Svabhu Kohli, to begin with, is someone who takes an avid interest in things. Before being a visual artist, he is someone who understands the world inside of him and the one outside of him, completely. While growing up, art was his lifestyle not his skill. He calls it so due to his longing to always immerse himself in art, be it poetry, stories or visual art. Art is something an art enthusiast surrounds himself with and then dives in head first. It's not simply a mode of creation, but much more. It’s essentially a way of life and for Svabhu, a very strong part of his identity.
While growing up Svabhu always liked to sketch. Although he was a shy kid, he found his form of expression in art and a few years later, it became more than that. Art became a saviour while he was battling his own issues during a tumultuous time of growing up. It served as an escape from those struggles as well as from an unsparing academic curriculum which often doesn’t serve everyone equally, especially the creative ones. The Indian education system of CBSE, while it might help us get grades and jobs does little to aid our understanding of things. Svabhu found his own way around this. He would read and he would listen. He had the propensity to transcend the bounds of any rigid academic curriculum through a basic ingredient, interest. It is this interest that led him to ardently research about the environment and about nature coupled with his childhood desire to be an Environmentalist. Although today he isn’t an Environmentalist, he aims to conserve the environment with every little step that he can while being a visual artist. His research about the environment is exhaustive. He knows and pays close attention to the interdependencies between nature, the way in which plants, forests and the species that reside within them operate, the way in which humans and nature are actually symbiotic to each other and how the depletion of our most cherished resource is progressing at an unimaginable pace. What began for him as love for the environment has today, morphed into concern. His art is an attempt to create an awareness about the very same issue.
His illustrations comprise of vivid landscapes, of bright flora and fauna and of surreal underwater terrains.They are all bright and vibrant, painting a utopian picture of nature- though on a conversation with him, he tells me that he is able to portray one-fourth of the beauty that he has actually witnessed. His mediums go beyond illustration. He works with film, animation, projection mapping, art, design, photography, storytelling and character developments. The underlying desire at large is save one thing he really cares about, the environment. He envisions a world where economic development and environmental preservation take place alongside. A world where people realise the importance of nature and their inevitable interdependent relationship with it. He had seen nature when he was a kid prior to it’s current exploitation and had hoped that it would stay the same. As he grew up, the reality presented a different picture. Today, he aims to change that picture. Art is a part of the process to do that.
While a look at his art will tell you how elaborate it is, a conversation with him would tell you that his thought process isn’t any less detailed. It boils down to who he is as a person. He seeks to understand any topic that he studies to it’s minutest detail. This leads to a crystal clear understanding which leads to an elaborate process and even more elaborate and vivid artworks.
He also tells me that he was poor academically and his work tells me that he transcends those bounds through his understanding. He is also someone with a very different vision and one from which many fellow creatives could benefit. He never set a stringent career path for himself like he wants to be an artist or an environmentalist but rather a vision that his life would be spent staying in tune with his emotions and what he truly wants. This could mean that one day he is creating art, the other day he is writing a poem and another day he is building infrastructure to conserve wild lands (the latter of which also forms his long term plans). He sees himself as multi passionate and only thinks about the day ahead of him instead of the far future.Text Supriya Jain