Mark Sloper

Contemporary artist Mark Sloper featured in CAKE
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

If you can picture yourself in Soho London’s red light district back in the 70’s with the neon lights, the Punk rock era of the Kings Road, the Sex Pistols, Vivienne Westwood together with Malcolm McLaren, down at the Worlds End. The whole nostalgia of those rebellious times in the UK, where everything was put to question and a revolution was taking place against the establishment.  It still remains however, it lingers like hangers on at the end of a party, you see dribbles of it trying to make some form of rhetoric, in fashion, in film and in art.  Mark Sloper’s work is a slap in the face.  It’s nothing short of a journey in history taking us way back to where most recent revolutions began.  I am standing in front of one of his artworks, it’s the American flag with only 48 stars, the original flag going back to 1908, the words in neon represent what the flag stands for “ Hardiness and valour, Purity and innocence, Vigilance and Justice”.  It is a welcome to all the immigrants coming to the USA.  Mark’s work embodies everything he loves combined with everything he stands for.  His recent commission a series of work, titled ‘Heaven Sent.’

Artwork by Mark Sloper in CAKE
Artwork by Illuminati Neon
Artwork by Mark Sloper
Heaven Sent by Illuminati Neon
Artwork by Mark Sloper featured in CAKE
Artwork by Illuminati Neon

These artworks narrate the topics of Anarchy, the Illuminati, with images of Queen Elizabeth II, William and Kate, to Marylyn Monroe, and his recent artwork of Donald Trump embodying a Nazi officer in front of the American flag, illuminated by the bright pastels of the neon lights reminiscent of an amusement park, but nothing amusing within his narrative.  His artworks are beautiful to the eye, the bright pastels and primary colours.  However as with all good art, the messages runs deep and evoke the emotion within us.  As I try to explore a bit deeper with Mark, it proves difficult at first, it’s hard to get a word in, as he is so busy explaining everything and is super confident, however I want to know a bit more, and for him to reveal himself.   Art is about what the artist is trying to represent, but often it’s not what he is trying to get us to see, but what is actually being said.

Artwork by Mark Sloper featured in CAKE
Artwork by Illuminati Neon
Artwork by Mark Sloper featured in CAKE
Artwork by Illuminati Neon

Mark was raised by his Aunty Janey who was a religious lady and head of the Salvation Army, his father had left the family and his mother often tackling with depression struggled raising her son.  The community in Cornwall, surrounded by sea is a breathtaking part of the United Kingdom, famous for its Pirates of Penzance and the Minack theatre built into the cliffs by the Atlantic ocean as well as very famous artists.  Mark is a proud Cornish man whose heritage goes back to the 12 century, the Cornish being more English than the English, with Celtic origin he clarifies.  As a South African myself, I was unaware the Cornish actually having their own language like the Welsh.  Mark explains growing up in St Ives, with a family of artists including his adopted uncle the painter Eric Ward, whose work is still displayed at The Tate.  Mark’s early education was amongst these artists such as Terry Frost, Alfred Wallace and John Christopher, as well as the Head of St. Ives Art School.  However revealing that as a boy, he used to think, ‘How boring is Art’ as he was completely surrounded by it.

Artwork by Mark Sloper featured in CAKE
Artwork by Illuminati Neon
Artwork by Mark Sloper in CAKE
Artwork by Illuminati Neon

The bright child eventually won a scholarship to a prestigious private school. However was obsessed with Punk Rock, watching the Sex Pistols at the age of 12 already, eventually becoming friends with drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones.  He attended an Art Foundation in Bath and then followed on to the Psalter Lane Art College with is now Sheffield University.  Although he initially wanted to be a pop star, Mark had a career in Film and Television and set up a successful business, 400 Television ltd.  After graduating from University, studying art and photography but actually finding photography dull, so he became a film maker instead.  Working with the BBC as well as producing and directing his own films, making films for the Sex pistols, as well as The Final Cut with Jude Law, Ray Winstone and Sadie Frost in 1998, which was really successful.  Other legendary productions followed such as, Small Time Obsession in 2000; Sid!  By those who really knew him in 2009.  Along with Superbiker: Day of Reckoning, 2013 then there is Superbiker II, III and IV as well as Billy Fury – The Sound of Fury,  and this year he released, Speed is my need, which Mark sold to Netflix.

Artwork by Mark Sloper featured in CAKE
Artwork by Illuminati Leon
Artwork by Mark Sloper featured in CAKE
Artwork by Illuminati Neon

Mark’s work as an artist is more of a recent acquisition, it’s what has taken most of his passion recently, he started taking it seriously six to seven years ago.  His work appearing in the Saatchi Gallery this September, with best emerging artists in the world.  It has the dynamics of his films, energetic and temperamental.  He is already creating a following as he is the only one doing what he doing with neon.  His influences like Chris Bracey, who said,“There is a light that never goes out ” he was the king of neon Mark informs me.  “He was the man who lit up Soho.”  Marks artworks may light up a room or a gallery, however there is the ultimate double entendre, and it’s there for a reason, you are supposed to see the supposition and that is what English contemporary art is, the references to something else.

contemporary artist Mark Sloper featured in CAKE
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Tim Christie

Tim Christie portrait in CAKE
Photo: Katie Christie

When you think of the perfection of symmetry, what comes to mind? The way a sun sets across the straight line of a horizon, the face of a tiger with perfect proportions, the lines around her perfect almond shaped eyes and her triangular nose.  Maybe you consider perfection the angles and structures of the Sydney Opera House or maybe the Contemporary Art Museum in Niteroi.  Do you think of mathematics when you stare at a human face?  The perfection of symmetry and proportion when you look at a flower or the repetitive patterns in nature as Alan Turing started to explore, when he connected the mathematics to nature.  Tim Christie’s ‘MONOMOKO’ artworks series, explore the idea of symmetry and perfection, encapsulated in an Op art style combined with the elements of De Stijl.  The stripes making up the artworks of human faces and animal’s faces, it’s abstract and monochrome, it is modern art at its ultimate.  Originally conceptualised on his Macbook whilst on holiday in Scotland.

Artwork by Tim Christie
Life Saver by Tim Christie
Artwork by Tim Christie
Mr Mistoffelees by Tim Christie

Now his artworks are meticulously painted, the metallics and colours creating a more 3D effect of what is almost 2D art.  Initially when gazing at these works you don’t quite understand what you are seeing, when you realise that it is Anthropomorphic, dogs heads, cats or bulls on a human body wearing spectacles or just a straightforward artwork of two rams locking horns or the majesty of a Stag or a bull.  Then there are the human faces.

Artwork by Tim Christie
Wolf Of Wall Street by Tim Christie
artwork by Tim Christie
Cat Walk by Tim Christie
Artwork by Tim Christie
Rucking Rams by Tim Christie

Born in Wellington New Zealand, Tim enjoyed art from a young age and excelled in art at school.  He attended Design School for four years majoring in visual communications.  After graduating he landed his first job in an ad agency in Wellington, working for Red Rocks for two years which eventually became Ogilvy & Mather, before embarking on the trip of a lifetime.  In his own words it was probably one of the best experiences of his life as he traveled overland through Northern Pakistan, the Himalayas, driving through deserts, visiting places like Nepal, Thailand, Syria, Iran and Egypt often travelling on the back of a pick up truck with the wind in his face breathing in the dust of the desert.   With serious encounters along the way, including his passport, British visa and money being stolen by some friends he thought he had made whilst exploring Turkey, only to be kidnapped and robbed, scuppering his plans to work in London.  Along with other close encounters whilst in Amsterdam, being held hostage by a two-faced landlord whilst his brother had to return with money.  Tim, clarifies that he had been over confident after his travels and some of these confrontations humbled him.  He decided to return home.

Artwork by Tim Christie
Professor Pink by Tim Christie
Artwork by Tim Christie
Golden Lab by Tim Christie

Once he was back in Wellington, he started work as a design specialist for Clemenger BBDO where he remained for six years before being head hunted by another ad agency.  In 2008 during the financial crisis Tim was made redundant and he leapt at the opportunity to freelance full-time, to build his own client base and explore other opportunities.  He developed a palour game ‘Flatulate’ after meeting the inventor at a dinner party.  After much teary eyed laughter Tim knew she was on to something and so they established MHO games.  When they created an online shop for the game he and the web developer saw a business opportunity and they set up storbie.com – an e-commerce platform for people to create their own online stores.  However Tim’s journey as a fine artist only started to evolve around 2009, with a small exhibition on large canvases replicating the tire treads of mountain bikes, titled ‘Treadmarks’ the response led Tim to enjoy the idea of switching from the design world to Fine Art.

Artwork by Tim Christie
Non Binary by Tim Christie
Artwork by Tim Christie
Coexistence by Tim Christie
Artwork by Tim Christie
Giraffe in Scarf by Tim Christie

His latest epiphany came whilst traveling with his family on a five weeks break to Scotland, stopping over in Dubai and taking in the architectural culture of this extraordinary place, when he conceived MONOMOKO.  He had been wrestling with the idea partly in his subconscious he explains, the idea of facial systematic and linear geometric styling.  Refining the key characteristics of faces whether it be human or animal, and focus on shape.  His first design of a polar bear materialised the abstract thinking into something tangible. Producing really large prints on canvas, he realised how the bigger they were the more abstract they became.  He first exhibited at the New Zealand Art Show where he sold out on opening night and it snowballed from there.  Sydney was the first place he displayed massive pieces, where people walked past utterly transfixed, at first none of them realising what they were looking at, until they moved back for the perspective.  After 20 years in the design business, being thrown into a world doing something so personal and the freedom he enjoys, as well as his success, that he has created this incredible momentum.  His work appearing at the Turner Barnes Gallery and currently with Castle Fine Art in Chester and then Castle Fine Art in Westfield Stratford London from this Friday 2-23 August 2019  as well as Art Fairs in the UK, Sydney, Wellington and Hong Kong.

Portrait of artist Tim Christie
Photo Val Buckland

Jana Nicole Conway

Portrait of artist Jana Nicole Conway by Antoinette Haselhorst
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

The bright yellows, pinks and blues trick you when you look at Jana Nicole’s work, purely for the reason that they resonate an instantaneous feeling of being happy.  Until you look closer, in this illusion lies the complex, because the beautiful is in all its variety.  The femme fatale almost invisible inside the tiger or the temptress lurking within the zebra, she explores the power of womanhood within the gentle realms of innocence.  Don’t be fooled by the birds of paradise the colourful butterflies and flowers.  Jana Nicole tours the role of femininity, the narrative is powerful, and tender, for as well as being a warrior, it is about surviving and nurturing.  As a lioness hunts for her kill with all the ruthless stealth she can muster, she returns to feed and lovingly nurture her young.  Jana Nicole explores the conversation of war, survival, grief and family in her unique mixed media artworks.  I read a quote recently that said, ’To Live is Art.’ 

Collage artwork
Animal Attraction Georgie by Jana Nicole Conway
Collage artwork by Jana Nicole Conway
Animal Attraction Nakoda by Jana Nicole Conway

Originally from Chicago, then moving to Ohio, Palm Springs in California, then a boarding school in Arizona, riding her horse in the Verde Valley amongst the Indian burial grounds and red rocks of the American country.  The quintessential rebel American hippy cowgirl.  Her work reflects the heartstrings of her home country with the international spirit of the modern woman.  Jana Nicole is familiar with a world of being raised by her mother after her parents parted, spending holidays with her father, where she was sent to art collage with 18 year old students whilst she was 12, to keep her busy.  The women in my family were very creative women she explains.  Having a close relationship with her mother who ran a business as an interior designer, she says; “Who was there to guide not lecture”.  Jana Nicole’s time in boarding school was geared to what you wanted to do, classes in art and ceramics . 

Mixed Media artwork by Jana Nicole Conway
Boats Razzle Dazzle by Jana Nicole Conway
Mixed Media Artwork
Land of the Three by Jana Nicole Conway

At 16 she moved back to Ohio, as she describes, a young punk to live with her father and stepmother.  The independent child suddenly amongst the preppy community of Cincinnati, Jana Nicole struggled within the strong house rules and conservative community.  She developed a close relationship with her Art teacher, and made contact with old friends she had known during her reception years at school.  Jana Nicole then followed her passion and went to University in Los Angeles to the American college to study art.  This University also took her to London as part of her degree.  When she returned to Los Angeles, she moved in with friends, James Hickox whose mother is legendary Oscar winner Anne V Coates, in the film industry; “Living with the Brit Brat Pack” Jana Nicole explains.  She started her career path working in wardrobe for Horror Films, as well as painting and making sculptures in her spare time. Making money creating costumes for low budget films, including ‘Return of the Living Dead 3’ which won an award for wardrobe.  She met her husband, film producer Richard Conway, during this time.  We were friends and flatmates at the time, she clarifies.

Collage artwork by Jana Nicole Conway
Animal Attraction Betty by Jana Nicole Conway
Collage artwork by Jana Nicole Conway
Animal Attraction Suki by Jana Nicole Conway

A career in wardrobe no longer seemed financially economical, so Jana Nicole became a personal assistant to Madonna, working for Freddy DeMann, she smiles as she tells me that her primary job was sorting through fan mail.  Some of it completely crazy she explains, a lot of the mail went to Gavin de Becker, all part of security.  All this time whilst her finger was on the pulse, Jana Nicole kept on painting and sculpting.  Already ahead of her time, she went onto become a gaming designer for computer games for Fox media.  Working at the time with computer programmers whilst she worked on the creative side, for games such as Mr Jeeters, Junkyard Dog and the Power Rangers.  She was fortunate to be able to move to London because of this job. 

Mixed Media artwork
NC Games by Jana Nicole Conway
Collage artwork
A to Z of Cereals by Jana Nicole Conway

In 2000 Jana Nicole married her husband Richard.  However, when she became pregnant, she was made redundant.  The industry had changed Jana Nicole explains, designers were now computer programmers as well creatives. Her time during Motherhood, also became an opportunity for her to concentrate on her own art.  Exhibiting in Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Brighton, Lewes, Soho London, as well as the Art Fairs.  Raising their three children, the family eventually moved out of London, and settled in the countryside in the South Downs of England.  Jana Nicole found the perfect location for both her and her husband to work and raise a family.  It’s all about space.  They live in an eclectic home, that itself has a creative history in literature and politics. The home once owned by Admiral John Godfrey, has had very interesting visitors.  Ian Fleming who resided in the house to write his James Bond novels.  Winston Churchill visited as Operation Mincemeat was being orchestrated, by the secret service during World War II.

Sculpture Artwork featured in CAKE Contemporary Art Keen Enthusiast
Three Figures The Tribe by Jana Nicole Conway
Mixed Media Artwork by Jana Nicole Conway
9/11 by Jana Nicole Conway

It all ties up when you peruse Jana Nicole’s work, every detail, from her 9/11 artwork which is covered in human ash to her Cereals, the mystique of her work is tied up in the playful.  The toy soldiers, the games, the colourful packets, the elements that fool us to believe all is bright in this world and that it is just a game that we earthlings are playing, and yet the price can sometimes be somewhat earth shattering.  Then we pick up the pieces and start all over again. 

Portrait of artist Jana Nicole Conway by Antoinette Haselhorst
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

  

Emily Kirby

photo portrait artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

There is something infinitely unique about African art, it’s a combination of so many cultures, diverse but always with this thread of the semi abstract running through.  Emily’s work references to all this, with an edge all of her own.  Whether it’s the way she uses colour or her brush strokes, that convey that expression in one simple swift movement.  It’s Fauvism and Africa, because of the emotion her work portrays, in the depth and choice of her colours along with the abstract.  Her portrayal of the unobserved, the mystique of what is a portrait.  Her works convey the emotion of earth, and sunset, drought and flood, the heat of what it is to be African, once you have been to Africa, its in your heart and it never leaves you.  There is something so unparalleled and unique about this continent’s art, from the Spanish and Arabian influences up in the North to the more tribal wood carvings from central Africa and the earlier ancestors from the sandstone art created by the Bushmen on rocks in the southern part of the continent.  These energies are reflected in Emily’s Polar bear artwork, with the hues of a pink sunset, or her rhino in the light of the early morning, or the woman whose emotions are reflected in the contrasting colourful earthy hues.

painting artwork polar bear
Between Your World and Mine by Emily Kirby

 

Abstract painting art
Zambezi Dancer X by Emily Kirby

Emily was born in Zambia in a missionary hospital, it was during the time when Zimbabwe was going through a civil war effecting neighbouring Zambia, that her mother often had to hide baby Emily in a basket in the car.  Her father from Zambia and her mother from England, the family decided to come to the UK when Emily was three.  They moved to a chicken farm in Sussex.  However Emily’s dad, did not get on with England, Emily explains, and her parents parted whilst the rest of the family stayed in the UK with their mother, moving to a house outside of Brighton.

Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Emily started a degree in sports science, initially afraid to pursue a career as an artist, the rest of her family are academics, so she thought it would be a tough career choice, even though she was always passionate about it.  Her father and grandmother are artists, so Emily eventually changed her mind, took an Art Foundation and pursued her career as an artist.   She met her wife Laura, a midwife in 2007, and they both decided to travel together, bought a van and adventured around Europe.  Then, dumping the van, boarding a plane and heading off to Ethiopia.  Here she went to see the tribes in the south of the country, iconic images resonated of people in warm reds against the ochres and warm greens.  That collection formed the basis of a lot of her work.  The two of them then traveled on to Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania, where they both settled on the island off Zanzibar for a short while, and Emily set up her first studio.  She exhibited at the 37D Gallery in Lusaka with renowned artist Pam Guhrs – Carr, this being one of the highlights of her career, Emily informs me, beaming her sparkling smile.

painting art abstract
Nude by Emily Kirby
abstract painting bird
Hornbill by Emily Kirby

 If the travel bug was not big enough already, Emily and her partner are fortunate they can travel and live anywhere, her partner is a midwife, so they can both freely move about.  So following their educational experiences in Europe and Africa.  They decided to leave Zanzibar and moved back to Brighton briefly in 2008, and Emily made her first major collection of work. Emily mentions her Stepmother Radu Tesaro; emphasising the enormous impact she had on her career, just a couple of years older, along with being a huge mentor and friend, enabled Emily to have her first joint exhibition in Prague.  This is where her career took off and she sold a lot of her work.  Then taking another leap, the jet-set couple, decided on a move to London and a studio in Hackney for five years, and then jet set off to live in Spain, three years in Madrid, with a huge studio, near the Plaza Mayor.

painting abstract art
Zambezi Dancer VIII by Emily Kirby

 

painting abstract art
Boy from Kochi by Emily Kirby

The art scene in Spain was not as nurturing though and with a stronger collector base in the UK they decided to head back to Brighton for the next chapter, a few months in and Emily has already exhibited at the The Other Art Fair at the Truman Brewery in London and held a joint exhibition in Shoreditch with South African Artist Peter Mammes.  To date Emily has exhibited in Dubai, Lusaka , New York, Prague, London, Bristol and Cambridge.  

Abstract painting wildlife
On the Edge by Emily Kirby

Emily’s cosmopolitan lifestyle shows in her work, she is an observer, taking a quick snap with her camera, without the person knowing.  Then painting the portrait, it is the photographing the person when they are unaware, it’s not that she is not interested in who the person actually is.  She prefers to work with the energy they convey and likes to use the abstract to convey this.  She will layer up, but leave the abstract underneath.  It’s her own interpretation of energy, she emphasises to me.  Passing on an impression of a moment, that objective of an artist to project their interpretation.  In the beginning you are the one with the power, and then it starts to take a life of its own, she explains. 

Portrait photography artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

 

David Millidge

portrait photo cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

If you imagine an Egyptian queen, or a monarch of the future in a galaxy far far away.  Or, another universe next door to ours, or closer to home, every religion depicted at a dinner table, including the atheist.  Or, maybe visiting deep into oceans below, to the gentle flow and movement of the tentacles from living coral.  All this created in David’s ceramic artworks.  David’s sculptures are the breathtakingly unordinary, so powerfully different, yet encapsulating the smoothness and elegance of ceramics like you haven’t seen before.  His sculptures are; as he describes sometimes a pastiche, taking inspiration from things like, car crash dummies, wooden artists models or puppets. They resonate mathematics, science, nature, sci-fi, religion and history.  A horse made with 22 separate pieces, the intricate saddle alone decorated with over 800 coloured and glazed ceramic cubes.  Each artwork created by individual and separate ceramic moulds.  Sometimes his work using cubes, ball shapes, halos, the effect reminding me of subatomic particles, in gold, royal blue and molten red.  His busts make me think of Queen Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Aphrodite or alternatively, Star Wars and Blade Runner, it’s sci-fi and history and everything else in between.

ceramic Sculpture artwork
Heather Yellow Cubes by David Millidge
sculpture ceramics cake
Red Faced Man by David Millidge
Ceramic Artwork CAKE
Reef ‘Flesh’ by David Millidge

David is from Essex and tells me he has an east end accent.  He is surprised I haven’t detected it.  He graduated from a degree in Sculpture at Central Saint Martins at 21, however he didn’t consider a career as an artist at the time but started a business as a market trader selling shoes.  With this business he continued, eventually importing and building a successful company working with the likes of Vivienne Westwood.  He used his creative skills in marketing he tells me.  Then 45 years later after raising his family and retiring from the business world of shoes, his life took a different direction.  He dabbled in photography and then worked on some paintings, which are brilliant, by the way.  He explains that he doesn’t believe he has a particular talent as a painter but rather a patient one.  I beg to differ.  His painting of Jesus looking like a Kurt Cobain is particular striking, although it was not intended to be a look alike.  However, he decided to embark on a local ceramic class, which he still attends, and he was hooked.  Now he has his own studio and kiln.

Ceramic Sculpture CAKE
Rene Blue/ Pewter Hair By David Millidge
Ceramic Sculpture CAKE
Rene Red/Cream Necklace by David Millidge
ceramic sculpture artwork
Heather Gold by David Millidge

His artworks, are not small, ‘The Last Supper’ measuring 205×60 cm and each figure depicting a different faith created with 24 separate pieces for each of the 13 figures present.  As we talk about this artwork, the sculpture that often gets most of the attention; David explains, how he joined a christian art group when he started out in ceramics, purely for the reason that he finds religious art very interesting. “But I am an atheist,” he exclaims, “an atheist who is fascinated by religious art”.  All the figures in his Last Supper represent the  faiths including Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Atheism.  This piece of artwork is the one that has generated a lot of interest because of its narrative.  His other works in the same style all encapsulating a very different conversation, the kneeling man, Jesus in the arms of his mother, the lovers kissing.  Then there are his beautiful busts of women, all sculpted from models, photographed from different angles, the same mould used for several separate artworks, the unsymmetrical effect of the glazes creating a unique effect each time.  Some of his works, David emphasises, are simply one or two shapes that evolve into something complex. He doesn’t decide what it’s going to look like, the finish is always a surprise to him.

ceramic sculpture artwork
The Last Supper by David Millidge

 

ceramic Sculpture artwork
The Kiss by David Millidge
Horse by David Millidge

In the five years that David has been working as an artist, he has exhibited at Braxted Essex, Hatfield House and Mayfair London, including The Art Fair at the Truman Brewery.   He tells me of the joy and pleasure he feels in customers’ faces when they purchase his works, as they hold the artwork like a baby and how happy it makes them.  Regularly selling smaller pieces, however he did sell the centre piece of his solo show for £4,500.00.   We talk about other artists and concept art which is trending for a while now, nevertheless as with all art there will be a narrative.  David regularly visits galleries and exhibitions, often travelling abroad.  It takes his attention to a different level, and there is great creativity going on, he explains.  He noticed that in Hong Kong they have a different approach to art exhibitions.  It’s a family day out, relaxed and enjoyed, whereas he thinks in the UK it’s more stuffy middle class.

Ceramic sculpture art
Reef Sculpture by David Millidge
sculpture art ceramics
Red Matrix 3 by David Millidge

David is knowledgeable in every way, when it comes to artists from Grayson Perry to Jeff Koons and Tracey Emin.  Maybe it is time we felt more relaxed about art and creativity and that it isn’t just about being part of an exclusive club, but about enjoyment and buying what you love.  David’s work is contemporary in every way, after all his creativity had been laying dormant, we are in for a treat.  His three sons have all followed their father’s footsteps, all of them are artists, a musician, a 3d artist and his eldest, an indie app designer who recently won a BAFTA  Breakthrough Brit award for a computer game. David may have been a business man raising his family, however creativity clearly being an essential part of who they are.

Photography portrait artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Olivier Leger

portrait photography cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

When you think of landscape and nature you will undoubtedly think of our present situation and preservation of our environment, planet earth and the way forward to protect it.  The connection between everything living from our solar systems, as planets orbit around the sun, rain cloud formations, water droplets falling into flowing rivers as they journey out to oceans full of life. Tides lick the shores of land, abundant with all that inhabit it.  Olivier’s work is an exploration of all this, encapsulated in his intricate and explorative artworks.

Artwork art illustration
Blue Whale by Olivier Leger

These illustrations are intimate and complex from the tiniest details, to be all part of the bigger picture, and I mean literally.  These huge dynamic drawings are hours with a small tipped pen and ink, a maze of mystery and detail that you can stare at them for hours forever finding something.  Whether intended to be there like the deep sea diver finding treasure, Jupiter cosmically appearing amongst the shoal of marine life or your own imaginings amongst the swirls and shapes of an illustrative cosmos; his works have you lost.  The whale with its own Eco system, a community of interacting organisms, floating like a planet through white space.  His imaginations take you on a journey, his concepts, the details of his artworks are breath taking.

artwork illustration art
Seahorse by Olivier Leger

As Olivier’s interest in marine life, animals and eco systems has turned his passion to a maze of intricate worlds all built into a solar system of detail.  His doodles could have remained a child-like fantasy of escape, however this young man didn’t just doodle in his school books, as A Levels in Chemistry, Biology and Art and then moving on to a fine art degree will testify.  His doodles and ideas in his head, started with him putting the illustrations on Facebook and getting such a good response from his friends that he eventually started to create these giant detailed artworks.

Illustration art artists
Treasures of the Deep by Olivier Leger

The time spent on them sometimes taking up to six months of intricate illustration and penmanship. He is a natural draftsman, sketching his concept confidently with swift movements in pencil and then creating the whole finely tuned picture.

illustration details
Close-up details of Treasures of the Deep by Olivier Leger
illustration details cake
Close-up details of Treasures of the Deep by Olivier Leger

Olivier was born in London Ontario, Canada, and moved to the UK when still a toddler. His mother is French and he speaks French, his father a retired university lecturer, a childhood in the beautiful Leicestershire countryside, where he still lives. What surprises me about Olivier is his gentle mannerism and eloquent command of the elegant English language, he has a humble demeanour, but don’t be deceived. This man has the self confidence to sell his own work and turn his artworks into a business. His first job after graduating at University was working in a shop selling video and computer games, an experience which he credits with teaching him how to sell.

artwork illustration art
Turtle by Olivier Leger

He now sells both original works and prints that he produces himself, and I am talking top of the range digital printing, his studio has state of the art scanners and computers. Olivier is mindful of the impact his business makes on the environment, for example trying to reduce the use of plastic where possible. “The way you live your life has an impact on the natural world around you” he tells me. “Remembering that helps me continually revaluate the choices I make, to try and live more sustainably”.

illustration artworks cake
Tortue Geniale by Olivier Leger

How it all started in 2013, when he completed his 1.5 metre artwork, the Eco-planet whale, ‘Sacre Bleu Baleine’, which he sold immediately.  Since then he has exhibited at art fairs around the country, with his awe-inspiring collection. Leger’s respect for nature is all too apparent, as an artist he expresses this, however his knowledge of science and biology and the amazement he has for nature. “Did you know a sperm whale dives two kilometres underwater, that is a lot of pressure” and then he calculates the atmospheric pressure in his head. He tells me about the power of adaptation, evolutionary trajectory, and the way an octopus feels, hunts and tastes things with its arms, or how the mantis shrimp punches its prey. Olivier questions it all, how the creatures come to be, it fascinates him, that’s why all his animals are planets, because the planet is so alive.

artwork illustration art
Humpback Whale by Olivier Leger

A self-confessed geek and sci-fi fan, we end our chat as we talk about his hero Elon Musk, and how he works a 100 hour week. Then he tells me has a lion drawing to start on, that he is hoping will help raise money for wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation.

portrait photography artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Teresa Wells MRSS

Photography portrait artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

There is something elfish about Teresa’s life size bronze sculptures. Especially when you think about the material she uses. Solid and heavy and yet her artworks are a contradiction to the heavy metal. The compositions of her sculptures portray the effervescent joy of movement, the leaping and pouncing of a nymph like creature or the strength and power of human performance at its best. Yet, there is something magical about the survivor Viktorya, Teresa’s dancer with one leg, with the spiked prosthetic doing the splits whilst standing on her hands, the capriciousness of Narcissus, resting on his haunches as if about to dive into the water below as he gazes at his reflection, and the delicate Liberty leaping in the air with her back arched in a graceful motion like a trapeze artist flying through the air.  All emphasising the anthropology and beauty of the human form at its most ultimate.

Sculpture Bonze artwork
Narcissus, by Teresa Wells
Sculpture Bronze artist
Viktoryia, by Teresa Wells
sculpture bronze artwork
Liberty, by Teresa Wells

Her earlier works and smaller sculptures are just as fascinating, raise the narrative what it is to be human, with complex sets and story telling. Compelling and surreal artworks, involving sculpture within a miniature set. Her film director, directing a murder on the beach. The artist painting a family, the lonely couple dining at the tall and long table. Or the mother wearing artificial reality glasses as she breast-feeds.

sculpture artwork cake
Happy anniversary, by Teresa Wells
sculpture film set artwork
Hashtag Tragedy, by Teresa Wells
Sculpture art artworks
Madonna and child, by Teresa Wells
portrait photo artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

The psychology is evident, for as I get to know Teresa it all makes sense. All her work is based on the theme survival, a remarkable woman who understands this all too well. She raised her first child, her daughter practically by herself. The tiny infant born with congenital defects, had her first open heart surgery at just 12 days old, with a brave mother who continued to witness her daughter experience many operations before her 22 birthday. The girl, who has a zest for life and has earned heartfelt respect from her mother. Teresa gave birth to her second child, her son, nine years after her daughter was born, he was diagnosed quite late with Asperger syndrome. Before diagnoses, she tied to deal with a confused and awkward boy, who struggled at a mainstream school. She raised him with unique parenting methods and proudly tells me how he has achieved seven GCSEs and recently passed his driving license. She additionally took a break from full time work when her son was six to home school him. All this, whilst Teresa was working to pay the bills, finishing two degrees in Fine Art plus a masters in art and design.

photography artist portrait
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

“I encourage independence” she tells me whilst driving me around the countryside from Northampton to Rugby. “We are all dealt things in life and we all have to do things we don’t want to do, we just have to do it”. This petite lady is powerful and driven and very focused. Teresa loved drawing and making from a very early age, her foundation was in Art and Design in Colchester, this is where she discovered 3 dimensional work and started head modelling in clay and life drawing.  She received a First in BA Honours in Fine Art in Nottingham University, her focus was on sculpture, steel, stitching, riveting, plasma cutting and welding. Working with mixed media, the sensuousness of fabrics against the cold statement of metal. Her academic influence was derived from her interest in studying social anthropology, and the work of participant anthropologists like Mary Douglas.

sculpture artwork art
30 July, by Teresa Wells
sculpture artwork cake
The Last Judgement of Empathic Ability in a Technological Age, by Teresa Wells

She is currently working on commissions, as well as a BBC Television documentary featuring her work. We talk about working with Bronze and how it came about. Previously for five years between 2012 and 2017 Teresa worked on mixed media, having won an award from Richard Deacon CBE, with 3000 entries in 2015. 

bronze sculpture artworks
Desire and Denial by Teresa Wells

She met artist William Tucker who suggested she work in Bronze, with that she met up with a friend and fine artist Paul Kennedy who introduced her to bronze casting and she fell in love with the process. She began a residency at his foundry in Shropshire and learnt everything from him she tells me.  Teresa admits to me that she is super focused, passionate and driven to the exclusion of everything else, in one year she made nine bronzes including assisting in the completion of a 10 foot sculpture.

Sculpture art bronze
The Kiss that Freed a Thousand Dreams by Teresa Wells
sculpture artwork art
Division by Teresa Wells
clay sculpture art
Commissioned portrait: Clay sculpture before it goes through the process of becoming a bronze artwork, by Teresa Wells

To appreciate this you have to understand the complexity of the method that takes your breath away, never mind the cost.  The clay sculpture has to be made first, afterwards it is covered in liquid rubber, when that has solidified, it is covered in fibreglass resin. The original clay form is removed and then the rubber filled with melted wax, just a few millimetres in thickness.  It’s worth it to have a look at some of the videos on the internet, the lost wax process for Bronze sculpture. It will make anyone have a new called appreciation of the thousand year art form.  Teresa is showing me around her studio, explaining the methodology to me, I am imploding with curiosity. However the art world is tough and as we come to the end of our interview she talks about provenance, exclaiming it would be the key to the successes of artists like Damien Hirst.  With Teresa’s intention and purpose this clearly has already happened.

photography portrait artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Giacomo Bevanati

portrait of artist Giacamo Bevanati
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Come and join the masked ball with silver birds and bull masks, golden pineapples and teapots, silver top hats and golden pigs. Walts down the runway as your own kind of unicorn, dance to your own tune as a horned bird or centaur with any of these elaborate contemporary works of art.  Wear them, dress them or leave them displayed, reflecting light and casting shadows.  For these art sculptures are made from sewn and hand stitched silver and brass wire. The golden face masks showing just your eyes or a step further the devils style mask and black bird mask and head dress or the long laced collar and the chameleon head in woven gold. I can see the future of a Venetian night out, wearing a long night cape or gown and these modern artworks by Italian born artist Giacomo.  He takes it a step further in some cases, some of the sculptures can be worn as an elaborate display like a peacock for any grand entrance.

Artworks photography artist cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst
artwork sculpture brass wire
Artwork: Giacomo Bevanati
sculptures venetian masks artwork
Artwork: Giacomo Bevanati

I am amazed at this man’s work, he just completed a commission for a dance production titled “I Know Not These My Hands”, creating detachable costumes as part of the choreography in the dance.  Working a lot with dancers and artists, Giacomo collaborates creating a futuristic artists utopia. Some of the sculptures can be displayed, like his tea set, or the hat and pipe, I particularly like his pig, or the huge pineapple all recently exhibited in Hong Kong with the Singapore Art Garret Gallery.  For our interview me meet in a coffee shop by day, and nightclub by night in Brick Lane, just small walk from the city of London.  I love how artists and bankers all coexist next to each other.  As you walk the trendy streets turn the corner and stand looking at the high rises of the city of London.

Venetian mask wire sculpture
Artwork: Giacomo Bevanati, Photo: Jo Fetto
photography artist artworks cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

We start talking about Foligno a beautiful town in Umbria, Italy, famous for its Renaissance and Baroque architecture and art, the town when Giacomo was born and raised, and where his family live and work. Giacomo studied Product Design in Florence for three years, after graduating with a Bachelors he decided to expand and study for a Masters in Architecture in Rome for four years. He worked as an Architect in his home town for one year.  However he felt stressed and claustrophobic, he explains. 

Sculpture artwork venetian mask
Artwork: Giacomo Bevanati, Photo: Jo Fetto

He surprises me when he tells me that choosing a career as an artist is frowned upon in Italy.  However his choice to become an artist, came when he was cleaning up his dorm room and came across a lamp he had left abandoned, he had made whilst at University with wire.  He reconnected with the Brass and Steel wires and started to build works of art.  A self taught process of sewing with wire, he did this for himself as a form of therapy to explore the world he reveals.  He felt he could do whatever he wanted.  Starting with Jewellery and then the masks, even weaving a rose window, and winning a prize in 2015.

Photography portrait artist artworks
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Giacomo has come along way since then, his evolution came when he moved from Umbria to London, working in a coffee shop in Fulham Broadway, he couldn’t speak a word of English. That didn’t stop him. Today, three and half years later, I am talking to him in English, as he fluently explains his career story to me. How he fell in love with the city, and rented himself a small room, how he decided to believe in himself, and locked himself away as he moved from jewellery to masks and sculptures, combining the two. He dedicated himself to his work, purchasing his specific type of wire from Italy with his frequent visits back home.  Interacting with the world to try and explain his art, after researching his field he finally decided to show and exhibit his work.

Venetian masks, artworks photography
Artworks: Giacomo Bevanati, Photo: Jo Fetto
Brass wire Jewellery artwork
Artwork: Giacomo Bevanati, Photo: Jo Fetto
Venetian mask, artwork Sculpture
Artwork: Giacomo Bevanati Photo:Irina Mattioli

One of his earlier Exhibitions in London, was at the New Artist Fair at the famous Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. His simple structure of placing his wire sculptures on a mirror, allowing the artworks to do their own work. This display of beautifully hand woven sculptures, letting them play with light reflection and shape, is what makes his work so alluring. The feedback has taken him to where he is now. Exhibitions include, the Tate Modern for three days collaborating with Westminster University; The Venice Biennale, in all, eight exhibitions so far, London, Cologne and the Asia Contemporary Art Show in Hong Kong.  Along with commissions, he is currently working on masks for Contemporary dancers. 

Brass wire Sculpture artwork
Artwork: Giacomo Bevanati
brass and silver wire sculpture artworks
Artwork: Giacomo Bevanati

His work was recently the focus for a documentary ‘Metal Love’ featured at the East End Film Festival in 2018.  He is happy to show his technique, however what it means to be an artist; there is driving force of trust, emotion and letting go, along with all the insecurities. It’s not an easy journey because it doesn’t hold guarantees and security. We talk about his family in Italy and he describes a wonderful traditional family and the food industry back home and lightly joke and laugh. He listens and is fluid to any creative thought put before him, taking it to somewhere else. Then as a true gentleman he walks me back to Liverpool Street station and sees me off.

photography artist artworks cakes
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

A special thank-you, to all our guests, Alba Sala, Ramon Mota Davalos, Candice Olds-Tserliangos and Angelina Mota Davalos.

 

Hugh Fleetwood

portrait photography cake artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

I find Hugh’s artworks are anecdotes of the human condition, his paintings encapsulating some of the mysteries, the complexities of life and nature. They are captivating, almost abstract explorations of that condition, and however complex their meaning, however confusing the emotions and behaviour portrayed, the technique that Hugh employs as an artist conveys an overall sense of calm. You might be observing the world through his eyes, and if the narrative can be bewildering, compelling or even frightening at times, his images in the end just leave you gazing, wondering, and relating to them.  Relating to the blended subtle tonal ranges of primary colours he uses, to the elegant and elongated figures often standing grouped together yet looking frail, alone – or simply to the softness of the layers of oil on canvas that he has applied, wiped off and reapplied.  It is the very combination of the dark and the gentle that makes the surrealism of this contemporary artist so engaging.

Painting artwork cake
On the Beach, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood

Fleetwood is a self taught artist, his work and technique inspired by the old masters of the Italian Renaissance, that he surrounded himself with whilst living a huge part of his younger life in Italy.

Painting artwork surreal cake
The Curator, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood
Painting contemporary art cake
Pink Flowers, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood

Hugh was born and raised in Sussex, his mother from south-west London and his father from Chichester. The young Fleetwood was always painting as far back as he can remember; he won his first art prize for a large oil of a naked African woman at the age of 16, in 1960.  His art teacher encouraged him to take his art further with an exchange to America, but the young man had other ideas, and decided the US wasn’t for him.  Traveling to continental Europe instead, he spent some time in a freezing Munich, before hopping on a train one morning and heading for Italy. “Where it was still summer!” he says smiling at me.  After three months in Florence, taking in all the wonders of that most beautiful of cities, he hitch-hiked down to Rome, where he would spend the next fourteen years.

painting contemporary art
Trio, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood

He arrived in Rome when he was twenty one, and as he was penniless, started looking for work immediately. He applied for a job as an English teacher; on his second day in the city he won the trust of a woman who ran a language institute and not only offered him work but an advance of 80 thousand Lire, at the time a month’s average salary. 

artwork artists interviews
Red Couple, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood

Whilst teaching he started work on his first novel –  chapter a day for 11 days – as well as writing poetry and short stories. To his surprise that first novel was published, but it was his second book, ‘The Girl who Passed for Normal’ that really launched him, becoming a bestseller, winning the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial, Prize, and enabling him to quit teaching and become  a full time writer and artist. For a time writing a book a year, to date he has published 22 novels. One of the novels, The Order of Death, was made into a film starring Harvey Keitel and Jonny Rotten. Always painting as well as writing, he had his first exhibition at the Festival dei Due Mondi, in Spoleto. It was a two man show – his co-exhibitor being none other than Picasso!

artwork artists interviews
Forest Scene, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood
portrait photography cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Then Fleetwood’s time in Italy came to an abrupt end.  His interesting friends in the arts and music, were often his inspirations for his novels with plenty of his stories based on the people he knew, the lives and characters he encountered.  But one of them, an elderly American, took great exception to being portrayed in, as he saw it, a less than flattering light, and not only never spoke to Hugh again, but threatened to have him murdered.  So – although there were other less dramatic reasons – he decided it was time to give up his admittedly very enjoyable life in Italy – “I thought nothing of driving four hundred kilometres to go to lunch, and driving four hundred kilometres home,” – and return to London. 

artist interview cake
Creatures, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood
painting artwork cake
Blue Flowers, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood

Back in the UK, Fleetwood now concentrated more on his painting than his writing, taking a studio in the East End, now trendy Spitalfields with neighbours like Tracey Emin, Gilbert and George. He had two solo exhibitions in the St. Raphael Gallery in Piccadilly, and one – to coincide with the republication of six of his books by Faber & Faber – at Calvert 22, in Calvert Avenue. Most recently, he has had a six week show at Le Dame Gallery, in the White House Hotel just off Regent’s Park.

painting art surrealism cake
Family & Butterflies, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood
painting art cake
Couple, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood

Some artists work evoke the asking of questions to try and have meaning. Hugh doesn’t give much away. Though he does tell me he comes to the studio every day to work, and if any day passes that he hasn’t painted or written, he feels he has wasted twenty four hours of his life. After our interview I took some portraits of him in his studio, and then others in the cold outside, with a slice of Cake provided by Butter Believe it off Brushfield Street.  Shooting sometimes generates a form of intimacy between photographer and subject, and in this case too it prompted Hugh to reveal at least something of himself. He doesn’t like to analyse his work, he tells me, in case it turns to dust.  What he would say, however, is that for him,  if writing comes from the head, painting comes from the heart.

portrait photography artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

.

 

 

  

Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

artist portrait cake and tea
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

As the days start to get longer and spring is gradually approaching in the Northern Hemisphere the idea of the utopia of a Peach Spring, the Chinese Myth of the oasis of peach blossoms, is pretty inviting to our imaginations. Michelle’s mixed media artworks encapsulate just that.  When you think of the delicacy of the blossom as it clings to the branch, the frailty of its petals, the subtlety of the colours and the changing of light as the season picks up.  So too would I describe Michelle’s work.  The ethereal, the delicate, the fragility of her applied gold leaf, detailed paintwork, whether on canvas or her painstakingly intricate pyrography, the art of burning on wood, with a heated pen.  She masterfully and gracefully applies time and tenderness as her artworks take you to this otherworldly fantasy.

pyrography artwork mixed media
The Exquisite Fall, artwork: Michelle Loa Kum Cheung
Pyography Mixed Media Artwork
Island, Artwork: Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Michelle is a Sydney girl born and raised now living in London since 2014, her parents are from Mauritius, speak French, however from Chinese descent.  Although Michelle has never been to China yet, and visited Mauritius twice, her family’s heritage is present in her work.  Four years in the UK she is already winning awards, exhibited in a multitude of art fairs, had a residency at the gorgeous Trelex manor in Switzerland, donated works to charity auctions, including the National Youth Trust, auctioned by Grayson Perry alongside famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and Marc Chagall.  Solo exhibitions in London and Sydney. 

pyrography artwork art
Artwork: Michelle Loa Kum Cheung
Pyography artwork art
Bidjigal, artwork: Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Michelle is surprisingly humble and gracious, with an open spirit for new ideas. She tells me how her parents worked as nurses in the UK for some time then moved to Australia.  She explains how her grounded parents are concerned with her career choice as they feel she has not settled in the same way as her elder sisters.  She works part time jobs, recently at an educational charity in an operations role, other part time jobs included working in a tech start up so she can pay the bills as she builds her career as an artist.  Already selling her artworks, with a commissioned work sold just a few days ago.

portrait photography artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

This year she has been invited to India for a fully funded artist residency for three months.  Michelle initially started out taking a Psychology degree, after one year, she realised that she had to follow her calling and decided to transfer to a Fine Art Degree at the university of South Wales in Sydney.  After completing the three year undergraduate course Michelle took one year off, visiting Europe as part of her History of Art course work.  She finished with Honours in Sydney, which is equivalent to a Masters here in the UK.  She based her thesis on phenomenology, the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view, in other words how we as an individual perceive the world, and what is around us.  As part of this theory, she created a three dimensional forest made of Organza, with motion censors that would light up the trees as you walked through. 

Pyography mixed media cake
A Divided Fabrication, artwork: Michelle Loa Kum Cheung
Pyography wood mixed media
Li Arising, artwork: Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

This interest in trees, is what encouraged her to start painting on wood instead of canvas and additionally, is what led her to work in pyrography, and how she enjoys the tacility of burning wood, the vibration of the surface as the pyrography pen inscribes the wood with her fine work.  While audiences commonly mistake her pyrography for laser etching and the patterns for screen printing, all the pyrography and patterns are burned and painted by hand respectively.  Her love of nature is present in all her work, as I gaze at her artwork of mountains, lakes and oceans, in rich reds, wood tones and pastel blues and gold leaf; the combination of all her medias that she uses within her artwork. The mountain of Buzhou, another beautiful piece of Chinese mythology that Michelle’s work is inspired by, looking outwards and up towards the heavens, as the mountain reaches up to hold the sky.  According to mythology the mountains supported the heavens from the Chinese Water God as he smashed his head in fury, subsequently the goddess Nüwa had to repair the sky.  Michelle first developed her recent Chinese style when she moved to London, she tells me, as her move from her birth place triggered an increased interest in her family lineage.

Pyography Gold Leaf paint
The Red Harbour, artwork: Michelle Loa Kum Cheung
gold leaf pyography mixed media
Map (The Falls Between), artwork: Michelle Loa Kum Cheung
Pyrography mixed media paint
Red Peninsula, artwork: Michelle Loa Kum Cheung
portrait photography artist cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

We take her portraits in the woods in North London, inspired by her love of nature and myths, with her basket of cake and tea as in a fairytale.  Michelle practiced gymnastics for 10 years starting at the age of eight, the discipline and the passion of training as a young girl.  It is this combination of pure creativity and driving force that shines out at me with Michelle.

portrait artist woods
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst