How the Melbourne raised artist embraces the space between cultural traditions and contemporary identities.
This story was originally published in Justsmile Issue 1 FW20.
Photography Bryce Thomas
Styling Kevin Hunter
On interdisciplinary practice: A lot of my artistic practice has been influenced by my graphic design background and education. I went to uni to study Communication Design, which is basically graphic design. I was very into more traditional forms of art making, like painting and drawing. And then once I went to uni, I learned how to use a lot of digital programs. I really let that influence my personal work. A lot of stuff I do now, I still start by drawing, and I still use a lot of traditional methods, but the output is always digital.
On their current project: I go to India quite often every two or three years. Three years ago was the last time I went, and I took so many photos - it was the first time I went as a mature creative. I've been sitting with these photos for ages; they've just been on my hard drive and I just did not know what to do with them. There are so many photos of India that exist. There are so many books out there that say ‘This is India,’ and I feel like I was just waiting for inspiration to hit me for a way to present these photos, and to do something with them that is different and still genuine to my visual style and my artistic practice.
On tradition and queerness: A lot of my work focuses
on my identities. So in a lot of my work I draw upon Hindu iconography, because I was raised in Hinduism, and the gods and goddesses, and all the deities, and the imagery is something that I've been around my whole life. Hinduism really inspires me and means something to me, maybe not from a religious point of view, but culturally — I’m inspired more broadly by Indian culture as well.
My work is also driven by queer narratives. I think that’s more of a contemporary thing. But especially within Hinduism and Indian culture, there's a lot of precolonial stories to do with, for example, the third gender. This is a concept in India where basically, a lot of trans women are known through this concept of a third gender, which we call hijra. Even within Hinduism, one of the gods has a female form and a male form. So I think, yes, there is a very contemporary perspective and approach to queerness in my work, but also, there's a lot of tradition.
‘At the moment, you might feel super alienated and individual... but don't worry. You've got a big storm coming, and a good one.’
On representation: I really had no role model growing up, due to the lack of representation. There was literally no one in the media or in the public eye who I could really look up to, or strive to be, who was like me; because it was not something that was accessible or presented. I do think that things are changing and that little brown queer kids today have people to look up to, but sometimes I wonder, is the real world actually reflecting this? Or is it just my bubbles?
On advising their younger self: What I would say [to my young self] is that there are spaces out there for you and people out there for you. At the moment, you might feel super alienated and individual amongst the people and the places you’re around, but just don't worry. You've got a big storm coming, and it’s a good one.
On finding community: The high school I went to was selective; you had to do an exam to get in. This is a school full of academically driven kids, and it was just not my thing, you know? Very homophobic — just not it. It was the first time I was around a majority South Asian cohort though. Being around people of my cultural background at that point in my life was really important: it was in those years that I really grew to appreciate my background and culture.
Then I went to uni and I started meeting people: I went to an art school, studied graphic design, then I started going out and going to queer nights and stuff like that and meeting people that way, and then just even social media really helped in creating a network of like- minded people.
On giving a fuck: I actually want to give less of a fuck; just chill and let things happen as they happen, and go as they go. The kinds of people that I find so charismatic are the ones that just embody the ‘don’t give a fuck’ attitude. Be nice to everybody more. Of course you’re always going to care about things — you will always have a fuck to be given — but it’s healthy to let that go sometimes.
On what’s made them smile: This pandemic season has forced me to do so many things outside. Going on hikes. Also, me and my boyfriend have been getting Airbnbs and just going out and staying there, going to the Blue Mountains and stuff. Because I'm not from New South Wales, it's been really nice exploring Australia and exploring the country. Our country is so beautiful and there's so much to see.