Quenching the thirst of creativity

 Art is always fascinating. Shruthi Sudhakaran discovers 4 people behind some surreal art work and talks to them about their perception of art and much more.

Arunkumar HG

Karnataka-born Arunkumar HG completed his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Fine Art, specialising in sculpture, from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda.

Arun Kumar HG portrait3

His use of readymade objects such as toys, plastic, ceramics, cow dung, hay and TV monitors gives us a glimpse of his distinct leanings towards the neo-pop movement. His toy-like, yet intricate sculptural works often convey a simple message. Sometimes, however, he switches the dynamics of this relationship, creating works that physically appear basic, but convey a complex message quite contrary to their appearance.

At a glance, the artist’s colourful imagery, illusive and sometimes even exotic, may confuse the viewer. But once the sources of his inspiration are revealed and understood, their multi-layered associations become clear. In his recent series of works, the artist seems simultaneously disturbed and amused by contemporary market forces, the acts of production and consumption, and the haphazard disposal of mass-produced goods.

Arunkumar HG lives and works in New Delhi. Some of his previous works include photographs, and inflatable sculptures made of canvas, latex, synthetic fur, rubber, foam and fiberglass.

How do you start making art? What is the process behind it?

I think, in most cases the process of art making is a result of an ongoing thought process. It is the same in my case as well. One tries to give a sort of tangible shape to complex thoughts and ideas, which may be better expressed this way. Over time with practice one develops a vocabulary of such shapes and signs to express thoughts better. I let the idea grow in my mind initially and slowly I try to translate the idea into shapes and material carefully till I find it matching my ideas of the intuitive mind.

Arun Kumar HG.breathingspace2

What is your perception of art?

Art is very powerful if it is seen in the context of its creation with some background. An art object or artwork should be able to communicate better on its own.

Is there an element of art you enjoy the most ? Why?

Art stimulates mind in general. It is all the more important for people in creative fields, because it can also function as an exercise for the mind, Art triggers ideas. The more we see art and understand its making, our art making skills get better.

What inspires you in making art? 

Primarily my inspiration comes from nature, secondly people.

 Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why so?

I take inspiration from many art forms, now I am more into environmental art – mainly art that is made to create environmental awareness.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without?

A few years back it was the artist sketchbook. Now it has been replaced by the camera, which has become very important for artists and many others.

How do you know when a work is finished?

While making art, you reach a stage where a little addition or a subtraction can take away from that completeness. That is when I stop.

What is the main challenge you face when beginning a work of art?

In general while making art I consider the size of the art and space where it’s going to go once it is complete; it’s the challenge we face even before the idea is conceived.

Vasudha Thozhur

Vasudha Thozhur is a painter who lives and works in Noida. She was born in Mysore and was educated at the College of Arts and Crafts, Madras. She also specialized at the School of Art and Design, Croydon, UK before working in Chennai for several years from 1981 to 1997.

Vasudha Thozhur (1)

In her works, Thozhur shifts effortlessly between the use of water colours, oils and the digital medium, also employing the technique of collage. Hers in an open-ended narrative – a private language of forms and symbols – which makes oblique reference to her own life experience, while also leaving space for the viewer to engage their own readings and reflections. Her primary concerns in her works are those that pertain to the eternal aspect of human existence, which she rhetorically conveys through the mundane objects that surrounds us in our daily rites of passage. In a reflective summing up of her artistic practice she states, “If song could be conceived of as the penetration of the tongue into the orifice of the ear, painting is the thrust and imprint of body upon body, in encounters of varying intensity and duration.”

Apart from this, she was actively involved in lectures and workshops as a visiting faculty at MSU, Baroda, NID in Ahmedabad, and IICD, Jaipur. A grant from the India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore, supported a research project, ‘The Himmat Workshops’, that looked at ways of rooting art practice in ground realities as experienced in India. She presently serves as Associate Professor at the Department of Art, Design and Theatre of Shiv Nadar University.

How do you start making art? What is the process behind it?

As a student, it begins with the acquisition of visual and tactile skills on the one hand, and experimentation/play on the other. A fusion of the two creates language, which can then be used to express or interpret the world and the experiences that it engenders.

What is your perception of art?

I see it as situated on the outermost threshold of human evolution, with a power of prophecy that can point the way to a sustainable future. I see it as directly opposed to mindless violence and loss of humanity.

Is there an element of art you enjoy the most? Why?

The quality of time and concentration that it creates; the reflection and self-knowledge that returns to the individual an agency that is in danger of being consumed by systems of different kinds.

What inspires you in making art

It’s the other way round – art provides inspiration and makes life worth living.  It is a source of emotional strength, which can see us through the worst of times. And, most important, it is about world-making.

Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why so?Vasudha Thozhur

I think there is a moment in the making of every artwork that one is proud of. It happens at the point where you are in despair, and think you have lost it – and through an exertion of will that is hard to describe, you retrieve the irretrievable and come out shining.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without?

My stapler-gun, hammer, scissors, palette knife, filbert-tip brushes – and that is not a complete list. It cannot be a single tool, it’s a medley!

How do you know when a work is finished?

When the greatest resistance is overcome, and a sense of peace and completeness returns.

What is the main challenge you face when beginning a work of art?

Again, every artwork is a challenge. It’s a question of allowing it to lead you, as much as giving it a direction, and there is always a sense of risk.  It is about acknowledging a voice, a life and an autonomy in keeping with form and what goes into making it.

Rekha Roddwittiya

Bengaluru-born Rekha Rodwittiya specialised in painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda and completed her MA in painting with an Inlaks Scholarship from the Royal College of Art, London. Her first solo show in 1982 in Baroda was followed by nineteen solo shows in New Delhi, Mumbai, Madras, Stockholm, Bangalore and Kolkata.

Rekha Rodwittiya (1)

Over the years, she has established a strong, politically vigilant feminist practice that sanctioned her representation of the female figure in a non-voyeuristic manner. The female figures in her work from the 1980s and early 1990s were often tormented and anguished, negotiating antagonistic surroundings. In her more recent works, however, she celebrates the female form by presenting it in domestic, intimate situations, very often omitting masculine figures and almost always soaked in bright, bold tones of red. Rodwittiya’s sensitivity as an artist is apparent as she draws from personal beliefs, values, thoughts and emotions of her own past experiences to portray the complexities of life that emphasize issues of love, life, alienation, discrimination and acceptance. It is her belief that life and art are inseparable and she notes, “I go through all the terror and agony of stepping into an.’unknown’.”

She has travelled widely and lectured on contemporary Indian art for several fellowships and artist residencies in Sweden, France, the United States and the U.K. In 1988-89 she was invited as guest artist to the Konsthogskolan, Stockholm and was also invited to deliver series of lectures on Indian Art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts Grenoble and Castello de Rivoli, Torino, Italy in 1991. She has also written extensively on contemporary art. Her works are in a number of private and public collections in India, U.K., U.S.A., Brazil, Italy, West Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands. Rodwittiya lives and works in Baroda.

How do you start making a work of art? What is the process behind it?

As a painter I work long hours in my studio with disciplined regularity. Painting is where everything I know gets clarified and where doubts are battled and where failure does not defeat me. When I paint I feel I know myself best. I find myself observing things minutely at all times. I think this stems from the fact that I do not sketch, so instead, I draw inside my head. I carry these tracings of memory and they accumulate to become my database of reference for an understanding of structure and form, when I paint. 

I have often described the territory of my ideas as being like a small garden patch, much loved and faithfully nurtured. This is because I hold a consistent desire to examine the feminine space of survival, the spirit of endurance and the empowerment of pride and self dignity that centuries of feminist oral histories are infused by; and which cast their shadows for me to find my resting space within. The ideas of my art originate from these preoccupations.

What is your perception of art?

As an artist the most liberating lesson learnt is that one’s own sense of belonging is held in multiple histories that form the stories of the world. The world that we place ourselves central to becomes a tapestry patterned by incidents and histories that demand our participation, willingly or otherwise. As artists we often become the chroniclers of larger narratives that hold both the particularity of our lives as well as a wider world of information.

Rekha RodwittiyaIs there an element of art you enjoy the most? Why?

My works celebrate the ideals of womanhood and explore the multiple avatars that a positioned stance of female empowerment embraces. Though gender equality is far from the norm as a reality of this nation, there are nonetheless a multitude of voices that stridently call to attention the need to dispel the bigoted stereotype of gender bias, and seek to accommodate the changes that we know to be possible and real. It is to such collective concerns that I reaffirm my allegiance and remain proud to call myself a feminist.

Meaningful art is possible only when we understand what our own philosophical positions need to be, and when we can assume the maturity of the stance of resistance to cultural appropriations and stereotypes.

What inspires you in making a work of art? 

The privilege of birth and the gift of education impacted itself upon me from a very young age. A much-desired girl child, I have carried the legacies of a female history with a conscious alertness. It has led me very early in my personal journey to a space of belonging that formulated both my ideology and the spirit of the deliverance of my energies.

Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why so?

My most recent works that deal with personal archival photo imagery and personal oral histories is what I am currently engaged with. As a visual artist the challenge lies in conjuring afresh and investing each work with credibility and contextualised meaning. What must also be remembered is that art is a space that strategizes arguments, problematizes as a method of introspection, is confrontational, is often used as a subversive tool, and is not a space that is designed to entertain the consent of another to validate its existence. This is what independent authorship and artistic autonomy must mean within a democratic space of a secular nation. It is this autonoumos space that I guard most zealously and what I am most proud of as an artist.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without?

I value all the many implements, collected over a period of time that I have in my studio. Some date back to my college days and many have been picked up on my travels or gifted to me by loved ones. I am fastidious about how I keep my art materials and tools.

How do you know when a work is finished?

Years of experience offer one the ability to know what one desires when crafting a visual articulation. This and the cultivation of a critical space of reflectiveness provide the parameters of making this judgment for oneself.

What is the main challenge you face when beginning a work of art?

The configuration of an imaginative play with forms is often arrived at from what we desire to evoke through them. Sometimes what apparently appears as simple may hold inferences that require to be deciphered with more insightfulness. What I desire above all else is in fact the deliverance of my own honesty to myself.  Where my art and my life are seamed together and hold the image of representation uncompromised and unfettered. My art exits finally severed from the umbilical cord that initially defines its articulation; to be then placed in a space of interpretation and discourse, unmonitored by my protection.  It must hold the credibility that moulded it, if it is not to be felled into wasteful oblivion.  I can exert no control over any external forces that act upon my work, but what I can do is remain accountable to myself at all times.

Gigi Scaria pic

Gigi Scaria

Born in Kothanalloor, Kerala, Gigi Scaria completed his Bachelor’s degree in painting from the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram and his Master’s degree in the same from Jamia Millia University, New Delhi.

Scaria’s work explores the impact of the recent growth boom in our modern-day cities. Through his diverse media of expression, which include painting, sculpture, photographs, and video works, he creates absurdist environments of the future, challenging the human psyche and its relationship with modern progress.

He constructs imaginary architecture, draws maps calling for the reorganization of cities, and conjures surreal landscapes and humor-ridden scenarios where people are trapped inside or excluded from these fascinating interpretations of our possible future.

His works also often strongly reverberate with the issue of non-belonging and unsettlement. Scaria was amongst the 4 artists/artist groups included in the first-ever National Pavilion for India in the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. Prior to that, his work was part of important exhibitions such as the 3rd Singapore Biennale ‘Finding India,’ at the Museum of contemporary art (MOCA) Taipei; ‘SAMTIDIGT Indian contemporary art exhibition,’ at the Helsinki City Art Museum, Helsinki and ‘West Havens: Place time play: India – China Contemporary Art,’ at Shanghai.

Scaria now lives and works out of New Delhi.

How do you start making art? What is the process behind it?

I am a trained artist and have been working in the field for 18 – 20 years. In terms of different ideas one would think about, there are certain things that we work with, or would like to use to express our ideas. In my case I have been working on cityscapes, architecture, and such, related to open spaces. That is my forte. My ideas occur quickly and often I find that something suddenly clicks and over a period of time I process the thought in my mind, choose a medium and start working. Very soon it comes together as a whole artwork.

 What is your perception of art?

Art has two sides. One is the personal aspect of an individual expression. The second is social, political and timely relevance. So according to me, art is a two-way process. Art is not just self-expression. It is about having something to convey or clarify and expressing it to people. The key is connecting to other social beings through your ideas.

GIGI Scaria21

 Is there an element of art you enjoy the most? Why?

I enjoy every medium that I can employ to express my works. Although I give equal importance to each of them, I enjoy film-making a lot.

 What inspires you in making art? 

Many things. In my case my thoughts, an idea or the book I read. I try and effect a meaningful translation of that into a piece of art. It is inspiring to move the idea in the direction of something new, something different and something out of the box.

 Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why so?

A couple of works, I would say. My Trojan horse installation, for one. Another is the 3D installation elevator called elevator of the subcontinent installed at the Venice Biennale.

 What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without?

It would obviously be my 5D Mark 2 camera because it contributes a lot to my work.

 How do you know when a work is finished?

I instinctively know when I have reached the point where I have commented enough. From the point when the idea begins, I reach the point when I have communicated what I set out to, and that is where I stop.

What is the main challenge you face when beginning a work of art?

Challenge lies in many things, the physical aspect of constructing something, making something, shooting something and also how to communicate with a particular theme. Is it creative? The challenge is creating something and having a viewer interpret or understand it the way you’re thinking about it. If others get what you want to portray, you are successful.