I am 11 years old in this photograph and it was taken in Wales, where my mother was born. I had an interesting upbringing. I spent my summers with my father’s family in Karachi, Pakistan, learning to play cricket and hockey on the street and also many Christmases visiting my mother’s family in Cardiff. When I think back to this time, I wish I had understood the culture I was experiencing. I should have learned to speak and read Arabic. I should have worked harder at school, been better at math, learned to speak French, Italian, German and read English and history at Cambridge! But somehow, growing up in a small town outside Birmingham, only focusing on wanting to be an athlete, the perfect language graduate described above didn’t happen.
My advice to a young artist is to not undervalue your time at art school. When I look back, I wish I had been freer and experimented more. Try everything. Don’t worry if the work you are making isn’t what you want it to be…remember, work creates work. Make sure to stay up really late, see the sun rise, and have fun. All your experiences feed into your art.
Take more pictures. You can’t have enough pictures! Always document the work you are making, whether it’s successful or not, and take images of your different studios all the way through your life. You will be so happy to have these photographs later.
Always value your art higher than you think. I don’t mean that in a monetary sense, but in a passionate and eclectic way. Try and be the biggest editor of your own work—not everything you make should end up on a wall.
Everything you do means something, and you will spend your whole life finding out what. I’m still figuring it out myself.