Musical Kicks

Customization is Nashmoney's mission statement and with Havana Club's Inspired Ingenuity competition posing the challenge of creating objects from the everyday and tuning them into something special this year, Nashmoney does not disappoint with its Sneaker Speaker entry. A pair of pristine Nike Air Force 1s have been tailored into fully functioning audio speakers that rest on bespoke wooden pedestals - anyone else want this so bad right now? These pair of kicks guarantee to get the party started - check out Nashmoney's talented obsession with everything-sneaker here.


A Lot Of Possibilities: North Adams

It's been a while since I've posted anything about A Lot of Possibilities - many of you will remember the project created by artist and friend, Anna Lise Jensen, and my contribution since its launch in 2009 when I was living in New York City. Over the last two years Anna Lise has encouraged dialogue between contemporary artists and gardeners of the West 104th Street Community Garden on the Upper West Side as well as city officials in order to bridge private and public spaces around the Manhattan Valley. My contribution to the growing collective is Flamingo Parade, a digital illustration repeat pattern that was awarded funding from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in 2010 to be printed onto a 31 x 9ft vinyl banner for public installation. Towards the middle of last year I followed up the work in animated form that highlighted my journey of the elements in the West 104th Street Community Garden to produce a graphic narrative in motion.
It gives me great pleasure therefore to announce the launch of A Lot of Possibilities: North Adams, an exhibition in North Adams, Massachusetts curated by Valeria Federici. The exhibition at MCLA Gallery 51 brings together the diverse range of creative input from a selection of artists who have worked on the project and were brought together by Anna Lise - I am very excited to have Flamingo Parade installed in all its grand scale in the space and it is a great achievement to have all the works together in a retrospective of what has been an exciting and ever growing concern of art and the wider audience. Check back at jonathanvelardi.blogspot.com for more updates and hopefully images from across the pond from the exhibition that will open with a Private View this Thursday the 24th February and will run until the 27th March. Visit MCLA Gallery 51 for further information about the exhibition and find below my own personal statement of how the project was conceived, my involvement with A Lot of Possibilities and the future ofFlamingo Parade.
Flamingo Parade (2009-2010)

"In January 2009 I was invited by Anna Lise Jensen to take residence at Winter Space, West 103rd Street, Manhattan, New York. It is here where I began to involve myself in the community garden project, ‘A Lot of Possibilities’, as both an outsider amongst the gardeners as well as a foreigner in New York City. The view from my studio looked down onto the community garden of West 104th Street – it would greet me in the morning and it would be the last thing I saw at night. I am interested in public spaces within urban environments and I wanted to explore the notion of ‘green space’ and its fast-extinction on the island of Manhattan. I may have only been a ten-minute walk away from Central Park, but I was more interested in the pockets of community space that I came across while I explored the neighbourhoods on my travels across the city.

The winter season may not have shown the gardens in their best light, but what the freezing temperatures did expose were the aspects of human intervention, such as bamboo supports, trellises and personal decorations that portrayed the importance of the space as a place where gardeners could call it their own. I decided to contribute to the project with a work that was to be wall-based. I noticed that many community gardens were located between high-rise buildings on all sides and an element of height was needed. I noticed that although identity played an important role in community gardens – of which West 104th Street had in abundance – there was a familiar with all the gardens I visited: the use of wire fencing around the perimeter of the space. While in America thousands of miles of wire fencing is used to line sports fields, school grounds, parking lots and prison yards, in England, use of wire fencing is restricted to industrial use and protection. I found this cultural difference an interesting idea to explore, since I would also look at the garden from my studio window through a myriad of metal in the shape of wrought iron bars that also masked many other windows and doors around the city. I wanted to play with this notion of community and security - the idea that the garden was for the community while at the same time it needed to protect itself. I thought this was a poignant parallel with the continuous threat of destruction from property development in Manhattan. Irony in the form of the plastic, pink flamingoes that lined the entrance to the West 104th Street community garden were subjects I wanted to incorporate in my design to add an element of the community’s personality. I many not have noticed them had it been another season, but their tropical potency stood out while their heads poked out of the foot-high snowfall. After two drafts and discussions with the West 104th Street community gardeners, my final design for Flamingo Parade was completed in early 2010. It was awarded funding by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in the same year to be printed onto a 31 x 9ft vinyl banner. After the exhibition, Flamingo Parade is scheduled for installation within the garden, where it was inspired, in 2011."


The Walls Have Eyes

Xerox is the name of the game for French street artist JR. This month the self-titled photgraffeur descends on Los Angeles as part of the exhibition, The Wrinkles of the City, which has already seen his distinguishable work of enlarged black and white photographic portraits of local inhabitants in Spain and China. Twenty locations are scheduled to get the JR treatment that will depict intimate facial features of various Angeleno citizens on derelict building façades and walls throughout the city. There is an incredible magnetism to these works - whether it's the severity in the way he crops the portrait that is so alien to us in contrast to the perfect proportions of advertising campaigns or the raw nature of his subjects that are so overpowering on the passerby, JR captures the fragility of society and canvasses over the gaps on our urban landscape where the manipulated image of capitalism has yet to reach.
Follow JR's paper trail on his official website here.


Baroque Around The Clock

King of urban cool, Jemery Scott released images of his latest collaboration with Swatch. With brands such as Adidas, Longchamp and Swarovski already already having been given Scott's golden touch, it was only a matter of time for the Swiss watch manufacturer, who has a long history of artist collaborations, to join in on the fun and wild imagery Scott is renowned for with his own fashion label. Visit Scott's Twitter page for more model releases here and let time fly by with these fun timepieces...

Images courtesy of Swatch


Exhibit Ex

Politics in Print at Exeter Phoenix, January 2011
Matt Burrows, Curator at the Exeter Phoenix kindly sent through some documentation of the Politics in Print exhibition from last month. It's great to see all the commissioned work together again and Matt tells me the show was very well received. I was excited for Semper Fidelis to be installed in Gallery 1 - a great space for installation that left an impression on me after my first visit to the Phoenix last summer - and it's brilliant to be able to see the work in situ within the context of Exeter city and Devon County which is portrayed through the layers of narrative in my work.
I also received news from Katherine Weston from the Devon Record Office this week that details of the artists, including myself and Semper Fidelis, were featured in the Record Office's Winter 2010/11 newsletter which can be viewed online here. The Politics in Print exhibition reaches the finish line at the end of this month at The Plough Arts Centre in Great Torrington - if you're Devon-bound in the coming weeks click here for more information about the exhibition as well as opening times.
A big thank you to Matt and Katherine for keeping me posted with the political news!


South Lowdown

With signs of spring in the air this morning, there is no better reason to get up, get out and explore somewhere different. With last year's discovery of Blenheim Grove (Quality Street - October 2010), I encourage anyone who hasn't got any plans this weekend to head southwards over the river and visit the South London Gallery.

One of my favourite gallery spaces in London for many years, SLG opened its freshly painted doors last summer after the completion of a two million pound building project that tweaked, extended and polished the original former lecture theatre and library. The incorporation of the neighbouring townhouse not only adds to the unique character of the space, it has also given the opportunity for the gallery to offer an Artist Residency - housed in the Matsudaira Wing, the programme promotes an in-house residency with accommodation, studio and exhibition space all in the same building on the upper floors. Although unrelated to visual art, the real triumph is the gallery's cafe, No. 67, that has fine tuned the art of simple and delicious food, housed on the ground floor of the old townhouse.

The Matsudaira Wing

Unrivalled by any gallery café in London that are unified by their pretence, expense or both, I guarantee this will be worth the extra miles. From the freshly baked sourdough bread to the venison and white bean stew, not forgetting the selection of pastries that pile high on the bar counter, the atmosphere and particularly the service was so good I had to go back the next day. Whether you sit old-school in the front room, decorated in dark hues with limited edition prints on the walls from the gallery's bookshop, or sit in the rear looking out into the courtyard garden in a white-cube-meets-Richard-Wright space, you, and your wallet, will leave full on art and culture. Have a great weekend everyone!


Ploughing On...

The Politics in Print tour ploughs on this month at The Plough Arts Centre in Great Torrington, Devon. This will be the last scheduled stop to see my work, Semper Fidelis, a hand printed cotton square that was specially commissioned by Devon County Council and Double Elephant Print Workshop. The work was inspired by the political collections at Devon Record Office when I undertook my research over the summer of 2010. Visit The Plough Arts Centre for more information about the exhibition that runs until the 26th February and click here to view a copy of my artist statement that describes in detail the subject matter I document through the political timelines of Devon's sociopolitical history around the square.

Semper Fidelis, 2010
Politics in Print
The Plough Arts Centre
Great Torrington, Devon
EX38 8HQ
4th - 26th February 2010


Royal Flush

When I graduated from The Slade School of Fine Art a few years ago, like any prospective professional ready to take the world by the horns, I cleaned off the slime that I was covered in after I popped the bubble of comfort that was university and the previous fifteen years of being a citizen of the state of education and began my hunt for a job. For those of you unfamiliar with the mechanics of art school, in short, it is no place to form any certified direction. I tell a lie - I earned the privilege of receiving my degree on a shred of fortune cookie paper and excelled in the laws of delusion. If this wasn't confusing enough, searching for the golden answer of "what do you want to do now?" coming at me from every direction was practically paralysing, but I looked for anything remotely creative and as far from a desk job as I could muster. When I found a job to assist a hotel with its design and brand marketing I applied immediately - tweaking my CV riddled with art exhibitions and Photoshop proficiency accordingly - I managed to secure an interview. The hotel in question was a well-known boutique firm that I was very familiar with. I knew the company was small with only a handful of locations in London and it had created a reputation of personality and taste that was reflected in all aspects of its brand. The interview went well - the compact team were friendly and I thought everything was encouraging. A few weeks later I was invited again for a second interview, this time with the wife of the husband-wife partnership and head of everything-design; a person of little time that I expected from someone at that position. Having reintroduced myself to her, rolling with the spiel of what I can do, offer and learn I sensed my time was up and I was more than happy to thank her for her time and return to the drawing board. What I didn't expect coming was the disapproving shift to her assistant who was sat beside her, "what about the telephone?" she said, as I sat across the small mahogany table, the room so silent with the heavy padding of magazines and design samples. While I may be able to write clearly, ask me to read aloud what I have just written now, or my last two-hundred and seven posts, I won't be as clear. I will probably stumble on the words beginning with vowels, hesitate if I'm feeling tired at anything that needs an "h" sound and force every plosive out as if it's my last. I have a stammer. It's been with me ever since I can remember. We have good days and bad days but since it is all that I know, it's most definitely a part of me and has not and will never stop me doing anything I want. While I thought I was having a 'good day' on the day of the interview, I will never forget the words uttered by the head of the design (who shall remain nameless) posing a question only I had the answer to yet it was as if I wasn't in the room, deaf to her own fluent speech. No one warrants that treatment, stammer or no stammer. Fortunately, this was one of the first instances I had experienced anything like this in all the then twenty-two years of my life. Thanks to my supportive upbringing I travelled through playgrounds and classrooms free from any bullying - if I was lucky enough not to be made to feel noticed amongst misinformed adolescence, why was such an ill-educated adult behaving this way? I have chosen to share this story on my blog because although I do not publicise my stammer, I thought it was apt since I went to see The King's Speech last week and ironically, I passed one of the hotels I had interviewed with many years ago, and noticed they were screening the film in their cinema room. I look back at that day and have to laugh about it - I hope that anyone else who has been in a similar position can laugh too, or at least swear profusely (and conveniently fluently) into the wind!

Practically a life's work for writer, David Seidler, he had admired King George VI since his childhood when he had developed a stammer and was inspired by news that the King had overcome his impediment. In adulthood, Siedler discovered the critical role speech therapist Lionel Logue had played in the King's life and only understood the true extent of this battle when The Queen Mother, the King's widow, had been consulted about the proposed film and asked for the story not to be published in her lifetime. Siedler's respect for this moving request is a testament to the inner struggle the King combatted and the strain it had on his life and that of his family. The film is typically British in every way, and its subject matter only adds to the charm and probably sympathy towards a story about class, privilege and the ability most taken for granted, speech. With Colin Firth's performance on the lips of everyone from The Mall to Hollywood Boulevard and a trail of critical acclaim, a growing cabinet of awards and approval from Buckingham Palace, The King's Speech is destined for success at this year's 83rd Academy Awards.

United front: Colin Firth & Helena Bonham-Carter
2011 will also be marked as one of the most important periods for one of the oldest firms in the world with the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton taking place in April; the release of Madonna's anticipated cinematic offering of the controversial love affair between King Edward VIII & Wallis Simpson in W. E., that also features in The King's Speech, due for release later in the year and the Queen's historic Diamond Jubilee in 2012 - anything relating to the British Monarchy receives the golden touch. So while director, Tom Hooper will be placing his bets for golden statuettes for all his cast - from Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter and the humorous Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue - the awareness of stammering will also take a gamble, placing itself centre stage in order to reach out to the young, old and misinformed.

Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue
Place your bets now for a straight flush for Britain on the 27th February at this year's Oscars - if you would like more information about stammering visit the British Stammering Association here where you can also find out more about Lionel Logue and his unique approach to speech therapy that gave King George VI his voice back. The King's Speech is showing at cinemas nationwide.