A self-taught artist, Indu Lalitha Harikumar shared about her artistic journey with the students of the current blended learning batch during the latest Curated Conversations.
Indu shared how honest personal connection led her way from a playful 16-year-old playing around with photoshop on her first computer to today, becoming a distinguished illustrator, telling stories about taboo subjects such as sexuality and gender as well as becoming a popular author on kids’ literature. Her work also spans around artistry through digital art that is especially rooted in daily objects and images in her life that anyone may find highly relatable; think matchboxes, old, embroidered pieces of cloth, leaves et al. She is avant-garde for recycling and that reflects in her art as well.
She shared her guiding principle of working ‘playing around’ and how it shaped her journey.
In one of her earliest projects, which was writing a children’s book, she felt a need to know them closely. Approaching this with primary research, she engaged with a mobile creche in Mumbai as an educator working with site labourers. It was challenging monetarily, resource-wise, as well as language-wise, as they belonged to seventeen different states, speaking different languages. Since anything bound to language or specific to a particular context wouldn’t work, she explored the environment around her to find ways to tell a story, objects that were available and let the children lead the way with what and how they liked to engage with those. This project left her with the learning to not approach something as an expert and taught her about the power of limitations in art and life.
Her work on sexuality, desire and gender finds its power in her belief to not approach her art with set expectations. On one hand, it brings acceptance for possible failure while on the other, it brings light to her in the form of hope, possibilities and answers: this has been pivotal for her to feel a sense of belonging.
Speaking from life experience she shared how a support system in the form of family, supportive friends or an online community where you feel belonged are critical to nurturing art, in the absence of which one can succumb to self-doubt or criticism. She also reflected on the importance of creating a body of work in the initial stages in order for it to bring more credible and/or commissioned work. She affirmed that investment of time in craft is non-negotiable.
Indu also opened up about how journalling 3 pages a day religiously has made her more uninhibited and assured of herself. It has given her a personal channel and space where she feels cleansed and powered at the same time. The book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron also made a strong impression in her life and practices.
Speaking about challenges and insecurities, as an artist she reflected that like everything else art is also limited and in a limited life, one can only do so much and that manifests undeniably in a micro way in an artist’s life – in terms of limitation of time, energy, motivation, knowledge, experience or chances. These are opportunities for acceptance. It has worked for her to take things “as it is” and keep moving on to make way through other open doors.
As a parting advice she asked students to trust one’s passion and the personal meaning that comes into one’s work and allow the power of time to add to it; one will be pleasantly surprised to see how that will lead the way for one and help one find their voice.
About Indu Harikumar
A self-taught artist, Indu Lalitha Harikumar has been internationally acclaimed with her people powered project 100 Indian Tinder Tales. The work has been exhibited in Kunsthalle Bremen (she shared space with Picasso’s work), Germany (2018-2019), The Biennial of Illustrations, Bratislava 2013-14, and the Kochi Muziris Biennale 2015. Among her recent accomplishments is an award by the UNFPA/ Laadli Media and Advertisement Award for Gender Sensitivity the Social media category (2021). She has also ben feature in Femina as well as major global media outlets.
She has been working on her first graphic novel for which she received a grant from the British Council (2021)