This artist quit his well-paying job to spread social messages through his artworks. He uses videos to educate people about his artworks and the story that inspired him to bring change in the society.
Seldom do we come across people who quit their well-paying jobs to raise social awareness. Suraj Kumar Kashi, a Bihar-born artist is one of them. As an art director at Ogilvy & Mather, Suraj felt that working on clients’ inputs was deviating him from art. In 2010, he quit his job to work as an independent artist. Since then, he has used art to raise awareness about social issues.
Suraj narrates the story of the cause he wishes to highlight sometimes through paintings, sculptures and installations. He also uses videos as an interactive medium to share his inspiration, and the story behind his artworks. But he insists that medium is not necessary for him.
“I decide the medium after looking at the message that I want to spread. That is why, I do not restrict himself to just one medium. Interactive art helps viewers to connect with the artwork and provokes them to realise the issue,” he says.
In his upcoming, untitled shows, the artist is working on several such artworks, each propagating different messages. For instance, through ‘Chal Bihar, Kar Bihar’, he plans to spread the message of underdevelopment in Bihar through the hardships of the state's labourers.
He explains, “When we think of labourers, we consider that they must have come from Bihar. There are so many of them who work on construction sites. But despite making homes for others in big cities, they have not been able to develop Bihar and build a home for themselves. So, this work is my way of motivating them to build a better Bihar just as they did in other cities.”
As an avid observer, Suraj explains that his artworks describe what he sees in the society. He captures the essence of the cause and replicates it in his art. “There is a difference between rural and urban areas and I try to show those differences through my art,” he says.
Suraj also takes pride in sharing the stories of Bihar, his home state, with his audiences. In one of his upcoming artworks ‘Bihar v/s Jharkhand’, he has drawn inspiration from India’s partition during independence. The artist, in this work, has connected a plastic pipe, which drips water, between two fibre-moulded rocks.
“Just as at the time of independence, India and Pakistan were separated, this work shares the division of Bihar and Jharkhand as separate states. The idea is that despite divided by a border, both India and Pakistan drink the same water. This is exactly what I have tried to show in Bihar v/s Jharkhand. That is the reason that a pipe has been added,” he explains.
Besides this, the artist is also working on a sculpture piece ‘NCR’ that is his interpretation on the National Capital Region (NCR). In this piece, he plans to show a five feet concrete structure made of cement and will add several small buildings (two foot each) around it. “I feel this is what the NCR looks like – too many buildings without any green structures,” he says.
This is not the first time that Suraj has moved mindsets through his artworks. In his first solo show in 2012, he familiarised art lovers about child labour. For the message, he painted bricks as books and added acrylic colours on their base. He painted the top of the brick to make it look like a cover page of a book. He then painted the width of bricks in white to make them look like inside pages.
Similarly, to educate people about the dangers of an open manhole, he added a one Rupee coin on top of the manholes.
“I did this artwork in Saket. There was a reoccurring problem of open manholes in the region. I realised that people were picking up coins on the road but ignoring the manhole that was left uncovered for days. The artwork was well-received, as many people came forward to discuss this problem without hesitation,” he shares.
So, was working with a purpose always on his mind? Suraj stresses that every art has a purpose and it is on the artist to choose how he plans to share it with the audience. Suraj takes inspiration from Picasso.
“Picasso inspired me to study art and lifestyle. I look up to him for modifying his life for art. I also admire the versatility in his works, despite the hardships that he faced in his life. I found that he changed the ‘isms’ in art,” he says.
Suraj studied Bachelors in Fine Art from Patna University and completed Masters in Fine Art from the Delhi University. He likes visiting international artists, museums and galleries and learning how art is evolving.