Simon McCheung

portrait of artist Simon McCheung featured in CAKE
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Simon’s fine art photographs are defiantly contemporary, surreal, extensively complex, yet with this etherial simplicity.  The elegance of his compositions highlight a drama in the cleanest of formats, using himself as the subject matter.  Some people may refer to his artworks as self portraits and in a way they are, however he manages to convey the political and personal message with his intelligent art direction using himself as a model rather than a portrait of himself.  This is what makes his work so interesting.  This self awareness that Simon has, in that he recognises the advantage of his photogenic and adaptable persona, his face is able to characterise the narrative so well, with a subtle ingenuity that anyone who gazes at his work can slip into the identity of the spirit he projects.  His artworks are both courageous and unique with an affable flair that makes them completely different.  In some cases the photographs are taken in separate settings, he uses his animation and photoshop skills to combine the images to create a separate piece of art, the result; an award winning image, ‘Underwater Spell’ of the man in his pyjamas sleeping as he floats under water.  Then there is, his Cat as a Hat, the forest of broccoli as lungs, or man on top of the Chinese house.

artwork by Simon McCheung featured in CAKE
An Underwater Spell by Simon McCheung
artwork by Simon McCheung featured in CAKE
The Grand Hotel by Simon McCheung
artwork by Simon McCheung featured in CAKE
Lulu & I by Simon McCheung

The communication of Simon’s work addresses topics with relevance and political savvy.  His most recent works represent the inner antagonism of his sisters struggle with autism and how he projects the conflict that she encounters in her daily life.  Simon explains the spectrums of Aspergers, and that communication is hard for his sister.  She can write to express herself however signals to her vocal cords is limited.  He explains to me the emotional traumas she endures in public, when people stare at her when she makes a sudden noise when she vocally expresses herself with excitement at something she may have observed.  Or her sensitivity to sound and how excruciating certain sounds can be.  This series of works covers all areas of her life, as he tries to engage with the frustrations she feels, using his body to express this empathy in these photographs.  What he cares about is making his sister integrate into society and empower the public with knowledge what an autistic person feels.

artwork by Simon McCheung featured in CAKE
Autistic Expressionism by Simon McCheung
artwork by Simon McCheung featured in CAKE
I Can’t Wake Up by Simon McCheung
artwork by Simon McCheung featured in CAKE
Interstellar/ The Other Side by Simon McCheung

All of Simon’s works cover conversations with current affairs from climate change, to consumerism, population, retirement, you name it he addresses subjects that you will talk about daily.  Thinking with the brilliant lateral thinking that is the pulse of the diversity of London life.  Simon was born and raised Grimsby by his Chinese parents who run a Chinese takeaway.  He was sent to a Chinese language school in Grimsby, however when he was six years old, in the 1980’s, his parents sent him to a catholic school in Hong Kong for two years, when they still had corporal punishment.  This, so he could learn to speak Cantonese fluently.  Simon talks to me about not being conditioned in one culture or the other, and how his experience of learning another language is in the subtly; he explains to me that Cantonese has many puns in its language and how just the slightest change in tone, the word can have a completely different meaning.  That sometimes Cantonese speaking people would laugh at him when he spoke.  His wife Yumi who is originally from Hong Kong is fluent in Cantonese, and this is helpful.  However his charming use of Cantonese is what attracted her in the first place, he claims, smiling at me.

artwork by Simon McCheung
Turned On by Simon McCheung
artwork by Simon McCheung featured in CAKE
Impressionist by Simon McCheung
artwork by Simon McCheung featured in CAKE
The Dream Beyond Sleep by Simon McCheung

Simon is a self taught photographer, he spent two years teaching himself, taking portraits of himself as practise.  The more he took the more self expressive they became, he tried using models, however they never captured the expression he wanted to express, and whereas with himself he has all the patience in the world.  Now his face has become his Brand.  This intelligent thinking has its roots.  He does have a Foundation in Fine Art as well as Degree at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, he studied animation, went into Digital advertising at Ogilvy and Mather and is a pro with flash animation.  He additionally works in Soho London designing and creating computer games.  His artwork, Underwater Spell, has become famous, the curator at Saatchi Gallery contacted him about using his image, as it appeared on their website and Facebook page.  Additionally he has been published in the desirable and exclusive Italian Vogue Magazine.  He has just finished directing his first music video, and is already working on another one.  He recently started a project 365 days, took a photo every day, most of them self portraits, exploring elements of the surreal, he likes to tell stories and capture viewers imaginations and place them into a sense of disbelief. Then he tells me Yumi is expecting their first child and they will be parents this autumn.

Interview Antoinette Haselhorst

artwork by Simon McCheung featured in CAKE
An Artist’s Struggle by Simon McCheung

Serena Korda

Artist installation art
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

The first installation work I viewed by Serena, I was mesmerised by a gigantic puppet show, with a giant monster that resembles a dinosaur moving gently. Slowly I realised that its movements were achieved by puppeteers each moving different parts of the monster; I didn’t notice this at first so enchanted was I by his movements.  The camera pans and a girl appears dancing, wearing ballet shoes, pale pink tights, over a tutu she is wearing a rounded ball of boobs.  She dances with the monster seducing him.  The installation ‘Aping the Beast’ was Serena’s first big solo show at Camden Arts Centre 2013.  Since then she has created shows over a vast array of topics and mediums, some among them The Jug Choir, Black Diamond, Missing Time, Laid To Rest, The Namer of Clouds and There is a Strange Wind Blowing.

Installation Art, Film, Puppet
Aping The Beast, Battle of the river: Serena Korda
Installation Art, film, dance
The Transmittirs: Serena Korda
Artist Installation Art
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

Her work is extraordinary, it challenges every aspect of your psyche, it is science, altruism, philosophy, sound, cosmology, multiverse and mythical.  All her ideas stem from a reality and connects with an external idea, then she researches her concepts before implementing her artworks.  Often working on different projects at a time, her projects involve sound engineers, morse code, sound healers, mystics, mathematicians and scientists.  She includes musicians, who might be a local choir whom she records to embody the sound of elves, or members of the public chiming her porcelain mushroom bells. Recording sounds of the universe from homemade radio telescopes and replicating sound resonators inspired by acoustic sound mirrors that were used as pre-radar devices.  Serena created a series of these dishes each weighing a hefty 40 kilograms for Missing Time.  Nothing breaks more boundaries than Serena’s work and yet all of it resonates some form of common sense and thinking, that everything in the universe is interconnected. 

Installation art, Artist
Black Diamond: Serena Korda
Installation Art, Artist
Missing Time: Serena Korda

 

Artist Installation art
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst

She tells me about how her devoted mother encouraged her when she realised her drawings at five were well beyond any other child of that age.  She was additionally very academic and as Serena puts it to me, a nerdy swat.  We had just taken a series of portraits in her studio and garden in Hoxton, when we chat over lunch after our shoot.  Speaking rapidly about her work and then more reflective when I ask about her personal life, her Jewish upbringing, the challenging relationship with her Hungarian father who taught her  a strong work ethic and his passing two years ago whilst she was working on Missing Time with the Norman Lipman/Baltic Fellowship at Newcastle University.  She explains how as an electrical engineer he was initially discouraged by her choice of profession, “ He didn’t get my work at first ” Serena states.  Her deep love and respect for him and his accomplishments is very obvious as she sneaks a photo to me of her parent’s wedding.  I notice how Serena’s eyes are the beautiful sharp blue like her mother with a jet of thick dark hair, and her classically sculptured jawline like her father.  

Mushroom Porcelain bells
Hold Fast Stand Sure, I scream a Revolution: Serena Korda
Installation Art, Contemporary Artist
Laid To Rest, The Procession: Serena Korda

Serena attended Middlesex university in Fine art at the age of 19, following her graduation she began teaching and eventually decided to embark on an MA at the Royal College of Art, so she could focus on her own work.  She concentrated on printmaking and expanding her ideas of film and performance art, “ I was never satisfied by just putting things on a wall” Korda explains choosing performance, was about making objects come to life.  One of her earliest works, in Bow, East London in 2004, Old Mens Flesh, is akin to an anthropological study, Korda explains it’s about machismo, chivalry, tattoos, embroidery and relationships with people.  Serena’s ‘Hold Fast, Stand Sure, I Scream a Revolution’, first shown at Glasgow International 2016, is a breathtaking installation on symbiotic relations, her work with mushrooms, fungi and their important role in communicating to different plant species in the forest.  This symbiosis is a recurring theme in her work and in the works that inspire her such as the book The Third Policeman by Flan O’Brien, which she describes as fusing pseudo science and imagination.  Then I think about her ‘Library of Secrets’ or the ‘ The Prognosticator’ as she films in a Hitchcockian style the relations between an owner and her black cat. 

Film, artwork, black cat, cake
The Prognosticator: Serena Korda
Installation Art, Artist, Cake
There is a Strange Wind Blowing: Serena Korda
Installation art, film, dance
The Hosts: Serena Korda

Currently she is working with the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill.  The Lore of the Land, is an exhibition co-curated by The Collective featuring Korda’s work ‘ Sensitive Chaos’.  This new work sits alongside objects from the Hornimans anthropological collection challenging our anthropocentric view of the natural world whilst highlighting plant and water consciousness.  This combines sculpture and a soundscape made up of plant signals that have been put through synthesisers.  The coming together of science and art, and how all cultures actually come to the same conclusion, plants are powerful.  Then just before we leave she tells me how she included her fathers voice on  Missing Time.

Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst

Artist Instalation art
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst,  Hair and Make-up: Aston Davies

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.

PenthousesPenthousesPenthouses Folestone

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.

Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst

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.

Artwork glass mirror cake
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.

collage art cake m
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’.

Collage Art colourful
Collage artwork, by Elspeth Gliksten
tiger glass India tobacco mirror
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.

collage mixed media artwork
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.

layered collage Jesus
Jesus, by Elspeth Glisten
Indian elephant
Collage: Elspeth Gliksten

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.

Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst

Eating cake cakes Marie Antoinette
Photo: Antoinette Haselhorst, Hair and Make – up:  Aston Davies