A Philosophical Pop-Artist With Pizzazz!

It was in Singapore in 2011 when I first met Ketna Patel to feature her home-cum-studio in Inside Outside, a leading design magazine. After the interview, I looked up my online thesaurus and picked up synonyms that described the pop-artist’s work and surroundings. Vibrant, animated, flamboyant, luminous, dazzling, brilliant, alive, pulsating, and energetic. Bubbly, vivacious, and intelligent summed up her personality.

Almost a decade later, her present abode across the globe in London, could still be described by the same adjectives. I would only add one more. Pizzazz!

Over to Ketna as she talks about what stage of her life she is at, and her art. The accompanying visuals showcase her L-shaped, two-floored, 3800 sq. ft. house wrapped around an L-shaped garden.

Ketna’s eclectic living room where the Art can be sat on!
 Dining Room with a view: ‘Talking heads’ by Artist Jon Homewood; made from recycled Japanese soda cans.

“I am a global gypsy with no real roots. Having lived in six different countries over three continents (Africa, Europe and Asia), my internal and external worlds are a constantly revolving kaleidoscope of observations and impressions.  

To date, I have either spent most of my life on the move, or with other people – hosting and co-habiting in a commune in Singapore, travelling incessantly within India, living out of a suitcase in a hotel or as a guest in someone else’s house. Now that I have finally made a nest for myself, I suspect that the present period and possibly the next year is going to be a time for staying still, unpacking all of my above-mentioned experiences, and taking stock of all the ‘madness’ around me. With increased self-awareness, this is a time to look at the world anew.

Entrance hallway kinetic bronze sculpture by Gabriel Barredo and Tears of Milk painting by Ketna
The entrance hallway showcases kinetic bronze sculpture by Gabriel Barredo at right, and ‘Tears of Milk’ painting by Ketna Patel.

It has surprised me to realise that deep inside, I am a real homebody, and that the sheer grounding borne from almost no travelling the past two years has allowed for a much bigger internal conversation to articulate itself. During the lockdown, I’ve learnt to become a ‘best friend’ to myself, revelling in the gentle solitude that enables me to replay previously muted conversations in my head. It has also been a huge realisation for me to finally understand a weird phenomenon called PRIVACY! 

Two years ago, I moved to London after 25 years in Singapore, Malaysia, and India. I came back full circle to the same house I had lived in with my grandmother. She is no longer on this planet, but I often wonder what she would say if she were to return and see what I have done to her place. She would ask what happened to the beige carpets and the brown furniture, shades that depress me. She would also ask for a pair of sunglasses to cope with the brilliance of the technicolour!

Instead, there is life-affirming colour energy everywhere, human endeavour visible in the flawed (and therefore beautiful) objects that are recycled or handmade and art stories brimming with irony and irreverence. 

Yellow kitchen installation and a funky bus ride

I dance in the bedroom, recharge my batteries by growing vegetables in the garden, collect my thoughts whilst washing the dishes, heal my internal wounds standing under the shower and refresh my quotas of courage by reading some pretty amazing books.

Whether it’s my sofas or the art on the walls, I am surrounded by the visual poetry of stories I have captured and retold…. Indeed, the studio has literally become alive, resonating the ‘song’ of my life to date. With all of this, I finally understand that adage ‘Home Sweet Home’!

Colours make me feel alive! I am also naturally attracted to all things handmade as opposed to something extruded through a machine. Whether it’s my clothes or the rugs, the embedded energy of tribal and folk expression inspires me infinitely.

Homage to Ketna’s favourite God with an acrylic screenprint ‘Ganesha’ above a Balinese volcanic stone sculpture.
Guest bathroom: Moroccan hand-painted basin becomes a sink and an antique SINGER sewing machine pedestal the washstand.

Artists are storytellers. POPULAR culture (i.e. the culture of everyday people) fascinates me. What do they think, and why do they think that way? What influences their narratives? What are their aspirations? How do they express themselves?  

Travelling vastly, I note that many oral traditions are still powerfully alive. Information is passed from one generation to another in countless diverse ways. We need to record and tell these stories again and again so that we see ourselves reflected in these ‘Art Mirrors’ – be it literature, theatre, song, dance or art. This type of mirroring is nourishing for our individual and collective self-image. It endorses who we are and where we have come from. I have never been a fan of minimalism….it does not make sense to mute the millions of stories inside each one of us when we would benefit from the energetic bathing of being surrounded by them. Bring on maximalism, expression and colour, for life is but a celebration!”

Ketna Patel
Ketna Patel

Ketna Patel working on one of her commissioned project’s

Visit the website : WWW.KETNAPATEL.COM

Amita Sarwal
Amita Sarwal

After an erratic 10-year practice as a homeopathic doctor, Amita took to writing in 1973.  Her 45+ year career encompasses contributions to a very extensive gamut of magazines and newspapers- in India and abroad-on lifestyle, travel, architecture, personalities, book, and restaurant reviews, etc.  
During her 21 years based in Singapore, she was an Editor with the renowned publisher Editions Didier Millet and completed six pictorial encyclopedias on Indonesia and Malaysia among other coffee table books.  Her personal passion was writing ‘The spirit of SKV’- Chronicle of a Girls’ School to mark the Golden Jubliee (2006) of her alma mater Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior. Now Amita has an increasingly strong focus on featuring Changemakers/Unsung heroes of India who are helping make a difference to society-“because the world needs to know about their exemplary work.”  Yoga, social work to help the underprivileged, reading and collecting forms of Lord Ganesh also keep her busy.


Picture Credit: Ketna Patel

1 thought on “A Philosophical Pop-Artist With Pizzazz!”

  1. Wow. I had to decrease by phone brightness to view your art pieces- so I join your grand mother’s category. But everything was so fresh and you were the freshest of all. The smile was brighter. Keep shinning.

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