In Conversation with Akshita Gandhi: Light breaking Societal Boundaries  

Akshita Gandhi FAD magazine

Akshita Gandhi has strived to dissemble societal boundaries that exist in gender and create a peaceful atmosphere. She is the co-founder of the Dua Foundation which establishes empowerment for the less fortunate through teaching the foundation of finding sustainable income in India.

In her lightbox series ‘I Burn Banned Books’ she takes on censorship and sexual oppression, she is a Mumbai based artist the work has an international feminist message of civil disobedience to incite change. Her work has been displayed all over India, Dubai, and Asia and has just had a couple of shows in New York and will be showing at Pulse in Miami.”

How has your upbringing influenced how you see societal gender roles and how you would like to confront these roles through your world and allow your spectators to experience your confrontations?

We grew up in an interesting time wherein gender roles were cemented. My father strongly wanted daughters during a time when girls were buried as soon as they were born and some even aborted. When my younger sister was born, he hosted a celebratory dinner, much to the dismay of many around us. My parents always emphasized on the importance of gender equality and we were given wings to fly and chart our own paths. However even today, we’re surrounded by a society who strongly believes in stereotypical gender roles. Because my family had a strong role to play in influencing my opinion on gender equality, it irks me to see that gender roles are still prevailing around the world, which had a strong impact on my current artwork. This new series is called Freedom and addresses issues like shattering patriarchy, embracing self and breaking out of stereotypical gender role identities. I have written powerful poetry that goes with the artwork and each piece has the quote, “I read banned books” scripted on it, which symbolises a sense of rebellion from conformity. 

As a multidisciplinary artist main themes in your work like empowerment and transcendence often take on the role of space, how do you address these issues?

The role of empowerment is addressed directly through my work where I’ve used hands covering the vagina, making a strong statement about women empowerment. I’ve brought digital art and acrylic over it using this image as a backdrop for my new series, Freedom. The theme remains constant with varying methods and mediums. Several years ago, I read Hermann Hesse’s and was struck by the line, “I wished to be a hundred years old. In eternity, however, there is no time, you see. Eternity is a mere moment, just long enough for a joke.” Inspired by this quote, I wanted to create art that tugs not only at the viewer’s visual senses but also his/her intellect and mind. As an adolescent when I read about eternity, my naïve self thought of it as longevity. And then an inward journey began wherein I started to seek for answers about moksha, and my purpose– ideals we can only fantasize to comprehend, let alone achieve. If it were true and eternity could be experienced through moments of bliss, then I wanted to drown in that quest to create art wherein the viewer was invited to philander with my artwork and have a visual orgasm – even if just for a few seconds, to live eternities through the joy they experience through my work. 

Your lightbox series was a potent and powerful impact on the importance of overlooked moments how do you continue to tackle those issues outside of your artistic practice and are you currently working on any expansions on that project?

Outside my artistic practice running my foundation, Dua is an important practice wherein I help tackle issues of new beginnings, gender equality, determination, iron will and entirely embracing self with the members of the foundation. I continue my philanthropic endeavours and try to touch as many lives as I possibly can and aim to expand as and when an opportunity arises. 

Your work is extremely introspective, personally leaving me thinking a lot about how I exist in my own space and move through my space, how have you developed your craft?

The journey began by photographing quaint lanes, slums and thatched roofs around Mumbai. These are then printed on canvas and parts of it are covered with bright neon colours and smeared with intricate detailing. The viewer’s eye is meant to oscillate between these two states; the urban landscape, which depicts our mundane lives and the bright paint, which symbolises our dreams. Space has always been an extremely fascinating concept for me. I realized my art had to extend beyond the canvas and be more than just a piece of decoration hanging on a wall because I wanted the artwork to affect the space around it. The lightbox is a stand-alone piece of art that illuminates and affects the space it exists in. Light is synonymous with amazement, eureka, luminosity and is metaphorical of a dark time coming to an end. It is a reminder of positivity and one’s journey of strength and emerging stronger from darkness. These illuminated frames illuminate more than just your homes, it’s transcendence of your soul. A reminder that everyday is a new beginning! 

How does wearability and concepts of identity manifest in your work, obviously our clothes can be an identifier for us but how do you see this new collaboration with Frank Debourge in relation to your artistic goals?

Our clothes are our identifiers and reflect our moods and personalities. Collaborating with the supremely talented designer Frank Debourge was a great way of taking my artworks outside the galleries and into the lives of people through mediums they can relate to. The concepts of identity and wearability manifests through such collaborations. Frank’s style and the colours he used to create his collection is extremely similar to the palette I use for my work and the art I create. It was a perfect fit because our genres were similar; avant-garde and bold, creating a statement. I aspire to collaborate with different brands for my work to become a part of people’s everyday lives. That is when you know you’ve created an image that is iconic.  

You have to sacrifice time, space, life to pursue a field that wasn’t your choice, how have you integrated your finance degree into your life now? does it play a role in your practice, if not why?

I was pursuing my BBA in finance from the American University in Dubai. One semester my mum was visiting me and noticed I had doodles and endless sketches through my books and assignments and realized my passion for art was strongly prevalent.  I held my first art exhibition at the age of 16 wherein the proceeds were donated to build an old age home outside Mumbai, India. However, that was the end of my stint with art. Albeit I was always inclined to it, a career seemed like a utopian dream. When I graduated from the American School of Bombay, I was offered a full scholarship with the savannah art school, which I declined because it was always understood that I would study finance and join the family business. It was when my mum enrolled me in an art institute as a part-time student while I was still in Dubai that a possible career in the art world became a remote possibility. Yes, the degree in finance aids me in better navigating the art market, incorporating discipline and communication in my life and managing my budgets more efficiently. Pursuing a career in art requires grit and patience of epic proportions. It is not a stable 9 – 5 job that pays you consistently. It’s a volatile and subjective field that garners both appreciation and criticism. It’s only through life experiences that your art begins to evolve, there’s no right formula and the process can be nerve-racking. I do sacrifice time, space and life because inspiration and creativity are fickle they can come on a Saturday night just when you’re about to step out for your best friend’s birthday or it can creep in when you’re on a date when you least expect it. If commitment to your art and determination to create it is immovable then you’re ready to pursue a career in this field. 

To speak of empowerment is one thing, yet to act upon it is another, how has your foundation, the Dua Foundation empowered you as an artist and other members of society?

The Dua Foundation was founded in 2015 as an endeavour to aid physically abled young adults to achieve financial independence via their art and craft skills. Post the eighth grade, these members have limited opportunities in Mumbai and depend on sponsors to complete their education. This foundation made these members not only believe in themselves but also gave them the scope to gain exposure and showcase their talent to the world. The foundation works as a platform to sell these products and the profits are reinvested for each member’s education. One of our brightest members suffers from cerebral palsy and was passionate about animation. An orphan, he lives with his aunt and uncle and through the foundation is living his dream and pursuing animation from his dream college. This has given other members hope to dream big and realise their physical limitations can be used to their advantage. Before I spread hope to my members, I have to believe in the power of art and how it empowers every individual. It has helped me use art as a medium of therapy, empowerment and most importantly spread it to those who need it the most. 

What is next for you?

I have a few interesting things in the pipeline currently and shall announce it once it all begins to materialize. What I do know is, I want to conquer every city, one Lightbox and one artwork at a time. 

Akshita will be showing in D’arte Mart’s booth #411 at Pulse 5- 8th December

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font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;”> View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style=”padding: 12.5% 0;”></div> <div style=”display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;”><div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);”></div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;”></div> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);”></div></div><div style=”margin-left: 8px;”> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;”></div> <div style=” width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)”></div></div><div style=”margin-left: auto;”> <div style=” width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);”></div> <div style=” width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);”></div></div></div></a> <p style=” margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;”> <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/B4hKn-RprNp/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading” style=” color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;” target=”_blank”>“At a time when freedom became questionable Emergencies became indispensable Big brother made a comeback Orwell churned in his sack. Social media became a witness People barking their truth, My my it’s vicious! The calendar ticks time away I keep dreaming this dystopia will go away. Let’s scrap our oxygen givers Oh wait! Tear gas their savers A face mask I will ban Moral policing your clothes, It’s my business, my agenda, part of my plan. Did we become cold tin? Lose sight while committing sin? Do you remember where you’re heading? Stop. Re-centre. Look at what you’re doing, Look at all the wrecking.” – Akshita Gandhi ? . . . . #art #artistsoninstagram #artoftheday #artistsofinstagram #akshitagandhiart #akshitagandhi #mixedmedia #digitalart #acrylicpainting #canvas #freedom #wednesdaywisdom #poetry #poetrycommunity #poetsofinstagram #embraceyourself</a></p> <p style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;”>A post shared by <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/iamakshitagandhi/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading” style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;” target=”_blank”> AkshitaGandhi</a> (@iamakshitagandhi) on <time style=” font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;” datetime=”2019-11-06T09:02:06+00:00″>Nov 6, 2019 at 1:02am PST</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async src=”//www.instagram.com/embed.js”></script>

About Caira Moreira-Brown

Caira Moreira-Brown is a Chicago-New York based art and culture writer and arts professional with experience in museums and galleries. She holds a B.A. in Art History with a concentration in African-American Art from The Ohio State University. She has held positions at Fredrich Petzel Gallery, Kim Heirston Art Advisory, 67 Gallery, Castor Gallery, Joseph Editions, The Wexner Center for Art, The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and EXPO Chicago.In addition to her writing, Caira was photographed by Andres Serrano for his America Series that comprises about 100 portraits of people from many different walks of life.