Each installment features a writer, artist, or curator discussing an underrated artist, artwork, movement, or museum.
Walter & Zoniel, Alpha-Ation Lindsay Lohan, Unique hand printed direct positive image – oil paint, 24 ct guild 50.8 x 40.6 cm
Today we're with Marine Tanguy, the CEO at MTArt, a unique organization—both an artist agency and an artist fund, in discussions on Formationism. According to a piece written about the movement in i-D, the key principle behind Formationism is "the creation of physical work whereby Conceptual and Process art are equally present", splitting the difference between two ends of the spectrum which usually preclude each other. When did you first come in contact with the movement, and when do you date its origins?
I first came in contact with the movement a couple of years ago in a time when I was establishing my artistic identity alongside founding my company MTArt. I was struggling to find a specific word I could use to classify how I selected works. I seemed to be attracted to both process artworks (like the works of our artist Scarlett Bowman) and conceptual works (like the ones of Francesco de Prezzo) and thus all the artists I loved combined the two. I struggled to identify with the current movements on offer (Conceptualism and Process Art). Discovering artists Walter & Zoniel and their recently created manifesto really helped me, as it was the right time for my brain to question, define and create something new. I was lucky to be a part of their writing process over the following summer by the English seaside.
Formationism came to the duo artists during a show at PHOTO 50—The New Alchemists at The London Art Fair, January 2012. It was a really interesting exhibition curated by the art critic Sue Steward with a group of photographic artists, many working with intricate processes and having a conceptual element present. In a discussion on the subject with Simon Baker, he said something along the lines of this movement needing a manifesto no one had yet pinned. Well, this got the two artists to work on it and, a couple of years later, with a few key artists on board and after a few salons, the manifesto was ready to pin!
Lina Iris Viktor, Yaa Asantewaa, 2016 Pure 24 karat gold, acrylic, gouache, print on matte canvas,101.6 x 132.8 cm
It's becoming less common for a 'manifesto' to be written, declaring a new movement (or at least it seems this was much more common in the earlier part of the 20th century), at least through the lens of public memory. But in 2015, Walter & Zoniel did just that. How does their manifesto compare to some of the more well known, historical contributions?
The world was simpler in the 20th century—that is, individuals were a lot more defined by a single culture. Most movements captured a specific time and place (Impressionism, Vorticism, etc). Our world has grown exponentially complex; cultures have mixed, individuals travel a lot more and receive multiple influences in a single second on phones and laptops. This explains the lack of solid, directed thought, and the rise of temporary trends.
I am glad that artists like Walter & Zoniel have taken the time and thinking space to define their works rather than simply to follow trends—trends are almost killing the art world currently. I respect strong artistic visions for this matter.
Walter & Zoniel are also very insistent that this movement, contrary to the majority of those we find in the past, represents the contemporary, and not a reaction to the bygone: "Ours is clearly of this moment in time. It seems that a key element of many previous movements was the 'opposition' to the movement or artistic genre that came before it. Whereas we believe creativity is a naturally expansive element and don't feel the need or desire to oppose. We respect what came before as this is what has brought us to now."
Vicky Fornieles, Pomegranate Thigh-Master, 2015, Unique C-type Prints, 66" x 30" x 3"
Who are some of the finest examples of artists who subscribe to Formationism? How are they similar and how do they differ?
I think the finest examples are to be found in the works of artists Lina Iris Viktor, Walter & Zoniel and Vicky Fornieles. The three of them have mastered their own techniques (Lina Viktor with the use of gilding, Walter & Zoniel in the way they challenge early photographic processes and Vicky Fornelies in the way she redefines photographic paper and how it can be used and developed). Each work and technique is a glimpse into the strong visions of these four artists and, while the concepts vary for each body of work, they tie in together very strongly to form an insatiable research into the world around us. They are similar in their pursuits, personas, visions and values but very different in the way they apply it—if you put each work side by side you cannot say that they are similar in any shape or form. But then, that's what I love most: encountering very unique visions.
What place does Formationism hold in the art world today? What does it provide the art world and what is its future?
I feel here that Walter & Zoniel should have the entire response to this question so here is their quote:
"It is incredibly relevant to what is going on in both the world and the art world today. The movement conceptually relates to the present world that we live in. Many people are asking the effects or relationship between the ‘tech’ world and the artistic world as if some great change is to take place, but this is taking place already, right now, we are already living with the effects of advances in technologies within our everyday lives, its happening, we know that, its old news. There is also a massive emotional and cultural shift happening right in front of our eyes. The Formationist movement relates to that world and each artist working within it is reflecting and utilizing that, taking complex, or hand made processes and combining and utilizing the progressions in technology to create something new. It is easy to get lost in the reference to either the past or the future, but the present moment is where we strive to be, it is where each artist is aiming to draw people. Something that is always relevant but incredibly so right now with the effects of mass information and wonderful technological creations.
In terms of the art world, our aim is to create the best possible art that we can. To harness progression, move forward and help each other to hone our ideas to the sharpest and most interesting and progressive they can be. As apparently altruistic or public minded the art world can be, it is entirely a commercial body. But at the centre of it are the artists; sometimes it seems like that is almost secondary or forgotten. It is essential for any artist to have support and a sounding board to help them expand and strengthen their ideas, one that is a non-commercial body. That is incredibly key to the movement and the social element of Formationism: our meetings and discussions are purely about the creation of the best artwork that we can possibly make. It is an idealism that can only come from within artists themselves, as regardless of how wonderful or supportive the rest of the ‘art world’ may be, an artist needs access to a realm aside from that to ensure that genuine progression can be made with integrity."
Walter & Zoniel, Thomas, Archival pigment print on handmade paper (made from the subject matter), 103 x 70 cm
Why do you think the movement hasn't received as much attention as it should, and why do you think it should receive more?
I feel that the movement is new, so of course attention will grow as the artists, their visions and works will. I am not worried for them as I strongly believe in the core artist members. I also do not wish for them to be 'fashionable' but rather 'relevant'. Movements represent the development of art and practices and facilitate social interactions for artists—they are essential to progress and innovation both in the short term for the artists themselves and in the long-term for the public and retrospective, socio-historical impact.