This is another in the Keakie Presents series; a new series that showcases the most exciting emerging talent in the world across creative fields ranging from music and fashion, to lifestyle and culture. This week we focus on the talented digital art curator, Kadeem Fletcher (KF).
Kadeem is the creator and founder of Digital Madrid, an annual online art exhibition that aims to showcase an eclectic range of artists who specialise in graphic design, painting, fashion editorials, 3D modelling and drone photography. We sat down with him to talk about his career, and the relationship between art and music in today's culture.
Keakie: So tell us about yourself, your background and your inspirations?
KF: Well I was born and raised in Trinidad. When I was 13 I moved with my parents, brother and sister to New York. I lived in Brooklyn for about 6 years and then moved with my family to a suburban area in Queens, where I live now. I went to school and was studying a degree in Mechanical Engineering at New York University, but I hated it. After a while I stopped going and took a year off. During that year I interned at Complex.
At the time I had my own online publication, and it had actually amassed over 5 million views in under 2 years. The problem was that I didn’t feel that I was creating anything organic. Most of the content written in my blog could probably be seen elsewhere online to. I wanted to create something that could only be seen on my website. In late 2012, I remember thinking about going to Art Basel, and I couldn’t go because I was interning at Complex. I had a bunch of friends who were graphic designers and illustrators, and they said “why go to an art exhibition, when you can create one?”. So I created one. I started it in January 2013.
So I started doing it, and it started doing really well. At the start of 2016 I was interviewed by The Fader. Then Vice did a story, Hypebeast did a story. Nylon did a story and Saint Heron did a story. I got a lot of press that year, and the press is really good because it exposes me to new audiences, but I realise with the press too that a lot of times people think once you’ve been covered by big websites such as Hypebeast that you automatically ‘make it’, or that good things start coming to you without effort. On the contrary, it made me realise that I have to go even harder, because once they put the spotlight on you - it’s intense. Now I look at everything I did before like it was trash. I go back to the drawing board.
Keakie: So did you go back to the drawing board for this new exhibition?
KF: Yes and the result was that I ended up adding a really dope element to Digital Madrid for this installation - I explained why I chose every artist. The exhibition has a lot of visuals, but I realised that I needed to compliment the visuals with some writing as well. Once I put some real pathos into the writing and outlined precisely why I chose the artists in the exhibition, it made it much easier for visitors to truly connect with the art.
There’s a UK artist by the name of Design Butler - he’s in the exhibition. I have wanted him in it for over a year. His artistry is really intricate, and I feel that most people don’t even understand how much he puts into it. He makes these incredible, slender images purely from dots. That takes time and it takes dedication. It might be one of the most difficult art forms out there.
He has to understand that to recreate the vision in his head, each dot has to be absolutely perfect. If he makes a single mistake, he would have to start again. The fact that he has to do that, and yet still consistently create these incredible pieces - demonstrates just how dope he is.
He’s colour blind - and yet he has actually started working on phenomenal colour pieces. That’s what I love to represent. I love people who aren’t afraid to push their limits. It makes you want to really dissect the artist, to know how he’s actually going about doing it, because there has to be something that he’s using to understand what colour is what and how to actually put them together in a way that works.
Keakie: It’s all about new ways of experiencing the music. When you’re looking for these artists, is there something you look for or recognise, like a common theme with for instance a Design Butler.
KF: It has to be progressive.
I don’t try to go towards people who have hype and who have the big fan bases, because they are already known. I focus on the underdog and I help give them a platform that may help skyrocket them, much like Gucci Mane. He had Migos under his wing, Young Thug under his wing, Young Scooter and more. Many Atlanta rappers dominating the game right now look up to him because he put them under his wing early. He didn’t say “this person has so and so buzz” or “this person is blowing up”, no - they were straight from the bottom and he was like “I believe in this person so let me take them, let me help them.” That’s really what it’s all about.
Keakie: Would you consider yourself an underdog?
KF: I still feel as if I’m an underdog. I’m not social media popular, I have a few followers but it’s nothing huge. So I still feel as if I’m underrated. But that doesn’t stop me from doing what I do. If I could really make a Digital Madrid for popular artists one day, then that would be huge because it would create an untapped market. It would be a new gold mine for them to showcase their creations. From there who knows, perhaps we’d be able to pair up with Apple Music and collaborate on that level.
In Digital Madrid I have something that nobody else has. I have something genuinely unique in the art world. In the future, I want to go on a tour where I get to do installations at different museums across the world. It’s just one of the things I want to do in the future. The only thing I’m waiting for is the resources. With the right resources, I can really take it there.
Keakie: Any ideas for the future of Digital Madrid?
KF: I’m focused on the art. I want the art to not only look cool, but I want it to inspire social change. I’m going to start doing themes that tackle issues like gun violence, racism and sexism. All of these things are socially charged issues, and that’s what I want people to start creating art around - because that inspires change.
I definitely feel that art can change the world.