Interview w/ Albertine Lello
Hi Albertine! Can you briefly introduce yourself? Like where are you from, how old are you, what’s your zodiac sign?
My name is Albertine (my friends call be Albie), I’m from Auckland, New Zealand. I’m 19 years old and I’m an Aquarius.
You’ve been experimenting with a lot of different materials to express your creativity. What was/is that process like? What did you try out?
I’ve always been someone who's liked a LOT of different things when it comes to art and creativity, so trying out lots of different materials has come quite naturally to me I think. Also going to art school has forced me into experimenting with different materials and techniques I mightn’t have played with much before. I’ve done painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture, performance (did NOT like that!), and photography, among a few other things probably; I just can’t remember them all! Haha!
What material/technique do you feel most comfortable with? What did you not get along with?
Painting is definitely one of my favorite mediums to work in, more specifically, oil paints because of their glossy, gem-like quality. It is something I can take long breaks from and always come back and fall in love with it all over again.
Something I do not get along with is definitely performance art/time-based art. I have nothing against performance artists, in fact, I admire many of them such as Marina Abramović and Peter Campus. However, I feel that performance art nowadays can be a bit cliché as there seems to be a big focus on nudity and ‘shock art.’ I understand that performance art that deals with these themes was particularly common throughout the late 1960s and early 70s during the sexual revolution, but in today's society, the historical context is dramatically different and I don’t think that this kind of ‘shocking’ or ‘taboo’ art has a place in the contemporary art discourse. The gesture of these themes seem rather empty to me, but then again, that’s just my opinion.
You recently did a lot of fabric works, how did that start? How do you dye the fabrics?
I did indeed! My last 6-week project for this year at university was to write my own brief. I chose to do a painting style brief as I had done painting for my previous project and wanted to extend my research even further. Even though working with textiles might not be considered by some, as a painting practice, I felt that my process with these fabric works very much echoed my painting process, hence the reason I call them paintings. (it can be a little confusing ha!)
I had recently read an essay by the art critic and writer, Jan Verwoert called “Emergence: On the Painting of Tomma Abts,” which talks about painting as a fluid process. He mentions how non-representational works often evolve by their own accord, meaning that the artist merely facilitates this evolution. I was really interested in this sense of emergence and the idea that the painting would tell you what move to make next. This idea had also coincided with a time where I became really fascinated by natural dyes and textiles. Before starting this new project, I had spent a few weeks trying out making my own pigments from things such as blueberries, raspberries, coffee, and turmeric. I would boil a couple of handfuls of my chosen plant/berry with about 2 liters of water for a couple of hours and then drop prewashed fabric into the solution. Then I would wait to see the outcome. I really enjoyed the process and felt it very much related back to this idea of emergence. From there, I just read A LOT and experimented more with different fabrics and different pigments. Now that my project is over, I have a giant pile of hand dyed fabric in my bedroom!!
How do you decide on what technique you want to use?
I don’t usually decide straight away. Instead, it’s more of a process of trial and error. I tend to gravitate towards processes I am more confident with first, but if those aren’t working, then I might try out something new.
Would you describe your recent works as abstractions or nonrepresentational art? Are they abstractions of concrete forms or do they not have any connection to the figurative?
I would call them abstracts because while the forms aren’t immediately recognizable, I draw a lot of them from real life, whether that be man-made forms such as architecture or more organic forms such as plants and the human body.
Do you still do figurative paintings? What’s the difference for you between your abstract/ non-representational and your figurative works? Also, how does the creation process differ?
I haven’t done any new figurative works recently, however, I definitely plan to in the next couple of weeks. The reason I haven’t done many, besides being insanely busy with uni and work, is that they are very simple to do. Simple in the sense that they have a plan and that plan is carried through until the work matches the plan. Maybe it’s to do with all my abstract work at uni, but I sometimes get a little bored of the predictable nature of figurative work. Abstract works, on the other hand, are more challenging to me, because there is no set end point, so in theory, I could keep working on them until I’m old and gray. I also find myself feeling more inspired while making these abstract works, so I suppose that’s why I keep making them.
Here the obligatory, annoying question: have people tried interpreting your works, if so what do you think about that? Is there an interpretation to them?
Yes, they have, and it’s always really interesting to me to hear what other people see in my work. We have critiques about every week in class, so that’s a chance to present what we’ve been working on and receive feedback from other students. There is something really cool, though, when someone who doesn’t have a background in art, interprets my work. Their interpretations feel more authentic because they aren’t basing their thoughts on what they think they should see in my work or issues that have been raised throughout art history, instead they seem more intuitive and genuine. That being said, I’ve heard some very strange/funny interpretations of my work over the years…
Your Oeuvre in 5 words?
Process-driven (I’m counting that as one word heh!), intuitive, genuine, reflective, amaranthine.
How do you think the Internet influences young artists and the way you can distribute and sell (your) art? Also, how does it influence ideas, intellectual property, and copyrights?
I think the Internet is the best thing that could’ve happened for artists. Not only are we more readily able to look at works from international artists to inspire us, but we can also share our own work with the world! The Internet has been wonderful in helping me get my work out there and seen by those in the industry.
At the same time, though, as you mentioned, it does pose the issue of copyright and intellectual property. I think being inspired by a work is one thing, and this is very hard to avoid, but then there is outright plagiarism, which is where things get problematic. The gray area in between these two, however, is still up for debate. One could argue that with the invention of the Internet, it is inevitable that there will be works that look very similar, but at the same time, this could’ve just as well been the same outcome, had there been no Internet at all, to begin with. I don’t think the Internet directly causes problems to do with copyright infringement and plagiarism, but I do think it enables them in some way.
A lot of people still have very mixed feelings about abstract or nonrepresentational art. I often hear people standing in front of a Rothko say: “Well I could have done that. Or my 5-year-old could have done that” What’s your stance/reply to that kind of statement also concerning your art?
If I’m honest, I think it’s a pretty fair opinion to have. Art is so subjective, meaning something that one person loves also has the potential be something that someone, somewhere absolutely hates. I happen to be someone who loves abstract art, but at the same time, I acknowledge and completely respect the opinion of those who don’t enjoy it. In response to the saying “my 5-year-old could have done that”, I’m actually in the process of reading ‘Why Your 5 Year Old Could Not Have Done That’ by Susie Hodge, which aims at debunking the idea that modern art is child’s play. Basically, the book examines the works of 100 artists that have attracted critical hostility throughout history and explains the reasoning behind why a 5-year-old would not be capable of producing the same work. Essentially it comes down to the conceptual art idea being something beyond what a child could comprehend. Yes, a child could quite easily emulate a work by Rothko or Pollock, but they wouldn’t be able to fully understand the conceptual and contextual reasoning behind it. On the same note, a child could quite easily physically create some of my abstract work, but I don’t think the ideas and research behind my work would be something they could understand as easily. That’s not me trying to sound pretentious but rather it’s just a fact that the conceptual side of art can be really difficult to ‘get’ when you’re so young/haven’t received any art/art history education. In fact, I still really struggle with it myself!
In a post earlier this year you talked about “BLOG CONTENT & AESTHETICS”. What you said in that post really resonated with me. I’m also unsure how to fit Fashion blogger, Youtube and Art History – ME into a coherent personality or blog content. ‘Artist Albertine’ and ‘Blogger Albertine’ – what’s the interplay between these roles?
It’s a strange interplay and something that I’m still trying to work out for myself. What I came to realize in writing that post is that I can be all of those different versions of me, but they don’t need to be as delineated as I initially thought they had to be. In fact, I’ve come to think that they maybe don’t need to be delineated at all. I think in the blogging/Youtube world, there is a lot of pressure to conform to what everyone else is doing because we see people doing/writing certain things and they gain a certain following from it. We figure that if we do this also, we will gain the same thing as the people we look up to. On the other hand, the art world is odd because while art prides itself as being quirky, alternative and going against the flow, there is also a set of unspoken rules regarding what sort of art you should make, how you should present yourself as an artist and the sort of ideas you should have about art. Both roles are confusing not just when put, side-by-side, but Individually as well.
I coincidentally realized that you made your previous Youtube videos private. I have been thinking about doing the same. Why did you decide to do it?
I did that for two reasons, one being that some of my old videos made me cringe and two, after changing my blog name, I felt like I needed to start fresh with my Youtube under this new name. My editing style was all over the place and I think my taste in music, transitions, graphics has changed a lot since I first made those videos.
You’re a fine arts student, when and how did you decide that’s what you want to study? Also, what’s studying fine arts like?
I can’t quite remember the first time I found out that art school was a thing, but I just remember as soon as I did, it was a no brainer for me. There was no doubt about me going to art school. I had always taken art related subjects in school and did well in them, so it seemed pretty natural to move onto pursuing that full time in a tertiary environment.
As for what studying fine arts is like, well, it’s interesting to say the least. There is a bunch of cool people who I have met at uni who I have become close friends with, which is awesome. I have learnt a lot about the history of art as well as establishing and refining my own practice, and I have made A LOT OF ART! (I’m currently trying to sell some of it!) Of course, there are also the downsides of art school, including interactions with some arrogant and self-righteous students (but more commonly tutors) and some out dated ideas about the art world. My second year has been incredibly stressful, but at the same time, I have learnt so much and have been taught by some really amazingly clever and lovely tutors, which has been really rewarding. My course is comprised of 4 years, so I am officially half way through my degree!
Where or when so you feel most inspired? Or where do you turn to for inspiration and how do you channel it?
It changes often, but I think I am mostly hit with inspiration at night when I’m trying to fall asleep! It can sometimes come outta nowhere, or it can be the result of endless scrolling through Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. In regards to how I channel this inspiration, it will usually start with me quickly writing down any ideas that come to mind and doing little drawings. Just anything to think through an idea and rationalize it so that it turns into something that I can actually attempt!
What other artists inspire you? Do you have any idols?
I love so many different artists, so I’ll most definitely forget to mention some, but some of my favorites are Helen Frankenthaler, Cy Twombly, Ernesto Neto, Agnes Martin, Kate Newby, Gertrude Greene, Isabel Yellin and many, many more!
What music do you listen to when you’re working? Or do you need silence to concentrate?
I go back and forth between listening to music while working and not. Sometimes I’ll listen to whole albums, usually kinda folky kinda songs are good to work to. Other times, I will listen to youtube videos or podcasts on topics that interest me. At the moment I have a real fascination with murder mysteries and unsolved cases. (I realize this makes me sound a little odd, but oh well!)
What are your top 5 artsy Instagrammers to follow?
Similarly to the artist idol question, this one is difficult because I follow a lot of people on Instagram. That being said, at the moment the accounts I am loving are @lauraschoorl, @wundaire, @rachelsaundersceramics, @mayalucy, and @ineslongevial.
Where can the readers find you online?