Delivering an open and honest talk about how he got to where he is now at last month’s Nicer Tuesdays, was Tishk Barzanji. A visual artist and illustrator based in London he started off by saying: “I’m going to tell you about my journey which is unusual, because most people here have had a structure to get here but mine’s been very unpredictable.”
Tishk came to London at the age of eight as a refugee from Kurdistan and grew up on an estate in east London. When he reached university age, it was physics that he pursued, a far cry from the world of creativity. “I was adamant that I wanted to work at Nasa,” he joked, before explaining why his goals took a 180 in 2014. “I became really ill, I had this thing called migraine vertigo,” he professed, “so my whole pathway changed.” Forced to spend eight months indoors, under the advice of a doctor, Tishk began taking photos as part of his recovery.
“From then on, I ran out of [Brutalist buildings] to take photos of, so I decided to make my own work,” he continued. It was colour theory that caught Tishk’s attention – an interesting merging of his scientific and creative interests – and he channelled all of his time into researching the subject, producing experiments with shape and form as a result. “I spent the last few months of 2015 just looking at colour and I wanted to apply that to the images I had created in the past, manipulating them to show these places in a better light,” he recalled, adding that “still, to me, it was a therapeutic process, it was nothing serious. I never wanted to show it to anyone – it was just for myself.”
He did, however, post the work on Instagram where the work caught the eye of one of our writers, who reached out to Tishk to interview him about his practice. “It just snowballed from there,” he explained. After spending six months turning down opportunities and explaining to potential clients that he wasn’t an artist, and that his work was simply a form of therapy for him, he took the leap to becoming a full-time illustrator. Today, Tishk is represented by Jelly London and his career is moving at a rapid rate. Having produced a campaign for Film4’s Summer Screen at Somerset House and a series of illustrations for Wallpaper* magazine among several personal projects, Tishk’s most recent work saw him producing on-stage visuals for Jorja Smith.