Artist Interview. Ramel Jasir. The Colour of Art.

Ramel Jasir, Black Contemporary Artists
(“Afro-Cacique” by Ramel Jasir)

Ramel describes his work as an ever-evolving voice in colour, a voice in colour that resonates various emotionally charged motifs of love, family, universal human rights and politics.

In light of his multi-ethnic heritage he refuses to be bound by one particular form of expression or technique. Instead, his artwork is a free flowing stream of consciousness often tied to indigenous themes in collage bound by whimsical colours in dots, abstract patterns and characters that span the human diaspora.

I was excited to have the opportunity to interview Ramel because I absolutely LOVE the use of colour in his work – it is so indicative of his multi-cultural view of society. In this profile piece we see learn how he has used his cultural identity to educate the world on diversity and the notion of self-creation.

How would you define identity and how has your identity influenced your art?

Identity is the defining characteristic of a an individual gained through an understanding of self.  Identity gained through knowledge of self is what enables one to outline purpose (Wisdom) and direction (Understanding) in life.

Identity is very important in regards to my creative process and content.  A few years after my mother passed away in 2003, I started to learn more and more about my ethnic background, after my siblings and aunts began to open up more about who my real father was and a multitude of other siblings that I did not know existed. Right around the same time I was learning more about my multi-ethnic background, I was also starting my journey exploring and expressing myself through painting in 2008.  The more I learned, the more many of the emotions and revelations I was dealing with were playing themselves out on canvas.

Your style is exceptionally colourful. What inspired you to develop this style?

When I first started painting, I mostly painted in earth colors.  Not really sure why but that it is what I was attracted to at the time and it was likely a reflection of what I was going through as a new artists and the trails in my personal life.  I originally started painting in 2008 as a suggestion of a friend who recommended art to help deal with some extreme anxiety that I was suffering from for about 2 years prior without treatment after a loss of a child.  It was affecting every aspect of my life.  When I started painting, I felt like I could breathe again although it was only the beginning.  In 2009 the anxiety and depression was still affecting my performance at work and I lost a job that I had been in for ten years and my son was due to be born in less than a month.  I remember driving home thinking how I was going to tell my Queen who was not working at the time that I no longer had a job.  The bad news was met with support and a “we can make it through anything together” attitude.  It seems like once I was free from that job my level of expression and the colors just started to flow and I never looked back.  People often ask me how do I use so many colors in one piece and somehow make them all flow.  I have no real answer other than that is how I see life.

Ramel Jasir, Black Contemporary Artists
(“The Color of Love #1” by Ramel Jasir)

Your art clearly reflects multiculturalism, what is it is about racial identity that influences your art?

My mother and father’s parents were both a result of bi-racial unions from very different spectrums.  As I began to research my own parents background I really started to see the connection between all human beings when it comes to art.  I like to use art as a way of transcending racial, social and economic lines that seem to separate us all.  Many of the signs and symbols from my journey as an artist end up on canvas like hieroglyphics…. They seem to tell a story…. I often refer to my work as my “Voice in Color”….. and I have a lot to say!

You have described your work as an “ever evolving voice in colour” – what message are you seeking to share through your art work?

Yes, I think that as long as continue to create, I will continue to evolve as an artist.  My goal is to connect with as many people as I can through my work.  I love introducing people to different cultures, styles and ways of expression through art be it painting, sculpture, mixed media or poetry and as I continue to evolve so does the message which is grounded in Freedom, Justice and Equality for all walks of life.  I think most importantly when I speak of “an ever evolving voice in color”, I am referring to how I plan to use my work to give a voice to the voiceless as well.  I am working on a series of paintings I started back in 2011 about victims of so-called “Honor Killings”…. many of these women were often killed by family members as a result of bring shame or dishonor to their families because of seeking a divorce, running away from an abusive parent, marrying outside of a tribe, fornication or just being to westernized.  These women are often erased from their families history and buried in unmarked graves… literally forgotten.  There is no honor in this… murder is murder.  I am also working on a series about victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse in the church regardless of the denomination and the numbers children sexually abused in the past 20 years alone is staggering.  So I seek to give others a voice through my work and tell their stories.  A portion of the proceeds from any sales will go to various charities that address some of the above issues.

Ramel Jasir, Black Contemporary Artists
(“The Color of Love #5” by Ramel Jasir)

Can art be used to assert social change, particularly with regards to race and diversity?

Yes I think art can and has been used to assert social change.  We see it all of the time in the media and advertisement whether it is politics, gun control issues, abortion or the problems of obesity in the U.S.  Using images that inspire or infuriate are the basis of any good piece of propaganda.  In regards to race, art can be used to promote positive images in regards to family. Whether they are Black, Hispanic, Asian, Interracial etc… positive Family imagery is always beautiful and is needed in a society that promotes sex and violence as the main form of entertainment on television, movies and music.

Which of your pieces do you feel expresses the essence of who you are most accurately?

There is no way I can just pick one.  They are all representative of my life and story which is still being written with many chapters to go long after I leave this world.  I hope to continue to exact change and inspire for hundreds of years to come.

Do you create based on your own loves and passions or do you keep in mind the desires of others?

I can’t imagine creating work based on what I think people may like.  I paint what I have to say about Life.  Someone once contacted me about commissioning a painting to match her furniture and of course I refused.  My work is an extension of my self and I care very much about what happens to my work or what type of home it is in.  Of course you cannot always control that when you go to exhibit but if I get a request like that I can refuse and explain why.

You see, if a person purchases my work just to match their furniture, I have to question the connection the collector has with the piece.  What happens when you move or decide to get new furniture of a totally different colour? [laughs] Is it going to end up in storage or thrown away?  I think about these things and it shows me that my work did not really have a voice that spoke to the collector in a way that they found some kind of connection and value.  People often know the price of everything yet know the value of nothing.  I put in a lot of love, time and thought into my work with the highest quality possible.  I will not let my work be devalued no matter how much they want to pay for it.

What does it mean to be a man? (in a spiritual & artistic sense)

I was taught early on in life that “Man means intelligence”!  One having the ability to acquire, retain and apply what you have learned effectively for the growth and development of your Family or Community.  The first step is knowledge of self…. invest in self mentally as well as physically so that you can be a true asset in this world.  Knowledge and Love of self as a Man and Artist allows me to see the world in a broader sense.  It allows me to see through a lens of tolerance, humility and compassion for all life on this planet no matter how big or small.  I want to paint the world …. one atom at a time!

Ramel Jasir, Black Contemporary Artists
(“Untitled” by Ramel Jasir)