In Conversation with SHAKIL SOLANKI
For our ninth collection, 'Conscious Grounding', we approached South African artist, Shakil Solanki, to collaborate for our FIELDS x Artist Collaboration series. We interviewed him about his creative process, the inspiration behind our Artist Collaboration sweater, the significance of friendship, owning one's identity, and his preference for shades of blue.
What is your creative process like and where do you draw inspiration from?
I like to keep a running stable of references, pulled from books, films, fashion, and other artists’ work. Consistent inspirations include classical Eastern miniatures, and queer artists such as Salman Toor, Youssef Nabil, and Ocean Vuong.
Certain details are then honed in on, developed and reimagined in my visual language through a variety of pencil sketches. These are then refined once more into a finalised artwork. As subtle as the inspirations may be, there’s a satisfaction in feeling connected to a broader universe of other revered artists, and visual cultures.
'Spectral outlines of who they had once been' I (Lionel Wendt study) - (2022), gouache on canvas panel.
Take us through the process of creating “The Bigger Splash”.
I’d recently rewatched Luca Guadagnino’s ‘A Bigger Splash’, and the film had lingered and haunted me long after. Reading into its conception, and the context of David Hockney’s artwork of the same name, I wanted to continue the same lush, sensuous atmosphere into this painting.
On a technical level, the Splash was sketched out in pencil, before illustrating it in full with ink from a brush pen. The remainder was fleshed out with gouache.
You’ve shared with us that “The Bigger Splash” is inspired by a frame from Luca Guadagnino’s 2015 film of the same name. What inspires your artwork?
I’m fascinated by the subtleties and dualities of intimacy, specifically from a queer perspective. Contemplations on these dynamics manifest through my work, intending to create tender, dreamlike spaces.
'The Bigger Splash', gouache on canvas panel (2022).
How did you interpret the fundamental message of our collection ‘Conscious Grounding’ and what aids you to stay grounded/present in your day-to-day life?
The immediacy of a swimming pool’s splash felt perfect to represent the notion of honouring the now. Delving into the beauty of this split-second, to find a tender balance of tranquillity and intensity.
I find comfort in small routines, which give gentle structure to my days, both in and out of the studio. Dissecting my hours this way becomes key to remaining present in my actions.
'Nothing is exhausted, nothing is wanted - all desires are abolished for they seem fulfilled' (2023)
What do you hope the wearer feels when putting your work on their body?
I hope it evokes a sense of vitality and romance in whoever wears it. A promise of summer.
A variety of your artworks are captivating with many shades of the colour blue. What inspires the ‘shades of blue’?
Blue has become synonymous with queerness in my work. Initial inspiration came from camp depictions of blue-skinned Hindu deities - it’s a powerful colour, long associated with royalty, and divinity. Transporting it to my works felt as though I were consecrating my landscapes and figures, in a way. It’s also both seductive and deeply melancholic, which I love.
'A Sumptuous Palace Opens Itself to Our Gaze, Our Rapid Flight, Carries Us Off to The Heavens' (2023) - gouache on paper.
Do you have any tips for other artists who are just starting in the industry and any unforgettable advice from your experience at art school to inspire being yourself and honouring creativity?
Having a circle of artist friends is key in having a support system to rely on - both socially, and also for having fresh, critical opinions on your work.
Time in the studio, regardless of how it’s spent, is never wasted. I remind myself of this every day, whether I spend my time reading, producing, or just doing nothing.
'The queens prepare for the baraat' (2022) - gouache on canvas panel.
What are you working on at the moment?
Some drawings for an upcoming studio sale.
Favourite city in the world?
All-time favourite artist?
Impossible question. Right now, it’s a toss-up between Lionel Wendt and Salman Toor.
What would you never wear?
Your favourite piece from the FIELDS collection?
Obvious bias, but I’m obsessed with my collaboration sweater. The denim Weekend Trousers are gorgeous, too.
Being an artist in South Africa is...
What are you listening to at the moment?
What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Made in Heaven, on Amazon Prime.
What are you reading at the moment?
The Kingdom of Sand, by Andrew Holleran.
This interview has been edited for clarity. All artwork images are courtesy of Shakil Solanki.
Shop Shakil's and artist collaborations here.