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Damien Flood is an Irish artist who lives and works in Dublin. He is represented by Green On Red Gallery, Dublin. At the core of his work is an interest in how we see and experience the world. Flood is interested in the disconnect between the world we inhabit and the one within our minds. His work is grounded in early writings on philosophy, theology, alchemy and the natural sciences and explores the mutability of 'reality' and language. These new geographies he creates give the viewer a meditative space to see and experience the world differently and question the everyday. The abstract worlds he creates teeter on the edge of edges, balancing precariously close to chaos.
Flood graduated from the Master’s programme at NCAD, Dublin in 2008 where he was awarded the National College of Ireland Purchase Award for his end of year show. He was also taken on by Green On Red Gallery on the back of this show. At the same time, he was also shortlisted for the John Moores Contemporary Painting prize and Saatchi Space in London during Freeze Week. Since then, Flood has been developing a language within his painting practice that explores and questions the world around us. This language has been created through shapes, tones, lines and gestures which subconsciously reference the everyday in an otherworldly manner. This has been achieved through varied approaches to research which in 2014 took him on a two week research trip to the UAE. This was in preparation for his solo show ‘Infinite Plane’ at Grey Noise in Dubai in 2015. The final work for the show merged the artist's experience of his time there with the people he met and the striking landscape.
Following on from this in late 2015, Flood was awarded the 2016 DLR Lexicon Commission, culminating in the solo show ‘Terra Incognita’. This exhibition explored what it is to know a place. Researching the show Flood interviewed people from Dun Laoghaire, asking them to tell him their story of the area. This led to a series of recordings and documentation that the artist then responded to. Similarly to ‘Infinite Plane,’ this exhibition merged their stories with his own experiences during the process. Growing up near the town, Damien brought some personal stories and thoughts to the research that can be traced through the work. In the final exhibition, a gestural line narrated these multiple voices in the paintings and linked the contributors to an abstract, psychological landscape.
Most recently, his work has explored a more personal area of belief, memory and the subconscious. ‘A Root that Turns as the Sun Turns’ at Green On Red Gallery, 2016, examined a bereavement within his family. The paintings are meditations on the grief counselling sessions the artist undertook. During the summer of 2016, Flood spent most weekdays driving his dad in and out of the hospital. These journeys were filled with conversations about the past and life in general. Elements from these drives hazily appear in certain works like ‘Gift’ and ‘Pear and Shadow’. The forms in the paintings gave the unconscious a body and life to populate, creating a voice and place for emotion and memory to reside. Each painting created a meditative space for the viewer to piece together the puzzles held within.
Over the last few years Flood has produced three publications with different art writers. These have been collaborative projects that have questioned what a catalogue can be and challenged how you write about a practice. ‘Selected Works’ was produced for his inaugural solo show at Green On Red Gallery, Dublin 2010. Flood enlisted curator and art writer Mary Conlon to work with him on the project. She produced a text that channelled their conversations during the making of the show. The text bounces ideas off an unknown Professor from London whose responses appear in purple in the finished piece. The result is a doorway into the work giving the reader a better understanding of the work and show. In 2011, Flood enlisted art writer and critic James Merrigan, Film Maker Saskia Verlmeulen and Mary Conlon to produce the publication ‘Spectral Gallery’. This pamphlet style publication formed part of the exhibition and was free for the audience to take. The texts varied from a critical study of Flood’s work to a fictional text called ‘Captain Viewpoint and the Grey Death’. Overall the publication created an alternate world for the work and reader to inhabit. In 2013 Flood published ‘Afterworlds’ which reflected upon the exhibition ‘Theatre of the world’ a year after it finished. The publication contained a conversation between Flood and James Merrigan where they discussed how his practice has evolved and reflected upon the exhibition overall. The other text in the publication by Woodrow Kernohan responded to the themes of the show, one being the Voynich Manuscript and compared them to Jorge Luis Borges, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. The resulting text cleverly weaved fictional worlds within each other in a strange academic study.
Flood has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally in Dublin, London, Paris, Modena, Berlin, and New York. In 2015, he was in group shows at FIAC Officielle, Paris with Green On Red Gallery, RH Contemporary, New York, Breese Little, London, Basic Space, Dublin and Artists Weekend, Berlin. Other group exhibitions of are Island: New Art From Ireland in Galleria Civica diModena, Italy; in the three-person show Flood/NiBhriain/Vari at DOMOBAAL, London; and the group show Cafe Paridiso (Least common denominator, or Rustenschacher) at M1, Hohenlockstedt, Germany.
Currently he has work on show at the Broad Museum, Michigan as part of 2116: Forecast for the next century. Later this year he will have a solo show at Stephane Simoens, Belgium and will spend a month at La Brea Artist residency in LA. We are so pleased to present Damien Flood as our latest Mover and Shaker! Peachy Deegan interviewed Damien for Whom You Know.
Peachy Deegan: What does being an artist mean to you?
As long as I can remember, I've been creative, always drawing and creating various visual narratives. So being an artist means everything to me. In a larger, universal sense I think being an artist means you question the world. In many ways to be an artist is to be searching for something. What that something is, is the biggest question of all.
How does art influence the world?
I think art being mainly a visual language it can be experienced by people of all walks of life and cultures, regardless of language barriers. For me it's a way of expressing the non-verbal or normally inexpressible. Art can help us see and feel new things, and art can create new spaces for us to occupy both physically and mentally. I also believe art is food for the mind and soul.
How do you define disconnect and how would you like others to perceive it?
When I talk about this disconnect I'm referring to the limitations of language when trying to express our inner thoughts, experiences and feelings. When we experience a place there's a lot at play: from sound and smell, to visuals and emotional states. There are also people we meet in these encounters that can have a huge impact on our perception and experience. When I'm painting, I'm trying to create a language that merges these various experiences together and creates something new for the viewer. The result I hope will give the viewer a feeling, mood or experience that brings them somewhere new or has an emotional reaction for them.
What philosophers and theologians influence you the most and why?
Athanasius Kircher is my favourite for many reasons. A German Jesuit scholar and polymath, he is considered the last man who new everything. What I like most about him is that he was wrong about a lot of his theories, but always so very close to being right. One of his main problems was that he had to fit all of his theories into his religious beliefs, so this hampered his more pure scientific studies. My favourite example of his theories is that he believed the moon created the tidal movements on the earth -which we know is true. But here is where he goes slightly off track, he believed moon sprites flew down from the moon and filled up the oceans and then left again creating the rising and falling of the tide...so very close but ultimately so very wrong. It's also well-documented that he lowered himself into active volcanoes to get a better understanding of how they worked.
I guess I love the different perceptions of the world we've had over the years and that's not to say that our current one is any more correct. The Hadron Collider might just open up a whole new belief structure for us. We may find out that we are just one variation of multiple worlds. I think the late great Bill Hicks said it best: “Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the Weather."
Are you influenced by other artists?
Yes, most definitely. I'm constantly influenced by other artists. Mainly painters, as I believe painting is a continuous conversation throughout the medium. It's one that is forever evolving and recreating itself. But any show that I go see that has an exciting energy or helps me see things differently is going to influence me.
What is your first art memory?
The clearest memory I have is age 6, creating and drawing odd creatures with my cousin. We used to sit for hours creating these unusual creations -if memory serves they where mutant humanoid mushrooms. My cousin was much better at drawing than I was but that just drove me on to get better. Some people are naturally gifted but I don't think I was.
What is the first art you created and please tell us about it.
This is a tough question. I have created many paintings that I've liked over the years but I wouldn't consider them art. The first actual piece of art I created was in my final few months of my MFA in 2008. The painting was was called 'Uncharted (Misty Island)' It was the painting that I successfully entered into the John Moores Painting Prize. It was a very small, beautiful and simple piece. The language in it was economical and operating on many different levels. This to me was art. I remember finishing it and getting a very different feeling than I had from any other painting I created before. It was also great that it got recognition so I had validation that I was moving in the right direction.
What museums would you like to be in and why?
On my home turf it would of course be IMMA; it would be an honour to be part of the history of Irish art. Sadly over the years their purchasing budget has been decimated but hopefully as the economy gets stronger this will improve. Overseas MoMa and Whitney would of course be on my dream list. They are some of the most important museums and to be in their collection would mean a great deal to any artist.
How would you react if Pierce Brosnan did another Thomas Crown affair with your paintings?
Honoured, of course.
If you were stranded on a desert island with only 5 pieces of art, what would they be and why? (price is no object)
Good question! This one had me thinking for a while. I think Francis Bacon’s ‘Second Version of Triptych’ would be my first choice. I know it’s three works but I’m taking it as one. He is one of my favourite artists and I love this triptych in particular. It’s a very visceral painting and the red carpet in it gives it a David Lynch quality. My second would be Caravaggio’s ‘Taking of Christ’ It has been a painting that I visit regularly in Dublin as it lives in the National Gallery. As a student I made copies of it, studying his techniques and trying to figure them out. Mine were obviously never as good, so it has a special place in my heart. My third choice would be Rembrandt’s “Self Portrait with Turned Up Collar’. It is so beautifully painted. The wrinkles on the face are rolls of paint; you can feel the life in the painting. When painting is this good there is no need for cameras. My fourth choice would be Velazquez’s ‘Pope innocent X’. I remember seeing it for the first time in the flesh in Paris. It blew me away! The glazing on the face created this life-like quality that I have never seen before or since. It really felt like it was about to come alive. His face looks like evil incarnate so there is something very haunting about the work. I understand why Bacon responded to it with his versions. My last painting would be anything by the late great Norbert Schwontkowski. His surfaces are to-die-for and his painting technique has an uncaring deftness to it that is stunning. He has been a big influence on my earlier works and is always lurking in my brush strokes.
What do you think sets you apart as an artist?
I think turning a weakness into a strength. My thinking can be a bit backwards and upside down a lot of the time. I will always overthink things and work out the hardest way to solve simple problems -so I’m not great in a crises. Over the years I’ve managed to channel this into my work and use it to create images that are quite odd and question the viewer.
What inspires you and why?
Good exhibitions can be a real source of inspiration. When I see a really good show I’ll generally be pumped and eager to get back into the studio. Movies, books and music can be really inspiring. Anything that gets me thinking or emotionally reacting I find inspiring. Also a long hike up a mountain can be super for inspiration. Clearing the head out and getting the blood flowing always works. As an artist I think you need to be open to everything so you never really know when inspiration will strike, it can happen at the oddest times.
If you sit down to work and are not inspired, what do you do?
I normally stand when I’m working, as I like to move a lot from painting to painting. But if I'm not feeling inspired, I tend to sweep the floor: I find it very meditative. If all else fails, I'll select some go-to music that usually gets the blood flowing. The music tends to be from my formative years and has a great emotional connection that gives usually gives me the kick I need. If that doesn’t work, I’ll sit with whatever I’m working on and stay looking at it for a while. This can sometimes be the most important thing to do.
What does being Irish mean to you?
I think being Irish means being grounded and welcoming. As a small island we are always curious about other people which is a nice trait.
What would you be willing to do to show how proud you are to be Irish?
I find expressions of national pride a bit uncomfortable. I'm not against them I just find them hard to separate from a thuggish undercurrent that can come with it. This probably has to do with Ireland's political history.
What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
It would be my Mother. She was always a rock in my life and very supportive about every choice I've made. My dad is a metal worker and built up his own business so I grew up with that independent mindset from a young age. He's a very hard working and compassionate man so I would always strive for those traits.
What are you proudest of and why?
I think I'm most proud of my last exhibition 'A Root that Turns as the Sun Turns' at Green On Red Gallery. It was quite a departure in terms of content and scale. Normally my work deals with ideas that interest me and this show took a more personal direction, reflecting upon a bereavement within my family. My Mother had suddenly passed away from cancer the previous year. I remember making the work and realising I had a decision to make -do I let people know where the work is coming from or do I shroud the work in art speak and a clever press release. I decided to stick with honesty which people would either love or hate. I think honesty is one of the most important aspects to good art.
What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I think gain representation with a gallery in New York and other cities around the world. I love to travel and travelling for a reason is even better, so exhibiting with international galleries is the best reason of all.
What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
I've been shortlisted for the John Moores Painting prize in 2008 and 2010.
I received the Elizabeth Fitzpatrick Travel Award in 2014.
I received the Arts Council Bursary Award in 2011 and 2014.
I was short listed for the Thames and Hudson 100 painters of tomorrow.
Most recently I was awarded the DLR Lexicon 2016 Arts Commission.
What one word best describes you and why?
Stubborn: I don't tend to give up very easily. If I decide to do something, I'll stick with it to the bitter end. It can be a good and bad trait.
What do you take your sense of identity from?
I would have to say painting. Over the years I've come to realise that it defines my very existence. Without it, I wouldn't know who I am.
What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? And Dublin?
In Manhattan I would have to say the Lower East Side for the galleries and general vibe. I love walking around there and discovering new galleries. As I don't get over every year it's great to see the changes as galleries grow and evolve. It's also a great place to walk around as it has a very relaxed grounded feel compared to the more glitzy parts of Manhattan. In Dublin it would be probably St Stephen's Green as it is a nice break away from the busyness of Dublin.
What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? And Dublin?
In Manhattan it was Pearl Paint which is sadly now gone. I could spend hours and a lot of money in that place. It was a treasure trove of art supplies you needed and ones you never knew you needed. In Dublin it would be Coffee Angel as they do the best coffee I've tasted. Time permitting I always like to drop into them for a coffee as a little treat.
If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
Tough question, musically it would be Bob Mould as he's one of my favourite musicians and his last album Patch the Sky was a cracker. Food wise I would hire Ross Lewis from Chapter One. He's a wonderful chef and I've had the pleasure of dining at his restaurant. Still brings a tear to my eye when I think about the meal -heaven.
What is your favorite drink?
True to my Irish heritage it has to be Guinness, but only in Ireland as it never tastes the same abroad. Even in Ireland you have to know the places to get a good pint.
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
I've actually never been to a cocktail party. I'm from a very humble upbringing so sadly I've never really swam in those circles. When I'm in Manhattan I would probably be at a bar having a Brooklyn Larger or bottle of Red Stripe. But I'm open to invitations to any Cocktail parties for when I'm over next!
What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? And Dublin?
I'm going to sound very unsophisticated here but every time I'm over in Manhattan I just can't get enough of the Pizza. But the last time I was in Manhattan after an opening we were brought to a great Mexican restaurant in Chelsea called Bodega Negra. Fantastic food and great relaxed atmosphere.
One of my favourite places to eat in Dublin is The Chameleon. It's a Southeast Asian style restaurant in Temple Bar. Beautiful relaxed interior and very tasty food.
What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? And Dublin?
My favourite book based in Manhattan would be 'A Naked Singularity' by Sergio de la Pava. Also, I know it's not Manhattan set but I love 'Brooklyn Folllies' by Paul Auster. My favourite book set in Dublin is the autobiographical 'A Preparation for Death' by Greg Baxter. He's an American writer who moved to Dublin to write. This gritty book documents his spiraling life in Dublin. A fantastic and sometime tough read. His latest book 'Munich Airport' is one of the best books I've ever read. He is a true writer.
Who would you like to be for a day and why?
Anybody would be my honest answer. I'd be curious to experience how other people see the world and what goes through their head. Is everyone else as neurotic as me? I'm not sure I'd want to be someone who knew me though, as I might not like what I see and hear!
If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? And Dublin?
In Manhattan it would have to be the steam chimneys you see on the streets. I quite like the idea of people referring to them as Flood's or Damien's blowing off. I also think you should never take yourself too seriously. In Dublin it would be nice to have a park named after me. I like the idea of being a refuge for people in a busy city.
What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? And Dublin?
In Manhattan it would be running to catch the Corbet exhibition at Met while also having to fit in buying runners and making it back in time for the bus connection to the airport. It was only on the eve of leaving New York that I found out there was a once in a life time show of Courbet work on in the Met. It was quite the morning but I was delighted I got to see the show. It was a knock out and I also managed to get my runners.
I go to the gym most days before the studio in Dublin but haven't graduated to doing athletic events. I used to cycle to my old studio in Dublin, it was about 100 miles a week. I miss that a lot. There is a great freedom in cycling and was a super mental release after a long day in the studio.
What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? And Dublin?
In Manhattan it would have to be the art galleries. The amount and the quality are second to none. It is always a wonderful experience, so much so, that in all the times I've been to New York I still haven't seen the Statue of Liberty. In Dublin it would be going for a Guinness in one of my favourite spots like Mulligan's near Tara Street.
If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
It would have to be Francis Bacon. Having read Peppiatt's 'Francis Bacon in my Blood' I know he knows how to dine so I would be assured it would be a great night out. I would also of course love to chat to him about painting.
What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? And Dublin?
In Manhattan it would be a Wilhelm Sasnal show I seen in 2007. He's one of my favourite artists, but that was only one reason. The other is that there was a very young kid, around 8/9 years old at the show with his dad. He was looking at a video piece by the artist and started referencing it to all these other artists, and not just like for like, he was talking about ideas and content. I just stood there in amazement while the dad discussed his ideas in more detail. You wouldn't get that anywhere else. In Dublin it would be seeing Devo play in Vicar Street back in 2008. One of my favourite bands and they did not let me down. Fantastic show.
What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I donate money whenever I can and like to donate artworks to worthy causes. Apart from that I should do more but find it quite difficult with my work schedule. Terrible excuse I know, something I need to rectify.
What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan? And Dublin?
I'm not sure I know Manhattan well enough to say what's underrated or overrated. It's probably my favourite city in the world to visit so I would also be terribly biased. The only thing I find irritating is the price of hotels but I'm sure most people would agree with that. In Dublin I think Temple Bar is overrated. Tourists go there thinking they will get to see some Irish culture and it's just full of shops selling green hats and Aran sweaters. I think the Iveagh Gardens are underrated. It's a lovely park just behind the National Concert Hall, not a lot of people know about it.
Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite WhomYouKnow.com column and what do you like about it?
I quite like the arts coverage. Always good to find out what's going on and see a bit of the social side. English Errors is always good too. Very fond of these types of posts. Although I'm probably a culprit of English errors myself!
What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I'm an avid reader who loves nothing more than a good book. I played music in various bands for nearly 14 years but gave it up as painting would have no other mistresses. I'm a huge dog lover; they are the sweetest creatures on earth. To know the love of a dog is to know true love.
How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
They can contact me on my email email@example.com