Srushti Rao

“An artist craves appreciation” ~ Srushti Rao

Indian Art correlates directly with its long and deep history, religion, culture and Hindu philosophy. And while antique art is always appreciated, young contemporary artists are constantly compared to these veterans. Modern Indian art gained popularity in the 1990’s where artists of all calibers used different forms of art to express a new prevailing India. Srushti Rao is one such young Desi artist. Immediately you are drawn to the vivid colors that are evident in all her artwork, lines and shapes that make up a single piece of artwork. Realizing that contemporary Indian art still needs much more time before it gains superior international recognition, Rao is determined to make sure she is a part of the phenomena that will occur. Her inspirations lie in daily life and mundane allures that make up today’s India. The incredibly passionate artist chats with Roshni Magazine about all things colorful and art.

I think your paintings are absolutely fascinating! When did you realize you were indeed an artist?
More than me I think my parents realized very early on that I am an artist. As a kid I used to be fascinated with colors, designs and patterns. I started coloring and painting very early in life. I have these huge coloring books that my parents would get for me. Although my parents thought I would either be an Architect or a Fashion Designer.

What did you do to pursue your talent and passion? Did you really leave your corporate job to pursue a career in art?
All through school I would excel in drawing. I used to also complete the biology diagrams in my classmates journals. Although I studied Science and Math till my 12th grade, I took up Fine Arts in college. I knew where my heart was and all I wanted to do is follow that and add a professional degree to my passion. Surviving as an artist is difficult and to survive I did take up a corporate job to survive and pay for my supplies. Since I have now taken a deliberate shift in my corporate role, I can dedicate more time to painting. I did a solo exhibition last year and I am participating in a lot of group exhibitions this year. I am also preparing for a new series that should be done in a couple of months.

How would you define your artwork? What is Art to you?
I paint in oil and acrylic on canvas. I am also experimenting with other mediums currently. Essentially my paintings are figurative though not realistic. I paint thoughts and dreams. My art has a definitive form and then that is encompassed with colors. Art is very individualistic. For me a piece of art will be something that I can stare at for hours and still not get enough from it. I can look at my paintings for hours and still find new interpretations to it, some far different from what I intended when I made the painting. A piece of art can be something that makes you think or wonder. Makes you happy or gives you pleasure; whether it is created by you or by someone else – be it a painting, a sculpture, music or dance. Art is something that gives that extra dimension to you in your regular life.

What would you say inspires you when you are painting?
Life in general inspires me. Breathing inspires me; simple thoughts regular conversation, travel food – everything around inspires me. I am in love with life in general and that is my driving force.

Most of your paintings uses bright colors and symmetrical shapes. Is this intentional and if so, why the use of shapes? What is this type of art called?
I like bright colors and hence I use them in paintings. Each of my painting has something to say and each of those thoughts correspond to the shapes that I use in my paintings. Symmetry again depends on what I am painting or what is it that I have to say. For example, ‘Introspection’ is a symmetrical painting. Here I am talking of taking a peek into oneself, within oneself and having a third person perspective of oneself hence the symmetry where the person is not only looking ‘into’ herself but also looking ‘at’ herself. In the Series ‘Mind and Body’ the Square shapes represent the material world and the black grey lines space, so on and so forth. On a broader scale my art come under the contemporary art. However, my art is very different from what anyone is doing right now. I like to call is Line-ism on the lines of the other ‘isms’ of art.

How hard or easy is it to break into the art field in India? Isn’t it rather competitive? How did you manage to break through?
It is rather difficult to break into the art field in India. Because there are so many artists and all of them are so good. I believe in working, so I paint and let my art speak for itself. I am still getting there. I have a long way to go. I have a lot to learn and a lot to paint.

Who are some contemporary and veteran artists—international and local, you admire?
If I speak about old masters then my favorites are Rembrandt and Van Gogh, especially because both of them treated the ‘different’ path at their times and dabbled in styles that were not easily acceptable by people. In more recent times there are lots of contemporary artists who are doing new and interesting work.

How would you say your art has changed over time? What affects what you paint about?
My art has grown over the years; not only on the thought level but also at the technique level, the way I handle colors, my compositions and so on. For an artist, it is important to grow to break from what you have done previously and to attempt something new. That’s when you really become an artist. You need to stop thinking whether something will be ‘acceptable’ and do what the heart tells. I have always tried to attempt something new in every series that I have done. My earlier works are very different to my ‘faces’ series which is very different from my ‘Mind and Body’ series. The only thing that is constant in my work is the individualistic stamp of line-ism, which is my signature style. My work is ruled by my heart. I paint thoughts, though they are conceived by the mind but my heart interprets them and my hands produce them on the canvas. Sometimes I have to give a lot of thought to interpret what I want to paint, sometimes it’s just there bang on in front of my eyes.

Would you say there is a keen market for your type of art and what is the art scene like in India? How appreciative are people of your art or art in India in general?
The art market in general is facing a low at this time. There are loads of art galleries that have shut down and there is not much movement in this industry currently. I have been appreciated largely for the kind of work I do. India is gong to be the ‘it’ place for art shortly and India is also making a mark in the international scene as well. Lots of artists have been appreciated internationally and there is tremendous scope. I have received international appreciation for my work as well and have exhibited in Paris. Also, in India there is so much to do as there is not one but many art centers in one country – We have Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangalore etc. There are cities where I have to exhibit yet.

People or viewers rather have different interpretations of a particular piece of art. How does it feel when your art is interpreted in a way to what you meant?
Bingo – that is what art is for me! You have your own interpretations when you see a piece of art. You need to feel it as well. Honestly, I don’t usually explain what I have painted to people or discuss in details what I felt when I made a piece of art. I am open to people having their own interpretation, having their own moment with the painting. I had mine when I made it, so let the audience have theirs when they see it. Isn’t that what art is about?

How does it feel when your art is appreciated and admired? Or even in the reverse, when it is criticized for that matter?
It definitely feels good when someone likes what you have painted. An artist craves appreciation. When my work is criticized, I take it very sportingly, if the person criticizing is genuinely from the field of art and know what they is talking about; I would take notes and try to figure out where I can improve. Others don’t really bother me.

And what do you do when you’re stuck and lacking in inspiration—much like a writer when they have a case of the writer’s block?
(Laughs) Yes, I do have painters block— especially after I have completed a series. My last one lasted a year. I simply don’t paint. I browse, visit exhibition and do the regular stuff that someone does and then one day suddenly KABOOM! A thought creeps in and the blocks gone.

What can we expect to see coming out of your camp in the near future?
I am attempting some very different this time. The style will be mine of course but the treatment is very different. You will have to look out for the hidden messages. I am working on Windmills.

What advice would you give aspiring artists?
Just paint. Don’t think much. If you work hard enough and you have what it takes things will fall into place. Just paint!

~Roshni M.
(November 2009)

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