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.

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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.

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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.

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Close-up details of Treasures of the Deep by Olivier Leger
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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst

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.

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Narcissus, by Teresa Wells
Sculpture Bronze artist
Viktoryia, by Teresa Wells
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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.

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Happy anniversary, by Teresa Wells
sculpture film set artwork
Hashtag Tragedy, by Teresa Wells
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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.

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30 July, by Teresa Wells
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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.

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The Kiss that Freed a Thousand Dreams by Teresa Wells
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Division by Teresa Wells
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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.

Interview; Antoinette Haselhorst

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.

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Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst
artwork sculpture brass wire
Artwork: Giacomo Bevanati
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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.

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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.

Interview; Antoinette Haselhorst

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

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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.

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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.

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The Curator, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood
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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.

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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. 

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Creatures, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood
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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.

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Family & Butterflies, artwork: Hugh Fleetwood
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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.

Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst

portrait photography artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

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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.

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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. 

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Artwork: Michelle Loa Kum Cheung
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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.

Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst

portrait artist woods
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Walera Martynchik

artist portrait photography
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

A giant heart pulsating lights in fluorescent pinks and blues, and what appeared to me as an artery illuminating the halls with its bright pastels, lighting up the dark room in fantasy as dusk fell on this wintry London evening. His giant sculptures made of wire mesh and lighting programmed to create the illusion of a beating heart.  Cosmic Consciousness is what Walera talks to me about,  when we start to discuss this body of work.  I observe Martynchik’s giant paintings in detail, I notice that everything is interlinked.  The artwork of the inner workings of a human body with lungs, arteries, in detail, then the surreal language within the artwork, horsemen fighting battles in the stomach, fallen men, headless humans.  Which represented turmoil to me, as that is where we most often feel it, in the stomach!  When I ask Walera the context of it, he doesn’t explain but illuminates what we discussed, the book by Richard Burke, Cosmic Consciousness.  That his art is what he describes  as “reconstruction of reality”.  How it also inspired artists like Piet Mondrian of universal beauty.

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Artwork: Walera Martynchik
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The Big Bang, artwork: Walera Martynchik
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Space Objects, artwork: Walera Martynchik

Walera’s art started as part of the Soviet Union underground movement, secretly painting his works until the first liberation, Perestroika, the reformation within the communist party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s and 1990s.  I would describe Walera’s paintings as a story within a story and when you know a bit more about him, this will make sense and his work is all the more interesting.  His father was a constable and his mum a micro biologist, however his mother passed away when he was an infant, so he was raised by his grandmother.  She taught him how to read and Walera occupied himself with 50 volumes of encyclopaedias by Stalin.  At seven he moved in with his father and step mother to the city of Grodno, what he describes as being supported by urbanisation.  Walera then explains, emphasising; that the word civilisation means urban education in the Armenian language.  He stresses the importance of Urban living and Education to me during our interview; whatever we take for granted, he lived through the oppression of free speech and western culture.

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Found-objects, artwork: Walera Martynchik
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Wounded Angel, artwork: Walera Martynchik
Sculpture art cake
Space Objects, artwork: Walera Martynchik

Before the 1960s, he had no knowledge of Picasso or Salvador Dali, Walera tells me, Mark Chagall who was born in Belarus, however was expelled from his position as an artist, his work considered to poetic.  Artists in the Soviet Union were punished for experimenting, he tells me, it was considered a bourgeoise activity and eliminated from the memory of students.  Walera enrolled in the Academy of Art in Minsk, a five year course, education involved plenty of life drawing and he went on to work as a muralist making propaganda artworks for the Soviet Union.  At night he created his own secret underground works.

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Reconstruction of Heaven, artwork by Walera Martynchik
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Ecclips, artwork: Walera Martynchik

 

The curator Ninel Ziterova from the Estonian State Art Museum visited Martynchik’s private studio and invited him to exhibit his work at the Kadriorge Museum.  However Walera suggested a group exhibition of all the underground artists which he subsequently also curated.  The success of the show led to a series of exhibitions that became the very first Festival of the Soviet Underground Art movement in Narva and Moscow.  Walera then moved to Poland as it was what he called a ‘Free Country’ and whilst in Poland he was invited to exhibit in the UK in 1990.  Francis Bacon visited this exhibition and invited him to dinner in the West End.  During this stay in London, he experienced a culture shock, he was struck how beautiful London was, describing how he noticed the bridges, the trees and architecture, compared to what the communists had destroyed that he eventually set up home in the UK.  He has been a Londoner now 29 years and lives together with his 18 year old son.  Meanwhile he has exhibited in the Netherlands, France, Moscow, London and Singapore.  I came across his work at the London Ultra Exhibition at the Oxo Tower Bargehouse Gallery.

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Dynamic Harmony- Modern Icon, Artwork: Walera Martynchik
painting Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabett II, artwork: Walera Martynchik

Walera’s work is complex and exciting, I feel like a girl lost in Aladdin’s cave as I wonder about his studio near Bow in the East End, as he prepares for his next show in Singapore.  His giant sculptures, the head of a composer and small bronze figures and musical instruments, that sit high on the bright windows, his giant robot statue standing seven feet on a stone table, makes me think of the film Iron Man.  I notice a series of paintings recollective of fictional book illustrations, only rather surreal, human figures with animal heads and roses. Martynchik illustrates to me the origins of the idea, a Christmas tradition back in the Soviet Union.  I am gazing at a portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth II, with her gentle face and calm eyes, the symbolism in the details of the abstract artworks within the painting convey a subtext. This appears in all of his portraits.  His next show is in Singapore,  15 January 2019 with his paintings based on music composers accompanied with his heart installation. 

Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst

artist portrait photography
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Anabelle Del Valle

portrait artist cake
Anabelle Del Valle

What struck me about Anabelle’s work, is the graphic abstract impact.  It punches you in a good way, bold and expressive.  I noticed the systematic black and white patterns and then an expressive pop of colour.  It has a perspicuous feel to it.  It’s the way she uses space, there is empty space although this space is a pattern, like wallpaper filling up an empty room, however her collage interacts with the pattern creating a three dimensional feel to it.  Her artworks and even her street art and murals all have this similar thread, wether the black and white grid, or tiny little squares, or graphic primary colours.  Some of it creating an illusion that makes you feel as if you are standing on the edge of the universe, others that appear to move, or pull you in.  Your eye is drawn to the focal point which is the collage, or the hidden image that appears through the grid.  Bright bold reds, strong beautiful women with shoulder pad strength reminiscent of the 80’s they stand out with a statement, I am independent.  In one particular artwork the face is cut out and what appears as dart board for a face, or the swirling patterns like peacock feathers, or the girl lost in the cloud of dots.

Artwork collage mixed media cake
Artwork: Anabelle Del valle
Artwork collage art cake
Artwork: Anabelle Del Valle

The first thing I discover about Anabelle she is also a mathematician, she used to teach the subject, Algebra, trigonometry and geometry and she has a degree in Architecture, which she started in her late 20’s at the California State University, she studied in both the US, Denmark and the Netherlands. She chose Architecture over Fine Art, for practical reasons she tells me.  Her artwork she explains, is influenced by architecture and she has always been interested in patterns and fields of repetition, negative form and black and white, yet wanted to be less abstract and wanted to introduce a human figure. She plays with layers and light, using plexiglass and large canvases.  She doesn’t stop at painting, she recently created a mural in the Santa public gallery in Los Angeles, approximately 12 feet high and 5 feet wide, creating a stencil that she repeated over 200 times and then painting two figures of a woman, as if cut in half or actually disappearing into the shadows.

Collage artwork art cake
Artwork: Anabelle Del Valle
Artwork mixed media collage cake
Artwork: Anabelle Del Valle
artwork pattern collage cake
Artwork: Anabelle Del Valle
portrait artist cake Los Angeles
Photo: Luis Navarro

Del Valle was born in Mexico, Mother and daughter moved to Los Angeles when she was very young and where she grew up, it’s her hometown along with her other home back in Mexico with her extended family, a family of strong independent women, Anabelle tells me, she was raised by her single mother.   She left home at 18 remains close to her mother, brother and sister.  As a young woman she was actively working all sorts of jobs.  Along with getting married at 19 and divorcing.  An astute survivor,  Anabelle explains that a lot of her work is about processing herself and her place in the world.  Most of her work is about women and femininity and those expectations on us, she feels we have to be perfect.  “A lot of our value is sold through advertising” she tells me and her work is processing these thoughts.  She often uses stunning  and strong looking women in her collage artworks, Anabelle likes the idea of chance, the randomness how things come into your life.  She admires women who are very tenacious.  How they raise their inner minds to make them open to the world, yet have to have a voice as women and still be open and kind and have empathy.  

Artwork mixed media plexiglass cake
Artwork: Annabelle Del Valle
Artwork collage plexiglass cake
Artwork; Anabelle Del Valle

Her influences are artists like Joseph Albers the German born American artist and lecturer at Yale university one of the pioneers of the Bauhaus movement, his systematic artworks is what inspired her, the order of his work and what she enjoys when creating her own work with that infraction of colour.  Meditating whilst painting what she describes as a Mandala.  She has worked as a graphic designer creating packages and these influences are additionally recognisable in her art.  She became interested in Exhibition design and works for an architectural lighting company and is comfortable working together with architects and interior designers.  Del Valle’s first exhibition as an artist was in 2015 and her first International Art Fair this year in 2018.

Collage Artwork cake
Artwork: Anabelle Del Valle
Collage artwork patterns CAKE
Artwork: Anabelle Del Valle

Although Annabelle is at the earlier stages of her career as an artist, she is currently organising her next solo show here in the UK next year.  She explains how much she enjoyed London, walking along the Thames and viewing the landmarks that tears filled her eyes.  We talk about languages, she is naturally fluent in Spanish and English, she says something that makes me smile before we end our interview, English she explains is a very economical language its easy to explain things in short sentences, Spanish on the other hand she tells me takes forever, you have to use so many words to explain the same thing that is actually quite simple.  In a nutshell defining the differences in cultures and the luxury of experiencing both. This is reflected in both her and her work.

Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst

portrait artist cake Los Angeles
Photo: Luis Navarro

Mahaut Harley Leca

Photography portrait artist cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Mahaut’s work epitomes female fragility, femininity and power, the allure of what is a woman, who we are and the mystery of being female.  Even though she shows the naked form, it’s how it is done that reveals a different context.  Her collages are suggestive in the relation of form and the delicate frame of the female body.  From an arm, hand, hip, thigh, the way a woman crosses her legs, the dimples on her back, the beauty of what it means to be a woman and the celebration of the feminine.  Like the feline cat with grace and allure yet strength and independence. She explains to me that her work is the opposite of the crass and what she calls vulgar and objectifying of women and femininity.  It is about being curious again, in a generation where people want things instantly and get bored easily.

Artwork collage nude cake
‘Envelop’ by Mahaut Harley Leca
collage artwork artist cake
‘Envelop’ by Mahaut Harley Leca

She is a multidisciplinary artist, whether it is collage, image transfer, installations or painting. She puts a lot of thought into it. So she was surprised when her work had been criticised by some individuals because they considered her work as objectifying women.  Quite the opposite she tells me, it is not about breasts, vaginas and sex, it’s about a personal poetic translation of her perception of being female. “Why do people have such a negative relationship to the body, we are all born naked” she explains with a subtle exasperation!  Mahaut questions this approach in our society about how on the one hand, sex, porn and violence has become an acceptable part of our modern lives. Yet her artworks of the naked form are the opposite of objectifying the female body. It’s like the face, it is what makes us who we are, the shape of our breasts, the length of our waists, or the size of our hands and everything in relation to each other, that we can recognise a person from a distance.

Artist portrait photography
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst
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‘Entre tes lignes’ by Mahaut Harley Leca
Painting oil on canvas artist cake
Clair Obscure, painting by Mahaut Harley Leca

Mahaut is a French name, from the golden age, which became Mathilde over time. Born and raised in London by her French parents and although a Londoner she has a subtle and beautiful French Anglo accent, due to her education, bouncing from the French system to the British system, starting out at Lycée Francais, then attending Hampton Court House and St James. She graduated with a foundation at City&Guilds in Art and Design and then attended Camberwell College of Arts where she did her degree in Fine Art painting. Additionally a semester abroad in Milan where she studied at the Academia di Belle Art, “The traditional way” she exclaims, “Life drawing twice a week”. Since then she has done two residencies one in Atina, Italy near Rome and recently at The Muse Gallery in Portobello, London.

photography portrait artist cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Before this ongoing investigation of the body, Mahaut used to paint mainly portraits, faces of old people and people of character, but was eager to step away from her comfort zone and started to blur the works, which created something suggestive. It’s part of our interpretation of how we see the subject in the painting.  As if looking through a frosted window at someone and trying to make sense of what we see. Later, whilst in Milan she put painting aside and started to make digital collages by experimenting with images of her own body and cutting off her face, so not to reveal her identity, before focusing on other female forms, that developed into her current collage series.

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‘Wabi Sabi’ by Mahaut Harley Leca
collage artwork artist cake
‘Doré au soleil’ by Mahaut Harley Leca
collage artwork art cake
‘La main sur le coeur’ by Mahaut Harley Leca

 Mahaut explains to me that she challenged a lot of what she was taught in art school in the UK.  She believes that art is a reflection of who we are, but that she was encouraged in art college to be conceptual and political.  Her collage artworks are appropriation of images from old magazines, papers and even old porn magazines, transforming them to be something completely different. She feels she is going the complete opposite way of what contemporary art is nowadays. Traditional in her outlook of what she regards what it means to be feminine, but contemporary because she is cutting up the body and putting it back together to create something different. The body is to be appreciated for what it is, in that it is subtle.  So one could argue that Harley is being political.

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‘Volupté’ painting by Mahaut Harley Leca
Artwork artist nude cake
‘A Body of Work I’ by Mahaut Harley Leca
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‘Departed’ by Mahaut Harley Leca

Her installations ‘Departed’ 2017 collage artworks printed on organza 120x190cm mounted on wooden frames or hanging as curtain in front of the window at the Muse gallery. Makes the point that art is personal for both the artist and the person who chooses to purchase the work. When it comes to discussing the commercialising of her work. Harley explains that’s not why she is doing art, if her intention was to sell she wouldn’t be doing what she does. However she recently sold paintings at The Other Art Fair in London, in fact one of her main pieces, a painting was sold on opening night to a couple of collectors, a strong and subtle portrait of the naked upper torso of a woman. She teaches art to children to help pay the bills, Mahaut Harley Leca is also an Art Director in fashion.  I enjoyed this side to her when planning her shoot, when we were able to engage and share ideas, especially when she introduced me to the film director Jean Luc Goddard.  Or when she introduced me to the supercilious cake shop Pearl and Groove on Portobello Road, for our collection of cakes for the portraits. Styling for the photos are by inspiring young stylist Milena Agbaba, who additionally became hand model for those delicious cakes for our portraits.

Interview; Antoinette Haselhorst

Photography portrait artist cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Tom Elkins

portrait artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

As all photographers know a great photo is about three main points, lighting, composition and narrative. Tom and I are sitting in a restaurant in North London talking about his work. “Photography as a creative form is incredibly gratifying very quickly” he tells me.  He is right, it is nowadays, that’s because it’s become instant, since we have digital cameras. It was a different story when we used film, with the impatience we felt as we waited for it to develop, the variations of film, understanding the processing of light on film and chemicals. Nowadays film photography has become more of an art form.  Tom has taken the digital camera and used it as a tool to capture something quite different. He loves projected light, how light falls, how it transforms as it lands on an object; following patterns on furniture, water and landscapes. Apply that to the human form, simplify it and let it reveal the complexities of it in a very different way; this is what he has created in his recent works. 

Artwork photography black and white CAKE
Photo artwork: Tom Elkins

Contours, his first series in 2013 based on this concept, is a visual treat for the eye and the imagination. Using a projector, he photographed his subjects in a dark room and what you have is the contours of the human body in a stunning display of grid like patterns. The naked woman in a chess board grid, the seated man in stripes and the blooming bulge and shape of full-term pregnancy in circular strips like Saturn’s moons. Incredibly simple and yet so effective in what the images evoke to us the audience. 

Artwork photography black and white cake
Photo Artwork: Tom Elkins
Photo artwork black and white cake
Photo Artwork: Tom Elkins

He followed this theme, playing with different ideas, like Single Line Portraits. Projecting a single light onto his subjects in the dark, the result is a beautiful single outline as the light hits the human form. He then took it another step, with this time the subjects themselves making tears in paper which light was projected through. Whilst they posed naked, the projected light revealing aspects of them. You cannot identify them but they reveal a sensuality and sexuality, I suppose. “I was surprised by what people came up with” he explains. His subjects are relinquishing control, and they have their own perspective of the outcome. Then there is a rather surreal idea, Fingerprints. Each subject had their fingerprint placed on the slide with ink, and Tom projected the light through the slide.  These portraits are particularly fascinating, the light brings out all the details of the texture on his models and the patterns resemble the skin of a snake, whether on the face or the body.

Artwork photography black and white cake
Photo Artwork: Tom Elkins
photo artwork black and white cake
Photo Artwork: Tom Elkins

Tom grew up in the seaside town of Gosport surrounded by family and moved to London in 2002 after graduating in Philosophy and English from York University. The philosophical mind and the narrative is what is projected in all his photographic work, “Good photographs are like novels with half the pages torn out” he claims. With all art it’s the thinking behind the work and how it’s implemented that is key. After graduating, he started working for charitable organisations in London, he believes in helping people. He now teaches journalistic photography to young people and children, and the charity works in 40 different countries, including Nigeria and Uganda, on a range of issues. Philosophy is best when it talks about people’s experiences, he claims. He enjoys the collaborative elements in photography and making sense of the chaos in the world. Fortunately, he is able to travel a lot with his job, to bring about change. 

Photography portrait artist cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst
photography art artist cake
Photo Artwork: Tom Elkins
Photography artwork artist cake
Photo Artwork: Tom Elkins

Then he shows me his next body of work, shot in Chernobyl, of images of empty buildings, depicting the state of decline, death, and abandonment. The images depict what Health and Safety posters look like in a Nuclear disaster, 30 years later. What would have been a vibrant town, village and community has been left to decay, capturing the isolation, deterioration and loneliness. There is an abstract art element to these photographs, the colours and composition of these silent images are breath taking in the stillness and the delicate narrative, however still compelling in what they reveal. In tonal blues, soulful greys, gentle yellows and reds, they reveal a beauty about such a tragic event and the essence of time. This series of work will be his next exhibition at the University of Puerto Rico.

photography artist art cake
Photo Artwork : Tom Elkins
photography artwork art cake
Photo Artwork: Tom Elkins

Tom Elkins struggles with the ethics of some photographs, he tells me, with how much bias we are bringing to the image ourselves in what is often seen as an objective medium. Photography is subjective in terms of the audience who sees it. He mentions how with street photography he had this problem. He is man of great conscience, if one can say that, clearly intelligent and professional, however most striking to me, thoughtful, insightful and genuine. He is married with one toddler daughter, Tom is clearly besotted with her as we talk about our children, and the adventures of watching them develop. 

Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst

photography portrait cake artist
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Ed Burnand

Photography portrait artist cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Images of dystopia, abandoned and destroyed urban landscapes and culture, Ed Burnand’s artwork is a striking narrative, made up of explorative processes and mediums.  C type photographic prints, painting and large format halftone screen prints with spray painted backgrounds have evolved into a divergent process. ‘My practise has developed over the years to establish deeply personal ways of making marks on canvas, paper and metal plates with a keen interest in the systems of making and the relationship between material properties, process and environment.  The aim is to create proto-narratives, each open to their own interpretation, but all informed by a theme or set of boundaries.’

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‘Relics in Winter’ artwork: Ed Burnand
 
artwork abstract art cake
Artwork: Ed Burnand

His earlier abstract work, is beautiful with the most spectacular colours and formations a science of chemical process exploration without end.  Each painting is in a perpetual state of evolution, that is until atrophy occurs.  Ed is always trying to find the ultimate backdrop, capturing paints reactions in polyurethane, uric acid etched zinc plates, exploring the system aspects of colour through ageing and oxidisation that creates a labyrinth of extraordinary patination and form.  He has the classical tuition of being a painter yet his inspirations are artists like Joseph Beuys, Robert Rauschenberg, Thomas Ruff and Anselm Kiefer to name but a few.  He is influenced by the abstract passage of time and the ebb and flow of all things.

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‘Lobophyton’ artwork: Ed Burnand

‘With something like destruction comes something else, a renewal’ he tells me. 

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‘Cosmic Soup’ artwork: Ed Burnand
portrait photography cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

His most recent body of work is a large format screen print series taken from the abandoned and partially demolished North Peckham Estate documented in 2000.  There is a historic quality to them, with a contemporary twist.  The estate was notorious for gang violence and crime, that culminated in the murder of Damilola Taylor in 2000.  Described by Ed as a rabbit warren, a disorientating place, brutal, very difficult to get in and out of and dangerous; he explains, an example of London’s social housing.  His intention was to document the destruction of this place in a state of undress.

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‘Whose Going to take the Weight’ artwork: Ed Burnand

On entering the closed off estate he was surprised to find young boys already running around vandalising the abandoned homes, throwing objects, washing machines and cookers over the terraced balconies.  His artwork captures a narrative that reflects the death of utopian idealism.  The solid large black halftone images of barbed wire/fallen brickwork with remnants of what still stands, alongside boys running in loose clothing away from the camera down a narrow passage with a Hitchcock like vanishing point.  His tower block series is based on human legacy, environment and social idealism versus economic reality.  For the most part the artworks are named after song titles ‘Midnight in a Perfect World’ ‘Whose Gonna Take The Weight’ ‘Dust Bowl’ and ‘Candy Land’ a reference to his own cultural identity and the anchoring of place and time.

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‘Dust Bowl’ artwork: Ed Burnand
artwork artist art cake
‘Midnight in a Perfect World’,   ‘Candy Land’ artwork: Ed Burnand

Ed grew up in South East London before moving to Brighton at the age of 10.  Returning in 1999 to study Fine Art painting at Camberwell College of Art, this is at odds with his overall ethos, stating, “ I’m not a painter in any traditional sense, but rather a multi disciplinary practitioner, an image-maker”.  His artistic influences in German art, surprises me, he is from a very long established English heritage and I find it refreshing to hear an Englishman speak so positively about German creativity, as we discuss both, British arts and wit as well.  His mother introduced him to art from an early age, getting him to lie about his age when he was just seven or eight, so she could take him into an Otto Dix exhibition, (noted for his realistic depictions of German society during the Weimar Republic and the brutality of war), this had a profound impact on him.

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‘Port in a Storm’ artwork: Ed Burnand

Burnand is a very informative man, as we chat about history, culture and society, it’s hard to keep up.  He is Intelligent, intellectual and knowledgeable about pretty much everything, with a sophisticated aura, however he is shy to talk about himself, this humility makes him all the more charismatic.  Ed is also a qualified bench joiner and wood machinist and runs his own business as a cabinet-maker in East London.  He is married to Bella who is also an artist and they have two young children.  They live on the river Lea, bargee travellers that cruise the inland waterways.  His love of water and boats, stems from his youth sailing on the south coast with his father.  I find his home particularly charming as he invites me onto their beautiful house boat, I immediately feel welcome when I arrive on board, entering into a bright pretty kitchen to meet some of the family.  It’s a clear sunny autumn day and we sit on top eating cake and having tea with Bella and their young daughter after our interview. 

Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst

portrait tea and cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst