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Artists Sequin Kay and Paul Mortimore: “Artists have always strived to achieve a sense of greatness beyond the limitations of the body”

“Those who learned to collaborate...have prevailed,” said Charles Darwin once, famously. Now, you might be wondering what this quote has to do with the Arts: but the same sentiment about collaboration is true in the art world as it is in the world of science. Ultimately, both fields rely on teamwork to forge breakthroughs.

Enter artists Sequin Kay and Paul Mortimore, whose new installation 127 Velocities intriguingly combines textile handiwork with digital graphic design to create an immersive art experience merging traditional techniques with the very newest.

“I wished to learn something new and move beyond my comfort zone within the textile world,” explains Sequin. “There was an openness to creative experimentation and a recognition of aesthetic depth from both sides.”

Inspired by the philosopher Kant’s theory about the sublime as “achieving a sense of greatness beyond the limitations of the physical body,” their collaborative work is “a powerful transmission of what the sublime means,” and requires audiences to physically engage with the artwork in an attempt to experience something otherworldly.

Run-Riot spoke to Sequin and Paul about how the collaboration came about, how audiences can interact with the work and what it was like planning an artwork that transcends one form.

Adam Bloodworth: Your show is inspired by Kant’s Sublime Theory. Can you explain what that is for those of us whose philosophy needs drastic brushing up?

Sequin Kay: Okay, so to give you a starting point, sublime theory is at the heart of Kant’s aesthetic. Eighteenth Century philosophy is ultimately concerned with the contrast between the mathematical and dynamic capacity of the mind to apprehend the limitless or the indeterminable aspects of human experience. Humans since the beginning of time have strived to achieve a sense of greatness beyond the limitations of the physical body, mental calculation and intellectual comparison. According to Kant the feeling of the sublime is something we feel based on subjective reality: a feeling of awe which takes us into a transcendent state beyond linear thought.

Adam: Can you tell the story about how you two met and started working together from such different artistic backgrounds?

Sequin: Earlier this year I had envisaged a collaboration with an audio-visual artist, and had honed in on a vision to bring my sequin and textile artworks to life through digital technology. Paul and myself both have studios at Trinity Buoy Wharf and London City Island and we met through a mutual friend. Over creative discussions and some visioning together we gave space and time for a collaboration to materialise. We entered the studio and engaged in an intuitive dialogue; I brought together moving footage of my art-works bathed in natural light and gave space for Paul to experiment with his diverse digital skill set. We allowed the technology and the experimental formation of the visuals to guide our creative flow which just worked in many complimentary levels.

Paul Mortimore: We met during the summer this year. At the time I was installing some neon and immersive experience work of mine at Trinity Gallery in the East End of London, where I’m based. One day the curator, Ian Fenton, said, “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.” So I took five and strolled down to Trinity Buoy Wharf. Half expecting it to be a brief five-minute chat, three hours later we were deep in conversation riffing on all sorts of ideas.

Adam: Can you talk us through what inspired the collaboration?

Sequin: The collaboration was inspired by a contrast of styles, and I wished to learn something new and move beyond my comfort zone within the textile world. There was an openness to creative experimentation and a recognition of aesthetic depth from both sides.

One of the challenges for myself was entering a new working space; especially a black lit studio. I would originally craft an artwork in a naturally lit studio allowing the light to interact with the materials and this interplay between light and object would often lead the decision making. Working in the dark studio with a digitally precise approach to creativity revealed to me how to make creative decisions in a new and innovative way especially through the dialogue with Paul. There is always a hope that each artist will be understood by each other. For a successful collaboration both artists need to come together on the abstract for enough experimentation to occur and also in the linear realm as to ensure the work can stand with its own authority. I feel we achieved this through 127 which was birthed as an exciting piece of powerful creativity.

Paul: I think the initial inspiration was to play and experiment. We had clicked on our first meeting so the decision to do a studio session and see how it goes was a no-brainer. Our mutual friend was organising a music and arts festival called Unity and we were offered a speculative spot to showcase something. Through my time at RCA, my practice developed into one of collaboration and inclusivity with a strong sense the future of work is collaborative by nature; engaging unique voices and perspectives not only would nourish our practices; but would ultimately enrich the diverse local communities of E14 Trinity Wharf and the London City Island. We were both psyched up that something interesting would materialise out of our first session which is now refined into what is now 127 Velocities.

Adam: What does Kant’s theory of the sublime mean to you both personally? And in terms of the work?

Sequin: I admire and relish Kant’s literature and came across him whilst on an art residency in Switzerland and relate to his concepts. Through my creative process I am seeking sublime transcendent experiences through the act and process of creating with light reflecting textiles. Kant has a beautiful way of discussing and presenting the human condition which I feel creatives are highly attuned to as they are often a vehicle for transmitting important concepts and ideas. 127 Velocities is a gift to our audience and is a powerful transmission of what the sublime means through combined creative visions.

Paul: For me, the sublime is as simple as transcendence. An opportunity to take a break and peer behind the curtain and let your imagination go. We live in such divisive times any chance for escapism and sublimity is good in my book. By embedding this theory into the work we are simply inviting others to share in this transcendental immersive experience.

Adam: Did you ever worry your styles wouldn’t work together in physicality?

Sequin: When you start dialoguing with a fellow creative you can quite quickly see if there is potential, after discussing a few elements around our practises it was evident there was a potential for collaboration. As a practising artist for over 10 years I have been pioneering new concepts on ancient philosophies, developing contemporary textile techniques and delving into metaphysical geometries, through this process you develop this deep appreciation and respect for the unknown. My mind set is centred around creative appreciation and maintaining a sense of openness which I bring to every new project. It is a hugely exciting feeling going into the studio with another creative both with anticipation as to what could be jointly crafted.

Paul: My background is Graphic & Media Design and art direction having studied at The London College of Printing under Neville Brody in the late 1990s. My design process back then was very much form follows function and when I returned 20 years later to the RCA, again under Broody, we quite literally weaponised this process with critical thought
and digital direction. During the in-between years, I worked in media and advertising across a range of sectors.

Adam: Can you tease a little bit of info about how audiences may feel when interacting with the 127 elements of the installation?

Sequin: One of the principal elements is for the audience to feel a sense of peace within themselves and their environment. Audiences may feel a sense of intrigue, enquiry and wonder as to what the piece represents, what it means and wonder why is it here displayed in this space? 127 has an intention of its own to harmonise the left and right hemisphere of the brain culminating in a sublime feeling in the body. We really wish to bring in a sense of openness and space for interpretation and perspective for the audience through the use of the forms and dynamism of the piece.

Paul: If you get the chance to see 127 Velocities I think you can expect to feel a level of psychotropic immersion brought on by the visual experience.

Adam: Is the juxtaposing of your two different styles a way of illustrating how Kant’s work relates to our modern lives today?

Sequin: Our modern day lives are a representation of contrast, our worldview is a metaphor for contrast, I do see a correlation between our collaborative piece and how art reflects society and culture. I sense that through technology and the modern-day experience we are collectively seeking transient sublime experiences. I interpret that through immersive art installations, festivals and the development of artificial intelligence we are constantly attempting to transcend our human limitations through expanding our experiences and ways of seeing the world.

Adam: What personal memories do you have of the Smallest Gallery In Soho? And what were your feelings when it was confirmed that you’d exhibiting here?

Sequin: My feelings were of excitement to share this beautiful collaboration with a new audience, especially in a public setting. There was also creative anticipation as to how the piece will be received by the curators, Philip Levine and Andreia Costa and the public, we are super excited 127 is having its Soho showcasing.

Paul: I had not heard of The Smallest Gallery in Soho before now. I met Philip Levine at one of our shows earlier in the year. We got on well, his approach was diligent and pro so the prospect of us all working together was very appealing. Surrounded by such dense London history, and being next door to Blacks Club where I am also showing two neon works, I’m thrilled we are exhibiting there.

sequinkay.com | @SequinKay | paulmortimore.com | @paul.mortimore

Sequin Kay and Paul Mortimore
127 Velocities
December 2019 - February 2020
The Smallest Gallery in Soho
62 Dean Street, Soho, London, W1D 4QF

thesmallestgalleryinsoho.com | Instagram | Twitter

'127 Velocities' is curated by Philip Levine and Andreia Costa. The Smallest Gallery In Soho is managed and curated by Philip and Andreia, with the support from The Garage Soho.

About the Curators:
Philip Levine

Philip has been working in the creative and cultural industries for the last decade as a producer. This has ranged from exhibitions, events, publishing, talks and creating his own unique artwork under the title ‘Headism’. He has gained a MA in Culture, Policy and Management at City, University of London. Being from London, his passion is knowing ‘who and what’ is up and coming in cultural trends and being involved within them. Read the Run-Riot interview with Philip Levine, here.
Andreia Costa
Andreia is an Associate Architect at Jamie Fobert Architects. She studied in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Porto and practiced for 3 years in her native Portugal. Before moving to the UK Andreia decided to explore her contemporary art interest by working in Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art as an architecture and art lecturer. In 2010 she joined Jamie Fobert Architects, where she has been involved in several projects including Selfridges and Tate exhibitions.

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