Miss Aniela – When life and art collide….

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In June, we featured an upcoming exhibition by Miss Aniela, a photographer whose sensual and mysterious self-portraits have attracted many admirers.  ‘Neurotica’ is currently running till 31st August 2009 at the Impure Art Gallery in Brighton.  Impure Art is the UK’s only erotic gallery and was established last year by Nic Ramsey and another Brighton-based artist we have featured on The Artists Web, award-winning sculptor and bodycaster Jamie McCartney.

Jamie saw an oppertunity for a collaboration and he and Miss Aniela (real name Natalie), produced an installation piece combining Jamie’s casting techniques and Miss Aniela’s photography to accompany her exhibition. Jamie is used to casting bodies for his work on a daily basis – and the cast he took of Miss Aniela was no different – only the pose was cast for Miss Aniela to recreate in a photograph – and this photograph was projected onto the cast, transforming what would have been a standard bodycast into a startlingly lifelike – even ‘creepy’ as described by a few who observed it at the private viewing – work of art.  I was lucky enough to be invited along for the viewing and almost expected the cast to start moving – or at least speaking!  It certainly was mesmerising to look at and a totally different experience to looking at a photograph, statue or indeed any other form or artwork we’re used to viewing regularly.

I spoke to Natalie and Jamie at the private viewing  for her exhibition about what had inspired them to create such a talking point, what might be next in the pipeline and just how hard it was to recreate that casted pose in real-life!
So what the response of this evening been so far?

Jamie: It’s been very good.  One of the editions sold out before we even opened. People love it….their response has so far tended to be ‘wow – I’m glad I  came down’!

How did you both meet?

Natalie: My boyfriend was in touch with Jamie over drinks through work and he gave Jamie a link to my website.   I   came down and we had a chat – that was in  November.  We stayed in touch and then started to organise this exhibition.

When did you decide to collaborate on an installation together?

Jamie: Quite late in the day, really.  It’s something I had been thinking about for a while. But it was a question of finding the right person to collaborate with and from the moment I saw Natalie’s work I was very enthusiastic about it.  I approached Natalie with the idea quite tentatively because her work is self-portraits and not about other people .  But I’m really happy with the way it turned out; I was nervous that it might look naff!  But it doesn’t, so I’m really pleased with the result. I think this is the future of portraits!

Natalie: I’m really intrigued by the notion of working in 3D as I’ve been  working in the 2D photography format for a few years now.  I’ve been thinking about doing something in another medium, for example, video and certainly this has been the opportunity to do something a little bit different.  I didn’t really expect the photograph to project in such a realistic way on the bodycast so I’m really pleased with that.  I was fascinated by the casting process itself to start with and the photography element just gives it that extra edge that I didn’t expect.  It’s been a bit of an experiment and trial and error making the whole thing work as an installation so I think I’d love to think about ways in which to use other mediums to bring it to life.

Jamie: I’m really interested to start pushing the boundaries.  To think we started this on Monday and it’s now Friday!  We just attacked it and went for it – which is sometimes the best way!  You can lose a certain element when you work on something for too long.  It’s still a little rough around the edges; it’s not perfect but I think that’s what gives it it’s edge.  As people have said, there’s a ‘creepiness’- it’s startling when you first see it because it’s just so lifelike!

Natalie: I think when I first saw it I did find it a bit creepy but other people have commented on there being an element of surrealism to the piece.  It took ages to get the pose right!  I practiced for hours.  The hand was the most tricky bit!  But I think it’s worked really well.

Jamie: I think the pose is quite unusual in itself .  The hand is quite claw-like in a way.  I wanted Natalie to be quite dramatic in her pose but still work within what was possible in terms of photographic projection. It’s almost like a hologram effect.

Natalie, people started to notice your work mainly through the internet.  How did this happen?

Natalie: It really started through image-sharing – I put some of my work on sites like Flickr which are noted for their photographic sharing.  There are lots of people who upload their shots but increasing number of people who use it to share their artistic work.   That’s how it started; I used the internet to get some work out there.  But things have grown along side that first step; literally it’s been the whole journey that I’ve created through my work and it’s not just been one element.  My work has grown and it’s been very interwoven with the whole learning process. You have to avoid being sucked into the whole ‘praise-everything-you-see-on-the-internet’ thing which I’ve always been aware of but become much more critical of recently.  But I think I’ve kept my true expressive self pretty intact throughout the whole process and not let people’s feedback shape me too much. Getting my work out there and receiving encouragement has helped me shape it, rather than leaving it locked up in a room where nobody but myself ever sees it.

Your work is mainly self-portraiture.  How did you come to start doing this and why do you use yourself only as the focus?

Natalie: It started out as a matter of convenience and not having the confidence to approach someone else! So I just wanted to just try things out and experiment initially. Then I think it became more about using myself as a mode of  expression and it didn’t have to stop at just one picture of me; I could explore different characters by using myself as the model.

Jamie, this seems like another resounding success for Impure Art; how is the gallery going?

Jamie: The gallery’s going fantastic – we opened just over a year ago and only aimed initially to do one exhibition to see how it went and it’s gone from strength to strength.  People are finding out about us; the Madonna show was a real coup.  Taking it to London was another major achievement and getting coverage for that in literally every single piece of media really helped project us! After that the gallery got 3 million hits on the website.  It’s great to have Natalie’s work here and it’s fantastic to be able to exhibit a local artist who also happens to be a real talent and a global phenomenon in her own right. So it’s all very exciting right now.

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