Shikhant, aka Choorma, is a young, self-taught artist working in different media – from paintings and illustrations to comics and graphic design. Primarily an illustrator, he derives his inspiration from the ironies of life that we tend to overlook and mostly from the things that matter in our current day and age.
Ashish: What is the story behind you becoming an artist?
Shikhant Sablania (SS): I was studying to become an engineer from one of the ‘good’ colleges of our country. Then, during my 5th semester, I decided that engineering was not my thing. I was curious and I was interested in creating. But the field of engineering did not interest me enough. So, I started doing what I loved the most — drawing. And then moved on to graphic design, illustration and painting.
Ashish: What inspires you to put your energy into art?
SS: Everyday things, the beauty of everyday absurdity, the mundane, the exciting – everything related to life and the environment that we live in. It’s inspiring. It motivates me to put it on record, bend it, transform it, and try to develop a meaning out of the idea of existence.
Ashish: What materials do you use in your paintings?
SS: Whatever is readily available and seems interesting. Acrylic, watercolour and ink, mostly. Oil is something that I used to work with, but not much anymore. Then there are digital illustrations. I make a lot of digital illustrations these days.
Ashish: How have you evolved as an artist? How would you describe your journey so far?
SS: It’s not a long journey. As of yet, I don’t think it’s even worth describing. But if you ask, I think I have evolved to see the absurd in the mundane, and maybe try to find a meaning or the utter loss of it in the world that I see around myself.
Ashish: Who is/are your favourite artist(s)? And why?
SS: I don’t know anymore. The artists I used to like are not my favourites anymore. No-one comes to mind, currently.
Ashish: As an artist what do you think needs to be done in order to reach out to more people?
SS: Create more work. Bombard people with so much content that they cannot ignore you. Of course, quality should not be compromised with. We are living in the Internet age — utilise it to the fullest capacity.
Ashish: What differences do you find between audiences in India and abroad?
SS: We are still a developing economy — art is really far down on our priority list of relevant things. People are still adapting to the fruits of the free market economy. The ones who can afford have their priorities slightly dislocated. It will take time, but the art market will still be limited to a certain class.
Ashish: Is art limited to some classes in India? if so, what are the reasons behind it?
SS: One is affordability. The price of an art piece has many determining factors – economical, emotional, personal, political. Some of these factors are abstract and make it difficult to access by every class.
Another is the myth around modern art that it is unrelated to all classes and that only people with a refined taste in art can observe and/or critique it, which automatically alienates lots of people.
Ashish: How do you see the economics of art in India?
SS: I see it changing with lots of online stores selling affordable art. I’m not sure if the business is growing and by what rate, but I do see more stores online and offline selling art, and the upper-middle class of India, which has recently started fancying art, is attracted to these stores. Another place is pop art, art merchandise – the digital art market that has grown considerably in the last few years. That again is still very small — we are still reproducing similar content.
There are people who would buy art if it was affordable, and there are artists who make affordable art. The thing that’s missing is the link – the bridge between them. There needs to be more community oriented and communication-based art, and more discussion to bridge the gap. But I guess with the growth of the Internet and with social media, more such channels and avenues are being created. We just have to keep drawing.