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Dialogue Through Art: This Artist Is Using Desi Pop Culture To School Us On Topical Issues

khushboo sharmakhushboo sharma  |  Aug 10, 2020
Dialogue Through Art: This Artist Is Using Desi Pop Culture To School Us On Topical Issues

As much as we might rue the current pandemic, it has definitely given us some rather important lessons in life. Right from challenging the ways we live our very lives to our understanding of it, we have been definitely humbled in the past half year and so. And as we make peace with pandemic anxiety and transience of human life, art for me, has been a medium that has soothed me and given me perspective and hope.

And before you think of refuting it, right from your Netflix binge to all the books that you have been consuming and everything in between qualifies as art! That said, I for one am all about artists who create badass art and deliver a message while they are at it. From Frieda Kahlo to Shilo Shiv Suleman, these are the artists who have effectively managed to change the world while stunning us with their artwork in its varied nuances. Quite naturally, I am always on a lookout for such artists and have recently discovered one who creates glorious art and has a penchant for satire, puns, and also, all things fun. 

A self-taught artist, Aastha Sahdev has been seizing the lockdown days with illustrations that can best be described as pop culture, mixed media art that’s based heavily on traditional Indian ideas. From the importance of wearing a mask to hardcore feministic ideas, there is always a social messaging in her vibrant artworks. 

And each one happens to be so striking that you won’t believe us when we tell you that Aastha never really pursued a formal degree in the field. As she shares, “Mostly self-taught, I did my formal education in English Literature and Mass communication with certifications in Fine art and Graphic design from National Institute of Fine Arts and California Institute of the Arts. I also interned briefly for a Delhi based artist and curated a few exhibitions with him.”She adds, “I used to paint on paper and canvas but started practicing digital art a couple of years back.” 

Lockdown Impetus And The Messaging

Interestingly, it was only during the lockdown period that her art found its impetus. “The lockdown basically served as an opportunity to try a different style and create more relevant and consistent art. I started creating pop culture art with fashion and other media references that focused on the importance of staying at home, wearing masks, gender, colorism, mental health, and several other topics,” Aastha shares. 

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Feelings don't have a gender. It's okay for men to cry. Not a post preaching what men can or cannot do but if being emotional or vulnerable is coming naturally to you, if at any particular moment you feel the urge to cry or be vulnerable in front of someone, don't feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. It is infact unnatural to always feel emotionally high and put on a strong face all the time. To sustain with the responsibility and pressure of carrying the material burden of family alone – specially in most households who are completely dependent on men earning the bread. It will only break you up inside. Share the load – emotional, domestic and material. Feelings don't have a gender. It's okay for anyone to cry. It's also a post that calls out anyone who has bullied someone for being emotional based on their gender identity – it includes asking someone who is venting if they are PMSing. Let it out. . . . Inspiration : @sabyasachiofficial Muse : @anujchoudhryfc @anuj.choudhry . . . #digitalportraits #newnormal2020 #genderequality #procreateartist #procreateportrait #portraitartists #fashionillustrators #desiart #womenwhodraw #momentmarketing #creativespot #designthinking #topical #topicalspot #feministart #indianartist #popcultureart #indianartists #illustrationartists #equalitymatters #indianblog #feminismisforeverybody #mentalhealthisimportant #talkitout #depressionisreal #emotionsmatter #toxicmasculinity #mensmentalhealth #mentalhealthformen

A post shared by Aastha Sahdev (@aasthapastaa) on Jun 16, 2020 at 4:54am PDT

Aastha, on her Instagram page, addresses a wide range of contemporary topics through her illustrations. “All of these are very topical and inspired from real conversations but they do have a satirical undertone and are relatable,” she says. 

As evident from the tonality of her page, the artist is on a mission to impact mindsets and initiate conversations. Elaborating on the intent behind her art, Aastha says, The idea behind the page is to generate conversation about relevant topics and encourage an open dialogue through art. The intent is to educate, provide a fresh perspective on relevant topics in a medium that is entertaining and not burdened with information or stale.”

What Inspires The Aesthetics Of Her Art

Scroll through Aastha’s page and you’ll stumble upon a recurring character named Roxanne. Pay attention and you’ll see how Roxanne has been serving as what can be best described as the artist’s alter ego that effectively calls out the blatant hypocrisy of our society while exploring other contemporary concerns.   

Aastha explains, “More than artists, the themes and ideas in my art are inspired by real women and conversations around me and the artwork I create is usually my reaction to these happenings. To describe my style–it is a variant of pop culture art inspired by references from traditional paintings.”

Speaking on what really inspires the traditional essence of her artworks, she further adds, “ I am also heavily inspired by Mughal miniatures and the Rajasthani school of art. The details, patterns and culture have so much history and stories to tell. I’ve always admired Bani Thani by Nihal Chand. The essence of my characters is inspired by her–elegant, graceful yet stylised.”

So if you love art, satire and some fresh perspective on current issues, give Aastha a follow on Instagram.

Featured Image: Aastha Sahdev on Instagram