0 Love It

Aleksandra Mir interview: 'If I did this alone it would look really boring'

The London-based artist talks about brutalism, working with Sharpie pens and mocking art history.


Installation image: Dan Weill. Copyright © 2014 Drawing Room

With the help of ten assistants, the London-based artist has transformed our city into a 24 metre-long drawing that delves into the collective dynamism of the metropolis.

What was it about London that inspired you to make this work?
'I'm mostly interested in the energy. The drawing is an image of London landmarks that harnesses the energy of the ten people who are helping me make this work. They're demographically very different and they contribute their personality and diversity to this drawing.'

What aspects of the city did you want to capture?
'I'm intrigued by London's incredible layering of history, styles and the congestion of it all. The city is so rich, so dense. Many cities have just one style but here you have a brutalist building next to the Shard, for example. It's an archaeology of the city, in a way, and excavating those layers has been fascinating.'

You've drawn the Gherkin upside down!
'Yes, that's just taking artistic liberties; I don't want to render the city architecturally. I've squashed one building from Westminster next to an Elephant & Castle high-rise to make the disparity appear even more overt. My job as an artist is to subvert and mock the age-old traditions of Western art.'

The city's so colourful but you work in monochrome. Why?
'The work is black and white but it has a vibrancy and there are different tonalities in the black. I've pushed the pen to its extreme, creating a whole repertoire of strokes, lines and patterns.’

Why do you work with a team of

'If I did this alone it would look really boring. You can see how much more vibrant it is because there are different hands doing it. I'm using people as a way of diversifying my own palette.'

Does your way of working reflect your subject?

'My subject is always society. This is the first project where I've focused
on architecture as a subject but it's always about communal experience.'

What is it about Sharpie pens that you love?
'It's a random preference - like the way you like a flavour of ice cream, I suppose. I used to use Sharpies for taking notes and doodling. I was then asked to do a drawing for a fanzine and I used a Sharpie and it felt free and unburdened. With a Sharpie there isn't that tremendous weight of history on your shoulder. It's just a contemporary gadget and if I can elevate it into something masterful then hopefully I'm in sync with my time.'

Read more art interviews

Doug Aitken

We talk to the man behind the Barbican's spectacular 'Station to Station'

Read more
By: Freire Barnes

Richard Wentworth

What's one of our greatest sculptors doing making a giant painting for a car park roof in Peckham?

Read more
By: Martin Coomer

Fiona Tan

The Amsterdam-based artist known for her immersive film installations talks to Time Out about her two London shows: ‘Inventory’, which takes inspiration from the eclectic Sir John Soane’s Museum, and ‘Ghost Dwellings’, an installation which focuses on natural and economic disasters in Detroit, Cork and Japan.  You don’t live in London, so what attracted you to Sir John Soane’s Museum?‘I noticed that when I was preparing for a show in Rome I kept thinking about Soane’s. I had been doing a lot of research into collections and considering how long we’ve had public museums, and his place is very much a starting point to think about that. And of course, it’s fantastic.’ What aspects of the museum did you want to focus on?‘I focused on the areas (where) he hung what he called his “marbles”: all the architectural fragments and things he collected from ancient Rome and Greece. I’m not interested in trying to replicate the museum. Why should I? It’s a unique place and everyone should go – and everyone does, I think. Instead, I was very interested in the idea of the original and the copy, because there are a lot of plaster casts on display. It got me thinking about the medium.’ Is that why you chose to shoot the film on six different formats?‘Basically I decided to choose not to choose. Usually when I’m preparing a piece I make tests with different cameras and I thought maybe it’s interesting to bring that to the forefront in ‘Inventory’ – the fact that there are all these mediums a

Read more
By: Freire Barnes

Sanya Kantarovsky

Moscow-born, New York-based painter Sanya Kantarovsky has teamed up with performance artist Ieva Misevičiūtė for his show at Studio Voltaire, which is inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s surreal, satirical novel about the Devil’s visit to Moscow, ‘The Master and Margarita’. On the opening night, Misevičiūtė performed on a stage shaped like ‘Behemoth’ – the book’s diabolical black cat. A film of the performance is on show in the gallery foyer, while the cat remains as a sculpture-cum-bench from which you can admire Kantarovsky’s spellbinding paintings. Time Out caught up with him. How did the show come about?‘The show came out of a collaborative process with performance artist Ieva Misevičiūtė. Most of the figures in the paintings are based on a series of gesture studies I made of her movements in my studio. When she performs in the gallery space there’s an indexical relationship between her body and the gestures in the paintings.’ How conscious were you of making work for a former church?‘I was responding to the history of the space as a church, which made sense with the novel's Christian meta-narrative.  I approached this as a site-specific installation rather than a straightforward painting show. There was an internal debate about how the space would exist after Ieva's performance because her presence throws the status of the paintings into question. When Ieva is on stage, they comprise an environment for her performance and become contingent on her body.’  It’s very dramatic

Read more
By: Martin Coomer

Thomas Struth

The German photographer tells us about not being seduced by propaganda and photographing the Queen

Read more
By: Freire Barnes

Peter Kennard

The British artist tells us about a half-century as one of Brit art’s original bad boys

Read more
By: Martin Coomer

AA Bronson

Time Out falls under the spell of this trailblazing artist

Read more
By: Martin Coomer

Carol Bove

The sculptor talks about experiencing art, bringing colour into her palette, and her love of crushing things

Read more
By: Freire Barnes

Jonathan Horowitz

The New Yorker Jonathan Horowitz tells us about pop art, perfection and painting Beyoncé

Read more
By: Martin Coomer
Show more