The fine artist goes in depth about the internet, cybersensuality and her remarkable work
by David Graver in Culture on 24 April 2014
There's twofold brilliance within the large-scale works of Sydney-educated, Singapore-based artist Jennifer Mehigan. From a purely visual standpoint, her swirls and slashes, blobs and explosive use of color please an exploring eye. Delving further, there is a taut aesthetic mastery across all the media choices she makes. Combining digital work with traditional painting, drawing and sculpting, there's no mistaking her style—even as she herself enters uncharted territory. At the crux of each piece (whether its an installation or mixed media painting) the artist probes stimulation, the lack thereof and how both affect an audience—perhaps especially in this age of internet and technology.
Mehigan took time to speak with CH, while she was taking down an exhibition done for Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore. The young artist (born in Ireland in 1988) offered insight on how location has influenced her work, why pastel colors appeal to her and what cybersensuality means in the context of her creations.
What motivated the decision to step from graphic design in Sydney to fine art in Singapore?
I always wanted to feel comfortable with "fine art," but it was really difficult for me when I was younger. I enrolled in an art school for a semester when I first left high school and it was like, "Oh this is not for me at all." So I was lucky enough to be able to switch to design. But then when I started working in design I experienced the same thing again, so maybe I am just going to keep going back and forth forever. Moving location was the easy part because it was moving home. But convincing "art" that I'm not "too design" and vice versa is harder—and weirder.
Has location meant additional inspiration or altered your vision as an artist?
I didn't think it would but yeah, it made a big difference coming back to Singapore after a few years away. The feeling of moving home was comforting and there's a lot of parts of Singapore I ignored when I was younger and just desperate to leave, like the weird biotech, Gibson-esque side. The constant redevelopment has definitely got me obsessed with machinery and construction and destruction.
You cross multiple media, but there is a strong, wondrous through-line to all your work. Do you know how define this aesthetic—do you need to? What inspired this type of work?
I don't really know how to define it, to be honest. I don't understand internet or post-internet art discussions enough to know where or if I have a place, but my aesthetic is definitely peri-internet or something like that. When I first started making things in design school I kind of went with either black and white or neon and pastel, candy colors and I'm still going with them because I love them. It's kind of silly (or sad) but I think I was really affected by the release of the iPhone and using a touch-screen all the time and the gesturing that comes with that—and then apps came out to paint with and so it was like a natural progression into "real" painting.
You coined the term "cybersensuality." What motivated its inception? What does it mean to you?
I think that was probably the closest I came to figuring out what my aesthetic was in a non-committal way. I needed a word that talked about desire and the computer and maybe "cyber" is a little dated but soft ghetto and grunge made '90s cyber stuff cute again so whatever. I feel like it's a word that works for a lot of images people are making and sharing online, like they're wet and glossy and sexy and repetitive and your body reacts to them but it's like—they are just pixels and it's all an illusion and the person who made them isn't really part of your experience but you need them for that image to exist. Like cybersex but visual or something.
Furthering this, in the age of the internet, it's easier to group all queer artists together under one umbrella at times. Do you identify as a queer artist?
Yeah, I mean the word artist scares me more as an identifier than queer, ha. Queer visibility is definitely part of whatever I'm making right now and I don't want to avoid talking about it ever. But it's weird that you mention that grouping—since it's "become known," I guess, I've seen people on Twitter talking about me like, "Maybe someone to consider for a queer show in the future" and that makes me feel weird. But it depends entirely on who is doing the grouping. Sometimes it's cool for it to be recognized and sometimes it's like, "Nah not by you though."
You've just wrapped an exhibition. Can you share with us the material focus and what drove its inspiration?
I'm still developing work around cybersensuality, but with more of a focus on machines and touching on this kind of old idea of synthanatos that Nick Land spoke about in the '90s—but from a soft body dynamics point of view. I'm terrible at explaining things, but it's like an expansion on the death drive; this theory that we experience an artificial death that's induced every time we interact with a screen or a digital space and then I'm comparing that in a roundabout way to desire, orgasms (aka "la petite mort") and visualizing sex with the internet, dying on the internet, what the body/bodies would look like or feel like and stuff like that.
And of course, what will you be embarking on next? Or what do you hope for next?
I hope I can do all the work I have planned to do this summer. I get lost in fantasies way too easily, so I'm just gonna stick with my to-do list and keep working and hope that nice things happen, but if they don't that's OK too.
Images courtesy of Jennifer Mehigan
A bike storage furniture piece fit for a gallery born out of an unlikely collaboration
by Hans Aschim in Design on 24 April 2014
On the outskirts of Edinburgh, overlooking the famous Forth Bridge, designer and woodworker Callum Robinson's most pressing issue at the moment is keeping his Border Collie puppy from chewing up the furniture. Robinson is the co-founder and Creative Director at Method Studio, founded in 2009 and based in the idyllic Royal Burgh of Linlithgow with the sole mission to make things that are beautiful and carefully considered in every way. The studio's latest piece, "Stasis," combines Robinson's design aesthetic and passion for woodworking with the pipework of a fellow (if not unlikely) artisan, Robison's local heating engineer. The resulting piece has found an audience at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and currently graces the window of Spencer Hart on London's famous Savile Row, a true ode to craftsmanship in all forms and a stunning showpiece for the doting cyclist.
Part work of art, part storage and entirely quality crafted, "Stasis" is meant to show off feats in cycling engineering as much as it is about saving space. "We have a lot of passionate cyclists among our customers, and there's always that one bike that's their baby," Robinson says. "It's a bit Damien Hirst, almost 'Metropolis'-inspired. We wanted the bike to be admired, not just stored." A key part of Method Studio's process is the story behind each piece. "The provenance is really important to us," Robinson says, "The wood is actually from the estate where I live and we know the guy who cuts the trees down and he mills them." And from where the materials come, so too do the collaborators.
After his leaky boiler had finally had enough, Robinson made a fateful call to a local heating repair shop and met Keith Livingstone. "I've worked with a lot of guys over the years," Robinson says, "It's easy to spot someone who's doing exceptionally good work simply for its own sake." Over the following years, Robinson's admiration for Livingstone's devotion to quality work morphed into collaboration. "I called him and said, 'Your pipework—which I'm sure you've been teased about—how would you like to have it displayed at the Royal Academy of Art?'" Robinson recalls. From there, the welding and soldering began—copper pipes, Scottish oak and oiled Tuscan leather took on a life of their own. "It turned into more of a piece of art than we were expecting, with the juxtaposition of materials, and special person it would take to appreciate it," Robinson says.
Discovering, appreciating and putting on display craftsmanship that is generally hidden away is one of Robinson's gifts. While he heads up the design aspect, Robinson believes working with skilled craftsman from unlikely areas is necessary to making the best products. "We usually collaborate with other makers because we like to use lots of different materials and because we want to be the best, we need to get people who are the best with their material," he says. With partnerships that span commercial, industrial and art, Method Studios illustrates the potential of collaborating with different training, aesthetics and perspectives. And, while Robison acknowledges his responsibility regarding design, it's his wife and Method Studios co-founder, Marisa Giannasi who "keeps the business—well, a business."
"Stasis" is currently a one-off piece, with the possibility for future commissions. Check out Method Studios online where the piece is available for £4,800 and to see the full range of projects.
Images courtesy of Method Studios
One of a kind, customized, made-to-measure luxury watch straps
by David Graver in Style on 24 April 2014
Choosing the perfect watch can be a challenge: from price point to design, functionality and complexity, many factors can dictate a direction or even unhinge a commitment. There are plenty of worthy brands out there; some for everyday wear and others for the perfect accent to a special occasion. For those looking for something uniquely theirs, L'Atelier du Bracelet Parisien provides an exquisite alternative. In a small workshop within their Paris boutique, craftsmen meticulously construct watch straps that you simply cannot find anywhere else. While this doesn't solve the problem of finding the right watch for you, it opens up a world of alternatives. Whether you're looking to punch up a piece you already own or buy a new watch but differentiate it from peers, discovering the rare and high-quality offerings from L'Atelier du Bracelet Parisien is a treat in itself.
The company was founded in 1997 by Jean-Claude Perrin, a veteran luxury watch strap maker. After selling his previous companies to larger luxury corporations, he decided to return to the rare, handworked craft. In an effort to maintain the integrity of the product, he has since only partnered with his wife Régine, their son Yann and a pared-down team of craftsmen. Their boutique, located in Paris' watchmaking hub, is an inspiring wonderland of options and preexisting products. In addition to their own straps they carry secondhand watches and other leather goods—including belts, bags and more. They also offer watch repair services.
For an entirely customized experience, the atelier allows customers to select from an expansive choice of leathers, tannings, colors, forms and thicknesses. From crocodile to ostrich, pearl-infused stingray and beyond, they can (and have) even crafted watch straps from 1950s baseball gloves and World War II leather military satchels. More than 50 unique materials are available to chose from. Each watch band stretches as far as the imagination, and all the leather work takes place right within their visible boutique.
L'Atelier du Bracelet Parisien watch straps are available online or in store at 56, Place du Marché Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris.
Images courtesy of L'Atelier du Bracelet Parisien