Interview with Khyle Raja

Artistic Jihad caught up with Khyle Raja to get an insight into his work and artistic perspective. A lot of you are probably familiar with some of Khyles’ recent work and events, definitely grand things to come from this young artist. Read on to find out more.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in art.

“Since early childhood I loved to draw. Boxes and boxes of drawings, from sprawling cities sellotaped together to space ships, planets and the like. It was something I was always encouraged to do by my parents, both of them being good amateur artists.”

Do you have other interests and commitments alongside your art? If so, how do you maintain motivation and balance in what you do?

I work four days a week in an architecture practice in Bloomsbury, London called Blackstone Architects. To be honest, without this my art simply cannot pay the bills as its such early days. I studied Architecture for five years in Nottingham and this has equipped my artwork with a more technical approach I had never developed before. It’s a tough balance to strike, any time I have to spare I spend developing my theories through reading for my next drawing collection.

What motivated you to take part in Artistic Jihad? What are your views and thoughts about Artistic Jihad and the experiences and opportunities it gave you?

In the last two years of my architectural studies, I had the opportunity to work under some incredible tutors and develop a fundamentally different, theoretically rigorous approach to the discipline. This was done through researching, writing and drawing. When the AJ opportunity came up, I was searching for artistic outlets to get more exposure for my work and to gauge the reactions of non architects. That was most crucial for me, finding out if people outside our subject could engage with the arguments over modern society I was making. Being a finalist was the first indication that people were intrigued and captivated by the work and wanted to see more, which was a massive encouragement for me.

Why do you think it’s important that Muslims are involved in the arts?

“History will illustrate quite vividly how the arts have been a beautifully effective means of communicating our religion to others. The crossover of culture, science and information through artistic means such as architecture, ceramics, craftwork and calligraphic forms has had the ability to shape an entire discourse on a ‘mysterious other’ from the east. Now that the paradigm has changed and Muslims find themselves indigenous within the once distant western world, it has become a means beyond simple language to communicate our deeper religious states, truths and concepts. The reaction you receive from the wider public to artwork based on an Islamic concept is far more encouraging these days than to any standard ‘dawah rhetoric’, particularly that artwork which seeks to push the boundaries of the traditional art forms of Islam. Muslims need to push this in particular. Relying on the historical success and significance of our own vernacular calligraphy, architecture and arts, which was developed in distant lands for thousands of years, is intellectually insufficient. We need to work much harder for our community to develop in 21st century Britain and come closer to Allah, than to imitate what already exists and stop there.”

What advice would you give to those who wish to pursue a career in the arts?

Push hard and be rigorous. Imitation of styles is okay if you are doing it to understand the metaphysical effects, as the artist’s form of coming closer to Allah. To rely on them is detrimental. Your own style, intellectual approach, and critique are necessary. I find artwork that relies on aesthetic strengths only to be bereft of our traditions intellectual strengths. It is not easy to develop that, it takes serious hard work and time, but if you are ready and willing to take it on it is worth it, The people you will meet, discussions and inspirations you will have, will inspire you in your religion and also many people around you. Arts effects cannot be measured quantitatively. The qualitative effects on peoples hearts and minds is far more significant. That’s why you shouldn’t expect to make lots of money early on, the fields simply doesn’t work that way. Graft will get you to a point where artistic exploration can be your way of life. Always seek to collaborate with other artists, both within and outside your fields. Their insights into your work will offer new a vivid ways of communicating ideas and create artistic ‘experiences’ rather than just ‘pieces’.”

Who/what are your artistic inspirations, influences and role models?  How would you describe your own artistic vision, if you have one?

“My inspirations come from my path and journeying towards Allah, science fiction and the discourse around new technologies, the affects of technology on society and the mentality of modern man towards the world and our Origins. My artistic vision can be described as ‘huge’, not because it is widely known or popular, but because I have always developed my art through massive scales, concepts and entire worlds, universes even, of ideas and information. That is what really inspires me, to walk out sometimes and look into a nights sky and find myself utterly dwarfed by it all, or marvel at a book on deep space images of distant galaxies, or contemplating our own insignificance. My artistic vision fundamentally deals with that which is far greater than ourselves and carries that weight in the way I draw and communicate my ideas.”

What do you aim to achieve with your artistic passion? Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years time?

“I feel my art is a universe being brought to life. I am developing the approach through many different art forms. In ten years, we should have a series of new collections, performances with other artists to bring new dimensions to the work, spoken word poetry collections taking you through these new worlds and other media like film and graphic novels bringing new narrative and life into the theories and aesthetic qualities of this universe. It’s a very exciting endeavour, and involves a number of other artists I am working with now and wish to work with in future”.

Thank you Khyle for such an engaging and eye- opening interview. We hope others will take benefit from this and we wish you all the best on your artistic journey.

Khyle’s work can be viewed here.

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