At only 18 years old, Manchester-based Kemi Mai continues to impress with her attention-grabbing use of colored lighting, surreal settings and youthful expressions. As a self-taught artist, she is constantly experimenting with new mediums - although a vast majority of what she shares is digital. Kemi recently added some new work to her S6 shop so figured it was a good time to get a quick chat in.
BEN: What about colored light excites you?
KEMI: Light can tell a story in itself. There are colour schemes that I'll tend to go to when I'm trying to set a certain tone, but I also try to challenge myself to work with colors that don't initially sit right with me.
Many of the gazes you've illustrated seem to carry some combo of curiousity and defiance. Any specific emotions you're tackling?
I'm always a little hesitant when it comes to talking about the thoughts and emotion that drive my work. I think most people are aware of how pretentious explanations of art can be. Every piece I make begins with an abstract thought or strain of emotion, but they're also very much open to the interpretations of anyone who might care to interpret them.
I'm a sucker for a story. Any good ones?
Generally, I hate being forced to do things twice, but when my computer screen went black thanks to a power cut (whilst running on AC), I ended up having to start one of my paintings over. The piece, coincidentally or not so coincidentally, is titled 'Start Over'. The actual idea behind it wasn't so literal, as it began as an observation of people's tendencies to create resolutions and plan for new beginnings at the start of a new year. But the frustration that came from having to start over brought me a stubborn refusal to rush progress on the piece. I spent longer than I ever planned working on it and a year later, it's still one of my most detailed works.