A Thought piece by James Balmond & Azara Jaleel co-founders of Art & Living by ARTRA Magazine & Balmond Studio together with Jat Holdings

As human beings, we tend to classify. This is how we make sense of the complex world around us. Yet categorization can be a limitation. Once we put something in its metaphorical box, we are restricted by an abstract edge and preconceived lid, in which we live in the micro, trapped within walls curbing innovation.

To create unique conceptual languages of any kind, be it visual, performance applied or written - one must challenge reductive ways of thinking. Thus art contributes to this principle as it characterises a creative consciousness enabling inventive thinking. In this space, that we call, Art & Living we move from autonomy to synergy, boundary to overlap, singularity to simultaneity, individuality to multiplicity. We let in fluidity of thought and unknown horizons come into view. We explore. We take action. We learn. The application of artistry within new conceptual paradigms is the language of innovation. This is the philosophical grounding for the collaboration between ARTRA and Balmond Studio.


One must note that our partnership was not conceived in a theoretical vacuum. Rather it emerged from observation and conversation. We were talking about innovation within the postmillennial artistic landscape. More specifically, we explored the perception of art as a discipline in Sri Lanka, its place within society and its connection with the individual. In essence, we believe that creativity is inherent within the human psyche and spirit. In other words, we believe that every person contains expressive and creative possibilities. It’s just a matter of tapping into, and unlocking, this potential. And we wondered, “What if we could give people knowledge and comprehension? What if we could empower people with insight to start making artistic choices in their daily lives?” and thus the seed of Art & Living was born. After months of characterizing and fleshing out our thoughts on this subject we unravelled the relevance of artistic thought and principles to the enrichment of the daily lives of the people. We arrived at this conclusion due to the fusion of our creative personalities and industry expertise, one person a Creative Director of an interdisciplinary researchled design practice of architects, designers, artists and theoreticians run by Cecil Balmond OBE and the other, the founder and editor in chief of a contemporary art magazine steeped in the academic and professional discourse of the subject in visual, performative, applied and written forms. Thus we set about Art & Living, through a series of content segments on all ARTRA print and digital platforms, and that of Balmond Studio mediums, in exploring the role of artistic thoughts and principles in formulating a new language of innovation, which will contribute to a stimulating daily life, be it mentally, aesthetically, spiritually and physically.

We believe that artistry is engrained existentially within the mind and life through which singularity is replaced by multiplicity and simultaneity. This is a new philosophical paradigm within which we apply new creative thinking. As previously stated we create a new language of innovation.


If we are talking about creative and artistic choices to enhance daily life then design has to come into play. After all, design is about the application of creativity to improve experience because enhanced functionality contributes to an enhanced quality of life.

We have two disciplines juxtaposed - art and design. Are they two separate definitive disciplines? Or are there areas of synergy and overlap? We would definitely say the latter. Both are creative. Both are expressive. Both engage in the exploration of aesthetics. The consensus is that art is about personal expression, where the purpose and value of art are fully contained within the art itself. Yet design is viewed differently. Design is about functionality. Its value is determined by external factors, namely the purpose that the design serves and the user that it benefits. We are not saying these are incorrect observations however there is a rigidity here from the perspective of lacking fluidity of thought.


We will bring art and design together to form an innovative language of expression open to all in the form of a conceptual and functional style guide. Art & Living is a column and content stream across both ARTRA’s print and digital platforms, which will also manifest in event and exhibition forms in due course. The content will be co-created and co-curated by ARTRA and Balmond Studio. With this fusion of our artistic and design-focused organizations, all of our knowledge, experience, expertise and wider communities will synergise. The result? Insight and advice extracted from many minds from many places.

Our content will help people
1. Choose
2. Experiment and
3. Explore

Creative possibility in the everyday. We hope to empower everyone to add an expressive mark on the world.

Art & Living is a vast and dynamic area to explore. Over time we will journey through many areas and ideas. Initially, we will be focusing on the most intimate and essential space to daily life – the home. It is a personal and relatable space where people have a tangible and experiential connection to the environment. This seems like an appropriate catalytic starting point for our new journey. 

Every space is an opportunity. Every wall a canvas. Every floor a possibility.

Everything can be an expression of you.


The first thing to realise is that both art and design exist in relation to us. It’s a balance between space, form and spirit. Through subjective experience we infuse creative output with meaning.

To put the idea into more context. A kitchen is more than just an inanimate room with a function. It starts as an unknown or void – a blank space within which one can express one’s self through a series of creative actions. These actions are a reflection of your needs as well as your character, your behavior, your likes and dislike, even how you move around an area. In other words, your artistic actions reflect your very identity. We’re talking about self- expression.

If this seems of no relevance to you, perhaps think again. Once you start thinking about yourself in relation to your space, creative avenues emerge. So what are you into? In terms of shapes, are you more into curvature or the obtuse? Or are smooth or angular edges to your countertops more to your taste? Do you prefer organization to spontaneity? In the sense, do you need organized and economical storage? Is the kitchen your own private space or do you want a place where friends and family can be with you whilst cooking? Do you want to dine in the same space as you cook? How do you feel when you cook? Do you want to be energized or have a sense of calm? A homely ambience versus that of a professional decorum? Would you prefer natural lighting or artificial lighting? 

The questions can go on and on ad infinitum.

All the answers to these questions will determine everything from your flooring and lighting options, to the layout and plan of your kitchen. Decorative objects, focal points, movement considerations, paint colours, material choices, we could go on. The point is that, in fact, when we look at ourselves, and our connection to an environment, we find that we have many paths to explore. These paths are all avenues of artistry, design and ultimately expression.

Specifics with practical artistic ‘Take away’ element

The perfect synergy of functionality and space. A U-shape plan offers counters and workspaces on 3 walls plus a space in the middle to use as you wish. Enjoy storage, a place to eat and versatile spacing possibilities. Why not try separating the cooking and preparation areas as well as the storage areas. Why not insert an island into the spare space to create a focal point in the design? The U-shape is perfect for those that spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and baking as well as perceiving the kitchen as a communal space for people to get together.

Artistic Commentary

The U-shape’s versatility and flexibility are good for those with a little artistic and design confidence. The concave space within the ‘U-Bend’ is a blank canvas. This can become a focal point for an artistic or functional statement. One can add an Island in the space that can double up as a breakout/sitting space. Also one can add an artistic centerpiece to the island.

How to choose a work of art that compliments?

Since the U-shaped kitchen is conducive to accommodating more individuals, it will be great to choose a work of art that provokes conversation. If the kitchen is to be transformed into a stimulating space, the work on the wall should be beyond that of decorative value. Perhaps choosing an abstract work of art, or one that has many or finer details, would trigger inspiring conversation that has many readings, keeping the flow of perspectives anew often.

Compact and efficient, the L-shape kitchen plan is ideal for single occupants with a smaller kitchen space. With the L-shape, one loses a wall for counters and storage however it maximizes the potential of the corner space itself. The ‘deadend’ approach suits those that like a little additional privacy when they cook. 

More commentary

The spare wall in the L-shape is an ideal place to hang a piece. It offers aesthetic contrast to the counters and storage, juxtaposing the functional with the expressive. Just be wary of the size of the picture, as usually L-Shaped kitchens are in smaller spaces, meaning a large work of art on the wall can become oppressive and ostentatious or become space of daily inspiration that fuels creative energy of the user in a dramatic sense.

How to choose a work of art that compliments?

The L shape kitchen posits an interesting proposition to its user in terms of deciding to what extent they want art to influence their fairly solitary experience in the kitchen. We believe it will be great to choose a work that the user has an emotional tie with, the work which relates to something joyful, eliciting a sense of rejuvenation and positivity will keep good company with the user in their times of meals and preparation.

The Gallery Kitchen may be slightly contradictory towards more contemporary open plan living, however, it is a design solution that still works well in the right spaces. The two-walled approach to storage and facilities compliments smaller spaces offering ease and convenience whilst also saving space. Secondly, the long walkway between the two work areas can open up the space on either side, allowing for foot traffic and a communal feel.

More commentary

The Galley Kitchen sets up the ideas of duality, juxtaposition, contrast, balance, push and pull, symmetry as we have opposing units on opposing sides and a central walkway. Why not pick one of these concepts and add it thematically into your kitchen? Colour on juxtaposed walls is an engaging way to explore one of these ideas.

Artistic commentary

Use of complimentary colors on either sides of the kitchento add an aesthetic nuance through paint or color.



10th February, 2020 Applied Art