Children are curious little beings and their quest for the whys and hows of things are never ending. It was this never ending inquisitiveness about the genesis of varied things that led designer and collage artist Girivarshan towards the visual arts. It wasn’t until his early years of college, post a few childhood painting classes, that he realised an urgent impulse to explore the field as a career option. Apart from being stark and vibrant, the designer’s collages present a seemingly idiosyncratic narrative of Chennai that appears to be fairly arbitrary to the naked eye, which is unfamiliar with the culture. Yet, they also feature a universal reality -- the reality of the carefully constructed public space that captures the pulse of our contemporary existence.
For instance, streets worldover are filled with posters selling houses, jewellery, dreams and what not. Humans are first and foremost consumers in this capitalist era. Talking more about his collage series, Girivarshan adds, ‘Growing up I've seen all kinds of posters in the streets providing discrete information, from cinema posters, news headlines, death announcements to political announcement. In this personal project of mine, I managed to collect various kinds of posters stuck on the streets and create a collage to personify the graphic language of Chennai. The large body of posters stuck on the walls form huge abstract decollages, which happen through time by the act of nature or by chance. This inspired me to create this series.’
The process of creation is as vital as the final artwork. It's dynamic, provokes original thought and leads to endless possibilities. Girivarshan usually starts with a clean slate and his ideas tend to pop up when he’s completely immersed in the process. He further explains, ‘I let the idea come to me rather than go looking for one. I follow my unconscious mind and let art happen by chance. I try to follow this method called ‘surreal automatism’ which was discovered by famous surreal artist Andre Breton, who believed that art can happen through prediction or the suppression of rational consciousness. It is similar to Dadaists who believed that art can happen through conformity with chance. I use images which I find to be interesting and build my collage using them.’
Visual media tends to present a stronger case for promoting cultural conversations. An image or a graphic is eye catching and can easily grasp the attention of its viewer for a longer span. Every individual, be it a layman or a connoisseur, adds on to the narrative with multiple interpretations. This is exactly what Girivarshan wants from his designs. He elucidates, ‘I try to not explain the concept and ideation behind the work because I feel that it would limit the viewer’s interpretations and eventually make them lose their interest in it, if it’s not relatable to them. By leaving it to the viewers to perceive, interpret and relate to it, based on their own life experiences and connotations, it would establish a personal connection for them. I believe that art is subjective.’
Finding inspiration in maestros like Paul Rand, Olt Aicher and Ivan Chermayeff, he follows the blueprint set by them and tackles design as a tool for problem solving. Giri’s mantra is fairly simple and his approach humanist. As a designer, he takes responsibility for the problem at hand and finds a solution for it. He further explains, ‘I also don’t adhere to design rules and grids to solve issues. I think of them as mere guides which help me to refine the product and not hold myself a slave to. I think keeping an open mind in this matter provides room to improve as a designer.’
The pandemic has led to a creative slump for many. With devastating news that floods us everyday, it can be hard to find one’s motivation and go on working as if everything’s okay. Giri has been taking the situation in his stride and utilising his time in learning skills, he otherwise wouldn’t have. He adds, 'I have been working on my personal project throughout this lockdown and the results so far have been tremendous in terms of work and mental health. I even managed to contribute some of my artworks to some curators who help a few NGOs.’ Talking about the new normal and adjusting to life with a virus, he signs off saying that art and design are the most vital tools for our future, which ought to be more aware of its shortcomings and should constantly thrive to fix them.
Find out more about the artist: https://www.behance.net/
Text Unnati Saini