Elsa Rouy

An artistic metaphysical surgeon

Grotesque bodies writhing in pain, catharsis, and even brief relief emerge in the artworks of Elsa Rouy. She is fascinated by the way bodies behave as vessels as if the form humans inhabit were once empty containers now filled with external impurities. In her paintings, the young British artist dissects women figuratively and literally. Blood and flesh intertwine, and their vivid shock and detailed stupor are brought out by every brush stroke. Eyes far apart, wet hair, dripping fluids, a cut-up chest, an eye coming out of the labia, entangled bodies, and complex, undefined, and intricate emotions to be unpacked and explored. These paintings unravel the mystic center of all kinds of emotions, anatomizing them until their influential power and how they come to play in daily life seep through and become known.

Elsa’s themed focus undulates too. There is an evolution in how she approaches her art, and it is evident in her recent paintings and their more pronounced technical elements. Her earlier works ooze abstraction with enough visual cues to pinpoint who the figures are (take her mother and child series where, for example, she explored the concept of bodily fluids and motherhood). Recently, her paintings take a darker route, a sharper solid state, and a more emblematic yet relatable spin on emotions. A temporary shying away from the diaphanous bodies of women, her artworks employ female forms as a medium of absurdity that hopes to make viewers feel unsettled. A gnawing feeling digs into their emotions as they gaze at the paintings, trying to pull themselves away from her artworks yet already too deep into Elsa’s world for them to let go.

In a conversation with NR, Elsa revisits the themes she explores, attempts to define the abstruse emotions that flow from her to her artworks, and reflects on her paintings as a gateway to who she is; the “metaphysical surgeon” moniker someone calls her; and the parts of herself she is still yet to unravel. 

Matthew Burgos:  I want to start our conversation from the beginning. Can you tell me about your introduction to the art world, paintings in general, and any personal experiences that made an impact on your artistic journey?

Elsa Rouy: I’ve always been into art, and it’s something I’ve done since I was a child. It makes sense for the trajectory of pursuing it as a career as an adult. There have been a couple of times that changed my view on how I approach art. When I went to college, I started seeing it as both a career and a hobby. This perspective became stronger in university. Thematically, my artwork is a development from childhood. I’ve always channeled my emotional experiences into a creative process, mainly through drawing and writing since I was a child. As I’ve grown older, this has become more prominent, extending into poetry and painting, exploring other art forms. Now, I’m working on this idea, but with the awareness to critically engage with concepts and consider their reaction to an audience rather than just myself.

Matthew Burgos: Would you say you grew up in an artistic environment?

Elsa Rouy: Yes, it was definitely encouraged. I think my parents weren’t artists or involved in the arts, but my mom used to draw sometimes, and whenever we did something creative, we were always encouraged to make things and draw. Doing anything with our hands was never discouraged. So I think it was a healthy environment where we were allowed to grow artistically.

Matthew Burgos:  Were you conscious of the themes that you wanted to explore in your artworks? 

Elsa Rouy: No, I don’t. I’ve always liked drawing the body, but I think it was only recently that I started to think deeply about it. It developed through my studies, but it’s only been in the last year that I’ve honed in on what I want to explore with my artwork and try to do that with precision, rather than just painting whatever comes to my head.

Matthew Burgos: But did you go through that process? Did you experience a time when you dabbled in so many themes, trying to figure out what you wanted to focus on?

Elsa Rouy: Yes – I think this happens a lot with everyone where you go off on different routes. There were definitely points where I was trying to make more explicitly political artworks or ones that were less overtly sexual, and maybe more about the ordinary, but I realized that I was interested in this idea of using the body as a vessel and manipulating it to express emotions and explore the brutality of the human condition. So, that’s what I want to focus on rather than trying to go down these other routes.

Matthew Burgos: Do you think there’s a spiritual context going on with this artistic thought? 

Elsa Rouy: I guess so. I’ve never thought of it as spirituality, but I guess it could be in a way because I’m looking into emotions, and there’s a lot to do with, as I always said, about the body being this vessel, this container, and the idea of having these emotions and the existence that we have within it, the containment, and then the leaking out of it, and how we try to contain everything emotionally, but it doesn’t work. And that’s why I’m interested in the fluids coming out and the breaking of the body to signify this false sense of containment that we try to have. So I guess it could be spiritual in that sense, but I don’t think I do stuff for very spiritual reasons.

Matthew Burgos: What are these emotions that we’re talking about?

Elsa Rouy: It’s quite difficult to explain. So it’s not one emotion. It’s trying to look at the intensity of different emotions. They could be like despair or destructive emotions, or maybe even softer emotions like happiness. But then it’s taking them to the limit of complete chaos, basically. And I think a lot of the time inside, it can feel like that, and it’s trying to find the balance between the soft emotions and the brutal emotions. It’s hard to pinpoint which ones because it’s a different range. I guess they used to look a lot at shame, but I’ve moved away from that now, and it’s more of an exploration of different emotions.

Matthew Burgos: Are these emotions that you personally firsthand experience, or ones that you want to focus on in your art?

Elsa Rouy: I think it’s a bit of both. So it’s going back to what I said at the beginning where a lot of it’s taken from emotions that I feel. Then I write poetry, and it would normally be in the moment, get a couple of sentences out. And it’s the same when I come up with an idea for a painting. This image will start forming, but then I go back to them and from a non-emotional point or mindset, I change them. So it’s more like observing the emotions from a distance rather than them being chaotic.

Matthew Burgos: You’ve mentioned before that your works are a visual portrayal of mixed emotions, very complicated and hard to define. But at the same time, you set boundaries between you and your work because, at the end of the day, you’re not your work. But you also added that self-reflection is part of your work and that painting allows you to reflect on your emotions. When does this process of using paintings as your medium start and end, and how do you separate yourself from your art?

Elsa Rouy: I think when I said that I’m not my artwork, I meant it in a quite literal way. When I get criticisms or if I get frustrated with an artwork, I don’t see the artwork as myself, and I try not to let it affect me so directly. It’s not like somebody is attacking me as a person if something goes wrong with the painting or if somebody doesn’t like it or gives a critique. I don’t take it as a personal attack. But I think with the actual artwork itself and myself, it’s a blurred line. And I don’t think there’s ever a clear separation. It’s difficult because when you do it every day and you’re constantly thinking about it, it kind of becomes part of yourself.

I was thinking about this question earlier when you asked me, and the best way I can describe it, it may sound pretentious, but it’s like myself and my artwork seem holistic. All the artworks that I’ve made before and the ones I’m making, as well as the ones in the future, seem to already exist in my head as a space, but not physically. So I think there is a detachment from the physical artworks, but the creative process, the ideas, and the concepts that form them are very ingrained in me. They’re constantly there, and I’m constantly picking them in my head, trying to figure out what I want to do, referencing what I want in the future with my artwork, or what I want in the past and trying to make that now. It’s like they coexist in a plane, and they’re webbed together. There’s probably no escaping being fused with my artwork now, but on a mental level, not physical.

Matthew Burgos: Do you continue the themes that you worked on in the past, or do you prefer to explore new ones and inject nuances of the past themes?

Elsa Rouy: It depends on the theme. Some are recurring, which is natural in my practice and life. But I also leave behind themes that no longer feel important or have reached their limit in exploration. However, even the themes I leave behind still inform the ones I want to explore now. For example, I used to focus on grotesque women and their bodies, but now I use the female form to create absurdity and make people uncomfortable in a different way. So there’s an evolution in how I approach certain themes.

Matthew Burgos: I came across your series where you conceived artworks related to bodily fluids and mothers, and looking at these paintings, how did you correlate these two?

Elsa Rouy: The first theme I explored was about containment and expulsion of the body. Initially, I focused on bodily fluids explosively leaving the body, but now I examine them as leaking or coming out. Whereas before, it was more like violent explosions. Pregnancy and giving birth represent a similar idea, with the body as a container releasing something in a chaotic and violent manner. Both themes touch on the delicate balance between life and death. The expulsion of body fluids can signify dying or illness, while giving birth is about bringing life into the world but also carries risks of death and health issues. To me, these themes have similar meanings as images. The mother figure was significant because it relates to a personal aspect. I used to have fears about becoming a mother, but I’ve now overcome them. When I painted these images, it was like a weird compulsive thing to shift this idea.

Matthew Burgos: What qualities come to your mind when you think of the words mother and child?

Elsa Rouy: The qualities I explore in my artwork related to the mother and child theme are both self-evident and multifaceted. On one hand, it’s about ideas of nurture and protection, creating a safe environment for growth and survival. However, I also delve deeper into the notion of the mother as a safe space while the baby represents something strange and potentially scary that the mother may reject. It’s about examining these complex dynamics.

As for the child, I see them as innocent, fresh, and malleable. They embody a sense of purity as they haven’t been influenced by external factors yet. At that stage, they just exist as a being, growing and learning without the complexities of language and cognitive processes. It’s like witnessing the pure essence of human existence before the complexities of life come into play.

Matthew Burgos: Can you describe your relationship with your mother?

Elsa Rouy: We’re very close, and I consider her one of my best friends! She’s actually visiting me at the moment.

Matthew Burgos: That’s great to hear! And about your recent artworks, you depict a lot of transfigured feminine bodies that exude a wide range of emotions. It made me wonder if these paintings portray psychological dilemmas or distress experienced by the subjects, and if the use of body and nudity serves as a medium to express these emotions. Could you provide some insight into the world that inspired you to create these images? What kind of environment did you immerse yourself in, and what did you envision while visualizing these artworks?

Elsa Rouy: Yes, my recent artworks explore points of emotional brutality. I use the body as a vessel and manipulate and distort it, completely objectifying it until it becomes uncanny and uncomfortable. This allows it to express intense and palpable emotions. I set up scenes with doll-like figures to awkwardly express these feelings. I prefer the snapshots of moments in the paintings because I’m fascinated by the spaces in between things. The slightly abstracted, broken, and distorted bodies create tension, leaving gaps for the audience to interpret and create narratives in their minds. There’s no predefined narrative; the bodies are like puppets placed in a scenery for the audience. The distressed and distorted faces evoke personal emotions in people, making them feel connected and touched. It’s interesting to use the body in a cruel and brutal way to bring out vulnerable and soft emotions in ourselves.

Matthew Burgos: And you did quite visually and literally dissected the body in one of your paintings. Was it a way for you to metaphorically look into the person or explore who that person is?

Elsa Rouy:  Yeah, I think so. The figures are all somewhat based on me, so it’s like breaking the person to find what’s inside. Someone recently described me as a metaphysical surgeon, and I thought it was funny and accurate. It’s weird, but that’s kind of what I do. I never thought of it that way before, but it makes sense. I liked that idea. I’m like, “This is great. I’m going to run with this.” Especially because I want to explore more about blood and the concept of small cuts on the body. It fits well with these ideas. But yeah, it was funny.

Matthew Burgos: I’m wondering if you like horror and gory movies?

Elsa Rouy: If it’s done well, yes, but I like more stylistic ones. I’m not the biggest fan of slasher movies, but I like ones that are more campy eighties ones with the prosthetics and all of that. I went to see Men (2022) with my friends at the cinema, and there’s this scene of a weird rebirth from a man’s body, with grown men coming out of a vagina and everything. And as soon as it happened, all of my friends at the cinema looked at me. I sort of liked that part – the scene, I mean.

Matthew Burgos: Are there things about yourself that you want to know and/or learn more about?

Elsa Rouy: I want to explore everything! I want to discover new things that I genuinely enjoy and are exciting. There are so many activities and experiences I haven’t tried yet, and I believe they could bring a lot of joy into my life. So, I’m eager to find out what I truly like and expand my horizons. I’m interested in getting back into dancing. I used to do it when I was younger, but now maybe try a different style. Um, on the other hand, gardening seems intriguing. Whenever I see videos of it, it looks so calm and relaxing. I’ve never tried it, but it seems like a nice activity to explore.

Matthew Burgos: Even if you have a lot of things to explore, a lot of things that you want to learn more, do you feel connected to yourself or do you feel like you have to learn more about who you are?

Elsa Rouy: Thinking about it now, there are times when I feel connected to myself, for sure. It fluctuates; sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I see it as a learning process, and it’s natural for it to go up and down throughout life, which makes it interesting. You think you know yourself, and then suddenly you realize that you don’t. It keeps life entertaining and exciting.

But I notice I feel very in touch with myself when I’m using my mind and body together, like when I’m painting. The cognitive movement of my body and the thoughts work in harmony, and in those moments, I feel like myself. On the other hand, there are times when I don’t have control over my body, like when I’m on my period or when I’m ill. In those moments, I feel grounded and deeply connected to my humanity and my body. My brain isn’t preoccupied with self-concepts; it’s more focused on the physicality of the body. And I think that’s when I feel most connected to myself.

Matthew Burgos: And how do you feel today?

Elsa Rouy: I feel pretty good actually. No  crazy emotions going on today, but who knows – it could be different tomorrow.


Artworks courtesy of the artist.


Between ‘Altered Egos’ and Virtual Realities

In the neon-lit alleys of Berlin’s music scene, Shubostar is a name that resonates like a pulsating beat. From the pixelated realms of computer games to the rhythmic cadences of cosmic disco, her journey is a symphony of contrasts. But what’s the thread that ties her gaming roots to her musical prowess?

Dive deep into Shubostar’s past, and you’ll find a young game designer from South Korea, exploring the world accompanied by the sound of early computer games. With just one guitar, one kick, and one snare – oh, Cakewalk, you beautiful music crafting beast – she produced tunes that echoed the minimalistic charm of MS-DOS classics and latter. Her favorite games? Princess Maker and World of Warcraft. Fast forward, and while her music has evolved towards cosmic disco, that simplicity remains. It’s not about complex configurations; it’s about a melody that lingers. Shubostar’s journey from a game designer in South Korea to a Berlin-based music sensation is a tale of two worlds: reality and virtuality. At the heart of it lies the concept of the ‘altered ego’. Altering the ego to be with peers and friends; altering your self-perception when entering the virtual environment of a second life promising game or an experience-engaging rave; but never altering her minimalist street style in fashion, that she lately embraced with the newest fashion collab of A Better Mistake and Telekom Electronic Beats: Altered Ego. 

Marcus Boxler: I am very happy to talk to you again, Shubostar, after we met in Montenegro during the Summer of Joy” festival by Electronic Beats. Last time we did not have a chance to dive deeper into your roots: computer games. You graduated in computer game programming and created music for virtuality. How would you describe the music you produced back then? 

Shubostar: Ooof, that was already 20 years ago! Maybe you remember the first computer games, their design, the feeling. The music was only one simple melody. 

Marcus Boxler: Does this have an impact on your musical style today? 

Shubostar: Probably yes, now that you mention it. Even today, I am way more interested in creating a melody, rather than a complex configuration. Even for the sound. Nowadays, I use a pre-set, when I create music. But, I often change it, because I know how it works. So the roots in computer game programming left their mark, haha. 

Marcus Boxler: Do you still play video games?  

Shubostar: Nooo, I had to stop! It was too dangerous for me! I had been so into computer games, it became like a drug for me. I nearly dropped out of university, because I was missing some lectures. 

Marcus Boxler: Ok! We will talk about derivatives for being addicted a little bit later, but before I want to dig deeper into the connection between computer games and your approach to producing music today. 

Shubostar: When you’re gaming you’re alone in the physical world. Of course, there are multiplayer games and even gaming rooms or tournaments. But mostly, you are playing alone. You’re alone on your laptop, but you are not alone in the virtual world. You are connected to others. It’s like being in control of a different reality, where the connection to others surpasses the physical reality. That’s the idea I pursue with my music. To expand the connection between people on an unspoken level – virtually. 

Marcus Boxler: Did you know that the term ‘virtuality’ actually comes from theology? When Christians talked about virtuality, they meant a non-physical environment that you can only reach via preaching or meditation. 

Shubostar: I know this state! I sometimes go into this state shortly before I fall asleep. It’s like trance. 

Marcus Boxler: Blending the virtual with the real. Speaking of blending, your music combines italo disco and electronic synthesizer sound in a very unique way. For your inspiration you mentioned the likes of Daft Punk, Air but also Alexander Robotnick and Daniele Baldelli in earlier interviews. Tell us more about that.

Shubostar: I’ve always been intrigued by things that feel real but aren’t present. Like space. It’s there, but we don’t really feel it. The universe is expanding every second we exist, but we don’t feel any of it. At least, not in a way we can articulate, yet. It’s a reality, but it’s not tangible.

Marcus Boxler: And the Italo Disco influence? 

Shubostar: It comes with the synthesizer. It’s danceable, it’s uplifting. It came naturally…

Marcus Boxler: Speaking of things that come naturally: You are also the founder of a record label: uju records. Can you tell us the story of how you became a record label owner? 

Shubostar: Yes, I founded “uju Records.” It’s Korean and it means ‘cosmic’. However, the journey is way less impressive than you probably think. When I used to live in Mexico, I produced an abundance of music. Like, really a lot! The one percent of my favorite record labels that I reached out to and that – at least – replied, did not want any of the music. During that time I was living with my best friend who advised me to found my own record label and release the music myself. Easier, faster. He helped me with the logo and artworks and this is how the romantic story goes. 

Marcus Boxler: Is there a greater goal to the label? Do you want to sign other artists maybe? 

Shubostar: It’s all about me (laughs). The label was really just an entity to release my own music and not be dependent on another label. Also, I don’t want to put too many different artists into one shape, being the label. What I do consider, is to do a cosmic disco compilation. That would be with other artists as well. 

Marcus Boxler: Your style isn’t just limited to music. Your fashion sense is quite iconic. Last time we met, you were wearing a bandana top, wrapped around your body, combined with a – Id call it – mediterranean pearl look. What drives your style choices?

Shubostar: Yeees, I remember that look. It was a piece from the newest collection collab of A Better Mistake and Electronic Beats. It’s called: Altered Ego. I believe in expressing myself fully, whether it’s through music, art, or fashion. Usually, I love street style. But at the same time, I can say with a certainty of 100 percent: That I’m minimalist. 

Marcus Boxler: Really?!

Shubostar: Absolutely. I don’t like to buy many clothes. But whenever I choose something, I need it to be wearable for a week and not have it feel boring. That’s my measurement. It has to feel comfortable and I have to be able to wear it for a show or if I go to the supermarket. Wear it for ten years and exchange it, only if it’s ‘broken’.

Marcus Boxler: That is the core of Minimalism. I think we grasped a little bit of the real Shubostar”. Is there also an altered ego of yours, that you would like to share about? 

Shubostar: Altered me? I think every version of me is altered as soon as I leave the doorstep and interact with other people. No? 

Marcus Boxler: Indeed, but its the same you. Or, are you changing your behavior in the presence of other people? 

Shubostar: Freaking, yes! Don’t you? I mean I love to socialize with my peers and I love to bring an uplifting vibe and happy mode to the group. But sometimes, after a few days of interacting, I need some time alone. To recharge the battery. And then run the game again. 

Identity is representation, transforming communication into community. Picking up the phone with a colleague or with a friend sets a completely different tone, and therefore creates different narratives throughout all social entities. Though alone at her computer, Shubostar was always part of vast communities. Either online or on the dance floor. This duality of being physically alone but virtually connected influenced her style and sound. 

In essence, Shubostar’s music is where her real self meets her ‘altered ego’, creating tracks that resonate both in clubs and in the hearts of those who listen. 


Photography · Marvin Jockschat for Telekom Electronic Beats 
Shubostar is wearing Telekom Electronic Beats x  A Better Mistake 

David Caon

“equally useful, simple and beautiful”

CAON is a multi-disciplinary design studio based in Sydney, Australia and founded in 2009 by David Caon, a graduate of Industrial Design at the University of South Australia. Specialised in industrial, transportation, aviation, product, graphic and interior design, CAON provides innovative solutions. From aircraft interiors, tableware to furnishings for the workplace and home, Creative Director David Caon has mastered the art of applying design thinking to industrial design across different disciplines. The CAON philosophy is simple: precision analysis and bespoke response lead to unique outcomes appropriate to each individual case. Collectively, they believe that in the right hands design has the power to heighten human experience and enhance quality of life.

NR delves into the studio’s projects and partnerships with the likes of Qantas airlines on multiple occasions (whether it has been or the airline’s tableware or its fleet’s interiors), the studio’s take on sustainability as well as their plans for the future.

CAON is a multi-disciplinary design studio specialising in industrial, transportation, aviation, product, graphic and interior design. Did you study anything related to any of these fields? Did you study product design, architecture or interior design?

I studied Industrial Design (product design) and commenced a masters of transport design which I left after about 3 weeks in.

Caon studio seems to be very focused on industrial design. What led you to create your own practice? What is it that you are exploring or tackling with your work?

My ambition in the early days of my career working for designers was always to one day have my own studio. I spent my initial years working in Europe. Once I returned to Australia, I decided to realise my goal after working for a large multinational architectural practice. I realised that I liked being part of a smaller, more familiar unit. My focus is to create designs that are equally useful, simple and beautiful. I’m trying to create things that avoid trend and thereby stand a chance of being timeless. You can’t create something that’s timeless, you stumble upon it by chance, which I kind of like. But you can try for it.

This is not the first time that CAON is doing projects for Qantas Airlines (for instance the Qantas Airlines Economy Seatings and the interior of Qantas A380). How did the collaboration come about? As a designer, do you enjoy doing collaborative works?

I’ve worked with the airline in some form since about 2003. My first introduction was whilst working in the studio of Marc Newson. Once I started my own studio, they were almost my first client. So there has been a wonderful consistency and evolution in the relationship. As a designer, having a long term collaboration with a client is a wonderful thing, and in some ways a bit old school. When it comes to new projects, it means that we are already on the same page, speaking the same language. The brand also means a lot to me, it’s been such a big part of my career for so long. I want them to do well out of every collaboration. 

The colour palette and material palette both feel very relaxing and wellness focused. Was this something you wanted to make a point of? Travelling does take a toll on the body but well- designed spaces can heighten human experience and enhance quality of daily life and it feels that the Qantas First Class Lounge Interior in Singapore has achieved that. How did the collaboration with Akin Atelier unfold?

I try to limit the interior design projects I take on because I’m very detail-focused which isn’t necessarily efficient when designing spaces. My general design approach is guided by industrial design practice, so I’m quite aware that I’m biased towards smaller scales. I know its best if I collaborate with designers that are able to take a broader view. The collaboration with Akin was born out of my friendship with Kelvin Ho, who is the director of Akin Atelier. These projects are important to Qantas and I want to make sure they are as good as possible and as enjoyable as possible, so bringing Akin into the project ensured that and also meant that I had a sounding board. The feeling we have tried to create was a conscious decision to make the space feel more like a sophisticated lounge room, part Sydney, part Singapore. Functionally, space is very food oriented as well because lay over times tend to be short and we wanted to give the passengers as much opportunity to refresh and reinvigorate before the next leg.

What have been some of the responses to your projects? Is there a particular project you have worked on that was particularly well received and did this inform your future projects? As your method of design seems to rely or be influenced by the relationship between people and their surroundings, how does the way people react to work affect the way you create? You have also designed tableware products such as bottle openers and furnishings for the workplace and the home, which is a nice way to connect people to the things they use in their daily lives.

The Premium Economy seat for Qantas was really well received but it didn’t mean that we didn’t think it could be evolved when we came to update it for the A380. It’s funny, as a designer, people are a bit reticent to tell you anything that might be wrong with your design, but I’m keenly focused on progressing our process and honestly evaluating our work. I’m wary of praise and I try not to rely on it as a measure of whether a design has been successful. So I guess I’m saying that no, reaction to one project hasn’t driven the direction of another project. I try to involve my colleagues, from across a range of disciplines, in my design process, as a way of stress-testing ideas. And when I’m designing I tend to think of my friends and family, people that I know well, and imagine how they might use the objects or what they might think.

Do you have a particular effective method to approach projects as they seem to be quite bespoke and tailored projects?

The basic structure of our methodology is quite a traditional one. Research, ideation, prototyping and development. Given that we are often heading into unknown territory, we try to learn as much as possible about the type of product or object or space that we’re working on. With a lot of our projects, especially the more specialised transportation projects, design is a cog within a system, so we are working within a framework. Critically, I think our role is push beyond that framework somewhat so that we can introduce new ideas and find space for innovation. Depending on the structure of the project and our role, we will adopt our process.

How has been in Australia influenced your design method?

It doesn’t so much influence our method as it does the reality of our business. Design studios in Australia do not necessarily have the immediate connection to the broader world of clients, whether they be furniture houses, big iconic brands like Nike or the tech giants like Apple. We’re in a funny time zone and quite remote. And its a shame really because due to those limitations, studios here tend to be quite inventive. We have to manufacture a lot of our own work in order to have an output. I think this approach could bring a lot to the bigger clients out there.

Sustainability has been very much on a lot of companies’ radars in various fields whether it be fashion or design and architecture. As you are dealing in a few of your projects with an airplane company and air transport, which is one of the most polluting means of transport and thus has a consequential environmental impact, what are your thoughts on incorporating a more sustainable approach?

I’m 100% for it. Air transport is a challenging arena for innovation because of how careful manufacturers and suppliers need to be around safety. So innovation happens slowly within the bounds of certification and the like. Introducing new materials is a complex process, something I have tried on a number of occasions with limited success. That said, there is a desire to be more sustainable across the board which is palpable. We are making things as light as we can in order to be more and more efficient, burning less and less fossil fuels. I think the industry really does need a couple of technological step changes to really begin to contribute to reducing pollution.

What are some of the projects that you are working on for 2021?

There are a few things. CAON operates two brands in-house at the moment and we’re busy developing new products for those. Additionally we’ve established a brand in partnership with my friend Henry Wilson called Laker. Laker has been in the works for a number of years but we officially launched at the end of 2020. We’re also doing a new restaurant for Neil Perry in a beautiful part of Sydney called Double Bay. We’re doing that in collaboration with our friends ACME. Finally we’re continuing our explorations into the future of transport with a couple of research projects. 




“I’m more interested in exploring the subtext of the why”

Why does purity have sex-appeal? What happens when you ask desire to strip? Is it cumpassion or compassion standing there? Have the closed fists of a lover around your heart understood what it meant to pray? Did they pray for you or did they just have you on your knees? 

The difference between intimacy and sex has long evaded many of us for far too long as we wrap our naked bodies in sheets instead of awareness, checking our phones before we even turn to see if the person next to us has batted an eye in waking consciousness. When we’re unable to communicate with ourselves or our better halves, we turn to music, we turn to Miguel. The Grammy Award winning artist is known for his sensual ballads. His 2017 critically acclaimed album War & Leisure, debuted at #1 on the Billboard R&B Albums chart and #9 on the Billboard 200 chart. But as we’ve been waiting for our next, favorite slow-jam, waiting to read the lips of an angel before they even part, Miguel turns the lights on. 

He needs more, he is more and his cravings no longer can be fulfilled simply by tender embraces and physicality chained to emotion. Miguel is looking for something deeper, looking to fill up space as he is, instead of carving it out of self-censorship, longing and lust. As he matures, he’s been making an effort to become his own friend, admitting to the fact that for some time, the person in the mirror blinked back but didn’t look like the person he wanted to be. He’s focusing on genuine understanding, relatability instead of selfhood dependent on difference and exploring darker tones with his new music because as he says, “there’s no way to tell the whole story without actually presenting the whole. I’ve shown everyone one side of me but now let me show you the other side, too.”

I know you’re also close with your grandma who left Mexico, sacrificing her own career in music to make a life for your family in the States, helping to shape your identity and inform your relationship to music and home. My own grandma recently turned 100 so I’ve been thinking a lot about matriarchy and home in general. 

My grandmother’s are almost polar opposites in terms of their temperaments. I didn’t get closer to my grandmother on my mom’s side until I was an adult and that’s been a whole other, fun relationship to develop that I didn’t expect to have at all. She was stern because she had to be and I only am able to see that now. The opposite goes for my grandmother on my father’s side, who you mentioned. She was always really warm, affectionate and loving but as I got older and business and life made it much harder to be there physically and it just wasn’t as much of an adult relationship. I look at family as being a sense of not only your journey as an individual, but as a representation of the bigger journey.

It’s like your legacy almost?

Yeah and not even as a measure for your accomplishments but just in your disposition, your humanity.  

“Our temperaments, our choices, our affinities are informed by our families.”

Yeah it’s this idea of a foundation. You’ve been likened to Prince and been a sex symbol in the minds of many and that was your foundation almost on which your career was initially built. But as you matured, you’re shifting that foundation as sex perhaps becomes intimacy with yourself as you begin to explore these darker tones in your work? 

I am anything I want to be, everything I want to be and sometimes that is sexy but not all the time. I welcome whatever it is that people need to connect with and I don’t control it. If I am sexy to certain people, great, that’s awesome but I just know that that’s not all I have to offer. It’s certainly not what keeps me interested in anything. I gravitate to things that feel sexy but I’m more interested in exploring the subtext of the “why” that is and so much of that comes from the depth of the darkness and the light, the interplay of it all.

It’s interesting because we aspire for depth but we don’t always equate it to being anything to do with darkness per se, we see it as a positive thing associating it with emotional growth. We’ve all been exploring this within the past year as we’ve had to confront ourselves. In what ways have you become more intimate with yourself and what do you feel more distant from?

I’ve been going back to this analogy recently because it’s the easiest way for me to remind myself but think about how often the operating systems on our phones get upgraded, now it’s like every couple of months, there’s something new, something better, a more efficient version. Life for humans should be experienced this way, in abundance, happiness and fulfillment. For me it hasn’t necessarily been new things, it’s just being able to see what needs optimizing and sometimes that means having to discard things we once needed.

What are some of those things for you that you’re cutting out of your system?

A lot of fear-based survival stuff, a lot of choices that reflect growing up having to move around, or not necessarily being in a place where we could afford things everyone else had, or feeling like an outsider based on the fact that I’m brown and black. What we do throughout life is to find ways to protect ourselves and for a lot of people that becomes their reality and stays their reality. For whatever reason, I was really lucky. I had parents that even though they weren’t together, they still held me down as much as they possibly could. I had enough of a support system to believe in myself, which is really at the end of the day, the core factor of anyone doing anything fulfilling. That ends up in great ways, fueling you and then in other ways, maybe weighing you down.

Right so it sounds like fulfillment to you is synonymous with self acceptance and we see that manifests on the Art Dealer Chic EP series. It’s funny when you realize what the difference between creating space and filling it up as you are feelis like. People seem to be gravitating towards this place you’ve stepped into especially with the release of Funeral and the new music on your greater horizon. 

Yeah I definitely just want to do the work. At the end of the day, an artist is about their work and I want to do my work with as much freedom from my even from my own feelings of requirement, or efforts to tick any kind of boxes per se. Inevitably, when you know your livelihood comes from your art, it’s going to find its way in one way, shape, or form so you need to be vigilant about creating clear boundaries. I’ve definitely experienced those moments where it becomes a challenge to see clearly and remember what the whole point of the gig is and I just remember that hey, I’m here to share, that’s what I’m here to do and I found a means of doing it through music.

“I get to be of service when I am my most honest here in this arena.”

Why is sharing so important to you? Why is that your driving force?

Probably because of the feeling that it generates. There’s been a couple of really awesome conversations I’ve had with my friends and fans that have shown me to the moon type support and they never really knew me but the connection was so genuine and there was a lot of belief there. I think of those people, and the people who I haven’t met yet but that I might meet through my music that I could possibly help to just feel good.

“That’s the awesome thing about any medium – the opportunity to connect with someone else that makes you forget your differences.”

Sharing is also interesting because like you said you might not know these people and nevertheless, that boundary you previously mentioned, begins to dissipate and maybe that’s the thing that we’re all looking for. The work you do as an artist is a lot emotional labor, you’ve broken down the boundaries yourself so that those listening are free of inhibition and able to access the parts of yourself that you’re putting forth in a way that mirrors intimacy. 

To add to that, it might be that I’m craving deeper connection in my life so I’m looking for ways to build that however I can and obviously that starts with a deeper connection with myself. I’ve really made a genuine and consistent effort over the past few years to really hone in and check in with myself, asking, “how are you feeling about you?” The more I’ve become my own friend, because I don’t know that I necessarily was, I realize how important this lesson was and it allowed me to shift, transition. I proved that I can write a good, even great, love song, I provided that I can do sexy, but what is that? Is that fulfilling? Does that fulfill me? I don’t think it really fills the cup all the way. 

What fills your cup all the way then? Even when you say you’re seeking out these deeper connections — what does that look and feel like to you? What is a “deep connection”?

Just like complete support, you know? I think that I’ve yet to really tap into what makes me relatable as a human being. I think that’s probably where I feel the most excited, the most uncomfortable and undeveloped. I don’t always lead with that. It’s interesting to look at the ways that we do our best to stand out and for a long time that was very, very important to me. But as I’m maturing and looking at the world, I’m going that’s not how I help right now. I used to champion being “an other” or different but like, we get it. You’re different and so is that person, and that person, and that person but let’s find the connection. 


Photography · RICKY ALVAREZ
Location · PEERSPACE
Special Thanks · Edge Entertainment

Subscribe to our