INTERVIEWED BY Palesa Kgasane IMAGES courtesy of Faatimah Mohamed-Luke and Al Luke
Cape Town-based creative duo Faatimah Mohamed-Luke and Al Luke’s creative journey begins at home. Both artists specialising in different mediums, the Mrs + Mr Luke duo allows room for the meaningful expression of their unique styles.
Faatimah Mohamed-Luke is a fashion designer and multi-disciplinary artist, whose current work focuses on making detailed building blocks out of plastic materials. Al Luke, her husband, specialises in abstract art using various mediums. During this unprecedented time, the artistic family is making the most of the change.
How have you been challenged to create meaningfully as individuals and as a collective at this time?
As a collective, but more importantly as a family, we have been taking time to explore and do normal things we just never had time to do, like baking, cooking – we are about to start knitting.
Faatimah: I was hesitant to create artwork while in this tense and unexpected situation, because my work has always been nostalgic; about the past or hopeful about the future. This was uncharted territory and I wanted to be fully present in how we have been feeling as a nation and how we were coping inside our home. For the most part, we have felt grateful to be safe and secure, but as the weeks turned into months, the most overwhelming feeling for me was longing for the physical affection that comes from seeing loved ones. My work during lockdown has become all about our basic need for affection that now feels irresponsible due to social distancing. It has been an important lesson in being adaptable. Currently, the best way to express love is to not visit or hug your loved ones.
Al: This period has forced me to be honest and create work that is a direct reaction to the period we are all going through. I am always searching for meaning and trying to visually translate the way I am processing my thoughts or views on themes within my work. The limitation of movement and isolation has been really difficult some days, especially when dealing with deadlines and daily work pressures, but I have slowly figured out (with Faatimah’s help) how to stay productive and sane. As a collective we have not had many collaborative projects, but we are always trying to help each other, whether the projects are collaborative or individual.
Where do you find most of your inspiration?
Faatimah: My inspiration comes mostly from play. Being isolated in a home with a seven-year-old involves lots of play, and since many things are new to her, I find there is repetition in everything we do. These patterns inevitably translate into my work. I have created artworks using colour palettes based on cupcake icing and created patterns using play dough. I find that my ideas are best when they come from a joyful place, so it has become the most important part of my process.
Al: I find most of my inspiration seeing my daughter play, watching Faatimah create block by block, events happening globally on social media, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and talking to people. I really miss the daily talks I would have seeing people in the flesh – sorry Zoom, you’ll never replace human interaction for me.
You both work using different mediums, but tell us about the importance of having your art reflect on society and societal behaviour?
Faatimah: My art usually reflects what I believe is missing in society. Sometimes I choose to focus on things that are valued by one section of society, but unknown by another. These could be aspects of language or history that I feel deserve reverence but are often looked at as unrefined. Sometimes, it’s creating an exhibition that is so nostalgic that the observer leaves the exhibition feeling joyful and emotionally lighter.
Al: I think that even though my art is abstract, it is always honest and exactly what I am trying to convey in that moment, but in my own visual language. Creating work that is both visual and expressive forces me to look beyond creating work purely for aesthetics and forces me to create work around a theme in that moment. When I see and hear stories about what people are going through, both positive and negative, I try to find a way to communicate the information through drawing and painting.
What has the process of discovering your voices and your niche been as artists?
Faatimah: To me, creativity is fluid. Having a background in fashion was the beginning of my journey. It has taught me many things about processes and productivity and it’s where my love of pattern and colour comes from. It was a natural progression to art and other spheres of design because my purpose and aesthetic remained the same, it was just my mediums that were evolving. I believe we all have a story to tell and the challenge is to find the most natural way to birth your story. As we learn more, we create new ways to share our stories. Since no two stories are the same, you inevitably create your niche.
Al: This is something I think all creatives struggle with, but I think the turning point for me personally was learning to celebrate all the things I enjoyed creating and making sure that everything I was making felt like a natural extension of who I am and where I come from. I’m constantly making notes about ideas and often, when creating, find myself functioning in a creative flow state that feels like part of me is also being guided by my ancestors and all the moments that have led me to that point.
What exciting projects are you currently working on / part of right now?
Faatimah: We are currently both part of an art exhibition called Kwaai at Eclectica Contemporary in Cape Town. My main focus for 2020 has been to expand into various design avenues. My collaboration with Wanderland Collective (featured here) has allowed us to create so many innovative pieces and I am really enjoying growing the product range with the brand’s amazing team.
Al: Right now I’m collaborating with creative agency Platform on a printed exhibition for the 100 Beautiful Things campaign (featured here), which will be displayed at the V&A Waterfront, as well as a capsule collection of garments with independent clothing store Dipstreet, based in Johannesburg.
Take a look at the Mrs + Mr Luke collaboration with Wanderland Collective here. For more information about Mrs + Mr Luke, visit mrsandmrluke.com. Follow Faatimah on Instagram at @lucky_lady_luke and Al at @alfromcapetown.