portraits

interview, visual art

Continuity with Emily Tat

Continuity I , 2017

Continuity I, 2017

Artist and illustrator Emily Tat moved to New York with her partner this past fall. Her style incorporates ink drawing and watercolor, sometimes tracing her figures in water and allowing the ink to seep into the damp paper. Ralph Steadman is an easy comparison, and one that she invites. “It’s such a compliment because he is fucking amazing. He uses protractors to make these very straight lines and protractors to draw the eyes. But all around the figures is just ink everywhere.”

Her current style is a recent development in her artistic career. “I used to do photorealistic oil paintings. When I was doing my degree in my final painting course, I had a very specific style, and I felt that I had to stick to it. I got criticized very badly by the professors. So I decided to go another way and began making video art, but I never felt quite into what I was doing. Shortly after I started dating my partner, Guido, we were in his dorm room, he was playing music and I felt like drawing. He only had this calligraphy pen that I still use. It forced me to draw loosely in a way that I never had to before. My favorite thing about drawing this way is that I feel that I can be very abstract and mess around with overlapping colors and spilling ink. I also like it to be very clean, with lots of negative space around what I’m drawing. I never sketch things out, so sometimes I run into the edge of pages.”

Guido , 2015

Guido, 2015

Portraiture is an incredibly important aspect of Emily’s oeuvre, and she strives to capture her sitter’s essence while keeping the form minimal and legible. “I think it’s important to get the form of something, and to keep its structure. At the same time I like to add these weird, abstract elements to it. I do it a lot with feet and hands, and to exaggerate limbs and fingers. It’s important to capture the structure of someone’s face. I was doing a commission for this couple, and they said they really felt that I captured both of them and their connection to each other. That is the depth that is important for me to capture in a drawing… What I’m driving for is for them to see the portrait and say ‘that’s me!’ I get frustrated with myself very quickly. If I feel that I haven’t captured someone it, then it really upsets me.”

Galentines Day , 2018

Galentines Day, 2018

What captivates Emily most when portraying subjects are sharp and angular features, but capturing these characteristics is not her main goal. The ritual and process of portraiture is what attracts her to that type of work. “When I first started doing this kind of work, a lot of people asked to pose for me. It’s just really nice when someone wants that moment. If you think about it, unless you’re in a relationship with someone how often do you get to look at someone’s face? You forget things like what color someone’s eyes are or the shape of their nose. You only get to know that when you look at someone’s face over time. So it’s really nice to have that 3 or 4-hour period where I can take a friend, or someone I don’t even know at all, and really look at them. It can make someone very vulnerable if they are posing naked. People often do it when they want a bit of validation or a little moment for themselves. I think people often don’t get enough attention, and so it’s really nice to have the opportunity to give people that recognition.”

“Since I’ve moved here I’ve had some ups and downs, but I feel as if I am having resurgence” Emily said. She started making single-line drawings, creating still lifes and portraits without lifting her pen from the paper. “I really love it because everything that is in my head can just spill out onto the page. It’s very reflective of the medium that I use as well, because ink is very quick and you have to make decisions immediately.” Her subjects have also become more personal since starting these single-line drawings. Emily showed me a drawing of her and her friend Julia and a drawing of a jar of nutmeg. “[Julia] is just one of my most special friends in the whole entire world. Ever since we met, we have had this incredible friendship that’s never faltered. I don’t have that many friendships like that. Doing a portrait in this way is really reflective of how I feel about her. I enjoyed making single-line drawings of things that comforted me, since I had just moved here. Even though things are different and weird in this country, these drawings remind me of the things in my life that are continuous. It goes beyond relationships between me and other people. There are ones of certain foods that are special to me, because my homesickness manifests itself often through food. Guido and I have this jar of whole nutmeg in our kitchen. Back in London he kept banging on about how he wanted whole nutmeg in the kitchen and he couldn’t find it anywhere, so I found some for him we I went to the south of France. It’s this continuity from our kitchen in London to our kitchen here that mirrors the continuity of our relationship.”

Nutmeg , 2017

Nutmeg, 2017


You can see more work by Emily Tat on her website.

photography

More Photos of People by Rachel Hawatmeh

I like taking pictures of people because it feels right. I enjoy observing people in general: the way they speak, eat, laugh, stand amongst each other, anything. I find people extremely fascinating. They are more interesting than inanimate objects. Sometimes, it's the imperfection of a person that makes the photograph beautiful. Landscapes and objects can be too beautiful and too pristine, while photographs of people have personality. The camera allows me to capture these personalities and moments of humanity, and share them with the world. Other people get to see what I see, observe, and love. It instills meaning into a candid shot, and serves as a way for me to communicate other people's stories as well as my own.


Rachel likes food and taking pictures of people. She lives in LA. You can find Rachel's first collection of Photos of People here. Find more photography by Rachel Hawatmeh on her Tumblr.

video

Spacebook Episode 11 - "Infurna"

Thomas Baldwin came to me in 2013 with an idea: record audio of people talking about the objects that were in their desks. I told him we should take video instead, and make it about the whole room, not just their desks.

From the inception and at its core, Spacebook has been about object history. Thomas and I believe that every object has a story, and that the stories you choose to feature in your room(s–we quickly expanded beyond the confines of the bedroom) say something about you.

Around the same time that Thomas and I made the first Spacebook episode, I saw the Long Portraits of Clayton Cubitt. Long Portraits are exactly what you think they are (unless you think they are something other than the video equivalent of a photographed portrait, in which case, Long Portraits are nothing like you think).

Cubitt’s portraits reveal so much more about the subject than a single frame could. Take this Long Portrait of Graciella Longoria, recorded on the first anniversary of her father’s death:

Cubitt’s portraits can be excruciating to watch. He is asking his audience to spend up to five uninterrupted minutes watching a single subject. The subject does not leave the frame. The frame does not move. But the audience’s patience is rewarded; the portrait of Longoria is much more complex, more emotional, and more three-dimensional than just a single frame.

(Cubitt continued to explore how video [and other things] can change the traditional portrait in his series Hysterical Literature, which features women reading while an assistant “distracts them with a vibrator.”)

In his One Shot Stories series, Josef Kubota Wladyka takes the idea of a Long Portrait one step further (or one backwards): he adds words. A voiceover, to be specific. While you can argue that adding words to a portrait defeats the purpose, the strength of a good story is hard to deny.

It also fits well into the aesthetic of Spacebook. The idea coalesced quickly: a long portrait, taken inside or in front of a larger space that means something to the subject, and a voiceover explaining why it has meaning. I wanted to make the first one of these portraits in 2013; it took me two years to finally do so.

I find this idea–this new way of making a Spacebook episode–interesting for many reasons, chief of which is the change in dynamic between private and public spaces. In many Spacebook episodes, the objects in the subjects’ private spaces are artifacts of experiences in public spaces­–museums, foreign cities, high school. (See Episode 3 - "Bramhall" for the prime example of this.) In these new Spacebook episodes, I will be able to explore the personal, private stories behind a subjects’ connection to a public space. While it is not a perfect 180 turn, it is a great and interesting parallel.

Spacebook has been a lot of things over the two years since Thomas and I made that first episode. Above all, it has consistently been a place of experimentation–in style, in form, in subject matter. This mini-series of long portraits is another step in that history of experimentation. 

Click here to read more about Spacebook and watch past episodes.


Adam Cecil is a writer living in Brooklyn. He is also the Managing Editor of this zine. You can find more of his work on his website.

photography

Photos of People by Rachel Hawatmeh


Mayda is a classy woman who is gorgeous from the inside out. I was sitting next to her while she was eating breakfast with her daughter and a relative. Mayda was ecstatic when I approached her for a photograph, she told me I asked the right person. She immediately struck a pose and held it patiently as I snapped away. She then asked me if I was Armenian, and I told her I was Jordanian, but she herself was Armenian. Her eyes immediately started to swell up with tears as she explained to me why she was in Los Angeles (regarding family matters). Before parting ways, she pulled out a delicious date-filled, home-made cookie from her purse and wished me a beautiful marriage in the future. - Rachel Hawatmeh


Rachel likes food and taking pictures of people. She lives in LA. Find more photography by Rachel Hawatmeh on her Tumblr.