In today’s world women are expected to be visible on social media, in their work, in business. Visibility can be challenging.  How did you feel when you became visible as an artist?

Jai:  As a visual storyteller I was confident I could create something very unique that would appeal to people. The only challenge came when I first started to share my art. I could create all day long but there comes a point as an artist where you have to share it if you want to make a living.

I never doubted my art, but I questioned whether people would accept me. I have never been taught how to articulate myself, to convey ideas and themes to people who don’t know me, so I learned how to step away from the art itself and become a vessel that allowed ideas and creativity to flow through me. I became a presenter of the art as an objective viewer, to communicate the ideas that gave me those very beautiful intricate insights into colour, structure, composition, and emotion.

As I began to exhibit my work I removed myself as the artist, what I mean by that is I removed my identity, my opinions and bias. I wanted to become invisible again, so that people would see the art, and not the artist. And through the experience of people finding something in the artwork that resonated with them, and with their own filter of experience, I understood something. That the art was not just a product of my perception, the narrative also reflected the experience and conditioning and bias of the viewer. So I never really had any self doubt when showing my art, because from my perspective I was the communicator, and I allowed whatever was to happen in exhibitions to simply happen.

"They start curating their world and become people who see everything from the perception of beauty and authenticity."

Tell me more about how the art and the viewer are connected?

Jai: My idea of exhibiting has always been to share my way of seeing art with the viewer. I don’t tell them what the art is about, I ask them what they see. I take myself out of the story and become invisible. I don’t know how they feel when they see beautiful things but when we look at the art together, I almost see what they see with their eyes, and hopefully they will leave our little exchange with a moment of time, an experience that in some way will form a new perspective for them, so they are encouraged to become the creative in their lives.

In the moment where I show them the possibilities of imagination and they interpret the artwork with their own perception, they then become the artist, and I become the viewer. And that is when I step back into the picture as the artist again, and explain to them my interpretation of the art. And that is the highest form of collaboration. We are experiencing the art together. The viewer is creating it through the lens of their experience, but they are also able to see what I created.

They are empowered then to see everything as art, and to start curating their world and become people who see everything from the perception of beauty and authenticity and complete appreciation.

The pandemic was a time that really shook us all up as a collective and made us appreciate life. How was that time for you?

Jai:  I had been building a portfolio of my work and exhibiting across the world for ten years before the pandemic. I was in a good place. I lived in a huge farmhouse, which was also my gallery, in the outskirts of Manchester, I had the support of two incredibly kind and generous people who were investing in my talent, and then suddenly all that disappeared. Without the opportunity to showcase my art at exhibitions and events I was unable to continue with my plans. I lost my investment, I had no real support or understanding of what to do next, but it was at this point that I truly found the most authentic part of my creativity.

I was fortunate to be living and working in a studio that was a converted farmhouse in four acres of nature with stunning views overlooking the trees. I realised that this was a chance to step away from the commercial side of creating and to reconnect with the emotion that first drove me to want to create. So over that period I invested a lot of time into meditation, learning new skills and finding new ways to create and convey art. I projected art onto the trees, I created exhibitions at home. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to go deep within myself to create some ideas for the future.

During that time I acquired a new friend and business partner and together we created an opportunity to exhibit my art in Soho, London, and that truly inspired me. It gave me a glimpse of what I could become, and over two months I experienced so much magical serendipity. I met people from all walks of life from celebrities to musicians, billionaires and business people. It was an incredibly special opportunity to see the possibilities that were there for me.

"The wonderful thing about that sadness… is that I realised there is so much more to experience, so much more to explore, and that possibility is endless."

But the pandemic was very challenging and I felt that I needed to take some time away from the marketing of art, because I was experiencing a huge loss of a dream. I thought that owning a gallery in Manchester, a successful business and opportunity to share my creativity in the heart of London would be the pinnacle, but it really wasn’t, because when I got there it didn’t feel like I thought it would. And the wonderful thing about that sadness, and that loss, and that pain is that I realised there is so much more to experience, so much more to explore, and that possibility is endless.

So for all the wonderful opportunities I realised that I should create art that enabled me to engage with people more, to create concepts that help people understand each other. In the end I was very thankful to have lost so much during the pandemic, because projects such as Liberation Street were created during that time, and they have given me a new lease of life, a new momentum, a new focus, a new persona, and I truly know that my story has just begun.

.

Jo Cora – Creative writer and co-founder of Liberation Street

Jo is a published short story writer and her first collection of stories is due out in 2024. At her business Love Your Story she helps founder members tell the origin story of their business.

What inspired you to be a creative writer at Liberation Street?

I was inspired by the art, from the very first piece I was entranced, I couldn’t stop looking at it. I wanted to know who she was. She captured my imagination and I wanted to write stories about her. There were such intricate details in her skin, her clothing, in the flowers and surroundings.

The developments in new technologies in visual arts are exciting, and I could see the potential in being able to create such an ambitious project. I knew that the art needed a framework and I worked with Jai to come up with this theme of a century of female visibility. We knew we wanted to make art that featured women and we were interested in how women’s experiences have changed over the years, but we knew we had created something quite special when we dug into what this collection is really about, and we came up with visibility. It was Jai’s idea to position them in a doorway and call it Liberation Street. I could see it had huge potential for telling the stories of women who are not seen by society, the ones that are forgotten because of their circumstances at the time, be that poverty, patriarchy or prejudice.

I’m hugely proud of Liberation Street. The art is stunning, Jai is an incredible artist with a long history of traditional and digital art, and his back catalogue is very desirable now. He has created art for royalty and celebrities and he’s the perfect artist to portray these women with all their symbology and finer details.

What do you do behind the scenes on ‘the street’?

I’m part researcher, part story-boarder, part content creator! If something needs writing I do it. The most fun part is working with Jai on the stories of these women. We get inside her head and look at what was going on in her life at the time, what experiences were affecting her choices, who she is, what she cares about, what are her commitments, her dreams, her ambitions and what is stopping her from achieving them. It’s quite magical, I feel like these are real women asking for us to tell their story.

Do you think women are visible today?

As a woman in business I see this term ‘visibility’ being used in relation to being seen on social media and showing the face behind the brand. I think a lot of women struggle with that at times, and the reasons stem from fear of being judged. It comes down to our programming and what our experiences have been. Fear is something we learn as a child and our subconscious mind programmes our behaviour to keep us safe, so going live on social media can be very scary for example, we don’t want to look silly or make mistakes. But a hundred years ago women didn’t even have the vote, we were considered to be not as intelligent as men and therefore not capable of making a sensible decision. In fact in 1924 only women over thirty were allowed to vote, with married women being given more equality, as if being married somehow opened the door to intelligence and bestowed this gift of respectability. It wasn’t until 1928 that all women over 21 could vote. So at that time visibility was not just about being seen socially, some women were not recognised by law as being as equal as others, and certainly not as equal as men.

When we think today about all the freedoms we have in this country, women have equal legal rights with men, but we still have issues with visibility. Perhaps our limitations these days are limitations of consciousness. And society is not equal, women are still invisible in many ways.

What do you think women will think of this collection?

I hope women will resonate with this collection and ask questions about their own visibility, or their mother’s or grandmother’s. It is never our intention to tell a woman what her experience is or should be. We are not dictating how a woman feels or should feel, about her situation, simply allowing the viewer to look at the art from their perspective, with their own interpretation, their experience and add to the narrative. I hope it encourages women to see themselves as incredibly beautiful and visible to the world.

.