Interview with... British-Jamaican painter Katasha Rose
Katasha Rose is a British-Jamaican painter, born in Jamaica and today based in London, UK. Still in a phase of discovery, the particularity of her works resides in her dual style practice, abstract and figurative. Katasha Rose paints either people that look familiar to her, or abstract landscapes with vibrant colours as a way to feel freer from figurative style preciseness. While exploring through her work, Katasha Rose hopes to inspire many young artists to pursue their career with no fear and utmost confidence.
Segolene Py: Would you like to present yourself in few words.
Katasha Rose: My name is Katasha Rose, I am an abstract and figurative artist. I like to think of myself as quite open and practice both styles. I was born in Jamaica and moved to the UK when I was about 5 years old, and I have lived and grew up here since. Even though I am a sort of in-between person, I still think of myself as a Jamaican person, my heart is in Jamaica.
SP: Did you study art?
KR: I went to the Camberwell College of Art where I studied Craft Design, then I continued my studies in Interior and Spatial Design at the Chelsea College of Arts. I didn't go into Fine Arts because I didn’t see it as a way to make money. At the time, my mother wanted me to focus on finding a job that is going to be stable and secure. So doing art wasn't a prospect for me. Although it was the most natural thing to do, it wasn't the career that I pursued.
SP: It is often like this when you start as an artist, it is difficult to find a form of financial stability.
KR: You feel lost when you are not following your purpose and living the thing you want to do. It feels a little bit like you haven't found home. I always had that feeling in my career before I properly started.
I remember when I was in Uni, one part of a book we were studying was talking about women in the Arts, and there was this thing about people from the Caribbean, and Black people in general really, saying how we don't have the luxury of a fluffy career in the art. Now, I come from a rural community in Jamaica, my mum's parents were only able to send one of their children to school, so we don’t have the luxury to pick a career that is this open and this uncertain. So, you have to pick something that is near enough guaranteed that you will be able to put food on the table, own a house, etc. That is something that always stayed in my head, that some of us don’t have the luxury to be our authentic self.
SP: Sadly, you are not the first artist I interview who has told me a similar kind of story.
KR: Hopefully this is a narrative that we get to break away from. I think it is something that is just there. But now the world is changing, with technology for example, meaning that if you want to become a creator maybe this is one opportunity to shift things.
SP: How did you start painting, and what is it that made you do it?
KR: I remember doing that as an art project during my A level. It was a painting on wood of a landscape that I painted from a photograph I took: it was a cityscape, a sunset, the Vauxhall bridge going across the Thames, with the buildings silhouettes in the background against a beautiful sky. Typically, I didn't finish it (laugh). However, I always had this longing to finish things. So, at the beginning of 2020 I was thinking 'I'm not going to be a procrastinator anymore', I decided that would learn to draw again. I hadn’t picked a pencil for so long! At first, I started to draw old people's faces, and eventually younger people. During that year, I gave myself the goal to do one picture per month, and I exceeded it. I was very happy with myself. I was trying different techniques and media, from pencil to charcoal, and I was using a brush with charcoal. I guess through that technique I was slowly transferring my skills to painting. My interest in the practice came last year, but before that I was just trying to fill the gap. March last year, I painted a picture for one of my friends, and it really motivated me to do more. Since then, I haven’t stop painting. I love both drawing and painting, but I get more freedom from painting. For me when drawing you have to be very precise and exact, as opposed to painting where I feel freer to experiment, it is liberating to not have to be so confined.
SP: I guess this is what you find in doing your abstract paintings?
KR: Also in the figurative! Although I am still working out where I am with my art, but I do think that I have a style in both domains (abstract and figurative). Even if I allow the paint to tell me what to do, I allow it to work, there is no right answer.
SP: This is quite therapeutic; it helps to let go of things.
KR: I painted through some sad times, especially last year with the pandemic. It gave me a purpose. It was me and my space, I could just be at peace. When I paint, I get into a very deep place, and I forget what is going on around me. At the end of it, there is a product, like a release for it. Art gives me faith in human beings. If we can create beautiful things, then there must be solutions to all the terrible things that's happening in the world. I also get this feeling when I go to galleries, thinking there is so much beauty in here, so much hope in art that humans must figure it out at the end of the day.
SP: What are your inspirations?
KR: I think I am inspired by my own competitiveness. When I am painting or drawing a portrait, I want to get something as exact as possible and within my own style. I want to be better each time I create something. I’m inspired just by wanting to constantly improve my skills.
Being from Jamaica, a child of the Caribbean, sometimes there’re opportunities that we take for granted in the UK and in the West. Through my work, I want to inspire anyone who may be like a younger version of myself, to go after their dreams and maybe be braver than I was. I want to show them it is ok to be an artist and you don’t necessarily have to find security, I want to inspire the next generation to be more daring.
SP: Back to your style in figurative and abstract, when people look at what you do, it raises the questions of why doing both styles when they are so different. I was wondering why, and if you had any project on focussing on one or the other?
KR: To be honest I do it because it gives me joy. When you are younger you might do things that you don’t really want to do, and here I am today, choosing exactly what makes me happy. Some days I feel like I just want to do abstract and explore colours, while listening to some music. I want it to take me where it takes me. And some days I want to say something different, and I can do that through my figurative paintings. For me there are no rules when it comes to art, even if there, sort of, are. This is who I am: defiant, kind of stubborn (laugh).
I enjoy having discussions and understand what people like. I get interesting reactions on my abstracts works, especially from people who don’t usually understand it. I like to think that it gives them another perspective and possibilities of what they like.
SP: Would you say that you paint abstract to escape ?
KR: I paint it to dance; it is like twirling. The freedom you get from abstract is amazing, you are flowing. It is a time where there are no rules, and we are so constrained to rules, and through that you get to leave those restrictions. You get to create something beautiful by leaving the restrictions of our normal lives.
SP: With figurative do you then try to express something in particular?
KR: It is a different side of my personality kicking in. It is going back to the drawing sides of things where things are more precise and detailed. I am not trying to do hyperrealist works, but I like to focus on certain details and create people.
SP: It is interesting because very often artists focus only on one style, even though they can do more than that, we are probably just not aware of it.
KR: I didn’t study Fine Arts so I wasn't told what to do. I think art should be free. Everything is someone's opinion, and this is my opinion on what I should do. Whatever brings you joy then you should do it.
I am doing a lot on the side of painting: I host a Youtube series of interviews, where I speak to successful entrepreneurs, and hold a racing license because I love F1... This is a reflection of who I am. I’m doing a lot of different things, and it reflects in my art.
SP: You already sort of describe your process, but would you like to expand on this matter ?
KR: Usually, an idea just pops in my head, and I start from there. Being from Jamaica, I am quite an earthly person, so I like colours, and something that will really set off my imagination, like natural colours. When I paint Black skin tones, I paint what I am familiar with, and when I do, I try to make them look vibrant and beautiful. I am just inspired by life in general and how beautiful it can be. I am a self-taught artist; I learnt on the spot. It is an ever-evolving process, and a lot of experimenting at the moment. I am working out skin tones and blend all my ideas together. My process is still very much a work in progress. I am trying to set aside practice and learning every day, and also allowing for this learning time to sink in my mind. The real process is, every day to practice and study the body, and break away from this when it comes to creating an abstract piece. In that sense I try to be free in creating abstract works, giving therapy to the process of creating.
SP: You had a solo show with Lauderdale gallery?
KR: It was my second solo show. My first show was in June last year in Peckham and it was mostly to show my completed project. It was a real success; a lot of people I knew came to see it. The second solo show was in Lauderdale, and it was a completely different atmosphere compared to my first show, it was quite overwhelming. It felt more like work, with collectors coming through, it was more formal.
SP: Amazing, that is when you know it is really starting to work! And then you went to Athens?
KR: Yes, it was different but really cool. A very good start for an international show. One of my friends exhibited there as well and recommended me to do it. It was a bit strange as I was on my own there, but I got to hear different opinion on my art.
This year I decided I would have one exhibition a month.
SP: Wow that's a lot, maybe three per year would be easier (laugh). I also saw you had some experience with the Soho House
KR: I was exhausted! But yeah, the Soho House team contacted me around April, and I had two shows in May. First, I was in Brixton where it felt like a homely show. I had so much contact with people, I felt very appreciated. Since then, I have also exhibited at Crouch End studio and I'm looking forward to working with them again. Brixton and Crouch End are two very different spaces in terms of visitors and atmosphere, so it was a nice to experience that.
SP: I wanted to finish on your next projects, I saw you have an exhibition coming this month in New York?
KR: Yes, I have a show coming in Brooklyn, NY with Dozie Art at Thames Art Centre. I am very excited about it, it feels like I am doing the thing I always wanted to do, so this is amazing. I like to push myself and see where I can go, see what happen when you give your absolute all into this. It is important to just try and give it your best shot.
SP: That is very true! Is there anything you'd like to add?
KR: In the future, I would love to connect more with home, Jamaica, and have more projects with the African continent. I have been to Ghana, and I would love to do something there.
Arts from the Motherland, Thames Art Center, Brooklyn, NY, USA