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In Conversation with Asad Kamran

 

A 23 year old artist from Karachi, Pakistan. Asad Kamran is currently enrolled at the University of Edinburgh where he studies Architecture. He draws his inspiration from his ever evolving life circumstances and allows his paintings to become a cathartic response to his thoughts.

 

He has tried a few times, to determine the fate of his canvases before he puts paint on them. But this has not always translated to true expression. Instead, he now allows the paintings to develop organically. His process is instinctive and impulsive, allowing him to express himself without constraints. The resulting paintings are a collective expression of all that he feels in the moment when he is faced with the canvas. When architecture feels too structured and practical, painting allows him to stumble and slip. He drips and leaks colour onto canvas in order to shake up the logical rigidity which academia and life sometimes envelop him in.

 

Having had multiple shows in Karachi and most recently in Istanbul, Turkey his works have been described as intuitive, gestural, and whimsical.

 

His latest show, Expression is a series mainly focusing on abstract portraiture, where the Artist gives his multiple thoughts a face. His medium of preference is Acrylic overlaid with fidgety strokes of charcoal and dust.

 

 

JA: Lets start with how you decided that you wanted to be a painter?

 

AK: As far as I can remember I’ve always loved to make art. There wasn’t a hard and fast series of events that led to this revelation. It was always something I did. I was quite hesitant to take art as a subject at the Ordinary and Advance Level so I took Additional Mathematics instead. Eventually I realized that it wasn’t fairing too well for myself and I dropped it and took art. That was the first time I ever took art seriously, I realized that there was a connection between a paintbrush and me. It was during my adolescent and teenage years that I realized that painting could be a form of expression for me, something that could be pursued. If I think about my earliest memory of holding a brush it would probably be in third or fourth grade with my mum when I was sitting in my room. At that time the calendar that hung on the wall featured a painting of mine.

 

JA: So as a studying architect, how do you manage both painting and studying for a degree in a different field?

 

AK: In my opinion, both fields are interlinked; it is not that one in done by day and the other by night. However, I do believe that my truest expression comes when I dedicate a certain time for my art. Architecture for me is also a form of expression but it is still logical and rigid and you have to worry about real life problems. Paintings have no bound, it allows me true expression and a release from the stress architecture brings.

 

JA: Tell me about your choice of medium? How have you gone about deciding your preferences and how do you think that helps your practice?

 

AK: I have tried using oil paint but frankly I am interested in quick results so I have a preference for water-based mediums such as acrylic. However, recently I have started to even see the beauty in allowing your paint sit for a week and then coming back to it with a fresh new mindset. Currently I’m working with acrylic, charcoal and charcoal dust because these are all quick and expressive mediums that allow you to go over the work or let it be depending on your mood. Fast results allow me to fully express myself at that moment as the momentum may die out with mediums that take longer. I truly feel like I can let it all out on the canvas in that one instance. However, lately I have been seeing the beauty in going back to certain paintings and reigniting them.

 

JA: Where does your subject matter arise? What inspires you?

 

AK: Recently I have been struggling with that. Initially my work has been about myself. They have been portraiture, capturing my mood at a certain time and place. Sometimes objects appear in my work, something that I see in front of it and me becomes a discourse between what I see and what I reflect in my work. However, now I feel like I’m evolving as an artist, I’m starting to look around more and trying to capture those on canvases. I don’t use references; all is from my thoughts and feelings. When I start, it is usually with paint. I allow my intuition to just cover certain areas of the space. Usually in one sitting I cover about 3-4 canvases, as the initial ones are usually my most restricted. Eventually I begin to lather the paint and accordingly to the visual I’m aiming for, whether subtle or stark, I choose where and how to apply the paint. After a certain time, I begin to experiment with charcoal and charcoal dust, making hasty lines or throwing the dust onto the canvas. The charcoal marks often come out as frustrated, fidgety lines as that is what the dry medium allows me to do. I usually just start, I have no preconceived idea nor plan of what the work may look like, no drawing whatsoever.

 

JA: Who are your artistic inspirations?

 

AK: I have always liked the words of Matisse and Basquiat. Basquiat’s work really spoke to me; the way he expressed himself in his work with his layers of paint, brush strokes and the subject matter he used. His inspiration by Gray’s Anatomy, the book, was really exciting to see explored through paint. Matisse is someone I admire for composition, his positioning of his scenes and the objects verses his placement of subject matter. Locally, I am most inspired by Bashir Mirza and Sadequain; their choice of colour and size is something that really excites me. I in fact, want to go larger in my work because I have always loved larger pieces. Right now an ideal size would be a 5 by 5feet. I also prefer horizontal or square oriented canvases.

 

JA: Describe your colour palette for us? Where does it stem from?

 

AK: I think it mostly what I feel at that time, or maybe the colour around me. Recently, when I was in Turkey, I was greatly inspired by the trend of pastel colours around me. Somehow whenever I’m in Karachi, blues and black are always something that speaks to me. It’s an intuitive process. Artists such as Sadequain and his use of blues and teals may probably also inspire me. Some people have thought of my work as having sad overtones even though I don’t believe in labeling my own work. Blue is one of my favorite colours to use because it has this certain depth that I can explore, but if my work does get too monochromatic, I add the warmth of whites and yellows to my canvas. I quite enjoy how the paint blends on the canvas itself to create new colours that weren’t initially used. So colours like a light pistachio green that are born on the canvases are real treats to see.

 

JA: How has this body of work displayed, differ from your most recent work in Turkey?

 

AK: Well, I was in Istanbul for three months and it is an unbelievably inspiring city. It is absolutely chaotic but has a sweet mysticism to it that you may not find anywhere else. I was very visually observant over there because I could speak the language and I feel like this all became a part of my work. So firstly the scale was greatly constricted, then the colours greatly changed. They were three dominant hues namely, pistachio green, pastel pink and a blue that was derived from the Bosphorus river. The formality of the situation also great affected my pieces. Sizes needed to be predetermined, as well as materials and I couldn’t take something too bulky as I travelled by train. In the end though, this change was very exciting to see in the paintings and I greatly appreciated it. This is a great thing because I’ve noticed that my work is always evolving, everything I’ve ever exhibited has been different. I am now more inclined to newer mediums, like collage and they have begun appearing in my pieces. Also the turns my life takes also cause the shift that is evident in my paintings. I feel that recently, my work has become more meaningful. I lost my mother two years ago and as a result solemnity has appeared in the pieces. Gradually as I evolve so I feel like my work will also.

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