Avant-Garde Aesthetes: Tarini Sethi and Anant Ahuja’s Artists To Watch out For
Shiv Ankit Ahuja, 29
Few artists in India work with image, language and text as a medium of their artistic expression, and that’s what makes Shiv Ankit Ahuja’s artistic practice special. “I am exploring the capacity of images to influence the way we connect and relate to reality, especially with respect to the representation of nature on the one hand and the use of text and images in advertising on another,” Ahuja says. Use of text in art gained huge momentum in America during the sixties. The pioneers of the conceptual art movement — Barbara Kruger, who works with photography and text, and neo-conceptual artist, Jenny Holzer — have been an inspiration for Ahuja. Another major influence on him is Guy Debord’s seminal book, The Society of the Spectacle that offers a portrait of our image-saturated, media-crazy times.
“Shiv has always kept us on our toes. He hates taking art at face value and thinks it should hit someone with a brick when they approach it. As a photographer and zine maker, his work matters and is needed. It starts conversations and debates that stick with you.”
Arushi Kathuria, 27
She agrees that she is very moody and her mood is a defining influence on her work. “My work is very feeling-based. I try to connect with everyone else’s emotional side through my art. A lot of people ask me what my pieces mean, but they don’t mean anything 90 per cent of the time. It’s just me pouring out my feelings on a surface and is mostly abstract and always colourful,” Arushi Kathuria further defines. She creates animations and illustrations which slot her under ‘designers’ (instead of ‘artists’) for the mainstream art industry. “They do not see my practice as art. They only consider the design aspect and hit up designers with these crazy schedules two to three days before the deadline. I’m never really fully satisfied with these kinds of projects because I know I could have done better if I had the time, but you have to pay the bills,” she says.
“Arushi’s surreal world of pop colours, weird creatures and neon clouds take over our Instagram feed very often. What we love is that she experiments with different mediums from screen-prints, animations, and digital illustrations. In spite of the animation world moving into the 3D and 4D realms, Arushi sticks to her guns and makes mind-boggling 2D animations that reel you in with their odd characters and story lines.”
Jai ‘Zaiu’ Ranjit, 30
Though art is by its very definition unorthodox, it is rare for artists not belonging to a formal establishment (like art schools) to get attention from galleries. “Being a self-taught artist means you have very few ways into the industry. Unless, like me, you’re ridiculously lucky to be able to work with someone from the industry and they mentor you the way Brinda Chudasama Miller mentored me,” says Jai ‘Zaiu’ Ranjit. Today, he is a full-time faculty member at the Indian School of Design & Innovation, Parsons, Mumbai, training design and management students in design thinking, art and skill building in the visual arts.
“Jai is the perfect balance between artist and art historian. His paintings and prints educate people on different styles of art. We admire his constant exploration into different styles and mediums. He has a truckload of art and is not only a fantastic artist but is also a genius at marketing himself, a skill most artists lack.”
Nishant Fogaat, 28
He considers himself an accidental designer who could adapt quickly to the scope of work and projects that came by. “I took up new and interesting projects and delivered my best,” Nishant Fogaat says. Last year, he created a buzz in fashion circles by creating caps out of old, used sneakers. It was a one-of-its-kind upcycling project that made the best of his education at the National Institute of Fashion Technology and his design acumen. At present, Fogaat is working at bhane., an apparel brand founded by Anant Ahuja in 2012. Ahuja is also a co-founder of VegNonVeg, a multi-brand sneaker store.
“Everyone owns a pair of sneakers. They are worn to parties, meetings and weddings. Nishant is a sneakerhead and brilliant product designer and has broken sneakers down by stripping them completely and making hats out of them.”
Rohit Mirdodi, 29
His artworks — sculptures and canvases — could be pages torn out of his autobiography. Each of his works carries in it an intensely intimate element. Rohit Mirdodi confesses that the impulse behind his works is personal, “yet it resonates with a universal struggle of dislocated intimacies and disembodied desires”. There is also a deep influence of the local cultural aesthetics in his art. “You may notice certain folk imagery in my works. I love reading about traditional art practices and find inspiration in these microhistories,” he says.
“Rohit is special because he is working vigilantly with analogue art. He has a few characters that appear in almost all his works. There’s usually a multi-limbed long elastic figure, a bird and one or more fish in paintings. For us, the big gaps of white on the paper highlight the image even more and lead the eye from one line to the next.”
Mira Malhotra, 34
When asked if she identifies herself as an artist or a designer, she immediately says, “That’s a tough question, please don’t make me choose!” Within the circles of the Indian design community, Mira Malhotra is one of the most talented designers and illustrators who has been setting new styles and breaking the monotony of the prevalent visual vocabulary. And, yet she states, “Art, I assume, is more interpretative and not constricted to designing within the norms of a visual language that’s understood by a mass audience with more definitive meaning.” She doesn’t identify with the mainstream art industry, and says, “The appeal of low-brow art and outsider art for me is more for I see myself as someone who is opposed to classical art.”
“Mira has been at the forefront of design for over a decade now. She works with many NGOS to create socially empowering work. She runs Studio Kohl where her work ranges from corporate branding to making unconventional zines like Unfolding the Saree. Her design and illustration are so well balanced that the line between the two is blurred, something that is very hard to achieve in this field.”
Tanya Singh, 23
A feedback that often comes her way is that her illustrations do not look Indian. “This is baffling. I’m not sure how to receive this,” Tanya Singh says. There is a bold exploration of the body and a slight unworldliness in her drawings. “I combine drawing and digital media in order to give vent to my absurdly colourful fragments of thought,” she says. Singh calls herself an image-maker, and her practice, she stresses, “entails drawing, drawing and more drawing”.
“Think hip-hop, R&B and a lot of highlighter pen, that’s the best way we could describe Tanya’s work. Smooth curvy lines, voluptuous bodies and the other-worldly. Sponge-like, one-eyed, marshmallow figures with wind in the hair — always clumped together in perfect harmony.”
Sanchit Sawaria, 27
Art, he says, is recreation for him. But rarely do you see his work in the easy and light manner in which he states it. On the website of Struck By, a design studio Sanchit Sawaria co-founded, there is a collection of the studio’s non-commercial projects, doodles and rejected ideas. Most of these introspect, and engage with ideas of human consciousness and existence. In fact, his recent project on Instagram called Naked Echo is also about introspection. “It’s a text-based art project. People anonymously send in their takes on what it means to be human, with all the imperfections,” he explains. One of the confessions startlingly states: “I’m a non-offending paedophile.” A milder one states: “I’m nicer to people who are attractive.”
“Sanchit is constantly one-upping himself with something crazier and more beautiful. He pays great attention to detail and his designs are so shiny and in your face that they demand your attention.”
For the full story grab the July-August Art issue of Verve