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Art in the time of social media

Somewhere in the middle of our chat with a young Navi Mumbai-based visual artist and poet, we are, once again, reminded of the impact and growing influence of social media on Gen Next. “In mid 2015, I began to post my art on Instagram. It generated a lot of buzz. It makes for a great medium for like-minded people to discuss art and its extended world,” shares Priyanka Paul.

We humans are like sunflowers. Inherently, we will always turn to goodness like sunflowers turn to the sun. Unless, we’ve been ripped apart from within
We humans are like sunflowers. Inherently, we will always turn to goodness like sunflowers turn to the sun. Unless, we’ve been ripped apart from within

Young and the creative
All of 17, she wears her talent casually. Her middle-class roots might have something to do with it. “I don’t have any cool tools to practice. In fact, I began to illustrate on my mum’s smartphone when I discovered that it had a stylus as well as several art-friendly apps like Mediabang Paint and SketchBook Express,” she says matter-of-factly. “Now, I’m hooked.” Her grin doesn’t hide the sense of satisfaction of pursuing her passion.

Love is love. Queer bodies paint with colour over the scars, the wounds, the bullet holes; (top right) Priyanka’s art inspired by Harnidh Kaur’s poem
Love is love. Queer bodies paint with colour over the scars, the wounds, the bullet holes; (top right) Priyanka’s art inspired by Harnidh Kaur’s poem

“Around the same time (mid-2015), I also realised that unlike art, poetry doesn’t get as many ‘likes’ on social media. Good poetry tends to get scrolled over. So, by introducing art as a medium, it might offer better clarity on poetry,” Priyanka explains, rattling off the names of community forums where she discusses art and poetry. “Social media is a great tool. I am exposed to all kinds of creative folk — artists, photographers, writers, models, and poets my age. We jam a lot. Our collaborations are amazing.” This love for combining visual art and poetry took an interesting twist recently.

Priyanka Paul
Priyanka Paul

#NaPoWriMoxNidhScraps was a hashtag created by poet Harnidh Kaur who threw a challenge at upcoming poets on social media to post a poem a day in April, which was National Poetry Writing Month. After this, she chose six winners, including her. Kaur’s poem, Pantheon, inspired Priyanka and she created an artwork, which earned her praise from none other than the poet. “I knew I could draw, and the response I got for it was overwhelming,” she recalls. Today, she’s creating art and poetry works, illustrating books and selling her art on retail sites.

Make up positivity (In collaboration with artist Asfa Sabrin): Believe in the radical idea that I don’t put make up for men or any human being but for myself alone. Have you tried the new range of self love lipsticks, impress myself palette feel good concealer and anti-swimming on the first date mascara. Make up isn’t false advertising, because I’m not a product.
Make up positivity (In collaboration with artist Asfa Sabrin): Believe in the radical idea that I don’t put make up for men or any human being but for myself alone. Have you tried the new range of self love lipsticks, impress myself palette feel good concealer and anti-swimming on the first date mascara. Make up isn’t false advertising, because I’m not a product.

Art call
A student of Humanities at St Xavier’s College, Priyanka says, “Since kindergarten, I would doodle on any piece of paper I would find. However, after I entered college, I began to take it seriously. I was exposed to subjects like Political Science, History and Sociology. Sociology, in particular, introduced me to different world cultures, and slowly, I realised that my art was a reaction and reflection to it,” she recounts. Priyanka is currently working on a series that highlights the problems faced by some of Africa’s tribes — from ivory trade to socio-economic challenges.

“I need to find a middle ground, since I haven’t travelled to that part of the world. But I research a lot before putting idea to paper,” she says, when we prod about the expanse of her ideation. Curious about finding inspiration at such a young age, we imagine she would reveal a laundry list of artists. It’s quite the opposite. “I am more inspired by poets, art films, spoken word and documentaries. I feel that the best ideas emerge when you mix things up,” she shares.

As a 17-year-old, how does she balance all of it? A few months ago, Priyanka’s mother was struck with a serious illness. “It changed everything for me. At the time, I was depressed. Somehow, I was able to channelise my emotions into art. It saved me,” she reveals.

Strength of a woman
Flipping through some of her work, we notice that strong women dominate. Shades of a young feminist, perhaps? “Oh yes, I call myself one,” she says in a flash. “As long as I can recall, my mum has been one, and now, it’s a part of me. The term is being used less and less. There is a lot of brainwashing around us, and people don’t wish to be associated with the idea. I’m seeing a lot of misogynist narrative everywhere. I don’t wish for my peers to experience this,” she reasons. “My art will be a medium to bring feminism back to the centre.”

The new cool feminist is here — she is armed with a canvas and understands the power of social media.

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