PETRIe contributor Veronica Mafolino discusses with contemporary British artist Ayesha Feisal on sources of empowerment, creativity as a form of resistance, and the goal of the Black British Female Artist art collective.

What does self-empowerment mean to you as an artist?

For me, self-empowerment is taking responsibility for my own growth as an artist. It is to create and make use of all opportunities and resources that allow me to continue to function as an artist. It's about being honest in my work and not having to compromise or censor my truth. It's about not relying on acceptance by the art establishment, but continuing to forge ways that put my art in front of the public.

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Is the creative process itself a form of empowerment?

The creative process is most definitely empowering, and I feel most powerful when I’m in that space. I’ve come to understand that everything starts with a thought, with a belief and an expectation. So, what happens when we exist in a society where there's a constant battle for control of our minds in one way or another? How much of our thoughts are our own, and do they correspond to our “self?” It’s frustrating for me to see limitation being pushed as the norm. How do you go past oppression without being consumed, how do you find a way to stay on purpose and realise your potential? It’s continuous inspiration for me and I get excited with the endless possibilities of how I can reflect on all of this in my art.

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Your paintings are vibrating with such powerful and beautiful energy that seems to come straight from the soul or from the depth of cosmos. What is your secret? How do you convey this energy on canvas?

Thank you. I try to express this through the use of colour. There have been numerous studies on how colour can affect us at a psychological level; it has the potential to affect our mood and carry sensations to the subconscious.

I’m also thinking about light and how I can create radiance within the piece, to inject “life” into it. It’s incredible to see the variations of colour that can be achieved through changing concentrations, transparencies, and textures. It’s such a powerful medium and a language that I continue to explore in my paintings.

You are one of the eight women of the Black British Female Artist. When did you join the collective?

I joined the group in 2015, when it was formed. Born out of a need to address the lack of representation, the collective was established by Enam Gbewonyo, whose goal was to create a platform for emerging black female artists in the UK.

What are the ideals of the collective?

The aim for the collective is to create a platform that acknowledges its members as artists from the diaspora, with the ultimate goal of being viewed universally, as simply ARTISTS.

With this in mind and in keeping with our distinct ways of functioning as artists, our work will be an authentic portrayal of our unique experiences as black British women. At the heart of our work as a collective will be the aim to address issues that affect black women globally.

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What, in your view, is the role of art as instrument of social empowerment?

Art can be the catalyst that creates action in the observer. Art causes us to question, to celebrate, to think, and to feel. It offers us a different perspective and provides us with vision. We need art and artists to continue to nourish the minds of the masses.

Words: Veronica Mafolino

Artwork: Ayesha Feisal

Copy edited by Elena Stanciu