Posts tagged British Asian artists
Stay in your Lane

The gal-dem second birthday party aka second print launch was great fun. There was such a positive atmosphere with the walls being adorned with the content, drawing people to read the articles and view the photographs accompanying them. Music and film projecting many different women, mainly singers, from recollection, also filled the space. Good chat, great rum cocktails and women enjoying the company of other women within the event. Men were there but only a few. Maybe it is a bit intimidating being amongst all that oestrogen? Welcome to our world hey? 

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The rest of the evening was spent sipping cocktails and driving off the sleep with chat about many things, along with art, women and empowerment. 

However, what began as a jubilant evening turned into one where I experienced very heavy criticism from someone who questioned my advert, my intentions regarding the print choice, use of the term women of colour ("what does that even mean?", "Create a platform, what, how are you doing that with that?") and me being perceived as white. It was hard to not get defensive and the trouble is, where you are thrown off guard it is difficult to articulate yourself in a meaningful manner. For them I was profiteering off the image of women who would not gain any benefit. It was another example of a moment in time where people would be in fashion and then be dropped without any consideration. And all for whose benefit? Not the ethnic community. 

I felt upset that that would be the perception that someone would think I would exploit other people for my own gain as I would never do that, that is not me and they would know that I they did but this is the reality not everyone is going to know my intentions. 

My response was that the t-shirt was chosen for the ad as it is the most colourful print and as it is an ad you want to draw people in. The other prints have women from different ethnic groups, which could have been used but not as strong visually.

Women of colour is a statement to celebrate all women that self identify and draw on the fact that there is a huge difference in the representation of diversity with the fashion and media world. That is my comment, my focus and the platform I intended for discussion although it may not be obvious. 

Yes I am mixed race (30% Indian, I did a DNA test) and whilst I know that most people assume I am Spanish or South American, although someone guessed Bangladeshi on Friday, but that is neither here nor there. The point is I am mostly white and definitely afford the privilege of that but moreover I am not ignorant about that fact either. However my experience of growing up was not that and was bullied due to my ethnic difference being very obvious in a small white working class town. So that has definitely left its mark and was something I struggled with for many years. It was an embarrassment to be ethnically different especially in the 80's when the term 'Paki' was thrown around without conscious thought for the other persons feelings. Plus my mum being adopted did not allow for any cultural identity to be formed so I feel that sadly is not within my experienc either. But where do you draw the line? Is my experience enough, is being mixed enough, am I too white so I should not comment on issues surrounding race? 

The point of the brand was to raise more awareness of the lack of women of colour within the fashion and media world at large. But maybe that is too political overall in terms of visual imagery and representation. Maybe I should stay within my own ethnic group, albeit as diluted as it may be. Maybe I do not have a platform here? Maybe I should just stay in my lane as the title suggests? But maybe I am allowed a voice. I know I do not speak for all women, I do not want too. I have no idea what it is like to be judged as a black women or a Chinese women. All I have are my own experiences, which is where I drew the inspiration from after feelings angry that still in the 21st century we are still dealing with diversity issues. 

So whilst I have been reflecting on the negative comments I have also drawn some positive conclusions. Maybe I do need to streamline the visual imagery I use? Coincidentally I have been drawing more Asian women recently so there maybe a subconscious thought to focus on that more as there is a definite lack of Indian women in these worlds, which is saying something given the lack of black and Chinese women, to mention a few. But imagery is important and I do need to be thoughtful and considerate when using it. I need to think of the way the brand is being perceived and the messages being said directly or indirectly. 

I also need to be stronger in myself regarding the brand and the ethos behind it, articulate myself better and with confidence. And like anything, criticism is part of life and you have to take the rough with the smooth, life cannot be peachy all the time. Life is not like that, so onwards and upwards. 

Exhibition Time - Exciting Weeks Ahead

The following weeks are going to be busy, but good busy.

Whilst waiting for the photographer to finalise touching up the photos from the shoot I have been playing about with a digital lookbook, which I will send to specific fashion / arty magazines and stylists who I hope will feature my garments in their shoots.

When I created my first magazine, Front Cover, it was fun and somewhat easy as it was a creative space for me to explore and have fun whilst learning how to use indesign at the same time.

But this lookbook is on another level, literally. One where I need to consider many aspects. Not only placing images into the template but also the composition, collage, textures and the overall narrative. But moreover, the commercial aspect, making it look professional but also being true to me as an artist designer. So balance is key. 

As a result I have been researching other brands lookbooks to see how they lay out the images, text and if there are any artistic touches. What I have found interesting Is the brands aesthetics and how clear it is. When you see it you know which brand it is, there is a strong visual message being communicated. 

I am always drawn to specific designers for their artistic exploration and individuality like Vivienne Westwood. I like the combination of the locations the models have been shot in along with the post production artistic elements that have been added, such as text, scribbles etc.  Along with Maison Margiela who has a very playful aesthetic that is in keeping with my own. 

Vivienne Westwood lookbook  

Vivienne Westwood lookbook  

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Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela

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So I will draw inspiration from them and play around with mark making, which for me is key as I like to express myself creatively whilst constructing a strong visual image. I generally know when I am happy with something as it just strikes a chord, an instinct of sorts. So here is the start, the cover, it may change a lot, it may have a tweak here or there. Who knows?  But thats the joy for me. All I know at this point is that my logo needs to be on it and the tag line with a strong image. Some elements have been ticked here. 

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So what else this week? Thursday my friends and I are going to the Barbican to see the Basquiat exhibition. Words cannot express how excited I am about this.  It would seem Banksy is too and utilising the opportunity to make a political statement. Very apt. I am looking forward to seeing this in real life. 

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Although this is something exciting especially as I have drawn inspiration from Basquiat since A levels. It is not as exciting as the up and coming exhibition that my painting is going to be in at Stour Space Gallery in Hackney Wick. It is a great event to be a part of due to all proceeds going towards charity - End Violence Against Women, hosted by Nasty Women. I am really looking forward to seeing all of the other art works and meeting the other artists too. 

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The following Friday is the launch of the annual print magazine gal-dem where there will be a party. So again another opportunity to mingle, meet people within the industry, other creatives. Need to get my chat hat ready and decide which t-shirt I am going to wear. Shameless self promotion I know!!!

There are hopefully tickets left, which are £10 and you get a copy of the magazine, drinks and food. You can purchase them at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/gal-dem-print-issue-2-launch-home-tickets-37533547852

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And last but not least, Zines of the World, have released the dates for the exhibition at the Truman Brewery. So another date for your diary

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The exhibition is free but you need to RSVP at this link https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/zines-of-the-world-tickets-37817063856

So all in all exciting times ahead. It is the start of the journey but I feel very positive about the new platforms that are opening up.  Let's hope they lead to something.  

Ethnic Art Exhibitions - Just as Valid Today?
This year marks 70 years since India gained independence from the British Empire. A time for celebration or a stark reminder of the partition atrocity? The BBC televised various documentaries and panel discussions on the event with accounts from people who suffered through one of the biggest forced mass migrations in history.   This was of particular interest to me with my mother being half Indian. Knowledge has to be sought from other sources as she was adopted by western parents so there was no cultural education whilst she was growing up in the home nor was it directed or expected during the sixties. And coupling that with the British education system, which as we all know is whitewashed, makes understanding history particularly difficult. Reflecting on what I was taught and to what extent indicates this - Independence and Ghandi but not much more. So I was thankful for the documentaries and accounts delivered by people who experienced it, which has led to more research and understanding overall on my part. Knowledge is power after all. 

This year marks 70 years since India gained independence from the British Empire. A time for celebration or a stark reminder of the partition atrocity? The BBC televised various documentaries and panel discussions on the event with accounts from people who suffered through one of the biggest forced mass migrations in history. 

This was of particular interest to me with my mother being half Indian. Knowledge has to be sought from other sources as she was adopted by western parents so there was no cultural education whilst she was growing up in the home nor was it directed or expected during the sixties. And coupling that with the British education system, which as we all know is whitewashed, makes understanding history particularly difficult. Reflecting on what I was taught and to what extent indicates this - Independence and Ghandi but not much more. So I was thankful for the documentaries and accounts delivered by people who experienced it, which has led to more research and understanding overall on my part. Knowledge is power after all. 

As part of my ongoing inspiration seeking I have been to two art exhibitions this week. The only difference is that they have been defined by the ethnic group of artists within the shows.

One was titled 'The Beauty of being British Asian' which was curated by Burnt Roti, an online magazine aimed at women of South Asian decendency, where all of the artists were of duel identity - South Asian and British. The work exhibited ranged from illustrations to photography and sculptural installation. My favourite pieces were:

Gurjeet Jheeta

Gurjeet Jheeta

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Soofiya Audry  

Dejah Naya

Dejah Naya

Kiran Gidda

Kiran Gidda

The second was a show at the Tate Modern called 'Soul of a Nation' where the exhibition was celebrating black artists who lived and created work in American during the sixties and beyond.  Again the work ranged in artistic output along with archival pieces such as the Black Panther newspaper, posters and video footage based on the civil rights movement.

Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden

Barkley Hendricks

Barkley Hendricks

Frank Bowling

Frank Bowling

Lorraine O'Grady  

Lorraine O'Grady  

Whilst thinking about the work exhibited and the themes that bound the shows together made me question and think about specific points. Such as the political element of some of the work. And is defining work by ethnic group important? There must be a need to create certain platforms particularly when it comes to ethnicity due to there being limited exposure of artists in the main arena of art. Again another issue of whitewashing. You only have to go various art galleries to see that the main demographic of artists are western and usually men. So creating a group show based on ethnicity seems to not only be an important point drawing on artists from the sixties but even more so now, clearly a platform is needed. It made me really reflect a lot on the world and the society we live in today. Are we really that progressive? 

When I am creating my own work I am still really shocked at the lack of women of colour in the fashion, art and media world but even more so when it comes to Indian women, where are they? It is so questionable especially given the history between Britain and India. Is it shame or just good ole imperialism at its best (worst)?

So visiting this exhibition whose focus was on British Asian artists was particularly poignant. I think this agenda needs to be pushed forward more and more and challenging the establishment by creating more platforms to not only showcase artists but highlight the lack of representation. Art is so important and serves so many purposes; for pleasure, to educate, to inspire and to inform. Which is why it is so important for artists from various ethnic backgrounds have a space in which to be celebrated. 

Just like the artists in American from the Soul of a Nation exhibition who's work was not only about identity, politics or painting in a particular style; it also generates debate about what is art? Black art? Political art? If you are an artist from an ethnic background should your work have an agenda that questions society? Should it matter, as an artist do you not have artistic license to do what inspires you rather than being politicised by others? 

There is always a fine line and some people will view various platforms as being integral and somewhat of a duty to raise awareness, create debate. Not to be afraid to question the establishment, make your voice heard.

My opinion at this stage of my creative and artistic journey is precisely on that point. I want to raise awareness, I want to highlight the lack of fair and diverse representation. I like the idea of combining different interests to serve my own personal journey of expression but hopefully in an entrepreneurial way that becomes commercially viable, just not in a gallery but on the streets, as walking works of art. 

It is needed, it is important and should not even be on the agenda but here we are. So back to my own agenda and pushing forward my concept. Today and for the remainder of the week I will be mocking up an advert page that will hopefully be approved for a magazine that will be published later on in the year. Developments as usual will updated on here, fingers crossed they like it and include it. Then onto more photoshoot planning. Final outfit styling to be decided and location order confirmed. Baby steps but it is all in the right direction. Oh and check out the newly designed website layout. Even though the photos will be replaced I am interested in people's opinion so so let me know what you think.