No. 5
  • an interview with BETONY VERNON
    photography by ELODIE CHAPUIS
    styling SIEGFRIED CAPDEVILLE
    make up EVA RONÇAY
    hair KANAMU KUSAKAE

    An Interview with Betony Vernon

    Written by Eva-Jo Hancock by Carolin Fleischer

    Ground breaking designer Betony Vernon explores new paths with her erotic jewelry. A self-described “sexual anthropologist”, she delights in dismantling the pleasure taboos of our time – through design, lectures and writing. Many, including EL James, have come to her salon to listen to her. Her latest book, “The Boudoir Bible – The Uninhibited Sex Guide for Today” has just been launched with signings in LA, New York and London. In the book she aims to liberate our sexual joy and let go our sense of guilt and shame.

    Betony divides her time between Paris and Milan. Her Paris apartment, situated in bohemian chic Saint Paul, is calm and serene in shades of dark green and protected from from the city throbbing right next door. Betony serves green tea in the petit salon. Tall, striking and crimson haired, she has the combined movie presence of Julianne Moore and a black panther.

    Betony, are we really, still in 2013, inhibited enough to need the gospel of The Boudoir Bible?

    I didn’t think it was an issue either. But in 1998 I showed my first erotic jewelry collection in Milan to a client from a noted American luxury department store. The client went:
    “That?! No way.” She was offended by the erotic connotations. And I thought “How interesting!” I heard people in the fashion business say to me “Oh my god, what are you doing? We could never sell that in the shop.” I realized they were right. They were saying things like “Oohh, we didn't know that you were that kinky or into S&M”.
    I have never really categorized myself like that. If I am a openminded, playful individual, whether it is in the bedroom or not – I never put myself in the category saying I am one of THOSE

    Betony Vernon had a steady flow of regulars buying her classical jewelry. When she presented the erotic collection in 1998, she lost them all.

    Have we – the market – changed since then? Could for instance 50 Shades of Grey have appeared back then, and has that book helped us to dig deeper or – on the contrary – made the concept of sex exploration more shallow?

    Oh, that? That is just romance! There is no danger in it. Unless of course people start to reenact scenes without knowledge. I learned last week that EL James has been taking my salon in London, so she knows my work very well.
    I think 5o Shades of Grey has taken a language that used to be underground and thrown it to the supermarket. Nothing wrong with that, it is mass culture but I think … I prefer to read “The story of O” or the great French erotica. I mean, phallocentric vanilla sex gets boring after a while.

    Why did you write your book?

    Because it was missing! The only thing I can do in this world is actually to help spread more love, more understanding, more sexual wellbeing. My book is a initiator to expand your horizons. It was really early when the concept of sexual wellbeing was pretty foreign, and I thought “I’ve got to take this risk and go for it.”
    I didn’t expect the book would cross the Western borders, but we just signed with Taiwan. And soon it will come out in French. Exciting!

    How does your jewelry intertwine with your visions?

    The use of the jewelry is both esthetic, fun and allows us to provide sensations we couldn’t provide with our hands alone, to stimulate your whole body, head to toes. To take the time and charge the body with sexual energy and uncover a world from within.
    I have designed prostate stimulators for both men and women. The Petting ring is another example. It reinforces mental focus, and it designed specifically for male masturbation.
    The body is our temple and should be adorned with noble materials. This is a market with a lot of plastics.
    I work in gold and silver. Silver has an antibacterial quality, is and both metals are body safe – plastics we are not sure about. I don’t particularly want to put plastics into my vagina. And I suggest if you use flexible plastics, that you dress it with a condom.

    If you would get 10 minutes global air on how to make the sex life better, what would you say:

    We have to learn how to focus our attention. Our society is so distracted. And a distracted lover is a lousy lover. It is about being ready in that moment to fly out of here … great sex has nothing to do with reality … taking a moment to do what I call erotic meditation. When we are one with our lover. Going places that we can’t go otherwise.
    When we are one on one with someone in the sexual union everything else disappears.
    You as a woman are multi orgasmic.
    A man is also able to ride the orgasmic wave for hours, in the book I teach men how to do it.
    You can ride that orgasmic wave. You hit a peak, I did it all day yesterday with my lover. The endorphins can get pumped into the blood stream so that you experience the sexual high. The chemical make up of beta-endorphins is very similar to that of opiates. You get high.
    Last night when we walked out of here eventually to have dinner we were high – floating, and connected. J’adore!

    One thing I have encountered a lot in my consulting is the fear of intimacy. Hook-ups and fast consumer sex – that white sugar sex – fills you up in that moment but leaves you empty.

    Fast sex leaves you with no understanding with where your body can take you, It does not prompt the flow of the bodies natural love drugs like endorphins and oxytocin, that promotes bonding.
    And it doesn’t promote female , or male pleasure either for that matter.

    If you have to have to choose between quick sex and no sex?

    – Oh, I would have quick sex! (Laughs.)
    It is a question of prioritizing the time with your lover.
    The word “libertine” to me signifies seeking a partner.
    When I hear “I am single”, I answer: “then why are you not multiple? There’s no one holding you back.”
    Some women say “I can’t make love unless I am in love with him or her.”
    But isn’t it through making love that you find love?
    It does, it creates a bond. Thats why fast sex with multiple partners with that “I’ll never see you again” – it can be quite emptying and leave a bit of a void – and be quite dangerous.
    Thats why I encourage people to take care of themselves.
    Make love to yourself, so that you are attractive. Masturbate, keep the sexual energy on the surface!

    The time is up, life outside our green velvet cave is calling. Betony says, with the lightness of someone asking for a cigarette: “Could you unzip me?”

    If feels like just the thing to do in a salon like this. I help her with the zipper, feeling secretly enlightened and chosen, thus assisting her in getting out of the black pencil dress to go to the bathroom.

    A small thing to say. Still a symbol of her strong appearance: Betony Vernon´s combination of integrity and disarming directness – always with a mission to share her knowledge and strong beliefs to make a difference, both aesthetically and for life.

    all clothing stylists &

    models own

  • SEPAL SPECULUM 2012
    photography by IAN STUART

    An Interview with Kate MccGwire

    Written by Matilda Lundberg

    She describes herself as a sculptor, gatherer, hoarder, collector and creator. She is infatuated by feathers, fascinated by the uncanny and the binary concepts of darkness and beauty. Kate MccGwire is a London-based artist who makes works of art that catches and allures the viewer. Inspired by the way the world works she uses old feathers to create new life.

    How does a normal day in your life look?
    Generally my day starts with a walk along the river with Tilly, our ‘studio dog’. It’s a great way to get the day going and means I get to pick up all sorts of feathers. Mostly pigeon, but also wild parakeet feathers – there’s a rumour that they escaped from nearby Shepperton Studios during the filming of The African Queen (1951) but they’re more likely just escaped pets, which have flocked to the open spaces outside central London. My walk ends with a short boat trip across the river to my studio, a Dutch barge moored on an island on the Thames. I then light the wood-burning stove, make a mug of tea and check emails. If there’s a piece of work in progress I’ll start on it around 10am and carry on until lunch. The whole studio stops to eat so if I have any assistants in we all make lunch together and talk about upcoming projects. The day ends around 6pm but I often stay much later; time flies when I’m really stuck into a project.

    Where do you find inspiration?
    The peculiarities of the everyday are inspiring to me; the contradictions, patterns and impossibilities of nature are a source of endless fascination. I’m constantly in awe of how the world works on both a micro and macro scale. From the precise engineering of a feather to the patterns of a murmuration of starlings, the world is a boundless muse.

    You use a lot of feathers in your artworks, where do you find them all?
    It depends. The pigeon feathers come from a network of pigeon-fanciers I’ve been building up over the last five years. By necessity I’ve had to immerse myself in the pigeon-racing world and I can’t tell you how supportive they’ve been. I once took a stand at one of the annual pigeon-racing shows in the far North-East of England; people were asked to bring along bags of feathers from their pigeon coops and in return got their names put into a hat to win a work. It all felt a bit incongruous but I was made to feel very welcome – the fanciers seem to love the fact that I’m making something beautiful out of their precious birds’ moultings. The birds shed their feathers twice a year, in April and October, so there are just two windows of time in which to gather in as many feathers as they can send me.

    The crow, jackdaw and magpie feathers come from local gamekeepers; the birds themselves may not be cherished by the farmers whose crops they destroy but their feathers are – at least by me. The business of collecting the materials and creating the works feels satisfyingly intertwined and creates a kind of virtuous circle all of its own. Relying on the goodwill of all these individuals gives a human dimension to the collection process, which is mirrored in the many hands required to actually make the work.

    Take me through your work process, how do you create your artwork?
    I reflect, consider and fabricate pieces over and over again in my mind before I ever commit anything to paper. The mind is a malleable canvas, while physical mistakes can be hard to undo, I can work through the design and practical considerations in my head before I begin to work. Once a sculpture is started the form and scale will have been decided and the process becomes much more meditative.


    When you create your pieces, do you always have a clear image in your head how it will turn out, or do you realize as you work?
    I design and create through making, so letting my materials guide me is very much a part of the process. The patterning and movement in the feathers is what brings the pieces to life, this is something you get a feel for and not something you can pre-plan. I frequently have more than one work on the go at once so it’s a cyclical, endless process, which becomes completely immersive. I often look back at a finished piece of work and think ‘did I make that?’ It’s like they have a life of their own. This is in contrast to the realization of the forms as while the process of feathering is very fluid, the structural elements of the work must be finalized before I start. Once I begin to apply the feathers to the form, the piece can’t be edited without damaging the work, so those choices have to be made at the beginning.

    Your artworks look like you have put a lot of time and effort into them, how do you know when you are finished with a piece?
    I find that handling, cleaning and sorting enables you to understand your materials on a more intimate level. By learning and creating through touch you can get a much better feel for the work. The process of making becomes more sensory, even meditative, and you can lose yourself in the act. This makes it difficult to finish with a piece as I am forever fiddling with them, tweaking and touching here and there. I get very attached to my works and really hate them leaving the studio, there’s always a massive void when the work that I’ve been living and breathing departs for an exhibition.

    Is there one work of art that you made that is extra special to you (and if so, why that one)?
    Gag has always been one of my favorite works. There’s a certain harmony to it, which was immensely satisfying to create. It worked so well within its cabinet, perfect shape and size to seem at once trapped and seething. It’s a work that has always stayed with me.

    Do you have a dream project that you have not yet had the chance to do?
    I would love to create a series of cabinet works to show within the setting of a natural history collection. I think the juxtaposition of the authentic and the inauthentic objects would really mess with your head. While the case gives the work the impression of a genuine specimen, it is at once alien and isolated within the familiar framework of natural history. I touched on this when I exhibited Discharge at the Palaeontology & Compared Anatomy Galleries in Paris as part of Nuit Blanche but I think taxidermied specimens would provide a more uncanny backdrop than the gorgeous parade of skeletons in the Paris Natural history Museum.

    Finally, what comes next for you, what will you be up to this spring and summer?
    I’m currently working on numerous private commissions as well as a new body of work and preparations for a solo show in Winchester in June. Plus I’ll be heading back to Paris in the autumn, but that’s under wraps for now, I’ll have to keep you posted!

    Kate MccGwire
    March 2013
    www.katemccgwire.com
    www.allvisualarts.org

    WONDERFUL - Group Show
    29 November 2012 – 28 April 2013
    me Collectors Room, Berlin

    LURE - Solo Show
    Winchester Art Gallery, The Discovery Centre
    21 June – 28 August 2013

    ANIMA 2012
    photography by IAN STUART
    GAG 2009
    photography by JP BLAND
    EVACUATE 2010
    photography by JONTY WILDE
    URGE 2009
    photography by TESSA ANGUS
    WARP 2010
    photography by TESSA ANGUS
    SPLICE 2012
    photography by JP BLAND
    SLUICE 2009
    photography by FRANCIS WARE
    SEPAL 2011
    photography COURTESTY OF ARTIST
    ABOUT THE ARTWORK
     
     
    SEPAL SPECULUM
    material: mallard speculum feathers on archival board
    dimentions: 43 x 43 x 5cm
     
    GAG
    material: mixed media with crow feathers in antique museum cabinet
    dimentions: 151 x 60 x 60 cm
     
    EVACUATE
    material: mixed media with game feathers
    dimentions: 400 x 250 x 120 cm
     
    URGE
    material: mixed media with mallard blue, magpie, jackdaw feathers in antique cabinet
    dimentions: 153 x 68 x 48 cm
     
    ANIMA
    material: mixed media with pigeon/dove feathers in an antique glass dome
    dimentions: 69 x 43 x 43 cm
     
    SEPAL
    material: pigeon wing feathers  on archival board
    dimentions: 43 x 43 x 5cm
     
    WARP
    material: mixed media with magpie feathers in antique glass dome
    dimentions: 38 x 38 x 50 cm
     
    SPLICE
    material: mixed media with magpie feathers
    dimentions: 30 x 32 x 130 cm
     
    SLUICE
    material: mixed media with pigeon feathers
    dimentions: 5000 x 3000 x 30 cm
  • photography by SANDRA MYHRBERG

    An interview with Alistair Frost and Behnaz Aram

    Written by Michaela Widergren

    Fire Sale is a collaboration between artist Alistair Frost and designer Behnaz Aram. It is Alistair’s first time in Sweden and Behnaz first time curating.

    The day before the opening I sit down with the two of them at Bukowski’s auction house.
    We talk about the color pink, pears and how designing clothes and painting canvases are just two different ways of expressing yourself artistically.

    So the exhibition starts tomorrow, tell me, what are we going to see?
    Alistair:
    There are some new paintings that I’ve made during the last couple of months and then there’s some work from last year. There are also a few paintings from an exhibition I had in Scotland and some from Copenhagen.

    Tell me everything from the beginning, tell me the entire story.
    Alistair:
    Ok, where do I start…
    I guess what we’ve got here are these kinds of signs and symbols, kind of like contemporary life, or stuff you might find as graphic design, or on web pages or in text messages, things that are just out there, but very generic. And then they are re-configured and put together in different ways that creates a kind of semi-language of stuff. That is on the one hand quite celebratory of that kind of thing, of lifestyle and art, but it’s also on the other hand slightly cynical, kind of like laughing at everyone else but at the same time at myself too.

    We are sitting in the middle of the exhibition space, surrounded by Alistair’s art, the pieces have not been hung yet; they are standing on the floor leaning against the walls. We decide to talk about a few of them specifically. The first we talk about is a series of three cotton candy pink ones, just across the room.

    Alistair: All these pink ones, they all go together with a water cooler and they are going to be filled with vodka and pink lemonade. So you have this color pink, it’s almost as if the pigment of the paint is being transferred and put into the cooler for drinking.
    I’ve done a lot of work that has to do with bars and opening nights, you know, when everyone is kind of strutting around with martini glasses and that kind of thing. So this is a way to bring in that element, the sense of an opening night but making it a bit wrong, something that is not quite right.
    So we have two items that go with each other, the canvases and the coolers and then in the paintings there’s also a doubling up of imagery. One of the paintings has two pears on it. You know it’s a joke, a pair of pears. It’s quite dumb and stupid but then you have it with this calligraphic mark that makes it look fluid, easy and light.

    Alistair points at another painting; it says the word two on it and is split up in two images. He explains them as a still of when you swipe an image across the phone, but instead of a phone he does it with the canvas. There is a strong digital reference to most of the work, reminding us (at least me) of how disabled one feels without access to a computer or a phone. There is also a clear Miami vibe going on with a couple of the pieces, especially the pink ones.

    Alistair: All of the paintings I have been working on for the last few years are created while taking generics, like clip art and stock illustrations, to play around with, to draw on and repeat.



    Behnaz: The things is, there are some artists that when they do something it looks rough and it feels rough, your work is kind of cynical as you said, but also it has this lightness to it combined with color blocking and hard lines, the soft pink and the sharp black, it is a lot about contradictions.

    We have a small chat about color, to state that the three of us are all dressed in black. Every year there is a new black says Behnaz.

    Behnaz: Speaking of Miami, when I went to the Basil art fair last summer, it was so nice to see the new art, it was kind of optimistic in a way, the paintings, the installations, sculptures and the video installations, everything was in a way hopeful. Usually a lot of artwork is dark, the end of the world, judgment day, Armageddon feeling. I think around year 2000 or 2001, I was trendy to be a bit dark and heavy, kind of like, me and my issues..

    Alistair: Yeah, that’s kind of the opposite of what I am trying to do.
    I would absolutely not want to be in the end of negative.

    I ask Behnaz how it has been to work with art pieces instead of textiles.

    Behnaz: This is the first time for me curating, except from when I am just being anal in my flat hanging paintings. I usually prefer the constellations to be quite stressful, I mean, I have a lot hanging on my walls.
    It’s been really interesting listening to Alistair talk about his art and about his ideas of how to showcase the images. I am learning a lot. And it has given me and idea of how I want things to be placed.

    Will you be able to use this experience in your design?
    Behnaz:
    Definitely! I always get inspired by art, everything I do, either fashion or costumes; art is a big and important element.

    Alistair: It’s all about being creative. Someone asked me once, how is what you do different from being a graphic designer?
    And I answered, you know, in one way it is not. I mean, I use the same tools, the same language, I just happened to present it in another way.

    One of the most important things during the event is that the people should have a good time says Alistair, serving pink vodka and all. I am feeling very satisfied with our talk and I know they have a lot of work left, so lastly I ask Alistair, what do you think about Stockholm?

    Alistair: What I think about Stockholm? It is great and… very cold.

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