Anirudh Acharya’s creations aren’t something you can simply just admire and scroll past. It’s hard to look away from them. The longer you gaze, the stronger your emotional response grows. What Acharya creates are dream-like spaces that exist outside our understanding of space and time. The vast expanses he shows us seem endless. You can almost hear the waves in the distance, feel the cool vibrations of the moon and picture the movements. The stillness that his work evokes in me has a sense of calm to it which makes it easier to tune out the constant noise of daily living, even if it’s just for those few moments when I am fully taking in one of his pieces before I snap back to reality.
Works of art can rouse different responses from different people – no two experiences, emotions and understandings need to be the same, especially when the works have surreal qualities to it. For Acharya, his work is a medium of expression and he’s happy when it elicits an emotional response from people. “I wish my work to convey a certain resonance, a message meant to be felt before it is understood,” he tells me.
28-year-old Acharya creates mixed media artwork, paintings, photographs and drawing. With a PhD in Mathematics and formal training as a physicist, when it comes to the art, he is completely self-taught. “As one can imagine, I am passionate about both science and art, and have worked at pursuing both simultaneously,” he says. Having stumbled into the world of digital art a few years ago, it has become his primary medium of choice. “This choice is based in part on the versatility of the medium, but it was mostly chosen to avoid having to spend precious research and scholarship money on art supplies. However, in my self portraits, I still only use ‘traditional mediums such watercolour or acrylic. There is a physicality in non-digital painting that is irreplaceable.
Getting into his body of work, Acharya gives me a chance to pick his brain and understand his artistic process a bit better – from creative inspirations and philosophies to growing beyond his Tumblr fame and recent residency programme at Space 118.
Homegrown: Can you remember when you decided to pursue art and design?
Anirudh Acharya: “There was a time in the 10th grade that I gave the idea of becoming an artist or graphic designer some thought. I wouldn’t say it was particularly serious thought though, as it was largely motivated by my dislike of mathematics and allied subjects. I have always been encouraged to draw and paint at home, and it remained my primary hobby right through school and college. However, it was only during my time spent working towards a doctorate in Mathematics that I began to take the hobby seriously. Yes, the irony is rather stark. I now think of art as a means of expression that is integral to and inseparable from my life.
My day job as a “machine learning scientist” is something that followed naturally after my doctorate, and my training as a scientist is something I cherish. But over the last 4-6 years, I have noticed an expanding desire to devote more of my time to art, and I would ideally like to spend most of my days painting.”
HG: If you had to choose, what do you feel are the most important characteristics or aspects of your artistic practice and aesthetic? What stands out the most to you?
AA: “I have often been told that all my work shares a unique and consistent (if hard to place) aesthetic. It is fairly obvious that the moon features in most of my work, but I would hope that my work is identifiable for more than just this ‘signature’. My work has also been described as surreal. There are certainly “surreal” elements in my work, but I don’t consider this label entirely accurate as neither my practice nor ambition aligns with that of the surrealist movement. My work is primarily a medium of expression and I am happy when my art elicits an emotional response from people. I wish my work to convey a certain resonance, a message meant to be felt before it is understood.
The overarching theme of my work is always about an ‘inner landscape’ (a phrase inspired by A.K. Ramanujan’s The Interior Landscape). Space places a central role in my work; stories unfolding out in the open, with no definite beginning or end. The subjects in my work are often placed in amorphous landscapes and their isolation portrays the loneliness of our personal narration. A narration which individually, and in the context of our collective human account, has no independent existence - stories we tell ourselves because there is nothing else which could understand.”
HG: Tell us a bit about your inspirations – is there any particular philosophy that drives all your creations or does it change from piece to piece?
AA: “My work is greatly influenced by the Advaita philosophy, and Indian philosophy in general. The crescent moon often symbolises this influence in my work. More generally, I am always influenced by the things I read, and by other artists. Although I wouldn’t categorise my own work as surreal, I am greatly inspired by the oeuvre of many surrealist writers and artists. Examples would include René Magritte, Gertrude Abercrombie, Dali, Alfred Kubin, René Daumal and Alfred Jarry.”
HG: What are you working on currently that our readers should look forward to?
AA: “I have been interested in a while in the pataphysical writings of Alfred Jarry and René Daumal. Their writing is the inspiration for an ongoing series: ‘Collected illustrations from unknown manuals’. This project represents a blend of my scientific background, morphed with the surreal and mystical. After all, pataphysics is defined as ‘a branch of philosophy or science that examines imaginary phenomena that exist in a world beyond metaphysics; it is the science of imaginary solutions.’” Text forms an integral part of the work, and each piece is accompanied by an explanatory note, in the form of an excerpt from a manual that is either lost, or perhaps never existed at all. The idea is to build up a ‘reconstruction’ of lost pages from this unknown manual. A manual that appears to be describing how to build a universe, starting with the more fundamental elements of the world around us, as in ‘The measuring of space and time’, to more complex constructions.”
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