GAPA meets… Indian artist Kaanchi Chopra

By Kirsty Flockhart

GAPA: Would you mind starting by introducing yourself?

Kaanchi Chopra: Yeah, sure. I am an 18-year-old artivist from India. I imagine, I feel, I sketch, I create, I enjoy. I am passionate about using art for social good. I share this inseparable bond with visual imagery. It hits me hard, cements injustice into my memory and propels me to move forward. Apart from art and activism, I also enjoy public speaking and travelling.

GAPA: How long have you been practising art for? What is your medium of choice?

KC: I have been making art ever since I knew how to hold pencils and crayons. The impulse to create art for making an impact on normal lives has been my forte since childhood. For the past seven years, I have been whole-heartedly following the path of Artivism (art + activism). I have experimented with oil paints, colour pencils, ink, pastels, watercolour, markers, clay, metal, and other crafty stuff.

I am passionate about using art for social good. I share this inseparable bond with visual imagery.

GAPA: Who would you say are the most influential artists on your works?

KC: Abanindranath Tagore, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Vincent Van Gogh, Stan Lee, Shilo Shiv Suleman, Paula Scher and Andy Warhol – their works and they themselves are incredibly influential and inspirational.

GAPA: Can you please explain the political focus on your work? Why political art?

KC:  The invisible man of graffiti art – Banksy is one of the most well-renowned political artists. By displaying art in crowded cities across the world, he puts social and political issues in front of our faces. Pablo Picasso painted Guernica as a reaction to the Nazis’ devastating casual bombing in 1937. Today, this painting is a symbol of harmony and is the perfect representation of the tragedies of war. Photographer JR’s Face 2 Face project has been successful in uniting people, irrespective of their religion and caste. Shepard Fairey’s HOPE poster was officially used for campaigning by Obama and his party.

The power, charisma and immortality of political art make me its ardent preacher. This kind of art makes us ponder and enriches our soul. Art is a universal language and visual imagery has an everlasting impact on a person. Hence, political art successfully breaks cultural barriers, connects us to each other and moves us to action. It is a catalyst for change and a way of survival.

GAPA: Which of your body of works do you feel is the strongest or the most proud of?

KC: It has to be the acid attack series. I am also personally attached to my works on women’s empowerment, mental illnesses, body-shaming and colour discrimination.

Brown and Proud. 2016. Black permanent marker on OHP Transparent sheet.

GAPA: You’ve done an amazing job on reaching an international audience (as your website states you’ve reached 18,000 people over 122 countries), how did you achieve this? Would you give any advice to other emerging artists?

KC: I am incredibly grateful to all the people of different countries who have supported me and continue to do so. When I posted a series of illustrations on acid attacks, I e-mailed the blog post to a bunch of organisations who were fighting for the victims and survivors of acid attacks. Impressed by the depiction of survivors’ scars as intricate doodles, which were a representation of their undying spirit and strength, the organisations published my work on their social media platforms. This post ‘End Acid Attacks’ was then shared and appreciated by other organisations and people who believed in the same thought.

On the occasion of Zero Discrimination Day, I made a drawing titled ‘Brown and Proud’ which received appreciation from United Nations AIDS. I then drew on  menstrual taboos for Menstrupedia. This drawing was later exhibited in New York. My visual work ‘The Periodic Table of 90 Global Issues’ went viral. I invested my time researching on mental health, domestic violence, poverty, and body shaming. I presented facts, figures and positive solutions to make readers realise that there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel. Some months later, media giants started contacting me for interviews which ultimately expanded my audience.

“Don’t let external validation affect you, what matters is the impact.”

I was once jumping with excitement when I was interviewed by Mashable, my brother calmed me down and said – “Don’t let external validation affect you, what matters is the impact.” I immediately realised how true those words were. I am happier when I receive a mail from someone stating how inspiring and positive my works are than when I receive a mail for an interview. Media has helped me reach out to so many people, but that’s not just it. I see change and it’s just the beginning of it. Eric Friedenwald-Fishman said “when people and communities are armed with information, imagination, and the ability to engage with one another, we can then change public will and actions.”

The advice I would give is that you should realise the importance of your own work. Follow your passion, relentlessly and never let people who diss you bring you down. Build connections, and most importantly be kind. Support each other and accept the differences. Then, we as a community can impact and influence the others to follow the right path.

Poverty. 2015. Permanent Marker on A-3 Ivory Sheet.

The Periodic Table of 90 Global Issues. 2016. Digital.

GAPA: How do you feel your artworks fit within India’s art realm?

KC: India is well known for its rich cultural heritage, especially comprising of the breathtaking architecture. In 1905, Abanindranath Tagore’s painting on Bharat Mata was iconic in creating nationalistic feelings among Indians during the freedom struggle. Today, his painting acts as an anti-war symbol and embodiment of peace. I look up to the works of such artists who have been successful in bringing people together to fight against wrongs. This is exactly what I have been working on and what I wish to continue doing. India’s art and craft isn’t just about beauty or intricacy, it’s about using art as a medium to spread happiness and positive change. My artworks fit within India’s art realm as more and more of us realise the change art can make.

GAPA: Do you see yourself as an artist specific to India or more as an international artist?

KC: I cover a range of issues which are present in every nook and corner of the world, hence I see myself as an artist who spreads awareness even outside the geographical boundaries of her own land. Racism, sexism and body shaming aren’t exclusive to one nation. These social evils are deeply rooted in most of the countries. However, issues like high cases of acid attacks and the increasing pollution are specific to some countries like India. My art is not just for amplifying my own voice, it’s for giving a voice to the ones who need it the most – the victims. A victim can be anyone from any part of the world who faced some form of injustice. In order to create change it’s necessary for me to connect with people from different backgrounds. So, I do certainly envision myself as more of an international artist.

India’s art and craft isn’t just about beauty or intricacy, it’s about using art as a medium to spread happiness and positive change.

GAPA: What are you plans now? Do you have any exhibitions coming up?

KC: I usually combine different fields to study the endless possibilities. The world is a classroom and I wish to take as many classes as possible. I plan to merge art and technology to design products that can help the humanity. I am currently learning programming languages, brush lettering and graphic design. Some of my works would be exhibited in UCLA this May. I am also keen on conducting my solo exhibition and publishing my book.

GAPA: Where can we find you online?

KC:  Website – https://kaanchichopra.com/

         Instagram  – https://www.instagram.com/kaanchichopra/?hl=en

         Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/allaboutartartivism/

         You can also e-mail me at [email protected]


London-based postgraduate student in Gender & Sexuality Studies. On the side: playing ukulele, exploring, cinema!

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