7 artists, 7 world-view points, 7 films made by Tate Shot. Check our selection of videos about art and artists from around the world: Hito Steyerl, Martin Parr, David Medalla, Yayoi Kusama, Ed Ruscha, Grayson and Kiki Smith. Meet contemporary artists and discover how they work.
Yayoi Kusama – Obsessed with Polka Dots
The nine decades of artist Yayoi Kusama’s life have taken her from rural Japan to the New York art scene to contemporary Tokyo, in a career in which she has continuously innovated and re-invented her style.
Well-known for her repeating dot patterns, her art encompasses an astonishing variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and immersive installation. It ranges from works on paper featuring intense semi-abstract imagery, to soft sculpture known as ‘Accumulations’, to her ‘Infinity Net’ paintings, made up of carefully repeated arcs of paint built up into large patterns.
Since 1977 Kusama has lived voluntarily in a psychiatric institution, and much of her work has been marked with obsessiveness and a desire to escape from psychological trauma. In an attempt to share her experiences, she creates installations that immerse the viewer in her obsessive vision of endless dots and nets or infinitely mirrored space.
At the centre of the art world in the 1960s, she came into contact with artists including Donald Judd, Andy Warhol, Joseph Cornell and Claes Oldenburg, influencing many along the way. She has traded on her identity as an ‘outsider’ in many contexts – as a female artist in a male-dominated society, as a Japanese person in the Western art world, and as a victim of her own neurotic and obsessional symptoms.
After achieving fame and notoriety with groundbreaking art happenings and events, she returned to her country of birth and is now Japan’s most prominent contemporary artist.
Born in the Philippines and based in Britain since the sixties, with stints in New York and Paris, artist David Medalla describes himself as a citizen of the world. His work does not come from one single cultural perspective but draws from his constant travelling, inspired by the places and the people he meets.
TateShots joined him on a boat trip down the river Thames to see his kinetic, bubble machine sculpture, on show in the exhibition Migrations at Tate Britain, and asked him about a life of adventuring.
Ed Ruscha – The Tension of Words and Images
Ed Ruscha began his career as a layout artist at a Los Angeles advertising agency in the late 1950s. He has continued to draw on this background, producing works that demonstrate an ongoing interest in typography, signage and the West Coast of the United States.
His creates paintings in which text is superimposed over landscapes and traditional American vistas, where the bold lettering is in complete opposition to the idyllic, idealised and somewhat kitsch representations of the images. Through this playful and characteristically enigmatic conflation of image and text, Ruscha explores the viewer’s interpretation of language and transforms the words into subjects in themselves.
Martin Parr – ‘Photography is a Form of Therapy’
A pioneer of social documentary photography, the Bristol-based photographer has been recording the changing face of Britain for over 40 years. He has travelled the world studying selfie-stick armoured hoards of tourists and leathered sunbathers, and has amassed an international archive of photographs of food, the socio-cultural signifier binding communities together. Parr’s photobooks are a democratic method of enabling his art to be experienced by a wider audience — after all, the protagonists of Parr’s works are ordinary working people (as seen in ‘The Black Country’ series 2011 and ‘Portrait of a City’ exhibition 2017), people that remind you of your neighbours or the familiar faces you see at the bus stop every morning. Photobooks such as ‘The Martin Parr Coloring Book!’ (2017) and the re-edition of ‘Autoportrait’ (2016), featuring a silver pinball maze circling Parr’s face, show Parr experimenting with the boundaries of publishing, creating an object-artwork in itself.
Hito Steyerl – ‘Being Invisible Can Be Deadly’
The German artist Hito Steyerl addresses the way digital images are created, shared and archived. Her film ‘How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational. MOV File’ (2013) takes the form of an instructional video which flips playfully between ‘real world’ footage and digital recreations. Inspired by Monty Python, the work balances critique and humour, showing how ‘not being seen’ has both oppressive and liberating possibilities.
Steyerl works across video and installation as well as delivering performative lectures. She appears in this work as a performer, making herself visible to us, in contrast to the conventional invisibility of the artist, seen only through their work.
Grayson Perry – ‘Pottery Is My Gimmick’
Take a look inside the London studio of artist Grayson Perry.
Describing pottery as his ‘gimmick‘, Perry demonstrates his process and explains why he wants people to be able to just enjoy art, rather than having to interpret it.
Kiki Smith – ‘I Make Things to Experience the Process’
‘I don’t question my impetus…I just do it and see what happens,’ says artist Kiki Smith.
From her home in New York, which also serves as her studio, Kiki Smith talks about the ongoing experimentation that drives her art, from the provocative sculptures of the female body that made her a leading feminist artist in the 1980s, to her more recent work that draws inspiration from the nature.
‘I don’t try to set my work on any path or any direction. I really try to follow it,’ she says. ‘As much as possible I don’t question my impetus or motive for doing something. I just do it and then see what happens.‘