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Five creatives visually respond to the question: What makes something art, anyway?

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Kevinfaingnaert_solstice_photography_int_list Work / Photography Drawn to subcultures, Kevin Faingnaert photographs Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Annually, thousands flock to Stonehenge to celebrate Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. It occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt toward the sun. Pagans and druids meet together at the ancient site to watch the sun rise above the Heel Stone, celebrating rebirth. On 20 June of this year, Kevin Faingnaert journeyed with them. With an affinity for people and places, the Belgian photographer documents subcultures, telling their untold stories. “I stood between druids, fortune tellers, pagans, Buddhists, Hare Krishna’s and tourists”, he tells us, and “as the sun rose, at around 4:52, an incredible party broke loose”.

Lukeinsect-dali-graphicdesign-itsnicethat-list Work / Graphic Design Luke Insect designs a "BMX break up album about teenage love and endless summers"

Following a degree in graphic design and illustration at Newcastle, graphic designer Luke Insect got an art working/tea making, break in London. It was the 90s and his first design jobs were working on record sleeves for the likes of Funkadelic, Parliament, Motorhead and Ozzy Osborne. Experience under his belt, Luke headed east “to the near-empty Old Truman Brewery in the deserted Brick Lane (this was 1998!),” and set up his own design and illustration studio, Insect. Taking his new found knowledge, the studio put out a bunch of sleeves, flyers and posters for independent record labels each “riding a bit of a new wave of maximalist illustration and street art at the time,” he tells It’s Nice That.

Play-illustration-int-5 Work / Exhibition Beci Orpin and Carla McRae’s exhibition, Out of Bounds, explores the notion of play

Beci Orpin and Carla McRae have collaborated on an exhibition at Boom Gallery that explores the notion of “play”. Play is an essential part of childhood — that “time spent without purpose in exploration, losing track of the hours”. However, as we get older expectation entails that we grow out of it. For their joint exhibition, Beci and Carla look to explore “the way that these spaces can be cultivated as adults and how we can tap back into those headspaces. Because they’re still there”, they tell It’s Nice That, “they’ve just shifted forms”.

Jamiehawkesworth-photography-and-sculptures-sculpture-itsnicethat-08 Work / Sculpture Photographer Jamie Hawkesworth on expanding his creative practice to include sculpture

“What I always preach about photography is that it’s just great to see what you come across,” Jamie Hawkesworth, an artist who needs little introduction, tells us about his creative practice. It’s this approach, one of both wandering and wondering, that has gained Jamie respect in numerous cultural fields and his latest venture is no exception, but this time its sculpture.

Editorialmagazine-publication-itsnicethat-list Work / Publication Claire Milbrath shares her best bits of Editorial Magazine's new issue

If Editorial Magazine came out monthly or weekly, It’s Nice That would be full of articles about it. Each time it’s released founding editor Claire Milbrath brings something brilliantly new to the table, from her commissioning to the subjects the articles dive into. The most recent issue has just done it once again. But, rather than ramble on about it ourselves, we’ve let Claire take the reigns this time.

Lucanzalone-photography-itsnicethat-list Work / Photography Luca Anzalone’s photographs twist the stereotypical narratives of classical culture

Luca Anzalone’s photographs blur the boundaries between fantasy and reality; their surreal, performative quality twists the “stereotypical narratives of classical culture”, he explains. “What we constantly struggle to define as reality is just an illusion in our brains”, Luca tells us, “I’d rather play with that concept”. His images are reminiscent of an Alice in Wonderland-like world, a mixture of logic and nonsense juxtaposed to create experimental and theatrical photos with a scent of subtly and grace that is deeply sensual.

Ellie-art-int-list Work / Art Ellie Ji Yang’s idyllic paintings explore the rhythms of the natural world

Ellie Ji Yang’s joyful and colourful paintings explore the rhythms of the natural world. Brought up in Gwang-ju, a city in South Korea “that balances city and nature”, Ellie was surrounded by “greenery and small forests” from a young age. “Connected to nature, my memories of these places are the foundation of my imagination”, she tells us. Now based in Brooklyn, NYC, Ellie’s paintings vividly recall her childhood, creating idyllic, vibrant scenes, pointedly absent of anything human-made. Many of her works include animals reminiscent of Asian culture and symbolism, while others showcase worlds containing mysterious prehistoric and religious references.

Jackbool-photo-int-list Work / Photography For Jack Bool, the beauty of analogue photography is in the unknowing

Jack Bool’s practice blends art photography with fashion, and these different ways of working inform each other. “I use art pictures in an editorial context”, the artist explains, “contextualising images to contradict their initial function intrigues me”. His images juxtapose beguiling still lifes, landscapes, high gloss fashion images and iPhone shots, to create smooth and cohesive series.

Suzannesaroff-fish-photography-itsnicethat-list Work / Photography Suzanne Saroff's meticulously arranged photographs alter perceptions

Photographer Suzanne Saroff began working in her discipline the way most do, developing a love for it through picking up disposable cameras and point and shoots. Hooked, the Missoula-born and now New York-based photographer “endeavoured to learn as much as possible about the art, teaching myself aspects of DSLR cameras and learning lighting techniques while exploring composition and subject matter,” she tells us. Since then, composition has become a part of Suzanne’s work she’s garnered a following for, arranging glasses filled with water to alter perceptions of a well-known object, from a lobster to half a papaya, or a bunch of peonies.

Actualsource-shoplifters-publication-itsnicethat-list Work / Publication Need a guide to LA’s graphic design scene? Shoplifters’ new issue has got your back

Good old Actual Source. In its work as a multi-format publisher, brand and retail store we’re constantly hopping on Actual Source’s website to see what graphic design picks they’ve got for us from books to its own magazine, Shoplifters. We know you’re all big fans of it too, so when we saw the latest issue was a peek inside Los Angeles’ design scene we ate up its brilliantly designed double-page spreads.

Thinkpiece-image-list Work / Opinion Arts cuts are bad for our health – what are we going to do about it?

Jodie Cariss works as part of Forever Curious, a creative initiative set up to work with local east London primary schools. One of the many things they offer is a series of “buddy up” sessions, where industry professionals share stories with a view to make them come to life. Below, Cariss writes how increasingly important it is that these initiatives exist in a climate where cuts are rife and asks: What next for a generation let down by state funding for the arts?

The world feels messy. Politically unstable. A growing sense of slowly mounting chaos and fear over the unknown. One of the UK’s worst-hit areas is the education system. Teachers are leaving in droves. The National Audit Office has tasked mainstream schools with making £3 billion in savings by 2019 – that’s around £800 per pupil. Nearly a quarter of the teachers who qualified since 2011 have already quit the job.

Inevitably, money for creativity and the arts within the curriculum has been fiercely reduced, in some areas to non-existence. Our schools are facing a scarcity of teachers – or at least, many with depleted energy after meeting growing demands – and art cupboards with just one ream of A4 paper for 900 students. I’ve seen it with my own eyes in a Hackney school.

So what happens to a generation of young people, particularly the 4.1 million who are classed as underprivileged, with limited opportunities at home, and fewer at school?

There will be a rise in adolescents with behavioural issues, leading to a less mentally-well adult generation. We know creativity has a direct correlation to the way we feel and how we express emotion, and poor mental health is already on the rise, with one in four people experiencing a problem each year.
Without sounding like the doctor of doom, the education crisis will pave the way for social and creative regression. Why? Because creativity is fundamental to the way we understand the world, form and keep relationships and develop our own sense of self. The ability to create, which begins in early development as play and forms the foundation of the way we find meaning in later life, is essential for a balanced and stimulated generation.

Mariaramos-picnic-illustration-itsnicethat-list Work / Illustration María Ramos' illustrations turn picnic food into an assortment of cheeky characters

While we’re constantly surprised (and pleased) by the oddly-elongated bout of sunny days we’re experiencing here in England, long days of sun are a regular occurrence for Spanish illustrator María Ramos. There’s nothing better than a picnic on days like this, and María agrees, illustrating a lunch full of character in her latest book, Picnic, published by Fulgencio Pimentel.

Turkina-faso-photography-itsnicethat-15 Work / Photography Turkina Faso's cover story for Odiseo issue 12 explores our skin as a uniform

“Evoking thoughts of conformity and lack of change, but also the sensation of equality and unity, issue 12 explores the significance of patterns, and the need for belonging,” reads the editor’s letter of the latest issue of contemporary erotic magazine, Odiseo, published by Folch. Focussed around a central question: “Who are you when you are alone, and who are you with others?” – the issue is dedicated to uniformity, “shaped into a publication”.

Its-nice-that-caitlin-mccarthy_list Work / Animation Meet Caitlin McCarthy and her cute (and sometimes gross) animations

Throughout Caitlin McCarthy’s creative career she has jumped between disciplines, analogue tools and digital programmes. Studying illustration at Camberwell, “which I chose because I loved drawing,” Caitlin then “somehow finished up my degree trying to be a fine artist, making giant silicone ham slices” she tells It’s Nice That. Immediately after graduation, literally just a few days, she went back to drawing and was an illustrator. Now… Caitlin’s an animator!

Moon-publication-itsnicethat-list Work / Publication From magazine worshipper to publisher: a chat with Moon’s founder Verity Pemberton

When Verity Pemberton, the founding editor of Moon magazine, was a teenager, her bedroom walls had a similar wallpaper to many other magazine makers. They were repeatedly pasted with ripped out centrefolds. “My brother used to write for i-D and The Face so I was looking at all those magazines from a young age,” she tells us. “I think when you pick up the right kind of magazine it can really speak to you — with Moon I just wanted to be able to make my creative ideas into a reality and also be able to share the people I find inspiring.”

List Work / Art Cleon Peterson's new exhibition Blood & Soil attacks American politics head on

Cleon Peterson’s powerful paintings challenge modern-day anxieties; directly criticising global and national politics. Blood & Soil, a title taken directly from a Nazi slogan, opens this Saturday at Over the Influence, LA. Moving from expressive nudes to figures in uniform, this exhibition observes Cleon attacking America’s here and now. Drawing from classical art forms, with his figures reminiscent of those created by the Greeks, the artist highlights how history never seems to progress — justice remains an unreachable ideal, law and order remains violent and corrupt. Concerned that we are slipping into a new form of fascism, Cleon has decided to speak up instead of remain silent. With their bold, uniform blocks of red, white and black, these threatening, ferocious paintings speak volumes.

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