Habib Hajallie is a multi media artist, living and working in Northwest Kent, currently exploring the use of antique texts and maps as the canvases for his works. Habib talks to us about his influences and how his eclectic music tastes influence his mark making. Habib has recently been awarded Arts Council England Project Grant for his project, ‘Bringing Art to Dartford’.
Q: Can you tell us about your Artistic background/education?
In 2017 I graduated from Loughborough University with a Bachelor's degree in Fine Art. I’ve always been driven to become an artist, so I started exhibiting my work in London during my first year of studying. This enabled me to achieve my goal of becoming a full time self employed artist in 2018/2019.
Q. Do you work in a studio or from home?
I currently work from home and though it is not ideal, I have enough space to make work consistently. I live in Northwest Kent so there simply aren’t any studios close enough to where I live. I do however, plan on renting an office space nearby to use as a studio.
Q. Who are your Art Influencers? Inspirations?
Early influences from even my time in highschool, include Frida Kahlo’s powerful and prolific self portraits. I believe that my fascination with her works from a young age profoundly influenced the direction of my practice as an artist specialising in portraiture.
Godfried Donkor’s exploration of identity via the exploration of masculinity and west African culture greatly inspired me to push the limits apropos to the similar themes within our artwork. His bold use of dada-esque collage informed some of my early use of ‘cut and paste’ and using ephemera as the canvases for portraits.
Q. What helps get you in "the zone’ to create your work, music? out in nature? Quiet?
I always listen to music, podcasts and audiobooks whilst drawing, I never work in silence. If I’m feeling unmotivated on a particular morning then it’s to my metal playlist (with bands such as Disturbed or Slipknot) to liven me up or some grime; D Double E, JME and Wretch 32’s lyricism always serve as great motivation (perhaps that's why I have drawn many Grime artists). I find myself listening to a plethora of genres as I get immersed in my process of mark making. People are usually surprised by my love of country music, but maybe I am a mixed race British cowboy deep down ( I jest). If you’re in my studio, I may be listening to Fela Kuti’s pioneering afrobeat, some soothing Muddy Waters, lively Miles Davies or even some folksy Colter Wall or Bob Dylan. If I'm working on a particularly ambitious work I tend to listen to a lot of audiobooks about philosophy (usually for the layman, such as myself) or mythology, Stephen Fry’s Mythos is one of my favourite audiobooks.
Q. Do you keep a sketchbook? How often do you use it and do you travel with it?
I do not use a sketchbook, but I always have a notebook closeby to very loosely scribble down any ideas that come to me. I have several notebooks filled with annotated doodles, these are usually the starting points for most of my works.
Q. Where does a piece of work begin for you? Can you describe your process?
I usually get ideas for new works while I am drawing, perhaps being in that creative headspace is conducive to further exploration. Conversely, concepts can come to me from the most mundane moments of watching TV or cooking. I get inspired when having in-depth conversations about race and identity in modern society or whilst asking my family members about their upbringing in Sierra Leone, as well as their experiences in the Uk.
From the aforementioned notebooks, I may have an idea that I have waited on using for several years in some instances; as I have started to try to make works that are relevant to a specific place or time that I feel is appropriate.
Q. What technique do you prefer to use?
Regularly drawing with ballpoint pen enables me to call upon traditional draughtsmanship techniques, influenced by sketches from the high renaissance. Through an almost contradictory process of using this relatively modern art medium with a classical approach to mark making: I look to celebrate authentic drawing within the digital age.
Q. What are your most important artists tools?
My tiltable drawing table is probably my best purchase. My essential tools are inexpensive and easily accessible; simply a ballpoint pen (preferably a staedtler medium), as well as antique texts & maps.
Q What are your favourite materials?
Using antique texts and maps as the canvases for my works has been a constant within my practice. This process of re-contextualising ephemera creates a cohesion between the concepts informing the work and the aesthetic output. As I empower various figures; I simultaneously do so with the ground used as I place them within new contexts.
Q. What are you currently working on?
I’m immensely excited to have been awarded an Arts Council England Project Grant for my project, ‘Bringing Art to Dartford’. There is a cultural and artistic void in Dartford, Kent with the lack of art galleries and museums. I’m very happy that I'll be able to contribute towards bringing culture to the community by creating a bold new body of work that will engage the locals & young ethnic minorities in this part of the country. Since the start of my career, the core ethos of my practice has been centred around ethnic empowerment; with the current BLM movement - people appear to be more willing to educate themselves and appreciate a different perspective. I will be researching forgotten or underappreciated black British historic figures, to create a series of works that represents the importance of the contributions made to British society by such pioneers.
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