Aphra Shemza is a London based new media artist working with abstraction, interactivity and light. Exploring New Modernism in the 21st Century, Shemza’s work is multidisciplinary making reference to Modernism with a renewed optimism. Seeking to express herself through radical new technologies, Shemza’s work explores the way in which we might use these tools to imagine what the role of art could be in the future. The way in which the viewer responds to the work is key to how it is produced and it is through their presence that the works come to life creating active participation. In using these interactive devices Shemza’s work is accessible to everyone, no matter what their age, education or background.
1. How did you get to where you are as an artist?
Both my grandparents were artists, so I am lucky enough to have been surrounded with art my whole life. My grandfather was Anwar Jalal Shemza, a Pakistani modernist painter, we recently had an exhibition of his work at Tate Britain in 2016 (http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/my-grandfather-anwar-jalal-shemza) So I have always been encouraged to create art and have done so since a very young age.
I studied Fine Art at university and graduated in 2012. Since then I have been forging my way in the art world. Although hard work at first working for many other artists and arts organizations for 3 years or so, I am now a professional artist making a living through my work.
2. What is your typical day like?
There isn’t really a typical day for me, from day to day I work on totally different projects and tasks, which is why I love being an artist so much, it keeps you on your toes! In a quieter period, I would normally begin early morning and start with a creative or practical task as I am best at these earlier on. Later on in the day I turn my hand to my emails, marketing and exploring new opportunities. Increasingly at the moment I am out of the studio meeting people and exhibiting my work.
3. Who or what inspires you?
Historically I am inspired by the modernist artists of the 20s-40s, the Bauhaus and later the Californian Light and Space Movement, artists such as; Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Oskar Schlemmer, Alexander Calder, Malevich, James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson.
Currently I am inspired by the city I live in (London) and the artist community who come to FLUX Events (www.fluxevents.co.uk) which is an organisation I co-founded along with two other artists; Maria Almena and Oliver Gingrich, with the aim of creating a peer led platform for artists working with technology right NOW in the UK. We have many exciting events and exhibitions upcoming this year.
4. How did you get involved with Feral Horses?
I met Feral Horses at an exhibition of mine and we began the conversation of how we could collaborate with each other then. We have been working together since. (You can read the Culture Fancier interview with Feral Horses here).
5. In another interview, you mentioned that you're interested in sustainability. As an artist, what does that mean to you and for your work?
Sustainability in the media arts is my current research project. I am passionate about New Media art, technology, innovation and the future, which is why I address these themes in my art practice. Although technology has enabled me to do so many things within my practice, it has also forced me into a dialogue with our throw-away culture. On the one hand I am excited by the possibilities these medias allow me to explore and on the other I am apprehensive about the unknowns that they present, in terms of material stability, sustainability and maintenance.
I am currently compiling an online peer resource for artist’s working with technology who wish to be mindful of their environmental impact. You can view a pilot of the online resource here: www.art-ology.co.uk.
Shortly I will be releasing some 3d animated designs for what an artwork of the future could be like that adheres to these sustainable guidelines as outlined on the website.
6. With new media and technology changing as quickly as it is, are you ever concerned about the longevity or relevancy of your work?
Yes absolutely I believe it is very important for media artists to understand the lifespan of their works and to put in place conservation techniques and long-lasting materials from the outset to ensure its longevity and collectability.
In terms of relevancy my work is very much a product of my life here in London, reflecting the culture that surrounds me and it changes constantly; I update my aesthetic, style, materials and remit on a week by week basis. Artists tend to make work with the most radical technology available to them and as this changes so will my practice renew itself.
7. You've had numerous exhibitions in London, do you have plans to exhibit elsewhere?
I have exhibited my work at Cannes Film Festival in 2016 and in Xi’an, China last year with the British Council. I am always looking for a chance to show my work globally and have a couple of projects I am working on currently that will be outside of London, soon to be released.
8. What do you think the role of art in the future will be?
I have many different ideas about this but in my recent academic paper submitted for EVA conference 2018 I used this quote from Alan Watts from his essay ‘Art with a Capital A’, although abstract perhaps offers a point of departure for this question:
“All art is in transition…in preparation for a return to the inseparability of art and everyday life. The paintings are vanishing into the walls: but they will be marvelous walls. In turn, the walls will vanish into the landscape, but the view will be ecstatic. And after that the viewer will vanish from the view.”
9. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creatives?
From my experience being an artist is a lot of hard work but its incredibly rewarding, having your work out there for all to see and enjoy. Keep going, its going to take a huge amount of determination but don’t give up if you can keep going you will succeed.
10. What's next for you?
Currently I have just installed an exhibition of my works at the ITS Clubhouse Mayfair, please email me for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am speaking and hosting a FLUX Event called New Social Sculpture on 2nd May at the Library Club with three other amazing artists. More info and tickets here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1983278868589728/ | http://www.fluxevents.co.uk/new-social-sculpture.html
Exhibiting my work at ART IN FLUX: Experiments in Media Arts Now, 31st May – 3rd June 2018, Ugly Duck, London. More info and tickets here:
Speaking at the 2018 EVA conference presenting my paper, It Starts with the Artist: Solutions for a Sustainable Media Arts Practice. 11th July 2018, 10.20am, British Computer Society, London. More info and tickets here: http://www.eva-london.org/
Interview by Glodeane Brown
Images provided Aphra Shemza
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