Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interview: Glen & Denin Spencer talk about 'Cakes & Canvas'

An Exhibition by Glen and Denin Spencer
Opens at Sweets Workshop 30th July - 17th August

Explain the concept behind your exhibition 'Cakes & Canvas', and tell us what people can expect to see at the show?
Well, our idea was for people who see our show to see paintings that look good enough to eat, and cakes and cookies that look almost too good to eat! We basically wanted to showcase our different artistic practices; using Vermeer’s little 'Lacemaker' painting (and more loosely, lace and other textiles) as our inspirational source.

Denin and Glen, could each of you describe your medium and style?

Denin: Although I follow many traditional techniques, my intention is to bring something out of the ordinary to cake design. There is so much you can do with the fondant, and with the cakes and cookies themselves. It’s a sort of edible mixed media that I use, including hand-painting and stamping with food colouring, stencilling, cut-outs, and piping with royal icing.

Glen: I guess my style could be labelled as traditional. I just love trying to imitate how light and colour bring visual form to objects (and people) though painting. With my still lifes, I am trying to create a story, or at least a dialogue between the objects. Although I’ve dabbled with other mediums, I’m completely addicted to how oils can move and blend over a luxurious amount of time. All my paintings in this exhibition have been painted on canvas, but I have also enjoyed painting on more unusual surfaces; such as wood, cork, sandpaper and linoleum.

When and why did you both start practicing in your respective mediums?
Denin: Much of my life has been dedicated to food. I studied and worked in hotel pastry kitchens in Singapore and Sydney as a chef. Cake decorating was introduced to me by Glen’s mother, Jan Spencer. Her expertise with wedding cakes was imparted to me over the years. I hadn’t thought seriously about cake and cookie art as a career, until we spent about three years living in Japan. It was there where I started realising the potential for unique designs that could be incorporated with edible art. The possibilities became endless, which really excited me, and still excites me to this day!
Glen: I was introduced to oils, as well as other mediums, in art school, when I did my Bachelor of Fine Arts at Newcastle University. I decided on oils as my preferred medium, simply because I seemed to make better artworks with them. It wasn’t until I undertook my Masters degree at COFA in 2003, however, when I really became comfortable with oils.

What influences your art?

Denin: Other cake designers often influence my work, however I gain a lot of inspiration from other sources, such as fabric, fashion, art and paper- including wall paper.

Glen: That’s a difficult question! A lot!
In terms of artists, I am always reverential to the old Masters; in particular Johannes Vermeer (of course), Rembrandt van Rijn, Michelangelo Marisi (Caravaggio), Diego Velasquez and Francisco Goya. A couple of more contemporary artists include Gerhard Richter and Odd Nerdrum. I guess I love art that contains an element of humility and/or drama.

What do you love about decorating cakes Denin? and Glen, what do you love about recording the process of Denin’s work?
Denin: What I find exciting about cake design is how there are always endless possibilities. It can be elegant or it can be whimsical. The cake could be traditional, or it could be sculpted. It could be used in combination with cookies, modelled fondant, anything! Not to mention all the mediums and techniques. And when you create something unique that really works, it’s an indescribable feeling.
Glen: When I see Denin immersed in her cake art, I know that she is in another world. I’ll never fully understand what that world is like, but I know it is a place of beauty for her, and that she brings beautiful things back through her creations. I may never see that world, but I can at least record tangible parts of her journey that I find beautiful in their own right.

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