Mumbai-based graphic artist and illustrator, Adrita Das has always tried to challenge the status quo in her field. She infuses humour through her artwork by picking up different aspects of religious iconography to bring out stronger reactions in people.
Her stories cater to an audience in the digital age who have short attention spans and only respond to work that they can relate to. As one of the seven artists for Saptan Stories, Das shares insights into her work in this brief interview. Saptan Stories is a unique collaborative arts project developed as part of the UK-India Year of Culture 2017. The project invites people in India to generate a unique story over seven weeks, which then gets illustrated by seven standout artists from India and the UK.
Q: Religious imagery features heavily in your work, and is often subverted by placing characters in modern day situations, or with contemporary objects like smartphones or VR headsets. Why do you do this, and what kind of reactions do you get?
I started using religious iconography as a medium I could play around with because of the already established context it came with. Though I began doing so just out of curiosity, over time I realised that subverting an image that is already iconic and ingrained into people’s lives brings out a stronger reaction in them. It was also to bring humour to a topic that is very sensitive in India.
Q: What is the perception of UK culture and art in India?
India and the UK share a long history together. Most of each other’s art and culture that we know of is still seen through our post-colonial lenses. However, one of the most striking aspects of their culture would be their contribution to humour, something that has inspired a lot of my work as well. English humour made me realise that the most mundane situations could be the funniest.
Q: How important is it for you to introduce art to people who might not normally see it or have access to it?
The internet has brought more democracy to the arts in India than any institution ever could. Before it arrived, there was a huge imbalance between the people who consumed and produced it, which clearly highlighted the class system. It’s very important to me to work towards not just bringing my art to the masses but also making sure that more people have access to creating it.
Q: How do you see storytelling as part of your art?
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Most of my work revolves around engaging an audience online which brings with it a limited attention span. People relate and react to relevant stories, online or otherwise so I consider it an important factor to consider while reaching out to them.
Q: What excites you most about being part of Saptan Stories?
The most exciting part was and continues to be that the story is completely unpredictable at every step. I’m hoping to see some plot twists. Also, the fact that it is a collective, crowd-sourced effort makes it more interesting.
Q: A lot of your work carries feminist sentiment. How is that important to you?
I don’t have particular themes that I plan for my work but most of what I post online is a sudden reaction to current events. When I see an imbalance in the way the media treats a situation, I try and push forth for a liberal discussion. Because of this a lot of my work has started to show feminist sentiment since, in a country like India, it has been a widely imbalanced representation and something that I could personally relate to.
Q: Parody and humour is present in so much of your work. Can you tell us a bit about why you use it so much?
I always noticed that I never completely tried to understand a perspective or opinion when it was forced upon me aggressively. A lot of people shy away from important discussions and conversations because they don’t wish to carry that burden of saving the world (as did I, when I was younger). Humour and parody helped me in understanding these complex situations to the point where I no longer expected people (or myself) to find an answer but to sit back and laugh at it all. Humour definitely makes the situation seem a lot less important in the grand scheme of things.
Q: If you weren’t a visual artist, what might you be doing instead?
I always wanted to become a journalist. However while growing up I saw a lot of instances where the media was controlled by the government/corporations and so I decided to go guerrilla by becoming an artist instead.
Q: You work with a lot of digital collages – what do you like about that technique?
I love the fact that photo-collages take such little time and have such a great impact. In my opinion, digital collages are the future of political and social commentary, in an age where trending news hits us with great speed and Photoshop reigns supreme. I also love using photos/images/paintings that already have an established iconic value in the minds of the audience.
You can find out more about her work by visiting Saptan Stories. Click here