interview: noopur choksi

︎Artist, Illustration, Interview  
︎ Ventral Is Golden

The subject of an image never depicts the subject directly. A drawing of a tree is never just a tree, it is a tree being looked at.

With brush strokes that burst with energy, Bangalore based visual artist Noopur Choksi externalises the often intangible, energetic, emotional environments of her subjects. Her works are visualisations of the dynamic relation between ourselves and the things within our environments, reminding us that ‘looking’ is not always the same as ‘seeing’.

Can you remember how your relationship with art began?
I’ve always been a visual thinker; picture books, graphic novels, comics and cartoons with their vivid, twisted and rather dark narratives caught my eye from a very young age. As a child I remember weaving stories, down to the minutest detail, creating my own inner worlds. I think I embraced these quirks pretty early on.

Growing up, I looked at artists and creators with a lot of awe. Their independence and energy was magnetic. There was something about the way they carried themselves, how they perceived things that gave me this feeling that channelling your own creativity and bringing it to life was the answer to a lot of problems in the world. When people are busy creating something that they believe in, they’re hardly ever focused on the clutter of life. This indulgence of introspection drew me in.

How has your upbringing and education shaped your creativity?
I think my interest in art was a byproduct of my struggle to find a comfortable place for my imagination. I had this fantastic art teacher who recognised my passion before I did. She was so patient and taught me how to work with a variety of techniques. An art scholarship that I received during my high school years also allowed me to explore different art forms in India, such as Miniatures, Madhubani and Warli painting, Pattachitra, and a few other folk art practices.
Design School happened as a result of my realisation to embrace my creative side and also to understand the power and reach of visual communication.
I drew my way through college. I stumbled upon brush pens and ink. Instantly I was drawn to the expressiveness and imperfection of the lines. The line style was inevitably born out of practice, but I am always open to that warm, spontaneous feeling that the character of the line can bring to each piece.

There may be a kind of melancholic aura to the characters in your imagery. They sometimes merge with, or seem to be pulled down by, the weight of their amorphous environments. They tow a line between trying to grapple with the felt immedicacy of an alternate reality and a burden of self awareness. What do you think they communicate?
You’ve captured the essence of it almost perfectly. Self awareness is a beautiful and burdensome thing. I am still trying to navigate my way around it. Being brought up as an Indian woman, in a moderately conservative, small town environment, there were a lot of expectations and limitations that I was subjected to. In a society that is so volatile and in a constant state of flux, the idea of true and equal freedom for women was (and continues to be) a struggle. Gender roles are not a choice, but a product of conditioning and almost always imposed upon men and women from a very young age.

Society always expected women to be chirpy, pleasant and unassuming. I grew up experiencing this pressure in small doses. I wanted to depict women in all their complexities, as imperfect characters, but strong independent and moody - going beyond the one dimensionality of femininity depicted in the visual culture around us. There is also this need for exploration into the inner, intangible worlds that I have always found myself coming back to. I want to be able to retain the individuality and imperfections of these characters within an analogue and digital expression. My style is a volatile marriage between the two.

You’ve illustrated for Bandcamp Weekly, designing editorial for some incredible musicians, such as Auntie Flo, Beloji, Theon Cross, to name just a handful. In addition you’ve illustrated and designed vinyl releases for Ivan Conti (of Azymuth fame). Was it challenging to design for such different musical genres, and what do you think the relationship is between visual arts and music?
When it comes to working on music related projects, I tend to keep an open mind. Submerging myself into the story behind the project can help me interpret the sounds without any visual biases. It can get a little challenging if some projects are running back to back, but I’ve been lucky to have worked for some really talented people whose work I actually end up loving. I think a healthy relationship between visual arts and music is what we all aspire to. They complement each other beautifully, each heightening the experience of the other.

What kinds of things can we expect from you in the future?
I am currently working on the art for an Indian alt-rock band called "Black Letters" whilst also finishing up the concept art and illustration for a project I've been working on for a while, in collaboration with a New York based photographer. It's going to be an animated short film with photographs and illustrations juxtaposed to create a narrative on an extremely relevant subject, one that’s very close to my heart.

Further Reading ︎