Contemporary Indian visual artist Yashasvi Mathis’ technicolor world – interspersed with the occasional black & whites – rewards a curious onlooker quite generously. Depending on the elasticity of your imagination, the layers in the work can take you far.
Yashasvi’s personal artworks are often led by a female protagonist and a valiant use of colors. They are usually about the universe of her mind and coming to terms with her state of being. She does a lot of fashion illustrations and also collaborates with various indie musicians. Her work has been published in New York based Unemployed Magazine, Elle India and 100% Sketchbook, among others.
Through a number of emails, we speak to Yashasvi about her creative inspirations, personal projects, music, the city of Bombay, and more. Read on:
Tell us something about your childhood.
I was born in Bangalore and have been in Bombay all my life. School days were okay but I always kept wishing that I had more time to draw. I enjoyed history and geography and liked studying languages. I also remember being constantly nervous those days.
What was the nervousness about?
Social anxiety, mostly.
What influenced you creatively when you were growing up?
My family took me to visit these powerful, ancient temples in my childhood which were many a times in these far away, sometimes mysterious, locations in south India. And the stories associated with these temples, the people there, the kind of worship and the mythological as well as the spiritual relevance of the deity there would really excite me and were my earliest – and in fact still continue to be my greatest – inspirations.
These sacred places influence my state of mind in a manner that makes me meditative, and I feel the need to express that state through my paintings. I can say that nothing moves me like theosophy, mythology and mysticism.
When did you realize you wanted to be an illustrator/artist?
I was always drawing, started painting a little later, and at one point I wanted to stop doing everything else so I could just paint all day. It was never a career choice I had to make. I simply can’t imagine myself doing anything else.
These sacred places influence my state of mind in a manner that makes me meditative and I feel the need to express that state through paintings. I can say that nothing moves me like theosophy, mythology and mysticism.
Did you have a formal training in art?
I went to an art teacher who lived near by – Mrs. Sabnis. I attended a few classes before the elementary and intermediate level art examinations, from where I learnt to paint faster than I could. We were made to recreate these existing paintings of sceneries etc. which proved to be a great practice for my skill. To match the colors in those paintings, we would keenly observe and use our intuition while producing various shades of colors that had the slightest, subtlest differences between them. This was one of my most favorite exercises.
Have you always been a freelancer?
Yes. Besides working on commissions and collaborations with musicians, I spent some time last year working with Vogue India in their photography department. It was a good experience that allowed me to immerse myself in an ocean of visuals and I got to illustrate for some of their stories in a couple of issues.
How do you balance between personal projects and commercial work?
Generally when I have commissioned work to finish, I keep my personal projects on hold for a bit so it’s never really a clash. I also never take up too many things at once because I can only do my best when I know I have enough time for each task.
Could you pick up one personal project and tell us about its making?
One of my latest projects is a series of digital paintings exploring my current state of mind. Having been restricted to my room for a couple of months now because of a health condition, I was only able to paint digitally in bed. These paintings are purely introspective, depicting women either engaging in a physical activity or being pensive. Its execution was spontaneous with no prior rough sketches or anything of the sort.
I am particularly fascinated with ‘The Negative Girl’ series. Can you tell me a little bit about the project?
I made it a few years ago when I was not feeling my best, in an effort to get many of the thoughts that were weighing me down out of my mind. Towards the end of that phase, I could clearly see as to how I was the only one that was stopping myself from recovering and that is when I made ‘Chirping makes Anjolique sick’ which was about how she (Anjolique) is very irritated with some birds who won’t stop chirping and is trying to spot them. And when she does, she realizes that her breasts are birds’ heads and the nipples are the beaks, and it is a slightly difficult situation to deal with. So in a way each of the pieces in the series is a metaphor for how I am the sole cause of my problems.
Tell us about your collaborations with indie musicians. Is creating artwork for an album different from your other work?
For sure, but I can’t say they don’t influence my personal work or vice versa. Making art for music is an amazing experience because you get to create a visual world for the music that people can touch (at least visually if not always physically, and that is one step closer). It is a very crucial connect with the music for the listener which should enhance the latter’s experience of the music and so you feel like you have a big, important responsibility to do it right. Music is divine and to be able to create a visual language for it can be a profound experience.
I’ve worked with some terrific artists, who are now family – Nischay Parekh, Jivraj Singh and Amyt Datta so far, and I feel truly blessed that I had that opportunity and must thank my phenomenal sister Opashona Ghosh for having introduced me to them.
What kind of music do you like?
I love all the three albums I’ve worked on so far which are Nischay Parekh’s ‘Ocean’, Pinknoises’ ‘The Dance of the Diaspora’ and Amyt Datta’s ‘Pietra Dura’. I like music that sounds like the wee hours of the morning. I love Little Dragon, Tei Shi, Toro y Moi, King Krule, Sean Nicholas Savage, Tops, Aaron Ahrends, Glass Animals, Dan Bodan, Romare and a lot of classical Indian music. Some of my favorite Carnatic singers are Maharajapuram Santhanam, Aruna Sairam and M.S. Sheela.
Music is divine and to be able to create a visual language for it can be a profound experience.
Making art for music is an amazing experience because you get to create a visual world for the music that people can touch (at least visually if not always physically and that is one step closer).
What are some of things/observations that have deeply inspired you over the years?
The knowledge that nothing lasts forever, that having grace is one of the greatest kinds of wealth that one can have, that humility comes before everything else and that the more I know, the less I know are a few things that I am constantly thinking about.
You use colors very boldly, especially in some of your recent work. Is that a conscious effort?
No. I have always used abundant colors whether I paint on paper or digitally.
How will you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?
Lush, elaborate, obsessive.
How does Bombay inspire you and your work? What do you like and dislike most about it?
I hardly go out, so while I love the city it is hard to say that it seeps into my work. The pace of this place and its energy level which reverberates ambition, hard work and struggle are things that are great when you’re a freelancer and must set your own deadlines sometimes to finish work on time. I only wish there were more places here which were calm, peaceful environments where I could go when I need to clear my mind.
Who are the artists around the world that you really admire?
Anny Wang, Laura Breiling, Sara Andreasson, Pallavi Sen (who is a friend!), Christian Schubert, Michael Cina, Winston Chmielinski, Chyrum Lambert, Stefan Glerum, Reinhard Weiss, Synchrodogs, Jesse Kanda, Alberto del Pozo, Suthipa Kamyam, David Jien and many more.
What are you currently working on?
A bunch of black and white sketches/ ink drawings exploring inner transformation.
The pace of this place (Bombay) and its energy level which reverberates ambition, hard work and struggle are things that are great when you’re a freelancer and must set your own deadlines sometimes to finish work on time.
FEATURED IMAGE CAPTION:
All the images are artworks created by Yashasvi Mathis.©