Kokila Bhattacharya opens up a universe of cherished serenity, to leave behind a world she deems too busy to notice. With a longing to blend herself with nature, Kokila narrates her journey towards a fulfilling whole, granting her artwork its inquisitive soul.
She beckons the viewer to appreciate that which has been bestowed upon them freely, and in this conversation with her, we get to know a little bit more about what drives her artistic vision.
Hello Kokila, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. Could you tell us more about yourself?
Bhopal has been, the place I can say, I truly belong to. Though I was born and brought up in the heart of India, it is now that I am truly exploring it. It’s funny because I used to think, that at 21, I’d be away, I’d be quite done with this place, and I’d rant over how laidback the air is here. Not only is it comforting to spend time with family, but my new bike and I explore terrains that I never, ever want to change about this place. I would always want to be away from malls, high rises and the distorted meaning of development that continues to chomp away the forest covers here.
Does your artwork reflect any cultural traits? Do your surroundings inspire your work?
Art could neither be away from our cultural conditioning nor can completely grasp it. However, it is whipped into shape by certain thought processes that are very dear to me. We are, in ways – a fabrication of our surroundings and what we have seen, and most importantly, what we feel. I don’t think there is any adherence to specific cultures, but while at it, there is a certain culture we are defining.
Talk us through your creative process. How long does it take you from the moment you form your idea to the moment you complete it?
It’s the other way round for me sometimes. There is something that drives the artwork from the start to end that I decipher as a third person myself. I do have a certain perspective and clarity before I start illustrating, but it’s like dance — You turn off the lights, close your eyes and sway your body and that becomes the language your mind speaks. Design is different, you have a clear motive on the lines of who is going to use it and how, but that is something I feel very constipated at (hee).
Are you working on any project (i.e art project) at the moment? We are curious to know what’s been up your sleeve.
So. There’s an illustrated book I’ve been trying to complete since centuries now. It’s about Bhopal, Corporate Liability and environmental awareness. It’s called “Eyes Wide Shut”. We are in process of creating merchandise for the Remember Bhopal Museum that I work with.
I am also trying to put up an exhibition in half a year on renditions for causes, or issues that matter. There are a few freelance projects as well that I am looking forward to.
We realize that you briefly attended the National Institute of Design. How did that influence your perception of art?
NID was an eye opener. Somewhere down the line I realized what I really wanted to do be doing at 20. It harbours such amazing talent from around the world that it amuses me how humans can get so creative. Art still remains a personal reflex, something unhindered, skill is what you can top it with, for effectiveness.
We learned that you have a Bachelor’s in Social Work from IGNOU? What influenced you to take up social work?
I don’t have one yet (don’t tell this to my mother, but I don’t intend to).
Nevertheless there are organizations and people that I have been working with over quite some time. I don’t have qualifications on paper that certifies and tags what I would like to do, but the grateful belief that we have taken so much and there is a moral responsibility to give back, keeps me going.
We’d love to know more about the social work you’ve been involved in. Are there any projects you find yourself heavily invested in?
My interest in the ‘curious case of the Bhopal gas tragedy’ landed me with the Remember Bhopal Museum a few months back, which is a community initiative, curated to preserve the story that gets blatantly buried. Apart from what we have done to the environment, my disgust in homo- sapiens also inspires me to collectively mend it bit by bit. I try and avoid plastics, modified and packaged food and beverages and anything that connects toxicity. I use the much abhorred buses here and try my best to reduce my waste and carbon footprint, gorge on organic food and un-buy stuff.
I am also involved with ANSH Happiness Society and Citizen’s Action Network, which are inspiring youth organizations, through which we want to empower youth his year and spread awareness about menstruation, rights for LGBT community, sustainability, industrial disasters, etc.
How do you manage to divide time between personal projects and commercial work?
That, is still, an awaited triumph.
I have dropped commercial work for a while unless they are to do with communities. I want to take it up when I feel more equipped and do not wish to work for corporates.
Who are your top three favorite artists (illustrators etc)?
Lavanya Naidu’s warmth, Sainer’s lines, many works from various designers like Ramchandra Patil’s “Tell us Prime Minister, did it hurt when they took out your eyes?”
Michał Mozolewski’s “357”
What does success mean to you?
To be able to resolve internal conflicts through your art, and in that process, help someone find that peace as well.
How important is music in recreating visions off your mind?
I don’t think there has been any sketch so far that has been driven without its traces through songs or compositions. Some have a very very heavy influence and it’s purely sublime to go through that process. There is a certain kind of oneness between music and art that we keep separating time and again.
Procrastination-What is your relationship with it and how do you deal with it?
Hahaha! Procrastination comes in all forms, I am a spider. I switch my work very often and that’s how I am always doing one thing or the other, yes, you can call that procrastination. I am very very attached to slumber, and I will not do a project if it doesn’t make me happy, or if it takes sleep away beyond my will.
If you could give one piece of advice to budding artists, what would that be?
Let that notion go, of ‘perfection’.
That is something I keep telling myself, budding that I shall always be. We are becoming so victimized by perceptions of ‘beauty’ that we forget to create what we want to. Artists can do justice to themselves if they don’t demean themselves by constant judgment.
How has the journey been with Cupick thus far?
I have been longing for someone to start a platform like Cupick. I am glad YOU DID. It is a good feeling when people buy your work, they want to wear it, they want to see it. Kudos!
To discover more of Kokila’s work, follow her only on Cupick.