In just under two years, multimedia artist Kay Gasei was awarded the Kate Bryan Soho House Award at The Other Art Fair in 2021, has held a residency at Soho.Home.Studio, and has exhibited in twenty (!) shows – already establishing himself as a powerhouse in the London art world. `
Ahead of his showcase at The Affordable Art Fair arranged by his representative gallery Art Friend – which aims to make art collections more accessible and inclusive -GUAP sat down with Kay to discuss his creative process, some of his proudest achievements, and what we can expect next.
GUAP: What’s been your journey into becoming an artist?
Kay: I didn’t grow up with art in my family or life. It wasn’t something that ever seemed viable as a career. But I’ve been drawing since I was three years old, so I did illustration at Uni since that seemed the most appropriate art form. Then I freelanced and ran a streetwear brand for a while. During the lockdown in 2021, I started doing digital paintings, and people started buying them. Then I got invited to the Other Art Fair and won a prize, and since then, I’ve been doing a bunch of stuff that’s super dope!
GUAP: What’s the inspiration behind your work?
Kay: I’ve always been into mythology since I was a kid, from Greek Mythology, to African folk tales, to narratives from East and South Asia. I love mixing that with cultural studies, history, psychology, and philosophy and putting it into canvas. I draw whatever is on my mind – I always have a sketchbook on me, and then I think about how to turn that sketch into a bigger piece.
GUAP: And who are some of the artists that inspire you?
Kay: Bacon. Basquiat. Goya. When it comes to more contemporary artists, I really love James Jean. There’s an artist called Edward Kinsella, who I’ve been following since I was 18, and last year when he followed me on Instagram, I thought, ‘Oh shit! I made it
GUAP: What are some of the works you’ll be showcasing at the Affordable Art Fair?
Kay: This piece is called ‘Drum One. House of the Spirit.’
Kay: This white figure is an adolescent-looking spirit. It has one eye open, which means it’s about knowing the world, and it has a beating drum on top that you see spiritually in all cultures. The two figures on the left and right represent the duality of yourself that you need to be fully actualised. It’s about yourself and your shadow self, and not denying either to find balance.
GUAP: How do you relate to it on a personal level?
Kay: Before I started to paint, all my work was commission-based – which is fine, but I did it for others. I lived in a world, but I wasn’t arbitrary in it. Now, I’m in here by myself and only listening to myself. I’m listening to my drum and trusting it.
Another piece I’ll be showing is this one called ‘Power To The People. We Ain’t Defeated.’
Kay: It’s inspired by the Night of Broken Glass, which is one of the first nights of the Holocaust that saw Nazis breaking into Jewish people’s homes. This is based universally on every small community that might have broken glass where people have tried to compromise their humanity. And the ‘We Ain’t Defeated’ part of the title symbolizes how resilient people are. The horse in all my work represents freedom!
GUAP: What’s your relationship with interweaving social issues in your work?
Kay: I don’t exist in the world alone. Some things will affect me. So it’d be disingenuous not to share that. I don’t want to push anything down people’s throats, but the message is there.
GUAP: What are you excited about this upcoming year?
Kay: I’m doing a solo show in May and looking to showcase some of my sketches. I’ve also got a show in Lagos in November, which I’m excited about. I’ve got a few holidays planned, and I’m just excited to do more dope stuff!
Kay Gasei’s work will be shown at the Affordable Art Fair, Battersea Spring, with the gallery Art Friend. The Fair occurs at London’s Battersea Park from 9 – 12 March. Tickets from £10 – £27. Book online at affordableartfair.com.
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