Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Around the world in ten stories: My Facebook Friends

Trans-media artist, Kavita Singh Kale, successfully launched her new book, My Facebook Friends, at the first edition of the United Art Fair, Delhi, this September. The book has an imaginative take on the Facebook profile and the virtual phenomenon of social networking, but departs from it in interesting ways. 

This book includes a young monk who likes playing football, a professor who has been studying earthworms for 40 years, a designer with a passion for tap dancing and many more interesting friends! My Facebook Friends goes around the world in ten stories and has captured in the interest of the young and the young at heart!

We've read about Kavita's friends, now let's read about Kavita herself and get to know her more! Contemporary Delhi based artist Nidhi Khurana, who was also present at the launch, conducted this interview with Kavita. Here it is:

Why do you call yourself a trans-media artist?

I do self exploration through video art, painting, sculpture and photography that gets extended to prospective commercial projects in the area of Broadcast Design, Music Videos, Television Commercials, Short Films, Illustrations and Graphic Design. As a filmmaker, illustrator, author and a visual artist, I am constantly learning and experimenting- creating links with ideation and technique in conjunction with science and technology that has led me to become a trans-media artist.

You have been making paintings about people. How did this translate into "My Facebook Friends"?

The current ‘People Series’ that I am working on, is about  India as a developing country, juxtaposition of contrast, strong diverse cultural heritage, energy of cities and people. The series has a sarcastic narrative hidden in each frame with colours playing integral part, based on the situation. In a playful manner, I like to capture human behavior. One of the painting from the ‘People Series’ titled ‘Facebook‘ was a rendition of a tiny sketchbook that was filled with drawings of her friends during her stay in Mumbai, 2004. Each page was dedicated to one individual that captured their characteristics in-conjunction with the field of studies or things that they really enjoyed doing in their lives. The idea of making a book for children emerged when she started compiling all the details of her friends, who were from diverse background doing very interesting things.

The book is almost like a comic book/graphic novel. How did you decide on such a format?

“My Facebook Friends” is about 10 people and for the book I had collected lot of information and an ideal approach was to put all this interesting stories in a concise manner and present them in the form of a graphic novel.   

Kavita(right) and Nidhi(left) at the United Art Fair

Did these friends actively participate in the creation of the book? How?

Yes, they all contributed to my research. As soon as the list of ten people and the look and feel of graphic novel was finalized, I made a questionnaire that was sent across to selected friends from around the world with varied occupations and backgrounds.  Basic questionnaire prepared included name, age, hometown, occupation, their interest and what they were looking forward to do in the future. Along with this, they were also asked to elaborate their daily activities from morning to night- with details of the kind of music, food, places and clothes they like. All these questions were to be answered keeping the children's point of view in mind.
You always like to carry a small sketch book. Did you make initial sketches while travelling? Was it helpful in the creation of this book? How?

Yes, I like to travel and sketch in my sketchbooks.. I have lots of documented drawings of various places and people. It gives me lot of joy and inspiration to do books, films and paintings.

Why did you decide to use pen and water colour as a medium for this book?

The representation of the book is simplified to accommodate the format of a graphic novel, where numerous coloured illustrations have to be made and I was comfortable with water colour treatment.

A page from the book

My Facebook Friends in many ways, seems to suggest that there are many ways of connecting with people. Is this something that you actively thought about while working on the book?

I am not sure if I thought about it while making the book, but yes, I like the fact that there are so many different kinds of people doing interesting things and you
often bump into someone like that anywhere.. anytime!

You have illustrated a lot of books for children. Could you tell us about your journey as a children's book illustrator? Being a visual story teller, where do you draw your inspiration from?

Illustrating for children is like trying to see things from their point of imagination and their interpretation of  a story. I started my journey in 2006 with my first book “Avneet Aunty’s Moblie Phone” which is written and illustrated by me. So far, I have worked on eleven books by different publishers. Constantly learning and adapting to the changing trends is something that keeps me evolving as a person. The ultimate inspiration for me is by travelling to different places, meeting different people and understanding different cultures while enjoying the local food. Travelling is an addiction!

Have you had opportunities to engage with children? If yes, how have they responded to your work? Any interesting anecdotes from workshops or interactions that you can remember?

I have conducted couple of workshops for children and the kids responded enthusiastically. I made them write their own stories and told them to do drawings of it. The sessions were very spontaneous and interactive. I love the kind of imaginative stories that come out of them. It is quite refreshing to see the children being so honest and innovative.

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