Multi-disciplinary artist Shaquille presents a collection that draws a lens into a world of nostalgia and culture. With his innovation and unapologetic aspirations, Shaquille opens a door that takes viewers into a place of soul-touching familiarity and artistry.
In collaboration with Campbell’s of London Art Gallery, this captivating exhibition is available for viewing until the 12th of March 2022 and is not one to be missed. We caught up with Shaquille to talk us through his genius process, humble inspirations and exciting future projects. Walking around the exhibition allowed for a linear introduction into Shaquille’s upbringing and shows the audience what a day in the life of his childhood and social life looked like. With connecting themes such as his love for animated imagery, that his inspiration from artists such as Kerry James Marshall and Nas provide and eclectic 90s cartoons, his curation proves paramount in the understanding of his works.
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You’ve just had your opening night for your latest exhibition The Art Of Storytelling which got sold out 3 times before the show! How has having such positive reception made you feel?
It's been amazing! I think the most exciting thing about it was people coming to me and talking to me about how my work has affected them and because some of the captions for some of the paintings are poems, people are commenting saying, “Oh, my God, the poetry is touching me as well”. It just feels good knowing that what I’ve always wanted to do is something that people actually like, because sometimes we can have a calling in life, and there's nothing wrong with if no one else likes as long as you like it. It's obviously a big push in the right direction or a big push in your own heart when other people are really solidifying what it is that you want to do.
I love that because the exhibition showcases fantastic pieces that you created as a direct response to your real-life experiences, and upbringing in London. What was the importance of having these depictions portrayed in a public art space to you?
I've got a lot of family in America so when I go to New York, I get to go to the MET, I get to go to the MoMA and I see all these beautiful pieces that tell all these beautiful stories, but I realised in the UK, a lot of artists don't really do that. I feel like a lot of artists focus more on aesthetically pleasing kind of work, which isn't a bad thing, but I can't really connect or I don't connect to a lot of British artists, and people always ask me ‘Why are you always into American rap and American art’ and I was like, damn, because they’re just better at telling stories than we are. I think they take more pride in their culture for example you’d know what stuff like a 40 ounce of beer is connected to, you know that's like hood people in Queens or LA or Compton and it's a cultural thing across two different states entirely. And even though we might have that, you know, sipping on magnums, and all that stuff, no one ever forced me to express or celebrate our culture, so I just feel like I’ve always just wanted to be able to tell stories, and just do things a bit differently. I guess instead of setting the bar I can be the bar as well and keep evolving and keep getting better just to show people the stories that we have over here, like I just love my childhood and its obviously British so it’s Americanised but British.
The Art of Story Telling succeeds in having a universal relatability despite factors of race, gender, or location. Was this aim of translatable nostalgia a conscious decision or did it just happen to be this way?
It's just what I'm into, how I am, the way I dress, the way that I write my own reference points. It gets to the point where even when I try not to be this nostalgic person, I just am. The TV  that's exhibited here is actually the TV that I used in my mum's bedroom so I have  such an attachment to everything there and all those photos are my real photos from my photo albums and that’s just my aesthetic. I just love that feeling of ‘ah man, back in the day’. And I feel like sometimes when you create memories like that, you just want more and you want to dive deeper into it. All of my favourite painters too who are from the 80s backwards like Keith Haring,  Basquiat, Dalí, George Condo, Dorothea Tanning, Jacob Lawrence, Kerry James Marshall, Francis Bacon and Frida Kahlo. I have many favourite artists from periods that are not really from now, and I just want to go down a history with those guys. So for me, it's all about memorable moments, I wanted my friends and people who appreciate my work or who are from the UK to feel like they can relate.
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How has painting as a medium allows you to communicate these messages?
I listen to a lot of rap music, I listen to a lot of Nas a lot of Mobb Deep, a lot of conscious guys who are talking about their experiences and I was like, man, if I had the voice to rap, I'd be doing that. So how I approached my painting is just like how a rapper would in the studio, you go in the studio, you’ve got your beat which is like your background and then, you've got the content, which is what you're saying. So for me, it's like I can paint the background but then the the lyrics come in, when I let you know what's happening for example, I can paint a KA can, a fishbowl, Ed, Edd n Eddy on the TV, but the lyrics are when they all come together, that's when you get the story. So to me, it's just like however a rapper would answer that question is how I would answer that question, it's just my way of expressing myself. It's all I know.
So as well as painting, you obviously had a really successful career in other art forms, such as poetry, videography, and fashion. As a multi-disciplinary artist, do you ever sort of struggle with your artist identity?
I don't really struggle because I bring them all with me, I don't let anyone decide where or how much of a painter I should be in a situation or how much of a poet I should be in a situation. If you’re a brand and you want to work with me like with the Prada Fragrance Campaign I was like ‘I want my painting involved’ so I got my painting involved and with Toblerone they were like ‘We know you do poetry so you can either just be the face of the campaign, or you can write the poem’ and I said, I'm gonna write the poem otherwise I won’t do it. I don't ever leave it behind because if the money and opportunities and success comes, that's really great and I really want that just as much as the next man would because I want to make a living out of what I love. But I won't compromise what I love to make to make a living because after a while, you're not living.
What excites you the most about having these types of showings?
This is my first one and I guess what excites me is we're in the digital age and God has blessed me to have opportunities that allow me to accumulate a decent following on social media, so I want to put my artwork to to those people. So I think what a show like this can do is translate those numbers on a screen to something in real life, and now people can actually connect with the work even more and you can see my mistakes. Somebody came up to me and was like, ‘Oh, are those pencil marks supposed to be there?’ and its things like this that you obviously can't tell from Instagram so it’s great.
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The impact you’ve had on the fashion industry can’t go unnoticed, and your work at PAQ set foundations that changed the way fashion was perceived especially in the context of streetwear and contemporary menswear. How did PAQ help shape your identity as an artist and what did it enable you to present to the world of fashion and art?
So with the origin of PAQ, there's me, and my fellow friends. I had a game plan. My game plan was I needed a platform to put out some artwork, even though I knew I had no artworks properly at that time, I said I know I want to be an artist and I’m going to want a platform. In this day and age, I look at social media, I look at the world and I'm like, artists can't just build up a platform just off the art alone because it's a very slow process and I was like, I also I love fashion. I know it sounds so generic, but I really do love fashion, art and music. So I thought, ‘how do I do all of this?’ And I was like, okay, cool well, I'll let God figure it out. All I can do is just be an artist for now. That's within my grasp.
So then we got reached out to come on board with this company and make a TV show, but they had no idea what show they wanted to make so, they put two of my other friends in a focus group, and then put me and my other friends in a focus group. We were all going back and forth with ideas, and I thought well I’m in Uni right now and I'm buying all these expensive clothes for cheap money, because I'm going to vintage shops because my mum used to take me to vintage shops growing up. So when we came out of the focus groups everyone had their ideas and, I said, Listen, I think we should do a TV show about fashion, because right now fashion is becoming of interest and I genuinely feel like no one is doing that so why don't we just do something where we just have a low budget and we have to make the best outfit possible. Then that's when the first episode Fire Fits for 50 Quid came about. So, I gave the concept and then Dex came up with the name and we just pushed that forward. Then obviously the two others contributed more ideas and then we made it what it was.
So for me, I was navigating my own storyline. I think with fashion, what I was doing was always demonstrating to people that I'm an artist. Even if  people don't want to follow the journey anymore because the show's not as active or whatever, that's completely fine. But I know it's better for me to showcase my work to 200,000+ people and then have those people choose to leave or stay than to none at all. I think what it also demonstrates to me is that hard work doesn't go unnoticed, because I don't drop paintings by the numbers. In the last two years, I've only done 13, but these with these 13 paintings and poems I've really connected with people.
You recently featured in Reuben Selby’s exhibition The Will To Form for London Fashion Week and like you, Selby also ties in modes of art and fashion into his works. How did you come about working on this collaboration and what was your main takeaway from this experience?
So that was my very first time actually showing any work and that was really cool. I got to meet some really amazing artists and they killed it, but for me it was a perfect thing because it was art and fashion. What it showed me as well was that, I shouldn't be so shy about by my work, because I got a lot of compliments and it solidified that I'm not bad or  haven't really missed a beat in regards to painting, which is really good. But it also showed me that if I rise to the occasion, then I [can do it]. It showed me that being around other artists is actually a better thing rather than intimidating because I think in the fashion industry, everything is so competitive and there might be some competition in the art world somewhere, but if you're around the right audience, it's good. So it was just really cool to be able to be part of a fashion show, and to say that my first artist residency was in South London which is originally where I’m from.
What should we expect from you next?
My poetry, that's the next thing I want to do. I want to self-publish my poetry book, and I want to do an exhibition just dedicated to poetry. I want it to be like an open mic type situation where I can have people come through. I want to say a couple of poems, but I also want other people to too, like death poetry jam. So hopefully I’ll try to figure out how I can do that and get some brands involved from the UK and shed some spotlight on some really cool up and coming poets. So, yeah, that'd be the next thing and hopefully fingers crossed one day. As well as that I would love, love love to get into acting, so I'm open to whatever. You know, wherever the Lord shall guide me.
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