Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Fostering genuine emotions and empathy through art 

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In an exclusive chat with The Pioneer, Poornima Sukumar, founder of Aravani Art Project, gets candid about her art, creative process, and more.
SHIKHA DUGGAL
Her work is vibrant, playful, and full of life. She is working for some of the biggest brands in the country. We are excited to have Poornima Sukumar here to talk about his work, her career, and her creative process. Passionate about what she does, her latest venture Aravani Art Project—is allowing her to push her craft just by looking at things she wants to create. Dismantling societal taboos, the priority, she is more happier working on it.
For instance, she shared, “Walkers & Co. testifies to the idea that progress is not a solitary endeavor; it’s a collective journey. It’s about embracing identity, forging your path, and making a bold impact on the world as you keep walking. The upcoming campaign is yet another such step of enablement. As the founder of Aravani Art Project, the platform has provided us with the space to showcase my art on their billboards, offering unique and compelling perspectives on life, identity, and progress.”  Well, understanding the larger association with Johnnie Walker and the impact that her collective is creating across the society! Her stories of resilience and empowerment are some things he loved to talk about and worked on in his collaboration. Empowerment is key here. The world right now is in need of art and most importantly support and solidarity according to her.
She continues, “For the first time, we worked on huge cloth collages which depicted community, intersectionality, our oneness with nature, importance of togetherness, colours, flowers and birds. All of this amalgamated into huge pieces of artwork. This definitely pushed us beyond our comfort zone.” In 2014 while working as a freelancer, she was approached by a documentary filmmaker who was making a film on the transgender community. It was this opportunity that changed Poornima’s life. She recalls, it took about three-and-a-half years to finish the documentary and by then she was completely disgusted by how society turned a blind eye. The transgender community was a thriving pool of beautiful human beings but never seen as that.
“I met brave women and formed deep friendships with each one of them. I am still so moved by each of their struggles and how they face their miseries every single day, simply to be true to how they feel. It motivated me to see the positive aspect of their existence and their boldness to stand up against the rest of us,” added the founder.
So after the documentary was completed, she felt guilty about taking so much from the community and hence, decided to give back. Using art she decided to take up public projects not just to get the community involved but also use the opportunity to observe them, understand their interactions with each other and be a part of their lives and challenges. The collective began to simultaneously resist the misogyny and to keep moving ahead creating spaces for ourselves and for the world to be a part of! “What is distinctive exactly? Our artwork is influenced by everyday life, people, patterns and there is a lot of extraordinary sights we can see in the ordinary. Slight glimpses of affection, kindness, laughter, joy and mystery. We tend to overlook this in our everyday life, but with regard to our artwork we like to focus on the things people tend to otherwise turn a blind eye to. Another set of elements are the lives and stories of the transgender people. We are always in awe and are inspired to create artworks with regards to their lives and stories.”
The audiences and bystanders till now have been open to listening and observing what she has to say through her art. She believes in humanity, acceptance and love towards all gender. When she paint in red light districts or in slums, she focusses on the stories that create a space to celebrate the similarities and appreciate the differences! “As a person I was an introvert—I slowly became an ambivert as years passed and have always had a keen interest to bridge the gap between art and social work. I have always been an empath and art allowed me to express myself and the need for the practical aspect to kick in. Being open to all sorts of opportunities growing up and landing up being part of a documentary, making friends with the transgender women and to start a collective and be a part of it for almost ten years now has been more than just shaping me. It has become a way of life and although we have a long way to go in terms of changing perspectives of people at large, a small part of me is happy that I am able to change minds of my immediate circle and educate them about gender, the stereotypes, and the stigma it all comes with.”
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