Prem Sahib is busy preparing for his MA show in his small shared studio at the Royal Academy Schools. He is apologetic when our conversation gets drowned out by banging, ascribing it to the general angst of fast-approaching deadlines.
Sahib may still be a student but he has already had solo and mixed gallery shows in prestigious galleries in London and Rome, and will soon be included in a show at the David Roberts Arts Foundation. Born in London in 1982 to an Indian father and a Polish Catholic mother, he says that there was little emphasis on art at home, although he stresses his family have been fully supportive.
I knew that his uncle and father have helped him to put together some of his pieces for his last exhibition so I ask if they are scheduled to give a hand for the forthcoming degree show. He replies, "No, they are getting on a bit. But they are first on the speed dial." Sahib admits that he has learnt a lot from them – his uncle is a labourer and his father has done spray-painting of cars, so techniques of fabrication have been gratefully received. When I query him as to when he thought about being an artist he says, "There was never a point where I decided that I wanted to become an artist but there was a point where I discovered that I enjoyed making art."
Sahib's sculpture shows his exploration of forms and affinity to minimalism in its simple geometry of circles and rectangles, with a sideways glance to gay iconography. One work is composed of a Puffa jacket, captive in a frame. It sounds simplistic but the work has presence. "I like letting the narrative emerge; there is one, a lurking presence," he says.
Recently he has been experimenting with activating his flat, almost wall-like reliefs, by folding them and colouring the backs to reflect against the wall "putting bends in things and allowing them to become a remnant of action".
Sahib is not the only MA graduate at the Royal Academy Schools receiving commercial attention: fellow student and collaborator Eddie Peake has recently had a successful solo show at White Cube and has "signed with the gallery". Sahib says in the past he has had to decline and postpone exhibitions: "I have said no; I always want to put the work first." He does not deny the pressure, though, saying, "I sometimes feel that galleries do not understand the working process of artists and I can not simply pull the work out of my ass."
It will be different after June. Sahib is looking for a new studio, perhaps sharing with someone. He says, only semi-jokingly, "If you hear of one let me know," admitting that it will be a shock, after being cosseted at the schools, to be out in the real world.