Hasani Sahlehe

Atlanta, GA

On his start:

I've always loved art. It has always been a part of my life to some capacity. When I was young I would draw a lot. My favorite things to draw were cartoon characters (DBZ) and wrestlers. I also enjoyed cutting things up. Every morning before class I would go to my aunt's classroom and use MS Paint on her computer. However, the earliest thing I remember making is a drawing of a giraffe for one of my preschool teachers.

On his artistic style:

My goal is to make work that is as experiential as possible. Although the work comes from the same context, the pieces all have to be seen with fresh lenses. Some pieces are meant to be serious, others funny, while others explore the practice of painting itself. Spontaneous, humorous, timeless.  I use color combinations that trigger various emotional responses in me. The colors can be used to set the mood but, there are other factors to be considered such as texture, scale, and presentation to name a few.

On his inspiration:

A lot of my inspiration is drawn from history. I'm drawn to objects that have lots of scratches or marks on them. I believe these marks tell a story. It's similar to when you notice that someone has a scar and there's a part of you that wonders how they got it.

The first artwork he ever sold:

The first piece that I ever sold was a pastel portrait of a classmate I completed in High School. My uncle offered me $200 for it. My Family has always been very supportive of me.

On noteworthy projects:

I was a part of a collaborative project with SCAD and the Georgia Dome. Two other artists and I transformed an old school bus into the "#VIBEBUS." We were helping to advertise a huge Country Music tour. We actually got to paint the bus inside of the stadium. I find that cool because they will be demolishing the Dome soon to prepare for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and I feel like we've become a part of that history in some way. I recently learned that this project earned a 2016 AMY Award.

What has been the most memorable response to your work?

When I was in college, one of my favorite professors called a painting of mine, "One of the best paintings that he has ever seen from a student." He said that during a critique. I was really encouraged by that. That's not something that you would hear often. This was in response to my painting, "Ooze and Awe."

On the challenges of being an artist:

The biggest challenge I face as an artist would have to be overcoming fear and all of the symptoms that stem from it. Doubt, complacency etc… The only way to overcome fear is to grow through it. Recognize that it is there and realize the decisions that it causes you to make. That way you can use it to your own advantage by purposefully doing things that you are uncomfortable with doing in your work. A general rule I like to follow is, "if what I'm about to do either makes me laugh or afraid to ruin the painting then I'm doing it."

Who is your favorite artist?

Jean-Michel Basquiat is my favorite Artist. I enjoy his spontaneity, authenticity, and cleverness.

On current project:

The theme carries over elements from other bodies of work that I have completed in the past. Those elements include surface quality and the concepts of documenting and preserving information. It's a mash-up of all of those things. Throughout my new series, I have been interested in monuments and the way that they are used to commemorate different events throughout history, so you will see a little of that. There are abstracted forms, some appropriation, and a bit of text usage. One thing that will be key is the way that the work will be presented.

The current body of work is centered around the relay of information. I've moved away from making my hand dominant in these series, so there is as little information given as possible. It's like walking into an artist's studio and only seeing their mood board, then trying to make sense of it all. I'm really studying the audience's role in the exhibition experience. The directness of the work is inspired by the age we live in. I'm trying to incorporate the same response we get from viewing things like news headlines and memes into the work.

What is your dream project?

I would like to create an exhibition that incorporates performance, sound and of course painting. I'm not sure yet what the concept will be but I'm sure that it will be moving.

What is a motto or theme you live your life by?

A lazy man works twice

For more on Hasani, please visit www.hasanisahlehe.com and follow on social media at @hansanisahlehe