The multi-skilled and the many hatted Misha Kaura works on the ‘intersection of materiality and spirituality’. She shared some of her fascinating thoughts and insights with us.
ArtsCulture: Who are you and what do you do?
Misha Kaura: My name is Misha Kaura and I’m a dual fine artist and couturier. I focus mostly on feminine, thematic, and abstract pieces.
ArtsCulture: Why do you do what you do?
Misha Kaura: I enjoy painting, sculpting, and designing because it allows me to merge the fine art, commercial art, and applied art aspects of my life into a cohesive whole. I like that I haven’t had to silo myself into a particular category or to choose one area over another. I have the freedom to make my own pathway and I think that’s a wonderful gift.
ArtsCulture: How do you work?
Misha Kaura: I work by myself, but I do have a management team based remotely. I find that I work best when I have plenty of alone time to think, recharge, and then create. I get drained when I have to be “on” all the time, and that’s partly the reason I shifted from a co-working studio space into a solo studio space; being alone helps me be more productive because I love talking to people and I find I veer on the overly social side and less on the work side when in communal settings. Regardless, I wear many hats: sometimes I have my artist hat on, sometimes I have my couturier hat on, and sometimes I have my business hat on. Merging all of these aspects of my work in an integrated manner has helped me to pursue my objectives.
ArtsCulture: What’s your background?
Misha Kaura: I did my A Levels in England in further mathematics, triple science, business studies, and art, and then earned two undergraduate degrees in the US: my first was in political philosophy, with a minor in physics and my second was in fashion design. I went on to graduate school for a master’s and a doctorate, and I’m currently finishing up my studies in law and business.
I did try out medicine in a US medical school for a semester due to the fact that I’m from a medical family and everyone in my family is either a medical professor or an MD, but I hated it. I like drawing bodies and designing products for bodies, not dissecting them!
I feel so much more fulfilled in art than anything else because there are no real rules or structures; everything is just a wide-open canvas. I’m certainly happy to be studying law. I find the material useful in terms of the business side of things, but I intend to qualify simply as a barrister so that I can throw my full weight into my true passions: art and design.
ArtsCulture: What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Misha Kaura: Perspective. Not just perspective in painting or representational sculpture, but in terms of fulfilment and purpose. You have to love what you do to the point that you can’t see yourself doing anything else.
ArtsCulture: What role does the artist have in society?
Misha Kaura: Well, I think artists have always had a role in helping everyone else see the beauty and wonder in the world. Designers work in applied art, but artists are purists: everything is about enjoying life while they are here as opposed to in the next life. Artists encapsulate the “carpe diem” way of life.
ArtsCulture: What has been a seminal experience?
Misha Kaura: I recently had the opportunity to install paintings in my Dad’s hospital. I suppose I couldn’t make his dream come true in terms of doing my dermatology residency there, but at least my paintings are all over the children’s ward!
ArtsCulture: Explain what you do in 100 words.
Misha Kaura: I would say that I operate at the intersection of materiality and spirituality, in that I split my practice between the tangible and the intangible. To this end, I paint, draw, illustrate, sculpt, sew, and design beautiful objects for beautiful people. Most seasons, I focus on providing a context from which people can find deeper meaning than abstract representations of purchasing behaviour. It’s so important for me to be able to have a bigger impact than simply the commercial. I think there’s a way to combine the commercial side with the purer art and design side, and I’m on a quest to combine the two.
ArtsCulture: How has your practice changed over time?
Misha Kaura: I started out doing a lot of architectural and landmark paintings and glass sculptures, but now I focus on my niche, which is abstract artwork.
ArtsCulture: What art do you most identify with?
Misha Kaura: Abstract art. I find it more soothing to look at abstract art than to examine representational art, because when I look at directly representational artwork I find myself obsessing about technique and brushstrokes. I think abstract art is this amazing space where people can be free to not worry about perfection or to stress out about output and productivity. You can express yourself fully with abstract art in a way that I don’t see as possible with representational art.
ArtsCulture: What work do you most enjoying doing?
Misha Kaura: I love going on my usual evening walk and then painting stars. It’s a lot harder to do this in the city, but when I lived in Utah, I used to be able to walk outside and actually see the cosmos. I miss it a lot, actually. When I’m more established professionally, I’ll be able to live in the countryside without it affecting my career.
ArtsCulture: What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?
Misha Kaura: Definitely painting by the lake outside my childhood house! Even as early as age 3, I was always painting, drawing, and reading about everything relating to water. I used to daydream about faraway beaches and then paint them. My parents built me a gazebo just to paint by the lake because I loved it so much.
I had a really wonderful childhood and just writing about it tears me up because I miss my old childhood house so much! I always joke that I’m going to build an exact replica of my childhood house for my own future family one day, except it’ll be in Switzerland instead of in the US!
ArtsCulture: What themes do you pursue?
Misha Kaura: Mostly I focus on fashion themes, ranging from those surrounding my couture and prêt collections to those that make a direct impact.
ArtsCulture: What’s your scariest experience?
Misha Kaura: Being cyberstalked by a lunatic.
ArtsCulture: What’s your favourite art work?
Misha Kaura: Hmm…I’m going to have to go with anything by Edward Degas. I absolutely love Degas. I was obsessed with ballet as a little girl and looking at the output of a master painter like Degas has always inspired everything that I do.
ArtsCulture: Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
Misha Kaura: I was deeply inspired when my parents sent me away to Europe one summer to take intensive painting lessons. I spent the entire summer in Zurich, feeling like a really cool cat, painting from dusk till dawn, and learning about Swiss culture. My time there made me realise that I wanted to be a creative professional of some kind, but it took me some time to figure out what industry and field that would be in. I didn’t realise until much later, around age 25, that I could actually be a creative entrepreneur and still thrive both emotionally and financially.
ArtsCulture: What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Misha Kaura: In one of my illustration classes in college, my professor told all of us to blindfold ourselves for twenty seconds and then open our eyes to “learn to see” the fruit he placed on the table at the front of the room. I ended up taking this a bit too far and took the exercise as a ‘draw from muscle memory’ exercise and suffice it to say, it took me quite a long time to learn to really see not as I wanted to see but as everything actually is. The exercise changed my life because I learned that it’s not about what we as artists want something to be, it’s about what it actually is. This is also why I identify most as a direct representational artist because it takes a lot of work to paint things as they are instead of as you want them to be.
Individual opinion can’t change the fact that an apple painting should look like an apple and a tree painting should look like a tree.
It’s part of the reason I like oil painting wet on wet so much; everything is so much better when it’s literal and when you let the objects speak to you instead of trying to force your will on the objects.
ArtsCulture: What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
Misha Kaura: I spent three years as an equity trader for a bank, worked as an haute couture apprentice for a year, and then started my own art and design business.
ArtsCulture: Why art?
Misha Kaura: Well, I can’t live without it! Art is a part of every fibre of my being and it makes me feel whole, happy, and fulfilled in ways that staring at Excel spreadsheets and looking at numbers simply cannot.
ArtsCulture: What is an artistic outlook on life?
Misha Kaura: I think everyone open minded, curious, and adventurous has a naturally artistic outlook. It’s vital to bring fresh perspectives into every situation in life, which is something that only comes with time and experience. I used to think that taking an unconventional pathway would lead to a ton of risk and little reward, but part of being an artist and an entrepreneur is taking that risk, placing a strong bet on yourself and your abilities. My Mum, Monika Chopra Kaura, is an accountant, but I would definitely say that she has an artistic outlook because she’s curious, open minded, and keen to get as much juice out of life as she can. You don’t have to be a professional artist or designer to be living artistically and in a joyous vibration!
ArtsCulture: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Misha Kaura: I’ve been very honoured to have received a lot of great feedback from professors, tutors, friends, family, and private patrons. In one case, I did a portrait of a very, very famous businessman’s wife, and she presented it at a party. Three other businessmen approached me to paint pictures of their wives as well. I think it’s always really humbling when people like my work and support my artistic projects.
ArtsCulture: What food, drink, song inspires you?
Misha Kaura: I absolutely love sushi. I love sushi so much that I always joke that one day I’m going to paint pictures of sushi and make a whole collection of sushi inspired dresses. Definitely not now, and only when I’m more established, but yeah… basically, I can’t live without sushi.
I also love a variety of music. I listen to just about anything and like changing things up because I feel like it’s so important to be open minded about new musicians, genres, and ideas.
ArtsCulture: Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Misha Kaura: I don’t find the artistic life lonely at all as I prefer working by myself. That said, I am incredibly social when it’s the time to be social, so I can and do love going to dinner parties and galas when my schedule permits. I intend to get back into hosting dinner parties myself when I’m done with my education and am fully qualified as a barrister. My grandmother Jiji was definitely the Queen Bee of Delhi society so I’ve always known I want to have that kind of life, but it makes more sense to pursue it after I’m more established professionally and am settled in terms of family life.
ArtsCulture: What do you dislike about the art world?
Misha Kaura: I think that there can be a lot of pressure to see the industry in a bifurcated way, whereby you’re either ‘commercial’ or ‘pure’.
I don’t think commercial is a dirty word. I have noticed a lot of artists take pride in eating ramen noodles into their 50s and I’m really not sure that that is the kind of life I envision for myself. I think that it’s possible to be an artist and to live in abundance simultaneously.
There’s no law that says commercial artists are any less good or less able than pure artists, because art is art. The Beatles sold one billion records, but I don’t think anybody would say that they didn’t create great art! Pure art can also be commercial and commercial art can also be pure. This applies to fashion as well.
ArtsCulture: What do you dislike about your work?
Misha Kaura: I love my work, but I do find that I go through paint brushes quite rapidly. I spend about £40 per week on brushes alone…
ArtsCulture: What do you like about your work?
Misha Kaura: I like that I get to make a difference, whether that’s making someone’s day brighter or painting something that will be treasured for generations in their family.
ArtsCulture: Should art be funded?
Misha Kaura: I think most art is funded, whether self-funded, venture capital funded, or government funded. I definitely think that the greater world appreciates artists and what artists do. I think this is such an amazing time to be an artist due to the tremendous support and multiplicity of channels out there.
ArtsCulture: What role does arts funding have?
Misha Kaura: I think there is certainly a role for arts funding, but there is also something to be said for the individual hustle and chutzpah of artists themselves. Jeff Koons did not become Jeff Koons by sitting around and waiting for opportunities to come to him. He took charge of his future and made his own pathway, and that’s why he is where he is in life selling $91 Million sculptures. It’s so important to become your own support instead of waiting for others to offer it.
ArtsCulture: What makes you angry?
Misha Kaura: My big pet peeve is the loud construction sounds right outside my studio. It’s infuriating that I have had to purchase extremely expensive noise cancelling headphones just so I can paint in peace from 7am to 7pm!
ArtsCulture: What research to you do?
Misha Kaura: I do a lot of visual and book research. I love to read, and I read both text-based books and visual-based books. I’ve always loved stunning architecture and I find myself doing a lot of architectural history research in my spare time. My favourite activity in the world is going on architectural walks to see the coolest historical artefacts, monuments, and buildings, so I really relish the opportunity to put everything together in my research.
ArtsCulture: What superpower would you have and why?
Misha Kaura: I wish I could have the power to manifest my dreams instantaneously, without having to do visualisation exercises.
ArtsCulture: Name something you love, and why.
Misha Kaura: I love my family because they’re all such warm-hearted and loyal people. No matter how cruel and indifferent the outside world can be, it’s amazing to have the fantastic support system I have with my family.
ArtsCulture: Name something you don’t love, and why.
Misha Kaura: Having to decide between colours. Sometimes I have two tubes of very similar looking colours and then I have to make very hard judgment calls about which colour actually suits my painting. Sometimes it’s a tug of war, but artists have to be decision makers, and I have become more decisive as time has gone on.
ArtsCulture: What is your dream project?
Misha Kaura: After I finish law school, am fully qualified in multiple law jurisdictions, and am much more established as a designer, I’m probably going to move to the English countryside to settle down with properties in Zürich, Switzerland and Cannes, France. I can’t wait to decorate everything in my own unique, zany way and decorate with my paintings on the walls.
ArtsCulture: Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
Misha Kaura: Oh, this is such a hard question and there’s no way to answer it correctly! But I think I’d like to be compared to the top-notch fashion artists: Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Rucci, and of course my idol Christian Dior.
ArtsCulture: Favourite or most inspirational place (in Devon)?
Misha Kaura: I have too many favourite places to decide! Ilfracombe is beautiful and the art connection with Damien Hirst is interesting!
ArtsCulture: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Misha Kaura: My mentor told me to focus on my strengths and to have make them the focus of my career, and I think that’s fantastic advice. Too often we want to be someone we’re not and if the shoe doesn’t fit, it’s simply not going to work. There is no point in trying to live another person’s life.
ArtsCulture: Professionally, what’s your goal?
Misha Kaura: To make beautiful objects that people treasure for generations. Anything else is just a huge bonus. I love what I do so I seek to take things one day at a time.
ArtsCulture: What wouldn’t you do without?
Misha Kaura: I can’t live without my Kindle, my rolls of canvas paper, my sketchpad, my coloured pencils, my watercolour paints, my acrylic paints, my oil paints, my tambour, my beads, and my fabric. Everything else is optional!
ArtsCulture: Thanks Misha!