Structures of Light and Colour: The Photography of Munleen Sibia

Focus LDN is proud to be an event partner with Urban Soup's exhibition A River Runs Through It.

September 6th-10th | Oxo Gallery.

This week we drop in with Munleen Sibia in the run up to her group show.

What do you do?

I’m a painter, but for my upcoming exhibition A River Runs Through It, I will be showing photography which I have been developing in the last couple of years. It is a bit different from what I paint as I don’t normally paint the city, but with photography the city is what I really enjoy to shoot.

How did you get into art?

It was always my hobby and at school I studied it at AS Level, but the syllabus was too rigid, it said you have to do this, this, and this; that wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I gave it up and didn’t touch a paint brush for three or four years. Later, on holidays from studying business at university, my mum suggested I start again. That is what got me going once more.

You paint, but in this show you will be showing off your photography...

Yes, I still classify myself as an artist, because I don’t quite have the technical knowledge that I would like in photography. I am still learning, I think it will take years to learn, because there is so much jargon and each camera you use is different. I used to use a Canon and I just changed to a Fuji and now I feel like I have to start all over again, because there are so many difference in the way they work. I have always had my camera with me and have always been taking pictures. Sometimes I would take photographs as source material for my paintings and then the photography itself took off from there.

Around the Corner

What is it about London which inspires you so much?

The variety of things to photograph, architecture, parks, landscapes and the street art, which is one of my favourites things to photograph. I love the bright colours because that is how I paint, so my photography is a reflection of that. I love that you can walk anywhere and there is always something you can photograph, nothing is boring and dull. I always have a camera in my hand bag just in case. Especially when I am with people, I have to warn them that I will be stopping as we walk if I find a shot that needs to be taken, so I am probably quite annoying to walk with!

So what can we expect in your upcoming exhibition?

I’m super excited because this is my first proper exhibition, I have done open studios at Wimbledon but this is the first time I am doing something out of there. Again it going to be a mixture of things, there will be iconic London landmarks, the South Bank is one of my favourite places to photograph, so there will be a lot of that, there will be street art and graffiti. I’m a big fan of sunsets, so there will be a lot of dramatic skies and bright vivid sunsets.

Do you do sunrises too?

No that is too early for me! But the colours at sunset, especially in London in the Winter and the Autumn, I wish I could come in everyday and photograph because every day is different and will be unlike any other. I love it when I am walking along the South Bank just waiting for the colours to change.

Your studio is at the Wimbledon Art Studios, how long have you been there now?

Three years.

Best of Both

How do you think your practice has changed since being there? Do you think it has influenced you?

Oh, definitely. Being around other artists just helps you be more inspired. I mean we all go through days or weeks when things just aren’t going right, you hand just won’t do what you want, especially with painting. Which makes it nice to go out and have photography. when I’m not in the mood to paint I go out with my camera, and then visa versa. It’s nice to have a balance between the two.

Evening Light

Do you think that one day you may only be a photographer or that you will always want to run the two in parallel?

No, I love both of them. I love the freedom of painting, because I paint with pallet knives which feels very free flowing and gives me that escape from photography.

Which artists are currently inspiring you?

Maybe not artists, but certainly photographers at the moment, especially travel photographers. There is Lucy Laucht who captures these perfect images with such simple photos. I hate photos which are over manipulated, I don’t really do that to my photos, as I like to keep them as natural as possible, so she is one of my favourites. There is also Jacob Riglin who is a big inspiration at the moment.

How important do you think it is for artists to work for themselves, and understand business?

In this day and age, it’s a big thing especially with tools like social media. Each social platform is a business in itself, so self-promotion is a big thing for artists now.

Do you think it is changing the nature of artists themselves?

Yes, you can see a lot of people are doing it for the money. Especially on Instagram because of this whole algorithm change, people are getting really upset.

What change is that?

Stop and Stare

Well before it used to be the natural whoever posts first would be on the feed in that order. Now that has changed, so something I posted six hours ago might go above something which was posted ten minutes ago. They say it is to help people who have fewer followers, but I’m not sure if that is true. So people are getting worried that they are not getting the same likes and interaction as they did before. But it shouldn’t really be about that, it should just be about you wanting to show your photography, if people like it they like it and if they don’t they don’t.

How important do you think Instagram is for your career as a photographer?

It has taught me a lot and has helped me learn the tricks people use to create their images. It is also great for getting inspiration for ideas of where to shoot. There is a lot of competition on it though which is a downside.

Where would you like to take your photography?

The dream would be to be a travel photographer, because I love to travel, and the variety of scenes and colours. If there was any way to incorporate the two together that would be the dream; it would be the ultimate goal.

Munleen will be exhibiting her fantastic photographs in Urban Soup's A River Runs Through It at the Oxo Gallery, this September 6th-10th.