Known for his humorous take on kitschy government propaganda advertisements from the ’80s seen across hospital walls and school buildings, Priyesh Trivedi is well-known for his “Adarsh Balak” series of online posters. In his latest online venture called “Saptan Stories”, Trivedi joins six other graphic artists from the UK and India for an incredible 7-week online crowd-sourced story-telling event, where the audience is invited to submit their creative lines to form one story.
In this interview, Trivedi describes the intersection between storytelling and art what it is like working on a project where the audience has an equal stake in telling a story.
You’re well known for your “Adarsh Balak” work. How does that character allow you to speak and express yourself? How do you relate to that character?
I guess the series allows me to channel and materialise ideas in a visually concise manner. I always find drawing an idea out easier than expressing it verbally. It also leaves a long-lasting impression on the mind of a viewer than the transience of words does. Maybe the post-ironic kitsch subversion has a major role to play in that. I relate to the character on many layered levels. It represents my views on things but also helps me project and explore a side of myself that itself keeps changing. So there is a constant development of me as a person that informs my work. So more than relating to the character, I see it more as a medium to create and maintain a dialogue.
You speak eloquently on the importance of art that conveys ideas and stories through history – How do you approach that through your work?
All art, whether intentionally or otherwise, reflects the contemporary condition. I also feel art, just like language has an evolutionary function and it’s not exempt from its rules either. There is kind of a natural selection of aesthetics and ideas and that’s what history reflects. The thing that interests me the most about this interrelationship of art and history is just how radically this change has occurred in the last two centuries after the Industrial Revolution (and later with technology) and how it seems to be a little scrambled or directionless right now, which is liberating.
But as far as my project goes it only deals with a certain aspect of the ’80s in India’s visual history, in particular with the educational posters that were highly problematic. How something that seemed so innocuous on the surface was pumping moral propaganda and social engineering into unsuspecting minds. So my series is more like a reaction to it but it also deals with a broader phenomenon of this love for the archaic and vintage that people have and how the subversion of it makes a point in itself.
What is the perception of UK culture and art in India?
It’s hard to point out a general observation because people from a wide range of demographics have such varied tastes and inclinations. But for me personally, art and music from the UK has been very close. I grew up listening to a lot of punk and metal bands like “Black Sabbath”, “Motorhead”, “Sex Pistols” to name a few. Even others like “Queen” and “The Beatles” who I’m very fond of. Later when I got into electronic music I discovered all the genres coming out of London for the most part. In visual arts I’ve always been a fan of the YBA group as well as iconic painters like David Hockney and Bridget Riley. Being from Bombay I get to see the architectural juxtaposition of these two cultures and also how it gave birth to Indo-Saracenic style.
How important is it to you to introduce art to people who might not normally see it or have access to it?
I think art in some way or the other emerges from the lived experience of a person. Maybe it is an inevitable outcome of just living and observing. So even if someone might not be familiar with the works of Michelangelo or Warhol because they don’t have access to information or mediums like internet or libraries, they still have the ability to create.
To me it’s more important to have it in life than to know a lot of about it if the latter doesn’t seem like an option. I would love for my work to reach a lot of people and the internet seems to be the best way. But more than that I think the general perception of art in educational and social institutions has to change for people to take it seriously. For most people it’s not that they don’t have access to it, they just choose to not care as it doesn’t affect their lives in a way that not doing your taxes on time does. And in many ways this could be right but it certainly does affect the collective human experience that they are a part of.
All art whether intentionally or otherwise reflects the contemporary condition. I also feel art, just like language has an evolutionary function and it’s not exempt from its rules either. There is kind of a natural selection of aesthetics and ideas and that’s what history reflects
How do you see storytelling as part of your art?
Storytelling is very integral to “Adarsh Balak” series. For the most part, it’s direct and linear to keep it simple and clear. This is something that’s noticeable in my comics more than illustrations. I usually work with four panels or two panels depending on the narrative. Also, it’s easier for me to pull it off because of my experience working as a storyboard artist for animation films.
But I don’t see them as comics which is why I don’t involve word balloons or dialogues. Some ideas and their temporality are just too complex to condense into a single illustration. Those works are funnier because there is a gradual build-up and anticipation for something twisted at the end that goes well with the dark humour that the series is known for.
What excites you most about being part of “Saptan Stories”?
This is exciting because of the scale of engagement and interactivity between artists and audience. Because it’s inclusive and dynamic due to audience participation in continuing the stories, it makes the audience the creators, as much as the artists are making it one large work of art where everyone is involved. Also it’s great to be a part of this alongside other talented artists from these two countries that share so much history and culture.
Visit Saptan Stories today to ‘Submit’ your story lines and be a part of the conversation. Click here