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Democratising art: how the art world is opening up to blind and partially sighted visitors

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Sophianarrett-art-int-list Work / Art Sophia Narrett's intimate embroideries explore the complexities of human relationships

Sophia Narrett’s embroideries require you to look more than once; in fact, they will make you stop and stare. With their minute details and beautiful intricacies, they push sewing to the extreme. We question how it is humanly possible to create such miniature, elaborate scenes. “Embroidered images are immediately intimate and visually tactile”, Sophia explains. “The pace that embroidery dictates has become a meaningful way for me to commit to images, feelings and ideas”. The artist spends weeks working on a single piece; this means that she has time to commit to a narrative and understand the story that she actually wants to tell. As she is making with her hands, there is an even stronger relationship than usual built between her and her art, mimicking the human connections that she recreates within her work.

Audunalvestad-art-int-list Work / Art Audun Alvestad creates tender paintings of the “ordinary Joe”

Audun Alvestad paints the unexpected, in the sense that he depicts moments that most forget about. His art is repetitively filled with variations of the “ordinary Joe” — light, pink men, rounded, hairy and often speckled with tattoos. They’re pictured drinking an evening glass of wine, taking a shower, ironing a shirt, eating dinner or having a smoke. This seemingly harmless and often melancholic character is certainly not a figure we’ve seen represented across art history; and as the contemporary world highlights continual issues with toxic masculinity, his is a figure being quickly left behind. “As our world is changing, so do our expectations and ideas about what we should be or how we should live”, Audun explains. “I enjoy to play and explore these ideas about society, gender roles and other social structures”.

Audun’s art celebrates the banalities of everyday life. “I am a routine enthusiast," he tells It’s Nice That. “I like my coffee and a cigarette in the morning". The characters he depicts are familiar; he could be the bloke from next door. “I have a tendency to make up stories about the people I encounter”, he tells us. “From these ideas, I somehow end up building fictional characters that I use for my paintings”. However, this repeated motif is not symbolic of one individual, “but rather something more general he or she represents”, the artist explains. “Creating generic archetypes gives me more space to play with painterly or formal aspects”. As the figure appears so often, our eyes are turned to other qualities in the painting, the narrative and the painterly techniques.

Paola-antonella-london-design-biennale-art-itsnicethat-list Media Partnership / London Design Biennale 2018 Emotional States: why the theme for 2018's London Design Biennale is more important than ever

The theme of the 2018 London Design Biennale, hosted by Somerset House in September of this year, is an undeniably provocative one. Indeed, Emotional States could mean many different things to many different people, let alone designers, artists and those blessed with naturally imaginative, curious minds. Speaking to It’s Nice That, senior curator at MoMA and member of the Biennale’s jury, Paola Antonelli, proffered that that was what made this year so exciting for her: “that’s the beautiful aspect of the theme – that it is very open. There’s a nice ambiguity to it which makes for a lot of possibility.” The theme has been chosen specifically to provoke a broad interpretation from the contributing countries across the world, and to inspire work that covers a wide spectrum of how design affects every aspect of life, be it day-to-day, individual human emotions – from sadness to anger to joy – to the mood of a community, and on an even larger scale: unrest at country-wide level. It’s the scope for designers to challenge the current political, social and economic climates that have such a huge effect on both individual emotional states and nation-states, that interests us most here at It’s Nice That. “The news stories that we are facing are so blatantly important, urgent, and electrifying – for good and for bad – that I think everybody (unless they don’t have a pulse) is really heated up by them” agrees Paola, “and what artists and designers do well is that they channel that energy into proposals and ideas, or demonstrations.” In a time of closing borders, maniacally villainous presidents and Brexit, there are arguably more factors than ever influencing our emotional states, and even more of a need for designers, artists, curators – anyone and everyone, in fact – to channel those emotions into something positive.
Whilst it might seem like a lot of pressure to put on anyone, let alone someone outside of political office, Paola argues – both in our conversation with her and in her 2007 TED talk – that the capacity to incite change is well within designers’ remit, “designers are the biggest synthesisers in the world; what they do is make a synthesis of human needs, current conditions in economy, in materials, in sustainability issues and then what they do in the end, if they’re good, is much more than the sum of their parts.”

Alixmarie-art-int-list Work / Art Alix Marie’s photographic sculptures celebrate bodily experiences

Throughout history, the body has always been deemed as a place of abjection, particularly with regards to the female form. Alix Marie’s artwork strives to make us come to terms with our own bodily experiences, forcing us to face what is natural. Breaking away from the narrow western capitalist standards of beauty advertising, Alix aims to “picture bodies genuinely,” she says. “I don’t understand why a scar or a stretch mark has to be considered ugly or disturbing. We all bear witness to events on our skin, and I think it’s important to consider and represent them”. At times grotesque, and definitely enough to make the viewer squeamish, Alix displays magnificent magnified images of the skin — deep purple bruises, pink, plush pimples, wet lips and dried, cracked blemishes.

List Sponsored / Converse x JW Anderson Five creatives visually respond to the question: What makes something art, anyway?

It’s Nice That has teamed up with Converse and JW Anderson to celebrate the launch of their latest collaboration. A sculptural tribute to colour and gloss, the new collection sees the classic Chuck ‘70 reimagined in ultra-slick vinyl and conflicting graded colourways. High-energy and provocative, the project explores the intersection of art and fashion, questioning what art is, and can be.

List Features / Art Democratising art: how the art world is opening up to blind and partially sighted visitors

“Blind people experience art exactly the same way as everyone else, they just have, and need, different methods of gaining that experience,” says David Johnson, a Hitchin-based artist who is registered blind. “Blind people experience the same emotions as everyone else, they are subject to the same feelings of attraction or repulsion as others; however, they need alternative sensory pathways to gain that experience whether through touch, audio description or other inroads.”

Brodie-kaman-graphic-design-itsnicethat-list Work / Graphic Design Designer Brodie Kaman on how creative outlets can help control mental illness and addiction

We’ve long admired the work of Australian graphic designer Brodie Kaman, with its DIY aesthetic and experimental, dogged visuals. Based in Los Angeles the last time spoke to him, the designer has since spent time in London, before recently settling in Berlin, and has begun to explore self-discovery and human individual suffering within his personal work, both as a coping mechanism and a creative outlet.

Bodenworld-publication-itsnicethat-list Work / Publication Meet Boden World, the multi-faceted student design studio, clothing brand and publisher

Here in England Boden is known as a bit of a mum-sy brand, a go-to for linen shorts and dungarees for kids. In Oslo however, Boden World is a design studio and clothing brand set up by three students, Axel Berggraf Egenæs, Jonas Vetlesen and Elias Bjørnson Olderbakk, working across art direction, graphic design, illustration, photography, film, branding and concept development. What can’t these students do!?

Daiana-ruiz-illustration-itsnicethat-list Work / Illustration Daiana Ruiz's illustrations use abstract elements to create fierce portraits of women

Daiana Ruiz combines figurative and abstract elements to create harmonious illustrations of strong and diverse women. “I have always been aware of the lack of representation of real women in the media”, she tells us. “That’s why I would like to represent us as we are, with different body types”. The females depicted in Daiana’s illustrations are curved, strong and agile, a contemporary take on ancient Greek goddesses or Amazon warriors. “For me, a strong woman is a free woman, and I like to represent that concept”, she explains, and her figures stare straight at us, fierce and unwavering, challenging us to challenge them. We certainly wouldn’t dream of messing with them.

Laura-coombs-graphic-design-itsnicethat-list Work / Graphic Design The typographically focused, conceptually-minded practice of designer Laura Coombs

For New York City-based graphic designer Laura Coombs, the path to her, now, chosen career was extremely winding and full of chance encounters. Like many, however, her interest in the world of design was clear from an early age. “I can see now that I was always interested in design – I edited and designed a newspaper as a kid, endearingly called the Laura Report,” she recalls fondly.

Alex-lockett-photography-itsnicethat-list Work / Photography Alex Lockett explores familial dynamics and experiences in his narrative-driven photography

“I never actually considered using any other medium. Photography just seemed to stick,” explains British photographer Alex Lockett. Initially using the camera as a teenager to document the tricks his friends were doing on their skateboards, Alex soon progressed to taking the same friends’ portraits, from which “more elaborate ideas” began to develop. Now, having recently moved back to London after a five-year stint in New York City, Alex’s portfolio has evolved into one packed with narrative, each series constructing a world entirely different from the last.

Sharifhamza-youngamericans-photography-itsnicethat-list Features / Photography Sharif Hamza on how he photographed young America's gun culture

Young Americans by Sharif Hamza, a British photographer living in New York, documents an array of American teenagers who practice firing guns for sport. It’s a series that is equally eye-opening and difficult to look at and, in turn, it divides opinion. “Every step of the way,” he tells It’s Nice That, “there has been an internal conflict.”

Pauliina-holma-illustration-int-list Work / Illustration Pauliina Holma’s illustrations transport you into the summery meadows of Scandinavia

Pauliina Holma’s illustrations ooze with a soft summertime haze. We are reminded of long afternoons spent lazing in meadows, and the cool feel of ocean waves splashing on the shore. Pauliina’s work is definitely dreamy; there is an added element of something not quite right but in a charming, curious, whimsical way. She sprinkles in that extra magic. “I think my characters are somewhat fragile but strong”, the artist tells us, “a bit shy and mysterious”. The illustrative lines are light, creating delicate characters that have clear Japanese influences. She depicts snapshots, moments of solitude and stillness. “I’m not good at telling big stories”, she explains, “for me, it is more natural to convey a certain feeling, since I am not very loud myself”.

Matthew-connors-photography-itsnicethat-list Work / Photography Matthew Connors examines the realities of North Korea, challenging its kitschy visual tropes

Although once a mystery, North Korea is a country we’ve come to know over the past years as a pastel haven, with wide open spaces so vast and devoid of people they appear like film sets before the crew arrives for the day. Unanimous Desire by photographer Matthew Connors challenges these tropes. It presents a narrative far more intricate than candy-coloured aesthetics and latent voyeurism, examining the reality of its people and the apparent Plato’s cave they inhabit.

Its_nice_that_adobe_stock_last_night_anton_gudim_list Sponsored / Found in Adobe Stock Last night a stock image saved my life: four scenarios where stock imagery saves the day

This Summer It’s Nice That is partnering with Adobe Stock on a series of articles that celebrate their collection of millions of high-quality images, graphics, video motion graphics, templates, and branding materials. Over the coming weeks, we will be providing an insight into how the Adobe Stock collection can benefit your creative practice.

Ryanskelton-landswalloe-publication-itsnicethat-may_copy Work / Publication Ryan Skelton presents a series of self portraits taken in, and reflecting, each month

Photographer Ryan Skelton is someone who has intrigued us at It’s Nice That for years. It’s the same for the Skelton family in general really, following a brilliant shoot with the whole clan by Hill & Aubrey back in 2016. We saw the Skeltons in caravans, unpacking a hatchback car, out on a walk in their home of Yorkshire, but stylishly dressed, obviously, considering the career of Ryan’s older brother, designer John Skelton.

Johan-elmehag-graphic-design-itsnicethat-list Work / Graphic Design Johan Elmehag’s typeface Coastline warns of the dangers of our melting ice caps

During his teens, it was the natural sciences and maths which occupied Johan Elmehag’s studies. However, in the evenings, he would turn to graphic design as a tool to visually translate his scientific ideas. Eventually the latter overtook the former and Johan headed to Malmö University to study BA Graphic Design, from which he has just graduated.

Sophianarrett-art-int-list Work / Art Sophia Narrett's intimate embroideries explore the complexities of human relationships

Sophia Narrett’s embroideries require you to look more than once; in fact, they will make you stop and stare. With their minute details and beautiful intricacies, they push sewing to the extreme. We question how it is humanly possible to create such miniature, elaborate scenes. “Embroidered images are immediately intimate and visually tactile”, Sophia explains. “The pace that embroidery dictates has become a meaningful way for me to commit to images, feelings and ideas”. The artist spends weeks working on a single piece; this means that she has time to commit to a narrative and understand the story that she actually wants to tell. As she is making with her hands, there is an even stronger relationship than usual built between her and her art, mimicking the human connections that she recreates within her work.

Jackson-bowley-photography-itsnicethat-list Work / Photography Xerox by Jackson Bowley juxtaposes glossy beauty portraits with gritty texture and tone

“I think subconsciously, and when I really reflect on my photos, my photography tends to be a bit of a projection of my mood,” explains London-based photographer, Jackson Bowley. Originally from the outskirts of Nottingham, Jackson has developed a strong beauty portfolio, shooting for the likes of Notion, i-D, Wonderland and Beauty Papers but it was his evolving personal project, Xerox which really caught our eye.

Tintedwindow-regularpractice-publication-itsnicethat-list Work / Publication Tinted Window dives into one person, place, or object to the point of obsession

Tinted Window is a new publication with an editorial angle that focuses on one person, place or object. Although its subject is very focused, thematically the publication touches on a wide range of areas, tapping into multiple audiences too. Its editors, Oscar Gaynor and Alex Bennett, evidently relish in the details, noting that the publication’s defining feature “is its commitment to exploding its subject; to seeing it from multiple angles.”

Zero-digital-int-list Work / Digital Zero: A new publication that proves print and digital don't have to be mutually exclusive

Zero is a digital and physical publication realised by Dagnė Petraityė, Inês Silva and Nathalie De Vallière of Central Saint Martins. The three creatives noticed that the publications that most inspired them, such as Aspen and Fluxus largely relied on “traditional analogue techniques”. Although George Maciunas incorporated objects into Fluxus, moving beyond the usual format of a magazine or a book, his was a project before the impact of digital technology. Many magazines today still cling to the archaic notion of print, and fail to interact with the internet – Zero aims to change this. “We thought it could be exciting to merge some of the things we love about magazines with more experimental characteristics of digital media”, they explain. The result is an amazing digital platform that explores the infinite possibilities of the internet and a printed, physical product that is “based on an unconventional folding system that mimics the online component”.

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