This past February not just a shop hosted our first-ever collaboration with UAL’s LGBTQ+ Student Officer Justin South in celebration of LGBT History Month. We took some time to chat with our five finalists, including winner Youjia Duan, wanting to hear more about their stories, their works, and what’s next for each of them during these challenging but inspiring times. Read on for each full interview and be sure to click through to our Instagram post below to see all five pieces.

Rishi Mehra @multicltrd 

Hi! Firstly thank you so much for entering and congratulations on being one of the finalists! Could you introduce yourself a little, name and pronouns, what you study, some interests and hobbies? 

Thank you so much for recognising my work! It was a real honour. My name is Rishi Mehra (he/his) and I’ve just started the new MA Cities course at Central Saint Martins on a part-time basis, whilst working full-time in marketing. One of the reasons I decided to join this new course is my passion for social justice and the role urbanism can play in creating a more sustainable, equitable world. Hopefully in a few years I’ll get to combine this passion with getting my hands dirty and getting involved to make things happen!   

Could you tell us a bit about what inspired your piece? Why did you choose this piece to submit?  

I always enjoyed art since childhood but never pursued it in formal education – so I’m not a trained artist, and by no means as skilled and talented as the incredible people whose work I get to see each year at the various summer grad shows around London! But when I can, I try to find opportunities for creative expression away from my day-to-day life of corporate communications. One such opportunity came up in the summer of 2020, whilst on a short period of furlough. This period coincided with the Black Lives Matter and the Black Trans Lives Matter movements. These movements, alongside the great work of many activists in recent years, has helped to open my eyes to the issues and lived experiences of trans people all over the world.  

Seeing the mainstream media coverage, looking back at old interviews and clips on YouTube, reading peoples’ comments on social media – I felt there was so much misunderstanding and emphasis on anatomy as a determinant of our identities. That our genitals somehow dictate how we should feel and behave. So, my paintings are abstract depictions of the relationship one has between their anatomy and their gender identity. The colour palette is based on the trans flag, with elements of gold and silver. The splashes of white, gold and silver paint can be interpreted as the viewer’s relationship to that part of their own, or another person’s anatomy. Depending on one’s point of view, it could evoke violence, conflict, distress, arousal, celebration, curiosity. Is it something to accentuate, or eliminate? As a cis-gay man, I might have taken a lot of these issues for granted in the past, so I thought submitting this piece for the LGBTQ+ showcase was a way to share my solidarity with the full spectrum of our community.    

Is this a typical example of your work? Sometimes when meeting briefs for university projects, we have to fit our art into the boxes that brief creates. Free from a brief, what are your art goals and dreams?  

This series of paintings was created purely from my own initiative and was not intended for any brief or submission. As I mentioned, I’m not a professional or trained artist, so I can’t really say I have a typical style or process. Most paintings I have done are abstract, but the pre-pandemic life drawing classes I was attending have obviously filtered into this series. All I can hope for really is to be able to do, and to learn more through trial and error and hopefully create more works that others enjoy.   
 

What are some of your creative influences? Who are some of your favourite artists, be they painters, filmmakers, sculptors, musicians, etc 

Honestly, I would love to be able to cite the world’s great creators and historically important artists with well-researched and thought-out explanations – but I have such cliché, predictable references! I never tire of staring at abstract works by artists like Kandinsky and Miro, but I also love tribal art from around the world. Growing up in Australia, I have a particular love of Indigenous Australian artists and the importance of paintings in a culture that doesn’t traditionally utilise written communication. As for personal creative influences, I would have to say I find most of my inspiration from people – I could dig endlessly into why we each think the way we do, what shapes our thoughts and feelings, and how these thoughts and feelings shape our actions. I am a marketer after all!    

Could you tell us a bit about what you are working on now?  

As we start returning to offices, schools, and universities, I will be looking again at how art can impact on our experience of space. Over the summer, I am hoping to create and commission some new works to enhance the office where I work and inspire our clients to do the same. I think bringing others into the process, to have a manifestation of a shared experience, will help us all reconnect to each other and our spaces after this prolonged period of isolation. Sometimes the fear of not making something ‘good’ can be so paralysing – but I’m hoping to encourage my colleagues to get involved and we’ll just have to throw caution to the wind and see what happens! 

Liv Wood @livflavrd 

Hi! Firstly thank you so much for entering and congratulations on being one of the finalists! Could you introduce yourself a little, name and pronouns, what you study, some interests and hobbies? 

Hello! Thanks so much for selecting my work, I’m very happy to be here. I’m Liv, my pronouns are they/she. I have quite an interdisciplinary background and practice- right now, I’m in the second year of my BA in Photography at LCC.  

I’m very interested in gardening and nature- I’ve been growing food and tending earth since I was little, now I’m a pretty good urban gardener too! My flat is full at all times of green things in jars and sprouting seeds. I got a box of wildflower seeds, too, I want to make some seed bombs and bring some beauty and bees for Spring..  

What else? My life is really dominated by making art. Outside of that, I love cooking, meditating, going for little adventures, reading (mostly theory lately), writing poetry, and soon, I’ll be bringing a dog home.  
 

Could you tell us a bit about what inspired your piece? Why did you choose this piece to submit?  

This piece is inspired by how I see myself in the physical realm, rather than in reflections or photographs. It’s based on a sketch I did in bed, just of what I saw in front of me, and specifically, I think it’s inspired by my boxers.  

Boxers are a new addition to my wardrobe as I’ve been exploring my gender, allowing myself to try new things, to pass invisible boundaries. They offer me a great deal of comfort- I wear them to bed most nights nowadays- and they also represent a lot in terms of exploring masculinity.  

Being socialized as a young female, I’ve only known masculinity as something which happens to me as opposed to something that I can embody. There is no real framework for grasping this other force inside of me- I’m just doing my best, constantly growing, just like my garden. 

Reflectively, I’m not sure why I chose this piece in particular- I think that this is my subconscious desires and personal growth emerging. It’s artwork that simply is queer, contentedly, rather than overperforming or critiquing queerness, which is an emerging element of my practice. I think that it’s reflective of how I’m growing as a person and grasping my identity. 

Is this a typical example of your work? Sometimes when meeting briefs for university projects, we have to fit our art into the boxes that brief creates. Free from a brief, what are your art goals and dreams?  

Yes, I’d say this is a typical example of my painting work! I have quite an interdisciplinary approach and I’m still grappling with it- so a lot of the time, my work can look wildly different. My practice is brought together by themes, forms of approach, and points of view more than visual cues.  

We do have to fit our art into boxes sometimes, that’s true. Speaking as someone who can become wildly distracted or extravagant, though, I don’t hate the boxes. They can be helpful. 

I’m dreaming (and working hard to achieve) a career in fine arts and academia. I really want to show my work, write about important things, curate exhibitions, work collaboratively with communities and impact people the way that my favorite practitioners have impacted me.  

I try to be pragmatic about it, though- I know that dream is accessible, but still, hard work, achieved incrementally. I’ve started volunteering at a gallery, helping on curatorial projects, publishing work in independent zines and I’ll be exhibiting my work (for the first time ever!) online soon. Baby steps! 

 
What are some of your creative influences? Who are some of your favorite artists, be they painters, filmmakers, sculptors, musicians, etc? 

My creative influences are vast and fun for sure. 

There are so many artists I adore; I don’t know where to start. So here are some works I will never, ever forget- Claude Cahun’s self-portraits, Thicket by Maya Dunietz, Ladder to the Moon by Georgia O’Keeffe, and every cubic centimetre of 59 Rivoli – which is technically a gallery – but probably the most inspiring space I’ve ever been in. 
My favorite way to draw artistic influence is visiting exhibitions and keeping up with what people are doing now – I find it so exciting and inspiring. Of course, it can be difficult to do that online,  art doesn’t have the same impact with me in the digital space. I can’t wait to get back into the galleries. 

 
Could you tell us a bit about what you are working on now?  

I just started a new project where I’m exploring new methodologies for my practice and working to expand and contract all the different elements I have been using so far. Back to what I said earlier- it’s a shift from work that is performatively queer to work that just is queer.  

I’m moving now from careful planning to making intuitively, which recently culminated in a me-sized (1:1 ratio, probably bigger) art piece about back pain and Ehler-Danlos syndrome, as well as a big, beautiful work about friendship, painted using tea. 

The project itself is still early, still unfolding. I’m exploring relationships in the  realms of the physical and digital, considering the space that queer bodies hold  together and focusing on friendship, bonds, and collective healing.  

This path is coming from a desire to be around people- it’s almost like my creative mind is having a tantrum and has decided that we’re not working unless it’s social, collaborative work. I really can’t wait to be in a room full of beautiful queers! 

Bart Seng Wen Long @antibart 

Hi! Firstly thank you so much for entering and congratulations on being one of the finalists! Could you introduce yourself a little, name and pronouns, what you study, some interests and hobbies? 

My name is Bart, he/him, I’m on my last year for a BA in Photography. My favourite things are cinema, art theory, music, cycling and MMA.  

Could you tell us a bit about what inspired your piece? Why did you choose this piece to submit?  

I was thinking about queer lives and queer imageries. I’m interested in slowing down the gaze, giving back to photography its enduring magic of being able to seduce and induce contemplation; and how queer lives can be figured into that representational framework where no message is immediately available but where an oblique encounter with the composition sets off unexpected and contradictory responses.  

Is this a typical example of your work? Sometimes when meeting briefs for university projects, we have to fit our art into the boxes that brief creates. Free from a brief, what are your art goals and dreams?  

Somewhat typical I guess. There was a period of time where I worked a lot with the tableuax form. Other than that, I guess most of my work considers closely contemporary sensibilities and how to synthesize that mode of existence into a resonant visual style.  

My dream is to be able to make works that are honest to myself, and that can say more for themselves than I can for them.  

What are some of your creative influences? Who are some of your favourite artists, be they painters, filmmakers, sculptors, musicians, etc? 

Film and music play undeniable roles in my processes and everyday discovery of art. Currently, I’m indebted to filmmakers like Jafar Panahi, Ruben Ostlund, Lee Chang Dong and Edward Yang. Pharaoh Sanders new collab album with Floating Points called Promises is extremely moving and poetic and life-changing. My photography heroes are Jeff Wall, Torbjorn Rodland, and Masahisa Fukase. 

Could you tell us a bit about what you are working on now?  

I’m working on my final year project, it’s an extensive body of work that comment on the ethically and socially contradictory practice of self-fetishisation in a Techno-Orientalist context. 

Youjia Duan @abaldalien 

Hi! Firstly thank you so much for entering and congratulations on being one of the finalists! Could you introduce yourself a little, name and pronouns, what you study, some interests and hobbies? 


Hey, I’m Youjia Duan. An illustrator who loves spicy food very much. I studied MA Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts, hope I can receive my graduate certificate soon, hahaha. I think my biggest hobby is drawing, I feel so empty when I am not drawing. And I always have a lot of thoughts, so I also like taking a super long walk near a river on a sunny day, it helps to clear my mind, be productive without stressing myself out. 

 
Could you tell us a bit about what inspired your piece? Why did you choose this piece to submit?  

About The Fight, I am a huge fan of drag shows, I admire those people who do drag, they are full of confidence, courage and have the ability to express beauty in so many different ways. So, I got so many inspirations and learning a lot by going to the drag performances, watching documentaries like Paris Is Burning, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.  

It’s a very meaningful work for myself and it’s one of my favourite works, and I think more people should know about how amazing the drag community is and the difficulties they had to face or is facing. So, when I saw this competition when I opened my email box, I knew this was the one I should submit.    

 
Is this a typical example of your work? Sometimes when meeting briefs for university projects, we have to fit our art into the boxes that brief creates. Free from a brief, what are your art goals and dreams?  


The fight is a typical example of my work and not a typical example of my work. I used bold colours like I always do, but it was my first time using parallel narrative in my illustration. For example, in the fourth illustration, you can see two drag queens are running, and police are chasing, a drag queen got handcuffed, so many things are happening in one image. I never drew something in this way before, it was a very challenging project for me, but I’m glad it looks not bad in the end. 

My dream is my illustration is able to bring some lights and smiles into people’s daily life, especially for LGBTQ+ community and Asian community, and I want to draw more illustration to against hate crime, discrimination, and racism. 
 

What are some of your creative influences? Who are some of your favourite artists, be they painters, filmmakers, sculptors, musicians, etc? 


Wow, there are so many artists I get inspired by. But I think Marina Abramović, Cai Guo-Qiang, Nan Goldin, Shaun Tan, and Tim Walker are my top 5 favourite artists at the moment. I learned a lot by watching their work or interviews!  

 
Could you tell us a bit about what you are working on now?  


I am working on so many things right now, I just finished my new illustration series What We Do in the Quarantine, it was inspired by the quarantine life of my friends’ and mine, this series shows how we deal with negative emotions like loneness, boring, frustrating, etc… So now, I am talking to companies to see how we can produce this illustration series, bring it come to life. And because I just moved to Paris, I’m also drawing a funny illustration series about what we can do with baguettes in daily life! Meanwhile, I am preparing an illustration series about hate crime against Asians during this pandemic, so I am collecting information and doing research about this! 

Juliusz Grabianski @jgrab_ 

Hi! Firstly thank you so much for entering and congratulations on being one of the finalists! Could you introduce yourself a little, name and pronouns, what you study, some interests and hobbies? 

 
Hi, thank you so much! My name is Juliusz, I use he / him pronouns and I am a 3rd year BA Photography student in LCC. In terms of interests, I love learning new skills and tend to pick up a new hobby every few months – at the moment I spend most of my time working on my assignments, but I have also been trying to gain some basic makeup skills to show off to my flatmates in the living room. 

Could you tell us a bit about what inspired your piece? Why did you choose this piece to submit?  
The piece comes from a series of digital images I am working on alongside my final project. I have been thinking about how lockdown affects the queer community and trying to reimagine what queer spaces could look like in the digital era of socially-distanced interactions. With nightlife venues under strict lockdown rules, safe spaces many of us relied on before the pandemic can no longer accommodate for the warmth of human contact. In these digital portraits, I try to capture idyllic queer scenarios in abstract settings – perhaps queer spaces as we know them might never return and we will need to invent new ways of coming together as a community in the post-pandemic world. 

Is this a typical example of your work? Sometimes when meeting briefs for university projects, we have to fit our art into the boxes that brief creates. Free from a brief, what are your art goals and dreams?  
I suppose it is at the moment, but what I make changes constantly. I have been really enjoying working with 3D and I definitely see myself developing this part of my practice further. I do not like to plan anything too far in advance, but I have an exciting artist residency planned for September and I want to keep applying for these sort of opportunities to keep me motivated to produce work. The dream is to earn a living from what I do and not have to compromise my ideas to make my work profitable. 

What are some of your creative influences? Who are some of your favourite artists, be they painters, filmmakers, sculptors, musicians, etc? 
At the moment, some of my favourites would have to be Harriet Davey (@harriet.blend), Matthew Stone (@matthewstoneart), and Felicity Hammond (@flisshammond). I love Andrés Jaque (@andres_jaque), Hito Steyerl, Sara Ahmed’s book Queer Phenomenology, and the real gem that is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. 

I have also been listening to an unhealthy amount of hyperpop – mostly Charli XCX and SOPHIE. 

Could you tell us a bit about what you are working on now?  

I am working on my final major project, which shares a lot of the same ideas as the work I submitted for the competition. It is an interactive simulation reimagining what queer spaces might look like in the digital era. It is quite time consuming but I am really enjoying working on it and I am glad I pushed myself to learn new skills in the process.