Royal Talk with… Art Macabre

Part of Land of Kings’ Royal Thoughts, Art Macabre present a totally unique workshop. Exploring our morbid fascination with death and the grisly details of history, you’ll have the opportunity to sketch bloody monarchs from the past based on real life models. Art Macabre bring all the materials needed to produce life drawings with a dose of the grim and the theatrical. You won’t have to be the next Rembrandt to have a go, with anybody welcome to come and experience the gruesome side of art’s history. We sat down with Nikki, its coordinator, to sate our curiosity.

 

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED DOING ART MACABRE?

The life drawing events started five years ago, as fundraising events for DIY arts festival Ladyfest Ten. After the festival people who had attended asked if we could keep them going, so we did. The events evolved to have the darker, macabre twist after our Halloween special was a hit. Since then, it’s grown steadily to go from a part time voluntary role for me to my full time job. Art Macabre is now my company with up to ten events running a month that always explore deathly themes through drawing.

 

IT’S A FASCINATING TAKE ON LIFE DRAWING. DO YOU GET VERY INTERESTING OUTPUT FROM YOUR PARTICIPANTS AS A RESULT?

It never fails to astound me the diversity of the drawings created in the salons. Considering some of the poses are quite short, from 5 to 30 minutes each, people capture so much in a quick time. At the end of the event there’s such a variety of interpretations of the models. From those who accurately capture a likeness, to those who let their imaginations run wild and draw fantastical versions that use what they actually see as the loosest of starting points.

 

WHICH KINGS OF PAST DISREPUTE CAN WE BE EXPECTING TO ENCOUNTER AT ART MACABRE DURING LAND OF KINGS?

Well, we don’t want to divulge too many royal secrets, else it’ll spoil the surprise. But a few clues: there’ll be a renowned, red-bearded royal who worked his way through his fair share of wives, exploring some of their grisly ends. Plus some kings from ancient history and myth too, from the pyramids to the seas.

 
LAND OF KINGS IS GETTING A LESS-THAN-RIGHTEOUS ROYAL TWIST ON ITS DRAWING, BUT YOU GUYS HAVE TAKEN LOADS OF ANGLES ON YOUR WORKSHOPS BEFORE. WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITES?

We’ve tackled so many themes, but memorable highlights included an Anatomical Venus themed event in the historic Old Operating Theatre, a living angel statue posing nude amongst the graves at Tower Hamlets Cemetery last summer, and we adore celebrating Mexican Dia de los Muertos each year. It’s our favourite date in the deathly calendar.

 

YOU’LL BE SOUND TRACKING THE WORKSHOP WITH THEME APPROPRIATE MUSIC, DO YOU USUALLY INCLUDE A MUSICAL ASPECT TO YOUR WORKSHOPS? HAVE YOU FOUND THERE’S A SOUND THAT WORKS BEST?

Yes, since the beginning we’ve had different playlists for each theme. Music and sound is a really important element to creating the atmosphere. I’ve found that for the shorter warm up poses playing faster music really does help people speed up making marks! And sometimes people incorporate writing lyrics into their sketches too.

Nearly all events end up featuring tracks by Fever Ray, Soap&Skin, Zola Jesus and Depeche Mode at some point though. They’ve become a few of our Art Macabre anthems.

 

THERE’S SOME OTHER BRILLIANT ARTS PROGRAMMING GOING ON AT LAND OF KINGS. ANY YOU’RE PARTICULARLY KEEN ON SEEING?

I’m really looking forward to Land of Queens. I’ll definitely be heading to that. Sue Kreitzman is a legend and style icon, so I hope to catch her at Louche Women too. Plus you can always count on Nest Collective to bring beautiful folk loveliness – I’m really happy to see them on the programme.

 

WHERE’S YOUR BEST HANGOUT SPOT IN DALSTON?

I love Dalston Curve Garden. Such a little oasis. Seeing how it’s grown over the years to a flourishing garden and community cultural space has been exciting.

 

DALSTON’S GOT A WHOLE VARIETY OF GALLERIES AND SPACES TO SEE ART. HAVE YOU GOT ANY RECOMMENDATIONS?

I enjoy checking out a variety of artists and illustrators at Hackney DIY market at Epic Dalston. A great way to discover new artists in one place, through their zines, prints and books on their stalls. You can even chat to them there too.

 

WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF THE IDEAL FESTIVAL BREAKFAST?

I love baked eggs – shakshuka or menemen depending on where you have it. Nice and spicy, with avocado and a bit of Turkish bread. Plus a strong coffee, of course!