News / 30 Mar 2023

“Art is for everybody,” Keith Khan in conversation with Creative Networks and Leeds 2023

Creative Networks

Creative Networks and LEEDS 2023 welcomed Keith Khan to chat about his work, his background, his career journey and the progress of his work with LEEDS 2023.

Creative Networks is Leeds Arts University’s major professional events programme with talks from high profile speakers from across the creative industries who entertain, challenge and inspire.

During his talk Keith encouraged conversations about his work and the creative journey of an artist, particularly focusing on creating community work that is accessible for everyone.

Keith Khan makes performances, animation film, drawing and textiles. Born in London, of Indo-Caribbean heritage, his career began designing carnival in Trinidad and the UK.

“The creative journey is a very difficult one,” he reflects. From his roots as an artist, it then took him 8 years to segue from working in senior management, to being an artist with an exhibition again, which he says he finds more interesting: “I’m considered a new artist again.” 

As part of My LEEDS 2023, a major community-led LEEDS 2023 project, Keith Khan worked closely with communities across Leeds to develop unique artworks for all 33 wards.

Keith has always worked with communities, reflecting on being an art student making costumes for the Notting Hill carnival in the 1980’s. He created costumes for a community of Black nurses, and reflects that he’s always been “keen to understand how people contribute to culture.”

He’s passionate about creating diverse work, and for him, diversity means “Art is for everybody, not just the middle classes.”

Keith links his layered identities’ from his families’ movements within the colonial indentured system; his ancestral links to India; being raised in diverse London; through to contemporary phenomenon relating to cultural confusion; resulting in projects highly personal projects, often presented in different locations and for an audience as diverse as himself.

“Cultures are by no means fixed,” he notes, “and there is more than one point of view.”

His practice within drawings and animations are based on working with universal themes, and feature a parred down symbols and ciphers drawn from the world around us, in an eclectic way. Elements are derived from emojis, and pop culture and Chittara (Karnataka) and Taino (Caribbean) art are meshed together to create fresh images that are sometimes animated, to embody a personalty. He juxtaposes sophisticated two-dimensional structures, in three-dimensional space. The work is normally presented in a limited or reduced palette. The latest pieces are shamanic, with vibrating gods and goddesses bristling with spirituality and life.

Thank you to Keith for taking the time to talk to Creative Networks and Leeds2023 about his fascinating career.

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