Shades of blue: Why art is a natural outlet for activism

- August 16, 2022
| By : Judith Mariya Antony |

Known as Bakeryprasad to his followers, Delhi-based artist Siddhesh Gautam uses his artistic calibre to express his perception of discrimination against the oppressed

ARTIST'S LENS: Siddhesh Gautam gazing at his exhibited works

Most of Siddhesh Gautam’s works were based on his personal experiences growing up in a deprived community. According to Gautam, the realization of being different does not happen in bits and pieces. “There is this constant fear that you will be disgraced in public or something similar will happen”, says the 31–year-old, who hails from Nagina, a small town in Bijnor, UP.

Asked about his decision to relocate to Delhi, he says, “Delhi is not just the capital city, it is the heart of protests. It is popular not just because it is a place of power, it is a place where power is constantly challenged.”
He elaborates that he moved to a place where he can connect with people. “I think Delhi is the safest place, at least the whole nation would know if something happens to me”, Gautam asserts.
In the past few years, art has created a ripple effect where a lot of new artists who were interested in working on the Adivasi or Ambedkarite movement have blossomed. “Small changes have started to come up from the students as they know there are people whom they can look back at”, he says.
Gautam also works on issues challenging capitalism. In future, he aspires to explore new media and abstract art or even produce a full-length documentary film.

Fearful anxiety
He remembers, “When I was in fifth or sixth grade…during one of my friends’ birthday parties, some of the guys were discussing one of my classmates’ surname, which is just a single alphabet. They concluded that my classmate is from a lower class because no one else would have a single letter surname.”
For an artist, these experiences act as a catalyst. “I realized late in life that we have to make a few compromises to just get people together. There are some moral compromises that have to be made, some small sort of balance that has to be created for that”, Gautam states.
About his perky Instagram handle Bakeryprasad, he says, “There is no anti-caste notion about it. I was fond of baked products, and thought my works were also similar to baking that needs the right ingredients and right temperature.”
He explains, “What Bakeryprasad does isn’t fully me; it is a part of me, but it is not completely me.” According to him, a balance has to be struck between your personal opinions and art. “We cannot always be so opinionated, especially when we want to bring people together.”
He started to do political work to give it more relevance without compromising with his initial love for baked goods.

Political awareness
After completing his post-graduation from NID Gandhinagar, Gautam started working in a commercial studio in Pune. The city is known for leading in anti-caste movements and other events, which added to his inspiration.

DEPICTING HISTORY: One of Gautam's artworks on Dr BR Ambedkar
DEPICTING HISTORY: One of Gautam’s artworks on Dr BR Ambedkar

Gautam started creating artworks taking inspiration from the efforts of Scheduled Castes to uplift themselves. The colour blue is a major element in all of his art, as he grew up aware of a certain shade of blue.
His family always adored the blue shade of the Ambedkarite movement, with colour he prefers leans towards teal green. He was somehow fascinated by the colour, and using it in his work came naturally to him.
“When I started making illustrations on the movement or towards the movement, I realized that there is this one specific blue, which could be given variation. Similarly, there are sub-divisions in the community”, he adds. That is why he uses different shades of blue.
He believes that art, which has always been a part of his life, plays an integral role not only in giving expression to dissenting voices but reaching out to common people. He claims, “It has always been there and everybody practices it in some way or other, but now art has become more directional and straightforward.”
With the democratisation ushered in by the internet, people do not have to rely on the front gallery or publication for their work to be out. There are lots of platforms where the artists can share their works, he adds.
“I personally think I started late”, he says. A lot of new people are coming up and experimenting with different things and voicing their opinions on issues that might have remained unheard. He continues, “The literature and resources which we had limited access to because of the upper caste superiority are now available to these young talents.”

CAPTURING WOMAN POWER: Siddhesh's artwork titled 'Arise, awaken, to get education; Savitribai Phule, 2021' illustrated using digital software
CAPTURING WOMAN POWER: Gautam’s artwork titled ‘Arise, awaken, to get education; Savitribai Phule, 2021’ illustrated using digital software

Generally, what he has seen around the community is focus on stabilizing their families with a secure job. “But the second generation learners…they have this opportunity of exploring what’s out there in the world.”
Gautam is very optimistic about the next generation which traverses their lives risk-free. “I see a real eagerness in people to uplift the people from the community”, he adds. In 75 years of independence, there are a lot of progressions, but still there are things that are remaining that can only be done by the community.
“I think when the power is given to them or if we make a platform out of the power, significant progress will happen”, he concludes.


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