Photography as a Mean for Coping with Isolation, and Art News of the Week 9 – 15 November 2020

Photographer Jorge Vargas and his two daughters have worked to make whimsical portraits during their time in lockdown in Argentina. Left: Saint, and Right: Air. (Jorge Vargas)
Photographer Jorge Vargas and his two daughters. Left: Saint, and Right: Air. (Jorge Vargas)

Jorge Vargas, an Argentine photographer, spent time in isolation creating imaginative portraits of his two daughters. A recreation hall in Melbourne has been transformed into an immersive art exhibition in an attempt to bring people back to the empty CBD, suburban zone in the City of Melbourne. Joana Choumali is a freelance photographer based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire who has worked through multiple media like photography, sculpture, mixed media, embroidery, and collage.

An Argentine photographer portraits his family to cope with isolation

November 4, 2020 – Via The Washington Post

I am reluctant to write too much about COVID-19 and isolation because these are things we are all living and suffering in a lesser or greater way. But when I find an interesting story that happens during the lockdown I can not resist sharing it with everyone who reads this weekly news summary here at

After almost a year of being trapped in our homes, most of us have had no choice but to find new ways to work and live. But surely we are all looking for new ways to spend our extra time. Whether it’s watching Netflix, YouTube, listening to music, reading books, doing yoga, or cooking, I think that surely many of us have known personal aspects that we didn’t know before, so the isolation has been helpful to increase our inner knowledge.

Left: Constraint, and Right: Darkness. (Jorge Vargas)
Left: Constraint, and Right: Darkness. Photo: Jorge Vargas

Jorge Vargas, an Argentine photographer, has used this time creating imaginative portraits of his two daughters. The project is a way to document his experience in this historical time with the collaboration of his family: his wife Karina, and his daughters, Athena, 10, and Indra, 13. Karina was in charge of searching for objects throughout the house. Then, Athena and Indra discovered creative uses for the objects. Finally, the artist directed the group of collaborators and took the pictures.

The portraits that Vargas took of his daughters can seem capricious and even remind us of classic fashion photography. A cello becomes part of a hairstyle. A sieve becomes a hat. Two pairs of sunglasses become a glamorous accessory. “We wanted to work on a project that reflects on the sign of the times mixing documentation and art,” Vargas said.

“This is why we chose to play with the language of fashion. What at first sight seems to be borrowing from the visual language of fashion quickly shifts from elegant to trashy. Party dresses mix up with pajamas, strainers, sleeping bags, and goggles. Frisbees as necklaces, fruit baskets as hats, messy hairstyles, and pan-ethnic scents combine with a homely flavor.”

These days Argentina is still under lockdown, as the number of cases in the country continues to increase. But the Vargas family still occupies part of their free time with this artistic activity since the lockdown began on March 20 in Buenos Aires.

The project also allows them to escape, if only for a moment, from the anxieties that come with living these challenging months. According to Vargas, this project seeks to explore themes within isolation such as uncertainty, dislocation, ambiguity, contradiction, boredom, fear, and hope. His photos document these moments of uncertainty and help the whole family to strengthen their relationships.

“When it’s so difficult to make sense out of the world around you, emotional balance and even mental health are at risk,” Vargas said. “Creating a new world out of the reminders of the old one is a way to preserve sanity. The pictures tell a story, a story that is the reversed reflection of a dreadful world. If these photographs had anything to say it would probably be I want my smile back.”

Art exhibition helps Melbourne’s contemporary artists get through grim times of pandemic

November 11, 2020 – Via ABC News

A recreation hall in Melbourne has been transformed into an immersive art exhibition. This is an attempt to bring people back to the empty CBD, a suburban zone in the City of Melbourne, after a devastating year due to the pandemic. The exhibition is at West Side Place, 250 Spencer Street, Melbourne.

The exhibition features work by eight of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, including Rone, Adnate, and Reko Rennie. The event has been called the country’s first “Artcade”. “The exhibition has been a lifesaver for many artists. Said Shaun Hossack, curator of Artcade and director of the Juddy Roller art collective.

Having a whole precinct taken over by an art installation was a rare opportunity, Adnate said.(ABC News: Gemma Hall)
Adnate. Photo: ABC News, Gemma Hall

“The art industry has been through a lot and this was an opportunity to bring together eight really talented street and contemporary artists in one space, creating work together,” said Mr. Hossack. The works of George Rose and other artists are housed in empty tents in a playroom at Melbourne’s CBD. The art is planned to remain there for six months. This represents an opportunity due to the absence of retail sales.

“I want people to start coming back to the city and find out that the alleys and the shopping malls are starting to open again – Melbourne’s arts and cultural scene is still growing and thriving,” said Mr. Hossack.

“Melbourne’s restrictions meant that it could not paint a single mural for six months, the first time it has not been able to do so in 20 years. Having a whole site occupied by an art installation was a rare opportunity,” said street artist Adnate.

His installation features three large portraits with indigenous people he met in Australia, as well as in Tibet and Guam. “Right now, we have some of the best street artists, mural artists, all working and living in Melbourne. To have this whole venue occupied with art like this is something you don’t see every day. “, says Adnate.

Artist Rone, whose installation depicts a “lost in time” room with pink tones, says, “The playroom has its advantages. It allows artists, including me, to put our own style in such depth that it couldn’t be found in a gallery – we can literally paint the floor and ceiling.

The exhibition also includes a café that serves a special coffee in the true Melbourne style. This café was designed by the painter Lisa King. She agrees with Mr. Hossack that “The exhibition has been a savior. To be here with other artists at such a severe time has helped to keep our art, to keep the conversation going, and to keep the faith. Without this project, I think I would have been in a bit of a dilemma.”

Joana Choumali’s Vividly Embroidered Photographs Are Expressions of Hope

Nov 12, 2020 – Via ART SY

Joana Choumali is a freelance artist and photographer based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The threads of her work intertwine emotions, memories, thoughts, and dreams. Choumali uses photography to explore issues of identity and the diversity of African cultures.

Choumali has worked through multiple media – photography, sculpture, mixed media, and collage. She is guided by explorations of her identity and her environment and by certain universal questions. Her 2014 series, Hâbré, The Last Generation, documents the latest generation of frightened Africans.

Joana Choumali HOW IT STARTED, 2019-2020Loft Art Gallery
Joana Choumali HOW IT STARTED, 2019-2020. Photo: Loft Art Gallery

Choumali was born in 1974 in Côte d’Ivoire. It is a place that in the course of his life went from being a prosperous post-colonial independent state to a country devastated by political and social disorders. Choumali stated in an interview alluding to her role as an artist, a woman, an Ivorian, and an African that: “My works are about the acceptance of what we are and the exploration of the subconscious.”

Choumali studied graphic arts in Casablanca, then returned to Abidjan to work as an art director in an advertising agency and pursue her career as an artist. Since then, she has done several works with photography and mixed media.

Last year, Choumali won the Prix Pictet, becoming the first African artist to win one of the world’s most coveted photography awards. Her series “Ça va aller” (2016-19) was awarded CHF 100,000. These works served both as a form of therapy for Choumali after the terrorist attacks on the Grand Bassam in Côte d’Ivoire in 2016. They are composed of embroidery in street photography, a way to convey how his people, the Ivorians, cope with the traumas caused by war.

She focused in particular on the violence his nation suffered from civil unrest from 2002 to 2007 and again from 2011 to 2012. Embroidery became an act of hope within an existence full of despair. Choumali recalls “Sadness was everywhere. Most of the images show people alone, walking the streets or just standing, sitting alone, lost in thought.”

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