Stalked: Zadie Xa, Artist

20 April 2015

Zadie Xa is a London based Canadian artist whose work explores identity, desire and personal fantasy. After completing an MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art 2014, Zadie now shows her work in renowned galleries such as Studio Voltaire. I caught up with her at her latest exhibition to talk about her work and love for fashion.

Why did you decide to be an artist?

I became interested in making art at around 7 years old and kept up with it throughout my teenage years. I had always toyed with the idea of becoming an artist when I was very young but it wasn´t until I was 19 and started my BFA that I really set my mind on pursuing a career in fine art. There was never a definitive reason that motivated me to become an artist, rather it was my excitement about making objects and investigating ideas through visual cues that made me think, okay, I can do this. 


What influences your work and how much of what you love personally do you translate into your artwork?

Like most artists, I am influenced by a whole range of things. Conceptually I am very interested in identity construction, personal narrative and the immigrant experience. Visually, I look towards fashion for colour, shape and surface but more importantly I am fascinated with how clothing and style deeply influences the way people choose to socially position themselves. North American hip-hop culture is very important to me both personally and as an artist.Originally hip-hop was as a tool of social resistance, to speak out on racial and class inequality. I am invested in many of the fundamental principals embedded within its culture. I am also interested in hip-hop style and how its sensibility has been coopted by the European industry and integrated into the mainstream. Its influence is visible throughout my practice, seen as visual codes, over arching themes and within the titles of my works.


How would you describe your personal style?

When I was 11 years old I was obsessed with Kris Kross, Aaliyah, Queen Latifah, Nia Long and TLC, this manifested itself into a lot of baggy jeans, basketball jerseys, baseball jackets and bandanas. As I got a bit older I definitely tried to emulate late 90´s, early 2000´s Jennifer Lopez. I wore fur coats, Timberland heels and door-knocker earrings (even in the wood working workshop in undergrad- FAIL). These days I am more relaxed and like to mix it up, sweat shirts, skirts, baggy pants and high heels. I generally think about colour and texture when putting together an outfit or sometimes will base my outfit on that person or thing. For example, I might be thinking a lot about 90´s Wu Tang and pull my inspiration from Method Man or maybe I´ll think about someone like Emmanuel Alt. Even though I don´t try to emulate her style, just having her in my mind will give me motivation to step my game up. I will say that I don´t have one definitive style, sometimes I like bright obnoxious colours, while other days I like all black (“black on black on black”! – KanyeWest)


In what way do you think fashion connects with today's art and what is the future of this relationship?


I know what I am about to say is very obvious, but the Internet has made it so easy to image hunt and this has allowed artists to voraciously search for pictures all day. I know many artists who look to garments and fashion advertisements for inspiration. It´s a cyclical relationship between the two, I see as many artists riffing off the retail display strategies used in boutiques and high street shops as I do fashion designers who use art installation inspired window displays. But I guess ultimately I think the two meet together because of both discipline’s need to express ideas through visual mediums. Maybe the future relationship of art and fashion will mimic the absorption of digital technology into some contemporary art practices. Rather than artists and designers simply working collaboratively to make collections perhaps some artists will choose to use actual garment making as integral parts of their practice as a way to comment on social issues (a la Lucy Orta) or to create non functional clothing (i.e. Franz Erhard Walther). I do think that the line between fashion design and contemporary art for some artists/designers can be blurred and straddle both practices. 



Who are your favourite designers?

Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada, Dries Van Noten, Raf Simons, Christopher Kane, in that order. 



Where do you shop?

I shop everywhere. I grew up on thrift stores so I love the hunt and thoroughly enjoy rummaging the racks and piles of junk at TK Maxx just to find a bargain. Other than that, second hand stores and eBay is my go to if I have an inkling for something that I don´t quite know but feel like it exists somewhere, something ridiculous like a neon Coogi dress, 90´s Versace silk shirts and of course Jordans’. And If I want, and can, treat myself: Dover Street Market.



Five items you can't live without?

Black eyeliner and eyebrow powder (this is an actual must, I might actually die without my eyes drawn on)

Stella McCartney long baseball coat (I can wear pyjamas underneath and as soon as I throw that coat on, no one is the wiser) 

Margiela black leather hightops (comfy aka lazy yet still stylish)

Red Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama Neverfull bag (gift from my husband a few years ago, #sentimental)


Margiela black shearling neck warmer (it sounds very nerdy but it´s also been a life saver in London)

STALK THE STALKER ON

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