In the Studio with Kashin Patel

In the studio with Kashin Patel, a visual artist whose autobiographical work includes themes such as anxiety, isolation, self, social existence and vulnerability. We met with Kashin to tell us more about growing up in Mumbai, what inspired them to first pursue their artistic journey, and unexpected sources of inspiration.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

I have seen myself as an artist since I can consciously remember my existence. One of my first memories of making art or craft was a toy my parents had gotten me – it was a flower-making set. I remember cutting out paper flowers through the perforated mould that was part of the set and colouring, painting, and glittering the petals to make them into bouquets. I did that for hours and days on. I always had a creative drive and a constant need to make.

 Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?

I’m from Mumbai, India. I grew up in an environment where creativity was encouraged at home and school. My parents have always encouraged me to hone my creative self. Even the school I went to, J.B. Petit High School for Girls in Mumbai, encouraged each student to explore their creative selves through writing, visual art, theatre, and even integrated creative ways of learning other subjects like science and math. My formative education of 12 years in this institution has been a shaping force in my creative and personal journey.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice artistic work? 

I had decided that I wanted to pursue something in the creative field by the age of 12. At 16, I was confused between wanting to pursue a design career or a fine art career. The physicality of making things was more exciting than working on the computer and therefore I chose to pursue my BFA in Painting from Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai. It was an intensive 4-year undergraduate programme focused on Painting. After I graduated from there in 2020, I began my MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art here in London.

What’s the message of your work? Where do they come from? 

My work is autobiographical where dismembered figures depict me or the people around me forming absurd narratives. My work acts as a visual diary of my thoughts and experiences that include themes including the self, relationships, and social existence often through humour and satire. My paintings have a significant linear quality borrowed from drawing processes for their intimacy and immediacy. Making art allows me to make sense of every day and everything. As I draw/paint I can dissect an idea or happening and comprehend its nuances.

Who & what are your greatest influences?  

Dhruvi Acharya, Jogen Chowdhury, Thota Vaikuntam, and T. Venkanna have been integral sources of inspiration in my practice. I am particularly inspired by their forms, colour, composition, and narrative qualities. Other artists like Gagan Singh and David Shrigley have highly impacted the drawing and humour aspect of my practice.

An unexpected source of inspiration?

An unexpected source of inspiration would be children’s cartoons. To date, I watch Spongebob Squarepants, Mr. Bean the Animated Series, Courage the Cowardly Dog among others. The absurdity and humour in cartoons have impacted the way I bring my thoughts into visual forms.

What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?

No, I do not consciously have an audience in mind when I work. I use my practice as a personal diary to depict my thoughts and experiences so I do not want the audience to know the exactness of who or what I am referring to. I want them to relate to the work and their own meaning from it.

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? 

I recently had an obvious shift in my practice. I moved from the finger forms that are prominent in my previous work to making faces and figures. This shift was driven by my own itch to challenge myself and a nudge by my tutor at the Royal College of Art. I was working on similar visuals from 2018 to the beginning of 2021 and I felt I was too comfortable in my practice. As a need to challenge me and expand my practice I began experimenting with other forms that have now become a part of my work. My most recent body of work explores ideas of home, family, and longing and therefore I have been experimenting with painting on fabric brought from India. The act of painting on these familiar everyday patterns feels safe and soothing.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

I don’t think I have a catalyst for making the work. I just make. 

For me, it is more about identifying good work rather than making it. The editing process after making the work is more important and this is something I have taken from David Shrigley’s practice. The idea is to keep making and then decide what to keep/show the world. For me, good editing identifies good work. 

Tell us about the inspiration behind  your works?

My recent works about home, family, and longing have been inspired by my shift from India to the UK. As I struggle to navigate and settle in this foreign place I crave some familiarity. The work titled ‘ Comfort’ is about this need to feel safe. A face that represents me is enveloped by a blanket. The work is painted on a fabric that echoes typical prints used in the everyday of India. It is a depiction of the feeling of caress or a hug from home.

Something in the future you hope to explore?

As I have had a recent shift in practice, I hope to continue this endeavour in the future. I would like to experiment with materials and scale. I may even want to begin to make sculptures of the dismembered figures that frequent my work.