“MIA was revolutionary for me – she was unapologetic and amazing, I just wanted to reflect that”. Jasmin Sehra is discussing the impact of MIA on her work, painted homages to her personal pop culture icons.
Sehra is discussing how the soundtrack and visual richness of her childhood home informed the work she would layer go on to create.
The Wembley-based artist is the child of Punjabi parents via Kenya, and says that her South Asian identity is crucial to the work which plays with typography and classic methods of painting updated into our cultural current moment.
“My mum used to have a book where she would write down all the names of Bollywood films that she had seen” says Sehra, and its this ode to nostalgia and collecting that she emulates in her work.
“My family are musical” she says, “and so it was always part of the conversation”.
Sehra’s Bollyhood series takes the vibrancy of Bollywood posters and reworks the colour, type and style into a modern context, reflecting her personal hip hop icons that range from Kendrick Lamar and MIA to Missy Elliot and TLC against flour acidic reds, organs and greens and salacious state of the nation exclamations about her body and her self, with titles like Love My Guts/So Fuck A Tummy Tuck.
Refining her practice at the London College of Communication in Graphic and Media Design, she says she took inspiration from signs, painted on stars, walls, fabrics and large scale canvases, and was fascinated by the work cassettes and tapes that her parents owned.
Sehra says that her work puts a distinct focus on her British Asian identity and it’s this reclamation of female power – with a brown face – that featured in Bollywood films that she was keen to modernise.
“I was inspired by hand-painted posters on blocks of wood, acrylics and was inspired by old half-painted posters that were across cities like Mumbai, and I loved films like Sholay and Kabhi Khushi Kahbi Gham”.
The next series she’s working on will be titled Paradise Girl and takes her love of typography further by exploring issues of identity and ‘exotic’ tropes.
“I’m continuing to create all things Paradise Girl, continuing with the painted typography series, with particular focus on empowering and positive messages in all mediums I work with, painting, digital art, blogging, radio and soon clothing.
“My new painting series is one that highlights and celebrates historical south Asian women that I feel everyone should know about. A lot of the time we are taught about the men and the great things they have achieved, but we hear very little about the inspirational women that have broken barriers in our community. The first woman I have painted is Mai Bhago, who was a female saint warrior of Guru Gobind Singh”.
For Sehra, recreating the soundtracks to her formative years with acidic injections of colour is the perfect homage to her current realities, and upcoming projects include a collaboration with Levi. For Sehra, affirming her position in art and design spaces that were opened by heroes like MIA is a poetic display of coming full circle. “I just looked at her and wanted to make art” she says. “Now I’m breaking barriers for the new generation. Well..I’m trying”.
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