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Front row with Shakiera Khan

Photography by @undeletedgold

Front row with Shakiera Khan

So my next interviewee for the FRM Blog is a hypertalented young fine artist residing in Cape Town, South Africa. Shakiera Khan is a 22-year old multidisciplinary artist whose artworks literally commanded my attention last year. Their work is largely inspired by many lived personal experiences & the narratives of the world which they've created from those experiences.

Shakiera Khan, Incomplete Flowers Painting; 2017.

There's just something about Shakiera's passion, grit and determination which has an innate way of rubbing off on her physical craft. This is precisely the same attitude which I have previously mentioned is prevalent within the incoming crop of South African Gen Z artists & creatives. Nowadays, the talent itself is rarely enough to make it alone. You need a thick skin accompanied by an IDGAF attitude in order to pierce the veil of gatekeeping within our creative industry – and that's the exact attitude which Shakiera possesses.

Photography by @undeletedgold

Within the space of a just a few years, Shakiera has managed to evolve and develop their craft so much – with artworks now leaning more towards abstract expressionism. Some of my favourite artworks from Shakiera's growing catalogue include 'Fat Baby' & 'Three Woman' (both currently exhibiting) as I feel they perfectly encapsulate what I enjoy most about their work.

So, from elaborating on her chosen artistic style of expression and why, right to telling us about their personal experience with local gallery exhibitions thus far – I had the absolute pleasure of virtually engaging Shakiera in order to further understand their creative vision, inspirations, artistic process, and more.

Shakiera Khan, Fat Baby.

Would you mind introducing yourself and including a short description of what you do?

SK: My name is Shakiera Khan, also go by Soake. I’m 22 in August (Leo, of course) and I am a multidisciplinary artist. My creativity births into various forms, ranging from painting and drawing to sewing and writing. Also proud to state that I’m a UCT drop out and I'm pursuing art full-time.

How would you describe the style of your art? What inspires it?

SK: I think my work falls into the category of abstract expressionism. My work is inspired by my personal experiences and the narratives of my world that I’ve created from those experiences.

Do you have a specific process when creating your artworks?

SK: I’m not really aware of many habits I’ve picked up that creates a specific process when working. But I cannot work in silence, so my session always starts with good music, or a podcast in the background. I’m often anxious to start – a clean canvas can be daunting. I’m usually not happy with the initial piece and end up painting over it, which adds lots of layers to my work, so I suppose the act of re-painting is part of my process.

I sense a lot of neo-expressionism & abstractness within your work. Then you also have works like ‘When pigs play’ which displays more of your Rothko/Jackson Pollock-esque qualities. How does it feel to be a multifaceted painter with unique different styles?

SK: I owe my love for neo-expressionism to Basquiat. But as much as I love the style, I’m trying to move away from it. It’s become a saturated means of inspiration, so I’ve been looking to Rothko, Pollock and Miró for inspiration. Being a multi-faceted painter doesn't always come easy – I think it speaks to my struggle with finding my distinct style. With the body of work that I’m working on now, I try to take bits of their style and incorporate it into my own. In my previous body of works, I’ve been looking at Penny Siopis and her 'Shame' series. I have no shame in admitting that I look to the "greats" for inspiration, but I’m glad to know that I’ve mastered the art of turning that inspiration into something that’s my own.

Shakiera Khan, When Pigs Play.

I know you’re currently showcasing in your first group exhibition at Youngblood Gallery? How was has the overall experience been for you?

SK: I do have work up at Youngblood during this time. The work that’s up was completed some time ago, and I look to it now with very little pride. Since the show is currently ongoing, I prefer to not say much – other than the fact that curation is very important, and can make or break an artist's debut…

Shakiera Khan, Mannequin.

Is there any advice you've picked up within your short career which you could impart to any young emerging fine artists (like yourself) attempting to make a name for themselves within the industry?

SK: To be quite honest, I wish someone could give me the golden advice to success as an artist! I’m nowhere near close to being an established artist, and I have faced many rejections from some galleries here in Cape Town, so the only thing keeping me going is my need to create and my fear of being a starving artist forever (lol). The only advice I can give right now is to just keep creative, something will eventually excite the right person. And be confident. I’m convinced these people in high positions with galleries and residencies can smell the fear and insecurity radiating from you.

Shakiera Khan, Unnamed.

What are you looking forward to most for your art career in 2023?

SK: I’m really looking forward to creating a year’s worth of work and seeing the improvement and growth within each body of work. It’s my first time creating as consistently as I am now, so I know there’s lots of room for improvement and I cannot wait to actually see it by the end of the year. I’m also hoping to gain more momentum/attention and get out of this space of insecurity about my work.


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