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The Power Of Community With Artist Karimah Hassan

by Wolf & Badger

London-based, multi-disciplinary artist Karimah Hassan has an Artist Residency at Sarabande. She is currently showing a selection of work as part of the immersive exhibition 'Taking Care Of Business’ at Migration Museum.

Can you tell us about yourself and your journey into the art world? 

In short, I’m a Welsh painter living in London, born of Yemeni and Bangladeshi heritage. I’m self taught, and so my journey into the art world has been a meandering one. My background is in architecture - I’m a trained architect and practised design around the world before transitioning into art full time. 

I have a few creative pursuits— from murals and fine art painting to lino prints, spoken-word poetry and NFTs. At the heart of it all is an intention to build connection and spotlight community. My work moves between the canvas to the street. 

New York was where I went ‘all in’ and began this path as an artist; I would paint dancers and musicians as a way to practice drawing from life. When I came back to London it became my mission to show people that there can be spaces where they can find belonging. I started hosting live showcases across the city, inviting dancers, musicians, and poets to perform, and I painted alongside them in real time. 

For me, it’s all about the feeling—the feeling it leaves in your gut. I like people to have an opinion about the painting based on their intuition rather than having to know the backstory. 

What does a “normal” day in your life look like? 

Every day I’ll tap into flow through meditation, exercise, music, dance, painting and even simply being deeply present with someone when having conversation. I love a solid morning routine and take time to myself before jumping into the world of other people. In the morning is when I ground into stillness and I also make sure I get a quick stint of painting and writing just as routine. Then I’ll go to my studio work on any projects such as commissions, public art, murals etc. I’ll do admin and the business stuff in the afternoon. Then I’ll move, meditate, work out, see friends, go to a creative event etc in the evening. And then I just repeat. 

What is the impact of local communities and creatives on your own art practice? How important is it to find inspiration in the everyday? 

For me, community goes hand in hand with the feeling of belonging. My community of friends, creative allies and soul family is really important, especially in London where I am away from my biological family and the hustle culture prioritises work and external goals. From my experience, when I found pockets of belonging in dance classes, open mic nights and creative talks I began to thrive. 

Whether it’s offline or in real life, these communities help motivate me in my creativity and remind me of the ‘bigness’ of our collective mission. It’s never about just one person's journey, it's about what we are building, maintaining and passing on for each other. When I go to community events, it’s like I get my soul purpose and passion, and I remember why I’m so hungry to bring connection into the world. 

It is simply my task to pay attention and absorb the amazing performances and people in my life, so that I don’t become numb to their greatness or forget how brilliant they are. 

Since 2020, you have been an artist in residence at the Sarabande Foundation, set up by the late Alexander McQueen. Can you tell us more about this experience and how it has impacted your creative process? 

Sarabande provides emerging artists and designers with affordable studio space in the heart of London along with world class mentoring and advice. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words how impactful this experience has been for me. Not just because of the mentors and people I owe thanks to but also because of the stage of my career I was in when I joined. As an emerging artist I was bridging that confusing stage between just starting out and becoming established. Gaining business knowledge, exposure and opportunity helped me to clarify my vision and gain confidence going forwards. 

What inspired the expressive brushwork and bold colour palettes that are a defining aspect of many of your paintings? 

I started painting murals and performances at live venues and so I needed to use materials that dried fast and could be seen from far away. Spray paint and acrylic allow me to make large gestures that mimic the emotions that I pick up from a performer. I feel at ease being able to tap into someone performing and translate their emotion into colour. I look at colour and I just want to eat it! 

What advice do you have for any young artists hoping to further their careers? 

We need you. We need your gifts. We need your fighting spirit. We need your sensitivity. We need your perspective on the world. And we want to see all of you bring everything you have to the table. 

Do what you need to do to stay hungry. Create every day. Apply to funding, applications, cold call, DM directors and artists. Shoot your shot. Be prepared for it to take ten, twenty years, it doesn’t matter because it will be a meaningful path onto itself. 

What’s next for you in 2022? 

Lots of exciting things! Think audio, poetry samples over paintings, spoken word and public art. I have a few projects under wraps that I can’t reveal but they involve me crossing the Atlantic! I have some paintings that are commissioned to go on display in Shoreditch this month. Also, I’m currently working on a mural design for a favourite restaurant of mine (and most likely yours too) which will open soon. 

What do you love about Wolf & Badger? 

The variety of garments! They feel hand picked, thoughtful and eclectic - when you get close or try the item on you really get to see how well tailored, cut and crafted the shapes are. What ties all the garments together is exquisite quality, craftsmanship and a quirky edge that means you won’t see the same thing anywhere else.