PRO PORTRAIT: Visual Artist Natasha Mistry

Natasha Mistry is a visual artist from the UK , graduating in Fine Art from the Manchester School of Art. She settled in London for 5 years, working in West End theatres, and in the corporate entertainment industry. In 2008, she randomly decided to move to South Korea and experience life in another culture. Natasha spends her time between Korea, London and Cambridgeshire. She has exhibited her work in London, Jeju Island and the South Korean mainland. FIVE THOT columnist Joshua Lorenzo Newett recently asked her a few probing questions: 

Joshua: As an artist what inspires you?

Natasha: The human mind and heart, nature, creation, the spirit and energy running through all things. Knowledge that we are a small but important part in a very grand universe.  Stars, Light, hope, change, surprise, spontaneity, absurdities, dreams, play, magic, meditation, dance, movement/the feeling of freedom; travel, diversity, culture, children, myths and stories, music, psychology, etc.

Joshua:What came first your painting or your photography?

Natasha: Painting came with breathing. I picked up a paintbrush, and also starting dancing at the age of three. I evolved from an introverted, troubled child into a child who could express her inner world more. “You said more through your drawings, than you did through your mouth.” A direct quote from my mother.

I studied Fine Art painting at art school. I’ve always painted. Photography has been something I have been interested in for a while, but only really got into two years ago.

Joshua: What are the strength and weakness of each medium? 

Natasha: Painting and photography fulfill different requirements in me. Painting is a very physical and sensual process. I adore the texture and sheen of the paint, the connection I feel to the paintbrush, the graininess of the canvas. To paint requires a lot of physical, emotional and mental strength. I have started to work on a large scale, so I can really throw myself into the canvas more. I love that feeling of being totally immersed in something. It’s like being swallowed up by your own creation. The down sides of painting? It requires a lot of time, space and equipment. Plus, socially I always have a lot to lose. I always end up resembling the caricature of a frustrated artist, locking myself away, ending a relationship, forgetting to eat and sleep and gassing myself on white spirit.

Photography allows me to capture the things that interest me in a more immediate and spontaneous way. I’m not the kind of person that will spend ages framing a photo. It’s quick, it’s captured, I move on. The downside is that I have collected thousands of images, most of which still need editing, filing and storing. I keep saying a want a simple life, but in the digital age. You invest in the camera, the Mac, the countless hard drives, and whatever else, the whole kit.

Joshua: Groove magazine recently used your photos for a piece about a documentary on Shamanism on Jeju Island. Can you tell us more about the documentary?

Natasha: I lived on Jeju Island for 19 months, and worked on a documentary called “At Search For Spirits on the Island of Rocks, Wind and Women.” The filmmaker endeavored to document the traditional myths that have been passed down through the generations. These myths are now, sadly in danger of being lost as the storytellers themselves are in their nineties. So the shamanistic culture native to the island is in peril. It should be a great film.

Joshua: You’ve lived for a time as an expat in South Korea. Why South Korea and what was it like?

Natasha: I have lived in three different places in South Korea, and each time was totally different from the last experience. I decided on South Korea, as I couldn’t make up my mind where to go. I liked the idea of Japan or China or anywhere nearby. I had been living for 5 years in London and I had reached that point where I desperately wanted to travel. I had to escape. After a bit of googling , I decided on South Korea. I liked the fact at the time it was less travelled and I didn’t entirely know what to expect.  

Joshua: The information age is rapidly changing the way artists interact with not only their art but the market. What changes to you see for painters in the future? How about photographers?

Natasha: I see more artist driven sales and less formal agencies/agents for visual artists. Anyone can put their work online and market it themselves. It’s not easy, but with a laptop, camera/video, a blog, facebook/website/ etc anything is possible. I see more artists coming together and supporting each other, working together, sharing their contacts - rather than giving 40/50% commissions to galleries or art marketing companies. I see more online “virtual” exhibitions, with more opportunities to hear from the artists. I would like art schools to teach business skills to artists! Having good work is all well and good, but knowing how to market it and make money is another matter. It’s a tough job having the time to create/produce/market and sell your work, but through working with others in the same boat, more can be achieved.

Joshua: Who are your biggest artistic influences? Why?

Natasha: It’s hard to really think of people that influence me. My biggest artistic influences are children, The Outsider Artists, Jean Dubuffet, Alex Grey and other such visionary artists. The abstract expressionists, Rothko, Carl Jung and his work with the unconscious. The spiritual and psychological writings of Dr Jean Benedict Raffa. Bjork, of course, just an all round amazing hub of creativity.

Joshua: Are there any artists, or styles of art, that you simply loathe? If so why?

Natasha: I have to admit I’m not a fan of artists that imitate other styles, without finding their own. I think art should be natural, and not forced into a style for the sake of fashion. However, fair play if an artist is supporting themselves solely on their art. I can never criticize anyone who has achieved that.

Joshua: Was there ever a time when you thought about giving up on art?

Natasha: There was a time in my life where I got this cool job in corporate entertainment agency in London. I stayed there for a couple of years, and whilst thoroughly enjoying the work, I found myself becoming less and less able to express myself artistically. I started getting severe migranes and other physical aliments in my body. I knew the time had come to quit, and start doing what I was meant to be doing again – even if it meant financial instability. 

Joshua: What direction are you going to be taking your art in the future?

Natasha: My painting has mostly been a form of meditation/play/ and of course self- expression. I paint intuitively and access another cerebral zone, which is kept dormant during “the day.” In Prinzhorn’s “Bildnerei der Geisteskranke (Artistry of the mentally Ill) he presented a detailed analysis that shed light over the creative process. I can see what areas of the creative process I have been drawn to, but now I would like to combine it to other areas such as symbolic and sacred art/ sacred geometry and more planed and premeditated ways to communicate some other ideas that have been brewing.

With photography, I am looking at taking portraits for a while – maybe with more of a surreal edge. Along with some travelling in the pipeline, I’ll be taking pictures of subjects that inspire me along my journey - whatever they maybe. Some light relief from the totally self-absorbing nature of my painting! 

Joshua: What advice would you give to aspiring artists? 

Natasha: Don’t worry about fashions or trends. Believe in your own unique voice. Just do it. Don’t stop. If you keep doing it, somewhere along the line things will happen for you.

Joshua: Tigers, Bratwurst, or the Beach?

Natasha: I’m a bad vegetarian who adores the smell of bratwurst, and I’ve overcooked my self on the beach for years….so tigers. I also have recurring dreams about tigers all the time. I wonder what Jung says about that. 

You can buy Natasha’s original works, as well as prints on fine Art paper, or prints on canvas. And you can view some of her photography here.

Columnist Joshua Lorenzo Newett is a novelist, entrepreneur, and English professor at The Korean Naval Academy in Jinhae, South Korea. Saving Bill Murray, his second novel, was recently published here.



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