When I was younger, an Indian-Iranian girlfriend told me, "You never paint a coloured girl." I hated to admit it but she was right.I had my reasons. One was that most of my early works were a deliberate objectification of women and I was reluctant to use anyone other than me as a model. Another was my lack of basic skills when it came to mixing paint. I only began painting Asian women a few years ago, after a brief lesbian fling – my first, having suppressed my bi-sexuality for too long – with a Korean girl my age. When she undressed, I couldn't help but take in the unfamiliar contrasts between her body and mine, in shape, size and skin colour.
Now I'm drawn to African women, maybe because their often large, strong, powerful bodies more closely resemble those I've always painted – which is to say, my own. Two women, a Kenyan and an African-American, have asked to model for a few large enamel works I'm creating to benefit arts projects in East and West Africa. I'm looking forward – maybe a little too much – to trying to capture their pronounced curves and musculature, as well as the way their dark skin tones, so subtly different to each other's but also starkly different to mine, absorb light. More than anything, I want to be able to paint them in the same way they move, as if responding to some insistent rhythm playing only in their heads.