artist spotlight: british painter and textiles designer kay davis

May 19, 2015

Again, Tumblr has introduced me to some of the most inspiring and driven creative minds of this generation. Meet Kay Davis – her images vibrant and dreamlike will draw you in.

Artist Statement:

“Creating fantasy dream like paintings of young Black females situated in the cosmos, Kay Davis brings an element of childhood, nostalgia, and vibrancy to the underground art world. Referencing ancient symbols, and life as we are taught, she brings a touch of surrealism to her work. Inspired by creative minds such as Ron English and Kehinde Wiley while embracing her Caribbean culture, her work makes a statement which evokes various sentiments. Graduating from Central Saint Martins, she also has a background in Textiles allowing her the ability to mix both Fine Art and Fashion.”

Check out my virtual interview with Kay Davis below and take a glimpse in to her artistic world. Always with light and love – stay fly!

By Aliyah Blackmore, AFROPUNK Contributor


Name: Kay Davis

Location: South East London

Occupation/Title (i.e. artist, designer, creative mind, etc.): Artist/ Textiles Designer

Did your upbringing influence your desire to pursue the arts in any way? Does your upbringing inspire your work in any way?

I grew up in a household where my parents choose the career paths for my older siblings and I watched them being unhappy whilst studying. I promised myself that I’d follow my own vocation, making it very clear to my parents what I want be. Every subject I studied at school was creative unless it was compulsory Math and English. I come from a very talented and creative family but the idea of making a living off of a hobby was never an option unless you were a promising athlete like my sister.

I have generations of creative people in my family who have never took their skills public and I’d love to be the one who brings our talent to light.  As an artist I don’t want my ancestors talent to go unnoticed. My grandma knits everyday of her life and my mum used to sew, design her own clothing, and do hairdressing. Growing up around those skills have taught me how to be in control of my hands and have pushed me to take my art to different practices. Not only do I love making art that represents my culture but I’m able to use traditional skills with a modern twist.



Who is Kay Davis—how would you say your identity has helped you to evolve as an artist/creative mind of this generation?

We’re lucky enough to be apart of a generation where we can be in control of our own media. We’re given the platform to share and if we use that tool correctly it can be a major stepping stone towards opportunity. Having a genuine identity is great but being able to share it with others and inspire is what life is all about. I’ve been sharing my work online for the past 6 years and what is really cool about it isn’t my actual work but people being able to witness my progress and understanding that with hard work things become possible. The feedback and being able to interact with people because of my work overwhelms me and motivates me to keep going. It’s nice to know that my existence can be felt and meaningful to a complete stranger.



How would you describe your own style and your own artistic style?

My work is often inspired by my culture, nostalgia, time and energy. You could say it is a reflection of myself and my subconscious forever unfolding. Many of the characters I paint often look like self portraits and as if they belong straight out of a children’s books. Naturally I’m attracted to colour. How I dress, what I paint, what I design aesthetically carries the same vibe of being radiant and youthful.

What artists/musicians/designers/people inspire you?

I love being surrounded by people who are true to themselves. People who are pure, honest and have big personality often inspire me. Sometimes it’s their work that does the talking rather than their mouths. I’m a huge fan of painters such as Kehinde Wiley, Ron English and Tokio Aoyama. Their work has personality, opinion, is very distinctive and has a presence that I hope to develop in my work one day. I also love children’s books illustrated by Caroline Binch. She illustrated books like Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman which really influenced my character throughout childhood.

Music wise I’m a little out of date. I’m into old school hip hop and R&B. It has a vibe that brings me back to my youth and hold good memories. I still love music video’s directed by Hype Williams in the 90’s early 00’s. All it takes is a collaboration between Hype Williams, Neptunes, Timbaland, Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott  to have me spazzing out.



What would you like the public to experience when they view your work?

I like the idea of being thought provoking. Although my work won’t always resonate with all kinds of people I like to hit a nerve. I just want the audience to feel something even, if it’s just curiosity.

I never plan my ideas, I just paint and see what happens and so far the reactions I’ve received have been mind blowing. It’s always interesting to see how deep people go when they tell me about my own work, sometimes they see things that I can’t see. One of the best feelings is connecting with strangers who know nothing about me but have such a grand opinion on what I do. I’ve been complimented and I’ve been insulted and I love it all.

During one of my exhibitions a man told me that my work “does nothing for black people and the only place it belongs is in children’s books because eventually children will get older and forget it exist.” Although his aim was to insult me I was inspired because I actually love children. I think they’re the most amazing people ever…they laugh, they’re honest and they don’t forget as they grow. What I love most about children’s books is the ability for a child to connect and relate to a story. One of the many reasons the book Amazing Grace meant so much to me as a kid was because all the characters illustrated in the book looked just like my family at home. It was the only book in my classroom where the main character was black. Her hair was combed just like mine, her grandma looked just like mine and her dreams was just as big as mine. I believed the story so much to the point I thought I was Grace. If I could evoke that same feeling I had when reading Amazing Grace to the future generation my heart would never stop beating.


What are your next steps moving forward?

Illustrating Children’s books would be the ultimate goal, or maybe even something for the vibrant adult. This year I really want to bring all skills to the table and introduce the ability to produce fabric art, curate exhibitions and collaborate as much as possible. It would be great to build a pathway that allows me to do what I love for a living. Most importantly I’m in a mind frame where I just want to keep learning and grow. 



Follow Kay Davis:


Instagram: @kaydavisartist


**follow Aliyah on tumblr @echoesofnoise and instagram @aliyahblkmre