Interview with Zeinab Diomande (aka Z The Rat) for ‘Perspectives’ | Exhibition on view October 1 – October 22, 2022

Thinkspace is pleased to present artist Zeinab Diomande (aka Z the Rat) showing new works in group exhibition “Perspectives.”

The artist explores the theme of mental health and her experience as a black woman. These themes mark out and feed her warm and colorful world. Adapting what already exists and reinventing it in a way that also shapes a new reality is the main focus of this expression.

Our interview with Zeinab Diomande reflects on the unease felt in calm spaces, dives into the exploration of mediums, and provides a few jazz recommendations.

You’ve shared that your paintings are a love letter to your child-self. What was your childhood like? Would you be comfortable sharing a core memory and the feeling it produced that inspires your work? 

My childhood was semi-regular. I feel like I was a child who was way too aware of what was going on around her. I had a critical approach to life and was very aware that it wasn’t perfect. Life at home taught me that. Despite this, I feel like I still got to be a child in a lot of ways beyond being physically one. A core memory would be playing dress up by myself in my room that I shared with my siblings. The idea of escaping and creating little universes for myself has always been on brand for me. 

I could reinvent my reality by dressing up, making up stories, and be wherever I wanted. This is one of my favorite parts of my childhood having that endless imagination. 

In the last show you had with us, you were exploring the idea of peace within chaos. Do you find yourself unsettled in non-chaotic spaces?

This is probably one of the deepest questions I have ever been asked; I do find myself unsettled in non-chaotic spaces. For instance, I had a conversation a while back about not wanting to move to the countryside. It’s peaceful and quiet, and I grew up in a big city with a lot of noises. I always think about the way I grew up; it’s always been noisy and loud. Moving into my first apartment was pretty hard since there was peace and this can be a hard feeling to navigate when you aren’t used to it. It’s easier to keep the pattern of the things you are used to going than adapting to something completely new. I’m getting better at navigating non-chaotic spaces but still somewhat feel unsettled. 

What drew you to using multiple mediums within your work; acrylics, color pencils, oil pastels, etc? Did you have a period where you tried to stick to one medium? 

I’ve always thought about the complexity of my pieces being tied to my use of multiple mediums. I see endless possibilities in using multiple mediums as well as modes of explorations, different textures having different feelings attached to them. I did try to stick to one medium (oil pastel) at one point, but I quickly realized that it made more sense for me and my practice to keep the idea of exploration going by including a variety of mediums in my work. I like to see my work as a continuing process, so using a wide range of mediums is what makes more sense to me. 

“Perspective” is a group exhibition along with three other talented artists. Could you share an element of your fellow exhibitors’ work that inspires, challenges, or intrigues you? 

I wanna start with Chigozie’s work. I am beyond fascinated by the way she uses oil to create all these beautiful textures. It is something to strive for. Ayobola’s use of mixed media is out of this world. It has a unique interplay between figure and texture that I really admire. Bianca’s use of colors and ink is fascinating and complex! 

Do you have a habit or routine that helps you balance your artistic process, student life, and general hustle? 

Music is something that gets me into the zone that I want to be in. I have a very clear system when it comes to the things I listen to; I generally have three songs that I always come back to when I’m starting a work. these songs are ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ by the Velvet Underground, ‘Ba da da’ by Gray, and ‘sirladymakemfall’ by liv.e. It’s interesting how these songs always come back for every single piece I’ve ever made. they help me stay focused and help me when I’m blocked or at a certain stage in the painting.

Who are a few of your favorite Jazz musicians? Do you have a song recommendation we must listen to? 

John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dahlak Band and Hailu Mergia, Mulatu Atzaske. ‘Anchin Kfu Ayinkash’ by Dahlak band and ‘Hailu Mergia’ and ‘Salt Peanuts’ by Dizzy and Charlie are some favorites of mine.

You’ve been navigating your last year of college in 2022. Have you had your thesis exhibition yet? How was finishing this chapter (or process of finishing)? 

I have not finished yet! I am in the process of brainstorming for my exhibition. it is definitely hard to navigate being both a full-time artist and a full-time student, so balancing the two responsibilities is something that I have to do.

Could you give us three facts or anecdotes about your home country/home city that you wish more people knew about? 

  1. the food!! I would recommend trying as soon as you get there is attieke and alloco which are basically mashed cassava and sweet plantain. they are generally accompanied by fish or chicken.
  2. going to the beach is something I really enjoy about my home. the water is clearer than anywhere I’ve ever seen; it’s incredible to see.
  3. visiting other cities besides Abidjan is very interesting. I’ve been to a place called man (pronounced like maw kind of or much), which is a place with mountains and waterfalls. it is insanely beautiful and is one of the only cool places that I’ve been to in côte d’ivoire. 

If you could have any skill downloaded into your brain, what would it be and why? 

Music skills would be fun to just immediately have. I love music but don’t know much about playing it.

If you could have a dinner party with 5 people, dead or alive, who would they be? What would be on the menu? And what is your icebreaker question?

Basquiat for sure. John Coltrane. my friend Kwamé, Kurt Cobain, and my grandpa. My icebreaker question is “how did we all get here?” 

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