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What’s your inspiration?” Honestly, We’re Not Inspired by One Thing; We’re Inspired by Our Experiences, Says Jayesh Sachdev

Jayesh Sachdev is a painter, sculptor, designer, creative entrepreneur, TEDx speaker, and Design Educator. Jayesh is also the founder of the Multi-award-winning label Quirk Box, and Branding Agency Quirk Box Design Studio. Jayesh holds the National Record for having painted India’s largest concept artwork and continues to practice as an internationally exhibited artist. In an interview with the editor of Abir Pothi Jayesh talks about his Journey as an artist and how he perceives art and design.

Iftikar: Welcome to another episode of Tuesday Talks. I’m Iftikar Ahmed, the host of Tuesday Talk and the editor of Abir Pothi. In Tuesday Talks, we look into art, bringing together experts, enthusiasts, artists, curators, educators, and individuals deeply engaged in art in any capacity. Today, we have Jayesh Sachdev with us. He’s a painter, sculptor, designer, creative entrepreneur, TEDx speaker, and design educator. Jayesh is also the founder of the multi-award-winning Label Quirk Box and branding agency Quirk Box Design Studios. Jayesh holds the National Record for having painted India’s largest concept art and continues to practice as an international exhibit artist. Welcome, Jayesh. Welcome to Tuesday Talks.

Jayesh: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

Iftikar: We would like to quickly know about your journey so far and how it all started.

Jayesh:  I went to a design school called LASALLE in Singapore a long time ago. I studied advertising and design communication. I contemplated at that point taking fine art as my choice of education, but for some reason, I ended up choosing to drift towards design and communication design. I worked in advertising and design after that in a studio there in Singapore.

When I came back, because I had taken art as an elective, I felt like I was very much inclined towards it. While I was setting up my own design studio in India, I had some time on hand, especially at the onset when my studio was very nascent. I used some of that time to paint and draw. Before I knew it, I had a large body of works, and then I started looking for galleries to exhibit. Over the years, that’s how it started off.

I still have a design studio, and I gravitated at some point towards a wearable art label called Quirk Box. We did fashion, lifestyle merchandise, and along the way, some space design. Now I’m doing sculptures and murals. The interesting thing about communication design is that essentially, I’m communicating through design, right? Fundamentally, we see art and always refer to artists as sculptors or painters. I don’t know why we’ve drawn these boxes for artists. Why are we restricting and labelling artists based on the medium of their choice?

I feel like I’m very multifaceted in terms of the medium of my choice. I don’t stick to one medium; I like experimenting. My journey over the last many years has been one of dabbling with many mediums as an artist. It’s a broader spectrum of looking at the word “artist,” so to speak. It’s been a very exciting and fulfilling space to be in because each time you choose a new medium to represent your work through, there’s an enormous learning curve.

I’m not a fashion designer, but I’ve had a fashion label for a decade. It’s clearly very enriching to learn the new parts of different industries. Now, as a sculptor, I’m learning a completely new game. I feel like it’s been a very exciting and fun ride.

Iftikar:  You can trace the evolution of your art, if I may say so. How has your art evolved over the years, and do you think your education has contributed to it, or is it the ground-level experience that has shaped your art?

Jayesh: Yeah, I think it’s definitely evolved. I feel like in many ways—in the thought process, in the style, in the narrative, and in the choice of medium—it has evolved as it should. I’d be disappointed in myself if I was stagnant, creating works like I did years ago.

As artists, that’s an itch we have within us, right? To keep exploring and trying new things. That is what I try to do, at least for myself. There’s a playfulness as an artist that I try to imbibe and stay true to. So, I’d say definitely the work has evolved.

To answer the second question: is it experiences or education? I think it’s a bit of both. Initially, because I schooled in Singapore, a lot of my influences were Japanese and Southeast Asian artists. There was a lot of manga; that style was influential to some of my work. Eventually, your experiences become the sum of who you are.

People always ask, “What’s your inspiration?” Honestly, we’re not inspired by one thing; we’re inspired by our experiences. As our experiences keep changing, so does the work, so does how we speak about it, and what we create. So, I think the evolution has been both a trajectory of the geography where I studied and coming back to India, with Indian influences in my work.

Certainly, the experiences you have with life, both good and bad, subconsciously become a narrative of your work. I don’t consciously think about a subject I want to talk about. Many times, after I’ve created a body of work, I realize in hindsight where it may have stemmed from, as opposed to preempting a story I want to talk about. It’s very subconscious how I create.

Iftikar: I would like to know about your creative process from the initial idea to the final piece. Do you have the idea in your mind first, or do you think while you are working already? So, how does this happen to you?

Jayesh: I would say I have a fair idea of what I want to create usually. A lot of my work involves reinterpretations of Indian storytelling. There are nuances of maybe fantasy Indian art. Some people refer to it as mythology; I refer to it as fantasy. There are birds that are flying in people’s stories in the context of Indian narrative. In Game of Thrones, they call them dragons; here, we call them different things. So, I think it’s all fantasy, and you’ll see the way I present those stories.

What I do in my work is contextualize Indian storytelling from my own perspective, trying to add a new layer to how we see the same age-old cultural context. That’s been the body of work that I create a lot. The process is about keeping some of these stories alive but re-representing and repackaging them into a medium of visual language that is intriguing and curious. It is not religious, not necessarily cultural, but has a context of it without actually being about it.

I start off by wanting to tell stories in a repackaged format that aligns with my style of work. My style has a strong graphic influence because I studied communication design and graphic design. These influences persist in my work as an artist, even when I paint or create sculptures. There’s a very graphical style that permeates my creations.

The process essentially involves having a concept centered on retelling stories and adding layers upon layers of the chaos that often resides in my head. Sometimes, I wake up from a dream where a bird is flying in the sky with elephants. I know the story from childhood, but I see it differently today. Perhaps the elephant is flying because balloons are lifting it into the air. These are fantastical images that we, as artists, dwell in.

Stitching all these stories together and presenting them in a static format on a canvas is a unique challenge. The more you stare at my works, the more stories you uncover within them. It’s like a whole novel in one painting, with chapters unfolding as you look deeper. There are subcontexts, sub-elements, sub-stories, and multiple connections of events. I like to call it a beautiful chaos.

This ideology translates into my work. During creation, there are elements I like, dislike, and feel the need to omit or add, much like an editor working on a story. It’s an evolving process, even while I’m creating. However, I usually have a general understanding of what I want to create. Sometimes, I might create a digital version, a sketch, or a small colour edition to see what it looks and feels like before starting on the actual piece.

I believe one of my strengths is having a very strong visual language that is intrinsically mine. Keeping that close to me, I create a rough draft more often than not before expanding it into larger sizes.

Iftikar: Jayesh, your art is the language, and it’s a channel of communication between you and the audience. How do you hope your audience will interact with it and interpret your artworks? What kind of emotional and intellectual response do you aim to evoke from your viewers?

Jayesh: I think this is very subjective. What art is—what you see, what I see, and what a third person sees—is so subjective that I try not to define that voice for my audience. It’s a story that I tell, but I enjoy the interpretation that each of my audience members comes up with. I’ve had people come to my show and say very different things about the same work, and that’s fascinating because sometimes even I haven’t thought of that angle. They want to analyze my work, and it’s pretty much like the Mona Lisa’s smile: 10,000 stories about the same painting, and everybody seems to know why she’s smiling, but who knows whether Leonardo actually had any of that thought process? This is all speculative.

In the same context, I enjoy people coming to my work, seeing it, and having their own interpretation. I might have one of my own, but if I start talking solely about that interpretation, what I’m doing is planting a seed of thought in your mind, channelling your thoughts towards mine. I think that’s unfair to my intellectual audience. I like that if you have your own perspective of it, I’m very open to hearing what people have to say about that. I think that’s more exciting because, within my story, there are multiple interpretations of my work. Since my work isn’t as straightforward as seeing a cow and calling it a cow, given the whimsical pop-surrealist narrative of my work, there is room for each one of you to imagine it.

I quite enjoy that. If you see my shows, I don’t usually put out a concept note that is very specific to it. I try not to talk very deeply about my process or my thoughts on the work because by doing that, I’m influencing a thought as opposed to letting you have your own. Sure, I do have a perspective on my work, but I also enjoy hearing what other people have to say about it.

Feature Image: whizleague

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