WHO: This Bengaluru-born artist’s work is a social and political commentary on India. Based out of South Korea, he feels that living in a different culture allows him to observe and create better, works on India’s underbelly. His art has been exhibited at the Arario Gallery, Beijing, Seoul and New York, Gallery Chemould, Mumbai, and The Saatchi Gallery, London. He was shortlisted for the 2011 Škoda Prize
An incident that changed or formed your artistic vision?
In 1997, I stayed at Cholamandalam Artists’ Village for a year. The experience was such an eye-opener that I almost gave up on being an artist. All notions of glamour dissipated by the end. At least I was a harmless student and not in competition with the professional artists living there. I understood the rat race in the art community; the jealousy, the unsaid competition, back-stabbing and slaving for art galleries.
What have been your greatest moments of fear and exhilaration?
I get distressed talking to two kinds of people. The skilled artist and the skilled speaker. Both make you feel that whatever they utter is of profound greatness and of long-lasting effect. Anybody who interacts with them either agrees with them or feels that they are listening to something great that is beyond their reach. But I get excited when researchers talk about their work. Even when the language is a barrier I can still understand them. For example, a few of the TED Talks. I’m a fan.
Who is your biggest influence or mentor?
During my training at the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai, I visited exhibitions every week at Jehangir Art Gallery. I asked my curator, Dilip Ranade, how these artists dared to show such bad works in public. He told me to note down in points, what exactly were the bad things that I saw. This exercise in analysis opened my eyes. Now I know at least what I should not do.
One thing in your life you’d change? Why?
If there is something that I would change, it is the thought that I can change things. The span of life around us is on such a large scale that if a human being, in a span of 70-90 years, thinks they can or has changed the life around them, I would call it an insane joke.
Aradhna Wal is a Trainee, Features with Tehelka.