The young artist shares her thoughts on sustainability and how fashion influences art
Words: Hayden Horner | Images: Supplied
Mira Jaan is one of a number of young artists who are partnering with adidas on their exciting upcoming range of custom-designed sneakers. With accolades received for her Saint Apparel artwork and a passion for fashion and art that have minimal impact on the environment, it’s a collaboration fitting of our times. Here she talks about her preferred medium, working with adidas and how fashion influences art
How would you describe your work and aesthetic?
In my work I capture moments or scenes as I feel or experience them. The art style I do this in is quite graphic and colourful. Yet I feel my work is quite quiet and understated given the moments I depict are just that. I aim to present the people viewing my work with situations which they can see themselves in as well, even though it’s a very personal narrative and I use a character based off of my features and person to perform these dramas, that you are your own double. Which raises the question in me of what a human being is. Can we speak solely of a self ? What of the other in oneself? Can one really know oneself? What is it that that one can feel when one is with another human being? I don’t ask these questions to affirm doubt but rather I try to affirm myself and others that one can trust and one can love.
What is your preferred technique and why do you enjoy it as a medium?
I enjoy working with gouache on paper because of how opaque and flat it allows my images to appear. It appears almost as if there’s no texture at first, almost as if it’s been printed on the paper instead of painted. I love this because it reminds me of the effect created in artworks from the Ukiyo-e art movement in Japan, which is one of the inspirations for my art style. Within this movement the artists produced prints and paintings on woodblocks with the same focus on line work and vibrant colour. The use of woodblock interested me too because of how organic it made the prints feel. The paper I specifically use is canvas paper which I feel imitates this organic feeling because of its raw texture. Although the gouache creates a very flat affect, the texture of the paper is still visible underneath. The gouache itself unlike paints such as acrylic doesn’t have a plastic feel to it. When it dries it has a muddy quality to it which aids my desire for my art to feel organic and natural.
Has your creative flow been affected by the pandemic?
My creative flow has definitely been affected by the pandemic. For me creating art takes a lot of emotional energy and it’s been difficult to find the motivation to create in general given the pandemic has been an extremely emotionally draining experience. Part of what motivates me to create work too is spending time with the people I love. Being disconnected from that more than ever before definitely took a toll on my creative motivation as well.
What are your thoughts on the relationship between art and sustainability?
With the relationship between art and sustainability, I think it’s apparent that in creating visual art we are also creating objects and these objects will all have a lifetime of their own, that will either work with or against the well-being of the planet as time goes by. Right now I feel we are beginning to acknowledge the effect humanity is having on the environment. We’ve been introduced to sustainability as a new concept to consider, and I think it would be really interesting and inspiring to see how artists can innovate new ways to create in this context.
How important is sustainability in your work, and how do you maintain that?
Sustainability, I feel, has come along quite naturally with me in creating my work because of the materials I’ve chosen to work with. I keep my work sustainable by using gouache as my primary medium. In choosing to use gouache I am consuming far less raw materials and reducing the use of hydrocarbon solvents.The binder for gouache is called Gum Arabic, this gum is harvested without any harm to the trees, and the profit gained from gum production inhibits the cutting of wild trees in areas where they are needed.
Tell us a bit about your Saint Apparel piece?
I completed the Saint Apparel piece in 2019. I was 17 during that time and was in the process of figuring what I liked regarding my art style. I knew that I wanted to paint figures as the central component of my work and that I wanted what they wore to reflect what I thought was cool at the time. In this piece I was exploring what I’d like to play with regarding my personal style and that ended up meshing with my main concept for this piece which was to paint a holy figure as a woman of colour. At the time I felt quite unsure of my future and if I’d eventually be able to be the person I wished to be. In a way I think I was trying to create my own angel.
Was Saint Apparel a case of fashion influencing art or art influencing fashion?
Saint Apparel was definitely a case of fashion influencing my art. During the time I painted this piece, the music video for ‘Almeda’ by Solange had been released. I loved what the dancers in this music video wore, specifically the grey suits. I thought the silhouette was just so powerful, and I also loved how it corresponded with the grey suit worn by one of the characters in my favourite movie ‘In The Mood For Love’ by Wong Kar Wai, which is a massive inspiration for my art.
What excites you most about this sustainability collaboration with adidas?
What I’ve been most excited about in this collaboration was the opportunity to paint on a completely different surface to what I’m used to and having it be a clothing item, serve a different function entirely to my regular work. Thinking on this project has also prompted me to keep sustainability in mind as I move forward to which I greatly appreciated as well.
What do you think young artists need more of in South Africa?
I think what young artists in South Africa need are more opportunities to showcase their work, specifically more spaces willing to give them the platform to do so. I also feel they need more access and exposure to the art world. To see how it works and to gain inspiration for their own work. I think these things are necessary for them to see that art is something they can actually pursue as a career, which many I feel get discouraged to do.
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