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From Surat to Brooklyn, to a solo show in New York: Abir Artist is going places

 Our paths first crossed when he submitted an entry for FIRST TAKE and his work was applauded by an august jury. Abhishek Tuiwala continued to go from strength to strength and paved his way from doing his BFA in Surat to going all the way to the reputed Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. We had a candid email interview before Abhishek\’s next major solo show, The Uncomfortable Comfort. Read on!


What drew you to sculptures in the first place? Why did you choose them over other mediums of expression?

Since the inception of my human understanding, I realized the importance of a term called ‘process’. I was fascinated by the journey to a final product that led me to try my hands on metal sculptures. None of the other art mediums and forms during my preparatory year of Fine arts sparked my interest like sculptures did. The lengthy and meditative nature of making a sculpture enables an artist to focus on every single step of the process which results in quality assurance. Beginning from clay modeling to molding to casting and finishing imparts perfection which I aspire to be one day. It keeps me sane!

As a contemporary artist, describe your journey from Surat to Brooklyn?

Artists are never meant to root themselves. They travel for inspiration and experience. It\’s almost a decade since I began my journey now and in hindsight I realize how much my hippocampus has imbibed. It has been tides and ebbs every now and then. I have witnessed all standards of faculties, observed the transparencies of the academic systems, ignored the biased ones and faced significant criticism with optimism. From working with a team to being a solopreneur, travel has helped me clear the clouded judgment and help me keep optimum balance.


How did you build upon your knowledge in Pratt? Did you notice any change in style or approach here?  

In my opinion, every place, be it Surat or Pratt, has its own charm. I stick to my focus on the process. The styles and approaches might vary, but to imbibe the best out of the buffet is one’s own choice and talent. Building a ladder of education and hard work is clearly visible from my works till date. I take immense pride in the progress I have made. I owe it to Pratt which helped me make the correct choice and the rest is history.

Could you tell us about your mentors or their influence on your career path? How did they motivate or encourage you?

Well in this regard, I have very fortunate. There are two names whom I owe a lot – Soumitra Gouri, my mentor at BFA, and John Monti, my mentor at MFA. These two eminent personalities have been my best critics and have stood rock solid with me. From pinpointing the minutest flaws to stretching hands of friendship, they have been there for me. I believe a healthy critic helps one tremendously and I look forward to being one for the next generation of artists.


 Tell us about your process for selecting the various mediums you have chosen for your sculptures? 

It’s a trick question. And there is no correct answer to it. After the brainstorming is over, the implementation is a huge decision when it comes to scale and the medium. At times it takes seconds while it may take months as well. And there is no guarantee that one would achieve the visualized results. So back to step 1 again. That’s when the experience starts counting. With 100 failures, I realized 100 different perspectives that don’t work. I count that as experience and trust me, that is the essence of being a sculptor.

 There are recurrent themes of culture and identity in your works. What are the reasons that draw you to these themes? 

Indians have a typical way of living which is totally different from where I currently reside. While working on human behavior during my undergrad in India, it always made me ponder about the life miles away. Today while I jot down this answer, it keeps me thinking about the disparities and the concept of adaptation. I create what I believe and think. And hence the theme of connecting multicultural, generational and intimate human experiences into one expression. 


On a similar thread, tell us about some of the shows and works that are closest to your heart.

Now this one is really difficult. You cannot choose one from your two sons or daughters, can you? Every show and work is made of love. However, if I really have to answer this question, Fantasy I, Self Portrait 3.0, The golden Identity and Towards equilibrium have my soul. Abir\’s \”First Take 2019\” in Ahmedabad, \”Synergy\” curated by Artem Mirolevich at Miami and \”Homegrown\” curated by Jasper Johns have been a constant in my heart.

  How has your life and career changed since you went abroad? What changes have you experienced in both areas?

Coming to the United States with an MFA and working since the last three years have been commendable. I experienced anxiety, routine, academics, highs and lows of day to day life and a complete change in the pattern. It took me a while to adapt myself but my strong will and zeal to learn kept me going. I made amendments to my lifestyle, thought process and flow of work which in my opinion made me what I am today. It’s the perspective that matters the most and I would like to set an example to my fellow Indians back there.


  How would you define Abir India\’s role in your journey? 

Inevitable. When I created my sculpture Fantasy-I, I was sure it would enlighten me with a different identity. And the thought behind it was high on an intellectual level. I still reminisce the tears of joy when I received an email from Ms.Ruby saying that my work Fantasy I was shortlisted for Abir First take of 2019. When a prestigious firm has eyes on your work, it boosts confidence to a next level and then there is no going back. That’s how powerful Abir India is to me. It flagged off my journey to accomplishing Prestigious awards, scholarships, exhibitions from different art foundations.

 Tell us more about your solo show and its overarching theme. How did you conceptualize and execute the same? Were there any challenges you faced? 

\”The Uncomfortable Comfort\” is all about facing challenging situations. Upon choosing this profession and a career in the United States, I have always redefined comfort. All the oxymoron is proved right when a sculptor creates art. The blood stains on the canvas while cutting a metal are a tribute to that art. The dusty hands behind that prim sculpture are the witness of hard work. My solo show is based on these simple yet powerful thoughts that every artist goes through and I want every single artist to find it relatable. It took a huge brainstorming, but its worth it.

 What next? Are there any other projects lined up?

An artist never sits free. There is always something in the pipeline. May it be in thoughts or in execution. As far as I am concerned, some of my most wishful works include public park sculpture and site-specific sculptures. I am simply waiting for the puzzle to fit and a complementing platform.


\”The Uncomfortable Comfort\” will be on view at 1155, 6th Ave, New York. The show is up from March 4th to March 25th.