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“I like the idea of giving up on trying to do the right thing”: inside the chaotic world of artist Dale Lewis

Can you talk us through the thought behind your distinctive title "Fat, Sugar, Salt”?

I don’t give the titles too much thought. The show has to be called something and I let the title come naturally. While I was making the work for the show I was spending 12 hours a day in the studio. My diet was terrible, there are very little places to get “healthy” food around the studio so most meals came from McDonald’s. I was also smoking loads and drinking a lot of alcohol. I didn’t think about it much at the time as getting the paintings made was the most important thing. Now the show is up, I can eat a few vegetables and cut back on the devil’s juice. The title I guess was also poking fun government warnings. We’re always being warned or made to feel guilty about having what we want / crave. Art is about freedom and individuality and indulgence. And really about living in the moment. I’ll take whatever I like today. I don’t really think about what i’d want tomorrow. When I have a stroke or heart attack or get diagnosed with cancer, so be it. At least (I hope) I left behind a couple of good paintings.

Tell us about the characters you depict.

The characters are ordinary people I see in and around London. I love seeing all different types of people in different clothing, whether it’s for fashion or religious or ceremonial purposes. I don’t really think there’s anywhere quite like this city. It makes being a figurative painter quite easy. If I still lived in Harlow I guess most of the people would be white working class and it would be tiring quite quickly. In London you only have to take a walk, a bus or a tube journey and you’ve seen a whole host of people and scenarios that could make it into a painting.

For all London’s glistening luxury flats and exclusive members clubs, the scenarios you choose to paint speak of a city filled with violence and deprivation. Why?
I guess it’s what I identify with most. I live in an area of London that’s pretty filthy, with low living standards. And I feel comfortable here. There are people drinking all day on benches, there’s rubbish everywhere, daily dumped fridges and mattresses, 24 hour off licences and endless fried chicken shops, pizza takeaways and kebabarys. I see people in wheelchairs everyday outside Wetherspoons where I often stop for breakfast. I see people downing pints at 9am. There’s a man I see regularly walking slowly with a mobile oxygen tank with a cute dog. I like seeing people doing nothing all day. Or the bare minimum… No ambition and no future. Around the festive period is a great time to observe binge drinking. You can see office girls crawling around the floor at Liverpool Street station trying to get back to the suburbs. Men in suits passed out on the tube with vomit down themselves. I love to see that… That abandonment of composure. I like the idea of giving up on trying to do the right thing. When most of the time things are wrong and far from perfect. That’s how I like to leave the paintings.

Harsh, surreal, and often grotesque, what kind of response does your work tend to generate?

So far I think the reception has been pretty positive. I hope people can identify with the work and see beyond the surface. Read the paintings in a more formal way instead of just identifying the narrative on the surface that informs them, but it doesn’t really matter if they do or don’t. It’s also great to have such a large show in London after doing so much abroad the last couple of years. I was really anxious about how it would look and when it was up stopped worrying about it. I’m really hard on myself and aware of how much fretting, sweating, blood, hours and tears go into my practise. A good painter in their studio should know if they’ve given it all they can, or cut a few corners. I don’t think I have. There are a few people I love and trust who’ve seen the work develop over the last few years and they were very complimentary. They would tell me otherwise. And thats makes me feel like it’s all good for now. Of course, there’s always a lot more work to be done.

Th_web_list Features / Art Performance art's "master" Tehching Hsieh on the importance of isolation

As for so many artists before him, recognition came late to Taiwanese performance artist Tehching Hsieh. 30 years stretched between Hsieh’s first performance in his Tribeca studio to the artist’s inclusion in the 2009 Guggenheim exhibition “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989”. Now, the elusive artist is in higher demand than ever, last year filling the Taiwan Pavilion at Venice Biennale with “Doing Time”, an exhibition which took a backwards look at his work. When the Live Art Development Agency presented “Outside Again”, a film directed by Adrian Heathfield and Hugo Glendinning about the artist’s legacy, It’s Nice That took the rare opportunity to sit down with Tehching at LADA’s new home in the Garratt Centre, Bethnal Green in an attempt to find out why the artist gave over his life to art.

Unnamed Work / Art Anna Mond’s cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking Fantastical Beings

Artist Anna Mond’s universe is filled with otherworldly creatures smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. Fantastical Beings is her series of paintings depicting strange, alien-like figures gazing out of the canvas with unsettlingly captivating eyes. After years of working on musical projects, Anna’s creations came about organically when she “rediscovered the magic of painting. Within a short period of time, these wonderful creatures started to materialise,” she tells It’s Nice That.
 
The paintings tease the viewer as Anna masterfully pushes the boundaries of our imagination and incites our curiosity through these strange characters. One being is dressed like a priest with a black cross on its chest and a cigarette poking out of its mouth, while another is ready to take off on the next space mission in its astronaut gear. In Anna’s world, smoking cigarettes inside space helmets is commonplace. “When I sell my paintings they often travel to many different countries. But the Fantastical Beings are always connected and communicate with each other in mysterious ways,” Anna explains. Riddles are at the heart of Anna’s work and her strength lies in withholding easy explanations. Who are these creatures? Are they friendly or hostile? Happy or sad? Or perhaps we should consider how these anthropomorphic characters relate to ourselves. Like us, they wear Breton stripes, cowboy hats and speak on the phone, but their expressions are alien. Anna’s paintings invite us to imagine what might lie behind the faces we encounter.


Marguerite_horaylivewildcollective-art-itsnicethat-list Work / Art “We believe art is due another revolution”: meet the all female collective reviving Dada

“Live Wild” is both the collective name for seven Dada-mad women and possibly the world’s shortest manifesto, neatly laying out the intentions of the group in two syllables. The seven members of the all-female collective currently live and work between France, Russia, the US, Georgia and Canada but come together near daily online via their shared page on Instagram, the Live Wild Collective.

Unnamed Work / Art “I like to retreat into a world that isn’t defining an ideal form”: meet artist Emma Kohlmann

Emma Kohlmann’s colourful, abstract, hyper-sexualised figures are difficult to forget. “In my watercolours I speak through movement via vignettes, shadows, windows or portholes. I like that there is an illusion of coincidence,” Emma tells It’s Nice That. The Massachusetts-based artist has been painting since she was a child, keeping journals and scrapbooks, but never anticipated making art on a regular basis.

Melissakitty-art-itsnicethat-list Work / Art Artist Melissa Kitty Jarram is updating Greek myths for 2018

As we continue to slog our way through the metaphorical bog that is January, we’re finding life inspiration in unexpected places. Take artist and illustrator Melissa Kitty Jarram, who borrows power from Greek goddesses and repurposes it into pastel-hued images of a modern day myth: the woman who truly doesn’t give a fuck. Whether she’s dabbling with Adobe Illustrator or gouache, Melissa skates across the whole spectrum of human emotion, prodding morality and the Madonna/whore context along the way and reminding us that we should all channelling Calypso – at least until spring. We caught up with the artist to hear more.

Leeza-pritychenko-graphic-design-itsnicethat-list Work / Graphic Design New year, new you: designer Leeza Pritychenko on how to stop being a human and become a squirrel instead

“Ironically, it was actually my inability to choose a specific creative medium that eventually brought me into graphic design,” explains Moscow-born Leeza Pritychenko. Currently based in The Hague, Leeza’s portfolio is a coalescence of editorial design, 3D graphics, moving image and VJ-ing all informed by a design education spanning three countries.

Annahofmann-illustration-cybersexhidden-itsnicethat-list Work / Illustration Anna Hofmann's slightly grotesque but very, very funny characters

Our love affair with the work of Anna Hofmann came from one illustration of a little creature leaning cautiously out of its car window to lick a cactus. It’s this use of humour, something so silly but brilliant, that means since seeing her work in Eike Konig’s class calendar at the end of last year, we’ve fallen head over heels for Anna’s work.

Cristiantoronicolasgonzalez-manualdeautodefensafeminista-publication-itsnicethat-1list Work / Publication Learn feminist self-defence with Manual de Autodefensa Feminista zine

#MeToo and #TimesUp have placed feminism at the top of the public agenda. Just last week, the media were filled with women wearing black dresses at the Golden Globes in protest of sexual assault and harassment. So what better time to brush up on feminist self-defence moves? Chile-based illustrators Cristian Toro and Nicolas Gonzalez collaborated to visualise women as agents of self-protection in a two-colour folded silkscreen zine named Manual de Autodefensa Feminista.

Lucid and concise, Manual de Autodefensa Feminista systematically lays out a step-by-step guide to self-defence in the event of an assault. Nicolas explains the importance of making the zine a universally accessible publication “that does not need the text to be understood.” He sees the zine “more like propaganda, coherent information with a purpose.” The illustrations themselves are first and foremost functional. They portray women tackling their aggressors by use of single, effective defensive moves that resemble martial arts. The use of only two colours, blue and yellow, keeps the drawings simple and clear, highlighting crucial motions by encircling the relevant body parts. One image, “El Escape,” shows a woman back-kicking an aggressor’s knee while another, “El Rodillazzo” depicts a woman kneeing a man’s face. 

Nicolas and Cristian’s Manual de Autodefensa Feminista is a choreography of instructions that invites the reader to follow its steps and perform the art. In this way, the publication is a crossing of illustration and live art, encouraging women to be a part of the spectacle of feminist empowerment. This participatory quality is also reflected in the zine’s printed form, inviting the reader to touch, scribble, fold and engage with the publication. “I find its material dimension important,” Nicolas explains, “not only in terms of the illustrations themselves but also in terms of its method of printing and circulation.”

Philippeweisbecker-adirondacks-nieves-publication-itsnicethat-list Work / Publication Renowned illustrator Philippe Weisbecker's delicate drawings of Adirondack furniture

One of Nieves’ latest published books is a furniture blast from the past. A sketchbook-like publication, it displays drawings by renowned illustrator Philippe Weisbecker, sketching versions of Adirondack furniture. It’s a style many will be familiar with from the popular Adirondack chair, a wooden outdoors seat and a regular fixture in many suburban gardens.

Lara-kothe-publication-itsnicethat-2 Work / Publication The Lething Compendium by Lara Kothe teaches you how to forget everything

“Books are static, stable objects, which cannot be changed easily after being printed. It is a system that has proven its worth over so many years – more so than any other medium,” states German graphic designer Lara Kothe. Originally from a small town in Bavaria, she studied communication design in Hamburg and now resides in Berne, Switzerland where she is undertaking a part-time master’s degree in design research. Lara’s portfolio is packed full of experimental publications that are intellectually challenging, designed with purpose and with the utmost attention to detail.

Superhi-digital-list Sponsored / Digital Three creatives tell us why coding is crucial to contemporary design

The ability to understand and move with the times, while progressing your work accordingly, is a crucial skill for any designer. With our lives increasingly dictated by the screens that surround us, the importance of coding and digital design is soaring. In a series of articles in collaboration with SuperHi, It’s Nice That will be offering insight into the prominence of this facet of design.

Mariana_malhao-microbios-illustration-itsnicethat-list Work / Illustration Mariana Malhão's illustrations depict "a world inside a world"

You might not believe it at first glance, but Portugal-based illustrator Mariana Malhão’s bold and joyful illustrations are inspired by bacteria. Her series, “Microbios,” is full of lively bodies and colourful shapes that place you in the centre of a surreal fairytale. Her illustrations are about perspective: “We cannot see microbes, there are so many of them and they are everywhere. My illustrations relate to the idea of a world inside a world,” Mariana tells It’s Nice That. The characters that inhabit her universe invite us to change our outlook and re-imagine what might be around us that we cannot see. Perhaps we are surrounded by four-legged alligators with purple hands, four-armed boys with heads between their legs and fox-like creatures wearing rainbow suits.

Xzy-publication-itsnicethat-list Work / Publication XZY explores the “visual alchemies of the phenomenon fake" in its debut issue

Contemporary culture and the modern world is dictated by the digital image. As we continue to consume more and more of it through the illuminated rectangles that surround us, many creative mediums are experiencing rapid change. Having witnessed the transformation to her chosen medium over the last ten years, photographer Tereza Mundilová, along with four fellow Berliners and friends, decided to create XZY magazine as a space to reflect on and examine “the electronic image in the era of post-photography.”

Steven-bliss-photography-itsnicethat-list Work / Photography Steven Bliss' distant yet familiar series, Boys

As a parent, the compulsion to document every waking moment of your child’s life is always there, leaving most with boxes and boxes of photos or digital folders full of phone snaps. However, for fine arts photographer and teacher Steven Bliss, it was the spontaneous purchase of an 8×10 camera in the year his second son was born that prompted him to document his children in a more considered manner, resulting in his ongoing project, Boys.

Shopping Regulars / Friday Mixtape Friday Mixtape: Shopping pick a mix of bands to be excited to be about

This week’s Friday Mixtape is by London-based band, Shopping. Today the trio of Rachel, Billy and Andrew release their third record, The Official Body self-described as “100% bangers” and we definitely have to agree. Full of bands with new releases to discover if you’re still listening to the same records from last year, this mix is perfect if you’re looking for something new for 2018. h3. Why have you picked these songs, what do they remind you of or make you feel?

Nicer-tuesdays-december-2017-cecile-dormeau Regulars / Nicer Tuesdays Illustrator Cécile Dormeau on body diversity and defying convention

Illustrator Cécile Dormeau has made her name creating diverse, empowered and hilarious female characters that eschew conventional body image tropes. At Nicer Tuesdays, she spoke about why it’s so important to defy cliche and the mixed reaction she receives online and from clients, plus shares her brilliant response to critics.

Stephwilson-oystermagazine-itsnicethat-list Work / Photography Steph Wilson shoots Marques Almeida alongside a goat, a greyhound, a ferret, a turkey and more

“Regarding the concept, I think I abused a brief to get a load of farm animals in a studio if I’m totally honest,” says photographer Steph Wilson on her latest cover shoot of Marques Almeida’s collection for Oyster magazine. Steph isn’t a photographer who uses the usual studio props, and her work is all the better for it. Yet this shoot in particular, including a goat, a greyhound, a Pomeranian, a turkey, chickens, a rat, a ferret and sheep, Steph created a setting more like a petting zoo than a fashion shoot.

Pavilion-studio-publication-itsnicethat-1 Work / Publication "It's a bit daft and it kind of lies a bit": Pavilion Studio's satirical zine, Ideal Science

Sitting somewhere between a photocopier and a laser printer, the Risograph firmly has a place in the heart of many designers, illustrators and printmakers. Despite being a cheaper and more environmentally friendly option to techniques like screen printing, the process is not without its drawbacks. In a recent zine titled Ideal Science, London-based graphic designer, Nick Greenbank, took the chance to celebrate the flaws and mistakes that arise when using the popular machine under his design studio, Pavilion.

Th_web_list Features / Art Performance art's "master" Tehching Hsieh on the importance of isolation

As for so many artists before him, recognition came late to Taiwanese performance artist Tehching Hsieh. 30 years stretched between Hsieh’s first performance in his Tribeca studio to the artist’s inclusion in the 2009 Guggenheim exhibition “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989”. Now, the elusive artist is in higher demand than ever, last year filling the Taiwan Pavilion at Venice Biennale with “Doing Time”, an exhibition which took a backwards look at his work. When the Live Art Development Agency presented “Outside Again”, a film directed by Adrian Heathfield and Hugo Glendinning about the artist’s legacy, It’s Nice That took the rare opportunity to sit down with Tehching at LADA’s new home in the Garratt Centre, Bethnal Green in an attempt to find out why the artist gave over his life to art.

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