Art and Lingerie: Award-winning Azita Moradkhani Discusses Her ‘Victorious Secrets’


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By Tara Biglari for Kayhan Life

Azita Moradkhani is an Iranian-born artist whose work draws inspiration from the great art of the past. She recently won the Young Masters Art Prize – awarded by the London-based Cynthia Corbett Gallery to contemporary artists who are inspired by Old Masters.

Azita’s art tastefully fuses elements of Western art, Iranian identity and modern life. She currently has a striking series on display in a group exhibition at the Royal Over-Seas League in St James’s, London (ending September 8). It’s called “Victorious Secrets” and her art is embedded in old-fashioned lingerie.

Kayhan Life caught up with Azita for a conversation about her work.


Where did you grow up, and what is your relationship with Iran?

I was born and raised in Tehran, and from childhood I was surrounded by beautiful, delicate Persian carpets and colorful textile designs in everything from my grandma’s dress to the curtains on the wall. I was also impressed by Persian miniatures, with their colorful details and the art of storytelling through images. And of course having a father who is an artist himself was a huge inspiration for me through[out] my life. I will definitely go back and forth to Iran to visit my family. I would love to experience art residencies in Iran, and possibly teach art in the future – have exhibitions there and be in touch with artists.

When and how did you decide to become an artist?

It’s a very difficult question for me, because there is a point at which you question [yourself] and have doubts and ask yourself ‘why’ and ‘how.’ These questions have continued from my childhood until now. As my father was an artist, I always did drawing and made art on his easel and with a big canvas of paint. Even now that I’m 30, I’m [asking] myself how I can have more impact on the world through the process of making art, through what I have a lot of passion [for].

Your most recent series, ‘Victorious Secrets,’ has as its base drawings of old-fashioned female undergarments. Can you explain why? Isn’t it an unexpected choice of subject coming from a young woman with Iranian origins?

The female body is central to my work – especially exposure to different social norms.
A series of recent drawings is based on my first impression of walking into a Victoria’s Secret store in the U.S. I was surprised to see such a large lingerie store in public, and it made me think about how these stores are such private, secret spaces in Iran. These drawings of lingerie emphasize the connection and tensions between sexual representation and national identity – between private and public.

My drawings of intimate lingerie, ‘Victorious Secrets,’ on paper and in color pencil, explore connected narratives of pain and pleasure through repeated abstract patterns and images based on photojournalism and iconography. I use an aesthetic of pleasure to shift the viewer’s focus to possibility, to hope. Yet when the viewer looks more closely at the lines that make up the drawing in the interior space of the panties, they are brought face to face with shadowy images of violence that signify the vulnerability of victims. The images intertwine in abstract patterns, traumas that repeat themselves.

Has the Young Masters Prize been helpful to you?

It has been an honor for me, and I’m very grateful for that. [In terms of] sales of my work, I have seen much more interest recently. I have been hearing about different collectors more, both in Boston and other cities.

How is your work inspired by art history?

I’m interested in returning beauty and realism to the world of contemporary art. But aesthetic pleasure is not enough. There has to be a conceptual dimension as well, and I want to challenge viewers to recognize the significance of both of these and how they work together.

Many themes from Old Masters’ work emerge in my work. For example, in one of my drawings, I used the nearly touching hands [in the “Creation of Adam“,] the iconic image by Michelangelo [in the Sistine Chapel]. I challenge the story of Adam’s creation as an idealized representation of the physical birth of men. My piece points out the power of women’s bodies to give birth to humankind, even as we [women] are limited in our power to make decisions about our own bodies.

What are your next projects?

One of the projects I’m working on is at the printing workshop: the possibility of transferring drawings onto the actual fabric of the lingerie. Let’s see how it works.

And I’m working on my body casts too. It’s a mix of the patterns of lacy and luxury lingerie on the bodies with images from different resources. It’s like a tattooing of history and memory on the body for me, and it’s all colored pencil on paper clay – meaning a clay based on paper. But let’s see!

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‘It’s just the start of an adventure’: Whistles founder, 69, shares why it’s NEVER too late to reinvent yourself and start a new career

  • Lucille Lewin, 67, reveals how a trip to Hackney convinced her to study ceramics
  • The Whistles founder who is now an award winning potter discussed her empire
  • She spoke to Femail about her recovery from a non-cancerous brain tumour

When Lucille Lewin applied for a Masters degree, her first thought was: ‘Can I really do this?’  ‘I hadn’t actually done a BA before,’ she says. ‘And the elephant in the room was my age.’

A 67-year-old mother of two grown-up sons (‘one’s a doctor, one’s a lawyer’), she’d be some 40 years older than many of the students.

It’s rare to relish starting a new career just as your contemporaries are winding down. And going to art college in your mid-60s is clearly a challenge — from coping with the super-confident, young millennials, to completing mountains of coursework — but the change is particularly shocking if, like Lucille, you once ran a legendary fashion empire.

Lucille, now a tiny, vibrant 69-year-old, says she remains endlessly curious and in fact everything in her life has happened organically

With her husband Richard, Lucille founded Whistles in 1976 and turned it into one of the High Street’s biggest success stories.

Her own designs for the brand were sized for real women, and many of us are still wearing her jewelled knits, embroidered jackets and tailored suits 20 years on.

By the time the couple sold the business in 2002, to business partner Richard Caring, it had 40 stores across the country.

The funny thing is, she admits, none of her twentysomething fellow students knew about her history. ‘All the brownie points I got in fashion were worth absolutely nothing. It was a new world completely.’

Though, she adds, they did Google her half way through the course.

Lucille’s decision to completely reinvent herself eight years ago happened by chance.

‘I walked into an evening class in Hackney, East London, by mistake. A good friend was going, and I wanted to talk to her, so I said: “I’ll drop you off.”

‘I wandered into this little basement studio, where there were a few potters potting, and the smell of the clay hit me. I connected with it at once . . . it’s a very earthy smell.’

She signed up for part-time evening classes, then decided to study ceramics full-time.

Anyone thinking of retraining mid-life, after a career, might take inspiration from Lucille. Now a tiny, vibrant 69-year-old, she remains endlessly curious. In fact, she says everything in her life has happened organically.

She married Richard on her 21st birthday and went to America after he got a place at Harvard Business School.


In 1972, they moved to the UK. Richard had a job with menswear company Burtons and, to her amazement, she landed a job as an assistant to the merchandiser at Harvey Nichols.

‘I only had ripped jeans to wear, so I went out and bought this fabulous suit and a pair of stacked heels for the interview.’ She was later promoted to buyer, but was eventually fired for being too outspoken.

So, in 1976, she decided to open her own shop on George Street in Marylebone. ‘I wanted to occupy the space between designer and High Street.’

She filled the tiny, 250 sq ft shop with black and white clothes — and it sold out.

She believes the sale of Whistles may have been a trigger for one of the most traumatic episodes in her life. In 2009, she was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumour known as an acoustic neuroma.

‘The takeover was a very difficult time for me,’ she admits. ‘The company was very much my baby.

‘It was a time of unbelievable, unrelenting shock and stress. I felt powerless, and that was one of the hardest things.’

 It’s art, yes, but also a business. You don’t make ceramics just to sit looking pretty in your garage — you do it to exhibit and sell the work – Lucille Lewin

The tumour was removed during a 12-and-a-half hour operation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Afterwards, she felt very weak for three months. She says: ‘I could not shop, cook or care for myself. I was so grateful I had my family around me.’

At first, smiling was impossible and eating was a challenge.

‘Many people retreat because they can’t cope with what’s happened to their faces.

‘You lose the ability to react, you lose your smile.’

Following an intensive rehabilitation programme, her condition is barely visible — except in photographs. Having recovered, she was determined to have more pleasure in her life. She took a two-year part-time diploma in fine art and ceramics at London’s City Lit college (2012–14), after which tutors urged her to apply for a two-year postgraduate degree at the prestigious Royal College of Art.

To her delight, she won a place. As a fashion guru, she had lectured at the Royal College. Now she was a mere student. ‘I’m quite a relaxed person, so I didn’t worry about status, thank goodness,’ she laughs.

Though she says wryly that young people master technology so much better, she made friends for life on the course.

At a time when the number of part-time and mature students has dropped significantly, because people are worried about running up debt, she’s keen to stress it’s not an indulgence.

 It’s exciting. I’ve got so many things I still want to say. And I think it’s just the start of this adventure – Lucille Lewin

The course cost £9,000 a year, but by selling her work, she can recoup the cost.

‘It’s art, yes, but also a business. You don’t make ceramics just to sit looking pretty in your garage — you do it to exhibit and sell the work.’

In fact, Lewin has more than held her own alongside her classmates. In June, she won the £1,500 Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize, after completing her MA in ceramics and glass.

The irony of being declared a ‘young master’ at the age of 69 isn’t lost on her. Since she won the prize, pretty much all of her exquisite white porcelain sculptures have sold. Now she’s preparing for an exhibition in November. Husband Richard grumbles good-naturedly that they can’t go on holiday.

‘I don’t blame him, I should be calming down a little bit,’ smiles Lucille. ‘But it’s exciting. I’ve got so many things I still want to say. And I think it’s just the start of this adventure.’

Lucille’s work is on show at The Cynthia Corbett Gallery / Young Masters Art Prize at the Royal Overseas League until September 8, young-masters.co.uk, lucillelewin.com


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4744632/Whistles-founder-69-starting-second-career.html#ixzz4oQXq1rnW


Young Masters Alumni: Jongjin Park

We recently caught up with Highly Commended Young Masters Alumni Jongjin Park to discuss his projects and achievements since partaking in the Inaugural Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize in 2014.

What have you achieved since participating in the Young Masters Art Prize?

Since the Prize, I have shown my works internationally. Although I am currently working in Seoul, because of the scope of the Prize I do not feel far from the ceramic scene in the  U.K. and abroad.

How was Young Masters part of making this happen?

This opportunity was amazing and the other Alumni’s artworks are very impressive and well-established. I feel very honoured and I hope to embark on various projects with this team. It allows me to push and develop the concept of my works.

Born in Korea, Jongjin Park came to the UK to study Ceramics and the relationship between British and Eastern ceramic cultures. He takes the material of clay further than potters of the past, using and mimicking paper in clay to form “Paperclay”. Slip is brushed onto fine tissues of paper and then fired at  over 1280 degrees centigrade, resulting in a strong, durable, wood-like material, which belies the work’s fragile origins.

Jongjin Park is currently studying a PhD in ceramics at Kookmin University, following an MA Ceramics at Cardiff Metropolitan University and an MFA and BFA Ceramics at Kookmin University, Seoul. He has worked at the National Museum of Korea as a researcher in the department of Ceramics. His exhibitions include: Jongjin Park, Puls Ceramics, Brussels, 2017; A la Recherche du Sublime, Le Don du Fel, France, 2016; Artistic Stratum, KCDF Gallery, Korea, 2015; Ceramics Art London, Royal College of Art 2015; ‘FRESH’, British Ceramics Biennale, Stoke on Trent, U.K, 2015; Santorini Biennale of Arts, Greece, 2012; R.E.D, Arton gallery, Singapore, 2012; Singapore Ceramic Museum, Korea, and the 7th Cheongju International Craft Competition,  Korea, 2011, for which he was awarded the Gold Prize.

Ceramic artists are invited to apply now to Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize in 2017. Applications open until 31 March 2017.

Image Credit: Jongjin Park, Artistic Stratum, 2017


Young Masters Alumni: Sun Ae Kim

Young Masters caught up with Sun Ae Kim, a Korean-based ceramic artist who was shortlisted for Young Masters in 2014 and selected for Young Masters Revisited in 2010. She is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and now lives and works in Korea.

 What have you achieved since participating in the Young Masters Art Prize?

Lots of things have happened since Young Masters, so I don’t know where to begin. I participated in Young Masters when I had just graduated with my MA from the Royal College of Art in 2010. Since then, I have gained international recognition in ceramic art. I recently featured alongside my works in Visa card commercials.

How was Young Masters part of making this happen?

Through participating in Young Masters, I sold some works and gained interest from prestigious collectors. I have participated in Young Masters twice already and I like the concept of the Art Prize and the possibility that I might reach new clients through it as well. The team are very supportive and provide valuable professional and personal advice.

Ceramic Artists are invited to apply for the Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize until 31 March 2017

A Look Inside The V&A Ceramic Studio With Artist Matt Smith

In March 2016, we were pleased to invite Collectors to a special studio visit and talk by Matt Smith, the 2014 winner of the Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramics Prize, who has spent the last 6 months (October 2015 – March 2016) as the Ceramics Resident at the V&A’s ceramic studio, supported by Maurice and Rosemary Lambert. 

Matt Smith’s work as an artist has often taken the form of hybrid artist/curator. Using clay and its associated references, Smith explores how cultural organisations operate, practicing techniques of institutional critique and artist intervention. He is interested in how history is a constantly selected and refined narrative that presents itself as a fixed and accurate account of the past. By taking objects from one context and repurposing them in new situations, or creating ‘lost objects’, Matt Smith is interested to explore how historical narratives and alternative identities can be brought to light. Of particular interest to him is how museums can be reframed from an outsider perspective, and often this outsider perspective is taken from an LGBT viewpoint.

What is often of most interest to me is what is undisclosed about an object’s history. Moving the focus from descriptions of an object’s material or date of manufacture, I am drawn instead to the emotional bonds between objects, makers, viewers and collectors in order to examine what these collections can tell us about human experiences.”

– Matt Smith

His solo interventions that have addressed these themes include Queering the Museum (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 2010), Other Stories (Leeds University Art Collection, 2012) and Milk (Aspex Gallery, 2010).  Over the past three years, Smith has co-directed and curated Unravelling the National Trust which has seen over thirty artists working with contemporary craft (including himself) commissioned to respond to the histories of the National Trust properties Nymans House, Uppark House and The Vyne.

In 2014 Matt Smith was awarded the inaugural Maylis Grand Ceramics prize and in 2009 received the ARC Award for Craft from Aspex Gallery. Smith is currently completing a practice-based PhD exploring the intersection of contemporary craft practice and queer identities at the University of Brighton where he also lectures.

He regularly shows his work with public collections (A Place at the Table, Pallant House, 2014; Subversive Design, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, 2013; DIY A Revolution in Handicrafts, Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburg, 2010) as well as talking internationally about his practice (Tate Modern, the V&A, Valand Academy Gothenburg, the University of Bremen, Konstfack Stockholm and Bergen Academy of Art and Design). Smith also collaborates with The Young Masters in the ongoing-tour, which included a highly successful presentation at COLLECT, 2015.

Click here for link to the V&A ceramic studio page.


The Young Masters Maylis Grand Ceramic Prize was inaugurated in 2014 in order to support ceramic artists working in innovative ways, showing great skill as well as an awareness of the heritage of ceramic craft. An expert panel of judges comprising Show Director of COLLECT, Daniella Wells; curator and collector, Preston Fitzgerald; and collector Maylis Grand, presented Matt Smith with the winning prize of £1,500 during the event at Sphinx Fine Art. Two further commendations were awarded to Korean artist Jongjin Park and Israeli artist Zemer Peled.

Maylis Grand commented:
“We were looking for a young artist who successfully mixed the aesthetic and techniques of the past to re-invent a modern and vibrant work of art. Matt Smith succeeded in creating several original pieces, which fitted the brief perfectly.”

Young Masters Interview with Shane Wolf

Shane Wolf is a painter based in Paris. He tells us more about his practice and new work, which will be shown as part of the forthcoming exhibition ‘Young Masters: Dialogues’ at Sphinx Fine Art, 12 – 24 October 2015.

You studied in Florence where you acquired a remarkable knowledge of the Renaissance and now you live in France, the nation which in the 19th century referred for a long time to the art of Raphael, Michelangelo and of all the greatest Italian artists of the 16th century: can we consider Shane Wolf an Italian artist? What did you induce to think so passionately over the art of our past? What did you lead to Paris?

I’m not quite certain I could accurately be called an Italian artist, but it is certainly true that my sensitivities to classical art were awoken and began developing during my years in Italy. It is very frequently commented that my work “feels Italian”, and many people claim to see the roots of the Renaissance in my painting. Personally I think these reactions are indeed rooted in the fact that I studied in Florence where the Rinascimento is palpable, where one can stroll down a small street and stumble upon Donatello or Verrochio or Brunelleschi. These influences are omnipresent, and they certainly have had a great impact on my own artistic vision.

After Florence, Paris was the clear city for me. Florence is a wonderful city in which to study, whilst Paris seemed like the place for me to become a professional. I needed a city that also had a remarkably rich past, but also a vibrant present. Paris has offered that right combination of richness and vivacity of both past and present.

The readaptation of the Renaissance art passes also through techniques: you make large use of the drawing but your production abounds with foreshortenings which refer to the great illusionist painters of the 16th century, as Correggio and Veronese. In a time in which the art is made using every expressive way, how much is important to come back to traditional techniques?

Using traditional techniques is absolutely essential to my creation. The act of drawing and painting from life is a beautiful act on its own, and it also abounds with great Humanist values. When one works uniquely from life as I do, one can better understand why the Renaissance was also a Humanist cultural shift. Those of us who spend our days and years studying the human forms in all their complexity (well, that is really not possible, but we try!) become part of the great lineage of art history, going as far back as the Greeks. I feel that this is why great works of art still speak to us so profoundly: they tap into certain fundamental sentiments and values of mankind.

And yes, fore shortenings are indeed an important part of my work. I greatly admire and respect the illusionist painters you mention (Tiepolo as well), and I also strive to challenge myself in choosing unpredictable viewpoints of the model. Not only is this a fun challenge, but it often provides a dramatic representation of the subject.

In your paintings, the main protagonist is human body. In 2014, on the French magazine “Dessine et Peinture”, you said that in your opinion the body expresses all the qualities: magnificence, power, elegance, sensitivity. Bodies often beautiful, athletic, powerful male nudes and refined female nudes are a characteristic subject of your art. What is your relationship with the body and the beauty? Like in the Italian Renaissance art, do your bodies want to express an ideal, a value?  

Absolutely. The human form is the pinnacle of beauty, grace, elegance, finesse, strength, vulnerability… My entire life I have been in awe of the human body, in both male and female form. I feel that we are at our truest state of being—our purest—when nude. As during the Italian Renaissance, I aim to use the nude to express the infinitely wide range of human experience and emotion.

Was the Prix Taylor a goal of yours? Did you ever expect to win an award that has such a strong history with incredible artists like Delacroix?

When I received The Prix Taylor in 2010 during a show in the Grand Palais in Paris, it was a completely unexpected honor. The Taylor Foundation is a very esteemed, historic organisation that is very well-known within the French-speaking world and has an amazing history. When the jury placed the award’s plaque next to my name there was an immediate murmur of excitement from the crowd. Needless to say to be decorated with an award from the same organisation of which Delacroix, Ingres and Corot were part is a tremendous distinction.

So you’ve been everywhere from Fiji to Egypt. How have your travels influenced the way you make art?

Travel is education and adventure; it is risk taking, or rather opportunity taking. We don’t get anywhere without leaving our comfort zones. Learning to make a jump into the unknown and trust that you’ll figure things out (more or less) is an invaluable life lesson that I really learned while living abroad and backpacking around the world. Learning to address my hesitations and fears is perhaps the single most important way travel has influenced how I make art. After all, each painting is a journey: it has it’s moments of inspiration, of fatigue, of frustration, surprise, and discovery.

Is it “process” or end result for you?

Definitely a process, with a mere “idea” of the end result.  As most of us probably experience, the end result is hardly ever what you anticipated at the onset.  I’ve always been intrigued by that:  the never-ending artistic roller coaster of love-hate, control-abandon and all those seemingly opposing emotions and feelings that come with it all. It is absolutely frustratingly delightful!

Artists working in any medium and from anywhere in the world are invited to apply to Young Masters Art Prize. Applications open until 31 March 2017.

Introducing our new sponsor Crossbarfx

We are delighted to introduce our new sponsor, Crossbarfx, a foreign exchange company based in the UK.  Crossbarfx are generously sponsoring the Private View of ‘Young Masters: Dialogues‘ at Sphinx Fine Art, which takes place on 14 October 2015, 6 – 9pm (RSVP to celia@thecynthiacorbettgallery.com)

Tom Barclay, associate at Crossbarfx, explains why they are sponsoring Young Masters and gives an introduction to their company. 

Please can you tell us about Crossbarfx and the services you offer?

When any individual or business has a need to convert currency naturally their first port of call is their bank & why wouldn’t it be. Most people don’t realise that there is any other way of making payments in other currencies. But there is. Crossbarfx was established in 2004 and is a longstanding non-bank provider of deliverable foreign exchange and international payments. Crossbarfx has rapidly become the provider of choice for private individuals & companies based in the UK and overseas. We know that moving your money around the world means a lot more than just changing pounds to euros, or dollars to yen. We work in exactly the same way as a bank however on considerably tighter margins in turn saving the client money which gets added straight onto their bottom line.

Why do you think FX important, and how can it be used to best effect?

The currency markets are the most liquid and volatile in the world. With an increasingly globalised world, the need for foreign exchange to support international trade and cross border payments is growing the whole time. Private individuals buying or selling overseas investments such as property and sometimes art, importers and exporters too have a need to access the currency markets through their bank or broker in order to achieve the best rates of exchange.

You are generously sponsoring the Private View of our forthcoming Young Masters: Dialogues exhibition. What appealed to you about Young Masters as an initiative to get involved with?

Crossbarfx is supporting the Young Masters art prize for the first time and the emphasis very often reflects the same things at Crossbarfx’s financial world.

Whilst the Young Masters encourages artist to look and learn from the artists of the past and respond with innovation and creativity in their own work to provide new, vibrant pieces, Crossbarfx shares a similar outlook as we look to innovate whilst remembering the good old things that still matter. Excellent customer service and innovation in both product and technology are the key to our future just as  creativeness and inventiveness are still so important in art. My sister is a classically trained portrait painter and it is an area that I follow closely along with others in the company. It a pleasure and an exciting time going forward.

Do you collect art?  And if you could own any piece of art, what would that be?

My family collect art. I did History of Art A level and the first period I studied was impressionism and the first artist the arch impressionist Eduoard Manet – the godfather. My favourite work is The Luncheon on the Grass (Le dejeuner sur l’herbe) by Edouard Manet.


Manet shocked the French public by exhibiting this painting at the Salon des Refuses in 1863. Although not a realist painting, it is a statement in favour of the artist’s individual freedom. Ever since it was first published, this painting has puzzled audiences and critics which must have been striking at the time. There are various interpretations of the painting and people still discuss them at great lengths.

When I went with my family to the Prado Museum (Madrid) 10 years or so ago I was overwhelmed by many of Diego Velázquez’s paintings too.

How can CrossBarFX help artists, galleries and art dealers?

Crossbarfx can help artists, galleries & art dealers achieve better rates of exchange than the high street banks and many other brokers. We ensure that every cross border transaction is simple, fast and cost effective without the need to visit the bank. Crossbarfx also offers a free of charge, dedicated, personalised dealing service for those that require help in placing their transactions or understanding the dynamics of the currency market. Our aim is to make everything as streamline and smooth as possible & saving those who purchase or sell art money whilst offering a unique personalised service. These savings are often between 2-4% of their turnover which gets added straight to the business bottom line.