Khushna Sulaman-Butt

Born: 23 June 1995
Education: BFA Fine Art (2016), Univeristy of Oxford
Experience: Artist-in-Residence, Kensington Aldridge Academy (Current)

My artwork seeks to confront the controversial aesthetics of the female body, with further exploration into the subversive exchange of power latent in gender, societal expectation and stereotype. Channeled through a creative process that involves painting from original photography, I’m interested in putting the viewer in positions of dominance or submission, executed through challenging depictions of individuals and the relationships we establish with them. I try to allow the spectator’s gaze to create assumptions about a piece on first sight, thereby exposing tensions rooted in our own preconceptions of identity and culture.


I’m drawn to the starker moments of modern life - moments that I believe are best captured through photography. Using this medium allows me to compose a visual language that references contemporary forms of expression in their most authentic pose. My preference is to then translate these photographs into paintings: this allows for continuation of thought, not only from object to picture, but picture to picture. Though my techniques are founded in traditional application, I want to further push the boundaries of paint as an evocative and confrontational medium. My ideas are inspired by Guy Debord’s ‘The Society of the Spectacle’; I like to capture the sense of individuals who might exist in relation to the spectacle of mass-media.


My approach to painting is primarily phenomenological: I’m interested in trying to render the subjects within my paintings so that they might slip in and out of focus, as if caught in a blurred rush of movement. I focus on painterly methods with dynamic compositions, with focused investigation into alternating forms of perception, structure, material and instability. I believe there’s a possible connection between subject and the media which reveals the conscious male gaze in particular, highlighting issues of sexual and racial difference (akin to themes addressed in Michael Haneke’s ‘Funny Games’ and Manet’s ‘Olympia’).


I favour compositional tensions between my subjects - often painted in groups - with the overall aim to create stark tensions in their rawest form. An example of this would be my painting Society, which, together with a calculated system of layering and stripping of colour, portrays a rehabilitated experience for the sitters, and potentially for the viewer too. This ongoing interplay between individuals within my work and viewers outside them is a theme to which I often find myself returning, and would like to make this a cornerstone of my development.