The artist showcases on kdoutsiderart.com introduce you to new, emerging and established artists who align themselves with the term ‘outsider art’ in some way. This time it’s SOMA, whose work has an emotional core which changes the shape and aesthetic of every piece.
When did your interest in art/creating begin?
I don’t know if I could pinpoint a time when it began. I like to think that like every child, I was born an artist. Recently, my dad unearthed some schoolbooks and old work that I had done while in primary school and I was absolutely blown away by some of the drawings in them. I’m training to be a play therapist which has really validated and uncovered how creation and art are children’s natural forms of self-expression. Children draw and create art long before they can talk. Those drawings from when I was a child remind me that I’m just doing what comes naturally and my style now very much taps into when I had the most fun creating – when I was a child.
What is your starting point for each piece?
My starting point varies. For pieces where I use colouring pencils, I often start out by drawing a shape and then allow myself to scratch, claw, dab, and swivel all over the page with as many colours as feels necessary. This process has been described as fierce and ferocious by onlookers, but I’m just there with my tongue out in concentration having a wonderful time. With these drawings, I like to create with urgency. I tend not to hold any particular colouring pencil for more than a few seconds.
With other works that I have done on canvas and found objects like doors and wooden boards, I tend to have a theme in mind that inspires a piece. Sometimes it’s a song, sometimes a one-liner from The Simpsons (“You’re not the boss of my teeth” or “Forget about the badge! When do we get the freakin’ guns?” – fans of The Simpsons will know what I’m talking about). I did a piece recently on a door based on a poem that is in a book that I self-published called To Have No Technique: Thoughts, Poetry & Art about Manhood. I did a piece called Intermittent which was initially based on the unsightly ganglion cyst that lives on my wrist, but then turned into an exploration of African culture. I guess I go where the moment takes me.
Who/what influences your work?
My work is influenced by emotion. When I look back at stuff that I’ve done, there is always an emotional core to the work, whether that’s anger, fear, happiness, pride, hope, sadness, curiosity. In that sense, the work I create is influenced by moments. I like to think that if tomorrow I had the same idea for any piece that I’ve done, the final outcome would look different depending on how I feel. It’s one of the amazing things about art to me which leads me to believe that everyone is an artist. It’s about communicating a feeling in a moment. We all do that every day.
With that said, when I’m not creating art, I work for a domestic violence charity whose aim is to keep women and children safe by holding perpetrators accountable for their behaviour. I also volunteer for a charity that goes into schools to discuss gender stereotypes with boys and young men. Issues relating to gender, patriarchal culture, and violence against women and girls all emerge in my work, naturally, as these are all issues that I am passionate about.
What do you hope the viewer gets from your work?
In keeping with what I said before, I hope the work creates an emotional response in the viewer. I’m recently finished reading Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. The story of Rashomon itself is fascinating in that people can experience the same event and give contradictory accounts. I like to think that our experience of art works in the same way. I have heard many different (and often contradictory) interpretations and emotional responses to my work and that is just the way I like it.
What do you think about the term outsider art? Is there a term that you think works better?
I think that the term outsider art says a lot about the societies that we live in. Like I said before, I feel that everyone is born an artist. There is a quote from Picasso where he says that “every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” I think that the change comes when children start learning to label and box things (and people) – and I’m not just talking about art.
For whatever reason, humans seem to dig boxes and straight lines. Things always have to make sense and we can’t sit with the ‘this is different’ without finding a label for it.
I don’t dislike the term outsider art. In a lot of ways, I have always been an outsider. I have selective eating disorder, which, in my case means that I would rather be a social pariah than eat a slice of pizza. I find the consumption of alcohol and other drugs stupid (trust me that makes you an outsider, particularly when that belief isn’t grounded in a religion). So, I tend to find myself on the fringes a lot, which is fine with me. But it’s a fascinating question and one that I’m in no hurry to find any kind of answer for.
What are you working on at the moment?
Well, recently one of my favourite rappers of all time, Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest passed away. So I am working on a piece in memory of him. The piece is on a wooden board that I found on the street a couple of weeks ago which I’ve painted black, red and green (the colours on the Low End Theory album cover).
Where do you see your work taking you in the future?
It’s hard to say where I see my work taking me in the future. I do like the idea of exhibiting and sharing my work with an audience. I find the relationship (between the artist and the audience) particularly interesting. In keeping with that theme, I am also keen to do some community-based work which aims to engage people in being more creative. I think that when it comes to art, folks tend to only see value in doing it if they are ‘good’ at it (whatever that means). I’m much more about facilitating everyone engaging in art. Everyone has the ability to put something on paper. And in my experience, the process of making or creating artworks can be cathartic, relaxing and essential for one’s self-care.
I also aim to continue combining art with themes that I’m passionate about such as ending violence against women and girls and challenging patriarchal culture.