I change them dramatically. I even change the colors of paintings before I print them.

I put found objects, food on top of each other. I change the painting intensely which are almost not recognizable. The final work is my creation. The painting becomes a completely different piece of art.

In this age, it is very common that artists use pre-existing artworks and turn those into something else. I’m not the first artist who works in this manner, but I have my own distinct style. I use these old paintings to create new Duchampian ready-mades. I destroy my ready-mades at the end unlike Duchamp because my final artwork is a photograph. It is very conceptual work. I’m the owner of the final work naturally.

You reference Duchamp as a point of comparison for your works. Do you consider him a major influence on your choice of style, and if so (or not) who else would you put on that list?

Yes, Duchamp is definitely the main influence on my work. He had certain dry humor in his art. It is very difficult to create humorous pieces in art. He created his own category, which nobody had thought about before.

I was influenced by Kurt Schwitters as well. I found his aesthetic of collages very inspiring. They have exceptional compositions. They are very delicate.

I can give couple more names such as Sigmar Polke, Urs Fischer and Gerhard Richter

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SEA WORLD/ZEREN BADAR

How do you go about selecting the readymade paintings/canvases for your works?

I searched for paintings on the Internet. There are great sources out there such as pinterest, museum websites and personal art blogs. I look for portraits with facial expressions.

Since I reduce the details of paintings, the remaining parts should have some kind of emotion.

I look for low dpi images because I like the contrast. The ready-mades I put on paintings are always sharper than paintings. I have certain themes in my mind such as love, hands, mother & son or daughter.

I developed a strong instinct after a while. When I see the painting, I get the sense right away that painting will work.

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FEMINISM/ZEREN BADAR

Could you explain a little your choice to pair these older, classic artworks with incongruous items such as food and paper clips?

That’s the most difficult part of this project. Not every object or food works with paintings. I found that round shapes and flowy materials work much better.

I got ideas from everywhere. Searching for materials is constantly in my head. It is exhausting actually.

I found 99 cents stores are very inspiring. I know! It sounds odd. Flea market is another good source. I have a certain budget for the ready-mades. I don’t want to spend more than $5 or $8. To be honest that is the initial idea of this project. I wanted to create art from cheap things.

I wanted to transform banal everyday objects into extraordinary masterpieces!

It is like 99 cents store meets with Mona Lisa.

Of course I cannot afford very expensive materials at this point as well. I’m not one of those artists who has unlimited budget.

I wish I had Jeff Koons’s astronomic budget — I would create so many masterpieces. One day maybe….

Where do you think your work would go if you had Koons’ astronomical budget?

That would solve so many problems of mine! First! I would rent a great size studio. I wouldn’t try yo create everything in my living room. I would quit my day job and focus on my art completely. I have been thinking creating 3D print sculptures from Accident Series. I would definitely spend a lot of money on developing sculptures. I do have so many ideas for performance art projects. I have two other photography projects in my mind. One of them is text based. Other is internet related. But even if I had incredible budget of Jeff Koons, I would keep the childlike look of my artworks. I think that is my niche.

Actually! Even daydreaming about these feels so good….