When our inner calling moves forth to get entangled with our destiny, all questions start finding their answers. Every occurrence further evokes the second life. Art Director and a Cultural Researcher, Krishma Shah speaks about her inner journey of finding herself and setting sail on an artistic voyage.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS EPISODE
- At the brink of becoming a doctor to the pedestal of a Cultural Researcher.
- From exploring her Spiritual side to enrolling in a course of Indian Aesthetics; from going wedding hopping across India, to locking up herself in a room for three days listening to world music.
- Working with Ajit Rao, Bob Bluesman and Swaroop Sankar.
QUOTES AND TAKEAWAYS
- Conditioned thinking is the trap I want to be free from.
- There is no perfect moment to find your calling.
- With every single idea you think of, with every little creative thought, it just expands your view and vision of the understanding of what art really means.
WHAT INCLINED YOU TO BECOME AN ART DIRECTOR? CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR INITIAL COLLEGE YEARS AND YOUR JOURNEY IN ADVERTISING?
Oops, happened! Yup, that’s how it happened.
I have always wanted to be a doctor like my father. But the day I was walking back home after giving my medical school entrance test, the walk was too long. It felt longer than a day, a year, maybe a decade. My heart was racing fast and my physical rhythm and actions were getting slower. Something from inside, from within was holding me back and whispered strongly to stop. I had no clue to stop what. The walk? Going home? Changing paths? And I paused.
My instinctive self showed up for the first time in a conscious way. I randomly chose to change paths and walk in another direction. Instead of JJ med college, my footsteps led me to JJ school of art. I had no clue why but I just got into the first building in the campus and enrolled myself for the entrance exam of the course it offered, took the brochure and rushed home. That moment changed my life. Something beautiful, free and most importantly something magical had happened. And I could feel it.
While sipping hot chocolate next morning and opening the brochure I realised it read Institute of applied Arts. Even though, I was always involved in creative subjects as a child, till that moment I never thought of it as a career option.
The journey started when I enrolled in an applied art course at Sophia Polytechnic. From there, to graduating with a bronze medal, to my first job at Ogilvy & Mather, and then 6 years of being a creative dreamer. At O&M, under the guidance of Anuraag Khandelwal and Satish DeSa (now ECDs at Soho Square), I have had the opportunity to work with best of the creative talents in the industry, and on amazing brands like Cadbury, Radio City, Hindustan Unilever, Tata Motors, IPL and many others.
Advertising defines and redefines the meaning of what the word ‘creativity’ means to you. With every single idea you think of, with every little creative thought, it just expands your view and vision of the understanding of what art really means. To first learn and then to learn to unlearn it. At a particular time it makes you either appreciate your life in a true sense or makes you forget everything that should mean ‘life’.
With every change that the client expects from increasing the logo size by 5% to scrapping a TVC one day before the telecast date; from your first designed brochure release to your first award; it teaches you all. To survive, to push yourself to find alternatives to deal with the most unexpected situations in life and hence understand yourself deeper and get closer to yourself.
YOU TEND TO STAND FOR EXPERIENTIAL ART FORM MORE THAN COMMERCIAL ART. WHAT LED YOU TO MAKE THIS SHIFT?
I believe, creation is only possible, selflessly, without an intention of adding a commercial need to it. It is the next state of mind to convert that piece of creation into a need based product with the right packaging. And after you start, learn, explore and enjoy creating these packages for a numerous brands across the spectrum of categories, the process becomes so clear and habitual that unknowingly you end up missing a few steps. Most commonly being the first step which is to think or create without an agenda.
When my subconscious mind started pricking me about it, I realised that this conditioned thinking is the trap I wanted to be free from. All I really wanted was to be free and just explore and create. I revisited this thought for more than 100 days at a stretch to make sure it wasn’t an illusion, a perception, a thought of fear or thoughtless decision. The day I did not wake up with this dilemma is the day I quit Ogilvy, advertising, a job, means livelihood.
I had explored it, loved it, imbibed all that I could, and moved on. I did not like it or hate it any longer. I had mentally set on to another exploration. This exploration was beyond the needs to survive. It was to experience who I truly was.
So with this intention in my conscious mind, I took a sabbatical. One year of just being and doing what I felt like. Sleeping 15 hours a day for more than a month; backpacking without a plan for weeks together; learning hip hop for six months everyday; enrolling in a course of Indian Aesthetics; from going wedding hopping across India, to locking up myself in a room for three days listening to world music. It all made sense. And when all these experiences got translated into some form of creative output, like stepping back on stage after a decade with Melvin Louis (Dance People Studio) to perform for a cause, attempt to capture my travel stories through the beauty of words, on the subject: Human, Nature and their individual minds and so on and so forth, it made me smile.
When I started looking at all these different mediums and ways of expression, somehow the term ‘Art’ could not represent the meaning or the depths of it. But as soon as I turned towards the Indian Terminology, the word ‘Kala’ fitted perfectly well. It somehow has the capacity to incorporate all the different areas like Natya, Kavya, Sangita, Chitra, Alekhya, Murti Shilpa,Vastu Shilpa etc. This was the underlining context through which all my works comes from.
EXPLORING VARIOUS ANCIENT CULTURES AND ARTS, UNDERSTANDING THEIR INTERCONNECTIONS IS THE SELF-EXPLORATION VOYAGE YOU HAVE SET SAIL ON. WHAT DID YOU FIND IN THIS JOURNEY?
The nail hit the head when I decided to do my first ever trip to my ancestral village and visit my family deity, with an urge to find my family tree and their migration. I felt deeply connected to my great great ancestral grandfather, whose Hero stones I saw for the first time. Something happened while I was sharing that space with them. It made me feel so much more alive and connected. It gave me a sense of intimacy I had never experienced before. That was my first step of achievement in getting closer to finding myself.
I was seeking answers to the same old existential questions. And I had no clue why. That’s when the second phase of my sabbatical started and I immediately ran to do a 10 day vipassana course on the foothills of beautiful Igatpuri mountains. Post which I extended myself discovering vacation at my Guru, Ajits home in Lonavala. That’s where I paused again, and looked back at the last 18 months of my life. I was in search of something which gave meaning and purpose to my life. And so far, I was very obviously interacting with the vibe of the cultural essence in the society that I was surrounded by, looking at it with a completely new perspective. Consciousness of this new vision reflected in all my experiments so far in arts. What I was doing is trying to find a common point of connect to my innerself and that connection became extremely clear.
Human race has evolved through various civilizations keeping the common thread of aesthetics alive using the medium of arts and expression. So culture, arts, aesthetics, beauty is inseparable. And to understand this deeper relationship I realised that unless you do not tap into your origins, your journey is superficial. I started looking into ancient civilizations, their philosophies, religions, history, arts, their lifestyles keeping in context the given times.
CAN YOU TELL OUR READERS ABOUT YOUR PRESENT ASPIRATIONS?
Currently I am involved in a few culture-based projects along with pursuing PGs in Comparative Mythology; and in Ancient Indian Arts, Crafts and Science from Mumbai University.
I am associated with ‘Samaskaara’, a cultural and creative enterprise set up by Ajit Rao, to provide a platform to India’s glorious past to share with the world her experiences & wisdom through our contemporary media. Samaskaara brings together diverse creative skills and ideas from art, architecture, archaeology, anthropology, literature, cartooning, design, story telling and animation to the service of this rich cultural heritage.
I am working in collaboration with Swaroop Sankar (Director/Cinematographer/Artist). It is an ongoing project of research and seeking for stories in this vast country, finding common cultural threads between various different groups of people having a similar ritual or philosophical expression even though they belong to different beliefs and common myths.
Further, I work with Bob Bluesman (Musician/Songwriter) on a project Blue Lagoon. Exploring the right space to get various global creative minds on one platform for exchange of ideas, art and creative energies and creating a mini hub for this tribe defined by its creative works and lifestyle. And hopefully it being recognized as home for artists.
ART BLOOMS FROM INSPIRATION. WHAT HELPS YOU TO FIND THE IDEATION FOR YOUR CREATIONS?
Little stories from everyday life have always inspired me. From having a cup of butter chai while conversing with a monk in a monastery at Mcleod to watching a 5 year old burst into happiness while having his first boatride in the backwaters. From the fun of joining a practice session with a Bihu dance troupe in Assam to having an opportunity to interact with the greats like Habib Tanveer Saab, Massimo Vignelli, Shri. Vijayanath Shenoy, Walter Spink, Piyush Pandey to name a few. I feel if we look through the right glasses on, there is inspiration which one finds everywhere, even in everyday mundane things. Hence travelling is my drug and it keeps me sane.
I have been blessed to have come across Ajit Rao in my life. India’s foremost animator, youngest Cartoonist, brilliant architect, extremely talented artist, my Guru. With his profound and in-depth knowledge on Indian art and culture, Ajit inspired me to look at art with the varied angles of Heritage, History and Culture. I met Ajit when I was 16 years old and since then we have shared this unique bond, which I very excitedly call Contemporary School of Guru-Shishya Parampara.
Whenever I feel lost or confused, I go back to Van Gogh and look at his paintings, quietly reciting, “I now consider myself to be at the beginning of the beginning of making something serious”. And when I fail I again look at his cypresses and sunflowers and tell myself, “I haven’t got it yet, but I’m hunting it and fighting for it, I want something serious, something fresh—something with soul in it! Onward, onward.”
The works and ideologies of Sir Ananda Coomaraswamy and Sir Rabindranath Tagore are like bible to me. Since Thangka paintings are one of my favorite forms of traditional art, and by secretly being a Buddhist at heart, I have a soft corner for the teachings of Buddha and they are my ultimate resort.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE FOR OUR READERS?
There is no right age, right time, right place to start looking at the journey within. There is no perfect moment to find your calling. One just needs to take off, consciously, following your intuition and true instinct and its magical how one is taken care of, how the right people, right opportunities and the right knowledge knocks at your door. And before you even realise it, you have already opened the door and welcomed them with your arms wide open.