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Check out the winning artists from Arlo Parks’ art therapy project

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Three artists will have their work showcased across the UK with Parks’ mammoth mental health-championing project, as part of Dazed and Converse’s Open To Change programme

As part of Dazed x Converse’s ongoing ‘Open to Change’ partnership, we’ve been spearheading ‘Open Calls’, uniting a global community through purpose driven creative actions. Arlo’s Art Therapy is a part of this project, conceived by singer, songwriter, poet and Mercury Award winner Arlo Parks, to champion the cathartic power of creative expression.

“Art therapy is something anyone can practice: losing ourselves to a gorgeous song or picking up a paintbrush is a healing experience, made for everyone,” says Parks, in the project’s visual. “There’s beauty in the possibility of what we will create next, it’s the journey not the outcome.”

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Running in support of suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), Arlo’s Art Therapy is a multi-facted project. Parks is creating the physical zine, Art Therapy Journal. Paralleling this was the recent open call for artists – illustrators, painters, writers, creatives of all kinds – to submit work that speaks to the projects themes of finding solace and therapy in making art. The winning artists would be paid for their work, which would then appear on fly posters across Manchester, Bristol, and London.

Now, we can announce the three winning submissions, as selected by Parks, Converse, and Dazed – Sodoma Xia, Kelsee Rose, and Navinder Nangla. Sodoma Xia submitted a striking photograph that speaks to the transformative energy of electronic music and club culture, interpolating personal and shared experiences on the dancefloor. Kelsee Rose’s work is a colourful, blossoming painting titled “Inertia” created at the crest of Springtime – it’s filled with hope and optimism, a “gentle reminder that the only force worth reckoning is our own,” Rose says. “Sleep Paralysis”, by Navinder Nangla, is an intense work that tackles the artist’s own battles with parasomnia, going head-to-head with a deep fear and tumultuous feelings to find escapism and solace in painting.

As well as the three winners, additional submissions from the process will now go on to be selected to feature in Arlo’s Art Therapy Journal too. The collaborative journal will bring together insights, meditations, and instructions from Arlo Parks and her collaborators, built on a message of empowerment and encouragement for anyone seeking catharsis in art. The bespoke journal will be available to buy on Arlo Parks’ website in December, with all proceeds going to CALM, so keep an eye out.

We chat to the three winning artists below about their pieces, finding solace in art, and the wider project – check out their winning submissions below too.

KELSEE ROSE

How have you found art to be both cathartic and therapeutic? 

Kelsee Rose: Art is an expressive form, manifesting my internal perspectives of the ever-changing world around us. For me, it is a pure, fluid, and tactile experience, from the manipulation of paint through drips and drags to the experimentation of how my fingers gesture and manoeuvre brushes in the flow. It is an effortless and grounding process that cements who I am and all the beautiful things I am thinking and feeling.

You work across painting, film, and photography – can you explain how you traverse these different mediums?  

Kelsee Rose: From film photography when I am travelling, to watercolour when I am sitting in a café – my artistic practice is vast. I teach adults and children, work with businesses to create murals, and collaborate on festivals to enhance the visual setting. My studio is where I stretch canvases and create large-scale pieces. There, my artistic medium is primarily acrylic, enhanced by gilding. 

Tell us a bit about your winning submission. 

Kelsee Rose: ‘Inertia’ remains a significant project, inspired by the promise of spring and the concept of inertia, where I feel we must spark our own process of blooming. Sunflowers have always seeped their way into my life and my art. In this piece, sunflowers represent positivity and stand as a reminder to follow the light. Sharing this connection with Arlo was certainly a beautiful and poetic notion. Along with a sundry of natural structures inspired by the Australian landscape, including water, native flowers and the rising sun, my perception of flora is carried through idyllic lines and lustrous tones.

‘My pieces are a celebration of the world and all its splendour and rarity. I hope they inspire a close relationship with nature, built on reciprocity and appreciation’ – Kelsee Rose

What themes do you wish to explore, and what societal/cultural landscapes do you hope to change with your work?

Kelsee Rose: The natural world continues to be a vital theme within my work. The world we are living in is fast-paced, consuming and overly connected. My pieces are a celebration of the world and all its splendour and rarity. I hope they inspire a close relationship with nature, built on reciprocity and appreciation, as we all endure to flourish and build a life rich in meaning and purpose.

What are the biggest influences on your work?

Kelsee Rose: Growing up in Australia, my family and I spent a huge chunk of each year in a caravan, travelling on long road trips. From salty oceans and blanketed snowfields to arid, desert roads and billabongs in the outback, it was a childhood consisting of a vivid and growing imagination and a plethora of time in nature.

I am forever grateful to my parents for exposing me to these vast landscapes as it inspired a life of travel and adventure. As I grew older, I began to explore the world and its continents, meeting people from different walks of life and understanding the diverse ways to exist. By expanding my perspectives, this allows me to further appreciate who I am and bloom through each moment of my life. You don’t need much to be happy. I believe you make your own happiness through experiences, balance and appreciation, and along the way, you’ll find others to be happy with.

What are you creating next?

Kelsee Rose: I have been working as an artist for over 10 years and my practice has derived from a place of humble self-expression and word-of-mouth. Whether opportunities arise or not, I will be painting sunflowers. Over the course of this year, I’ve been blessed with private commissions. I adore the creative process of painting a piece that enhances the aesthetics of a client’s space. As we head into the heat of the Australian summer, I’ll be painting pieces for my newest collection inspired by my travels along the coastline. The pipeline is long and the waves are endless.

SODOMA XIA

How have you found art to be cathartic and therapeutic? 

Sodoma Xia: (I create works) about self-expression and self-acceptance. Most of my works are quite dark, but it is just how I work to integrate into my shadow, accepting the aspects suppressed by ego and then maintaining the continuity and individuality of myself. 

How did you come to photography, and this submitted piece?

Sodoma Xia: I photograph the emotion and the feeling I get when I dance to electronic music at nightclubs. Fashion photography and electronic music are the loves of my life. My photography work focuses on presenting a kind of in-between status, between the fantasy and the reality, which is about emotions and feelings rather than the real world. I dance from midnight till the sunrise, following thebeats and flashing lights, and it is the only moment that I do not need to think about anything and can only feel my own existence, escaping the stress of reality for a while. It’s the way I heal myself

Your work navigates the body, freedom and queerness very beautifully – how do you hope to push at those themes in the wider landscape of your work and the space it inhabits?

Sodoma Xia: As a queer artist, I endeavour to explore more about the diverse beauty of queer bodies. In the cultural environment I grew up in, I faced many skeptics and stereotypes towards my sexual orientation and my figure, but I never wavered and always followed my heart. I hope to present the diverse beauty of queer bodies and give courage to the others to insist on themselves and not care about social judgements or stereotypes. I also want to present extreme beauty, something between human and creatures, because that is a fantasy world. 

‘I hope to present the diverse beauty of queer bodies and give courage to the others to insist on themselves and not care about social judgements or stereotypes’ – Sodoma Xia

What are the biggest influences on your work? 

Sodoma Xia: The underground culture and the desire to be unique. Most of my works – photography, digital visuals, and fashion – are inspired by underground culture. I also want to challenge the limitations of photography. I experiment with different materials, lighting, and creative and unconventional techniques to create the fantasy and dream-like visions with a camera lens, before the digital editing. I remember that in an interview I saw, Nick Knight said that the fashion photography industry is really saturated – I want to challenge that. 

What are you creating next?

Sodoma Xia: I hope to expand my visions and do more collaborative work in fashion, not only fashion photography. I also hope to explore digital fashion, fashion styling, and performance art. There are so many creative and unconventional artists in London and I hope to collaborate with them. Ib Kamara is one of my favourite fashion stylists, and I really hope to work with him one day in the future.

NAVINDER NANGLA

How have you found art to be cathartic and therapeutic? 

Navinder Nangla: I find art very therapeutic, as I can just escape and detach myself from the real world and switch off, zone out, and go into Navinder Nangla world, which is a happy, surrealist place.

Can you explain how you came to this painting, and the significance of your submission to the project? 

Navinder Nangla: In this particular painting, ‘Nightmare’, the medium used to create this piece were acrylic paint, spray paint, and oil sticks. The significance of this painting showcases me battling and tackling my demons head on by attacking it on the canvas – doing this helps me overcome the fear! I’m hoping I can show other people that art is their friend and they can find peace of mind while creating whatever field they want it to be – fashion, music, poetry, painting.

What themes do you wish to explore, and what societal and cultural landscapes do you hope to interrogate with your work?

Navinder Nangla: Being an artist, I paint what I feel mainly – self portraits are usually of me battling with my demons, but I want to transition. Being an artist, we have powerful voices. Even more powerful than politicians. So in the future, I want to explore and communicate what’s relevant and going on in the world right now, like, how we’re messing up the world, ruining the planet while animals and nature are suffering because of us humans. I want to start communicating and incorporating this in my paintings as it needs to be heard – it’s my job as an artist to use this tool to better the world!

‘I want to explore and communicate what’s relevant and going on in the world right now… it needs to be heard – it’s my job as an artist to use this tool to better the world!’ – Navinder Nangla

What are your biggest influences on your work?

Navinder Nangla: There’s many things, but I would say my biggest influences on my work are my sleep paralysis, nightmares, and dreams. I somehow vividly remember them and start to create from them. I also take a lot of inspiration from the greats like Francis Bacon, as his work is quite dark in subject matters similar to my nightmares. I also use Henri Matisse for reference as he’s a sick colourist. Then I love how spontaneous and impulsive Cy Twombly’s works of art are and how quickly he paints. I would say I have a similar brushstroke motion to him in a way, but in my own style if that makes sense. Music does also play a big part – when I hear a lyric, I can picture things that inspire me to create. With all these ingredients mixed together, it makes my own style of Navinder Nangla work.

What are your next projects or artistic endeavors?

Navinder Nangla: I’ve been busy styling an artist on their UK tour, and prepped the garms before their tour in the States. I guess I’ll be doing their next tour also, so I best start scoping out garms for that, as it will soon come along quick. Within this going on, I will be working on my own pieces like paintings, garments, and footwear where I want to showcase a hybrid of a fashion show and an art exhibition together to make one big show. I just got to figure it out and plan it in a cool way.”

For updates on Open To Change follow @dazed, @converse, and @converse_london.