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

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