All This Life: An Interview with Saffa Khan

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“[I’m] a cat trapped in a human’s body,” says Saffa Khan, nineteen year old art student and illustrator. The statement has quite a poetic feel to it; the image of a tabby confined in the edges and curves of the human body quite vivid. A lot of the things Saffa says have this kind of feeling. When asked what her favourite film is, she is unable to choose one, yet can provide you with a list of her favourite scenes with a creative view on each of them. Saffa has quite the artistic eye, taking pop culture and finding a unique aspect to it. I admire her so much for her confidence to be vulnerable in sharing her art, and I’d be wiling to dance in the dark with her any time.–Akosua

When did you start making art as a passion? What triggered your love for it?
I fell in love with art when I was five. I fell in love with how it made me feel, the pleasure of mixing colours and the shock from discovering a new one. I’d paint whatever and wherever I felt like. On the walls, on the kitchen door, on the windows, on bathroom floor.

You have a very distinct art style that is unmistakably yours. How did you get to the point where that happened naturally? What were you influenced by?
Honestly, I never even realised until someone else pointed it out to me, which I guess is rather silly[.] I’ve only just started working with the same mediums and it wasn’t until last year that I decided to practise as much as I possibly could and experiment with various materials. Drawing fictional characters from a film I watched the night before, creating portraits of people who inspire me on daily basis; it became a habit. And I think using the same process of creating something over and over again enables a certain “switch” to go off in your mind that every time you try to create something, it’ll dictate your hands just like the last time. 

 You work with several mediums when it comes to your art; do you feel that the message you are trying to send with your work is affected by the medium in which it is presented? 
Sometimes perhaps. I often use colours/materials that remind me of the person that I’m drawing a portrait of, it’s almost like I get to create their personality with the information they have provided me with, with a gentle touch of my view of them.

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Art is a lot about visibility—the seen and the unseen. How do you think that you control your own visibility through you art? Do you find that sharing your art, especially through the internet, makes you more vulnerable?
Of course it does! You are the artist & you chose to present a particular piece the way it is presented to the audience, but what the audience doesn’t realise is that what you have put in front of them is your heart & soul, and it’s absolutely terrifying and requires a lot of courage. Imagine being nine and receiving your very own journal that you want to create your world in, fill the pages with colour, memories, secrets, desires. Now imagine your less favourite teacher finding your journal and reading a page to the entire class.

 Speaking of visibility, your project, “She Knows What She’s Doing” explores the way in which young women have found a way in which they control the way they explore and the way they construct personalities. What was your thought process for the piece? What were you influenced by? 

It was something that I wanted to create based on personal experiences. When I was first introduced to ‘internet’ in my early teens, it opened my eyes to various possibilities and opportunities that I couldn’t really have the access to. Everything was very limited and restricted for a female from a religious Asian background and through this “phase” of online freedom, I discovered who I’ve wanted to become, but of course my ideas and opinions were also free for anyone to comment on and critique, especially the male audience, who constantly reminded me that I mustn’t or couldn’t do xyz only because I was a young female.

Music seems to be a very important part of your daily life. How does music affect you creatively?

I used to play violin quite a lot, but then I suddenly stopped. Every time I want to draw, I have to listen to something, whether it’s a film’s soundtrack, or a song I heard in a café, or even just a symphony, it makes everything so much more exciting and you find yourself adding the colour to the notes you just heard.

What are some of your influences?
Everything, literally everything from great artists like Camille Rose Garcia & Mark Ryden, to what woke me up in the morning, a lost item I walked past by. The curves face muscles create when someone smiles. Kate Bush.

What are your creative plans for the future? Are you working on anything new or experimenting with any new styles?
Well, at the moment, things are very hectic as I am just about to start university and moving  to a different, very big city, so we’ll see how that goes! I’m currently working on a project that involves carrying a hidden camera with me to capture something rather uncomfortable.

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