Shortly after the tragic death of Chris Al-Aswad on July 27 this year, at the age of just 31, a wave of tributes began to build on the internet. On twitter, where Chris, as @escapeintolife – the username of the site he built from scratch – spent much of his time, people started using a simple hashtag to unite the tributes – #TYChris (TY for thank you).
Yesterday, we announced the first ever winner of the Christopher Al-Aswad Prize (the full Christopher in the title at his family’s request), Johanna Harness, life force of #amwriting.
This post is by way of an illustration why it mattered to us at eight cuts gallery to award our prize for outstanding contribution to breaking down barriers in the arts in Chris’ name. For an answer as to who this remarkable young man was, what he achieved, why thousands of people offered tributes of as unreserved a warmth as I have ever seen, and why it is so special that Johanna receive the first awarding of the prize, please read this post, put together by the wonderful people making sure that his legacy at Escape Into Life survives.
To show why Chris’ vision was something we felt we wanted to honour at eight cuts gallery, please read the following, notes for an essay that was still incomplete at the time of Chris’ death. They say so much about the ideals we hold dear, and they say it so much better than we ever could.
When Visual Art Becomes Poetry
The complex inter-relationship between literary art and visual art is like an enigma to me.
This is not an intellectual puzzle I’m trying to figure out in my early 30′s. This is my life. This is what Escape into Life, online arts journal, embodies: the fusion of two types of media; art and literature; and the urge to discover what happens when a journal allows both forms to meld and grow as an organic whole.
pEscape into Life aims to explore, enmesh, and mostly, to uncover the core similarities of the two through the growth and development of technology, community, and inquiry.
At the most basic level, there’s poetry and there’s visual art; separate and distinct forms of artistic expression. Nonetheless–the history of visual art and the history of literature reflect each other to such a degree that it would seem visual artists and poets are made from the same
It’s more like an intuition has grown over the years. Undoubtedly, my parents, my upbringing, my talents and lack thereof, contributed to these two equally strong influences in my life. Mixed exposure to both literary and visual art.
Escape into Life, online arts journal, is basically a new media experiment to blend, meld, mesh, mingle, interrelate, bind, juxtapose, and interpenetrate the two forms of art.
The best comparison is to a scholar or a scientist who comes to discover that their life-work revolves around a single theme.
Of course, there is reason for my interest in this subject of art and literature; and how they remain separate and distinct and yet intricately enmeshed. My mother was an oil-painter, I was exposed to art at an early age, and I was brought up in her creative shadow.
–and a life-long exploration of mine–that fuels the very online arts journal you are reading right now, called Escape into Life.
I have no philosophy or common goal I wish to convert our readers to. There is no academic bent or political ideology behind this journal.
Escape into Life pushes the boundaries of visual art, literature, and poetry.