Manchester Open 2020 Meet the Artist: Kay Shah

Meet Manchester Open 2020 artist Kay Shah. In addition to being included in the exhibition, his prints “The Visitors” and “The Return to Rajouri” have been shortlisted for the Manchester Open Awards. The winners, to be announced this week on Thursday 20th February, will receive up to £2000 each of artist bursaries and a very special award trophy.

When did you first take up art? What’s your artistic background?

I’d always had the desire to become a graphic designer, but I gravitated more to the fine art side of things during my foundation diploma at college. From there I ventured into sculpture and digital print while at Manchester School of Art (graduating in 2017), exploring the idea of visualising the unseen. My work dealt with themes of sound and cosmology; finally developing into what it is today.

How did you feel when you found out you had been chosen for the Manchester Open?

It felt amazing to be chosen and be part of something giving an opportunity to local artists on such a scale. I’m really looking forward to the variety of art that’s going to come out of this exhibition. HOME itself has a great arts and culture scene so it’s great to be part of it, especially considering this is the first Manchester open call.

Where do you find your inspiration?

A lot of my inspiration comes from living amongst so much architecture in Manchester. It impacts my visuals when it comes to space, form, perspective and light. Sunrises and sunsets have a profound impact especially; the way the gradient light travels across the sky and how it falls onto buildings creating new shapes and perspectives, forming a new dynamic to the positive and negative space of a building. The lack of colour in a city environment, with the different hues of grey, forces me to make my own environments to be so saturated with colour.

What do you think art brings to your life?

Mainly, peace. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting lost into a piece and imaging I’m occupying the space. I find it brings calm to my life, especially compared to dealing with the abundance of information fed to us on a daily basis through the likes of social media. It’s a chance for me to escape from time to time and often serves as an outlet.

Which artist(s) do you admire?

I recently came across the work of the American artist Alex Da Corte at the Venice Biennale. I admired the surreal dark and aery feeling coming through his Rubber Pencil Devil video. A lot of the clips felt relatable with the cultural appropriation with the cartoon characters, the soul music and even the vibrant colours.
His Decorated Shed piece really spoke to me as well, the attention to detail was amazing, along with the consideration of the surrounding area to his art pieces adding an immersive element.

Tell us an interesting story about yourself & your work:

My ancestral history dates back to the Persian Empire, originating in modern day Iran. The surname “Shah” was given to the Monarchs and this consequently developed my interest in the ancient histories. This feeds into my work by adding elements of authority and worship.


Our Manchester Open Exhibition 2020 runs from Sat 18 Jan until Sun 29 Mar.

This is the first region-wide exhibition of its type to welcome entries from people of any background and level of experience, including established professionals, new and emerging talent, enthusiastic amateurs and first-time artists.

Follow #mcropen2020 on all our platforms for sneak previews, artist Q&As and behind the scenes videos.