Art speaks with a “whoosh” and a “ping” among other action terms in Farah Soobhan´s unique pieces. Coming from an Islamic background, Farah unified her love for the characters in comic books and for pop art to her faith. Behind these short words such as “whoosh” and “ping” lie serious political and religious statements. Behind these colourful and bright works of art is an inspiring Muslimah whose voice is clear, whose point is made, whose stand is a stand for all Muslims. Meet the inspiring artist in this exclusive Hayati Magazine Interview:
R.Your art pieces are vibrant with colors, have characteristics of their own and some of them even speak to the viewer for example, “zap” and “khaboom!” Where do you get your inspiration from and what kind response do you expect from the viewer of such pieces
F.My main inspirations are the pop art pioneers Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, they were behind my initial idea of creating Islamic calligraphy paintings in a pop art theme. As time went by, I have now developed my own pop art style, which also includes collage elements of relevant newspaper articles and other prints. I always liked the idea of drawing people in with the vibrancy of the colours, but also keeping their attention with the seriousness of the concepts behind my work. There is a real sense of juxtaposition with the fun, cartoon style words and visual style, but the messages are mainly based on politics, religion or war.
R.Tell us a little bit about your background and how that has influenced the person you are today.
F.I was born in England, but then went to live in Mauritius which is where my parents are from, I lived there from the age of 7 to 14. It was a very important time in my life as I bonded with my family from there, learnt the native languages which are French and Creole and really connected with my roots. I spent an amazing seven years surrounded by my culture and nature. It has greatly affected the person I am today, I have a very deep love for Mauritius and I feel blessed that I managed to grow up alongside my cousins and grandparents from back home.
R.Lovely. Where did you study?
F.At the age of 14, my parents decided to return to the UK and I finished my education here. I became a primary school teacher after doing a BA Honours degree in Primary Education. It was only after I got married and started a family that I took up painting. I had always been very creative from a young age, drawing manga, Japanese blossom trees and comic book characters, but it was in 2010 that it all took off for me and I founded Farah Visual Arts.
R.Oh right! I heard about that! What is Farah Visual Arts?
F.I started off painting traditional Islamic art and commissions for customers and after a few months, I decided to do something brave and created the first Islamic pop art collection. I wanted to tap into the kind of art I am drawn to which is pop/ urban art and merged it with calligraphy. I noticed that most pop art works contain faces or unIslamic content and I wanted to create some pieces without faces to make pop art accessible to Muslims to display in their homes.
R.How did people become familiar with your work?
F.Three of my first pop art and calligraphy paintings were selected in an art competition and were exhibited around the country. I was also a finalist the following year and exhibited a comic book inspired show in Knightsbridge. I was the chosen artist to front the ´Message to Isis campaign´ in 2015 and that campaign was what helped my art career take off!
R.Mash´Allah! How so?
F.It has been a roller coaster of media interviews since 2015, which ended up in signing a contract with Islamic imprints art gallery this year and being involved in many exciting projects including more exhibits.
They have set up the ´Journey through the world of Islamic art´ exhibition in Lincolnshire which was part of the four-day Living Islam Festival in July of this year. They also very recently organised the ‘Art of Peace’ exhibition at the Muslim Lifestyle Expo in Manchester. I was also part of the ´Moniker Art Fair´ in Brick lane this past October. It is a huge international mainstream art fair with over 200 galleries and artists specialising in urban art.
R.A shame I missed that! Where can we see the next exhibition?
F.My next exhibition will be the ´Radical love: Female Lust´ exhibition starting from the 13th to 19th Febuary 2017 at the Crypt Gallery in Kings Cross.
The exhibition is described as a ´pop concert of poetry and Art.´ It features 40 international female artists with half of them from Arab or Muslim cultures. The artists will be responding to vibrant poems written by women across the Arab world in the Middle Ages.
R.How can we get our hands on your art?
F.Most of my paintings can be purchased via Islamic Imprints Art Gallery or by contacting me directly via email or social media. Prints of my works are also available as well as commissions: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
R.What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
F.My advice to anyone who is creative would be to definitely go for it and follow your passion, find ways to improve your skills on Youtube or by taking classes. Also, make the most of social media, its an incredible platform to share your works, no matter what you think of your abilities, share them to get feedback. Instagram is also a great way to find inspiration, to learn and to connect. A lot of my opportunities have only been possible due to social media. Never give up on what you love, these interests are what will brighten your life when it gets dull with routine. These passions are also from your core and what makes you…you. And finally, the only way to get better is to keep practicing.
R.How can fans follow you?
F.I am on facebook, instagram and youtube under the name farahvisualarts.