"We use the old to create the new" - Lot 5 Collective on what inspires their artistic practices

by Vincenza Napoli

This week we've picked the brains of artists Mr Mylar, Harriet Spratt, Helen Masacz, Luca Indraccolo, and Lizet Dingemans from Lot 5 Collective. An illusive balloon enthusiast, a portraitist, a figurative painter, a cinematic storyteller and a figurative abstract painter, these Artfinder newbies have joined us with a bang, blowing our socks off with their obvious talent and unique approach to their practices.

This collective of Maltese and UK artists create works which explore the contradictions between the old and the new. It is this interest that unites these seemingly unrelated combine artworks and paintings; in Lot 5's own words, "We use the old to create the new". This intriguing theme is brought to life in their exhibitions, including the upcoming Lot 5 exhibition next month at Candid Arts in London in which you can follow the theme of the artworks side by side.

For a deeper investigation into each artist's artistic identity, keep on reading!

Mr Mylar

Mr Mylar embraces his love for balloons in his creation of playful combines. He creates a variety of works, many of which use other sorts of party items like board games. While based in Malta, this son of a magpie can be found flying around in order to collect the materials for his combines.

How do you incorporate your identity as the son of a magpie into your work?

Growing up the son of a magpie, I was encouraged to be inquisitive and to collect things that captured my imagination. I've compiled a number of great collections over the years: comic books, lighters, vintage cars, etc. However, through all these dalliances my one constant love has been for balloons.    

What is it that attracts you to create work with balloons?

Shiny! Blame it on my nature. Balloons conjure up wonderful feelings usually associated with parties and celebrations. Another reason I love balloons is because they are meant to be temporary. Even the ‘long lasting’ helium balloons have a relatively short life span. They are bought for a specific occasion, an ephemeral burst of festivity. Some balloons don’t last the night, inhaled by party goers for the high pitched amusement of the other guests. Other balloons can linger a bit after the celebration, languidly lowering to the floor as a serene reminder of the happy night. But, either way, before long they are crumpled up and tossed into the bin. My work offers an alternative way to enjoy balloons. Perhaps not the way nature intended, but in a way that lets us admire and appreciate the balloon for longer, a bit like a butterfly collection.

'The Candy Heartland Pink' by Mr Mylar, $143.31/£115/€134.36

Where do you collect your materials from?

I find my materials in the usual places balloons gather: tree tops, carnivals, and high atriums. I only work with found objects - a lot of them I find and buy online.

Harriet Spratt

Drawing inspiration from faces and figures, Harriet creates striking portraits which utilise the emotion of each sitter to tell a story. Aside from creating portraits in her London studio, Harriet shares her talent and passion for painting as a tutor at the London Atelier of Representational Art.

Why do you think it is important to paint portraits?

Firstly, I love painting portraits. I love mixing up different flesh tones, in different light settings and trying to capture a likeness. This factor alone makes them important to paint for me.

The other factor is the continuous, and instantaneous, influx of photographs of people/selfies that are now everywhere. Painting a portrait of somebody requires time and a lot of thought. It gives the painter time to depict how they want to represent the person, the mood to place them in, and how they would like to be portrayed. All these thoughts can shift as the process develops and decisions take place. If portrait painting no longer happened then we would just have selfies of everyone everywhere. There is something special about painting somebody’s portrait, something a photo does not have.

'Lucy 2' by Harriet Spratt, $934.63/£750/€876.27

What is your favourite feature of a person to paint and what do you think that represents about their personality?

I like painting people’s mouths. I like trying to get the very soft shift from flesh colour to the lip colour; this can be very tricky to achieve. A lot of emotion can sit on a pair of lips, whether they are tightly pursed or relaxed with a subtle smile being alluded to at the corners. It can shift a serious portrait into something a little more playful and light.

If you could paint anyone's portrait, who would it be and why?

I would actually like to paint my mother. She hates having her photograph taken and so is not too keen to have a painting of herself done. I want to paint her so that she can see the way I see her; hopefully illustrating the difference between a photograph and painting.

Helen Masacz

Embracing the theme of the collective, Helen's paintings can be characterised by the use of traditional techniques with the goal of communicating contemporary culture. Based in the UK, Helen's incredible talent has caught the eye of many as she has been involved in numerous prominent exhibitions, including the 2004 and 2010BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery.

How do your artworks tell a story?

I use narrative within my work and the continuous practise of traditional skills to express contemporary culture - anything that makes an impression on me, whether politically or environmentally. Throughout the years, I have also found and collected dead animals and in an attempt to preserve them, I have painted their remains. As you would paint the portrait of someone important, I do the same in order to capture their final moments. 

'Boot and Book' by Helen Masacz, $2,180.80/£1,750/€2,044.63

Luca Indraccolo

Luca's upbringing in Naples and his current home in Malta serves as inspiration for his paintings which use cinematic techniques in order to portray Southern European culture. Once the tutor of Helen Masacz, Luca has shared his work outside of the studio, having exhibited alongside art-world giants such as Martin Creed, Tracey Emin, Francisco Goya and David Hockney.

Your subjects are striking and seemingly varying, is there a symbolic meaning that ties them together?

When I come up with an idea for a new painting, I often recall things that I’ve witnessed in life and find interesting, peculiar or sometimes even disturbing and use that as a starting point. From there I aim for an image that recalls the same feelings without making those obvious to the viewer as I like it when people find their own meaning in a piece of art. However, as an example, the paintings SMF 48•84•27 (the baby Jesus figurines) was inspired by a memory of seeing those in a beautiful church in Naples which would be expected. Though they were lovingly displayed I found the handwritten prices on them, completely out of place. So for me a painting is a still out of a visual story. 

'SMF48•84•27' by Luca Indraccolo, $1,126.36/£905.35/€1,061

How have your artworks captured the Mediterranean culture?

It’s true that I like to paint different subjects though I never really consider them to be anything else rather than an idea taking shape on canvas. What I mean by that is I don’t set out to paint a still life, cityscape, figure or a portrait, I just want to express some aspect of Southern European culture. Whether it concerns religion, superstition, food, or daily events they all contribute to my view of this culture and that is the thread that links all my work. 

Lizet Dingemans

Dutch born artist Lizet brings to Artfinder her unique approach to painting through creating works that are simultaneously figurative and abstract in nature. Lizet's international education in art is paralleled by her international base of art lovers, including the MEAM in Barcelona.

In what way do you believe abstract and figurative art can complement each other?

I believe abstract art made a huge impression at a time where figurative art had become quite stale. Abstract art shows the different possibilities: suddenly everything could be art! I do feel that now it has lost some of its power, and people are asking themselves "If my child could make this, why should I buy it? Why is it important?". Figurative art has a skill base, so it is easier to see how it is worth something. The artist who executes a piece has to study a long time to be able to perfect it. But of course, if there was only figurative art, it would be boring and stale. The training is strict, and focussed on technique, whereas in more abstract schools the focus is on ideas. Ideally, we would have both the fresh ideas and the skill of execution in one artwork. 

'Octopus' by Lizet Dingemans, $810.01/£650/€759.43

You mention that you admire artists who look at current artworks instead of replicating the past. What artists do you admire and why?

I particularly like some illustrators for this reason. They have limited means and need to both communicate the idea of the illustration as well as have the skills to bring it together and make it into a coherent image. Some artists I admire are Justin Mortimer, Phil Hale, and Benjamin Björklund. In terms of sculptors, I love John Isaacs. He has a sculpture of an obese man in the Wellcome Collection. His work is based on stop motion sculpture, and he later branched out as an artist. I also love a Spanish artist, Golucho, and did a workshop with him last summer. What all these artists have in common is that while they are all figurative artists, their work is definitely not interchangeable. Some have their roots in commercial art, all are very versatile and have a very clear and distinct voice, and are not shy of using less traditional means to achieve their ends. 

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