Inkquisitive might be the art world’s first social media phenomenon. His pictures and illustrations get likes in the thousands, but this artist isn’t just a trending topic.
Story by Rumnique Nannar
Inkquisitive’s star is rising. In the past year he has collaborated with Tigerstyle, Humble the Poet, Sikh Knowledge and Singh Street Style, in addition to starring in one of our favourite videos by YouTube star Lily Singh/Superwoman. The Essex-born artist, whose real name is Amandeep Singh, is now touring North America, with stops in Toronto, Brooklyn, Vancouver and Sacramento.
You’ve had quite an eventful summer with the short documentary, Keep Calm: Imagination is Free, and your latest tour. How do you feel you’re managing the growing popularity?
It has been a very busy year and summer especially! But I wouldn’t have it any other way! I am overwhelmed at how things have been moving. It’s always a bonus having a team to establish movements and The Glass Museum have been doing that for me, allowing the Inkquisitive audience to grow bigger. The global exposure is a thrilling experience and the comments and feedback I am given are treasures. I am keeping grounded with my head down doing what I always have been… playing with my inks and paints!
How did the idea for the documentary come about?
The dream came before the idea. As an artist, a major advantage from showcasing art online is by showcasing it in real form via an exhibition. I always had the intention to have a solo show, preferably in UK first… Instead, I was given the opportunity by The Glass Museum, family of Tandy Tatter (Madtatter Films), to go to Toronto to have an international exhibition! Very surreal! The idea of the documentary came about speaking to Tandy, not only one of my good friends but a creative support. Having strength in videography, we wanted to document the journey and the process and so he engaged much with me and my Artwork to produce such a well executed piece. Its unreal to watch that again and to know it was real!
Watch Keep Calm: Imagination is Free documentary below
We loved your colourful wardrobe throughout the documentary and from your latest tour. Describe your style.
I am a human palette! It’s the best way to describe me! I like to walk like my art. We don’t need things to match or go in correspondence with what shirt we wear. Be free, be bright, be beautiful.
How did it feel to see your work so well received during your current and last tour?
As an artist, you put in so much emotion and love into a piece, then to have it on show to an audience isn’t always the most easiest task to endure. The reception, however, was unbelievable, with such treasurable comments and love. Having had such a successful exhibition last November and now currently a tour, you notice the change. The recognition is profound and the numbers coming out to the events are visible. It is more than attending an event, it means more than I can type, just as I mentioned at the beginning of this passage. I am simply thankful.
What do you feel is different for this tour than the last? Are you taking a new direction with your art?
Yes. Last year was a very ‘my name is Amandeep, I am an artist from the UK, here is my artwork’ sort of feel. This year is a side of me not many have seen. Those that follow [my] art will know of its main uses of colour and burnt paperesque feel. However, I have put forward a complete new genre and feel to the audience which not only gives them a piece of me, but more so, allows the audience to learn something about themselves. Labelled ‘SOULED OUT TOUR’ it allows the viewer to release their soul and have no limitations of what they see and believe in. It is not an exhibition but more so an experience. The art I have produced for this specific tour is a 6 month process and one that has been exciting.
Humble the Poet describes your work as quite hybrid. How would you say your art blends Indian art with your formal training in illustration and graphic design?
Kanwer [Humble the Poet], one of my good friends, is a humble soul and I’m overwhelmed he that sees the art form as such. It’s very hard to explain the concepts or journey I choose to go on with my art because I produce everything very spontaneously and spur of the moment; having a look at it a few hours after, it seems to work. If I’m honest, I do not tend to categorize my art form into a specific genre. I believe I contain elements of various topics and fields. When talking [about] the pieces involving Indian flair and characteristics, I tend to purposely exaggerate colour more than I normally would. I love to give that section of my work a full on indian summer of vibrance.
This piece depicts Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh by mixing mediums like paint, newsprint and collage.
We love the way you mix media, like the paint and newspaper headline collage in the Shaheed Bhagat Singh piece. Do you feel that mixing media works to create a better impact?
I have a very special connection with that piece as that was the first piece I really experimented with and in actual fact, it was the very first piece I released under INKQUISITIVE ILLUSTRATION which began the noise of my waves. I do believe that mixing mediums brings out a greater impact in more ways than one. I prefer working with more than less, only after do I tend to take things away if need be. I also do not like to limit myself to the elements I infuse within my artwork. I find inspiration in everything and so involve the many factors influencing me within the art. Whether they are articles from papers cut out or passages I have read from books, the many elements inhale a certain distinction due to not having a limitation to what I do. It is something I will continue to do.
Do you ever find that your artwork gets labelled as simply South Asian and niche for the art world?
I would like to think that my art is not categorized in any shape or form to be honest. If it is categorized as such then so be it, it goes to show it’s under the eyes of the world, and I guess that cant be too bad right? I am learning new things everyday especially with the comments and feedback I am getting from the global audience I am reaching. The indication I gather is that the mentality of the audience witnessing my art is not very narrow and that the art talks far more than being simply South Asian and that’s great.
You’ve described your faith as an important aspect of your life and art, how have you felt about the backlash from some people objecting to your depictions of religion?
If I am honest, I have not really faced a heavy backlash in regards to the artwork. There has been a few comments based upon a reason on why I tend to depict the [Sikh] Gurus with blue eyes. Now this for me is a personal element. It does not have a random story. I tend to dream the Gurus with an eye colour as such. I love any feedback, because there is no wrong or right, it simply becomes food for thought and that is a beautiful thing. As an artist you don’t always produce pieces to please people, it is simply to speak an unspoken language. What I say (produce) will not always connect with everyone, so long as they can respect the expression as I would theirs.
From The Illumination of Diwali series
How have collaborations with Tigerstyle and Zoo Babies and your viral impact increased your exposure as an artist?
I believe much of my rise to international recognition is due to the collaboration with Tigerstyle. The video for Ik Banere was very different and a very challenging experience, I’m almost overwhelmed to know both Pops and Raj had such faith in me to produce a piece for their music. This would go for the same as Zoo Babies, although I have not collaborated with them, to have them perform at my first international exhibition really was a statement for a British born artist making moves in North America.
How did you get involved with British fashion blog, Singh Street Style?
I was contacted by the team and chose to be part of the blog as I do with many others who kindly ask to collaborate. It is in my nature to reach out and combine my strengths with others. The opportunity was very considerate as I am quite the poser when I am not an artist!
This brilliant and somber painting came soon after the Oak Creek shooting in Wisconsin.
You did a piece on the Oak Creek shooting which is very powerful and moving. Tell us about the process behind the painting.
The event in itself was very tragic and although the art work depicts much vibrance and use of colour, the actual piece is very minimal in essence. I did not want to portray something heavy, but more so something powerful. That is why the piece has a variety of individuals from the scene. I wanted the emotion of the piece to catch the viewer more so than the art and I believe that is what occurred. It was a blessing to have been contacted by the Mayor of Oak Creek to have this piece put up in the City Hall in Oak Creek. Even just one image speaks a 1000 words on that piece, I did not need to make it any louder.
You do a lot of outreach with schools and fans at exhibitions, what do you hope younger audiences take away from your work?
I just hope the younger generations see that using the imagination is just as important as an algebra equation or a science experiment. I love working with younger children and have done many showcases which is a thrilling experience. If it’s one thing I like to push, it is not to have a fear of expression.
Inkquisitive will be in Vancouver on Nov 2, 2013 for The Souled Out Tour, with special guest Youtube sensation, Superwoman. Learn more.
Story By: Rumnique Nannar | Photography: The Glass Museum and Inkquisitive Illustration