Self-described as “brown, queer and feminist”, Katy Jalili is a socially engaged artist and writer. Currently completing her final year in performance design and practice at Central Saint Martins, Jalili has already participated in several shows with her latest one showcased at London’s Barbican Centre.
Raised in a creative environment by her painter mother, Katy has always been attracted to art. Originally from Isfahan, a city in Iran famous for its art and culture, she moved to the UK when she was thirteen. However, it was only when she reached her twenties that she decided she wanted to embrace her creative flair and make a living out of art.
Katy’s work is unsettling and raw. The female body is explored in its wholeness. The male gaze is shunned and the female nude is reclaimed – naked women come in all shapes and sizes and have body hair, in other word’s they are natural bodies. Female anatomy, menstruation and queerness are also very present in Katy’s work.
“I’m very much inspired by my own body and how it feels and looks. However, I also get inspiration from the boundaries set in society for what my body can and cannot do. For example boundaries that tend to stop us from exploring our body in a biological sense and sexuality.”
Katy’s work also explores broader issues: The young artist focuses her research on women and race in contemporary performing art’s whilst examining the meaning of feminist art in activism. She is interested in discovering borderlines between Fine Arts and Performing Arts.
“I think realising how oppression as a woman and a queer person of colour is stored in my body, makes me use my art to express the complexities and joys of being the person I am. I’m also hoping to give comfort and inspiration to young people who are going through what I’m going through, and to show them that they do have the power. Looking at artists who I could identify with gave me the courage to make the work I make today. Representation is everything.”
The result is art that mocks social oppression which Katy translates through the meaning of being part of a marginalised group.
“I like using dark humour in my work. I want the audience to laugh and then suddenly feel disgusted or uneasy. I feel like my art is most successful when people look at it and go “that’s so uncomfortable”. Being marginalised and being a woman living in patriarchy is uncomfortable and I want to give the audience a taste of what it feels like.”
The young artist fights for equal opportunities in the creative industry. Having experienced intersectional failures, she points the finger to systematic oppression due to her background, race and gender. This, however, doesn’t mean she’s thrown in the towel, far from it, it’s made her even more passionate about her role to fight and diversify the art world.
Katy’s ambitions include leading an independent Arts Collective which allows a more diverse and accessible environment for developing artists. She is the Women’s Officier at University of the Arts London and the Content Developer at Shades of Noir.
“I believe presenting my queer and brown female body in my work is a political act. It says, I’m here and I exist even if you don’t want to notice me. it says if even if you fail to notice me I’m going to exist in power and not give up.”
With special thanks to Katy Jalili for her artistic insight and inspirations.
Written by Jessica Leclercq
Edited by Christina Wright