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Repaint History Call For Art Fund Recipient: Kavel Rafferty
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Repaint History Call For Art Fund Recipient: Kavel Rafferty

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We are thrilled to have sat down with Kavel Rafferty one of our Call For Art February 2021 Fund Recipients

Kavel Rafferty

Image courtesy of the artist
Tell us a bit about yourself

I was raised by hippy parents. My dad named me Kavel; more than likely he picked the name up whilst travelling in India. Kavel is actually a Hindi boy’s name meaning lotus flower, which is lovely – thank you for that, Dad! We moved and travelled a lot as a family and I'm sure this lifestyle has encouraged my love of adventure. I have lived all over; a couple of years in Sweden and almost a decade in Barcelona. I feel I have (finally?) settled, in the vibrant sea-side town of Margate, on the Kent coast, not far from London, UK.

I came out as a lesbian quite late in life, at the age of 42. This has been so liberating for me; it has definitely been a catalyst for stronger and more confident work. I’m happy and comfortable in myself now, as an out queer woman.

I have always loved flea markets. They are very indicative of a place, whether that be Barcelona’s Encants, Los Angeles’ Melrose Trading post or the Flohmarkt in Berlin. From Mexico City to a car boot fair in Herne Bay, what people sell and throw away is very telling.

You used to be able to find me in Northern Soul clubs most weekends, but these days I’m more likely to be seen walking my sausage dog Bobby Dazzler on Margate Beach. I have had – and continue to have a successful career as an illustrator, working with clients worldwide on a variety of notable projects; book covers, fashion, travel and editorial. This site showcases my newer work as a fine artist — collage, mixed media and abstracts.

I am a multi-disciplinary artist, working in collage and assemblage art. In my work I examine the possibilities available when using found materials, such as old magazines, postcards and other appropriated images. There is value and beauty in this discarded stuff, and a frugal and relevant way of working in a time of mass production and waste. In my newer work I mix abstract shapes, redact, edit and censor the photographs and text to create new stories about form, negative and positive space, women, masks (real and imagined) and sapphism. This work uses subtle visual tricks to make the viewer look again. My work has a slight tinge of nostalgia, because of the use of time-worn, second-hand acquisitions. I love a happy accident and want this spontaneity and unplanned nature to show in my work. It is important to me to acknowledge these ‘mistakes’. Creating order from the chaos.

I am interested in exploring palimpsests, layers and the patina of aged elements; working with authentic materials is integral to my work. What I discover, whether at a flea market in Mexico City or on the streets of Margate, dictates what I make, that day or that week. These ‘finds’ can include anything from old porno mags and cookery books, to gardening publications and knitting pamphlets. These gathered materials are then examined, altered and combined to form a new image, a new narrative.

I am looking at what is removed and what remains once an image is doctored, the text is removed or sections are cut — adding and subtracting until I have something I am happy with aesthetically. I look to compose something new and unexpected from what is left behind. I play with the original, using what is hidden and exposed to create intrigue. My work is an ongoing exploration of all these materials and tropes.

Kavel Rafferty

Centrefold 2 - Image courtesy of the artist
Tell us about an encounter with art that has shaped your practice.

I went to Mexico City in 2020 - just before the pandemic for a six week art residency. I had the luxury of time to experiment, to work and explore new mediums such as collage and painting. I used the time in lockdown to further investigate new ways of working. I was very lucky with the timing.

What challenges have you faced throughout your career as an artist?

I think a lack of confidence has been my main challenge, but over the last few years my self belief has grown and with that my work has flourished. 
I have always worked pretty much alone, which has been lonely at times. In recent years I've found more people to collaborate with. I'm having a good moment! 

Kavel Rafferty

Pink 3 - Image courtesy of the artist
What advice would you give to artists beginning their career?

Work hard, show your work, get involved! Quoting from Sister Corita Kent's rules, "The Only Rule is Work."

What would you change about the art world if you could? At the moment we have a crisis in arts education, the UK government are cutting funding. I feel for the kids coming up now. It's very shortsighted not to invest in these young artists. So right now, I would want more arts funding for grassroots art organisations, more free arts education.

Kavel Rafferty

Meadows - Image courtesy of the artist
How will the Repaint History fund support your career?

I have used the Repaint History fund to buy materials and help with framing. Framing has become an integral part of my practice. This is something I would definitely like to develop further. 

Kavel Rafferty

Queer Flower 3 - Image courtesy of the artist
Are there any new projects you are currently working on?

I've just completed a painted window for the Turner Contemporary Gallery here in Margate, for the Margate Pride celebrations. I am currently working with another queer artist to set up a gallery and art space, with studios and show space. We hope to hold talks, workshops and residencies as well as show our own work. It's exciting, if a little daunting.

Kavel Rafferty

Queer Flower - Image courtesy of the artist
 Who are your favourite women artists right now?
Women artists I love right now are:
Tracey Slater @i_draw_lines Her representation of women is incredible, love her hand. 
Anya Paintsil @anyapaintsil Wonderful textile artist using traditional craft techniques.
Isabel Reitemeyer @isabelreitemeyer Simply amazing collage work. 
Rita Lavalle @ritamolav More collage, her use of colour is stunning.
Paris Essex @parisessex Crazy good knit and crochet artworks. Carolyn Clewer and Tiphane de Lussy.