Art with a cause: Kaanchi Chopra’s paintings aren’t just pretty

  • Etti Bali, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 10, 2016 19:31 IST
A black and white doodle depicting the state of poverty in India. (Kaanchi Chopra)

For 17-year-old Kaanchi Chopra, art is not just a passion. It is a medium to raise concerns on various social issues. Her latest creation, a re-imagined version of the Periodic Table — a tabular arrangement of the chemical elements taught to chemistry students, has got everybody talking about her. The elements in the table have been used to represent the problems prevalent in the world. “We often use mnemonics to learn difficult things, so that’s how the idea came about to me. I started thinking of the elements in terms of the problems we are plagued with,” says Kaanchi.

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Kaanchi’s version of the Periodic Table throws light on issues like honour killing, caste system and LGBT rights. (Kaanchi Chopra)

She tackles themes such as domestic violence, sexual discrimination and body shaming through her art, which she calls as Artivism. “I live in Delhi and that alone was reason enough for me to draw about social causes. Women and young girls face discrimination and sexual harassment on a daily basis, and I want to give a visual representation of these problems,” she says.

Her series on acid attack survivors is the one closest to her heart, in which she has used tribal tattoo motifs to represent scars and marks. “I call them survivors, not victims, as these women have emerged only stronger after such life-altering accidents. I want to change the mindset of the society and make them understand this sentiment,” she adds.

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A painting from Kaanchi’s series, acid attack survivors. (Kaanchi Chopra)

Kaanchi Chopra wants her art to strike a chord with the society. (Manu Chopra)

This kind of wise outlook on life has come after its fare share of harassment and being bullied during her growing up years. The inflictor does not realise the gravitas of the situation, but it can have a lifelong impact on the victim. She says, “I have a dark complexion, and due to this, fellow classmates used to call me names like Kali Mata (Goddess Kali, who is depicted in Hindu mythology as having a dark skin tone). But it doesn’t bother me now and this is what I want to encourage in people who have been bullied. They should understand that these are just words and do not define who they are.”

A science student at a prestigious school, Kaanchi wants to study artificial intelligence and computer science. “I want to design products and for that, a strong knowledge of science is necessary. Art, on the other hand, is something that comes naturally to me,” she says.

She does not follow any particular style of painting, but her favourite form is doodling. “I love doodling as I believe it is the purest interpretation of our sub-conscious. Graphics and visual imagery make a lasting impact on people and makes them pause and take notice,” she adds.

Her inspirations include her brother, and Shilo Shiv Suleman, an artist who is using technology in design to bring about social awareness on a global level. Her next project is a book which gives a satirical account of discrimination against women in the country.

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