By SPECIWOMEN Photography RUBY ROSE
Give me some background information.
I am an illustrator, animator, cartoonist and comix artist, working between Mumbai and New York. I enjoy watching cartoons, adopting trees, collecting glass bottles, and writing morbid poems. I am the world's okay-est badminton player. I once won a food challenge and wish to include it in my resume.
How did you first get into art?
My very first memory of making art is from when I was around three years old. On weekends I would wake up before my parents and draw with crayons on the loose paper that I would find around the house to pass the time. I remember this one morning when my parents made a huge deal about a crayon drawing I made of the Teletubbies. They wanted to submit it to the local newspaper. I realized that I really enjoyed the validation. So I think I started making art for attention, and for the satisfaction and the high of making my thoughts exist tangibly outside of my mind.
Now, I make art to feel worthy of existence, and to make my parents uncomfortable. A lot of my work explores questions of identity and nihilism, themes of human discomfort in context of physical and mental spaces, and how uneasiness can be evoked, or expressed. Out of surprise, shock, awe, anger, laughter and disgust, the last two are the most fun to witness. I get a rush from watching people reacting to my work.
What is the purpose of your work?
I want to rattle people into questioning their beliefs, and their notions of dualities like good and bad, beauty and disgust. I also want to make people laugh.
What materials do you use?
I make comix, graphic novels, art prints, animated short films, gifs, paintings. I get very involved in my characters and tend to develop a world of objects and merch around them - stickers, buttons printed scarves, bags, litho-printed postcards, screenprints, and sculptural models. Once I develop a concept that interests me I tend to exploit it for experimenting with art styles and forms till I lose interest in it. posters for fake events involving them, One time I walked around Bushwick putting up fake posters in record stores, coffee shops and bookstores for an event that didn’t exist, constructed around one of my characters.
I work with a variety of media depending on what I am making at a given time.I am currently working on a graphic novel with my first ever copic drawing pens. I ink my comics by hand and then scan them into photoshop to colour them digitally.
Who inspires you?
My work is informed by the places I live in, the people I interact with or see, and stories of memories or things that happen to me. When I lived in Bangalore, my work used to be inspired by auto-rickshaws and trees. I would make lights and lampshades inspired by photographs of my roommates, and I would obsessively sketch the street outside the building I lived in. Over several summer breaks, between internships, some of the projects I have worked on are comics about my dreams, a series of photographs of my favourite places in Mumbai into which I digitally illustrated aliens and monsters. I also made a series of prints titled, My Mom And Other Corporate Animals about a group of impossible creatures going about their daily drudgery in a fictional office space. Since, I have come to New York, I have been drawing strangers on the subway, illustrating broken conversations I pass on the street, and things my friends say. Of late, I have been visiting children’s books stores, and I am in love with Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio and Scott Campbell, Nothing Rhymes With Orange by Adam Rex, and Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back, and This Is Not My Hat.
Some of my favorite cartoonists and artists are Fumio Obata, DeadtheDuck, George Mathen, Vishnu Nair, Sameer Kulavoor, Michael Deforge, Julie Doucet, Emil Ferris, Art Spiegelman, Gabriel Bell, Matthew Thurber, Allie Brosh, Lale Westvind, Lilli Carré, Sajid Wajid Shaikh, Hari and Deepti, Tim Burton, Dr.Seuss, Adrian Tomine, Wayne White, Trenton Doyle, Sadhwi Jawa. I am also inspired by Salad Fingers, the music videos accompanying songs by Tame Impala, Glass Animals and Grizzly Bears, and really cringey late night advertisement segments that run on television.
Where do you prefer to work?
I usually work in the community studio and in empty fashion studios on campus. I always travel with a sketchbook.
Who is your work for?
I am very wary of the pitfalls of making work or using subject matter that you are not really into but you know is trendy enough for an audience to appreciate. When I was in primary school, one of my art teachers told me that I shouldn't write words on my work. He made me tear up a drawing that I had put dialogue on. So growing up, I painted a lot of sunsets and flowers and aesthetically pleasing hotel wall art type things without feeling good about my art.
Eventually, I got sick of pretending to be this person and decided that I was going to draw whatever I felt like. So I drew the insides of nostrils, fingernails, toilets, and isolated eyeballs for a really long while, before I started making narrative based work. And just to feel like a dangerous rebel, I put a LOT of words and dialogue in my visual work.
Then I found this incredible book named Prison Paintings by Michael Quanne. His callous and hilarious one liners in the face of traumatic prison memories, the wild visual compositions in his work, body language and anatomy of his subjects made me realize how intrigued I was about the theme of discomfort.
Most of my work revolves around morally ambiguous characters, heavily dependent on each other, struggling to achieve a more aware, empowered version of themselves, that seems nowhere in sight, while dealing with everyday troubles. My characters are emotional wrecks, and judgmental sociopaths with rare redeeming qualities, all thrown into a whacky chaos of awkward universes, garnished with toilet humor. I love sneaking in exaggerated real life stories into my comics as Easter eggs for my friends. I love making short comics, and prints about these very uncomfortable characters, in sticky and impossible situations. It is very rewarding to see the people relating to them in spite of having nothing in common with them on a surface level.
Has your art ever been on display?
Some of my comix and graphic novels are available at Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn, Push/Pull (an underground home for comics in Seattle), Goobe’s Book Republic in Bangalore, Blossom’s bookstore in Bangalore and Domino Books (an online bookstore). A series of my illustrations based on an original poem, Screaming Silence were published in the 2017 edition of the 12th Street Journal. The 12th Street Journal Blog also published a photograph of one of my public art pieces, Drawing Party 7 in their recent issue, revolving around the theme of democracy. My comic, A Quest for Last Week’s Slice for Cheap Ass Stanky Pizza, and my animated short film, Party Crashing Etiquette in Fantasia:101 were showcased at the 2017 Parsons Gala. My work has been on display at the 2017 Printfest (IPCNY’s MFA and Senior BFA Print Fair), and at Final Call, an in-house interdisciplinary Print festival for and by Parsons Students. Some of my prints have been curated by Kulture Shop for their CO-OP artist label. I won 4th place in the First Year Sketchbook contest, and was Runner up in the Parsons Learning Portfolio contest, as a result of which my work was displayed in the lobby of Parsons School for Design’s main building. I also make all the illustrated flyers for the Parsons First Year Advising Office.
What are your favorite places?
In Bangalore, my favorite place is the terrace of the paying guest accommodation I used to live in, in the tiny village of Yelahanka at sunset. In Mumbai it is a sea facing garden named Amarsons, and in New York City my favorite place is this park type place near the Fulton Street Station. It is across the street from the red cube, has tube lights embedded in the ground, and is decorated with thousands of fairy lights around Thanksgiving and Christmas time.
How has the female role played into your life?
I believe that change is a struggle that we must participate in if we want to see it realized. However it has also been very difficult to arrive at the understanding that it is not my job to educate or engage in a discourse with oppressive sexist, racist or homophobic behavior in toxic conversations with people who refuse to consider the possibility of their privilege. The feminist movement is extremely important, but we need to pick our battles. Also I feel like the most important thing today is to educate people to the meaning of the word feminism, and how it stands for the equality and empowerment of all sexes, and how the movement loses all meaning without factoring in intersectionality into the issue. A large number of my comics, involve female characters, but I often refrain from assigning a gender to the characters in my comics.