Excerpts from various interviews:Question: What inspires you the most while working on a project?Ketna answers: Anyone who offers ‘original thinking’. The less conditioned, the better. Thoughts that do not even have to had an ‘educational’ underpinning, but melded out of keen and authentic observations of ‘life’, and the human condition. One such person is ‘Osho’, also known as ‘Rajneesh’. Clarissa Pinkola Estes is another one. She is controversial for proposing that both assimilation and holding to ethnic traditions are the ways to contribute to creative culture and to a soul-based civility. Everyday people inspire me. I see the world becoming more and more about ‘people’, and less about ‘things’. A lot of creativity today gets diluted in a commercial attempt to please everybody, with the emphasis on bottom line profits for anonymous shareholders. I can envision the future being shaped by virtual communities leaning on each other’s ‘free’ opinions rather than be the unwitting recipients of products thrust on us by the clever propaganda we are subjected to today. I foresee a return to individualism.


What’s the future of design?I see the world becoming more and more about ‘people’, and less about ‘things’. A lot of creativity today gets diluted in a commercial attempt to please everybody, with the emphasis on bottom line profits for anonymous shareholders. I can envision the future being shaped by virtual communities leaning on each other’s ‘free’ opinions rather than be the unwitting recipients of products thrust on us by the clever propaganda we are subjected to today. I foresee a return to individualism.


What are your preoccupations about?The increasing sense of bewilderment and hopelessness about our shifting times. So much seems to be in a state of flux; a lot of our role models seem hopelessly inadequate; everything is increasingly tainted by self interest, greed, corruption. The disintegration of moral authority (Politicians, Government, Institutions), the failure of Capitalism, corruption, the shrinking of the individual, the increase of homogenity; basically our farcical, hypcritical world! Who are we to believe? My new work reflects the hypocrisy of our times. It is a bleak scenario, and I choose to explore this subject with humour and irony. By constantly travelling, and tuning into various cultures, ages, income groups, professions etc, I feel like I am eavesdropping on a more universal conversation that provides fresh insights into where we really are, as a society living in the 21st century. Hope to try and empower the 'individual', and show the weakness of short term views held by corporate led governance. At least by reflecting the outer world in some true (albeit surreal compositions), I hope to trigger a recognition of this reality with the viewer, as ultimately, the goal is always to speak to the audience. By collecting enough 'nods' to the work, at least there is a way of tapping into the unexpressed.


What are you trying to communicate with the visual language you are using?The blurring between 'reality' and 'virtual reality'. A 'HYPER REALITY'? That we all live in 'Maya'; an illusion. We are all actors with a script, and can change the movie if we want! Exaggerated colours to reflect the mass conditioning derived from brazen advertising everywhere. A departure from traditional painting techniques to more 'art-vertorial' delivery so that at first glance, the viewer is not sure whether the work is Art or Advertising. PROJECT ‘ASIA POP!’ Ketna Patel’s recent Project ‘Asia Pop!’ hopes to extend the ongoing global conversations today about how peoples of the world are converging and overlapping their social, economic and cultural realms. As we all grapple with accelerated time and relentless adaptation, Ketna has chosen to focus in on everyday Asian ‘Street + Popular culture’ as a sort of ‘portal’ to enter and study further the contemporary phenomenon of Asians coming together; Asian society in a state of flux.

Following are sound bytes from past interviews. With our studio's prior permission, you are welcome to use any quotes for media purposes; however kindly let us know the context. (Please email [email protected]) Interview: Artist Ketna Patel “Cultivating Cultural Identity” Meet Ketna Patel and her fantastic layered multi-media work. Her unpretentious attitude towards art is incredibly refreshing, and you cannot help but be intrigued by the artist and her work. A British-Indian contemporary artist, her art reflects much of her own personal journey as an outsider and global citizen, observing, discovering and embracing one’s cultural identity and the desire to belong to a community. At first, you may be drawn in by the vast use of punchy colors and humorous composition of characters, but just like the layers of materials used in her collages, there are much deeper stories being told. Reflections of socio-political and cultural identity exploration in everyday life of today and yesterday are common themes portrayed through her art. Her mission is simply to communicate the story of the lesser-known individual within these landscapes. Most known for her “Asia Pop!” series available on multiple surfaces from collages, barber chairs, fashion…..even cars!.... this is only one spectacular series of the “Planet Pop Project”. A recent rural lifestyle choice cross bordering between Pune and Wales is sure to produce yet another interesting body of work. 'Tamarind Living' interview of Ketna Patel Influence TL: Can you tell me a little about how your personal life journey from growing up in Africa and the UK to living as a global citizen has impacted your artwork? KP: I was born in Uganda in a rather ghettosized, conservative Gujarati Indian society; living next to yet ironically isolated from the Africans and the British communities. Exciting things were happening all around me, but I could not participate. As a result, my curiosity about the vast world behind my ‘box’ kept getting bigger…… We would get dressed up to go pick up visitors at the airport, and I was mesmerized and fascinated by the women I saw, alone, in transit, backpacking, which was so vastly different from the conventional life I knew. How fabulous was this backpackers’ life, I thought, fanaticizing about the exotic adventure they must be on. Needless to say, I felt disconnected and suffocated by my own life, where women’s identity and my role models were focused on keeping house-cooking, cleaning and caring for a family. When I was 14, my world quickly changed as Idi Amin’s regime broke out in Uganda. The violent atmosphere and the regime’s ultimatum for Indians to leave Uganda almost immediately, resulted in my parents making an overnight decision to send me alone to the UK to live with relatives I was not familiar with, while they remained with my brother in Africa. I was nervous, but terribly excited to leave. In the UK, after going through ) and A levels and a foundation course in Art + Design, I enrolled in architecture and interior design school. I was a clumsy, terrible student. What was trending in the design world at the time (80’s-90’s) was a “less is more” monochromatic movement. This was considered chic, elite…important. This did not resonate with me, and I felt like I had to apologize for my work, my clothes, my ideas…myself. My teacher even pulled me aside and said, “Ketna, you are really not good at this, Indians are good at math, perhaps you should consider a career in accounts!” In 1991, when I graduated, the country was in a recession, and I worked for free just to get experience. My grandmother who I lived with was the Indian communities’ unofficial “matchmaker”. Many Sunday afternoons, eligible young men, accompanied by family members would come to her home to meet potential wifely candidates, all orchestrated by my grandmother. I served tea, observing, but not participating. The boys eventually began asking my grandmother about the girl serving tea, and with some convincing, I decide to explore the ‘marriage scene’ (as a sort of sociological test; not with the intention to marry!) Within ten dates, I was as equally unenthused, as when I was initially serving tea. These young men had been conditioned to be ambitious, but lacked any curiosity about the world. Feeling like a fish out of water, knowing this was not an option, I asked my tutor at University (now a friend) to help me find a job in a new place; any place but there. That request brought me to Singapore where I lived for the next 23 years, working initially as an architect. Once there, I began traveling intensively throughout South East Asia. I observed many similarities between how I perceived my culture while living in Africa and how South East Asians viewed their culture. At the risk of generalizing, it seems Asians were embarrassed by their Asian identity and very concerned with being Western; understandably, as there were no Asian role models to read about in books or to celebrate in the media. At the time, the architectural firm that I worked for was designing commercial buildings that I was not proud of coupled with a less than appealing salary, so I quit with enough money to survive for a month. A small group of artists and myself moved into a house in Chip Bee Gardens where we shared our space, served cheap wine and crackers and showed our work. My first commission was for $500 designing a program for the Singapore Repertoire Theater. We were there for 20 years, and it developed into our own studio-gallery-home-community. It was the perfect environment for ordinary people to discover art and express themselves.

Q: What do you think needs to be taught in art education that is missing today? KP: There is too much emphasis on academic referencing, which encourages new artists to “create a one liner manufactured fashion statement, the next cool trend.” As a result artists may adapt their work to what is in fashion and or recreate established works with a few points of difference rather than focusing on creating original art. These works might create some initial interest, but this will be short-lived, as they lack originality.Today’s art curriculum would grossly benefit from courses on sociology, politics, discussions and debates on human habitats. Artists need to go deeper by connecting the dots and scrutinizing on what’s really happening in our ‘off the beaten track’ communities and the world.

Q: Soon after your marriage, your husband and you traveled for 18 months around the world. What was the most impressive place you experienced and where would you still like to explore. KP: Cuba definitely left a strong impression on us. Conditioned by the angst of the regime, the celebration and emotional release through music is so intense. Havana was an architectural stage set where time had stood still. The patina of age and containment (human and otherwise) was insightful; compelling. In the age of globalization, I find the spaces between countries as fascinating as the caricatures that cultures eventually become. For example, the relationship between Israel and its neighbours; Cuba and America, India and Kashmir etc.We would like to visit South America as well as remote islands, Oceanic cultures to observe how they ‘perpetuate’ their identity.

Q: What do you collect when you travel? KP: Anything printed-tickets, receipts, and photographs. Photographs are significant for collecting memories. Once you go back and look at a photograph, it emotionally brings you back to that experience, and you see things about the scene that were not initially apparent.

Q: Your “Asia Pop!” series has been very well received, known for the vibrant color hues and layered storytelling of Asian culture. Was there a specific methodology for selecting the colors and images? KP: Our generation is so influenced by advertising rather than fine art and craftsmanship, I wanted my art to deliberately look like a mass produced advertisement with intense color and messaging. While a lot of people look at my art and comment on how happy and vibrant my art is, there is a much deeper and sometimes darker message. I also pay special tribute to my Indian heritage.

Q: Much of your work brings awareness to the individuals and street culture of Asia. Are there any specific causes that you support? KP: Yes, the empowerment of women and children. “Women are the glue in the family, and children are our future.”

Q: What do you want your art to be remembered for? KP: Documenting the story of the individual whose voice has not been heard. What’s their cultural identity? What are their politics??

Q: Can you tell me about any special projects that you are working on now? KP: My husband and I bought an old Chapel in an ex-mining village in Wales. Once a bustling mining village, it became extinct almost overnight, and this rural town lost its identity. Using this perch as a case study, we hope to play a role in re-vitalizing communities like these all over the world. That is ‘Art by intervention!’

Q: You have done several collaboration projects from multi media art- furniture-wearable fashion with brands including Haworth, Kiehls, Cathay, All Dressed Up, Bollywood, and Tata. What types of collaborations do you hope to work with in the future? KP: I am very interested in Film, as it’s the best medium to archive stories. Collaborating with a filmmaker to tell the stories of the less known individual would be great. Communication is most important, and we are running out of surface areas to tell stories, so we are open to non-traditional outlets to collaborate / transform and or to display and experience art…a café..a gym….even the green grocer’s in the welsh village I am in!

Q: How has social media helped and hindered the creation of contemporary art? KP: We are the first generation to experience this incredible, constant access to information and connectivity, but we are not designed to process this information or manage so many relationships available to us today. You need to participate, but at the same time this constant access promotes conditioned mindsets rather than what makes sense for the individual. We need to continue to ask the fundamental question. “What is conditioned and what is original?” Our lifestyles are swallowing us whole. For me, slowing down, being more in nature and small communities is the way to go. Even if only to build bridges between the rural and urban.

Q: Is there anything specific about the business of the art world that you would like to fix? KP: While galleries and art shows are important; they are very costly for artists to participate. The elite platforms cannot be ignored, but alternative outlets and platforms are needed in the mainstream for the public and creative studio to have a more direct, fluid rapport.

Q: What non-traditional platforms, international shows, or galleries can people visit and or purchase your work? KP: We are deliberately approachable and encourage you to email us directly if you are interested in our work practice. Don't be shy!