“Promoting unity through intimacy” – Tarique Al-Shabazz.
Meet Tarique Al-Shabazz, a London based artist that is promoting unity through intimacy.
Tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
I’m an artist currently based in East London, I was born in Liverpool and grew up on The Wirral… so yeah I’ve been about.
How has your upbringing shaped who you are as an artist?
So I had an extremely strict upbringing for pretty much the first 10 years of my life. I think when you’re brought up in an environment that sounds so different to those around you… from an early age you’re forced to question your surroundings without having any real power to change them.
This type of relationship as a child has 100% contributed to the unapologetic nature that’s present not only within my work but also my mentality. I’m extremely grateful that I’m able to express myself in the way I do right now. This gratitude is a contributing catalyst for my creative outcomes.
“Promoting unity through intimacy” what does that mean?
This is a statement I use to describe the style of work I’m currently creating. We all have a responsibility to positively impact those around us and promote inclusivity through our behaviours. For me, I use the exploration of intimacy as my contribution. I think intimacy should be one of the rawest forms of non-discriminatory behaviour and hopefully, through my work, I can inspire and encourage a more comfortable relationship with intimacy.
I’m not saying let’s all go have an orgy (as jokes as that’d probably be) I hope that it’s obvious in my work that I’m referring to all types of intimacy: emotional intimacy, intellectual intimacy, and experiential intimacy included.
With your art, are you telling a story of who you are or the story of the person(s) you’re taking a photo of?
I’d like to say both. A lot of the time I’m creating based on what I see or feel within my own life. Feelings are universal though, so I naturally find myself working with people where their relationship with the theme I’m exploring coexists in the outcome. A series I made called ‘Protecting your peace’ was inspired by my own self-isolation but still very much tells the story of the model/artist I worked with to create the series.
I want all my pieces to show elements of my style but also accurately represent the people I’m working with. This is why I tend to work with people I know quite well, or at least get to know them first, so I can properly portray their true character in my art.
I would love to see what happens behind the scenes of one of your shoots! Would you ever release a film documenting this?
I was in the process of recording a small documentary with this Canadian production company who reached out. They sent me over the pilot of their series and I really fucked with the whole aesthetic and the artists they’d already documented. Coronavirus had just hit the UK as we were halfway through shooting so we didn’t properly finish it. I don’t know whether they’re still going to use the footage or whether we’ll reconnect in the future, but yes I definitely want to show more behind the scenes for my projects, who knows maybe I’ll do a video with you guys?
Last year, you created t-shirts that sold out nearly immediately! How did you come up with the idea of “Angles of Colour” T-Shirts?
I suppose the process began when I saw this angel type campaign by that brand Fiorucci. I really fucked with the aesthetic but at the time I found it interesting that there was no diversity in any of their angels. On my way home I deeped that there’s little to no diversity in any angel type artwork or imagery (google the word ‘angel’ now and you’ll see what I mean). I found it slightly ironic that we lose black lives unjustly everyday and yet their representation wasn’t being accounted for. So yeah I told myself I wanted to design artwork that represented our angels of colour.
The day I was planning the design I was kind of stuck on the execution. Then Instagram decided to remove one of my photos for “indecency” so I took this as a sign to use this picture as the design base. This design ended up being the most popular piece. So yeah that’s how it all fell into place. I used to feel lucky whenever outcomes like this, so naturally, fell into place. Now I know it’s more to do with the awareness of my surroundings. Not to sound all deep but I really do think the right choices for our potential decisions are presented to us already. We just need to question and absorb our settings more.
Who are your current favourite photographers/who are you inspired by Tarique?
I don’t think they’d label themselves as photographers but I’m currently revisiting & appreciating the works of ASE+F, a collective of 4 Russian artists. Their projects psychoanalyse social behaviour through a range of mix media (physical performance, photography, digital manipulation). If you look at their behind scenes, the level of detail and scale of production is fucking crazy. I aspire to the level of originality within their imagination.
I find myself mostly inspired by the film industry. Directors & screen writers i.e G.Noe, Kaufman, Chan-Wook, P.T.Anderson, Scorsese, Miyazakiall, Spike Jonze, Melina Matsoukas… they all represent a style of work that opens new perspectives for my creative vision.
Any exhibitions or exciting projects coming up?
I have two big projects that I’m excited to put out hopefully this year (depending on how long Rona sticks about) but yeah I won’t say too much, @seriqueoffical is where you’ll need to be if you wanna find out about that! Peaceee
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