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Untitled Embossed print with gold paint

Kedisha Coakley Colours of the Caribbean

Multi-disciplinary artist Kedisha Coakley takes us on a journey through her artistic process and gives us some juicy clues about what’s in store for her Site Gallery residency.

Sheffield-based artist Kedisha Coakley has exhibited her work widely, including displays at local haunts Bloc Projects and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. She is also embarking on an exciting two-year residency at Site Gallery. I chatted to Kedisha to hear more about her work.

Firstly, can you tell us a bit about yourself and where your creative journey has taken you so far?

My two children and I moved to Sheffield from London 13 years ago. I was born in London and grew up in Brixton, the youngest of eight siblings and my mother’s only child. I had an upbringing of two halves. Pre-thirteen was unsettled, emotionally and domestically. After family tragedy my mother made decisions to better both of our lives, religion being a huge part of that. Mid-teens I moved away from our new-found faith, leaving home at 15. I moved around a lot after that, living in various hostels across London for three years until I got more permanent housing.

Creatively, I have always had a passion for the arts. From GCSE Art and BTEC Art and Design, much of my influence stems from my mother’s love for interior design. Our home was impeccably decorated with the latest trends alongside cultural objects from visits back home to Jamaica. Flocked, demasked and zebra stripe wallpaper, bamboo furniture, Chesterfield sofa, gold-framed four poster bed - all things that are in the periphery of my memories.

A pivotal point in my creative journey was seeing Yinka Shonibare’s Wind Sculpture at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2013. I remember thinking, he’s Black, I can relate to the work. It kind of gave me permission to pursue art in a way that is culturally correct for me and not what is perceived as fine art. It really was indicative of how important it is to see yourself and cultural diversity in spaces of influence.

Today, I am coming to the end of my MFA in Fine Art, partaking in my first public sculpture at the Eden Project, engaging in various community boards and artistic networks, and creating work for my Platform Residency at Site Gallery.

The Right to Opacity Blue Ether series 3
The The Right to Opacity Blue Ether series
The Right to Opacity Blue Ether series 3

Where do you draw inspiration from when creating a new piece or collection?

Using Pinterest as an image index, starting with a search of the literal translation of the concept, and using the zoom function to find computer-generated associations.

Decisions are made based on colour - blue being prolific in my work but generally working from a colour palette I refer to as “colours of the Caribbean” - oranges, yellows, gold and magenta.

The forms and textures I am drawn to are composed of personal memories, my surroundings and underrepresented forms that are categorised as ‘other than artworks’, aesthetically evaluated as craftsmanship rather than artistically and/or anthropologically.

Negritude No 1
Negritude No 9 Untitled bronze

You were recently involved in Home by Ronan McKenzie's Celebrating Joy campaign, alongside fellow Sheffield artists Patty B and Anisa Nuh-Ali. Can you tell us about the concept behind your contribution?

It was made from collagraph-printed braided hair with collage, scanned and patterned digitally. I was playing with theories of multiplicity - does it fade into the background, or give prominence to the subject? In my case, Black female identity and the politics around our hair.

The intention was to interrupt the space to offer that feeling I had when I went to YSP, and an unapologetic, uncompromised Black aesthetic. There’s a level of acceptance that needs to be had with the wallpaper. It’s deliberately bright, contrasting, a bit much and loud in some people’s eyes but so am I! How does society deal with that?

Ritual i
Ritual iv
Ritual series

Your work encompasses a variety of mediums including print, photography and sculpture. What are your considerations when choosing the medium, or mediums, for a specific work? Is there one medium that you favour over the others? If so, why?

I always begin my material experimentation in the print room. The orderliness of the printing process allows me to focus on the material’s qualities, texture and colour. It creates a space for subjectivity in my decision-making - embossed collagraph printing allowing for the extraction of texture and surface manipulation as well as depth of layered colour, which becomes unpredictable the more I repeat the printing process

Once I have exhausted the colour, compositional and textural experimentation in print, I scan the prints into digital form. This space I find contradictory to my desire for form and texture as it flattens the work, but delivers and is necessary for colour, pattern and visual manifestation of visual layering.

Unable to avoid the flattening which occurs through digital processing I move back into the physical, extracting forms and texture from my print and digital experimentation. Becoming another collaging process as before but in the form of a tangible object, changing method to sculptural form through bronze lost wax casting.

As with printing, bronze casting is another process-laden technique. The process allows me to manipulate and construct but not control the outcome, which in turn frees-up my creativity, making space for intuitive mark-making and decision-making.

I really don’t have a preference. I don’t see one without the other. Each step is an expression of the same thought or idea. It’s really an extraction process, each one delivering on a different level.

The Right to Opacity
The Right to Opacity Black series

Big congratulations on being selected as one of Site Gallery's artists-in-residence. How is the residency shaping up so far? Any clues about what we can look forward to seeing from you over the next two years?

Thank you! The momentum is beginning to build - visiting the Aggregate exhibition at the Freelands Foundation was a great motivator. I have just moved into my first studio space at Exchange Place within Yorkshire Artspace so I’m super excited to settle into the support the programme provides.

I am currently researching ‘Horticultural Appropriation’. The research is so juicy so the work is taking its time to surface but It will feature throughout my two years. I don’t see my process of print, photography and sculpture changing but I have been archiving film footage for years and hope to use the time to develop this in some way.

by Felicity Jackson (she/her)
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