Photo by Yana Binaev @yanabinaev
Tell us about your creative path so far and any milestones that you have?
That’s quite a long conversation! I always knew I was going to do something creative. Originally I wanted to do fashion or costume design but after a few internships, I realised it wasn’t for me. I wound up studying Fine Art at Middlesex and was diagnosed with Lupus during my first year which was really difficult. However, during the same summer, myself, Kerri Jefferis and Husna Lohiya won the Three Faiths Forum Urban Dialogues Prize. That was the first time I had ever worked collaboratively and it was a really beautiful experience that enriched all of our practices I think. We made this giant tapestry that was 3×5 metres long, so for 6 months all we did was sew and have really long deep conversations about everything from religion to astrophysics, it was great. They were both very supportive of me and my disability.
From that day onwards I have continued to work collaboratively with other artists, the most recent being my work with Rita Munus for the Write It Speak It Move It performance at Cubitt Gallery last year. I’ve also spent time working with the charity The Convehersation network, assisting with events and co-producing The Convehersation Podcast which is available on Spotify.
One highlight this year was taking part in the Black British Visual Artists Art On Lock exhibition, where I showed some new work from my photography series that I developed during lockdown called Portraits of Mundanity.
What sort of specific art styles or artists are you inspired by?
I wouldn’t say I am inspired by a specific style, as an artist, I often like to say I’m an omnivore, in the sense that I can take inspiration from anything and everything from poetry, comic books and pop culture to mythology and philosophy. I think the fact that my work encompasses such a broad range of disciplines reflects that.
Right now there is a beautiful community of Black British artists and curators who are making the most incredible work. People like Sharon Walters, Merissa Hylton, Michaela Yearwood-Dan and Bolanle Tajudeen to name a few. I definitely get my daily dose of inspiration from them. Also David Mack, Vanessa German, Kara Walker and Shawanda Corbett.
Tell us about one piece of work you are not proud of, and what did you learn from it?
I’ve definitely written a lot of cringe-worthy poetry! I made a piece of work called Somnium during my foundation that I have always wanted to go back and makeover. It’s still an interesting piece of work, but I would love to make it again with better materials and more time to really refine it and make it an immersive experience rather than a set of photographs. I don’t regret making the Perspicacity series, but I do regret how I initially chose to display them. If I could go back I would make the choice to have them framed and mounted, rather than encapsulated. The encapsulation makes them extremely difficult to document as they’re so reflective. It’s made submitting them for shows tricky.
What is your best self- care technique?
I have quite a few chronic illnesses so I have to dedicate a lot of time to self-care.
I stopped drinking alcohol almost two years ago because I get migraines and have never looked back. Majority of my self-care isn’t sexy; it’s stuff like meal prep and organising my medicines for the week. If I’m having a bad day I usually binge watch anime and give myself a manicure. I also started doing automatic writing first thing in the morning. I find doing a brain download like that prior to anything else has really helped me to gain clarity before starting my day.
If you were on a desert island and could only take one piece of creative material to help you with your work what would you take and why?
Clay, because I always feel alive when I have it in my hands.
How do you seek out opportunities?
Aside from the usual suspects of Instagram, Artsjobs and other newsletters I am part of several WhatsApp and Facegroup groups like The Other Box Jobs for creatives and people are always posting new opportunities in them.
What does support mean to you?
Helping someone to help themselves. Which includes telling them hard truths sometimes. I don’t ever want to be lied to or have my bad behaviours colluded within the name of “support”.
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be and why?
Reparations for diasporic peoples who have had their mental, physical and emotional wealth and health stolen by colonialism.
What are two useful pieces of advice that you have received from people?
My Zayde (Grandfather in Yiddish) used to say “Everyone has their meshugas!” Which basically means, everyone has stuff they’re dealing with. It’s a reminder to not take yourself too seriously or judge others too harshly.
I think as a teen I was complaining about a friend having something that I didn’t have and either my mum or my Bubbe (Grandmother in Yiddish) just said “Comparison is the thief of joy” and continued with what they were doing. I later learned it was a quote from Theodore Roosevelt. Whenever I find myself slipping into a space of comparing myself with others, I remind myself of that quote and quickly list the things in my life that I am grateful for. It helps me pull my head out of my arse.
What are the next steps with your work that you are looking to take?
I have a wishlist as long as my arm for this. I can’t give away too many details about the project but I am currently researching a series of quilts I’ve been wanting to make for a long time, and I’d love to secure long term funding for this project. Not only to make the work but to create a programme of events that involves working with communities and creating long term impact. I’d love to do a residency where I live somewhere really remote and learn old-school methods of forging and glass blowing. I’d also love to publish a book of my poetry and short stories, so I’m slowly gathering material and revising some old work for that.
What are some platforms that creative’s and freelancers should be using right now and why?
To be honest, aside from the usual social media sites I’m not really clued up on what new platforms people are using right now. I actually think LinkedIn can be a useful tool when used correctly, and I think a lot of artists are put off utilising it as a platform which is a shame. I certainly neglect mine! There’s a lot of pressure on artists right now to make work that is “Instagrammable”, and I think it’s important to remember that your work is your platform and you shouldn’t adapt it based on the feedback from strangers/algorithms on the internet if what you’re creating makes you happy.