It is no secret that we have long been enchanted by the legend of the archetypal waterman – who, as Rahul Malaney concisely sums up, ‘a human being that feels completely comfortable in the ocean no matter what the conditions are like’.
Unmistakeably one amongst these elemental beings who avidly responds to the call of the ocean himself, he was joined by Jill Ferguson, who subscribes to a similar lifestyle that transgresses the generation’s consumerist trappings to respect the mighty and selfless ocean – and the environment – for the phenomenon that it is. Together, they embarked upon the journey that is Vaayu, as much about creating a water sports-cum-accommodation centre, as it is a social and cultural breeding ground for environmental awareness, art, passion and ultimately, creating a community that prompts even the wandering visitor to question the ‘kind of impact they want to have on this planet’.
After ‘Migrating Whales and Other Stories’ by Sachin Shetty winding up the last year, Vaayu is kicking off their exhibitions in 2015 with ‘Street Art Excursion with Inkbrushnme’, Harshvardhan Kadam’s alter-ego, a travel studio.
Harshvardhan Kadam started off as a comic book artist in 2007, when he registered the term ‘Inkbrushnme’ rather cluelessly, except for the knowledge that he wanted to draw. “Illustration is a beautiful river where one sees a union of various tributaries of visual arts, primarily fine arts and design, and its applications in this vulnerable industry is boundless,” he waxed lyrical, the last time we caught up with him. The 29-year-old is the founder of Inkbrushnme Studios, a specialized studio for public art murals, character design and illustration.
Harshvardhan travels to various cities across the country to work. People seem to know inkbrushnme but they don’t generally know the face behind it, something he is happy about as people relate more to the creation, when the creator is invisible. He divides his time between commercial projects and his personal project, Mythopolis, which re-interprets Indian myths and other stories in the contemporary times and encourages the younger generations to understand it beyond its stereotype. Under this, he makes massive street murals (street art) wherever he travels and digital paintings that tell stories from India’s rich literature and spiritual experiences.
“Mythopolis is a way of keeping the torch alive of stories towards extinction. Murals have existed since prehistoric times and around the globe, and throughout the progression of time. Drawings appeared before alphabets were designed. They are records of their time, a receipt of values and a validation for immortalising thoughts so rich. Be it at the caves of Ajanta, or the walls of the Sistine Chapel, they leave the viewers awestruck,” he says.
As a part of ‘Street Art Excursion with Inkbrushnme’, get your helmets on and tie those laces up tight – and don’t forget to Bring Your Own Bike. In a mural-crawl of sorts, you can bike from one mural to another before ending up at Vaayu on Ashwem-Mandrem Road, where there’s music waiting for you by David Satori (of Beats Antique!!), Hung Massive, Bangalore-based Wazulu and Painted Belly Dancers. There’s also going to be an interactive session of street art, a live digital painting, by Inkbrushnme.
We caught up with him about the upcoming exhibition and the ethos behind his vivid art:
I. Tell us a little bit about your belief that states ‘in the end, only stories remain‘. Was there an incident in particular that prompted this conclusion?
A normal mind may understand incidents that only happen between birth and death. We love to think that these incidents are under our control. But Not necessarily they are. We are remembered for what create within this fraction of life and death…incidents, accidents, moments, etc. These are but stories of our timeline, a personal timeline. And souls who are connected to us spread these stories if they are of any worth. When these stories are powerful, effective and impactful, the identity of a creator vanishes and what remains is like sugarcane juice and we don’t even look at the straws this juice is extracted from. Stories such as Mahabharata, Panchatantra, are sugarcane juices of wisdom and seldom we talk about their creators. Creators die, they but leave their marks on people. Their stories live.
II. What are your thoughts ahead of your first solo exhibition?
I am thoughtless to be frank because I do not want to expect anything. I am excited about the show as it converges multiple practices which I explore in a fluid manner. I will take my audience on a bike tour, which is a very unique Goa experience. Then we come to Vaayu, where we exhibit my digital fine art. This is the first time I have printed most of my work on a scale that it needs to resonate with. The canvases are presented in form of scrolls. An inspiration I derived from Thangka paintings.
III. What is your first memory related to Indian Mythology? What is it about Indian mythology that inspires you so deeply?
My folks illustrating Mahabharata for AmarChitraKatha when I was a kid.
IV. Tell us a little bit about how you went about conceptualising this project?
Vision Collective art residency is a very open ended space and thats a positive point about it. I have been making public space murals both indoors and outdoors. I explained folks at VC about the phase I am in. The phase of Mythopolis. A term coined after much meditation to bring in Indian Mythological stories into our public spaces that spreads stories and magical moments from popular myths. This time I also explored my personal myths which entertain me in my dreams like The Human harp. A soul so musical and lyrical that everything which this soul does is pure poetry. It is inspired from a dream I saw a while back. But mostly the process was organic and impulsive. I reacted looking at the spaces at times with olfactory influences.
V. What are the logistical issues you have faced in your pursuit to paint walls in the streets, and how have you overcome them?
Ah! Most people, whom we paint for appreciate the process and end results because they love to see their spaces become alive. But some wall owners who are a little closed minded do not like what we doing. But thats part of the process. One can’t really claim any authority after the work is done. It is essential not to be possessive about what one paints in a public space. But frankly the process of making murals itself is so exhaustive and joy giving, we tend to forget the issues we come across.
VI. Who are some of your biggest influences, from any sphere of the arts?
VII. What was your artist residency at Vaayu like? Tell us about your experience collaborating with Sachin Shetty.
We start a piece together without discussing any concepts. Our styles compliment each other and our likes, colors do all the discussion that they are supposed to do when we paint! Need I say more?
VIII. In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges that street art in India faces?
The logistical issues like cranes, scaffoldings and permissions. We have immense talent to establish a genre of Indian Street Art here. We have a lineage of visual art which is a a few thousand years old tradition. And most of these works happened in public spaces, on residential and religious spaces. We have so much that we do not value its importance because we, indians, always need spoon feeding or an approval from the west. we are the first generation from India to bring back these aspects back in to the form in acceptable and appreciated zone. We look beyond challenges and contribute our energies to popularize this format and are extremely optimistic that a few years down the line we take off fluently and this is just the turbulence before the glide. Times are changing.
IX. Tell us about a couple of interesting/funny incidents you might have come across during your travels across India.
So in Udaipur while I was painting a mural I had two fellows standing besides be for a long time. I broke the ice and started talking conversing to find out they were miniature painters. I was happy to hear that and eventually they taught me how to paint eyes, which is the most challenging task in a miniature work. There are many incidents but this one was special as such sharing of knowledge does not happen often where one artist appreciates another artists work openly and Honestly.
X. What are some of the other interesting projects you have in the pipeline?
Pune Mural Project which begins in the last week of January and Refracting Rooms, Pune chapter of KHOJ workshop’s Artist Residency Program which takes off in Mid Feb where 10 Indian and 10 international artists will live, collaborate and create experimental works.