On the day of Ganesh Chaturthi, artist Raj Kamal Aich sat fiddling around with the decorations at his home in Delhi. He put a boondi laddoo on a piece of paper and instead of a traditional Indian sweet, he saw an elephant’s head.
Aich, who works as an art consultant with News18, has been creating object-inspired-art since April. Tea bags, brooms, leftover chapatis and different sweets and snacks feature regularly on his social media profiles.
“The way I look at any object is through the rules of geometry,” Aich said. “If I see a kaju barfi, I don’t look at it as food when I’m working, I just look at it as a diamond-shaped object and it gets me thinking about what all I can do with a diamond shape. An egg or a grape could be a human head. The moment you think of it in terms of shapes, the possibilities are endless.”
Sweets and savoury snacks are recurring objects in Aich’s art works. A bright orange, syrup-soaked imarti becomes a hipster beard on a person or hangs as a woman’s bun, a bar of chocolate is reshaped into a heart and a stale chapati becomes a girl’s skirt. Growing up in Kolkata snacking on hot singharas and eating the popular Bengali sweets was a part of his everyday life.
The son of noted Indian artist, Samir Aich, 39-year-old Rajkamal grew up in Kolkata and studied visual arts there before moving to Delhi for work.
Aich said he grew up watching his father experimenting with all channels of art: “Picking art as a profession was a natural choice. It was the only thing I loved and had done consistently since I was born.”
“When I moved to Delhi I missed the many snacks and sweets available in Kolkata,” said Aich. “At some level, I wanted to keep a record of it so I thought why don’t I use food in my art works? People like me, living away from home or in a different country, will also be able to enjoy it.” Food, for Aich, is a great unifier. “Even if the food is from a far off country, one still likes to see it. They might not even know what it is called, but will find it appetising.”
Along with posting cute little images, Aich creates politically motivated art. In the wake of the sentencing of self-styled godman Ram Rahim Singh, he wrote the word “RAPIST” on to a piece of paper with a meditating figure of a yogi sitting in place of the alphabet “A”. In another he used a paint brush to depict Singh begging for mercy after being sentenced for 20 years on the charge of raping two women.
“As an artist, I feel like I have some responsibility towards society,” said Aich. “We can’t be isolated and pretend that we don’t bother about what is happening around us. Artists and writers have this talent that they can use to reach out to lot of people, so if my work starts a debate and helps a person form an opinion then I guess it serves my purpose.”
The artist also did a Period Project in May to protest the 12% goods and services tax on sanitary napkins and other female hygiene products. He created art works using sanitary pads and tampons soaked in red paint.
“Thankfully I have a job and I don’t have to worry about creating these for commercial purposes,” said Aich. “So, I have the freedom to do what I truly believe in. If I genuinely feel for something, I’m just humbly putting my views forward in this way. Somebody might like it, somebody might not but I’m not here to fight or argue. When I did the period project, I truly thought that it was very unfair what the government is doing and started drawing these to sensitise whoever came across my works.”