Mansion Artist Profiles: Matt Vadis

Mansion Artist Profiles: Matt Vadis

For the first in a new series of artist profiles, Mansion resident and budding art critic, Tom Glover, sat down with Matt Vadis to talk about his background, his practice, and why he loves having a studio at the Mansion.

Matt has been a fixture at the Mansion for a while, having occupied a studio for over five years.

"I love being surrounded by the nature here - it allows me to clear my head by walking in the woods. I also really value being surrounded by other artists, who are always on hand to provide motivation. The building has so much character plus there's always something going on, so it never gets dull - not least when the parakeets fly in"

#1 - Mixed media on board

He studied Animation Production at Ravensbourne, fuelled by a childhood dream of being a Disney animator or working on Looney Tunes cartoons, but Fine Art eventually proved a more suitable direction for him.

"My main aim in any of my work is to contribute in any way to cultural change for the better. Animation still holds a soft spot for me though, and who knows it may enter into some future art projects."

Matt's inspiration comes mainly from seeing people do something well, so that when you look at the result you can tell they have put the care and time in to achieve something out of the ordinary through a combination of skill, passion and dedication. His artistic influences range wide depending on the project he’s working on, from illuminated manuscripts, Bauhaus design and typography, to the Dutch Old Masters.

“Balance” - part of 'The Word' series

"Rembrandt is a particular influence because of how he used his techniques to probe the human condition."

At the moment, Matt is working on an ambitious, long-term series of portrait paintings. You can see the progress of this project at the next Open Studios events later in the year - keep an eye out for dates via website, social media or our newsletter. Matt's work is also currently on display in the Mansion Bar & Café (pictured top) and you can purchase pieces at the Mansion or via his website.

Tom also works in the Mansion Bar & Café and has just kicked off a new project curating the art on display there - if you would like to get involved you can email him here!

 

 

 


Artist profile: Marina Beard

What’s your background and how did you become an artist?

Having spent my childhood in Italy I was surrounded by a variety of beautiful things which attracted my attention. Looking back, I was like a magpie; collecting images of all sorts of sights and sounds. When I eventually came to live in this part of London, I continued to be fascinated by my new surroundings.

I received my degree in Fine Art Sculpture & Ceramics from Camberwell. Upon graduating, I began working on large scale sculptures and public commissions.

I eventually fell into teaching, after a year-long commission at a local school ignited my love of inspiring others to be creative regardless of perceived natural talent. I qualified as a teacher, and spent a decade working in both private and state schools; first as an Artist in Residence and, eventually, as a Joint Head of Department at a successful grammar school in South East London.

I also managed to squeeze in some work at the Clore Ballrooms on the Southbank for a festival, which is where my passion for combining live art performance with music began in earnest!

Why did you leave teaching?

In 2017 I realised I was approaching total burnout. I found that I had inadvertently traded teaching skills, subject curiosity and enjoyment in the creative process for pressure to achieve the highest grades. I was drowning in oceans of paperwork and government directives. This realisation led me to a career change. With shaky legs, and much to the dismay of others, I left my job and decided to return to the life of a full time artist.

What do you do at the Mansion?

I have been at the Mansion for a year now, and am involved in a variety of projects. I’m working on private commissions and am also back to indulging my passion as a sound artist. I still teach small groups and individual students.

More recently, I have become part of a group of artists here involved in creating large scale installations for events and community workshops. I love this work as it enables me not only to develop my own knowledge, but to continue using my skills whilst sharing that with the local community; hopefully to further engender a love of contemporary/traditional art.

What does your typical day look like?

As I live locally, it is a short journey to arrive every day to my little corner of heaven! I got over ambitious and decided to cycle recently – suffice it to say that hill + art materials + me was not a winning combination!

Most days I can be found sitting at my studio desk here at the Mansion, music on, tea in hand and a range of media flying around everywhere! I’m a bit of a workaholic - I find it difficult not to come in at weekends too, but I am trying to contain my time here in paradise, as family demands a fair share of my time also.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I am inspired by primarily by sound, light and the emotions I experience in relation to colour, nature and the environment I am in. I feel really strongly about protecting and caring for the environment, I support local & national charities and donate some of the proceeds of my sales to environmental charity. I also try to work with and include recycled material where I can, and some of the inks I use are made from materials sourced right here in the park!

I feel immensely privileged to be able to explore these ideas in my work in such a spectacular environment as our lovely park. I love being surrounded by trees and space, whilst being firmly grounded in South East London.

What does the future hold?

My future plans are to continue to make art here: at the moment I am preparing a body of work for a touring show in the US as well venues more locally. I am developing some small sculptures which may be ready for show at the Mansion before Christmas.. so watch this space..

I also hope to run a series of workshops from here, as I am really keen to see this space become even more of a creative hub in the local area. For myself I am also hoping to find the time and the finances to study for my MA..


Artist profile: Sophia Lyons

Tell us about yourself. How did you become an artist?

It has been a long journey! It probably should have been very different. I was born to be creative, but came out of school with only two O Levels; Art and Music. My panicked parents pushed me into the local college to do a Business Diploma. Everyone seemed to want me to be a secretary.

Instead at 19, I got married. At 21, I was a divorced, single mum in dire straits. So I started up a sandwich business from home called ‘Sam Widges’, employing a handful of other single mums. That was my first business and that got me out of trouble.

I married again, became a mum of two, and built up a second business with my husband; a large fireplace retail outlet (which still runs today); and during that time I gained a degree in Business.

I divorced again and then stumbled into the music industry in my forties, when my son’s band was signed to a major record label. This felt like I was getting back to my creative roots, with my love of the arts and music, and now I had some business acumen to add to it. For eight fantastic years I worked in the management team for some incredible musicians around the UK.

In 2011, I got breast cancer. This stopped me in my tracks a bit. During my treatment, I started to paint again. Naturally it was a time to reflect, re-evaluate. I was painting everyday and often, on the days I was well enough, I went to galleries. Then one day I was in the National Portrait Gallery, looking at a beautiful but simple portrait, and I said to my friend, ‘I could do that’. I felt a sharp tap on my shoulder from behind… it was the Curator who, with a very stern voice, said, ‘But you didn’t, did you?’ And that was the moment I decided I was going to be a painter.

Luckily the doctors and I were able to kick the cancer’s butt and I have spent the last seven years not just painting my heart out, but learning everything I can in the process.

I’m often asked, ‘Where did you train?’ I joke, ‘the University of YouTube’. Of course there have been many sources - galleries, podcasts, other artists, studying and copying famous works. Anything and anywhere that I can grab information and experience. It feels like I am on a mission and making up time for something I should have been doing all my life.

What inspires you?

It varies but right now it’s primarily nature… but throw in the juxtapose of industry shapes, like abandoned engineering and traces of past human existence, where nature has engulfed it, and I want to paint it. But rarely in literal terms - if I see it, I want to paint the memory and the feel of it.

I also like to paint figures using broad strokes and these paintings have a narrative which tells of something I’ve experienced, I feel or question.

Anyone who sees my work all in one place, either at my studio, website or Instagram, will notice I’ve been exploring and there are different styles, methods and mediums. However, there is a common undertone throughout and my own style is closing in fast.

What are your ambitions for the future?

To keep going as a full-time artist. To keep learning, keep discovering - it’s an amazing adventure.

It’s the best feeling when I get to see my work in someone’s home. When people send me photos of paintings they’ve bought from me, it always really makes my day!

Tell us about working in the Mansion

I have my studio upstairs at the Mansion, in a large shared room which is sectioned into areas for five individual artists.

I was one of the first artists to move in, in 2017 when the Mansion first opened to the community. I found out about it when I was walking my dog in the park and had called into the Café and saw a notice. I literally ran home and typed up my application. The timing was incredible for me and I just couldn’t believe my luck when I was accepted. I still pinch myself, to be honest!

All my life I have used Beckenham Place Park; I have never lived more than a mile from it and since my 11 year old dog, Buckley, was a puppy this has been the place of the daily walks. It's undeniably a huge source of inspiration. I love it’s open fields, the river and particularly the ancient woodlands. I love the messy randomness of old trees and untouched undergrowth (I did a series of paintings about this.)

I am really excited about the forthcoming lake too. It will be like a mini Serpentine and it will bring an abundance of new wildlife and waterfowl. I can’t wait to go for a dip in the summer!

What does the Mansion mean to you?

For me, the Mansion is a place to connect with the community. I get to paint in a bright studio with a view (albeit a bit cold and drafty sometimes!) and have the chance to mingle with other artists, which is really important and I am surrounded by such talent here.

Also, with lots of Open Studio days, people visiting the Mansion can wind their way up the stone spiral staircase to come and meet us and see what on earth we do up there! And they’ll also find lots of affordable original art ;)

What are your highlights?

The Festival of Lights was so great this year. It was a brilliant atmosphere and the Mansion delivered a warm, festive event which was community (not commercially) driven, plus the light show was pretty spectacular. However, the best event for me was the Flower Show last summer… it was so much more than a flower show! Along with the horticultural competitions was The Dog/Owner look alike competition which was so funny, there were artisan food and drinks stalls… families all sitting out on the grass with their picnics enjoying the incredible live music and of course the Art Exhibition in the main hall and lot’s more. Yep, I can’t wait for this year’s Flower Show in June!

What are your hopes for the Mansion’s future?

It has transformed over the last two years. It really has become an amazing hub of activity. It’s for everyone now and it seems the community have really embraced it.

I just hope that it's possible to continue with the good work that has happened here already; all of which has been done pretty much on a shoestring, I think.

If there could be long term certainty of being able to continue this good work and funding to preserve the building and it’s use for everyone - and not the elite few -then, yes, that’s my hope for the Mansion.


Artist profile: Froso Papadimitrious

An example of Froso's artwork hangs as the centrepiece chandelier in the Mansion's Atrium

The Mansion houses a small community of artists. Their studios are private but may be visited on open days. Froso Papadimitriou was born in Thessaloniki, Greece. In 2006 she completed a BA (Hons) in Fine Art at Middlesex University, followed by an MA in Arts Management at Birkbeck University. Froso experiments with multiple art forms and has collaborated with galleries worldwide. You may already be familiar with her work as an example hangs in the Atrium.

Tell about your back story

Creating, or better ‘experimenting’, is something I’ve always been keen on. According to my parents, I always had a tendency to make, dismantle and reconstruct objects; usually not the way they were before and definitely not functioning anymore - so all valuable items in the house were hidden until my late teens. Even in my early years at school, I was left to my own devices to make things - in order to be kept quiet.

However, art was not part of my future aspirations as a child. I studied Science and was aiming to become a pilot, but somehow ended up on a graphic design course. That, and love for comics, ignited my creative explorations. From there, I relocated to London for a Fine Art course and I have been an art maker ever since.

What inspires you?

Potential and possibilities.

Why did you choose the Mansion?

I heard about the Mansion from another resident artist. I chose it due to its location within the park and also being a resident in such a building is fascinating. The space fits exactly my needs as a maker and being surrounded by nature provides me with a serene environment to work in.

Tell us about your art hanging in the Atrium:

‘Slow the much oil’
Art installation ​
Thread, fabric, ink and pigments on recycled canvas and bicycle wheel

​For this work I have borrowed the silhouette of an imposing object of beauty and wealth, such as a chandelier/lamp, which has been used as a symbol to demonstrate wealth and power. However, this chandelier is made out of found and recycled materials and depicts images of a decline and destress of the modern times.

This work is aiming to raise questions about the relevance of values, beliefs and symbols we have inherited from our past to our contemporary life.

What does your typical day look like?

Froso in her studioI usually arrive at midday and work in the studio until late hours. When the weather is nice the park becomes quite a temptation and I have occasionally worked outdoors or instead of actually working I have cycled around the park and had a few picnics instead.

What are your career highlights?

The major projects I have been involved are:

  • APSF Asia Pacific Science Fiction Convention - Group exhibition by Singularity Gallery, Science and Technology Museum of Beijing, China
  • ‘DADA no DADA’ an international photographic exhibition at the Refugees’ Museum, Thessaloniki, Greece.
  • ‘Tomorrow’s Child’; a group exhibition at The Houses of Parliament, campaigning in support of children’s’ mental health and wellbeing.
  • ‘and with the marks on my hand I will tell you my story… Hajichi’, an art residency, solo exhibition and lecture at Arcade Art studio & Space in Okinawa, Japan.
  • ‘Painting and Beyond’ exhibition in Taipei Taiwan, where I was invited by the National Taiwan Normal University to give a series of lectures

What are you working on at the moment?

I have several upcoming collaborations with other organisations such as:

What are your hopes for the future?

To continue and expand my artistic work and career.

For the Mansion, I want it to continue developing as a multi-space for people to use and enjoy.


Artist Profile: Daniela Fleckenstein

Daniela Fleckenstein has one of our artists' studios up on the first floor. She works regularly as a supporting artist for TV, Film & Theatre, shaping her understanding as a photographer. Daniela shares her experience as a photographer in workshops and tutorials facilitated at the Mansion.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m from Germany and in the 90s, with an ambition to pursue the arts, I relocated to London and found myself studying Art & Design at Lewisham College. It was there I was first introduced to the magic of the photographic dark room. I never looked back, or returned to Germany. I eventually (after time at Chelsea Art School) completed a degree in Photography at the University of Westminster in 2006.

Tell us about being a artist in residence here

Wallace

I’ve been a resident in the Mansion for well over a year now, and I can’t sing its praises enough for the positive impact on my practice, as well as having seen the changes here over the past year close up.

The very room my studio space inhabits used to be the Dressing Room in the Mansion’s heyday and it lends itself brilliantly to its reformulated purpose, not so far from its original function.

My little secluded workspace consists of a big desk space, perfectly formed to make the long hours of editing possible, and also offers a thinking spot. The adjacent studio space is used for portraiture headshot sessions, but the north facing daylight and tranquil setting also makes it a good meeting space to discuss projects. 

For bigger events here, my space transforms into a shop for prints, greeting cards and workshop sessions, alongside meaningful discussion and feedback. Come and see us on one of these open days!

As I’m a local, I’ve walked this park for well over 14 years; most of it with my dog and have often daydreamt of using this space for creative endeavours - the park undoubtedly inspires or puts you in the frame of mind to create. That that has become a reality for me is sometimes still beyond my comprehension.

How can visitors work with you?

Daniela's studio

I’d gladly invite anyone to attend a workshop with me to anchor your understanding of photography in old school methods and give you creative control over your image making. The sessions are structured as an hour talk in the studio and an hour practice, divided into 3 sections: ‘before we look’, ‘what we see’ and ‘after the click’.

So whatever may bring you to the Mansion, don’t be shy; get an appointment to visit us on the second floor for Photosurgery. Or make a booking for a portraiture session for yourself or your pooch: you will be surprised what good sitters dogs can become. 

How do you use the Mansion outside of work?

After a year at the Mansion, I learned the community here furthers our ideas and sense of significance. I also take yoga classes at Studio Kooks to help deal with a pressuring workload of self-employment and freelancing. And I sure make use of the café and tranquil views and walks!

After long days working in production on film sets, as supporting artist or wardrobe mistress, it is a blessing to come back to the Mansion. Here I realise my own ideas and encourage my clients.


Find out more at http://www.danielafleckenstein.co.uk and http://www.fleckensteinphotography.com or contact Daniela at hello@danielafleckenstein.co.uk.