In this edition of Mind Your Own Business, we interview multidisciplinary artist and entrepreneur Harshvardhan Kadam, who goes by the pseudonym ‘inkbrushnme’.
In his words, “I hope I have answered your questions in a satisfying way. I have been honest and less impressive. I felt that this is an important interview where I am even taking a step to start talking about the law. Although there is a lot I could say about street art and the public using these images for commercial purposes, it is such a vague area by and large.”
Your friends and family know you as Harsh, while your followers and fellow artists know you by your pseudonym ‘inkbrushnme’. For the benefit of our readers, please tell us a little about yourself — where you are from, where you are currently based, and what kind of artist you categorize yourself as.
I am an artist and an entrepreneur based out of Pune. I started inkbrushnme almost a decade ago as a studio that created illustrations and designed characters for animation and games. Like most of us who dream, I decided to work for myself, and focus on what was important to me. So after almost a decade of work across disciplines, I am now based out of Pune, where most of my work is conspired. Inkbrushnme is now a duo, along with my brother Rajvardhan. We think of our work as adding values to public and private spaces, by artistic means.
What inspired you to become a street artist/muralist? On the same note, who are the top three artists who have influenced you and your work?
I never wanted to be bound by a medium or school of thought, or confined to an identity. I am still an explorer, and would like to be that way as long as I am getting to do what I love to do. It was the power and possibilities of drawing that took me places I never imagined being in.
My parents — Vijay Kadam and Rahi Kadam — have inspired and influenced me the most, as both of them were first-generation comic book makers of this country. And then it is nature from which I receive most of my inspiration. Nature has taught me all that I know and believe in.
A considerable amount of your work is inspired by mythical creatures from epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana, while there are also stand-alone murals, such as your work on the Church Street Metro Station, Bangalore. How do you conceptualize your artwork, and approximately how long does it take you to translate that onto your medium of choice?
Every new space is a new challenge and context. If the mural does not communicate with the people around, it lives a shallow life. I feel like a problem solver in public spaces, and I now look at every space from the perspective of creating an experience. The minimum time that I spend enhancing a space is one week. Mythology does not apply everywhere today, because we live in highly biased and shallow, opinionated times. Therefore, I look at basic things that are missing in our life, such as happiness. I covered the MG Road metro station in Bangalore with happiness; the title of that work is Rx Happiness. I wanted people to feel happy, looking at what is out there on the walls. This work took about ten days to finish.
With over a hundred murals across the country to your name, apart from your digital artwork, what are some of the difficulties you have faced as a street artist/muralist?
According to me, the best way to work in public spaces is to move on after a work is made, leaving the work and space to take their own shape… which could be for it to disintegrate, be whitewashed over, be burnt or celebrated. Difficulties are mostly to do with making sure I have the right equipment, and that safety is first priority. While working in public spaces, life has taught me to be most humble and nonconformist. Public spaces are ever evolving, and so should the thoughts expressed in such spaces. My challenge has always been to make an artwork that remains an interesting constant throughout the years, like that one t-shirt you will always want to keep in your wardrobe.
Are you aware of the laws in force that protect artwork? From your interaction with other artists, do you find there is a lack of awareness regarding the rights artists have over their work?
I am aware of some laws, but my understanding of the law is elementary. This is a common topic of discussion amongst some of my artist friends, as we see our works being reproduced by printers and sold at Connaught Place in Delhi, and iPhone cases featuring our work being sold on Flipkart without any prior permission or notice.
Do you think the laws in place sufficiently protect art, especially with respect to street art, which is relatively new in the Indian scene in comparison to other traditional art forms? If not, what are a few changes you would like to see incorporated?
Law definitely needs to a be part of art/design education. Unfortunately, in India we are only shown how to draw or design. Very few institutes consider business to be an integral part of art or design education. Oh, and the law… what is that?
Street art is tricky as public spaces belong to everyone, but there is a value an artist adds. In recent times, I’ve seen many brands and TV commercials use walls that I have painted, from across Delhi and Pushkar. I had put a few things on the walls, not for advertising agencies to use for their own aesthetics, but to make some serious changes in an urban setting. In such situations, there are no rules or usage rights. There should be rules protecting artworks of national value, to maintain them. You get to see many such murals in Paris, which are protected, where the artists themselves maintain the mural, with proper processes in place, and with a budget allocated to streamline the system.
In the recent past, you shared on your social media your displeasure of a Delhi-based arts organisation that used an image of your depiction of Shiva in a newspaper advertisement. Has this kind of unauthorized use of your work been common in the past? What steps have you taken regarding the same?
I tweeted to the authorities and did not hear from anyone. I did not have the time and bandwidth to look into what happened further. I understand very clearly that this is not a good stand for an artist to take, but I practise everyday, and to sit and take this situation ahead is too much of a task right now; I think this is a common problem for most artists whose work is being used in an unauthorized way. Can there be a system by which this gap between a creator and the legalities is bridged in the future?
Personally, what affects you more as an artist — the use of your work without compensation, or the use of your work without your prior permission and without assigning you due credit?
I have made sure that the first situation does not arise. The latter is extremely damaging emotionally as well as financially.
How can our readers keep track of your work and follow your painting adventures across cities?