Ayqa Khan uses illustration to explore our most natural state and depict a taboo free world with South Asian artists at the forefront
For Ayqa Khan the reality of body hair isn't a big deal. While many artists use the shock factor associated with a hairy underarm to initiate feminist thought and conversation, the Brooklyn based artist simply draws hairy people because, “body hair is a natural thing and so it makes sense for me to want to project it into my drawings of people,” Khan says. “I'm not trying to promote the acceptance of it, I'm trying to show that it’s not something that needs to be accepted because most of us are born with it. It is a humans most natural state.”
Instead Khan believes her work is about, “trying to show people that I don’t care about taboos or making someone feel uncomfortable. I draw the images I do to show a reality that I believe in.” Working across photography and illustration as her chosen mediums, the Brooklyn based artist has found community despite observing tokenism and lack of a physical presence for South Asian artists in the art world, “when I am asked to be in certain projects or shows that take place in New York it feels good and like I am moving forward in a sense, but it’s not exactly home base. A community supports you and your growth and I can say that I have that at moments.”
It's undeniable that people find Khan's work extremely relatable. Her tumblr is filled with warm messages expressing their gratitude for her work and representation of the female body, as well as interview-style questions scratching beneath the surface of her drawings. She doesn't deny that the ideas she presents reflect her own lived experience, or that her work deals with feminist themes. “Artists tend to project their opinions, self – basically the way they see things – in their work. Because I am a female, it is going to be natural for me to want to explore ideas of feminism.”
Despite touching on themes rooted in everyday life such as Islam, South Asian culture, and mental health, Khan's work has a certain sense of an idealised world. “A significant reason I create illustrations is because they are a perception of something I cannot get into a photo,” Khan says. For her, as an artist, an illustration is the opportunity to explore her identity without the boundaries of a camera.
Within the last year Khan has shot the cover of Diaspora Drama zine and exhibited during Grace Miceli's curatorial outing at Alt Space Brooklyn. But what are her overall aims for the future? “I want to show people the way I see things in a pure and beautiful way.”