In an attempt to celebrate the myriad of underground creative scenes that exist in Europe, Isobel Gorman-Buckley founded Sick Love Zine, an independent zine focused on queerness and creativity that gives visibility to underrepresented artists and their often-unexplored work. Now, through its latest four-part print project, Sick Love Presents, the zine has taken another step forward by uncovering the creative minds hidden in cities like Leipzig (Germany), Warsaw (Poland), Kyiv (Ukraine) and Glasgow (Scotland). All with the help of local artists such as Agata Slowak, Gorsad Kyiv and Sasha Kurmaz, as well as Shrek 666 and Trackie Mcleod, who have given a unique and authentic touch to every part of the project.
Since it is the first time that you speak to METAL, we would like to know more about Isobel Gorman-Buckley. Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m Izzy and I’m a writer and zine maker from Brighton, currently living between London and Leipzig. My projects centre on queerness or creativity – often both – exploring identity, expression and artistry in their myriad complexities.
Despite your age, you have already founded your own publication, Sick Love Zine, mainly focused on underground communities, especially queer and creative ones. How has your journey to becoming an Editor-in-Chief been?
When I first began Sick Love, I was a student and a team of one. I was a regular contributor for SID Magazine at the time and a freelance editor for Guts Gallery. Even so, the whole thing was pretty new to me, I’ve learned a lot on the go. Now, I have worked with over two hundred and fifty artists, as well as developing my skills as a curator, events organiser, manager and producer. It has been an amazing learning experience and has really challenged me creatively. I now feel confident in my role and my ability to continue to expand Sick Love whilst facilitating the celebration and development of our community.
In such an oversaturated world, it is difficult to be fresh and relevant. What exactly is Sick Love Zine and what makes it different from other publications?
As a platform for young creatives to voice their opinions and specifically the issues they have faced, Sick Love is a space for underrepresented artists to be heard, aiming to offer constructive support whilst showcasing unique talent. Through Sick Love, we promote and celebrate the breadth of creative practice whilst remaining socially critical, highlighting individual issues and mobilising social critique. Run by young people for young people, we are building a community that fosters productive collaboration and support. We are not afraid to challenge, and our eagerness to spotlight critical creative narratives has helped us stand out as a platform.
Launching a magazine is never easy, and you even did it in the middle of a pandemic. What pushed you to create it? And what did the early days of it look like?
I began Sick Love as a means to platform underground artistry and facilitate necessary conversation surrounding the issues faced by many young creatives navigating their respective industries. When I started, I was frustrated with the lack of critique I saw in mainstream arts media and I began producing content that explored the underground and highlighted the flaws which have led to unfair representation in the United Kingdom's creative industries (including the abysmal lack of working-class representation, prolific brands only offering unpaid internships and the systematic stealing of creative work from smaller artists).
I was happily surprised by the positive responses I received to Sick Love, and although navigating the pandemic, I continued to produce and get more creatives involved. I also began to produce pandemic-specific content, including online events, workshops, and written series focusing on the issues faced by creatives in lockdown. As it was early days I could remain flexible, and I listened to our ever-growing audience to best produce useful and inspiring content.
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What advice would you give to creatives thinking of starting their own zine?
Just go for it! Taking the first step is always the hardest, but nothing is ever going to be ‘perfect,’ so why not start today? I am still very much learning and developing myself, as I think everyone is. It’s only natural to notice the flaws in your work, especially after some time – it’s a sign of progression. So take the plunge, learn from your successes and failures and always be as open to criticism as compliments.
Another would be to collaborate with other creatives: it is so useful to have varying opinions and a plethora of skill sets to lean upon. This is sure to create a really solid final product.
Each part of Sick Love Presents, your new project, has a unique and authentic feel due to the local photographers you collaborated with. But what’s the common thread that links all of them?
When selecting the photographers for this project, I selected four creatives whose work was striking and definitive in style. Actually, all the photographers are quite different, and I was keen to involve them in the creative direction for each shoot. I wanted each zine to have its own aesthetic and direction representative of the local creative scene so difference and distinction were key.
Its four parts are inspired by four different cities – Leipzig, Warsaw, Kyiv and Glasgow. What attracted you the most about them and their creatives?
All four locations have vibrant underground cultures many are yet to hear about. Before making the project I was yet to visit any of the cities myself, but I was intrigued by different factors such as their size, politics and cultures. I had heard about their creative scenes online, about their rawness and innovative practices – I wanted to get a taste of this myself.
Sometimes it seems that creative people can only be successful if they are based in major cities such as London, New York or Paris. How true is this?
I think there is a lot to be gained from living in major cities. There is so much opportunity and so many talented creatives to connect with. They also dominate the media and ultimately cultivate environments of great creative potential. However, I think this is a shame. Stepping outside of London has really opened my eyes to just how much talent exists outside of these spaces. It has also shown me the attractive lifestyle lived by many, as affordability and some tranquillity allow for a little more breathing room and often for creativity to flourish.
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Nevertheless, there is a lot of talent spread around the globe. How important is it to represent those creatives outside of the main hubs?
It is so important and one of the main reasons I created this project. Most people – admittedly myself included – are so focused on certain areas and communities that we ignore the wealth of talent just around the corner. Sick Love Presents explores the work and livelihoods of three artists from each city in the hope of platforming the best of the city's underground artists and uncovering the versatility and vibrance of each location. I hope this series will expose just a snippet of the myriad of youth cultures existing in Europe and inspire others to explore them for themselves.
For a better understanding of the creative scenes in the cities you chose, you visited each one of them including Kyiv, currently in the middle of a war with Russia. Could you let us know a bit about the significance of choosing this city for you?
This project was created between November 2021 and February 2022. We simply could not have known of the horrifying future and, at the time, we worked as a team to create a beautiful representation of Kyiv and its creative community.
Meeting all involved and visiting such a beautiful country was a huge pleasure that I will always cherish. The violence that has been shown towards Ukraine and its people is brutal and still continuing. Sasha, Mary, Alina and Gorsad are all safe as I write this, yet all have suffered. I can only hope the future will find them in better stead, and they are able to piece together the spectacular lives they had built for themselves before war was thrust upon them. I hope this print serves as an account of the vibrance of the Ukrainian people and their art and culture. I am eternally grateful for being able to experience Kyiv as it was.
This print celebrates the vibrance of Ukrainian culture and the strength of its people. For this reason, I decided to not change the text of this project as I wanted to preserve the beauty of the city and its people presented within. All profits from this publication will be donated to Ukrainian LGBTQI+ and feminist NGO Insight, which are currently covering basic needs in protection, safety and health for LGBTQI+ people during the war.
What’s next for Sick Love Zine? What can we expect from your future issues?
More queer art! For the next issue, I want to delve into queer art histories too, as these are often excluded from the art history canon. Although the rest is a secret for now! I also want to begin offering arts education opportunities through Sick Love, as I believe a good education can open all the right doors in life, and many are currently alienated from arts education due to high costs and limited employment opportunities.
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