Updated: Mar 22, 2021
This week we will be talking to artist and photographer Ismail Khokon about his practice and his approach to photography.
Image description: a landscape poster split in half. The left half depicts an orange and blue edited image of a child playing, while the other half depicts an deep purple image of a group of children. Bold text in green reads Ismail Khokon in the centre, underneath in smaller font reads ismaildiverse.com.
Can you describe yourself and your practice?
I was born in Bangladesh but have spent most of my life in London and in Poland. I studied Fine Art in Bangladesh and developed my interests further through a Masters Degree in Design for Communication from Westminster University in London. My creative practice includes painting, sculpture, photography, text, installation, graphic design illustration and poetry. I am interested in investigating and expressing the emotional impact of political events upon a wide range of cultural groups, particularly religious and ethnic minorities.
Can you tell us about the artwork you are currently exhibiting in our Identity Exhibition?
I am interested in current affairs and how they affect us emotionally and as a society. To me identity is all about making your own marks without barriers. My identity is my mother tongue, my culture, and my emotion. My identity is my kids playing in the street without fear. Freedom, Passion, Openness and not being controlled by others are identity to me. You can explore the full exhibition here.
Ismail Khokon, Ricky, Photomontage, 25 x 30cm, 2020.
Image description: a landscape photomontage depicting a young man in black and white stood in front of a wall of colourful paint and text.
Is there a piece of art that you are most proud of creating? Why?
A boy with a Kite is one of my major projects I have done. It is an immigrant story in a metaphorical way. Paul Rand, Matisse and Joan Miro inspired me a lot. You can view this project here.
Ismail Khokon, A boy with a kite, poster, 2020.
Image description: a portrait poster in a brick red. Interspersed on the page is a number of triangles and circles in white, blue and light red. In a hand drawn font at the top of the page reads a boy with a kite.
What is your process for creating images?
I meet people, mostly random strangers and conduct extended ethnographic interviews. Usually, these were recorded on my phone, and later I would transcribe the interviews and use their words to express their emotions through their photographs. The process begins with a photograph. The background is created using watercolour and expressive writing. Photoshop and processes of scanning are used to create the final piece.
Many of your artworks make use of text, is this important for you to include?
Language is very important for me. When I came to the UK in 2004 I was struggling with my accent to communicate even though English was my second language. Language is vital for communication. For example, I can write poetry in my own language but in English it will never be the same. A piece of text lasts longer than a human journey.
Ismail Khokon, Covid 19 hugely impacted our life, mixed media, 2020.
Image description: a landscape mixed media image with a textured and scratched grey/brown background. Two abstract figures walk along, one taller who looks to be guiding a child. Graffiti-like text covers the image in orange, white and black font.
What projects have you recently completed?
I have recently completely finished a project with Reframed Nottingham. In this ongoing project the work is a form of reflection on the time that has passed and how that is experienced globally. You can view this project here.
Why do you make this type of art?
I am radical and do not like monotonous work. Every time I do a new art work I never plan the same. Things come naturally to me. "A boy with a kite " book projects are completely different from current projects.
Ismail Khokon, Mark of a time, mixed media, 2020.
Image description: a portrait painting depicting a male figure with short cropped hair wearing a face covering. The paint is fluidly applied in thin layers of brown, green and mustard yellow.
What kind of artists influence you the most?
Like many others' creative minds I adore many artists and kind. Artists Amal Ghosh and Jagdish Patel are my greatest inspiration. From my childhood I respected artists Jainul Abedin (Bangladesh) and Oscar winner filmmaker Satyajit Ray. Satyajit Ray(India) was an Painter and illustrator too.
What one thing would you like to change about the art industry today?
Artists should concentrate with art . But nowadays without social media artists feel like without backbone. I wish one day will come when artists can make only art without thinking about social media.
Due to the sudden impact of COVID-19 many artists have had to adapt. Has your practice changed in any way during this time?
It is obvious that we all have our own story to tell. Like many others I am limited to. Art is limitless and a reflection of your own society.
A final message from the artist.
I love one quote from Maulana Rumi "Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder"
If you are interested in being featured as an Artist of the Week you can fill out a short application form here.