• Interview with Mihoko Ogaki

    Written by Marie Brunnberg

    Edited by Jörgen Axelvall

    Mihoko Ogaki creates a galaxy of life and death

    There are a lot of emotions represented and evoked in Mihoko Ogaki´s artwork - all feelings you can imagine in a life, if you ask her.
    She has just finished her exhibition: “Threshold” at Ken Nakahashi, Tokyo, and the latest installation of her “Milky Way” series.
    Her art reminds us about our mortality; that death and life are one, memento mori, memento vivere.

    It´s the daily life that has inspired her the most. Ogaki herself has struggled for life; she has survived cerebral bleeding. When you look at her artwork, it’s as if you understand something, but it’s hard to define what. Her installation with lights from inside an elder man’s body, it’s beautiful and terrible at the same time. She brings the observer on her own inner journey about her view of life and death.

    MB: Can you tell me about your exhibition Threshold, that you have just finished.
    MO: “Threshold” exhibited works from my “Milky Way” Series of three-dimensional works. Placed in a pitch-dark room, it resembles an aged man, with innumerable holes on the surface as a metaphor for the number of emotions a man embodies in a lifetime. A built-in light source illuminates the work, shining through the holes like stars, also projecting a galaxy on the surrounding ceiling and walls.

    MB: What response did you get?
    MO: I'm glad that many viewers took long moments to appreciate the work.

    MB: Tell me about these glowing sculptures you show? Who are they?
    MO: They do not resemble specific men I know, but somebody of my imagination in the form of elderly people.

    MB: What feelings are involved in these models?
    MO: All emotions a person feels through time, ever since he or she was born. From joy, sorrow, envy, to relief… every single emotion that there could be.

    MB: Tell me a little about your background. Where did you grow up and with whom?
    MO: I was born in Toyama prefecture. I attended high school in Kanazawa and college in Nagoya. Then I moved to Düsseldorf in Germany. Now I live in Ibaraki prefecture. I've met and spent time with many people in many places.

    MB: You have survived cerebral bleeding. In what way has it changed you?
    MO: My surgeon told my family that he had damaged a vein during a procedure and that I might become brutal, but I actually became calmer than before. My husband was surprised and said I turned gentle as a Buddhist monk. I feel positive all the time now.

    MB: Why do you want to work as an artist?
    MO: I had created ever since I was a child, so I have never doubted my living as an artist.

    MB: You have graduated with a major in oil painting, but you use a lot of different kind of materials in your art, especially sound and light, did you change plans on the way?
    MO: I do use many different techniques, in different dimensions, in videos and in performances, but all I am doing is selecting the form that suits the image I wish to create.

    MB: You have studied in Aichi Prefectural University, Japan and German National Kunstakademie in Germany; where did you develop the most and why?
    MO: I believe I developed the most in Kunstakademie. Given much time as a student, I thought hard and created many pieces.

    MB: What cultural differences have you experienced in the art world between Asia and Europe?
    MO: Food!

    MB: What are you going to do this summer?
    MO: I am planning to visit Germany and Italy to see Kassel Documenta, Munster Sculpture Project, and Venezia Biennale.

    MB: Any favorite artist you like more than others?
    MO: I like Kiki Smith, Joel-Peter Witkin and Kazuo Ohno.

  • "Confluence" by Tina Berning and Michelangelo Di Battista

    Written by Solène Le Bars

    German artist Tina Berning started her career designing album covers for the music industry. Soon, however, she began to concentrate on her own picture worlds, found her expression in art, and quickly become an illustrator in high demand worldwide. Her work has been published in renowned anthologies. She has contributed work to advertising campaigns for clients such as Mercedes-Benz, Tiffany and Co., Shiseido…, and her work regularly appears in publications such as the New York Times, Architectural Digest and Vogue Italia.

    Italian photographer Michelangelo Di Battista, early in his fashion career traveled internationally for his numerous fashion and advertising assignments. The dedication and passion towards his craft has attracted some of the fashion and beauty industries most prestigious names including Versace, Moschino, Guerlain, Clarins, L’Oreal, Givenchy, Nina Ricci, Lacoste, Tod’s and Hugo Boss, to name but a few. He has contributed to some of the world’s most prominent publications across the globe including Italian Vogue, German Vogue, Japanese Vogue, Chinese Vogue & Harpers Bazaar. 

    Since they met in 2007 for a photo shoot for Italian Vogue, Tina Berning and Michelangelo Di Battista have created unique artworks that blur the boundaries between photography, illustration, painting and crafts. Instead of subjecting Di Battista’s photography to digital image processing, Berning expands analog on the images with drawings and texts, by scratching, painting or even weaving the surface. Working individually in different countries, together they create a shared universe. The title of their exhibition at Fotografiska, Confluence, refers to the flowing together of two creative streams.

    Would you please explain the title “Confluence” of your Fotografiska exhibit, taking place from June 2nd until August 27th. , and describe what it explores? 
    MDB: It is the confluence of two different techniques, and two different way to express one's creativity. 
    TB: The portraits are photos, illustrations and paintings in one. The idea is to underline the beauty of the models shown in a photo, all of whom have been reworked by hand without using digital technology. 
    MDB: It is the sense of two different points of view of different aesthetic experiences and suddenly mixed together. We merged them and it came out like something unexpected.

    How many pieces are displayed in this exhibition?
    MDB: Twenty-eight works are on display in the exhibition. The show is of only unique pieces, some of them are recent and some other from 2010; our first exhibition we made in Berlin at Camera Work Gallery. The general idea was to show pieces that we collected together because they have been only shown once. 
    TB: And when we were invited to exhibit in Stockholm, we thought about doing something to get connected to the museum. So Michelangelo had a shooting last January with Swedish models and here, one corner is dedicated to these girls. 

    Do you work individually in different countries or together? 
    MDB: I live in London, she lives in Berlin.  
    TB: There are two separate working processes too. He does the pictures and then I received them and create my layers. 

    What are your separate roles?
    TB: This project is about creating new works out of existing ones. I use his photos as a template for my interpretations. I’m seeking to surprise the observer and highlight the multi-faceted nature of female beauty. It’s an honor to have the chance to leave my comments and traces on Michelangelo’s beautiful photos by scratching their surfaces, adding layers of paint or cutting them to pieces. 
    MDBI just love to see what Tina adds to my photographs, how she interprets them with her skillful and artistic creativity. Whether it’s with thick charcoal lines, colorful woven ribbons, texts or something completely different.

    Michelangelo, did you shoot photos for this joint project in a different way? 
    MDB: Definitely! Models are like always quite playing. It is more about the position of head, very simple in a way, so then when Tina creates her layers over it, they meet together. I know that when I shoot photos for this joint project I compose them in a different way; the photograph functions as her canvas. 

    Tina, are you scared sometimes of ruining Michelangelo’s photos? 
    TB: It’s a challenge! I only have one print and that’s the deal. If I do something and it doesn’t turn out how I wanted it then I have to react on it. It’s the process of being absolutely focused. There’s no deception. I haven’t hidden anything, you can see everything I’ve done. The splurges of paint or black and grey dust. Each picture has a challenge to support, interpret, explore and annotate what Michelangelo had captured before. And this is what I like. The end result is a whole different picture and product. It’s sometimes minimal things to do but suddenly the whole expression of the pictures changes. 

    You predominantly add layers of pink and red paint, why?
    TB: For one main reason. It comes from reacting from the black and white.

    Do you make sketches before?
    TBYes. I get the file of the photos before so I always know what I’m working with. I think about a concept. Sometimes, I have hung them up during 3 weeks on my wall, walked around and started getting a relationship with the pictures. When you know you only have one chance; it’s exciting when I start and I like this.  

    It must have been interesting to see people react to your collaboration? 
    TB: It is very important to have direct contact with audience. When we are working for clients we have only limited audience because when you’re booked they only call you when they like your work. 
    MDB: Or a specific image they have seen related to what they looking for. It’s very contaminated in the way of their choices. 
    TB: So when you have an exhibition, like ours in Berlin and now in Stockholm, you can get a feedback quite a few times and people didn’t know me of course,  so I was listening every discussion which was so funny because people there were totally enthusiastic or bored or whatever by some pieces, it was really interesting to hear spontaneous comments.

  • photography by MARTIN LIDELL
    stylist JENNIFER WINSTON
    hair & make up CATHERINE LEHTONEN / Söderberg Agentur
    photographer’s assistant & digital tech MATTIAS SÄTTERSTRÖM
    special thanks to REX STUDIO 
    jacket H&M COLLECTION
    jeans ARTIST’S OWN
    boots DR. MARTENS 

    Interview with Rhys

    Written by Marie Brunnberg

    Edited by Meghan Scott

    I have always dreamed of being a superstar”

    Swedish-American singer Rhys invests all of her energy in music and she has no other ambitions than to reach out worldwide with her bittersweet songs. She is enthusiastic about her future and, at the ripe age of nineteen, she has the time and energy to truly focus and become a big success.

    Rhys explains that her first release was supposed to be a teaser for the next release, “Last Dance”, but people loved the melancholy and deep “Swallow your pride” much more than she had expected.

    It seems that people are more sad out there than you would think”, she quips.

    She is working together with the well-known producer Jörgen Elofsson, who has made many successful hits for famous pop icons such as Britney Spears, Westlife and Celiné Dion.
    They are planning to release more singles, an EP and an album later –  in classic order. She's longing to get out on a world tour.

    Interview with Rhys at Warner Music, Stockholm, Sweden

    How are you different from other artists?
    It's hard to see for yourself. People say I have a special voice and that the listeners are being affected by the way I sing. I hope it's true because I want people to be able to relate to my songs.
    Also, if we talk about my aesthetic, my face juxtaposes with my hair, which is also special.

    You moved to Sweden when you were ten. How was the transition from Portland, Oregon to Stockholm?
    Of course it was tough, as it is for everyone when they move to a foreign country. But it's become good in the end – now I'm used to living here in Sweden. I have soon lived in both places for the same period of time.

    Did you speak Swedish then?
    My mother's Swedish, so I understood Swedish, but I didn’t speak Swedish and have had to learn. It was quite difficult. I sang a lot of Swedish songs – that’s probably why I learned the language so fast.

    Have you always been singing?
    Yes, in various ways. When I was a little girl, I was involved in talent shows at school and I have always loved performing on stage.

    Do you miss the U.S.?
    I don't miss the United States a lot right now. I miss Portland, my family and friends. Portland's open minded – people are usually very kind and accepting, and of course I miss that.

    In what way are you American/Swedish?
    I don't know – hard to say. When I visit the U.S. everyone says, “Oh, you’re from Sweeeden?” And when I'm here in Sweden, they see me like an American.
    I can’t tell in what way, maybe it is in the way I do things. For example, in Sweden it's not ok to say that you're better than others at certain things or cool or anything. In that way I'm more Swedish today than before.

    Does your American side feel a bit inhibited by the Swedish culture?
    Well, just take a look at my parents, my dad is a social butterfly and my mother is a little more reclusive. I am basically 50/50 of the two; if I meet a very social person, I will respond more like my mother would, and more like my father if I talk to a more withdrawn person.

    What characterizes your songs?
    Something that is consistently in my songs is that they are very dark and a little depressing.

    Is that influenced by Jörgen or a collective approach between you two?
    I definitely think that it is I who stands for the dark side. Of course, he can have deep lyrics, but I don't have any happy lyrics. He's a little more pop than I am – he’s the one lighting up the songs.

    Who influences whom?
    He is a very experienced songwriter, so really he could just run me over, but in fact I think we manage to have a good balance. I speak English so I come up with more casual sayings, and he is very good at hooks.

    Have you written any songs yourself?
    Yes, it's very fun. I express myself more naturally through my writing and singing than otherwise. In my songs I can show my inner feelings. It’s ok to be sad. Jörgen and I wrote “Swallow Your Pride” together. I will be a part in the most songs going forward. It's nice if I can relate to the lyrics.

    Do you feel that the songs convey the image you want to represent for yourself?
    I like that “Swallow Your Pride” and “Let’s Dance” are so different. I want to show more than one side of myself.

    Do you have any favorite artist?
    I love Adele. I love everything about her – she's just the best! Her dark voice is so nice and her songs are so emotional. She really can tell a story.

    Is there anything in life that you miss at the moment?
    Maybe love. I don’t know, I'm quite satisfied with my life right now.

    Should you tour in Sweden first, or do a world tour?
    I'll probably go for superstar, if possible. It's the dream! But, I'll see how it goes.

    Watch Rhys' video Swallow here

    dungarees LEVI’S ORANGE TAB
    sports bra CALVIN KLEIN UNDERWEAR
    rings ALL BLUES
    shoes ARTIST’S OWN 
    tshirt MARC JACOBS
    hoodie & trousers CALVIN KLEIN SWIMWEAR
    boots GANNI

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