For our very first YellowSpotlight piece, we spoke to painter and illustrator Surasti Kaur about her journey to artistry and the inspirations behind her often social-political art works.
Having memories of painting and crafting, the 25-year-old Surasti remembers distinctly sitting on the stairs at home in Delhi, “when I was five or six at home and splashing around with watercolours, it was sort of hiding in plain sight, the whole act felt quite subversive and I mostly ended up with lots of colours bleeding into each other while I balanced the paint and paper on my lap.” Being born and brought up in India - although she holds a Polish passport as result of her Polish mother - Surasti finds difficulty in making the distinction between her national identities.
Her identification as Indian strengthened when she moved to the U.K. however she feels her identity issues were less about race but more about belonging. Often her work is a result of “a current state of mind and consciously I might choose elements and visuals that reflect experiences outside of the U.K. but not in an attempt to claim unique heritage”. Her final project in college (Mirages of the Past) pushed her into the realm of art. It was a combination of graphic design principles and mixed media collage. She savoured the combination and multi-disciplinary approach, “and the freedom to work on a personal project for 4-5 months helped shape and narrow my interests.”
Finishing college urged a yearning in Surasti that was “a mixture of seeking out change, taking a leap and exploring art as a viable option”. She grappled a lot with the idea of ‘style’ which tends take over the art process in a way that “wasn’t fun” for her, “every idea has to be moulded to fit that ‘style’ which often strips the spontaneity out of it”.
Now, she often combines colours and images from memories. “I found it hard to accept that some of my work often emerges from memories, vague fleeting thoughts and has no grounding in the ‘now’ in any pronounced way.” Her artistic voice comes from a distance and separation that leads her to delve back into memories, “that at first were a comfort, and then further back, ideas that I might not have accessed and were tucked away”. For Surasti, working with memories is an “attempt to reflect and disentangle, and that inspires [her] to keep going back”.
She has many strands of meaning in her work, some more visible than others. However, she encourages viewers to have a different interpretation to her intention. “Maybe an overarching idea but it’s a success if they instil their own meanings and develop their own relationship with my art”. Regarding the influence of her race, she believes there are times when racial identity needs to be explored. She mentions that although “opinionated art with socio-political issues and celebrated personalities gets noticed” there are times when other subjects are more salient; art should remain a form of expression and “like everything else, your voice of expression is constantly changing”.
See more of Surasti's work here