'The Big and Beautiful Baskwa'/ Baskwa Interviewed by Michelle Mashuro
On a cool and vibrant night, young art enthusiast and creative Baskwa celebrates his first art show in the heart of Footscray’s cultural centre, Good Old Days Studio. Titled ‘More Love’, his work exudes excellence, colour and mindfulness. We step into a cosy space surrounded by friends, family and guests to take in the new Melbourne artist. Baskwa found himself tangled into the world of painting as a result of 4am inspiration, hustling to work and coming home to touch brush to canvas, only to do it all over again the next day. As I greet my friend, I ask him if we can speak outside so I can get further insight as to what inspired him to pursue the visual medium of the neo-expressionist, abstract and pop-art movements.
‘More Love’ is the debut solo exhibition by Zimbabwean-Australian visual artist, Baskwa.
This exhibition falls exactly a decade after his move to Australia.
His artwork is predominantly hand-painted acrylic on canvases, drawing inspiration from his African heritage, as well as neo-expressionist, abstract and pop-art movements. Baskwa views colours as communicative language and utilises this in his art through muted expressions.
Love is the one unifying thread throughout his experiences, and this exhibition highlights his desire to continuously seek and spread more of it.
Please join us to catch a vibe in celebration of expression, love and humanity.
We stand in the grass, flooded with noise. His demeanour is calm but excitement streams from his face.
So, tell me how you’re feeling right now, what’s going through your mind?
Today has been weird, today actually marks ten years since I landed in Australia. So I’m not really thinking I’m just feeling love. Feeling really humbled.
Tell me a bit about your art? What it means?
For me with my art, if I had to explain or label it. I’d call it neo-expressionist, but really also inspired by pop-art. The way I view it, I view colours as a communicative language. So, I think you can translate so much information through colour, beyond our standard human language which is so limited.
(As we delve into conversation, Baskwa is continually interrupted by friends who greet him and show appreciation for the art)
One thing I really wanted to get from art, because I can paint realistically, I can do that, but I hate doing that. I hate the process I hate it. I feel like if you’ve got a medium such as art, for me I’m not cussing out anyone like I love looking at realistic work. But for me if I’ve got a medium such as art why would I reflect reality.
Tell me more about the colours and tones…
So, I really like, I don’t use skin tones, one piece which is for Muhammed Ali because I can’t do my G like that bro. With colour I try to express emotion and symbolism, it might not just be an emotion, for example, I’ve got a piece called Tenda (meaning to give thanks). For all the African women for my grandma, my aunts, my sisters, my cousins and just general African women that I’ve ever met. I used to colour green for that because green for me is such a nourishing colour for me, its life giving.
A lot of my art is also inspired by feminine energy, I went to an all-boys Catholic, private school. It was very masculine energy; I was very isolated. I just always felt so comfortable when I was around my female relatives.
There was that space for you to be yourself and just be you.
I love my male relatives but I don’t feel as comfortable to be who I am around them. I’m just trying to be, man.
I think that’s definitely a conversation worth having in black communities with males, there’s an expectation to what you have to be. It is restricting. I definitely see that in your art, would you say that there is some artist in particular that have inspired you?
Absolutely, so my artist name is Baskwa and that is because Jean-Michel Basquiat is my favourite artist of all time. I‘ve got his crown tatted on me right there [he shows me], and that’s because I’ve been into art for a long time but for so long I’ve never seen people like me in it. The first time I saw Basquiat I was like WOW. I only discovered Basquiat 8 years ago, 2011, one of my friends sent me a video for his documentary. I was like bruv this don is just out here! And the parallels between our lives were there as well; his dad was an accountant, my dad was an accountant, his dad wanted him to be an accountant he didn’t want to, same [he jokes]. Just the fact that he actually made, and he made it in the 70s through Brooklyn, Bronx.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, his work shows everything I’ve ever looked for in art, the dichotomies in it, the messaging he’s trying to do, the freedom of it. But I don’t necessarily make art like him, you’ll see it’s very different.
My number two artist Andy Warhol, he really inspires most of the colours and how I see colours.
Going back to what you mentioned about freedom, that really resonated with me in terms of seeing how art can give us freedom and how we express freedom. You’re getting into this artist scene in Melbourne, why do you think this is important.
Why I think this is important because it’s what art did for me. I studied art only till I was fourteen, I dropped it so I could do history. One of the biggest regrets I ever made. For so long I was like I can draw, I can paint, but I don’t know if people wanna see that. I choose to get back into it as therapy, I was struggling to meditate and I knew I needed that. You can do whatever you want on a blank canvas.
Going away from this event, what’s next for you?
Next moves very different, I’m not carrying on from the neat style because I find it very limiting.
You can find more of Baskwa’s art via his socials below: