Four Creative Artists On Their Distinct Work Born Out Of The Constraints Of The Lockdowns Advertisement
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Four Creative Artists On Their Distinct Work Born Out Of The Constraints Of The Lockdowns

"There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about" - Helen Frankenthale

By Sonali Shah  July 7th, 2021

What happens when artists are confined indoors for months on end? More artwork, of course! Photographers, who are usually out and about shooting at various spots and against varied backdrops find themselves without the drama of electric lights and reflectors. For those creating magic with a paintbrush, the physical inspiration is now restrained to the local neighbourhood.

Artists

Artwork Courtesy: Richa Kashelkar 

Great art is born from misery, many say. During World War I, for instance, artists played around with reality and perspective to abstract life on the canvas. In 2020, as the world grappled with loss, artists once again turned inwards and channelled their creativity into new forms of expression. And art became a medium to experience and hold on to fleeting joy. Far from morbid, their works reflect a world of escape and innovation as creative minds dug deep and found a source of liveliness.

Artwork Courtesy: Sony Thokchom

We speak with four artists to see how they have been honing their craft and experimenting with different media during the lockdowns. There’s quite a bit of painting happening, a wishful recreation of a missed vacation, and some dabbling with resin.

1. Sony Thokchom (Manipur) 

Lecturing at AJK Mass Communication & Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia was a huge part of Sony’s life in New Delhi. But as the lockdown hit and he returned home to Manipur, his watercolour-on-paper work, Growing Wild, took root. It’s inspired by tribals of northeast India, especially by how they have a deep and spiritual understanding of life thanks to their symbiotic relationship with the forests.

Artists

Artwork Courtesy: Sony Thokchom

“I still like to go out riding my bicycle on the outskirts nearby. It feels like going back in time, recollecting memories; it’s also contemplative and healing,” he says. We have to agree—Sony’s stunning artworks stand testimony to the fact that alone-time spent in the wilderness bodes well for him. He is also emotional towards his hometown, especially the gorgeous neighbourhood Lake Loktak; the Manipuri wild grass, native bugs, and beetles feature often in his work. With the Growing Wild series, he pays homage to northeastern and Nepali cultures.

Artwork Courtesy: Sony Thokchom

2. Charmaine Sah (Bengaluru) 

A visual designer working on brand strategy and design, Charmaine found respite in her home garden during the lockdowns, and it served as an accidental source of inspiration. Being a romantic at heart, she took to pressing flowers in old books. Once dried, she wanted to use them in some way. After experimenting with different materials, she came across resin, which lent itself perfectly for what she had in mind. “Each flower dries differently,” Charmaine explains, “and one needs to surrender to the process, truly making it a collaboration with nature.” Her lockdown project to preserve her garden memories for a bit longer took the form of coasters and bookmarks.

Artists

Artwork Courtesy: Charmaine Shah 

“As a graphic designer, I have an extreme degree of control of every single detail of colour, form, pixel, alignment and more, which greatly contrasts from my resin art. Here, I have no command over factors such as seasonal selection of flowers, their speed of drying, natural colour loss, and moisture levels affecting the resin cure. Having such organic factors beyond my control was, at first, irritating but greatly humbling. It taught me patience and made me truly understand the term, slow living,” Charmaine describes her last few months.

Artwork Courtesy: Charmaine Shah 

3. Richa Kashelkar (Goa)

An architect who quit during the lockdown and took to art full-time is how Richa can be described in one sentence. She’s now immersed herself into giclee (pronounced zhee-clay) paper and canvas. With her paintbrush and palette, she has brought many a languid afternoon to life.

Artwork Courtesy: Richa Kashelkar 

“This uninterrupted time at home has allowed me to jump headfirst into my art,” she says. “Even without stepping out, with the internet at our fingertips, it’s possible to access all the inspiration in the world. I’m using this time to paint scenes of an idyllic, contemplative and enriched life. I live in Goa currently, and that reflects in my work.” We’ve stitched together nine of Richa’s most interesting works for mental teleportation to the susegado life.

Artwork Courtesy: Richa Kashelkar 

4. Naznin Suhaer (Hyderabad) 

Photographer and conceptual artist Naznin’s grand Moroccan holiday plans got shelved last year, and eventually, she decided to bring the Mediterranean county home. During her research on Morocco and Turkey, she came across spectacular images of the region. “For this project,” she shares, “I envisioned myself in a store full of beautiful carpets, lost in a way like I belonged there.”

Artwork Courtesy: Naznin Suhaer

“Over the years, I’ve collected several jewellery pieces and have included them here to recreate Marrakech’s flea market. The incense is my Indian replacement of oudh, which is their regional omnipresent element. For someone like me who is always behind the camera, shooting these self-portraits without any assistance was interesting.” All in the hope of a Moroccan summer that could have been.

Artwork Courtesy: Naznin Suhaer

Find ELLE’s June 2021 issue on stands or download your digital copy here.