Graduates 2024: Kitty Gahir: Fine Art Painting

“I’ve really valued having tutors who are working artists and I think that is so informative. As a young artist, it’s encouraging to see that it’s possible to have a fulfilling career in the art industry.”

Please tell us a bit about your work and your influences

“My paintings are informed by my childhood memories, increasing closeness to my Sikh faith and navigation of my ethnic and cultural identity. The viewer is the most important part of my work, I want you to look at the colour and words but stay and look closer because something moves you to. Like it, love it, or loathe it- I welcome them all.”

“I use materials which are an ode to my Punjabi heritage like Henna powder, gold and nails which refer to my background of working as a henna artist, being Sikh and my Dad’s background in carpentry. I mix these materials with traditional Western materials like oils, acrylics, resins and watercolours. The relationship between these two is a strange one but, like my own strange identity, it’s a bit of a funny juxtaposition that makes me laugh. The process and labour it takes to make my paintings is important, it feels like I’m paying respect to the memories I have of loved ones who are no longer with me by taking my time with each piece.”

What made you choose your course?

“I chose the Painting course after completing a foundation year in Textile Craft. That year helped me to hone my love of materiality, tactility and surface. But, I always felt like a painter and wanted to spend three years learning about the traditions of Painting and how, if necessary, they should be broken. The permanent studio spaces we get here are such a privilege and that was definitely a huge factor in me choosing the course. Additionally, I’ve really valued having tutors who are working artists and I think that is so informative. As a young artist, it’s encouraging to see that it’s possible to have a fulfilling career in the art industry. Finally, I chose the course because of the unique artistic spirit of Brighton, it’s village-y feel and its interesting history with Indian architecture.”


Can you tell us about your favourite part of your studies and how it helped the development of you and your practice.

“The best part of our studies is undoubtedly the studio spaces. As a painter or just creative person, having physical room to work and think helps your process so much and gives you space to venture into different things. A lot of my time, as many could vouch for, was spent talking to other students about their work. I love writing and talking about art and having these conversations about art everyday over the last couple of years has helped me to understand where I fit into the world of painting. Working in a team to put on the Second Year show was a highlight; learning to problem solve, work collaboratively and run the Instagram helped me learn new skills.”

“Secondly, the Critical Studies module has helped build the theoretical foundations that my visual work lays on. As someone who has an interest in art history and critical theory, learning how to research contemporary painters has helped me to understand more about my own work and understanding what I’m trying to create and play into.”


Can you tell us about any staff who particularly inspired you?

“All of the painting tutors have been hugely significant in me getting to the place I’ve now got to with my work. Without them and their insights, I don’t think I would have been able to continue painting and making work which I consider successful. Talking to Yvonne Feng (our head of third year) about confronting my personal history and identity was really important in the progression of my work. Conversations with her have helped me to become less fearful about making work. Also, James Kearns, who’s our technician, has not only served as a mentor, but also the most knowledgeable bank of information about materials. Finally, I’d like to say a massive thank you to Sally Kirby and the whole team who give us all smiles and support everyday as all of us painters are scrambling to push paint onto canvas and rush out of the building at 8pm as they lock up behind us. You’ve made my time here memorable and we all appreciate your patience and care!”


If you did a placement or work experience, can you tell us about it and any support you received?

“I work as a gallery assistant and have completed an internship with the Towner in the last year. Both these experiences have been really fun and helped me learn about the behind-the-scenes parts of the art world.”


What does Brighton mean to you now?

“Brighton is, and will always be, a home away from home. The people I’ve met here are a second family and this city has my heart.”


Can you tell us your plans after graduation?

“They keep changing! I have some things I know for sure like: I will always keep making paintings, writing poetry and talking like a madwoman about art. But, the ways that these will fall into a plan are still being worked out… Watch this space!”


Finally if you could give your 17 year old self any advice about going to university what would it be?

“Be okay with knowing nothing. It feels scary because it is, that’s what makes it all so worthwhile. Keep going, it doesn’t all happen at once but you are meant to be here. Do it in your own time, no one else can tell you when you’re on the right track but you.”


Follow Kitty on Instagram: @eyesofkitto



Find out about studying Fine Art Painting at Brighton.

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