Saturday Spotlight: Volume 047

20 min read

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arctoa's avatar
An Interview with-

> Please introduce yourself, in your own words. What are your interests?
I am a writer based in India, and live in a suburb of Delhi. I take photographs as a hobby. My main interests are spiritual growth through inner work, self-reflection, meditation, mindfulness, and prayer - that is what my writings are about - and also to some extent photography. Not as a construct that I find comfort in, but just because I want create something that is creative, looks different, or somehow stands out. Growing up, the whole struggle has been to stand out: only to discover that I already do, if only I allow myself to be who I am. Not just stand in myself, rather honour it, and not look for approval. It’s an ongoing journey.

I was born in Haridwar, a pilgrimage town by the Ganges River, one of holiest of all for most Hindus. We lived in a small industrial township, built on its edge, so it was constant clash between the modernity that an industrial township represents and the age-old customs, traditions and beliefs; some out-dated, and some yet to be discovered by me, much later in life. Back then, my dream was to migrate to a big city, and hopefully to the West. This is how much of my generation felt, long before the economic boom was to arrive in the 1990s.

I did move to a big city after my education, and after some meandering and dead-ends, found my groove: only to discover it was a passing phase. A stepping stone; now everything seems to be one. Having left your physical roots behind, becoming part of the diaspora, it is hard to grow them again; I stayed an outsider, everywhere I went. Later I learned that I can grow my roots inwards by finding spaces I can inhabit. Peace abounds. Finding home within, is a journey.

To think you have arrived, cracked it, is when you know your time is up. So today, it is about constant self-discovery to something deeper, richer and even joyous. I think there's no better place than India to be born for self-discovery. It is a land of contrasts, of enchantments necessary to push one towards the inner self. Plus, it has a history filled with saints and sages, who made miracles commonplace; grace accessible. You want to believe it is nothing to do with location. However, in the course of the time, I have discovered that though I have lived in many lands, India has been my home for many lifetimes, which makes sense of the affinity I have for it.

It may be that India is a state of mind. Open to the mysteries of life and God, thus its mystique and mysticism.

> Where did you begin with artistic endeavours? How did you come across Abstraction or Surrealism?
I used to love painting, though I found the watercolour medium tough to handle or master. Meanwhile, I started taking photographs, with a hot-shot camera. By the mid-1990s, I had joined the advertising world as a copywriter, which meant working closely with art directors, photographers, and art itself. I bought my first real camera, learnt the basics from an art director, and started shooting - experimenting with composition and style - which is something I am still doing. As I got busy with work after 2000, photography receded: only to emerge, again, when I bought a digital camera in 2011.

Photography is fun in India, as it is so colourful. What really inspired me was works of Steve McCurry who shot extensively across the Indian subcontinent, and Raghubir Singh. These artists opened me up to the beauty that India inhabits. Until then I was a regular Indian, dreaming of one day migrating to the United States. I stepped out of the rat race...

Then one day while taking a photograph of massive gates of an old mansion, a voice said “wait”. I did. After a few moments, a man appeared walking his bicycle out. It said, “Now!”. That moment on, photography became a practice in following that little voice within; more mindful, more experiential, and perhaps even sacred. When the divine steps into your life, you step aside. Now I pick my camera up only when it's the right time. For me, the decisive moment is not one moment, but a series of them. The ‘click’ is only one in a stream of decisive moments that you have to be alert enough to capture. The image then carries the essence of the energy present at the time of taking it. Hopefully, it also carries a sense of grace.

> How would you explain the concept of Abstraction or Surrealism to someone with no experience with the genre?
It is about giving a new dimension to a present image, or even creating one afresh by composing using various elements to present an idea or concept, without the shape or visible form distracting from it. Sometimes an image sets out on a path that takes it to an unreal place, where no we are no longer sure it is real, or it no longer resembles what we know as real.  

The journey from fate to destiny is abstract; paved with choices, one after another, often obscured and unfathomable to logic. Abstract art is the same. Though it might seem random at first, if you look close and deep enough, patterns, thoughts and projections will appear. That is the best part; like an ordinary event, when you look close enough you see the scared already present in it. For those looking, God can be found in the mundane details of our lives, and walls of our soul.

> What inspires you to use Abstraction or Surrealism in your work?
As with many artists, my work comes together through inspiration. Often I look at an image long enough; it begins to inform, like characters in a story, where it wants to go. The rest is the journey you make by following its cues. So, abstract art is really an abstract adventure. It's a practice in letting go, which we can then utilise in our every-day life. Abstraction allows me to take an image to another place from where it started. Capturing nature is fine, but to transcend form and step into the beyond is great, presenting ideas and thoughts that could be then become a platform to new realms.

> What do you want to express with your artwork? What is the idea you're trying to put across?
Most of my ideas are inspired in the moment, so it depends upon what strikes first from image to image. Sometimes, a particular thought reminds me of an image in my folders that could best express it. Or, at times, an image itself invokes a thought or a series of thoughts. It is a slow and organic process, and one that each one of us discovers sooner or later - just as with the presence of soul within, during our moments of deep silence.

> What are your 'tools of the trade'? How do you create your art?
The first tool is inspiration. Thereafter, a Nikon D7000, followed by Photoshop CS5.

> Do you think the quality of a piece depends more upon technical perfection, or the message contained therein?
Of course, for me it is about the energy the piece invokes: without it, is merely an exercise in ego and not of the soul. One can see many great works of art around, but they do not uplift a person, or give a new insight. If one can create even a handful of works bearing the imprint of one's soul, that is good enough. For art, like most things in life, one has to allow it to happen.

> Who are your favourite visual artists, and why?
God. No two sunsets are similar, neither are two human beings.

> Which dA Groups would you recommend to someone looking to get involved with abstract and surreal art?
:iconabstract-and-surreal: :iconethereal-square:

> What advice would you give to an absolute beginner in the genre?
Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary is the hallmark of this genre. To find the exotic in the mundane. Just as the grandest moments of our lives are sometimes the most fleeting, seemingly ordinary, everyday events: but they are all gifts, like the best images. So stay with your beginner's mind forever, seeking: as that will ensure the presence of the divine in your art. Also, be willing to make peace with the uncertainty of an empty mind.

Trust yourself. Remember creativity comes from the soul. If your work comes from the mind alone, you will get stuck with formula, style, technique and en-vogue signature-style, and soon burn-out as popularity cannot satisfy what the soul needs. Rather, use art to evolve into a better person. As it is not what you shoot, rather how you shoot. Finally, get inspired, but do not compare your work with anyone: you are here to sing your song, as is everybody else. Be authentic, and above all be yourself in real life, and it will show in your art.

> Any final words on abstract and surreal art?
Let it happen.

> In conclusion, pick nine works from your Favourites that you particularly enjoy.

:thumb360706604: Conflicts by StephanePellennec Red Sky at Morning by Senecal
Satori (with colors) by StephanePellennec It's a big world. by incredi :thumb376831619:
:thumb219538033: Home by DimensionSeven the last waltz by prismes

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pulbern's avatar
I love how the artist is a writer by trade and photographer hobbyist. Interesting crossover! I've been exploring the idea that photography for me is meditation and a way to calm myself by being an observer of my surroundings and the artist kind of talks about that too. :love: