The Art & the Artiste: In Conversation with Sangram Soni
Hailing from the state of Maharashtra, Sangram’s artistic journey began when he was a child, tracing political cartoons from newspapers, and adding in colours until the two things looked similar. Inspired by the great Chandrakant Mandhare of the Marathi film industry of yore, Sangram soon became invested in Powder Shading, a form of charcoal-art. His portraits caused a stir, and soon his work was featured at exhibitions around the city. Honing his skill at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, Sangram explains that he draws his inspiration from nature. Other sources of inspiration include storytellers the likes of Neil Gaiman, Tim Burton, Banksy and Pascal Campion, who carry forward the legacy of their times.
“Inspiration has always been from nature.” Sangram says, “Our connect with the Earth, its beings and wilderness, beyond the knowledge where science overlaps mythology.”
°Drawing on Walls & Labours of Love
Known for his ability to transform an ordinary wall-face into a work of art, Sangram explains that his appreciation for the artform began as innocently as it does for toddlers left alone with crayons.
“I always liked drawing on walls, they inherit a texture, and contributing something good to its age is the first thought to start with,” Sangram explains. Having self-sponsored most of his murals, Sangram’s efforts toward the artform are a true labour of love. “I love spending time in making a mural look nicer, anatomy and light-wise. It needs to be left free for some magic to happen- most artworks after 70%, demand another 130%, and the thrill is to look forward to it.”
When asked which of his projects he holds dearest to his heart, Sangram tells of a project situated in the holy city of Banaras. “A mural of Swami Vivekananda, with inverted typography- mainly because it happened in one go without too much thinking.”
°Yatharth & Community-Sponsored Art
A lover of fiction, Sangram found murals and fine arts could not encapsulate certain aspects of his creatively-driven mind. Finding himself stuck in a job he did not enjoy and fighting the underlying feeling of cluelessness, he turned his thoughts to yet another creative pursuit: Filmmaking. Having lived in Versova for 8 years, Sangram could not help but subconsciously create detailed character studies of the people around him
“This story in my head found a beautiful placement with some Marathi characters I wanted to explore. The spine would be the Koli (fishermen) vibe, where however happy or sad, everyone is always celebrating.” Sangram explains.
This was the birth of the crowd-funded film Yatharth, a word that means “as it is”. An exploration of a man’s journey through the threads of religion, superstition, surreal past experiences, and their legitimacy in today’s times, Yatharth is “a portrait of a person, a time and a place where certain truth reigns over his age of materialism and self-doubt.”
“It’s the ultimate truth that may not be consciously visible, but will surely surface, call that fate,” Sangram says, “More than the story, for me, it was important to put things out in the most original way. In modern society, sometimes old school is the only way.”
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Joining a wave of new-generation creators and Indian artists who turned to fans and supporters to bolster an artistic endeavour, Sangram explains that the process was both uncomfortable and fulfilling at once. “I had never taken money from anyone, so making those calls while the campaign was on made me a bit uncomfortable.” He explains, “I was overwhelmed with the trust my friends showed in me,”
Driven by a need to create, fueled by an almost maniacal spree of putting words onto paper, Sangram’s film was successfully backed by well-wishers. When asked if he believed crowdfunding to be the future of the arts and entertainment industry, Sangram explains that the process has its own pros and cons and is liberating, and stress-inducing at the same time. “A project becomes a separate entity away from your plans if you are organic to its growth. If the time it’s taking to shape up exceeds your planned time, and you can handle the stress of being answerable diligently, there’s no con.” He says.
°The Nervous System
It was this urge to give something back to his supporters that sparked the flame of another creative pursuit in Sangram’s heart, resulting in the breathtaking illustration Nervous System.
“I always wanted to make a city artwork as detailed as this. Beyond the metaphors of the words Nervous System and veins and body and island and the city within, this is a fictional representation of Mumbai with buildings designed to form such typography over a believable evening view.” Sangram explains
Created over the span of 5 months from beginning to end, Sangram began working on the piece alongside the production of Yatharth, designing the city of Mumbai from a bird’s eye view with almost religious fanaticism. “It was exhausting to see the same thing daily, as very little progress could be felt, but at the back of the mind I was looking forward to feeling happy the moment this completes.”
A multi-faceted artist and creator, we asked Sangram what art truly means to him. “Primarily, art is communication, but sometimes it’s not bound to be understood, just felt. It may or may not justify the time gone behind it over the mere pleasure of creating something. It’s timeless and hence its more relevant when it contributes in time,” Sangram says, “If a master’s stroke can also keep the innocence of that piece alive, it’s the highest level of art to me.”
All images used in this article are courtesy of Sangram Soni and belong rightfully to their original owners.
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