We come across art quite often in our lives, without actually realising it. From something as common as the graffiti on roadside walls to elaborate installations at shopping malls, art is omnipresent; we just need a filtered lens to pick out the best from the rest.
Here is one such artist who lends an altogether new meaning to art. He creates art that has a visual, eloquent connection with its surroundings. It is generally assumed that art inspires the surroundings where it dwells. But, in case of Hetal Shukla, it is the other way round as “the environment starts influencing art deeply for that particular space where the installation or the piece is to be created.”
As the Founder of Artlab, Hetal Shukla is an innovative artist who creates one-off, spectacular site-specific art installations and designs environmental graphics. He established Artlab in 1997 as a design initiative, to form a link between interior designing and fine arts and to make way for art to be used differently rather than just as wallpapers and paintings.
Hetal says, “The inclination towards fine arts and the knowledge of interior designing gave me an understanding that there is a certain bridge between art and interiors and I saw a lot of scope there which lead to an urge of addressing this gap and coming up with the stimulating idea of starting Artlab.”
His opus comprises approximately 5000 projects of which corporate offices hold a major chunk, while he has also lent his creative skills to clubs, residences and restaurants. He is also into installations, showcasing at various art festivals including the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF).
His ‘Global Warming With Love’ car installation at this year’s festival surely grabbed some eyeballs.So far, so good. But an upswing and appreciation of his art form might not have been possible in the incubatory stages of Artlab, when fine arts in essence didn’t hold much ground in the country. So what led him to venture into this profession?
He explains, “The kind of niche I address to is site-specific which is very rare and different from the traditional form of art which is about being self-expressive but according to me art always exists inside of a space; that space is what influences art to a great extent and this is something I found very interesting to position myself uniquely. When this kind of art didn’t exist, it was very challenging to create an awareness amongst people but it paid off really well as I came a long way in this field and also contributed significantly to this concept.”
His interior projects are definitely not those that you encounter on a daily basis. For Google’s office, he interspersed the colours of their logo with the various monuments of India on their walls; made a world map using recycled computer circuit boards; stuck a 3D camera on a wall and a larger-than-life, traditional sewing machine sculpture. The white, faux fur covered Ambassador car at KGAF 2016 portrayed the idea of global warming, so as to save the endangered polar bear.
Hetal makes sure that that his art remains as coherent and audience friendly as possible – as opposed to abstract – by weaving a story around the piece. The foresight is to intertwine two or more ideas at one time to create and evolve their work. “The concept I work on and the power of the story to depict something new each time makes the art different and unique. The concept is addressed in such a visual way that it brings gratification to the viewers while simultaneously engaging them with the narration of the art,” he shares.
His material compass is wide-ranging and unusual such as paint, fur, mirrors, glitter and the selection of each depends on the aesthetic value of the piece. A 20-member strong workforce ensures that a smooth process, right from presenting the idea to the client to procuring the material is implemented. A single project undertaken by the team can take anywhere between one month to six months to complete, depending on its size and scale and the concept being used.
The visual imagery that Artlab brings to life has an intrinsic connection to the space it resides in, making the walls come alive with meaning, symbolism and fluidity.
Text By Rehana Hussain
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