In this edition of Mind Your Own Business, the spotlight is on artist Yash Bhandari, who we interviewed a few weeks ago at 1ShanthiRoad, Bengaluru.
Please introduce yourself to our readers – tell us where you’re from and what led you to become an artist.
Hello! I am a Bengaluru boy, born and bred, and call myself an experimental artist. I would never have imagined becoming an artist and doing what I do for a living, but it just happened! After I finished school, I decided to take up civil engineering as I’ve always been passionate about building things – there’s something very appealing about the logic behind building and constructing structures.
At the end of my first year at college, I felt there was something missing in my life. I had just finished my final exam for the year and was in the bus heading home when I met another fellow classmate of mine who was still studying even after our exams had ended! He said he wanted to do better than me in class from the next semester and had already begun studying. I realised then that civil engineering wasn’t the path for me, and quit college after my first year to join Chitrakala Parishath’s College of Fine Arts, from where I graduated last year.
What kind of art do you create?
Like I said before, I’d like to think of myself as an experimenter. I love exploring work. Simply put, I see the context and apply myself. Unlike most artists, I do not like creating permanent work. What I enjoy is the temporary form of art – to be able to use, reuse and re-create. To be honest, the majority of my works are not collectibles. My understanding and application of art is that it should be compared to nature. In nature, things are constantly created, decomposed and finally destroyed, and the same applies to my work as well – my work is short-lived, thus keeping it close to reality.
In the past two years that I’ve worked as an artist, I have tried my best to make art from material that one would consider to be waste but in my eyes is of value. Initially, I made small sculptures and sold them for nominal amounts. Of late, I create work which can be used by many rather than one. I believe that renting of art is more tempting than its permanence. The idea of many people being able to witness and appreciate my art makes me more content than allowing one collector to buy it from me. And truth be told, in the end, I do like to get my work back.
What has influenced and inspired your work?
The one-year’s-worth learning of logical reasoning and application of oneself from my engineering course, along with my many years of doodling in school, led me to where I am today. I thought art school wouldn’t be as challenging as engineering, but I was proven wrong.
After my initial struggle in understanding the historic and cultural aspects of art, I began to appreciate art more, and that has reflected in my work. Since I’ve always been a person who wants to do something new, I read voraciously on philosophy, literature, music, diaries of artists and even lyrics to conceptualise my next piece of art.
According to you, what is the commercial viability of your work? Would you call it a business?
Artists generally do not have it easy. Until you really establish yourself in the industry and manage to stand out from the crowd, the money you make is either non-existent or a pittance. Personally, I create art because of the passion I have for it, and if you asked me whether the returns I get from my work are worth my investment of time and money, the best answer I can really give is that at the moment, I’m doing better than my batchmates, which keeps me going.
I cannot call it a business in the true sense. Work-wise, I made use of my home studio whilst still in college, and now I make use of any space where my work is to be displayed. However, the frequency at which I display my work cannot be determined. I only display my work if I am satisfied with it, and the returns for my work are accordingly unpredictable.
How do you manage to sustain yourself if you display your work sporadically?
Well, in the past, I sold a few of my sculptures and ceramic and bamboo works, and made some money. Currently, I create designs on a project basis. Generally speaking, I am rather shy to put a price on my work which is why I usually sell it to people I respect who give me a reasonable amount in return for my work.
We have heard quite often heard from other artists that sometimes they do not get paid on time or aren’t paid at all. What is it like for you?
Agreed, that is a common occurrence in this industry, especially if you are still in the process of establishing yourself. In my case, I usually get paid within a month or two from the sale of my work. Sometimes, there is a delay in payment, but since these agreements are made on the basis of immense trust I share with the buyer, it does not affect me.
What are some of the obstacles you have faced since the commencement of your career as an artist?
I believe the biggest obstacle all artists face is that we do not get treated well. There is a complete lack of art and communicative etiquette. We are treated like manual/industrial labourers and our efforts are often in vain. There is also a lack of professionalism in the industry. Both personally and as being part of the art community, I find these to be enormous obstacles.
What kind of legal measures have you taken in the past for the misuse of your work, if any?
So far, no one has misused my work or created anything similar to it. However, if such a situation were to arise in the future, I would definitely first talk to them to resolve it, failing which I would take legal action against them, because my work does involve a lot of thought and inspiration which cannot blatantly be misrepresented or misused.
When you arrange for your work to be displayed at a particular gallery or any designated space, do you enter into a contract? Are you aware of your rights?
Truth be told, no artist really likes getting into a formal agreement as it makes them feel uncomfortable. However, I strongly recommend it, as they are vital especially when there is a middleman involved. Personally, in the absence of a contract, I make sure that any communication with an organiser takes place via e-mail to ensure all exchanges have been documented.
Yes, I am aware of my rights although I have not protected any work at this juncture. Owing to my avid reading, the working of copyrights and the Creative Commons License is a not-completely-grey area.
What are your thoughts on the sustainability of art in India?
Art has always been a way of life in our country. Making dolls for Dussehra, drawing rangoli, and even clothing constitute art, though the westernisation of the term ‘art’ sometimes prevents the acceptance of these products as art. Owing to rapid industrialisation, the western-urban art is flourishing in the market, and as the economy grows stronger, artists are also traveling to different parts of the world, and their work is being influenced by things they witness and experience. All said and done, Madhubani paintings and similar art forms will always manage to uplift themselves by garnering support through CSR and government aid. Art will sustain itself as food for thought, and will continue to evolve over the years to come.
What do you think are the incentives for artists to create new work?
While sales always serve as an incentive for artists, alternatives like residency programmes, grants and networking are also extremely beneficial. However, each artist has different needs and the incentives may vary – it is difficult to say with certainty that there is a specific list of incentives that instigate artists to create work.
What does the future hold for you?
For now, I am just working in the moment. My work will be displayed at 1ShanthiRoad at the end of my residency programme here, and I will tackle each day as it comes. I do have a few ideas in mind but they will take some time to materialize.