Sreyash Sarkar is one of the artists displaying work in Awakenings’ current exhibit, Bloom. His piece, Roots, is a beautiful network of brush strokes and layering of colors representing the many facets of a survivor’s journey after experiencing abuse. As a multidisciplinary creative, Sreyash is a visual artist, a musician, and a poet involved in a myriad of different projects and pursuits.
I was grateful to talk with Sreyash who is infinitely kind and thoughtful, and listen as he shared ponderings about what it means to be an artist, the process of creating art, how he utilizes his inspiration, and the story he’s telling through Roots.
Interview with Sreyash Sarkar
Can you share how you would like to introduce yourself?
Well, it’s a difficult question, but I think I would like to introduce myself as a technician rather than an artist or anything else. From the word artist, you sort of engulf yourself with a lot of responsibilities. Not everyone can be an artist or should be an artist. Sometimes what happens is that a person’s craftsmanship is so intricate and so profound that people mistake that person to be an artist when that’s not the case. So for me, I would humbly like to distance myself and call myself a technician, because I employ the technology of a pencil or a brush or the tool of the voice or a piano to do whatever I do in my life. Whether the end product is art is not entirely on me to decide, but if it’s called art, I’m glad. But I wouldn’t like to be put in that position.
In addition to producing what some would call visual art, you’re also a poet and a musician, so I was wondering if you could talk about the relationship between those written, visual, and musical art forms for you?
I do what I do apart from writing, painting, or singing because I get bored with one activity. I can’t sustain myself on one particular activity for a very long period of time. I need diversity in my life. That is why I embroil myself in all of these activities that I do. I think the relationship between written and visual forms is that it’s only a matter of profound expression. For me, in a particular moment in my day or my life, I find the inspiration. But to sort of categorize that inspiration into an application, I only find it in one particular form. It’s a line of expression. And this strand of emotion, it’s not a singular strand of emotion, it’s also immensely fruitful and enriching and heartbreaking at times, and at times loving. But all of these complexities find their voices in that particular expression at that point of time.
I think they are all related in terms of how multidimensional your expression is. How do you find the relationship from each strand to the other? You find your path from one form to the other. If I’m writing a piece of poetry and I think that my singular piece of thought that inspired that piece has not reached its fruition, I would automatically try it in another form. For example, a painting in visual art or in music, if I find that to be the final word for that path. So that’s the way I have my dialogue with all of these forms that I practice.
Are there themes that you find come up often in your work? And if there are themes that recur often, do you find that one theme or idea often finds its way into a certain avenue of visual or musical art?
There are certain things or certain realizations in your life that can only be visually represented. I think for me, a feeling of profound happiness… there’s this sort of paralysis of happiness that happens the most in musical art. When I’m listening, or when I’m in the process of composing or of performance, let’s say, that happens mostly in musical art. When I am expressing a certain degree of pain or estrangement or, let’s say, violence in various forms, visual art is where I usually tend to go. But it might happen that it might take inspiration in the form of poetry as well. Poetry for me is not just a matter of theme, it’s also a matter of immediacy. Because when I write anything in the form of poetry, it’s always letting my thoughts run unfiltered. If I put a filter in between my thoughts and what goes on the paper, what happens is sometimes I lose the economy that I need in the poetic form. So that happens in the case of poetry, but all the other themes I explore in the forms that I find desirable to me.
So now to turn to Bloom specifically, the concept and theme involves a lot of ideas about how sex education and sexuality impact survivors. Do you feel that your own experience with sex education was a part of the experience of creating Roots?
Yes, absolutely. It was one important part of it. But other than that, for me the main driving force behind creating Roots was understanding what abuse is. Sometimes what happens is, people do not understand the different layers in the process that one undergoes through abuse. And the fullest realization of the different complexities associated with a particular abuse. For me, that was the driving force that I wanted people to understand, that it’s not monochrome. It’s not good or bad; there’s a conversation happening, and there are various kinds of colors that we do not see immediately, but we need a closer probing into it.
Of course, sex education was part of it, because for me a fruitful part of sex education is to realize what restraint or what the fullest comprehension of consent is. That is the fundamental part of a fruitful sex education, and I wanted to give that to my art. But mainly, through Roots I wanted to say that all the survivors of sexual violence, when they are sort of subjected to this close scrutiny— “please share your stories. You have to share your stories now, at this particular point in time, otherwise you are not doing your bit. You have to tell your story.” But I think that brings an extra amount of pressure and shame to the experience, so we do not want to burden them with all of it. If they want to tell their stories, fine, but if they do not… I don’t think all stories can be shared to the public because they are such intimate and intimately horrific encounters. But yes, of course talking about it with people that the survivors trust or feel comfortable with always helps, but there’s no pressure. I just wanted to tell them that it’s fine to be who you are, however you want to deal with it. Always, there’s a way to have a dialogue without any pressure.
I appreciate so much that that sentiment was a part of our exhibit! And I would love to know a little bit more about the process of creating Roots in a literal sense, or, if there’s anything about roots that you feel brought something new to your work overall? Did it maybe build on previous work that you’ve done?
I think I ventured into creating Roots and the process that I went through was only possible because of this cruel pandemic that’s been ravaging the world. I had a lot of time to ponder on the piece that I was going to create. I think at the onset of creating it, there was this thought that I nurtured that all the work that I had done before had sort of explicit themes in benevolence, in uncompromising beauty—let’s put it that way. And when I wanted to create Roots, I wanted to say to myself and wanted to come to terms with myself that it needn’t be beautiful. I’m talking about an experience of violence, and in violence, beauty is not a necessity.
In any case, beauty in this world doesn’t need a reason to exist. Beauty exists because it is. It is beautiful. There’s no reason or ration associated with it. In my work especially I want to tell myself that it’s not a necessity that your work has to be beautiful, but I wanted to also practice a certain kind of compassion while creating it. I don’t know how much I succeeded in doing that, but I hope I got the message across.
With Roots, what happened in technical terms is that I experimented with a lot of textures. This was done on a fabricano called Respaper with layers of oil paint and etchers, and then it was dried and then again, a bit of oil was applied to create the sort of layered experience of sexual violence. I think it brought a certain kind of acceptance about my works that I’m not striving for excellence, or I’m not striving for profundity. What I’m striving for is an experience brought about honestly and with a lot of compassion. That sort of realized itself in the process.
What is next for you? are there any projects upcoming or that you’re working on at the moment?
Well, as I told you in the beginning, I sort of get bored and need diversity in my life. So, I am working on a couple of projects. One is a musical project with refugee children, and I wanted to release it by next year, but let’s hope it gets done. It’s about this musical theme of estrangement and we are working together to create twelve pieces, each sung and arranged by a group of refugee children from Syria. And I’m working with them so we can get that across soon. I don’t have a name for the album yet, but hopefully I will soon. Other than that, I’m working on a piece for Granta Magazine about my life here in Paris and the kind of change that I observe through the pandemic, through the political scenario, and the social culture and landscape that’s unfolding before us. I’m also in the process of creating an exhibition with poetry and visual art which will sort of delve on the theory of hatred. I’m working with three other artists to get this across, by the end of next year hopefully.
Sreyash Sarkar is a poet, a qualified painter, a practicing Hindustani Classical musician and an aspiring researcher in Microelectronics and Nanotechnology. Educated in Kolkata, Bangalore, and Paris, he has been a student correspondent at The Statesman, Kolkata from his school, South Point. In 2012, in an international poetry competition organized in the memoir of Yeats, his poem was shortlisted among 40 other poets from all over the world. Having been nominated and won a plethora of literary and art prizes, his interview was published in “The Arty Legume” where he was asked to speak on cubism, existentialism in art, and intrusion in a painting. He has been extensively featured in Five Poetry Magazine, Muses, El Portal, Tagore for us, The Country Cake-Stall, The Orange Orchard, etc. His interviews on his subjective views of art have appeared in Little Chambers Press, JuxtapozLive, Artesthetica Magazine, The Ghooseberry Bushes, and Swanspace Magazine, among others. He is the youngest “polymath” to be featured in Education-World Magazine for his outstanding achivements. His musical compositions have been part of cinematic scores and have been orchestrated widely. In 2016, the famed pianist Valentina Igoshina offered to work with him after having listened to his “Sea-shore of Time” and he has also been closely working with famed world musician, Jean Philippe Rykiel. He is currently working with several musicians to bring out his album, “Mois,” which features 12 compositions based on each month. Besides being a freelance writer and an associate editor for several magazines, he is the editor-in-chief of Kalomer Kalomishak, a bilingual magazine, which he founded in 2013. He currently divides his time between Kolkata and Paris, where he is currently pursuing his doctoral studies. He can be reached at sreysarkar.weebly.com.
View Roots and the rest of the Bloom exhibit here: https://awakeningsart.org/bloom/