I’m Ken Maharajah, an artist passionately addicted to painting people. My current work features Flamenco dance culture with its explosive energy. I use the spills and splashes of watercolour to connect with something deep inside us all.
For me, capturing the essence of Flamenco is the avoidance of over-romanticised tourist depictions found in contemporary paintings. I’m happy to admit my addiction lies in Flamenco’s deep displays of passion, where the practitioners perform with intense enthusiasm, pulling up 500 years of history lying in the sediment of their soul. This profoundly moving experiencecharacterises the Flamenco spirit. This is what I seek to capture in my art.
I’ve travelled to Spain and Cuba and attended Flamenco studios, workshops, performances, and personal dance auditions. Now I’ve finally prepared this body of watercolour paintings. This collection features a loose painterly style to interpret the raw energy, spark and fire, of authentic Flamenco.
The intention of an artist statement and biography is to enhance what a viewer sees in the work and provide a concise handle to approach a visual piece. It is specific to my work and offers a unique insight into the process that led me to people-paint.
My art is about fascination with the human figure engaged in some form of action. But the actual inspiration comes from engaging with people’s display of passion within their activities. It’s this powerful feeling of enthusiasm that is intrinsic to people throughout the world that I want to capture. This feeling energises something deep inside me that transcends material things. Enthusiasm is contagious and depicting people in this context might well encourage others to find their own passion and see its impact on the quality of life.
Although I continually experiment with different media, watercolour allows me to find my voice and reflects who I am. Its immediacy and unpredictability helps express movement with atmospheric mood. I construct this passion by use of bold colours to introduce energy and tension to the scene. This translates into excitement and allows brush strokes that are both loose and explosive.
Ken Maharajah, the people-painter, was born into a working class family in London’s poverty-stricken East End. A teacher saw his potential and enrolled Ken in life drawing classes at the age of 13. This one act of vision ignited his love of the human form.
Despite his wish to promote further his promising artistic career, lack of immediate opportunity required him to pursue the more stable future of engineering. While raising his family he continued to study life drawing and concentrated on the development of watercolour skills through commissioned portraiture.
Eventually he left engineering and Ken began preparations for his artistic career. He achieved foundation degree qualifications, earning distinctions in his grades which confirmed he had made the right decision. But it took another 15 years before the dream was on track and he commenced BA (Hons) degree in Illustration. At this time he developed his painting skills and particularly enjoyed illustrating fashion models, attending events to understand the figure in action.
When asked, Ken will always confirm that what drives him is the expression of emotional connections within the human figure. His strength is his ability to ‘see’ and capture people in action. Strong mood and narrative, full of atmospheric feeling, are his signature. Ken continues to attend life-drawing sessions and run life drawing classes.