Check out the interview between Ada Palmer-Jones, our Student President, and  International BA (Hons) Graphic Design student Nik Raisa Azen as part of the SU Student Spotlight series...

What do you want people to know about your practice?

My practice explores and confronts very personal experiences and personal beliefs, through hand-illustrated and digital media. A lot of my personal artwork reflects my ongoing struggle with mental health and feeling displaced both here in Leeds, and in my home country. My practice is essentially my expression. It’s to create a safe space in my head, to calm me down, to communicate my social and political beliefs. Oh, and lots of colour! I love colour.

Where is your happy place/place for inspiration?

My happy place, or I would call it my safe space, would be anywhere I can get sunlight, more specifically in my room and in my bed with the sun pouring through the windows! The sun not only motivates me, but it helps a lot with my coping abilities and allows me to be more in control of my day.

Image: Courtesy of Nik Raisa Azen

Is it important for your practice to have a meaning/message?

I believe it is, whether it’s trying to convey some personal thoughts or a general school of thought or form of activism, my practice is often very motivated by the social and political climate I am in.

What book do you recommend most to others?

Highly recommend either 'All the Light We Cannot See' by Anthony Doerr, or 'Salt to the Sea' by Ruta Sepetys. Both books are historical novels with romance surrounding teenagers and young adults. I am a sucker for a good historical romance.

In terms of your creative journey, which lesson has been hardest to learn?

The hardest lesson has been to produce work through an immensely stressful and depressing time. Having to create or design pieces is extremely stressful and unfulfilling when there is no drive to go on through the day or even get out of bed. I continue to push through this, it’s still such a hard lesson I’m getting used to. But with the support system I have I know that I’ll be okay and I know my work was created the best it could’ve been at the time.

Image: Courtesy of Nik Raisa Azen

Who inspires you?

My mom, dad, and my two amazing sisters. Everything I do I want to do to make them proud. My family pushes me and inspires me to create as they have always supported my direction in art. Apart from them, many screen print artists and illustrators that work within the music industry such as Dave Kloc really inspire me to try push boundaries in my work! Outside of art, my inspirations come from well-known dancers and choreographers. I'm a dancer as well as a creative, and when I can’t create art I dance. Dancers such as Aliya Janell, Jade Chynoweth, Julian Deguz and Josh Killacky.

What artist do you want to tell people about?

Apart from Dave Kloc who has amazing illustrative screen-printed posters, Yeaaah! Studio is an amazing artist who works with screen prints as well! Both of these artists work amazingly well with colour.
Most important medium you always use. Pencil. I always start with a pencil to sketch out my ideas and concepts or even just to draw for fun. I think it’s the most important medium despite how all my work is digitalised.

Favourite art gallery.

I don’t have a favourite art gallery, as I don’t quite like art galleries at all. They make me feel extremely anxious! However, I do quite like galleries that focus on illustrative work and prints!

Image: Courtesy of Nik Raisa Azen

Favourite place to eat in Leeds.

Zaap Thai Street Food. Possibly the best authentic Thai restaurant you can get in the North (or the whole of the UK). Its ambience and aesthetic are so accurately reminiscent of Thailand it’s a wonderful atmosphere to be in.

Life hack/student hack.

Dry your clothes and ‘attempt’ to get rid of creases by laying it on the radiator; this was something I would’ve never done until I met this guy who’s a really good friend of mine now in Leeds.

Favourite facility at Uni.

As much as I love the Print Room, I’d give it to the Digital Print room. James, the Academic Computing Support, is always so helpful and has to manage the entire room almost by himself throughout the whole year. I have so much respect for him.

Society you have always wanted to start.

An Asian society as I feel the university is getting larger with its diversity in Asian students. I felt very lost having little to no Asian friends and this frustrated me a lot. I felt very alien and wanted to connect with people who understood me.

Medium you can’t live without.

Coloured pencils and pastels! I love working with colour even though I haven’t created a colour pencil / pastel piece in ages, I dearly miss it.