Aesthetica Magazine Issue 116

December / January 2024

I like those serendipitous moments in life. It’s the recognition of cause and effect – what you set out to do can be very different to where you end up. It’s that idea of the journey being more important than the destination. It has been a big year for Aesthetica, as the magazine celebrated 20 years of independent publishing. We founded it with three pillars: equality, creativity and diversity, and they’re still true today.

I was 22 when I set up this organisation and so, in many ways, I grew up with it. I find it rather emotional because I look back and see all the time, hard work and determination that it took to make this happen. We’ve made a contribution to visual culture and curation with events like the Aesthetica Film Festival. I am honoured to spend each and every day with innovators, makers and creators. It keeps me invigorated.

Inside this issue we are spotlighting artists who demonstrate the power of creative thinking. John Gerrard is known for works that are taking an active stand to bring the climate crisis to our attention. He is one of 100 artists who are exhibiting at this year’s NGV Triennial in Melbourne. Then we speak with Es Devlin who is renowned for large-scale installations and sculptures across theatre, architecture and activism. An Atlas of Es Devlin is the first major monographic museum show, surveying how she shapes stories and alternative points of view. We are also pleased to catch up with Reuben Wu on his process of making mesmerising work using drones and new technologies. Moreover, Julie Cockburn discusses the importance of memory and her instantly recognisable technique of embroidering found vintage prints.

In photography, Jonas Daley, Tom Leighton, Jooeun Bae, Polina Washington and Morgan Otagburuagu present new ways of seeing through experimental works. Our cover photographer Andrea Torres Balaguer uses surrealism, rich colour palettes and magical realism to explore the subconscious. Finally, the last words go to curator James Wylie and the exhibition Tartan, which is on now at V&A Dundee.

Cherie Federico

Meaning in Collage

Pictures of coffee cups, mirrors, water jugs and headphones are each folded up and distorted into Jooeun Bae’s deeply personal montages.

Layered Creativity

Collage has a long history, spanning more than 100 years and seeing big change. Julie Cockburn is part of its contemporary story.

Richness of Colour

Andrea Torres Balaguer’s bold photographic portraits could be mistaken for oil paintings, rendered in garnet reds and emerald greens.

Radiant Geography

Rock formations, volcanic geology and verdant foliage are key to Tom Leighton’s photographs, which traverse holographic and gleaming pools.

Beyond Portraiture

Morgan Otagburuagu is standing up against colourism. He amplifies the beauty of darker skin tones with portraits of Black women pioneers.

Message in the Sky

At a time when it can be hard to decipher “real” from “artificial”, Reuben Wu shows us what it is possible to create on location, using light carrying drones.

Crafting a Memory

Es Devlin explodes the status-quo, pushing artistic boundaries between literature, stage and set design in a major New York exhibition spanning 30 years.

Visions of the Future

NGV Triennial calls for collective activity in the face of climate crisis, with John Gerrard’s ominous digital flags reflecting on the impact of the oil industry.

Evocative Storytelling

Polina Washington has a background in film cinematography. Light and colour are key to her work, where a lone sunbeam tells a story.

Striking Landforms

The Gobi Desert is listed amongst the top 10 largest in the world. Jonas Daley’s landscapes capture its imposing rocky mountain ranges in pastel hues.