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.
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…
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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