“To make a difference, train your mind to listen to your heart”

Moving Grids - Kala Ghoda Arts Festival2014 / Pic Courtesy - Nitant Hirlekar

Moving Grids – Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014 / Pic Courtesy – Nitant Hirlekar

Could you tell us about your work as a Pixel Artist?

Looking at the definition of Pixel art, I am not really a traditional Pixel Artist because if you google Pixel Art, the images that appear are nowhere similar to the kind of work I do. My work involves basics of what pixels are and it has emerged out of my childhood love for photography  and emerging Computational/Parametric methods in Architecture, Art, Design and Fashion around the globe. It has recently merged with Indian Art and Craft and is still evolving. Currently, I feel like I have found my niche as I have discovered the Indianness in my work where I can explore more and hence I would like to call myself an Indian Pixel Artist. Irrespective of the Decorative elements in my work, I explore the narrative of the Algorithms (Rules) embedded in the human beings. So to explore this narrative, it  is the relation between the story in the clicked photograph and the geometric surface and how these two react to each other and create the work of art.

To sum it up my work is a narrative of the embedded algorithms around or within us which is represented in a form of pixels over a developed surface or a grid which is in co-relation to the story (Embedded Algorithms) in an image.

Pixelated India Applique Craft / Pic Courtesy - Nitant Hirlekar

Pixelated India Applique Craft / Pic Courtesy – Nitant Hirlekar

Have you undertaken any formal training for the same and from where? What role has it played in your growth as an artist?

I “managed” to graduate as an Interior Designer from Rachana Sansad School of Interior Design. I bagged 2 National Gold medals and 1 National Silver medal in my academics with my friends as partners. The reason I say I managed to graduate is because it took me 6 attempts to clear my KT in Final Design Subject. So, on paper, I am a failure. If you look at my journey in academics, it was kind of ironic with me bagging national level awards and at the same time failing to clear the final Design Subject.

After graduation, working with one of my mentors Rushabh Parekh completely changed the way I used to look at design and art. That’s where I came in contact with Parametric / Computational Design methods. So that was the time I chose this path of developing something on my own, since then there is no looking back. So the kind of artwork or installations I am producing now are the result of the self-discovered techniques.

I have always believed in learning something new, especially in the current world scenario where everything is changing so fast and efficiently. We as a designer or an artist need to sharpen our skills all the time. Currently I am working with interactive kind of work where a system takes live video feed and converts it into pixel art form in real-time. I am really excited by that one.

Gridstract Series Mirch / Pic Courtesy - Nitant Hirlekar

Gridstract Series Mirch / Pic Courtesy – Nitant Hirlekar

How would you define your personal style and how is your workflow pattern for any assignment?

As I previously mentioned, my style is about narrative of the Embedded algorithms (Rules) in the surrounding and how I explore that narrative using relation of stories in the photographs and geometry of Indian art and Craft in 3-Dimensional form.

My workflow for any assignment really depends on the output I am looking for. If I am working on any artwork, I first discover the subject I want to work on, I click a series of photographs depending on the subject or vice-versa. Further, I evaluate those images in my sketch book, explore in-depth the story in the picture based on which I choose the particular Indian art form which will help me enhance the same. Once I go through this evaluation phase manually, I then start working with computational languages like Grasshopper 3D or Processing (depending on project) which pixelate the images into pixels of over 3 Dimensional forms. That’s what the basic workflow is and it gets more and more complex depending on the kind of project I am working on.

Pixelated India Rangoli / Pic Courtesy - Nitant Hirlekar

Pixelated India Rangoli / Pic Courtesy – Nitant Hirlekar

Which has been your most memorable piece of artwork that you have created? Can you give us a brief description about it?

My most memorable Installation work by far is the project I did in Dharavi. It was called as Dharavi Biennale and it was organized by “Wellcome Trust, London “ and “Sneha Foundation, Mumbai”. This event was Talking about ART+ HEALTH+RECYCLE

We were supposed to address a health issue in the form of Art using recycle material and I was given a topic of Occupational Hazards. This was the most amazing kind of experience you can get as an artist. The specialty of this project was that every resource was supposed to be from the land of Dharavi. So the way we went about this one was, we trained school-going kids in Dharavi to understand basics of photography and those kids went all around Dharavi documenting the Occupational Hazard issue. We used those images and oil tins to create that installation which you can see in the image below. There were three Walls which were creating Gallis (lanes) of Dharavi. Outer surface was talking about the product Dharavi creates and inner walls were documenting the Occupational Hazards it goes through.

Hope & Hazard - Dharavi Biennale2015 / Pic Courtesy : Nitant Hirlekar

Hope & Hazard – Dharavi Biennale 2015 / Pic Courtesy : Nitant Hirlekar

What were the challenges that you faced while working on such projects?

In the Dharavi Biennale project the first challenge was to break the myth in my own head about Dharavi. People have this wrong notion about what Dharavi is and the kind of people it has. Dharavi is rather completely safe for anyone and people in there are very warm. In fact, in terms of photography I rate Dharavi just below Rajasthan.
In general, for commercial projects it is about understanding what the client really needs or expects from you. If we could crack that stage then its pretty smooth.

Pixelated India Athangudi Tiles / Pic Courtesy : Nitant Hirlekar

Pixelated India Athangudi Tiles / Pic Courtesy : Nitant Hirlekar

Who or what has inspired you to create such unique artwork?

There are so many factors – Being Indian, Indian Art and Craft , Impressionism , Photorealism, Origami, Paper Sculpting/Engineering, Pixel Art, Image Manipulation, Algorithms in Nature and Life around, Computational/Generative/Parametric Methods. This list goes on and on.

Pixelated India Mud Mirror Work / Pic Courtesy : Nitant Hirlekar

Pixelated India Mud Mirror Work / Pic Courtesy : Nitant Hirlekar

What does the industry demand in terms of technical / soft skills from a fresher in the design field?

If you ask me “It’s the hard-working attitude I will look for rather than a skill because if someone has the right attitude, then skills can be taught or sharpened”
On paper we need to have basics of everything including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Rhinoceros 3D, Grasshopper 3D.
For the next 5 years I think every individual in the creative field needs to know Basics of Computer programming Languages such as Processing 3.0, because that’s what the current/future industry needs. A bit of everything.

Boreders of Grid - Kala Ghoda Arts Festival2016 / Pic Courtesy : Nitant Hirlekar

Boreders of Grid – Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2016 / Pic Courtesy : Nitant Hirlekar

Where do you look yourself 5 or 10 years down the line?

I look at myself as an Indian Pixel artist who is pushing the barriers of Indian Art and Craft using technology to the next paradigm. Also looking to harness the brilliant gift of artisans we have across India and how I can bring technology and their skills together to create something new. I also want to travel to every corner of India and document these Indian Art forms and use them with technology to push its barriers. My dream situation will be a month of travelling in parts of India and then next month work on the art form that I discovered in my travel and keep this situation in loop forever.

Original Series GOD / Pic Courtesy : Nitant Hirlekar

Original Series GOD / Pic Courtesy : Nitant Hirlekar

What message do you have in mind for the aspiring artists?

I have three things to tell, which I also tell my students.

First one came through one of my mentors to me, it says
“ When you do anything new, at first people laugh at you, then they ridicule you, then they challenge you, then they watch you succeed and then, they wish they were you”

Another one which I read somewhere, it says
“Its not the ability of learning anything but it’s your ability to unlearn, which will take you forward”

And the last one, which I kind of quoted is
“To make a difference, train your mind to listen to your heart”

And just a last minute addition as Sachin Tendulkar says
“Enjoy your game, chase your dreams, dreams will do come true”