Experiencing public spaces via the eyes of 22blocks and the many artists in its community raises intriguing notions about the constitutive relationship between the city, imagination and the public sphere. Amid prevailing economic validations, our community of creators posits art within an urban commons in which imagination is all-important.
Contrary to the traditional approach, 22blocks was created following inquiries from the local city council and an architectural cooperative well known for their work with innovative low-cost housing solutions, focusing on sustainability approach to building healthcare communities. The Council initiated a meeting with 22blocks key organizer and artist Iva Troj because they ”didn’t want a city full of decaying pieces of irrelevant art that only serves as a reminder of forgotten initiatives”. They wanted ”art that is alive and breathing”. What followed was a declaration of discontent over elitism in the art world and artists and agencies failing to remain relevant and address the needs of the community. Several collaborative projects were discussed, 22blocks was declared an open artist community and a channel to the public, and so it began. One of the street artists associated with 22blocks started working with the organization Young Offenders, helping young graffiti crew members to transition from vandalism to creating contemporary art. At the same time, the Contemporary Beast art project was initiated. It is a collaborative platform for artists designed to combat elitism in the art world through collaborations.
Iva Troj’s experience from a decade-long collaboration with Riksteatern in Stockholm, Sweden, has given important insights when it comes to dealing with complex creative platforms. Regarding public spaces, the experience and knowledge gained from working alongside architects in the Plovdiv Art project were all important. The more we collaborated with local artists and entrepreneurs, the more we began to see the artwork as a placemaker and a community enhancement. A good public space is not only inviting, but builds a place for the community around an artwork, or culture venue, by growing and attracting activities that make it a multi-use destination. Such spaces arise from collaboration with the users of the place who articulate what they value about it and assist the artist in understanding its complexity. Which is why we focus on developing collaborations and learning how to co-create rather than accentuate individual achievements.
People associated with 22blocks:
IVA TROJ – key organizer
Contemporary Art Excellence Artist of The Year 2016 and 2013 Towry Best of East England Award Winner, Iva Troj seamlessly incorporates her vast experience of traditional painting techniques with postmodern elements to create engaging and stunningly detailed works that challenge the notion of societal conformity.
Knowledge of traditional art techniques was first inspired by the necessity to fit within Cold War aesthetics of social realism. Alongside this, however, lay an acute perception of the reality existent beneath external structures.
“The underlying stories, especially the conflicts, are much more interesting to me than mere portraiture. I want to know what’s going on, which is why I have always been interested in research. When I decided to go back to university and get a second BA and a masters degree, I chose software design, philosophy, and cognitive science rather than fine art, because research methodology fascinates me.”
Troj has long been inspired by Japanese art and culture – traditional and contemporary – evident in the strange characters and icons which populate her landscapes alongside nude renaissance figures. It would be straightforward to assimilate Troj’s work with some sort of allegory. However, the artist is open in expressing the danger in utilizing this as a tool that is often too culture-specific. Instead by breaking up classical motifs, Iva Troj introduces parallel stories in a postmodern shift, binding the inescapably contemporary with revived histories.
“In many ways, I am what you get when you throw ancient Sakar Mountain wisdom failing to adapt to totalitarian ideas right into the pits of post-industrial capitalism. My grandmother’s village used to be in the no-mans-land surrounding the Turkish and Greek/Bulgarian border during the communist regime. It used to be totally isolated from the industrial world and there was no school or a library (or pollution). And somehow my grandma knew what Wabi-sabi was. I asked her about it and she told me a story about a lion tamer. Beauty is ”imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete,” she said. I am not sure how I came to find the clues to Japanese culture. She never talked about China or Japan, “intimacy”, or appreciation of the ”ingenuous integrity of natural objects”. That was not how she spoke. Instead of using fancy words she showed me things and explained their beauty to me. Her house and her garden were full of evidence of beautiful imperfection.”
With their roots and soul based firmly in the creative heart of Brighton, Studio 45 is a bright, spacious and friendly gallery and exhibition space dedicated to promoting and supporting local artists, designers & makers. The founder of Studio 45 Steve Manser-Knight has contributed to the Contemporary Beast exhibit with many ideas and valuable support.
Studio 45 aims to have a varied and interesting array of work for sale from both established and upcoming artists. It is often hard for an artist to get a foot in the door and have their work put on show and available for purchase. The gallery holds regular mentor sessions and workshops as well as student showcases and competitions. There are more than 60 artists currently shown at the gallery.
Kamen is a graduate of Konstfack, Stockholm, Sweden, with a fine arts masters degree from Konstfack and Tokyo University and a bachelor degree in fine art.
His 2017 Konstfack Masters Graduate work titled “A Parcelled Biome” was one of the main sources of inspiration during the investigative phase of the Sakar Mountain project. He describes the work as “an enclosed investigation into urban forestation in the setting of a domestic environment, A Parcelled Biome uses personal space contra global as a method of investigation through ideas of sustainable architecture in an anthropocentric period. By situating critical reflection with a set of formulated approaches, the project incorporates a body of sociological research in the context of domestic functionalities and leisure activities.”
Coming into being in the 1990s, SNUB is the alter ego of a graphic designer, inspired by fictional robot Hammerstein. As part of the Grafik Warfare Collective and as a solo artist, SNUB has exhibited and painted at events across Europe, growing a glowing reputation with every new piece.
According to the artist “SNUB is a graphics revolution fighting the uninvited visual invasion of commercialism. Inspiration is fired by frustration; emotion becomes a plan of attack. Anger is the weapon, and any object the ammo in the fight against the optical overload.”
High impact graphics are used to make a statement on anything from backdrops for parties to album covers, clothes, toys, and then back out on to the streets. Experimenting with new techniques to produce diverse works using stickers, paste-ups, stencils and freehand spray paints.
SNUB is prolific and unstoppable, and ultimately synonymous with a future technology gone bad.