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Framed
January 10, 2019

Millennials Love Surrealist Art And These 8 Artists Show Us Why

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

Live out your wildest fantasies through the works of these artists from the Subcontinent

Last month, Sara Shakeel, who describes herself as a crystal artist, was featured in Forbes for her ability to transform everyday objects like a cup of Starbucks coffee or even a regular breakfast of eggs and toast into mystical items. The Pakistani dentist-turned-artist is currently one of Instagram’s biggest treasures, as far as the art realm is concerned with millennials drooling over her bedazzled feed. Strategically infusing sparkling crystals and kaleidoscopic rainbows into everything she has either witnessed or wishes to experience, Shakeel’s art is a mesmerising rendition of what the world would look like if everything under the sun were to be studded with diamonds — think cats and snakes or even your own mucus. Shakeel also commands an impressive Instagram following of 6,12,000 followers — no mean feat for an artist in the Gen Z era where attention spans are short and lasting patronage is hard to come by. What then makes Shakeel’s works stand out?

It’s the fantastical quality of it. Burned out by their hectic lives, millennials are constantly searching for an escape and gravitate towards people, places and things that can provide one. This would explain why surrealist art is having a moment with even Gucci getting Spanish artist Ignasi Monreal on board last year to create dreamy digital artworks featuring Victorian figures for their Spring/Summer 2018 campaign.

The future looks bright for artists who specialise in surrealism, be it illustrations, digital art or photography and we take this opportunity to introduce you to some of our favourite surrealist artists from the Indian Subcontinent.

Rithika Merchant

Having appeared on the cover of our Art issue last year, it’s easy to see why the Barcelona-based artist is number one on our list of favourites. Creating art that is replete with hybrid creatures, liquid landscapes and horoscopic skies, the painter’s work is reminiscent of the Norse Gods that were worshipped by Vikings and ties together elements that are both nostalgic and romantic. Her pieces invite the viewer on a journey of discovery seeing how it takes a while to get fully acquainted with the myriad details of a single painting. Having also been the inspiration for Chloé’s folklore-inspired Spring/Summer 2018 collection, it’s safe to say that the artist is well on her way to greatness.

View her artwork on Instagram here.

Vikram Kushwah

Born in New Delhi and currently working in England, Vikram Kushwah looks at the world through rose-tinted lenses to create utterly whimsical photographs. Claiming to be someone who grew old but never really grew up, all his pictures — artistic or commercial — have a certain wistfulness to them, almost as if they belong to another realm. Using staged photography to breathe life into his childhood memories and his favourite fables like Alice in Wonderland, Kushwah imbues an otherworldly feeling into scenarios that are as simple as women posing in bathing suits. Winning the Portrait of Britain award in 2018, the photographer has lent his phantasmagorical expertise to countless magazine shoots and hopes to travel to more countries to exhibit his work.

View his work on Instagram here.

Shweta Sharma

Watching her mother spend hours in front of a canvas making botanical and anatomical paintings, Shweta Sharma’s impressionable three-year-old mind instantly associated paintbrushes with excitement. A commercial artist by day and a crazy doodler by night, her work is firmly entrenched in eclectic surrealism. Sharma’s ingenuity borders on the eccentric where she dips into her dreams — a place where fish fly and doodles come to life — for inspiration. Perhaps this is why her artworks feature things like psychedelic cars that are constructed entirely out of stationery and weird characters that look like they might come to life if you stare at them too long. As someone who is also passionate about traditional art forms, Sharma’s graduation project on Neo-miniature painting comes as no surprise and she has vowed to work towards bringing the work of Jaipur artisans to the forefront of the Indian art scene.

View her artwork on Instagram here.

Tanya Mehta

 

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Last year, Bangalore-based artist Tanya Mehta made her solo art debut at Rukshaan Art with a presentation of mixed media works that essentially invited you to take a walk through an animated 3D fairy tale steeped in magical realism. Titled The Unity of Opposites, Mehta employed the use of fine art prints along with lenticulars and animated light boxes that birthed shape-shifting marvels. Dot to Dot, From the Pale Blue Dot and Join the Dots comprised a front screen and a back screen with a light installed between them, which when switched off, revealed a different image than the one you saw earlier. So, hot air balloons against an azure morning sky transformed into a starry night sky featuring an ethereal shield-wielding Spartan warrior. A girl looking out of her window remained static as the sky changed around her. Interpreting the meaning of the works for us the artist explained that while the front screen was a representation of what we actually perceive, the back screen shows you the possibility of what it could be.

View her artwork on Instagram here.

Anirudh Acharya

The first thing that strikes you when you look at Anirudha Acharya’s work is that the moon has an almost magnetic pull on him. That would explain why it features regularly in all his creations, which include mixed media artwork, paintings, photographs and drawings. Acharya clarifies that it is because he is greatly influenced by the Advaita philosophy which equates the human soul with the highest metaphysical entity and the moon is meant to represent the cosmos. In any case, it is all too easy to imagine drifting off to sleep while looking at the artist’s tranquil works and finding out that his utopian characters have also made it to the realm of your dreams. A boat floating against the sky at dusk with the anchor almost reaching for the water below… a stairway that might lead you to the moon if you believed it could… Acharya’s world is filled with fantastical prospects. Looking for too long at them might even prompt you to purchase one of them and pen a heartfelt haiku to your lover.

View his artwork on Instagram here.

Archan Nair

For someone who’s had no formal training in art – and for that matter, didn’t even express an interest in drawing and painting when growing up – Archan Nair’s art is definitely something to wax eloquent about. In 2002, Nair joined his family’s apparel manufacturing company and worked there for a few years before realising he wasn’t inclined to pursuing fashion as a full-time career. Four years later, he began experimenting with visual art, which was an escape to travel to a reality which was his own and where he could express himself. With his artworks featuring almost every colour you could imagine, each hue begs you to spend some time looking at it in isolation and then consider how it fits into the big picture. Nair claims to be constantly amazed by the process of exploring mysterious, unknown spaces and understanding how consciousness creates infinite particles through humans. The 35-year-old’s surrealist works have even caught the fancy of numerous international brands like  Nike, Red Bull, Canon and Samsung and celebrities like Chris Brown and Lindsay Lohan.

View his artwork on Instagram here.

Johnny Ganta

Skeletal men in tuxedos, hazmat suits in the jungle or even a creature with the torso of a bird and the head of Bernie Sanders — one only has to catch a glimpse of Johnny Ganta’s work to know that it is entrenched in magical realism. The illustrator, who grew up in Ooty and pursued his bachelor’s degree in liberal arts at Hope College in Michigan loves his world of whimsy; every element is bestowed with new abilities where pelicans and flowers are larger than life and co-exist with steel contraptions. Ganta has also founded Raizuli, a print atelier that specialises in bespoke business cards, luxury wedding invitations and other stationery. When he isn’t honing his art, Ganta is either listening to music or poring over a book since he finds that it really gives wings to his imagination and helps him ponder the nature of existence and the challenges that come with being human.

View her artwork on Instagram here.

Sheehij Kaul

You would be lying if you said scrolling through Sheehij Kaul’s Instagram feed didn’t make you question your own role in the universe. If you aren’t particularly artistically inclined, pictures featuring lovers in the throes of romance sprawled against skyscrapers and mountains promise to enchant even the most jaded eyes. The New Delhi-based artist’s work sees cosmic elements, diverse landscapes and humans juxtaposed against each other and most of her work is about escaping the current world and finding an alternate world. She confesses that her brain is constantly telling her to outrun reality and time and that the abundant use of space and night skies in her works merely amount to her complying to her mind’s whimsies.

View her artwork on Instagram here.

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