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Gap x Dazed Header

Get to know the visual artists heading up the New Gen Gap initiative

Gap x Dazed Header

Selected from hundreds of entries, the finalists of Gap and Dazed’s new initiative haven’t let lockdown dampen their artistic visions. Here they tell us how they’re working through it

For much of 2020, more than half of the world’s population has come to a halt as we grapple with a worldwide pandemic. But this upheaval in daily life hasn’t dampened the dreams and drives of a new generation of visual artists, who have been teaching themselves new skills and unlocking exciting possibilities for their practice.

During the summer, GAP and Dazed joined forces to launch New Gen GAP, an initiative providing new opportunities for visual artists based in the UK and France, and asked them to submit work, old or new, that responded to the question: How is your world changing post-2020?

After receiving hundreds of entries, the Dazed team selected six finalists with outstanding visions and commissioned them to create a new series of work which reinterprets GAP products. Each commission is aided by a grant of £1000/€1000.

These six new commissions will be unveiled on Dazed Digital next month. As these new gen artists get to work, we find out what they’ve been working on and how lockdown has changed their worlds.

24, LONDON

What have you been working on lately?

Fabio Rovai: I’ve been working to understand the impact that Artificial Intelligence has on the creative industries, researching not only a new way to create art, but to create an alternative approach to the current fashion system.

I’m collaborating with different designers and creating projects where the real garments don’t need to be present anymore, and instead AI generates part of the image.

It’s an evolution of the photomontage practice. Thanks to this technical advancement, collaborations are more accessible, and I can easily realise photographic projects with designers and creatives based on the other side of the globe.

What’s your creative background?

Fabio Rovai: I have a BA in Fashion Photography, awarded by London College of Fashion just a few months ago.

I have always found myself outside of the framework of a photographer. My practice grows from taking inspiration from everything I read and see. It’s important to take influence from elements which are not conventionally related to your practice. I believe every discipline can influence the creative process.

How has your world changed over the last six months?

Fabio Rovai: Without lockdown, I would have never approached AI and new technology. (Lockdown) accelerated the way we understand, and have to respond to, the industry’s needs.

I have started to understand some things differently and to rethink my role as a human, as well as how to contribute to a better future, and embrace new technology and the ethics behind their application.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned during lockdown?

Fabio Rovai: AI from scratch. I started learning calculus and a bit of coding, then everything else followed naturally. I have never felt so creatively inspired – it’s like I found what I wanted to say ever since I began my journey into photography. Now I want to contribute to a discussion on its role in fashion's future.

22, LONDON

What have you been working on lately? 

Ama Dogbe: After reading the books Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi and An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma, I was introduced to Igbo cosmology. This linked to my personal experiences of mental health and my interest in how the mind and body relate to each other. I have been using drawings and sketches, videos, and CAD software to digitally create animations of forms and spaces where these concepts can be explored. I have and continue to use the Ghanaian Adinkra symbols as inspiration for the forms and shapes I create. Another key visual in my current practice is the use of clouds and the sky. I am fascinated by them, and find they link to my idea of a liminal space – a space in the mind where thoughts come and go as fleetingly as clouds change in the sky. 

What is your creative background? 

Ama Dogbe: I am currently in my final year of a Fine Art BA at Loughborough University. While at university I focused more on digital mediums, exploring the use of film along with experimental methods of 3D drawing and animation. My parents have always encouraged my creative thinking and enabled me to follow a creative path in adulthood. I would also say the concepts and aesthetics in my work often emanate from my personal experiences. Being of dual heritage and having lived in both Ghana and the UK means that within my work there tends to be a strong element of layering and mixing, as the cultures I have been immersed in and exposed to meld together.

How has your world changed over the last six months? 

Ama Dogbe: Over the last six months, I have had more time for contemplation. The world seems to have been forced to slow down. It has meant I have been able to spend time with people I wouldn’t otherwise have spent time with, but I have also been kept apart from others I still wish to be able to see. Although these global changes have undoubtedly caused angst to many, they have also allowed us to explore other options for a way of life. As lockdown rules began to lift, the pace of life seemed to speed up again. I think it is crucial that we hold onto the new ideas that emerged when we were forced to think of a ‘new normal’. 

What is the most important thing you’ve learned during lockdown? 

Ama Dogbe: I have learned numerous things during lockdown: to remember to slow down, to focus on my physical and mental wellbeing, to remember to put energy into things that bear fruit rather that wasting time on superficial things, to reduce screen time and to read more. Lockdown has proven that if the world is united, big changes can happen. More specifically, the most important thing I have learned is to remember that the world can be slowed down, and people can and must stand united.

21, LONDON

What have you been working on lately?

Louis Tuakli Mason: As I have been on summer break from university, I decided to continue to experiment with the process of image-making to discover how I can further show my perspective and create conversation around things that I experience. My most recent project is an exploration of mental health and vulnerability – themes important to me and sometimes quite hidden in my work. I decided I wanted to use this latest project to open up and create a body of work that was a start of this conversation for me through my work.

What is your creative background?

Louis Tuakli Mason: I’ve always had an attachment to portraiture and image-making. Growing up in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire there wasn’t really much to do so, and I found myself interested in what I felt was escapism through music, fashion, and photography. I’ve always had a certain perspective and really wanted to capture this and constantly refine how realistically I could present how I saw the world around me.

I didn't fit in where I was. Being gay, mixed race, and raised by a single mother, I felt alienated from people around me. This gave me a lot of time alone and to focus on creating and fuelling all the frustration I felt into expression through image-making and researching people I felt reflected elements of myself.

When I got the chance to study an Extended Diploma in Arts & Design at Leeds Art University (then Leeds Art College) it was the first time I had met people like me: creative, expressive, and confident in doing so. I got the chance to meet and spend so much valuable time creating with so many amazing young people, a lot of who I am still very close with now I live in London and study Fine Art Photography. I am now in my third year at Camberwell College of Arts and I am still working, refining, and questioning how I can represent and document my perspective.

How has your world changed over the past six months?

Louis Tuakli Mason: I got the space to be reflective and think about what really is important to me, and how I had been neglecting those things in my life through attachment to things that weren’t and aren’t important to me anymore. At the beginning of lockdown, I came back to Huddersfield to be with my family for a few months. This allowed me the space to focus on making with a lot less distraction, and a lot less equipment, taking me on a process of elimination and reflection into what was and what wasn’t missing from my life. 

My journey with mental health has been a really important factor in all of this. (Lockdown) has given me the space to acknowledge and begin a process of healing through therapy, and have the ability to begin to talk about my experiences through my work.

What is the most important thing you have learned during lockdown?

Louis Tuakli Mason: I have learned so many little things that have helped me sculpt further foundations into who I want to be, but I would say the most important thing is that it’s okay to not come out of lockdown with a life changing takeaway. The fact that you survived it, and especially to other Black, PoC and LGBT young people, is enough. Focus on creating, focus on community, focus on preserving yourself.

21, LONDON

What have you been working on lately?

Lil Obertelli: I alternate in the mediums I use to make my work, meaning I’ve been up to a couple of different things. I’m currently enjoying going between oil painting, composing music, writing, and sewing on a day-to-day basis. I like having lots of different things going on at one time to make sure I’m constantly learning and not just doing something for sake of knowing I can do it.

One project I’ve started working on recently is a mini photo series which showcases and creates visual characters around a selection of hats and head pieces from my excessive, personal headwear collection. The series has the working title ‘Good Head’ for the time being, and should be coming out fairly soon, unless I get depressed and think it’s shit.

What is your creative background?

Lil Obertelli: I did Art at GCSE and A-Level. I don’t really consider my Art Foundation as a part of it, but I did that too.

How has your world changed over the last six months?

Lil Obertelli: It hasn’t really. Surprisingly most stuff has either stayed the same or gotten worse. I was one of the people that lost their job due to COVID in March. It is unfortunate but it did give me the time to become undefeatable at Go Fish and rearrange my wig collection.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned during lockdown?

Lil Obertelli: That I am not so much of an introvert and how great my need is to chat bollocks with people to survive. I am hugely grateful to be able to see some of my friends and family again and tell them how much I love them.

19, KENT

What have you been working on lately?

Wil Sacedo: I’ve been working on perfecting my craft, whether it’s commissions or pieces just for me. I do, however, have a collaboration planned with another visual artist coming soon.

What is your creative background?

Wil Sacedo: I have always been a fan of anime and drawing characters from my favourite shows. But as I’ve grown, my work and mediums have progressed alongside me, from my drawing style to experimenting with painting and other forms of visual expression. In the end, a lot didn’t really satisfy what I wanted to convey. The way I work now has drastically changed from how I worked with any other art form. I feel more free with how I work now. I will naturally make a composition as I go along which gives me space to experiment and try new processes, which I think is important to any visual artists. 

How has your world changed over the last six months?

Wil Sacedo: I was doing an Art Foundation course which unfortunately got cut short due to COVID. During that time I lost a lot of motivation to do any type of work which forced me to think a lot about my outlook on my life. It allowed me to revise the type of person I am. The only way I can fully express myself as a visual artist is through my work so it was really important for me to find that balance. I value the importance of staying in sync with what’s happening outside of our own reality, and that educating ourselves is so vital.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned during lockdown?

Wil Sacedo: For me, and I’m sure it’s for most people, I have learned a lot about myself. I see myself as having a lot of negative traits that I do not wish to see. But we learn and grow from that. There’s this idea of Nihilism which, in basic terms, is struggling to find meaning in life and by by doing a specific action that you don’t really get anything out of it except more suffering, alienation, and pain, which I thought I related to. But then I learned you have to learn who you are yourself in order to love what you do.

21, LONDON

What have you been working on lately?

Alya Hatta: Lately I’ve been focusing on creating digital work because of the limited access to physical materials. I’m doing a lot of work using my iPad, creating drawings and music and combining this with 3D and video editing software. I found that my practice has expanded greatly by taking on this digital approach, and I’m working on a sweet spot to merge my digital and physical practices together. I’m also appreciating and exploring the range of things that I can create digitally, especially looking into how far I can push the use of colour and expanding the limits of what is considered beautiful or sublime. I’m hoping to bring back my physical practice, especially painting, and am excited to integrate everything I’ve learned and found inspiration from working digitally into this other part of my practice.

What is your creative background?

Alya Hatta: I was born in have lived most my life in Malaysia but moved around between Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the UK. During my early years, my parents sent me to art classes wherever we moved to, but I really got into art during my later teens. At 17, I had my first solo exhibition in Malaysia, and in the following years I did various group shows where I got to exhibit my work internationally in Germany and Japan. A highlight of mine was my second solo exhibition Playground at the beginning of 2020. For me, a specific point in time where my mind and my art started opening up was when I started my Fine Art degree at Goldsmiths two years ago. I’m really looking forward to graduating in 2021 with a body of work that I hope to be super proud of and that I can stand behind.

How has your world changed over the last six months?

Alya Hatta: The last six months have made my world simultaneously bigger and smaller, louder and quieter. With the inability to see my family back in Malaysia, I feel like my world has been split in two, everything seems a lot further away. My world has also become smaller - where I go and who I see. But, with the way everything has been, the places and people I do visit, I see more vividly. Things seem richer and more intimate, especially being able to notice things that I would have once overlooked because of how fast paced everything typically is. I view my world with much more potential and excitement for the future. I am looking to see the best in every situation and grabbing as many opportunities as I can. Feeling more connected to my environment, family, and friends has meant that I can, through my art, create my own versions of the world how I would like.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned during lockdown?

Alya Hatta: The most important thing I’ve learned during lockdown is the array of what we can do with time. I’ve learned that with the tools I already have, there is always the possibility to do more and expand my own creative limits. I have also learned the importance of being in tune and to pay attention to the present and appreciate what is directly around me, whether that be in real life or digitally. Using the past as a reflective learning process and viewing the future in an aspirational way, I have realised that focusing on what is right in front of me is one of the biggest creative inspirations, and will always be something to draw on.