September/October Feature Artist: Kate Banazi

Kate Banazi’s compositions are oftentimes energetic: forms twisting; waves bending like audio signals; circles that look like they’ve been ricocheted around the picture plane.

Perhaps this energy comes from Kate herself, who is infectiously humorous and most commonly found with a big smile on her face. I spoke with Kate in her colourful studio about her graphic works, collaboration, and silkscreening processes in anticipation of her involvement in the upcoming The Other Art Fair (10-13 September, 2015).

Vanessa Low: Fill in the blanks: My name is (Kate), I am a (hybrid…I make things, do things, and I enjoy my life!), from (London). My art practice involves (silkscreen printing, drawing, painting, making a mess, stabbing myself with scalpels at 2am in the morning), I am an artist because (it fills a need. It’s always been).

VL: You originally studied menswear at Central St Martins, however today you are known for your graphic silkscreen prints. Could you describe your journey from A to B?

KB: Not really! It’s this weird hybrid life that just happens and you meet amazing people along the way that change your life and help you and it the progression and change feel natural.

VL: Can you perhaps describe how you got into silkscreen printing?

KB: Well, after leaving menswear, I had a child and I was on my own and then a friend. Kate Gibb, kind of picked me up off the floor really and shook me about a bit and I went to work for her. And she’s an amazing silkscreen printer and I was her studio manager. So she taught me to screen print. I mean, I’ve been around screen printers all my life but it was her that really brought all that information together and made me fall in love with the process.

VL: Your complex use of lines in your prints often results in a 3-Dimensional effect. Can you break down the steps involved in creating these complex patterns? 

KB: They usually come from little references, like daily walks, of shadows cast in stairwells and chain-link fences. And then from that it becomes little sketches and note-taking and plotting points.

VL: On the computer?

KB: Generally by hand first; as it all comes from sketches and some of my film work is done by hand – if you look very closely you’ll see some wonky lines – but it’s nice to do it as much by hand as possible. And then, if it’s something I want to do very sinuously then I’ll put it through the computer. But it always comes from a visual or a doodle and then to the computer for film work if need be.

From there, then it’s either hand-drawn onto film or it’s sent off to be made into a film, which is a film-positive, and then it’s exposed onto a screen using a photographic treatment. Then after that, it’s silkscreen printed. So every print is slightly different because I hand print everything – rather than machine-print. The process is wonderful; all those amazing happy accidents.

VL: What inspires your art-making process? Are there any particular people or artists or movements? 

KB: For me it’s definitely a really 1960s and 70s bend. So, Bridget Riley is an obvious one. Carlos Cruz Diez, the amazing Venezuelan artist, who makes quite kinetic works. And there’s the kinetic artist Yaakov Agam who does these amazing, works with a lenticular. But Bridget Riley is the obvious one; I remember my mum and dad talking about her when I was a kid and thinking “I want to do that when I grow up.” She is an amazing woman – huge inspiration – I love her work.

VL: Previously, you’ve incorporated photographs and various images into your prints. Can you describe how you go about this process of choosing images and translating them into your works? 

KB: It’s really quite instinctive, I think, especially with the photographic work. It’s usually a photograph that I’ve taken – I often take photographs with the view that I can use them, rather than going on holiday and taking holiday photos (terrible I know). Suddenly things come together, usually it’s working with a photographer. My husband – who’s a great photographer – will give me a picture and somehow the magic happens. But there’s been pieces that we’ve worked on and we’ve never finished; I haven’t got quite the right shape yet.

VL: So you’ve always got something that you’re working on.

KB: Always.

VL: What’s the longest project you’ve done. 

KB: I guess, it’s personal work. It just goes on and on and on. I’ve been doing a great collaboration with this artist in Barcelona called Diego Berjon which has been going on for 6 months. We post each other work and go over the top of it.  The feedback has been great and we’ve sold pieces,  so it’s really nice, especially to know that a weird personal conversation has been listened to and people really appreciate it.

VL: A book that I can always re-read is…

KB: American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I was never into that style of book and then I was given it and loved it. And Beloved by Toni Morrison. I have so many books on the go all the time.

VL: Many people will recognise your bold, geometric prints from Dion Lee’s 2013 Resort collection. How did this collaboration come about and what did it involve? 

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Collaboration with Dion Lee (2013)  (image source)

KB: He contacted me and we discussed working together; as in I would be drawing on his clothes, really. But then it became more about working with his patterns and so I could fit directly to the garments and work it out with the shape. It was a really fantastic process; I felt fully part of the project. And the team was amazing; it was such a rewarding experience. It was really great to see it in the magazines and think, “I was part of that!”.

VL: Could you describe some of the other collaborations you have done?

KB: Working with photographers is always great. Working in collaboration is really important for me in practice because it’s a mutual trust thing. There are always different conversations and discussions; it pushes your work in a different way. Because with collaboration you are often working with people whose work is so different to yours that you wouldn’t get how it would fit together. But you have to figure that out somehow – either it works or it doesn’t. I just love the process of collaboration because it’s a challenge because you have to be respectful. And you really see that someone’s given you something. It’s a gift. And trust, I think that’s where the respect comes from.

VL: What would your last meal be? 

KB: I love food – don’t get me wrong – but it would be about the people. If I could have that consideration! I would rather it be about the great company.

VL: There is a lot of equipment in your studio. Could you describe the purpose of each one?  

KB: Most of it is just rubbish! Most it is screen equipment. There’s a vacuum table that is beautiful for sucking down paper to do repeats; that helps so it’s physically not so strenuous. And I’ve got an exposure unit so that I can expose my screens, so all that I have to do is get my screens made unless I draw them myself. I have a wash bay, where I wash all my screens. And lots and lots and lots of ink and paper.

VL: What techniques, themes or ideas are you working on now/next? 

KB: I have a fascination with science and space – always have done since I was a kid. Just more looking at the new amazing pictures from NASA and the incredible pictures of Mars.

VL: You’ll be exhibiting your works at the upcoming Other Art Fair. What works of yours can we expect to see there? 

KB: New graphic prints on paper and I’ve done some new Perspex boxes.

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Kate Banazi will be exhibiting in the upcoming The Other Art Fair
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Words and photos by Vanessa Low.