‘Art is now all about out-of-canvas experiences’: Artist Akshita Gandhi

Known for combining social, historical, and mythological concepts, artist and photographer Akshita Gandhi has been making strides in the art space. The Mumbai-based multimedia artist uses “light as a guiding principle” to create immersive installations —  like depicting urban landscapes with the play of light.

“I began photographing urban landscapes and reworking them using light as a guiding principle, oscillating between interfaces of construction-deconstruction, obscurity, and perceptibility. For my mixed media works, these photographs are printed on canvas and worked on using paint, ink, crystals, resin, etc. so the viewer sways between reality and fantasy,” she shared.

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The artist is all excited for her 31st exhibition — Mind Medium Material — a group show which will begin July 29, 2022, at 079 Stories, Ahmedabad. According to the press statement, one of the series titled ‘Don Quixote’ draws inspiration from chivalric romance novels featuring Spanish golden age fictional thespian Don Quixote. “Because my work is inspired by architectural geometry and space, it is a special show,” she said.

‘Bombay in all its glory’ by Akshita Gandhi (Source: PR Handout)

Akshita, 34, said abstract art has “always resonated” with her. “Colours have been used for centuries by societies to control and condemn. Art is used not only to express and communicate but also to spread awareness amongst viewers who will stop and stare albeit only for a moment so the message of the artist is vital,” she shared.

From the role of art in breaking stereotypes to digital works and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Akshita answers everything in a conversation with indianexpress.com. Read on.

How does art reflect society?

A lot of artists create works inspired by the time and era in which they live. From Vinci painting the Mona Lisa in a realistic manner to Warhol being inspired by the 70’s pop movement in America, even genres of art such as surrealism, expressionists, pop are all technically rebel movements that reflected the culture of the time. NFTs, for instance, are a representation of the advance in technology of our time. Banksy, for instance, uses current, socially charged issues around the world to create graffiti but it reflects the political turmoil around the world, which will tell our future generations of where our world was at today.

Your series ‘Freedom; I read banned books’ propagated the idea of breaking gender stereotypes through photographs. How important is the role of art in breaking stereotypes?

Art is not only intellectual ideas put together but also creation that is constantly progressing. Art bridges the gap between then and now. Without art, it would be difficult to imagine the Renaissance era in such great detail so not only does it make a difference to the contemporary world, it’s an important component of every era. Art is a universal language that transcends beyond borders and boundaries and brings communities and people closer, helping them to think of complex ideologies better and encourages creativity to prosper. Art also speaks about several important social issues and causes and has the power to truly make a difference in society. My work from 2019 with photographs created on acrylic sheets and converted to light-boxes also highlighted such a need with each image having a strong message on how it was important for society to rethink social structures and break out of conformity and patriarchy.

Art is often termed ‘niche’, do you agree?

Niche art is defined as, “the type of art that appeals to a particular group of people interested in certain styles or themes.” Art is subjective and your style may not appeal to every person out there. If you want to be known, you will need to know exactly what your strength is and catering to your specific audience is helpful. I strongly believe the box is an important one, one every artist needs to figure out if they want to leave a mark. When you have your niche or focus, you know your potential buyers, target audience and the galleries you want to work with. The process of being recognised is then easier and you will be known for your unique style.

Do you think the art space has evolved for various kinds of artworks?

Yes, it has. Art is becoming more theory based, there is an increase in immersive experiences, design and is traveling from traditional ways of creating art to “out of canvas” experiences.

Can digital works give a tough competition to traditional works?

Cave paintings created by the Neanderthals are approximately 6,400-years-old. Think about how much artistic mediums have evolved since. Another 6,400 years from today who knows which metaverse we will be able to travel to, to witness art. Digital art is just another medium that is a result of the time we live in. With globalisation and technological advances, mediums used to create art will only increase overtime. I believe one cannot give competition to the other. It’s like comparing fruits and vegetables. I create digital mediums and use traditional styles of creating art. Their aesthetics, feel, pricing, and markets are different.

With the increase of globalisation, technological innovations and several other reasons, traditional art forms are dying and may soon become extinct, which will be a huge blow to us, culturally and historically. These dying Indian art forms that are not only restricted to paintings but also include puppetry and textiles like Naga handicrafts, Paitkar painting, Toda embroidery, Roghan painting et al. These artworks definitely need strong attention if we want to retain our age-old rich heritage.

You recently ventured into non-fungible tokens or NFTs. What interested you?

akshita gandhi NFT by Akshita Gandhi (Source: PR Handout)

Earlier this year, I launched my first NFT on a platform of all women artists based in London that focused on female empowerment and sustainability. NFT is an extremely unique, inimitable piece of work that includes memorabilia, posters, gifs etc. that may not be deemed appropriate at an art gallery. They are encoded into a blockchain and although people are still trying to completely comprehend this concept, it’s rapidly growing and has seen a boom over the past few months.

Top five tips for artists looking to make their mark. 

*If becoming an artist is not financially viable (because it usually takes time for any artist’s career to take off) get a job, pursue your art parallelly, so you are not financially dependent on it. If it burns you out, the process of creating art will not be the same.
*Be original! It is only natural to be inspired by artists, artworks and art forms but create something that is authentic, genuine and is entirely yours. Copying existing work is not going to help you become an artist. That will only make you good at copying.

*Praises and criticisms are faces of the same coin. Art is subjective, not everyone will love what you create and that is fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinions so you will hear all sorts of opinions on your work. You are in charge of how long you want to bask in the praise of your work or how long you allow the criticism to fester. While people are judging your work, go back to your studio and create more work. Do not allow either to stunt your growth or to discourage you.
*Be patient. The art we create is usually a culmination of experiences and as you evolve as a person and live through more experiences, it will all reflect in your art. Allow yourself and your art to grow, keep experimenting, keep working. Chances are you will not find your style overnight but it will be worth the journey.
*Keep practising. Like most things in life there is no shortcut to success. Work hard, put your all into it and keep practising. You never know when you will create your masterpiece.

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