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Today, I invite you to visit the rich universe of painter Akshita Gandhi oscillating between phantasm and reality. Her mix-media artworks are displayed in many museums and art shows around the world, from Mumbai to NYC, via Dubai!
Our discussion in her studio, overlooking the sea, was so passionate. I let you read the best moment!
Akshita Gandhi, could you please tell us a bit about yourself and your universe?
I come from a business background and my father is a first generation entrepreneur. He built India’s first private seaport, tollroad and railroad even before the reforms in India began. His legacy has been an important part of my life and has always inspired me to aspire and achieve all that I have dreamed of, trusting me to believe nothing is impossible.
I studied in an American school and grew up with kids from around the world yet came back to a traditional Indian home and this gave me the opportunity to respect and be sensitive to cultures around me. Music and books have shaped my life greatly. Herman Hesse’s quote from Steppenwolf was my calling to create art, not for commercial purposes but the kind that stirred souls and made people live eternities in seconds by simply experiencing happiness.
I love spending time by myself and meditating. I practice chakra meditation and believe in spirituality. I began my foundation, Dua Foundation in my beloved dog’s memory and our latest endeavour is to work with the conservation of wild life and forests in India. I’m hoping to spread awareness through my art. An ambitious artist, I know I want to make a difference.
Were you always interested in art growing up? How did you come to art?
For my third birthday my mother gifted me a box of felt pens and I used them to scribble on the walls of my house. Angry my mum scribbled on me using them. I loved my new avatar and that’s when my mum realised I had inherited her love for art. My mum was an aspiring artist until I was born and then she got busy being a mother.
When I was pursuing my BBA in finance, behind every assignment I submitted in business school, through the pages of the textbooks I owned, there were endless doodles, artistic concepts and notes about great art that inspired me. Albeit I thoroughly enjoyed studying Finance, I realized that art was as significant a part of my being. So I decided to pursue my MFA. Fortunately I was able to attend both schools simultaneously, business school through the day and art school in the evenings since I had to do all the foundation courses in art school anyway before I could begin my MFA studies. My mind and soul became like the yin and the yang. Just as they as coexist to make a whole in a perfect harmonious equilibrium.
The background in business enabled me to establish a business foundation that better helped me navigate the art market. So I pursued art concurrently with entrepreneurial projects. Additionally, I became better versed with the art business through Sotheby’s courses, networking with curators at art galleries and studying the evolving landscape of the art economy.
Which painters captivated you, and how did they influence your thinking, painting, and career path?
- Salvador Dali: the father of surrealism, his imagination had no bounds. He created his own unique style that is inimitable and it is when I studied him in high school I realised that I wanted to be an artist and create a style that is inimitable and different.
- Claude Monet: the first time I saw an original Monet at the MoMa, I weeper like a little child. I was flabbergasted and tongue tied. It was so beautiful and spectacular. I had never seen anything like it and realised the power of art to spread joy, to spread peace, the power of your senses and what a beautiful visual can do to your being. All his paintings are beautiful. That is how I define beauty.
- Andy Warhol: he pioneered and revolutionised pop art. His art still evokes awe and wonder today. His art is imperishable and still as relevant today as it was back then. Art transcends time, religion, culture and boundaries. Warhol’s art is a perfect example of this.
- Banksy: his work is path breaking and unconventional. He breaks rules to spread his message, sort of reminds of Robin Hood! He dares to speak whilst his art looks endearing. That inspires me greatly.
What is your favorite place that helps you find inspiration?
My art studio that overlooks the sea. The sound of the waves is so calming and helps me concentrate to start ideating.
Switzerland. We go to Switzerland annually for a family holiday and the peace in the nature helps me and I think I work best when in peace.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you?
My ideal state of mind for being creative is when I can zone out of my current state and completely concentrate on my idea irrespective of where I’m sitting and who is around me. When I write poetry, I transcend into another world and feel every emotion within me, feel as though I’m living in that moment. When I create art, depending on my music and emotion and the piece I’m working on, I have to be in a state of complete bliss and concentration and even if the world is falling apart, it cannot distract me. Words may not suffice to explain this state but it’s something that comes innately to me when I begin to create.
Let’s talk about two of your artwork I most love?
- Midsummer Night’s dream, fairy lights and rogue atom. (Photograph. Interlaken, 2016)
We forget to appreciate the things that really matter. In our fast paced lives, we are so caught up with temporary gratification we lose sight of what really matters. Lying down under the stars, admiring our beautiful world, maybe take a leap of faith in magic. Read Shakespeare again perhaps and allow yourself to be drawn into another realm. Escape into believing utopia exists and stare at fireflies in hope, in hope of a better world.
- Agamemnon’s Reverie, Mixed media on canvas
In the Iliad by Homer, Zeus, also known as the father of golds and men, plants a false dream into Agamemnon’s subconscious. Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae and the leader of the Greek army in the Trojan War, wakes up determined to continue fighting the Trojan war much to the dismay of his soldiers leading them to look down upon their king who was willing to risk his all on the impulse of a dream. My photographs aim to capture this fickle nature of fantasies and reveries we so often deem as reality.
Space is critical to the composition of the piece just as pauses are to speech. The long vertical strips of pink over the concrete structures, covering parts of it and revealing others are meant to take the viewer’s eye back and forth, moving metaphorically between different realms. Space is depicted as being both finite as in reality and infinite in the mind. Intricate detailing connects the monochrome of the photograph to the brightness of paint, a pathway for viewers to be able to slip into a realm of fantasy from reality and then snap right back into it.
What role do you want to have in society as an Artist?
I want to inspire, spread awareness about social and politics causes. Creating art that does not stir someone’s soul is not art for me. I want to create work that is thought provoking, something that changes people’s lives. Several artists create cringeworthy art to spread important messages and while I respect their style, I believe in creating art that people want to stare at, use colours that invoke happiness and awe while spreading the important messages that I aspire to.
What are you currently working on? What is your dream project?
I am currently working on a concept I have been ideating for over six months. Different photographs and artworks based on a theme or a concept will be created and framed, stacked unevenly on a wall however this will be in 3D so you have elements of the artwork coming out of the wall, literally. I am using light boxes and my style of painting. My first theme is, Cirque. It should be ready in a month’s time and I’m extremely excited to unravel it.
Is artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Yes, artistic life is lonely. I feel solace in being by myself so I reckon it’s happy lonely but lonely nonetheless. Often when I am ideating or creating a new series or working on a new concept, it is cumbersome to put in words and I feel I’m the only person living in another realm and no one understands it and justifiably so. However there are many instances like this that make you realise the journey is an artist is yours and yours alone to live, to dread, to learn from and love.
I work with my father as well and look after the logistics and real estate portfolio in his company, my corporate side always helps me to snap out of my artistic side. For me my work in business and art has never been in conflict. If anything, like yin and yang they bring a balance in the expression of my personality.
And finally, Akshita Gandhi, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Painter Akshita Gandhi
My father once shared his success mantra with me:
I wore horse blinders and only saw my goal. Nothing else mattered to me. There was no excuse and there was no turning back.
Art is so subjective it is easy to be disheartened when it is not well received and that’s when I made up my mind. I was going to create art because I had to, whether it was good or bad, didn’t matter. I just had to keep going.