Interview with Alana Riley, Canadian visual artist and photographer

Alana Riley is a photo- and video-based artist currently living and working in Montreal. She holds a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal (2004) and an MFA from the Roski School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (2015). Riley’s work has been exhibited in solo and group shows in Canada, the United States, Europe and China. In 2010, Riley was nominated as a finalist of the “Emerging Photographers of Canada” by the Magenta Foundation. The same year, she was awarded the “Pierre-Ayot Prize” by the Ville de Montréal and the Association of Contemporary Art Galleries (AGAC). Riley has participated in artist residencies in Quebec, Ireland and Germany.

– Looking at your photograph “Wet Blanket”, we think about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s words ‘it is not a picture of a hat’. However, unlike the narrator of the “Little Prince” you did not give up on your career as an artist. Can you please outline your creative path?


Alana Riley, Wet Blanket, 2011

I was always interested in art and all creative forms of expression but I had not always considered it as a “career”. It is only when I took off four years from university to work and travel that I fully understood my interest in creating – creating in the very mundane sense of making things. During my free time, I would take classes, trying my hand at sewing, ceramics, and print media; but it was really photography that excited me the most. I then decided to move to Montreal to pursue my BFA in Studio Art and Photography at Concordia University. This was an amazing time for experimenting, working in different media, and learning to understand what making art meant to me. After graduating with a double major, I spent the following eight years exhibiting and working as an artist, in photography and video – alongside numerous jobs and freelance contracts. It was during a residency in Germany that I decided to go back to school to pursue my MFA. At the time, I was feeling very unsatisfied with working in the medium of photography and, once again, felt that I needed to immerse myself in an environment that would allow me to experiment more, challenge myself, and receive critical feedback. I was fortunate to be accepted into a small, fully funded MFA program in Los Angeles at the Roski School of Fine Arts. This proved to be a rewarding and challenging time of deep reflection on my practice. During all these years, I can say, I have frequently questioned my path and my work, but I have also come to realize that this is a part of who I am. Much like the “Little Prince”, I do keep asking questions. So, yes, I have not given up on being an artist – at least not yet!


– Alana, your series of photographs “Support System” and “The Pressure between you and me is enough to take a picture” emphasize the relationship between photography and performance, by making the moment of closest physical contact between you and your protagonists culmination. Why this initiative is important for you?


The Seamstress, ALANA RILEY

Alana Riley, The pressure between you and me is enough to take a picture2004


Those series were done at a time when I as just starting to explore portrait photography. Prior to that, I had been photographing people’s belongings and their home or work environments. I began to realize that I was actually not comfortable photographing people. When I created those series of photographs, I was thinking a lot about the relationship of the photographer to the subject. I really don’t like having my photo taken, so I was sensitive to putting other people in this position. I felt that by positioning myself in the camera with them, I would, in a way, be confronting this relationship of subject and photographer – through a very direct physical manifestation, of course. This work was really important for me in that it deeply challenged me and helped me to address my anxiety around asserting myself as a photographer, in relation to my subject. As much as these were challenging projects to execute, there was also a lot of fun in it, in the spontaneity of it and in not knowing what I would get out of it. That aspect of “not knowing”, or not being able to control the outcome, is what drives a lot of my interest in working with others, particularly strangers. Even if I define rules and parameters, every person brings something new and different to the interaction. That is the part I love most and in which I am most interested.

– Your imitation of Newman’s monumental painting “Cathedra” blends borders between everyday life and art. Why did you choose this particular painting and what is your main message?



Alana Riley, Kettler’s Cathedra2011




Alana Riley, Kettler’s Cathedra2011


This project was developed after I had finished a residency in Ireland, where I produced a video piece entitled “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Grey?” which was a play on words with Barnett Newman’s famous series of paintings “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue”. In this video, I am seen mopping the passageway of the Factory space where I had my studio – the video was a reflection on everyday labour, the act of mopping echoing that of painting, playing on the monumentality of works of art such as Newman’s colour-field painting. While doing research on my computer, back in my studio in Montreal, the image of Newman’s “Cathedra” appeared on my screen; looking up at the Kettler ping-pong table that doubles as a work desk in my studio, the aesthetic parallel felt uncanny. In that moment, the ping-pong table appeared in a different light. I thought that was a curious parallel, and I became a bit obsessed with its implications.. The project evolved into a life-size recreation of the original “Cathedra” (9’ x 18’) as a large-scale photograph of a detail of my ping-pong table, a smaller photograph recreating an archival image of the artist standing in front of his painting, and a video loop. I don’t know if any of my works have a “main message”, I definitely think there are layers to it, but I would be happy if these works made some people consider aspects of their everyday environment and work and leisure activities in a way that takes them out of context, making it possible to see them in a different light and maybe appreciate them differently.

– Working in Germany, UK, States, what does Montreal mean for you as an artist ?

The residencies I did were very rewarding and definitely allowed me to open up my practice more. Being away helps me to think about things a little differently than when I’m navigating a place I know so well already. I think it’s so important to get out of your comfort zone – to experience other cultures and different environments, but those stays, no matter how long they were, were temporary. Montreal has always been my home base. There is a strong community of artists working here. Montreal is one of the more affordable big cities in Canada, and hence, great for artists; we are also fortunate that Quebec offers generous financial support for the arts, another factor that has contributed to creating the thriving art scene here and throughout the province. As an artist and freelancer, having a community is very important. I have come to realize and appreciate this even more since having been away so much.

– In his essay “The Death of the Author” Barthes suggests that writing and creator are unrelated. Although we often see you from your back, your presence in your works of art is crucial. Does it mean that an artist is a participant and not the creator? Or maybe quite the opposite?

When I am present in the photographs, I am trying to be less noticeable and I try to remain neutral in my expression. I don’t want the images to be about me personally or my experience but more about what I represent – a woman, a photographer, a stranger to some. The tension definitely lies in myself being both the participant and the creator, since these works are, in part, about the relationship between the subject and myself in this double capacity.


Alana Riley, At the Black Watch, 2004

– Multidisciplinary has become a keyword in your art. For example, you have been incorporating props in your video installations and photographs. What does Alana have planned for us this year? 

Well, I’m back shooting film with my medium-format film cameras so you can expect to see more still photographs again – and likely portraits, of sort. I’ll be part of a group exhibition in Montreal next year on photography. The last years, my work has really focused on video and installation. After a bit of a hiatus from incorporating photography in my art practice, I have recently rediscovered what it was that I was missing so much – the relationship I have to shooting film and the slowness inherent in this process (stopping to change film rolls, reading the light, etc). I had been working in digital photography primarily the last decade, and obviously there is something to be said for the ease and affordability of shooting, but I realized that, for me, the slowed-down process and way of working with a medium-format camera influences the outcome of the images –or at least it is inspiring my practice again. Although much of my work is conceptually driven, my interest in making art has always been the process – the process of making something. I’m always looking to learn and discover along the way. I find shooting film extends the time and process of creating the work, and right now this slowness feels more conducive to how I want to work.



Alana Riley, All the Ships in a Week’s Work on the Romantic River Rhine, 2012 (video excerpt)



Interview avec Christiane LeBlanc, directrice générale et artistique du Concours musical international de Montréal

– Bonjour Madame LeBlanc. Premièrement, merci beaucoup d’avoir décidé de partager cette conversation avec nous aujourd’hui. Deuxièmement, même si un grand nombre de personnes connaissent et apprécient votre chemin de carrière, pourriez-vous en parler brièvement pour nos chers lecteurs?

– Ma mère était musicienne et elle a sans doute beaucoup influencé mon parcours. On faisait beaucoup de musique à la maison. Mes sœurs et moi, on suivait toutes des cours :  piano, solfège, guitare, violoncelle, chorale … C’est donc tout naturellement que j’ai choisi la musique pour mes études supérieures, un baccalauréat en piano à l’Université de Moncton et une maîtrise en musicologie à l’université McGill.  Par la suite, j’ai eu cette chance inouïe de réussir à travailler près de la musique pendant toute ma carrière.  D’abord à Radio-Canada, comme animatrice, réalisatrice, coordonnatrice et directrice, et maintenant au Concours musical international de Montréal (CMIM) à titre de directrice générale et artistique. Forcément, j’étais plus près du produit dans ma carrière de réalisatrice alors que j’enregistrais facilement une centaine de concerts par années.  Plus tard, j’ai aussi développé des aptitudes en gestion avec la création d’Espace musique et mes années à la direction de la musique à Radio-Canada. Aujourd’hui au CMIM, c’est la rencontre des deux, l’artistique et l’administratif, pour mon plus grand bonheur.

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photo :  Brent Calis

– Vous avez pris le poste de Directrice générale et artistique de l’un des concours musicaux majeurs au Canada et à l’international dont les missions sont : découvrir et soutenir les jeunes talentueux ainsi que promouvoir la musique classique dans la société canadienne. À votre avis, comment le concours réussit-il à réaliser ces objectifs?

– Je crois que le CMIM a fait de grands pas au cours des dernières années sur le plan de la découverte de jeunes talents.  Notre notoriété et notre rayonnement nous permet aujourd’hui de rejoindre les musiciens de partout sur la planète.  Du coup, le nombre d’inscriptions à notre concours a triplé en trois ans!  C’est certain que les médias sociaux comme Facebook et Twitter nous aident beaucoup à rejoindre les jeunes et à les recruter.  Je crois que nous pouvons dire aujourd’hui que le CMIM attire vraiment les meilleurs jeunes pianistes, violonistes et chanteurs.  Mais il faut qu’on travaille étroitement avec nos lauréats après la victoire, car c’est en début de carrière qu’ils ont besoin le plus de soutien.  Nous sommes privilégiés d’avoir l’appui de la Fondation Azrieli qui offre depuis l’an dernier, une bourse de développement de carrière de 50 000 $ au gagnant du Premier prix.  Quant à la promotion et à la démocratisation de la musique classique, notre plus bel atout demeure le web.  Depuis quelques années, nous diffusons toutes les épreuves du Concours en direct sur YouTube et Facebook Live, et les résultats sont spectaculaires!  Près de 400 000 internautes ont suivi le Concours l’an dernier.

– Vous avez étudié la musique à l’Université de McGill, joué du piano et chanté dans un choeur avant de poursuivre des études commerciales. Comment cette expérience de pratique artistique vous aide-t-elle dans votre travail de direction et d’organisation?



photo: Zhamila Tampayeva


– Je pense que dans toute organisation, il est important de connaître le produit si on veut bien le développer et en faire la promotion.  Ça nous aide à comprendre rapidement les enjeux et à trouver des solutions.  J’éprouve un grand plaisir pendant le déroulement du Concours chaque année.  Un plaisir double:  celui d’assurer le financement et le bon déroulement de l’événement, mais aussi celui de pouvoir apprécier comme musicienne chacune des performances des concurrents.  C’est un grand privilège!

–  Cette année, c’était la première édition d’un concours consacrée au chant (avant, le CMIM a accueilli des concurrents issus des disciplines du piano et du violon). Selon vous, quels sont les défis principaux que les représentants de cette discipline de la «voix» rencontrent?

– Ce n’est pas notre première édition Chant.  Nous en avons eu déjà six.  Mais c’est la première édition pour laquelle nous aurons deux volets distincts, l’une pour les chanteurs d’opéra (ARIA) et l’autre dirigée plutôt vers les chanteurs préférant le  récital avec piano (MÉLODIE).  Ça fait une différence énorme car certaines voix conviennent mieux aux grandes salles d’opéra, et d’autres au cadre plus intime d’un récital.  Ce positionnement nous permet de respecter la nature de chaque voix, de chaque chanteur.  Pour l’équipe du CMIM c’est un gros défi car nous accueillerons une quarantaine de chanteurs à Montréal.  Et nous avons dû trouver des commanditaires pour le double des prix!  En tout, plus de 265 000 $ en prix et bourses seront remis aux lauréats le soir de la Grande finale le 7 juin prochain.  Ce sera un grand moment!


– Pourriez-vous nous parler un peu des gagnants?

– Depuis que le concours a été créé en 2002, plusieurs lauréats font de magnifiques carrières internationales grâce à leur victoire au CMIM:  les chanteurs canadiens Measha Bruggergosman, Marianne Fiset et Philippe Sly, les violonistes Benjamin Beilman et Marc Bouchkov, ou encore les pianistes Beatrice Rana, Nareh Arghamanyan, et Charles Richard-Hamelin. Ce sont nos meilleurs ambassadeurs et chacun de leur succès nous comble.  Récemment, le lauréat 2015, le chanteur coréen Keonwoo Kim, nous annonçait qu’il fera ses débuts dans un premier rôle au Covent Garden à Londres la saison prochaine et rien ne nous fait plus plaisir!



photo: Zhamila Tampayeva


– Qu’est-ce que le Canada et le monde entier doivent attendre du concours dans le futur?

– Notre ambition est de consolider notre place parmi les cinq plus grands concours internationaux de musique au monde. Déjà, nous sommes le seul concours en Amérique à avoir trois disciplines et à tenir une édition annuellement.  Les prix que nous offrons aux lauréats sont parmi les plus généreux et nous attirons de très grands artistes sur nos jurys, comme Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Ben Heppner, Teresa Berganza, Marilyn Horne, Grace Bumbry, Dame Gwyneth Jones et tant d’autres.  C’est une chance pour le public montréalais de côtoyer ces personnes et de découvrir autant de nouveau talents.


–  Une très grande partie de votre travail est consacrée à une volonté de développer la musique classique et sa réception chez le public canadien. Par exemple, vous êtes l’auteure de « Espace Musique », un broadcast gratuit de musique classique et de jazz sur Radio Canada, et la productrice des enregistrements classiques de l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. D’où vient ce côté altruiste de votre philosophie?

– J’ai toujours ressenti beaucoup de plaisir dans le partage de la musique.  Lorsque j’étais à Radio-Canada, j’aimais sentir qu’en diffusant des concerts en direct, nous émettions des émotions, tout plein d’émotions, dans les maisons partout au Canada.  J’ai toujours cru que la musique est une question de partage.  Dans le meilleur des cas, un concert exceptionnel par exemple, il y a une véritable communion entre non seulement l’artiste et son public, mais aussi entre les gens dans le public.  Mon altruisme est peut-être même égoïste, car c’est d’abord à moi que je fais plaisir quand je  découvre et soutiens de jeunes talents,  ou quand je crée un programme pour les appuyer comme Sacré talentou les Révélations Radio-Canada musique, ou que je développe un bijou comme le CMIM.

– Enfin, selon vous, quelle est la mission de la musique classique dans cette réalité où on n’apprécie pas la profondeur et la qualité, mais plutôt la hauteur et la vitesse, un véritable engloutissement de la musique causé par la société de consommation?

–  La musique classique incarne l’espoir, joue un rôle important contre l’appauvrissement intellectuel de notre société et a un effet mesurable sur la santé.  Si l’on en croit les expériences de musique classique au sein d’hôpitaux, on voit que la musique classique a un véritable rôle humaniste à tenir dans la société.

En même temps il faut aussi s’adapter avec son temps et trouver des façons pour rendre la musique classique plus accessible tout en chassant l’idée selon laquelle elle serait réservée à l’élite. Allier nouvelles technologies avec musique classique (ex: diffusion web, réseaux sociaux, met opéra sur les écrans de cinéma).

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photo :  Brent Calis


Interview avec Maude Arsenault, photographe et fondatrice d’une galerie The Print Atelier

Maude Arsenault, photographe canadienne, explore la beauté féminine dans son développement à travers le temps ainsi que les questions de l’érotisme et de la sexualité liés à ce passage. En travaillant à Paris, Sidney et New York pour des magazines et des marques de mode les plus connues dans le monde, elle est revenue au Canada pour réaliser son grand projet personnel – une galerie d’art en ligne. Dans cet interview Maude nous parle de la philosophie de son art et l’évolution de son style, de la conception de sa galerie et de ses visions d’un marché de l’art de photographie contemporaine.

Maude, merci de nous avoir rencontré pour cette entrevue. Pour commencer, pouvez-vous nous raconter comment a commencé votre passion pour la photographie?

J’ai l’impression d’avoir été photographe toute ma vie !  J’ai découvert la photo très jeune grâce à une tante qui elle aussi se passionnait de photographie. Voyant mon intérêt elle m’avait offert un vieux Pentax 1000, et voilà il n’en a fallu pas plus pour me faire voir le monde autrement. Passionnée par les petits details de la vie, de la beauté à la mode et aux paysages, j’ai toujours été « obsédée » par l’idée de tout photographier, et surtout de raconter des histoires. À l’âge adulte, je me suis mise à sortir dans les bars branchés de la ville qui étaient fréquentés par la clic de la mode et de fil en aiguille. C’est ainsi qu’en photographiant plusieurs mannequins pour le plaisir et, sans meme le vouloir, mes photos ont atterries entre les mains d’agences et de gens de l’industrie. Ma première campagne, obtenue par l’intermédaire d’une amie, s’est retrouvée placardée à travers la ville et des lors, le telephone ne s’est jamais arrêter de sonner ! Quelques années plus tard j’ai quitté le Québec pour aller vivre à Sydney, Paris et New York, où mon style s’est alors vraiment révèlé.


Quelle est la partie la plus difficile d’un processus créatif? 

Définitivement l’insécurité et le doute car on se demande toujours si nos idées sont assez fortes, comment on peut les pousser plus loin et surtout si on ne répète pas quelque chose qui a déjà été trop dit ou déjà été fait…


En ayant déjà une formation en sciences des communications et cinéma et en étant une photographe reconnue au Canada et une commissaire de votre propre galerie photographique, pourquoi avez-vous décidé de poursuivre une formation d’histoire de l’art? 

Tout simplement parce que mes connaissances étaient très générales en matière d’histoire de l’art. J’ai ressentie à un certain moment, un réel besoin de comprendre plus spécifiquement les canons de l’histoire de l’art et aussi de mieux me situer dans mes choix curatoriales et dans ma pratique personnelle.



Votre chemin artistique est très intéressant: de la mode à l’érotisme et à l’enfance. Pouvez-vous nous parler un peu plus de l’évolution de votre style?

Depuis mon enfance je suis fascinée par les comportements humains et la façon dont nous nous exprimons, nous vivons et surtout comment nous, les humais, interagissons ensemble. J’ai commencé très jeune à observer les gens, la photographie me permet de cadrer le monde d’un œil plus personnel, de le documenter et de capturer les petits détails de la vie qui parfois permettent de mieux comprendre et connaître l’autre. Mais comme je suis mélancolique et une éternelle rêveuse l’univers de la mode et de l’enfance, par exemple, me permettent de transmettre mon point de vue à travers des personnages idéalisés.  Mon style évolue au gré des changements intérieurs qui m’habitent, j’ai commencé à faire ce métier très jeune, je suis maintenant une femme de 44 ans et une maman, mon point de vue à évoluer au cours du temps et j’essaie de l’exprimer dans mes séries photographiques.



Après votre retour en Amérique du Nord (Maude travail entre Montréal et New York) de Sydney et de Paris où vous avez travaillé pendant longtemps, comment pouvez-vous comparer les scènes artistiques de ces régions?  Quels sont les principales différences entre ces marchés de l’art? 


L’histoire de l’art l’a toujours bien démontré, il y a le vieux monde et le nouveau. On le sent quand on fréquente les cercles de l’Art en Europe ou en Amérique. Je dirais que cette distance s’amincie de plus en plus mais l’Europe a une approche plus intérieure, moins superficiel, plus hiérarchique et plus intellectuelle, moins matérielle qu’en Amérique. Mais je dois dire que j’aime l’ouverture et le coté plus accessible des marchés plus jeune, on y sent un dynamisme qui est rafraichissant.

Pouvez-vous nous parler de votre galerie en ligne? Comment est-ce que vous en êtes arrivé à cette idée? 

« The Print Atelier » a été crée principalement parce que je suis une passionnée de photographie d’art et qu’à l’époque (étrangement il n’y a pas si longtemps) des galeries en ligne spécialisées en photographie, comme la mienne, n’existaient pas vraiment.

Vivant au Canada mais fréquentant le milieu internationnal de l’art je désirais créer un meilleur accès à la photographie d’art et à la possibilité d’en acheter sans être obligé de passer par une galerie physique.  J’étais aussi continuellement questionné par mes pairs sur la possibilité de collectionner certaines de mes oeuvres et sur les artistes que je collectionnais moi-meme.

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J’ai donc eu l’idée de créer un lieu virtuel où l’on pourrait découvrir le travail photographique d’artistes émergents et plus connus, de partout dans le monde, ce que j’ai fait en rassemblant les photographes et les artistes que j’aime ensemble, en un seul endroit !

Le concept de la galerie a été crée en 2012 mais ne connaissant pas le monde des technologies de près à l’époque il y a eu bon nombre de péripéties avant que le site ne puisse finalement voir le jour, en Avril 2013. The Print Atelier est pour moi, depuis le tout début, un projet très personnel.

Depuis le jour où j’ai commencé à développer cette idée, j’en suis devenue complètement obnubilée!


The Print Atelier représente des photographes reconnus mais qui travaillent dans des styles et des sujets différents. Qu’est ce que définit votre choix des artistes? 

Je réalise l’ensemble du commissariat des oeuvres et des artistes et je le fais sur la base de mes goûts personnels, de mon instinct et de ma connaissance et mon expertise du marché.

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Pourquoi investir dans la photographie aujourd’hui? 

J’ai créé cette galerie parce que je crois profondément en la portée d’une oeuvre photographique. Je pense que la photographie d’art est sous-estimée et méconnue du grand public.

La démocratisation de la photographie dans les médias sociaux et le monde numérique ayant élargie le cercle des amateurs je pense qu’il faut que cet art se ré-appropprie ses lettres de noblesses et que les nouveaux amamteurs d’art s’y intéresse davantage. Je souhaite que collectionner de la photographie devienne un réflexe et qu’il ne soulève plus autant d’inquiétude et de questions. Je crois fermement que cette nouvelle façon d’acheter de l’art révolutionnera le monde de l’art qui a toujours été connu comme un cercle très fermé et éllitiste.

La galerie en ligne offre dorénavant la chance à toute une nouvelle génération de collectionneurs et d’artistes photographes d’exister, de se faire connaitre et de se développer.


© Zhamila Tampayeva



Interview with Mi-Sen Wu

Our guest today is a Taiwanese film director Mi-Sen Wu. In this interview he talks about his artistic projects, political views, moving to another country and new exciting beginnings.

–  ‘Fish in Tears’ is your first film and ‘Au revoir, Mon Pays’ is your twentieth and last one for now. Has your way of thinking about the cinema changed since you started? 

It remains almost the same for me. The means of production have changed over the years, and we have had to change tools constantly, from analogue to digital. In film school we used to shoot projects with 8 or 16mm film stock, later we started using more expensive, professional equipment and working in more complex teams. But I always like to go to the core of my belief, asking myself the most essential question: ‘Why do I have to make films?’. And this is the hardest part – to keep asking yourself, no matter how the world and the industry have changed. My mentality still remains the same: I always try to tell stories in an authentic, vivid and honest way. And the most difficult thing is to formulate or situate yourself as a storyteller in some particular context. For example, when making a documentary, you always have to ask yourself what kind of distance you need to keep from your characters or interviewees. Am I too far or too close to my characters with my own obsessions? We often abuse others’ misfortunes or consume their miseries in order to create the story, forgetting the fact that we are all human beings who live, breath and struggle with the problems.  When telling the stories, you have to think about other people’s senses. Also, I came to the conclusion that the more films you make, the more stories from everywhere you desire to tell your viewers because you always discover something new.  Briefly, the most important thing is not only to tell stories but to keep asking yourself why does it have to be you, not somebody else to be this storyteller?


– What was the most important lesson in your life that has had a positive effect on your films? How did that happen? 

Usually people consider the aftermath of life lessons to be positive but ignore the fact that they are mostly from negative events in their lives. The loneliness reveals your deeper emotions and feelings. You start creating when you are heartbroken and hurt. However, I don’t think it is a positive experience even if later you find it very practical or useful. In other words, what you call “positive effect”, in my case, are all the lessons that I gained a great pain from. We always have to pay for it in terms of burden of memories, passions and despairs… I had a lot of misfortunes and catastrophes which you could call “important lessons”.     

– Nowadays  there is a huge gap between entrainment and artistic cinema and while most of the people choose the first one, most of your films, like Van Gogh’s Ear, are mixture between documentary and fiction. Being purely artistic on one hand they clearly express your political and social position on the other hand. How did you decide to work in this particular genre? 

To be honest, the reason why I decided to be a filmmaker and went to study at the film school in the United States at a very young age was because I had a chance to work for TV Commercials as a Production Assistant. I thought filming was a ‘pretty’ industry to work in with its splendid environment. I felt that we could create perfect pictures and get things right on the screen when the real world was not like that at all. I enjoyed the atmosphere and traveling a lot to various interesting places instead of sitting in the office all day long. For a young person it was a dream job. So at first, I was not too ambitious about expressing my thoughts and views. I merely wanted to be in the entertainment business, making commercials and earning some money.  It was all about vanity.

But after I started seriously studying film history and filmmaking, I discovered a whole new world. The real world that I could recreate in my films. I had to tell so many things because the reality ruled by the system was totally vicious.  I realised that I was too naive to think about life as I did before.  It didn’t convince me anymore to do such kind of films.  I decided that instead of trying to make people laugh when there are so many problems in our society, I would rather tell real stories. However, these stories can be entertaining and positive as well. So back to your question, for me the genre of the film doesn’t really matter, as long as it suits my stories.  On the practical side, it is very hard to make a decent documentary because you realise that your idea can become a fabrication while you are searching for the truth.  I always pay great respect to independent documentary filmmakers – they are modern gladiators and protectors of the humanity.    

First time I met you, you showed one of your films in front of Canadian viewers. Why did you choose ‘amour-LEGEND’? What does this film mean for you?  

I realised that this film despite of being created twelve years ago, still represents well the destiny of the island of Taiwan and its people in a meticulous way.  The plot of the film takes place in South America but I shot the entire film in Taiwan. Not for the sake of limited budget but there are certain messages I wanted to send: This is the way how I perceived Taiwan and its unknown past, the lack of national narrativity.  And there are reasons for it.   

Although the spoken languages were Spanish, English and Japanese and the story of the film took place in small fictive island in South America and the actors were from Japan and Hong Kong, I still insist it is a tale of Taiwan. This film was criticized in Taiwan for not being Taiwanese enough because there we have some establishes clichés and views on modern Taiwanese culture.  And I am always being questioned why my leading actors are always Japanese.  My answer is simple: I don’t think that we have clear image of a Taiwanese male represented in cinema.  So for me, when a Japanese actor plays a role of Taiwanese male, it disorients sense of the character and this is one of the qualities I have observed from the reality.   

 – Our views change as we mature and learn. If you had the opportunity to go back in time and change something in any of your movies, then which movie and what changes will you do? 

I have never re-edited any of my films because a movie has its own life and in real life you cannot change what is already done. Nothing is perfect and I appreciate every mistake and defect of my work. Also, on the set, you already have better chances rather than in real life but still you cannot do endless quantity of the shots in your pursuit of perfect picture because people get tired. Some filmmakers do several versions of their films: for TV, for theatrical release or even for film festivals. But I always have one single version because, as I said, movie has its own life and you cannot have multiple lives, faces or souls. And then, it is always good to keep things imperfect as because when you go back in time to them, you might realize that you are even better and capable to make better films.   

 – You won honors at the international film festivals, like Pusan International Film Festival, “New Currents” section, Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, “New Chinese Beats” section, Göteburg International Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival and you also won Best Film from Golden Harvest Award twice time in your career. What role these honors and awards play in your life? What do they mean to you? 

I think everyone wants to be famous but this can mean different things for different people. Recently, I got an award from Golden Bell Awards. It is like Emmy Awards in the States.  I don’t watch television, there are a lot problems in the system of television in Taiwan; it could track back to the martial law period in Taiwan. But at the same time, it is the way of sending the true messages to the audience.  So I have very mixed feelings towards the fact that I received those awards from television.  Finally, I went on the stage and accepted that award, but I still keep asking myself what it really means to me.  I remember that at very young age I have already got many awards and I have always felt uncomfortable or uncertain about that. However, sometimes it can be very useful because it is a sort of dialogue with the audience. You create things and you get the responses and it is marvellous.  Also, it unleashes some of your anxiety of being a filmmaker.         


– Can you tell us more about your upcoming project(s)? 

I guess I have to give some credits to myself because I was brave enough to make the decision to move from Taiwan, my homeland and to settle down here in Montreal. After I had finished my studies in New York, I had to choose whether to work in the States or to go back home. At that time we were still influenced by the moral principles that you had to live where your parents are. So in 1995 I went back to Taiwan. Since I have left North America for so long and I had been living in Taiwan for almost 20 years now, I had all my connections there and I lost most of my connections in New York. Why I am saying goodbye to my country now? … You will get the answer in my latest works “Au revoir, Mon Pays” and “10-10” that will be released next year in October. I am going to build my career here even though it will be quite difficult to start everything from the very beginning. It will be a challenge for me but  I do not regret anything. Another project is a narrative feature film “Between You and Me”. In Taiwan every young man must go to the army. The film is about a man his late 40s. His name is Sam. He has been serving in the military service for 20 years, constantly trying to escape from the army.  He is being kept in jail because he tries to keep some secrets. Years later, Sam’s son reaches the age of compulsory military service and is being sent to the same military camp as his father because the officials thought it would stop Sam from running away again. However, before the son arrives, Sam disappears.  His son is appointed to catch his father Sam whom he has never met.  Like “amour-LEGEND“, the film will be both a fable and prophecy as well as metaphor of the history of Taiwan, but in the reversed ways of portray.  And I am planning to shoot the movie here in Quebec. The story unfolds in both cinematic and actual world simultaneously…  



Interview with Hanna Yakovleva

Our guest today is Hanna Yakovleva, founder of Private Art Education. Hanna talks contemporary art scene in London, changing careers and building her own company in art education.

– Hanna thank you so much for agreeing to talk with La Boheme. To start our conversation – could you tell us where your interest in art starts from? I know that your first degree is in Business Administration and Management. When did the switch happen?

–  My family has always loved art in all its different forms: literature, theatre, music and dance. Fine arts are one of the greatest interests of my mother. When we travel, we always visit some great museums. My father has even become an artist even though he has another, very busy job. Nevertheless, it was important for me to obtain good education in business before I even started to think about career in arts because it was always just a hobby for my self-development. The switch happened during my work and traveling… I realised that art and business match in a very fascinating way and that I wanted to be involved in this process. Obviously, I had to study this more profoundly before starting to work on a more serious level. That is how I decided to come to London…

– You did a course and Sotheby’s Institute of Art and completed your master’s degree at Christie’s. What would you say are the major outcomes of these studies?

– On my arrival to London, I enrolled to Sotheby’s Institute of Art where I enjoyed a half-year diploma course in art business. I was naive to think that this would be enough to build art career straight after. The studies at Sotheby’s were very engaging and provided good insights to the world of art market and its practices in such areas as marketing, law, etc. But the more I learnt art business, the more I realised that I haven’t had enough of knowledge about art history, which, I believe, is essential for those who want to call themselves art professionals. Not everyone will agree with me… Surprisingly, many people from art business don’t know art history well or, in the other way around, art historian may not be good at some aspects like art value. Their knowledge is not integrated in both sides of art: history and business.

That is why when I had opportunity to continue studying, I enrolled for an MA programme at Christies’s, concentrating particularly on art history. As for my inner thoughts, the more I study art, the more I realise that I don’t know enough and that’s why I learn constantly at the art fairs, art conferences and symposiums all around the world. I have found the peace and pleasure in relentless studying and passing this knowledge to other people who want to understand contemporary art market as well as deep philosophy, politics, evolution of society that art history encompasses. Art World is very complex and dynamic, there are many aspects that you can’t simply learn at school. Only being in this world for a really long time is enough to start understanding the sector and its complex system and constantly altering reality.

 Many people wishing to study Art Business or a related degree in London, always come to a question of deciding between doing that at Christie’s or Sotheby’s. What are the main differences between their teaching approaches? How would you advise to choose?

– Both are equally good, to be brief.
At Sotheby’s Institute of Art I did one full-time semester course in Art and Business and it was a gateway to the world of art for me. We had leading art professionals who introduced us contemporary art practices like law, marketing and a bit of art history. But, as I mentioned earlier, it was not enough for me so straight after that I sent applications for Art Business MLitt to few art institutions, including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. I was accepted everywhere but decided to pursue my degree at Christie’s. I will tell you the story from my fateful interview, which I recall with a deep gratitude. Professor, who I knew very well and who wished me only good, asked me a question:  “So, you traveled to few art fairs this year: Art Dubai, TEFAF in Maastricht, FIAC in Paris and Art Basel in Basel. Which one you enjoyed the most?”. “I loved all of them but TEFAF is my number one!” – I answered confidently – “Because it was exceptionally classy, beautiful and I saw the finest quality art from across the ages”. I then added, “Art history fascinates me!” I was not accepted to Art business MSc but I was welcomed to do MA in Art History at Christie’s. Professor thought it would be the best option for me and for my art history passion. Well, I was mad for a few days, but now, looking back, I am very thankful that he saw love for art within me and wisely gave me one of the best advices in my life! This story proves another point… Studying at Christie’s is very tough but extremely good! Unfortunately, Master’s programme in Art History and Art-World Practice doesn’t exist anymore but this also proves that my company ‘Private Art Education’ has extra points in satisfying the need of good quality art history studies.

– Could you please share how you came up with the idea of Private Art Education? Why someone willing to get to know art better should come to you?

– Visualise the last time you visited a museum. Did you look at a masterpiece with the admiration and ask yourself why do you like it? We tend to analyse art with our own subjective minds and life experiences when, in reality, the meaning can be different. I love art that encompasses historical knowledge and at Private Art Education we want to teach you how to read artworks by yourself, using the skills acquired from us.
The power of knowledge is hard to underestimate because it welcomes us into our own inner worlds. Understanding the history of art can help make our lives fuller as we unravel the true origins of modern culture, civilisation and evolution of various artistic styles.
Our aim is to provide comfortable, exciting and innovative environment to learn art history, to get better understanding of various aspects of the art business, get the inside stories from the art-world experts and create a relaxing and friendly networking atmosphere.


– How do you choose subjects to cover? What inspires you in preparation of the tours and lectures?

– The inspiration for our art programmes that I design by myself is simple – it covers all major art styles chronologically and in evolutional way. Our topics and subjects are quite diverse, starting from the Renaissance and moving up towards Modern and Contemporary Art. In my opinion, it is important to be able to recognise art styles and have the ability to use appropriate art terms when discussing culture with friends and colleagues, because it demonstrates your intricate knowledge of the components that make up our culture. Private Art Education membership course will give you necessary skills to recognise the most important aspects that make up art history: art movements, symbols, themes, context, styles and many more.
One of the best testimonials that I have received from our member was: “You gave me the entire world of art for the rest of my life to enjoy. There is no price for that”. This is my main mission: to inspire people to love and appreciate art.

– What is your opinion of the current art market and London art market in particular, and its trends?

– The sensible trend of the art world is that the industry is growing in its sizes, shifting across the borders, thanks to the phenomena of online sales and emerging markets. Also it’s steadily becoming more transparent, thanks to legislation changes. Blue-chips galleries are firmly growing and slowly overtaking market shares from mid-range competitors. According to annual art market report, larger art dealers (10+ employees) are more likely to end this year in profit, they feel more confident on the market, than smaller size galleries/dealerships.

Although, from the other hand, galleries that represent new emerging artists are becoming increasingly popular. Online sales are gaining momentum and online auctioneers are bidding for the attention of collectors of different scale. As my art colleague’s Marine Tanguy MTart agency’s motto states: “Don’t Invest in Art, Invest in Artist”, it seams to echo one more global art trend.


–  What would be your top-7 must-see places for art in London. I guess that might be the Wallace Collection which you seem to be fond of…   What else would that be?

–  National Gallery (to see masterpieces from the Renaissance to Modern, paintings that ‘speak’ by Titian, Rubens, Holbein, Caravaggio, Monet and many other magnificent artists), National Portrait Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain, Tate Modern.
Temporary Exhibitions for next few months in London: Basquiat: Boom for Real at Barbican Art Gallery, Dali/ Duchamp at Royal Academy of Arts, Modigliani at Tate Modern, London Art Fair in January.
And BE CURIOUS… Choose the location that you want to explore and we will look up together. Cultural London has a lot to offer! Private museums, galleries, including Sir John Soane museum, Kensington Palace, the Saatchi Gallery and many more. Whether you love Old Masters or modern art, contemporary sculpture or Impressionist paintings, London has an art gallery will please your tastes. Private Art Education can arrange private art gallery views exclusively for you, auction house visits or even tours of private collections.


© Zhamila Tampayeva



Interview with Antoine Vignault, Art/Design Director @ O Δ K Gallery

Antoine Vignault is a creative director, designer and alchemist who draws his inspiration from history, ancient myths and legends, sacred geometry, as well as engineering sciences. He creates magnificent pieces of furniture; all produced in limited series, their excellence is strikingly undeniable. In this interview Antoine tells us about his career path, his vision of contemporary art and the philosophy of his creations which have so far been appreciated by the best experts and collectors.

– Antoine, let’s start from the very beginning. How did you start running your own studio

– I had an opportunity to work at The Custom Furniture Department for twelve years. It was the universe that linked haute-couture with decorative arts. I worked on the projects of various designers, on the edition and on the drawings that I adapted, developed, promoted and sometimes did after-sales service. Then I decided to deepen that knowledge and to rediscover the sources of inspiration of those creators who succeeded in revealing a certain purity of all the styles that preceded them. As for me, I am passionate about archeology and history. It’s a big pleasure to spend time in the greatest classical museums like the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the British Museum, where walking through the alleys from time to time I stop and say to myself: “Wow, this object is fascinating because it could still be a magnificent detail or a contemporary jewel». The modernity of this object is incredible because the piece dates back to 5000 BC. For 7000 years this object, which was conceived as a sacred object, rare and precious for so long, has been preserved by generations of collectors because it possesses a universal code of beauty which is based on proportions, shapes etc. I have very good knowledge of decorative arts and workshops, I know where to find people who can produce a beautiful object so I try to create objects which will be appreciated not only during the next five-ten years but much longer, and by people who will continue appreciating these codes and proportions.


– What are your sources of inspiration apart from archeology?

– I am an eternally curious type of person and I do not put up barriers. I like to learn. I accumulate diversified books and knowledge: philosophy, science, astronomy, architecture, sometimes some esoteric writings … These domains, among many others, inspire and fascinate me.

– The first thing that we see on your website is the quote of Aristotle : «The purpose of Art is to embody the secret essence of things, not copying their appearance.» How is this quote related to you work

– In fact, with my knowledge of decorative arts, history and architecture I try to use some fundamental elements t0 create new and unique pieces that would speak unconsciously to people who do not necessarily have this culture, but who still recognize the codes that are part of a collective memory. But I always do it with a very contemporary touch: whether it’s the choice of materials, association of certain shapes or certain details that would bring something totally new. I am trying to achieve this subtle balance between classic references and unusual elements. It is a balance that should never be upset and should be evolving permanently.


– What materials do you use for these creations? Where do they come from?

– I have a predilection for natural materials. In the past I used to work with synthetic materials but they fade quickly and restoration is impossible after a few years. Synthetic materials degrade but natural ones give a patina or can be restored. In any case, their evolution is positive. In several years wood could transform into bronze, leather into stone … Same thing for the metal that will change its color or become almost mineral. Such pieces are in the process of constant evolution and instead of degrading they improve.

– Apart from classic and primitive art, what do you like on contemporary art scene? 

– In contemporary art I am looking for the elements that match with my own universe. It means, I love when different references are crossed, when new artists are not following the line of the previous ones but try to show new vision of the things that we all know by heart but that would finally seem completely new and astonishing. It is not the artist itself whom I like, but his work. Our society is too much preoccupied with brands. I do not care for names and never place any value in them, despite the fact that my studio is indeed a brand of its own. My focus is the object itself. I believe that today there’s a great deal of speculation on the art market, and it may erroneously value not the most distinguished pieces of art just due to the popularity of a particular author. It is not normal. I consider that the eye of aesthete is not the same as the eye of speculator. The eye of speculator will merely stay on the surface of things, when the aesthete will have deeper vision, seeing the essence of the work. He will feel its true value regardless the current fashion or time. For example, I am fascinated by the antique dealers who would find interesting objects for a few euros and then, by taking these works out of their context, sell them for a price a hundred or thousand times more expensive. For example, Madeleine Castaing, that sacred monster of decorative arts, got to buy some items for three-quarter coins at flea markets and resell them for gold’s prices. Sometimes, she would even refuse to sell the objects in order to boost their value. I find this more fascinating than going to buy manufactured pieces of some famous contemporary artists. I am not sure that in a hundred years these objects will have the same value that they have today.

– Your creations are so unique, we see all the effort invested in their production. Are there any objects that you can’t, even for a moment, think of separating yourself from?

– All parts are unique, handmade in very small quantities, but I always have a prototype that I keep for myself. This allows me not to suffer this frustration. The idea is to be able to keep the trace. I think most artists are attached to their productions because they come out of their minds and souls.

– Could you describe your standard client if such a type at all exists?

– It’s a bit difficult because I do not always know the final customer. Most of the time I go through the decorators. They know the customers. Generally my customers  know what culture ought to be, some knowledge of art history, they have a very admirable quality of knowing how to mix things and put them together so that their décor is exceptionally good.

– You are fond of a lot of different things : engineering science, art etc. How do you define yourself? 

– May be an alchemist of modern times. I like the idea of being able to combine things from one domain with another without necessarily being a specialist, but by having sufficient multiple skills that will allow me to come to some different and amazing solutions.

© Zhamila Tampayeva


Interview with Alix Philippe

Alix Philippe is a Belgian painter who studied Comics at Institut Saint-Luc in Brussels and attended Fine Art Academy of Boitsfort in Brussels. Photographing and then painting people in markets, restaurants or stations, Alix emphasizes a moment of enigma, intimacy and rich emotional state of unknown characters, making the viewers to plunge into an unknown story. In this interview Alix tells us about what inspires her, her switch from a law career to art and art scene in Brussels.

– Your career path is very interesting, I know you used to be a lawyer before. When have you understood that being a painter is your true vocation?

– I have always wanted to be a painter but I never knew how. When you are eighteen, you are not always mature enough to take the decision to become an artist. The artistic path can seem very abstract and a complicated to start. I had been doing well at school and was surrounded by very academic people, especially my dad who is a law teacher and practitioner. That pushed me to chose a safer path; but inside, this desire to be a painter has always been there and I had that little feeling that I will find a way no matter what happens. In my last year of studies, I did an Erasmus programme in Milan and lived with a fashion designer. I got interested in fashion and decided after my law studies I would study fashion. I realized that the job of fashion designer was something pretty concrete and very creative and that I could perhaps make a living out of it. But after a year in fashion design in Brussels,  I thought that the most important thing for me was to paint and nothing could replace it so I decided to start working as a lawyer. Aside my job, I found some opportunities to create and show my paintings but it was very challenging whilst I was working in law firm. So in September 2014 I decided to quit my job and went to London to do a Master’s in Art Business for a year. I wanted to know more about the art world. After that, I had a few job experiences in the art world, in galleries and art fairs. It’s in March 2016 that I took the decision to be a full-time painter. My boyfriend was an artist as well and he encouraged me a lot in starting my artistic career for good.

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Conversation, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 75 x 100 cm

– You told that previously you were more of an abstract painter. Can you tell us about the evolution of your style? 

– Actually I never really considered myself an abstract painter. I made a few abstract paintings in 2010 when a friend of mine proposed me to participate in the exhibition called “Full Wind” in Brussels. The subject was very abstract to me. I sold my work, I had a lot of good comments so I created new series of abstract paintings for three other shows in Brussels. I found the inspiration in nature, particularly in the four main elements: earth, air, fire and water.

But then I came back to the figurative art as I was – and have always been – interested in filming, framing and comics as well. I studied a year in comics in Brussels also; I like telling stories through images and I wanted to learn more about the building of a storyboard.

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Rome, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 40×50 cm

–  Tell me about your creative process? You see an interesting image, you take a  spontaneous photo and then?

– I have been based in London for three years. I think I became a street artist here in the sense that I take a lot of pictures in the street which I use to create my paintings.  London is an amazing city where you can find numerous areas with different colours and people of different cultures. I was inspired by the city so I started taking a lot different pictures and using them for my paintings. Usually I take pictures of girls walking around London in markets or stations, wearing beautiful clothes. Then I compose painting using those photographs as basis. For example, I have a painting called “La Fille au Bouquet”, I saw this girl with a beautiful bouquet from the flower market on Columbia road, she was very fresh and elegant. Then I used my tube station in South Ealing for creating the  background of the painting. I like the process of composition – cutting the pictures, composing the background, taking off or adding elements. The light is very important for me as well.

It is a lot of work, I spend a lot of time working on a painting. I do not impose any story behind of the painting because I want people to invent the story themselves.

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La Fille au Bouquet, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 75×100 cm

– You have already mentioned that you studied at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. Could you tell us more about your studies? Have they helped you in real life? Sometimes for artists it is quite difficult to be a businessman, to do marketing and to do art at the same time. Do you think that the artists should do this work themselves or they should let the professionals do the job? 

– It is very hard to start an artistic career so the easiest way would be if someone proposes you to represent you but usually it does not happen like that. My master’s in Art Business helped me obtain a good overview of the art world and I met a lot of interesting people from this world. It is never easy to understand the “codes” of this particular world.

I quite like the fact that the galleries exist because being an artist is not being an art dealer so it is good when your are represented by someone who can take over the commercial aspect of your activity. You don’t have to do all marketing, sales etc by yourself. At the same time it might be a problem because you have more barriers… If you do not have a gallery that represents you after ten years of work, that does not look good. That’s the tricky part.

– How can you describe the art scene in Belgium, and in Brussels particularly?

– I have just moved back to Brussels from London so I do not know it very well but I like Belgian public. I participated in The Accessible Art Fair in September 2016 and noticed that people are very open. They do not expect you to have an extraordinary CV, or degree from the best art school. Here, in London, if you go to good gallery, you see that the majority of the artists attended very good art schools. Art schools have the advantage to offer you a network and you have to make the most of it. Colllectors usually go to school shows. In my opinion, they have more chances rather than autodidact artists. London is an important marketplace , you will find more art collectors but in Belgium people buy more with their hearts I think… They can be surprising. I guess London is also much more competitive.

-Yesterday you sold one of your major paintings. Do you feel sad giving away your «kid»?

– This afternoon I sent off my “Sloane Square” painting and I am actually happy that it will stay in London. It is a good feeling to know that your paintings are spread in different places and countries.

© Zhamila Tampayeva


Sloane Square, 2017, acrylic on linen, 50×75 cm