Q&A with Sunset Paperworks collaborator, Ria Rajan.
What is your name? Where are you based? My name is Ria Rajan. Based is a funny word as I move around a lot. I suppose I could say Oakland has been base, this last quarter.
You transition from place to place through out the year, where are the places you have been working most over the last few years? Bangalore / Goa / NY / SF / Oakland
As you move back and forth from India and the United States, from Bangalore to San Francisco and beyond. What do you notice about these places, how they are the same, different, how they are for you and your work? I like transitioning from one place to the next. It breaks the monotony, keeps my brain active and has me living light. Instantly, I tend to notice things like the quality of air, the nature of light, and have become more and more aware of how the change of place effects my sleep, my eating habits and my general well being. I have also, over the years, become better at my own self care rituals which keeps me grounded and tapped into my happy place. Most importantly, regardless of where I am geographically, as soon as I can set up an art/work dock for myself, armed with tunes and some greens, I can tap into my creative flow. This has taken time and effort, and after a lot of trial and error, I'm quite pleased with myself that I've finally unlocked it.
What can you tell us about Ladies Only? In December 2016, I took to the streets, armed with freshly printed posters titled LADIES ONLY, (a playful take on the signs found inside Indian buses) featuring a piece of art that was born and grew wings in the garden city of Bangalore. The idea and intention was simple, I felt like women needed to be more visible on the streets. Cities belong to the people, and this was my way of claiming spaces within them. Aside from postering them myself, I released them online making them available to anyone who would like to print them out and put them up. The Ladies ( as I like to call them :) ) have shown up in over 6 cities in India, have travelled to London and two of them now live in NY.
Did you encounter people as you distributed the posters around? The first time I went out with them, was kind of guerrilla style. I enlisted the help of a friend on a motorcycle who was more than happy to cruise around with me, early in the morning, before the streets woke up. I put them up at bus stops, outside stores, on poles, anywhere I thought they would be most visible. Subsequently, there have been times when I've encountered people (funnily enough, mostly men) who have had all have a positive response to them. These posters are still available online and I hope to see more of them on the streets! Maybe I'll bring them to California this summer. You can most definitely have one! :)
What are your thoughts on collaboration? I've always had an affinity towards collaborative work, right from when I was studying in design school. I found the occasions that allowed me the opportunity to work with others left me feeling like I had created something bigger and beyond just myself. Over the last few years, collaboration has taken on a significant role in my own art practice. I'm one half of Spectra, which is an ongoing international collaboration with Sofy Yuditskaya, who is based in NY. We've been creating work together through art residencies and for festivals. Our creative process has so much synergy, is full of feminine creativity and just keeps getting better.
How do you benefit from collaborating with others? Collaboration isn't always easy. One needs to come in with an open mind and be open to ideas changing and evolving. For me personally, I find myself learning so much when working with another person. Everyone has their own unique lens through which they see the world and when you combine these unique perspectives and insights, one arrives at something that is richer and hopefully more evocative. Also, I find being able to bounce ideas of another person while creating to be so much better than going around in circles in my own head.
Can you tell us a little about your experience creating the Bloody Blue Moon woodcut reduction print at Sunset Paperworks? Why the moon? How did you come to this visual? Thoughts on the woodcut reduction process or Sunset Paperworks? To me, the Bloody Blue Moon feels like a natural extension of all the many art talks and exchanges over the last 7 years. Also, timing has been key in making it happen : ) For the first time, we've been able to spend concentrated time working on a piece together. The moon seemed like an obvious choice. Both of us have been going through the Many Moons work book and obsessing about the moon on many levels. I feel incredibly grateful for being this side of the planet and able to witness the epic lunar eclipse in all its glory. As soon as I had experienced it, I knew that I wanted to create something that would celebrate and crystallize the memory of it. Soon after, when we got talking about what our print would be, instinctively, it felt right. The whole process was fantastic. I feel fortunate to have had the best introduction to the woodcut reduction method. You did such a good job with making it feel accessible and enabling a smooth process. High five! Plus the studio is super rad and I absolutely loved spending time in it. We had a great productive vibe and were able to jam on tasks and get stuff done. Learn more about this print.
What are you working on now? I'm currently illustrating a children's book about Indian women scientists, which hopefully will be out later this year. Fingers crossed!
What good books are you reading / recently read? Anything you would like to share from those? Aside from the Many Moons 2018 workbook by Sarah Gottesdiener, which is full of insight, I recently tore through Drawing Blood, an autobiography by artist/writer Molly Crabapple. I love reading about other women artists, how they navigate life in general and art life in particular. My biggest take away from her story is to trust in the journey. Even when its bleak and grey. Everything leads up to the next. It's important to keep on creating and putting yourself out there. Her book also served as a reminder to myself that writing is an important tool in finding my own artistic expression.
Anything else you would like our readers to know? I'll be back in the summer and can't wait to get my hands dirty with our next collaboration! Thank you all for reading <3