I first met Kim Khaira at an activism and empowerment workshop for young women and transwomen back in August. She immediately came across as someone very clued in, outspoken, and passionate about her worldviews and also the world itself. Pair that with her awesome dress sense, and she was immediately someone I wanted to get to know, and to potentially work with for ISSUE. When it came about that she was also an artist, the pieces fell in place rather neatly.
I feel so lucky that ISSUE is able to feature her works, made especially for our theme this December. OTHER seems to hinge on words, on the specifity of words, but I knew from the start I wanted something more abstract and emotive, less clearcut than the directness of words, to fill our front page. Kim’s sketches, pastels and watercolours have evoked that, in my opinion, has allowed a space within this ISSUE where translations are wholly personal and the reader’s/observer’s own.
We hope you enjoy her work as much as we do, and that the short interview we had with Kim sheds some light on her process and her connection to making art. Kim is also involved with The Leaf Zine Project, whichcollects, compiles & catalogues zines & other D.I.Y. publications focusing on gender & women’s issues, and aims to create its very own radical/feminist zine.
Artist’s dedication: These paintings are dedicated to Roselyn & Ben.
How long have you been making art, and what’s your medium of choice? What draws you to it?
I have been making art my whole life, you could say, with periods of “rest.” I recently graduated and I decided that I wanted painting/creating art to be a constant part of my life. I love paints; specifically acrylics, and pastels are fun too. What draws me to creating art — in whatever form — is really, self-expression and honesty, the desire of wanting to set my own path, to breathe, to be.
I don’t remember the first ever painting or drawing I made, but my first ambition was to be a painter. As a child when a loved-one asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, dewy-eyed and with conviction, “A painter!” Of course you get some hopes crushed along the way and I’ve had many dreams and ambitions since then, but painting or creating any other form of art had always been a backbone for me, [a way for me] to sit back and look at life.
What was the process like in making these paintings for ISSUE? What’s important to you when it comes to what ends up on the (metaphorical) canvas?
I didn’t think through the process too far ahead of time, though I had a basic plan: to work on weekends (or after my 9-to-5 job). I paint based on emotions so my paintings are a form of purgation of feelings, or “uncontaining” them. It brings out your inner child; I usually finger paint or paint with whatever I can get my hands on.
For ISSUE specifically, I would paint one painting per afternoon, sometimes two or three. Because I painted a some pieces specially for the theme OTHER, I looked at the list of words to see what caught my attention. Qaartsiluni (Inuit for waiting in the dark for something to burst), Cualacino (Italian for the mark left on the table by a cold glass), and Waldeinsamkeit (German for the feeling of being alone in the woods) were words/meanings that resounded with me the most.
I wanted to paint for ISSUE: OTHER because it made the most sense and it would go in line with my process of painting — which is so much more important that the result. A good friend of mine who paints too once told me that he sometimes finds himself throwing away the works he has done for the day and feeling absolutely happy about it. It’s the painting, the doing, the act and enjoying the art that’s important.
Of course it’s not to say that sometimes I’m unhappy about the result; though again it goes back to how I got there. If I’ve digressed from my intention or purpose of what I wanted before I paint, it’s when the artworks come out beautifully imperfect. Destroying one’s painting can only lead to beauty.
Are there themes or motifs you think you keep coming back to in your paintings/drawings? What are they and why are you interested in them, if so?
Color is a theme/motif that is important to me. When I’m asked what my favorite color is (and usually it’s blue), I sometimes wish I could say it’s rainbow, because life is too short, or grey, because it’s a very underrated color. There is so much to tell with grey: the clouds, serenity, stillness, being…I also think the hues and shades of yellow are perfect for binding other colors together. Yellow is like a glue, a peace-maker, you could say, of the art world.
What do you think of the word and idea OTHER? Have you ever felt like you’re an “other”? Does the word have positive or negative connotations for you?
I immediately think of Edward Said’s concept of “the other” or “othering”, which is why I was so eager to paint based on that word. I’ve felt (still sometimes feel) like an “other” and I think we all do and have felt like we’re outsiders and don’t fit in at some point There are both positive and negative connotations here. I think that the moment we think we have to “change” someone or something — whether for good or for bad — is when we lose track and “out” or “other” other people, feeling holier-than-thou.
At the same time I think that we also “other” ourselves, for example by exoticizing/romanticizing our ethnicities, nationalities, identities. Then again, looking at “Other” in a shrewd/cunning way, it’s always great to be a critique from the outside: it can put you in a lot of trouble but it can make you go places and be an observer of the history of humankind. I vaguely recall a conversation I had where we talked about how artists are/learn to be visionary and are centuries ahead of their time. Maybe so.