Interview with Ms. Sreejata Roy
As an artist particularly drawn to community-related projects, Sreejata has for the past five years focused on exploring the new labour practices that have developed in the neo-liberal political/economic environment as an expression and consequence of globalization. For almost a decade she has been using classical/conventional as well as mixed and digital media, informed by a theoretical framework, to produce narratives around this subject. She has been awarded prestigious scholarships (Overseas Research Scholarship, U.K.; National Scholarship, India) and has participated in many national and international exhibitions, residencies and workshops. She was briefly involved in research on curatorial policy in India, undertaken by the Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.
Introduce your perspective of life to us.
There’s not much to introduce because my life, kind of, revolves around new projects and art itself. Not many people know, but my artworks are actually collaborations. My husband, Mrityunjay Chatterjee, has been a great support, thinker and an artist in all my works. Practising and working on the research part of the projects, mediums to carry out work and everything is my life now. Since the beginning, I have been into art and I’m happy with my work, at this moment.
What does art mean to you?
Art means different to everyone, and it’s just not my work but more than that. It’s more like a language for me, to communicate my ideas to a number of people around me, at once. I strongly believe that expression of thoughts lead to everything. If I’m able to engage people with my art work in open spaces, then I am able to feel satisfied. When people understand the idea and the reason behind my work, I feel comfortable among them. When they are able to understand, what they go through is something common around us, in our society.
Under what category, will you like to put yourself, as per your artworks?
I do not categorize my art work under street art or wall art, because the relevance of creating a street art has been lost in this new trend. I believe in three terms – Community art, Public engaged art, Socially engaged art. It welcomes the thoughts and ideas and expressions of different people from a society, to state every aspect of the same. Communication is really important as it’s their ideas only; I have just been a medium to present their ideas on the walls.
Why is what you do, cannot be put under street art or wall art?
As we talk about street or wall art, the concept is really old than what this trend has just started with. Earlier, when this concept was used by people, the theme was mainly based on the rebellion and the suffering of the people. But now-a- days, it’s more of a beautification medium. This community is our constant dialects and we present their ideas on the walls, as a way to convey their message to more people, who are still unaware, or have been avoiding and ignoring since a long time now. We have seen how Lodhi district has turned into a beautiful space by all the street art and art on different walls of the buildings, between Meherchand and Khanna market, but our art is not to beautify the city. What we do is to connect and not to just fill in.
Is there any form of art you prefer to do?
Well, yes, there are other forms of art, that we both are into. I have a background of visual arts, so I still work out those practices. We have our individual studios to work out on our different projects, separately and have strong focus towards our work. We also do webpage art and also, adapting to the means of Digital “new” Media. For our digital work, you can check our new app on playstore – “Mulakat”. Not just that, but we hold up with the workshop sessions as well, for creations and innovations like “flipbook”. And to adapt and adopt with the digital prints, we create stickers, t-shirts, etc as well. Visual arts is more like parellel to our work but we keep a major part of our focus towards art engagement.
As it is not as small as a piece of canvas, what takes a major part of your time, creation of the idea or the execution?
Definitely, creation of the idea. From discussion of the idea, to writing and collection of the experiences and to put them on the stage, just before we execute with the plan. All the planning and organizing of work takes a lot more time than the execution phase. Because, it’s just not easy to choose a theme. It’s more like brainstorming over experiences of people and ideas given by them, to us, through communication. That’s why; communication has been a major part of us.
How did you come to know about KHOJ? Are you associated with more communities and groups, other than KHOJ association?
I have known KHOJ since’97, but I started working them since 2008 only. And after that, I have been associated with them for six years – 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016. In between these years, when I was not officially working with them but I was in touch with them, on and off. In 2014, they had given me three month residency and project, and in 2015-2016, we were given one year residency with projects. Not just KHOJ, we have known FICA as well but that organization provides with grants only. But KHOJ provides with grants and place of work as well – studio.
Do you have a theme in all of your works or they are just random?
Our theme is based on people and on space. People, to whom we can connect with and space, in which we can create art and the level for all of us. An open space, in which we can paint our thoughts together and convey our message to them. We connect to people, we focus on this and our theme is based on them as well. Gender, especially on young adults and women, is the essence of our colors.
Was it your first time in newspaper headlines, a week ago?
No, we have been covered by many biggies and been in headlines. Some of them are – Indian Express, T.O.I., Hindu, Washington Post, Femina, FirstCity, NDTV. Been on blogs for our work, separate pages for projects and on the facebook page for Japan Foundation.
Why did you choose an open space for the stage for your execution of ideas, when other artists choose an enclosed canvas of protective layers of popularity?
I have been working in open spaces, since a long time. I have been habitual of bigger and limitless boundaries, because I couldn’t cover stories and experiences in the framed covers. Sharing and listening to the experiences and stories of our audience, and develop a strong and a constant bond with them, so that we stand on the same level. It’s important for us to have some relation with the audience, because we focus on their thoughts and on the society as a whole.
Even though Govt. claims to support art in open spaces as per “Delhi, I love you” campaign, RSS activists and local-ites threatened two famous artists (Shabbu and Swen Simon) yesterday from doing it. What are your views on this?
I feel that it’s all about freedom of people, to do whatever they desire to, till they are not being harmful. It’s not about the Urdu language, they were about to paint “I love you Delhi" in. Rather, their freedom was questioned at this moment. And I haven’t faced any such situation, neither have I witnessed any because these are campaigns. More of a political thing for me, when such terms come into existence and I strongly believe that, me and my art is not made for political world. I prefer to stay away from such things. These are political things, and not just in India, but they are happening almost everywhere. It’s free will, we are talking about, and if someone questions my free will in future, I will negotiate and question and get my art done in that area; at any cost.
Do you have your own website or a blog, so that people can reach out to you and write to you about their feedback?
Yes, we do have our websites and blogs. We don’t prefer to stay social much, but we are regular with our updates of our work and stuff.
Website link: www.revuenet.net
Read about “Too small a canvas? Have an entire wall!” here