Born in the UK, based in LA and boasting a CV that reads like the ultimate creative bucket-list, artist Kesh is making her name known for all the right reasons. Counting some of the most influential music producers and creative icons among her friends and regularly asked to curate, style and DJ the world’s hippest events, she has all the makings of the next indie ‘it’ girl. But as Portable discovered, despite almost 16,000 twitter fans and more than 12,000 instagram followers, the real Kesh is a modest, genuine, intensely motivated 25-year-old who cares little for fame and everything for producing original and iconic artwork. On the cusp of her first show in LA on November 14, Fiona Killackey caught up with Kesh in the home/studio she’s labeled, ‘the cave’ to discuss making art, keeping friends and the power of respect.
Portable: What is ‘the cave’ exactly?
Kesh: The Cave is my home. The Cave is my studio. It’s a box in a building, in a city, in a country, on a planet where I bring my ideas to life. It’s a little piece of my imagination in solid form; white wall, white floors, white ceiling, white light. My preferred surrounding. It’s a place for me to work and a place for me to relax. A place for friends to visit. A place for clients to view my latest work. The Cave is a creative project in itself as it’s an extension of my work and also an early form of my ideal existence.
P: You moved to LA some time ago. What’s life been like for you out there? How does it compare to your life in London?
Kesh: I love Los Angeles. It has helped me become whole. It has helped me understand what it is I am supposed to do in my life. Getting started in any city is always a task, but for me it has flowed naturally. I’ve been here two years and things are where they should be. Nothing real happens overnight and if it does it’s gone tomorrow. I’ve put the work in here and now I am reaping the rewards.
When it comes to comparison there is no point. London was my first love. [It was] my first experience of living life in a big city. I moved there at 17 and haven’t gone home since. I made the mistake of talking it down at a time when I was in a more negative mindset, but as I’ve developed I’ve come to realize that it’s an incredible place that holds many amazing memories and a city where I will make many more. I cannot compare the two as they both are special to me in different ways.
P: You seem to be friends with a lot of recognized people; Kanye, Jeremy Scott, Dev Hynes. How have you come into contact with these people and how do you keep grounded when you seem to be talked about as a muse and photographed by numerous magazines/ stylists/ influencers?
Kesh: Certain energies and personalities are drawn to each other. I’ve known those people since I was 19 years old. All met under different circumstances, but with undeniable connections that’s lasted through the years. All of my friends share the same traits; talent, ambition and intelligence. Some of them just happen to have already made it to the top, whereas, like myself, the others are still on their way.
In terms of staying grounded, I am a huge believer in respect. You respect me. I respect you. This personal rule is not for a certain calibre of person. It is for everybody I encounter. I think the way that you interact with other human beings is a key factor in whether you stay grounded or not. So whether I’m constantly being photographed or being told I’m iconic by icons it doesn’t affect my perspective on reality.
P: It’s not easy making a living from creativity. What have been the harder parts of getting yourself/your work out there in recent years and how have you kept up your motivation?
Kesh: My motivation has fluctuated over the years, especially in a time where I had chosen an alternate path and lost my way. Now that I am whole again, my motivation is at an all-time high. Success is the only option for all other options are dismal. I have no formal education to fall back on, no rich parents to pay my way, no ability to work for others and be told what to do. So therefore my motivation is the love of my work and the fear of failure. My lifelong goal is ultimate freedom. To do what I want, when I want, how I want.
There are have been hard times and moments of ultimate despair, but that’s life. I won’t complain or wallow in sadness. I just move forward. There are a few artists that I gain strength from; not from their work but from their journeys. To know that some of the greatest artists came from nothing or went through hell is reassuring. It reminds me that I can achieve anything I want to, no matter where I am from or what I have been through.
P: A lot of people would assume you started out on MySpace and the digital sphere seems something that’s always been running parallel to your success. How important are fans and social media to your art/success?
Kesh: Contrary to belief I did not start out on Myspace. I had some magazine features under my belt before I opened an account, but Myspace was an aid in gaining a loyal following. It helped me display my work to a large number of people and led to the start of my public evolution. Social media is important to me for I am a child of the digital age. The internet has been in my life since I was young and it is only natural for me to use it for all its benefits.
P: What do you do in your downtime?
Kesh: I rarely have downtime. I have times when I am not in my studio working. Then I am most probably exploring in the forest, swimming in a lake or sitting on the edge of a cliff. I like extreme nature away from my digital existence. I wouldn’t call it downtime though. Alternate time, maybe.
P: We’ve watched your fashion/style progress from crazy colorful loud London girl (think first time we met in 2006), to black and white and then now where it’s all virtually black and gothic-like in nature. Obviously everyone grows and changes and fashion/style is just a part of this. Has there been anything in particular that has influenced your own change?
Kesh: People tend to comment on my change of style a lot. The way I see it was that was then and this is now. The life I was living in London in 2006 was very different to the one I am living here in Los Angeles in 2012. I was involved in a movement which now, looking back, may seem very lame to some but at the time was very real to us. Color and extremity was part of the message and it was one we delivered with authenticity. Six years later I am 25 years old and am purely focused on my own work. My aesthetic strengthened and developed and in the process I discovered solid traits of my work which have carried though over the years and that I have chosen to represent in my physical form. You take one look at my work and one look at me and it fits. We come as one.
P: Who or what inspires your art?
Kesh: My relationship with technology inspires my work. The idea of alternate realities and highly developed humans are also key factors in my way of thought which is then naturally applied to my work.
P: … And your style?
Kesh: My day to day style is actually based on survival. Prepared for disaster. Big boots for walking. Stretch fabrics for climbing. Thick jackets for warmth. All-black for night movements. I am ready. Preparation is key.
P: One thing we’ve noticed about you is just how ‘normal’ you are and how you seem (the times we’ve met) quite modest about your talents/achievements. What advice would you give to someone who may look at your career and think, ‘I don’t have the balls to get there’?
Kesh: Bragging is for those that need approval. I need no approval from others so showing off is not for me. I do my work and I share my journey with those who are interested. My following is growing and I appreciate anyone that is supportive of what I do. Modesty comes naturally. It is not in my nature to be big-headed.
For advice to others I can only say…
Have no fear.
Do not compromise.
Follow your vision.
Take no bullshit.
That’s it. No matter what your aesthetic, message or direction these rules can be applied to anyone.
Kesh: I love music. I cannot create without music. Most of my closest friends make music. So it only makes sense that I occasionally apply my work to music. Art and music have gone hand in hand for decades. It’s just a natural combination. I work with artists like Natalia Kills because I believe in her. She is not a pre-packaged idiot and I admire her lyrical content and drive. I don’t work with anybody I don’t believe in. No matter how much money a record label waves in front of my face I won’t do it unless I’m into it. I admire many musicians and will maybe work with others if it’s the right fit.
P: What’s next for you?
Kesh: The next big step. The next chapter. My first solo exhibition. On my 26th birthday. November 14th 2012. In Los Angeles. A show I have been working on for several months. My ultimate achievement. That’s what’s next. And I can’t wait.
P: Finally, what’s your most prized possession?
Kesh: My cat. She is my everything. My computer comes a very close second. If I lost either I would be destroyed.