Friday, August 10, 2007

Art Space Talk: Lala Meredith-Vula

Lala Meredith-Vula was born in Sarajevo and moved to England in 1970. She attended Trent University, Nottingham(1984-/85) and Goldsmiths College (1985-88), then the University of Pristina, Kosovo, for postgraduate studies. In 1988 she was one of the exhibitors in the seminal Young British Artists (YBA) show 'Freeze', organized by Damien Hirst. Since then she has exhibited internationally and has been a strong advocate for art education.

Lala has lectured at various colleges in the UK, US and Kosovo. She established the first Department of Photography at the Academy of Art, University of Tirana, Albania. Sponsored by Kodak, Pentax the George Soros Foundation and the British Council. Her students subsequently produced the photographs illustrating the 1995 Soros Foundation Annual Report.

Brian Sherwin: Lala, you often focus on doing a series of photographs. You did a series in Kosovo showing Albanian farmers' haystacks, a series of photographs of women in Turkish baths, and a series showing women standing and moving beneath the surface of water. How do you decide on a theme for a series?

Lala Meredith-Vula: When I visit a place, I use sketchbooks to record ideas as well as taking digital test shots. From this collection of material, I find the subject which has inspired me the most from which I could create a series.

BS: For people who are not familiar with your work- can you go into detail about what you are trying to convey with your photographs? What are the social implications in your work? Is their a form of 'social commentary' that goes beyond the image itself?

LMV: When a subject has inspired me I hope to record it in a way which will inspire other people to see its visual beauty. It reflects my feelings and emotions and I hope to convey these to others in my work. There is no specific “social” agenda but as a half-Kosovar British artist and using these strands of my life, a social dimension can be observed.

BS: Lala, you are associated with the Young British Artists (YBAs). What was it like exhibiting with other YBAs- such as Damien Hirst? Can you share any experiences you had with this group of creative individuals?

LMV: I shared a studio with a group of students which included Damien Hirst in my final year at Goldsmiths’. It was interesting being involved with this group and taking part in “Freeze”. It was an experience to be with this group and part of history. One abiding memory was when all us artists had to paint the building – space ourselves before we could put up the exhibits.

BS: In 1995 you set up the first photography department at the University of Tirana (Albania) and in 2000 a photography department at Pristina University. What was that experience like?

LMV: It was a privilege and an exhilarating experience to make a difference to people’s lives. I brought the materials and the equipment, trained the students and saw the results.

BS: When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

LMV: The Art Foundation course at age 18 was the beginning of my desire to become an artist.

BS: Can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

LMV: Any artistic creation is the result of the combination of so many factors: the artist’s predisposition to be passionate about a subject and desire to communicate this, in whatever form is paramount; a great deal of hard work and preparation; to remain true to yourself, as you perceive this truth.

BS: What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

LMV: My last exhibition in Kosova, this year in May was the biggest space I had been offered; the best media coverage and I feel, the best work I have produced so far.

BS: Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

LMV: A glass of fine red wine.

BS: Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

LMV: I love the haystack photograph with Pristina bus station below it. It has both humorous connotations and aesthetic appeal. When I first photographed it, I thought it conveyed contradictions and contrasts we all experience now.

BS: Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

LMV: I use photography because it is a quick way of recording moments around me.

BS: Where can we see more of your art?

LMV: Arts Council Collection, Website, and new exhibitions in London and Leicester, details to be posted on website.

BS: Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?

LMV: I am represented by Alberto Peola Gallery in Turin, Italy.

BS: Any tips for emerging artists?

LMV: Work hard; be true to yourself.

BS: Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

LMV: In America and Australia people have found that the nude series is often censored from my website. I feel helpless and just laugh about it.

BS: What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

LMV: No, I have been lucky.. I have a very supportive family and friends.

BS: What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

LMV: I teach at De Montfort University, Leicester and notice that video art has become more dominant in the last few years.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

LMV: I would like a wider audience to be brought into the art world to be uplifted, appreciate and enjoy the visual beauty it has to offer.

I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Lala Meredith-Vula. You can learn more about Lala and her art by visiting her website:

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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