The Little Artists

John Cake and Darren Neave are artists best known for recreating iconic artworks in LEGO.

Household names including Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and Gilbert and George, as well as enfants terribles of ’90s Brit-art Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, have all had their most famous works of art recreated in miniature.

But despite a continuing fanaticism about LEGO in all its forms, these days Cake and Neave’s artworks involve other just as unconventional materials, including knitted toilet roll dolls, Scalextric track, Tube maps, Smurf figurines and papier mache masks. Although in the UK they often face scepticism, elsewhere they’ve proved far more popular, with exhibitions this year in Paris, Berlin, New Zealand, Singapore and Beijing.

You live and work in south-east London, yet every other artist seems to be based in Hackney. Why aren’t you there too?

‘There are probably more artists per square mile in Hackney than anywhere else in the world, and because of that it’s become stupidly expensive to hire studio spaces there where we can work. We used to have a studio in Dalston, but the three-hour round trip was a nightmare, so we wanted somewhere closer to home.’

So where’s your new studio?

‘It’s in the Old Police Station, opposite New Cross station. It’s run by temporarycontemporary, who used to run The Old Distillery opposite Deptford DLR. It’s since been knocked down, but this latest space is a continuation of what they were doing there. The police station’s offices have been converted into artists’ studios, with exhibitions in the holding cells, interview and archive rooms. There’s even a radio station being run from the building, and a monthly clubnight, which is a mix of live music, film and theatre.

‘With cultural events like the annual Deptford-X festival increasing in popularity and media exposure year-by-year, as well as the close proximity of Goldsmiths College, south-east London is an area that, despite its reputation, is very proud and protective of its creativity. And having somewhere near to Ladywell, where we live, saves us a massive amount of time and money, both of which we never have enough of!’

And what are you working on?

‘The first thing we did when we moved in was paint our studio red, which is a nod to Matisse’s famous Red Studio painting. We’ve obsessively collected Batman figures for years, and they’re now hung from the ceiling like bats. It’s a reference to Martin Kippenberger’s artwork, Matisse’s Studio Sublet to Spiderman, but reflecting our own interest in Batman and the associated concepts of masking and alter egos.

‘A lot of the motifs we’re using now have been prompted by previous projects. We did the Kippen…Schlumpf Büro exhibition in Berlin, which was a reflection of Kippenberger’s model of working. His methodologies used his studio not just as a creative space where work was made, but also as a social space, and for other purposes such as exhibitions, performance or simply storage.

‘We wanted to explore that idea, so our next projects are masked tea parties which we’ll hold at our studio. We’re making sinister oversized papier-mâché masks, and there’s Scalextric tracks crawling all over the walls and wrapped around the tables and chairs. We’re even commissioning a ceramicist to make a cubist teapot with two spouts.

‘Our intention is to move away from our previous work, which has often been misunderstood as an ironic comment about the art world, and how it becomes inextricably linked with consumerism and sensationalism in the mainstream media. What we’re doing at The Old Police Station is completely different.’


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