Edgar Degas, the renowned 19th century French painter, once said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” In its many forms, art is a powerful means of expression. It can break barriers, change pre-conceived notions and bring about great changes. With the exploding popularity of social media, emerging artists have found new means to make their voices heard and extend support for unspoken issues and marginalised communities. We spoke to five women illustrators in India whose works showcase the power of art.
A graphic designer, illustrator and writer, Sonaksha is often commissioned by premium brands to design their campaigns; she has also designed books. But on social media, she has gathered a following for her work highlighting mental health issues, notably the A-Z of Mental Health. Sonaksha’s work covers a mix of disorders and emotional concerns, which aims to reach out to people struggling with these issues while also raising awareness.
“I have had my own struggles and experiences with mental health and illnesses and they have always made their way to my work,” she says. “It is really disheartening to see people make assumptions about mental health, illnesses and disorders. We hear things like “Get over it”, “Stop asking for attention”, “Liars”, “It’s just a phase” all the time; it is really unfair to make such statements that are so hurtful to anyone having a hard time with the chaos in their head. Awareness will help us make a start in the right direction towards kindness and empathy.”
“I hope that we can spend at least a few moments of our day reading up about these topics and engaging in discussions with each other about them, thereby breaking the silence and stigma associated with the subject,” she adds.
Follow Sonaksha on Instagram.
A fashion designer, Tanya worked with the Ministry of Textiles and is deeply invested in empowering Indian craft clusters. Researching Indian crafts in college, she found a dire lack of adequate materials on visual communication, organic illustrations that make the read interesting and attractive. Her interest led her to start researching and documenting in the area, complete with sketches and photos. Today, her intricate art–unlike any fashion illustration you’ve seen–has found a big following for her label Bhuli Arts, which promotes the cause of Indian artisans and the Swadeshi ideology.
“Through my illustrations, I celebrate my fascination of Indian crafts culture, local folklore traditions, and share it with the rest of the world,’ she says. “I aim to bring product innovations and development to these cottage industry creations that can facilitate in evoking its long lost charm. I plan to build a community of new age artisans, who are upbeat with the global market and are exposed to all the modern technologies available . Creating crafts and arts that are highly sustainable, environment-philic and economically empowering.”
Her works showcasing a feminist leaning, she also recently collaborated with Woman Interrupted App in a campaign against ‘manterruption.’ “Indian society is still deeply patriarchal, so we grow up to believe that men have the higher and final authority in all sorts of decision making,” she says. It’s scary because ‘manterruption’ is not even felt. Imagine what a world full of opportunities and ideas a mere ‘manterruption’ shuts up!”
Follow the Bhuli Arts page on Facebook.
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Living in Bengaluru, Sreejita is a writer, illustrator and brand strategist. When she isn’t crafting award-winning campaigns, she runs Strip Tease, an Indian online magazine about comics and graphic novels which she founded a few years earlier. Solo, as she is known among friends and peers, also writes—and draws, on paper on wacom, on LGBTQ issues and feminist humour.
“I draw funnies in the LGBTQ/mental health space mainly based on personal experiences,” she says. “As a bisexual feminist, I end up hearing some of the most ridiculous things pretty often. Also, growing up as a queer kid in India was not easy. I had to deal with my fair share of homophobes, myths, fears and judgement. Being a painful introvert, it only got easier when I started to discover queer people in the world of comics and their stories. So now when I have the space to help, I try.”
Audacious and provocative, Priyanka, a Mumbai-based illustrator, acts as a catalyst for change. The self-trained artist credits her humanities education and feminist conversations with her mother as inspiration. She is heavily invested in current affairs, covering a plethora of topics from Free the Nipple movement to greater representation in brown pop art.
“As an artist, I’m aware that my art reaches quite a limited audience,” she says. “There’s only so much I can do to change that, however, it starts a conversation, about issues that are hidden and not spoken about and I believe it’s important to address so many issues that we have and to engage in healthy discussion that might lead to potential change in society. Today, I have no doubt that art can be used as a tool for activism and awareness and hence bring about subsequent positive change in society.”
The 18-year old, who is also a poet, recently hosted her first art exhibition at The Loft, Mumbai, along with four other young women artists, that aimed to showcase and encourage female creativity in art.
Follow Priyanka on Instagram.
Based in this New Delhi, this illustrator, comic maker and graphic designer expresses her views on feminism via art. Her recent series on Instagram uses women’s issues to interpret the English alphabet has already caught the attention of feminist advocacy groups and art followers.
“I think art in general, has the capability to reach a slightly larger audience than written word,” says Kruttika. “The idea for this series came from the fact that there was a wide fear/hesitation around using the word ‘feminism’ and so I decided to create a series that spoke of everything this word tried to encompass.”
“In today’s times it’s getting tougher and tighter to celebrate and express dissent—women’s issues included,” she adds. The only way I know to express my dissent and speak about social and political issues is through illustrations.”
Follow Kruttika on Instagram.