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For India, my muse – Artist Akshita Gandhi delves into the country’s cultural identity at her first solo exhibition

Art is boundless, art is all-encompassing, and art certainly has the ability to change the world for the better, says artist Akshita Gandhi, a standout name in India’s contemporary art scene. He recently concluded his first solo show,
A love letter to my home, at The Nehru Center, London, an ode to post-colonial India, which is an eclectic mix of long-preserved culture and heritage and an emerging modern and global identity. She sat down with us to talk about her recent work, her creation process, drawing inspiration from the soul of India and more.

Q: Please tell us about the theme of your show and how did you pursue it?

In early 2022, as we were discussing the show, we realized that this year we are celebrating the 75th year of our independence from British rule and ironically, the show was taking place in London so we decided to do something that was close to home and speaks of freedom and independence. I wanted to reflect and focus on India’s post colonial identity. The theme seemed like the perfect choice because for this series I photographed a lot of British architecture in Mumbai. So, the exhibition is an ode to India, and it was an honor to exhibit my work at the Nehru Center, being such a prestigious location in London.

D: Your art is about the history of India, and it is also the history of the British. But the light in which it is seen is probably very different for both countries. So what’s their reaction to viewing your art?
This is my 29th international show and the feedback I have received so far tells me it has been very well received by them. We have such a rich culture and history that no matter what the goal, it always feels great. Like my blue tarp installation, it is something that is used in both high-end homes and slums. So, for me it’s such an inclusive reason, and these are the kind of images that make our country extremely interesting. Especially our fabrics, which today are huge globally. Many artists I admire are already working with them, which also inspired me to tell our story. We have this immortal spirit and energy that truly amazes many people from the West.

Q: Tell us more about the process of your art.

With my work I have tried to go beyond the surface. I photographed Mumbai and Udaipur, but not the usual clichés like buildings. I chose the small old town vibe, clicking on the market area in the middle of the night, and then reworked them. These cities are famous for their hustle and bustle, but I wanted to show the stillness, which has so much magic.

Q: You also touched on some contemporary topics such as political unrest, social divide and censorship. So how did you combine such delicate topics with the liveliness and audacity of your work?

I have always believed in talking about important issues, nationally or internationally. I think art has some sort of responsibility, to be more than just decorating or adorning someone’s wall. I also did a series on patriarchy before this, called “I have read forbidden books”. In India, we face a constant back and forth between traditions and modernization. As an artist, I constantly strive to promote social change. However, while bringing these issues to the fore, I also want to make sure my works are aesthetically appealing. When you look at it, you don’t want to stray from it. Delivering crucial messages aesthetically is what I’ve always aimed for.

Q: You refused to stick to just one medium as an artist, be it painting, photography or installations. How did this process happen for you?

I identify myself as a mixed media artist. I don’t want to stick to one medium and limit myself. I have constantly experimented and pushed my limits. Everything new is incorporated into my work, so much so that for the past 6 months I have been working on a piece of music, which we showed at the London show along with a video. It was a whole immersive experience and not just an exhibition. I call my jobs little happy experiments, because I always work at my whim!

Q: What inspires you the most? The world you observe around you or the world inside you?

I think a little of both. Because my life is all made of art, everything inspires me. I could stare at a door or just go home and be inspired to make a series of it. Of course, personal experiences play a huge role because they are reflected in your art.

D: In the contemporary art scene, which artists are you inspired by?

One is definitely Cindy Sherman: I think she really pushes the boundaries for photographers and women. I also love Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures for their rawness and beauty. My absolute favorite should be Monet. His lilies are timeless beauties: simple, deep and beautiful.

Q: So can we say that you have always been attracted to art?

I think I was born to be an artist. My mother, Neha, was herself a phenomenal artist. I inherited my love of art from her and have been taking art lessons since I was 3 years old. Although I am an economics graduate, part of me has always known what my calling was. I wanted to experiment with different art forms and put India on the world map. Now, I’ve been chasing it for 6 years, and it’s been a really satisfying journey.

Q: As a photographer, what do you like to capture the most?

I love cityscapes. I photographed the slums, buildings and bazaars and captured different structures. I travel a lot and mostly end up clicking on the historical centers of every city, be it Zurich, Hong Kong, Udaipur or Mumbai, my eternal muse. I am very fascinated by architecture.

Q: You also recently launched an NFT. Is the art industry picking up the trend?

Yes, I launched an NFT which talked about women’s empowerment, equality and sustainability. I think every artist is enormously influenced by the era in which she lives. Ten years ago we saw an increase in digital art and now, after the pandemic, NFTs have exploded. Art is a kind of movement that arises as a result of what is happening in the world. I think the whole Metaverse is a space where you will find art that may not necessarily have a place in exhibitions or galleries. Hence, it is a great time for artists to experiment and I think it will be welcomed easily by the industry.

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