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On Art and Untangling Culturally Inherited Expectations: In Conversation With Azraa Motala

by in Fashion on 12th November, 2018

Azraa Motala is a force to be reckoned with, she is a Muslim female multidisciplinary artist, who has wowwed the community with her most recent piece for her Masters at the Chelsea college of Arts. Amaliah sat down with azra to learn a little more.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? how old are you?

I’m a 22-year-old Multidisciplinary Artist from Lancashire. I create a range of work spanning photography, moving image, and oil painting. I studied Fine Art at the University of Central Lancashire and have just completed my Masters at the Chelsea College of Arts.

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Unapologetic, Azraa Motala, 2018, Mesh banner, 6 x 7 m.

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2. When did you first know you were interested in art?

I’ve always been interested in art; ever since I was a child I’d spend countless hours drawing, filling sketchbook after sketchbook. I was fortunate enough to always have an array of art materials on hand but often had no idea how to use them; I spent a lot of time experimenting and creating to the point where I now have around 20 sketchbooks and numerous folders full of work.

My parents are both creative too, when I was younger I hardly used a conventional colouring book; instead, my dad would draw out landscapes, cars and cartoon characters for me to colour in.

When I was 13 I spent the entire two weeks of my Easter holidays hunched over a little desk in my room drawing cars with my dad. I used to spend my science lessons in secondary school secretly drawing under my exercise book. I’d stay behind during my lunch hours to finish work. I’d find every opportunity I could to create something; I loved the process, the solitude and the sense of peace that would wash over me when I was making art – something I still savour now.

3. Did you find any obstacles when first thinking about doing it seriously?

I’ve always loved the arts however, it wasn’t something I could realistically see myself doing long-term.  I carried on studying a broad selection of subjects through the sixth form, only when the time came to make my university applications did I consider pursuing it. Thankfully I didn’t face any real obstacles, and my parents were both fully supportive of my decision to study Fine Art – they encouraged me to do what I enjoyed and was passionate about.

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Finished it.(Finally) 😊

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4. Did you attend an academy or college of the arts?

I completed my BA at the University of Central Lancashire and have just finished my Masters in Fine Art at the Chelsea College of Arts. I was never formally taught how to paint – everything I know is the result of my curiosity, experimentation, and practice. Art school, however, has played a significant role in incubating experimentation and encouraging the development of my concept and research.

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AF1

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5. Does identity play a part in the pieces you create? How so?

My work is very much centered around notions of identity and belonging and seeks to untangle culturally inherited expectations, and the overlapping aspects of my identity as a young British-Asian Muslim woman within the contemporary Western space.

I am inherently interested in the way in which women from the diaspora have been represented in both the past and the present day and how our identities are constructed from the spaces in between. Parts of the diasporic image not only centers around remembered or imagined pasts and places but also projected futures, through clothing I am not only negotiating the tensions of a double heritage but bringing forward a new material heritage of hybridity.

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Exhibition spam coming up ☺

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6. Your creations are beautiful Mash’Allah, what first triggered you to make the piece you did?

It’s undeniably apparent that women of colour are underrepresented in all forms – our voices silenced and our image warped. Muslim women are unequivocally one of the most spoken for groups in society, often denied an actual platform for self-representation but are instead ventriloquized by society. Utilising both photography and painting to self-represent I wanted to empower and uplift women of colour through work which touches upon the mutual struggles of many second and third generation immigrants.  BAME communities have been particularly affected in our current socio-political climate, ‘Othering’ a universal part of the second and third generation immigrant struggle which no doubt influences the creative output of many artists – including myself.

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I'm not not wearing your jacket @hakunamotala 🌚

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7. Tell us a little more about it?

Through large-scale oil paintings, I seek to re-appropriate the image of the Eastern woman as it was depicted in Orientalist paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries; essentially adopting the same medium to portray opposing imagery.

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Final pieces.✌

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60"x 48" Oil and acrylic on canvas.

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8. What are your aims as an artist?

I’m very interested in representing the underrepresented and making art which people can connect with and hopefully see themselves in. I remember going to galleries when I was younger and never saw the empowered image of the Eastern woman. Even growing up representation in the media has always been lacking or a homogenous often stereotypical depiction of the south-Asian or Muslim woman. I’d like to continue making work that represents a minority and shows the ever-changing face of what it means to be British, Asian and Muslim.

9. Do you feel your heritage plays a part in contributing to your artistic flair?

Definitely! I think culture can sometimes be disregarded because its seen as being somewhat unprogressive. We’re fed continuously western ideals of beauty and subconsciously taught that giving up the inherently cultural or “foreign” strands of our identity would equal emancipation. Through my artwork, I am exploring my intrinsic longing for a place unknown to myself but still a critical part of my identity, an exploration of somewhere in-between here and there.

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Degree show spam coming up. 👀

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10. What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a creative field but are holding back out of fears of not finding a job?

The arts are so broad and require different types of creativity and approach, each subject sets you up with a set of transferable skills which would be valuable across many sectors. If you want to work freelance you’ve got to be persistent and schedule your time. You’ve got to get your work out there and network. Find the opportunities that are going to help develop your professional practice. collaborate with people. Find what you’re passionate about and pursue it wholeheartedly.

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60" x 48" Oil and acrylic on canvas. ☺

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11. What advice would you give to someone who wants to draw and paint but doesn’t feel good enough?

I think the worst thing you can do is doubt yourself, it’s a well-known fact that artists often get consumed by self-doubt but you really have to stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone has their strengths, some might be able to come up with brilliant concepts and others might find their talent lies in digital illustration or movies or painting. You just have to experiment and continue working on your craft -if it brings you any kind of peace don’t let it go.

Amaliah Writes

Amaliah Writes

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