A Short Interview with Harshal Desai
NS: We were very struck by the pieces of art that you submitted. They are so otherworldly and evocative. You mentioned that they were created digitally. How did you learn the craft of digital art, and what advantages or disadvantages do you feel it has in relation to other artistic mediums?
HD: I have been fascinated with the manner in which technology has rewired and reshaped our lives. When one meditates on it long enough, one realizes that technology has formed an inextricable link to the everyday functioning of our lives. Having studied design and with enthusiasm to understand, and an interest to develop the sustainable and functional aspect of the field, it is imperative that certain influences work the way they do in my life. Rather than thinking of design as a space of fancy illustration often used in our consumerist world to embellish than enable, my art is an extension of my resistance to such myopic visions.
I am self-taught, for the most, and learned to create digital fractal art through my interest in the intersections of inter-disciplinary and experimental forms. I must admit, quite unlike Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator where there are tools readily available for use, fractal art involves a process governed by mathematics. This provides an alternate way of engaging with the craft, in the choice of a set of numbers that straddle varied fractal types, each with diverse outcomes. This is primarily based on repetitive generations of several defined patterns. Interestingly, the culmination is akin to a defined process, for instance, as the concentration of molecules in a jar. While all of this sounds complex at the first instance, practice does expand the paradigms one may choose to work with in digital art. It is also helpful to go through the help guide and then learn to make a paradigm shift, which is an eventual but engrossing process. This also ensures the individual voice thrives and does not become secondary or subdued.
As for the advantages of digital art, it helps sharpen one’s senses and become aware of the world around ourselves. When one delves into the medium, it also draws attention to our environment, made of shapes, such like the mathematical balance in the world, the harmony of the Anthropocene. I have found engaging conclusions in the anatomy of a leaf and flower, the contours of the sky, and thinly veiled outlines of clouds during lightning. One develops a keen sense of awareness in practicing digital art. As for the disadvantages, the more practical concerns such as image size and the usage of free software which disallows a higher resolution come to mind immediately. That being mentioned, I definitely think there is a way around this, as it poses newer challenges in one’s methodology and scope, as also in the discovery of a new software that is more inclusive.
Thank you for your generosity and the kind words.
NS: You’re welcome! Do you ever see the image in your head first of what you what you want to create, or does the image reveal itself to you as you work?
HD: There is always the sense of a new beginning and I venture into my endeavours with a mind that is relentless in its passion to create art. I’d say that fractal art is more definitively a process which involves discovery and insight. I almost always begin with choosing a color scheme in my mind, which gives an impetus to the next step and adds shape to my thoughts. As I progress with the piece of art, I trace the trajectory of how each fractal interacts with the other, and whether the final image intersects in some way with the point I started from. Either way, I am prepared to be pleasantly surprised with the outcome, as hybridity is born out of this practice. In certain cases, I may choose to make edits. I allow the art to lead me than try doing vice versa. The sense of bewilderment is essential, in a certain sense.
One instance of where the source of inspiration began was whilst researching images of the galaxy photographed by NASA. This led to creating star clusters, where the entry point would be the emission and the dissemination of myriad colors. I am pre-occupied with science, physics and astronomy and delve into the sense of transcendence they bring along.
NS: In your bio you mention that you are not only an artist, but an entrepreneur, photographer, and writer. Do you have a favorite artistic medium that you work in? Do you schedule time for each art form? In short, how do you stay on top of it all?
HD: My journey is an amalgamation of my belief in interdisciplinary medias, in an Aristotelian inference of the word. I also resonate with the intersections of each of the art forms I practice. I definitely schedule my work in a way to give equal time to all, though I allow for the art to chart my trajectory. Most recently, I have experimented with adding pixel art as an addition to my forms of practice.
As an entrepreneur, the words of Whitman come to mind: “Resist much. Obey little.” It is indispensable to resist any culture that reinforces linearity or profit oriented model which has little or no utility value. If the epistemological meaning of the word ‘entrepreneur’ is traced, it is inextricably linked to innovation and new processes than a standardized or homogenized model. A sense of aesthetic and sensibility is key while beginning a project that is not seen as profitable or the norm, as that challenges the boundaries that are reinforced through several practices. The practice of art, as a discipline, for instance, allows for the conjoining of philosophy and paves way for a way of practice against the grain.
NS: You are also the co-founder of Parentheses Journal! I’m fairly new at founding and editing this journal. Do you have any advice or insights about running a journal that you would like to share? What has surprised you about it?
HD: Parentheses Journal began in December 2016 and it has been an exciting year, full of fascinating experiences. We make sure to have an organised schedule to remain on track with submissions. While I am the art editor, Sneha Subramanian Kanta is the poetry editor and Tolulope Oke is the fiction editor. We also use Dropbox to ensure that the files are in sync across our team, which works remote. I handle the technological and design aspect of the journal as well, including the website. I suggest if using a wordpress platform, using mailpoet or mailchimp helps keep track of subscribers, and more may be added manually.
Another point to factor into is a digital and print friendly layout of every issue, as much depends on it. There are several publishers offering print-on-demand services and may be a good option if that appeals to your sensibility. It is also vital to have good SEO on your website. I’m both; grateful and delighted to experience the growth of Parentheses Journal, which is made possible by our contributors and readers alike. Our team members take pride in the international and diverse pulse of the journal.
NS: Thanks for the advice! The print on demand thing is something maybe we should consider at TIR.
I couldn’t help but notice that some of your photographic work has been published in National Geographic. What has been the most interesting location or assignment you have been on for photographic work thus far?
HD: Yes, and indeed, it has been exhilarating to have my photography published in National Geographic. I certainly take a keen interest in the Anthropocene, and believe it to be crucial to tend after the environment and all creatures. It instills a sense of empathy and deviates from the heteronormative way of thinking. I recently engaged with readings of postcolonial theory with a focus on ecology, and one of the observations were that toxic violence stems out of a lack of sensitivity towards our natural resources. I believe that being closer to nature and away from the synthetic materialism of our age also lead to a holistic quality of life.
The most interesting assignments have sure been while setting out to explore insectariums at night in Singapore, as also witnessing the flurry of neon textures scattered in lightning veins. I believe in the restorative quality art imbibes in individuals and society, as a whole.
Harshal is an artist, entrepreneur, and writer that loathes the typical 9-5 existence. He documents his thoughts through writing and photography as he takes on societies norms armed with nothing more than his cheeky wit and undeniable charm. His work is published in Verbal Art, Phenomenal Literature, National Geographic, FineFlu, The Type Image, 805Lit, Door is a Jar, and more. He is a co-founder of Parentheses Journal. Email him on firstname.lastname@example.org