Artists in Shoreditch: Interview with Conrad Engelhardt
G: Tell us about your art.
I am an artist living in Shoreditch. My wife and I have always had a deep interest in wine and as a result collected our wine corks. One evening I sorted the corks we had saved over the years into colour groups and then started to try and create a picture or image. I quickly realized I needed many more corks. With that I started visiting restaurants in and around Shoreditch. The first two restaurants to sign on and save their used corks were Les Trois Garcon and The Boundary. Slowly over the following months and collecting the corks weekly from these two restaurants I finished my first piece a triptych comprised of thousands of corks. With a finished art piece to show other restaurants, I was able to successfully add new restaurants to my wine cork art/recycling scheme.
My unique selling point or competitive advantage is two-fold: (1) using wine corks and their wine stains to provide a limited colour palate and (2) my educational background in chemistry has always given me a deep appreciation for the complexity of wine – the interactions of hundreds of individual chemical compounds. Together with diverse colours and aromas, these components in wine work together to achieve a unique and characteristic taste sensation.With regards to art I wanted to find a medium of expression which incorporated a natural media. Wine corks seemed a perfect blend of the two worlds. The wine cork, typically discarded after a bottle is opened, through this art is instead given a second lease on life and recycled for the viewer’s enjoyment. Wine corks offer a unique media that capture the essence of their parent wines and as they are natural materials they also mirror nature’s imperfections. I have been inspired by the Impressionist Movement. Transferring their techniques to nudes and other images and doing so with a colour palate that is limited and defined by the chemical interactions between the cork bark and the base wines has proven exciting. The magical allure is that up close the image is merely suggestive, but as the observer backs away the artwork takes advantage of the human eye’s narrow focal point and the corks begin to blend together until the moment when the image appears sharp and unmistakable.
I would have to say the most successful project has been my first. My first piece, a triptych, Nude Woman Lying On Couch is no hanging at the Terence Conran restaurant Lutyens in London near St. Paul’s Cathedral. Some of the newer pieces I am working on have been far more challenging with the shading required and a more three-dimensional approach to the work.
G: Tell us a bit more about your current project?
I am typically working on several pieces at the same time with the intent that each image will use different colours of wine stained corks so that they are not competing with each other for the same coloured corks. This has the added benefit of not allowing a huge surplus of one colour group to build up.
G: What are the main challenges maintaining your business and how are you overcoming them?
I think the biggest challenge is to get momentum to have the artwork shown, but with one of my pieces now on public display at a premiere restaurant in London I think this will generate more interest in the art.
G: What would you say has been your most memorable experience while developing your business/your personal brand?
I absolutely love discussing my art with people, they can never believe the wine corks are unaltered and that I do not paint or colour them in any way. I also enjoy the collaborative relationship in working closely with my framers at the Rowley Gallery in Kensington. With their help the way the artwork is secured to the boards and then framed has evolved to be robust and will last as long as the frames that hold them.
G: Why do you choose Shoreditch to run your business in?
I have lived in Shoreditch for almost five years and it was difficult not to be inspired by the artwork on display in the neighbourhood whether in a gallery or on a wall.
Very up and coming, some of the best known street artists in all of Britain, even the world have their work in Shoreditch. My wife’s cousin visited from America last year and she wanted to see the art scene in Shoreditch and couldn’t believe how exciting the area was and alive with creativity.
G: Who/what are your favorite Artists/Businesses in the area?
With our food interests as described below, we offset that with physical activity and we love going to our local gym, Market Sports on Bateman’s Row. I also very much enjoy James Cochran’s (or Jimmy C’s) artwork with spray paint, although, I must admit I am envious of his unlimited colour palate and the fact that his “dots” can overlap to give him more detail in a smaller space. Wine corks unfortunately have to be one beside the other making it even more challenging.
G: What are your favorite places in Shoreditch?
My wife and I are definitely food driven people. For the best coffee (for my wife) and blueberry muffins (for me) it has to be the Fix126 on Curtain Road. You will find us there every Saturday morning when they open at 8 am and Sunday too if we don’t have plans! Pizza is a staple in our diet and once a week (or more) we are getting take away at Due Sardi on Kingsland Road. For a fantastic night out and great inventive drinks it has to be LoungeLover; we always take friends visiting Shoreditch here first to give them a taste of the area. And for a good movie, we love going to the Rich Mix on Bethnal Green Road, they make their popcorn fresh onsite and that is a must for any true moviegoer.
G: What does the future has in store for Shoreditch?
Shoreditch has changed so much in the last five years, but I think we can expect the addition of great new restaurants, bars, and galleries to continue.
Conrad’s social links: