Zarina Keyani Q+A – The more I paint the more ideas I have

  • Structure and shape can be the building blocks of any great work of art, however the composition does not always have to be representational. :

Our Head of Art Luke Baker recently sat down with Little Van Gogh artist Zarina Keyani to discuss her love of the landscape and the unexpected and exciting results that can be achieved through abstract painting.

What inspires you?

It has to be landscape!  My work is all about it and I love being out, experiencing either its vast sublime awesomeness of mountains and huge vistas or its small micro worlds you find in a hedge or on the canal. It’s so varied and fascinating and the fact that it has been here for millions of years, witness to trillions of stories, human and possibly other, and it will be witness to trillions more in the future?  It just blows the mind.  We will never know as much or see as much but we can take a little bit and be part of that witnessed history during our short stay.

How has your practice changed over time?

When I started out I was a textile artist.  Very hands on, and I explored everything to do with surface design and textile art and somehow design led to painting, which I found enigmatic.  Fine art abstract painting is so different from design which is thought out and planned.  With design you know what you will get, what you have.  But painting is random.  You can plan it but it never goes to plan in a linear way and that’s what I like about it.  The not knowing exactly what you get is the fun part.  Things just happen and then you’re like Woah!  I didn’t expect that! And another aspect to it is with the viewer, who will always find something that excites them that you didn’t see.  My subject remains abstract but what may have changed since I started painting is the techniques I use.  So some paintings may be more of a process, and others more expressionist.  It all depends on the day.

‘Elements Blue and Cream’

‘Elements Blue and Yellow’

What’s your favourite artwork?

If the question is about my work, I have loads of favourites but ‘Journey into mustard……’ is a particular favourite.  Other artists I love are Rothko, Kandinsky and the contemporary artists Rob Perry and David Prentice work.  Particularly the paintings Prentice did a year or two before he died.  Beautiful and sublime.  They were of a journey he took to visit his family through the Scottish Highlands towards Skye.  Full of colour and light and atmosphere.  It’s such a shame I never knew him personally however I am happy to know Rob Perry who did a whole series of paintings about the Somme.  When I began painting, I did a homage to one of these paintings.  They were up in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  Later on, I was so chuffed when I met him and now, we are firm friends!

Describe a real-life situation which has impacted your work?

As an artist connecting with like-minded people and talking about your work helps you to understand what it is you are doing and what your goals are.  My work is not political as such but some of the work represents something of the time that I was painting it.  This may not be obvious to any viewer unless titled so. Also, things that were affecting me in my life might become part of the painting.  Personally, I think artwork is primarily about the artist and their environment social and or political.  Usually someone has something to say and they say it through their work.  For instance, if you want to say something about human rights, feminism, war etc it can become artwork and be a tool for awareness or understanding of the plight of the peoples affected.  My work is not dark in that way.  It’s more of a celebration of life despite everything.  It’s subtle and reflects on the small everyday things that make life great.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Probably from the artist David Shrigley when I attended one of his lectures a few years ago.  He said that people have a romantic notion of what an artists life is. An idyllic life of lounging about and having a fun time of it until inspiration strikes and the artist produces a masterpiece!  In reality, you as an artist have to put in at least the eight hours a day any normal working person on a job would.  You can’t wait for inspiration you have to make it come!  I think that’s so true.  The more I paint, the more ideas I have.