Artist | Aditya Verma
A Delhi based visual artist, Aditya Verma explores Gender and Sexuality through his works. We chatted with him to understand his journey and his thoughts on Indian Contemporary art and society.
Tell me about how your artistic journey started. Did you have artistic influences growing up? What education/ training did you receive?
I grew up in a pretty unconventional household where my mother was pursuing a diploma in the arts while our father helped to the best of his abilities to chip in and take care of us while she was pursuing her dreams. Exhibitions, exposure to notable artists, and a dialogue with great thinkers and teachers came at a very early age for me at the studio of Ms. Shobha Broota, my mentor. This was before I had taken up art as a way of life in 2010 and formally started my training under her. Souza, Raza and Hussain seem like childhood friends now, because I grew up seeing their works and developed critical thinking by asking questions about their work. I first visited my mentor when I decided to pursue higher education at College of Art, and it is in that specific time period that I received my first and most crucial lectures from her. It was like an awakening, as if someone had whispered a few magic words and suddenly I could see. Over time she shaped my perspective, taught me how to see the world, and helped me become an artist without any limitations in my head. My time at College of Art helped me by bringing academic practice and rigour into my work, solidifying the principles of art and design in my head.
What has been the source of inspiration for you( people, places, cultures, experiences etc )?
My life has been one bound by financial limitations upto this point, so my experiences have also not come from extraordinary situations, rather the ordinary and everyday became a source of inspiration for me. I have worked a lot in public spaces, removing the notions of artists working in secret and letting the conscious thoughts and emotions of people flow into my work. This is in an attempt to make the art i create more accessible and relatable over a longer period of time, instead of creating something pop that appeals to the masses right now, but ultimately fades out of the minds of people over a period of time.Culturally, India as a country has greatly influenced me, and I hope to educate myself and other people about the art that currently belongs to our country, which may not fall under the purview of the mainstream and hence is not recognised as our own art by the masses.Overall there have been many developments, influences, and instances that have made me into the artist i am today. My guru, Pandit Madan Shankar Mishra, has been the biggest influence in my life yet, guiding me in the intricacies of sitar and helping me see the true meaning of life.
Could you share the conceiving of your artistic career? We are curious to know about the process and its development. What are the main issues you address through your artistic expression/objective? Your works can be controversial especially on a digital platform, how to do feel about that? have you found another way to express apart from digital?
Thinking of art as a career path has always resulted in me developing a severe creative block. Instead my mentor has always said that art should be treated as a hobby, something you do not do just for money, and it is only then that you may develop something new and truly great. Otherwise you may end up being slave to the trends of the art markets and any consumers you may find. We also have to understand the difference of the patrons of the old, and the "investors" we have in the art scene at the moment. There used to be a conscious understanding that a patron contributed to art and the individual growth of the artist by buying a work of art, and this used to be a celebrated time where many artists found the backing of their patrons to be something that freed them of a lot of restraints that society might have imposed on them. In my case, my art has always been influenced by my sensitive nature and the problems of the people who are closest to me. The workings of the human psyche, Human Biology, and philosophy shaped my work into an intricate studies of my emotions and those of others around me in the form of figures, eyes, and colors. My work in today's time is fully focused on queer issues, detailing the lives of queer people, and my own experiences as a queer person. I believe that in art and architecture, queer people are under represented, and if maybe even a single great artist like Picasso would have made queerness to be the entire focus of their work and then would have gotten global acclaim, it would have made queer people more comprehensible and part and parcel of life for the masses. I have only ever encountered problems with people over the nude photography projects I have posted, in which it has always been reported and to this date their is no one who has mentioned having a problem with it to me personally. This work till now has only been created for digital media, and I express myself through various mediums like 2D painting, art installations, sitar, and creative writing. Painting and visual media will always be my favorite medium of communicating my inner most thoughts.
What is the step forward for your personal projects? Are there any new projects you would like to share with us?
I am always researching, sketching, and developing new ideas to create work around. Currently developing work for a prospective exhibition in February, and trying to fuse painting and sculpture as art forms, the way it used to be in the olden days. I am currently beginning work on a documentation project revolving around honest portraits of queer people. I t will be a multi media project which I intend to show as a travelling exhibition in the coming years.
Could you comment on the current landscape of independent art/ curation industry in India? What are the major challenges you face?
The biggest challenge in today's time is the perception of people. Every single social media platform has seen a radicle shift in the way people consume things, with videos taking a center stage as of now. People have less and less patience with still artwork, and prefer consuming movies or tv serials that talk about similar things to what I may paint about. But as is the case with all things pop, one day too much of video content will get boring and people will want to be saved from the banality of their existence. That has always been a prerequisite for art, the need of the people has often catapulted artists into the eyes and minds of the world, simply because people needed something honest and real in their lives and wanted to stop feeling like they were falling down an endless well. When this awakening and self realization comes again, people will return to the arts. Till then, I guess no one really knows how to sell art anymore, which results in most curators and galleries struggling to build solid experiences for their audience, which is then often blamed on the esoteric nature of the artist's work. I used to believe this myself, till I met Tarini Sethi, an independent curator who has a vision and showed belief in my art, and after doing just two shows with her, I can safely say that all my doubts I ever has in myself as an artist have been replaced by a sense of humility and confidence in my process and creativity. The biggest challenge I have faced is the lack of takers in both my audience and in curators of art related to queer people, lack of sensitivity being the main concern. Due to this, I understand that my art being a self sustaining process might take more time than it would usually take for someone else.