Oyster Portraits: 8 London Artists Shot By Richard Dowker

Inspo.

An artist’s role in society is forever changing. Medieval artists were largely anonymous, but were regarded as honourable nonetheless. The Renaissance made way for celebrity status, masterpieces, and an intimate relationship with wealth. Climbing higher, into royal status, came the Baroque court artists and their nouveau riche counterparts. Things started to change when revolutionary artists brought opinions and thoughtfulness. A gesture that opened the floodgates for the bohemian artist, a prelude to what society sees now as the modern artist. Its definition and role is indefinite; writer, illustrator, industrial designer… they all count. We profiled eight people, who fit in there somewhere, and who proudly, rebelliously call themselves artists.

Steven Chevallier

Who are you and what do you do?
Hello, my name is Steven Chevallier, I’m from south of France. I have studied art and fashion design since I was 15 years old; I went to an art-focused high school, and did a course in fine art in Paris. After that I moved to London and finished foundation year in fashion and textiles at Central Saint Martins last May.

Is art school a sham?
I think it really depends. There are so many private schools, which are so expensive and not good — the kind of school where you will be accepted if you pay. Who are more interested in your money than your education. I think it’s important to be in a school where you have to work hard to be there and to be accepted, even if it you have to apply several times

Were you popular as a teenager?
I wasn’t especially popular at school, but thank god I had three very good friends who accepted me how I was and never judged me. I feel so lucky that I met them. O never had to pretend be someone else, which is not always easy when you are a teenager.

What do you think is in high demand in the art world right now?
I think so many people want be an artist or fashion designer but without a special reason. Now everyone wants to create a brand, for example, with simple black t shirt and just a logo that costs $300 dollars. Just to make money. And the worst is that sometime it really works.

Who are the most overrated artists of this century?
Definitely the brands that make their clothes in India or Bangladesh, for a very low price, and sell it for a huge price.

***

Eliza Stone

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a jewellery graduate from CSM, I make headpieces, gloves, veils. Right now I’m starting to design a handbag. I’m also an eyewear addict — I’ve got quite the collection, I’m working with General Eyewear in Soho.

Does your art stand for anything?
The history of womanhood. I love outdated objects and antiques that women used to enhance their glamour. I’m always on eBay… I collect jewels, gems, mirrors, frames, hand bags, costume jewellery. I take things apart, I pare them down, I think deeply about the tiny elements I love the most and then use these to inspire my work. I’m inspired by the diminishing power of ‘dressing up’ so I’m constantly drawing upon the traditions of past flamboyant attire.

Are there causes separate to your work that you’re fighting for?
I’m feisty about so many things. I’m out here fighting for us gals – all day, everyday. I’m praying for gay marriage to be legalised in Australia. I want love for everyone. I want equality for everyone.

Can you remember the most popular guy or girl in school and what they had that you didn’t have?
It was me! And I had everything. *Laughs*

What’s the most embarrassing trend you’ve succumbed to?
At the moment I’m (trying to) rock the trainer and dress thing. It’s very Lily Allen circa 2006. I loved her then but she’s stopped doing it so who knows? Maybe she’s embarrassed by it that’s why she gave it up. Fast forward to me in 10 years maybe I will be like ‘oh Eliza, honey no.’

***

Rebekah Moore

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Beka. I’m a freelance copywriter and stylist, and I run my brand neverbeckyjeans. I also work in childcare.

When you make art, are you doing it to get noticed?
I think everyone hopes to be noticed to some degree. Although currently I just make things I would like to wear, and if other people like it too and I can gain financially from that, then that’s an obvious bonus.

Do you think originality is scarce in 2017?
I don’t think originality is scarce, but I think everything is digested and emulated a lot faster.

Do you think that becoming a popular artist is problematic?
No. Enjoy your come up.

What do you think it takes to be original?
Some sort of identity, and acting on your ideas. It’s so easy to be lazy and critique others rather than acting on your own ambition. Something I’m personally working on.

***

Jesús Diaz Franco

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jesús and I’m a multi-disciplinary artist.

Do you think that becoming a popular artist is problematic?
In my own opinion, that issue may represent a problem only in the case you were pretty concerned about success. If you are only focused on your work and give it the accurate importance, you probably will not have problems to be more or less popular.

Do you think originality is scarce in 2017?
I think that in the global world we live right now there are many artists that follow an aesthetic line developed by other artists or a group of them, being not enough original. However I firmly think there are a certain amount of artists gathered in small groups, representing some genuine, brand new stream of the arts.

If your friend group had a crew name, what would it be?
I asked them to reply this question, which sounds pretty funny, but they say that our crew’s name would be ‘Bratz’.

Pretend this is your yearbook. What’s your quote?
It’s so difficult to be myself…

***

Aleksandr Gordeev

Who are you and what do you do?
Здраствуйте, I am Aleksandr Gordeev from Russia. I am individual who’s doing professional modelling, digital art and paint (for now it’s enough, but who knows what I’ll be interested in tomorrow). And by the way, just trying to became famous.

When you make art, are you doing it to get noticed?
I don’t want accept it but yes I am.

Did you study art or are you self-taught?
I have always been interested in doing art but was afraid of failing to do it perfectly, so I was delayed. And finally it came last year. I do it by myself — inspired by plants, human bodies, video games and unsuccessful frames after movies.

Is art school a sham?
I don’t think so. I have never been to art school so I don’t have experience to talk about it. But I think it gives to you some knowledge of basic rules for your personal game.

What’s the most embarrassing trend you’ve succumbed to?
Use my own sexuality like a tool to reach fame position.

At what price would you sell out?
Just enough for buying new pair of shoes every month.

***

Tolu Coker

Who are you and what do you do?
This is always a difficult and complex question because I’m constantly discovering who I am. But, my name is Tolu Coker and I operate as a fashion and textile designer and illustrator.

When you make art, are you doing it to get noticed?
Yes. But not because I care about being famous, or if people know who I personally am. Most people don’t know what the designers behind their favourite brands look like and I love that. Notice my art because it represents a message and a voice for many people and causes. I really just want people to be affected by message, whether it makes you feel convicted, empowered or stirred to emotion. Whether or not that’s attached to me as a person is irrelevant, as long as it does what it’s supposed to.

What’s popular in the art world right now?
Sex, because it always sells. Also using diversity as a marketing and branding tool seems to be really popular, but I’m not sure how authentic and genuine it is in a lot of cases.

Does your art stand for anything?
Yes. I stand for challenging, unlearning and re-educating, growth and honest dialogue, whether it means having to tear things down to build them up the right way. I stand for a lot of things, but I’m at this stage in life I’m definitely passionate about black identity and opportunity because I relate and feel a great sense of responsibility to speak on it through my art. As a black woman growing up in London, I acknowledge my privilege in the opportunities and experiences I’ve been given and I really want to use them to shed light on the reality of our society. People think life is a level-playing ground and if you work hard anything is possible. Sad truth is, it’s not, and I’m able to recognise that my experience for many people like me is not common. My experience is the anomaly.

Are there causes separate to your work that you’re fighting for?
My work is my cause. It’s all intertwined and it’s really fulfilling.

***

Bee Beardsworth

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Bee Beardsworth and I’m an artist and model.

In what type of environment did you grow up and how has that shaped who you are now?
I grew up between the English countryside (think Pride & Prejudice) and the African wild lands. I am obsessed with the natural world, I prefer animals to humans, and I am infatuated with Memento Mori.

Did you study art or are you self-taught?
I have always been making art, and I’m self-taught. I don’t think you can teach art.

Is art school a sham?
It depends what you want from it. Life is a sham if you look from certain angles.

What’s in demand in the art world right now?
Art that is beautiful and brings pleasure. No one wants sharks in formaldehyde. We want stuff like Ryan McGinley and Yayoi Kusama to remind us that life isn’t all shit, and that there’s hope and beauty in the world.

***

Fopk Attema

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Fopk, I’m a student, and in my spare time I am a makeup artist and model.

Were you popular as a teenager?
No, I was always sort of a drifter, never fully fitting in with any of the cliques. I went to an all girls senior school, which was an especially isolating environment when I was trying to figure out my sexuality, and I never fit into their rigid ideal of how they wanted students to be. Occasionally I would want to try and fit in, but it never came naturally, and didn’t make me happier.

Can you remember the most popular guy or girl in school and what they had that you didn’t have?
Confidence, Hollister perfume, and fake tan. Safe to say I didn’t feel like I was missing out.

Did you study art or are you self-taught?
My make-up and art is self-taught; when I was little I used to sit and watch my grandmother do her make-up, so for me make-up became a big part of becoming a woman. I love it as a tool for expressing myself (most of the time as a façade to look like I have my shit together). When I was 10 and got my first make-up set, I started experimenting with it straight away; I remember for some school dance, I tried to replicate the swirly eyeliner from Sims 2. Slowly, this has evolved to me now painting skulls and bugs on my face.

When you make art, are you doing it to get noticed?
Social media makes me feel like I do have a constant pressure to feed my followers in a sense. But I try not to force it, I can only do good work when ideas are coming to me naturally.

Pretend this is your yearbook. What’s your quote?
‘What would Kate Bush do?’

 

Photography: Richard Dowker
Fashion: Kurt Johnson
Originally published in Oyster #112

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