In Conversation with Shakil Solanki
31 March 2022

Please will you tell us a little bit about what inspires you and your art? What was it that initially inspired you to pursue a career in art, and since then, where have you drawn inspiration from in terms of the individual style you’ve developed and your subject matter?


My work is directly informed and inspired by my South Asian cultural heritage, while also engaging contemporary notions of queer identity and intimacy. Visually, my work is directly inspired by classical Indian, and Islamic miniatures and textiles, while also drawing stimulus from contemporary queer artists, such as Salman Toor, David Hockney and Sunil Gupta.


Are there any art historical references in your art?


I’ve always been deeply captivated by the art practices of the East - the vividly illuminated miniatures and manuscripts of India, as well as the lush woodcuts of Japan. There’s an incredible sense of delicacy which is carried out visually in these practices, which I’ve tried to carry forward into my own work. Their rather sublime intricacy, as well.


We know that alongside being an artist you’re also an art collector. What would you say are your collecting habits/what works are you most drawn to? And specific media/thematic areas etc.


Gosh, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a collector - I think my habits are far too inconsistent and random. There isn’t any specific media which I’m particularly drawn to either, but I generally tend to drift more towards works of a queer/homoerotic nature. Supporting other queer artists is something which I find quite important, especially in an artistic environment as close-knit as Cape Town’s.


Of course, being an artist means having artist friends which has various benefits when you’re also a collector. Outside of this, how would you say that being a creator of your own works affects the way that you collect and/or think about collecting other artist’s works?


So many benefits! Having talented artist friends is a true blessing.

I suppose making your own work allows you more sensitivity when it comes to engaging with other artists’ pieces- with other printmakers especially.

On a technical level, printmaking is deeply intensive, to the point of becoming arcane, when it comes to explaining it to those who aren’t as familiar with the discipline. So I guess one becomes more appreciative of the certain technical intricacies which go into producing artworks. On the same level, given the time-consuming nature of my own work, I appreciate seeing a similar dedication in other artists’ practices.


Now, we have some questions about your collection if you’re comfortable sharing:

What was the first work that you acquired/collected?

The first artwork I collected was a small, gentle photograph by Matthew Muir.

Do you like to live with and amongst your works hanging on walls or are your works safely stored away?

The majority are safely wrapped up in my print drawer, while the others are framed, and are waiting to be hung. Ideally, I’d live surrounded by all of them.

You win the lottery tomorrow and have access to works by any artist in the world, what are you buying?

Louis Fratino, Salman Toor and Youssef Nabil are at the top of my list.


What advice would you give to a younger individual wanting to start their own collection – whether they’re an artist or not?


Support younger, emerging artists. Everyone needs to start somewhere.