“Men kill my spirit. Sidelining my radicalism in order to accommodate a man doesn’t quite sit right with me,” chuckles Dharini Verma, a visual artist who studies illustration at Srishti School of Art and Design.
The body of her work defies arbitrarily established boundaries. Backed by great nuance and psychological insight, the rhapsodies of her images tap into the intangible attributes of human expression. Through the mediums of photographs and illustrations, Dharini Verma’s work is as personal as it is political. Her art touches upon a broad range of themes such as family, human emotions, autonomy and sex. Her art knows no dearth of colour, both literally and figuratively.
Her current work endeavours to traverse the vast world of pop culture. It alludes to the ways in which complex human emotions are commodified for mass consumption and serves as a nimble commentary directed at them.
Throughout her growing up years, Dharini recalls that she had too many art supplies lying around at home and too much freedom to use them in any manner she saw fit. Her mother’s unwavering support, when it came to all things art, further motivated her to confidently wade in the waters of art. These events, she reckons, are foundational to her. They fostered her love affair with art which draws inspiration from a multitude of things around and within her. “It feels as if I’ve been making art forever,” she remarks.
She vividly recounts her early teenage years and how her angst shaped the art she was then making. “It was like the first half of a coming of age movie,” she says. To bear testament to this statement are her listening-to-nirvana-and-wearing-all-black former aesthetic, fury directed at the policing of her artistic expression by various institutions and of course, her dark and unapologetic art. She concedes that her personal trauma wholly drove her artistic process and it was only much later that she got the chance to grapple with her social privilege. Her lived experience has always found predominance in her art and now her art also exists in tandem to larger socio-cultural frameworks.
Dharini strives to enjoy her artistic process to the best of her abilities and here’s what she has to say about it—“As an image-maker, I know that what I make is for other people to consume. Once I put my art out there, it is still mine because I made it, but it also belongs in part to everybody who lays their eyes on it. So the only thing I truly have to myself is the process and if I’m not enjoying the process, it kind of defeats the whole purpose of being an artist”—and I wholeheartedly concur.
One of Dharini’s favourite pieces that she has created is her Freudian nightmare. Staying true to its name, the piece showcases a dishevelled Sigmund Freud who helplessly witnesses what is likely to be his worst nightmare. Through minimalistic linework and powerful imagery, she has brought to existence a compelling and witty visual which is definitely not for the faint-hearted. The visual alludes to a visibly perplexed Freud who seems to be aghast at the sight of his mother intruding into one of his sexual experiences.
Her Love Fool paints the picture of a morose young woman who finds no comfort in the likes of Shakespeare. His use of sumptuous language is almost unfathomable to her. “She must resort to the only prose she knows best, that of pop songs. Over the years, these songs are reduced to cliché, but propelled by teenage existential crises are also exulted for defining, by interpolation, emotional attributes they were never meant to define,” writes Dharini.
Unhindered by the regressive structures that govern all our lives, Dharini stays true to her practice which is largely based around sex, emotions and the rituals that people enage in for their own pleasure and that of others. She also juxtaposes impalpable human experiences in her body of work. “My work is an extension of who I am. My practice is a ritual I’ve formed around myself,” she affirms.
Momentous themes such as bodily autonomy, agency and consent often figure in her art which is an amalgamation of her skilful photography and emotive visuals. Her art is also painstakingly immersed in mundane realities which tend to escape our appreciation due to their seeming triviality. Further, she is of the belief that all art is political and any art that proudly wears an apolitical hat is merely pandering to the exasperating status quo.
Perpetually irked by the discrepancies she witnesses in the politics practiced by the English-speaking literati surrounding her and the terror inflicted by capitalist patriarchy, some of Dharini’s work reflects a profound sense of dissent.
Dharini’s art is not constricted by homogeneity and hence evokes a multiplicity of perceptions. Some pieces hit home and stay there forever, some pieces help reimagine ways in which one can exercise their autonomy and some other pieces tap into complex human emotions and serve as food for thought. Mind you, the list does not end here! Her art bears testimony to the unabashed, unconventional and ingenious individual that she is.
You can find Dharini Verma on Instagram.