• Ray Caesar/Gallery House

    TITANIA

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    An interview with Ray Caesar

    Written by Michaela Widergren

    I had some questions for the extraordinary artist, human being and dog named Ray Caesar to answer. After he did, I couldn’t help but to become even more fascinated by his work and his story.
    Some people are just meant for greatness.

    Ray, please describe yourself, who are you?
    I am a very simple quiet person who smiles a lot and I suppose I am very polite as if I had stepped out of a Jane Austin novel. I tend not to have any beliefs or dis-beliefs but live in a perpetual state of wonder and I often wonder why other humans have to make others believe in their own beliefs rather than taking joy in that we are so varied. I have my share of problems but I am also blessed with an odd sense of humor that helps me keep them in perspective.

    What happens on a regular day in your life?
    It begins with my wife singing as she washes her hair and my dog barking at god knows what and me sitting bolt upright in bed in a hair net and eye mask going “Wassatt!?”… Breakfast is anything with brutal amounts of fiber. A feeble attempt at exercise and a two-hour walk I call “my constitutional” that ends me up at Starbucks with a Grande Americano as I sketch in my moleskin book. Then home and work, work, work…
    We cook and we eat. I work some more. I relax for half an hour and read or watch a Jane Austin movie, talk a bit, play with the dog, bed time with a thimble of Brandy… Then I dream a lot and then I wake up in a bolt as some dog is barking and some pretty girl is singing. Life is good.

    In your biography you describe yourself as a dog, how come? Why a dog?
    I was born in 1958 which was the year of the dog, I was the youngest of four in a very volatile family in South London that would have reminded you of a pack of wolves. As a child I was known to run out in traffic so they put me on a leash. I used to bring stray dogs home and make them a cup of sweet tea and give them a biscuit as I thought everyone liked a nice cup of tea.
    I met my wife when I was fifteen while I was working as a busboy in a hotel bar. When she first saw me she laughed and said I looked like a scruffy dog… she told me how much she loved dogs. I took it as a compliment as a few weeks later she told me she was going to marry me and I didn’t think twice… A few treats and a promise of a walk and a warm bed and I am along for the ride.

    Are you an animal lover?
    Absolutely! I love all animals, even “human beings” I suppose…
    Although they can be a bit challenging if you try to domesticate them and they are particularly hard to house train, a treat goes a long way with them but you have to count your fingers afterward. I have a fourteen year old coyote called Bonnie who was found starving in the wild many years ago and he is very sweet. I think it is our duty on this planet to make sure we do not encroach any further into the habitats of other species and by study and empathy to create a world in which we can coexist with all other species.
    I have this odd feeling that all life is somehow connected through a kind of morphic field… I think that each creature on Earth is absolutely astounding and marvelous and how lucky we are to be part of this unique garden we call Earth.

    Who are the people in your images? What is the story? Would you call your art a form of storytelling?
    I think if you put all my work I have done since childhood in one room you would see one long story of my life. I am not just reliving the past… I am also writing my own future in pictures. I am expressing the emotions and feelings that I don’t have words for. The figures in my work are a form of self portrait of not just myself but my memory and how I work with and change and manipulate that memory whether it be pleasurable or not. To make all memory, good or bad a treasure! Make it something I can live with.
    I worked 17 years in a children’s hospital and that place still haunts my dreams and the people and children in my pictures are a reflection of their souls and presence I still feel as part of the fabric of who I am. The archetype of the divine child… that little ancestor in each one of use that learned to walk and talk and survive is the main character in my story. Its the hunter that hunts back their innocence and uses that to build their soul into a loving and kind and empathetic creature. We all have this in us and the child of who we were is a symbol of growth, a spiritual growth! That upholds the adult we are on the shoulders of the child of who we were.

    How do you work with symbolism? (if you do…)
    I do but it tends to be a personal form of symbolism that can some times only mean something to me. I do work very much with common Jungian archetypes and often use symbol and metaphor and narrative from the history of art and mythology. Sometimes there are subtle symbols that are from previous forms of communication like how a fan is held in hand or whether a finger is pointed to the spleen ( historically a sign of a melancholy person ).
    Most often though the symbols I use are the ones that appear from my own dreams and subconscious such as the telephone or the clock. Although I use these symbols I don’t spend time thinking about them as I create… I don’t plan and design the use of them but they just seem to appear because subconsciously I know about them and most often the symbols mean something to me personally.
    When I put a blood red rose with thorns in a piece, it is a direct memory of my Mother… Her nature is usually in that piece and I can’t think of a rose with thorns without thinking of her. We all have a language of symbols that mean something to us personally and art is the perfect place to communicate that hidden language we all carry deep inside.

    How does it affect your artistry, working with a computer instead of a canvas?
    I never really think about it as I have used both and they are just a method. I just use whatever tools are at hand to make what I see in my head a reality. The main tool I work with is my mind and memory and my subconscious world. The pencil, brush or computer is just a method of getting the work out of my head and onto a surface. What I love about working in a 3 dimensional virtual environment is that I can hide objects within other objects and hide lockets with pictures of those I have lost in my family, and I can put them inside the drawers of a cabinet beside the bed of a figure.
    No one can see that picture in the locket in the drawer but I know it’s there and that’s important to me. I can cover my virtual models with my skin or the skin of my wife and that’s fun and has meaning for me also. I am interested in waking up each morning and making what I love… What I want to see and in that I am trying to express some very deep emotions and feelings. I cant say that I am trying to make “art”… I am just spending the rest of my life doing what I want to do and doing it the way I want to do it.
    I don’t think I am creating “artistry” I think of it as “play”, as “fun” as an expression of my life and soul in images or a virtual environment. I try very hard not to think about computers or paint or pencils or art or galleries or selling work… I just think about playing and making a picture which is of something in my own mind.

    Do you have a favorite piece, if yeas, why?
    No, I absolutely refuse on a moral obligation to never have a favorite piece. They are all like a basket of puppies and I treasure the time I have given each one and treasure the gift that each piece has given me. I also find that over time they all seem to not be separate things to me as I see all my work in a kind of entirety. Its as if my favorite thing about the work is the body of it. I can see my work grow and change and I love that. I can see a rhythm in my work that feels like a rhythm inside the core of who I am and I like that too. I can see my pain and the difficulty in some pieces and the joy and happiness in others.
    I don’t think this is just true for artists, when we all look back on our lives we might have a favorite day but it wouldn’t be able to be that day without all the other days. It’s the rhythms in our lives that becomes important… Both the good and the not so good in our lives make up a feeling that’s hard to describe. Making a picture, or music, or a family, or a happy life for a cat or dog or just living a creative life or a healing life in some way is important. The way we live is an expression of who we are and its never to late to express yourself.

    And lastly, who is your client? Tell us about the buyer of your work…
    I have no idea… sometimes I hear of well known or famous people buying the work and that’s fun but I think all kinds of people seem to respond to my work in a positive way and some in a negative way.
    For many years I couldn’t see people buying my work so I kept it in a closet. I used to paint then but also did a great deal of digital work as I have been using computers for over 30 years. I get a lot of mail and sometimes the people who purchase it mail me and want to hear about the work. One man told me he bought a piece for his collection and when people came over “everyone commented on the work”. Either good or bad but they never walked past it without comment and he loved that as it stimulated talk and conversation.
    I put a lot of emotional baggage in my work and I sort of love the idea that all my problems and emotional turmoil are all packed up in pictures and people buy that package. I put a lot of love and care and tenderness and happiness in the work too so I like that those things go along for the ride also.

    Ray Caesar/Gallery House

    TURNING POINT

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    Ray Caesar/Gallery House

    LA CHASSERESSE ROUGE

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    MEATRON STUDY 1 ABOVE

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    Ray Caesar/Gallery House

    MEATRON STUDY 2 BELOW

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    LA CHASSERESSE JANUES

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    Ray Caesar/Gallery House

    LA CHAMBRE

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    Ray Caesar/Gallery House

    FADING AWAY

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    CROWN OF FLIES

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    Ray Caesar/Gallery House

    FRENCH KISS

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    COMPANION STUDY

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    Ray Caesar/Gallery House

    MEASURING THE WORLD

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    WALLFLOWERS

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

    Ray Caesar/Gallery House

    LOVE LETTERS

    RAY CAESAR/GALLERY HOUSE

  • photography by SANDRA MYHRBERG

    Nadia Nair

    Written by Mari Florer

    A New Swedish Songbird

    24 year old Nadia Nair can’t imagine life without singing.

    “My interest in music started about the same time I learned to talk” she says jokingly.

    As a teenager, Nadia’s voice became deeper and darker. The director of her choir insisted that she tone down her special sound and sing more like the other choristers. A bit humiliated and bored of singing alto, she developed dreams of a career of her own. She learned music production and went the opposite way – intensifying the dark and heavy characteristics of her voice into a genuine powerful beauty.

    I am in dark, cold and snowy Stockholm – on my way to meet with singer Nadia Nair. Her new single Bon Voyage is playing in my headphones and it strikes me that she has a really uniquely new sound. There is a good chance her upcoming EP is going to be spectacular.

    A few minutes late I enter the store where she is employed. A shoulder-length dark-haired women is chatting with her co-workers. It must be Nadia. Nadia Nair? I ask. “Oh. Hi. I wasn’t sure if you were coming”, she says.

    Her voice is soft and light, completely different from her singing voice. While I’m waiting for her to change clothes I hear her speak to one of the girls. “I’m a singer”, she says.

    We are going to Bredäng, in the south-east of Stockholm, where she shares a flat with three friends. On the subway we find two seats next to each other. “It’s nice sitting down. I have been standing up for nine hours selling organic soaps”, she says. She is tired and yawns repeatedly. But she likes talking. She tells me that she is studying to become a songwriter and that this work brings her an extra income. “It’s expensive to buy instruments and stuff”.

    A man next to us picks up a guitar and starts to play “La Bamba” really fast. I start laughing and look at Nadia to see how she reacts. She smiles and drops a coin in the man’s white plastic cup.

    INTERVIEW

    When did music become important to you?
    Music has always been important to me, she says. When I was four years old I was sitting with my headphones listening to music from the ´80s. She is singing “Never gonna give you up. Never gonna let you down…

    I can’t hate it. There are too many memories. I often listen to my parents tapes with radio recordings. Another of my favorite songs was (she sings again) “And I will always love you”, sung by Whitney Houston. When I was a kid, visiting my relatives in Malaysia, I always performed that song in front of the whole family.

    How did you develop as a singer?
    Mom realized that I had talent quite early. She used to be a dancer and took me to a dancing school where I tried classic ballet. One day I saw someone with a violin. I told my mom that I would rather play violin than dance. Soon I was a member of an orchestra. I also sang in a choir for ten years. In high school I sang in various bands and tried different styles like soul, funk and rock. The need to develop my personal style grew stronger so I took some courses in music production.

    You really can do it all by yourself. Write, sing, and produce?
    Yes. But I prefer to work with a producer actually.

    How did you find the producer Victor Rådström?
    Through my manager. I had no expectations because I had been disappointed too many times before when I tried to collaborate with other producers.

    We met in his studio. I showed my material and shared my thoughts about it. I was really nervous. I was singing ‘Bon Voyage’ and he liked it.

    How do you work?
    Usually, I write some text lines or a melody with text and give it to Victor. He will of course give me a lot of input. He helps me to view the song in a different perspective. He gathers my ideas and adds something to make it take off.

    When do the songs come to you?
    Usually it happens when I’m lying in bed just before sleep - or when I´m in the shower. It starts with some kind of rhythm. Then the melody and the words - almost at the same time.

    You sing with real power. How do you get that voice?
    The root is in the feeling. When you are in a certain mood, it affects the voice.

    Do you like being on stage?
    Oh, every time I go out on stage I think: Why expose myself to this? I’m afraid of what people will think. Afterwards I’m thinking; what happened? Was it okay? It’s a bit like being in a dream and suddenly waking up.

    You released your single Bon Voyage in November 2012. When do we get to hear some new songs?
    We are currently recording an EP right now. It’s very intense. It will be released during the spring. Susanna, my guitar player was in Stockholm recently and recorded the guitar sound accompaniment. She is great. I love when musicians do their thing. She really does.

    What inspires you?
    I am inspired by everyday life. The visual is important. Nature.

    What kind of music are you listening to?
    Everything and nothing. When I write, I don’t listen to music - I get too influenced. Otherwise, I like artists with self-esteem like Björk. Her music is very dependent on the mood she is in at the moment of recording. I find that interesting. I also like First Aid Kit because they are so nostalgic. I like being inspired by nostalgia trips. I like to go back in time - to my childhood. Kate Bush is another one, and Rihanna. I like Strong women who do their thing.

    What are your dreams for the future?
    It sounds like cliché but I want to touch peoples’ souls with my voice. I want everyone to feel something when I sing.

    You need confirmation?
    Yes. Singing is the only thing I want to do. Though I’m aware of that; it could end tomorrow. But I wouldn’t have done this interview if I didn’t believe in fate, my driving forces - and the artist in me.


    cape TWIGGY’S VINTAGE
    jacket MAX MARA
    lace dress DIANE VON FURSTENBBURG
  • “Minimalist and

    maximalist.
    Nature futura.
    Experimentation.”

    photography by
    ROMEO MORI

    Jen Kao

    Written by Mari Florer

    Minimalist AND maximalist. Nature futura. Experimentation. 
    That’s how Jen Kao describes her personal touch that permeates all her collections.

    – I am extremely proud to call myself a New York designer, says Kao.
    The 31 year old designer lives near the southwest corner of Central Park, with a great view of the Hudson. She works in Tribeca with a different view of the same river.

    – It’s always a much appreciated luxury to feel like you can remove yourself a bit from the rest of the city, she says.

    Kao was born in Los Angeles to a family of Taiwanese ancestry; her father, Min Kao, is a co-founder of Garmin GPS empire. Growing up in Kansas City, Jen then moved to New York to study at NYU and Parsons. Jen became a fashion designer to incorporate her multiple interests, including music, literature, photography and art. A piece of artwork can inspire an embroidery, a print or jewelery, she says. Handwork and details are important to her aesthetic, and she enjoys working with as many different techniques and materials as possible.

    We asked Jen a few questions about her and her work.

    Is it true that you find inspiration from outer space?
    – Haha. I find my inspiration from all space. On Earth, and above and below. I am always looking, always absorbing and capturing the visions and thoughts triggered by it all.

    What is your strength as a designer?
    – Telling a new story and taking risks.

    What first inspired you to start the brand?
    – My clichéd but truthful part of the answer is that I felt there was a huge void in New York fashion to fill. At the same time, and almost equally so, I had worked for several brands that affirmed the most unattractive stereotypes associated with the industry, and I wanted to create a space where young creatives and their talents are cultivated and treated with respect.

    What excites you about designing a new collection?
    – Simply that it’s new. It’s like cooking. When you spend all day making a meal, you almost don’t have the appetite for it anymore.

    Do you see the pieces in your collection as a work of art or do you prefer to see the entire collection as one piece?
    – I always describe life as a process and the collection as a process. An unapologetic, ever-evolving process.

    Do you have a favorite material?
    – I love to make myself fall in love with fabrics I typically feel uncomfortable using or just plain dislike. I love to change my own mind about things as much as I enjoy changing my audience’s minds about things.

    In what ways do you think garments will take new forms and designs in the future?
    – I think there’s going to be a return to one-of-a-kind becoming highly desirable again. A lot of the commercialism that happened with the crash in the economy destroyed the idea of individuality. All of a sudden, it then became “being different meant being the same.” Everyone looks the same. When you look at the best vintage showrooms, you can see the value in innovation. The history of fashion has so much energy and feels inspired. I think it will come back. People will start to tire of the overexposure and how easily accessible everything is today. We will start to remember the importance of investing in pieces that last a lifetime rather than the concept of “immediacy” taking over all other cravings. I think we all want the excitement back.

    Who picks the music for your shows?
    – I pick two contrasting songs that express the entire 6 months of preparation for me. Sometimes the songs come to me at the very beginning of the season, and they grow to define the collection; sometimes the opposite. I then work with a producer to completely take the songs apart and bring to light something completely new that shows an unexpected duality between two feelings that, when separate, seem like they wouldn’t make sense together.

    Your favorite music at the moment?
    – Older music is always my favorite music, but there’s a huge diversity within that. Right now I’m listening to a lot of The Rolling Stones, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Willie Nelson, Aaliyah and Neil Young.

    What other fashion brands do you admire?
    – Dries Van Noten, Tsumori Chisato and Jil Sander

    Who is your favorite fashion photographer?
    – Paolo Roversi. He captures the story behind the eyes, or creates one if it doesn’t yet exist.

    What’s your next inspiration?
    – That’s a secret, of course. But here’s a hint. From the great Patti Smith, “Who can know the heart of youth, but youth itself?”

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