Onyx

photo portrait artist cake
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

When I first laid eyes on Onyx’s work I would describe it as experiencing the Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral with its abundance of Gargoyles and decorations, combined with Toy-story’s animation and the mind of Alice in Wonderland.  His large sculptures, that take months to complete, are a journey of storytelling.  Onyx’s artwork, not his real name by the way, is about Onyx, who became what he is today after being in a coma for a month.  The sculptures are something so surreal, that you feel as if you have woken up in the middle of Pan’s Labyrinth.  A film about the unconscious and the surreal and the dream like state that we humans all experience to protect us from trauma.

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You’re Wasting my Time by Onyx 
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The Falsed Resurrection by Onyx

Onyx, or Jim, a nickname he is known as, is an artist you don’t come across often.  His works are creations of the fantasy and reality of heaven and hell, universe and aliens, women, birth and love.  A story telling in sculptures made of artefacts collected at early dawn raids from all sorts of quaint places, antique fairs, toy shops, car boot sales, charity shops, weekend ventures scavenging through worn and broken toys, lost artefacts rejected and unloved and Onyx recreates each little piece however small and fragile, to tell a whole new narrative.

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Birth of Destructions by Onyx

The account of how a builder, who stabbed his leg accidentally with a very sharp Stanley knife, whilst finishing off a refurbishment job, fell into a coma and woke up to create these phenomenal artworks, is for enquiring minds!  I am one of them.  He explains whilst unconscious, hallucinations of being in hell, seeing the future and how like in the Matrix he traveled through a maze of nightmares with apparitions tormenting him and preventing him to find his way out.  How every level of truth, bad and good brought him closer to home and consciousness.  However, after every fail he would return to the start of hell and repeat the experience, until the final journey, where he was able to confront his demons and came back to life in the conscious world.

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Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Onyx is married to Michelle who he has been with for 22 years, they have three sons, Sonny and Mason; Michelle gave birth to Lucas two weeks ago, and I am able to cradle this beautiful infant in my arms as he sleeps and I listen to Onyx explain his journey as an artist.

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Start Wars by Onyx
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The empire strikes back by Onyx

His first artworks, his paintings,  stencilling and airbrush techniques, started in recovery,  inspired by Star Wars, with the dry arid humour of a Londoner, The Start Wars and The Empire Strikes back about the Cold War hang in his gallery with his sculptures encased in glass.  Onyx, currently has five main pieces, Beethoven’s Destructive Symphony, The Birth of Destructions, You’re Wasting my Time, The Dream Catcher and The Falsed Resurrection.  Each peace has a central figure, then two lives moving from darkness to light, all telling their own anecdote.  Some about the centre of great minds, alien life, the universe and the humility to be human.  Some about who is wasting who’s time, with time cogs on cherubs.  All Sculptures start with one core character and build up layer, road, journey and weave bending and evolving to become one giant piece of three dimensional story telling.  It’s magical, frightening, curious, very beautiful and bewitching.

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The Dream Catcher by Onyx
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Beethoven’s Destructive Symphony by Onyx

His inspirations came whilst researching designs for a tattoo that he was designing after surviving a major skin graft,  it was discovered that his injury that was undetectable, because the cut was so sharp,  the poison had entered the system and he ended up having Necrotizing fasciitis NF, and Onyx warned me to not look at the images on google as I check the spelling.  I didn’t look at the photos!  As a victory to his recovery the tattoo was a symbol of his survival and this is when he came across the artist Kris Kuksi.  Onyx subsequently decided he would make his own sculptures.  Spending months on each artwork, he made them for himself primarily, as part of his recovery.  When someone first encountered the artworks,  Onyx was advised to show the works, and he decided to have Lenticular’s made of each piece so he would have something to keep when his sculptures were sold.  Now however the Lenticular are popular themselves; each artwork is photographed 30 times on a track and the images interlaced to create a 3D image, all done on computer. The results are just out of this world.

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3D Lenticular of Dream Catcher by Onyx
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3D Lenticular of Beethoven’s Destructive Symphony by Onyx

Onyx is a Hackney boy, who grew up with humble hardworking parents, and he had his share of troubles during his childhood.  His father devoted his time to his son’s recovery which healed old wounds of anger, his family surrounding him with love, as well as support with his recent venture as an artist.  May I point out that Onyx’s early career started out as a photographer in still life, working his way up in a studio until he himself was taking the photos of High end contracts, Tiffany jewellery, Wimbledon trophies and older Crown Jewels, here he learnt about lighting and composition.  The year was 1990, when he explains the pay was terrible, money dragged him away and he went into the building industry which paid well. There has always been the artist at the core and as with a diamond it starts out rough, it’s chipped, shaped and moulded until it shines bright.

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Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Mark Charlton

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Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

The first time I saw one of Mark’s B12 Module paintings on my laptop,  I was hooked; so fascinated was I by the impression of an initial reality of what the future could be. In these artworks, the minute details, the delicate lines and shapes that complete a whole organic type structure floating in the darkest depths of space.  Painted in sunset oranges, pine greens, sand yellows, flame reds and baby pinks, yet almost comic book in style.  The titles of each painting alone are super imaginative, The vast Supernova Reaction, Titania Still Glowing, Cold Existence in Field of Stars could be telling us a narrative of our future. His first solo show in 2015 at the Brighton Art fair featured this series, and since then he appears at The Other Art Fair in London and Brighton twice a year.

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The Vast Supernova Reaction; by Mark Charlton
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The Glistening Red Nova Theory; by Mark Charlton
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Pluto Calling; by Mark Charlton

Today in London, he has something completely different on display, I am looking at his Titan series, large artworks with a detailed collage of his own screen printing and painted paper applied on an Aluminium panels.  Mark’s works are never pre planned he tells me, exploring various techniques, such as applied mixed media, painting, screen printing, collage.  An early bird he is in the studio at 5am gradually building up his paintings, its emotional he explains, it’s the layering in his mind his love of texture, homing in on his execution, spending hours to create the proper surface, seven to eight hours straight in the studio wearing masks as he experiments with materials. The results are just beautiful.

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Titan 133; by Mark Charlton
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Titan 131; by Mark Charlton

Mark I would say on first impression is what I would call a cool Englishman, highly intelligent, he is an innovator, his grasp of subtle and complex humour, his interest in the surreal and quirky.  He started out as an animator, a career choice that he made after wanting to be a pilot at the Royal airforce and then changing his mind.  He is private, discreet, polite and very interesting.  Charlton studied at North East Wales Institute of Art and Design, gaining a BA Hons in Animation Design in 2001.  After his degree he taught animation in schools, became a freelance animator and graphic designer and then set up his own animation company.  Most of his clients were in the music industry, including the famous band Passenger as well as Frightened Rabbit. His business ran for several years, yet Charlton became frustrated with it and explains how he often felt that the creative control of his work was pressured with limited budgets spending hours at the animation desk. However very grateful for the time and opportunities he had working with many of the artists. He did decide on a different journey and rented himself a studio in Hove and started to create artworks.

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Titan 132; by Mark Charlton

Mark was born in Margate Kent, his father was an Electrical Engineer so they traveled when he was young, he grew up in Bangladesh between the ages of two till five, then they moved to Jordan until he was eight, when the family moved back home to Sussex.  He has never left the area for long and speaks of his love of nature and spending time with it and how much he enjoys being close too the sea.  By contrast he also loves; arguably what some would regard as the slightly disturbing cartoon series Ren and Stimpy, from America in the 90’s; about the frighting psychotic Chihuahua and a docile cat.  The incredible 2001: Space Odyssey by Stanly Kubrick, and Sci-fi Eagle comics, from the 1950’s then re introduced in the 1980’s.   His love of aeroplanes, mechanics and architecture with a particular interest in a cold war brutalist style, Monoliths he tells me, and he loves concrete as a substance.

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Titan 130; by Mark Charlton

 All these interests have a clear influence on his work, although each stage of his career as an artist has something completely unique, his B12 Module series and Titan. This year his paintings are what I would describe as sensuous wall sculptures, abstract again with the attention to detail, but this time not to only grab our visual senses but the desire to stroke and touch.  As he indulges me with his technique and materials, I stroke the silken texture of concrete and run my fingers over his work, across the lines and ridges that he painstakingly created.

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The Brighthope Fragment 1; by Mark Charlton
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The Brighthope Fragment 2; by Mark Charlton
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Cold Existence in a field of Stars; by Mark Charlton

Charlton also runs a print company together with his partner Jackie who also manages the business side of his art.  He doesn’t like to be photographed and have his image placed on the internet, but he is open minded with the idea of trying to create an image of him without really showing him as he holds a piece of cake spiked on top of a fork.  All this as we are standing in the crowded Victoria House, whilst he is managing his stall and speaking to buyers.

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Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Jonathan Wright

Artist Jon Wright
photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

If you go down to the sea in Hove you will notice a new installation, looking up at the sky the gold shimmers against the blue, the sculpture is like a golden charm bracelet, a skateboarder, a beach hut, a windmill, a ship, a seagull, all gracefully moving in the wind or breeze twinkling at you.  It appears delicate like a baby’s mobile that hangs above a crib, each object turning aimlessly.  It is strong and solid however ready to withstand all gales and hurricanes that should hurl their way across the UK, as it stands 3 meters on a 3 meter solid plinth.  You may have seen it in the news recently, as this famous seaside town presented the ‘Constellation’ for ‘Fourth Plinth’,  the sculpture, a model of planets orbiting, created by award winning contemporary artist Jonathan Wright

Constellation by artist Jonathan Wright

Jonathan once a local Crouch Ender borne and raised, attended the reputable Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ in London, although there was no spare cash in the bank with Jonathan’s single mother, she astutely had her two sons, Jonathan and his elder brother, sit exams for them to obtain their scholarship for this prestigious school.  He tells me how much he loved the school and the size of the art department, smiling his ever charismatic smile, that gets the girl on the opposite side of the road to reverse her car into another, as she tried to catch his eye with him through the car window, this had me laughing loudly.

Artist Jonathan Wright
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

 

He is understated and humble but ferociously intelligent.  He builds most of the art himself, a secret engineer, scientist, and carpenter he received a 100% in a biology exam that no one had ever accomplished but Jonathan is an artist first.  He tells me, he already knew he wanted to be an artist age nine. Always drawing in school, and when you are good at something people reinforce it, he says.  His inspirations are looking up and being grateful. 

I ask Jonathan about his golden boats, ‘Fleet on foot’  that you see curated along Tontine Street, high up on posts.  3D printed replicas, of actual boats with a history in this town, covered in 24 carat gold leaf, complimenting the paintwork of edwardian architecture in pretty Folkestone.  This is his new home since eight years, with his wife, actress Zigi and their two children Archie and Daisy.  Jonathan also has two elder children from his first marriage, Lottie 22 and Rufus 24.  His inspiration for ‘Fleet on Foot’ came from the golden lions in St Marks’s Square, Venice, he explains.  

Art work Jonathan WrightFleet on FootFleet on

What fascinated me abut Jonathan, when I ask him about this work, is that he gave me a whole new meaning about how to understand boats, educating me on what the hull actually does.  The pressure from the water below versus the weight from above, as I gaze at another art work in his studio ‘Hulls’, the sculptures are boats that are open on one side to reveal the hollow structure, the other inscribed with words.  One of them from Hemingway’s book Old Man and the Sea, the other sculpture the emotionally charged words from broken refugees fleeing Syria to come to Italy.

Water tanks Jon Wright
Artist: Jonathan Wright

 

Artist Jonathan Wright
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

His other passion is clear as he patiently explains how incredible water tanks are, as we discuss his paintings of them, the engineering, the energy they provide, the importance of living near water and why they stand high up tall on iron stilts.  His respect of water tanks and celebrity as an artist now has his work permanently featured in Folkestone as well.  The sculptures, known as the ‘Penthouses’ not one, but five of these artworks shine in silver in strategic parts of this seaside town.  Some large, that stand above the former public baths of Folkestone following  the small and sometimes disappearing Pent stream others almost hidden above buildings and the final one at the mouth of the stream going into the harbour, where we take one of the last portraits.  He shows me all of them as he takes me around Folkestone, giving me the guided tour, including a visit to the previous residence of the late  H G Wells. You have to come to Folkestone to find them, and his golden boats.

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Artist contemporary Jonathan Wright
Harnessing light by Jonathan Wright

Jonathan graduated at Middlesex University, Chelsea and Royal College of Art, only to become a senior lecturer himself, teaching at Middlesex, RCA and Chelsea for 12 years, which clarifies why he is so good at engaging your interest.  He then began focussing more on being an artist himself painting for about seven years and working on shows, it is during this time  when I first met him, and encouraged him during a party session to contribute to the book, Reflections on Nelson Mandela: Icon of Peace,  later he turned to sculpture.  Accomplished as an art director for film, advertising and TV, including Candy Crush,  he is predominantly established as one of the United Kingdom’s respected artists, showing his work internationally, New York, Lisbon, Belgium, Madrid and at home at the  Folkestone Fringes, Triennial,  plus many awards under his belt, including the prestigious 3-D Verbier residency, three months in Switzerland with everything paid for.

Jon Wright on the beach in Folkstone
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Elspeth Gliksten

 

Marie Antoinette Cakes dog corsett
photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

I took a friend of mine to see Ellie’s work exhibited in North London, and whilst we ate our salads and enjoyed a deep dark slab of gluten free chocolate cake, we observed Ellie’s work.  Colourful and thought provoking collage; layers of it, and it’s the layering of it that makes some of the pieces really interesting.  On closer inspection you will see how they layer over and over each other, whilst revealing sections of earlier work – the hidden subject is something that intrigues.  Another aspect of Ellie’s work is the surreal, and English people love lateral thinking.

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Remover of Obstacles, by Elspeth Gliksten

You will notice her work is all about India. Indian images, Indian art and culture. It’s obvious and it’s a question how a blonde, petite, lively creative, super exuberant, open minded and liberal has found her inspiration from India.  Most of her work thus far is of Indian inspiration.  So of course I ask her, as anyone would, if she has been to India and she tells me of one of her several trips to this country, a month long back packing adventure around Rajasthan.  Not only with her husband but their then two year old daughter, Nell, seven year old, Al and nine year old, Grace.  They toured this exotic country, famous for its religions, spices, history and all that is colourful, beautiful and exotic, but all that is hot and over populated, sticky and sexist.  Yet I don’t know anyone who hasn’t wished to go there and do know people who have been lucky enough to visit, however, not enough to inspire most of your art work.  So I dig deeper…

Collage art India
Collage artwork, by Elspeth Gliksten

Idi Amin, we all remember him as the notorious murderer, president, psychopath, power hungry leader of Uganda in the 1970’s.  So Ellie explains about growing up in Leicester. During her childhood the Gujarati Indians, who had been kicked out of Uganda and forced to emigrate to the United Kingdom, were sent to Leicester to reside and start a new life in safety.

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Collage artwork, by Elspeth Gilksten

Ellie recounts how her Grandparents were one of few families who stayed in the street, surrounded by the life, colours and culture of those Indian refugees, and how they framed her life and how her family integrated.  Ellie, an English girl with blonde hair and beautiful green eyes in the cold winters of urban Leicester, with the glowing orange of living room fires in England, embraced the traditions of her Grandparents’ neighbours.  Ode to the beauty of multiculturalism!  Who could have inspired this English rose, then growing up around the scent of the Indian Ugandan friends from the centre of Africa making home in this midlands town?

How a ruthless African dictator, ordering his Indian doctors, engineers, and scientists to get out of his country, Uganda and how this piece of African history and it’s refugees make home in England and this shapes the mind of a young English artist.  Like all stories and links and connections, there is always that element of surprise.  Although familiar with what happened in Uganda, and I remember Idi Amin and I remember what happened in the airport very well, for those of you not familiar with the story, I recommend you watch the film ‘The Last King of Scotland’.

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Collage artwork, by Elspeth Gliksten
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Mixed Media artwork on glass, by Elspeth Gliksten
Artist Elspeth Gliksten
Photo Antoinette Haselhorst

Elspeth Gliksten and her family she grew up with were all artists she tells me; Art Directors, Creative Directors, Advertising, Dance and Film. Ellie is also a dancer, a specialist tap dancer and she runs a dance school in North London. I have seen her perform, tap dancing like Fred Astaire on the stage at Jacksons Lane Theatre, Highgate.  She was photographed during this performance, and a great photo of her appears in the book ‘Reflections on Nelson Mandela: Icon of Peace’ along with her written contribution. “I always felt I was an artist”she says and although discouraged by her father because of the competitiveness of the creative industry, it was her elder brother who really nurtured her interest.

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New Dehli, by Elspeth Gliksten

However, it was her husband Matt, whose bohemian and fascinating upbringing amidst a family of antique dealers , who finally gave her the confidence to express her almost dark and eccentric side through her art, she tells me.

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Jesus, by Elspeth Glisten

The creativity in the family is encompassed by a solid family unit and admirable energetic work ethic, whilst shooting Elspeth, her daughters actively participated in providing the cakes and helping style the set.  Grace works as a City Forex Trader, Al is a professional Rugby player & Nell has just chosen her GSCE subjects, Art being one of them.

Ellie’s first works had a massive response, which she admits surprised her, and she watched her pictures sell rapidly with her first exhibition.

Indian elephant
Collage artwork,  Elspeth Gliksten
Eating cake cakes Marie Antoinette
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst, Hair and Make – up:  Aston Davies