CASSI NAMODA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARYAM NASSIR ZADEH
MNZ I’m really looking forward to talking to you. Where are you now?
CN I am currently in Malaga, Spain, and I have a flight in a few hours to Ireland.
MNZ It just makes me treasured that we crossed paths, especially in an early stage of my career and even before your career started. There was something powerful in the fact that we weren’t really established and we just felt in love purely. It was the early stages, and it was so raw.
CN It was the definitely essence. When I saw you I thought you were someone I needed to know, an extremely unique person, from another dimension. I’ve always been so attracted to that kind of energy like rawness, whether it was in music or different kind of cultures. When you’re talking about your own personal experience starting the business, I think about me in the business through an art sense of it.
MNZ You were so mysterious and magical. This force of light and creativity with so much positivity, your eyes just sparkled. It’s so clear that who you are today is exactly who you were from the beginning. It’s the same sort of spirit and vibration, the love that I feel: it’s all part of you.
CN I was 22, I thought I was living a creative life. It’s so humble that you feel this way, I don’t really feel different from that person. I think true artistry is also kind of keeping a mysteriousness about the way of being, the world you’re interested in. I don’t think that in life we have to be stuck to one notion. I don’t know who I’m gonna be in ten years, but I do know that at the core I’m an artist.
MNZ The mystery and the naïveté are the elements why people come in. All of a sudden you started painting, since then, it’s been very clear and focused. It almost feels like yesterday but at the same time so far. Can you tell me a little bit about how you really felt that was your calling?
CN You mentioned this rawness and not knowing what you’re doing, I think when you start something for the first time, it could be motherhood or studying a business or taking the first steps in you career or jumping in a new hobby, there’s a kind of insecurity and it’s almost secret. I was in LA at the time, specific things took me there, it was very much a different landscape from what I’m used to. I didn’t necessarily see a connection with the city, and in some ways it was a bit alienated. I have so much free time, so I mixed a couple of jobs, I personally believe if you’re bored you’re boring. I’m always kind of doing something. The person I was seeing at the time is a major artist and a retailer and I was spending hours with him in the studio painting with him, and it was always beautiful and refreshing. I’ve always thought I would have been an artist.
MNZ So that was the first time you painted at all? Or you did paint as a kid, as well?
CN Always! I would have loved to attend a specialized middle school and high school but I went to a kind of boarding school in west Africa where art wasn’t really central and then to a kind of international-American school in Uganda and neither these kind of schools have very art-centric programs. I started drifting towards photography, and I also got interested in cinematography… always knowing that there was a deep yearning to painting. After school I used to seat on my balcony and paint landscapes, essentially. So then it took almost like 10 years to revisit that, which is like re-meeting myself.
MNZ That’s so special and powerful, very deep. I studied jewelry first, and then when I discovered textiles it was all really unexpected. That’s similar to your story, sometimes it comes to you at the right time, and it seems to be so natural. When did you realize that it was your round?
CN I think I knew what to do with the power and the energy I had, it became just super cathartic to me, to my soul and to my mental. I became addicted to the attention to details, even I was fully naive, and super raw. I was making a lot of colors on paper and I remember people start asking me to show my works and you and my friends really supported me. I think I knew that I had to tell a story. I do think my specific ability is painting, with its essence and its narrative. It’s challenging to me.
MNZ It’s clear that you are in a challenge because we can see a lot of progress. Do you feel it’s just like yesterday or do you feel it’s been like a deep journey?
CN I think now I feel like it’s been some time ago. Because now it’s happening and it seems I miss that time.
MNZ What part of the time?
CN I miss that time where there was no pressure, and no criticism. I think that being a woman artist is super tough. I felt like I was protected in a way, and now I’m vulnerable and I have to deal with business and career. You cannot just make the work but also think to lots of things around. There was a time when I didn’t feel any of these things. Even if I am happy with painting, sometimes I just have to ask myself if I’m still doing this just because it’s what other expect from me. I want to explore more and I do explore, but sometimes I am criticized for that. Is being good being consistent or is being good being able to be super flexible? Whatever you do is magic, and that’s what I’m interested in. I’m kind on navigating the now.
MNZ Being good just means being true to yourself more that anything else, create what you believe in, or you’re closed to. I actually was thinking about how focused you are as a painter, it requires so much dedication: that’s why you are where you are today. Are you feeling like you’re gravitating in another direction?
CN It depends, these last couple of months I was like giving all my life to the studio. I need to see my friends more, I need to see the world more, I need to indulge more, indulging movies, cultures, rocking my dog. I think this is the ultimate artistry, it’s living. I don’t believe in the sort of masculine ego, the idea you have to be in your studio all day and every night, and this is the only way to be an artist. (QUOTE OPTION) You need the separation, the fresh eyes, you need to have intellectual conversations. And you also have to be willing to receive it and be open to it. I think I’m at a point where ok, I need to be in the studio when I know exactly what I’m doing, and then I’m beginning to live life more in my own terms. The maturity and the confidence of self comes with getting older. A lot of the time this might sounds super vain, but as a younger woman you get a lot of sort of backlash in some ways. “You don’t look like an artist”, but what does an artist look like? What does an artist have to look like? But I know the truth. And when I look at the artists that came before us, they all approach everything with magic.
MNZ I feel like we are so lucky to do what we love, to have passion in our career. It’s just complicated being an artist, there’s a lot of sensitivity and emotion going into what you’re doing, and there’s the lay of the demands, the criticisms, the deadlines. When you say you miss that time, do you feel is that the real moment when you actually feel you are in meditation? Or do you feel those voices often come even during your practice?
CN The universe that I had I think that happen to quite a few other artists. When I’m in the studio it’s cheerful, I go in there but I need to be rested. I know when I’m feeling tired I’m not working for my purest and truest self, I’m just needing a sort of urgency to get something done. It’s so blessed, I’m creating…
MNZ I feel like in that space you have so much support form the universe, so it makes sense that it’s a safe space for you. The noise it’s more on the outside sometimes?
CN I paint at night now, so my working hours start around like 6/7pm and I’m going until 2am. It’s a quiet time, no e-mails, none of those moments we’ve just discussed with outside voices… So I take the night time as sort of holy time, for painting actually with spirit. Switching that it has been amazing for my mental health, I think it’s also about learning a spiritual part of myself. I feel you have to find the best balance in order to create the best work, whether you need to go to Europe for a month or whatever else. I’ve been there for a month and all that silence was really helpful for me, I’ve been able to really seat with myself. I got all my energy back and now I’m ready to be back to the studio. It’s like a rebirth, in terms of intention.
Read the full interview on Muse February Issue 61.